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Vanya had never been afraid of the things they said crept in the dark.

She remembers being a child, listening to Klaus’s mumblings as they sat in the dark together, staring out, about how there were people there, staring down – always staring – but she’d never seen them.

She’d never seen them, and because she couldn’t see the threat, couldn’t confirm its existence, she’d not been afraid.

Perhaps her imagination had never been as fruitful as her brother’s. Because Klaus had learned to sleep with the lights on, had always insisted she be his protector.

It had been lovely, really, that he’d insisted as such. Vanya – Sir Reginald Hargreeves’s number Seven – had been born powerless, ordinary, and growing up in a family of super heroes, she’d never been considered worthy of being someone’s protectors.

But she had been Klaus’s, and Klaus had been hers, and they had been superheroes to each other, because they weren’t permitted to be superheroes to anyone else.

They were, after all, ordinary.

The unwanted ones.

It was like they were the umbrella academy’s rejects. They’d applied, taken the same lessons but had brought no results that left them worthy of further study. Their father had lost interest all too quickly in them, and Vanya… she supposes she would have minded a lot more, if she’d been the only ordinary one.

But well, she’s not.

Even if Klaus is eccentric, he’s like her: no powers. Not like their five other siblings. Vanya supposes that of the seven children their father had procured, there were bound to be normal powerless children in the mix.

Klaus and Vanya. Six and Seven. Useless and forgotten – but not by each other.

“Hey, Klaus – it’s Vanya.”

Not even now.

Her phone is surprisingly firm in her hand. Usually she feels nervousness wrap around her throat whenever she finds herself making calls, but this is Klaus, and she’s never been nervous around him. Even if she’s stuck leaving a voicemail, wondering whether he’s in the right place to be answering it.

“I hope everything’s alright on your end,” She continues. The edge of her blanket is frayed, and Vanya plays with the thread as she tries to focus on the words. “I’ve got another concert coming up, so I’m leaving the tickets in the same place, if you can make it.”

She’s never known her brother to miss a concert, even if she’s been stuck in what he calls the ‘permanent purgatory of the third chair’. It’s always calming to see him near the back, offering a small wave of his hand with tattooed palms.

“Oh yeah, also, I know you’ve not been around in forever, but Mrs Kowalski – you remember my landlady, right? You’ve met her enough times – said she needed your help finding Mr. Puddles again…”

She lets out a breathy laugh. Somehow, her brother always knows how to find the cat. Whenever he visits, he’s always capable of pinpointing the exact area that the cat had hidden itself away in.

They’d joked, after a while, saying that finding missing cats were his power all along. That he’d actually been special all along.

…The two of them had spent a lot of years making jokes like that. Although, before they’d left the Umbrella Academy behind, they’d not exactly been jokes, but wishes, wistful charades that would never stick, dreams of not being ordinary.

“She said if we can find the damn cat, she’ll bake us something again. You always enjoyed the pies she makes, right? So, if you can think of any hiding places in my apartment building for a cat, then, let me know?”

She considers saying that she’ll see him soon, but with the lifestyle her brother lives, she knows that saying something like that is just tempting fate. So, Vanya settles on telling her brother she loves him, and hangs up before she can say anything else.

Placing her mobile down on her dresser, she waits for a moment. It’s stupid to expect an immediate response – it’s too early in the morning for Klaus to be awake, not when he spends his nights at raves and clubs, flittering from high to high. He’ll be asleep until at least noon.

But still, Vanya waits, watches her phone and then, when there’s no buzz in response – Klaus never calls, it’s far cheaper for him to send a text than to phone – she turns to watch her door, as if he’ll magically appear.

She should know by now that he doesn’t appear when she’s expecting it. He’s never been one to play into people expectations, and he’s never been one to show up unless it’s during a completely inconvenient moment.

Like the last time, when he’d come knocking at two a.m., fresh from rehab. So fresh, in fact, that she’d soon found that he’d squeezed himself out of a bathroom window, shuffled down a drain pipe and made his way to her house. A week before he’d been meant to leave.

Inconvenient, but never unwanted.

Vanya scoops her phone up now, places it in the back pocket of her jeans, and grabs her violin. She might still only be the third chair, but it’s still something she’s proud of, and her next concert is going to put her one step closer to being first chair one day, she just knows.

And if she wants to be first chair, then she’s got to practise. And there’s no place better to practise than the music hall she’s going to be performing in, in a few weeks.

Rehearsal isn’t on today – something about the conductor being off with the flu – but booking was still set. They’d offered block periods for each member of the orchestra to practise individually, if wanted, and well… now Vanya’s ready to head to her individual practise session.

It’d almost be exciting, if she weren’t nervous about playing in a hall without a crowd.

Still, Vanya heads out, makes her way towards the theatre and hopes that it isn’t too cold outside that she’ll need to retune her violin as soon as she makes her way into the hall.


Playing the violin has always been freeing.

The way her bow glides across the strings, resin making her movements flow and not stagger. The way her fingers press against the strings, making them taut, creating a single note, before she repositions them into another, and then another.

It’s easy to get lost in the music.

There’s just something about the instrument that is inherently beautiful. More so, than other instruments, Vanya thinks. Something about it that allows people to bare their souls, show people the physical manifestation of their emotions through music, allows someone to personify love, and loss and heartbreak with a medium that leaves the body aching.

Vanya closes her eyes and lets her fingers guide her. She knows she should be practising the sheet music that’s been laid out for her, and she will, once she’s warmed up. But for now, she lets her bow lead, lets her fingers improvise and tries to figure out her own feelings based on the sound she creates.

The notes are soft, melancholic.

She’s been thinking about the past again, after all. The violin croons, a symphony of half-forgotten desires about fitting in, about late-night movie marathons with Klaus while all her other siblings had been off on another mission.

Vanya has been thinking about them a lot. Ever since the book.

At the thought of what she’d written, her music shifts. Into regret, into anger. Into something lonely, and bitter, an emotion she doesn’t enjoy feeling.

She lets herself lose inside of it, sweeps the emotion up in her music until it’s soothed, the emotion fizzling out into something almost numbing.

And all too quickly, the music fades, Vanya feels herself coming out of whatever emotion-fuelled haze she’s forced, her warm up finished. She hovers her bow over the violin strings, waits, as if her emotions will call for an encore, as if there’s more music inside of her that needs to be played.

Applause drifts from the top of the stalls, from the entryways, and Vanya startles, blinking her eyes open, staring up at the outline.

It’s not too bright in the hall, but even just an outline is enough for Vanya to know who it is. She knows Klaus’s outline better than anyone else’s, could notice him anywhere.

Her eyes widen at the sight of him.

And then, promptly, she bursts into a short, overwhelmed laugh at the sight of him. Even as he heads further down towards her, Vanya feels emotion welling inside of her, at the sight of him – well, alive, having come to visit because he could.

“Klaus,” she says, because she can’t think of anything else to say that captures just how glad she is to see him. Her extra-ordinary, ordinary brother, who has always been special but only to her.

“Your music,” Klaus says, and he stops by the first row, offering a short bow before collapsing into one the seats, “it reminds me of the sunrise.”

Vanya tilts her head, curious what that means, exactly, but she knows a compliment when she sees it and she takes it because they’re always so scarce. Then, she takes a moment to look her brother up and down, wondering what state he’s in now.

Klaus is… as he usually is. Pale, as if the wind will leave him keeling over, but with the strange strength in his eyes, a humour that shows how much resilience he really has. He’s not clean shaved, because it’s Klaus, he’s always liked having facial hair, thinks it makes him look cooler.

And it does, sure, but Vanya had always thought he was cool regardless of what her brother looks like.

Vanya lowers her violin, and her bow, and despite the little voice in the back of her head, telling her that she needs to practise now, talk later, she steps down from the stage and sits on the chair beside him. Her violin, silent, rests in her lap.

“You know the concert isn’t for a few more weeks, right?”

Klaus gives her a smile, one of the mischievous smiles he keeps hidden for only her, when there’s more to the story he’s not telling her, because it would ruin the surprise. Instead, he says, “I was hoping for VIP sibling privileges, to a private concert.”

A small laugh, as Vanya shakes her head. She says, “If I let you hear the piece now, then the concert won’t be the same. You’ll know what to expect.”

Klaus blinks, waves a hand out as if to say, ‘so what? Play me a song anyway.’

“That’s so unfair,” he says, instead, voice bordering on whining. “You don’t need to play the concert music for me, freestyle this bitch.”

Vanya doesn’t really have much in the way of response to that. She loves her brother, loves his presence, but she knows she needs to practise and that having him here will only distract her from that.

Still… Vanya doesn’t want to turn him away. Has never been able to turn him away. She can just practise when she’s home, Vanya decides. It’s not like she doesn’t already know the melodies, isn’t like she doesn’t practise as often as possible anyway.

She’s only practising here, because they offered her somewhere with better acoustics, and if her brother wants to simply sit and listen, then she’ll indulge him.

Music, she’s discovered, is one of her brother’s healthier addictions. Whether it’s listening to her play or drowning the world out with headphones turned to the highest setting, he’s always enjoyed the way sounds can be weaved together.

It’s a trait they share.

Sometimes, if she reminisces especially hard, she can remember the days when they’d play together. But that had been a long time ago, back when Klaus didn’t have shaking hands, and when their siblings had all been running around for missions, the two of them left behind.

“Alright,” Vanya says, pushing herself up. “You can stay. But I do need to practise, so no distractions, okay?”

Klaus isn’t quiet often, and Vanya knows that even when she begins playing, he’ll be muttering to himself, to people that aren’t there, but still he lifts a finger to his mouth and mimes zipping it shut.

She lifts her bow, and then, music surges through the concert hall.


It’s as they’re on their way to a small diner that they find out the news.

Vanya’s refusing her brother’s request to hold her violin case, only because she knows that he’s going to start swinging it around, and she doesn’t want to break her instrument. Not when it’s the only thing their father ever gave to her, not when it’s this close to the concert.

Klaus acts as he usually does when she tells him no, he pouts, presses his lips together and pretends he’d never asked. He’d always pushed their other siblings, but never her. Maybe because he knew that she was the only one who wouldn’t just deny him something for simply existing.

“So,” Klaus says, and his hands are stuck in his pockets. Vanya’s pretty sure they’re shaking, but she won’t bring it up if he doesn’t. “We’re trying to consider what we’re going to eat.”

He’s not talking about what they’ll both eat. Vanya knows that’s not what he means. Klaus doesn’t have powers, but he does have voices, noises that only he hears. Her father had always called him ill, unwell, and therapists had called him schizophrenic, but Vanya hasn’t ever really placed a label on it.

Her brother sees people that she can’t, and maybe when they were kids, she thought that meant he had a power, but it was never quantifiable so as far as she and the world know… he doesn’t.

Delusions flitter to him, and it’s not what Klaus is going to eat, it’s what he and whichever hallucination is following him today are going to eat.

“What are you thinking?” Vanya asks. “Bacon, waffles?”

Klaus purses his lips, looks just beyond her and takes a moment to consider. As if he’s listening to someone speak. Then, his gaze refocuses, turning to his sister, resting an arm over her shoulder.

“It’s too late for bacon,” he says, “but waffles are a good idea. We both like waffles, who doesn’t like them?”

Vanya hardly has the time to ask whether he’s going to drown the waffles in syrup, like he had last time, before her attention is stolen by a bright light, televisions trapped behind glass windows forcing the news onto her.

She stops, and Klaus keeps walking, until seconds later, he notices her absence by his side, and stops too.

“Van–”

He scuttles back towards her, and all Vanya can do is lift her hand, point to the screen, at the red band, white words scrolling past, horrifying her. Klaus watches too, and she can hear the muffled swear, can see the way he doesn’t quite believe what he’s seeing.

“Oh shit,” her brother says, and she doesn’t know what to say, so Vanya says nothing, simply stares at the screen and scrolling text over and over until it’s seared into the back of her eyelids.

Sir Reginald Hargreeves, the man who’d adopted them but had never been a father, dead.

Chapter Text

Their father is dead.

Sir Reginald Hargeeves, the man who never loved them, who never showed them an inch of respect, or compassion, is dead, and Klaus thinks it's about fucking time.

He probably shouldn’t be going around saying that, not when the man isn’t even in the grave yet, or… before he’s been turned into dust? Klaus really doesn’t know how the whole, funeral thing is going to go, since he’s not the one who’ll be enacting his dear father’s wishes.

If it were his own pure decision, then Klaus wouldn’t even go back.

But he knows Vanya will want to go back, that she’ll need someone’s support even if she’s never been the type to turn around and ask for it.

And, he also knows that there’s the whole manner of… inheritance, and fuck, if there’s a chance to get some cash from the house of the father who’d ruined his childhood, then, Klaus is going to do it. Even if it’s not exactly…

Alright, so maybe Klaus is considering petty theft, but well, it’s not like his father’s going to find out and tell anyone. He’s dead.

Yay.

Which brings them to the Umbrella Academy’s headquarters. It’s two days after they’ve found out the news, and Klaus kind of wants the whole visit to the academy over and done with, but Vanya had needed to reschedule the lessons she taught, and she’d been unable to just cancel, change – whatever – the next day’s lessons.

So, they wait until she’s free, and Klaus entertains himself in the evenings between their visits, before making his way back to hers for eleven a.m., to catch the taxi his sister has booked.

The taxi ride is, like most that Klaus has experienced in his life, quiet. He wants to fill it with sound, since silence is always just so overbearing, he needs sound goddammit, but Vanya doesn’t look like she wants to speak.

She’s probably preparing for their siblings.

And Klaus can respect that, really, he can. Each of the Hargreeves children are fucked up in their own ways, and you need to prepare for that, you do, or else it just eats at you and leaves you searching for some sort of numbness again.

The only thing about silence in taxi’s though, is when Klaus isn’t talking to people who are there, he’s stuck talking to people who aren’t.

“I can’t believe he’s dead,” his brother Ben – or, well… it’s not Ben, because Klaus knows he’s not real, he’s just another one of the delusions, Ben died years ago – says. “Dad’s dead…”

Klaus raises an eyebrow.

The taxi has three seats in the back, but Ben isn’t sat in the back with them, for whatever reason. Instead, he’s sat in the front seat, leaning against the backrest, glancing back at him.

“Could be a trick,” Klaus says, and he watches from the corner of his eye as his sister shifts, her attention caught, before realising that the words aren’t for her. Then, she settles again, continues staring out the window. “Always thought he was probably immortal.”

“I hope not,” Ben says, with a quirk to his lips. “Although, now I worry whether you’re going to start seeing him too.”

God, Klaus hopes not.

Because if he has to deal with two dead family members haunting him through his delusions, then Klaus is probably going to end up locking himself in the family wine cellar until either the alcohol poisoning kills him or the delusions.

Whichever comes first: He’s not particularly bothered.

“That sounds horrible,” Klaus hums, even as he begins imagining what a delusion of his father would be like. He assumes the man would probably end up ignoring him, like he had in life, with the odd scathing remark about his decisions, his lack of power.

All the stuff a brilliant dad would say to his child. You know, because old Reggie was always father of the fucking year.

“I wonder whether he’d be able to see me too,” Ben asks, and when Klaus hums, questioning, his brother continues, “because of the whole, you know, you see ghosts thing?”

Klaus shifts in his seat, leans into his pocket and feels around for the small plastic bag he knows is in there. He parts it open with his fingers, lifts one between his fingertips as if he’s lifting a wallet from someone’s pocket. Then, he curls his hand back into a fist, laying his hands in his lap.

“Shut up about the ghost thing,” Klaus mutters, and he thinks maybe it’s too quiet for anyone to hear, but Ben scowls anyway, turning to sit back into his seat.

Here’s the thing: Ghosts aren’t real.

Klaus knows they aren’t real. Even if the hallucination of his dead brother claims to be a ghost, claims he has the power to interact with the dead, he’s not going to start believing it.

Believing things would be admitting that he’s finally lost it, and Klaus might be unstable, seeing things that aren’t there, but he’s not crazy. Because he knows they aren’t there.

Vanya had helped him with the research after they’d left the academy behind. He knows that seeing things isn’t because of ghosts, but rather, an imbalance of dopamine or some other neurotransmitter in his brain. Or, some genetic factor that he’ll never learn about because he’d been bought as a baby.

So no, ghosts aren’t real, Ben is dead and their father isn’t going to become another hallucination when he’s having an episode.

“Suit yourself,” Ben mutters, and Klaus will, because there’s nothing the ghost can say that will change his mind. “But I know I’m right.”

Sure, he does.

It doesn’t mean Klaus is going to turn around and believe him. Unless… if Ben is a part of Klaus’s subconscious, then does that mean that deep down, he really does believe in ghosts? That some part of him believes that he’s not ordinary, that he’s like his other siblings, powered, maybe even, in some context powerful?

Klaus brings his fist to his mouth, deposits the tablet on his tongue and swallows the tablet down before it dissolves in his mouth.

It’s far too early in the day to be thinking about this shit.

“Klaus,” Vanya sighs, because even when she’s staring out the window, she’s still alert to his movements, can see him in her peripheral vision. “In the taxi, really?”

He knows that she’s biting her tongue, forcing herself not to bring up the band around his wrist, his latest stint in rehab, his latest failure. This isn’t really even a lecture – Vanya’s finished with lecturing him, has learned that lectures aren’t what Klaus needs.

He doesn’t know why she says it, maybe because it’s in bad taste to get high in the back of a taxi, while travelling to their childhood home, the one where their father has recently died.

Maybe some other reason, Klaus doesn’t really know. He’s not a mind reader.

“Right, right,” he breathes, and he fidgets, bouncing his leg as he reminds himself that even if he doesn’t much care for social conventions, Vanya does and he should try, probably, for her sake. “Won’t do it again.”

Vanya meets his gaze, and then, because she’s got a fuck tonne of guilt for some reason or another, her lips purse and she mutters a small, “sorry.”

“Nah,” Klaus says, “I get it.”

He’s not sure he does though. Or well, maybe he has an idea. He thinks maybe his sister is nervous, worried about how the others will react to her. She’s not seen them all in years, not even for little hangouts, or meetups. Not since they’d left.

Especially not since the book.

And oh – oh, that’s what he reckons she’s worried about. The book?

“What’s done is done, Vanya, it’ll be fine,” he says, because really, his sister spends so much time stuck in the past that she never really considers that there is so much more. But then, maybe… maybe Klaus is too focused on what comes next, and Vanya is too focused on what’s happened that neither is focusing on what’s happening right now.

Specifically, the fact that they’ve arrived.

“Yeah,” Vanya says, although it’s not agreeing, not really. She’s simply placating him while she reaches for her cash, paying their driver.

Klaus pulls the door open, glances out at the street and realises that nothing’s changed, except maybe him.

“It’s been a long time since you’ve been back,” Ben says beside him, as he steps onto the pavement, waiting for his sister.

“Yeah,” Klaus mutters back. “Twelve years, give or take.”

They’d left together, him and Vanya, months before they’d turned eighteen. They’d remained together for little more than a year, before they’d realised how much they needed their own space, their own place to develop into whatever fucked up humans they are now.

“I’ve not been back since…” Ben clicks his tongue, as if it hurts to admit that he died. That living in this house had been the cause. “…Since… then.”

Klaus scrapes his teeth together, grits them. He’s never liked when Ben gets sad, not when he’d been alive and not now. Real or not.

“You ready to head in, Vanya?” Klaus asks, and she looks at him, paling, as if she’s only just realised that visiting means heading inside, into a place that they’d both despised.

“You go in without me,” Vanya says, “I need to… I need a little longer.”

Klaus doesn’t question it. He offers her a nod, a small salute, and then, he lets himself into the building. It’s been left on a latch, for any siblings left to return, and he closes the door slowly with a wave to his sister.

She doesn’t wave back.

Instead, she stares at the pavement.


There is no one to great him when he walks inside, which is kind of a bummer, because Klaus is pretty sure that he’s owed a reception, some sort of welcome to dad’s funeral party.

Well, his family’s always been sort of dull, so he shouldn’t have expected much, really.

There’s no one in the entrance hall. Only him. And Ben, but really, he doesn’t count. It’s strange because even when it had been quiet in the past, whenever they’d returned home, Pogo or Mom has always been waiting to greet them.

He supposes maybe they’d be waiting if Klaus had sent some sort of message beforehand, but the only message he’s sent recently have been smoke signals from his lungs in the form of cigarette clouds.

“Home sweet home,” Klaus mumbles to himself, and finds himself swaying as he walks through the rooms. Mom is in the drawing room, sat staring into nothing and Klaus watches her for a moment, before deciding to move on.

She’s a machine built by the very man he’d grown to hate.

While he knows that there are grief protocols installed into her programming, things that are designed to help and soothe, Klaus doesn’t want her help. It feels too artificial.

Plus, how does he explain to her that he’s glad their father is dead?

She probably doesn’t have the programming to understand something as twisted as that.

Klaus leaves the drawing room behind and realises that there’s only so many places he wants to see, before their inevitable decent into chaos, their oh-so-unwanted family reunion.

He wants to revisit his own bedroom, wants to search for anything of worth in Dad’s room, and lastly, he wants to go into Ben’s room.

Maybe if he can properly say goodbye to his brother, then this hallucination of him with finally leave him alone. Will finally give him a little peace.

He goes into his own room first, the one in the corner, small, in the middle of everything. Years ago, he thought the room in the middle of the corridor meant something – Klaus doesn’t remember what he’d thought it meant, just that it was… - but now he knows it’s just a room.

Not a bad one, actually. Comfortable.

The bed looks comfortable enough for a nap.

Klaus closes his eyes at the concept. He’s tired, the accumulation of too many late nights mixed with… everything else, and a nap sounds perfect.

Which is probably why his subconscious decides to shout, “next room, Klaus, you can sleep later,” at him in Ben’s voice.


Ben, surprisingly, doesn’t enter their father’s office with him.

Something about not being allowed in during life, not wanting to go in, in case there’s a ghost waiting around to shout at him to get out. Klaus doesn’t really question it.

If all he’d had to do to get away from his hallucinations was to sneak into his father’s office, then… well, that’s what Klaus considers to be a cop-out.

He kind of doesn’t like the neat line, the rule that his brain has created on that end, but well, Klaus isn’t going to take the peace and quiet for granted. He wanders into the office, glances at his father’s desk and imagines for a moment, that the old man is there.

That he’s sat in front of him.

He wonders what he would say if he were.

Maybe something along the lines of, ‘Sometimes I hate you for making me think being ordinary is the worst thing around, sometimes I hate you because with the way you raised me, I’m not ordinary enough to ever fit in.’

Klaus doesn’t know.

There’s a lot that he doesn’t know, really, and it’s about as frustrating as it is laughable.

Instead of dwelling, he rummages through the desk drawers, rolling his eyes at the gold-plated enamel that lines the handles. His father never did have much in the way of subtlety, always wanting to show his superiority, in one way or another to all those around him.

There are little squares of gold in front of him, and Klaus pockets them, smothering a laugh as they clink together. It’s almost as if they’ve been designed to be paper weights, because of course his father would have gold plated paper weights.

And then, at the back of the bottom draw. An ornate box, sleek, black with a gold pattern on the outside that is, quite frankly, impressive, if one was into shit like that.

It looks expensive.

“Bingo,” Klaus says, because expensive is what he’s looking for, and so far, he’s on his way for a full house. He pushes it into the back of his trousers, fluffs his coat around him so it looks less like he’s hiding a box beneath the fabric of his clothes, and then, resumes his search. “Now, where’s the cash– where’s the–”

He bumps his head on the desk as he’s moving around, and it’s at this point that he heads a small clearing of the throat, turning to look up at whoever’s come to interrupt his little… spring cleaning.

Out with the old, Klaus says, and in with the new.

Out with the expensive, to help pay for the new highs he’s going to experience next.

“Klaus.”

The tone isn’t exactly pleased, but then again, his brother Diego has never really been someone to show his softer sides. He’s all hard edges, muscles and brooding whenever he’s not in the middle of the vigilantism act he’s got going for him.

“Diego,” Klaus says, pushing himself up. He offers a smile, ignores the raised eyebrow and says, “How’ve ya been buddy, shocking to see you here, truly.”

His brother doesn’t seem to understand how to smile, because Klaus doesn’t get one in response. It’s alright though, he’s never really known how to smile.

“You might want to get out of Dad’s office while you can,” Diego says, and there’s a snarl to the way he says the word Dad, as if it’s an abhorrent word, something that curdles in his mouth. “Luther’s back and he’s still as much a follower as ever.”

Ah, that’s a shame. He’d kind of been hoping Luther’s time on the moon would have helped distance him far enough from his father that he would finally escape whatever hold their father has on them.

Well… if the moon hasn’t helped, then frankly, Klaus doesn’t think that death’s going to make his brother anything other than reminiscent.

“Let me grieve Diego,” Klaus says, “and where better to do it than in Dad’s favourite place?”

“Dad’s favourite place wasn’t in his office,” comes another voice, and Klaus turns, glances towards Luther. Or rather, he some kind of… hulked out version of Luther. He’s really… ah, filled out?

Someone hides the protein shakes, because his brother surely needs to lay off them.

Diego grits his teeth at Luther’s appearance, shakes his head. They’ve always been like two animals, Klaus thinks, always been ready to snap at each other’s throats just to prove that they can.

His brother doesn’t say anything now, no questions about whether their dad was capable of having a favourite anything, no questions of how Luther knew. Nothing.

Instead, Diego spares Klaus a final glance, as if to say ‘well, I did try to warn you’ before brushing past him and leaving the room without saying anything else.

Which is a shame, because Klaus kind of prefers the company of Diego more than Luther. Even if he’s not talked to either in years, even if they’d kind of labelled him as the crazy, useless one.

“What’re you doing in here?” Luther says, finally. No hello, no anything, just barging in on a conversation, taking control of it and moving it along. How very father-like of him. “We’re not allowed in the office.”

“Rules-schmules Luther,” Klaus says, “he’s dead.

His brother isn’t typically the warmest of people, but whatever warmth was on his face, chills almost immediately. Klaus offers a smile, an innocent blink as he rocks on his feet, waiting for anything else.

“Get out.”

Of the office? Well, Klaus isn’t much of a fighter and the office can wait to be pilfered another day, he’s got enough to pawn now. He makes eye contacts with his brother, rolls his eyes and leaves the room before his brother can say another word.

"You don't need to get your panties in a twist," he says, as he turns the door.

Perhaps his brother is distracted, because he doesn’t mention the clinking of gold from Klaus’s pockets, nor does he register the sound of his voice. He simply stares at the desk, frowning, as if expecting their father to reappear, writing in that same journal he'd always written in.

There’s a pawnshop a few blocks over. Klaus reckons he can head down, get some cash, another fix, and then get back before anyone even questions where he is. Well, maybe Vanya will ask, but he reckons she’s just going to catch up with Pogo anyway, it’ll be fine.

He leaves, unnoticed.

Chapter Text

The academy hasn’t changed.

Vanya steps inside, pushing the door shut behind her, and the main hall has the same dreary, cold atmosphere, the same lingering scent of her father’s cologne, that it always has.

She doesn’t know why she was expecting it to be different, for things to be different now that she’s back. Maybe she’d hoped that she’d been focusing too much on the bad after she’d left, that maybe the place she’d been raised had been warmer than she’d thought. That she’d actually thought of it as a home once. But she glances up at the chandeliers, at the sheer… extravagance of the house and realises that her memories haven’t deceived her.

Everything about the umbrella academy had been remarkable – unique – except for her. She’d not fit in here.

Especially not now.

Vanya knows that things are different now than when she was a child. She’d been invisible before, and it’s only now in her adult life that she’s gotten used to being kind-of seen. She’d been almost like furniture back then, easily fading into the background.

Then she’d published her book and now she knows she won’t ever be able to go back to being unnoticeable. She won’t blend in with the furniture anymore, not like she’d used to.

“Just breathe… Vanya…” She tells herself, when she realises her hands are shaking. Her nerves are shot, despite taking the medication prescribed to keep her calm, which means she really must be nervous.

They probably hate her.

She can’t stop thinking about how they probably hate her: Her siblings. For airing their dirty secrets, for revealing the secrets that ordinary people should never be privy to.

Vanya leans into her pocket, opens the bottle holding her tablets, and takes one before she can think too much. Briefly, her mind turns to Klaus, as it always does whenever she takes her medication, and she pushes her worry over him down, telling herself now isn't the time.

She pushes all of her worry away.

And it’s at that point, that she focuses on the sound of footsteps, glancing up to see her sister coming down the staircase.

Allison – Number Three – has always looked like she belongs in a place like this. Even if she’d been powerless, Vanya thinks that he sister would have fit in anyway. There’s something in the way she carries her shoulders, walks with her back straight, that makes her seem like she’d always been destined for a life in luxury.

Maybe it’s a side effect of being a superhero, Vanya doesn’t know. All she knows is that her sister has always been destined for the spotlight.

“Vanya,” she says, stepping off the final stair. “You came back.”

Vanya feels herself stiffen at the words, watching her sister. Allison steps closer, bridging the gap between them, and Vanya offers a grimace, trying to look like she’s not terrified of her wits.

“Hi Allison,” she says.

They’d never been the closest, but they’d grown up the only girls out of seven siblings, and Vanya steps forward, into Allison’s arms, a staggered, half-hearted hug. It’s… nice. Calming.

When she steps back, Allison doesn’t really smile, but her lips do quirk, slightly, as if she’d be happier about Vanya’s presence, if they weren’t here for the reasons they were.

“I didn’t think you’d come,” Allison says now, and she crosses her arms. “After your book–”

Vanya glances away. She says, “I didn’t think I’d come back either… Seems like one of those things I had to do… to really know he was gone.”

Allison nods her head. For a moment, she opens her mouth, as if to ask something, but then she purses her lips, shaking her head. Instead, she says, “Make yourself at home, I’m sure everyone else is here somewhere.”

It’s as much as she’s going to get out of her sister for now, Vanya thinks. And that’s alright… she’d not been cruel in the recounting of her childhood, in the biography she’d written as a form of therapy, but she’d not changed the truth either.

She’d not made the umbrella academy out to be something amazing, she’d not filled pages with flowery prose, but rather, she’d written staggered accounts of each of her memories with the gritted details she could recall.

Some of the stories hadn’t painted her sister in the brightest light, had brought attention to her flaws, and so this greeting is probably the best she’s going to get.

“Yeah,” Vanya says, “thanks.”

She passes her sister, realises that there’s nothing for her upstairs but bitter memories, and decides that she’s going to go into the main parlour to see her mother. And maybe, after that, she’ll go looking for Pogo. The only two people that she thinks will be impartial to her being here.

“No problem,” Allison says. “I think we’ll all… we’ll all meet in the parlour in a little while to… do something for Dad.”

Right.

Her sister doesn’t seem entirely enthusiastic about doing something else for their father, especially when all he’d done during their childhoods was take, but at least it’ll be the final time they do.

“Okay,” Vanya says, “See you in a while… Allison.”


The parlour is one of the biggest rooms in the house, and somehow, one of the loneliest. Vanya stares at taxidermized animals mounted on the walls, at the portrait of her missing brother – Number Five – and finds that it does nothing but makes her feel small.

How many nights had she and Klaus stayed up, making Five’s favourite sandwiches, leaving lights on so he could find his way upstairs when he returned?

Five had never treated them like their existence was something to be looked over because they didn’t have powers. He’d always thought himself as better, but that was pride, not privilege, and anyway – he’d thought himself better than their other siblings, so it wasn’t purely concentrated on them.

He’d been Vanya’s favourite of their superhero siblings, and she’s pretty sure that Klaus marked him high on his list too.

How long had it been since he’d disappeared? Years, no doubt. They were soon to turn thirty, and their brother had left them behind when he was thirteen. He’d probably been the first to realise that a life in the Umbrella Academy wasn’t something he wanted, because he’d never returned.

“Mom?” She says, as she turns, her mother’s outline sat staring into nothingness. Her mother doesn’t respond, and Vanya hates the terror that slithers down her spine at the lack of a response.

Has her mother been reprogrammed to ignore her? Would her father ever do something as cruel as that?

The harrowing thing is that well… Vanya doesn’t really know. She steps forward, lifting her hand up to reach out for her mother. She says, “Mom?”

Still no response.

“She just needs to charge for a little while,” Comes a voice from behind her, surly, “get some rest. It’s easy for her to get distracted, with everyone coming home.”

Vanya turns, looks at her brother Diego and tries not to flinch away from the scowl he wears. He brushes past her, not giving as much hostility than she’d expected – maybe because he’s talking about Mom, talking about someone who’s always brought out his kindness.

“Oh,” Vanya says, the words hesitant.

It’s odd seeing Diego as he is. The last time she’d seen him had been the day she’d left the Academy behind, when he’d grabbed her by the wrist and told her to make sure Klaus stayed out of trouble.

Now, they’re nearing thirty and Vanya can’t help but think that she’s betrayed his trust twice. First with the book, and second, by not following his request, his wish for his brother to be okay. Even if the request had been impossible to fulfil.

“What’re you doing here anyway,” Diego asks, and the kindness for their mother is gone, replaced with a tight-lipped smile, one that only reminds Vanya of danger. “You don’t belong here. Not after what you did.”

Ah yes, here’s the hatred she’d been dreading.

Vanya supposes that she deserves it. Even if some of her worst memories of Diego had been kept from her final draft. She’d not done it for his sake, but for Klaus’s. Klaus had spent a lot of his teenage years by Diego’s side. Had demanded attention from his superhero brother in a way Vanya had never been capable.

She’d left out some of the stories, because she knew they were Klaus’s stories too, and because she didn’t want to ruin Klaus’s image of Diego in his mind.

The only superhero sibling apart from Five who bothered to ignore their father’s wish for segregation between powered and non-powered children, long enough to create memories with him.

Vanya had always been kind of envious of them both for that, actually.

“He was my father too,” she says, looking away. Then, after a small pause, “I’m sorry for the book, I probably shouldn’t have attacked you like I did. You were always one of the better ones.”

Diego’s expression shifts for a moment, as if to forgive, or say something, but then the frown returns. He’s always been gifted at holding grudges.

“Yeah, well, all of us had our shit Vanya,” he says, “but we didn’t need to write some book about it.”

