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Where All Ladders Start

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The day after the apocalypse was boring.

Or, at least, the day after the supposed apocalypse was boring. Five went off to breathe a deep sigh of relief and drink, which he was allowed to do but Klaus needed permission- an audience. To make sure he doesn’t tip back over in the precipice of drugs and alcohol and the constant need to be numb.

Down the hall he could hear Allison moving around. Loud shuffling and occasionally something bumped against the wall. A dull thumping sound, absorbed by the dead space. A surprisingly welcome distraction to the itching beneath his skin- rot under tree bark.

Klaus turned the needle, threaded it through the fabric. Pulled. The beginnings of a scarf pooled on his bare stomach, twisted in a limp snake. His door was open- new rule, Ben’s idea- so he’d taken to wandering the room practically naked in his passive protest.

It hadn’t worked. Siblings still drift by, silent specters of the living, looking but afraid to touch or speak. It seems they were reeling from the decision to stick together, at least for a little while. To lean on each other, to stand together against the unseeing threat. The danger that’s always haunted them, they’d just been too stubborn to admit it.

Their childhood.

“Hey what’s Allison doing?” Luther asked, broad shoulders almost out of place after spending the last several months in their thirteen year old bodies.

Jumping, leaping, across time and space. Shifting the tiniest details in hopes of tipping the whole scale and though it would have been easy to change everything, start over completely, Five was adamant that they didn’t. Preserve as much of the timeline as they could save only one exception.

Klaus set down his crochet materials as he answered, “Packing, apparently.”

Luther’s face twisted, eyes getting a sad look. The last time he’d made that face Klaus had followed him to a rave and died. Met their father in the afterlife- perhaps the worst father-son reunion in history. Then Luther’s eyes cleared flickering down to the pile of yarn Klaus had piled around in his bed.

“What’re you doing?” he asked, shifting to a more comfortable position as he looked for a distraction.

Klaus’s eyes flickered down to his scarf-in-progress before back at his brother, and it was jarring. Luther trying to care. Luther trying to prove to himself that he cares about all his siblings- not just Allison. It only took the end of the world.

“I thought of making us all matching scarves,” Klaus admitted honestly, “With our numbers on it. In remembrance of where we came from.”

Luther blinked, eyes falling back down to the object on his chest. It sort of made Klaus subconscious, crochet more of a therapy thing he picked up in the social rooms of rehab centers. It helped keep his head clear, while it wasn’t muddled by drugs.

Then, more surprising than the apocalypse or opening that suitcase and ending up in the middle of war, Luther smiled. Soft and shy, a boy in a man’s body and even though Klaus knew his brother could and has tossed him around the room like he weighed close to nothing he couldn’t help but feel he was looking at the child his brother was for the first time.

“Is that one mine?”

Klaus’s fingers curled around the scarf, feeling far too exposed. Somewhere behind him something hit the wall, scattering as it tumbled across the floor. Klaus couldn’t remember anyone being this loud while they packed.

“It’s not finished,” Klaus offered as a reply, voice tinged with the panic of a cornered animal.

Luther either didn’t recognize it or didn’t listen, head turning from the sound. He stepped closer, crossing the threshold inside his room.

“So it is, right? Mine?” and he sounded so eager, excited at the prospect of the seven of them all sharing something since the academy.

In many ways he was still that boy trapped between saving the world and earning their father’s praise. Klaus was not the person to give it to him.

“Later,” Klaus promised, scrambling up into a crouching position; scarf discarded and forgotten amongst his sheets and Luther finally- finally- halted.

“I- uh. I didn’t mean to intrude,” Luther offered, as an apology.

He had, and he wasn’t sorry but that was just Klaus’s life now. Everyone walking on eggshells around everyone else because the world was saved but they were one bad day from a major blowout. And considering what had happened when left on their own to heal in whatever way they felt fit none of them wanted to drift. Afraid of what would happen.

Afraid of Vanya restarting the apocalypse. Afraid of Five succumbing to the insanity only years of isolation and chasing death could bring. Afraid of Ben dying, again. Afraid of Klaus using.

“It’s okay,” Klaus lied, “Can I- I need some air.”

He scrambled towards the door, ducked beneath Luther’s towering frame. Luther didn’t try to stop him, stepped aside to give him more space. Klaus still curled his shoulders in on himself, making himself as small as possible, all the same.

It was hard to forget- now that everything had calmed. Slowed to the pace of the mundane world, his thoughts and memories clashing together. Echoing around the empty space inside his skull, reminding him why he’d turned to drugs all those years ago.

He still remembered how it felt for his brother to pin him against the wall, hand wrapped his throat and eyes smoldering with anger and self-loathing. Luther probably forgot, alcohol can do that, and it freaking sucked that Klaus couldn’t.

So like the coward everyone proclaimed him to be, he ran. Hurried down the hall, dressed in checkered boxers and wool socks that he pulled up over his knees. Even so the house was cold, has always been cold because in cold offered strength. Or at least that’s what Reginald always claimed.

Allison poked her head out of the door, hair pulled back and eyes wide in curiosity. Klaus gave her his best nothing-is-wrong-everything-is-fine smile, which was more of a grimace. He didn’t stop to give her a chance to ask him about it, shoulders curling in on the rest of him.

It was Ben who caught his arm. It was still weird- seeing him alive and not dead- and his eyes sparkled in his surprised concern. Flickered over his shoulder, caught sight of Luther still standing in Klaus’s doorway and his expression darkened considerably.

The day Ben was supposed to die- the only day Five let them change that didn’t hold any connection to Vanya or the apocalypse- had deprived him of sticking out with future events. No one seemed to realize that Ben had been so crucial in leading Klaus down the very specific paths they weren’t allowed to diverge from.

Klaus didn’t bother correcting them, had to work twice as hard to keep everything in order. Because he was scared of Five thinking that saving Ben was a mistake. That he’d go back and change it so Ben hadn’t been there the second time Klaus died.

That didn’t mean he forgot, had waited for the day and ended up caught with the others. Luther still realized the mission to the moon was for nothing. He still got drunk, attacked Klaus and then left him limp and pale on that dance floor. And then, after it passed, when Ben asked about it Klaus just shrugged and willed the topic away.

Klaus suspected Ben never forgot, always suspected and was careful to keep Klaus from being stranded in a room alone with Luther.

“You okay bro?” Ben asked in favor of snapping at Luther, “You’re looking a little pale.”

Klaus hummed, smiled reassuringly. Luther still looked confused, somewhere behind him, and Allison’s gaze was flickering between the three of them. She was piecing it together- piecing something together. She’d always been smart like that.

Klaus needed an out. An escape and Ben (bless him) gave him one.

He stepped aside, only ducked to whisper, “We’ll talk tonight,” as Klaus slipped by.

“What was that all about?” Luther’s voice asked, following after Klaus.

Klaus turned the corner and barely made out Ben’s soft, “Later.”

Then he was down the stairs, across the foyer and outside. The cold air nipped at his skin, biting and demanding. He shivered, realized he was still basically naked but didn’t quite wish to go back inside so he crossed his arms and started walking.

He didn’t make it far before Vanya slowed to a stop beside him. Long strides keeping up with his easily, coat folded over her arms. Klaus gave her a kind smile, found he was offering her more of those lately. Besides Allison was the only one attempting to encourage her powers.

It’s freaking awesome is what it is,” Klaus would tell her and she’d hum uncertainly but never corrected him on it.

Now he didn’t say much save a muted thanks as he accepted the jacket. It stopped just a little below his waist, offering more perhaps than others were comfortable with. Vanya, the most conservative of the seven of them, didn’t comment on it.

“Any particular place in mind?” Vanya asked after a moment of tense silence stretched between the two of them, “Or are we just angry walking? I’ve done both you know.”

Klaus shoved his hands in his pocket, shoulders hunched, and protested, “I’m not angry. And I wasn’t planning anywhere.”

“So food then,” Vanya ventured almost shyly, “We all sort of skipped breakfast.”

Klaus snorted, everyone choosing to sleep in after their second more successful attempt at stopping the apocalypse. Klaus hadn’t even noticed the hunger, exhaustion keeping him in bed, but now he was all too aware of the empty space.

“I’m always down for waffles,” Klaus told her.

This time Vanya’s smile was bright and genuine and they really should have done this right the first time. Klaus couldn’t help but grin back.

Vanya turned away, “Waffles it is then.”

-

“You two left for coffee and didn’t invite me.”

Together, because- apparently- they’ve always been a bit synchronized, Klaus and Vanya turned towards the voice. Five glowered back, sidling in beside Klaus. Klaus pushed his coffee mug towards him with the back of his hand.

“Mom knows how to make coffee,” Vanya reminded voice soft and pleasant and welcoming and the first time- that first week- all her bad experiences with them Five had always been absent. Maybe if he’d been there it would have gone differently.

Five finished the cup, clanging it against the wooden table as he reminded her, “Not good coffee. Can I have another?”

The waitress pursed her lips, dark eyes boring down on him, before flickering over the top of his head. At Vanya, dressed in plaid pajama pants and a shirt several sizes too big, and Klaus, still mostly naked, and waited for their permission.

Like they had their lives composed more so than Five, who was dressed in the academy’s school uniform. The only thing that fit, and they hadn’t had time to get him anything else. Or maybe it was the age. People saw him as a child so they treated him as one.

Vanya had the decency to hide her smirk behind the back of her hand. Klaus pursed his lips, feigned annoyance at this turn of events, and nodded.

“I hate being thirteen,” Five confessed after she left their earshot.

Vanya snorted, apologized. She didn’t really sound like she meant it, cheeks colored with her amusement. Dark hair tumbled around her features and it made her seem younger, more delicate. Five glared, unamused, and they were an odd pair.

An odd trio, really- the three of them.

“I loved being thirteen,” Klaus confessed, “You just missed out the first time around. Spending it in the, you know, end of all there ever was.”

Five rolled his eyes, said some unpleasant things in his coffee. It was so normal, almost ordinary. Sitting in a diner whose name Klaus already forgot with a sibling Klaus didn’t think he was ever going to see again and the other who they’ve always pushed away. Tried to keep her from their lives because their life sucked.

“So what happened to the-?” Klaus made a drinking sign with his hand, tipping his head back.

“I didn’t have any alcohol,” Five explained, annoyed, “It’s too early for that anyways.”

Klaus glanced over at him and Vanya looked a little uncertain on how to proceed. They were interrupted by the waitress returning, wanting to know their order. Klaus got waffles- extra crispy- with butter and raspberry syrup and since Five took his coffee he asked for a glass of milk as well.

Caffeine was really a poor substitute to all the other drugs Klaus had once allowed inside his body anyways.

“Can I keep this?” Klaus asked when she gestured for his menu, giving an impatient noise that matched the annoyed expression.

“No,” she said, unnecessarily sharp.

Five glowered, small and grumpy and protective. Vanya narrowed her eyes but was still too passive to say anything. Klaus didn’t blame either of them. Clicked his tongue in his displeasure and handed the menu over before the more vocal of the two got them kicked out.

“Well that was rude,” Vanya noted, voice soft like she was sharing a secret.

Klaus shrugged, yanked the jacket further around his frame. A man sitting at the counter, someone Klaus only thinks he could see if the blood soaked through his suit was an indication, demanded eggs for the third time. Fried. With bacon and toast and strawberry jam.

“Next time I’ll attempt wearing pants,” Klaus told them and some of the tension bleed from his siblings’ shoulders- a small victory- so he grinned and added, “And shoes.”

Five gazed back into his coffee, grumbled, “Who let you leave the house dressed like that? It’s a miracle they let you in at all.”

In which Vanya replied, “Just be grateful I managed to snag a jacket that fit him in my rush out.”

Five still looked unimpressed, “Most of our clothes fit Klaus. He’s all bone at this point.”

Klaus snorted and Vanya regarded Klaus for a second more before ordering him a milkshake. Klaus didn’t really want a milkshake but appreciated her effort so he sipped at it slowly- never one for sweet things.

The rest of breakfast or lunch or whatever this was qualified as went by uneventfully. The waitress would glare whenever they asked for something and Klaus argued that they should give her at least a fifteen percent tip when Five declared they were leaving without one. Vanya, the only one of the three of them with money since she had an actual job, settled on ten percent.

“Well that was generous,” Five said as they left.

He had his hands shoved in his pockets, casual as ever, unbothered by the chilly atmosphere. Klaus suppressed a shiver, ignored the couple that melted out from the shadows. Stumbling past them on broken feet, blind to the world except each other.

He blinked, rubbed at his eyes. Ever since the end of the apocalypse there’s been a frequency in the dead showing up, different than before. Not always trapped in their grief, more like how Ben had been. Just there, existing. In no rush to demand anything from him.

He didn’t hate it but wasn’t sure he liked it either. If nothing else he accepted it as his life now.

Vanya gave Five a smirk- quickly learning that she could and any rebuttal was merely playful- as she replied, “Thank you for buying me breakfast, Vanya. I’m grateful you spent your paycheck from your silly violin gig to get my coffee fix. You’re the best, Vanya.”

Five glared, didn’t reply.

“It is funny though, isn’t it?” Klaus said instead, “How Reginald prepped us for one thing our whole lives and then that fell apart. We couldn’t seem to hold stable incomes after that. I mean Allison is a movie star, sure, but Diego couldn’t get past the police academy and Five made his living in murder. You were the only one, in the end. With a stable job, a good income. A life.”

Vanya’s cheeks flushed at the attention he turned on her. They were all wrapped up in their own worlds that they never stopped to think about things like that. Then, to their surprise, Five snorted and he didn’t double over in laughter. Nothing more than a chuckle and dry smirk but it brought a type of smile that made Klaus’s face hurt all the same.

“And for the record,” Klaus added, “thank you for the meal sister mine.”

-

“Cold?” Vanya asked him later.

Klaus had settled in the bath, bubbles and foam surrounding him- a faux blanket. Not quite security but welcoming. He peered up at her, eyes sticking out of the water like an alligator. He didn’t make any move to lift the rest of him out of the water.

She smirked, seemed to understand, as she leaned against the bathroom doorframe. He hadn’t bothered to shut the door in a further attempt of his the-no-closed-doors-policy-is-stupid stance. Vanya had been the only one to pass by, having changed since earlier.

She was in jeans and a rose sweater. Chain necklace with her initials on it Allison had gotten her sometime between the before and after. She must be going out with Allison.

“Next time try to leave the house with at least pants on. Shoes would be nice too,” Vanya continued and under the water Klaus snorted.

“And I appreciated the company. You and Five. I think he did too, though I doubt he’ll ever admit as much.”

Something warm and fuzzy burst inside Klaus’s chest- exploding like those fireworks dear Dad deprived them of growing up.

“Yeah,” he told her honestly, emerging from the soapy water, “Me too.”

Vanya pushed off the doorframe, looking out of place and awkward. She gazed down at her socked feet, cheeks flushed, before back at him. When she spoke there was a conviction she rarely carried and clashed with her tentative expression.

“Good because I’m taking you out for dinner. Five is welcome to join though something tells me he won’t.”

“You’re not going with Allison?” because Allison was leaving and Vanya wasn’t in her pajamas and the pieces had seemed to click together so nicely.

But Vanya shook her head.

“I’m riding with Luther to drop her off at the airport. I figured he could use the company and he- we- I want to stop ducking behind corners every time he approaches me.”

Klaus understood the sentiment.

“Ben’s coming, I think. To make sure we don’t kill each other and because he’s sad Allison is leaving so soon.”

“She’ll be back,” Klaus reassured either for Vanya or himself, “and then we’ll get to finally meet the infamous Claire.”

Vanya brightened at the thought. Klaus didn’t mention how they shouldn’t bring any more children into the Umbrella Academy.

What happened to them was in the past. Trapped somewhere between the world that had happened and the world that hadn’t- a secret only the seven of them shared. So Klaus smiled, Vanya’s expression growing more genuine and soft.

“I’ll see you for dinner?” Vanya asked.

Klaus tilted his head to the side, wasn’t going to make it easy for her.

“You know Mom can cook. I mean, why else did we travel back to save her if not to let her cook for us? I missed it more than I thought I would.”

Vanya’s face settled. She was either on to him or the words affected her differently than Klaus had intended. A changed timeline and they still couldn’t seem to talk to each other.

“I didn’t- it wasn’t your fault,” Klaus protested as earnestly as he could, “What had happened. Before.”

Vanya released a heavy sigh before she conceded, “So everyone keeps telling me. I did blow up the moon, mind you.”

Klaus shrugged, “We all have bad days.”

And that got Vanya to chuckle so he counted it as a win.

-

“I thought we said open doors Klaus.”

Klaus looked up, back propped against his bed. He was mostly clothed this time: shorts that could have easily been passed off as underwear, wool stockings and a black sweater that hung from narrow shoulders. Diego didn’t even bother looking impressed at the fact that Klaus was clothed.

“It was cracked,” Klaus offered.

“Uh huh. Sure,” Diego agreed, dark eyes flickering to the pile of yarn by Klaus’s thigh.

“I’m making sibling scarves,” Klaus announced, “Luther liked the idea at least.”

Diego grunted, leaned against the doorframe. He was dressed in his dark leather outfit though Klaus thinks it’s more because of his lack of anything else to wear.

“I’m heading out,” Diego told him, waited for Klaus’s usual demand for a ride.

Klaus tilted his head to the side and asked, “Are you coming back?” and- no- he didn’t sound like a little child.

They’d left before. Got older and moved away from this life and that had been, perhaps not normal because nothing about them was normal, but right for them. And Klaus had spent a long time without any of his siblings but now, the idea, left him dizzy and sad. Empty.

Diego stared at him a moment longer before shaking his head, “I’ve got responsibilities outside this place Klaus. My life can’t come to a standstill because everyone else’s has.”

Klaus’s face fell. He felt it crumble, a second of weakness, before his face split into such a false smile it physically hurt.

“I guess you’re right. Give that detective lady my best,” and if it was anyone else they would have accepted that and moved on but Diego saw. Diego sighed.

He sounded old, older than he had at in moment when trying to stop the apocalypse. His face worn, ragged. Tired.

“You don’t even know her Klaus,” Diego reminded unhelpfully.

Klaus’s grin turned sharp and poisonous. He bit his tongue to prevent him from saying anything further, but he must have looked pitiful because Diego sighed again.

“I’ll try,” Diego promised and that wasn’t anything definite.

But it wasn’t a no.

-

“Where are the others?” Five asked, walking into the kitchen and looking confused.

“Luther, Ben and Vanya left to see Allison off,” Klaus relayed to him, “and Diego left.”

Five nodded like that made sense, and maybe Klaus was just selfish. Maybe he got too use to his siblings’ company, all six of them for the first time since they were thirteen, and their departure was hollowing him out inside.

On the outside he smiled, turned back to the coffee he’d made.

He didn’t really want it, came downstairs for a bottle of something from their liquor cabinet to fill the gap the others were carving out of him. Then he remembered that Vanya was expecting him to go out in public with her so settled on caffeine.

“Are you going too?” Klaus heard himself ask, almost compulsive.

Five made a face, settled at the table across from Klaus. He drummed his fingers against the wood, eyes dark and thoughtful. It was weird on the thirteen year old face but Klaus was used to weird.

“Where would I go?” Five challenged, “I disappeared when I was thirteen. I never got the chance to make a life for myself. Never got the chance to grow out of any role except the one Reginald laid out for me.”

“That’s not true,” Klaus protested, “He never expected you to be an assassin.”

Five shrugged, looked at Klaus.

“Are you planning on leaving?” he asked Klaus.

Klaus shrugged, hadn’t thought about it. Had really expected all of them to stay together if for a little longer. He’d been wrong, though, nothing keeping them together now that no one was getting married, no one had died recently and all threats of the world ending was over.

“I spent most of my time flipping from rehab center to rehab center before,” Klaus admitted, “So I guess a bed and roof would be a nice constant for once.”

Five’s face made a weird expression, like he didn’t know if he should be offended or not. Klaus figured it had been a subconscious gesture because he didn’t ask for any further clarification. Silence settled back between them and it wasn’t weird like most silences.

Because most silences didn’t feel right, left room for the specters to press into him. Clawing at his sleeves, itching the back of his brain. Loud and refused to be ignored and it was almost compulsive to fill the space with his voice but with Five it was different. Silences felt like something normal people did whenever they had a lapse in conversation.

Then Five said, “I didn’t think we’d be able to save this place- when we went back. I couldn’t have been sure just how far the events would play out.”

Klaus remembered their second week- all too vividly. He was still abducted from the house, tortured most of the night and beginnings of the morning. Still went through withdrawal, rescued by Diego’s detective. Only this time Klaus stayed, warned her when the woman snuck up behind her.

Then Diego was there- screaming at Klaus to run- and Klaus didn’t wait until he got on that bus before opening the suitcase. He didn’t have to, probably, the future not overly dependent on rather or not Klaus traveled to the past.

Klaus did and when Dave died his heart crumbled all over again.

After that was a little weird. The detective never died. Diego didn’t go on a warpath. There was no arrest, Vanya didn’t run off with the psycho. Their house didn’t fall. The apocalypse was averted and the day after was mind-numbingly boring.

“I took Delores back,” Five continued, “I had before and I did again. Weird. Losing her company after having it for all this time.”

Klaus sipped at the coffee. It had long since grown cold, left a metallic taste on his tongue.

“I’m glad you weren’t alone,” Klaus told him. Then started babbling, “as weird as that seems considering. When we were younger, after you disappeared, I’d always been afraid you were alone. Hungry. Were you sleeping? It never occurred to me that you could have died even though it would have been in the future and I’d never see your ghost.”

“You never- once- thought I was dead,” Five repeated slowly before scoffed, “Of course the most reasonable explanation for me never returning never crossed your mind.”

“But you did return,” Klaus reminded, “A week before the apocalypse.”

Five gave him another look. It brought a dopey expression to Klaus’s face.

“I missed you,” Klaus admitted, “We all did.”

“Yeah. Well. The one thing keeping me through every day of the apocalypse and every day after was the thought of returning back to all of you. I’d just been hoping to return as an adult.”

Klaus shrugged, “Being an adult is overrated. Trust me. I was homeless through most of it.”

And Five didn’t reassure him but he didn’t call him out on his shit either. Klaus wisely hide his victorious smirk behind the cup, taking another sip from the coffee. He wasn’t even aware of speaking until his voice was spilling into the space once more.

“Do you ever think about them? The people you killed?”

Five stalled the same time Klaus’s mind shuttered to a stop. He opened his mouth. To speak again, reassure Five that he didn’t have to answer. That it really wasn’t any of Klaus’s business.

But then Five said, “Sometimes. Mostly at night, when I think my mind has finally calmed. Its not- can you ever see them?”

Klaus blinked in shock. Five seemed so soft and honest, looking closer to his age then he has since Klaus could remember. Then the magnitude of his question surfaced and nearly sent him toppling from his seat.

“They’re not haunting you if that’s what you’re asking,” Klaus reassured quickly, but Five shook his head.

“I know what I did, and I have Luther to remind me of the wrongness of it. Are they here now? Harassing you?”

“No,” Klaus rubbed at his face. Shook his head, “No.”

Five looked oddly relieved. Klaus was saved from any further questions by the return of the others, Luther stomping up the stairs to sulk. Ben followed Vanya into the kitchen, and when he looked between Klaus and Five it was like he knew.

“I’m starving Klaus,” Vanya announced, trying very hard and Klaus appreciated her for it, “Are you wearing that?”

Klaus didn’t look away from Five, “No. I’ll go change.”

He didn’t move. Five turned away first. A curious expression tilted up towards Vanya and she’d always been weak towards him.

“Buying Klaus more food?” he asked, sounded like he already knew.

Vanya shrugged, offhanded and casual. Klaus was impressed. Their sister breaking from the shell she’s been trapped inside most her life.

“It seems someone in this house needs to,” she declared and Ben looked absolutely giddy at the newest turn of events.

“I’ll grab my coat,” he announced but since he’s ever-so-polite to everyone except for Klaus he added, “If that’s okay?”

Vanya shrugged, beamed, “The more the merrier. Our reservation is at seven thirty Klaus. Please hurry.”

“Why dear sister if I didn’t know any better than I’d say you were trying to court me,” Klaus teased, finally slipping from his seat to give her the sweetest smile he was capable of.

Vanya snorted and Five did that thing where he didn’t quite smile but wasn’t smirking either. Ben was the one who laughed, loud and weird now that he was no longer dead.

“Or perhaps she’s finally trying to put a little fat on those bones,” he declared like the little shit he was, “It seems she’s the first to realize that even though you’re a séance it doesn’t mean you need to look the stereotype.”

That time Vanya did laugh and Five’s face twisted into something legions more genuine. Klaus hissed at him, Ben batted his eyelashes innocently and for the first time in a long time it felt like the world was finally looking up.

-

That night Klaus woke to the waitress- who served him waffles several hours prior- screaming in his bedroom, twisted red smile across her throat.

-

Before when things like this happened Klaus counted his losses and stuffed his body with so much drugs he would have been disappointed if it didn’t end in an overdose, Ben protesting in his ear the whole time. Now that he was getting sober and Ben was alive he spent five whole minutes sitting upright in his bed staring at her.

She stopped screaming (thankfully) and had moved on to begging. A man, customer, picked her up after her shift. A consensual thing at the time though everything that happened afterwards probably hadn’t been.

He killed- murdered!- her and stuffed her body in a dumpster beside a porn shop. The disrespect alone was enough to compel Klaus out of bed, slipping on his leather pants and a shirt with a cat wearing galaxy sunglasses.

“I’m going,” he grumbled to the waitress on his way out, silent along the wooden floor.

People moved outside, huddled in their scarves and coats. Pressed into each other’s warmth, basking in the company of others- strangers and loved ones alike. He should have woke Ben. Alerted the others to the murder. Anything besides follow the directions of the waitress who wished to refuse Five coffee and glowered every time she caught sight of Klaus.

Klaus wished he could hold the grudge. As it was he slipped along, moved blindly from her directions and he shouldn’t. Her murderer was still loose, could be anywhere, but Klaus never made the wisest of decisions before Reginald kicked the bucket and that had been with Ben telling him off for his stupidity.

Now he had no one save the dead woman.

Her body was still fresh. The bugs hadn’t even found it yet, cloudy white eyes gazing blankly up at his face. At his side she gave a low sob, hands closing around her mouth.

“You should turn away now,” he said, afterthought.

Klaus didn’t look to see if she bothered to listen. He just hunched back, voice screeching somewhere in the back of his skull that he should be mindful of leaving his DNA. Her throat was slashed, such as her ghost, and her skin was waxy and pale. Bloodless. Other than that, though, he couldn’t find any more blood on her.

“He’d told me that I was the prettiest thing he’s seen that day,” she babbled, “then he slit my throat.”

“Some gentleman,” Klaus sniffed. She frowned.

Klaus stepped back, allowed the dumpster lid to thump closed. He needed a payphone, needed to call 911. Needed to guide the right people, ones more capable than himself.

Except when he found one it wasn’t the police he dialed.

’ello?” his brother’s voice slurred, voice drunk on sleep.

And it was ridiculous. He’d just talked to him that morning, knew where he lived. Had barged in on him on more than one occasion, uncaring if he was welcome or not. He knew he hadn’t been. Now he gripped the plastic phone, heard it groan beneath his fingers.

“Diego,” Klaus said and it didn’t sound small or scared or even sleepy. Nothing to convey that he’d been drawn from his bed by a ghost determined to solve her murder.

And yet Diego demanded all the same, “Klaus? What time is it? Where are you? Do you need a ride? Are you alright?”

Klaus pressed his forehead against the metal. It was cold, white cloud of condensation from his breath collecting on the polished surface. A strangled laugh, choked between the ridiculousness that was his life and that feeling he had whenever his brother just got it.

“I found a dead body,” Klaus offered as an explanation, “Or, rather, she found me. In my sleep, no less. Just screaming at me to get up.”

“What?” Diego demanded and something fell on the other side, “Klaus are you okay?”

When Klaus closed his eyes he could imagine his brother fumbling around in his rush to get ready. Worried that Klaus had broken and was high off his mind or had managed to get himself seriously injured since the last time they talked. Klaus has given reason for both of those concerns.

“I’m fine,” Klaus breathed, before turning around and rattling off the name of the pornography shop.

In its window was a small flashing sign reassuring that they were open. Beside it was a picture of a woman’s silhouette, black save for the red rose she had pressed against her nose.

It was enough to give Diego pause. Klaus had almost been afraid he’d hung up.

“Klaus what were you doing on that side of town at such a late hour?” he demanded tensely, more worried than amused.

Klaus wasn’t consciously aware of the ‘bad parts’ and the ‘good parts’ of the city but from what he saw and by the way his brother’s voice clipped he’d figured he’d ended up in a place that tilted towards the bad.

“I didn’t choose where he dumped the body,” Klaus snapped, pressure building behind his eyes. A headache forming.

This had been easier before. With the drugs.

On the other side Diego gave another sigh, “I’m headed there now. Don’t move. Don’t talk to anyone. And if anyone suspicious approaches you then I need you run.”

“Don’t move. Run. I’m getting mixed messages here bro,” Klaus laugh, the sound hollow and watery and tinged with desperation.

He didn’t want to be left. Didn’t want his brother to hang up.

“Just stay alive until I get there,” Diego snarled.

Then he hung up. Klaus turned back to the dead chick, distraught at the idea of being actually dead. Klaus hated it for her, leaned against the phone booth.

“Sometimes the ghosts that follow me disappear,” Klaus told her, “I think it’s them moving on. You need to move on.”

“I need to?” she challenged, voice fierce.

Klaus shrugged, going for indifferent probably came off closer to insensitive. Whatever. He was literally pulled from sleep by her screaming down at him.

“Do whatever you like. It’s your afterlife. I just thought you’d be,” Klaus tipped his head back, “more content.”

She was silent, eyes shifting around their surroundings. Klaus pushed off from where he was standing to settle down on the curb. It was dark, he was cold and years of the closest he ever got to sleep being whenever he passed out from drugs or alcohol or both was finally catching up to him.

He hung his head between his knees, allowed his eyes to start to droop. He dreamt of a man hovering above him, hands stroking his features and commenting on how beautiful he was. Then he woke to Diego glaring.

“I said stay alive. Not pass out on the street the first chance you get,” Diego snarled, all bite in his voice conflicting with the way his eyes shone with a mix of concern and relief.

“Sorry,” Klaus yawned, “I’d been sleeping when she’d started yelling. Guess I hadn’t totally woken up yet.”

He slapped at his cheeks as Diego sat straighter, glanced around them. His eyes skirted over the waitress, face set in a grumpy expression.

“When did you start taking house calls from the dead?” Diego demanded, settling in beside Klaus and allowing him to lean against his shoulder.

Klaus settled himself in, nestled because he knew it’d annoy his brother. He must have also scared him, though, because Diego shifted so the majority of Klaus was pressed against him.

“Since they woke me up screaming to find their body,” Klaus grumbled, stretching his legs out in the road. “And served me waffles in the morning.” And I couldn’t down an entire pill body to get them to shut up.

Diego nodded, jerky movement against the top of his head. Klaus thinks he heard what he didn’t say. Diego was good at those types of things.

“She still here?”

Klaus tipped his head back so his eyes were staring up at Diego’s stony expression, “She’s no longer yelling but, yeah. She looks almost traumatized.”

“She’s dead Klaus,” Diego reminded unhelpfully, “Murdered.”

“Yup yup,” Klaus agreed before yawning, mouth stretched so far it actually hurt, “We should call the police.”

Diego gave a low sound in the back of his throat, “You should have done that before calling me. The hell, Klaus?”

But it wasn’t surprise that colored his voice. He was still worried about Klaus wandering these streets by himself, dressed as a common hooker. That hadn’t exactly been new but Diego had hated it before so Klaus allowed himself to relish in his brother’s company.

“I once read somewhere that the person who calls in found bodies are always the first suspect,” Klaus said, “I don’t want to spend the night in a jail cell.”

“You’re not spending the night in a jail cell Klaus,” Diego reassured, folding his hand over the top of his head, “I’ll call.”

When he let go Klaus shivered, the sudden cold enveloping him entirely. Diego didn’t even seem to notice as he dialed his detective friend’s number to report the murder. Klaus folded his legs to his chest, figured it was for the best. They probably wouldn’t arrest Diego for murder. Beside him the woman remained wide eyed and silent.

Then Diego guided him up to his feet, draped the jacket he had been wearing around Klaus’s shoulders. Klaus burrowed his way into the familiar warmth.

“Maybe Five is right about being able to wear everyone’s clothes,” Klaus grumbled, more asleep than awake at this point.

“What?”

Klaus shrugged under his brother’s scrutinizing gaze. Diego let the matter drop, turned around and must have realized they were short one murdered victim.

“Klaus?” he asked.

Klaus blinked owlishly before chirped, “She’s in the dumpster. Come on. I’ll show you.”

Diego caught him on the back of his jacket, pulled him back towards him. His face was stony as he commanded for Klaus to stay put before starting down the alleyway. Klaus rolled his eyes, settled back on the curb.

“You’re being awfully quiet,” Klaus grumbled to the ghost.

“He’s here,” she choked, making Klaus’s skin tingle.

He jumped to his feet and shouted, “Diego!” before turning to her and demanded, “Where?” but she was already shaking her head.

Diego rushed from the alley, shadows falling from his handsome features. His eyes were cold and narrowed, knife in either hand. When they fell on Klaus, draped in his jacket and standing on the sidewalk looking like an idiot, some of the tension melted from him.

“What is it?”

Klaus looked at him, felt like a fool and a child, and said, “She says he’s still here but I don’t see anyone. I- I’m sorry. I’m not used to this.”

But Diego didn’t scoff and move back towards the dumpster. He closed the distance between the two of them, eyes moving around the whole time. Checking their surroundings, searching. He must have not found anyone either because his hold on his bicep was tighter than usual.

“Come on,” he growled, “We’re leaving.”

“But won’t that make us look guilty?” Klaus asked stumbling towards his brother’s car, “Dialing and running?”

“I’ll come back,” Diego reassured, “I just- I’m taking you back to get some sleep. You look like you’re moments from passing out anyways.”

But Klaus heard what he didn’t say: I want you far away from here.

Klaus didn’t protest any further, and when Diego took him to his place and not the academy he didn’t comment. Just laid down on the couch, accepted the blanket without complaint and was asleep before Diego left again.

-

The police were already there when Diego returned, Eudora Patch’s dark eyes seeking him out amongst the crowd. He slipped to her side. She glared.

“Where have you been?” she snapped.

Diego shrugged, low and casual, before asking, “Any leads?”

“Depends,” Eudora replied slowly, eyes shifting to the police officers walk by them, “How did you find a body in a dumpster at this hour? Jesus. It was still fresh, Diego.”