He shakes his head, then nears their mother, leaning closer, a hand on her arm to catch her attention. He says, “Hey Mom?”

Their mother finally turns. The lenses in her eyes sharpen, artificial blonde hairs bouncing as she turns to look at Diego. There’s a smile to her face, serene, calm, the kind Vanya remembers boosting her spirits on bad days.

“Diego, honey,” she says, “when did you get here?”

“Just got back,” he says, which is a lie, since Vanya hadn’t heard the front door opening. He’d come from upstairs. “Vanya’s here too.”

“You two made up?” Their mother says, and she turns, shines her smile in Vanya’s direction. “Oh, this is wonderful. I’ll make some drinks, you two wait here for me and I’ll bring something out.”

Vanya offers a short, “Oh no, it’s okay Mom, I’m going to take a look around.”

Their mother stops, blinks and almost as if her programming has viruses inside it, blinks off into the distance. She says, “Oh, okay dear.”

Vanya spares her mother one final glance, offers Diego a short look, and then decides that the hostility is a bit too much for her. She doesn’t really want to go up to her old bedroom, but it’s her best bet, she thinks.

It’s as she’s leaving the parlour behind that she hears the front door click shut. Someone leaving the house behind.

Vanya has an inkling that she knows who it is.

She doesn’t turn to investigate the noise though, climbing the stairs instead. She passes Klaus’s old bedroom on her way to her own and finds herself standing in the doorway.

The bed is made now, with a fine layer of dust covering the quilt, but Vanya can remember a time when it was lived in. When the covers would be left unmade. When she’d sit in the room and watch movies that they’d each smuggled into the house.

Pushing the door open more, Vanya makes her way towards the drawers, pulling it open. There are still scorch marks on the wood planks inside, from when Klaus had set his sheet music alight, watching it burn before his eyes.

He’d never really liked being told what to play.

The walls are still scrawled with words and lyrics, all things Vanya had watched him write onto the walls, years before. Yet to get tattoos but still needing to sear the words into himself, somehow. And back then, these four walls had been everything Klaus had really had.

The scrawls above his bed are bright, and now Vanya traces her fingers across the words. She’s read them all before, she knows, but she reads them again, hoping for some sort of insight into her brother’s mind, some understanding.

Even if they’re close, closer than Vanya is to any other sibling – or person, really, not that she’s got many people she holds dear – it doesn’t mean she understands her brother.

He’s too chaotic, and Vanya is… anything but.

Her fingertips stop at words that she’s never read before. They’re old, have been here just as many years as the rest but – but Vanya has never read these before. Klaus must have written them right before they’d left, in those final days before they’d left the academy behind.

He isn’t real – Please don’t believe that he’s real.

Vanya sighs, a long breath as she exhales. Probably one of his hallucinations, one of the more vivid ones. Klaus had told her about them in the beginning, but as they’d become teenagers, he’d slowly stopped sharing them as often.

Then Ben had died, and they’d decided they had to leave the academy behind before it took something irreplaceable from them. After that, he’d stopped sharing them. He’d only ever mentioned everything when she’d asked.

Still, she wonders what caused this writing. This note to himself.

She doesn’t know. Maybe one day, she’ll work up the courage, and ask.


They all meet in the parlour about an hour later.

Everything is quiet, and Vanya shrinks into one of the couches, looking between her powered siblings, watching them as they try to traverse the awkwardness that has crept up on them.

Klaus is by the bar, and Vanya knows that she should be stopping him, probably, because he shouldn’t be drinking, not right now, but she does say a word. She simply listens to the clinking of glass behind her head, listens to the liquor as it sloshes into the cups.

Allison sips at her own drink, makes eye contact with Vanya for a second and offers a small shrug.

It’s nice to know that her sister is as put off by the entire experience too, because Vanya feels pretty lost in what they should be doing. Laughable, really, since they’re all adults.

They should know how to talk to one another by now, shouldn’t they?

“Alright,” Luther says, and he stands from where he’d been perched on the couch opposite her, looking at each of them in turn. His gaze flickers between them all as he watches their expressions. He’s suspicious of something, for some reason, and Vanya doesn’t know what, but it reminds her of what he was like whenever he returned from a mission.

Beside him, Diego shifts his weight from one leg to another, fiddling with one of his knives.

“I think maybe we should have a memorial service for Dad,” Luther continues. His voice carries authority, and it’s not so much a suggestion but an order from a leader, who’d never actually been Vanya’s leader. “Out in the courtyard, his favourite place.”

“Shit,” Klaus mutters from the bar. He’s quiet, and Vanya only just hears him. If her other siblings hear, they don’t let it show. “So, you weren’t lying about him having a favourite place.”

“Dad had a favourite place?” Allison asks. She quirks an eyebrow.

“Yeah, the – we used to sit out there all the time, you guys never sat with Dad?”

Vanya can quite certainly say that she did not. The most time she and Klaus ever spent with their father was when they followed him onto rooftops during their early adolescence, when the others had been sent on their missions.

“Will it be a full event,” Klaus asks now, and he passes Vanya, three glasses in his hand. One a large wine glass, another a tumbler and the last a thin, champagne flute. “With cake and mini cucumber sandwiches?”

He passes the champagne flute to Vanya, and she takes it, gingerly, as if whatever is inside, is going to be some horrible concoction designed to get her wasted. At her expression, he raises an eyebrow, and claims that it’s apple juice.

Vanya can’t see any bubbles, so she’s sure he doesn’t secretly mean cider. She offers a small smile, a quiet thanks.

Klaus winks in response.

Then, after placing his drinks down on the table beside the couch, he pops a cigarette against his lips, pushing into his pocket to retrieve his lighter. He inhales smoke once it’s lit, grabs his wine glass – filled with what can only be Whiskey, there’s no other drink that she’s seen before that’s quite that amber – and throws himself down onto the sofa beside her.

“What, no? There’s no – Jeez, can you put the cigarette out, you know Dad didn’t like smoking in the house.”

Klaus simply rolls his eyes, shrugs his shoulders.

It’s at this point that Vanya notices the skirt. She takes a sip of apple juice, feels stupid for drinking it from a champagne glass, and pokes her brother in the arm.

Klaus sends her his most dazzling smile.

It’s the kind of smile that practically screams that he’s either done something he shouldn’t, or that he’s planning on doing something, and Vanya knows she should probably feel suspicious, but really, she wouldn’t mind something chaotic right about now.

“Where’d you get the skirt?”

She doesn’t ask why he’s wearing a skirt, because Klaus has always enjoyed adding a little femininity into his looks. Vanya’s pretty sure she bought him a dress for their birthday last year.

This leather skirt however, sleek, with tassels at the bottom, is one she’s never seen before, and Vanya is certain he’d not brought it in the taxi with him.

“Oh this?” Klaus says, “I found it in Allison’s room, it’s a bit outdated, but it is breezy. I think it’s a nice look, don’t you?”

Allison squints. She says, “Why are you stealing my clothes?”

“Why not?” Klaus says, leaning back in the chair, he bumps his knee with Vanya’s, offers a long stare.

Vanya knows what he wants. He wants validation that the skirt suits him, that he looks good when he’s pushing gender norms like this. He’s always craved attention, validation.

“Looks pretty,” she says, shaking her head. “Although maybe you should ask Allison for permission next time…?”

Klaus blinks. Then, finally, “I steal your clothes all the time.”

Vanya doesn’t really know how to respond to that, because it’s true. But at the same time, the dresses that she has are old things she’d bought in the past, back when she’d been uncomfortable with her style, thinking maybe shirts and jeans weren’t very appropriate to be worn all the time.

Honestly, she doesn’t even notice when Klaus steals her dresses or skirts. They probably suit him better.

“Anyway,” Luther says, as if he doesn’t really know how to respond to a brother who enjoys crossdressing, “there’s some other things that I wanted to get into.”

“Like what?” Allison asks, leaning forward.

“Like how Dad died.” Luther says. Beside him, Diego rolls his eyes, mutters something along the lines of ‘are we really doing this?’

Vanya blinks, takes a moment to stare at her brother. Frowning, she leans forward, interlocking her fingers together around the champagne flute. She says, “what do you mean how he died? I thought they said Dad had a heart attack?”

“Yeah, according to the coroner.”

Maybe Vanya’s missing some huge lesson on how unnatural deaths are reported, but she’s pretty sure that autopsies and the coroner’s findings would show if their father hadn’t had a heart attack.

“Wouldn’t they know?”

“Theoretically,” Luther says.

Allison leans forward, resting her drink in her lap. She doesn’t sound frustrated when she repeats his words back to her, simply confused. Vanya’s confused too, because this all sounds like her brother is trying to muster some conspiracy theory into existence.

Their father’s death was natural, the coroner said so himself. If there had been foul play involved, then it would have showed in the report.

“All I’m saying, at the very least, something happened.” Luther doesn’t look at them as he says it, his attention resting solely on Allison. As if, he’s the one he needs to get on his side.

Well, she’s probably the only one who’s opinion he cares about, Vanya supposes. From Diego’s frown, they’ve probably already had this conversation. And well, she and Klaus have never really been part of the team, probably wouldn’t even be included in this.

“The last time I talked to Dad, he sounded strange.” Luther says.

Klaus gurgles alcohol in his mouth, a laugh in his voice, “Oh heroes, save me please.”

As usual he goes ignored. Vanya fixes him with a look that says, very clearly, that this isn’t the time. It’s practically a beg for him to be serious, just for a short while. Klaus meets her gaze, swallows, and rolls his eyes.

“Strange how?” Allison asks.

“He sounded on edge,” Luther continues, and he glances away from his sister, turning to offer a glance to Diego. Vanya feels something – concern maybe – welling in her chest. She doesn’t like where this is going. “Told me that I needed to be careful who I trusted.”

“He was a paranoid, bitter old man Luther,” Diego says. His eyebrow arches up, his voice bland. He’s probably repeating words he’s spoken hundreds of times before. Even if she and Diego aren’t close, she can agree with him on this much. “He was losing his marbles.”

“No,” Luther says, as stubborn as ever, “he must have known something was going to happen. I know we’re not a team anymore, but I think we need to look into things.”

Look into things like what? The entire idea just seems… foolish.

“Into things like what?” Vanya asks, finally. She takes a sip of apple juice as her brother’s gaze falls onto her, trying to settle the odd feeling that festers, lingering in her stomach at his stare.

“His monocle, for one. It’s missing.”

Diego rolls his eyes, shakes his head and pushes away from the pillar that he’s been leaning on. He scowls. “Who gives a shit about a stupid monocle?”

“Exactly,” Luther says, “it was worthless. So, whoever took it, I think it was personal. Someone close to him, someone with a grudge.”

Ah, so the suspect list is pretty much narrowed down to anyone who’s ever stepped inside the umbrella academy. Anyone who’d been stuck in a conversation with their father for more than a few minutes.

Sir Reginald Hargreeves had more enemies than allies, they know that much.

Klaus leans forward, inhales smoke and looking between his brothers, squints. He says, “Where are you going with this?”

As if he doesn’t already know. Vanya knows that her brother is sharper than he lets on, even if the others overlook his intelligence. Still, maybe he’s offering their brother the benefit of doubt, offering him the chance to take back whatever he’s implying.

Luther doesn’t take it back though. He just stands quiet, even as Diego steps forward, glares at him and says, “Isn’t it obvious Klaus? He thinks one of us killed our father.”

Luther looks between the four of them, his eyes clouded. He doesn’t try to deny it.

“You do,” Klaus breathes, and it’s hard to see if he’s shocked, or offended.

“How could you think that?” Vanya asks. They’ve spent so many years trying to get away from their father, all of them but Luther had left him behind, and now he’s ready to blame them for a murder there’s no evidence of? All because of a missing monocle?

“Great job, Number One, way to lead.” Diego says. He offers one final scowl, before leaving back through the door.

Even Luther’s mumbles of, ‘that’s not what I meant’ are enough to stop the hurt from creeping into Vanya’s chest. She pushes herself up, meets Klaus’s gaze and shakes her head.

As if to say it’s not worth it, that they should just leave their brother to himself.

Klaus raises an eyebrow, and then, looks past her, pointing his cigarette in Luther’s direction. Smoke curls around his fingers.

“And we all thought I was the crazy one,” Klaus says, pushing himself up. He grabs the tumbler from the table. “But no, that’s you – you’re crazy man.”

“I’m not finished–” Luther tries, but Vanya’s already making her way to the door, shaking her head.

“Yeah, well, okay,” Klaus says, following after his sister, “Vanya and I are going to go kill Mom, we’ll be right back.”

His laughter is dark, filled with mirth, and it’s all Vanya can do not to smile at his words, since it’s not appropriate, not right now. Not with what Luther is insinuating.

Someone murdering their father?

Vanya’s beginning to wish that she’d stayed at home.

Chapter Text

Call him crazy, but Klaus prefers family reunions where no one is suspected of murder. Or at least, no more than one person being suspected.

Not to get him wrong – the involvement of a suspected murder is interesting, one of those things that makes everything less boring. But well… here’s the thing. Klaus is pretty sure that if any of them had killed their father, they wouldn’t be stupid to leave any evidence, or to even come back to the scene of the crime.

They’re a family of superheroes. Does Luther think that they were stupid?

“Ugh,” Vanya groans beside him. While his other siblings had gone up the stairs, storming to their rooms, he and Vanya had gone downstairs to the dining room, and now, his sister pulls out a chair, the wooden legs scraping against the floor. “I can't believe him!”

Klaus looks his sister up and down and realises that he probably should have put something in her glass that was stronger than apple juice. She probably needs it.

“You know,” he says instead, “I think that went well.”

Beside him, Ben swallows down a laugh. It transforms into a sort of cough, and Klaus, despite himself, lets out a small laugh.

“This really isn’t my definition of well, Klaus,” Vanya sighs. “Luther thinks that someone murdered Dad. He looked at us as if we were all murderers, or something.”

Of the two glasses in his hand, Klaus places one down by the seat Ben used to claim as his own, pulling the chair out. He hesitates at sitting down, makes eye-contact with his brother before rolling his eyes and offering Ben the seat.

Klaus sits on the table instead, knees tucked under his chin, staring at his sister.

“Maybe this is his version of grief,” Ben says, and Klaus considers it, echoes it back to Vanya.

He does this a lot, he finds. If someone – mostly Ben, these days, the drugs help disperse most of his other hallucinations – says something that seems like it can help calm others down, then he tends to just, repeat it.

Usually, he’s following Ben’s lead in stopping fights, before he can get punched too badly. It’s kind of weird to think he’s using the same tactic on his sister. Seems a little… manipulative, or some shit like that.

But it can’t be. Because Ben isn’t real, and Klaus is the one thinking this up, so it’s fine.

“Maybe Luther just needs a new mission,” Klaus finishes and when Vanya glances up, catching his gaze, she purses her lips. Contemplating.

“Maybe,” she says, and then, after another sigh: “Still, it’s cruel to go accusing people of murder.”

Klaus kind of agrees, he supposes.

“Yeah,” Klaus says, “he could have just asked us first. To be fair, if I’d killed old Reggie, I wouldn’t be hiding it.”

A sudden flash of his brother Luther flashes through his mind, however, and he forces himself to reconsider. The whole loyal son act is so awfully overdone and boring, but it’s still prevalent and when it’s combined with super strength, maybe admitting to murder isn’t something he would do.

Which is, of course, a hypothetical. Since their father wasn’t murdered, and Klaus isn’t a killer.

“That’s not funny,” Vanya whispers, but she’s sort of smiling, so it’s only partly the truth. “You can’t say stuff like that.”

“Why not?” Klaus says. “It’s the truth.”

Vanya doesn’t say anything. Klaus isn’t sure whether it’s because she doesn’t have an answer, or whether it’s because she doesn’t feel like explaining why killing their father is something they shouldn't be talking about.

Either way she goes quiet, Ben clicks his tongue as if accepting that their lives could never be normal, and Klaus lies back against the table, staring up at the ceiling as if it’ll suddenly burst into a kaleidoscope of colour, or something equally as drug-fuelled.

So far, this funeral has been both scandalous and fucking boring at the same time.

Which, frankly, story of his life.

“Why don’t you just ask dad if he was murdered?” Ben asks, finally, and Klaus offers his driest look. So dry that it’s practically an expression out of the fucking prohibition and shakes his head.

Again, with the ghost shit. Great. Just great.

“Oh gee, that’s a brilliant idea, why don’t I just do that?” Klaus mumbles, throwing his hands up. “Oh wait, because ghosts aren’t real.”

Beside him, Vanya places her glass onto the table. It lets out a small chink.

“Klaus?”

Klaus rolls his head to face her, watches her for a second. Then he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a bar of chocolate – special chocolate, freshly bought, helps produce and fulfil his munchies – and snaps a piece off between his teeth.

“It’s loud,” he says by way of explanation, as she watches him.

“Want to talk about it?” Vanya says, and quite frankly, Klaus finds that he doesn’t want to, no.

Because else, then he has to go into everything with Ben. How he’s been hallucinating their dead brother for years, how the hallucination had told him his brother was dead before he can even remember finding out.

Except, that’s not possible. Somehow his drug-addled mind must be remembering it wrong, and Klaus is just confused. He doesn’t want to see the pity in his sister’s eyes if she learnt about this particular delusion he harbours, and even if he did, how does he begin to explain?

Ugh, he doesn’t know, and quite frankly, Klaus just wants to sit back and get high, so he simply mutters a ‘no thanks’ and continues to stare at the ceiling.

Vanya goes quiet.

And shamefully, it’s the end of any conversation before they can really begin, so they simply exist in the same space, in quiet, non-peaceful unison. Which is, at the very least, awkward.

It’s at about that time that the music starts vibrating through the walls. Muffled, but still present. It’s loud enough to reach the bottom floor, even if it’s barely more than a hum.

The song is old, from before they’d even been born, and yet, it’s nostalgic.

It reminds Klaus of being fifteen, stealing Luther’s record player while the others had all been out on a mission. Back when their father had begun to leave them behind.

He and Vanya hadn’t played the music as loudly as it’s playing now, but they’d played this song, and they’d pretended they could dance, and Klaus hadn’t been wasted on anything but sugar and music.

Vanya’s thoughts must be the same, because she starts to tap her foot to the song, and when she meets Klaus’s eye, she shakes her head and points upstairs.

Well, there’s only one thing they can do when faced with some of their only happy memories in this place, and that’s simply to… replicate it. Maybe. Klaus doesn’t know.

He simply finishes his drink in a gulp, pushes himself up off the table and holds a hand out to Vanya.

“I don’t dance, Klaus,” she says, but she gives in easily enough, grabbing his hand and letting him pull her from the chair. Klaus nudges it back into place with his foot.

“I can’t dance either,” Klaus says, “that’s part of the fun.”

And they can’t dance, not really. Most of his dancing is swinging his hands, and Vanya’s, since he’s holding her. Forcing her to twirl around every time he gets bored of just swinging.

They move and try not to bump into the table or the sides, and it’s almost like they’re children again, imitating dance moves they’ve seen before in movies, trying to avoid the loneliness that comes with being left behind.

Klaus bumps into things more often than he expects he should be, but it’s to be expected. He’s not exactly sober.

“How come I get to twirl you,” Klaus says halfway through the song, and Vanya lets out a sharp laugh, as if she’s been expecting this. “But you never twirl me around?”

“You’re too tall,” Vanya says, but either way, she lifts her arm up as high as she can reach, and area for him to turn under. Klaus ducks below it and tries not to laugh as he pulls his sister along with him.

“You’re just tiny,” Klaus replies, because really, she kind of is. Vanya probably hasn’t grown since their early teens.

“You know what–”

She’s cut off by a rumbling sound that is not unlike thunder. Klaus blinks, and it’s almost comical how quickly they drop their hands, staring up at the ceiling for some explanation for the sound.

It’d been sunny, clear skies when they’d gotten out of the taxi.

No signs of thunder.

Ben rears his head, claims he’ll head upstairs and take a look. Which is well… a decent sentiment and all, but how can he know if Klaus doesn’t know?

“What the hell–”

“Klaus!”

Klaus doesn’t really know what’s going on. But one moment he’s stood at the edge of the table, and the next, Vanya is grabbing hold of his arm, pulling him sideways, just in time to stop a knife from slicing through his skull.

“Shit,” Klaus says, as it scrapes past his cheek instead. “The fuck was that?”

Vanya looks equally as lost as he does. Her voice warbles as she whispers that she doesn’t know. Just that the knives on the kitchen table had been flung across the room, somehow, embedding into the wall beside them.

Like some kind of supermassive magnet had been turned on, set to his highest level and decided, fuck it, let’s murder some Hargreeves children at the same time.

“Maybe the house murdered our father,” Klaus says now, because it’s clearly trying to kill them. Who knows? Maybe all their residual anger at each other has finally turned into some cognisant force and has finally decided to murder them all.

Great. Just… just great.

“Yeah,” Vanya whispers. “I think we should find the others, maybe they know what’s happening?”

Oh yes, because maybe the one’s with abnormal powers, could explain the abnormal knives that just tried to murder them.

“Fucking A-class plan,” Klaus breathes, but follows his sister upstairs anyway.

Ben is on his way back down the staircase as they make their way upstairs, muttering something about blue electricity and the other’s being outside in the courtyard.

“Outside,” Vanya says, grabbing his arm, pulling him in the direction of the courtyard.

Which must a huge coincidence, since there’s no way he could have known?

Fuck, no, Klaus isn’t going to overanalyse this right now. Because there’s thunder and the courtyard is lit with a blue thunder cloud, or whatever their siblings are calling it. A blackhole Luther, really? Does it look like it’s sucking things into it?

“What is that?” Vanya asks, and she won’t let go of him, as if he’ll disappear inside whatever it is, lost to anyone but himself.

“How would I know?” Klaus says, and part of him wants to try and stop whatever it is, it’s making him feel antsy, but the second he tries to move away, Vanya’s grip on his arm tightens.

“Do something Klaus!” Ben says beside him, and it’s all Klaus can do not to turn and hiss at him, to tell him to just shut up.

“I don’t see you coming up with any good ideas!” He cries.

Ben swears, and he’s pretty sure his siblings don’t take his words into account, label it as panicked confusion.

There’s nothing else that they can do, but watch. Or well, actually, there is one thing they could do.

“Running is a good plan,” Klaus breathes, and tugs on his arm, trying to steal his sister’s attention. She doesn’t turn to face him, transfixed on whatever weird phenomena is going on in front of them. “Vanya, come on, we need to run.”

Why does nobody in this house listen to him?

Oh yes, because obviously, he’s the crazy one. Well, there’s nothing nuttier than simply watching whatever this is and not trying to remain safe from it, but well, go off, Klaus supposes.

“There’s someone there,” Diego says, eventually, and Klaus squints, stares at the vortex or whatever, trying to make out the face he’s staring at.

It shifts too often for his eyes to focus – young, old, man, child – and it’s too much to process that Klaus blinks and decides to simply stop focusing.

Then, the wind disperses, the blue disappears leaving behind the warm spring colours, the brisk yet bright skies.

And oh yeah, a body drops in front of them.

It seems to have decided on child.

“Can someone let me know if I’m the only one seeing this?” Klaus asks, because it never hurts to ask. The chances of number Five just randomly appearing in front of them, looking the same as the day he’d left – well, except for the suit – is infinitely small.

No one says anything.

Klaus takes this time to stop talking. Is he seeing things again, another brother? When he’d talked about collecting hallucinations in the form of family members, he’d been expecting their father, not the brother who’d been missing for seventeen years.

“It’s Five,” Ben says, and Klaus bites his tongue to keep from responding.

What if this isn’t real?

What if it is?

“It’s number Five…” Allison breathes finally, and that’s all the confirmation he needs, for the moment. “Little number Five.”

With the personality Klaus remembers their brother having, well, he probably won’t enjoy being called little.

Even if he does look like he’s still a kid, even if he is little, way shorter. Or maybe, little because Klaus is taller now. Both, probably.

Five takes a moment to look himself up and down. Then, as eloquent as any of them could ever manage, he says, “Shit.”

It about sums up the situation perfectly, Klaus thinks.


They head back down to the dining room, because it seems like the most appropriate place for them all to sit and try to understand what’s just happened. Sure, they could have gone into the drawing room, but it feels too formal in there.

Plus, it would include talking to Five under a portrait of Five, and there’s only so much Five he can handle before Klaus’s brain goes into overdrive.

They all sit down around the table, and Klaus climbs up on top of it, staring at his brother as he goes about collecting bread.

He doesn’t really know how to react to his being here.

Because Five has been missing for far longer than he’s been present in his life, gone for so long that sometimes it’d felt like Klaus had simply made him up.

Now, he’s stood in front of them, making a fucking sandwich of all things, asking after the date.

Klaus tries not to stare, folds his hands together in his mouth, fidgets, and realises that he’s pretty much failing.

He takes his brother’s appearance in. Not much has changed really, he’s taken one uniform and changed it for a suit, and his hair is mussed, not the usual neat he remembers, but other than that, he seems the same.

And the attitude is as self-serving as ever, which is… partially a relief.

Klaus zones back in to the conversation just as Luther demands to know where Five had gone. Something about it having been seventeen years, and then, something about it being longer than that for Five.

Which, alright, Klaus isn’t sober enough to unpack that right now. Their brother just warped into the courtyard, if he wants to say it’s been longer than seventeen years since they last saw each other, then sure, why not?

“Where’d you go?” Diego asks.

“The future,” Five responds, and his voice is as dry and sardonic as Klaus remembers. “it sucks, by the way.”

He fucking called it.

Klaus says as much, because well, he’d said the future would suck, Five agrees and now it’s basically the truth. No, it’s higher than that. It’s now fucking law.

“Should have listened to the old man, really,” Five continues, and it’s at this point that Klaus feels his attention dwindling, because who wants to talk about their father? He sure as hell doesn’t. He blinks, presses his knuckles against his lips and tries to focus.

“Jumping through space is one thing,” Five says, “but jumping through time is a toss of the dice.”

Gambling, huh? Suddenly time travel seems a lot more interesting. No wonder their father forbade it.

Wouldn’t want to gamble with the fate of his superhero children. Except he had, with Ben’s life, and he had when it had come to training them all so… well. Maybe their father only ever stopped them from doing things he couldn’t control.

What a fucking asshole.

He’s almost too busy cursing his father that he doesn’t hear the compliment to his – well, it’s Allison’s, but semantics – skirt. He hardly catches it, just a ‘nice dress’ and Klaus feels his lips lift up, a smile as he waves the tassels about. They bounce off the back of his palm.

“Danke,” he says, falling quiet again.

Vanya glances between them all, and then, finally, a frown gracing her face, she asks, “wait – how did you get back?”

Five fixes them with a look, as if he’s not expecting them to get it, but he answers anyway.

“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.”

Yeah, Klaus doesn’t exactly get it.

Maybe it’s a little like, driving down a highway at the speed of light. Technically you’re everywhere in the blink of an eye, and it’s up to you to turn off at exactly the right turning to get to where he needs to go. Right?

But like, with quantum physics and time travel and all that shit.

“That makes no sense,” Diego says, slowly, because well, it doesn’t really.

“It would,” Five says, and he seems to breathe out a long-suffering sigh, “if you were smarter.”

Bold words for the brother who’s currently thirteen, but well, hadn’t Five already said he was older than that? That it had been longer than seventeen years. So, their little brother is actually their older brother, and he’s time travelled back from the future, and now…

Klaus needs a drink. His brain is beginning to hurt.

They haven’t even done the memorial service for their father yet. This has been, quite possibly, the longest day of Klaus’s life.

Diego pushes up from his seat, and it’s a surprise that he doesn’t pull out one of his knives. Luther holds a hand out, to stop him before he can even think to arm himself.

“How long were you gone?”

Both of his brother’s drop back into their chairs as they learn that for Five, it’s been forty-five years. Give or take.

Give-or-take, as if Five had stopped counting at some point.

Meaning that the brother they’re talking to, stuck at thirteen, is in fact, the eldest of them all. Fifty-eight years old.

Except, no, they quickly learn, because it’s only Five’s consciousness that’s fifty-eight, not the rest of him. Not that they needed someone to explain that to them, because his body isn’t aged, it’s easy enough to fucking see this.

It’s a bit harder to believe it though.

“Looks like I missed the funeral,” Five says finally, staring down at the newspaper. Klaus watches for any switch in his brother’s expression, finds none, and isn’t sure whether it’s reassuring or daunting. Five had always hated their father, too. “Heart failure, was it?”

“Yeah,” Diego says, just as Luther mumbles, “no. How do you even know about that?”

Five fixes him with what Klaus can only explain as ‘the look’, the type that people offer when they’re disappointed in being asked something completely stupid.

Which is kind of valid, since he’d literally just been talking about time travel, so their brother should be filling in the blanks.

“What part of the future do you not understand?” Five asks, and yeah, maybe they deserve to have that question thrown at them. His brother raises an eyebrow, looks them all in the eye and then finally, after tearing into his sandwich – a horrible concoction of peanut butter and marshmallows – he sighs, “nice to know that nothing’s changed.”

Oh, buddy, Klaus wants to say, a lot has changed, you just haven’t been here.

“That’s it?” Allison asks, and Klaus turns his head, following Five as he makes his way towards the door, back to the staircase. “That’s all you have to say?”

“What else is there to say?” Five calls, and Klaus swallows down words that probably aren’t needed yet, years of words he’d saved for a missing brother, because apparently, to Five, there’s nothing left to say. “Circle of life.”

“This is so fucking weird.” Ben says, and Klaus can only nod. He’s not sure what he’d say if he opens his mouth.

Chapter Text

Vanya can still remember the day Five disappeared with such clarity, that sometimes, she relieves the loss all over again. He’d stormed out of the house during dinner, after yet another disagreement with their father, and despite her wishes, he’d never returned.

She and Klaus had waited in his room that night, for the moment when he’d jump back through space, a fleck of blue as he walked through whatever portal he’s squeezed through.

They’d sat on his bed, unfolding his blankets and shimmying under them, prepared for their brother to yell at them for entering his room without his permission. Ready for his ire.

They’d not been prepared to face the idea that he might not come back.

Vanya had brought her sheet music in, going through the fingering for the notes without her violin, practising positioning for the next day, and Klaus had brought a sketchpad, had set out doodling beside her.

After the house had quietened, a lull of sleep falling over everyone, Vanya had elbowed her brother, and suggested that they make something for Five, since he’d missed dinner.

Klaus had helped her slip downstairs, had grabbed the peanut butter while Vanya had grabbed the marshmallows, and they’d made Five’s favourite concoction. Five’s own mixture of sweet and savoury.

They’d brought the plate up, left it on Five’s bed, alongside a glass of juice, and they’d waited, with the lamp on so Five could make his way through his room, realising they were waiting.

Klaus had fallen asleep first. His head on her shoulder had been heavy, but Vanya had refused to shift, to wake him up.

She’d fallen asleep not soon after, eyelids drooping despite every effort to stay open.

When she’d woken the next morning, the sandwich was untouched, and the juice still filled to the top of the glass.

Five hadn’t come back.

Vanya had made too many theories to wonder where he’d gone. She’d always thought that with how smart Five was, he’d always ended up where he’d wanted to be, somewhere that filled his expectations, somewhere that held people as smart as he was.

She’d never expected he’d get lost.

And after so long waiting up for him, she’d given up hope on seeing him come back.

Except, here he is now, back. The same old Five she remembers from their youth. Unchanged, physically at least. There’s a light missing from his eyes, that had been there before he’d disappeared.

Maybe it’s a side effect of jumping through time.

A small part of her mind whispers, maybe it’s a side effect of growing up.

Vanya has spent so many years waiting for him to come back, that she can’t stop herself from seeking him out. She doesn’t know if Five is going to want to speak to her, but she… Vanya’s been waiting for too long to let him just disappear again, without being able to say she’d missed him.

She finds him in the drawing room.

He’s changed out of the suit, back into the uniform their father had ordered them to wear during their childhoods. Seeing him back in his uniform makes it seem like he’d never disappeared.

“It’s nice to know Dad didn’t forget about me,” Five says, finally. He turns from where he’s staring at his own portrait, turning to meet her gaze. He doesn’t smile, but well, Five had never been much of a smiler.

None of us forgot you, Vanya wants to say, but the words catch in her throat.

“I read your book, by the way,” Five continues instead, and Vanya forces herself not to shrink away from those words. Her brother doesn’t look disapproving at the concept of the book, but who knows with him. “I found it in a library that was still standing.”

Five forces his hands into his pockets, and Vanya watches as he frowns. Not an angry frown, she doesn’t think, simply a considering one. He can hardly stay still though, keeps glancing around the room, moving around to scan every part of it.

As if he’s trying to place himself back into the room, to memorise it as something he’d been a part of, once.

“Thought it was pretty good,” he continues, and Vanya’s shoulders shouldn’t relax at the words, but they do, “all things considered.”

He looks back to her, and while he doesn’t smile, there is a quirk to his lips. He’d been amused by the book then, or by the sentiment behind it. Vanya won’t pretend she understands the shifts in her brother’s expressions.

“Definitely ballsy,” Five says, “giving up the family secrets. I’m sure that went over well.”

Awful sounds like a much better word, actually.

Writing her biography had been less about giving up family secrets, and more about forcing herself into the narrative. She’d wanted her story to be told, for once, even if it was selfish, even if it caused…

Well, they’d never been close before, as a family unit, so there hadn’t been much she’d risked losing.

(Except Klaus… she’d… she’d risked him. Had been lucky not to lose him, even if she’d barely written anything about him. He’d been a short chapter.)

“They hate me,” Vanya admits. Diego’s glare, Luther’s indifference. Even Allison’s lack of conversation had hinted at it. She knows her siblings have little care for her now. She deserves it.

“Well,” Five says, “not all of them.”

Vanya blinks.

“As long as even one person has your back, it’s not too bad.” Five continues. “There are worse things that could happen.”

Her mind flashes back to blood stains on the floor, to the night when she’d sat with most of her siblings waiting outside of a bedroom, their parents and her brother hidden away inside.

“Like what happened to Ben?” She whispers.

Five hesitates, his gaze dropping to the floor as he nods. The movement is slow, and they stand, quietly as they both remember their brother. Vanya hadn’t known Ben very well, but she’d admired him, loved her brother even if he’d barely spoken a word.

“Was it bad?” Five asks, finally.

It’s been almost a decade, but Vanya feels tears spring to her eyes. The memory always feels sour in her head, always makes her feel sick. They’d waited outside the bedroom until morning, until Pogo left the room with a tight grimace, until their mother left the room behind without any expression on her face.

Vanya’s nod is small. The words stick against her tongue, but slowly she says, “It was terrifying.”

And not just because of what happened to Ben.

The day Ben had died, had included the only time Vanya has ever been scared of her brother. The only time Klaus had ever made her feel, truly afraid.

It still unsettles her even now, to think about it, so she tries to push it down. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Five watches her for a moment. Quiet, as if he doesn’t know what to say to that. She supposes that there’s nothing he can say, about their brother, the brother he’d been closest to as a child.

“T-there’s…” She starts, hesitating. Her brother’s attention seems almost too much. “Ben has a statue outside… if you wanted to say goodbye to him.”

Five nods. He purses his lips, and then, after a moment, not even higher than a whisper, probably not something he’d intended for Vanya to hear, “I bet he’d have hated a statue.”

Vanya’s lips tug up.

Ben would have hated the statue.


It was the rain that turned the courtyard into a graveyard, not their father’s ashes.

Vanya follows her siblings outside, hidden beneath the shelter of her umbrella, raindrops battering against her boots. The courtyard is unkempt, has ivy climbing up the walls, curling around the gazebo, around the gutters.

The only thing unmarked by time, is Ben’s statue.

Luther is the one to bring Dad’s ashes out with them, and he’s the one who stands opposite them now, holding the urn close to him, as if it hurts to know all that remains of their father is inside the ceramic vase.

Vanya knows she should feel something looking at the vase, knows that she should feel some sort of loss as she realises their father is gone now, has been cremated but she only feels numb.

Klaus scuffs his foot against dying leaves. He reaches a hand and lights what could be a cigarette, but could also be a joint, and Vanya wants to tell him to put it out, but she doesn’t.

It doesn’t seem worth it, not at the moment. Not when Luther looks so vulnerable, not when Five looks so… out of place standing next to her. Not as Pogo joins them, followed by Mom.

Not when the rain is drowning everything out.

“Did something happen?” Their mother asks, and Vanya feels herself stiffen, turning to look at her. Most of her siblings frown, confused by what she’s saying.

“Dad died,” Allison says. Her grip tightens on her umbrella. “Remember?”

For a moment, Mom stills, her expressions faltering, as if her processors are trying to recall the data. Then, she looks down, regret flashing across her face. “Oh yes, of course.”

Vanya’s gaze lingers on her mother.

“Is Mom okay?” Allison asks.

“Yeah,” Diego says, and Vanya’s attention turns to him, realising that this is a repeat, essentially, to the conversation they’d had when she’d arrived, and found Mom unresponsive. “she’s fine. Just needs to rest, you know. Recharge.”

Rain drips from his nose. Bar Luther, he’s the only one who’s come out without an umbrella, and so the rain drenches him. His clothes are already soaked, his hair flat against his forehead. He looks, for a second, like he’s barely survived drowning.

Pogo is the one who breaks the silence that shrouds over them. He turns to Luther, looking at him over his glasses.

(He walks with a cane now. Vanya doesn’t know why it shocks her. He’d always seemed so ageless as they’d grown up, but now, he walks slowly, and his hair is greying.)

“Whenever you’re ready, my dear boy.” He says.

Luther nods, lifts the lid off of the urn. He tips the urn, scattering ash across the leaves. Except, without any wind, it simply clumps together in a pile, like the aftermath of a bonfire, or an explosion.

Which is fitting, because that’s what their father had always felt like. Like he’d been a fire, blazing, using them as if they were simply fuel, something to be used.

Beside her, Klaus winces.

It’s not the most elegant of memorials, not the most fitting of goodbyes.

Luther glances at them all, his eyes wide, his shoulders stiff, and under his breath, mutters how this would have gone better if there’d been wind. Vanya avoids his eyes, finds herself staring at the pile of their father, instead.

“Would anyone like to speak?” Pogo asks.

Vanya isn’t surprised that no one offers any words. They’d all had conflicting views on their father, different traumas that he’d put them through, but the one common point had been that they’d suffered through his cruelty.

And they all know the phrase: If there is nothing nice to be said, they shouldn’t say anything at all.

Under his breath, Klaus simply mutters, “I’m glad he’s gone.”

Vanya meets his eye, watches as he shrugs, and then, slowly, turns back to Pogo. Her lips tighten, if only because she doesn’t want to agree, doesn’t want to admit to that a burden has been lifted off her shoulders now that their father is gone.

“…Very well.” Perhaps it’s Vanya’s imagination, but Pogo’s voice wobbles. “In all regards, Sir Reginald Hargreeves made me what I am today.”

She shivers. Beside her, Klaus shifts. She wonders what he’s thinking about, whether hearing a eulogy for their father makes him feel as uncomfortable as she’s feeling right now.

“…He was my master, and my friend…”

Their father was many things, Vanya thinks, but he was never a parent. Maybe that’s why Pogo’s words leave her stomach squirming, leaves a shudder running down her spine. She doesn’t like how fond the entire thing sounds.

“He was a monster,” Diego interrupts, and Vanya startles at the hatred in his voice. It’s dark, warm in a way only negativity can be. Not in a way that is soothing, but in a way that burns, scalds its way through skin and bone. Klaus lets out a startled laugh beside her. “He was a bad person, and a worse father.”

He’s only speaking the truth, but still, Vanya feels guilty on his behalf. They shouldn’t be speaking ill of the dead.

“The world’s better off without him.”

“Diego–”

The glare he sends Allison is enough to make Vanya freeze. It’s not even aimed at her, and here she is... scared.

“My name is number two. Do you know why? Because our father couldn’t bother to give us actual names,” Diego hisses. He catches Vanya’s eye for a moment, before jerking his head back towards Luther.

Oh, so he’s picking a fight.

“We were only ever numbers to him,” Diego says. “Nothing more than possessions to be used at his disposal.”

Vanya shudders. When she steps back, Klaus’s hand on her elbow is the only thing that keeps her from rushing back inside, away from the conflict she can already see is beginning.

“Look, you want to pay your respects to him, then go ahead.” Diego continues, “But at least be honest about the kind of man he was.”

Luther scowls, gritting his teeth. He says, “You should stop talking now.”

She can’t believe that they’re really going to start fighting now, of all times. Surely, they should have gotten over the petty rivalry they’d had as children. Except, it seems like they haven’t.

“You of all people should be on my side, number One.”

“I’m warning you,” Luther hisses.

Since none of them are stupid, Klaus grabs Vanya and pulls her behind him, shielding her. Vanya glances around the side of him, waiting for the fall out. Waiting for the inevitable.

“He sent you to the moon– he sent you a million miles away–”

“Diego, stop talking–”

“He couldn’t stand the sight of you, Luther!”

Even thought Diego is the one with anger running through his veins, a fire that not even the rain can put out, left hidden behind his eyes, Luther is the one who throws the first punch.

Maybe it’s because he’s the only one who still respects their father. Maybe it’s because Diego is forcing truths onto him that Luther isn’t ready to hear yet.

Either way, their brother curls his fingers into a fist, and swings.

The blow doesn’t land. But it’s enough incentive for Diego to strike back. And what Luther has in strength, Diego has always had in speed. He throws a punch that doesn’t land, using the momentum of one to throw another.

It lands on Luther’s arm, which probably isn’t where Diego is aiming, but their brother lets out a grunt anyway.

Klaus steps back, tries to move Five out of the way as well, and ends up almost treading on Vanya’s feet. Five glares at him, but Vanya doesn’t think that her brother really notices.

Because Klaus is smirking, revelling in the fight. As if this is all he’s really been wanting to see this entire time.

“Boys!” Pogo shouts, but his words go unnoticed, “Stop this at once!”

They don’t listen. But then again, they’ve never really been very good listeners, Diego and Luther, so Vanya doesn’t know what their butler is expecting. The only person they’d both listened to, was their father, and now he’s dead.

More punches.

Diego taunts their brother, calling for more action, but Luther doesn’t respond with anything but a scowl and more punches. It’s as if that’s the only action he’s willing to fall back on.

“Stop it!” Vanya screams, but they don’t notice her. They never have.

“Hit him!” Klaus calls instead, and Vanya can’t stop herself from punching him in the shoulder, because he should not be finding this funny. “Get him!”

“Klaus!” She hisses, and he turns to her, eyes lit up with a mixture of drugs and adrenaline. “Stop encouraging them!”

“Why?” Klaus laughs, “Teams back together, at their best. Look at them go.”

Vanya doesn’t spend much time angry at her brother, but she very quickly confirms that what’s coiling in her chest, is indeed anger. She says, “This isn’t funny, Klaus.”

“No?” Klaus asks. “I think it’s hilarious. Best. Funeral. Ever.”

He glances past her for a moment, and Vanya follows his gaze, realises that he’s simply staring into thin air. His smile falters, ever so slightly, as if he’s being scolded.

Vanya rolls her eyes and turns back to their fighting siblings.

Just in time to watch Ben’s statue fall to the ground. The weight of the statue against the fall causes the statue to fracture, a foot and his head shattering from the main body.

“And there goes Ben’s statue,” Allison mutters, shaking her head.

“It’s alright,” Klaus says, after a moment, and he pivots, turning away from the fight, as if it no longer holds his interest. “It’s not like Ben ever liked the statue.”

Vanya frowns at him.

“You coming back inside, Van?” Klaus asks, after a second. “Their fight is already as good as over.”

Vanya watches Diego grab the knife from his pocket, watches him throw it and barely has the time to form the thought, let alone the shout for him to stop. Because he never knows when to stop.

She doesn’t answer him, but Vanya heads back inside, and that’s all the answer she’s willing to give.

Chapter Text

When they’d been children, Five had made them a promise.

They’d been little then, back when Klaus hadn’t been the gangly tall one, when Five was a few centimetres taller than him. Back when they’d been the last three numbers, Five, Six and Seven.

Before Mom had given them their names.

They’d been sat in Vanya’s room, because it was always the warmest, near to the boiler, the trio sat around one of Vanya’s books. Klaus doesn’t remember which book it was, but that had been irrelevant, all that mattered was that the book had included a forest.

It’d had descriptions that had been almost otherworldly. Five had been the smartest, had been the one to read the words aloud, and they’d all escaped the academy as he read, surrounded instead by thick brambles and the smell of dying earthworms and mud.

“We should go to the forest, one day.” Five had says, an aside, as he’d closed the book, readying to leave them for his lessons with their father. “Just the three of us.”

If he’d been older, Klaus is sure he’d have said this sounded like the beginning to a thriller novel, or something, but he’d yet to grow into his humour, into someone who didn’t typically look at the woods and see wonder.

“Yeah,” Vanya had whispered. She’d spoken in a low voice, but awe had crackled against her vocal chords. She’d always sounded louder back then, when she’d been impressed, or astonished, even if she’d remained as soft-spoken as ever.

“Camping,” Klaus had whispered, “we should go camping, one day.”

And they’d all promised that one day, when they’d grown up, moved away from the academy and all it’s rules, they’d find a forest like the one in that book, and set out with a tent and sleeping bags.

They’d take in the sight of the stars and try to keep their hands warm from the chill of the night, and it wouldn’t mind if they woke up the following morning feeling the cold between their toes, because they’d be free.

They’d made the promise, and then, they’d each broken it.

Sometimes, it felt like the foundations of their family was build on broken promises. Which is stupid, because it’d been a tiny promise they’d made when they were tiny, is a promise that’s long-since gone forgotten.

Not broken, just… not remembered.

Klaus doesn’t even know why he’s even thinking about it. It was a childish dream, and it’s not even one that’s gone unanswered, since Klaus has always thought of homelessness as camping out on the streets.

Maybe it’s because Five is back, and he looks so young. And maybe it’s because Ben is still gone, and now his statue is gone too, left outside in the courtyard for whenever someone decided to clean the wreck away.

And maybe it’s none of that, maybe it’s just a random stray memory coming back to him because that’s how memories work, they just pop up and–

“Klaus,” Vanya says, and he turns. How silly of him, to get lost in his head when his sister is around, when he can get lost in conversation instead. “I think I’m heading out.”

Klaus blinks.

Honestly, not what he’d been expecting.

“Alright?” He says, because how else is he supposed to respond?

“I… well,” Vanya says, “I know the others won’t care if I head off, but I thought I’d let you know. If… if you need a place to crash, you know where I keep my spare key.”

He does know.

Although, really, Klaus doesn’t think that it’s because he’s particularly observant. Vanya is just extremely poor at hiding the spare key. So very predictable.

“Thanks,” Klaus says, because honestly, it’s always nice to know that he’s welcome to the couch in Vanya’s apartment, even if his visits to the place are so far and few between.

He doesn’t say he’ll join her though, because they both know that it’s always louder in his head when the sun abandons them, that another club will be calling his name, but he appreciates the sentiment anyway.

“Hey,” Klaus continues, “Next time I’m over, I just have to tell you about the time I liberated a horse, you’ll love it.

Vanya gives him that kind of look she does when she’s not sure whether he’s talking shit – he’s not – and from the other end of the room, he can hear Ben’s low chuckle, as he too remembers the liberation.

That fucking horse.

It deserved to reach salvation.

“Alright Klaus,” Vanya says, and she shakes her head, fond, denying the laugh they both know makes its way to her lips. “Promise to tell me it later.”


Klaus remains after Vanya leaves.

He supposes that it’d probably be more normal of him to leave with her, than to remain in the place where they’d all shared trauma, but Klaus remains because he doesn’t want to sleep on the streets and there’s a perfectly good bed upstairs.

Oh, and Five is back, and still in the house, so he’s pretty sure that’s another reason to stay.

It’s not like he’s going to wake up to the sound of an alarm, telling him that his other siblings are off on another mission, because there are no more missions anymore. Just a quiet house, and a whole bunch of adults that are a bit too messed up.

Klaus settles at the table, staring into the contents of his glass.

Diego’s old electric guitar is cradled in his arms, because as high as he is, Klaus decides that he’s going to learn how to play it. When they’d been kids, Diego had always been protective, had never let Klaus near it.

But he’d grown out of the music phase, and he’d forgotten to take it with him when he’d left, so Klaus assumes it’s all fair game now.

Klaus is going to learn guitar, and it’s going to be fabulous.

He’s strumming the guitar, trying to make sound that doesn’t come off horribly, when Five comes in. He doesn’t really spare Klaus a second glance, not that Klaus expects much, as he goes about looking through the cupboards.

“What’re you after?” Klaus asks.

His fingernail scratches against the E-string, and the sound is almost like a mixture between nails on a chalkboard and a groan. Klaus doesn’t know whether he hates the sound or likes it, so he creates it again, and again.

Five fixes him with a glare, and Klaus stops.

“Coffee,” Five says, “I’m after coffee.”

Their household had been one of those strictly no caffeine households, so Klaus doubts that Five’s going to find any, but hey, it’d also been a no drugs household and Klaus had found a way to introduce those so, who knows?

“Try the backs of the cabinets,” Klaus says, “If anyone hid any when we were kids, it’d be hidden there.”

Five raises an eyebrow, but he takes the advice anyway.

It’s always been easier to talk to Five with Vanya by his side, or when his brother had his back turned, so Klaus waits until he’s got his back turned again, rummaging through the cupboard.

“Van always said you’d come back,” he says. “She used to leave the light on for when you got back. Never really expected you to come back during the day.”

He’s not sure whether the sound Five makes is offended or amused. It’s either a scoff or a snort, and it’s utterly impossible to determine the difference.

“You were the one who was afraid of the dark,” Five says, “not me.”

Well, sure, but that’s because the dark is a fucking scary place.

“Yeah– well–”

He cuts off as Allison steps into the room, glances at his other sister. They’ve never really bonded much as kids, even if he had snuck into her room a few times for nail polish and to borrow – Ben would call it stealing but it’s possible to borrow things without permission – her skirts.

She’d always had better style than Vanya, when it had come to femininity. Had always been more willing to variate, to try new things.

“Where’s Vanya?” She asks, glancing around the room as if she’ll magically appear. It takes Klaus a moment to realise she’s looking at him, looking for his answer.

“Oh,” Klaus says, strumming the guitar again. “She’s gone.”

Five offers a glance back at him, a frown on his face as he says, “that’s unfortunate.”

Klaus shrugs, because it’s not that unfortunate. It’s not like he can’t just see Vanya any time he wants, he knows where she lives.

He blinks as Allison nods, a quiet, “yeah.”

Vanya has never really mentioned being close with Allison either. It’s a little strange that Allison is asking after her, especially after years of radio silence.

Oh well, he thinks, and picks at the A-string.

Allison joins Klaus, leaning against the table, and after a few seconds, gives in to the temptation to create sound, by brushing her fingers against the strings. When she meets his eye, her lips quirk into a smile.

Five back to them, brings the coffee pot – still empty, unfortunately – with him and half places, half slams, it onto the other end of the table.

“No coffee,” Five says, and he glares at the coffee pot as if it’s personally offended him on a spiritual level. “An entire square block, forty-two bedrooms, nineteen bathrooms but no, not a single drop of coffee.”

“Well,” Klaus says, “there’s only two kitchens.”

Five’s eye twitches.

“You know, Dad did always hate caffeine.” Allison says now, and Klaus can’t help but feel a laugh roll up his throat.

“Well, he hated children too, but he had plenty of us.”

He was kind of a prick.

A sadistic prick, really. Why did they even own coffee pots if coffee wasn’t allowed in the house? What really, was the point in owning things they didn’t need?

Fucking rich people.

Klaus is really glad he’s gone.

“I’m taking the car,” Five declares, and Klaus stills, shifts in his chair so his feet touch the floor. He leans the guitar against the table, and very slowly turns to face his younger-older-whatever-he-counts-as brother.

“Where are you going?”

Is it just him, or does the question come out strange against his vocal cords?

Five hasn’t even been back for hours and he’s already leaving again? Well then. Seems a little selfish, he supposes.

But then again, Klaus himself is a bitter cacophony of mistakes, resentment and words long gone unsaid. He’s selfish too, so he really shouldn’t be calling others out on it.

“To get a decent cup of coffee,” Five says. He squints, and Klaus almost squints back but straightens instead. It sounds like an excursion, a quick trip, something he’ll return from pretty quickly.

Alright, so he’s not just going to disappear again.

God, Klaus could really do with a drink at this point. Or maybe just a few more fucking pills. He’s got both in close proximity, it’s just so hard sometimes to choose which one to have first.

“Do you even know how to drive?” Allison asks.

A good question. And even if he can drive, is he really going to in a body that probably can’t even reach the pedals?

“I know how to do everything,” Five bites, and he turns, stepping through a portal of blue before Klaus even has the time to tell him that the car keys are in a small bowl by the bar in the drawing room.

Klaus holds his hand out, as if to brush his fingers through the portal, but it disappears before he can manage. Probably a good thing too, Klaus doesn’t want to think about what would happen to his body if the portal closed with only part of him reaching the other side.

Huh, not something he’s ever really wanted to think about before. Klaus feels himself shudder.

“I feel like we should try to stop him,” he says instead, and for a moment he’s not sure whether he’s talking to Allison or Ben. He decides that it’s to Allison, because that’s the least crazy option. “…But also, I just want to see what happens.”

In his peripheral, Ben lifts a hand to his forehead, breathing out a long sigh.

Allison, however, quirks her lips up, shaking her head. Then, finally, an admission, “I kind of want to see what happens too.”

The sound of an engine rumbling echoes above, and like that, Five is gone in search of better things.

Coffee, mainly.

Klaus leans into his pocket, grabs his lighter and plays with it for a second. The flame is bright against the kitchen’s dull interior, and it’s almost peaceful to just stare at it for a moment.

“If you light the house on fire,” Ben says, quiet, “I swear I’ll find a way to punch you.”

You know, it wasn’t really something he was considering before, but now… now Klaus kind of wants to see how that’d go.

“Alright,” Diego’s voice comes before he turns the corner into the house, and Klaus brings his finger off the lighter, placing it back into his pocket. Pyromania will have to wait, it seems. “Guess I’ll see you guys in what? Ten years? Whenever Pogo dies.”

Hah, jokes on him, Pogo is going to outlive them all.

The rest of them are too fucked up and fragile to outlast him.

“Not if you die next,” Allison says, and wow, that’s a little savage, even for her.

Klaus glances at them both, and then, because Five’s a brat who left the coffee pot for someone else to deal with, he lifts it up and places it back in the cabinet. He swaps it for potato chips, stuffing them in his pockets for when the munchies eventually hit him again.

“Yeah, love you too sis,” Diego says, the tone biting, but not harsh. Almost as if they’re simply sharing a bit of banter. “Good luck on your next film. Hope it turns out better than your marriage.”

Alright, Klaus is redefining his definition of banter.

This isn’t it.

Allison clicks her jaw, shakes her head, and without another word, she’s out of the room, a mix between running away and storming off. Klaus doesn’t know much about why her marriage crumbled apart, but there’s obviously some sort of story there that he’s impartial too.

Maybe Diego’s hitting below the belt.

Oh well, it’s not really Klaus’s problem.

Plus, he’s got other problems. Like the problem of: If all of his favourite siblings are leaving the house, then he’s going to have to leave too. He doesn’t want to be stuck with the judgemental ones, and Pogo, who’ll just get on his ass about how horrible his habits are and blah, blah, blah.

He saunters up to Diego, and asks, “Are- are we leaving?”

“No,” Diego says, in that stern way he does. There’s no heat in his glare though, so Klaus already knows that his brother will give him a ride. “I’m leaving – me – by myself.”

He stresses the words, but Klaus has never been a good listener, so his simply pats his brother’s shoulder, and offers a sharp smile.

“Oh fabulous,” he says, “I’ll get my things.”


Later, Diego parks his car by the pier, and Klaus watches the outline of his brother from the car. He’s probably observing the ripples in the water or some shit like that, doing the whole, angsty brooding thing he’s perfected to a tee.

Klaus doesn’t really know what he’s doing, but he sits in the car like a good Klaus and waits.

Part of him knows that if he gives Diego the time he needs to just… brood himself out, then the likelihood of getting food out of his brother at some diner will be high.

The chips in his pocket call his name but he’s not up for salty foods at the moment no… he’s craving….

Eggs?

No, it’s too late for eggs, everyone knows eggs are a morning thing. At most, they can push into brunch territory.

“Waffles?” He asks himself and then, finally, he meets Ben’s eyes. “You like waffles, right?”

Ben makes a humming noise that is something like approval and then, turns with what Klaus has come to know as his ‘serious-expression’. It’s the look that tells him that shit is about to go down, and that he should be prepared.

Klaus probably isn’t going to enjoy this, is he?

“We need to talk about earlier,” Ben says.

“Five being back?” Klaus asks. “I’m not sure what there is to say. He left, he came back. That’s the end of the story.”

Ben crosses his arms, shakes his head. He says, “That’s not what I was trying for but, well, it is, a little. I suppose?”

There’s a tension to his voice that only ricochets whenever Ben’s about to say something that’s going to rattle him.

Klaus does what he does best in situations like this, he attempts to deflect. Under his breath, he mutters, “yeah, waffles. Drowning them in syrup and cream.”

“Klaus–”

“And I’ll have a milkshake, yeah. Sneak some liqueur into it.”

“Will you quit ignoring me!” Ben cries.

Klaus jumps despite himself. He winds the window down, hoping for some fresh air. Part of him wants to unbuckle from his seat and join Diego in his brooding, but Ben would probably just follow him.

“It’s not ignoring you if you’re not real.” Klaus sighs. He lifts his hands, tired, and presses them against his eyelids, as if by blurring his vision, he’ll be able to unblur the lines between fiction and reality.

“I told you about Five’s portal before you even got up the stairs,” Ben says, and part of him sounds desperate now. Pleading. “I always run ahead and tell you things you don’t know.”

No, Klaus thinks. He’s just observant, he must be. Ben is dead.

“How is that possible if I’m not here Klaus?” Ben continues, and Klaus closes his eyes because maybe if he focuses hard enough his brother will just go away. He can almost hear his pulse in his ears. “Tell me how it’s possible and I’ll drop it. Tell me how you’re managing it if I’m just an illusion and I’ll never bring it up again.”

Klaus doesn’t know.

He doesn’t know how it’s possible because he knows fuck all about psychology. He doesn’t know whether the brain is possible of interpreting stimuli and reacting to it with a hallucination before he can consciously understand it.

He doesn’t know it’s possible but it must be because he’s never had powers and when people die, they just stop existing, there’s nothing after that. Nothing. It’s crazy to think otherwise.

“Ghosts aren’t–” Klaus stutters, breaks off the words.

“Why can’t they be real Klaus?” Ben asks. “After seeing everything our family can do, you think that you being able to see ghosts is impossible? I grew up with monsters in my stomach, Five could teleport, and you draw the line at ghosts?”

“It’s not real,” Klaus says. And then, again, “They’re not real. You’re not real, none of this is real, so just shut up and leave me alone.”

He moves his hands to his ears and tries to block out all the sound. He probably doesn’t press against his ears hard enough though, because he still catches a whisper from his brother.

“You don’t believe that.”

“I do,” Klaus whispers, the words choked. “I do.”

He has to.

Because it can’t be true. If it’s true, it would change everything. It would mean that all the voices in his head, all the screams, all the threats of violence and murder – everything – are real.

And they can’t be real.

Klaus doesn’t think he’d be able to cope if they were real. So they aren’t, even if Ben says they are.

Diego opens the door to the front seat, and Klaus practically grapples forward, leaning to be beside his brother. He hardly hears the words, hardly catches the fact that Diego’s got another scene to go to, that he’s going to drop Klaus off.

“Busting heads and taking names?” He mutters, and Diego raises an eyebrow, claims that he’s saving lives and that he should sit back.

Ben crosses his arms. He says, “I could tell you something Diego only ever told me and we could prove it here and now.”

Klaus doesn’t want to prove it.

“Diego,” he says, and his voice catches. “I need a favour.”

His brother frowns. He says, “Giving you a ride isn’t favour enough?”

“Tell me there’s no one sat next to me right now.” He says, and Ben hisses beside him. “Because there isn’t, right?”

Diego is quiet for a moment. He moves his mirror searching it for another passenger, and then, shakes his head. He says, “there’s no one there.”

A pause. Klaus exhales. He flashes Ben a look, as if to say, 'well, if Diego can't see you, and I'm the only one, then you can't be here.'

“You seeing people again?” Diego asks.

Klaus grits his teeth, hums. He says, “I’m not crazy. I know there’s no one there. Just tell me there’s no one there.”

He knows that Diego’s concerned from the way he shifts. Knows from his body language, but Diego doesn’t say anything other than what Klaus wants to hear. His voice is quiet as he repeats, “there’s no one there.”

Chapter Text

Vanya doesn’t go straight home.

She gets a taxi back, steps out to her apartment complex, but she doesn’t step inside the building. There’s too much inside her head for her to start thinking about, and she needs some time to simply… process the information.

Instead, she heads down the street, decides to grab some groceries and waste her time with menial tasks. It always helps her calm down, knowing that even if she’s trying to avoid thinking about an issue, she’s still being proactive in some way.

She grabs coffee, milk, some bread, and then, because she knows that Klaus is bound to come visiting at some point, she picks up waffles too, and some sweet things that she doesn’t normally go out of her way to buy.

She seems to spend longer inside than she’d been expecting, because it’s dark when she leaves the supermarket behind. It’s cold, since it’s only March, and Vanya shudders against her coat, bites into the side of her cheeks as she tries to contemplate exactly what’s happened today.

“Not the time,” Vanya says instead, because to think about it now would mean a night of insomnia as she picks apart everything. She’ll think about it in the morning, after she’s finished with her morning classes. Maybe she’ll phone Klaus and they can talk it over together.

“Later,” Vanya promises herself, and lets herself back into her apartment. The hallways are dark, the bulb having died months ago, fizzling out in a series of stuttered sparks, but Vanya moves through them easily enough. Maybe she’ll pick up a new light bulb, on Mrs Kowalski’s behalf, so the hallways can be lit up the next time Klaus comes over.

Her keys are cold against her hands, as Vanya fishes them from her pocket, which is odd, since her hands are freezing already. Everything is cold, she supposes, and realises that she probably needs to turn the heating on as soon as she gets inside, lest she freeze to death overnight.

Two funerals in the same week would be too many for their family to deal with.

Vanya pushes the door open, drops her keys back in her pocket and reaches for the light. The light turns on, but it’s not the main one, it’s saturated light from her lamp, clicked on. And then, there is Five, sat in her armchair, looking out of place in her apartment like an oddly positioned ornament or something.

Vanya thinks that she reacts well.

She drops her groceries, – boy is she glad she decided against eggs – forces herself not to sprint back out of the house and offers a fairly sharp, “fuck.”

Five offers that half-smile he used to offer back when they were kids and he was pleased by her response. Then, he lifts a hand, waves her inside to her own apartment and says, “you have locks on your windows, nice.”

Begrudgingly, Vanya does.

“Klaus didn’t start using the door until I put locks on them,” Vanya explains, grabbing her groceries and closing the door behind her. She glances at her thermostat, realises that it’s already been turned on and isn’t sure whether to thank Five for turning it on in advance, or question why he’s here in the first place.

“Your window is just across from a streetlight,” Five says, “he probably liked the light.”

Are they really discussing the reasons Klaus broke in through her window, and why she’d gotten locks to stop him?

“You’re so weird,” she says, through a laugh. She removes her coat, hanging it on the hook and then, after a pause, as she leaves the groceries on the counter – placing the milk in the fridge since it’s the only cold item she’s grabbed – she asks, “how did you get in then?”

“Vanya,” Five says, tone bordering disappointment, “you know that I’m capable of jumping through space. You really think it’s difficult to get into your apartment?”

Vanya isn’t sure whether she needs to give Five a lecture on respecting people’s space and not breaking in, but she’s got the script in her head if she does. She’s given it to one brother. She’s not afraid to give it to another.

She turns to him now, decides that now probably isn’t the time for a lecture and sits opposite Five instead. She glances him up and down almost instantly, a habit Klaus has instilled into her over the years ago, and spots blood on his collar.

“Is that blood?” She asks, and her brother shifts, as if he’s only just remembered that it was there.

“It’s nothing,” he says. Vanya’s seen enough guarded looks over the years, enough gleams in people’s eyes that promise the answer is no good, that she knows it’s probably best not to ask. She drops it with relative ease and hopes that it won’t shatter to pieces on the floor of her apartment like a live grenade.

Vanya really doesn’t need the shrapnel.

“Why’re you here?” She asks, instead. And how, she wants to ask, because she’d certainly not offered her address, and she knows that Klaus doesn’t know the zip code, only which bus he needs to hop off to find the area she lives in.

“Well,” Five says, his arms crossed, “I’ve decided that you’re the only one I can trust.”

The only person he can trust? That seems a little upsetting, really. He can’t trust their other siblings? Not even Klaus, of whom he’d been pretty close to in the past?

“Why me?”

“Because you’re ordinary,” Five says, simply. Vanya shrinks into herself, despite the fact that she knows he doesn’t mean it in an unkind way.

“Klaus is ordinary too,” Vanya mumbles, and Five’s eyebrow quirks up. “You can’t trust him?”

Five pauses, and Vanya knows she’s never going to be smart enough to truly know what her brother is thinking, but for a moment she thinks she has a good enough idea. He’s thinking of the ways to backtrack, to explain how he’d come to the conclusion he has.

And isn’t that shocking, because Vanya has never seen him backtrack before.

“I noticed the bracelet he was wearing. He just got out of hospital, right?” Five is quiet as he says it, almost questioning. “He probably doesn’t need this right now. Plus, he never was very good at listening, and you – you’ll listen.”

It takes Vanya a moment to hear the hidden words there.

Because – Five doesn’t know Klaus. Not anymore. He’d been able to garner enough information about Vanya in the way she’d bared her soul in her book, had been able to learn about their other siblings, but Vanya had tried to leave Klaus out of the book as much as possible.

His chapter had been so short the publisher had even questioned its existence at all. Jesus, Five didn’t know about the fall into addiction, didn’t know how Klaus had been sent away for months to become ‘normal’ again when they were sixteen.

She’d left it out, and in doing so, he’d become someone Five has no information on. He didn’t know if Klaus was trustworthy anymore.

The only thing he’d known, were the small snippets of him interweaved into the other chapters, tiny parts of him that had been involved in other stories, because most of Vanya’s memories of her siblings always had Klaus in the background, too.

“Okay,” Vanya says, quiet. And then, after a moment, “You can still trust Klaus. I promise.”

Five halts for a second, bites into his lip, and then, instead of answering he says, “When I jumped forward and got stuck in the future, do you know what I found?”

Vanya shakes her head no.

“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” Five’s gaze holds hers, doesn’t waver as he talks about the apocalypse he’d been stuck in for forty-five years. He’s obviously had time to adjust to it. “I watched the final person alive collapse to the ground and then… after that, as far as I could tell, I was the last.”

He doesn’t flinch as he mentions the last person alive, but he tenses and Vanya thinks that with Five, it’s the same thing. She bites the inside of her cheek and tastes blood.

“I never figured out what killed the human race,” Five says, “he died before I could even ask, but after that I did find something else. The date it happens.”

Five grits his teeth.

“The world ends in eight days,” he continues, “and I have no idea how to stop it.”

Now, Vanya shifts. Her hands feel clammy, and yet, she shivers at the weight to his voice. She whispers, “I’ll put on a pot of coffee.”


Once they’ve got coffee, Five decides to go into detail.

He doesn’t talk about the people he’d seen in the apocalypse, doesn’t talk about how he’d seen countless bodies stacked up around him, but Vanya gets the impression that he wants to. That he doesn’t because he doesn’t want to freak her out.

Instead, he talks about growing old alone, trying to figure out how the apocalypse happened in order to know how it ended. He tells her about surviving on scraps, on canned food. About how he’d had to learn to deal with the ashy taste of insects, of the crunch of cockroaches beneath his teeth.