And she wasn’t accusing him of anything. Not yet and only because she knew him. Trusted him enough to ask. Klaus wouldn’t have gotten the same benefit of doubt and suddenly Diego was grateful he left him sleeping on his couch. Safe, if nothing else.

He blinked at her, “Got lucky, I guess.”

Her glare was carved from stone and Diego used to think it was sexy. It was still sexy, but Diego was on edge because the spirits were dragging Klaus after dead bodies in the middle of night and he’d only thought he’d been afraid of Klaus ending up in a ditch somewhere while he was an addict. This, though, this was so much worst.

“Cut the shit Diego,” she snarled, “and don’t even think of lying. Not to me.”

Diego turned away, hated denying her anything especially since her corpse- pale and cold- still haunted him, and nearly whispered, “Then stop asking. Please.

Her eyes widened at the last word. Diego wasn’t one for begging.

“Diego,” she started then Officer Miggins called for her before his dark gaze flickered over to where Diego was standing.

“The coroner puts the time of death at nine tonight. Diego called us at ten so somewhere between nine and ten her murderer drug her out here and dumped the body,” dark eyes turned towards Diego, “Did you see anything? What even tipped you off?”

“It’s… complicated,” Diego tried but Miggins has always been an asshole that didn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.

“It was that brother of yours, right?” Miggins asked almost eager at the thought, “The one that can see ghosts. He found her.”

Diego almost punched him in the face. Would have if Eudora didn’t catch his wrist, her hold would have been easily broken but she knew he wouldn’t.

Miggins!” she snapped, aware of where Diego came from and knew he had siblings that were as bizarre as himself but not much more than that.

It felt too much like a breach of privacy, she told him once and he hadn’t wanted to talk about his siblings then. He certainly didn’t want to talk about them now. At a crime scene around a body his brother found.

“I read the book,” Miggins continued, “The one your sister wrote. She talked about your abilities. About how one of you can see the dead. Communicate with them. He was the one who found the body. He must have been.”

“Stop talking,” Diego snarled, his only warning.

Miggins finally seemed to return to himself. Blinked as if slapped, took a slight step back. Dark eyes flickered between him and Eudora who was still keeping him from hitting him but probably not for long if the way her eyes practically glowed black.

“Go find me some evidence,” she said, and he was off.

Once he was out of sight she released his wrist, turning to stare. He turned away. Knew she already saw what he refused to say.

“You got kicked from the police academy because of a fight,” she started slowly, “It was around the same time your sister’s book came out.”

“Ask what you’re going to ask,” Diego snapped without really meaning to.

She didn’t seem offended, crossed her arms and said, “This isn’t the first someone breached that idea to you.”

Diego looked away, pictured Klaus pale and afraid as tears stained his skin and made him look years younger. Begging for the voices to stop, for the spirits to leave him alone. It was why he turned to drugs, to quieten them. And these idiots wanted to use him like he wasn’t a person with feelings and issues and Diego really needed to punch something.

In the end he settled on huffing loudly, giving Eudora all the answers she needed. Her face flared back up in anger as she cursed loudly.

“They can’t even bother remembering his name. They just want to force him into something he doesn’t like doing.”

“Where is he Diego?”

Diego actually honest-to-God snarled at her, “Why does it matter?”

“He found the body. He needs to answer some questions,” she tried as placating as she was able.

“He doesn’t know anything!” Diego finally exploded, “This is all very new to him.”

She blinked, unimpressed, “The ghosts?”

Diego turned, didn’t want her to see his face, as he gave a low sigh, “Being sober.”

Her mouth opened, clicked shut. Pieces were tumbling together, fitting into one another and slowly building a bigger picture he always tried to hide.

“All those times you’d show up at drug busts,” she started and he didn’t correct her so she continued, “All those times a druggie was found dead in an alley. I always wondered why. Figured you were just trying to irritate me.”

Diego closed his eyes, Klaus dressed like he keeps forgetting its cold and sleeping on the side of the road is the most reasonably normal thing to do flashed behind them. Klaus who was stubborn and headstrong and started something bad when they’d been too young to care. He felt Eudora set her hand against his arm, trying to offer what little comfort she could.

“Diego-”

“We were all the same age but with Klaus it was always like he was, not delicate but more sensitive to it all. Then he took a tumble down the stairs and found some sort of relief from the morphine they jacked him full of, and Dad only ever made it worst. Marked him up like he was some sort of Ouija board. Spent hours of making him sit, palms up, in an attempt to commune with the dead. Completely oblivious to the way he was crying so hard his whole body shook.”

Bad memories, he needed to stop.

Dad was dead. Klaus was fine, sleeping at his place, and whatever happened tonight wasn’t going to be a regular thing. Diego refused to let it.

But Eudora pressed, “He’s a witness if nothing else. He needs to talk to the police. Don’t ask me to bend the rules for you,” and Diego was trapped.

Klaus, I’m so sorry.

He turned on her, straightening his shoulders and gaining every bit of height he could on her. His voice was calm, low and careful. He had been fighting a losing battle so it was time to change tactics, get this on his terms.

“I’ll bring him in tomorrow. He speaks with you at your desk, in the open, with me there. Don’t go dragging him into those interrogation rooms. He’s not a suspect.”

Her face softened, always weak whenever Diego was being protective. It occurred to him that this was the first time she saw it projected onto someone that wasn’t her.

She reached out, took his hand in hers, and promised, “Of course Diego.”

Chapter Text

Klaus was still sleeping when Diego returned, a thin pale body burrowed under thick blankets. He shivered, buried himself further, and Diego piled another blanket on him, smiled down at the stray tufts of dark hair sticking out.

Klaus grunted, mumbled something before stilling, and as alive as he always seemed while he was awake it was weird seeing him like this now. Still as the bodies Diego chased. It was jarring, practically a skeleton on Diego’s couch.

Jesus,” Diego groaned at the imagery as he rubbed at his features, feeling bad he allowed Eudora talk him into anything at all.

Klaus went to jail once and didn’t speak of it much. It had been on false charges- wrong place at the wrong time- and Diego hadn’t even known until Eudora asked if he had any siblings. By then it had already been weeks and by the time Klaus got out he looked almost sick.

And of all the stupid things his brother did, of all the reasons Diego thought Klaus would end up in jail, he hadn’t wanted it to be because of his ability. They didn’t always get what they wanted though and there had been a reason Klaus called him tonight and not the police.

Diego snarled to himself. Didn’t turn to his bed, ended up sleeping in the chair he pulled up beside his couch like Klaus was sick or hurt when in reality he’d been neither. Diego just wasn’t used to Klaus calling him for something- not even when he’d needed a ride.

When Diego woke Klaus was still sleeping, curled in a crescent moon. His face flickered with distress, the dead seeming to bother him while he was waking and sleeping. Pale skin had gone bloodless and Diego hated how much Klaus looked like the things he could commune with.

He’d always just thought it had been the drugs. He’d been wrong, it seemed, and now that there was no clear outlet it seemed worse than before. With nothing to point his finger at and blame.

Klaus woke sometime around noon, mound he’d created shuffling as he pushed it all away.

“Diego?” he called, voice raspy from sleep.

He blinked, head swiveling around his surroundings.

“You slept on my couch,” Diego reassured from his spot by the sink, “You should… do whatever you do to get ready. Breakfast is on me today.”

Klaus perked up, “Eggs? It’s not too late for eggs, is it?”

“No Klaus, “Diego reassured with an amused expression Klaus couldn’t see from his spot on the couch, “It’s not too late for eggs.”

-

Luther was in the kitchen. Vanya turned around and started the way she came, nearly bumping into Five in her rush. Five glowered but it was softer than the ones he usually gave them.

Vanya knew it was silly. The irrational fear of being in a room alone with Luther but here she was. Being irrational.

“Five!” she exclaimed in surprise before stumbling over a quickened apology, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. I was just-”

“Vanya? Five?” Luther asked from behind.

Five looked at him, looked back at her. His face set into a grim expression as he noted, “You too huh,” before at Luther, “We were just coming to join you for breakfast.”

And Luther looked so hopeful at the idea. Eyes wide and face looking less mournful, less sad. Vanya almost hated how desperate she’d been to turn him away. Five fixed her with another look. His serious ‘I told you so’ expression hinted with a smug arrogance.

“You haven’t left yet?” and- Jesus Christ- they left the poor guy alone in the house with their father for all those years.

“I have no place to go,” Five shrugged, moving the three of them into the kitchen where Grace was starting eggs, “In case you hadn’t noticed.”

“I- no. I noticed,” Luther stumbled quickly, following their brother far too eagerly.

Five rose his eyebrows, tipped his head to the side. Grace handed him a glass of orange juice, which wasn’t his usual coffee but he accepted it with a genuine smile nevertheless. Vanya found herself smiling with him, chest warm and fuzzy and she’s always loved her family. Even when the rest of them didn’t feel the same.

Except that wasn’t right. Luther and Diego were always vocal about their distaste for her presence but they always seemed bitter at everything and everyone. The others hadn’t been like that, she’d just grouped them all together.

Her fault. Not theirs.

“The better question is,” Five continued at their silence, “are you planning on leaving?”

Five had never been one to hate long pauses in conversation. Seemed to relish in it because he didn’t have to put up with whatever idiotic thing one might say. This was different, though. He was playing peacemaker- a position far from his comfort zone.

Luther looked startled at the question. Eyes flickered to where Vanya sat.

“Should I go?”

Vanya shook her head vehemently as she rushed, “No Luther.”

But Five shrugged and added, “I heard you never left. The others did, but you stayed up until Dad sent you to the moon. Perhaps it’s finally your time to take this step. Move on. Grow up, away from the academy.”

Luther frowned, “You think I need to grow up.”

“I think you need to move on,” Five clarified, “A little difficult while spending your time surrounded by constant reminders.”

“But-”

“This place isn’t going to sink into the ground the moment you step out Luther. It’ll be here when you return so go. Allison will appreciate the company.”

Vanya could see the moment Luther’s brain stalled to a stop. All fight left him then, confused eyes staring back at Five like he wasn’t sure what to make of it. Vanya got it. She understood and she realized Five was right.

Allison’s planned trip was fifteen days long. Fourteen now and by the time Luther flew out to see her that would give them thirteen days to spend together and they’d always been able to heal each other better than the rest of them. They needed the other more now than ever.

Luther’s brow furrowed, still uncertain. Still fighting it because he’s always cared about them just not in the ways they needed at the moment- and him staying wasn’t doing any of them any good.

“I think you should go,” Vanya piped up and not because his presence makes her jumpy, “Allison and Diego are already gone because that’s what they need at the moment. And I think you do too.”

“Yeah,” Luther agreed, “but what about you two and Klaus and Ben. Ben’s alive and we’re just-”

“I’m not planning on dying anytime soon so you don’t have to use me as an excuse to stay,” Ben’s voice stated behind her.

Vanya startled, turned. Ben was leaned against the wall, arms crossed and expression casual. Her chest ached just looking at him, like it did every time.

“You can go,” he continued, “We’ll still be here when you get back.”

Tears welled in the backs of Luther’s eyes, expression weepy. He kind of looked like one of those kids Vanya used to teach after she gave them a compliment and Vanya couldn’t remember why she’d ever been scared of him.

“How will I get there? Plane tickets are not free and the inheritance is still sort of-” he tilted his head to the side and weirdly enough Vanya got it.

“I’ll get you one,” she offered instantly, “You can pay me back later.”

Luther smiled, light of the world inside it, as he rushed from his seat, “I’ll go pack my bag. I really appreciate it Vanya.”

She nodded, turned back to her juice.

“That’s generous of you,” Ben noted once he left, “All things considered.”

Vanya shrugged, “Allison will be good for him. Maybe when he comes back he’ll be less… Just less.”

Ben took the spot Luther had vacated, pretended to think, before agreeing, “You’re right,” and it wasn’t the first time Vanya wondered what Luther could have possibly done to anger Ben so much.

-

“I feel tricked,” Klaus pouted as they pulled into the police station, “Bamboozled. Scammed. Hoodwinked. By my own brother no less.”

Diego felt much the same but if he said that now then Klaus would convince him to leave and not look back. So instead he sucked in a deep breath, steadied his hands and ignored the gut feeling that this was a mistake.

“You’re a witness Klaus,” he reasoned, “They need what details you can offer to help catch the killer.”

Klaus’s pout deepened, “You told them about me? What was the point of taking me to your place if you were just going to out me the first chance you got?”

Diego’s fingers curled around the steering wheel, skin bleached white and knuckles protruding at sharp angles. It wasn’t the first time he wanted to strangle Miggins and his stupid obsession with his family. He’d always asked rather snidely about Vanya’s sequel.

“They’re a fan of Extra Ordinary,” Diego snarled even though he was no longer angry at Vanya about it.

He hadn’t been angry when he first heard of it either. Diego had stopped caring about what others thought of him and his family, and Vanya can do whatever she want. Then he got in that fight at the Police Academy and Klaus got arrested and Vanya didn’t even seem to realize the repercussions her book brought upon them.

In the back seat Klaus gave him a curious expression so he elaborated, “The body had been really fresh so either I was the killer or I had a brother who can see the dead.”

Klaus froze, wide eyes staring at the police station, and he looked scared. Klaus very rarely ever looked scared- true fear that made your lungs seize up and heart race.

Diego decided he hated it.

“Hey. Hey,” Diego reassured in a gentle tone turning to stare at him, “You’re okay. It’s okay. You’re just going to have a conversation with a friend of mine. I’ll be there the whole time. Promise.”

Klaus swallowed, slipped on the mask he wore whenever he had to do something he didn’t really want to. Nodded. Diego gave him a supportive grin Klaus missed as he slipped from the back of his car. Diego hurried after, sentinel keeping watch. Klaus huddled in on himself and didn’t seem to notice.

Maybe Diego should have invited Ben. He’d always been gentler with Klaus, knew exactly what to say all the time. But then again, Ben probably would have already punched him before Diego could fully explain himself.

Eudora met them at the entrance, gave Klaus the smile she reserved for traumatized children and brutalized victims. Diego was grateful at that, knew Klaus needed some gentleness in his life for once.

“You must be Diego’s brother,” she greeted warmly despite the fact they’ve met before, “I’m Detective Eudora Patch. A friend of your brothers.”

Klaus’s expression softened, face almost shy as he noted, “More than friends, I think.”

“Yeah. Me too,” Eudora agreed, eyes flickering over to Diego and she hasn’t looked at him like that in years and maybe he should have introduced his brother to her before.

Except Klaus wasn’t a puppy and he curled in on himself like being there physically hurt and this wasn’t a situation Diego ever wished for him to be in. He set a supportive hand against his shoulder, met Eudora’s gaze. Her eyes practically smiled back at him.

She actually liked Klaus. Imagine that. Though if Diego was honest Klaus was very likable when he wasn’t high or drunk. And even then he still sort of was.

Then her eyes were back on Klaus, settled on his chest and said, “I like your dog tags. Yours or someone else’s?”

Klaus reached up, self-consciously, to grip around the cold metal. Diego has seen him mimic the same movement before, never gave it much thought. Now he realized he couldn’t think of any reason Klaus would own any much less treasure it so much.

“I- uh. They’re a friends,” Klaus explained, “I- a man. Dave. He was- we were- he died. Shot through the chest.”

Eudora didn’t even bat an eye but Diego had to take a moment. He’s never heard of any Dave much less know any reason Klaus would have his dog tags. He thought of that hotel room, of Klaus grabbing onto the suitcase and opening it and though he returned the next day he seemed different.

At the veteran’s bar, at the way Klaus shrank down whenever guns started going off. That same look him and Five share whenever they seemed to remember something from their past, staring blankly at something only they could see. Only Five was trapped in the future and Klaus in the past.

Shit.

“Dave must have been a special person for you to treasure him so much,” Eudora reassured as she lead them to her desk, “Now Klaus, why don’t you walk me through the night you discovered Miss Cindy Bowell?”

Klaus blinked, looked around. Diego would have smirked if he didn’t realize this was exactly what she did to victims too traumatized to think. His eyes flickered to his brother’s chest, to the tattoo on his bicep, of how he disappeared after rescuing him. He knew what was going to happen, knew where he was jumping and knew it was going to end in grief yet he did it anyways.

Suddenly Klaus’s adamancy of becoming sober for the first time since he was twelve made sense.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” Diego announced suddenly.

Eudora gave him a curious look, probably since he’d been so fierce at staying with Klaus the whole time. Diego needed a moment though. He couldn’t breathe, could barely think and he trusted his brother to Eudora. And before he turned he hoped the look he gave her conveyed as much.

Klaus didn’t even make any indication that he’d heard, just curled his fingers a little tighter in his jeans. Unbothered that he was wearing the same clothes as last night. Used to it, Klaus reassured him, and he didn’t say it but Diego knew it was because he spent most of his adulthood on the streets because the rest couldn’t be bothered by their drug addled embarrassment for a brother.

Diego almost didn’t make it to the stall before he doubled over and emptied his breakfast in the toilet. Then it was just dry heaving, stomach cramping and eyes burning. He leaned back, flushed and knew he needed to get it together.

It was just the thought of Klaus fighting for his life every day for who-knows-how long twice because of some dude made him bend back over in the stall. No. Not some dude. Dave. Perhaps the love of his life and he had to watch him bleed out in some trench. And none of them had even been bothered to ask.

Twice.

Christ on a cracker. They really were the worst siblings.

Remembering himself Diego hurried back to the spot he’d left his brother. He was still sitting in that chair, looking every bit out of place as he did everywhere he went. Eudora was on her feet, Miggins at her desk talking animatedly.

Diego didn’t have to guess to know what they were talking about. Or that Eudora was seconds from causing a scene and any other time Diego would have basked in the realization that she could be as wild as him.

“Hey!” he shouted, planting himself behind Klaus and setting a hand on his shoulder half in support and half because Klaus surfaced a protective fire inside him that made his lungs burn.

Klaus remained still under his touch. Eudora almost looked concern at his return and Miggins smirked- smug bastard.

“Diego please,” Eudora whispered as he was about to demand what was going on.

But Miggins couldn’t shut up whenever he’s around Diego- a grudge he’s held since Diego broke his nose in the academy.

“We were just talking about your brother’s place on the police. As a special consultant, of course. Away from all the real danger.”

Diego felt his jaw pop. Eudora’s eyes burned darkly. Klaus remained still in his seat, eyes staring off into nothing because people were discussing his future with little regard for him or his opinion.

Diego turned to him, kept his tone gentle, as he asked, “Klaus?”

Klaus startled, not expecting at being addressed in the matter. He swirled around, big eyes looking up at him and it wasn’t fear in his eyes. It was acceptance, spent a childhood doing whatever people told him to do rather he liked it or not.

Diego went for soft but it felt more tainted by the realization.

“What do you think buddy?”

Klaus paused, waited for the punchline, before concluded, “I think I’d like to leave now. If that’s okay?”

He turned to Eudora, whose face melted into something that made Diego’s chest hurt. He gave her a grateful grin as she nodded.

“Of course. Thank you for your time Klaus. I’ll walk you out.”

I’ll keep Miggins from harassing you further, but when Diego glanced at the man his face was still twisted into one of smug arrogance. He wasn’t letting the matter drop, didn’t care about the consequences. Didn’t care that Klaus spent every year since he was twelve burying this crap and now it’s striking him all at once.

“Go wait for me in the car,” Diego told Klaus before turning to Eudora, “No. I’m serious.”

She deflated, face pained, “There’s only so much I can do Diego. Miggins is tenacious. He’ll keep pushing this with or without our approval.”

“You don’t understand Eudora,” Diego whined, “He’s got a lot going on right now. This will break him.”

Her eyes flickered to where Klaus was sitting in Diego’s backseat, eyes downcast, before back to him and said, “He’s stronger than you give him credit for Diego.”

-

Klaus didn’t even see Ben until he punched Diego in the face. Diego hadn’t been speaking and the waitress was yammering away, going on and on about how she didn’t like that Miggins fellow. He thought it would be rude to ask her if she liked anyone so settled on the occasional grumbling.

Then Ben was there, Diego flailing backwards like a cartoon character. It would have been comical if Klaus’s mind would settle longer than three bloody seconds.

“The hell Ben?” Diego snapped, smearing the blood over his top lip.

But Ben was glaring, eyes sharp and protective and Klaus felt his face drop into a sappy expression. Ben must have noticed because when he turned towards him it softened considerably.

His voice was still cold in his fury though, “Where have you been Klaus? And why couldn’t you have bothered to call?”

“He’s fine,” Diego said, sounded like a lie.

Klaus huffed, cheeks puffed out as he moved towards the safety of Diego’s room. The woman followed silently.

“Where were you Diego?” Ben repeated, patience tempering off and Klaus figured he’d probably been trapped in the worst case scenarios since he realized Klaus was missing.

It wasn’t like Klaus had ever given them a reason to think otherwise.

“My fault Benny boy,” Klaus interrupted and Ben’s expression looked wrecked when he turned back towards him.

“Klaus, please-”

Klaus turned away, couldn’t handle that expression, as he continued heedlessly, “I didn’t die this time so relax. Not like it’ll ever stick anyways.”

The waitress gave her a curious look as the color drained from Diego’s face. Ben just looked the way he had when Klaus bolted upright sick and shaky, pushed through the crowd of people looking for a brother who couldn’t bother to turn around.

Klaus’s eyes screwed shut, the memories too sharp. Too soon. Too much at one moment in time. This had been so much easier with the drugs. He folded his hand over his dog tags and turned back around, expression not stronger but perhaps less wrecked.

“We went to the police station,” Klaus explained before anyone could ask, “I found a dead body last night. Or, at the very least, she found me.”

Ben paled, spun around to scream at Diego for letting that happen. Klaus moved away. Didn’t really want to be around while they fought over his future anyways.

“You mentioned moving on,” the waitress started tentatively, standing in the doorway as Klaus plopped down on Diego’s couch, “I’ve been thinking about that. I- I think I want to try it.”

Klaus folded his arm over his face and nodded, “I’ve never done it before. I can’t guarantee any success.”

She crouched down in front of him, face stony and serious, tilted her head to the side and declared, “Me neither so let’s learn. Together.

Klaus peeked at her from under his arm. He sucked in a deep breath and sighed, “I don’t see why not.”

He rose back to his feet. She stared at him in an almost concerned expression, eyes flickering down to his chest.

“You should sit down,” she noted.

Somewhere out in the hall Diego yelled, words indistinguishable but Klaus recognized the tone. He’s pissed. At Ben. Klaus didn’t know those two things could go together.

He settled at the foot of Diego’s couch, legs crossed and hands folded over his knees. Fidgeted. Slid them down to the ground. She sat down in front of him and her expression was so serious as she reached out for him Klaus couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Alright. Think happy thoughts I guess,” he told her, reaching out to take her hands in his.

The first time they slipped through each other, caught between the two planes of existence. He gave her a regretful look, ready to quit, but she shook her hands and continued to concentrate. He gave a low sigh, thought of every time he got Ben to materialize.

They’d always been in danger then. He wasn’t in danger now.

“It’s okay,” she reassured, “Breathe. Clear your mind. Come on. I know you can do it.”

But Klaus shook his head and rose back to his feet, “Only when I’m about to die. Sorry but I can’t.”

She deflated, and he had to turn away. He couldn’t stand disappointing another person- dead or not. She pressed into him, and it wasn’t her fault that she didn’t know when to stop.

“Surely there’s another way,” she approached but Klaus shrugged again and whatever she was going to say was cut off by Diego and Ben.

“Klaus?” Ben asked, eyes searching the room.

“I want to go home,” Klaus lied and they both nodded, didn’t say anything else.

Klaus figured that was probably for the best.

-

“Give Claire our best,” Vanya tried because Five was standing, hands shoved in his pockets like he couldn’t care what the others did around him.

Luther swallowed, small child in an oversized body and Vanya’s had plenty of practice of dealing with children but her brother was something else, nodded jerkily. He looked uncomfortable, clutched the plane ticket Vanya bought him to his chest. She almost felt bad at the stab of relief it gives her.

The day after the apocalypse had been a bit lackluster. Five disappeared almost instantly, and Klaus looked moments from bolting himself but Ben grabbed onto his bicep to prevent him from fleeing. Vanya had sort of expected to be pushed aside in favor of everyone else, but Allison had set a hand on her shoulder.

And it wasn’t like she didn’t know they’d move on with their lives once more but this all seemed very quick. Then again no one seemed to care what the first three Hargreeves siblings planned to do, expected them to be fine because they were the best at faking it.

“And call us,” Vanya added sounding like an anxious mother, “whenever your plane lands. To let us know that you got there safely.”

Luther beamed, “Of course Vanya. Thank you.”

He moved in, reached out to pull her into a hug. Before she could stop herself she stepped back, remembered the way he’d practically smothered her the first time. Her breathe hitched, panic curling in her chest.

“I’m sorry,” she panted, head bowed in shame, “I just- I’m sorry.”

Luther looked wounded- caught between knowing what he did wrong and hurt at being rejected. Vanya’s vision swam, moments from a breakdown in such a public place.

Five stepped between them- not a protective barrier but a barrier nevertheless- as he patted Luther’s arms and expression a little less smug than usual.

“Travel safely Luther,” he tried and Vanya almost wished Ben hadn’t bailed as soon as he realized Klaus hadn’t only not come to breakfast but wasn’t in the house. Bed still a mess like he hadn’t been completely aware of leaving it and it had to be hard not knowing where the one person you were once always around is at.

Especially when that person is Klaus, who’d always been more sensitive about things. Couldn’t recognize the very real dangers of the people he surrounded himself with. Then again Vanya spent most of a week with a guy manipulating her into triggering the apocalypse so maybe she wasn’t one to judge.

“Yeah,” Luther agreed, voice crumbling, “Be safe you two.”

Five snorted, “I’d say we always are but if the past couple of months is anything to go by then we already know that’s not true.”

That got an attempt of a smile to Luther’s face, expression wavering dangerously. Five patted his arm before steering him towards his exit ramp and when he turned back to Vanya he didn’t ask. He just tilted his head to the side and started back towards his dorky van.

The others were waiting for them by the time they got back. Klaus was peeling an orange with a knife, Diego hovering over his shoulder like Klaus was four years old. Ben just watched them both, face soft in a way Vanya doesn’t think it’s been since they were children. She wondered how often he’d just silently observed these types of scenes without any of them knowing.

“Who let Klaus near a knife?” Five demanded, dark eyes flickering around at the three of them with an exasperated expression.

“I didn’t even really want an orange,” Klaus confessed, “Just the knife.”

He peeled a sliver of the orange free to pop it in his mouth, eyes intense. Vanya blinked and even Five stalled to an uncertain stop. Head tipped to the side, staring at Klaus like he was his newest puzzle to figure out. Vanya wished him the best. Klaus had always been complicated.

“Klaus found a dead body last night,” Ben offered, “Followed a ghost.”

Klaus spun to gawk, like he was betrayed, before he quickly backtracked, “First off I didn’t follow any ghosts. She showed up in the middle of my bedroom yelling at me to go get her body. And secondly,” he turned towards Vanya and Five, “she was our waitress. The rude one.”

Vanya’s gut clenched, heart immediately skipping into denial at the thought of anybody she once knew dying hours later. Then she thought of how Klaus must have felt, eyes flickering over to Ben’s stony expression.

“Oh Klaus,” she sighed the same time Five cursed, “Shit.

“And I’m not a little kid anymore,” Klaus continued, “I am responsible enough to make decisions on my own thank you very much.”

“Klaus-”

“And don’t you dare accuse me of becoming an addict because you know I was a kid when that started,” Klaus snapped, face fierce as he turned towards Diego.

Diego deflated, “I wasn’t- wouldn’t Klaus. I’m just worried about the other people is all.”

Whenever she was younger- after Five disappeared and Ben died the first time- she’d always been envious of how protective Diego had become of Klaus. Klaus never seemed to notice, just grateful he had at least one sibling who semi-cared about him and Vanya had wanted it. Wanted it so bad she didn’t notice how much Klaus needed it.

Now she thinks she got it. They were all the same age but in that moment Klaus almost looked small. Crushed beneath a world that’s been neither kind nor cruel, stuck between two phases of existence and expected to bridge the gap.

“I can fight you know,” Klaus told Diego simply, “I grew up in the same house as you. Had to look at those self-defense images on the wall of the hallway same as you guys.”

“Not to mention spending a year fighting in the war,” Five added, eyes glossy in thought.

Vanya’s brain stuttered. Diego blinked, not quite surprised but was no longer allowed to bask in denial. Ben just lowered his expression. Shuffled uncomfortably.

The image of Klaus in a war- any war- made Vanya’s chest ache.

“Do the others know?” she heard herself question.

Klaus still looked betrayed at being outed so quickly when he answered, “We’ve never discussed it, no. They didn’t ask.”

“Should we have?”

“What’s to talk about?” Klaus blinked, “I could have left at any moment. It wasn’t like I’d been trapped there.”

Vanya was almost afraid to probe, “What got you to come back?”

Klaus shrugged. Looked away. “I didn’t have a reason to stay anymore.”

Vanya swallowed, mouth swelling like she’d been eating cotton. Klaus had always seemed so passive. Kind to everyone, which was probably one of the reasons ghosts harassed him so much. Whenever your life is turned that far upside down it was nice finding someone grounded in reality and unwilling to turn you away.

Vanya always knew she’d appreciate it. Hoped that if she were to die before Klaus that she could find her way to him.

“I-”

He beamed at her, sharp and bright and borderline fake, as he reassured, “It’s okay Vanya. I’ll find him again. I just have to figure out the rest of it first.”

“The rest of what?” Ben asked.

Klaus shrugged, “It.”

“The waitress. Any alimonies in her death?” Five backtracked suddenly making Klaus’s face sour considerably.

“Nothing apocalyptic worthy brother mine,” Klaus replied, “She just got in with the wrong type of people. It happened before. It happens now. The cycle of life or whatever.”

His eyes darted to the side, where Vanya imagined the waitress was glaring at him. He gave her a smug smile, winked and turned back to his orange. Beside her Five frowned.

“How can you be sure?” he continued.

Klaus rose to his feet, almost silent- a person used to sneaking in and out of places he knew he didn’t belong to, and when he spoke it was old and tired, “Take it from someone who’s been there, quit your addiction while you’re still ahead. Otherwise it will consume you.”

Then he slipped from the room so quietly he could have easily been mistaken for the apparitions that chase him around all day. She turned towards Diego, eyes wide. Diego was frowning at Five.

“I’m not addicted to the apocalypse,” Five protested almost impulsively and it was like him and Klaus has had this argument before, “Don’t listen to that idiot.”

“I don’t know,” Ben said, “Klaus is good at seeing what others can’t.”

Five didn’t even give himself a chance to glare, disappearing in a blue light. Diego dropped his head, rubbed his eyes. It was the first time Vanya realized his face was bleeding.

“You’re hurt!” she exclaimed, startled.

His head snapped up towards her, blinked tiredly. When did her siblings start to look so old? It was startling.

“I’m fine,” Diego promised, “I’ve had a long night and not much sleep. I’m going to bed.”

Right before he made sure Klaus was sleeping and not doing whatever else Klaus does in his free time. Diego didn’t have to say it for Vanya to hear it.

“Sure,” she agreed anyways.

-

Klaus was in a skirt- colorful fabric interwoven in intricate patterns- and a crème cardigan. Against his pale chest Dave’s dog tags almost seemed to stick out and they made a lump swell in the base of Ben’s throat.

He still remembered what it had been like. To be beside Klaus, bleeding and pale, on the bus one moment and the next being alone. Lost to the world, and when Ben reached out for him it was like Klaus never existed at all. He’d panicked, the first couple of hours. Scared for something he’d never thought he’d have to worry about.

Now he looked at the dog tags and it wasn’t the sensation he felt when Klaus disappeared. It was the heart wrenching moment he realized Klaus only came back because he was impossibly more broken than before. Somehow that was worst.

Ben didn’t say any of that. Couldn’t, yet.

He leaned against the doorframe instead and said, “Scarves huh?”

“It’s weird,” Klaus replied without looking up, without breaking his calculated movements weaving the fabric together, “Not hearing your voice every other word I try to speak.”

“It’s weird being heard by people who are not you,” Ben agreed, “Does this mean I get a scarf?”

“We both know I’d be making you one even if you were still not, you know, alive,” Klaus told him, eyes downcast. Focused on the movement of his hands and Ben used to hate to see Klaus holding needles but this was different.

Klaus was distracting himself as best he could. Focused on the task at hand and Ben wondered if it was easier knitting for them.

“I know,” Ben sighed, pushing from the doorframe and entering Klaus’s room so he could go sit beside him on the bed.

Klaus didn’t even seem to acknowledge his presence. After spending years with Ben always hovering nearby Ben could have probably slit his throat and Klaus wouldn’t even have noticed his approach. Ben leaned over his shoulder, watched Klaus’s careful hands.

“You’re very good,” Ben noted.

“I heard practice is the key,” Klaus shrugged, “and I’ve had plenty of chances to practice.”

Ben spent most of his life with Klaus and couldn’t recall him picking up yarn and needles and start crocheting. His forehead furrowed as he stared into his brother’s face.

“When?”

Klaus’s grin was sharp and almost toxic but he didn’t reply. The only place Ben hadn’t been with Klaus was after he would OD so bad he’d end up in a rehab center. Ben’s eyes widened at the realization, sitting straighter.

“Klaus-”

Vanya stepped into the doorway, dressed like she was ready to go out. When she caught Ben’s eyes she offered a shy smile before ducking her head, like she was afraid he was going to hate her for living when he hadn’t.

“You should at least put a shirt on Klaus,” she said, “It is cold outside and most places at this time require one.”

“They require pants as well,” Klaus informed her stoically but he wasn’t annoyed by Vanya’s newest mission in ensuring he ate at least one meal a day.

“I think skirts qualify,” Vanya reassured, “Allison loaned me a blouse you can borrow. It’s blue so it’ll probably match.”

Klaus frowned and Ben caught Vanya’s eye and grinned. She beamed back, face alight with the giddiness of a child told they did a good job.

“You two are bad for my mental health,” Klaus decided, eyes flickering between the two of them as he pointed accusingly with his crocheting needles.

Ben bumped his shoulder, knew Klaus didn’t mean it. All this sudden attention and worry was just new to him. It was the one thing Ben prayed for every night as he watched Klaus sleep, shivering from the cold or the dead, before waking up to attempt killing himself once more. Klaus seemed shocked at the touch. Ben chose to ignore that.

“Will you be joining us for dinner Ben,” Vanya asked.

Ben smiled at her, never one to take advantage of her kindness. This was different. He wanted Klaus to eat, liked that Vanya was ensuring it and would like very much to hang with his siblings. Also Klaus’s head snapped towards him with an eager expression and there was no way he could refuse.

“I’d love to,” Ben told her and Vanya’s cheeks colored in her pleasure.

They ended up in a small German place that, according to Vanya, sold the best beer. Klaus didn’t order any alcohol though so Ben had to, setting it between them in case Klaus wanted a sip. He never reached for it, wore a distracted expression. Lip puckered out as he sipped the water he’d ordered tentatively.

It was the expression he made whenever he was listening to one of them- the specters that haunt Klaus. It’d never bothered Ben before when he could hear both sides of the conversation. Now, sitting there staring at his brother, he realized what’d made so many others uncomfortable.

“Klaus?” he asked.

Klaus blinked, tilted his head towards him. His eyes were owlish and he looked as if he’d been caught. Ben just gave him a gentle smile in return.

“Is something on your mind?” Ben tried.

Klaus made a face, “Nothing more than usual.”

“You can talk to us,” Ben reassured, met Vanya’s eyes and knew she agreed, “You’re not alone. You never were.”

“See now you’re sounding like you did when you were a ghost,” Klaus replied and it wasn’t mean but Vanya’s face creased at the pain of the memory. Guilt colored Klaus’s expression. Eyes wide and pale amongst his handsome features.

“I didn’t- it’s just the police believe I could help their investigation,” Klaus explained, “Since I can see the murdered victims after the murder. Diego and his detective friend are against it- probably because the ones for it are assholes.”

“How do they even know what you can see?” Vanya asked.

Klaus blinked at her, didn’t reply. Ben knew though, was surprised Vanya hadn’t placed it together yet. Then again her book hadn’t done too well.

“They must have read about it in a book somewhere,” Ben started slowly, waiting for the moment to sink in.

One second. Two. Three. Vanya blinked.

Her eyes widened as she leaned back, denial quick to approach her pretty features. Then recognition and regret. Guilt.

“I didn’t think-”

“It’s okay Vanya,” Klaus reassured after giving Ben an incredulous look- like he couldn’t understand why he was being a jerk- before back to Vanya, ever the peacemaker, “I don’t. I’m not trying to hide or anything. I just don't think what they have in mind is…”

“Safe.”

“Yes!” Klaus exclaimed before he must have realized what he’d said, “Wait. No. Ben you’re not helping.”

Ben chuckled softly. Vanya no longer looked like she was going to get sick in the middle of the restaurant.

“I missed you two bickering,” Vanya whispered, “It used to drive us all crazy. The constant back and forth between you both. Then one day it was gone and it was like removing a single color from the world. Not quite black and white but no longer as bright as it had once been.”

Together Ben and Klaus turned to look at her. They’d always teased that they were two halves of a whole, and when Ben died the others had been worried on how Klaus would react. As if he was severing a part of himself but their concern didn’t seem to last long.

They moved on. They worried about their own lives and Ben couldn’t really blame him but watching Klaus break himself every moment he got hurt. Now Ben wasn’t sure, coming back to life a foreign and uncomfortable thing that may cost him Klaus.

“Sometimes I miss being a ghost,” Ben said without much thought, not used to thinking before speaking because no one could hear him before.

Klaus snorted, sipping his water.

“No you don’t,” he reminded cheekily, “You complained every day about being dead. On and on. Reminded me what it was like.”

“Yeah because you kept almost dying,” Ben said, “and now I’m alive and it’s more exhausting than I remember it.”

Uncertainty flickered across Vanya’s face. The talk of death and dying a new topic to her so Ben geared the conversation away. He sipped his drink, smiled.

“This beer is very good,” he told her, “Did you come here often? Before?”

Vanya shrugged, “Occasionally.”

“They have good water,” Klaus agreed as out of place in the conversation as he is in most, stuck between flipping back and forth between the living and the dead.

Vanya’s face melted into one of amusement as she blinked at him. Somewhere behind Ben, about where they’d entered, a gun went off.

-

Klaus had never been a stranger to guns, even before the war. Then he was in a trench, surrounded by darkness save the occasional bright flash of bombs. Lighting the world for a few seconds before fading into a low afterglow.

He ignored it all. Crept along on his stomach, knees and elbows dirty from mud and blood and Klaus didn’t want to think about what else. The weight of his gun pressed into the small of his back. A constant reminder of its presence, within reach if he wanted. He very rarely did.

Somewhere in the distance there was screaming. Crying. Mixed within all the ringing and Klaus always thought the trenches would absorb most of the sounds of the war. He’d been wrong.

Klaus!

“Dave!” he shouted back, rising onto his knees to search for the familiar face.

He blinked, looking, and was back into the restaurant. It could have been one of his siblings who’d shouted. It could have been the dead waitress or a figment of his imagination. A reminder of the thing he’d lost, remained ever out of his reach.

Klaus heard himself choke, felt his curled fingers press against the sides of his head. He was on his knees, under the table. Somewhere to his right a gun went off- several rapid shots- before leaving the echoing inside his skull.

“Klaus you’re not breathing,” the waitress shouted in front of him, over the chaotic noises of the two wars battling for dominance inside Klaus’s head.

Then and now. Past and present.

HELLO. GOOD BYE.

“You need to move on,” Klaus nearly sobbed, moving his hands from his head and blinking at her in an attempt to bury his adrenaline spike. If only for a little while.

But the world was clearer, the waitress’s body pulsing with the thrum of his heartbeat. A high unlike anything he’s felt before.

She blinked back at him like she thought he was crazy, “Now isn’t really the time. Men in black masks just showed up and started shooting up the place.”

HELLO.

Klaus glanced around, realized the absence of his siblings. The empty space pressed into him, poking at the sides of his heart. It was a lot like getting shot, bleeding and unsure if this will be the end or another story in his ever-growing list of scars.

GOOD BYE.

“Ben? Vanya?”

“I don’t know. They just bolted towards the sound of the guns while you seemed to have lost several shades of color. Are you okay?”

HELLO.

He reached out to her, hand settling on her cheek. She blinked at the touch. Seemed shocked that Klaus had managed through the gap.

“Happy thoughts,” Klaus reminded, “Its okay. Just think of a memory before. While you were still alive. Something warm and find your peace.”

“Klaus you-”

He screwed his eyes shut, concentrated. Pushed. It was like everything in the room stilled, faded to a low hum. Everything except the waitress in front of him.

“I release you from this mortal world,” he heard himself say, the words not holding much weight to him and maybe that was the point.

GOOD BYE.

He no longer felt heavy. No longer lost or scared, confused on why this had happened. He no longer felt the waitress. His eyes fluttered open and he could see her, in front of him.

“Klaus,” she choked, smile splitting her features.

Klaus said nothing. Leaned back and watched as her form started to fade, dust in the wind. His palms burned with familiar warmth, blue lighting up his tattoos. Then she was gone and Klaus’s hand slipped through the space, fell to the ground.

A heavy breath escaped his chest as he allowed his body to continue forward. Folding until his forehead pressed against the wooden floor underneath the table. It was probably filthy: dirt and grim smearing over his pale features. Klaus didn’t care. Klaus hasn’t cared for a long time.

“I did it,” he sobbed and then again and again, “I did it. I did it. I did it.”

His words encased his features, a cotton blanket pulled over his head. He missed the way people screamed. He missed the shaking, glass clattering against one another. He missed the sound of Ben’s monster crawling from his chest, loud and violent and everywhere.

He missed it all, eyes closed, as he slipped between what was and what is.

“Klaus!” Ben shouted, voice tinged with desperation and it probably wasn’t the first time he’d called his name.

Klaus opened his eyes, still under the table with his forehead against the floor. He turned, expected his siblings to be staring at him with twin expressions of concern. There was nothing. Not even the waitress.

“Klaus!”

Klaus sat up, turned towards the voice.

Vanya was standing several feet away, back turned towards him. The people in black masks laid in limp piles across the restaurant, the customers slowly emerging from the shells they’d ducked inside once the shooting started.

Vanya was looking around. Her shoulders were hunched with tension and he could imagine her eyes were wide. Whatever she’d lost she was desperate to find.

Ben was standing a little past her and he wasn’t covered in blood so maybe the limp bodies weren’t necessarily bodies. Perhaps they were still alive, waiting for the law. Klaus didn’t think so.

Ben’s face was paler, his eyes so wide Klaus could see the whites from where he sat. He looked scared. Klaus couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen his brother look scared, not even when he’d died the first time. It was so odd, heavy weight building inside Klaus’s stomach at the thought.

“Klaus!” Ben screamed again and suddenly Klaus got it.

The thing Vanya was searching for. The reason Ben looked so scared. It was him. They were afraid he’d been hurt or worst and he accidently bumped his temple against the side of the table as he scrambled to his feet.

“Ben!” he called back, “Vanya!”

Vanya had already begun to turn at the sound of his voice, face melting into one of relief. Ben didn’t hesitate before vaulting himself across the room, quick to gather Klaus and squeezing. Like he was afraid that if he didn’t then Klaus would disappear.

“I did it,” Klaus sobbed in relief, “I did it.”

Vanya glanced around, eyes caught on the spot he’d bashed against the table corner. Her frown deepened, and she was probably thinking concussion mixed with adrenaline. A reasonable conclusion and the room was kind of spinning so maybe not an entirely incorrect one but he did it. He directed the waitress through the net, freed her into whatever laid beyond this.

“Did what Klaus?” Ben asked, pulled him away to inspect him.

Klaus shook his head, words lost to him. They really wouldn’t understand anyways: what he’d done, what he needs to keep doing. His place in the world, the spot their father had chosen for him.

“Klaus?” and at this point it didn’t matter who spoke.

Somewhere in the distance Klaus heard police sirens.

-

“They’re calling it a robbery,” Eudora explained, slow and casual as Diego stood, eyes kept fluttering to the door at the end of the hallway.

Five had already closed the distance, stomped like an angry child moments from a public breakdown. Diego let him, understood the fire bubbling in his gut. Raw and angry, bubbling up his throat and making his face burn.

Eudora had caught Diego by his arm on his way past, and normally he would have shook her off as he rushed in search of his siblings because they were in the hospital after the restaurant they went to for dinner got shot up. In a robbery of all things.

But her face was hard and serious as she demanded, “What are you doing here Diego?”

Diego probably shouldn’t have tried separating family from everything else because he didn’t have time to play twenty questions at the moment. Not when all Vanya said on the phone was that they were in the hospital after a shooting and all he could think about was Ben cold and lifeless or Klaus pumped so full of morphine he was colorless, dark eyelashes pressed against skin.

“My siblings,” he managed out before breaking from her grip to hurry down the hall.

She caught him again, spun him around. Her face was less hard than before. Gentle and placating and he knew she wasn’t going to exclude him from this.

“They’re calling it a robbery,” she explained without asking, “No causalities and only minor injuries. You’re siblings are fine.”

Diego released a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, chest lighter than before. They weren’t hurt. Everyone was okay. They were okay.

“You should go check on them,” Eudora told him with a smile, “I’ll fill you in later. And maybe you can fill me in on some details as well.”

Diego gave her a weird look even as he thanked her and hurried in the direction Five had disappeared down. Klaus was sitting on the edge of the bed, dressed in a hospital gown. Neither Vanya nor Ben were in a gown. Five stood in front of Klaus’s bed, arms crossed and expression furious.

“What happened?” Diego demanded, closing the distance and taking his brother’s face in his hands.

He twisted Klaus’s head back, dark eyes taking in the gauze tapped against his forehead. Klaus gave him a dopey smile, big and bright and every bit the child Klaus never grew out of. It made the lump inside Diego’s gut swell, sink down to his shoes.

“He’s fine,” Ben supplied from behind, “Bashed his head against the table he’d ducked under the moment the shooting started.”

And, before, that would have been enough to accuse Klaus of being a coward. Hiding the moment guns went off but Klaus always looked jittery once shooting started and Diego was grateful that he hadn’t been shot playing hero. And nobody in the room seemed to be in any hurry for calling Klaus out on hiding either.

So he just gave a low sob, hand clutching the nap of Klaus’s neck as he pressed his forehead against his brother’s. Klaus didn’t say anything. Just closed his eyes and sat there.

“I did it Diego,” Klaus breathed and when Diego pulled away to give him a questioning look Klaus just gave him another goofy smile.

“That’s all he keeps saying,” Vanya said, “We don’t really know what he’s talking about.”

Klaus bent forward, head against Diego’s chest. His breath was warm as Diego wrapped his arms around, hands settled over his shoulder blades sticking out like broken bird wings.

“Doctor says he has a mild concussion,” Ben offered, “They think that has to do with his,” he twirled his finger around his head in a broad gesture.

Diego got it, and he knew it was utter nonsense. He thinks the others did as well.

-

The room was dark. And it was cold so cold his bones felt like ice. He shivered, went to draw his hands around his bare chest only to realize he couldn’t. They were twisted behind his back, secured by wire so tight it made his wrists bleed.

Shuffling his legs he realized they were bound in a similar fashion. And no the ceiling. Funny because he couldn’t remember a reason he’d be tied upside down in the back of some meat locker. Because there was nowhere else he could be, now that he could smell the rot of flesh and the sweetness of sanitizers and bleach.

Something screeched, metal against metal. Scraping into one another, pulling and pulling until one of them finally gave as light began to slowly filter into the room. A rectangular box cutting diagonally into the small space.

He blinked at it, pulled away. Adrenaline spiked inside his stomach, heart beating against his ribs. He was shaking from fear, probably would have begun to cry if he wasn’t so tired.

“Hello Cindy,” a deep voice purred, figure standing on the ceiling except- no, that wasn’t right.

He screamed, the noise muffled by the tape wrapped around his head, body began to shake in anticipation. He was lightheaded and dizzy, blood pooling into his skull. Not that he thinks that it’ll matter soon.

“It really is a shame,” the voice sighed regretfully, “You were so beautiful. I almost hate that I have to kill you.”

He screamed again, praying for a miracle. Knew he wasn’t going to get one, eyes tracing the man’s long steps as he circled around his form as he hung by his ankles. Something flashed against the man’s side, light soft and muted. He thinks he tried screaming again, voice hoarse.

The man’s hand settled against his ear, low tuttering echoing inside the small space. The noise was disappointed. Despondent in a way he had no business sounding considering what he was about to do.

“But for as pretty as your face is,” the man said, “Nothing can forgive your attitude.”

The knife settled against flesh, pressed into the warmth. Cold and heat met, the man’s breath hot against the small of his back and then there was red. Red everywhere. Spilling out over his eyes as he made soft choking sounds, dripping into the drain underneath him.

Klaus bolted upright in bed. Ben glanced up from the chair he was sitting in, the one Klaus had pulled in while Ben was still a ghost and needed a place to stare creepily while Klaus slept. After bringing him back to life it was just too weird not having the chair.

He hadn’t really expected Ben to ever use it.

“You still talk in your sleep,” Ben offered, some semblance of what had once been their normal.

Klaus rubbed at his face, pulling on his features. He was so tired, felt like he hadn’t slept in years. Ears buzzing in the back of his skull, begging in the dead’s demand for attention.

“Yeah,” Klaus agreed in a dry chuckle, “I thought you missed sleeping.”

Ben snorted, “I forgot about the nightmares. How’s your forehead?”

Klaus reached up to prod at the spot. It was still tender, made the edges of his vision go fuzzy and Klaus stuck out his bottom lip in thought.

“Sore but I’ll live,” Klaus reassured quickly before grinning sharply, “Real glad they decided that concussion victims don’t need to stay awake for twenty four hours. That wouldn’t have been fun.”

Ben hummed, dark eyes staring at him. Klaus knew that look, wasn’t sure how it would translate now that Ben couldn’t brood in the peace of the afterlife.

“How are you Ben?” Klaus asked, always asked whenever Ben got that look even when he knew he didn’t want the answer.

Ben’s finger scratched at the chair’s arm. Fidgety and nervous. Bad signs. Ben wasn’t used to requiring so much self-control all the time, easier after you were dead and couldn’t hurt anyone anyways. Klaus didn’t think that was what the nightmares were about though.

“I’m fine,” Ben lied, “You want to talk about this. You being sober and thinking you need to shoulder it alone.”

Klaus shrugged, climbed from bed. He wasn’t going to sleep anytime soon, not with the phantom pains tingling around his throat.

“You’re the first to ask about it,” Klaus told him, tossing his covers back over his pillow before glancing around for some pants.

He’d gone to bed in an oversized faded AC/DC shirt. Klaus wasn’t entirely sure where he got it, knew it was stolen from some poor sap who’d opened their door to Klaus for longer than a day. Ben stared at it, brain moving behind his eyes and he never liked Klaus just holing up in random people’s homes.

Then he blinked and must have realized what Klaus was doing because he asked, “Going somewhere?”

“Just for a little walk,” Klaus reassured as he tapped his forehead, “Clear the old noggin.”

Ben’s expression darkened. Klaus gave a low sigh even though he knew he deserved his brother’s skepticism and disapproval. Never did anything to prove his brother on the contrary.

“Feel free to join,” Klaus chirped, bending down to check underneath his bed.

Ben did end up coming, walked through the park in cold silence. Klaus burrowed underneath his furry black jacket, smiling brightly at Ben’s presence and because Ben’s always accepted his boundaries. So they walked through the park before taking a taxi to a nearby diner Ben allegedly always wanted to try.

Klaus has spent enough time with Ben to know when he was lying and was smart enough to figure out Ben had jumped on Vanya’s lead in feeding him. Klaus didn’t mind, liked not having to worry about what he was going to eat on top of his other issues.

This time the waitress was young with strawberry blond hair and piercing green eyes. Small, no older than eighteen and her entire face crinkled in a beaming smile. Ben smiled back and she almost turned into a puddle at the sight.

Klaus’s eyes flickered between the two of them, realization making his own smile flicker onto his features. Real and genuine and it didn’t hurt. After she took their order Klaus turned towards his brother.

“Don’t,” Ben warned.

“I can’t believe you got pancakes,” Klaus sniffed before Ben could finish, “I thought I raised you better.”

Ben actually glared, crossed his arms over the table, furrowed his brow and honest-to-god glared. Klaus went to take a sip from his water without looking, ended up having to search for his straw with his tongue. Ben’s glare morphed into one of exasperation.

“Not this again,” he groaned, getting Klaus’s smile to stretch around his straw even though he’d stopped drinking.

“Pancakes are just so mushy,” Klaus elaborated because he knew it would annoy Ben and Ben had been watching him sleep because he was having nightmares, “Nine times out of ten it’s the same batter as waffles but with a waffle you get that crunch.”

“Nothing in life is that serious,” Ben reminded him.

Klaus shrugged, “This is serious though.”

And that got Ben to chuckle, head dropping as a smile pulled at his features. Klaus’s grin softened considerably, and it’s been a while since his brother looked so content at anything. Klaus’s fault, he knew, and it made his chest ache.

“I’m sorry Ben,” he apologized without thinking, “For everything.”

Ben wasn’t smiling anymore. His head had snapped upwards and he looked surprised, slightly upset at something. Klaus just continued to stare at him, hoping to convey his seriousness.

“Klaus-”

“Waffles with extra butter and extra syrup for you,” the waitress interrupted as she set a plate with a tower of waffles that looked miles better than the pancakes she gave Ben.

Ben gave her a smile. She matched it- bright and real and good golly when was the last time anybody looked at Ben like that? When was the last time anybody looked at Ben at all? The thought shouldn’t have made Klaus hurt as much as it did.

“You want to talk about them?” Klaus asked, “The dreams, I mean?”

Klaus,” Ben sighed.

“You don’t have to,” Klaus reassured, “but you’ve supported me through all my crap I just thought that maybe I could help you with yours.”

Ben paused, stopped to think. Klaus twirled the cup in his hands. The condensation made his palms wet, leaving smears of water across the table.

“It’s not like that Klaus,” Ben promised, didn’t elaborate.

Klaus got the message. He didn’t ask again.

-

“I had a dream last night.”

Five turned towards the sound of his brother’s voice. Klaus had settled beside him, so quiet Five had missed his approach- something that hasn’t happened in years. Five was almost impressed except Klaus had always been able to wander around on silent feet. It had just been hard to forget when Klaus announced his presence every time he entered a room.

“Riveting Klaus,” Five grumbled, “Really.”

Klaus didn’t notice the tired sarcasm, didn’t comment on the way Five shuffled away from his pressing heat. It was weird. Being surrounded by so much life, his siblings’ oppressing warmth making his skin crawl.

“The thing is,” Klaus continued heedlessly, “I don’t think it was a dream. I think it was a memory. Of our dead waitress.”

That perked Five’s attention as he turned back towards his brother and Klaus wasn’t looking at him but Five knew. Klaus- the asshole- knew he’d caught Five’s attention enough so that he would do whatever idiotic idea Klaus had concocted.

Five knew this and yet he still heard himself ask, “And what were you doing in this dream?”

“Dying, I think,” Klaus breathed, “Or, at the very least, our waitress was.”

“Did you confirm with said waitress?” Five inquired, the logical thing to do once again alluding his ditz of a brother.

Klaus shrugged and explained, “She’s gone. Moved on to a better place.”

Five rubbed at his temples, “Since when were you able to do that? Or have their memories?”

Klaus looked almost giddy, the child deprived of him for so long, as he admitted, “I don’t know. This is all very new to me, but I can’t do it without the right trigger.”

Five turned back at his brother.

“Meaning?”

Klaus’s next smile was sharp as he offered, “The first time Ben slapped me when he was still a ghost was right before I was going to take drugs. The next was when Vanya turned this house into rubble. Then again at the theater and back at the restaurant.”

“High pressure situations,” Five concluded, voice breathy in excitement.

“Whenever I almost die,” Klaus agreed, “The irony, I know.”

“What do you know about irony?” Five demanded with a sniff but he was smiling, mind twirling in thought. At the possibilities.

Then the implication of what was just said caught up with him.

“Klaus-”

“I have a plan,” Klaus rushed, “Or, well, more of an idea. Theory, really. Beginning stages honestly but enough.”

“Klaus,” he pressed, motioning for Klaus to hurry it along.

Klaus gave a regretful sigh, “I need intense situations before I can control my powers and since I’m no longer suppressing it then I-”

“No Klaus,” Five snapped suddenly, surprising himself.

He didn’t surprise Klaus though. Klaus didn’t even seem to notice as he backtracked and corrected.

“I was thinking about starting a business,” Klaus said, “One of those bogus psychic places that was all the rage in the eighties.”

“Except yours will be real.”

“Of course not and the pay will be crap. But it will be distracting and maybe- who knows- the police will hire us and they will put us nearby intense situations.”

“You want to be put in danger,” Five said, voice dull as he propped his elbows on his knees and stared incredulously at his brother.

“I want us to be put in danger,” Klaus corrected as he gestured between the both of them, “I want to go into this business with you. As my secretary.”

“I’m nobody’s secretary,” Five snapped.

Klaus beamed, “That’s not a no which is basically a yes.”

Five shook his head, “I don’t understand how your mind works.”

“Me neither,” Klaus hummed shoulders hunched and face impossibly pleased with himself, “I haven’t been this sober in a while and you know how they always say that off drugs your mind is clear. Free from all the bad influences? Well I’m here to tell you that’s complete and utter bullshit.”

Five blinked at Klaus. He looked so serious, heart out on his sleeve where it always seems to find itself. It made Five swallow back any snide comment he was about to say.

So instead he asked, “What are you planning Klaus? Really?”

Klaus’s next smile was soft and sincere as he explained, “Drugs and alcohol mute my senses. It’s like wrapping my brain in cotton and I always thought it had been okay. My powers suck and it’s not like there’s any other off switch but I can’t do that now. So I need something before it drives me utterly insane.”

And wasn’t that just the story of their lives? Maybe Klaus was smarter than anybody gave him credit for, Five made a mental note of that.

Klaus already had Five- knew it perhaps before the conversation had even started- but still he probed, “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because you’re smart and you’ve always been smart,” Klaus explained honestly not even trying to build on Five’s ego. Flattery before demands, a philosophy Five can’t even be certain Klaus is aware of because when he said it it just sounded like simple facts.

Klaus needed Five because he didn’t believe he was smart enough to figure it out. Because the last time anybody let him try he turned to drugs and then nobody had tried helping him. They just told him he was wrong and stupid for trying anything at all. So now Klaus needed a smart person. Or he thought he did.

Five swallowed, dark eyes locked on his brother’s face and physically Klaus is older than all of them but in that moment he looked so young. Afraid to do this alone.

“Okay,” Five heard himself agree and Klaus’s smile almost made it worth it.

Chapter Text

“I need a ride,” Klaus said as he caught Diego in the foyer, dropping his eyes in as pitiful expression he could manage.

Diego huffed. Looked annoyed but he always looked annoyed and Klaus was highly confident Diego was going to give him one.

“Please Diego,” Klaus added anyways- better safe than sorry, “You know I don’t drive.”

“Maybe you should start,” Diego snorted even as he stepped aside so Klaus could pass him and start towards the car.

Klaus hummed, agreed but didn’t comment. He couldn’t afford a car anyways and he could have asked Five for a ride but didn’t want to push his luck so soon.

So Diego.

“Where do you want to go?” Diego asked in the car, turning around to fix him with his I-don’t-have-time-for-this-and-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-it-so-don’t-waste-my-time look Klaus knew so well.

Klaus’s hands fidgeted in his lap. Nerves on edge, not at all helping the uncomfortable lump that’s settled in his stomach since he decided to go clean. Sobriety actually just sucked, the little drummer boy refusing to leave the back of Klaus’s mind.

“Where are you headed?” Klaus inquired sweetly, “We can just go there.”

Diego’s eyebrow rose, face incredulous. Klaus kept his smile soft and gentle and as genuine as he could despite the raging headache, lack of sleep, and constant screaming ramping up into level a thousand.

“Klaus.”

“Or the police station,” Klaus finished, “It doesn’t matter. I need to speak with your detective friend. The lady one.”

“Patch?” Diego asked confusedly, “Why do you want to talk to her?”

Klaus sighed, shrugged. He already knew it was going to be a challenge to get Diego to do what he wanted considering how against he seemed to have been the first time. Klaus just hadn’t cared then because he hadn’t exactly been thrilled either.

Now Klaus wasn’t sure he was thinking straight and hadn’t since he’d flushed his drugs down the toilet. It was getting worse though- almost catastrophically so.

So Klaus pulled out his trump card, “Please Diego.”

Diego swallowed, eyes wide. He seemed almost surprised when he nodded and said, “Okay man. Lean back.”

Klaus did, grinned victoriously. Diego didn’t speak to him on the ride over and colors made Klaus’s headache worst and it took everything to swallow past the bile building in the base of his throat. So the car ride was disappointingly silent.

“Do you want me to come in with you?” Diego asked as Klaus climbed from the car.

Klaus waved him off, shut the door gently because he knew Diego would kill him if he hurt his car. The building didn’t look as daunting this time around, though Klaus almost immediately got lost and ended up wandering around like a lost puppy for the next thirty minutes.

It was a miracle Diego’s detective friend found him outside the women’s restroom glaring at the water fountain in annoynce.

“Klaus?” a soft voice asked in surprise and when he turned to her he couldn’t help the relieved grin from his face.

“Detective!” he called back and her face smothered into one of pure amusement and it was easy to see what Diego liked her so much.

“Eudora Patch,” she corrected eyes flickering around curiously, “Are you lost Klaus?”

Klaus shrugged, hands shoved into his pockets. He was going for casual but Ben always told him it came off more as pitiful.

“I was actually looking for you,” Klaus explained, “I’ve decided to help with the investigation. The one of the dead waitress.”

“You still seeing her?” she asked, looking around.

Klaus shook his head, kept his grin in place, as he announced, “I have something better. I know where she was murdered.”

She didn’t look impressed.

“She was hung upside down,” Patch explained, “In someplace cold- fridge or meat locker perhaps. It’s hard to get an exact time of how long she was there but it is estimated to be between two to three hours. I am actually able to do my job.”

Klaus shrugged, “So you don’t want my help?”

Her expression was almost pained- stuck between realizing his use and unwillingness to place a random citizen in danger- and wasn’t that just incredibly frustrating?

She gave a slow sigh, “Go home Klaus,” turned away.

Klaus pouted- wasn’t one to give up. He hurried after her and his words didn’t make sense to his own ears. Patch didn’t look annoyed like random strangers and his siblings did though. If anything she looked amused.

Then, finally, she turned back to him and breathed, “What are you really doing here Klaus?”

“Would you believe me if I said I needed money?” and it was almost comical how her eyes practically popped from her skull.

“Diego said you were sober,” she protested.

Klaus tilted his head back and sighed, “It’s not for drugs, rest assured. I need it for a building. My new place of business.”

“Place of business?”

Klaus looked at her and grinned, “Ghost whispering. Finally offering my service to the public.”

She blinked, didn’t even bother trying to suppress her shiver. Klaus turned away from her and continued down the hall, stopping in the room Diego had taken him to the first time. Beside her desk a woman was sitting- wide eyed and obviously traumatized by something- as she spoke to the man and the woman across from her in street Polish.

The man looked confused, edges of his eyes crinkled in confusion and it was obvious that he didn’t speak any form of the language. The woman probably did speak Polish and she looked confused. She must not know street Polish and the woman was getting annoyed, going on and on about-

“That woman’s husband is dead?” Klaus asked Patch, “What happened to him?”

She turned towards the trio and then back to Klaus and when she spoke it was in a soft whisper, “Are you seeing something?”

“Always but not in this,” Klaus explained tipping his chin towards the woman, “She’s literally describing the murder. Puncture in the leg, bled out on the street. Was she a witness?”

Patch’s face creased in thought, eyes flickering between Klaus and the woman. Klaus sat and waited patiently. Figured he already knew the answer.

And finally Patch said, “You understand her.”

“I’ve had the practice,” Klaus reassured her, “The killer had been a woman. Small breast. Dark curly hair. Almond shaped eyes, kind of like a cat. And tan. The killer had been so tan she originally thought it was her natural skin color.”

Patch blinked at him before moving to the other side of her desk and tapped away on her computer before moving back to the woman.

“Was this the killer?” she asked gently, pulling a picture of a woman on the other desk’s computer and turning it towards her.

Even people who couldn’t speak Polish could have figured out that it was considering how her eyes widened considerably and her exclamations were loud and edged with panic. Patch quickly flipped the screen back over, the other two turning towards her.

“How’d you do that?” the man asked but Patch’s dark expression was locked onto Klaus.

“I’ll get you a check,” she decided, finally, “and will consider your offer Klaus. And at the moment it is only under consideration.”

Klaus beamed as he saluted and practically whooped, “Yes ma’am.”

-

The place wasn’t as bad as Vanya had honestly been expecting. She was almost ashamed that the moment she’d been informed Klaus had bought a place for a business she’d immediately pictured a rundown shack that would certainly kill one of her brothers.

It wasn’t, though. It was actually quite nice.

A good sized building with a single red door and window that stretched across the side of the building. The blinds were down and the window was dirty but there was certainly potential in it. Plus it was within walking distance of the ocean. Five’s eyes kept flickering over to the beach, to the people running and screaming and playing, in disbelief.

“How’d you afford this place?” Five demanded, rudely interrupting Klaus’s rundown on the basics of his new place: one floor, a two room layout, wood ceiling and hardwood floors.

Klaus blinked- eyes wide. His face flickered in confusion for the briefest second before melting back into the excited smile he hasn’t dropped since telling them he bought a whole building.

“I solved a murder,” Klaus explained so casually it had Vanya blinking back at him, “Some really rich dude apparently. I got two paychecks for it- the police’s and the man’s wife. She’d been really sweet. Pity what happened.”

“Rich dude?” Vanya asked the same time Five pressed, “Not our waitress?”

“Nah. They didn’t want my help on that one. I don’t think they really wanted my help on the one I did solve but, well, she’d been sitting right there and no one could understand her so- well. Yeah.”

Vanya shook her head, trying to pierce the words together into something coherent and sensible. Always a challenge whenever it involved Klaus.

“You solved a separate murder through a separate ghost?” Vanya queried for clarification.

“No ghosts,” Klaus corrected, “She had been Polish and young and they were trying to make sense of it like it was formal Polish or something. The girl had been growing annoyed, already traumatized enough and spilling her guts out and nobody had really been listening.”

“Since when do you speak Polish?” Vanya asked but Five was grinning maniacally- the expression he made whenever he was thinking of something.

“You were always good at picking up languages,” Five announced, face bright and fevered, “The ghosts right? Speaking to the dead in their native tongues.”

Klaus shrugged.

“Well the boxes are not going to move themselves,” Vanya announced, change in topic, because Klaus’s hand had started scratching the other.

He needed a distraction- needed this to be his distraction as much as he needed it as a way to help do whatever he wanted to do with his powers. Five had been sort of sketchy on those details. Weirdly so and what Klaus was planning she hoped Five would help keep him safe from.

“Our things, yay,” Klaus breathed, scrambling for the closest one propped beside him.

It also just so happened to be the smallest of the several stacked in the back of Five’s van. Vanya groaned, couldn’t remember why she’d agree to help. It was almost enough to get her to wish Luther wasn’t in LA with Allison because he’d literally been born for things like this.

“Your things,” Five corrected snappishly and it was almost cute how Klaus brought out the child from their technically older brother even as Five climbed out to help carry the boxes inside.

“Aw. I like to think since it’s our new business than it’s our things now,” Klaus continued seemingly oblivious to the effect he had on Five.

It was nice. It sent a bright smile to Vanya’s face and she suddenly remembered what had her agreeing. Five would never admit it out loud but he was intrigued by this idea, if nothing else, but Vanya would go so far as to say he was excited. To find a new purpose. To gain a new mission. To have an excuse to punch at least one person in the face.

Vanya grabbed a box labeled ‘FRAGILE: KEEP THIS SIDE UP’ with the arrow pointing down. She flipped it over before hefting it into her arms and started in the direction of the building.

Outside the building’s walls were a soft white color, roof a muted green. Inside the bottom half of the wall was a pale blue wood paneling laid vertical. The top half, separated by a long strip of wood, was a crème color.

“This is nice,” Vanya noted because neither of her brothers were talking.

“Yeah,” Five agreed, “You did a good job Klaus.”

Klaus preened under the praise, looking impossibly happy. Impossible for Klaus, at least, and it made Vanya’s chest swell with warmth.

Vanya set the box she’d been carrying beside the window. There was plenty of space inside and all the windows allowed a lot of natural light to flitter in and Vanya was embarrassed to think she’d been imagining a dark box in parts of town not even Diego would travel to. Dirty, filled with bugs. A place no sensible person would buy.

“What are in these boxes anyways?” Vanya asked.

“Oh just some office supplies I snagged from Dad’s forbidden room,” Klaus explained almost casually, ignored the look both his siblings gave him.

“Didn’t the apocalypse happen the first time because you’d stolen from Dad’s office?” Five demanded sharply.