About how he’d survived on anything he could find, hoping that he’d be fine and it would cause his body any harm.

“You know that rumour that twinkies have an endless shelf life?” He says now, and Vanya nods, because she remembers when Klaus had brought her a box, told her they’d last them forever in the academy because they’d never go out of date. “Well that’s total bullshit.”

There’s a story there, but Vanya’s pretty sure it only ends with food poisoning, so she doesn’t ask.

“I can’t even imagine it…” She whispers and Five nods his head with her, his fingers curling around his coffee mug. Water vapour rises up in tendrils of steam, and Vanya can’t help but stare at it for a moment.

“You do whatever it takes to survive,” Five says, firmly, “or you die. So, we adapted, and whatever the world threw at us, we found a way to overcome it.”

That catches her attention. Because Five had said that he’d been the last person alive.

“We?”

“Dolores…” Five says, and then, shifts in his seat, placing his mug against the table. “She and I – fuck, do you have anything stronger?”

Vanya does, but she doesn’t really think she should condone alcohol consumption when Five still looks thirteen. But then again, if he’s got an older consciousness like he says does, then who is she to deny him?

And his birth certificate does technically, show that he’s twenty-nine, an adult, like the rest of them.

Vanya only has a cheap discount bottle of scotch, but she doubts that the taste will be too bad. If what Five has said is true, then he’s tasted far more horrible things. She pours him a glass, and then, against her better judgement, pours herself one as well.

Five doesn’t explain who Dolores is. He simply takes a gulp of his scotch, and then another until the glass is drained. His fingertips are white against the glass, and Vanya is about to ask if he’s okay, when Five says, “You think I’m crazy.”

Of all the words, Vanya doesn’t think that she’d go with crazy.

“No,” she says, and the words might be a little weak, but that’s because she’s trying to process. “It’s just… a lot to take in.”

Five’s lip curls into a mix between a sneer and a snarl. He says, “What exactly don’t you understand about what I’ve told you?”

Pretty much everything, if she’s being truthful. Five has always been smart, but the downfall of that, was that he’d always explained things in a way that expected people to be able to pick things up as quickly as he did.

“Why didn’t you just… time travel back?” She asks.

From the glare he sends her, it’s the worst kind of question she could have asked. His voice is almost like poison when he answers. “Gee, Vanya, wish I’d thought of that. Time travel is a crapshoot, I went into the ice and never acorned. You think I didn’t try everything to get back to my family?”

Of course, he had. Vanya knows Five – or well, when they’d been siblings, she’d known him better than anyone else in the world. And his weakness had always been them: Their family.

“Sorry,” she says, because it should have been obvious. Five always would have come back, she should know that, even if she’d started lost that faith in him over a decade ago. “And you still look like a kid, even if you grew old in the apocalypse?”

He turns, pours himself another drink.

Vanya doesn’t want to open the can of worms on that, but she’s seen the warning signs in Klaus before. She’ll have to keep an eye on her brother, to make sure it’s not a permanent fixture.

“I told you already,” he hisses, knocking back the next glass. “I must have got the equations wrong.”

He’s getting defensive. She shouldn’t be letting him get defensive, knows from experience with Klaus that the minute he thinks that no one believes him, Five will shut them out.

So, she lifts her glass up, takes a sip and simply says, “okay.”

“Okay?”

“Yeah,” Vanya says, “Okay. I believe you. If you say the apocalypse is happening in eight days, that we need to stop it, then I’ll believe you.”

Their father had always mentioned that time travel could mess up someone’s mind, but Vanya doesn’t want to disregard it. She doesn’t know whether she really believes her brother, but she can believe him for the eight days it’ll take to potentially stop it.

From the way Five’s shoulders relax, it’s the best move she could have made. He says, “Vanya… thank you.”

Vanya offers him a smile.

“I’m serious,” he says, and he looks it. “I… I thought maybe you were too young, too naïve and you wouldn’t believe me but, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in this.”

“Of course, you’re not alone in this,” Vanya says. She says, “It’s late now, and I’ve got morning lessons, so I think I should get some rest. And you, too. You can take the couch, I’ll get some blankets.”

“Morning lessons–” Five splutters, placing his glass onto the counter. He scowls, “the world is ending in eight days.”

“I know,” Vanya says, “but I can’t cancel tomorrows lessons at such late notice. I’ll see what I can do about rescheduling my other lessons, but I can’t cancel these ones.”

Five looks like he wants to disagree, but after a second, he offers a short nod. He says, “I suppose if the aim is to stop the apocalypse, you’ve got to ensure you’ve still got a work life to go back to.”

Vanya nods. She says, “I’ll just get those blankets. Do you need a change of clothes, I think there’s one of Klaus’s old shirts from when he was here last?”

Five pulls a face that says he’d much rather sleep in his uniform that spend any time in Klaus’s clothing. They’ve both always known that Klaus’s style is… daring.

“I’m alright, thanks.” He says.

“Okay.” She shouldn’t laugh at that, but Vanya does. “We’ll talk about how to stop this tomorrow. I promise. Night Five.”

His voice is quiet, but Five says, “Goodnight Vanya.”

Vanya heads into the bathroom to get ready for bed, and takes a moment to lean against the door, trying to think. She’d gone back to the academy for a funeral, and all she’d returned home to an apocalypse.

Great.

 

Number Six.

 

Growing up in the manner that we did, meant that in order to be wanted, you had to be special. It was enough to drive anyone mad, especially on the days we were left on our own, trapped in the dark, while our siblings were off on missions.

And according to some, it did.

It drove Six insane.

Chapter Text

Klaus wakes to the sound of screams in his ears, and the overwhelming – yet achingly familiar – feeling that he is going to throw up. He’s in his old bedroom, curled under the duvet, looking just as pathetic as he feels, and for a moment all he wants to do is go back to sleep.

He closes his eyes, but nope, there’s a slick rising of bile in his throat and it’s all Klaus can do not to throw up here and now. He half stumbles, half throws himself out of the bed, racing towards the bathroom.

Ben is stood in his doorframe as he makes his way past. Klaus considers giving him the finger and settles for simply walking through him instead. It’s a petty sort of revenge, but Klaus doesn’t care – after last night, Ben deserves it.

He slams the door too, just to be dramatic, and curls around the toilet bowl, heaving, bringing up whatever he’d eaten the day before.

When Ben finally phases through the door, minutes later, Klaus is leaning over the seat, eyes lidded with exhaustion, the taste of acid burning his tongue. He wants to go back to his bed, lie against his pillows and sleep for a lifetime, but even the thought of moving makes him feel nauseous.

“Are you okay?” Ben asks, which is a stupid question, really, considering the fact he’s shaking, ashen.

“Peachy,” Klaus says and scowls. He’d promised himself that he’d ignore Ben, for last night, but obviously that’s a half-hearted act that’s already been broken. It’s always nice to know he’s not completely alone. “Go away.”

“Klaus–”

“Fuck off,” he snaps, and then, wilts since they both know he doesn’t mean it. He doesn’t know why relief spreads through him as Ben decides to ignore him, joining him on the bathroom floor.

“You really outdid yourself,” Ben says, and Klaus knows that he’s talking about last night. At Klaus’s own insistence, Diego had dropped him off on a random street, near enough to one of his favourite clubs. And then, the night gets blurry. A mixture of alcohol and narcotics, enough that even Ben – who scarcely disappears during his drug use – had ceased to be, for a little while.

“Who’s fucking…” Klaus pauses, waits for another bout of nausea to pass. “Who’s fucking fault is that?”

Ben gives him a look that says that it’s quite obviously Klaus’s fault, but he doesn’t say anything.

Or maybe he does, but Klaus doesn’t hear him. The world tends to become noisier in the mornings, when he’s just waking up, the high leaving him behind. He hears his name screaming, hears people asking for help, redemption, revenge.

“Shit,” Klaus mutters, and he decides that he can brave the nausea, that it doesn’t matter if he throws up again, as long as he can make everything quiet again.

Ben watches him as he stands, and for a moment, his brother wears an almost pitiful expression. Which is odd, because usually the one being pitiful is Klaus.

“I’ve got a crazy idea,” Ben says, as Klaus flushes the toilet, reaching for the door, “why not try starting your day with some orange juice? Or… or some eggs?”

Klaus scowls. Again.

“No thanks,” he says, and then, “I’m still mad at you, just – just shut up for a little while, yeah?”

Ben falls quiet, and Klaus thinks that it would be nice, really, if the rest of the world was quiet as well.

But it’s not, so he reaches for his coat, strewn across the floor, and pulls out a white powder from his bag. Cocaine, he knows, has a high that only lasts upwards of an hour, but it’s one of his quicker acting drugs and he needs something in his system.

“Hey, is that really a good idea–” Ben starts, but Klaus ignores him, grabbing an old book from his shelf and placing it on his lap. “Klaus?”

“Probably not,” Klaus says, ripping into one of the pages and rolling it up. “But I’m doing it anyway.”

Ben doesn’t say anything, and Klaus likes to think that’s permission in his, strange, disappointed way. He focuses on pouring just enough cocaine powder onto the book, forming it into a line.

One line seems so lonely, so he prepares a second, and then, grabbing the rolled-up paper, he snorts the powder up. It burns against the inside of his nostril.

Klaus breathes out, a long exhale, as he slumps back against his bed.

Then, he closes the baggie back up, pushing the remains into his pocket. He swaps it for a few pills, takes two, and then, finally looks at his brother again.

“About yesterday,” Ben begins. He trails off, for a moment, as Klaus hisses, turning back to his coat for a joint to help him stop caring about whatever he’ll say next, before continuing. “I – I’m sorry.”

Klaus blinks. He turns back when he’s lifted a joint to his mouth, lighting it up with a spark of flame. His eyes are wide. He says, “You’re what?”

“I’m sorry,” Ben says. “I shouldn’t have pushed you too far. I should’ve known you weren’t ready to believe it.”

Well, the apology is kind-hearted enough, he supposes. Even if he doubts, he’s ever going to believe what Ben has to say to him. There’s nothing to say to that, really, so Klaus simply exhales smoke, staring into nothingness as he tries to think about what he’ll be doing today.

Maybe they’ll go and watch the movie that Ben’s been complaining he wants to watch for a while. It’s a sci-fi movie, something nerdy that he’d always liked, and Klaus doesn’t mind watching it too, as long as he’s allowed to calmly disassociate in a drug fugue state, while they sit in the back.

He’s about to claim they’re going to watch a movie, when someone knocks on his open door, clearing their throat to catch his attention.

Klaus turns, looks Pogo up and down and flicks ash from his joint onto the floor. The chimpanzee doesn’t look particularly pleased by him.

“Good afternoon, master Klaus,” Pogo says, and it’s only now that Klaus turns, noticing that his clock states that it’s just past noon. “I have a query for you.”

“Oh?” Klaus says, because Pogo hardly ever came looking for them as kids, and even now, having him seek him out feels mildly discomforting.

“Items from your father’s office have gone missing,” Pogo says. He’s wearing that all-knowing look he’s perfected – good ole’ Dad must have taught him how to use it, the expression is so similar, even if it lacks in their father’s distaste – staring down at him from over his glasses. “In particular an ornate box with pearl inlay.”

Klaus shifts, slouching against his bed.

“Really,” He says, and he sounds almost a little breathless. He catches his breath, then rids himself of it in exchange for more smoke. It settles into his lungs, the fog rolling around, making him feel lighter. “You don’t say?”

Beside him, Ben sighs. He says, “All three of us know you took it, denying it does nothing.”

Klaus flashes him a glare for a second, before focusing his gaze back onto Pogo, who asks, plainly, if he knows where it went.

“No, no, no idea, sorry.” He says, ignoring Pogo when Ben steps forward, foot phasing through him in an attempt to, what, kick him? What the fuck Ben?

“Liar!” Ben says, and Klaus hisses back, “go be dead somewhere else or at least, just, shut up.”

Pogo, not quite as used to Klaus’s rantings to himself as his siblings, and certainly lacking any recent experience with it, rears back, as if Klaus himself, is the antichrist. He frowns, “excuse me?”

“No, I didn’t mean you,” Klaus says, and he pushes himself up now, making his way towards Pogo. “I mean him, I just – you know, there’s been a lot of stuff I’ve been dealing with, just a lot of memories going on.”

Pogo raises an eyebrow in such a way that says no amount of Klaus’s bullshit will be enough to keep him from asking about the box. Still, Klaus is nothing, if not persistent.

“All those good times,” he continues, raising a hand and waving it around, “well, not so much good times, but really awful, depressing times where you just want to scre–”

“The contents of that box, master Klaus,” Pogo interrupts, stealing his attention back, “are… priceless. Were they to find their way back to the office, whoever took it would be absolved of any blame of consequences.”

Behind him, Ben collapses onto the bed. The springs don’t move, and it doesn’t account for his weight, but Klaus makes note of the movement in his peripheral vision.

“Oh, well,” he rubs at his eyes, trying to focus properly, “lucky bastard.”

“Indeed,” Pogo says, pressing his lips into a tight line. He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t call Klaus out directly, but something in the way he stares at him is an accusation enough.

Klaus hates that he’s right, because else he’d claim Pogo is just being a complete dick.

“Well then,” Pogo says, and he turns, leaning onto his cane for support. He says, “I think that was all, good day, master Klaus.”

He hobbles back down the hallway, and it’s not until he turns the stairs that Klaus finally turns back, fixing Ben with wide eyes, cheeks flushed. He says, “what kind of mind-fuckery is this?”

Ben watches him for a moment, quiet, and then, slowly, buries his head into his hands. He says, “Klaus, I love you, but you’re a fucking idiot.”


At Ben’s behest, Klaus changes into something clean.

The clothes probably aren’t even his, or if they are, they’re so old that he forgets ever owning them at all, but they fit, and they’re daring enough that Klaus nods his head as he stares in the mirror.

“I think we should watch that movie now,” Klaus says, and it’s like saying that he’s going to do anything is a curse, bringing everyone to his room, because he turns to the door again, and instead of Pogo, there’s Vanya and Five.

An odd pair to come to his door, but not overly shocking.

Well, Five seeking him out is kind of out of the blue, but then again, that’s only because he’d gotten back yesterday.

“Klaus,” Vanya says, and it’s strange that Five is the one holding back, isn’t the one to start the conversation. “You got a minute?”

Klaus shifts, offers Ben a questioning look and receives a shrug and finally says, “for you, I’ve got two.”


They head downstairs, and Mom cooks them waffles which is absolutely amazing, because Klaus could live off waffles. He drowns them in syrup, sips at the tea she’s poured for them and then, finally, watches his siblings as they seem to figure out what they need to be talking about.

“Hey,” Ben says, “I want to sit down, pull my old chair out?”

Usually, Klaus would ignore him. And part of him wants to, because he’s still a little pissed at his brother, but Ben had been sincere in his apology, real or not, and he’ll probably settle on being quiet for the conversation if Klaus indulges him a little bit.

He grabs the chair, pulls it back just enough for Ben to sit down at the table without phasing through it, and then, turns back to his breakfast.

If Five looks at him strangely for doing it, then Klaus is determined not to see it. He rips his final waffle in two and shoves the smaller part into his mouth. Syrup drips down his chin, and Five frowns at him with distaste. Klaus wipes it away with his sleeve.

“I think we should tell him everything,” Vanya says. Five offers her a sharp glance, disapproving of that plan, but their sister holds his gaze, unrelenting, refusing to give in to his stubborn streak.

It’s interesting, Klaus thinks, to watch the expression and not be on the receiving side of it, for once.

“I don’t care what you tell me,” Klaus says finally, “as long as someone says something. There was a movie I wanted to catch today.”

Beside him, Ben offers a smile. He says, “give them a little time. It doesn’t matter if we need to wait until the next viewing.”

He sighs, but leans back against the back of the chair, letting his cutlery drop onto the plate with a harsh clash.

It brings both of his siblings out of whatever quiet argument they’re having.

“Fine,” Five hisses, and turns back to him. “The apocalypse happens in eight days. Vanya and I have decided to stop it. She said I can trust you too, so your… help… would be appreciated.”

Klaus blinks.

Well that sounds like a fucking shitshow. Jumping into the future and getting an apocalypse – that’s the only way Five could know, right? – sounds… pretty horrible, actually.

“Huh,” Klaus says, smacking his lips together. He’d not seen that coming. Sipping at tea to buy him time to consider what’s happening, he tries to contemplate it. So far, the idea simply seems… abstract. “What kind of apocalypse?”

Five scowls.

“No, no,” Klaus says, finishing off his tea. “I’m being serious. If we’re going to stop the apocalypse or whatever, don’t we need to know what kind of apocalypse it is?”

The scowl lessens, but it’s still present.

Vanya, opposite him, shifts in her chair.

“It was just the… end of the world? Everyone was dead.” Five’s detached when he speaks, but Klaus can see trauma in his eyes. Even if he thinks he’s over it, he’s quite obviously not. “Buildings were torn apart, everything was on fire. What other kind of apocalypse are you thinking about?”

It’s probably not a good idea to say he’d considered, very briefly, the zombie apocalypse, or something along that calibre.

“I don’t know,” Klaus says, and he’s trying to be serious, he is, “all sorts of shit could end the world. Like, there’s a whole ton of nuclear shit out there, diseases no one really understands.”

“Remember how everyone was scared about nuclear fission,” Ben says beside him, “they thought that splitting the atom could create like, a black hole or something.”

Klaus considers it, nods to himself and adds it to his list of possible apocalypse starters. Five seems like he doesn’t know whether to be disappointed in his list or impressed by the tiny hint of scientific knowledge he’s shown.

His brother seems to decide on neither. Instead, he says, “I don’t know how the world ends. If I did, I wouldn’t need your help stopping it, would I?”

You know what, Klaus wants to say his brother’s impatience is rude, but if the world really is ending in eight days, then it’s understandable. He’d be impatient too.

“Okay, okay,” Klaus says. “So, the world is ending, we don’t know how to stop it – what are we supposed to do about it?”

Vanya shifts again. Finally, she says, “Five brought a clue back from the apocalypse.”

Good thinking.

“What’d you bring back?” Klaus asks, and Five reaches into his pocket, brings out a handkerchief. It bulges, and that’s how Klaus knows it’s not the handkerchief that’s important, but what’s wrapped up inside.

He unwraps and it and wow, that’s a fucking eye right there, Klaus doesn’t know how to react with that. He blinks, frowns and oh great – there’s blood on it – it’s even worse.

“That’s an eye.” Klaus says.

Ben leans forward and says, “it’s a prosthetic.”

“Why did you bring a prosthetic eye back with you?” Klaus asks.

Five takes a moment to turn the eye around, looks at whatever’s on the back of it. As such, it means that a pupil is simply staring at Klaus, which is really all sorts of creepy.

“…Well,” Five says, and it’s clear he doesn’t really want to go into it. Vanya turns, slightly pale, to watch their brother. “It seemed important.”

Klaus opens his mouth, and promptly shuts it again at the warning look his sister sends him. Instead, he makes a short ‘uh-huh?’ sound that’s a mix between a whimper and hysterics.

The eye is still staring at him.

Fuck, he’s far too sober for this. Which is a joke, really, because he’s already far from sober already.

“Five?” Vanya says. Her tone is soft, not demanding of any answers, but gently prompting him to offer them anyway. “Why did it seem important?”

“It was in Luther’s hand,” Five says, “when I found his body. I think he and our other siblings were fighting to stop the apocalypse.”

Fuck.

Shit. Okay then. Their superhero siblings failed to stop the apocalypse, and now Five wants them – the normal ones – to help him stop what they couldn’t?

“Oh,” Klaus says. “Okay then, the eye’s important.”

A pause, and Vanya seems to settle on the more important part of the declaration. She says, “you found their bodies?”

Five frowns, rubs at the eye with the handkerchief before wrapping it back in. For a moment, he doesn’t say anything. Then: “I found everyone’s bodies.”

Vanya’s breath hitches.

Five looks up now, and Klaus meets his eye, watches as his frown deepens. There are creases in his forehead, and Klaus feels almost tempted to tell him that if he keeps it up, his face is just going to stick that way.

“Well, mostly everyone’s.”

What’s that supposed to mean? Klaus asks as such, as Five pushes the eye back into his pocket.

“It means nothing,” Five says, and then, because they’re both staring at him, he says. “I never found Ben.”

“Oh,” Vanya breathes, and her voice catches in her throat.

Klaus forces himself not to turn to Ben beside him, doesn’t know how he’d explain something like that. He doesn’t turn even as Ben whispers, “he’s lying. That’s not what he meant at all.”

Yeah, Klaus agrees.

Chapter Text

Klaus is taking things better than Vanya had expected.

He takes things in stride, doesn’t question what he’s being told, and simply accepts it as truth. Vanya isn’t sure whether it’s because he trusts them enough to believe them blindly, or whether it’s because he finds the idea of going along with their story amusing, but he accepts the idea of the apocalypse, and Vanya feels the tension leave her shoulders.

“So, what now then?” Vanya asks, turning to Five. “How do we use the eye, to find out more?”

Five glances between them both, and says, “We find out who the eye belongs to. I’m certain they’re the cause of the apocalypse.”

But then what? They find the owner of the eye, and then how do they go on from that?

She isn’t sure, but Five looks determined, and Klaus looks fairly interested, so simply nods her head and waits for someone to tell her just what the hell they’re doing here.

“The eye was created at MeriTech,” Five says. He scowls, remembering something that Vanya is impartial to. “I went there early this morning to see if they’d give me a name, but they refused to give me a name. It can’t be helped, they think I’m still a child.”

Vanya has to stop herself from saying that his body is that of a child’s, that he technically is a child still. She stays quiet instead.

“So how do we get a name then?” Klaus asks, leaning forward. There’s a gleam in his eyes, a mixture of interest and amusement. So, he is just going along with this because he thinks it’ll be fun.

“We go back with an adult,” Five says, “obviously.”

For a moment, Vanya blinks. Then, almost like a pan hitting her round the back of her head, she realises that Five means he’ll go back with either Vanya or Klaus. Fuck, they’re adults.

It shouldn’t be surprising, because Vanya has been an adult for over a decade, technically, but even now, when people ask for an adult, she’s normally looking for someone who’s more of an adult, than she is.

“Huh,” Klaus says, and then, “well alrighty then. Vanya?”

Vanya blinks again. She says, “I think Klaus should go. I’m… not very good at interacting with people, I don’t think I’d be able to convince people to give you any information.”

But Klaus could.

There’s a hesitation in Five’s movements, as if he’s considering whether it’s alright for her not to go. Vanya hasn’t missed the look that he’d given Klaus, knows that he’s sceptical, but he’s really the best person to get information. After a second, his shoulders loosen, and he sighs, “fine, go put something professional Klaus.”

Oh wow, that’s a disaster waiting to happen. Vanya stands before Klaus can and says, “Let’s use one of dad’s old suits, I don’t think Klaus has a suit, Five.”

Klaus’s answering look is partially betrayed, and that’s how Vanya knows she’s right.

“Alright, fine,” Klaus says, “I’ll go through his things. You guys are lame.”

He pushes out of his chair, walks away to go get changed. It’s at that moment that Vanya turns to look at Five. He watches Klaus leave with a frown. She waits until Klaus is gone, before leaning forward to tap a finger on his shoulder.

“I thought I told you that Klaus is someone you can trust, why do you keep looking at him like that?”

Five startles at the sound of her voice.

He turns, lips twisting into a smile, something that shows he’s hiding more than he’s willing to explain right now.

Instead of answering, he says, “it’s nothing. I’m trusting him with this, aren’t I?”

Vanya presses her lips together. Hopefully her brother’s will bond over this, Klaus will prove that Five can rely on him. Even if he’s not the most prolific at being trustworthy, he has always been there whenever Vanya’s needed him the most.

“Alright,” Vanya says, and she thinks she ought to drop it now, before he pulls back from deciding to let Klaus help altogether. “Thanks.”

“Sure,” Five says, turning away.


When Klaus comes back down, he’s wearing one of their father’s old suits. It’s obvious that he’s displeased to be wearing it, but he’s doesn’t mention it at all. In fact, as he comes downstairs, he doesn’t really mention anything, watching shadows instead.

Vanya bites her lip, wants to ask if he’s okay, but doesn’t. Instead, she says, “Five and I were thinking, you pretend to be his father when you go into MediTech.”

Finally, Klaus turns, focusing on them, “I can’t just say I’m his older brother?”

“You’re playing the role of my guardian,” Five says, “so, we’re going with the father role.”

He’s exasperated, and silently Vanya closes her eyes hoping that Klaus won’t say anything to irritate their brother further.

“Alright,” Klaus says, and he fidgets, pulling on the sleeves of their father’s suit. It’s striped, professional, functional. All things that her brother is not. “What’s our cover story then?”

Vanya shouldn’t let out a snort at the concept of him making a fake life for himself, especially when it’s Five only squints in response, but she does.

“What?” Five asks, after a moment. “What’re you talking about?”

“I mean,” Klaus continues, and he glances past them for a second, a twitch in his lips, “was I really young when I had you? Like… sixteen, young and terribly misguided?”

Five sticks his hands in his pockets and shrugs his shoulders. “Sure.”

“Your mother,” Klaus pauses, his lips twisting in mock anger, “that slut, whoever she was, we met at… oh yeah, the disco. Okay Five, you remember that.”

Vanya isn’t sure what’s more amusing to her, the was Klaus lights up as he creates the story, the cover story itself, of the curl of Five’s lip at the creation of the story.

Klaus clicks his fingers, leans forward and says, “Oh my god, the sex was amazing.”

Vanya laughs now, and Klaus joins in, eyes bright. After a few seconds, when Vanya settles her wheezing, managing to breathe again, she watches as Five rolls his eyes at them.

“What a disturbing glimpse into that thing you call a brain,” Five says.

Klaus pouts, and Vanya shakes her head, telling him not to respond. Either way, he still mutters that he’s going to throw Five into timeout if he comes up with anymore smarmy responses.

“Alright,” Five sighs, “Let’s go. Vanya, are you waiting here?”

Vanya shakes her head. She says, “if you guys are here, then I’ll start rescheduling my lessons. I’ll meet you guys at my place, when you’re finished?”

Five offers a sharp nod, and then, he’s heading out of the kitchen, leaving them behind. Klaus watches him, pushes into his pocket and swallows down another pill, offering her a shrug when he catches her watching him.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” Vanya says, even though she knows her warning won’t change anything.

“Of course not, Van,” Klaus says, and smiles. She pretty sure he's only partially lying.


As soon as she gets home, Vanya flicks open her work diary, flipping to tomorrow’s date and starts looking at all the bookings she’s got. Most are morning meetings, since she practises for the orchestra in the afternoons, and she finds herself pressing numbers into her phone, calling to reschedule their next lesson for after Five’s apocalypse.

Most of her clients are understanding.

They know her surname after all, have seen the news of her father’s death and they make conclusions that the time she needs off is related to his death. That she’s asking for time to grieve.

It’s a faulty conclusion, but Vanya lets them think that way regardless. She knows the alternative answer will only cause concern, whispers that she’s lost her mind with grief following her father’s demise.

She’s just finished phoning her last student for the day when there’s a knock on her door. Mrs Kowalski, most likely, looking for Mr Puddles. She should put a tracker in the cat’s collar or something, because she’s always searching for it.

“He’s not here, Mrs Kowalski,” Vanya calls at first, as she grabs her diary. She’ll place it in her bedside table, so she won’t lose it. After a few seconds, there’s another knock.

It’s a soft knock, and maybe she should know that it’s not Mrs Kowalski, since her landlady has a sharper knock, but Vanya doesn’t think anything of it. She simply opens the door, glancing at the floor as she says, “Mrs puddles isn’t here, I’m sor–”

Vanya cuts off, bites her lip as she glances across at her guest and realises, that it is not, in fact, her sixty-three-year-old landlady with greying curls. Instead, it’s a younger man, nearer to her age than Mrs Kowalski’s, looking a mixture of nervous and awkward.

Vanya chews her lip and meets his eye. “Oh… Can I help you?”

He has dark hair, and it hangs across his forehead, as if he’s used to not looking people in the eye. Vanya sympathises, remembers when she used to have bangs, avoiding the gazes of anyone who’d look at her. She’d grown them out, into a side fringe when she’d been twenty, when she’d finally found the courage to apply for college.

“I’m Leonard?” He waits, as if expecting her to recognise the name. Vanya doesn’t. “I’m… I’m your four o’clock?”

Vanya blinks, glances down at her diary and pulling it open. The four o’clock spot has his name scrawled in Vanya’s messy handwriting. She blinks, says, “Oh no, I’m so sorry. I must have forgotten.”

Leonard lifts his hands in surrender, “I swear, I had nothing to do with Mr. Puddles.”

Vanya feels her face flush. Embarrassment spreads through her, twisting her stomach and squirming. She says, “S-sorry, it’s my neighbour, Mrs Kowalski. She… well, she has this cat that always goes missing. She thinks my brother and I know where to find it, we don’t. She’s – she’s older, and oh god, I should stop talking.”

Leonard’s smile is enough for her to try and force herself not to combust.

“I’m sorry,” she says, after a second, “please come in. You can hand your coat on the hook, if you want.”

Closing the door behind him, Leonard does exactly that. He shifts out of his jacket, hangs it up and then, glances around Vanya’s apartment, as if searching for something. When he spots the violin, he points and says, “violins are beautiful instruments, don’t you think?”

Vanya’s lips tug into a smile. It’s a soft smile, fond. She says, “Maybe I’m biased, but I think the violin is the best of the instruments.”

She places her diary onto her table and turns back to her newest student. His smile mirrors her, soft as he looks at the violin, and then, when he notices her watching him, it drops again.

Nervous, Vanya realises.

“I’m guessing I’m a lot older than your usual students?” He asks, and Vanya lets out a small nod, a short laugh.

“Yeah, twenty years or so different,” she says, “not that there’s an age limit on music, of course. It’s just – most of my students are kids. It’s easier to learn music when you’re young. You know? Like a second language.”

His shoulders relax.

“I’ll just have to put in more effort then,” he says.

Vanya nods her head. She says, “So, we can start with the basics today, so – if you take the violin, we’ll work on basic positionings for your hand and fingers?”

Leonard steps forward, takes the violin from her when she holds it out, and Vanya readies herself for another lesson, going over a short lesson plan in her head and adapting it to an adult’s understanding. She doesn’t want to simplify things too much to be pedantic.

“Alright,” she says, leaning forward, “you’re going to want to place your hand under the top of the neck – yeah, like that.”

She hopes her brothers are getting along, that they’re capable of working together.

Maybe that's a little too hopeful though. Vanya just hopes they don't end up killing one another.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, Klaus forgets that he can actually drive.

Like, legally, he’s got the license and everything.

It’d been during one of those sober stints he’d tried years ago, when he and Vanya had still been living together, back in a tiny apartment much more crowded than her current one.

She’d needed someone to drive her to orchestra practise, and Klaus had scrounged up enough money to get a four-day inclusive test and his license, since the medication she was on advised her against driving herself. He’d taken her to about six practises, before he’d decided that driving was too difficult and he was constantly slowing down for people to cross that weren’t even there.

Since the sixth practise session, the only time Klaus has really used his license, is as ID whenever he’d found his way to bars and clubs.

So, when Five asks him if he can drive, it actually takes a moment for Klaus to remember that, yeah, actually, he can. It’s a moment too long, and Klaus doesn’t even have the time to say yes before Five is rolling his eyes, saying that he’ll drive them instead.

Klaus has already buckled his seatbelt, the car already in motion when he finally blinks and says, “I can drive, actually.”

Five tears his gaze from the street just long enough to squint and hiss, “then why didn’t you say so, you idiot?”

Behind him, Ben clicks his tongue. It does nothing to help the situation.

“Well,” Klaus starts, and he doesn’t really want to tell a thirteen-year-old that he’s pretty fucking wasted right now, “because it’s far more fun to see you try to reach the pedals.”

His brother’s scowl is enough for Klaus’s lips to twitch up, his laugh almost breathless.

Five doesn’t say anything for a moment, simply sits in silence, focusing on the road. Every so often, he’ll mutter under his breath, hissing obscenities at the other drivers.

He has, what some might say, a terrible case of road rage.

“You know,” Klaus says, “there’s a lot of pent up anger in that little body of yours. You’re a bit like a kettle.”

Ben, sat on the backseat, flicking through the book he’s seemingly brought out from nowhere, snorts. Klaus glances at him through the mirror, watches as Ben meets his eye and mouths, ‘explain?’

Klaus doesn’t know why he’s mouthing the words. It’s not like Five will hear him if he says anything. Klaus mouths back, ‘later’.

“What?” Five says, as they pull up at traffic lights. He’s watching Klaus from the corner of his eye, Klaus can see it in the way his chin is tilted ever so slightly in his direction.

He’s been watching him like that a lot, since he got back. It’s only really now that Ben’s pointed it out, that Klaus is noticing.

“You’re like a kettle,” Klaus says, shrugging his shoulders. “All that anger, it’s going to boil over if you keep yourself over the heat. Maybe what you need is a drink, it’ll cool you down a bit.”

Five doesn’t splutter, because that would be below him, but he does open his mouth and for a moment nothing comes out. Then, finally, he says, “I spent forty-five years in the apocalypse, and now I’m trying to stop it so I don’t get stuck in it again, and you’re suggesting I have a drink.”

Ben whispers something along the lines of, ‘abort whatever fucked up mission you’ve set out on,’ and Klaus does what he does best. Ignores him.

“I’d say that’s a pretty valid reason to drink, to be honest.” Klaus says.

“Of course, you’d say that,” Five grumbles, “you’re an idiot.”

Well, that’s just rude. Klaus doesn’t want to argue with a brother who’s been missing for over a decade, because that seems like a dick thing to do, but he shouldn’t really have to put up with Five’s old insults.

He decides to let it go though, good ole’ Klaus and all, and crosses his arms over his chest instead. There’s something he’s been thinking about since earlier and it sticks in his mind, driving him crazier than he already is.

After a second, “you found everyone’s bodies?”

Something in Five’s tenses, coils like a snake preparing to strike its prey. It’s a predatory sort of tensing, with a tension that Klaus can feel, pulpable in the car. He almost wants to unwind the window so that he can breathe easy again.

Silence.

And then, almost cautious, his tone neutral to avoid any emotions that could give anything away, “Don’t you know how to listen? I said that already.”

Klaus bites his lip. He closes his eyes as the car starts back up again, traffic lights shining green. His eyelids burn with the lights, a steady hum of shamrock that reminds him of nothing but poison.

And not the good kind of poison.

“…Did you find Vanya?” Klaus asks.

He doesn’t want the answer. But he does. It’s a macabre sort of wonder, a worry, and all Klaus can do is try not to let the thought of his sister – probably his best friend, really – dying sink into his thoughts.

He wants Five to have found her, because then, at least, even after they’d all died, she hadn’t been alone. He doesn’t want Five to have found her, because then there was hope that somehow, she managed to get through it.

Klaus wants, and he doesn’t want, and he thinks of a world that has ended, and a world that will end, and he doesn’t know why but his mind is staggering, flittering between the two because he can’t focus on any single one.

And then, Five answers with a short, sharp, “yes.”

Klaus has to remind himself to inhale, to focus on breathing and not the cold that settles in his stomach. He shouldn’t have asked, but he’s never been good at impulse control and the question had been there, ready to be asked, information he’d needed but not really wanted.

“Fuck,” Klaus whispers, and he presses his palms against his eyes until his eyelids are burning with a bright light, bright enough that it lifts his mood too.

It doesn’t work, and when Klaus opens his eyes, his fingers twitch for another pill, something that’ll take the edge off.

“How can you not want a drink after seeing that?” Klaus whispers. Then, a second later, before Five can say anything more, he adds, “Vanya’s not allowed to die. She’s going to live forever.”

When Five looks at him this time, the suspicion is replaced, ever so slightly, with a mixture of pity and understanding. He says, “We’ll stop it, Klaus.”

They’d better.


The inside of Meditech is about as sterile as Klaus imagines a multi-million prosthetics company to be.

And by that, he means, they’ve painted over all the bullshit with white paint, plastered on smiles and pretty receptionists who know nothing of what they’re talking about.

Klaus knows a scam artist when he sees one, and this Grant guy falls into the bill. Most salesmen working in the business sector usually are scamming people for something, and Klaus just knows from the way he looks both him and Five up and down, that he’s going to do the same with them.

He leads them into a small office.

The walls are made of thick glass, the door too, and everything seems clean and untarnished. Far too clean and untarnished for a place that supposedly creates an eye for the harbinger of the apocalypse.

Grant sits on one side of the desk, Klaus sits on the other side and Five, because he’s never been one for doing what he’s supposed to, stands with his hands stuffed in his pockets.

Klaus has the impression that he’s supposed to say something, and the flash of irritation Five sends him confirms it, so he simply offers his nicest smile and says, “My son simply wants to return the eye to it’s rightful owner. Ever since he found it, it’s been his own, little, personal mission.”

Grant sends him a look that seems both exasperated and bland. There’s a glint in his eyes that makes him think of the people he’s met on the streets before, the one’s who think that they’re so much better than him, because they’ve never taken a syringe to their veins before or woken up in a dumpster.

Fuck this guy.

Grant’s going to give up the name whether he wants to or not, Klaus swears it.

“Like I said to your son earlier,” Grant says, emphasis on ‘your’ as if inflecting disgust for his parenting, wanting to let it be known that Five is his responsibility. Bah, the concept of that is damn near laughable. “Any information about the prosthetics we build, is strictly confidential.”

Klaus’s gaze leaves Grant and focuses on Grant’s desk instead.

Maybe there’s something on the desk that’ll give him some kind of clue. A key, maybe, to the records they keep hidden away, that he could grab when they leave? Five said he needed an answer, he didn’t say they couldn’t wait until the place was closed to find the answer.

“Without the client’s consent, I simply can’t help.”

Five’s lip curls up, and he leans forward his hands leaning on the desk. His voice is laced with malice when he says, “We can’t get consent if you don’t give us a name.”

Ah, how violent his son is.

“Well that’s not my problem,” Grant says, and Klaus blinks. Other than a snow globe and a few closed notes, there’s nothing. No key, nothing. “Sorry, now there’s nothing more I can really do–”

Oh well, if they can’t steal the information then it seems like they’re going to have to go with plan B.

Klaus has always kind of liked plan B more than plan A anyway.

“Well, what about my consent?” He asks, leaning forward in his chair. Behind him, Ben shifts.

“Excuse me?” Grant says.

At the same time, Ben leans forward and says, “you told Vanya you wouldn’t do anything stupid.”

Oh please, Klaus wants to tell him, this is nothing short than genius.

“Who gave you permission to lay your hands on my son?” Klaus asks. He points at the same time, towards Five, who turns to him with a frown, confused.

Simultaneously, all three men – Grant, Five and Ben – echo, “what?”

It’s like a symphony of confusion, and Klaus feeds into it, leaning forward, raising an eyebrow and drawling, “you heard me.”

“I didn’t touch your son,” Grant says, and he leans forward in his chair, with that god-awful look in his eyes, clearly judging him, thinking he’s so much better.

“Oh really?” Klaus says, and he waves a hand around, forcing faux emotion into his voice, letting it wobble as if he’s been personally betrayed. “Then, how did he get that swollen lip then?”

Grant offers him a raised eyebrow, and a look that most would offer those who’ve just said something absurd. He says, “He doesn’t have a swollen li–”

It’s at this moment, that Klaus lifts himself up, moving with a fluidity that he’s not managed in years. He squeezes his hand into a fist, swings with enough speed that Five doesn’t even have time to step out of reach, let alone react.

His knuckles scrape Five’s lip, and his brother stumbles back. Once he’s made sure there’s a steady stream of blood dribbling from Five’s lip, he turns back to Grant, presses his hands against the desk and says, “I want it. Name please, now.

Paling, Grant looks between Five and Klaus. He opens his mouth, hesitates and then says, “you’re crazy.”

Oh Grant. Must have never read Vanya’s book if he’d thought saying that was some sort of a breakthrough. Everyone who’s met him has made that realisation at some point of another.

Lips curling into a ghost of a smile, laughter bubbles from Klaus’s lips. He says, “oh buddy, you’ve got no idea.”

“Push him a little more,” Ben says, quiet. His voice wavers, as if he hates telling Klaus to continue whatever the hell it is that he’s doing. “He’s the kind of guy who’ll crack under pressure.”

Cracking under pressure, huh?

Klaus turns to the snow globe, considers it, and decides that yes, this will work. He reaches out for the globe, shakes it a bit so glitter swims around the world inside, and says, “peace on earth – that’s so sweet.”

He sends Five a flash of a smile and then, smashes the globe against his forehead.

The ferocity behind the movement is enough to shatter glass, the liquid inside oozing out, mixing with his own blood. Shards stick into his skin, some glass in his mouth that stings against his tongue.

He doesn’t spit it out. Simply leans forward and hisses through his teeth at the dull throbbing the action has caused against his skull.

Klaus supposes it would hurt more, if he were sober.

Grant pales. Goes ashen, and it’s the best reaction Klaus could have reacted for, so he smiles, grin wide, even as the man presses shaking fingers against telephone keys, typing in the numbers for security.

“Crazy…” Grant repeats against, muttering about how he’s phoning the security. Klaus takes this opportunity to snatch the phone from him.

Water drips from his nose, and Klaus lets out a sniff as if he’s not having the time of his life right now.

“There’s been an assault in Mr Big’s office,” he says, sounding about as pitiful as he imagines someone who’d managed to be beaten up by an office worker, would be. “and we need security now, schnell.”

He glances at Five again, notices the twitching of a smile on his brother’s face and offers him finger guns. Then, slamming the phone back into the receiver, Klaus says, “Listen up Five, father dearest is going to teach you the best way to take names.”

When he turns back to Grant, the man blinks up at him with widened eyes, terror swimming behind.

“Here’s what’s going to happen here, Grant,” Klaus says, ignoring the man’s mutter that his name is actually Lance, or Lewis or some shit. You know what? Klaus isn’t listening, he’s laying down the rules. “In about sixty seconds, two security guards are going to burst through that door, and they’re going to see a whole lotta blood.”

Not-Grant’s face is pale enough that he’s practically a ghost.

Klaus supresses a shudder.

“And lo and behold, they’ll come in and they’re going to wonder what the hell happened.” He leans forward, blinks blood from his eye. It stings. Fuck, it stings a lot. “And we’re going to tell them that you beat the shit out of us.”

He doesn’t let not-Grant say anything, presses on before the man can even find the words to suggest he’d try to deny it.

“You’re going to do great in prison, Grant,” he says, and there’s something light in his chest, not hysteria but a bubbling sort of hilarity. “Trust me, I’ve been there.”

Behind him, he can hear Ben sigh, can hear the slap of his brother facepalming. Then, “You’re so cruel, sometimes.”

Klaus decides to ignore him. Instead, he circles his hips around, and adds, “A little piece of chicken like you, oh wow, you’re going to be passed around like – you’re just… You’re going to do great, that’s all I’m saying.”

Not-Grant bites his lip, slinking slightly into his chair. His voice cracks as he claims that Klaus is a real, sick bastard.

What a compliment.

Klaus loves when people give him comments that really strike true to who he is. He nods his head, slowly, and breathes, “why thank you.”

Then, because the glass in his mouth is at risk of slicing into his tongue, he spits it out.

It’s dramatic, he thinks, and it’s the final thing that he manages to do before the man caves in, springing towards his phone to cancel the security guards that are no doubt on their way upstairs.


It all seems to be for nothing though, which is how most things in Klaus’s life seems to go, because it turns out that the eye hasn’t even been purchased yet. The logs say that the serial number for said eye hasn’t been manufactured yet, and fuck, that’s just… great.

“This is ridiculous,” Five hisses, when they head back into the car. His expression is clouded, dark and he glowers at the steering wheel. “We were so close to a name.”

Klaus squirms in his seat, grabs a pill from his pocket and swallows it down while he’s pretty sure Five isn’t looking. His brother doesn’t mention it, so he reckons he’s fine.

Plus, if he asks, Klaus can just say something along the lines of prescription drugs used to fight his ‘crazy’. Not that he thinks Five’s going to ask anyway.

“Well, can’t you just like… test the blood on the eye for DNA or some shit?” Klaus asks.

Five clicks his tongue. Even if he’s harsh in his words, Klaus is pretty sure the irritation isn’t focused on him. Or rather, he hopes. “You’re an idiot if you think that would work. This isn’t perfectly preserved evidence – and even if it was, do we look like we have a fucking lab?”

You know what, they probably do.

Their father was a nutcase like that. If they look into his estates, then they’d probably find one. But oh well, sure, it’s a hopeless case then.

“We’ll figure it out,” Klaus tries. He doesn’t get a response.

Instead, Five turns the keys in the ignition and starts the car. He doesn’t talk until they’re away from the scene, scowling to himself, and after that, it’s mostly low mutterings to himself.

Klaus turns in his seat, shares a look with Ben. They shrug at each other, and it’s nice to know that his subconscious is as fucking lost as he is.

Brothers: Always difficult to understand.

“…You went to jail?” Five says, after a moment. The words have an air of indifference, but Klaus notices the way his fingers curl around the wheel, tightening.

Surprise catches in his throat. Klaus swallows it down, says, “no, not really.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

What was ‘mostly everyone’s bodies’ supposed to mean?

“Holding cells don’t count as jail, really, do they?” Klaus says. He shifts in his seat, slumps slightly, staring out the window. They’ll head to Vanya’s now, with no information, only the fact that whoever causes the apocalypse is yet to have the eye.

How many people will buy a new prosthetic from that company within eight days? Really.

“You lied to Grant about it then.” A pause. “You’re a pretty good liar, Klaus.”

Something in the way he says it, says that it isn’t a compliment.

Klaus takes it as one anyway. He says, “Thanks.”

Chapter Text

Leonard is clunky with the violin, at first, but Vanya knows that with enough practise, he’ll be able to manage it.

He’s not the same as her other students – excluding the age factor, of course – in that he doesn’t have the same brightness in his eyes at learning the violin. There’s something there, of course, a willingness to understand, to create music, but she’s not sure he enjoys it as much as her students.

There is no wonder there.

But then again, that might just be a side effect of learning a new skill as an adult. Vanya knows herself, when she’d tried to learn Russian – something about trying to understand her roots, her heritage – that she’d been so busy focusing on what she should know, that she hadn’t been able to enjoy what she did.

She nods her head either way, as he brings the bow back and forth, practising technique and basic notes.

“That’s coming along,” Vanya says, and Leonard glances up from where he’s focusing on the strings, flashes a nervous smile.

“Looks like I chose the right teacher,” he says, and as if realising that they’ve been here an hour now, that they’re reaching the end of the session, he lowers the bow, lifts the violin from the crook between his chin and his shoulder.

Vanya takes the violin from him, places it beside her on the couch. A faint smile lifts on her lips as she says, “Oh I don’t know about that, I think you’re doing well because you’re focused.”

Leonard has an easy grin at the praise.

“So – I’ll see you in a little over a week?” She asks, opening her diary for a timetable. Leonard nods his head, and they spend a few minutes trying to gather the right time that works for both of them. It doesn’t take long. “If you can practise the bow hold until then, and maybe get a violin, I think it’ll help a lot.”

Leonard stands, and Vanya mirrors him. Stretching her legs after being sat down for a while is almost like a godsend. After a second, he scratches at his cheek, and says, “you can be honest, do you think it’s weird wanting to learn violin this late in life?”

Shaking her head, Vanya says, “no. Monet didn’t really start painting until his forties and he did all right for himself.”

It’s not a strange question to ask though, Vanya knows. People always seem to think that it’s strange to want to learn something at a later age, but really, the saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, has always been a little false.

“No,” she continues, because Leonard doesn’t seem too convinced, “if you love music, then you’re in the right place.”

She gets a small smile in response to that, one that’s brimming with an almost awkward energy. Vanya empathises with him from that energy alone. For pushing past it to do something he wants to.

“I’d say you’re describing my dad more than me,” Leonard says, unhooking his coat and folding it over his arm. “He was always the music lover. It’s kind of why I’m here – he passed away a while ago.”

Vanya doesn’t know how to respond to that. It’s probably not a good idea to say ‘me too’ in regards to deceased father’s, so she simply bites her lip and says, “oh, I’m sorry.”

He must sense that the topic is making Vanya awkward, because Leonard waves his hand, as if trying to dispel the negative energy. He says, “Oh, no, it’s fine. We had a… complicated relationship. Didn’t really get each other, you know?”

She understands the feeling so well, that it sends a sharp pain through her chest. Vanya nods, urging him to continue.

“But he loved violin and that was not my thing.” Now, Leonard scratches at the back of his hand, shifts from one foot to the other. “So, I guess I’m here to… understand him better, if that makes any sense?”

“Yeah,” Vanya says, “that makes sense.”

“Family, huh.” Leonard says, around a small laugh, “it’s never easy, but… well, they’re worth it.”

Vanya thinks of Klaus, and of Five, and finds herself smiling. They are worth it. Definitely.

“Sorry for getting heavy on you there,” Leonard says. “It probably seems silly or something.”

Absolutely not. Vanya thinks it’s admirable actually. She doesn’t know if she’d ever consider trying to understand her own father more than she does. There’s too much bad energy there, and Vanya can’t imagine. While she doubts Leonard had the same upbringing, she still finds it inspiring that he can push past any complications to try and understand his father more.

Despite how complicated they are, he must have loved him.

“No,” Vanya says, “silly is not knowing why you’re doing something. Believe me, I get it.”

They stand in silence for a moment, and then Leonard dips his head, glancing at the floor. He says, “Well, I guess I’ll see you at our next session?”

Vanya nods.

Opening the door to her apartment, Leonard lets it swing open, catching it with his hand before it can bang. He hesitates, pausing as he glances out at the corridor before turning back. Then, he says, “Uh – I’m a woodworker. I have a shop, in Bricktown. You should come by, some time? Maybe? You know, come check it out?”

It’s a sweet offer.

Even though she hardly knows Leonard, Vanya thinks that maybe she’d like to. He seems kind, nice enough even if he’s lacking in confidence. He reminds her, very faintly, of herself, a kindred spirit who is anxious and not quite sure where they fit in.

Maybe she’s reading more into him than there is, but that’s the impression she’s getting.

Still, Vanya offers a smile, a small nod. She says, “sure, if I can find the time, I’ll pop in. What’s the name…?”

Leonard’s face visibly brightens and he passes her the name to his shop, waits as she writes the shop’s name down on a scrap piece of paper, folding it into her pocket. Vanya doesn’t know if she’ll manage to find her way to the shop anytime soon, not when she’s promised to help Five, but she’ll try and figure something out.

“I’ll see you then,” Leonard says, and he steps out into the corridor, shifting into his jacket. He pulls at the sleeves, making himself more comfortable. “Thanks, Vanya.”

Vanya offers him a small wave, says bye and then slowly bites into her lip. She listens to his footsteps as they echo down the hall, holding onto the doorknob. There’s a point when she can hear Leonard mumble a short, “excuse me,” and then, to her knowledge, he’s gone.

And for a moment, Vanya is alone.

Then, there’s more muttering from downstairs, and she recognises those voices. Into the corridor she calls, “Klaus? Five?”

There’s short laughter, and then, someone is running up the stairs, their footsteps heavy. She can tell, already, from how breathless the laugh is, that it’s Klaus. Even before she sees him.

“We’re back,” Five calls back, and then, with a flash of blue, he appears just in front of her by the door.

“Welcome back,” she says, and then, notices that his lip is split, faint bruising. Vanya stills.

“When I said we’d race up,” Klaus says a second later. Vanya turns to look at him and pales. He’s bleeding, why are they both bleeding, all they’d decided to do was ask for a name for the prosthetic, they weren’t supposed to be fighting. “I meant, we both run, not me run and you use your powers.”

“Maybe,” Five says, moving past Vanya and heading into her apartment, “you should have specified that.”

Klaus scowls, and then, meeting Vanya’s gaze, he rolls his eyes. Vanya tries to offer a smile, grimaces instead and rushes forward, grabbing his chin to glance at the wound where he’s bleeding.

“I thought I told you to be careful?” She hisses, pulling him nearer. Klaus lets out a low whine, like a wounded animal, or a lectured child, but doesn’t pull back. He simply shrugs, and that’s supposed to be his answer?

Oh, one of these days she’s going to kill him for making her worry so much.

“Technically,” Klaus says, “you said not to do anything stupid.”

“Did you?” Vanya asks, and sighs when his lips twitch upwards. She sighs, says, “get inside. I’ll clean your wound out while you explain how the stupid thing you did, was not, in fact, stupid.”


Five fills her in while she grabs the first aid kit.

Tells her of the emotional manipulation Klaus had used to gain access to the records – shockingly, she finds herself lacking in surprise – mentions how the eye hadn’t been bought yet, least of all manufactured.

It is, all in all, a bust.

Vanya pretty sure she’d known it’d not gone well before they’d even said so, but to hear it said aloud, is almost heart shattering. Not because she thinks they should know something, but because the way Five looks as he admits they’ve gotten nowhere is nothing short of horrible.

He’s a mixture of enraged and lost.

“We’ll figure it out,” Vanya says, dabbing at Klaus’s wound with a wipe. She’s finished picking out all the pieces of glass she can find with tweezers, and now, she just needs to clean out the wound. For once in his life, Klaus is still, not showing his pain on his face, but in the tension of his shoulders.

“The world will end if we don’t,” Five bites. And then, as if realising that being angry at them isn’t a good idea, he stands, says that he’s going to make himself the coffee.

“Time to brainstorm, huh guys?” Klaus says after a moment. Vanya presses against the cut, just enough to wipe away more dried blood. He doesn’t flinch – Klaus, she knows, has been through worse living on the streets. “We could make a mind map or some shit.”

Five glowers from the counter, and says, “Can’t you take this seriously?”

“I am being serious,” Klaus whines. Vanya sends him a look, and he quietens, knowing that anything further will just aggravate their brother further.

Coffee acquired, Five sits himself on the table opposite them. He says, “So within eight days, someone’s going to acquire that eye prosthetic.”

Vanya throws the wipe down, grabs some gauze and presses it against Klaus’s head. It’s just below his hair line, and so gingerly, she sticks it down with medical tape, not bothering with a bandage.

“Avoid my lovely locks,” Klaus says, and Vanya offers him a smile.

“Well, we might not have a name,” Vanya says, “but we’ve still got details about the eye, right?”

Five grumbles, but even he can’t deny it.

“Like, we know that the person who gets the eye, will be buying it within the next eight days,” she continues.

“Correct,” Five mutters.

“And we know that they have the eye…” Vanya takes a moment to pause, conjuring the thoughts, “...fixed? Put in? By the eighth day, right?”

Her brothers both look at her, waiting to see where she’s going.

“If they’re fighting the others, then, surely, they’d gotten out of the surgery for the fitting, right? So, can’t we assume that the eye is fitted within seven days?” Vanya asks. She bites her lip, looks between them. Searching for something to do, to avoid their gazes, she closes the first aid kit, throws used wipes into the bin.

“It might just be a replacement prosthetic though,” Five sighs. “It’s impossible to know.”

Ever so slowly, Klaus raises his hand, like a student waiting to be called on by the teacher. Five pauses, waits for Klaus to say something, and once he’s realised that the man won’t say anything unprompted, he says, “What is it Klaus?”

“Why’re you guys trying to figure it out by yourselves?” Klaus says.

Five’s eye twitches. Vanya’s pretty sure that he’s halfway to an aneurysm, it’s something that those unused to Klaus are always at risk of receiving, she supposes.

“What the fuck do you think we’re–”

Klaus cuts him off by waving his hand. He says, “yeah, I get the whole end of the world thing, I’m not saying we shouldn’t figure it out. I’m saying, why are you trying to do all the work when you’ve got someone else who can do it for you?”

Vanya sighs. She’s sure her brother has a point, it’s just… Klaus hasn’t always been the best at explaining his point of view.

“Klaus,” she says, “what do you mean, exactly?”

Klaus offers her the hint of a smile, and for a second, she watches as his hand slides into his pocket. He brings out a cigarette instead of a pill, looks at Vanya in quiet question, and when she shrugs, lights it up.

“I’m saying,” he says, smoke curling in wisps around his fingertips, “that trying to figure it out is stupid, when we can get that prosthetic company to look into it for us.”

Five grits his teeth and lets out a sound that’s almost like a snarl. It’s feral, wild and for a moment, Vanya stares at him, anxiety spiking through her. He says, “What do you think today was, Klaus, we tried and failed.”

Klaus glances past them, and for a moment, he’s not focused on them. He’s seeing something that’s not there.

Vanya swallows.

“Five,” she says, “Klaus isn’t trying to… irritate you, I think there is a point here I just… he’s not always the best at getting things across.”

Five watches her for a moment, and while he looks like he doesn’t want to hear another word, he sips back at his coffee and doesn’t bite into their brother, remaining quiet.

“Okay,” Klaus says, and it’s hard to tell if he’s talking to them, or the air. “Let me try again.”

He turns back to Five, watching his brother.

“Why do the work, when we’ve got Grant to do it for us.” Five blinks, and it’s almost as if some understanding finally dawns on his face. Klaus continues, “Meditech just seems so clean, you know? And Grant – fuck, alright whatever Lance – he was hiding something. We poked at one of his secrets.”

Slowly, Five says, “We applied pressure, and now we just need to wait him out, to see if he caves.”

Vanya doesn’t quite understand what’s happening. She echoes as much, waits for her brothers to explain. This time, Five lays the information out.

“If Lance has a secret that we can find out the truth about,” Five says, “then we’ve got someone who’ll give us the information on the eye when it shows up.”

“You’re talking about blackmailing a man,” Vanya says, her voice wobbling.

“I mean, we’ve already blackmailed him once,” Klaus says, “another time is hardly going to hurt.”

Vanya glares at him.

Is she the only one of their siblings who was raised with morals, and had clearly decided to follow them? That’s not fair, she knows, but it’s hardly fair to be blackmailing someone.

She bites her lip. In the grand scheme of things, if there is going to be an apocalypse, then blackmail is little in comparison. Still, should she be justifying it? Would she be able to stop her brothers either way?

Opposite her, Five leans forward. He says, “well, that’s a plan then. We’ll start watching Meditech, and Lance. See if we can’t find anything out about him.”

Klaus leans back against his chair, offers a breathless laugh. He says, “Who thought stopping the apocalypse could be so entertaining

Chapter Text

So maybe Klaus is a little bit suspicious.

But only a tiny bit. Like, a tiny niggling part of him is starting to become suspicious, but not like, enough to say anything about it. Not even if Ben is stood behind him, trying to edge him into being a bit more observant, looking into Five.

“Come on Klaus,” he says now, and Klaus rolls his eyes at the urgency in his brother’s voice. “He’s lying to us.”

“I’d say it’s less lying,” Klaus says, “and more keeping things from us.”

And that’s okay, really. Hell only knows how many secrets Klaus has kept hidden from… practically everyone. It’s not like he’s going to go around declaring the time he woke up on a broken bed of bottles after fleeing from police arrest and falling from a first story window to his siblings.

It’s a secret. He’s not lying by not telling Vanya about this. He’s… he’s protecting her from the worry it would instil.

Maybe Five is just doing the same.

“Every time he sees you,” Ben continues, “he’s been watching you from the corner of his eye. Tell me that’s not shady.”

It’s a little shady.

But you know what, Klaus isn’t doing this. He’s not going to be suspicious of his brother, because they’ve got an apocalypse to stop, and even if they didn’t, suspicion is so tiring.

It takes like, actual energy and Klaus always prefers conserving his energy for more entertaining situations.

Like raves, or drunken water polo. You know, fun stuff.

“It’s fine,” Klaus sighs to himself, reaching into his pocket. He watches his siblings, from the doorway of Vanya’s bathroom, leaning against the frame, as they go over a plan for who’ll watch Lance for information and when. “Don’t worry about it.”

Vanya glances up, meets his eye and says, “you okay?”

Klaus offers his brightest smile and sits. His leg jostles as he does, nervous energy as he looks between both siblings. He says, “I’m fine, dearest sister. Have we come up with any plans?”

Five shifts. He says, “Vanya said she’d go to the library tomorrow and figure out if there’s any information on Lance.”

Klaus doesn’t remember whether they’d managed to find a surname for the man, but Five is smart, he probably saw it and remembered. Ben, beside him, is too busy watching their brother to make his usual smartass comment.

It’s kind of a bummer, really. Klaus always likes the sarcasm.

Another consequence, he supposes, of suspicion.

“You and I,” Five continues, rather begrudgingly, “will take to watching Lance at Meditech.”

“Like a stakeout?” Klaus says.

Both of his siblings offer small nods.

“In the van…?”

“In the van.” Five agrees.

Klaus offers his longest sigh. It’s an audible exhale of air that’s been sitting at the bottom of his lungs, and he keeps exhaling until he feels his throat constrict, feels his body begging for air.

Then, he remembers to breathe again.

“He’s putting you in the van so he can keep watch of you,” Ben whispers.

Apparently, his own hallucinations are begging him to feel paranoia now. Textbook mental illness, Klaus will not be swayed.

“I don’t like the van,” he says, instead. Ben perks up, and Klaus doesn’t know what he’s done wrong – well, right in his brother’s eyes, so it must be semi-wrong? – so he just stays quiet.

“We can stay inconspicuous if we stay in the van,” Five says. “It’s not debatable, this is what we’re doing. That is, unless you want the world to end?”

A low blow.

It’s not fair at all, he doesn’t have a choice in things because his brother’s being a dick and now Five is using the apocalypse to get his way. Well, that’s not fair at all.

He opens his mouth to say ‘fine, I’ll go in the fucking van with you’, but stops halfway, words scratching against his throat, at the look behind his brother’s eyes. Five’s still wearing his signature scowl - It’s kind of a fact of the world to be perfectly fair: grass is green, their father was an asshole, Five is pretty much always scowling and if he’s not, then be afraid, – but there’s a curious, almost wary, sheen to his gaze.

“Do you?” Five prompts.

Klaus’s gaze flickers to his sister, and no, if the world ends it means she dies, of course he doesn’t want the world to end.

“Of course, I don’t,” Klaus says, frowning. And then, a few seconds later. “I only said I didn’t like the van, there’s no need for any fucking, emotional voodoo.”

Vanya leans forward, pats a hand on Klaus’s shoulder and says, “none of us want the end of the world, Five. It’s why we’re all working together.”

“Of course,” Five says, shaking his head. As if he’s not acting like the biggest dick around, as if he’s perfectly reasonable in what he’d said. “Anyway, we’ll meet at Meditech early, so that we can catch Lance heading into work.”

“…How early is early, exactly?”

“We don’t know for sure when Lance gets to work for, but the opening times to the public are at nine, so to be sure we get there before him, seven a.m. will suffice.”

Oh great. Wonderful.

Stopping the apocalypse sucks.


“Someone needs to introduce Five to weed,” Klaus says once said brother is out of sight, leaning back against Vanya’s couch. “Because he really needs to chill.”

Vanya fixes him with a look, narrowing her eyes at him, and for a moment, Klaus thinks that there’s going to be an impending lecture, about how they can’t introduce drugs into a thirteen-year-old’s system, about how it’s horrendously immoral, but she simply shakes her head and breathes out a laugh.

“I’m being serious,” Klaus grumbles after a second, and even Ben snorts, failing in his attempt to remain serious. “I mean, either we succeed with what he needs, or we all die and there’s nothing to worry about anymore. Why be so high strung about it?”

Ben, who does not need to breathe since he’s a ghost of a hallucination, masks his words through a coughing fit. He says, “real fucking subtle.”

Klaus raises an eyebrow at him, and then, glances back at Vanya. Her lips are pressed together, smile tight, her eyebrows knitted together. She says, “That’s not a good way to look at things… I think.”

Why not? It’s the truth.

“Right,” Klaus says, “whatever. You do notice that he’s like, watching me a lot, right? Like… he’s expecting me to do something, I don’t know.”

“It’s been decades since he saw us,” Vanya says.

Her voice is soft, and she places a hand on his knee, a soothing touch that’s meant to bring him comfort. Which is weird, because it’s only now that he really realises that being watched by his missing-yet-now-found brother has been bothering him.

“Five’s probably just trying to adjust to who we are as people now,” she continues. “So, he’s probably watching us for clues.”

“He doesn’t watch Vanya,” Ben whispers, and Klaus echoes it back, reaching into his pocket for a slab of chocolate. It’s not even special this time, but chocolate’s always good.

He offers his sister a block, and once she’s inspected the label to ensure it’s drug free, she breaks a piece off. “Well, he knows more about me, and the others. Because of my book.”

It makes Klaus kind of happy to imagine his sister’s writing career to still be paramount during the apocalypse. Even with the world ended, everyone alive had read it.

“Right,” Klaus sighs. “Doesn’t mean he needs to be so obvious about it though.”

Vanya pops chocolate into her mouth and hums her agreement. She says, “We’ll figure it out. We always do.”

“Yeah.”


Klaus decides to leave before the others get the chance to kick him out.

As far as he knows, Five had stayed over Vanya’s the night before, and probably will again. And since Vanya has only one couch, and Klaus doesn’t typically like to sleep during the night time anyway, he offers a wave, promises he’ll meet Five at Meditech in the morning, and then, heads out of the building.

He makes his way down Vanya’s street, leans against the wall in the nearest alley, and decides that he’s going to figure out what he’s going to do tonight, after rolling himself a joint.

He’s just rolling the edges of the paper to make the joint more even, when Ben clicks his tongue.

“What?” He sighs, looking up.

Ben is looking out into the street, leaning against the opposite wall and slowly says, “It’s Five. He’s taking the van.”

Klaus blinks.

“Alright,” he says, “your point, Benny boy?”

Ben scowls, points at the van and says, “well, follow him, idiot. If he gets to watch you, why shouldn’t you get to watch him?”

You know, for someone who usually acts as Klaus’s own moral compass, has done for years now, he’s not being very conscience-like now. Oh, how the tables have turned, when Klaus needs to call out this figment of Ben for pushing boundaries.

“I’m not following him,” Klaus says.

“He’s hiding something,” Ben repeats, and Klaus pushes away from the wall, joint pushed back into his pocket.

“No,” Klaus says again, but he’s already moving towards the nearest car, looking the model up and down, assessing if there’s any way to break into it. Down the road, the van’s taillights illuminate the street.

“Hurry up,” Ben hisses, and Klaus hisses back, realises he doesn’t have anything to open the car doors with. He turns back to the street, notices a rock on the ground, and crashes it against the window instead.

The glass cracks, spider webs spreading against the window, before it shatters completely, falling against the passenger seat.

Klaus reaches forward, scraping his arm against shards, and pulls up the manual lock. Then, he climbs inside, climbing past the glass as he slams the door shut. It’s quiet, and perhaps he’s fortunate that there’s no car alarm to set off, but Klaus feels nervous instead.

“We’re going to lose him, Klaus,” Ben says. He’s climbed in the backseat, leaning over the passenger seat to watch him, as Klaus pulls free wires, trying to find the right wires.

“Which one is the starter wire, Ben?” He says, moving between them. “I hardly ever do this shit, how am I supposed to get the right one?”

“Those two,” Ben points, and Klaus pulls them out further, leaving them on his lap. The van is at the end of the road, and Klaus bites his lip. He doesn’t have anything sharp to cut the wires so he can spark the battery wires together except…

Glass shards.

Fuck, they’ll probably work.

He presses the two wires together and the engine sparks to life. Revving the car, so it doesn’t cut out, he lets the wires dangle by his knees, adjusts the chair quickly so it accommodates his height and disengages the handbrake.

“Just to let you know,” Klaus says, as he turns the wheel, pushing the car into motion, “I hate that you’ve talked me into this.”

“You didn’t take much convincing,” Ben says, and he’s pushing into the front seat despite the glass, like the heathen he is.

“I’m easily led,” Klaus says, biting into the side of his lip.

“Don’t drive like a madman,” Ben says, after a second, and Klaus presses his foot gently against the break, slowing the car down, trying to keep a healthy distance from the van to stay outside of Five’s notice. “We’re screwed if he catches us.”