Klaus shrugged, grinning brightly. It was the happiest Vanya thinks she’s ever seen her brother- bright and carefree and almost giddy- and she couldn’t stop the smile that crossed her features. It was so easy nowadays, being around Klaus and maybe that’s why so many of the ghosts turn towards him.

“Yeah but only because I’d thrown it away and it’s just little things. Nothing too mind-bendingly weird,” he brushed off but she didn’t miss his soft, “I hope.”

From the look Five gave him Vanya figured he hadn’t either.

“Real encouraging Klaus,” he said, voice dull in his lack of amusement but he turned to left to get another box from the van anyways.

Klaus turned to her, expression intense as his eyes practically sparkled in his happiness.

“You consider my offer any more?” Klaus asked.

Vanya shook her head and explained quickly, “I already have a day job Klaus and this isn’t really my scene.”

Which was a little less true than the first time she’d said it, when she’d still been imagining dust and cobwebs and cockroaches that scattered at the light.

“Five’s lucky though,” she continued with a smile, “He has a nice view.”

“Yeah,” Klaus agreed, face distant, “I thought it would be a nice change of pace for once. And Ben always nagged me to go to the beach when he’d still been a- you know.”

Vanya swallowed, “Have you asked any of the others to join your whatever this is?”

Klaus shook his head, chewing on the insides of his cheeks. He was rubbing at his wrists, almost subconsciously and she was impressed at how many days it’s been since his last hit of anything. Even the rest of them have downed something alcoholic or loaded with caffeine- some more than others, but everyone at least once a day.

She hasn’t seen Klaus touch any of it.

“Ben and Diego would be against it,” Klaus explained, “and Luther and Allison are preoccupied with more important matters.”

Vanya tapped her finger against the top of the box as she tried, “For what it’s worth I think it’s a great idea. Just promise you’ll be careful.”

Klaus’s grin was a little more reserved that time and she knew she wasn’t going to get any reassurances from him. It made her stomach sink, eyes caught on her brother’s face even as Five banged noisily back in the room.

“Hey assholes,” he snapped sounding aggravated, “There’s still boxes in the van.”

-

“Have you decided on a name?” Vanya asked him at lunch- her treat since she wasn’t able to join him though Klaus also figured it had to do with her determination in feeding him; a little weird considering how many days it’s been.

Klaus met Five’s eyes and said, “Yes,” the same time his brother snapped, “No.”

Klaus allowed his face to drop into a faux pout, crossed his ankles when Five kicked his shin under the table. Vanya’s dark thoughtful eyes looked between them with an air of amusement. Klaus had been grateful for her help today, had hoped she’d change her mind on his offer. She hadn’t but that was still okay.

“We’re not naming it The Third Eye or 69-420,” Five growled annoyed kicking him again when Klaus snickered, “Those are stupid.”

Klaus fingers fluttered across the table top as he narrowed a look at Five and reminded, “I didn’t hear you come up with any suggestions.”

Five attempted to kick him again but Klaus moved his legs and adopted a disappointed expression as he clicked his tongue back at his brother. Five fumed, fingers dancing towards his butter knife.

“Well you don’t necessarily need a name yet,” Vanya cut in eyeing Five warily, “There’s still some work that has to go into the building first.”

Five’s hand flattened over the knife, gaze still staring up at Klaus in warning. Klaus grinned innocently back.

“I guess,” Five concluded when it was clear Klaus wasn’t going to answer before pointing the knife accusingly at him, “but it’s clear I can’t trust this moron to come up with something sensible. Vanya? You’ve always been creative.”

He spun on her so quickly it looked like Vanya got whiplash. She blinked, fidgeted in her seat. Nervous under the attention, funny considering what her career was.

“You don’t have to if you don’t wanna,” Klaus reassured quickly, “but I’m always open to suggestions.”

She looked at him, face melting into- something- before she decided, “I’ll see what I can come up with.”

-

The phone rang- had been ringing for the past five minutes- and Diego glanced at it on his way past. Odds are the call wasn’t for him and from the look Ben was giving it from over the banister it probably wasn’t for him either. Nobody else had appeared at the sound though.

“You expecting a call?” he asked as he stepped up to it, fingers closing around the plastic cautiously.

“No.”

Diego swallowed and answered, “Hello?”

“Diego,” Allison sounded as confused as he felt, “I- is Vanya around?”

“I haven’t seen her,” Diego replied, racking his brain on the last time he’d seen their sister.

Then again, when was the last time he’d seen any of his siblings since dropping Klaus off at the police station. Besides Ben they didn’t even seem to be in the house.

“Oh? I thought- Luther said she was usually around,” Allison offered and Diego scoffed at the thought of Allison and Luther alone in LA together.

“Yeah. She usually is,” Diego agreed, “Is there a point to this Allison?”

At their sister’s name Ben crossed the rest of the stairs and came to press so close to him Diego could smell what he had for breakfast.

Allison gave a low sigh, “I just want to make sure you boys aren’t being complete dicks to her. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but you’ve never been gentle with her before.”

Diego swallowed, remembered all the times he’d been short with his sister and he knew that being annoyed with siblings was natural but he’d been so cross with her all the time. But the others- Ben and Five and Klaus- hadn’t been like that. Never really been like that.

“She’s fine Allison,” Ben reassured as he slipped the phone from Diego’s lax grasp, “She’s probably just out to lunch with Klaus and Five.”

“Lunch?”

“Yeah,” Ben agreed, soft smile crossing his features and Diego wondered what it had been like speaking to them and not being heard, “I can tell her you called.”

“No. It’s fine. I just… thought I would call. I miss you guys.”

“We miss you too Allison,” Ben reassured, “Give Luther and Claire our best.”

She paused, wanted to say more. She didn’t, in the end.

Just offered a soft, “You too,” before hanging up. Ben set the phone back in its cradle as he turned to stare at Diego and his expression was dark.

“Allison’s afraid we’re bullying Vanya,” he offered like Diego didn’t already know- hadn’t heard every word.

Diego hummed, “We made it a habit. Before. Relax Ben. She’s probably just out with Klaus. It is about that time.”

Ben glanced over at the clock, brows furrowing. He’s been on edge since coming back to life, and they were all more open to each other this time around. They were more together, at least, so Ben wasn’t around Klaus as much as Diego thinks Ben would like.

It must be hard, though. Spending every moment with the same person for all that time and then suddenly being told they both needed to get on with their lives. Separately. Diego had worried about Klaus adjusting at first but it was Ben who seemed to be struggling.

“Do you need a ride somewhere?” Diego offered, “I’m just about to leave.”

Ben perked up and asked, “The police station?”

“Klaus isn’t there anymore Ben,” Diego sighed- knew because he’d showed up and Eudora blinked at him in surprise.

“You just missed him,” she’d said and didn’t know where he was planning on going when Diego pressed so he had no choice but to let it go.

Ben puffed his cheeks out in frustration, fingers twitching at his sides. Diego has seen the same gesture on Klaus whenever someone drank in front of him. An addict off their high and trying very hard not to think about it.

Except Ben’s high wasn’t something he could just veer off from. Not when it seemed to be Klaus- knowing where he was, making sure he was safe. Whatever dependence Ben had built while he was dead clearly hadn’t evaporated the moment he wasn’t anymore.

And Klaus was much the same but had a laundry list of other issues piled on top it was impossible to discern what was bothering him in any one moment in time. Sometimes Diego thought Klaus didn’t even know.

Not that it mattered. In the end.

The door opened and their three missing siblings trailed inside chattering about names. Klaus was looking smug, cheeks bright in a life Diego hasn’t seen in a long time and it made Ben’s face melt into something so soft and gentle Diego momentarily forgot how to breathe.

Five had his hands crammed in his pockets. Face screwed up in displeasure but his eyes betrayed him. He would grumble and fight it but Klaus will always get away with it. Always had, even when they were younger and more naïve and thought the worst that could ever happen was getting caught doing something they shouldn’t.

Vanya’s face was more reserved in her amusement. Eyes bright with a smile Diego doesn’t think he’s seen in years. It was weird- standing on the outside looking in, looking at them- and he thinks this is what Vanya’s felt all those years.

“I thought it was clever,” Klaus was saying like he did whenever he was lying about something, “It alluded to you so well. Delores and the Little Psycho.”

“We’re not. No,” Five protested, stumbling over his words as his brained seemed to short-circuit at how idiotic Klaus was being.

Diego’s chest softened, felt Ben twitch at his side. On the outside Ben looked grateful at the sight of Klaus being healthier and happier than he’s been in a long time. Inside Diego knew his brother was quivering in his jealousy.

That was part of Ben’s problem. He didn’t want to be jealous, knew Klaus wasn’t a thing he could just monopolize all the time and they weren’t children anymore. Knowing it to be true was a little different than their emotions though. Uncontrolled and often unexplainable.

“It is a bit long,” Vanya piped in and Klaus blinked at her.

“Aw come on Vanya,” he pouted dramatically, “Not you too.”

She held her hands up in surrender, “I’m just saying. Wouldn’t you want something shorter?”

Klaus grinned sharply and shrugged. When he turned back around he caught sight of them and his face practically melted.

“Ben!” he chirped, “Diego! Expecting a call?”

“Allison called,” Diego explained, “She was making sure we weren’t being mean to Vanya. I think she misses us.”

“I miss her,” Klaus admitted shamelessly as Vanya past him and hurried to the phone.

“She sounded content,” Diego continued as Vanya redialed their sister’s number, “Her and Luther, I mean. Good idea setting those two alone together.”

Five shrugged, “I got tired of watching Luther moping around.”

Beside him Vanya’s face split into an open smile only Allison could draw from her as she breathed, “Hey Allison.”

“Where have you three been?” Diego asked, moving from the phone to give his sister some space eyes flickering around his brothers’ faces for clues.

Five grunted and moved away. Klaus followed after, grinning to himself. Neither offered an explanation which meant they were knowingly being obnoxious (possible) or they weren’t planning on telling him (equally as possible).

“Klaus,” Ben sighed and there was something in his voice- a real tension that reverberated through each of them.

Even Vanya looked up from her phone call, fidgeting nervously. She probably thought she’d done something wrong, which was sort of true. She knew more about what was going on with Klaus than Ben did and it was bothering him.

An unhealthy dependence. Diego’s seen it in some of the victims he finds before Eudora can- siblings from broken families- and Diego had always thought that as screwed as they were at least they weren’t that. Couldn’t even stand being in the same room as each other for very long.

Klaus turned, the only who seemed unbothered, and his grin was fake and sharp and sometimes Diego wished he didn’t know what that expression looked like, “Yes, brother mine?”

“Where were you Klaus?” he demanded.

“Out to lunch,” Klaus reassured and it was true but he was also hiding something and Ben saw it too, made his jaw pop.

Five turned back around, bored by the lead of conversation and his heels clicked on his way up the stairs. Vanya had turned her back to them, talking animatedly to their sister. Explaining how she still has rehearsal but spent more time at the old academy as well.

The conversation never turned to Klaus. Diego wasn’t sure if Allison just wasn’t talking about him or if Vanya was purposely avoiding the topic.

“Eudora told me how you helped with that Polish diplomat,” Diego tried, “Said you were compensated quite well- by the police station and the woman."

Klaus shrugged.

“I had been leaving,” Klaus explained, “On my way out. No other world assistance necessary so you two can lighten up. A dangerous woman was placed behind bars today.”

“Perhaps celebratory drinking is in order,” Diego tried.

Klaus’s face spazzed, reeling back as if in pain. Diego half-expected Ben to break his nose just on principal alone- on getting that type of face from Klaus- but Ben just stood stiffly.

“That’s not fair,” Klaus sniffed, spinning to stomp up the stairs, “I’m going to my room. Don’t worry. I’ll leave the door open.”

“Klaus isn’t drinking,” Ben muttered dully once the stomping couldn’t be heard anymore, eyes staring in the spot Klaus had been.

Diego clapped him on the shoulder, still waiting to get punched. Ben didn’t. Ben looked lost and numb and- damn them all- Ben should never look like that.

“He’s stronger than the rest of us,” Diego affirmed and that actually wasn’t the weirdest thing he’s ever said before.

-

“I want to go to the ocean.”

Klaus didn’t look up, long yarn snake twisted around his thigh. It was black, with a horizontal red stripe at the completed end. The other end, the one he was working on, had the beginnings of a white circle top of a number one visible under Klaus’s needle.

“You can go whenever you want,” Klaus reminded him unhelpfully, “You don’t need me to take you anymore.”

Ben leaned on the doorframe, was going for casual but his chest was crying out. A monster unrelated to the things he usually kept in there. Klaus’s words weren’t cruel, thought Ben was suffering between going from dead to alive. Only half true.

“I want to go with you,” Ben said, and he didn’t say it was because he missed him because he most certainly did not.

But he dreamt of Klaus twisted and lifeless, broken and bloodless and wrong. He dreamt of Klaus so lost in his drug induced sleep he couldn’t tell if he was still breathing or not. He dreamt of Klaus, blood streaking down the side of his face as he had to stifle his crying with his fist. Closet door bending under the stress of the man Klaus had been staying with for the past week and a half because Ben kept complaining about being homeless and when the man demanded sex Klaus had refused so the man broke a lamp over Klaus’s skull in retaliation.

That got Klaus to look at him, eyes wide. Crocheting needle limp in his hand and it took Ben an embarrassingly long minute to realize Klaus thought he needed space. That he’s been trying to give Ben space because he was no longer teetered to him- like that was the only reason Ben stayed all that time.

Ben forced himself to relax, kept his expression a welcoming neutral as he tried, “Let’s go to the ocean Klaus. Clear your old noggin.”

Klaus didn’t even seem to notice Ben was mimicking his words from this morning. His face had settled and he looked almost excited, waiting for Ben to cruelly yank the rug out from underneath him.

“Let me change,” Klaus agreed, eyes so bright Ben couldn’t help but beam back at him as he turned to give him some more privacy.

Klaus was wearing jeans Ben thinks was in his own closet that morning, faded and hung off Klaus’s waist and made him look smaller than he was. All bone and skin and Ben swallowed. He was wearing a white button down with green and gold vertical stripes and it looked as if it belonged in the seventies, buttoned up to his neck and sleeves cut off. Revealing that dark tattoo that contrasted with his pale skin.

They didn’t speak, which wasn’t abnormal for them. It was oddly relaxing, monster in Ben’s gut quietening in Klaus’s presence. Still and calm and content.

They took a taxi to the ocean. A thing Klaus used to do whenever Ben was a ghost and told him he wanted to spend the day at the beach. Never questioned him, never argued. Ben would just ask and Klaus would go and Ben had always been grateful for that before.

This was different, being alive and not depending on Klaus to take him places. It was like a part of him had been severed and every time he looked over to speak with Klaus and his brother wasn’t there he felt the emptiness pang around in his chest.

Monopolizing Klaus was wrong. He knew that. It was just hard not being around him. Not having him at his side and knowing where he was every moment of the day.

Klaus was getting better, staying the most sober Ben thinks he’s ever seen him and he’s seen Klaus struggle with addiction. Knew it was hard for him, harder than he was letting on. But he was trying and Ben wanted to be there for him in ways he couldn’t have before.

“I thought you hadn’t liked the police station,” Ben noted because Klaus had asked to go and when Diego told him Ben had almost broke his nose.

He needed to stop hitting his brother though. Especially since Diego hadn’t done anything wrong and had always watched out for Klaus when no one else had bothered. It had just been easier sharing Klaus when he’d been the only one who could see him.

Klaus’s face dropped into a thoughtful frown as he said, “I needed to speak with Diego’s detective friend. About the dead waitress.”

Ben glanced around them, searching for something he could no longer see. Klaus didn’t feel like he was jumping between conversations though so she either wasn’t speaking or not there.

“And?” Ben prodded gently.

Klaus shrugged, stopping as the ground morphed from earth to sand. His face split into a bright grin as he slipped his shoes off and rushed into the sand, flailing awkwardly in his attempt at running. Ben chuckled amusedly, setting his own shoes off beside Klaus’s and following his brother.

Klaus ran to the water, soaking the bottom of Ben’s jeans and dying it a dark blue. He burrowed his toes in the wet sand, sinking a couple of centimeters in height. He had his arms held out, clothes ruffled by the salt and the wind as white foam circled his ankles.

Ben came to stand beside him, ignored the way wet jeans clung to his skin. A pet peeve of his before he died and could no longer feel the cold or wet or anything else, and it was a relief being alive and being able to experience all those things again.

“The waitress isn’t around anymore,” Klaus told him suddenly, eyes still closed and chin tipped back as he allowed the ocean air to nip at his skin, “I helped her move on back at the restaurant when you and Vanya were busy beating up the people with the guns.”

Ben paused, turned. Klaus didn’t seem to be waiting for his reply. He wasn’t looking for anything, just felt like Ben would like to know. He was right and Ben swallowed when he realized he probably hadn’t told the rest of the family because they had a habit of ignoring him.

“I didn’t know you could do that,” Ben tried cautiously.

“Me neither,” Klaus admitted, dropping his arms and bright eyes fluttering open, “Dear old dad did say I hadn’t even scratched my potential in the afterlife though. Guess I can make them corporal and help them move on. No wonder they spent most of my life yelling at me.”

Ben stared at Klaus because Klaus was speaking so someone would just listen to him. Not speak and try to tell him how he was supposed to feel about it. The silence settled between them again, worn like a favorite sweater.

It was moments like these that made Ben miss all the time he’d spent with Klaus before- a concerning thought because Ben had never thought of himself as being needy before. Klaus must have realized the darkening of Ben’s thoughts, always been uncanny about that.

He spun on his heel, shoving Ben in the chest. It didn’t hurt but it caught him off guard and had him falling back in the sand, seafoam pooling in his lap and Klaus’s laugh carrying over the sound of the waves breaking and crashing.

The monster inside Ben purred. Only Klaus, Ben thought chuckling even as he leapt from the sand to chase Klaus through the waves and sand and felt lighter than he has in a while.

-

“I’m starting a business,” Klaus told him at lunch, cup of water in front of him and eyes fuzzy in thought and Ben realized he’d been building up to this moment.

Ben stared and waited patiently.

“With Five because he’s a- I’m selling my ability and he’s always been good at pushing the boundaries of his so I figured why not?” Klaus explained, loose tongue and nervous.

Ben’s brain stalled over the phrase ‘selling my ability’ like Klaus was some street whore and he’s always been a bit shameless and Ben always hated it. Then the rest of it caught up with him and he puckered his lips.

“You can’t do your powers unless you-”

“I know,” Klaus reassured quickly, “but I can see the dead all the time so maybe I can do the rest too. I just haven’t figured out how yet.”

“But for the moment,” Ben pressed, face set and serious and he’s always encouraged Klaus to focus when using his powers but this was different. This was Klaus’s life.

Klaus shrugged and didn’t reply. Ben’s eyes narrowed.

“Klaus,” Ben warned.

“I’ll have Five,” Klaus argued and it was a sensible argument but Five wasn’t Ben and the monster was growling in jealousy.

Ben got it though, why Klaus had asked Five over him. Ben was too protective, and Klaus was trying to settle distance between them because Ben was alive and needed a life outside of him. The monster was less sensible and Ben still remembered being a child and thinking of the thing in his chest as some mindless creature of destruction.

It liked Klaus though, weirdly enough. Even before Ben had died and spent almost every moment with him. Maybe it felt some sort of companionship with him or Ben’s own emotions were reflecting through. Or maybe it was because Klaus made it so easy to like him- especially while sober.

And Five would never admit it out loud but ever since he jumped in the future and saw all of them dead in the rubble he’s been defensive of them. He’d keep Klaus safe and in return Klaus would watch out for Five. They’d make a good team.

But still-

“You’re trying to get hurt,” Ben whined.

Klaus shrugged, didn’t bother denying it. There was no point. Ben would have seen through it, has always seen through Klaus.

No Klaus.”

“It’s too late,” Klaus told him, “I already bought the place, and Vanya is thinking of a name. Set and done and out of our control.”

“You mean mine?” and Klaus leveled him with a look.

“I always value your opinion Benny boy but this is something I’ve got to do and I knew you’d protest,” Klaus reasoned and the worst part was that Ben couldn’t even deny it because it was true.

Ben’s frown deepened. Klaus leaned back, stared.

“What if I promise to be safe?” Klaus edged as he held up three fingers, “Scout’s honor.”

“You were never a Scout Klaus,” Ben reminded but a smile had found its way on his face so Klaus blinked back wearing a soft expression.

Klaus sighed and he looked serious and it made Ben’s stomach do funny things. Klaus didn’t get serious often, always hid his pain behind jokes and smiles so sharp they could cut glass. Ben had always thought he was immune to those looks but guess not.

“Okay,” Ben said, already knew he was going to regret it.

-

The door opened, closed.

“We’re closed!” Five shouted though he couldn’t tell who’d entered.

It didn’t matter, boxes still stacked and they didn’t even have a name because all of Klaus’s was terrible. Two desks were delivered that morning, Klaus leaving before anybody was awake and they only figured out where he was because he called around noon to ask Five where he was.

Vanya had adopted a concerned look, couldn’t kidnap Klaus for lunch if he was already gone, but this was the most serious any of them have seen Klaus about anything since drugs. So even if it made Diego glower darkly and Ben frown like he already knew how this was going to end neither said anything. Wanted Klaus to have something that was his.

They were probably upset that Klaus didn’t ask them to help after Klaus asked Five and Vanya. Afraid they were going to tell him no because they were afraid of Klaus hurting himself. A valid concern, Five was starting to realize as he watched Klaus flutter around the office.

He wore a blue turtleneck sweater that hung from his thin shoulders and Klaus has always been thin but Five never paid much mind to it. They were all skinny before puberty took over and even then remained relatively lean. Klaus just grew upwards, stayed small and could wear all of their clothes easily. The jeans he thinks belonged to Diego, who Five didn’t know owned anything except leather.

He wasn’t wearing shoes, having swept and mopped the wooden floors before the oak desks came sometime in the morning. Five didn’t even know Klaus got desks, wasn’t told how much money he got but it must have been impressive because Five’s desk looked new and was an expensive shade of red.

And before Five arrived Klaus had piled his boxes for him to sort through. It had been what Five was preoccupied with when the door opened, Klaus giving him a confused look before moving to answer it.

“We’re closed!” Five announced without moving from his desk because Klaus was a bleeding heart and was overeager to force this to work.

So he was surprised when Klaus’s icy tone snapped, “Get out.”

The woman ignored him, stepping past the wall, heels clicking behind her. Emerald eyes sparkled as she took in her surroundings, wise enough to not look displeased considering they weren’t open and both of them had told her to leave already. Fiery red curls was cut to her chin and she was the type of attractive that knew she could turn heads without doing anything.

“Now Klaus,” she chided stopping by the window and turned to bat long eyelashes at him, “you’ll never keep business if you treat everyone like that.”

Klaus’s glare darkened, eyes narrowed and Five knew anger. He’s felt enough after coming back in time to stop the apocalypse but his had always been more fiery. Hot and burning and explosive in so many ways.

Klaus’s, it seemed, was cold. Eyes glossing over and jaw twitching as he continued to stare at the woman. It made Five pause. Realized he’s never seen Klaus upset before. He didn’t think he liked it.

“I’m not treating everybody all like that Lyla,” Klaus told her and his voice matched his face, “I’m treating you like that.”

The woman, Lyla, hummed. Clicked her tongue in the back of her throat as she continued staring at him with an unimpressed expression. Whatever she did to his brother she didn’t feel any remorse over it and Five was caught between respect for her and comradery to Klaus- who didn’t hold grudges easily.

“Grow up Klaus,” she berated, “You’re not a child anymore.”

“I wasn’t a child before either,” Klaus reminded her, “and last I checked it was you who-”

“Now, now Klaus. There are children present,” she interrupted and Klaus’s jaw clicked shut but his face still looked stormy in his anger.

It was so weird seeing Klaus upset by another person’s presence and Five has spent enough time around people to separate the malicious from the not. And he couldn’t narrow down on any malevolence radiating from her.

Klaus’s eyes flickered over to where Five was standing. He looked like he was waiting for him to snap at her for calling him a child, which he normally would have done instantly. He was more intrigued at finding out just what she’d done to his brother though, so he stood and waited, muscles tense incase he’d been wrong and she turned out to be a threat.

When Five did nothing but stare back, Klaus snapped, “Don’t call him that. Actually you don’t speak to him. Don’t even look at him the rest of your time here.”

And he’d been standing in the doorway but closed the distance, taking grip of her arm and giving her a firm shake. She didn’t seem bothered, eyelashes fluttering up at him as she tipped her head back to stare at him.

“I’ve missed that protective fire,” she hummed, reaching out to brush his shoulder, “and I’ve missed you Klaus.”

He shook her again, skin pale.

It was clear her presence was stressing him out, mind caught on whatever it was she did to him. Reeling in the obsession only Klaus could manage. She didn’t seem bothered, didn’t even shake him off and argue and Five thinks it would have been easier if she had.

She knew she’d wronged her brother and showed up asking him for help anyways.

“We’re closed,” Five repeated, coming out in a snarl as he felt heat begin to bubble in his stomach and crawl up his throat.

They both ignored him, caught in their past. Maybe if Five was Ben and knew what had happened then he could get her to go. Maybe if he was older or taller or anything except stuck in this damned body.

Then again, maybe not.

Klaus sighed, dropping his hold on her.

“Really because I haven’t given you or that husband of yours a second thought,” Klaus told her, voice brittle and cold and usually when Klaus was shoved back in a corner he curled up and hid.

Played the submissive part, always had. It was odd seeing him lash out aggression and Five didn’t know if it was because this was because of the woman and what she did or everything else Klaus has gone through since then.

“You wound me Klaus,” she pouted, beautiful face dropping into an attractive scowl and it wasn’t fair how it lessoned some of Five’s displeasure at her being there.

A side effect Klaus seemed immune to apparently, face remaining puckered and cold and reserved and it only made the sickening feeling inside Five’s gut continue to drop.

But even so Klaus decided, “Say your piece Lyla and then get on with it.”

She tilted her head to the side, face turning up in a smile. Pleased with herself but not at all surprised. She knew Klaus was going to help when she’d entered, spinning him around and around on some yawn Five couldn’t see.

“A woman died the other day. A Miss Cindy Bowell, a waitress at some unimportant diner my husband often frequents- reminds him of the time he managed to spend with you,” she reached up to pet the side of his face.

He caught her wrist, eyes never leaving her face. His face was stormy and if Five already wasn’t uncertain than the expression would be enough to get him to pause.

“Say it Lyla.”

“The police are going to say my husband killed that girl,” she explained simply, “and I need you to prove that he hadn’t.”

Something switched inside Klaus’s eyes as he reeled back and said, “No.”

She gave an annoyed sigh, green eyes flickering over to Five like he was going to offer her help. Five continued to glare back- daring her to try something.

“He’s innocent,” she protested staring back up at Klaus, “and the police are going to track the murder back to him because they can and then they’ll put an innocent man behind bars. Is that what you want Klaus? Really?”

Klaus gave her an unimpressed look.

“We both know that your husband is far from innocent,” Klaus told her and she clicked her tongue but didn’t argue.

Five has either been gone longer than he thought or he’d missed something since her arrival. He didn’t recognize the woman, couldn’t think of who her husband was or what they could have done to Klaus or why the police would arrest him. And he didn’t like not knowing.

“But he didn’t kill that waitress. Someone else did and is framing him and the only one who can prove that is Cindy Bowell,” and suddenly Five got it.

Klaus must have realized the same thing because he did pause. Gave Lyla a look and she figured she had them both at that.

“Come now Klaus,” she tutted at him, “You don’t think I’d just show up here without a little foresight first. There’s a reason you went to jail and not my husband. Twice.

Klaus’s face settled back into a glare, and Five knew Klaus went to prison. Heard him talk about it and it had sounded like an offhanded comment at the time. Now he glared at the woman, felt his fingers begin to search for something he could use as a weapon.

He probably shouldn’t stab anybody before they opened, especially considering the floors were really nice. But the image of a young Klaus betrayed twice by the same people made his insides cry out for blood.

“Maybe now it’s your turn,” Klaus replied dully, impossible to read his thoughts.

She reached out for his face, fingers settling against pale skin. He didn’t brush her off this time, and Five really hoped he wasn’t stuck in the past because then someone is going to die. Perhaps two someones as soon as Five figures out who this husband was.

But then Lyla’s face was soft and gentle as she breathed, “I had to Klaus. He was going to throw everything away for you. Don’t let my mistakes cloud your judgement on this.”

“Why do you keep covering for him Lyla?” Klaus demanded, “You’re not teenagers in love. You’ve never been teenagers in love.”

“We both loved you,” Lyla protested, “You survived us, even after figuring out who we are. After you realized we’d been lying to you for almost a year.”

“Are you seriously defending your actions to me right now? Why am I even bothering to ask? Of course you are because this is what you do. You hurt people and expect to get away with it.”

Her fingers dug into the soft of Klaus’s cheek, leaving half-moon imprints in his skin. Still Klaus didn’t move. Didn’t even seem to notice.

“Correction Klaus. We hurt people and do get away with it,” and there was a definite threat mixed in her words and voice as her eyes narrowed before it all softened back over, “but not this time and the only witness we have right now is the dead girl.”

“So you sought me out knowing everything else?” Klaus challenged, “Does he know?”

Lyla dropped her hand, smoothing out the front of Klaus’s sweater. Hand comfortable, familiar in its descent along his chest.

“Of course not,” Lyla hummed, “He’d hang me for involving you, and I can’t imagine what he’d do with you afterwards. He’s never gotten over you, you know, and your second stint to prison was for your own protection,” her smile was all glittery and dangerous, “We both know how he gets when he becomes obsessed with something.”

Klaus snorted, unbothered by her words or the implications behind them. Five shuffled, eyes narrowed and shoulders bunched- a guard dog on duty. He was starting to think Ben wouldn’t have let her very far in the door, one of Diego’s knives burrowed in her chest after she started speaking. While Five just stood there and listened because at first he was curious and that had begun to spiral into something else and now it almost felt like a failure.

“And if I decline?” Klaus challenged.

Lyla didn’t look impressed. Five moved, crossing the room to go stand beside his brother and stare warningly back at her. Willing to stand beside whatever decision Klaus made.

Lyla didn’t even glance at him as she turned away, heels clipping against the wooden floors. She stopped beside Klaus’s desk, finger running along the surface.

“I can compensate you comfortably,” she tried even though it still sounded like a threat, “Enough to keep this little business of yours up and running for months without any customers.”

“Are you trying to bribe me Lyla- like some two cent whore?” and Klaus sounded so offended by the thought.

She turned back towards him, smile mean as her eyes flickered over Klaus and Klaus had never been shy about anything: his sexuality, his looks. Not even his addictions. And Five’s never thought of himself as a protective brother. He loved his family, sure, but they were adults and needed to realize that adult decisions came with adult consequences.

Now Five had to suppress the urge to cover his brother or gouge Lyla’s eyes out for even thinking about looking at him like that. It was so much worse than her treating Klaus like some two cent whore. It was like he was her property and they both knew it.

Five moved between them, glare darkening several shades. Her eyes flickered down to him and her eyes became less predatory. If only because of his age, and it was the first time Five found any use in this body.

“We both know,” Lyla hummed as her eyes moved back up to Klaus’s face, “that you’re worth much more than two cents and that you almost cost us everything.”

Klaus scoffed but said nothing.

“And what’s worst is that we’d do it all again for the opportunity to have you in our bed just one more time.”

Five felt his spine bristle, Klaus’s hand settling against his shoulder. He must have known- could always read them better than the rest of them. Or he’s the only one who’s actually bothered to try.

“I’m not that same person anymore Lyla,” Klaus told her softly, “and the last I want is your charity.”

“Then do your job and prove my husband’s innocence,” she replied, “so we can part ways and never see each other again.”

Klaus snorted like he didn’t quite believe her. Five wasn’t sure he did either, and it was so much different having another person talk about sex with Klaus than Klaus talking about sex with strangers.

“If your husband is innocent than the police are smart enough to figure it out. You don’t need me,” Klaus told her, all excitement from opening this business void from his voice.

Lyla was already shaking her head before Klaus finished speaking, “We both know the moment they get a chance to nail him then they’ll be on it and they won’t look at anything else. It won’t matter and whoever killed this girl will get away with it.”

Klaus pursed his lips, crossed his arms and asked, “What was your husband doing while Cindy was being murdered?”

Lyla blinked like she was shocked at the question.

Klaus dropped his arms, look nearly withering as he said, “I know you well enough to know when you’re keeping something from me Lyla. I’ve had a bit of practice, after all.”

It was the first time since walking inside Lyla looked uncertain. Klaus had that effect on people, Five knew, but Lyla held herself with a certain pride few carried. A confidence that bled through everything she did and everyone who encountered her knew it as well.

She dropped her head and whispered, “Klaus.

It was the closest to begging she’s come to the whole time. The first time she didn’t seem to be in control.

“Your husband deserves to be locked away,” Klaus reminded firmly.

“And her killer gets to walk away?” she challenged- her ace card.

Klaus didn’t reply. He just continued to stare at her, face set in a firm expression. It was like he was going to refuse to budge, and he needed Lyla to know it too.

Lyla’s hand settled back on Klaus’s desk, check settling against the surface. Klaus didn’t even glance at it, continued to stare at her with that closed off expression he’s worn since she entered as she crossed back to the door.

“Tread carefully Klaus,” she warned at the doorway as Five went to pick up the check.

He heard the door slam shut, felt Klaus’s return. Five hadn’t stopped staring down at the numbers, and he’s grown up surrounded by a comfortable amount of money. He held certain privileges he knew others lacked but the check he held was something else.

Klaus plucked it from his hold, didn’t bother looking at it as he folded it in half and dropped it in the waste bin they were currently using as a trashcan, and that seemed to be the end of that.

Five was wrong, of course, but he hadn’t known it at the time.

Chapter Text

Eudora looked moments from having a break down. Diego could relate, knew they had the pieces but it was like the corners were clipped far too carefully. The picture it left too bright and obvious and almost sloppy and Alessandro didn’t do careless. It was part of the reason he’s gotten away with some of the most horrendous crimes with not even a slap on the wrist.

And they both knew it.

“How long can you hold him?” Diego asked, eyes narrowed as he stared at the man behind the glass.

His silver hair was short, bangs parted so it favored the left side of his face, and his blue eyes were calm. Spheres of never melting ice and on anyone else they would look strange but on Alessandro’s face they looked natural. His face lacking any age lines: smooth and unbothered by his current predicament.

The suit he had on was expensive, dark fabric. Purple tie almost standing out amongst all the black sucking the color from where he sat. Hands placed in front of him, on the table and handcuffs looping around the bar.

His eyes never left Diego despite the fact he couldn’t see through the mirror. It was unnerving and though Alessandro was the one in jail it was clear he was the one in control.