“You think that maybe…” Klaus flicks the signal lights, follows Five across a right turn. “…because we’re following him, we’re kind of giving Five a reason to be suspicious?”

Ben shifts beside him. A mix of discomfort and nervous energy. Then, “Klaus?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s probably best not to overthink it.”


Five parks the van just down the street from a department store, and Klaus, not wanting to be noticed as following his brother, decides to drive further down, coming to a stop at the edge of the car-park.

“Okay,” Ben says, “let’s check out what he’s doing.”

Klaus goes to open the door, stills as he looks past Ben out the broken window, and ducks down instead.

“What’re you doing?” Ben hisses, but he leans down too, as if he’ll be able to give them away. “Klaus?”

“Shut up,” Klaus hisses, “he’s coming this way.”

Why Five is coming their way though, is completely impossible to tell. Klaus bites his tongue to keep from making any sound, and when there’s no cleared throat from said brother, he slowly lifts up his head.

Five isn’t coming their way. He’d just needed to pass them to make his way to the department store. Which he disappears inside of, with a flash of blue. Perhaps the only thing he can do now, is follow after the guy, since he’s already this far.

“Normal people don’t go to department stores in the middle of the night, Klaus.” Ben says, and Klaus rolls his eyes, mutters about how he’s already making his way inside, so Ben doesn’t need to convince him anymore.

There’s only one problem: Getting inside without triggering the alarms.

Klaus walks around the building, realises the front entrances are impossible to enter through, and decides on finding an office window instead.

“If we’re caught,” Klaus sighs, “then I’m going to be arrested.”

“Don’t get caught then,” Ben says.

For someone who hates breaking the rules, he’s really going all out when it comes to stalking their brother. Klaus almost wants to tell him to chill out, but he’s steadying his hands, swallowing down two more pills as he searches for a big enough rock to smash open another window.

He doesn’t find a rock, but there’s a loose brick in the pavement which will do the same job, so Klaus grabs it, and climbs up to the nearest window.

“Hopefully this won’t be too loud,” Klaus mutters, crashing the brick against the glass. It shatters, sending glass fibres in all directions. There’s noise, and to Klaus, it’s pretty damn loud, but hopefully there’ll be enough space between here and where Five is that it’ll sound muffled.

Klaus cuts into his hand as he makes his way inside, blood dripping down his arm. He wipes it against his coat, wincing at the red line it leaves against the fabric.

He’s in what looks to be the boss’s window, and Klaus pushes down on the handle, opening it with slow precision, trying to avoid any possible creaking sounds.

“I’ll go in and take a look,” Ben says, which would be useful if he were real, but he’s not. Still, if he wants to disappear, then Klaus isn’t going to stop him. He creeps forward, outside of the office and down a small corridor, to the main store front.

There’s a single beam of light – a flashlight – that Klaus assumes is Five.

He pushes down the edge of the room, hiding behind clothing racks, sticking to the edge of the room but trying to get a good look at his brother.

“Dolores…” He hears Five mutter, and Klaus can’t help but think that maybe their brother is meeting with someone. Must be – maybe he’s not the only one who came back to stop the apocalypse. Why else would he be here past closing time? “It’s good to see you.”

There’s a pause, and then, Ben drops down beside him, frowning.

Klaus, having not seen him turn back to see him, bites his tongue to avoid hissing ‘fuck’. Creeping up on him in the dark is a terrible idea, he’s going to have to give Ben a long lecture on it.

“I’ve… missed you,” Five continues, “Obviously.”

Ben takes a moment to look at him and then whispers, “he’s talking to a mannequin.”

Yeah, because that’s something that Five would do.

He shakes his head, peeks around the side of the clothes rack and realises that oh, wow, his brother really is talking to an inanimate object. As if she’s talking back, as if this is a normal conversation.

His brother is just as crazy as the rest of them.

“Fine,” Klaus whispers back to Ben, “he’s as crazy as I am. Mystery solved, can we go now?”

Ben, despite his frown, nods.

And that’s about when everything goes to shit. The department store lights up with in a series of flashes, and the sound of gunshots vibrate against his ears. Klaus jumps, scrambles back towards the wall and glances up.

Five screams out ‘no’ and Klaus wants to run to him, but he’s frozen, stuck rooted in one place.

“We’ve got to help him!” Ben calls, and Klaus shakes his head, because he’s not a super hero, he doesn’t know how to help.

“I can’t fight,” Klaus hisses back, eyes darting in the direction of the office he’d come from. “You think either of us can really help?”

You know, Klaus still isn’t completely sure that he isn’t on a fucking trip right now. Not that he’s hallucinated something this full before, not even when he’d taken hallucinogens had it been this… intricate, but… there’s always a first time for everything.

Ben groans but nods his head. He says, “you’re right. Five can teleport out, we need to leave too…”

“Shit. It’s them,” Five must be nearer to Klaus than he’d thought, because his voice is clear. Bullets tear through the wall above Klaus’s head, and he scuttles away, diving through clothes to stay out of anyone’s vision.

Them?

Okay, scratch only being a little suspicious.

Klaus is officially suspicious as fuck.

He heaves himself outside of clothing racks, glances around for any movement nearby and when he sees none, he crawls back into another clothing rack, making his way nearer to the racks.

More gunfire.

A masked man walks past him, and Klaus holds his breath until it’s gone, and past that, as the man presses his finger against the shotgun trigger. The recoil leaves Klaus flinching, the kickback from the gun making the man take a step back.

Klaus presses his lips together to avoid the whine that’s rising up his throat.

What now?

Wait for the shooter to leave. The guy steps forward, turns the corner. Klaus breathes. Out – Out – Klaus needs to get out. The air tastes like gunpowder, his retinas are burning from the gunfire. Blinding, it's... blinding.

He feels, faintly, like he’s going to throw up. Klaus swallows, realises there’s no acid there, and pulls out from the clothes rack. He lifts himself up, not fully, but enough to run, and makes for the offices.

Klaus clears the space, throws himself into the office and curls up, trying to catch his breath.

“Fuck,” he breathes, and beside him, Ben nods his head. “Fuck me.”

“What the hell just happened?” Ben asks, and Klaus shrugs his shoulders, trying to block out the sound. Echoing in his ears, it’s like a fucking war-zone in here, which is crazy, because it’s just a department store.

Why is his brother being hunted down in a department store while talking to a mannequin?

“Fuck,” Klaus whispers again. He bites into his lip, tries to figure out what to do next and can only think of one word: “Shit.”

“Shit,” Ben agrees, and then, “we need to get out of here.”

For once, Klaus takes his advice without any commentary, or any hesitation. He glances up at the window, grabs the nearest chair and pulls it beneath the exit. Climbing the chair, he heaves himself up.

Another gunshot.

Klaus’s ears ring.

“Fuck, Klaus, get up.”

All he can hear is his pulse in his ears, melded together with a silence that rings over and over, the aftermath of…

He presses his hands against the glass, tries to pull himself up and back outdoors.

Another bang.

Klaus purses his lips. He feels hot, like someone’s set his skin on fire, pressing a butane torch over his skin.

Hot and panicked, and – and Klaus goes to pull himself up and gets halfway out the window, when everything blurs. For a moment, everything looks grey, absent of colour.

“Oh, Klaus,” comes a voice. He can barely see, but the voice is feminine, belongs to someone wearing a grey beach hat. “It looks like we’re going to need to have a chat.”

He tumbles forward from the window, and then, everything is black.

Chapter Text

Clothing racks and mannequins lay in pieces.

Bullet holes puncture through the department store walls, lit up by the forensics team, as they poke around, searching for all the evidence they can find. Which is… a lot because department stores are the newest location for shootouts, apparently.

It seems almost like there’s too much evidence left behind.

A red herring? Shoddy thinking by their criminals? Or just someone confident enough in knowing that all the evidence will only result in dead ends.

Diego isn’t sure.

But he’s sure as hell going to figure it out.

Leaning down, he glances at one of the bullet casings. From the amount he’s seen while walking around, he’s not too nervous about picking one up, and so, slowly, he reaches out for it.

The shooting is still recent, but it’s been long enough that the casings have cooled down. It’s cold against the leather of his gloves. Diego lifts the bullet, squints as he looks at it, and tries to ignore the sound of footsteps approaching him.

If he gets kicked off of a crime scene like this, well, he’s gonna be pissed.

“Do you seriously still not understand the chain of custody?” Eudora says from behind him, her voice a mixture of exasperation and tiredness. With all the paperwork she has to do, he’s not surprised.

She really should just come out with him one day and enjoy vigilantism, it’s much better than paperwork and regulations.

“If you touch it, I can’t use it.” She finishes, when he turns back to look at her. Her smile is tight-lipped, and Diego can’t blame her, really. He’s got his radio, he knows all the shit Eudora’s dealing with in the precinct.

Either way, it doesn’t look like she’s too pissed that he’s handling evidence. It’s not like there aren’t enough bullet casings to go around. Plus, Diego has information on it that people might want to know about.

“Let me save you some time running ballistics,” he says, since it’s easier than saying that sure, he did spend time in the academy, he knows some procedures, “these 9 millimetres haven’t been manufactured since–”

“1963,” Eudora cuts him off. She crosses her arms, and that frown? Diego isn’t gonna lie, it looks sexy on her. “Odd, I know.”

Diego raises an eyebrow, spurring her to continue. There’s no way they’ve had the time to run ballistics, not with the scene this fresh.

She sighs. Shakes her head. “Matching casings were found at a murder scene last night. Ishmael’s towing.”

“The driver?”

Eudora nods. “Found him hanging from the ceiling this morning. Looks like he must have known something after all.”

You know, Diego isn’t the type to say ‘I-told-you-so’ but if he were, now would be the time.

Ah fuck it, why not?

“It’s a shame nobody told you to go talk to him.”

The glare that Eudora sends him is enough to show her displeasure. But Diego is right, they both know it, and maybe if she’d listened to him, they’d have a little more information.

This is what Diego does, after all.

“In the span of 24 hours, I’ve had attacks in three different places across town,” Eudora says, crossing her arms. She taps her foot, purses her lips. “Whatever this is, whoever this is, they’re not slowing down.”

Diego visualises the attacks, tries to make sense of what little information he has, but he’s lacking. At first, none of them seem linked at all – it’s only the ballistics, and now, their dead vic that’s linking things together.

“So, if you really give a shit,” Eudora continues – Diego does, he doubts he’ll ever reach a point where he can explain just how many shits he gives, “–and you’ve got any fresh ideas, I’m all ears.”

They need to take it scene by scene, Diego thinks.

The doughnut shop is where everything had begun. As far as they can know, of course. They have unidentified bodies, a bunch of John Doe’s who he doubts they’ll find out the identities of. They have their dead mechanic, and a missing kid.

“The guy’s kid in the doughnut shop?”

Eudora’s sigh is long, enough to tell that there’s less hope in that avenue. The kid, it seems, isn’t so easily found.

“I’ve got units tracking extended family, in case anyone goes after him,” she says, “but the guy doesn’t have any children in his immediate family. We don’t know who we’re looking to protect.”

What a shit show. And from the way Eudora throws up her hands, they’re probably not going to get much further with that lead. Translation: They have fuck all. Their first crime scene is blank.

“Well this place must have surveillance footage, right?”

Even looking around now he can see the cameras. They’re hidden around the department store, in corners and by the sides of the rooms, little spheres of black, spying on them.

Growing up surrounded by his father’s constant surveillance, Diego had gotten quick at counting cameras, even spotting more hidden ones.

“No,” Eudora shakes her head, “It doesn’t exist. There’s nothing to see – they must have taken it.”

The absence of evidence there, is evidence itself though. Having spent enough time on missions and trying to keep people safe, Diego’s learned how to pick up on what missing information means. And here, it’s pretty clear.

The lack of surveillance means one of the things. Their perpetrators are either smart, or experienced. Under pressure, they’d known to grab the footage of what happened inside.

Experienced means planned crime. Smart means, intuitive, even if the crime is spur of the moment.

It’s going to take a while, he thinks, to track them down, regardless of either option. And that grates on his nerves, because these are monsters, they don’t deserve to be free for another minute.

“The stolen car,” Diego says instead, trying to consider the latest crime scene. He’d spotted forensics working around it when he’d first arrived, winced at the poor bastards stuck outside in the rain, trying to preserve evidence. “Think our perps took it?”

Shaking her head, Eudora says, “I doubt it. These guys are smart enough to hide footage, I doubt they’d leave behind a car. Must be someone else’s.”

Diego can’t fault that logic.

There’s obviously a goldmine of fingerprints in the car – someone more professional at car theft wouldn’t have needed to break through the window, would have wedged the door open with a slim-jim.

They’d have to wait for the forensics to get the prints back to the station, to run it through the system, but hopefully they should get a name. Hopefully at least one lead won’t lead them to a dead end.

“They didn’t leave any other evidence?”

Her expression shifts, forehead crinkling as she frowns. Eudora says, “No. First unit on the scene caught two shooters fleeing the premises wearing – get this – creepy kids masks, but the two didn’t leave any prints.”

Diego opens his mouth, about to say something about how the city really is going to shit, huh, but Eudora beats him to it, steals the voice from his throat.

“They were seen carrying a body.”

Shit.

And no one went after them? God, sometimes Diego finds himself questioning the competency of the police force. Surely, they should have seen the body, and gone after it.

These guys are acquiring victims at a fast rate, quickly enough that there are now seven dead, and another unconfirmed. But they left their previous victims behind though – so why bring this guy with them?

Unless…

“They’re still alive?”

Eudora shakes her head, points towards the offices and leads him inside. Diego simply follows. No snarky comments, just putting the pieces to the crime scene together.

“We don’t have a body,” she says, “so we can’t rule it as a murder. But there’s enough blood here that forensics have rules the guys chances of survival as pretty low. If the vic is still alive, then they won’t be for long.”

Inside the crime scene, Diego bites the inside of his cheek. The crime scene isn’t the worst he’s seen, but there’s always something about seeing a murder scene where the body is missing that sets him on edge.

Diego can deal with bodies. Has been since he was a kid and Reginald fucking Hargreeves decided that they had to be super soldiers or some shit. They’d gotten over the traumatising situations, and he’d gotten used to the bodies.

When they’re not there, that’s when it freaks him out. The absences.

The crime scene is eerie without a body. There’s a broken window, blood staining the glass, still wet. More blood splatter across the wall beneath it, a bullet having pierced through the middle of the splotch.

Diego is no blood splatter analyst, but even he knows the way arterial blood splatters across the wall. There’s the initial exit wound where the bullet leaves the body, where the body slumps forward, and then, there’s a wide spray of blood, like flicked paint, across the wall, where an artery had been nicked. Each droplet of blood roughly a millimetre in diameter.

Unlucky bastard.

“Shit,” Diego says. The blood isn’t even dry yet, that’s how recent the shooting had been, is only starting to congeal. Their victim is dead, there’s no doubting it. Not if all this blood belongs to them.

“Shit,” Eudora agrees. “We’re seeing if we can link the DNA in the blood to any DNA found in the car, see if it matches up. If so, then we at least have a lead with the victim. Look into who they might’ve pissed off.”

It’s a start, Diego thinks. He’ll have to do some digging with his own contacts as soon as they have a name, since as this keeps getting more and more suspicious.

“What’re we thinking?” Diego asks, “a meeting gone wrong?”

He receives a nod. She says, “At first, we thought that those dead at the diner killed each other, but now I’m thinking it might have been some kind of… gang war. One group killing the other off.”

It’s a possibility.

Diego reaches for his belt, pulls out one of his knives and fiddles with it. Unconsciously, he flips it, feeling the weight in his hand. It feels… calming. Not that he’d ever admit that.

“More than two people would have been needed on the other side of the fight if it were a hit,” Diego says. And he frowns, thinking things over. He says, “You think this is an example of a partnership gone wrong?”

Eudora doesn’t confirm his theory, but he can see that it’s an angle she’s going to work on. Knows that it’s a possible explanation, something that could have happened. Even if they’re drawing at straws.

“I don’t know what I think, Diego,” she says, finally, shrugging, “I don’t know what to think. All I know is that someone’s dead, and I’m pretty sure that our victim knew to come here.”

Fuck, this city really is going to shit.


Everything is grey.

Absent of colour. Or perhaps colour never existed and it’s always been like this. Klaus doesn’t know. But he should. He thinks that he should know.

“Klaus.”

His name. The voice from before is calling to him, and so, Klaus looks up. He scratches at his arm, squints at the sight of a young girl peering down at him.

“Yes?” He asks. He lifts a hand to his chest, winces as he presses his fingers against his sternum. He thinks that there should be blood there, but when he feels for wetness, there is none.

Which is weird, because Klaus is pretty sure that he’d been bleeding.

Gunfire, and then pain – it’s only natural to conclude he’d been shot. But maybe he hadn’t been. Maybe he’d simply imagined it all, like he’d imagined colour, and the ghosts and everything else.

The girl steps closer now, kneeling down in front of him. She’s left a bicycle at the side of the pathway, hidden in the grass. There’s a wicker basket attached to the basket, and Klaus wonders, silently, what’s inside.

“It’s good to see you again,” She says, and there’s a soft smile to her features, her lips turned upwards. It’s an odd smile, because Klaus has never met this girl before. He thinks he’d remember if he had.

“…Alright?”

Is this a dream? No, it doesn’t feel like one. It feels like this is reality and everything else has been false. It feels like he both belongs here, and will never fit inside the monochrome world.

“Oh, of course,” the girl shakes her head, breathes out a small laugh, “the timeline has been disrupted, technically we’ve not met. Or rather, this is your first time meeting me.”

Klaus blinks. And then:

“Timeline? You mean Five showing up to change things?”

He receives a smile. It’s unsettling, a mixture of predatory and proud, as if he’s fulfilling her expectations, asking the right questions, coming to the right conclusions. He doesn’t know what it’s supposed to mean.

“Exactly.”

Klaus doesn’t know how to respond, or what to say, so he purses his lips, looking around instead to figure out where he is. There’s grass, apple trees in a neighbouring orchard. Cherry trees framing the path, an old dirt road, grass no longer growing down the middle, growth squandered from the constant passing of people.

“Where are we?” Klaus asks, because all he can gather is that they’re somewhere in the countryside. How did he get to the countryside? He’s not been there in years, drugs are so hard to come by in the country.

“There are lots of names for it,” the girl answers, slow, cautious, “I don’t remember which you preferred last time you were up here.”

Up here?

“The afterlife seems the easiest name though.”

Klaus opens his mouth, closes it again, and tries to truly comprehend what the fuck is going on here.

“The… afterlife?”

“Yes,” the little girl nods, “you’re dead.”

Dead?

Well, it does make sense. He did get shot, after all. He breathes, “oh, that’s a relief.”

The smile morphs, into something sad. Something slightly pitiful. It puts Klaus on edge.

“You can’t stay.”

That is… less of a relief.

“Why not?”

“You don’t belong here,” the girl says. “You can come back when the world ends, but they’ll need a gate until then.”

Klaus doesn’t like the idea of being turned away from the afterlife, specifically because he’d died to get inside, and the concept of being a ghost doesn’t sound fun but it seems he has no say in it.

“I’m trying to stop the end of the world though,” Klaus says. The girl snorts. She raises an eyebrow.

“You are?” She shakes her head, not quite exasperated, but disbelieving. “What is the point in saving them? I wonder… maybe we’re not far enough in this timeline for you to know your stance.”

Klaus doesn’t know what’s going on. But he does know that he’s not going to change his mind on the end of the world. He won’t let it end – Vanya’s counting on him, and so is Five.

“It’s alright, Klaus,” she says, and Klaus is beginning to think she’s more than just a little girl in the afterlife. There’s more to her, there must be. “You don’t need all the answers yet, you just need to wake up.”

Klaus opens his mouth again, but there are no words. His throat is dry. The world of black, and white, and grey, seems to bend. The black becomes shadows, the white becomes blinding light. It’s migraine-inducing.

“Things will be different when you go back, but I trust you’ll figure it out.” A burst of pain. “Oh, and Klaus – do come back and visit. You were always one of my favourites. We’ll play cards.”

Chapter Text

The library isn’t too far of a walk away, but Vanya doesn’t really feel like walking. As soon as she wakes up, she realises that all she wants to do is slither back under her bedsheets.

She doesn’t.

A voice in the back of her head tells her that she needs to get out of bed, because she’s got an important job to do today, the apocalypse won’t be stopped by staying in bed.

The voice sounds like Five.

Silently she curses her brother, curses the apocalypse for occurring and pushes her covers away, pushing her feet against cold laminate flooring. Vanya shivers, and then, she decides to get ready.

It’s later in the day than she’d expected to wake up at, but Vanya supposes that what happens when she forgets to set an alarm. Her pills have always had a side effect of making her drowsy, making waking up early difficult.

She’s just about to head out to the shower when there’s a knock on her door. Vanya jumps at the sound – she’s not got lessons, she’s not expecting anyone, so why…?

She looks at the state of herself, bedhead, in pyjamas that have a stain above her breasts where she’d spilled cocoa on herself the previous evening and realises that she probably won’t have the time to change before answering the door.

Did she… has she maybe ordered something and forgotten about it? With everything that’s happened in the past few days, it wouldn’t be a surprise if it’d completely jumped from her mind.

Vanya pulls her hair back into a sloppy bun, decides it’s better than knots and bedhead, and heads toward her door.

Opening it up, reveals her sister. Allison.

“Allison?” She asks, because well… how does her sister know where she lives? She’d never asked, Vanya had never told, and basically, this is just so overwhelmingly confusing.

Why is her sister here at ten a.m. in the morning?

“Hey,” Allison says, “are you busy?”

Vanya looks at her sister, realises that to say she is busy would be rude, since she’s literally stood in her pyjamas, and shakes her head inside. She motions for Allison to come inside, watches as her sister steps inside.

Her heels click against the floor.

Vanya closes the door behind her, tries to place her sister in her apartment. Allison seems out of place here, like she could never belong in some place so small, so ordinary. Her sister had always been made for more grandiose things.

It leaves Vanya feeling strange, uncertain how to proceed.

“Uh- do you… I can make coffee?” Vanya asks. Allison offers a quirk of a smile, relieved, almost for Vanya to be filling the silence, and so Vanya sets out making a new pot.

“Has Klaus been staying with you?” Allison asks once Vanya’s set the coffee machine up, waiting for it to brew. Vanya turns back, frowning, until her sister says, “the blankets on the sofa… You two were always close.”

Oh, yeah, that would make sense.

“Five,” she says instead. “He’s been staying here.”

Allison looks almost like she doesn’t know how to respond to that. She blinks, lips pressed together as if there’s little she can respond to. Vanya doesn’t want to fill the silence, and instead, turns back to the coffee machine. It’s still got a few minutes, but that doesn’t mean she can’t set out the cups, get sugar ready.

“…Is he okay?” Allison asks after a moment. The silence must be unbearable for her. “Five, I mean.”

Vanya isn’t sure.

Her brother has been to the future, had forced himself back, into a body that was no longer his own. He’d been traumatised, he barely knows them now and there’s little Vanya thinks she can do to help, except help him stop an apocalypse that might be all in his mind.

“He’ll get there,” Vanya says, “he just needs some time.”

Allison hums, and that’s enough of an answer for that, something that makes Vanya’s shoulders tighten. She doesn’t know if her sister is agreeing, if she’s judging her – actually, to be honest, Vanya doesn’t know why her sister is here, or what she wants from her.

Vanya would have given anything to be close with Allison as kids. But that was then. Now she’s just wary.

She pours coffee out, stirring in sugar at Allison’s request and a splash of milk. Vanya, herself, takes her coffee black. She sits on her sofa, atop blankets that Five had left behind, and balances the cup against her pyjama bottoms.

“I was– uh–” Allison fades off, sips at coffee in an attempt to find the right words. Which is weird, because Allison has always been a pro with words. It’s her job, and before that, it’d be what marked her as the rumour. “Watching dad’s old tapes last night.”

Vanya feels herself still. Her shoulder muscles are tight, bunched together. It hurts, slightly.

“…Yeah?”

“We… well, I found something afterwards, but I’ll get into that later. But… I realised that we excluded you when we were kids. Both you and Klaus because you didn’t have powers.” Allison stares down into her coffee, frowning. Her expression is a storm cloud. “We shouldn’t have.”

Vanya can’t look at her sister. She feels an ache in her chest – she’d never wanted an apology. She doesn’t know if she’d accepted it. No, she’d wanted a sister, never an apology…

“I’m sorry,” Allison continues, and then, after a few seconds. “It’s been years, and maybe that’s too long to ask for a second chance, but I’d like to get to know you. Try to be a sister.”

Vanya feels something settle in her stomach. It’s an emotion that she doesn’t know how to describe, not a bad one, necessarily, but… a sort of nervousness. A want for this to be true, a worry that it might not be.

“I- I think I’d like that,” Vanya says. She looks back into her coffee and realises why she’s nervous. “But… I… I have a condition.”

Allison opens her mouth, pauses. She’d not been expecting that, Vanya knows. Vanya herself, hadn’t really expected to say it either.

“I’m not the only one who went excluded by everyone,” Vanya whispers. “I don’t know if you’re going to do the same for Klaus, but I don’t think I could accept if you didn’t reach out to him too.”

More surprise. Allison’s eyes widen and then, they soften. The rest of her softens too, lips quirking upwards, in a way that makes her brighten up. There’s a gentleness to her, something Vanya hadn’t seen growing up, but had seen on the big screen.

There’s something very real about her, right now. And Vanya finds herself smiling back, as her sister says, “Of course. I have a feeling Klaus would be the better sibling to go shopping with.”

“He’s a devil to shop with.” A laugh bubbles from Vanya’s throat. “I reckon you’d love it.”

“I’ll have to let you know,” Allison laughs back, and then, sobering slightly. “You two were always together, I’m glad you never fell apart.”

Vanya’s glad too. Because there had been times, moments when she’d been scared that they would, when they’d been at odds, when Klaus had fallen into his worse habits, when Vanya had said the wrong things, said cruel things.

“We try,” Vanya says. And then, because she doesn’t want to get into how they’d almost fallen apart in the past she says, “you said you found something?”

“Uh… yeah. We found the video from the night of Dad’s death…” Allison’s amusement shifts, tense, almost scared. She’d obviously not enjoyed seeing whatever she’d seen. “We’re going to have a family meeting for it, if you can come back to the house.”

Vanya needs to go to the library, but well, Dad’s death is also important. The apocalypse though…

“You guys want me there?”

“Of course,” Allison says, and her voice is certain, strong. Urging her to understand. “We owe it to each other. And, well, it’s about Mom.”

That’s enough to convince Vanya.

“Okay,” Vanya says, “Let me get a quick shower and then we can head straight over?”

Allison nods, and then, pauses. She says, “Luther and I are trying to get everyone… if you know where we can find Klaus or Five, that’d really help.”

Vanya knows the exact co-ordinates.


Five, of course, is not enthused to see them.

Allison runs ahead when she sees the van, knocks on the window to steal their brother’s attention, and opens the van door. They must interrupt something, because as Vanya opens the back to the van, crouching between the front seats, their brother is recapturing his breath.

Vanya’s mind flitters to the concept of panic attacks and realises that she’s probably going to have to coach her brother through methods to help deal with them in the future.

That’s the first thing Vanya notices.

The second thing she notices, is that the van is lacking in a brother. Klaus isn’t sat in the back, or in the front. Which is strange, because Vanya has never known her brother to break a promise that he’s made to her.

(He’d always refused to promise things he couldn’t follow through with, and Vanya… Vanya hadn’t ever liked the refusal, but it had meant he’d never gone back on his word.

He’d broken it with others, but never her.)

“Where’s Klaus?” Vanya asks, as his brother looks between them both, hissing under his breath, questioning why they’re even here.

Five takes a moment to glare at Allison, before turning to face Vanya. His scowl is still etched on his face, but it’s deeper now, rooted with an irritation that Vanya doesn’t quite understand.

“He didn’t show up,” Five bites out, and that, explains his anger. “I expressed how important this all was yesterday, but he’s still not here and it’s almost noon.”

Vanya presses her lips together. And then, she sighs. “I’m sorry, Five.”

“You’re not responsible for Klaus’s actions,” Five grumbles and then, “What’re you doing here anyway?”

Vanya shrinks back. She knows that she shouldn’t feel responsible for Klaus not showing up, but in a way she does. Maybe because she’d forced Five to incorporate him into their plan to stop the apocalypse in the first place. Because she’d pushed for this.

She swallows down an apology. It’s doubtful that Five would expect it.

“We’re having a family meeting,” Allison says. “We think that Mom might have had something to do with…”

She glances back, looks at Vanya, and pauses. Then, she continues: “We think she might have had something to do with Dad’s death.”

Air catches in her throat, hitches. Vanya can breathe in, but she can’t breathe out, and it feels almost like an anaphylactic reaction, except, the only thing she’s allergic to is panic.

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration.

Vanya just needs to settle the concern, calm down, and figure things out. Breathing first, then the whole ‘mom might’ve had something to do with Dad’s death’ thing.

“It’s important,” Allison says, after a moment, when Five makes no agreement to come back to the mansion. Her tone, quiet, seems almost like she’s begging him to agree.

“It’s important,” Five echoes back, and his tone is sharp, as if he’s offended that they’re calling an issue like this important. Vanya doubts that it is to to him, their father’s death has happened, and as such it doesn’t matter anymore. “You have no concept of what’s important.”

Okay, Vanya thinks now is about the right time to play mediator. Maybe.

“You don’t have to come,” Vanya says, “If you don’t want to. I’ll look around and see if Klaus is at the mansion and send him your way.”

Five stills, and then, after a few seconds, jerks to look at her. He says, “You think Klaus might be at the mansion?”

“We found him there yesterday, right?” Vanya says. “If he forgot to set an alarm to meet you here, then he’s probably still asleep. He doesn’t tend to wake up until past noon anyway.”

Another short jerk, and then, Five leans forward, turning the keys to the van. The engine grumbles, spluttering to life. It’s an old model, they really should’ve gotten a new one.

“We’re going back then.”

Okay, Vanya doesn’t want to be the sort of person to point out just how odd Five’s acting, but it needs to be done. She opens her mouth, but somehow, Allison beats her to it.

Her sister says: “I didn’t know that you and Klaus were close.”

Five’s expression morphs into a tight line, a grimace. He says, “We’re not.”

No, if anything, Vanya can finally see Klaus’s point from yesterday. Five, is acting strangely whenever he’s brought up, let alone when he’s around. She’ll have to get to the bottom of it, because this is… this isn’t not knowing about someone and trying to relearn about them.

This is suspicion.

No, not suspicion. Scepticism. Mistrust.

“Oh,” Allison says. And then, after a moment, a strained smile. “It’s nice that you’re trying to get to know him then?”

Five hums under his breath. It doesn’t seem like approval, but more a sound that’s designed to bring the conversation to a standstill, leave it quiet. He says, “We’re leaving. Seatbelts.”

There aren’t any seats in the back, so Vanya climbs into front of the van, settling into the seat between her siblings. She pulls the belt around her, clicks it into place before turning to five.

He releases the handbrake, spurs the van into motion.

They drive past Meditech, and Five spares it one final fleeting glance, before they turn the corner back towards the house.

“…Five…?” Vanya says, after a moment, voice low enough that Allison can’t overhear them. “I think we need to talk about Klaus.”

He grits his teeth, locks his jaw. He says, “I don’t think you’ll want to hear it.”

She doesn’t – Five is right. Either way, she thinks it’s unfair on Klaus to have a brother who’s expecting the worst of him, without knowing what’s brought this about.

Vanya bites her lip. She says, “…I think I do.”

“Fine.” He sighs, and for a moment, he sounds old. Like the old man that his consciousness really is. “Fine – but, later."

Chapter Text

“Klaus–”

The word is an echo in his ears. A beg, a plea – continuous, over and over, ringing in his ear drums. Loud, but a whisper. Quiet, but a shout. Contradictory, and yet, somehow not hypocritical at all.

It hurts to hear. But maybe it’s not hearing that hurts, but simply being. Klaus doesn’t know. Being alive when he shouldn’t be probably can’t be too good for his system, because all he is, is jittering synapses, pain crackling from axon to dendrites, electric signals keeping him in some sort of limbo.

A limbo, not the one passage linking between life and death, but of consciousness and unconsciousness. Of sanity and insanity. Of comfort and agony.

The last one, isn’t so much a limbo though, he’s fallen out of that one, onto the wrong side.

It hurts, and Klaus almost doesn’t want to open his eyes.

“Klaus–” It’s not the usual haunting, the usual screaming of his name, but a choked sobbing. The voice is familiar, more familiar than any other. “Please, you can’t be dead–”

Twitching a finger is the only signal that Klaus can give. His eyes are heavy. There’s a hole in his chest, and it itches, as if he can feel the movement of muscle there, the process of healing, of bleeding out. It aches, and it burns, and there’s too much to feel that Klaus wants to stop feeling at all.

All he can do is twitch his fingers and hope that it is enough.

“Not you–” A pause, a gasping breath. “Please.”

If he could say something, he would. But Klaus can’t even breath, how can he expect to get words out?

He keeps his eyes closed and doesn’t open them.


He must fall into a dreamless state of unconsciousness, because Ben’s pleas don’t reach him for a while after that.

That’s a name he needs to remember, Klaus thinks, Ben.

He holds onto the name and hopes it will call him back. Even if it’s not his Ben, there is someone waiting to call him back.


The next time Klaus fades into existence, the pain is manageable.

Which is not to say it’s non-existent, because holy shit, he can feel blood trickling down his abdomen, and there’s no mistaking the way his blood is boiling, his skin on fire. But it’s… manageable.

Which is probably like, a mindfuck all of itself, right? Klaus doesn’t really want to overthink how he’s in just enough pain to know it’s there, but not enough pain that he’s immediately unconscious. He doesn’t want to go into the whole biology of how this should not be possible, because how the fuck would that even help him right now?

Answers: It wouldn’t.

Around him, there is silence. Klaus can hear hissed words around him but can’t hear the words. It sounds like an argument, and as Klaus reminds himself to breathe, his heart reanimated, beating against his chest, leaving him dizzy with more blood loss, he lets out a small moan.