“72 hours,” Eudora told him, “though it’s never stuck before. He’ll walk out of here before noon. Diego I-”

Diego uncrossed his arms, felt his biceps shift, as he reassured, “I get it Eudora but this time is different.”

“Which is what’s bothering me,” Eudora sighed, “He’s never been this careless before so either he’s planning something or he’s-”

“Innocent,” Diego finished and gave a soft, “Jesus Christ.

“Yeah,” Eudora agreed weakly, “and he’ll see to it that everyone under this investigation mysteriously disappears. It’s happened before- on the cases he can’t frame others for.”

“He frames other people?” Diego asked and he’s heard the name Alessandro Russo- knew he was the most frustrating man for the police because of his minor involvement in the Crimson Sword, an Italian mob that sounded closer to ghost stories than real life.

Eudora shrugged, “There’s cases declared solved, but he isn’t the one who goes to jail for it. And now he’s sitting in our interrogation room for a murder that has the most evidence tying him to it and I can’t do anything about it.”

“Because you think he’s innocent.”

“Because I don’t think he killed Cindy Bowell,” Eudora corrected, hands fidgeting at her sides as he eyes continued to stare at the man behind the glass.

“I would like some water,” Alessandro spoke, first time since his arrival, “If you intend to keep me waiting detectives.”

Diego ignored the words but it looked as if he’d punched Eudora in the gut. She doubled over, releasing a heavy breath as her forehead pressed against the glass. He set his hand against the small of her back, reminding her that she wasn’t alone.

“It’s okay. I’m here. It’ll work itself out- always has before,” Diego promised, tried not to think of the way her head lulled when he tried holding it in that hotel room. The way skin cooled beneath his touch.

“I don’t see how. Miggins is already coming for his head,” she told him and he knew she loved her job but in that moment it lacked any enthusiasm.

“Yeah well Miggins is an idiot,” Diego said bluntly, voice edging on humor and it got a smile to touch the corners of her mouth.

Alessandro dipped his wrist to the side, blue eyes flickering down to the face of it. His lips twitched upwards, reminding Diego that he was in control and everybody knew it.

“I would hurry this along detectives. You don’t have much time left.”

“Slimy bastard huh?” Diego asked.

Eudora straightened, face a blank mask. “You have no idea.”

She moved past Diego and he was tempted to reach out to stop her. Eudora was strong but her corpse still played in his nightmares. He forced himself to remain still, was invited only because Eudora didn’t want to face this snake of a man alone and the only person she felt she could really trust was him. He had to prove that that wasn’t a blunder on her part.

Alessandro rolled his attention back to him, face a bored expression and his eyes never left his face. Not even when Eudora entered and took the seat across from him.

“You going to ask me where I was the night Cindy Bowell was killed?” he asked, question directed at Eudora but his eyes remained on Diego.

“Well let’s hear it,” Eudora said, leaning back and going for casual.

“You will soon enough I’m sure,” Alessandro reassured leaning forward, “but I can see it in your face. You know I didn’t kill her. You have good instincts. You should listen to them.”

“Okay so let’s talk about Georgi Paltivich. Or Marie Caster. Or-”

“Closed cases,” Alessandro reminded, “All solved and if you’re trying to intimidate me than I am rather disappointed detective.”

Eudora tipped her head to the side, “Should I be intimidating you?”

Alessandro’s grin was cold and fake and made Diego’s gut clench in fear. Dangerous, his mind shouted at him and he may have not killed Cindy but he’d done much worse to others like her.

“Do whatever you feel necessary,” he told her as he leaned back, “I have nowhere else to go after all.”

Gloved fingers settled against the cold metal table, calm. Not at all a man cornered and it made Diego want to reach through the glass and shake him until he realized where he was. He couldn’t though. Could only curl his fingers and snarl his teeth at the figure.

“Where were you on the night of Cindy Bowell’s murder?” Eudora asked.

“I was out of town,” Alessandro reassured, “Family business.”

“Not Crimson Sword business?”

Alessandro chuckled, leaned forward, “You still think I have a minor position in this imaginary mob of yours? And you think, what, I killed the waitress for a bunch of ghosts?”

“You tell me,” Eudora edged, “What reason does the mob have for wanting her dead?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps you should ask them. Or you could stop chasing fairytales and join the real world,” Alessandro said and it wasn’t condescending or filled with cynicism and Diego was almost convinced that he didn’t know what Eudora was talking about.

The Crimson Sword has, after all, avoided police detection for almost thirty years. In the Police Academy the recruits all talked about bringing them down before they were reminded that the mob couldn’t be real. There was no evidence, no connections to anything. Just a bunch of weird cases they could vaguely tie to people like Alessandro and even he only held a minor position. Unimportant, all things considered.

Eudora must have thought the same thing because her shoulders tensed but she didn’t get a chance to ask him anything else. The door to the investigation room opened, a dark skinned officer poking his head in.

“Let him go Eudora,” he said, dark gaze flickering over to Alessandro and frowned, “His uncle is here. Said him and his wife was in Beijing at the time of the murder.”

Alessandro didn’t look surprised or smug when he leaned forward and held his wrists out for Eudora. His face remained passive, blue eyes intense as they stared expectantly at her. Diego didn’t even realize the man had a family much less a wife.

“We’re not done here,” Eudora told him even as she undid his handcuffs.

The smile Alessandro gave her was void from any warmth or compassion and it made something inside Diego’s chest stall to a stop.

“I’ll be waiting eagerly,” Alessandro agreed as he rose to his feet and fixed the cuffs on his suit, “Until next time.”

“Is he in there?” a concerned voice sounded from the hallway before a man with a rounder face and light brown eyes that reminded Diego of melted chocolate: warm and sweet and not at all the cold that sat inside Alessandro’s, “Alessandro?”

Alessandro fixed him with a look- as calm and collected as before- as he greeted with a slight dip of his head, “Uncle.”

The man’s face split into a bright smile as he closed the distance between them to encase Alessandro into a tight hug. Squeezing his neck with the back of his hand before pulling away to fix Eudora with a nervous expression. He twitched and she gave him a reassuring smile.

“Is my nephew in trouble?” he asked, wringing his hands and looking so simple and kind that Diego felt a pang in his chest.

Alessandro was fortunate growing up with someone who loved him so much and instead of exceling he killed people. The pang turned hot, twisted and Diego had to force his fingers to uncurl before they broke skin.

Alessandro stood next to the man, blue eyes staring down at Eudora, as he asked before she could reply, “Where have you been uncle?”

His uncle turned to him as he explained, “I was cloud watching, nephew, when I received the call,” he turned towards Eudora and explained, “It’s an old hobby of mine, you see. I tried passing it off to my nephew but he’s too serious for such simple habits. Isn’t that right nephew?”

Alessandro dipped his head- eyes flashing with the first bit of emotion he’s shown the whole time before slipping back behind his mask. He remained silent. Diego almost wished he’d say something, reprimand the man who had no reason to take care of him but chose to anyways.

His uncle didn’t seem to notice. Continue to smile- bright and pleased and kinder than the world deserved.

“Is he free detective?”

Eudora’s dark gaze flickered over to Alessandro but her face remained pleasant as she told him, “Yes. He’s free.”

-

“Everything okay Five?” Ben asked, surprised at the murder in his brother’s young face so early in the morning.

He was holding a Styrofoam container with three drinks in it- extra dark coffee for Five, mostly milk and cream with a dash of caffeine for himself and a green tea for Klaus- on top of a larger box of donuts from the place they used to go to as children. He thought it would be a nice surprise for his siblings, a break from all the unpacking and moving and he loved Klaus but being around him could be draining.

“No,” Five admitted even as he stepped aside to allow Ben entrance, “Klaus is in there. He’s a- someone came by earlier today.”

Ben felt himself brighten at that, excited for his brother. Five’s expression stopped him from congratulating them out loud though. The beginnings of fear tainting the fuzzy glow of happiness that had settled in his gut.

“Did you get a name?” Ben asked, dropping his voice to a whisper as he turned back around to face his still glowering brother as Five clicked the door shut.

“The check said Alessandro Russo but it was a woman who came,” Five explained and it was clear from the slight disinterest in his voice, the flippancy at speaking the names, that he didn’t know who those people were and he certainly didn’t know how they knew Klaus.

The boxes slipped from his hands, donuts bouncing inside the container as the drinks tipped over and spilled everywhere. Five gave an annoyed shout, dancing backwards to avoid the dark liquid spilling out towards him.

Ben was already in the other room, hands folding around Klaus’s elbows. Klaus, who had been sorting through a box labeled ‘SUPPLIES’ and was mostly filled with scraps of paper and pencils well past their usefulness, startled at the desperation in Ben’s hold.

“Lyla was here?” Ben demanded, ignoring the way Klaus’s eyes clouded over as he pulled back; Five was watching from the arch between rooms.

“Uh. Yeah,” Klaus agreed shaking off Ben’s hold to return to his box, “Al’s back apparently. She wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to be arrested for that waitress’s murder.”

Ben reached out again, snagging Klaus’s wrists and it’s been so long since he’s touched anyone and his fingers looped around his brother’s wrist so easily. He reeled him back closer, uneasy eyes flickering around for any lingering threats.

Lyla would never kill Klaus though. She wouldn’t even physically harm him, but she was just as good at mind games and that she had no problem inflicting upon Klaus. That wasn’t what had Ben on edge though because they were dangerous, sure, but they killed everyone else before.

Innocent people caught up in their world of glitter and fame and passion- dead once they discovered the true nature of the people they decided to take to their bed. Killed without so much as a single thought.

Klaus has been the only one to survive their path of hidden violence because for whatever reason they were both infatuated with him. Obsessed to a level so alarming Klaus had ended up on Diego’s footstep asking for a place to sleep until he received news that they left. He’d lied at the time, said he just got out of rehab when it had been prison- for the third time in his life.

Diego never pressed, wanted to respect Klaus’s boundaries and was scared of pushing him away too soon. Normally Ben would have been grateful but then all he wanted was to shake his brothers and get them to talk. Maybe then Klaus wouldn’t have had to escape their manipulation alone.

“Did he? Kill her?” Ben probed.

Klaus shook his head, shrugged.

“I don’t think so,” he confessed, “Lyla was a little sketchy on the details on what else he could have been doing but they’ve been gone for the better part of nine years. And the first thing they did was kill some random girl at a diner Al maybe sometimes eats at?”

Klaus.

Klaus rubbed a hand across his face, stretching the skin and if he wasn’t careful then it was going to give him wrinkles. Ben didn’t call him out on it, inside aching at how tired his brother looked and ever since he’s decided to go sober it was like he’s aged considerably.

This was different then that time. Different than coming back from the war and feeling the strain every conscious second. This was before the death of their father, when Klaus had thought he’d hit the lowest point of his life.

“I’m not taking the case Ben. You don’t have to worry,” Klaus reassured, “No matter how much money they give me.”

Ben turned to Five for confirmation. Five nodded though Ben couldn’t discern if that was an affirmation on the money or their refusal to take it. He gave a deep sigh, forced the beast in his chest to calm itself.

“Was it just Lyla?” Ben asked as Klaus returned his attention to the box.

“Yeah,” Five answered and Klaus only ever got this way whenever he was bothered by something- really bothered and Ben could tell Five wasn’t sure how to approach this.

Ben wished he didn’t have to learn.

“That’s good though, right Klaus?” Ben asked, “Lyla is… less intense than her husband.”

Five’s eyebrows raised as Klaus stopped scrummaging through the box to fix him with an incredulous look.

Ben matched it with one of his own before he reminded, “She’s younger too. By several months.”

“It was Al’s bed I kept warm for half a year,” Klaus stated dully before rolling his eyes towards the ceiling, “and I keep calling him Al. Christ on a cracker I thought I’d moved on from these people.”

Ben set a comforting hand against his shoulder, squeezed in a way he hoped was calming. Klaus had never really handled stress before- turned to drugs or alcohol or sex and now he just had the support of siblings who never proved to care before.

“You need to breathe Klaus,” Ben murmured softly, “Did she mention anything else? About why they’re back?”

Klaus shook his head, eyes staring blankly in the box. His fingers were gripping the edges so tight his knuckles had gone white, bone protruding from pale skin. He was trapped in that place, though Ben didn’t know which- Alessandro’s room or the jails they sent him too.

“It seems a bit convenient huh?” Ben continued to push, “Coming back and that waitress dying? Is it possible Lyla was lying?”

Klaus’s fingers squeezed tighter, muscles practically quivering under the stress. When he spoke his voice was soft and delicate, still stuck in his past.

“She’s always lying about something,” Klaus whispered, “but they had no reason to kill Cindy.”

And Ben hated that if anybody would know that it would be Klaus. That Klaus was the only living soul intertwined enough in the couple’s drama to really know what they were capable of anymore.

Ben turned back to Five, who looked upset that he still didn’t have all the details. Ben gave another sigh as he ignored the beast’s growl- demanding the blood of those that’s hurt Klaus. And Ben was stunned at how separated he felt from his brother.

“Come on Klaus,” Ben tried reaching out to give him a gentle tug, “You need something to eat. To clear your mind.”

Klaus went, folded his hands over each other and began scratching nervously. Almost compulsory. He was coming down from something, the same look he had when he decided to go sober. The look he had after he was released from prison.

“I’m not really hungry,” Klaus protested, turning to pull away.

Five must have seen something Ben missed because his dark eyes narrowed. He didn’t say anything though. Placed his hands in his pocket and followed behind them casually. Ben really wanted to ask how much was on that check, hoped it wasn’t very much because then that meant they were over Klaus.

When he looked back at his brother he couldn’t help the feeling of dread crawl up his stomach. It seemed time and distance wasn’t enough to quell their fixation on him.

They went to a food truck that parks by the beach- cheap and filling and one of the reasons Ben always begged Klaus to go to the beach. Even when Klaus was at his worst in life he could give a reason to buy something there and considering how little he seemed to eat it always felt like a victory.

Now Klaus had his arms wrapped his stomach and asked for a soda. He sipped at it slowly and shook his head when Ben asked if he wanted something to eat as well. So Ben ordered him something to go and told him he could eat it later. Five didn’t comment, got a coffee and some dessert and chewed it silently.

“Have you two decided on a name yet?” Ben asked for conversation sake and he still didn’t feel right- Klaus doing this- but he never wanted to tell his brother that he couldn’t do something.

It was just hard. Watching his worst fears begin to unfurl and Five loved them but he wasn’t exactly Mister Delicate Touch. He hoped Klaus got that Ben pushing him was out of concern and love and not malice or some sort of sadistic pleasure.

Klaus shook his head. Didn’t even crack a smile, eyes staring into something no one else could see.

Five was the one who spoke up, “No. If you have any ideas we’re apparently taking suggestions.”

Ben smiled at him, missed him in the years he was gone. He had been surprised to discover he’d been the first person Klaus asked to join him on this and the more he thought about it the more it made sense. During the week before the apocalypse the first time it had been Klaus Five would turn to for help the most.

“I’ll give it some thought,” Ben promised.

“Have you decided on school yet?” Klaus asked suddenly, turning to him and so much has happened lately that he forgot about all the med school letters he’s been receiving.

When they were younger it had always been his dream- help heal people instead of hurting them. Then he’d died and all his dreams were shot to hell. Then, suddenly, he wasn’t anymore but they still had the apocalypse and Five being with them and Vanya finding her place that it had slipped his mind.

Actually, Ben hadn’t given it much thought because he didn’t have to. His siblings were the most important things to him and nothing- not even death- was strong enough to tear them away from him. But Klaus always looked so hopeful at it, would look at him with those doe eyes and bright smile because Ben was alive and could chase his childhood dream.

“I’d have to move,” Ben said instead and Klaus nodded like he understood- like it was obvious, “Wherever I choose.”

“Well I’m sure wherever you go will b nice,” Klaus told him and he no longer looked as small as he had before so Ben nodded.

Later, when Ben walked them both back to the office Five stopped him at the door. Eyes flickering after Klaus as bent beside a pile of boxes to sort through electrical cables and a portable fan whose cage had broken.

“For what it’s worth you should give it some more thought,” Five told him, “You need to explore parts of life you’ve deprived yourself from all this time. Klaus is-” he tipped his head to the side and Ben got it.

He smiled and hummed, “Maybe you’re right. I’ll consider it.”

Five squinted like he already knew Ben wasn’t and maybe if he’d never died and never ended up tied to Klaus then it would have been easier. He could leave and tell himself his family will be fine without him- that Klaus will be fine without him- and everything else that’s happened he’d be oblivious to. Was, technically, oblivious to because Klaus was capable of disappearing on occasion.

He was afraid that he left that the others would just push him away again and Ben was terrified of being told his brother was dead.

“I’ll watch him,” Five promised, so soft and heartfelt and completely unlike him, “Keep him from trouble so don’t worry.”

But Ben shook his head and confessed, “I’ll always worry Five,” and when he got back to the academy Pogo greeted him to tell him more school letters had arrived and he’d taken them with a pleasant smile before moving to his room.

He set them on his desk and didn’t look at them again.

-

The office was almost impressive how nice it was.

Diego had expected a cluttered space, dark curtains and muted colors. He hadn’t even thought Klaus would have gotten them desks and he certainly hadn’t anticipated how new the place looked. He almost felt bad about the succulent he brought as a housewarming gift.

He stepped into the main room and there was still boxes spread out everywhere but it was obvious Klaus had been busy. Beside the entrance was a small nook, lined by the big window outside. Folding around in sharp corners before back into the rest of the wall.

Klaus had two miniature grey loveseats, wooden desk propped in the middle of them. In the corner there was a bare ladder desk- a deep mahogany color. The rest of that wall was bare save for the stacked boxes and a portable fan Klaus had plugged in. The windows didn’t even have blinds on them, overlooking the busy street.

In the center of the room was the two oak desks that looked like they cost more than Diego’s living space- though to be fair he wasn’t paying very much on that. He couldn’t tell whose was whose yet because it was still mostly cardboard boxes, but he thinks Five will take the one facing the doorway so he can watch Klaus’s back.

Klaus was the first one to notice him, jumping to his feet and practically tackling him in a hug. He was smiling, which was an improvement from what he thinks Ben saw earlier.

“Klaus. No. Wait,” Diego protested, fingers releasing their hold on the plant so he could catch his brother.

Beside them was a flash of blue before Five’s disappointed scowl as he rose to his feet, plant safe in his hands.

“I just managed to clean the coffee out of the wood,” Five snapped, eyes dark and gloomy as he moved over to the table between the chairs to set the succulent on it, “So be careful.”

Diego gave the back of his head a smile. Knew Five would deny it but he was as eager about this business as Klaus was and maybe it started as something else but the more they invest into it the realer it was becoming. Whatever this was going to turn into they were ready to figure out.

“Of course,” Diego hummed as he released Klaus, “I’ve heard you two have had an eventful morning.”

Five glared but it wasn’t really directed at anything. It made the inside of Diego’s chest begin to flutter at the thought of someone protecting Klaus. Klaus’s face just twisted up in a pucker as he turned away.

“Is that why you’re here?” he asked and he sounded so disappointed.

“No,” Diego admitted, “I thought I would drop by to see this place for myself. It’s nice Klaus. You did a good job.”

Klaus beamed, basking under the praise. Diego doesn’t think it was something Klaus was accustomed to and it made his stomach sour uncomfortably.

Diego forced a smile back at him, clapping a hand over his shoulder as he gave him a comforting shake. Klaus looked so bright and pleased and Diego knew that whatever was going to come from this he was going to shine.

“When are you expecting to open?” Diego asked, careful and gentle in a way only Klaus could bring out from him.

Klaus shrugged. Five huffed and crossed his arms.

“We need a name first,” Five reminded and Klaus gave him a mirthful smile.

“Soon enough,” Klaus reassured, “There’s still a couple of things left for us to figure out first. Isn’t that right Five?”

Five nodded, face twisted into something dark and dangerous. Ben wasn’t very forthcoming on the details but Diego knew enough to know that it had upset all three of them. Diego could relate, had a long morning himself.

Diego stopped by the desk closest to the door, the one he thinks belonged to Klaus.

“You haven’t gotten a phone yet,” he noted.

“There’s a payphone outside,” Klaus pointed out unhelpfully, evidently missing the point Diego was trying to make.

Diego rapped his knuckles against the wooden surface and settled with, “Maybe you should invest in one. For convenience.”

“We’ll think about it,” Klaus reassured and when Diego looked at him he knew he was lying.

-

The man at the door had dark skin, tattoos running up and down his arms. He was bald, had on a checkered fedora and reflective sunglasses. He wore a tan vest, sleeves cut to show off his muscular arms and frayed pants worn well past their use.

Five glared up at him.

“We’re closed,” he informed him, going to slam the door in his face before Klaus could realize they had company.

The man stopped the door with the palm of his hand, prying it back open. Five felt his glare deepen as his fingers itched for something sharp.

Instead he forced a sickly sweet smile across his face as he said, “We are closed right now and if you don’t move along than I’m going to break both of your kneecaps.”

The man’s eyebrows crawled up his face as he chuckled amusedly, “Such violence for one so young. Must be hard working for a physic.”

“Medium,” Five corrected, “and we’re closed. Come back when we’re open.”

The man pushed, trying to edge himself into the building. Five fought him but was smaller and weaker and nobody ever took him seriously.

“Hey Sepulcher!” and he probably thought he was being clever with the nickname.

Five shoved the door with his shoulder, and it wasn’t enough to force the man completely back outside but it caught him off-guard. Trapped him between the door and the frame. It was almost satisfying, the way his face twisted in surprise and a wince of pain but then Klaus had turned the corner and he wasn’t quite glaring but he didn’t look excited either.

“Cloud?” Klaus asked, closing the distance and taking the door from Five and he didn’t miss the way Klaus planted himself between him and the newcomer, “I don’t really- I don’t do that anymore.”

Five glared from behind Klaus, was tempted to shove him away. To stand up for himself but this was something, he thinks, Klaus needed to do. But Klaus was trying to get sober and the last thing he needed was for his drug dealers to show up on his doorstep.

“I need your help,” the man, Cloud, pressed, “at solving a murder. Mine, actually. Apparently you do these types of things now. Maybe always. I don’t know. I never paid much attention to umbrellas. Please Sepulcher.”

Klaus’s face twitched before a fake smile stretched across his features. A mask he wore more than Five thought was appropriate.

“I think you should go Cloud,” Klaus told him, fingers wrapped around the doorframe and squeezing so hard Five was afraid the wood would splinter, “I can’t help you.”

Cloud pushed and Klaus let him, stepped into Klaus’s space. Klaus didn’t move. Kept that smile that was too bright and too sharp and too much. Five’s gaze flickered over to Cloud and realized his eyes were dark and troubled and almost scared.

Five fidgeted.

“The Crimson Sword’s returned,” Cloud pushed and this time Klaus did let him pass- the bigger man stumbling into the room with an almost dazed expression.

“I know,” Klaus confessed, hugging his center, “They arrested Al for the murder of a waitress. Why do you care?”

Cloud made a face, “I forgot you called him that. He came back with drugs.”

Klaus tilted his head to the side, “Which he then gave to you to sell on the street. What was it? Heroine? Meth?”

“They called it Fairy Dust,” Cloud explained, “I had my people run it through my lab. It’s potent stuff. Just a little is enough to kill a healthy adult. Imagine what it’d be like when teenagers get their hands on it.”

Five felt his stomach sour. Klaus still looked uncertain.

“Since when does Al deal drugs?” Klaus asked but Cloud was already shaking his head in protest.

“Not Al, Sepulcher. Hadn’t you been listening? The Crimson Sword,” Cloud pressed, “That’s why they were gone for so long. Don’t you see Sepulcher? Innocent people are going to die.”

Klaus still didn’t look convinced but Five tried picturing a younger Klaus, addicted to drugs. How easy it would have been to give him something lethal, how he’d have died alone in their bathroom and it could be hours before anybody checked on him.

“Why drugs?” Five demanded

Cloud turned towards him and snarled, “Because there’s money in it. And killing people is just a side effect to them now.”

Klaus shook his head though, “Why come to me then?”

“Because the police will listen to you,” Cloud pointed out, “and somebody has to tell them. They have to stop them.”

“Sure,” Klaus agreed, “but this is so unlike them.”

Cloud opened his mouth to continue to protest and the next Five heard the side of his head cracking against the wall. Black spots smudged the edges of his vision, eating the corners and making his stomach turn. Concussion, probably, as he slipped down to his knees.

The man stepped over his leg, turning to stare down at him like one would an insect before crushing it. Five instinctively jerked but his portals weren’t working and sticky red was still dripping down his face so he had to settle on snarling up at the expressionless face.

Cold blue stared back, gun clicking in his hand. Cloud stifled a terrified sob so Five figured this had been who he was scared of- the idiot leading him straight to them. Five could kill him on principle alone if he wasn’t about to die himself.

“Hey! Woah! No guns!” Klaus protested but Five kept his gaze up at his soon-to-be killer.

He was staring him in the eye when the man pulled the trigger.

Klaus’s hand folded around the gun, finger catching the hammer before it could go off. He didn’t bother glancing down to make sure Five was okay- knew he wasn’t if he hadn’t escaped already- as he stepped between them.

He pulled on the gun and the man let him take it. His eyes were softer too, melting as they gazed at Klaus’s face.

“Sepulcher?” Cloud asked and Five really didn’t care for the nickname.

The man must not either because his voice was cold enough to burn when he said, “Do not call him that.”

Cloud reeled back, curling in on himself even though the man’s eyes never left Klaus and Klaus had his gun. Five squinted, knew he’d missed something.

“Klaus?” his voice asked, soft and raspy like he was hurt and- oh yeah- he was.

“It’s okay Five,” Klaus reassured all gentle and kind and genuine that Five felt his body begin to relax despite the very real threat on the other side of his brother, “Nothing’s going to happen to you while I’m here.”

The man snorted and not in a cynical way as his lips upturned into a shadow of a smile. Blue eyes flickered over Klaus’s shoulder but Klaus repositioned himself so the man couldn’t gaze down at Five.

“How?” Five asked.

How do you two know each other? How did the man sneak up on all three of them? How was Klaus not even fazed when Cloud was practically quivering in anxiety and Five has lived long enough to know this man was dangerous- more dangerous than anyone he’s ever met before.

His voice had stopped working before he could finish any of his questions so he had to settle for sort-of-not-really starting them. It didn’t matter. Klaus understood either way.

“Five. This is my ex,” Klaus introduced without moving from his spot protectively in front of him, “Ex, this is my brother Five.”

The man snorted again, “Not even a name. You can’t possibly still be mad at me.”

“I can actually,” Klaus told him firmly, “but this has more to do with the fact that you came to kill us all.”

“That was before I knew you were the psychic,” Klaus’s ex reassured, handsome face seeming unbothered but his eyes betrayed him.

He was angry but not in the explosive type of way most people are acquainted with. It was the type of anger that froze you over before you realized the other person had a reason to be upset with you. It made Five uncomfortable, missed the kind of anger that lashed out and bit soft skin so hard it bled because that was what he was used to.

Klaus didn’t seem fazed, the only thing betraying him being the way his shoulders were hunched over protectively. They were always trying to protect him since his return- though he decided to give Klaus a pass on this one considering when he reached up to poke at his forehead it came away sticky and wet.

“Medium,” Klaus corrected, “and I think you should leave.”

The man’s smile was twisted as he reached up, gloves gone. Klaus flinched but refused to move out from in front of Five allowing the man’s fingers to curl around his temples.

“Of course Klaus,” he promised, “I’m very sorry you ever got involved at all.”

Klaus gave a low gasp, knees wobbling under the gentle hold against his forehead. He stumbled forward, long fingers twisting into the man’s expensive suit. Normal people would shove Klaus off, furious at him wrinkling something that cost that much.

The man didn’t. He pressed a gentle kiss in Klaus’s dark curls like they were still lovers and had the privilege of touching Five’s brother at all. From his spot on the ground Five snarled but was ignored as the rest of Klaus’s strength left him and he crumpled completely into the man’s arms, body limp.

“I’m sorry,” the man repeated as he caught Klaus in his arms before lying him gently on the ground.

Klaus’s eyes were closed, face lax and he looked so startling dead Five found enough strength to lurch forward. He reached out, took Klaus’s arm in his hand as he glared up at the man.

“He’ll be okay,” the man promised, “I’ve just calmed his thoughts is all.”

Five snarled again but the man missed it as he turned towards Cloud, who looked considerably less concerned now that he realized Klaus was still breathing. Pale and unconscious by a simple touch against his forehead but alive.

“That’s it then?” Cloud asked, “A second chance? Restart on the old memory?”

The man stepped up to him, reached out. Cloud didn’t pull away. Allowed the man’s bare fingers to wrap around his skin, eyes closed in anticipation.

“No,” the man said.

Cloud jerked, tried pulling away but he’d already been caught. Allowed himself to believe he was safe.

Five thought about what Lyla had said, how her husband was obsessed with Klaus. He thinks he got it now, watching uselessly as Cloud was pulled against the man’s chest. Neck trapped under the firm grip and when it snapped the man’s expression remained bored. When he released Cloud he crumpled lifeless and broken on their floor, body making a dull thump and it lacked all gentleness he held with Klaus.

He stepped over Cloud’s body to bend beside Five, who was still hunched over Klaus’s form. Five glared, shifted to keep the cold eyes from his brother but the man was focused on him.

“Tell me Five,” the man said, voice calm and bored- a man conducting business rather than murder and only Klaus could have an ex like that, “Would your brother mourn your death?”

Five didn’t answer. The man gave a low chuckle.

“Of course he would,” the man reassured, “He seems quite protective of you.”

His fingers pressed against Five’s uninjured side. He flinched anyways. The man shushed him and his face was detached but his touch was soft. Cold washed through him, morphing his vision into colorful swirls as he felt the last couple of minutes begin to rewind in his head and he’s never met anyone else born when he had been. He never even thought of it until that moment.

Then darkness swallowed him mid-thought and everything else was lost.

-

Five woke and the first thing he saw was Klaus’s concerned expression. He had the first aid kit Five didn’t know they owned opened by his thigh and was dabbing his temple with gaze.

Five’s face twisted with pain as he reeled back and his voice was slurring when he protested, “Stop it.”

Klaus caught him with a gentleness Five didn’t know any of his siblings were capable of. His eyes were bright and serious, and Five found himself captivated by them.

“You have nice eyes,” Five noted, “I’ve never noticed that before.”

Klaus offered him a smile as he set the bloody gauze into a bowl he’d brought over. His movements seemed jerky, camera on shutter, and Five squinted. Drunk without alcohol and it was an odd sensation.

“You have a concussion,” Klaus told him, “but you’ll live. What’s the last thing you remember?”

Five blinked, glanced around. He was on the floor of their office, and the only other indication that something was wrong was the knocked over boxes in the corner. Their stuff spilt everywhere and it looked as if someone riffled through them in search of something valuable.

“We were robbed?” Five asked, Klaus leaning back on his heels.

“Do you remember that or are you using context clues?” Klaus pressed still gentle and kind and Five never realized how tender his brother could be.

“I must have knocked my head,” Five said dumbly, “My memories are kind of dark.”

Klaus’s eyes flickered over to their spilled stuff as he admitted, “Me too.”

There was something in his voice that set alarms flashing behind Five’s eyes. He shifted, spike running through his skull and making him wobble. Klaus caught his arm and it had been his business that had been robbed- had been attacked himself- but he was worried for Five. It was so Klaus that Five felt his body deflate under the hand.

“What is it Klaus?” he demanded- voice harsher than Klaus deserved.

Klaus didn’t seem bothered- didn’t really notice. His gaze was on the knocked over boxes like he was searching for something there. Some sort of memory neither could bring forth.

“It just seems odd, right?” Klaus asked, “Convenient. We can’t even call the police because neither of us can give a statement.”

Five blinked. “Klaus?”

Klaus rose to his feet, “Your head has stopped bleeding. I’m going to call the academy. Make sure everyone is okay.”

“Should they not?” Five asked, too dizzy and sick to move from his spot pressed against the wall.

Klaus didn’t reply as he moved to the outside. Five leaned his head against the wall, trying to recall what had happened but it was like the memory had vanished completely. He thinks it had been there, once, but it was almost like it had been erased.

He wasn’t even aware he’d been drifting off until Klaus was bending back in front of him, fingers tapping at his cheek to bring him back to awareness. Five blinked, felt young and vulnerable and he usually didn’t like those feelings but with Klaus on the floor he found he didn’t mind.

“The others are on their way,” Klaus reassured, “Diego will take you home.”

Five shifted. Something wasn’t right, and Klaus knew it. Convenient, Klaus had called it and Five thought maybe he was right. The scene too perfect, too careful and the fact that Klaus didn’t look injured but couldn’t remember made him uncomfortable.

“What happened Klaus?” Five asked, “Really?”

Klaus sat down in front of him, thin shoulders slumping forward. It made him look so vulnerable, so sad. Five’s chest ached, head pulsed.

“We were robbed,” Klaus told him but even as he spoke Five could tell that he didn’t believe the words, “Someone looking for something to pawn for drugs.”

-

Nobody spoke on the drive over, Diego pushing the speed limit. Vanya didn’t linger on that- was as eager to get to her brothers as the others. In the passenger seat Ben twitched, pale and on edge since Klaus called even after Klaus reassured them that they were alright.

Five was injured but nothing major. His voice had been distant, thoughts lost to something else and it made something sour and toxic curl inside her stomach. When they arrived the door was open, which sent Diego into a cursing fit even as Ben threw it the rest of the way shouting for his brothers.

Then, suddenly, Klaus was there. Thin and pale, arms hugging his center and looking fragile. Ben practically tackled him, his panic nearly sending them both to the ground. Klaus’s footing was surprisingly sturdy though. He managed to keep them both upright, didn’t even really stumble backwards as he clutched onto Ben just as fiercely.

Ben gave a low sob in the nook of his neck, fingers clawing at the back of his shirt and it wasn’t that Klaus was his favorite sibling. Klaus was, but he was also there when the rest couldn’t be. When he’d been dead- a sad memory the rest could call upon whenever they were feeling depressive.

Klaus had been there and in turn Ben had supported him. There was a bond that stemmed from that that not even changing the timeline could reverse and it was hard for Ben- not knowing where Klaus was every moment of every day. It was worst when Klaus called to tell them that his office was a mess and he couldn’t remember what had happened save waking up on the floor beside an unconscious Five.

She found Five glaring up at Klaus and Ben but it was muted, dulled by his concussion. The blood had been washed from his face, Star Wars Band-Aid taped against his pale skin. Vanya smirked. Knew Five was going to hate that.

“Five?” she asked, kneeling down in front of him. Diego beside her.