It’s more of a whimper, really. It catches against the back of Klaus’s chest, and there is a shift in the air, a whoosh of something, and then:

“Klaus?”

It’s scared, confused. Words from someone who doesn’t know whether to be shocked, surprised or overjoyed.

More so, it’s Ben.

Klaus forces his eyes open, and for a moment he doesn’t understand why colours are overwhelming but they are. Tears blur his vision, and Klaus doesn’t know why colours are making him feel overwhelmed but then he remembers.

Did Klaus just hallucinate a meeting with God?

No – no, he’s pretty sure that was real. As real as the world ever is. It’s debatable, really. Klaus will deal with it later, after a joint and… and wait, why is he on the floor of a motel?

Ben can do that all-knowing hallucination shit or something, because Klaus doesn’t really know the answer to that. He stares at his brother, waits for an explanation that’ll help him make sense of everything.

“Klaus?” Ben gasps again, and he’s so close that Klaus can see the specks in his eyes, various shades of brown all mixed together in a way that Klaus had never noticed in his brother when he’d been alive. “Oh God, Klaus, you’re – how’re you alive?”

Good question. There’s an answer there, and Klaus opens his mouth, takes a moment to stretch his fingers, the feeling returning to him, tingling from the lack of blood supply.

“Wait, don’t.” Ben says, as he tries to explain. “Don’t respond. The people who killed – uh, shot – you, they brought you to a motel. They searched your body. If you speak now, they’ll hear you.”

Honestly, Klaus is surprised they didn’t hear him when he’d just woken up, heard his groan, his pain. But maybe they are distracted, maybe the motel is new, and his moans mix together with the moans of a new building.

Klaus doesn’t know.

Either way, there’s no point in risking it. He simply looks up at Ben, and mouths, ‘what should we do?’

“I don’t know,” Ben says, after a second. He turns, looks at the door, and then looks back at Klaus. “I don’t have a plan. I… you were dead, Klaus. They killed you, there was no planning to escape.”

Oh, okay. Well, Klaus isn’t dead anymore, so it’s alright. He’ll just need to escape on his own. His body is untied – one of the perks of being dead, he supposes, no one thinks to tie a corpse – and while his body feels heavy, he’s certain he could move, if prompted.

‘Need to leave’, Klaus mouths, and Ben pauses. Then, he nods his head.

“Can you walk?” Ben asks, and Klaus shrugs, slowly, wincing at the movement. He presses his hand against his chest, and this time, it is slick with blood. Kind of a dick move, he thinks, for the little girl to send him back to life and not heal his body from the injury that had killed him.

‘Will try,’ Klaus mutters. And then, slowly, he pushes himself up. Glancing around the room reveals that it’s very plain, unlived in. The standard motel look, something that can suit whoever vacates it. There are two beds – singles – and as he glances at the one nearest to the exit, his gaze finds his coat.

“Let me just check and see if they’re still busy talking to each other,” Ben says. Klaus lays back down against the floor, eyes fluttering shut. He’s exhausted. His entire body aches and all he needs is…

Painkillers. Some sort of opiate that should help him smother the pain, pushing it away.

Although, now that Ben isn’t by his side, he can’t help but think that well – shit – is he really injured, was he really shot? This doesn’t seem like reality, maybe the pain is psychosomatic, not really there, just another figment of his imagination.

Klaus doesn’t know, and really, he just wants to talk about it with Ben.

Because Ben would–

“They’re arguing over what to do next,” Ben says, and he’s back before Klaus can drift off into unconsciousness, his voice pressing, urgent in a way that gets Klaus to push himself up, slowly.

More blood drips from his chest, and Klaus bites his tongue to keep from hissing. He leans forward, pulling his coat from the bed, and tries to push an arm through one of his sleeves.

His arm shakes too much, it’s impossible. Instead, he holds it closer to him, trying to push himself up.

Ben leans forward, as if to help him up but his hand goes – what?

The one thing about Klaus’s hallucinations regarding his brother, is that they’ve never been tactile. His brother has always faded through him, has never been able to interact with him physically. That Ben is here, helping hold Klaus up, is confusing, and terrifying, and Klaus tries to open his mouth, but the words aren’t forming.

Ben’s hand, where he is helping support him to his feet, glows blue.

“What…” Ben mutters, and Klaus shakes in his arms, stumbles forwards. “Klaus – are you doing this?”

Klaus doesn’t think he’s doing anything, but he must be. His hallucinations must be heightened, must have progressed to a point where he can’t tell the difference between reality and delusion.

He thinks, faintly, that Ben might be real after all.

And isn’t that crazy? Ben… real? He must be losing it or confused. He’s not sure. There’s a bullet in his chest, up is down, nothing seems to be making sense right now.

“Come on,” Ben whispers, half-holding him, slinging Klaus’s arm around his shoulder. He’s cold, no warmth to him, but Klaus thinks him being here is comforting whatever the temperature. “We’ll… I – fuck, Klaus you’re… you’re making me present again.”

Klaus hums.

Ben reaches out to the door, turns the handle as quietly as he can. The handle creaks as he pushes it down, and the sound echoes.

It vibrates, and for a moment, they still, wondering if they’ve been noticed, if they’ve been seen. Ben reacts before Klaus can even think to. He takes a second to look Klaus up and down, shakes his head, and pulls his brother closer to him.

Then, in one fell swoop, he throws him over his shoulder.

“Whatever your doing to make me corporeal,” Ben says, as he rushes out of the door, footsteps following behind them, “keep doing it.”

Klaus mutters something under his breath, something about exhaustion, and pain, and how it hurts to stay awake. Ben must reply with something, but he doesn’t hear it, not over the sound of his own pulse in his ears.

He closes his eyes and lets his muscles loosen.

It’s only when they’re halfway down the street that he begins to wonder whether ghosts can be bled on. He doesn’t want to ruin Ben’s hoodie with bloodstains.


“You came back pretty quickly.” The little girl says, when he is greeted with a monochrome world again. “You missed me that much?”

Klaus doesn’t know why, but the words slip from his mouth before he has a time to register them. He says, “You didn’t heal the wound, of course I’d come back.”

“To tell me to do my job properly?”

“Have you ever been shot before?” Klaus says, and maybe he’s whining but well, it’s definitely not an experience he wants to relive again any time soon. He’d be a lot happier if the entire injury was over and done with.

“No,” the little girl – God, he’s pretty sure – says. “But I can’t just go healing things with a wave of my hand, biology doesn’t work like that. I can speed up the process, but it’ll still take a while.”

How long is a while?

He’s pretty sure that the question shows on his face, because he receives an exasperated – but fond – sigh.

“A few days? You’ll only have a scar come the apocalypse, but just – go back. Your brother is worried.”

“He’s not real.” Klaus says. “He’s – I hallucinate him. Ben died years ago.”

The little girl sighs. She says, “You know that’s not true. He’s the closest thing to real you’ve had all these years.”

Klaus bites into his lip. Isn’t Vanya the closest thing he has to real? Or – no, maybe he’s the closest thing to normal he’s had. But real and normal aren’t always conjunctive, not to him, and Ben has always been there…

And Ben is real? Ben is real.

Real.

“I’ll go back,” Klaus says. “He’s probably waiting for me to wake up.”

The little girl nods her head. Then, she says, “Go back.”

And Klaus does.


“I’m awake,” Klaus says, as he wakes up, because he can feel Ben hovering, even with his eyes closed. He forces an eyelid open, glances around him. They’re in a small alleyway, hiding behind a pile of garbage bags that Ben must have brought him to when they'd left the motel. 

The smell makes him wrinkle his nose, but there are less bearable things, and this doesn’t make the top 5.

“Klaus,” Ben says, and his forehead crinkles, calms back down again. “You died again.”

“Yeah,” Klaus says, and he reaches for his coat, trying to cover the blood staining his shirt. “It doesn’t seem to be catching.”

“You’re not taking this seriously,” Ben says. “What – does this make you like… immortal or something?”

Gosh, Klaus sure hopes not. That sounds like it would be a fucking, nuisance and a half. Although well, he kind of doubts it too – the little girl had said he could die when the world ends, that meant, he wasn’t destined to live forever.

Right?

Eh, Klaus doesn’t really know. He’ll have to ask her what she means, next time.

“Dunno,” Klaus says, and he pushes up on the wall, trying to find balance as he stands. “It’s been a traumatic day. I don’t have the answers.”

Ben squints, like Klaus is a puzzle that he needs to figure out. He doesn’t seem to find what he was looking for. Instead, he leans back and heaves out a long sigh.

“So,” Ben says, “What are we going to do now?”

Klaus knows that he means about the whole, being murdered by people who were looking to murder their younger-but-older brother, but that’s not what he wants to focus on right now.

“Gimme a second,” Klaus says, after a moment. He pushes a hand into his coat pocket, finds that they’re severely lacking in tablets and his various substances. “I – I don’t have anything. They took it?”

Ben’s expression sours.

“Two assassins killed you, and they’re after Five too, and you – you want to get high?

Klaus runs a hand through his hair. Tugging on the strands to try and focus the pain away from his chest. It’s not effective, feels only like mild irritation in comparison. He can hardly focus.

“Get off your high horse Ben,” Klaus says. He takes a step forward, sways on his feet. It takes all the effort he can expend to remain standing. “I – Fuck, I was shot in the chest. It hurts okay? I can’t focus while I’m hurting.”

Conflict flashes across his brother’s eyes. Klaus is just glad that he keeps the conflict contained. He doesn’t think he could deal with a long conversation about how drugs are bad for him.

“Fine,” Ben says, “We’ll… find something to help deal with the pain. But… Then we need to figure out what to do about Five and those assassins. And learn how the fuck you're alive right now.”

Chapter Text

Vanya doesn’t know why she always seems to be struck with a sense of foreboding whenever she enters the mansion, but she is. And it seems to double, tenfold, focusing in her chest cavity and swimming around, leaving her feeling nauseous.

It’s worse now, than it usually is, whenever Vanya steps through the doors. But then again, maybe that’s to be expected, with the insinuation of foul play thrown out, amplifying her anxiety.

She leans into her pocket, grabs one of her anxiety pills, and swallows it down. Dry. It catches on her way down, uncomfortable, but not enough to make her cough.

Her pills never offer instant relief – pills generally take an hour to kick in – but psychologically, it does offer some comfort. Enough to lessen the ache in her chest, to leave her emotions a little more manageable.

“I’m going to search for Klaus,” Five announces. His tone is determined, as if he’s not going to be swayed in the search for their brother, and he turns to Vanya, watching her. As if daring her to tell him not to.

Vanya doesn’t. She tries not to react to his suspicion, the wariness he has as he watches her. He instils nervousness inside her, worry about the future he’s lived, but there’s nothing she can do, so she simply says, “Klaus gets claustrophobic, so if he’s anywhere in the house, it’ll be an open space.”

Five offers her a sharp nod, and for a moment there’s gratefulness in his expression. Then, there’s a flash of blue, he steps into a portal of his own making, and is gone. Searching for their brother.

Allison, confused but deciding not to ask about it, turns to Vanya and points at the doors to the parlour. They’re open, natural light from the parlour windows leaking through, brightening the hallway. She says, “we’re just in here.”

Vanya pulls at her jacket, shrugging out of it, and Allison follows suit, folding her coat over her arm. Her sister continues, “Luther was the one to get Diego, so lets not leave them alone together for any longer, okay?”

Vanya doesn’t need to imagine the chaos that would unfold if they did, because she’s witnessed it before. She’d been one of the many audience members to the many arguments, watching as each brother had gained his own personal upper hand.

Diego, always so close to winning, clearly the better fighter, losing to Luther, who’s natural enhancements and power made him impervious to each attack.

She has seen the chaos, and Vanya, not wanting to break the house any further, decides they should probably head inside. A broken family is enough, they don’t need a fractured house too.

“Sure,” Vanya nods, and follows Allison through the doors. “Let’s head inside.”

Inside, someone – probably Luther – has set up one of the televisions from the upstairs CCTV room. Vanya and Klaus had always enjoyed sneaking inside as kids, watching to see what exactly their siblings got up to in their spare time. The T.V. is the same as back then. Wires hang out from the back, an ancient model, but durable despite its age, still in working condition.

Each time she sees this particular T.V. it makes her think of schools, of education in a classroom setting. In all the media she’s consumed, teachers show movies and educational clips, all done in a dimmed room that allows students a lax study session.

The umbrella academy had never been lax.

“Vanya,” Luther says, an acknowledgement more than a greeting. She turns to look at him, notices the way his shoulders are pushed back, his chin tilted up. Yesterday, when she’d passed him in the hallway, picking up Klaus with Five, he’d seemed to be lacking in purpose.

He seems to have found it again.

Vanya is only mildly disappointed that his purpose remains rooted in their father. It seems even death can’t release their father’s hold on her brother.

“Hey,” Vanya says. She winces at the sound of her voice in her ears – it sounds meek, uncertain. She’d always felt the most worthless whenever around Number One, their father’s favourite, had always wondered what it was that Luther had that she didn’t.

Their father had favoured him, and Vanya knows it’s stupid, but she’d envied Luther for it, for a long time.

“Allison,” Luther says, and he turns away from Vanya as if she is just a passing thought. “Did you find Five? Klaus?”

Vanya is kind of surprised that Luther wants to include Klaus too. She thinks it might be partly Allison’s influence, because Luther had never really gotten along with their brother, and the relationship had fractured even more when Klaus had discovered narcotics.

“Five’s here,” Allison says, crossing the room to stand beside Luther, “he’s checking the house, trying to find Klaus.”

Vanya steps towards the couch, sits on the opposite side than where Diego is sat, and leans back against the cushions. She tries to avoid his gaze but manages to catch it either way.

Diego clicks his tongue, but he doesn’t say anything.

It’s probably the best response she’s going to get from him. At least he isn’t so surly today.

“What does Five want with Klaus?” Diego says after a second, and when neither Allison or Luther say anything, he scowls. “Vanya, Five. Klaus. What about it?”

Vanya doesn’t know how to answer, and God, now her other siblings are looking at her, expecting an answer, so she shrugs her shoulders. She says, “Oh, you know.”

Diego grits his teeth, and Vanya stares at the floor, and everything is quite possibly too awkward for her to deal with.

“I think Vanya said something about Klaus meaning to meet up with Five earlier, but he didn’t,” Allison answers. “Although I don’t really know what they were doing.”

Vanya doesn’t really want to explain how Five is suspicious of Klaus, and that the world is going to end, so she stays quiet.

Luther must deem it unimportant because he moves them along. He says, “Let’s start without them. We can catch them up when they come downstairs.”

“There’s this video–” Allison begins.


The video is simple really.

It’s both evidence of foul play, and tangible at best. Vanya doesn’t know what to think as she watches it, just that it’s enough to be suspicious. Maybe. Really, she isn’t that sure.

Maybe she’s just confused – she’s just watched the security footage of her father’s death, after all.

There’s not much in the video, just that their father had died, and their mother had stood there, unresponsive, not doing anything to help. And that’s… that’s wrong. Their mother has always been kind, always caring for them, maintaining their welfare. She’s not the type of person to just standby as–

But then again, their mother isn’t technically a person.

If her programming is faulty then maybe she could be capable of everything. She doesn’t know how things like this works, but their mother is not human, her psychology cannot be regarded as such and…

No. Their mother wouldn’t kill anyone. Especially not their father.

“I mean,” she says, “do you really think Mom would hurt Dad?”

She’s not sure if she’s speaking to her siblings or herself, but either way she is apprehensive. It would be easier to speak, she thinks, if Klaus were by her side, silent but agreeing with her.

Whether he truly agreed or not, he’d back her up, if only to annoy their siblings. He’d always been good at that – frustrating the others.

“You haven’t been home in a long time Vanya, maybe you don’t know Grace anymore.”

Vanya doesn’t miss the glare that Diego sends their brother. Diego has always been close to their mother, enough so that it had always aggravated him whenever they’d called her Grace. As if she was nothing to them.

“If he was poisoned,” Diego says, instead of scolding Luther on the name usage. He sounds tired. “Then it would have shown in the coroner’s report.”

Luther lifts his chin even higher. He says, “Well, I don’t need a report to tell me what I can see with my own eyes.”

Vanya sighs. She leans in, looks at the camera closer and that’s when she notices it. Their father is wearing his monocle one moment, and the next, it’s gone. Their mother takes it from him. She’s watched Klaus pickpocket things enough times to catch the small movement.

“Mom took his monocle,” Vanya blurts, before the consequence of such an action can register in her head. It’s practically pointing a finger, but that’s not what Vanya means.

Diego glares, and then he says, “It seems Vanya’s the only one without crappy vision – look closer. Dad has his monocle, Mom stands up, monocles gone. She didn’t poison him – she took the monocle. To clean it.”

The explanation is clear enough that it’s not grasping at straws. It fits with Mom’s programming, considers the daily routines of the android, and it’s not a stretch. Diego solves crimes after all, Vanya trusts that he can see the truth when it’s there.

“Then where is it?” Luther says. He’ll be more difficult to convince, it seems. “No, I’ve searched the house, including all of her things. Grace doesn’t have it.”

Diego takes one of his knives from his holster, fiddles with it. After a second, he raises the metal. It glints against the light.

“That’s because I took it from her. After the funeral.”

You know every so often, Vanya thinks that maybe she’s beginning to understand her siblings, and then they turn around and say something like this and she’s back to being confused. It’s very exhausting.

“You’ve had the monocle this whole time?” Allison hisses, narrowing her eyes. “What the hell Diego?”

Vanya has to admit that sure, it’s a bit of a cruel move to not just admit to having the monocle in the first place.

“Give it to me,” Luther demands.

Her brother is intimidating, at least to Vanya, but Diego has never been scared of him. They’d been forced to bypass fear as children for their training, and Diego had transformed fear into irritation. So instead of being scared at the sight of Luther’s towering form, the hand held out, anger staining his voice, Diego simply glares.

“I threw it away.”

“You what?” The tone is downright poisonous.

“Look,” Diego says, shifting in his approach. Acting defensive won’t get him anywhere, so while he remains surly, his voice changes into something more explanatory. “I knew if you found it on Mom, you’d lose your shit. Just like you’re doing now.”

Luther grumbles under his breath, claims that their brother is a son of a bitch, but doesn’t say anything else. He goes to move forward, but Vanya throws her hands out stepping into place between them.

She knows how to deescalate, and well, Allison was right. They don’t need to continue fighting. Not now.

“Hey, calm down,” she says, meeting Allison’s gaze. Her sister offers a small nod, urging her to take control of the situation. Which is strange, because Vanya’s never taken control of any situation in her life. “I know dad wasn’t exactly an open book, but I do remember one thing he said.”

Her siblings look between her. Vanya wishes that she had Klaus as a backup, someone to help her form the words with confidence. Instead, she stumbles on the words, quieter than she’d want.

“He said that Mom was designed not just to be a caretaker, but to be a protector too. I doubt she would have done anything against him.”

Diego waves a hand in her direction, as if to claim – she might be full of shit sometimes, but right now, she’s correct.

“What does that mean,” Luther asks.

“Well, she was programmed to intervene if someone’s life was in jeopardy.” Specifically, their lives. “She wouldn’t be able to deviate from that programming.”

Luther is quiet for a moment, thinking. Out of the corner of her eye, Vanya watches his fingers twitch. He’s come up with an idea, and she’s pretty sure she won’t like where it’s going. “Well – if her hardware is degrading, then she might… We need to turn her off.”

Mom? Being turned off.

No.

Vanya won’t allow it. She can’t – not Mom. Mom made them cookies as kids, she fed and bathed them, she forced Vanya to eat porridge and made it taste nicer when she wanted to refuse. She’d always been there for them and Vanya can’t bear the idea of turning her off.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa – no.” Diego’s voice cracks, and he pushes himself forward, jutting a finger out in Luther’s direction. For his sake, Vanya avoids bringing attention to the emotion in his voice. Their siblings follow suit. “She’s not just a vacuum cleaner you can throw in a closet. She feels things, I’ve seen it.”

Vanya doesn’t know if she’d go that far as to say their mother feels things, whether she’s real, but she wishes. When she’d been younger, she’d asked Klaus if he thought that every comforting moment with Mom had actually been Dad, but he’d only shaken his head.

Their father wasn’t capable of being loving he’d argued around a cigarette.

Their mother, he’d continued, loved them in her way. Loved them with all the ones and zeroes inside of her, but that hadn’t meant that she’d really loved them. She’d have to chose to love them, and she’d never had the choice.

Still, she wants Diego to be right. Wants Mom to feel things, rather than the idea existing because it offers comfort.

“She just stood there Diego. She watched as our father died.”

To be honest, Luther is probably one of the only people alive who wouldn’t just watch. Vanya doesn’t know if she’d have done anything to help him, years of resentment building up.

She likes to think she would have helped, but even she’s not sure.

“I’m with Luther,” Allison says, and it’s obvious that she would be, since she always had taken his side growing up.

Surprise, surprise, Diego mutters, and turns to look at Vanya.

Vanya hates that she stumbles over her words, “I- I don’t-”

“She doesn’t get a vote,” Diego grumbles. When Vanya frowns, states that she’s on his side, that she agreed with him, he amends his statement: “Okay, she should a vote.”

Now all they need are the votes of the others, and quite frankly, Vanya already knows which vote Klaus would have. He’d choose her side, so that’s three votes for Mom staying online, not being turned off. Hopefully, he’ll come downstairs with Five and help figure things out.

A ringtone bursts into life, old metal music that catches the attention of everyone. Very carefully, Diego shifts, pulling his mobile from his pocket.

He looks between them all, points a finger and says, “This isn’t over. We’re not turning her off.”

Then, he presses answer and talks into his phone. He doesn’t leave the room, but heads towards the edge, behind the bar for a little amount of privacy. Vanya watches him for a second but is quickly distracted by a flash of blue.

Vanya meets Five’s eye, takes a moment to assess the way he glowers, and concludes that nope, Klaus isn’t anywhere in the house.

“No luck?” She says, purely for something to say, and Five lets out a low growl that is answer enough.

He says, “Coming back here was useless, I need to find him.”

Vanya presses her lips together. She’s worried, of course she is. Klaus doesn’t break his promises, and if he’s not here, then he’s probably out on the streets somewhere, but Five’s tone. There’s an urgency there, something that she doesn’t know how to interpret.

“Why?” Vanya says, because, they need Klaus yes, but this urgency isn’t just based on that.

“Why–” Five splutters, breaks off, as he lets out a snarl. “Because it’s Klaus, because he was meant to be there– because he’s–”

“Dead.” Diego whispers, from the other side of the parlour.

It’s only a whisper, but it’s like a shout.

It vibrates in Vanya’s ears, over and over. Something she can’t comprehend because Klaus – Klaus isn’t dead. No, Diego is talking about something else, he’d been on the phone. He’s not talking about Klaus, just his own case. Klaus is fine.

He’s always fine.

He gets himself into dodgy situations, but he always pulls through. And so he can’t be–

“What?” Five says. And Vanya turns to look at Diego, follows Five’s gaze to a brother who is stood wavering on his feet, pale. Diego has dropped his arm down, his phone loose in his hand.

He’s very much, a part of their conversation, it seems.

“Klaus.” Diego says. And he looks like he’s trying to wrap his head around it. A mixture of heartbreak and confusion, because fuck, they’d seen him hours ago, he can’t just be gone. “He’s – Last night. So much blood, he couldn’t survive that much bleeding.”

Vanya feels her heart stutter in her chest. Air is trapped in her trachea, her lungs stuttering, paralysed. She can’t breathe.

Klaus is?

No.

But Diego wouldn’t lie.

No.

Tears prick at her eyelids. Words catch against her throat. She feels faraway and all too present, a contradiction of loss and disbelief. She’s not-

No.

“Vanya,” Five says, but she can’t turn to him, stands frozen, watching Diego, for any sort of trick. Any sign that he’s lying. He must be. “Vanya, look at me.”

She doesn’t. She lifts her hands up to her ears, lets out something akin to a choked scream. She feels like a part of her is being ripped apart, leaving her empty. Leaving a gaping hole behind.

“Vanya, listen to me!” Five says, and he leans forward, even as Vanya sinks to the floor. His hands wrap around her wrists, and he falls with her, catching her, guiding her in a way that will leave her without bruises. “Vanya! He can’t be dead.”

Vanya doesn’t believe that Klaus is dead. She doesn’t believe that he isn't dead.

She doesn’t know what she believes.

“Vanya,” Five’s voice cracks. He says, “Vanya, please.”

She’s never heard him say please before, and so Vanya goes limp, lets him pull her hands from her ears, even if they weren’t blocking sound out anyway. Five leans forward, eyebrows creased.

“Klaus isn’t dead, he can’t be dead.” Five says, quietly and he’s so certain, so sure of himself, but she can’t trust his word. “He’s there at the end, he’s there at the end of everything.”

Vanya chokes on a sob. She says, “no, it’s Klaus, he’s not allowed to die–”

“He doesn’t die yet,” Five whispers, “he survives. I met him in the future, he was there – he was alive when no one else was. He can’t be dead, please, you believed me on the other stuff, believe me on this too.”

Chapter Text

Five jumps.

Dad tells him not to, that he is not ready – that he’ll never be ready – but Five knows himself. He knows his limits, and there is not much more he can do with spatial jumps except increase distance, so he wants to try for temporal jumps instead.

Reginald Hargreeves might think he knows best, but Five knows himself. He knows what he is capable of, and so when he storms out during breakfast, he feels his power pool in his stomach, pulls on it, and lets himself be free.

He jumps. Once – to the past – twice – to a what seems like the future and then.

Then he jumps a third time.

And he gets stuck in a world that is on fire, where everyone is dead. Some bodies are burnt, some are bloody. All of them are lifeless, covered in a fine layer of ashes and dust from rubble.

Everything is gone – and Five doesn’t know what to do. He chases down the street, running back towards the academy. It is in pieces, and Five shouts out. For his siblings: for Vanya, for Ben, for Klaus. He calls out for their father, and for the others, but there are no answers.

The air is thick. It hurts to breath, dust settling in his lungs where he is breathing in debris, and Five rips open his blazer, uses it as a makeshift mask while he glances around. It doesn’t help – not too much – but it filters out the worst of it.

This is the future? This… apocalyptic wasteland?

Five has only been here minutes, but already his body is straining, protesting from the pollution. It hurts. It hurts so much.

It hurts even more, when he realises that despite his searching, he can’t find anyone else who is alive. The quiet is so much, that as Five staggers through streets he’d never been allowed to explore before, all he can hear is a ringing in his ears.

He shouldn’t have jumped. Knowing that this is going to happen, will haunt him forever.

He’s nearer to the city centre when finally, he finds a small smidgen of hope welling inside of him. Someone walking with slow, staggered steps, but walking all the same. Debris coats him, dusts his hair and washes him out, spots of red on his clothing. He holds a woman in his arms, bridal style. From the way her own arms are limp, swinging from each movement, it’s only clear that she’s another casualty. Deceased.

Despite himself, Five races forward, looking at who he supposes is the last person alive. The only person who could possibly explain what the fuck is going on here.

“Hey,” he shouts, waving a hand to try and catch his attention. It’s to no avail, the man doesn’t respond. It’s almost as if he’s not present, simply an after image. There is no response and then:

He falls.

The man falls with grace, like a star from the sky, and there is nothing but silence in his wake.

“No,” Five rushes over, and he’s not sure if the cry that spreads through the air is his own, but it’s prevalent, and it catches. He meets the man’s eyes – they’re empty, black, only a single spark remaining – and thinks to himself that fuck, he’s going to die.

He’s going to be alone here.

For a moment, he waits, watches. And then, there is a recognition that spreads over the man’s face. His lips are chapped, but despite the dryness, his voice sounds wet when he speaks.

“Five.” He says. He sounds far away, glances down at the body in his arms. “She won’t wake up. Why won’t she wake up?”


His brother is gone.

Dead. Gone. Klaus is gone and that doesn’t sound right, because it’s Klaus, he shouldn’t be dead, even if he lives such a reckless lifestyle. What the fuck was he doing at the department store anyway?

Why would someone want to murder Klaus?

Actually, that’s probably not the difficult to answer question. Diego knows that addicts always have some sort of baggage they’re carrying with them, knows that it’s not just the drugs that have them flittering on a road between life and death. It’s the entire lifestyle of it all.

Still, Diego can’t believe it. Doesn’t want to believe that his brother is dead.

Which is ironic, because yesterday, at the crime scene, without the knowledge that it had been his brother, he’d believed that whoever’d been shot was gone. Lifeless. But now it’s Klaus, and Diego can’t.

Eudora is still on the line, he can hear the faint crackles of speech from where his phone speaker is turned up high. It’s difficult to hear her words, but he knows that she’s no doubt being strangely kind, trying to comfort him.

Diego can’t find the words to respond, so he lets his phone remain lose in his hand and watches his siblings instead.

Vanya sits, sobbing, curled in on herself, and Diego almost wants to join in on the hysterics, because this is Klaus. His favourite sibling, the one who came to him as kids and made survival plans for the future.

Apparently, the most recent plan wasn’t good enough to get his brother through.

Beside Vanya, Five curls his fingers around their sister’s wrists, leaning forward. His voice is hushed, quiet, but something he says makes Vanya’s eyes widen, makes her breaths even out.

Five’s expression is unlike any that Diego has seen on his brother before. The Five that Diego remembers from their childhood was always blunt, lacking in sympathy, but now, there is a mixture of horror and sympathy on his brother’s face.

There’s nothing that screams shared experience more than the loss of a sibling.

Diego swallows. He closes his eyes.

Fuck, what is it about their family that leaves them constantly losing everything? First, they lose Ben, then the family wants to turn Mom off and now Klaus–

Fuck.

He can’t think properly, and finally, Diego lifts his phone back up to his ear. Eudora’s voice is soft, a croon on the other side of the phone, but Diego doesn’t want comfort right now. He wants the facts.

“I’m coming to the station.” Diego says, because that’s where all the facts are. Not that he can deny anything. It’s not just Klaus’s blood they’d found, but his fingerprints and a few hairs of his on the seat of the car.

So much DNA evidence that it’s impossible to be a fluke or an error in their machinery.

“Diego,” Eudora says, and it’s the same tone he’s heard her speak before when they’d been interviewing witnesses. “Do you think that’s a good idea?”

No, he doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but Klaus is dead – murdered – and Diego needs the information so he can kill whichever bastards laid a hand on his brother.

“For closure,” Diego says, and his voice is dry. Brittle. Anymore bad news and Diego’s certain he’ll keel over. He already, sort-of, wants to. “Eudora – Patch – don’t throw me off this one.”

Eudora sighs. She says, “we’ll go into the files together, but that’s all I can allow. You’re too close to this.”

She’s only saying it because procedure says so. Well, Eudora’s police procedures can go fuck themselves, they’re irrelevant.

“Fine,” he says, despite the rebellion that spreads through his chest. He’ll go along with Eudora for the files, and then, he’ll investigate on the leads the files offer. “That’s – fine. I’m heading there now.”

Diego ends the call.

Allison hasn’t moved from her spot next to Luther. She looks fragile, like she’s going to collapse as well. She leans back into their brother, so she doesn’t fall, and slowly, Luther leads her down into the armchair.

“Klaus isn’t dead,” Allison echoes, and it looks like she can hardly comprehend it. She says, “We were going to go shopping together.”

Diego has never been close to his sister, and he knows that Klaus wasn’t close to her either, but the words still slice through him, leaving him aching.

Perhaps wiser than he seems, Luther doesn’t say anything, simply stands beside their sister, a comforting – to her, at least – presence.

Diego blinks, turns as he sees movement from the corner of his eye, and watches as Five slowly pulls Vanya to her feet. She’s still crying, horrified, but there’s a slight calmness to her. Not accepting, not denial, but as if she’s pressed pause on the worst of her hysteria so far.

Five pulls her out of the room, and Diego would follow, but there’s a case file and a murder waiting for him to solve.

“I’m going to the station,” Diego says, to his remaining siblings. “See if I can learn what happened. Family meeting later, where we can talk all this over.”

His siblings don’t try to stop him, and Diego is glad.

He’s not sure whether he’d have the strength to leave if they asked him to stay. Not when they’re missing a brother again.


 

Diego doesn’t really remember the walk from the house to his car.

He briefly recalls kicking the wheel of the car, trying to unlock it but only managing to lock it because for some reason, he’s a fucking idiot who doesn’t lock his car. He wipes at his eyes and then, as he throws himself into the car, he crashes the door shut behind him.

He’s surprised that the window doesn’t smash – like the car that Klaus had stolen, why had he stolen a car? What the fuck was Klaus doing? – from the force of the door closing.

A whimper raises in his throat, and before Diego can swallow it back down, it’s vocalised. It’s a feral sound, somehow, like a wounded animal. It catches on its way out, tears through his throat, and leaves him slamming his fists against the steering wheel.

How it doesn’t set his airbag off, Diego doesn’t know.

“Dammit,” Diego curses, his voice raw. It bleeds, and Diego isn’t a very emotive person, not usually, but it’s bleeding from him now, gushing like all the blood must have from his brother as he’d–

“Fuck.” He growls, wiping at his face with the back of his hand. “Shit. Goddammit, fucking son of a–”

“Ugh, shit – Diego, can you stop being so loud please.”

For a moment, time seems to stop. And then, Diego turns, just in time to see his brother pull himself up from the chair, leaning against the headrest.

“K-Klaus?”

He hates that his voice cracks in the way that he does. He turns, taking in the body of his brother. Alive – how is Klaus alive?

“That’s me,” Klaus says, slow, eyes dull and lidded. He’s corpse-like, his skin washed out, pale. There’s a sheen to his eyes that Diego associates with opiate use, and for a moment, he simply watches as his brother hitches in a breath.

And then:

“What the fuck, Klaus?”

Klaus focuses on him, leans forward even closer and says, “You’re the vigilante of the household. Yeah? You must have a sewing kit in here, yeah?”

Diego feels a shudder rise up his spine. Quietly, he says, “Why do you need a sewing kit, Klaus?”

“I’m learning to fucking knit,” Klaus says, and then, his face shifts. He winces, lets out a low hiss, pressing his hand to his chest. Diego leans forward, trying to assess his brother’s wounds. “I just – stopping. The bleeding.”