Diego reached out to grasp onto his shoulder and his voice was raspy from the fear they’d refused themselves since the phone call, “How’re you feeling buddy?”

Five glared but it was weak. His pupils were swollen, eyes nearly swallowed in the darkness. His skin was pale and Vanya yearned to reach out and take hold of him. Protect him from the world. It was almost funny. She’s seen him kill people without much thought and she still wanted to protect him.

“I’m fine,” Five snapped, “We were robbed.”

And Vanya knew Diego and Ben were against this idea because they were afraid of Klaus and Five’s carelessness- of how little regard they had for their own lives. This never occurred to them, she thinks. It certainly never occurred to her when she thought of all the bad things that could happen to her brothers.

Diego’s eyes were dark- promising pain to those who did this- contrasting with the gentle tone of his voice as he hummed, “We know buddy. Stay still. What do you remember?”

Five furrowed his brow, “I don’t remember anything.”

“That could be the knock on your head,” Vanya offered but Five shook his head, what little color he had in his skin draining. His dark eyes flickered to where Klaus was still being held by Ben.

“Klaus doesn’t remember either,” Five told them and Ben jerked at the words, pulling Klaus away so he could stare seriously at him.

Klaus?” he demanded and there was something in his tone that Vanya had missed- glancing at Diego she could tell he was just as oblivious as her.

Klaus shook his head, arms crossing over his stomach as he stepped back. Out of reach from Ben, and it looked like it had physically pained him to be apart from Klaus.

“I need to clean up,” Klaus said, “It was just a robbery. Don’t look too much into it.”

And none of them called him out for lying, but Vanya saw it in the troubled crevices of his face. The way his shoulders slumped as he turned away, so she thinks her brothers must have seen it as well. Worse, it was almost like he was trying to protect them from something.

Vanya couldn’t help but wonder what.

-

Klaus opened his eyes, barely managed to catch himself before stepping in front of the car. He gasped, coming back into awareness and the last thing he remembered was falling asleep. Spending most of the day picking up boxes and his spilled things, shifting through the broken and the not with Vanya and Ben.

He couldn’t remember why he was standing on the side of the road dressed in his tie-dyed underwear, bottom of his feet cracked and bleeding. His mind was clouded, groggy from sleep and it was almost like he hadn’t been awake until that moment.

It was still dark outside and he was standing by an alley one of his drug dealers used to linger. Cloud wasn’t there today, though, which was a little odd. Klaus’s eyes narrowed, staring down the darkened hole as his brain slowly mulled over something he thinks he was missing. Something that had been stolen from him.

“Klaus?”

He turned, glaring.

Lyla’s red Bugatti Chiron sat behind him having pulled it up to the curb. She had the passenger door opened, engine purring almost silently as she leaned over the leather seats to stare worriedly at him. She looked as if she just came from the gym, dressed in yoga pants and top that revealed slim shoulders and it was a look Klaus has seen to cause both men and women to check out the nice curves of her body.

Her eyes took in his mostly bare form and she must have got it because she straightened and commanded, “Get in.”

Klaus did, didn’t even hesitate. She handed him a white button up shirt and grey pants and he slipped the clothes on gratefully. They were too big on him but it was better than what he’d previously had on. The fabric was soft against his skin- something that felt like it cost more than anything Klaus could ever dream of affording.

“How was Beijing?” Klaus asked her as she pulled away from the curb, fidgeting with the front of his shirt.

Lyla’s face twitched into a frown before smoothing back out as she noted, “You’ve done your research.”

“That’s why you think Al couldn’t have killed that waitress right?” Klaus continued recklessly, “You were in Beijing.”

She didn’t correct him.

He pushed on, “What were you doing?”

Her eyes flickered over to him before back on the road, “Would you believe me and Alessandro were trying to rekindle the flame of our marriage?”

Klaus’s displeased voice must have given him away because she gave a soft chuckle, voice light in the small space of her car.

“Alessandro’s uncle reappeared shortly after you went to jail that second time,” she explained, fingers tightening around the wheel, “It was his idea to go to Beijing.”

“Al’s uncle?” Klaus pressed, mind trying to figure out how that made sense.

Lyla hummed, “From his mother’s side. He’s uh- he’s an interesting man. Dangerous in ways you can’t even begin to comprehend. My husband is terrified of him, and I’d be a fool not to be as well.”

Klaus scratched at the inside of her door, mind still slow from sleep but it was beginning to wake up under the seriousness underlying her voice. He doesn’t think Al’s uncle attacked him and Five yesterday though. Didn’t think Al’s uncle was responsible for nearly smashing his brother’s head in.

“What did he want from Beijing?” Klaus asked.

Lyla’s face grew silent and stony and before- when Klaus had still thought he loved these people- she’d promised to never lie to him. She didn’t have to tell him the truth, but she’d never lie and it was the most honest thing he thinks she’s ever done.

“Did he kill the waitress?”

Her smile that time was brittle and sharp and it made a chill creep down his spine, “Careful Klaus. You’re trying to connect pieces from two different puzzles while swimming underwater. You’re sober now, for the first time in twelve years, and your body is trying to figure out how everything works.”

“You think I don’t have control over my powers,” Klaus said dully.

She clicked her tongue and corrected, “I think you’ve never had a problem sleepwalking while you’d been on high.”

Klaus blinked, realized what she’d caught him doing. Realized she was right and suddenly had a sinking feeling in his stomach on what that could mean for him.

“I also think,” she continued carefully, “that there’s more going on with you than just being able to communicate with the dead. You’ve always been special Klaus. You’ve just never allowed yourself a chance to figure out what.”

Klaus turned to give her the most convincing smile he could manage as he joked, “I thought you liked me high.”

She didn’t return the sentiment. Bones nearly popping from her skin by how tightly she was clutching the steering wheel.

“No,” was what she settled on though, “I never did, and- for the record- neither had my husband.”

Klaus returned his attention to the passing scenery, felt a stab at the reminder that no one really liked it when he was on drugs and alcohol and whatever else he could get his hands on. They’d all just tolerated it because they were convinced they liked him.

“Don’t trap yourself too long in your brain,” Lyla’s voice warned, “You may hate yourself, but no one else does. You’re very likable and kind and if my husband had you longer you may have even made an honest man out of him.”

“Al is a sociopath with no regard of human life,” Klaus corrected without taking his eyes from the passing buildings, “He’s never loved anyone or anything because he’s incapable of it.”

“I used to think the same thing,” Lyla agreed, “until he met you. Something inside him changed, and he was terrified of his uncle discovering you.”

Klaus gave her another look. She pulled to a stop in front of the academy, turning to give him a serious look. She wasn’t wearing any makeup but she still looked flawless and he’d always wondered how she ended up with Al when she could have happily married any normal man.

“You don’t have to believe me,” she said, “and I don’t expect you to, but you’re the only person my husband has ever loved more than himself.”

Klaus’s fingers twitched, dog tags suddenly weighing his neck down as he sighed, “I know the feeling. Tell that husband of yours to stay away from my family then. Whatever he made me forget, fine. Whatever. But if he comes near any of them again then I’ll rip his guts out and throw them in the ocean.”

Lyla’s face softened, bending over to open his door for him. As she passed she whispered, “Of that I have no doubt,” before she was back in front of the wheel waiting for him to get out.

He did, climbing from her car and the city had started to wake up enough that people were walking by. Enough people to make Klaus feel ridiculous in his posh clothes, next to someone as attractive as Lyla and her car.

“Goodbye Lyla,” he told her, voice not quite as cold as he thinks it could have been and he wasn’t sure if that was something to be proud of or not.

He’d forgotten what it’d been like when he was around her- how she made him feel like he meant something to this world. That he was more than just some broken kid that deserved whatever he got from chasing after sensations. It made him shiver and not from the cold.

A girl was sitting on the stairs when he’d made his way inside, head shooting up to gaze at him with dark oval eyes as he shut the door behind him. He swallowed, took in her youth and though he couldn’t see any visible signs of blood that didn’t mean it had been any less tragic.

“Hello,” he greeted her softly- thought it was always worst with children, “Do you know where you are?”

“Mommy said it was home,” the girl told him simply, eyes shining brightly and Klaus squinted because that didn’t seem right.

Allison turned the corner, hair free in a wild mess of curls and when she caught sight of him her face softened. Warm and almost relieved as she closed the distance to pull him into a hug.

It reminded Klaus of that day of their father’s funeral. When she’d caught Klaus scrummaging through their dad’s things, and he’d hugged her as a distraction. This time he thinks she was the one trying to distract him from the thoughts bouncing around inside his skull.

Klaus pulled away and asked, “What’re you doing here? I thought you were in LA taking care of your daughter.”

He heard the audible click in the back of his skull as he turned towards the girl. She was grinning, face flushed with happiness and Klaus felt relief overcome him. It wasn’t a ghost. It was Allison’s Claire. Allison’s eyes followed him and her face was soft with affection.

Klaus squeezed his sister’s shoulders as he leaned forward and whispered in a scandalized tone, “Have you kidnapped her? I’m impressed dear sister.”

She chuckled, amused. “No Klaus. I have her for the next couple of weeks and when Vanya called yesterday about the attack on your office we realized that we should have been here.”

Klaus blinked, “We?”

“Allison did you just see that car out front? It had to cost more than this house,” Luther’s voice came from behind and Klaus turned to see his brother.

Luther looked the same- tall and broad-shouldered, eyes wide in childlike amazement- but the edge he’s carried since Reginald’s funeral was gone. Five had been right in allowing Allison to take care of him, if only for a little while.

“Klaus,” Luther said dumbly before closing the distance to wrap Klaus in a squeezing hug, face burrowed in the crook of his neck. He tightened his hold- like he’d been scared until that moment and Klaus wasn’t used to the feeling that created.

Then Luther pulled back, fingers gripping his arms as he demanded, “Are you alright? Allison said you’d been attacked.”

Klaus’s eyes flickered between his siblings’ faces before landing on Claire as he said slowly, “Robbed, actually.”

Luther drew him in another hug, breath hot against Klaus’s neck. Klaus closed his eyes and allowed himself the small comfort the one sibling he’d never thought would ever offer him anything before it was gone.

Allison set her hand against his shoulder, fingers squeezing, “Are you okay Klaus?”

That time Klaus did pull back as he stumbled over his reassurances, “We’re fine. Nothing valuable was stolen. Just junk. I- I’m going to bed. I’ve had a long morning.”

Their expressions of concern mixed with confusion were identical, but Klaus was already moving towards the stairs. He gave Claire a pat on the head on his way past, missed the way even that small gesture made her preen.

He was asleep before he made it all the way on his bed, falling in a place even the dead couldn’t reach him.

-

Klaus was sleeping in clothes that didn’t belong to him, bottom of his feet cut and smeared with blood and it looked as if he’d been wandering outside barefoot for the better part of the night. Ben’s eyes narrowed even as he pushed all of Klaus’s long limbs on the bed and pulled the cover over his slumbering form.

Klaus slept without moving, the only indication that he was ever alive being the quiet sounds of protest that would leave his mouth. Harassed by things Ben couldn’t see or touch or protect him from and Klaus had always thought before that he was alone in hating his ability. He was wrong on that front- Ben hated it more.

He hated how it forced Klaus to turn to drugs. He hated how it made Klaus curl into a small ball in an attempt to escape. He hated the scratching and the fear that emanated from his brother’s eyes as the dead surrounded him.

And he always thought Klaus was the bravest of them all for surviving through it- thought that maybe Klaus was starting to learn how to move past just survival.

Now he wasn’t so sure.

Five was still sleeping off his head injury and Klaus looked pale, skin cool to the touch under clothes that didn’t belong to him. Allison and Luther were downstairs whispering about a car that had stopped by earlier and Ben wished he didn’t already know what that entailed.

Klaus sniffled in his sleep, curling in further. Ben reached out to smooth back his curls. Klaus stilled under the touch before relaxing back out. Ben stared down at him- eyes dark and troubled and he wished he knew how to help his brother while alive. Hated how he thought it had been easier while he’d been dead, selfishly thinking that maybe they shouldn’t have saved him.

Ben was the only one up- had been woken by Luther and Allison thinking they were being sneaky and he doesn’t have any reason to be angry. Except when he looked at them he remembered Klaus curled and small and crying and they were too wrapped up in their own little worlds- their own problems- to even bother noticing.

Klaus who would bury his suffering in favor of them. Klaus who was only a day being sober and looked sick and clammy and needed Luther’s help but Luther was drunk and didn’t even bother looking back when Klaus’s head cracked against the ground.

Ben had been so scared that he had died. That he was gone and had skipped ghost-hood and was leaving Ben alone. He’d called for Luther but Luther couldn’t hear him. Luther hadn’t cared. Luther never cared about Klaus.

Ben knew that wasn’t true- knew Luther cared for them. Knew hearing that Klaus and Five had been attacked while they were safe in LA had freaked them out, and Ben should be grateful that they rushed over as soon as they got the news.

He just wasn’t used to sharing Klaus and was certainly not used to being constantly told that he needed to get a life outside of his brother. Ben didn’t want a life outside of Klaus. He wanted to wrap him in a blanket and coddle him from the world for the rest of his life.

Klaus grumbled in his sleep. The monster growled before stilling. Ben didn’t move, dark eyes watching his brother and reminding himself that Klaus and Five were alive and- at the moment- that was all that was important.

Chapter Text

“A security system?” Klaus’s voice was dull, enthusiasm drained from his features as he watched the man move around his office without his permission.

“Yeah,” Diego told him without looking at him, “To help prevent any further robberies.”

Klaus’s face darkened, fingers squeezing the crook of his elbows. He didn’t want a security system- hadn’t been robbed the first time. He couldn’t tell Diego that though because it was Diego and he was one bad conversation from a meltdown.

And they couldn’t lock him up in a rehab center anymore since he’d gone sober (count the small mercies) but Klaus wasn’t eager to see where Diego’s meltdown under these new circumstances would entail. So he said nothing as he stood and watched.

“How’s that job coming along for you?” Klaus asked, “The cracking skulls and taking names one?”

Diego glanced at him- the first since arriving with a man in a black van with the promise of the most advanced security system on the market- before turning back to the man fluttering around Klaus’s small office. An expensive thing that Diego promised he’d pay for and that was only half of Klaus’s problem with the gesture.

“It’s going good,” Diego promised, “Eudora is banging her head against the wall trying to solve this waitress’s murder but better alive than not.”

“Sure, sure, sure,” Klaus hummed, toes tapping against the surface, “Can I ask you something?”

This time when Diego looked at him his eyes narrowed on Klaus like he was afraid that if he looked anywhere else then Klaus would disappear. Klaus ducked under the intensity of his expression as his stomach fluttered weirdly.

He bit the bottom of his lip as he began to rethink the decision of telling his brother about his exes. Diego deserved to know, and Klaus wanted to tell him but it was like his throat had swelled and he couldn’t anymore.

Diego must have realized because his eyes narrowed and he closed the distance between them. His hands were warm and calloused as they closed around his upper arms, and Diego looked so serious. So needy and ready and Klaus almost felt bad for hesitating.

“Klaus of course you can ask me anything,” Diego promised, hands sliding down his arms to loop around his wrists, “Are you okay?”

Klaus looked at his brother, who’d grown all serious and needy and it was like Diego was just now realizing that he needed Klaus to come to him. That he needed Klaus to be okay and if he wasn’t then to help make him okay.

Klaus sighed- a full body thing that made his shoulders droop and arms flop- before he decided on, “Do you think Five seems okay to you?”

Diego squinted, released him. He shook his head. Didn’t seem convinced. Klaus crossed his arms back around his chest so his nails could dig into the soft flesh. His fingers subconsciously inched towards the wrist band he had on. Red plaid wasn’t really his thing but it had been the only thing he could find and wasn’t eager to explain why he’d need one to nosy siblings.

“He’s small and bitter but he doesn’t drink as much,” Diego explained, “Ever since we stopped the apocalypse.”

Klaus’s nails almost broke skin as he forced a smile to his face and nodded far too quickly. All the blood rushed to his head and made him dizzy.

“Yeah,” Klaus agreed quickly, “Good for him. He’s uh- yeah. You’re right. Good for him.”

Diego squinted suspiciously back and looked like he was going to question him further when the man he’d hired stepped up to them. Klaus didn’t like his face- plump with red hair and a beard that made him look rounder. It was his eyes that made Klaus uneasy though. He stared down at Klaus like a hungry man would a late night snack.

Though in his defense most people did when he wore this sweater. A white fuzzy thing with black stripes and hung to the beginnings of his thigh. His thigh that was revealed by black shorts that exposed more skin than covered.

“You need to decide on a pin,” the man told him, handing over paper Klaus didn’t want to read because he didn’t want to think about it.

“69420,” Klaus said immediately, earning him a hard nudge from his brother.

“Be serious Klaus,” Diego chided him and because Diego expected it Klaus shot him a sharp smile before returning his attention down to the paper.

“Maybe we should wait for my secretary,” Klaus tried, already not liking what he was reading and the man in front of him didn’t strike him as a voyeur but now he wasn’t so sure.

“I just need you to sign please,” the man protested and Klaus moved the paper from his reaching hand.

“Uh no,” Klaus decided and when Diego opened his mouth to protest he handed him the first page, “I think you can give me the real privacy contract now.”

Diego’s brow furrowed and the man’s face broke out into a grin as he turned around to grab another stack of papers, “You know most people just sign the thing without reading it,” he handed Klaus the papers, “I think you’ll do just fine uh-”

“Klaus.”

The man’s smile melted his face, eyes gentler and so kind and it made Klaus pause. This time his smile matched the strangers.

“Right-”

The man stuck out his hand, “Charlie.”

-

Diego took Klaus to a diner down the road from his new office. Klaus ordered a parfait with orange juice and hummed contently. His face was soft and pleased as he thought about the man Diego hired to install a security system in his office.

“You read the contract,” was the first thing Diego told him before squinting at how dumb that sounded even to himself.

“Uh huh,” Klaus agreed, “Is there a reason I shouldn’t have?”

“It’s just- I um- I didn’t expect,” Diego stumbled over what he wanted to say and what he think he should say.

Klaus blinked at him, head tilted to the side. “Is there a reason I shouldn’t have?”

“I just- you never struck me as-” Diego continued feeling flustered and he always prided himself in knowing Klaus better than anyone but perhaps not.

Klaus fixed him with such an innocent expression Diego felt a pang inside his chest. Then Klaus’s face broke into a mirthful smile as he straightened back up to laugh at him.

“I once had a dead lawyer follow me around for an entire week before I got high enough to get him to disappear,” Klaus explained as he nipped at the top of his spoon, “He literally read everything out loud to me. Explained all the complicated technical jargon to me. Said I was a quick teach.”

Diego gapped back at him, glanced around the room. It wasn’t something he usually thought about- how many people died at the places he goes- and Klaus seeing things they couldn’t never occurred to them until they needed it.

“The answer is yes. Three,” Klaus told him, “A cook in the back with burns scarring his face. A woman in a blue blouse and tan pants with a rope around her neck. And an old man who hasn’t stopped ordering coffee since we walked in.”

Diego gave another look around the room, mostly empty. He didn’t see any of the people Klaus described but already knew he wouldn’t. Klaus stirred the top of his parfait with his spoon, eyes hazy in thought.

“Are they yelling?” Diego whispered, drawing Klaus’s attention back to him.

Klaus shook his head, “It’s more like white static in the back of my head- constantly blaring every moment I’m sober.”

“That’s good right?” Diego asked but Klaus shrugged, taking another bite of his parfait.

“Sometimes the dead come to me looking like they did when they’d been killed,” Klaus explained after a moment of silence, “Bloody and gory and I’ve seen things that could make a movie special affects artist faint. Other times there’s no indication that they were any different than everybody else and it would drive me crazy. Before. Not knowing. That’s why I need this business to go well.”

Diego blinked, not used to Klaus being so serious. Klaus squinted at him and asked, “Do you understand why this has to happen regardless of what you or Ben think is going to happen?”

And Diego thinks he did but that didn’t mean he had to like it.

“Just… nothing too extreme,” Diego compromised, “and call the second things get out of hand.”

Klaus squinted, bit onto his spoon.

When he pulled back he settled with a breathy, “Whatever you say Diego.”

-

“The girl keeps staring at me,” Five declared causing Vanya to glance up from her spot beside Ben on the couch, one of Allison’s magazine open in her lap.

Ben smirked as their brother entered, scowling and looking moments from stabbing someone. A normal occurrence and Vanya knew Five liked Claire being around but he also acted like being near them so much bothered him.

“She’s probably just excited at seeing someone closer to her age,” Ben tried- ever the peacemaker- before his head tilted to the side, “Didn’t you have work today?”

Five’s glare darkened as he made his way to the alcohol cabinet and he didn’t open it or pull anything out but he stared like he couldn’t decide rather or not it would solve his problems. Vanya’s heart fluttered in her chest.

“You shouldn’t drink with your head injury,” she told him, turning to stare seriously at him.

Five growled, didn’t move from his spot but still didn’t reach out to take anything from the cabinet so Vanya didn’t push him again. She just stared, hoped his lack of color was due to poor lighting.

“Five?” Ben asked.

“Klaus told me not to come in today,” Five told him, “Said Diego was installing some security system so we don’t get robbed again. There’s really nothing good to drink in this house.”

Ben met Vanya’s gaze.

He looked concerned and not about the security system. It was a nice gesture, Vanya knew, especially considering it was from Diego and Diego had made it clear how he felt about them- though when she’d been looking for apartments he did call to tell her to get the second floor or higher.

Then she turned on her light and Five was in her living room. Rapists can climb, he’d told her- which is a fair point.

Now Five’s forehead was beginning to purple with bruises and he hadn’t seemed to have regained any of his natural color. Klaus looked the same as always- had stopped moping around now that Claire was around- though he looked like he hasn’t slept for days.

Vanya couldn’t remember Klaus ever looking like that before, but if she thought about it too long then she realized she hadn’t spent much time looking at Klaus growing up. It made her feel bad. Made her feel worst whenever she looked at Five and realized whatever Klaus thought had happened was bad enough that he was keeping it to himself.

She thought Ben knew at least. And Ben would never let something happen to Klaus.

“We can go for a walk,” Ben offered, “Help clear your thoughts.”

Five’s eyes narrowed, face dark. It was a familiar expression but it looked different today. Waxy and sick and Vanya felt her chest begin to ache.

Five turned from the cabinet and said, “I don’t want to go for a walk.”

There was a low pop, flash of blue and he was gone. Vanya’s chest still hurt as she began to worry about her brother.

“Allison wants me to go to dinner with her and her daughter,” Ben told her, staring in the spot Five had been standing, “Maybe I should-”

“No,” Vanya interrupted, “You should go. She missed you. We all did.”

But Ben was already shaking his head, eyes looking closer to trapped as he tried as he rose to his feet, “I need to check on Klaus. He-”

“Is with Diego and is fine,” Vanya reminded, sitting straighter and staring up at him with serious eyes, “So you should go hang out with someone who isn’t Klaus.”

Ben’s face soured at the thought of hanging out with someone who wasn’t Klaus, and Vanya knew that being with Klaus was easy but that expression wasn’t one of soft reluctance. It was almost as if spending any time with other people physically hurt Ben.

Vanya’s stomach soured as she reeled back and the worst thing was that Ben didn’t even seem to notice. He just turned as Claire wandered into the room, eyes large as she looked around the room.

“Have either of you seen my mommy?” she asked.

Ben shook his head as Vanya said, “No. Is there something you want?”

“No,” Claire responded, “What are you doing?”

“I was just leaving,” Ben told her before turning towards Vanya, “Tell Allison I can’t tonight. I’m going to bed.”

Vanya watched him leave and didn’t know how to stop him.

-

“You’re not dressed yet?”

“I’m not going Diego.”

His words made Diego pause on his way past, Ben’s brother stepping back into the doorway. Ben groaned and rolled over as he realized he wasn’t getting out of dinner as easily as he’d thought. Diego’s dark eyes stared at him the same way they all did- like he was trying to figure out what Ben was thinking without asking.

“What do you mean you’re not going?” he demanded, voice tense and angry and Ben growled as he narrowed his eyes in a glare.

“I’m not going Diego,” Ben repeated irately, “How much clearer can I be?”

Diego’s eyes darkened as he stepped into Ben’s room. Ben felt his glare deepen on his face as he rolled so he was sitting upright on the bed. His fingers twisted around his comforter, knuckles going pale and muscles shaking.

Diego was dressed in white-washed jeans and a black shirt and he looked so normal. He seemed less stressed than he has in a while and Ben didn’t know if that was because they were together, Ben was alive, or he still had Detective Eudora Patch. His handsome face was smooth- free from worry lines- and he didn’t look so angry all the time.

Now he was angry. Tendon along his jaw popping as he clenched his teeth in frustration. Ben glared back, unwilling to back down from this.

Don’t,” Diego warned, voice low and harsh.

“Don’t what?” Ben challenged, arms crossed and face dark and everyone thought he was the sensible one but he could be as stubborn as the others.

“Don’t do this,” Diego clarified, “Not to Allison. To Claire.”

“Do what Diego?” Ben repeated, irritated, “Because I’m not doing anything except stay here and take care of the brother none of you ever seemed to care about before.”

Diego closed his eyes, sucked in a deep breath. His fingers folded into a tight fist. Unfolded. Breathing in deeply even though he didn’t look any calmer.

He shook his head, “This isn’t about Klaus. Don’t make this about Klaus. You don’t get to hide behind him every time some inconvenience in life comes up. It’s life. It’s what happens.”

Ben felt pounding behind his eyes, static ringing in the back of his head. He knew his face was cold though, calmer than he felt.

Funny,” Ben said dully, “Pretending to care about Klaus whenever it’s suitable for you.”

Diego pointed in towards himself as his patience continued to fray, “I’m not pretending to care. I do care. About Klaus. You. Allison. Claire. And you’re not a ghost anymore- you don’t get to follow Klaus around every moment of the day.”

Ben shook his arms, shouted, “I thought this wasn’t about Klaus!”

“You made this about Klaus!” Diego accused, stepping towards him. Further in the room without permission, “That’s what you do Ben! Every minor thing that happens to you it’s suddenly about Klaus and how we failed him when you weren’t around!”

“He suffered on the streets- starving and homeless- and none of you even cared!”

This isn’t about Klaus!” Diego screamed, “This is about you and you wanted out as much as the rest of us! Otherwise you wouldn’t still be receiving those!”

He pointed towards Ben’s acceptance letters. Ben didn’t follow his finger- felt his eyes narrow. The beast growled in his chest, echoed between his ears. He swallowed. Kept it down.

“That wasn’t me,” Ben denied.

Diego spun away, ran his fingers on the top of his skull. Through the short cut of his hair before he spun back towards him. His face was calmer.

“Of course it was you Ben. The you who didn’t die and wanted an out as bad as the rest of us and that was your out. Not clinging onto Klaus and pushing the rest of us away because we can all still remember when you were dead and every day it hurt. Physically and do you even know what that’s like?”

Ben reeled back at the intensity in Diego’s eyes. Caught off-guard by the real pain hiding in the back of his words.

“No,” Ben denied as he turned to climb in bed, “Leave. Now. I’m going back to sleep.”

A knife burrowed itself in his mattress. Ben yanked it out to brandish it at his brother- monster demanding retaliation.

“Real mature!” Ben snapped.

“You’re going,” Diego responded sounding bored, “If for nothing else than for Claire. She deserves more from us.”

He left without waiting for a response. Ben gave an annoyed shout- tossing the knife across the room before turning back to his bed and clothes and knew Diego wasn’t giving him a choice on this. His mood darkened, beast humming in agreement.

-

“Hey buddy.”

Five looked up at him, pupils blown from alcohol and skin almost waxy. The bandage against his forehead made Klaus swallowed. Klaus’s arms were crossed, fingers scratching at an itch they couldn’t reach. Five glared up at him.

“Don’t call me that,” he snapped, words slurred.

Klaus nodded, not really paying attention to his brother’s disruptive temper, stepped over a clutter of empty alcohol bottles. He wasn’t wearing shoes and the wood was cold to the bottom of his feet but Vanya was at a late rehearsal and everybody else was at dinner with Allison as a welcome back home- Vanya not invited because she is too close to Allison, Klaus not invited because he is too close to Ben and Five not invited because he still looked pale and shaky even three days later.

Allison reassured them that they’ll be included later, wanted the focus to be on Claire. Klaus smiled and promised it was okay even though Diego looked uncomfortable and Ben looked as if he’d swallowed a lemon whole. Klaus had smiled at them on their way out, Ben wrapping his arms around his neck and whispering that he’d always be there for him.

He still looked angry when he left though, which concerned Klaus slightly. Now he was worried about Five, back pressed against the wall and half empty bottle of Vodka in his hand. His head was rolled back, eyes half-lidded and skin pale.

“I thought you weren’t drinking as much now,” Klaus tried, bending down in front of his brother with a concerned furrow of his forehead as he reached out to take the bottle from lax fingers, “Is this apocalypse related or…”

Five’s eyes darkened in response. Klaus swirled the bottle between his fingers, knew from the brand that it was expensive and stronger than any thirteen-year-old should drink.

“The apocalypse is over,” and Five almost sounded annoyed about it.

“I guess you’re not as over this high as you’d like everyone to think,” Klaus stated dully but Five was already shaking his head so quick Klaus knew his brain must be spinning.

Has been drunk enough to know that everything must be spinning right now.

“It’s not the apocalypse,” Five reassured, “It’s… something else.”

Klaus’s fingers stilled around the bottle as something clicked in his brain and he corrected, “Delores.”

Five glared but didn’t correct him so Klaus knew he was right. He set the bottle by his foot and something had been tickling the back corners of his mind since he’d invited Five to join him on his business. He thinks some part of him has suspected before that, which was why he’d approached him at all.

Klaus looked at his brother and he knew that look. Recognized it as the deep seeded emptiness that’s burrowed in his chest for a long time, just now able to put a name to it. Loneliness. His brother was lonely.

“I get it,” Klaus told him, “Must be hard. Being with someone your whole life and then suddenly not being with them, but you have us.”

The back of Five’s head connected with the wooden surface, dull thump against the boards. His eyes were nearly rolled back in his skull and Klaus recognized the alcohol crashing his system and his brother never struck him as being a sleepy drunk.

“It’s okay buddy,” Klaus reassured, reaching out to take his brother’s shoulders in his hands, “You just need to sleep it off. Come on. That’s it. Nice and slow.”

Five’s body was surprisingly light, easy to maneuver as he lifted him up in his arms. Five went. All limp and droopy and eyes closed by the time Klaus got him against his chest.

Klaus took him to his room, slipped his shoes from his feet and pulled his cover over his shoulder. Five nestled into the pillow and Klaus propped himself on the edge of his bed. He reached out and ran his fingers through dark hair.

He looked so small and young and impossibly innocent. Klaus has seen him kill a guy with a thumbtack and yet he was overvome with the need to cuddle his brother. Klaus felt his face soften with affection, fingers drumming against his comforter because Five was lonely and spent most of his life without human connection.

And now all the times Five shied away from their touch or how his eyes got empty and dark whenever he thought nobody was paying attention made sense. Worst none of them even seemed to have noticed, Five struggling alone.

“Don’t worry buddy,” Klaus promised, “You’re not alone anymore.”

-

Charlie showed up at the office the next day, smiling brightly and physically he was very attractive. The Klaus before would have leapt at the first opportunity but he’s changed more than he’d like to admit. So he settled for a soft smile and tip of his head as he waited for him to speak.

“I came to check the cameras,” Charlie explained, “Make sure you haven’t ripped them off the wall. You seemed upset about them yesterday.”

Klaus shrugged, stepped aside to let him inside. Charlie grinned as he slipped past even as Klaus reached up to fold his hands around Dave’s dog tags.

“Yeah. Well. They still seem in place,” Charlie reassured as he moved to where one was installed before back towards Klaus, “Not really your style then?”

Klaus shrugged again, “My brother who doesn’t work here got him because he’s being overprotective and annoying and who am I to argue? Really?”

“It’s your business,” Charlie reminded as he turned away.

Klaus glowered, arms crossed. It was a defensive stance he knew but Charlie gave him a reassuring smile as he walked back towards the door. The door opened before Charlie made it, Allison, Claire and Luther stepping inside giggling about something only they knew.

Klaus felt his headache increase- pulsing behind his eyes intensifying. His stomach was sour and his mouth was ashy and he didn’t get much sleep last night with his brother in his bed. And he woke up on the beach with the waves pooling around his ankles.

“Oh there you are Klaus,” Allison greeted with a fond smile, “We missed you at breakfast.”

“Uh huh,” Klaus agreed accepting her hug, his sister kissing his cheek, “Yeah I’ve been getting an early morning most days now.”

Allison’s fingers squeezed his arms as she held him at arm’s length. Charlie smirked behind his siblings. Klaus wondered why he hadn’t left yet.

“That’s good Klaus,” Allison beamed as Luther stepped further into the office space, “I’m glad to see you’ve been productive.”

“Is this Dad’s stuff?” Luther asked by the window, “Did you steal from Dad’s office?”

Luther,” Allison reprimanded tersely even as Klaus stepped away from his sister so he could face his brother, ignoring Charlie.

“I figured he’s not using it,” Klaus explained, “Why?”

Luther opened his mouth- probably to argue further- but clicked it shut at Allison’s glare. Klaus was grateful, slipping past his sister to see Charlie the rest of the way to the door. Both his siblings made surprised noises behind him.

“Oh we didn’t know you had company,” Allison said before turning to her daughter and snapped, “Claire stop touching that.”

Claire set down Five’s snow globe before moving over to where Luther was standing out of place and awkward as always. He smiled down at her, face fond.

“Maybe we should go,” Allison tried.

“Oh no. He was just leaving,” Klaus reassured, guiding Charlie towards the door.

“It’s okay,” Charlie promised him still smiling, “I can take a hint. Goodbye Klaus.”

Klaus smiled but it was more of a grimace. When he turned back around Luther’s eyes were wide and Allison’s face was soft. Claire looked confused.

“He’s handsome Klaus,” Allison offered as a reassurance but Klaus shook his head, remained by the door as he fidgeted nervously.

“No,” Klaus told her and it was the first time he thinks he’s ever seen Allison look uncertain about something.

“I just- I always thought- you always seemed so-”

“That’s not it,” Klaus reassured, “I’m just not looking for a relationship right now.”

Luther’s face was puckered, eyes buggy. Klaus wondered if his brother even knew or if this was yet another awakening he had about his siblings. Klaus tilted his head to the side and stared at him. Even Claire looked more aware than him.

“Klaus you- with other guys?”

Klaus nodded, sucked at his bottom lip. His head hurt far too much to be dealing with this right now.

So instead he asked, “How was Five looking when you left?”