The bleeding.

“You’re meant to be dead.” Diego whispers, remembering the scene.

“Didn’t stick,” Klaus mumbles, and then, lifting a hand up, he slumps forward. Still awake but dying. “Ben carried me here.”

Diego opens his mouth. He says, “Ben died years ago Klaus.”

“Yeah,” Klaus says, “but he stayed around. I’ll explain later, but for now. Please, the sewing kit?”

Diego opens his mouth. He says, “Mom can patch you up–”

“No,” Klaus says. “I need you to drive me somewhere. Give me the sewing kit, Ben says he’ll do it.”

Diego doesn’t know what to say. So, he says nothing at all, bites the inside of his cheek and leans into the glove compartment for the sewing kit he uses to do his own sutures.

He passes it to Klaus, decides that he’ll just drive him to the hospital instead, and starts the engine.

“Where are we headed?” Diego asks.

In the rear-view mirror, there’s a faint blue glow. Diego doesn’t turn back.

Chapter Text

“So where are we headed again?” Diego asks, and that’s when Klaus realises that he’s kind of not been paying attention. Like, at all.

Which is probably fine and all, considering he’s bleeding out in the back of his brother’s car. Klaus’s hands are slick with blood, so are Ben’s, and geez it’s okay to be a bit distracted, right?

But then again, at the same time, he does need to give an address, because else Diego’s going to go into full protection mode, taking him to the hospital.

He’s probably going to do it despite Klaus’s wishes anyway. Which, no thanks. No more hospitals, they always end up looking at his records and refusing him the good stuff.

Ben jabs him with the needle and Klaus lets out a small hiss, sends a betrayed look to his dead brother.

Oh right, he got distracted again.

“You know the Meditech building?” Klaus asks, only continuing when he can see Diego’s slight nod. “Well I want to go there.”

For a moment, Diego is quiet. Then, he says, “Can’t it wait until after the hospital?”

Ben sends him a look that says that he kind of agrees with their brother, but that he doesn’t want to say anything, in case said brother overhears and freaks out over his sudden appearance.

“Don’t give me that look,” Klaus hisses, and Ben shrugs his shoulders, continuing with the stitches, pushing Klaus back down with every flinch. Even with the opiates, he’s still in a fuck ton of pain.

Diego hums from the front seat. He says, “I’m not giving you a look.”

“Not you,” Klaus says. “Ben. Look that doesn’t matter, it can’t wait. I need to go there.”

Diego clicks his tongue. He says, “Most people go to the hospital when they’re injured, Klaus. Especially when they’ve been shot.”

Ben mutters his approval.

“So, they can what, Diego?” Klaus sighs, voice weak. “Keep me from dying? I told you, I already did.”

“You need a hospital,” Diego says. And after a pause, “Is this because of what happened in the department store?”

You know what, hold the fuck up. How does Diego know about the department store? Did Five tell him?

Did that little bastard see him get shot and then leave him for dead? Oh, Klaus doesn’t go around picking fights with pensioners, or thirteen-year-olds but he’s ready to throwdown with the living embodiment of both right now if he has.

“Maybe,” Klaus says, “it doesn’t matter. I need to be there, I made a promise.”

Ben frowns.

Again, Diego clicks his tongue.

“I don’t make a lot of promises,” Klaus says after a moment, closing his eyes. “When I do, I refuse to break them.”

“Klaus,” Ben says, finally, voice low and blue. “Five can wait.”

The car veers to the right.

Klaus can smell brake fluid. He doesn’t even know how he stays in one space, kind of thanks Ben for keeping him in one place, not being thrown out onto the street.

“What the fuck,” Diego breathes. “That was Ben’s voice.”

Klaus doesn’t really know what the fuck just happened, just that the car was moving, and now it’s not. And that when Ben looks at him, there’s fear and something else… something bordering excitement. Anticipation. Nervousness.

“Shit,” Klaus groans, “did you just crash your car?”

“That was Ben’s voice,” Diego breathes, and Klaus doesn’t often think his brother is an idiot, but if he turned around, he’d see that Ben is right there, there wouldn’t be any need to keep repeating himself. “How is that Ben’s voice?”

“Because it is Ben,” Klaus says. “Ben, who I said was giving me my stitches, do you never listen to me?”

“You– the hallucinations–”

Finally, Diego turns around. He spots their brother – Ben, their oh wise, oh dead, number four – and pales. “Ben–”

“Hey Diego,” Ben says, and as if suddenly remembering that Klaus is bleeding out, he turns back, lifts the needle back up and says, “I’m on suture duty.”


To be honest, Diego probably responds a lot better than Klaus could have expected him to. There’s only so many ways someone can respond to the voice of their dead brother after a decade of accepting his death, and Klaus needs to give him that.

Frankly, Klaus hasn’t even like, processed it yet, so like, it’s all cool.

That is not to say that he responds well.

“Suture duty?” Diego whispers, and he looks almost like he’s going to pass out himself. “How– what– I don’t– You were dead?”

“And I still am,” Ben says. Perhaps being stared at is too much, because he suddenly throws all of his focus on Klaus’s stitches. A pause as he meets Klaus’s eye. Klaus looks back. “I am still dead right?”

You know what, Klaus doesn’t really know.

He says as much.

“Are any of us, ever really dead?” He muses, and Ben lets out a long, exasperated sigh. As if he’d been expecting some sort of coherent answer. Well, excuse Klaus, but he really doesn’t know and he doesn’t want to die again to get answers from the only person who probably has them.

“So – you’re a what…” Diego moves, as if to reach out for their brother, and stops halfway. “A ghost?”

“Yeah,” Ben says. “Klaus thought I wasn’t real.”

“Still kind of on the fence about that one,” Klaus answers. There is a flash of indignation in his brother’s eyes as Ben turns back to look at him, brows furrowed into a glare as if to question whether he’s really about to deny his existence again.

“Really?” Ben says, voice steeled.

Klaus goes to speak, lets out a breathless laugh and closes his eyes instead. His shrug is half-hearted, but eventually he manages to form the words. “I’m kidding, kidding.”

Diego pauses, looks at Klaus. “Is Klaus a ghost too?”

He can see the denial in Ben’s face, and then, the shift into confusion. Uncertainty. Is he a ghost now? Well, that’s a bit of a troubling concept, he thinks. He did die, so he’s certainly ghost material.

He chokes on a laugh at that.

“If I were a ghost,” Klaus breathes, “it wouldn’t hurt so much.”

“Right, shit, okay,” Diego squints his eyes closed, takes a moment for himself, and then reopens them. He says, “Klaus, I – Ghosts. You see ghosts.”

“Looks like I’m not crazy, after all,” Klaus says. And then, because they really need to keep moving, he says, “Meditech, please. I… I need to find Five.”

Needs to find his brother and do… something. The people who tried to kill Klaus, who took him, are they the ones who cause the apocalypse? If they’re willing to kill him, is Vanya in danger too?

He doesn’t know.

“Five is at the house,” Diego says. For a moment, he stills, he says, “Everyone’s at the house. Shit – Klaus, I told them you were dead, and they’re probably still–”

Their brother disappears from Klaus’s vision. The car vibrates, coughs as it rumbles back to life. Diego mutters something about having to get back home, having to tell everyone that Klaus isn’t dead, how he needs to prove it and take back whatever he’d told them before.

“They have phones for a reason,” Ben says. “Maybe you should phone them and let them know?”

Diego clicks his tongue. He says, “And tell them what? Klaus was dead, but alive again, and now I’m talking to your ghost? They’ll put it down to grief.”

Klaus bites his tongue to avoid from asking if any of this is from grief.

“Let’s go back then,” Klaus sighs. “It’s where Five is anyway.”


Vanya can’t calm down.

She tries to, but every time she stops the tears, she settles on hyperventilating instead, and Five isn’t explaining, he’s not telling her what’s going on, just being ominous and she can’t–

She can’t breathe–

“Come on,” Five says, and he’s holding her hand, pulling her up towards their old bedrooms. Somehow, she already knows their headed to Klaus’s room, the area that is most familiar, somewhere that has his presence enough to feel like he’s squeezing her into a hug, urging her to calm down. “Just a little longer, I promise.”

“You came to change the future,” Vanya whispers, and the tears start again, sobbing, “what if it changed this. He’s dead– Klaus–”

“I know,” Five says, “I know, but Vanya you need to listen to me.”

She should be listening, she knows that. Five had promised to explain, he’d said Klaus was present in the future, where everyone else had died, he had lived, but that had been in another life, they’d been trying to avoid that.

And actions have consequences.

And now Klaus is dead.

“He isn’t dead, Vanya.” Five is surprisingly soft when he says the words, firm but not cruel. It’s strange, because he’d never fully been able to bridge the gap between the two as kids. It had always been one or the other. “He probably went out for waffles or something, he likes them, right?”

Vanya stills.

Beside her, Five stills as well. As if he’s said something wrong, as if he’s said to much, but he hasn’t really. He’s only mentioned waffles – that shouldn’t be weird but…

But even if they’d snuck to Griddy’s as kids, they never bought waffles. It had always been doughnuts, since there was seven of them and doughnuts were cheaper.

So how would…

“How do you know that?” Vanya asks. Because she’d never written it in her book, and Five hadn’t been around then, she thinks, for Klaus’s discovery of his favourite food. And it’s a little detail yes, something small to know, but that’s what makes it so…

“He’s my brother too, Vanya,” Five says, “Is it a shock that I’d know things about him?”

“We never went to Griddy’s for waffles as kids–” “He literally had them for breakfast yesterday.”

Is she overthinking things? Vanya isn’t sure, but already she’s rethinking every interaction between her brothers, trying to remember if she’s just being paranoid, trying to – to get some sort of answer.

“I’m sorry,” Vanya says, and she wipes at her eyes, “I– I just–”

“No,” Five says, “It’s fine. You’re a little calmer now, right. So, I can tell you now. About the future, the stuff I left out. The stuff I… altered so you wouldn’t worry.”

Altered?

“You lied to me?”

Five grimaces. He says, “Not really. I told you that the last person died before I could ask him how the world ended. That’s – that’s not true.”

The last person – Klaus.

For him, the last person who he’d watched die had been Klaus and so he’d… altered that truth?

“I asked him a lot,” Five says. Vanya pierces her lip, winces at the sharpness of her canines. “Klaus just didn’t really answer whenever I asked.”

Asked him a lot…

“Wait…” Vanya says. “You said he died–”

“He was there, for a while.” Five says, and he wrings his hands, as if admitting all of this is difficult, as if it would have simply been easier to let her believe that he hadn’t been. “Almost a year, I think, before he died.”

Vanya’s breathing hitches. She’s right, part of her doesn’t want to hear all of this.

“He taught me how to survive.” Five continues. “He said living in the apocalypse wasn’t any different to living on the streets.”

It doesn’t make sense.

Except maybe it does. It explains why Five watches their brother whenever he’s there, why he always seems like he’s waiting for something. Because, he knows Klaus, a future version of him, someone who’s not around yet.

“He taught you to survive, and you don’t trust him?” Vanya asks.

“I don’t mistrust Klaus because I don’t know him,” Five says, and it’s obvious that he’s only saying it for her benefit, because Vanya had thought as such. “I’m sceptical because I do.”

Chapter Text

Five knows he shouldn’t be counting time.

They’ve been here for 183 days, and Five shouldn’t be counting, but he is. There’s not much else to do, but explore, count the days and try to talk to a brother who until the jump was the same age as him.

Now Klaus is double his age, and sometimes his eyes go glassy as if he’s remembering something that Five is impartial to. Something he refuses to talk about, no matter how many times Five asks for details.

“What’re you thinking about?”

His brother sits in the dirt beside him, and for a moment, Five doesn’t know how to form the words. He looks Klaus in the eyes, watches him and tries to figure out what exactly he is thinking about.

He shrugs when it comes up blank.

“It’s been almost six months since I jumped,” Five says, finally, when Klaus’s gaze doesn’t move on from him. He’s no longer as loud and vibrant as when they were kids, and Five reckons it’s the apocalypse, it’s the lack of any life that is drawing his from him. “I just – I want to go back.”

He’s half expecting Klaus to say he wants to as well, but instead, his brother just takes a swig from the bottle of scotch he’d swiped from a convenience store. After a second, he pauses, hands it over to Five.

Five takes the bottle, and stares at it for a moment. He’s not had alcohol before, well, nothing more than a sip, and any other times, whenever Klaus had offered it, he’d been unwilling to partake.

Now, he takes a swig, and coughs it out onto the floor as it burns his throat.

How does his brother drink this stuff like its water?

“Yeah,” Klaus laughs, and he doesn’t do it often, not since everything ended. “It’s an acquired taste, you’ll get used to it.”

A pause, and suddenly, Five is thinking about how alcohol doesn’t have an expiry date but so many other things do. He really will have to get used to it, won’t he?

“So, you want to go back and stop this from happening?” Klaus says, and Five turns, ever so slightly. He passes the bottle back to his brother, watches as he takes another swig. “Stop the apocalypse?”

“Don’t you?” Five asks.

There’s not much in the bottle left, and now, Klaus finishes it off. Then, he stands, turns away as if he doesn’t want Five to see his expression.

When he speaks, it’s with a tone that Five doesn’t know how to decipher. He says, “Why would I want to do that? The world sucks either way Five.”


“I don’t understand,” Vanya says, “you’re saying you can’t trust him because you know him? I get it, he’s – impulsive and reckless but Klaus isn’t…”

Vanya hasn’t seen her brother bite his tongue before, but now, Five does. He looks like he doesn’t want to say it. Like it’ll change everything if he does.

“You’re still hiding things.” She says. “I don’t – I can’t understand if you don’t explain.”

Five winces.

And then: “I think Klaus knew a lot more about the cause of the apocalypse than he let on.”

That’s not all. Vanya knows that isn’t all, because Five would have just said that, he wouldn’t be side stepping it. Not unless.

“You can’t seriously think that Klaus caused the apocalypse?”

Five lets out a surprised laugh, shakes his head. “No – No of course not. Klaus didn’t start the apocalypse.”

Vanya feels like this conversation is giving her a lot of whiplash. She doesn’t know where he’s going with this.

“He didn’t?” Vanya asks.

“And risk killing you? Of course not.” Five lets out a long breath, runs a hand through his hair. “I don’t think he caused it, but I think he was involved. I think, maybe, he wanted it to end.”

This is Klaus they’re talking about, right?

Their silly brother, who finds fun in the mundane, who is always smiling, and enjoying parties. The sociable one, the one who said he’d stop the end of the world because it was something Vanya wanted him to help stop?

Why would he want the end of the world?

“Klaus?” Vanya asks. “Our brother Klaus?”

“Exactly.”

“Klaus wouldn’t want to end the world.” Vanya says. “He’s – He doesn’t want the world to end.”

“He’s a good liar,” Five says, as if that means anything. And sure, maybe Klaus is good, but he’s got tells too, and Vanya knows how to read him. “I’m not saying he wants it to end now, but in the future, he did.”

Vanya shivers.

So either her brother has been lying to her for years, or something happens to make him want the world to end. Enough to tell Five nothing about how the world ends. Enough to protect whatever secret he had, to stop Five from being able to stop anything?

“He really told you nothing?” Vanya asks. “You were with him for a year, and he told you nothing about the apocalypse?”

Five squirms. He says, “when we came across Luther holding the prosthetic eye, Klaus said it’s owner had a big part in the apocalypse. But he never said anything else.”

Well, that probably makes sense with why Five was watching Klaus so intensely when they’d shown him the eye. Looking for any signs of recognition…?

“You said you only had one clue with the eye,” Vanya says, after a moment. “But there are two – Klaus is the second.”

Five nods. “It’s why I wanted to keep an eye on him.”

And now he’s missing, assumed dead, even if Five is denying it. Gosh, this is all just one big… big…

“Guys!”

The shout is loud, Luther’s voice. It’s enough to make Vanya jump, trying to figure out what is going on.

Five looks like he doesn’t care what’s going on, like this conversation is more important, and for a moment, Vanya is inclined to agree. Then, she remembers that Luther has never been one to shout with such panic in his voice before.

And he’s just lost a brother too.

“We should probably go downstairs,” Vanya says, “and check this out. I–”

Five presses his lips together and looks almost like he wants to argue but doesn’t. Instead, he squeezes his hands into fists and says, “You need time to take all of this in, I understand. But we need to find Klaus soon.”

Vanya agrees, but first, they need to see what Luther’s shouting about.

“Give me ten minutes, and then we’ll go.”


Downstairs there is chaos.

Diego isn’t entirely sure what he’s expecting to happen when they enter the house, Klaus, half-dead and dying in his arms, but it’s not exactly chaos.

Or maybe, okay, being real with himself, Diego was expecting this. He’d just thought that maybe his shock would cart him through it without the alarm filtering through his blood stream, leaving him even more panicked.

He enters through the doors holding Klaus close to his chest, bridal style, trying to keep his brother’s blood from dripping onto the floor. Ben follows, cautiously behind them.

From what Ben had told him in the car, he’s counting the time until he disappears from sight again.

Klaus will die, again, and Ben will disappear until their brother revives again and has the energy to bring his brother back across the bridge between life and death.

It’s all a little too much for Diego to wrap his head around, so he tries not to think and simply relies on instinct instead. He heads to the sitting room – he can place Klaus on the couch while he gets Mom or Pogo – and comes face-to-face with two of his siblings.

Or rather, no quite face-to-face.

Allison and Luther are sat exactly where Diego had left them. They’d relied on each other in their grief, wrapped up in each other in the way they had when they’d been younger.

(In the past, Diego had always likened it to romantic love, but in retrospect, it hadn’t ever been like that at all, but rather a platonic intensity where they knew they’d always have the others’ back.)

They’re blocking the sofa, to be honest, and it’s only when he tells them to move, so he can lay Klaus down, that they begin to move.

Grief has made them slow.

Diego gets it, he feels like his brain is moving too slowly.

“Shit,” Luther says, and he’s up within seconds. “Diego, what happened?”

Allison doesn’t say anything, instead, running forwards, grabbing onto Klaus’s side, staring at the wound. There’s so much blood still, that Diego knows she can’t see Ben’s makeshift stitches.

“Klaus,” her voice cracks, “you’re going to be okay.”

Klaus offers her a smile, and Allison lets out a small whimper.

“I’m going to go get Mom,” she says, and then, she’s up, running out. She’s so focused on helping Klaus, that she doesn’t even notice Ben by the doors. Simply runs straight past him.

“Klaus,” Luther says, and he’s already moving some of the additional cushions so that Diego can place him on the sofa without it being too uncomfortable. “What happened?”

“Maybe we don’t do the interrogation now, number one.” Diego hisses, but somehow, his words come out flat.

He knows that Luther doesn’t mean it cruelly – but they’re not team mates anymore, there’s no need for answers right now, unless it’s the answer of how the hell they’re going to get Klaus patched up.

Luther grits his teeth. He says, “I don’t mean it like that.”

“No?” Diego should bite his tongue, he knows he should, but he can’t. “How did you mean it, Luther.”

“I was shot,” Klaus breathes, “can you guys quit being pissy until I’m unshot?”

“You can’t undo being shot,” Ben says from the edge of the room. “We can only patch you up.”

Luther startles, lifts a hand up to point, his eyes blown out, wide with his shock. He seems, almost, like he’s gaping but in a more idiotic way, and for a moment Diego can’t fault him for it.

“Ben?”

Diego supposes he can’t fault Ben for the fact that his eyes light up at being noticed by another sibling – even if it is Luther. From what he’d said in the car, the only person who he’d been able to talk to for years had been Klaus, and even then, he’d been deemed imaginary.

“It’s me,” Ben says, and then, almost painfully, he flickers. The creases of his forehead return, and before he can offer any explanation, like he sort-of had to Diego, he’s rushing up to Klaus.

He starts whispering to Klaus, words that Diego doesn’t think that he should be listening into. Instead, he turns to Luther and says, “maybe you should call the others. Are they still here?”

It takes a moment for his brother to respond. Takes even longer from him to turn from where he’s staring at Ben and Klaus, trying to figure out how this is possible. By the time he’s looking at Diego, it’s obvious to tell that Luther doesn’t know if the others are still there.

“If they did leave,” Luther says, “then they didn’t say goodbye. I’ll – I’ll call them.”

He turns back to Ben, and Diego offers his brother a punch on the shoulder to get his attention again.

Luther stills, turns back and snaps temporarily out of the confusion. He frowns, but goes to the staircase, ready to rally their siblings.

And Diego goes back to Klaus and Ben.

Ben who’s flickering out of existence so much that Diego’s certain in a few seconds, he’s going to be gone.

“I don’t really want to die again,” Klaus whispers, “Ben, it hurts.”

“Yeah,” Ben says, and Diego leans forward, encroaching on their conversation, feeling almost guilty about being present. “It does. But you’ll be back.”

Klaus closes his eyes, not dead, but dying.

Diego doesn’t know how to feel about that. It slices through him to think that he’s watching his brother fade away, even if he says he’ll be back. It settles in his chest, and it’s not until Ben’s hand settles on his shoulder, the weight dispersing and reappearing simultaneously, that Diego turns away.

“He’ll wake up,” Ben says. And then, after a pause. “I think it’s part of his power, not being able to die. When he goes, I will too.”

Diego grits his teeth.

“How long–” He breaks off, choking on the words. “How long does he stay dead for?”

“The first time, it was hours,” Ben says. “But the other time, it was shorter. Maybe twenty minutes?”

Diego opens his mouth to say that twenty minutes is too long, not short at all, but before he can get the words out, Ben is gone.

And when Diego feels for his brother’s pulse, there isn’t one.


Vanya heads downstairs and the first thing she sees is Diego hunched over the sofa.

Which is strange, because he’d been headed to the station, and all experience with her brother had led her to learn he’d need space to himself afterwards. Especially when dealing with loss.

Five follows behind her, and she doesn’t know why she’s glad that he didn’t jump, but she is. He’d walked beside her, as if he’d known she’d need someone by her side in case her emotions overwhelmed her again.

He is the one to spot the blood.

Vanya is too busy staring at Diego’s form.

“What is this?” Five says, leaning down. Vanya turns to follow his gaze, watches as he presses two fingers to the floor. When he pulls them back, they’re stained with red.

Blood.

She mutters the words, and Five turns slowly to look at Diego, squinting, alarm filtering into eyes that would much rather hide any concern at all.

“Diego,” Five says, slowly.

Their brother turns, slowly, and it’s only then that Vanya sees the body on the couch. Klaus’s body. She ignores Five’s grasping for her arm, pushes him away as she rushes to his side.

She doesn’t register the blood on Diego’s clothes, doesn’t consider Five rushing after her. Whatever expressions her siblings wear go unseen as she lets out a deep cry, reaching forward to grab Klaus’s hand, squeezing it for some sort of response.

His hand is cold.

And he doesn’t squeeze back.

Another wail, this time, it sounds guttural. The sound is enough to jar her from reality, leaving her staring at her brother, willing him to wake up. Why is he so cold? This blood is all his? How did Diego find him, why would he bring him here?

Somewhere, something drops, crashes.

Vanya doesn’t really hear it, everything seems so far away. All she focuses on is her brother’s quietness. He’s never quiet, why is he quiet now? Vanya doesn’t know.

“Vanya,” Diego says, “he’ll wake up.”

What a hopeless thing to say. Even Five’s choked ‘what’ echoes his disbelief.

“Give him a while,” Diego whispers, his certainty displacing, doubt creeping in. “He’ll… he said he’d come back.”

“Okay,” Vanya echoes, even if she doesn’t believe it. She lowers her head, closes her eyes and she rests her head against Klaus’s chest, just where his heart should be. She waits for sound. For a heartbeat. “Okay.”

Chapter Text

Vanya has only been scared of her brother once.

She’d been scared of him the day Ben died. Vanya has been scared for him hundreds of times – Klaus is, after all, a worry-inducing sort of guy, but he’s only ever been terrifying the once.

It had been a Tuesday, and perhaps that’s a stupid thing to remember when coupled with the choke in Allison’s throat as she’d tried to stifle tears, with the way blood had dried beneath Luther’s fingernails, but it had been a Tuesday and it had seemed just like any other Tuesday until suddenly, it wasn’t.

Their siblings had returned from a mission with Ben’s blood on their hands, and Mom had been there immediately to steal their brother’s body from Luther’s arms, rushing him into the infirmary. Vanya had been waiting for her siblings return alone that day – Klaus long since having given up on waiting, because what was the point?

And so, she’d seen her brother’s pain when he’d been brought back, dead, dying, and she’d followed her siblings, too scared to ask what had happened on this mission, but needing someone to give her the answer regardless.

Diego had grabbed her arm when they’d started waiting, when she’d tried to head inside despite Pogo’s stern look that they were to remain outside and had simply told her: The mission had gone badly.

No surly tone had inhabited his voice, he’d told her with worry and concern. She’d not written the book yet, after all, and their brother was dying. Prickly was a stupid thing to be, when you knew your brother was dying in the next room.

So Vanya had sat, and she had waited with her siblings, the four of them all curled in silence. Klaus hadn’t made himself known.

Vanya remembers wondering whether later she would regret it, letting him sleep through their brother’s death – except no, it would be okay. She’d not believed that Ben was dying, not completely. He couldn’t, it was – it was Ben. He wasn’t allowed to leave them.

Not telling Klaus about it, was saving an already fragile brother from worry that he didn’t need to experience.

And then, upstairs, there had been a crash. Then another. And then: silence.

Don’t come downstairs, Vanya remembers wishing, you’ll only be sad if you come downstairs.

But Klaus had come downstairs despite her wishes. Maybe because they were non-verbal, maybe because even if wishes did come true, Klaus would ignore them anyway, because he was just that kind of person.

He’d turned the corner to the infirmary, taken one look at his siblings and paused. Vanya remembers being the first to notice him. Then, Diego had. Allison. Lastly, Luther had looked up.

“Klaus–” Luther had started, but even he paused, at the expression on their brother’s face.

Because Klaus was blank. Watching them, as if he was wondering something, as if he was waiting for them to say something first. Except, none of them knew what to say. None of them could find the words.

“If you’re waiting so you can say goodbye,” Klaus said, his eyes dark and the words – not so much uncaring but lacking in… something. “Then don’t. He’s been dead for a while now.”

Vanya had felt the fear then. Because Klaus – how could he have known? And why if he knew, would he break the news so callously, like death didn’t matter, like there was point in waiting outside anymore, like the implication of Ben’s death was small in the grand scheme of things.

She’d been scared, and she’d known it was irrational, but the feeling had swept through her, leaving her shivering.

He hadn’t even needed to say Ben’s name.

Who else could he have been talking about?

Klaus had left immediately after, and none of them had moved, not until his words were confirmed, not until Mom was breaking the news, not until Pogo was apologising for not being able to do any more.

That had been the only time Klaus had scared her.

Except, Vanya supposes. There’s a second time now, too. With her brother lying motionless beneath where she’s resting, with neither a pulse nor a breath, Vanya can quite honestly say that she’s not only terrified for him.

But of him.

Of how much he’s capable of breaking her, if he doesn’t wake back up.


Klaus comes back to consciousness and the first think he focuses on, is the weight pressed against his chest. It’s not a heavy weight that leaves him feeling breathless, as if there’s a dumbbell that’s been placed to push down on his ribs, but rather, a human-like weight.

A head.

Someone is leaning on him.

“She’s been waiting for you to wake up,” Ben says, and Klaus shouldn’t find it strange that Ben knows he’s awake without him having to open his eyes, but he does. Even if Ben’s seen him come back multiple times now.

He’d probably noticed the slight twitching in his fingers as blood began to circulate through his body again.

Klaus breathes out a sigh. His response. Of course she’d been worried, the only person who would lean on him like this, thinking that he was dead?

His heard cracks for a moment, because he’s worrying Vanya. And that’s not fair.

“Five,” she whispers, and there’s sound, movement, that echoes through the room as their older-younger-whatever brother responds to her voice. Coming nearer. “He’s got a heartbeat – he’s – he’s breathing.”

For a moment, Five does not respond. Then, “It’s – no that’s not possible.”

It’s more denial than disbelief. Which is strange, because Five has always been a believer of empirical evidence – seeing is believing, after all – but maybe things moving outside the realm of hard science is more… hard for him to swallow?

Klaus isn’t completely sure.

“You teleport,” Diego’s voice filters in, raspy, “and Ben was able to summon fucking monsters, why is this unbelievable?”

Ben hums his agreement, and Klaus, finally, opens his eyes. They’re not exactly scattered around the room, his siblings, but rather, scattered around him. Vanya leans on him, her head lifted up to watch his face. He meets her eyes for a moment, offers a faint smile, and then, tears his gaze towards Five.

Past Five, Luther stands, looking uncertain and nervous about everything that’s going down. And past him, sat on the arm of the couch, watching everything play out, Diego.

Klaus doesn’t know where Allison is. It’s almost sad. They could have been a full set if she was here.

“They can all be proved with science,” Five says after a moment, as Klaus meets Diego’s eye, both siblings watching one another. “This… this doesn’t.”

“You can’t really explain Ben’s powers away with science either,” Klaus breathes, the words catching against his throat. “But go off I guess.”

“Klaus.” Ben says, firm, stealing his attention back to him. “You okay?”

The answer catches in his throat, because not really. He feels like death. Which is to be expected because he’s pretty much death’s fucking poster boy right now.

“Stupid question,” Klaus breathes, and then, glances back over his other siblings again. “Can they see you?”

Ben shakes his head. He says, “I don’t think so. I’m talking and no one seems freaked right now.”

“Can we see who?” Five asks, the words overlapping, and that’s pretty much an answer in itself, isn’t it.

Klaus closes his eyes, avoids looking at them all for a moment.

“Ben,” Diego answers for him. “He sees ghosts.”

Ghosts are real now?”

“Diego isn’t lying, I saw him too.”

Ben’s voice comes nearer, faint. He says, “wait – Klaus – don’t go back to sleep–”

But Klaus doesn’t listen. Sleep seems more inviting than talking right now, so he leans back, lets the noise fade away, and falls straight back into black.


“He’s just sleeping.”

Diego says the words, but Vanya doesn’t know how to feel about them. Because Klaus… he’d woken up, but just as quickly fallen unconscious.

Concern rises within her and it’s all she can do not to choke on it.

Five beside her, stands quiet, contemplating. She can’t see into his thoughts, and right now her thoughts are too muddled to try.

“I’m – is he going to die again?”

Diego glances down at Klaus, shrugs his shoulders in a way that shows that he just… doesn’t know. The possibility is high – the wound hasn’t gone away anywhere, and even know, Vanya can see more blood pooling, as if there’s an infinite amount in Klaus’s body, as if he’s capable of bleeding out for an entire lifetime.

“If the wound isn’t patched up,” Diego says, “then probably. Allison’s off finding Mom now.”

Surely it shouldn’t be taking this long to get Mom’s help?

Except, if Vanya recalls correctly, then Mom had been acting weird the other day, she’d been slower, like her processors were slightly overrun. Or maybe she’s just somewhere in the house that Allison hasn’t looked yet, she doesn’t know.

“Would he come back if he died again,” Vanya asks, and she leans forward now, running a hand through Klaus’s hair. It’s slick with sweat, but she doesn’t care. As long as it’s not blood. “We need to patch him up – what if there’s a limit to how many times–”

“He’ll be okay,” Five says after a moment, “thinking about limits will only make you worry more. Let’s just… let Mom patch him up. Using his powers probably takes a lot out of him. He’s probably just tired.”

Vanya wants to curl in on herself. Instead, she nods her head.

“Should one of us find Pogo?” Luther asks behind them. “Maybe he or Dad knew something about this.”

About Klaus having powers.

“Don’t you think if they knew anything,” Diego says, eyes narrowing, “then Dad would have extorted the fuck out of it? Had Klaus join the club as our resident ghost whisperer?”

Luther frowns. He says, “I doubt Dad would use Klaus’s powers if they include dying.

Clicking his tongue, Diego turns away. “He would have been fucking ecstatic over it and you know it.”

“Can we not fight please?” Vanya whispers. Neither Luther nor Diego seems to hear her, so she turns to Five instead. Five, who still looks faintly disturbed over all of this.

“Something doesn’t add up,” Five says. His frown crinkles his forehead, and he takes a moment to think, before shaking his head again. He’s quieter now, takes a step closer so they can speak without being overheard as easily. “About the future, about Klaus having powers.”

“You didn’t know?” Vanya asks.

Five shakes his head. He lifts a hand up, cups his chin as he tries to think.

“That he had powers?” He pauses. “No, he never mentioned anything about it.”

“If he didn’t mention it,” Vanya says, “then what’s strange about him having the powers?”

“Vanya,” Five frowns. “We lived in the apocalypse for a year together. Everyone was dead.”

She knows.

There’s no way to forget it.

“If Klaus can see ghosts, like Diego and Luther are saying,” he continues, “and if everyone was dead – where were they? Klaus always mentioned how the apocalypse was quiet. Things wouldn’t have gotten quieter at all, or louder, if everyone were dead. It would have stayed the same.

Vanya blinks. She says, “are you trying to tell me that the ghosts disappeared?”

“I don’t know,” Five says. “But it doesn’t make sense, does it? Klaus sees ghosts, but he never saw one during the apocalypse, not that he ever mentioned.”

“That’s… I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.”

Five runs a hand through his hair, mussing it. For a moment, he is quiet. And then, he asks, “how much does Klaus hate his hallucinations – his ghosts?”

A lot.

Enough that he’d turned to drugs to try and self-medicate, to rid himself of them. Vanya says as much.

“Right.”

“Five,” Vanya says, “please just tell me what you’re thinking.”

“…You know how I mentioned that I thought Klaus might have wanted the world to end?” Five mutters. “Well, I think we might have a theory as to why. If he knew all the ghosts would disappear…”

Vanya’s eyes widen. She says, “He wouldn’t–”

“There’s no way of ever knowing for sure,” Five says, after a moment. “But it would make a lot of sense. It’s a motive, at least, for him to want to help end things.”

“Klaus isn’t going to end the world,” Vanya says, “and he won’t help anyone end it. So, drop it.”

Five turns away. He says, “I think it’s too near to the end for us not to be taking any lead we have. Don’t you?”