Allison and Luther met each other’s eyes before back towards Klaus. Their expressions looked almost identical- confused and uncertain and Klaus thinks maybe he’s the only one who’d noticed.

“He seemed fine at breakfast,” Luther offered as he thought back, “A little tired but should be fine whenever he returns to whatever job this is.”

Klaus gave them a smile and nodded, fingers twisting around the itchy flesh underneath his wristband. He needed to look into padded handcuffs before he completely destroyed his wrist. Or figure out what the trigger for his new sleepwalking habit.

“Good,” Klaus told them, “I’m glad.”

“Mommy I have to use the bathroom,” Claire announced, pulling away from Luther to stare expectantly up at Allison.

“I told you to go before we left the house,” Allison chided grumpily.

Claire flopped dramatically, swinging her arms and protested, “I didn’t have to go then. I have to go now.”

Allison puckered her lips but her eyes were warm and soft and full of affection. Klaus directed her towards the bathroom in the back- warned that it wasn’t completely furnished yet. Allison promised that it was okay as she took Claire’s hand to follow Klaus’s direction.

Luther stared awkwardly back. Klaus sighed, alternated the heel he was bouncing on. Left. Right. Left.

“I thought you had a girlfriend,” Luther said- trying to piece something Klaus hasn’t thought about in years together, “Before. When we were kids.”

“Yeah,” Klaus nodded, “I did. I don’t- it’s not really either or.”

“So you’re,” Luther noted slowly, face looking pained, “bisexual?”

“Not really,” Klaus corrected, tipping on the front of his feet suddenly as uncomfortable as Luther looked.

Luther’s frown deepened, brow furrowed. He looked impossibly more confused than before and if Klaus hadn’t known any better he would have thought Luther was still trapped in that childhood innocence their father rarely allowed.

“Okay so it’s like when you were on the moon and had all that space food and you might have preferred the ice cream whereas Allison would have liked the spaghetti. I would like either. Or a chocolate pudding that had once been a brownie. It’s less about the package and more about the contents. Does that make sense?”

Luther’s nod was slow. His face still puckered like he didn’t completely understand but was getting there. Klaus gave him another smile that he knew didn’t reach his eyes- tried not to think about the day Reginald found out about Klaus’s preferences.

“Wouldn’t it be easier to just choose one though?” Luther asked and Klaus shrugged. Then something else must have occurred to his brother because he leaned forward and whispered almost nervously, “Am I the only one who didn’t know?”

Klaus shook his head reassuringly as he explained, “It’s not exactly something I’ve talked about with the others. As far as I know only Ben and Dad ever knew.”

Dad?” Luther repeated before his eyes bulged, “He was okay with it?”

Klaus spun away- pushed the dark corners way back into his brain- as he shook his head, “No. He was certainly not okay with it.”

Luther growled, eyes growing dark. His brain must be spinning because he demanded, “When you talk about all your exes you meant that they were real people and not-”

“Yeah they were real,” Klaus nodded, brain too slow from the ghosts and lack of sleep and being sober for longer than a week to keep up with this conversation.

Luther almost choked.

“And they did all those horrible things to you?” Luther asked, closing the distance between them to take Klaus’s arms in his hands.

It made Klaus feel small but not in the usual way Luther did. Klaus bent his head back so he could stare up at his brother, waiting for the shaking or the yelling or the accusations. Luther didn’t. He pulled him into a hug, held on tightly.

“You should have told one of us,” Luther told him, “You didn’t have to not tell us. We would have accepted you. We could have stopped people from hurting you.”

Klaus, standing stiffly in Luther’s arms, sniffled and teased, “Are you offering to beat up all my exes Luther?”

Luther pulled back, squeezed his arms again. “Whatever you needed Klaus. Need. I’m here for you. Even if you took Dad’s things out of the house.”

And his brother looked so serious in that moment that Klaus couldn’t help but giggle. Smile soft and real and gentle in a way he never thought he’d have around Luther, and his chest was all warm and fuzzy.

“I really appreciate that Luther,” Klaus admitted and Luther looked down at him with something so affectionate that Klaus almost couldn’t believe it was his brother.

Klaus smiled.

-

The only indication that Lyla was surprised at seeing him was a slight tilt of her head as she straightened from her stretch. Klaus stepped in beside her and maybe Ben was right. Allison’s pink joggers and black crop top with long sleeves and pink and white triangles jutting at sharp angles a little loose on his form. His fingers fidgeted with his wristband as he took his spot beside her.

“Good morning Klaus,” she greeted him pleasantly, “I’m surprised to see you up before the sun in something a little more than your underwear.”

“Hello,” Klaus greeted a little less pleasant, “I don’t. I’m not sleepwalking anymore.”

Lyla gave him a weird look as she bent in another stretch, “Uh huh. Is that why you’re sporting a new wristband? Or why the skin underneath looks like an infection waiting to happen?”

Klaus rolled his eyes as he noted dully, “Nothing ever gets past you huh Lyla?”

“You don’t have to explain yourself,” she reassured, “but you should know that you’re worrying those who care for you. That includes your family Klaus.”

Klaus snorted, nodded before mimicking Lyla’s poses. Yoga in the park was never something he’s thought about in the past but since he wasn’t sleeping and couldn’t turn to drugs yoga it was. Lyla didn’t call him out on it. She just straightened her frame to allow her eyes to wander to his backside.

“You have good form,” she noted coming to stand behind him as she allowed her hands to roam and fix his stance, “Just a little more like that.”

Klaus didn’t shake her off. Her fingers tickling the spots she touched.

He didn’t have to look to know her eyes were dark, deep in concentration. She hadn’t really been serious about yoga before, but she’d always told him how nice his body was. And Lyla knew parts of himself that Klaus wasn’t even aware of.

Her fingers settled on the inside of his thigh, other hand pushing at the small of his back.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate Lyla,” he said, her laugh warm against his skin.

He hadn’t even realized she’d leaned over him until that moment, but her hands did move. She resituated herself so she was back to fixing his positions.

“I asked my husband if yoga helped once,” Lyla told him as she guided him into a new position that made Klaus’s back strain, “but since his powers are not a continuous thing it was hard for him to say. I am curious though.”

“Do you ever stop thinking Lyla?” Klaus asked her.

Lyla gave a soft laugh, “It’s not something I can just turn on and off Klaus but yoga helps.”

Klaus straightened to turn towards her, “I know. You’ve told me once whenever you tried to get me off drugs. You were the one who’d suggested this.”

She smiled. Her eyes bright and intelligent and Klaus wasn’t sure how he forgot how attractive she was. Now, with her back in his life, he remembered how he’d found himself trapped in her life for so long.

Her fingers moved to his biceps as she hummed, “You were listening. I’m glad.”

Klaus turned away, didn’t want to linger on his thoughts of her before. When he’d still thought she was soft and kind and single. A rebound from Al, who he hadn’t known had been married at the time. It never even occurred to him that they had been married to each other.

“What’re you looking for here Lyla?” Klaus asked, “Why’d you return?”

“Roberto is looking for something. He thinks he can find it here,” she explained, “but I’m not allowed to talk about it. But if there’s answers you’re looking for then I’d suggest seeking out Tennessee.”

Klaus gave her a look but her hand had already settled on the back of his neck and guided him into a new pose. He wanted to push for answers but didn’t. Allowed her to finish guiding him through the various poses for the next two hours.

“Before I forget I have a gift for you,” Lyla told him as they walked towards the park entrance together.

Klaus glanced at her, aware of the expensive gifts Lyla used to shower him with. After the second time she sent him to jail he received a suitcase of clothes worth close to fifty grand with a note that said ‘Sorry baby.’ He’d been so disoriented that he’d ended up at Diego’s doorstep and he still didn’t know where the suitcase ended up.

She unclipped the bracelet she was wearing, reaching out to take his hand in her own. Her touch was gentle as she guided it towards her to clip the bracelet around his uninjured wrist.

“Foresight?” Klaus asked, reading upside down.

Lyla fixed the bracelet so the word was in full display. Her smile was a rare sight- one of the few genuine ones she knew.

“My grandmother got it for me,” Lyla explained, “She said I always need to think ahead. That this world was dominated by men, and if I was to ever find my place then I needed to learn and adapt and never stop thinking ahead.”

“Your grandmother?”

“The closest family member I had,” Lyla reassured, “and now I’m giving it to you. Curious. Isn’t it?”

Klaus tilted his head to the side, face thoughtful. That earned him a smile in return as she released his hand to look in his eyes.

“Take care of yourself Klaus.”

-

“Where have you been?”

Klaus looked up at him, head tilting to the side. He was going for innocent but Five knew that look. His brother was hiding something, and Five hoped that had nothing to do with the ridiculous outfit he was wearing. His forehead still itched and no one else thought he was fit enough to come in to work for today.

But Klaus was gaining this habit of disappearing before anyone else wakes up and Five was suspicious. Had been concerned Klaus was overworking himself. Now he wasn’t so sure because when he arrived Klaus wasn’t there.

Klaus showed up several hours late. It made Five’s frown deepen as his brain tried to work that one out. Try as he might he couldn’t come up with any reason Klaus left so early without telling anyone. And maybe- just perhaps- Five was beginning to worry for his brother.

“And what are you wearing?” Five demanded, eyes roaming his brother’s skinny frame.

“Oh this?” Klaus asked, flourishing his arms in front of him like he was presenting something grand, “Just a little something I’ve gathered from Allison’s closet. Her clothes always fit a little big on me, but they’re so cute. And comfortable. And-”

“Allison’s,” Five finished with a single shake of his head, “Not yours.”

Klaus shrugged, a fully body thing. His shoulders slumped as his knees bent sideways, arms swinging in front of him as his eyes continued to burn with excitement. His face was puckered in enthusiasm. He looked as if he was about to explode with whatever he was keeping from him.

Five felt impossibly more annoyed.

“Klaus!” he snapped.

Klaus perked at the sound of his name, body stiffening even as he continued to grin all sappy and fond. Five was not accustomed to being looked at like that and it made him uncomfortable. And Klaus was either dense or oblivious or didn’t care. Perhaps all three.

He clapped his hands in front of him, fingers intertwining with each other. His eyes continued to sparkle as he pressed his hand to his mouth.

“I got you a present,” Klaus announced, “A welcome home gift.”

Five felt his face continue to sour. He didn’t want a gift. He wanted an explanation.

“Klaus,” Five warned, making Klaus’s grin only sharpen.

He unfolded his hand to hold his arms out in front of him, fingers splayed and knees bent. It was so ridiculous and so Klaus that Five couldn’t help but the affectionate look begin to cross his face.

“Wait there,” Klaus commanded as he began to inch backwards, “I had a feeling you came today so I left it outside. So just wait. I’ll be right back.”

Klaus disappeared out the door but it hadn’t even banged shut before Klaus was toeing it back open with his boot. Then Klaus was in the room cradling a small tan bundle in his arm. Five stared down at it uncertainly. Something sour began to bubble in his stomach.

Five stepped back even as Klaus continued to close the distance, “What is that thing?”

“This thing is actually a he,” Klaus corrected, “A stray I picked up from the shelter after going to the park. He doesn’t have a name yet so you’ll have to come up with one. Come on Five. He doesn’t bite.”

Five still refused to look at the wiggling creature in Klaus’s arms. It- he- poked his head out of Klaus's arms to stare at Five. Head tilted to the side as dark eyes stared up at him and Five has seen dogs before. He was aware of them. It just felt different this time.

“Klaus I can’t,” Five protested but Klaus was tenacious, pressuring him to take the puppy from his arms.

“He won’t bite,” Klaus reassured, “Come on. He’s not a baby. You don’t have to act like he’s made of glass.”

“Klaus I’ll-” and somehow before he could finish the words Klaus had maneuvered the puppy into Five’s arms.

The puppy yelped, gave an affectionate nuzzle against his chest. Five’s heart melted, chest warm and fuzzy and it was like he was eight years old again. They’d just adopted a cat in secret, even Luther was keeping it from Dad. Only this time there was no Dad to take their pet from them.

“Hello there little one,” Five murmured and Klaus clapped.

“I’m so glad you like him,” he confessed, “So does this mean you’re going to keep him? Because if I’m being honest I don’t know what I’m going to do if you say no.”

Five glanced at his brother. Klaus was clapping excitedly, leaned back and forth as he continued smiling gleefully.

“I’ll- um- I’ll keep him,” Five reassured before his eyes fell back on the puppy, “Mister Pennycrumb.”

Klaus’s face didn’t change at the name, didn’t even flicker. He just continued to flail excitedly as he leant forward to scratch underneath the puppy’s chin.

The puppy allowed him, eyes closed and head tilted in bliss as Klaus cooed softly, “Welcome to the family Penny.”

Chapter Text

The first thing Claire shouted upon entering the office was, “Puppy!”

She rushed over and Five snatched Mister Pennycrumb from the floor to glare back down at her. Mister Pennycrumb yelped in surprise as Claire slowed to a stop to cross her arms and match Five’s glare with an impressive one of her own.

“I want to pet the puppy,” Claire said, demanded- Klaus thinks.

Klaus crossed his arms and smirked. Even Allison looked amused, didn’t berate her daughter or brother as she came to a stop beside him. Her eyes flickered down to his wrist in interest.

“New bracelet?” she asked.

Klaus glanced down, remembered Lyla’s gift as he rose his hand to show her. She reached out and her fingers traced the cursive word carefully.

“It was a present from somebody I once knew,” Klaus offered as an explanation, aware of Five’s dark gaze finding him from behind Mister Pennycrumb’s tongue as the puppy licked at his chin.

“Oh? It looks expensive,” Allison pointed out, “Must be a special person.”

“Yeah,” Klaus agreed, face soft, “At one point I thought she was.”

Five’s eyes narrowed but Claire reached out for Mister Pennycrumb, and his focus shifted back to Allison’s daughter. They all adored Claire, but it was clear she was an only child and that was throwing them off.

Allison didn’t seem to notice, hummed thoughtfully as she released his bracelet and said, “It’s very nice. Foresight, though?”

“She thought it would help,” Klaus shrugged, “Always think ahead.”

“Klaus,” Five warned; Mister Pennycrumb cried out in protest when Claire finally got her fingers around the puppy.

“Claire!” Allison shouted, her daughter jumping back in shock at being yelled at.

“Five you have to share him,” Klaus sighed because Five looked young but loved to remind them that physically he was a lot older- more mature- but could find himself acting as immature as the rest of them.

Five glared, eyes flickered over to where Allison was glaring down at her daughter. Klaus gave Five another admonished look as he gestured for his brother to set the puppy back on the floor. Mister Pennycrumb was getting antsy from being held for so long, but Klaus would have been lying if he said he wasn’t pleased at how much Five loved his gift.

“What are you doing here Allison?” Five compromised, still holding Mister Pennycrumb.

“Well since neither of you went to dinner with us last night I was wondering if you wanted to get lunch,” Allison explained, forced Claire to hold her hand because Five was still glaring as he clutched his puppy possessively.

“We’d love to Allison,” Klaus said before Five could protest, “but it’ll have to be somewhere outside.”

Allison nodded even as Five pointed out, “Mister Pennycrumb doesn’t have a leash. He doesn’t even have a collar.”

Allison’s eyebrows rose at the name but Klaus clasped his hands together.

“Did I not get you the rest of your gift?” he asked, walking around his desk to pull out a striped red and yellow collar.

A flash of blue and Five was beside him, Mister Pennycrumb looking dizzy. Klaus took the puppy from his brother’s hands- surprised Five let him considering how reluctant he’d been with Claire.

“Perhaps we should hold off on the jumping until he gets older,” Klaus told him, clipping the collar around his neck before setting him back on the floor.

Mister Pennycrumb jumped excitedly at the new freedom, rushing over to Claire. Claire gave an excited scream as she bent over to grip his face. Five’s eyes grew comically wide at the sight, moved to stop her but Allison was already pulling her away and explaining how she needed to be gentle.

“So food because I am starved,” Klaus interrupted and before, whenever he asked for money for food, his siblings would tell him no, accuse him of wanting to go buy drugs (a valid point) and now they were jumping over themselves to feed him.

It was a nice change.

They ended up at the food truck by the beach, watched Claire take off through the sand with Mister Pennycrumb chasing her heels. Five was right behind them to make sure Claire didn’t accidently hurt his puppy.

“You did a good job,” Allison told him as they followed them along the beach at a slower pace, “I never even thought about it. Five needing company.”

Klaus shrugged, sipping on his straw as he watched Five try and pretend like he didn’t care what his puppy did when he so obviously did.

“He spent most of his life in the end of the world,” Klaus explained, “and he had Delores before. Now he doesn’t so I figured why not.”

Allison stopped him with a hand against his arm, staring up at him. He fluttered nervously as he had the irrational thought that he was being put on the spot. She just smiled at him all gentle and knowing and Klaus thinks that it seemed she was just grateful that someone got it. That someone was helping Five.

“I’m surprised Patrick let you bring Claire here,” Klaus confessed, causing Allison to roll her eyes as she turned away.

The wind whipped at her hair and she kept having to pull it from her features as they started back down the beach. Her eyes found Claire, alternating between running into the ocean and into the sand and it looked exhausting. Klaus was impressed by her youthful stamina.

“We’re talking again,” Allison explained, “Actually talking. Not just yelling and arguing and I don’t know. Sometimes I forget why I ever hated the guy.”

Klaus thought of Lyla and Al- knew they were responsible for bashing Five’s head against the wall and sending him to prison and a laundry list of other issues Klaus harbored- and he got it. He knew how hard it was to hate someone who was part of such a pivotal time in your life.

“You never hated him,” Klaus tried, “You wanted to because it would have made it easier, but you didn’t.”

Allison blinked at him but Klaus didn’t look- didn’t really notice. He continued down the beach lost in a time he’d been so sure he was over. Allison caught his wrist, fingers curling around him worriedly. He turned to stare at her in surprise.

“Klaus?” she asked, a thousand questions she didn’t ask but wanted to in her eyes.

Klaus smiled- a convincing thing, he knew- as he slipped his hand free to follow after his niece and brother. He whistled for Mister Pennycrumb and the puppy tripped over his paws to make his way to Klaus.

“Hey there Penny,” Klaus hummed, scratching his ribs and chin and head.

Five knelt down beside him, leaving Claire down the beach as she hurried back towards them. Allison smiled fondly as she came to a stop beside Klaus’s thigh. Mister Pennycrumb rolled over, demanding a belly rub as Five continued to watch with dark eyes.

“He likes you more than me,” Five accused but he didn’t sound hurt by it.

Klaus grinned up at him, “Relax brother mine. He’s all yours.”

“Yeah,” Five agreed bending over to take Klaus’s spot in rubbing Mister Pennycrumb’s stomach and his smile was soft and real and Klaus didn’t think Five was even aware of it, “I know.”

-

“Before I forget,” Allison said, reaching out to stop Klaus from following Five into the office, “We got you something. A present- me and Claire.”

“You didn’t have to,” Klaus reassured even as he followed her to her car.

Claire was waiting by the car door, looking smug and pleased and every bit her mother. Klaus gave her a warm smile. She beamed back- the excitement of a child- and Klaus has always liked kids. He just didn’t have time before to hang out with them.

Allison ran a hand through Claire’s hair as she said, “Why don’t you give your Uncle Klaus his gift sweetie?”

Klaus smiled at the name. Uncle Klaus. He was an uncle and hadn’t been a part of his niece’s life. Allison’s idea, he knew, didn’t want her daughter surrounded by Klaus’s poor life decisions. A fair concern but now Klaus was sober and Claire was there and he wanted to make things right.

Claire handed him a box, bow on top. Klaus’s smile grew.

“You wrapped it and everything,” Klaus noted, Allison’s hand rubbing at his arm as she smiled encouragingly.

“Mommy said it wouldn’t be much of a gift otherwise,” Claire stated matter-of-factly and serious and he gave her another gentle look.

“You’re right,” Klaus agreed, “You’re a very smart little girl.”

Claire practically preened under the praise. Allison nudged him with her shoulder and she looked at him with kind eyes as he began to unwrap the present. It was a smooth round ball, teal with an iridescent sheen. And it was heavy.

“It’s a crystal,” Allison explained, “Aqua Aura Quartz. It’s supposed to protect you from negative energies.”

Klaus flipped it from one hand to the other as he gave his sister a thoughtful expression. He held it up to his eye. He couldn’t see through it.

“You know I’m not actually psychic right?” he asked his sister and she smirked.

She clapped him on the shoulder and beamed and Klaus smiled back.

“Thank you,” he told her sincerely, “Both of you. I mean it.”

“Yeah,” Allison agreed as she drew him into a hug and held him there and promised, “Any time Klaus.”

-

“You got a dog?” Vanya asked Klaus, Mister Pennycrumb excitedly leaping at her leg and begging for attention and Klaus felt Five’s expression darkened.

“He was a gift actually,” Klaus corrected, “who hasn’t gone outside in a while. Five.”

Five disappeared in a flash of blue and Klaus heard him whispering at the door with Mister Pennycrumb. Klaus figured that was better than a mannequin.

Vanya’s face was soft as she stopped beside his desk and said, “You got Five a dog.”

Klaus dropped the feet he had crossed on the top of his desk drop as he sat up straighter. Vanya was still staring at him so he gave her a smile in return. Tried very hard not to eye the boxes in his sister’s hands.

“So it seems I had,” Klaus agreed, “Allison took us out to lunch already. You didn’t have to-”

“Yeah I know,” Vanya reassured, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear nervously as she set the box by the crystal Allison had given him, “These aren’t- they’re not edible. I just thought, you know, that they would be a nice touch. If you’d like, of course.”

Klaus raised his eyebrow at her, rose to his feet to look in the top box. It was crowded with wooden picture frame. Their price tags had been stripped but the oddly disturbing store photo was still tucked safely behind the glass.

Klaus moved the first box to his desk so he could open the one underneath it and he wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting. It most certainly had not been pictures of then in various stages of their lives.

“They’re, uh, not all of you,” Vanya was still explaining, “Pogo had never organized them, but I was thinking maybe we could sort through them and-”

Klaus hugged her neck, cutting off whatever she had been going to say.

He felt her words stutter nervously against his the soft curve of skin before she calmed, melting into his chest. Klaus wasn’t sure why he was getting so sentimental over photographs, but it was making his stomach do funny loops and he felt lightheaded and it was probably the fact that he was still sober but it was making him emotional.

Vanya was laughing, pulling away to tip her head to the side and note innocently, “I take it that means you like them.”

Klaus pulled her back to him, “I love them.”

And when Five returned with Mister Pennycrumb bouncing and barking excitedly it was to Klaus and Vanya sitting on the floor. Photos were splayed everywhere as they rifled through them in hopes of finding the best ones.

“What’s this?” Five asked, hooking his hip against the side of Klaus’s desk with his arms crossed and eyebrow raised, unimpressed.

Mister Pennycrumb had found Vanya, demanding her attention now that she was sitting down. Vanya chuckled even as she scratched underneath the puppy’s chin.

“Pictures,” Klaus explained, legs splayed on either side of him as he carefully took in childhood photos he didn’t even know they’d owned.

Five crouched down beside him. Klaus pulled his legs back towards him, crossed them to allow his brother a spot beside him.

“A bit sentimental,” Five noted as he reached out to pick up one of Luther sprawled on the couch dressed like he’d returned from a mission. His mouth was open in a snore, limbs splayed out in every odd direction.

Mister Pennycrumb had found his way into Vanya’s lap- preventing her from looking at anymore pictures. The puppy’s tail was wagging, pink tongue licking her cheek as Vanya explained, “Pogo said that he and Mom got them done in secret. Dad never knew about them.”

Five snorted, amused. Probably thinking of the giant reminder Reginald had placed in the living room after he disappeared. Klaus figured a secret family album was probably for the best. Neither of them said as much out loud, of course.

Instead Five sat beside him and Klaus shifted half of his pile over to him. They didn’t say anything because they didn’t have to, and Klaus knew Five was as touched by this sentiment as he was.

“Have either of you settled on a name yet?” Vanya asked, slipping to her back so Mister Pennycrumb could climb on her chest even as her hands simultaneously pushed him back and continued to pet him.

“Five has banished me from coming up with any more names,” Klaus pouted though he was smiling fondly down at a picture of Allison and Luther sitting at the dining room table.

They didn’t know their picture was being taken, arms crossed and fingers clasped and Klaus knew that it was because they weren’t allowed intimate relationships with anyone outside of the academy. They weren’t really allowed intimate relationships with each other, but if done in secret then they could get away with it and every child craved some sort of intimacy from other humans.

Then they grew up- grew away- and perhaps that was the biggest mistake they’ve ever done. Not staying in touch. Not staying together. Convinced themselves that their problems were bigger than each other’s.

Klaus set the picture in the reject pile as Five explained, “This idiot keeps coming up with the worst names.”

Vanya chuckled, still trapped beneath Mister Pennycrumb.

“Well I haven’t come up with anything worthwhile,” she explained still breathless and happy, “and you should really come up with a name soon. You look almost ready to open.”

“That’s what I keep saying, but if Klaus had his way we’d be called Spooky Stuff or something equally as ridiculous. I pity any children he has to name,” Five explained tersely and it was silly- it really, really was.

But Klaus felt it click in his brain.

If there’s answers you’re looking for then I’d suggest seeking out Tennessee.

“Son of a bitch!” Klaus exclaimed, scrambling to his feet as it all came together and made him dizzy because that was wrong.

It had to be. A misunderstanding or lie or something, but he remembered how empty that alleyway had been when he’d woken beside it. Eerily so, almost like it wasn’t in use anymore, and Klaus felt his fingers tug at his curls. Eyes wide and stomach flipping as he began pacing.

Vanya had pushed Mister Pennycrumb to the ground beside her so she could sit up. Her eyes were wide, and she looked startled. Whenever she looked towards Five for an explanation, though it was clear he was as equally lost as her.

Klaus ignored them both, brain spinning.

“Son of a bitch!” Klaus repeated feeling his pulse race and when he turned to face his siblings it was to twin expressions of concern.

“We were just joking about the terrible names,” Vanya tried, guessing and missing the mark on what was going on.

Klaus shook his head, brushed her off with a flip of his hands. Five narrowed dark eyes up at him suspiciously.

“When she said to seek out Tennessee I thought she’d meant the state, which was what had been confusing me,” Klaus said out loud- not sure why, “Especially considering neither of them has ever been. But I forgot. Cloud’s little sister. Christ on a cracker, she’d been so little the last time I saw her.”

Vanya was shaking her head but Five was on his feet. His face was calm which, Klaus knew from experience, was usually a bad sign.

“She?” he repeated, “Klaus, who have you been talking to?”

Klaus reeled back as he remembered himself. It was too late to start trying to backtrack now, though. And Five was his partner so he really deserved an explanation. Klaus also knew he couldn’t offer one now or they’d never get anywhere.

“Later,” he promised as he stepped over the pictures and his sister to grab his jacket from behind his chair and head towards the door, “but first I need to visit an old acquaintance.”

-

The place was as he remembered it- a sleazy club that had as high a chance of selling people out for sex as it did alcohol or drugs. In the passenger seat of Five’s van Vanya shuffled uncomfortably, growing bright red as she realized where they were at.

Klaus didn’t allow himself to stop and think about it. Because if he did then he was going to let them talk him into leaving. Then they’d call Diego or Ben and they’d make him feel guilty, and they’d never get anywhere.

So Klaus sucked in the sinking sensation that this was a bad idea as he climbed from the van to head towards the door. It was a narrow building, stairs leading up to its entrance. What little windows it had was barred closed, tall broad-shouldered man standing at the door to filter the people who entered.

He didn’t even glance at Klaus as he slipped past- his siblings shouting at him as the man caught them with a shake of his head. Five growled, had to be pulled back by Vanya. Klaus waved their shouting off.

“It’s okay,” he reassured, “I’ll just be a little while.”

Five cursed. The only thing keeping him from teleporting in the building was a pale faced wide-eyed Vany,a and Klaus felt really bad at dragging her here. He did, but this scratching in the back of his skull- this bad feeling he’s settled with- called him further inside.

The main part had a stage, men and women dressed in practically nothing swinging around poles with glittery skin and empty smiles. People crowded around them offering money to whoever was closest. Klaus weaved his way through the bodies, music thumping in the back of his skull.

He found the staircase beside the stage, ignored the ‘Employees Only’ sign as he pushed the door open and started up the steps. They didn’t creak under his weight despite their age. Klaus didn’t think that it would matter all that much if they did, couldn’t hear much past the music echoing through the walls, bouncing amongst all the empty space.

A man- like the one out front- was waiting for him at the top of the stairs. He didn’t stop Klaus, and he’d really thought she’d fire all of Cloud’s old employees once she got ahold of the business. Either way it was in his benefit that she hadn’t, had been granted access to the room blocked only by a door made of beads dangling from strings.

The beads clanged together as he stepped inside, wood changing to red carpet. The room was smaller than he remembered. A private bar sat against the wall closest to Klaus, bartender giving him a bored tip of his head. Klaus grimaced, eyes adjusting to the low light.

In the middle of the room was a long yellow couch. A man sat on top of it, tourniquet tied around his bicep as he waited for a hit Klaus knew wasn’t ever coming. Not if the hole in his chest was anything to go by.

He didn’t look up at Klaus’s passing. Neither did the girl straddling another girl’s lap, hands wrapped in the mess of dark curls as she sucked at her neck and moved her hips to some invisible rhythm. The girl beneath her did glance up at him in curiosity, mouth parted and eyes foggy. They were still dressed but Klaus didn’t think that was going to last long. He stepped past them, under the low doorframe and coughed at the smoke crowding the room.

“You know those things cause cancer.”

The room was tiny, round table with mounds of money stacked on top of it took up most of the inside space. Three people sat at it- two more mountains of men like the last couple of guards Klaus passed. Between them was a woman with a waterfall of dark ringlets and skin only a shade lighter. She was the one responsible for all the smoke, cigarette perched between delicate fingers.

At his voice she glanced up- eyes dark and bored- and the smile she offered him would have looked more natural on a snake. Her gold spun shirt was a low cut, revealing an unnatural amount of cleavage, and he imagined her skirt would’ve been more useful as underwear.

“No shit,” she offered as a greeting, “Dead man walking.”

Klaus smiled- as fake and sharp as everything else in this place. The men rose to their feet but stilled with a flick of her wrist.

“You shouldn’t talk like that,” he reminded, ignored the way his lungs were itching from the smoke.

Her smile remained on her face but her eyes were cold as she tilted her head and inquired, “Because I’m a girl?”

Klaus shrugged.

She inhaled the end of her cigarette, blew out a puff of smoke in an almost lazy exhale. Her eyes remained on him as he moved to the table, glanced down at all the money. Resisted the urge to catch it on fire.

“I take it business has been good,” Klaus noted, “and considering you’re sitting in your brother’s chair you’ve finally inherited it all.”

Another inhale followed by a dark cloud.

“My brother- rest his soul- was a sexist jerk who believed women were only good for two things: sex and cleaning,” Tennessee reminded.

“He also raised you,” Klaus pointed out, “I don’t remember him ever inviting you to this place. So he must be dead.”

“I’d say I’m surprised you’re not, but we both know why,” she tipped her head to the side, curls tumbling over a delicate shoulder, “That wouldn’t happen to be connected to the reason you’re here, would it?”

Klaus’s smile sharpened, “Al’s always had slippery fingers.”

Tennessee practically breathed smoke, dark eyes glittering, “I bet. Snapped Cloud’s neck and if it had been any other psychic he would have left their bodies beside each other.”

Klaus turned the table’s corner, careful to keep most of his expressions from his face, as he corrected, “Not a psychic. I don’t get premonitions. I don’t see the future. I’m not sensitive to emotions or auras or whatever. I just see people who’ve made it the unfortunate habit to stop breathing.”

Tennessee glared up at him as he stopped in front of her. Leaned back on the table, crossed his arms and waited for the threats to begin.

Predictably enough Tennessee snarled meanly, “You here to offer your body to me now that my brother’s dead? Get good in my pocket?”

Klaus shook his head, “I never slept with your brother. I don’t plan on sleeping with you. I just want some answers and, for whatever reason, Lyla thinks you can give them to me.”

She perked up at the mention of Lyla- had always admired her considering she was the only woman Cloud was wary of. Klaus didn’t think that was a winning attribute but what’d he know? Tennessee’s eyes flickered down to the bracelet Lyla had given him.

“She dead?” Tennessee demanded, barrel of a gun pushing at the small of Klaus’s back at her words.

He didn’t turn- knew it had been coming. Tennessee thought she was clever but was almost painfully predictable and high and young and she knew it too. Knew that she wasn’t going to last a week unless she aligned herself to someone bigger and stronger than her.

“No,” Klaus said, “Were you expecting her?”

Tennessee shrugged. The gun didn’t move. Klaus sighed, knew he needed to be careful with his words but also knew that Tennessee had never liked him because he was one of Cloud’s favorites and she hated all her brother’s things on principle alone.

“Sleeping with Lyla’s husband isn’t going to win you any favors from her,” Klaus explained and flinched at the sharp pain of the gun jamming itself in the soft flesh of his back.

“It did for you,” Tennessee reminded before spitting, “He rejected me, the bastard.”

“He’s a married man.”

“He had been that too when he’d slept with you,” Tennessee growled, “and he didn’t kill you or that brother of yours. He killed mine but spared everyone else, so I say it again. Bastard.”

“Lyla won’t appreciate that either,” Klaus warned, “She’s very protective of him.”

Tennessee’s glare could melt glass, “What do you want Klaus?”

“I want to know why Cloud was killed,” Klaus said, “He told me, but I forgot.”

Tennessee shrugged, “Alessandro and Lyla came back with drugs, and Cloud refused to sell them. The cocky idiot. No one refuses them so they killed him.”

That wasn’t right. Neither Al nor Lyla were particularly fond of drugs- the only business with Cloud they ever ran was the kind best behind closed doors. No matter how much money was in selling the stuff.

“Your brother was many things, a coward being top on that list, but he always tested to make sure the stuff was legit. If he wasn’t selling and they killed him for it then it was probably a bogus batch.”

Tennessee’s smile grew dopey and she probably thought it made her look like Lyla when she was seducing someone. It didn’t, really. Reminded Klaus of how young she was. Young and foolish and stupid.

“The batch isn’t bogus,” Tennessee reassured sounding pleased and almost gleeful, “Killed a man right in front of me. Writhing like a worm in the sunlight, choking on foam.”

Klaus shook his head, frowned down at her disapprovingly as he sighed in almost disappointment, “At least Cloud always had the common sense not to try the stuff. I was wrong to come here. I’ll make sure to tell Lyla she gave me a dead lead.”

Tennessee made the mistake of allowing her face to grow cross with anger. Emotional and foolish. Easily manipulated. Klaus didn’t have time for this.

“Brave words for a man with a gun to his back,” she threatened but Klaus was already stepping away from the gun and around the man holding it to him.

She gawked but nobody stopped Klaus on his way out. Five and Vanya were waiting for him outside, and Vanya looked nearly faint from worry.

She closed the distance to wrap him in a tight hug as she nearly sobbed, “Klaus, you idiot.”

Five stopped behind her. “Did you find what you were looking for?”

Klaus shrugged, didn’t elaborate. They didn’t ask again.

-

Chase the dead Klaus.

-

The handcuff bit into the flesh of his wrist as he startled awake- dreams dissolving into smoke. Images he could no longer touch but left him cold. It made him pant as wild eyes gazed around his room for clues. Charlie smiled back from Ben’s chair.

“You know,” Charlie said, “my whole life I thought this whole sixth sense thing was a sham.”

Klaus tilted his head to the side, breathing still an uneven thing. His chest was aching, and if he hadn’t known any better than he would have thought he was having a heart attack or something. But he did know better and knew this was him returning from a ghost’s last memory.

Charlie’s last memory, apparently.

“Evidently not,” Klaus sighed, shoulders slumping as he reached for the handcuff key he kept in the folds of his pillowcase.

He freed himself, rubbed at his dry eyes. It’s felt like he hasn’t slept in days and everything inside him ached and he wanted nothing more than to lie back down and not move for weeks. That would most certainly tip the others that something was wrong though, so he forced himself to roll out of bed.

Klaus stretched his arms over his head, interlocked his fingers and tipped from one side to the other. He was dressed just in a tie-dyed pair of underwear he’d gotten as a gag gift, ignored Charlie’s wandering eyes as he checked the hall for any wandering siblings. He didn’t see any.

“So Charlie,” Klaus sighed turning back towards the ghost, “I’m guessing you don’t remember your killer.”

Charlie shrugged, looking sheepish.

“Sorry,” he offered.

Klaus stopped in front of him, promised, “It’s okay. Take my hand.”

Charlie reached out, hand passing through Klaus’s easily. Klaus internally cursed, wiggled his fingers indicating for him to try again. He tasted copper, figured he probably shouldn’t be biting so hard on his lip.

The next time, though, Charlie’s hands settled in his.

“You probably do this all the time,” Charlie noted, face smiling and bright and Klaus tilted his head to the side.

“Not enough and yet too much,” Klaus replied, “Think happy thoughts.”

He rose his palm, GOOD BYE directed towards the ghost. Warmth itched underneath his skin as it started to glow blue. Charlie chuckled as Klaus felt him begin to fade from the between.

“It’s funny,” Charlie said as he began to fade away, “It’s almost like my killer is chasing you. Be careful.”

Then he was gone.

Klaus let his arms drop, turned around and almost screamed. Actually- considering the way the doors clanged against the wall as footsteps hurried towards his room- Klaus may have screamed a tiny bit. Reginald didn’t seem bothered, barely looked interested.

“I can assure you, Number Four, that I do not have time for your games,” Reginald told him, bored and disinterested.

He didn’t even glance over as Ben entered, followed shortly by Diego. Their eyes were twin shades of dark homicidal rage, and Klaus figured that was fair. He stopped screaming at ghosts after the mausoleum. Now it was like he was that scared little boy again and he could not handle his father’s ghost following him around all the time.

“Klaus?” Ben asked, face crinkled in concern as he must have realized the thing that had made Klaus maybe scream wasn’t something anybody else was going to see.

“Go ahead,” Reginald commanded without looking up from the book he was writing in, “Reassure your brother that you are in no need of his assistance.”

Klaus gaped, finding his voice, “You really are an asshole.”

That got Reginald to look up at him- all disappointment and cold eyes and Klaus felt himself glare back. Ben looked startled at the vehemence in Klaus’s voice. Diego didn’t. Diego’s gaze only darkened further, knives clutched in his hands.

“Crap,” Diego sighed as the rest of the family made it to Klaus’s room.

“What is it?” Luther demanded anxiously, “Is everyone okay?”

“Yeah,” Klaus promised hollowly, eyes trapped on Reginald scribbling back in his book as Ben’s fingers continued to squeeze anxiously at his arm, “Just peachy Luther.”

“You can relax now Number Four,” Reginald promised- prime and proper like he’d been in life, “I have only come to warn you. In your careless nature you’ve allowed yourself to paint a target on your back.”

“Oh wow you almost sound like you care old man,” Klaus sneered without any bite and the room grew silent as his siblings seemed to realize who he was talking to.

Reginald’s eyes flickered down to Klaus’s wrist- skin broken and red and swollen- before back to him as he said, “If only you’d been sober while I was still alive. There was still so much we need to work on as far as control goes.”

Klaus bristled- tired and sober and annoyed- as he growled, “I’m handling it just fine on my own.”

Reginald’s eyes turned towards the handcuffs still dangling innocently from his bedframe and, of course, he had to come and screw up Klaus’s system. Now if the others asked then he had to explain it to them. Klaus resisted the urge to yank at his curls.

“Quite,” Reginald hummed in disapproval.

“You know what?” Klaus demanded, moving.

He raised his hand, palm facing his father. GOOD BYE. And he freed himself from Ben’s grip, shouldered past his siblings and started down the hall. He didn’t turn to see if Reginald was still in his room.

He didn’t care either way.

-

Klaus looked small and pale and young sitting in what had served as the home’s infirmary. Grace was beside him, holding his arm in her hand as she hummed softly to herself. Klaus’s wrist looked a concerning shade of red. Ringlets from all the nights he’s spent chained to his headframe for some weird reason.

Ben was hovering- sentinel on duty- but he was keeping his hands to himself. Eyes the only thing betraying his concern. Not that Klaus seemed aware of anything. Grace hadn’t given him anything but his eyes had a distant look to them.

Blank and it made something sour crawl up Diego’s stomach. It was only Ben and Diego in the room currently. The others, Diego knew, were downstairs waiting for Grace to fix a wrist none of them had even known was hurt. And Diego had just allowed himself to believe that they were all getting better.

He looked down at Klaus’s wrist and realized how wrong he was.

“It’s not a sex thing,” Klaus said then- voice gentle- face twisting as he seemed to realize how that made him sound.

Ben reached out, set his hand against Klaus’s arm in reassurance as he promised, “You don’t have to explain yourself Klaus.”

But Klaus looked up at them- eyes wide and clear as glass and Diego thinks he’s seen that look before. That look of complete vulnerability Klaus wore, like it was the most natural thing in the world.

“I’ve started sleepwalking,” Klaus told them, “Lyla thinks it could have something to do with my powers.”

The name meant nothing to Diego, but apparently it meant a whole lot to Ben. His face grew several shades darker, eyebrows furrowing together and expression so sharp Diego was surprised it didn’t cut Klaus. Klaus was either oblivious to the look or ignored it, and he looked almost sick. Worse than any high Diego’s ever seen his brother experience.

“I thought you weren’t speaking with her anymore,” Ben said- snapped- face still dark, “Cutting off all ties. Klaus you said you weren’t taking the case. You looked me in the eye and promised I had nothing to worry about.”

Klaus didn’t seem bothered by the accusation in his brother’s voice. He shrugged, shoulders slumping and eyes still too wide and too bright and too helpless. Diego wished he’d stop looking like that.

“And then I started sleepwalking,” Klaus offered as an explanation.

Klaus!” Ben exclaimed.

Diego shook his head, “Whose Lyla?”

“Lyla Russo,” Ben explained before Klaus could, “Wife of Alessandro Russo and Klaus’s ex. Both of them.”

Diego was sure that whatever his face looked like it was enough to make a grown man quiver. He’s been told that his eyes could get this sheen, scarier than death, and it had always been a funny thought to him because Klaus never seemed particularly frightening and was the one who had always been compared to death.

Neither his brothers seemed affected. Klaus might have been if he didn’t look so out of it, and Diego always knew that if he had to see Reginald again for any reason it would at least make him pause. And Klaus had been looking particularly delicate lately.

Klaus,” Diego growled, a warning as much as it was a demand.

This time Klaus was the one to explain, “I hadn’t known they were married at the time. It was- uh. After I got out of jail the first time. About three months. Maybe five. And I don’t know. I went to some club. Apparently Al was there too.”

“Al?”

Klaus’s face did another funny thing where it flickered like he was hurt and Diego never even knew that he had even heard the name much less well enough to have a nickname, “Alessandro. Apparently it was a thing he’d do- take in a nightly lover. Spoil them or whatever and Al knows how to spoil a person.”

Diego met Ben’s gaze. Ben nodded in affirmation.

“And then?” Diego pressed gently.

Klaus shrugged, “I got bored about a week in. So I left and found Lyla- thought she’d make a good next whatever. After that it was more of a back and forth. I’d need money or food or was just tired of sleeping on the street and they’d take me in. They always tried sobering me up though, so I never stayed very long. Only when I was desperate.”

“How long did that last?” because Diego needed to know even though the thought of his brother near those people made him shiver.

Grace began wrapping Klaus’s wrist in gauze. Klaus watched her with a vacant look in his eyes- lost in a time only he knows.

“About a year. Then the ghosts started to come, and I noticed they smelt the same and the pieces began to fall into place,” Klaus explained, “So I took their money and left and when they found me I knew they knew I knew. Three days later, I was being arrested for something I knew they did.”

“Jesus Klaus,” Diego cursed, turning away because his brain was spinning and his stomach was sick but he couldn’t leave because this had to pale compared to what Klaus was feeling.

Klaus shrugged, Grace releasing his arm with a reassuring smile. He leaned back, avoided Diego’s gaze. Diego tried to not to think about why that bothered him as much as it did.

“It wasn’t all bad,” Klaus’s bare heels were clicking against the operating table he was sitting on as he adopted a dreamy look, “They were kind. Gentle and soft and Lyla was the only one who’d asked for sex.”

“Alessandro kills people.”

“But not Klaus,” Ben pointed out and when Diego looked at him he realized that Ben believed that those people cared about their brother, “Diego-”

No,” Diego snapped, understanding the underlying meaning and hating it- couldn’t believe Ben would even suggest it.

This had been his problem before- when he’d still been in the police academy and believed in the law and rules- people trying to use Klaus like he was some sort of thing. Unafraid of breaking him and it’d been something Diego was so sure Ben agreed with him on.

Except whatever mood Klaus had entered since waking up this morning had seemed to finally have disappeared. Lost, waves breaking in the endless rolling changes of Klaus’s moods.

“Al didn’t kill Cindy. He didn’t kill Charlie. I don’t know who did but it wasn’t him. He’s doing… something else,” Klaus slipped past him, fingers waving as he moved down the hallway.

Diego hadn’t even known Charlie was dead. He started after his brother, Ben catching his wrist.

“He’s the only one Diego,” Ben reminded, “to survive them. I don’t know why but for some reason they’re obsessed.”

Diego turned to glare at his brother, “Klaus mentioned going to jail for these people.”

“Twice,” Ben affirmed, gaze dark as he stared down the spot Klaus disappeared to, “because they couldn’t kill him. Still can’t kill him. They don’t care about anyone else.”

“And you’re okay with them being around him?” Diego demanded, needed to know.

Ben swallowed, eyes wide, but he shook his head and when he spoke it was small and soft and real, “Of course not Diego. But I may not have a choice.”

-

Lyla was sitting on his desk- beside the box of pictures and the Aqua Aura Allison got him. Her legs were crossed, red necklace out of place with her green dress and black heels. Five stepped past her- didn’t even offer her a second glance as he moved towards his own space.

Klaus froze, brain stuttering in realization. Tripping over itself in order to make sense of something that had always seemed impossible before.

Lyla smiled- face a vulnerable kindness she deprived herself of in life- as she tilted her head and said, “Don’t cry for me Klaus. What’s done is done.”

Klaus found his voice.

No.

Five turned at his voice, must have recognized his expression as his eyes flittered around the room. Looking for something he couldn’t see- passing over Lyla. Lyla’s eyes remained focused on him, though. Green eyes sparkling with an intensity not even death could take from her.

“Don’t do that Klaus,” Lyla warned, “Don’t retreat in that pretty little head of yours.”

Klaus jutted out his chin in defiance- heard the door open as Ben shouldered past it carrying an awkwardly shaped box. Diego was close behind, and they were murmuring amongst themselves and Klaus was surprised by how well the two of them seemed to be taking all of this.

He figured they would have demanded him to shut this whole idea down the moment they had a physical reason to. Instead they were just following around as if to protect Klaus from every inconvenience life held. It was a nice sentiment- as empty as they all knew it was.

Lyla’s head tilted backwards, curls bouncing against her back, as her eyes took in Klaus’s brothers. They froze when they realized Klaus had stopped- staring at nothing. Five gave them a warning look, shook his head.

“I think my favorite is the littlest one,” Lyla said, turning Klaus’s attention towards Five, “I’d daresay he’s as smart as me.”

Klaus snorted with a roll of his eyes, “High praise.”

Lyla uncrossed her legs, leaned forward. Her eyes were shining and bright and excited in a way Klaus knew she lacked in life.

Ben came from behind, set a hand against the small of his back. His voice was tentative as he asked, “Klaus?”

Klaus turned towards his brother, eyes falling to Diego staring behind him.

“I think you need to go talk with your detective friend,” Klaus heard himself say, “There’s been another murder.”

“Two, actually,” Lyla corrected from behind, “I hadn’t been alone in that room. A man-”

“Charlie,” Klaus finished for her before shaking his head, “Your detective friend’s killer has been busy Diego, and right now she’ll need you.”

Diego huffed, eyes pained. He probably wanted to but his eyes kept flickering to the bandages wrapped around Klaus’s wrist. He’d been lucky, Grace had said. It had already begun to get infected and any longer it would’ve made him sick. Not to mention Diego knew Klaus’s ex for his role in the Crimson Sword.

Klaus kept his opinion on that to himself. A secret he thinks best to leave in the grave. If only the grave would stop slapping him around.

“I’ll be fine,” Klaus promised, “but you two should go.”

Klaus,” Diego tried but Ben’s always been good at seeing what Klaus wasn’t saying. His hand moved away from Klaus as he turned to face Diego.

“He’s right,” Ben said- ever on Klaus’s side even when it was clear he didn’t want to be, “We should go see if we can help the investigation any- considering what we know.”

Lyla perked up. Puffed herself out like a dangerous creature as her face crossed with the fury she wore whenever someone threatened her husband, and Klaus hadn’t even thought of Al until that moment.

“Stop them,” she snapped, “Al isn’t to blame. He didn’t do this. He didn’t hurt me. Klaus!”

Help! Help me! Klaus, please!

Klaus’s hands clamped over his ears- twelve years old and trapped surrounded by the dark and death and stone and dad please. Save me. Please.

“Stop it,” Klaus begged. Sobbed, “Stop it please.”

Hands reached for him from the darkness. Claws pawing at his arms as the voices bounced in his skull, and it wasn’t fair. He’d been doing so well. So careful to keep it contained somewhere deep in the darkest crevices of his mind.

“Klaus?”

Help me Klaus! You have to save-

“-me. Klaus? Look at me-”

Klaus! Help! Help! Help!

The fingers grabbed onto the back of his shirt, tried to ground him back into reality. Klaus jerked away. Stumbled over himself because he was flipping between past and present. The dead and the alive and it really wasn’t fair.

“Klaus!”

“Everybody shush!” Klaus shouted, curling into a ball with his palms pressed flat against the side of his skull, “Shut up! Shut up! Shut! Up!

“Focus Klaus. Just on my voice. Come on. You can do it.”

He looked up, saw the familiar flash of bright green and red as Lyla peered back at him. Her face was sincere and kind. She smiled, crouched in front of him as she encouraged, “That’s right Klaus. Look at me. You’re okay. You’re alright. It’s okay.”

Klaus sobbed, pressed his forehead into his knees. His brothers were staring down at him like they weren’t sure what to do, and Klaus realized it was the first time any of them has seen him breakdown. Even Ben, who’d still been young and alive and oblivious as Reginald locked Klaus in places he never returned from.

This was new to them. It was probably new to Lyla too, but he still remembered the mornings she’d soothe him awake. Whispered nothings into the top of his head as she held him.

“Focus only on my voice,” Lyla commanded, “Nothing else matters. They don’t matter. You’re the one in control Klaus. Not me. Not the dead. Not your father. You. Klaus. You know that right?”

Klaus stared. Allowed her words to wash over him as he found himself back into reality. He was on the ground of his office, and when he looked up he could see Five’s dark expression staring uncertainly down at him. Klaus suddenly felt embarrassed, falling apart like he was some little kid. Reginald would have been so disappointed.

Lyla smiled proudly back.

“You did good Klaus,” she promised, hand settling against his cheek.

Her touch was electric, buzzing through his veins and making him weak. Even her lips she pressed on the top of his head left him feeling dizzy and weak.

“You did good. You did real good.”

-

“Retirement treating you fairly, old timer?”

Five blinked, tilted his head to the side so he could glance over at Hazel. He frowned up at him- didn’t expect to see him again anytime soon. Especially not at the donut shop who’s waitress Five had previously believed he’d run off with.

Five’s fingers clicked against the surface as he said, “I thought you were gone.”

Hazel shrugged, casual and relaxed and Five thinks that if things had happened differently than they could have been not friends but perhaps acquaintances. They certainly held a healthy sort of respect for each other.

“The new Handler asked me to look into this weird case,” Hazel explained fingers thrumming against the surface of the counter, “After you went rouge it seemed everyone thinks they can. I’m the most familiar with this time period so here I am.”

Five wrinkled his nose, “New Handler?”

Hazel took a sip of his coffee as he shrugged again, “You know her. She’s ruthless and cold and tired of all the Commission’s bullshit. You should be grateful. She’s pardoned you on all charges for no other reason except that you’re the biggest pain-in-the-ass I’ve ever met.”

Five gave him a sharp grin- eyes bright and smile tight, a frightening look he knew from years of experience, “Thank you.”

Hazel chuckled dryly before the waitress returned with Five’s box of donuts and Klaus’s green tea because it calms him and he looked so broken when Five left. Small and vulnerable and Five wasn’t used to his siblings looking broken.

And he was smart. He knew that Reginald had always been particularly harsh to Klaus growing up- so much so that he turned towards drugs for release. They’d all seen it and they’d all been quick to call him weak for it but in that moment, with Klaus curled in on himself with soft breathless pleads and the way Ben’s face just dropped like he knew, Five realized that it was so much worse than they initially believed.

So Five left the care of their brother to Diego and Ben so he can clear his head and figure something out. The only thing he could think of, though, was how Klaus had bought him a puppy because he’d noticed what no one else had. Of how Klaus had shared smiles and soft promises and tried so hard to make everything okay for everyone else.

They hadn’t even noticed he’d been struggling.

“You know I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this pale,” Hazel noted, “and I tried killing you multiple times. I’d love to hear this secret- would have been nice to know before.”

Five shrugged and admitted, “It’s my brother.”

Hazel’s eyebrows rose up his forehead as he took another sip of his coffee, waited patiently. Maybe could-be-friends after all.

“He’s never really explored his powers growing up,” Five offered, “I’m starting to think we should have paid closer attention.”

“Is this the weird junkie brother?” Hazel inquired- prodded gently, “The one that can commune with the dead?”

“Klaus. Yeah.”

Hazel paused- stopped to consider something, and Five knew about the kidnapping and torture the two assassins had inflicted on Klaus but- again- never thought past it much further than that. They should have. Klaus would have.

“He’s stronger than he looks,” Hazel offered as some weird type of reassurance, “We beat him for most of the night looking for you and not once did he offer anything useful. I’ve known people- soldiers and assassins and people of the Commission- who broke a third as quickly. He’s a very special type of person.”

Five nodded, wished they knew where to start. Klaus would have known- would have already figured it out- and there’d be nothing to stop him from doing everything he could to fix it. Except Klaus was the one hurting and they’d let him. They hadn’t even noticed.

Not even Ben, who Klaus was trying to help by showing him that there was more to life than following him around. That he had dreams and aspirations before, and now he had a chance to finally follow them.

“Yeah. He is,” Five agreed before he grimaced and asked, “This rouge agent? Who is he?”

“I don’t know,” Hazel confessed, “Some pencil pusher that disappeared several years ago. Nobody even noticed until he started killing people.”

“The Commission caring about killing people? That’s a first.”

“It’s complicated,” Hazel informed him, “There’s no reason for them to die. He’s just doing it and as far as we can tell there’s no connection.”

Five made a soft thoughtful noise. Hazel gave him another look before sighing and rising to his feet, paying for his drink and starting for the door.

“Be careful old man,” Hazel offered, dip of his head before heading out the back.

Five watched him go before gathering Klaus’s donuts and tea and made his way back to his van. By the time he reached it he’d decided that his family had enough to worry about at the moment.

-

Klaus was in a chair by the window when Five returned. His eyes were closed, head tilted back and it was a convincing imitation of sleep. Ben was beside him clutching at Klaus’s limp hand. Diego was beside Klaus’s desk watching them with a dark expression.

Nobody spared a glance at Five as he re-entered.

Klaus did manage a breathless, “Welcome back brother dearest.”

Five held out his cup. Klaus opened his eyes, squinted, before accepting it. He didn’t drink any of it though. He just dropped it on his thigh as Ben’s fingers tightened around Klaus’s other hand. Squeezing so tight Five was almost afraid he was going to break the cup.

“How are you feeling?” Five asked awkwardly- couldn’t remember the last time he’d cared about someone enough to be worried how they were.

Klaus closed his eyes again, allowed his head to fall back. His skin was pale and waxy but he didn’t look as bad so maybe that was something. Five glanced at the red rings around Klaus’s wrist and figured probably not.

“Charlie wasn’t the only one killed last night,” Klaus explained slowly, “Lyla’s dead, and she’s here. With us. Now.”

Diego’s jaw twitched, eyes flashing. He looked angry- angrier than Five remembers him ever being, which seemed impossible- before it was back to an expressionless mask. Cautious and kind in ways he only ever was with Klaus.

“Was it your ex?” he asked, “The psychopathic killer?”

Klaus chuckled dryly- humor gone from his voice, “Al didn’t do this. He’d never kill Lyla, and she’s currently glaring at you for even suggesting it.”

Diego rolled his shoulders, eyes flashing in the general direction he thought she was in. It was a protective warning even though he probably never met her and couldn’t follow through on any sort of threat because she was not alive.

But it was Klaus and more than any of them- even Ben sometimes- Diego tried. Diego always tries, and it was rare but sometimes that wasn’t enough. Five thinks this was one of those times, glancing over at Klaus. All long pale limbs and dark hair that’s always seemed to stick out amongst his delicate features. It wasn’t hard to see what attracted so many to him- dead and living alike.

“Do you need anything?” Ben asked, hyper aware to Klaus’s needs.

But Klaus shook his head, shoulders drooping as he slumped further in the chair. His long fingers gripped the lid of his tea and with anyone else it would have looked aggressive but Klaus had always been delicate in everything he did. Young and dainty, even as an adult, and now was no different.

“I guess we should get to work,” Klaus noted softly, “And you three need to leave.”

Diego and Ben shared a look as Klaus’s gaze focused in the general direction of Five. Five turned his head, allowed his expression to sour.

But it was directed towards his brothers when he said, “He’s speaking of Lyla.”

Klaus grinned at him. He didn’t move from his spot and it was weird. The exhaustion de-aging him into something in need of their constant protection. Klaus didn’t but still. It was easy to forget when he wore vulnerability so casually.

But Klaus spent most of his life living in the darkest corners of the world. Drug dens and alleyways with people who made Five’s skin crawl. He still felt dirty from yesterday and all he had done was stand outside and wait.

“Klaus you-”

Klaus finally freed his hand from Ben as he finished, “-am with Five. I’ll be fine. Besides I don’t really want to be around others right now.”

Ben looked pained- reached out for Klaus but something kept him from falling back into his personal space. Klaus didn’t seem to notice but Five figured he was warranted a pass. Just this once but Five was quickly learning that he was in habit of giving his siblings a lot of passes.

He risked a glance at Diego and was surprised to see that he seemed to agree with Klaus.

“Time to go buddy,” he announced as he pushed off Klaus’s desk, “Come on. I’ll drop you off anywhere you want.”

It was clear Ben wanted to do anything else, but Diego’s eyes were dark as they bore down on him. Serious, gaze made of steel, and it was rare Diego looked at them like that. It was almost as if he wanted Ben to stop caring about Klaus so much.

Ben obeyed though. Unfolded himself from the other chair with only a single look back to Klaus, who’d allowed his eyes to slip close once more. Five was the one who walked his brothers to the door, expression neutral even as Ben spun on him.

“Watch him Five,” he practically sneered evidently forgetting himself, “If anything happens to him-”

“He’s stronger that that Ben,” Five interrupted with a low drawl and Ben blinked, returning enough to look ashamed.

“Five, I’m sorry,” he apologized.

“It’s okay,” Five reassured as he shut the door.

He didn’t ask Klaus anything- didn’t interrogate him. It didn’t feel right but Five was still learning how to interact with others. He shouldn’t have allowed Claire to talk him into leaving Mister Pennycrumb for her to play with.

Klaus took a sip of his tea and remained silent. Almost sullen as he receded to whatever secret place he locks himself in whenever it becomes too much. Five squinted at him from his desk- not sure how to make it better.

“I think I need to go,” Klaus announced suddenly, rising to his feet and setting the cup down by his desk as he went to find some shoes, “If I’m not back before noon then call Diego.”

Five’s eyebrows rose and he had been expecting Klaus to be complacent for some reason. He wasn’t sure why. It was Klaus- Klaus wasn’t one to sit around and do whatever he was told.

“Do you want a ride?” Five asked unhelpfully, moved to follow a step behind Klaus and maybe it was his own fault.

Five left. For years he was gone and when he returned he expected his siblings to follow step in what he deemed whatever was the most important. Expected Klaus to fall in like a perfect soldier and then insulted him when he wasn’t. It was a complex like that that had him keeping whatever was bothering him to himself.

Klaus gave him a smile. Shook his head. Polite and kind and unwilling to be anyone else’s burden and that was on all of them.

“A walk will be good for me,” Klaus promised, “Don’t break anything.”

Five glowered. Klaus’s laugh followed him out the door.

-

The bar was dark and empty- didn’t officially open until noon. No one tried stopping Klaus though. No angry shouts or things being thrown at his head. Just dark tired eyes before the head tipped towards the backroom.

Klaus gave a smile of thanks, palms pressed together in front of him even as he moved in the direction indicated. He already had an idea of where he was going, familiar with the bar. It had a reputation for attracting poor attention but Klaus had sometimes needed shadows to duck inside. People who wouldn’t offer a second glance at the tattoo on his arm.

Now there was nothing but empty chairs and tables until he reached the folded lump by the bar. Dark suit- expensive as ever- and cold blue eyes hazy with alcohol tilted to look at him.

“Am I really so predictable?” Alessandro asked, returning his attention to his drink, “Lyla would have called me boring.”

Klaus took the seat next to him. He didn’t reach out to pat his shoulder. He didn’t take his drink from him and demand him to not mourn because Lyla was dead. He was allowed to fall apart. Klaus was just there to catch him before he descended too far in the darkness.

“You’re not predictable Al,” Klaus promised, “You’re in mourning. You’re allowed to be sad.”

Alessandro gave a soft sigh, glass clicking against the counter. His eyes were dark, clouded in memories of the one he lost. Almost as if he knew Lyla was beside him, legs crossed and eyes soft. Elbows propped against the counter as she leaned back almost casually. Green eyes watching him like she was waiting for him to spontaneously explode.

Except they both knew that Alessandro’s temper was never hot. Lyla’s had been- fierce and destructive in every form of the word- and in return Alessandro was the opposite. Cold and subtle, burrowing itself in your soul to destroy you from the inside out.

“You here to mourn with me?” Alessandro asked cynically, “The man Lyla married and the man she loved. Fitting.”

Klaus,” Lyla cut in, voice strangled in the back of her throat.

“She cared for you,” Klaus offered, “Sex with me was just better. You agreed.”

Alessandro glared in the bottom of his glass, “You were never just sex for us Klaus.”

“But it was good though, right?’ Klaus pressed- not sure why. He leaned over. Set his hand against Alessandro’s wrist.

Alessandro caught him and pushed it into the countertop. Fingers squeezing into the soft skin. The leather smooth against Klaus’s wrist. Klaus grunted, made sure to keep his face calm as he stared into the eyes he’d once believed were kind and pure.

Klaus didn’t move. Not even when Alessandro leaned over so he was so close his breath was tickling Klaus’s skin. Goosebumps running down his neck and at one time that would have turned Klaus on.

“There were a lot of good things about you,” Alessandro whispered against his ear.

Lyla was on her feet and she looked worried. She sounded worried too when she snapped, “Klaus!

Klaus leaned away. Alessandro let him, released his hold against his skin as he allowed himself to fall back into his glass.

“Lyla must be here,” Alessandro said, “She never much liked me holding you down. She thought I’d been trying to assert my dominance.”

Klaus didn’t reply- didn’t even look at Lyla. He forgot how easy it was being with the both of them, even with one of them being dead. Lyla remained silent but she was still staring at Alessandro like he was going to hurt Klaus. Pin him against the counter and beat him or kiss him or some mixture of the two.

“She’s worried about you.”

“Yeah. Well. It seems she’s the only one,” Alessandro admitted, rising to his feet.

Klaus followed him with his eyes. He didn’t move from the barstool though. He just watched him fix his gloves then his tie. The very picture of unbothered by the world, but his vulnerability laid in his blue eyes. Lyla had been more than his wife: she’d been his conscience and his mind and one of the few constants he’s ever privileged himself to.

Now she was dead, and the world was going to be the one that suffered.

Lyla glanced at Klaus, face set in a disappointed scowl as she followed after her husband. Despite knowing that Alessandro couldn’t see her. That she couldn’t hold him and promise that everything was going to be okay because she was gone and nothing was ever going to make that okay.

“Hey man. You want something to drink?” the bartender asked, more comfortable and confident now that Alessandro had left.

Klaus shook his head. Ignored the way his wrist was itching. It felt better than it had before now that Grace had treated it, but it was still an annoying constant. A reminder that he was born different and that nothing he did was enough or right or-

“You want me to call someone for you?”

“No,” Klaus said as he climbed to his feet, “I’m good.”

-

Five shifted, resisted the urge to remove his tie. It was choking him, but he wasn’t here for himself- rain pattering against the vinyl of the black umbrella he borrowed from the academy. Klaus was beside him. He didn’t have an umbrella, didn’t notice that his white shirt and mess of curls was sticking to pale skin. Mister Pennycrumb nudged at Klaus’s black boots worriedly but didn’t stray too far from the protective roof Five’s umbrella offered.

Klaus didn’t notice.

His arms were crossed around his middle, fingers occasionally fluttering over to the white bandages wrapped around his wrist. Hiding the swollen lacerations Five knew he tried to keep from them. To handle on his own because they never tried telling Klaus any different.

The funeral was as somber as the weather. People in expensive suits huddled beneath the sea of black umbrellas as they buried someone Five wasn’t even sure they knew. No one was talking. Very few people were moving, and if Five wasn’t there he would’ve thought it was a picture on Grace’s wall- a moment in time taken out of context.

Klaus was still and pale, dressed in black and it was the first time he didn’t look careless or free or happy. It made him look human, free from a mask Five just now realized he’s worn the majority of their lives.

“You going to be okay?” Five asked him- feeling out of place.

Klaus didn’t look away from the crowd of people- hadn’t since waking Five this morning to demand for a ride he could have gotten from Diego or Ben. There was probably something there. Something Five had missed as he’d glared at being woken before the sun was up, but Klaus had been dressed in a suit and looked so sad that Five had relented almost instantly.

Klaus barely noticed. Klaus had looked distracted during the ride over and hadn’t moved since the funeral came into view.

“I’m not the one being put in the ground,” Klaus told him, “This is the third funeral of the week, and the police still think Al’s the one responsible.”

Five hummed, dark eyes flickering across the crowd like he could pick the man in question out. Diego’s detective friend had asked him to come to the station for questioning on the murders after the funeral. When Five asked Klaus what the chances of him going Klaus had pursued his lips and asked if he could drive any faster.

Five couldn’t see Alessandro from his spot beside his brother. Mister Pennycrumb whined at their feet- not a fan of the rain.

“Stay here,” Klaus commanded as he moved forward, “I’ll be right back.”

Five followed. Klaus didn’t try to not stop him, probably hadn’t noticed. He’s been trapped in his own mind for a while now. Alessandro noticed him. Blue eyes falling at his spot behind Klaus before moving towards his brother.

“You shouldn’t be here,” he told them, “It’s dangerous.”

Klaus was silent- beads of water dripping from dark curls and pale skin. His clothes were soaked and sticking to his thin form and Klaus made no inclination of noticing and it was so hard recognizing the closed off expression on his usually emotive brother.

Mister Pennycrumb pressed wet fur against Five’s pant leg. Five didn’t push him off, was surprised by how little he hated the physical contact.

The rest of the funeral crept by. Five didn’t really listen to what anybody was saying. He was too busy watching his brother and the man he apparently had a thing with. The man who’d shifted the slightest bit so Klaus was under his umbrella with him, and it would have been cute if Five didn’t know that this man was a killer. Crimson Sword or no- he has done terrible things and Five wanted him away from Klaus.

The protective fire had stopped surprising him a while ago. He’s always placed his family first, but he’s also allowed himself a space between them and their personal lives. From Klaus who was stubborn and never listened and had a life while Five had been gone and, as much as he hated to admit it, the only place he had in Klaus’s life was the ones Klaus allowed.

Alessandro’s cheeks remained dry throughout the service- eyes cold and blue and unchanging. Five couldn’t be sure if the water trailing along Klaus’s pale skin was from his tears or rain. Perhaps a bit of both. Then it was over and when Alessandro turned towards them it was the softest shade of blue he’s had the entire funeral.

“What are you doing here Klaus?” he asked.

Klaus jutted out his chin in defiance. Alessandro’s eyes flickered behind him, looking for something only Klaus could see.

“Lyla’s not here,” Klaus told him before his head tilted towards Lyla’s grave, “Not in that sense at least. She’s not the reason I’m here.”

Five shifted. Mister Pennycrumb whined uncertainly. Alessandro gave a low sigh.

“You think I should go to the police station,” he noted, and it didn’t come out as a question, “They think I’m capable of this.”

“You are capable of this,” Klaus pointed out, “You just didn’t.”

Whatever Alessandro could have said to that was interrupted by the arrival of a man with a rounder face and brown eyes that looked almost kind. There was something inside them though. Something that made Five’s jaw lock and cold fingers crawl across his skin.

Nephew!” the man exclaimed, possessive hold squeezing Alessandro’s elbow as he smiled at them, “Who are your young friends?”

Never mind the fact that Klaus looked the same age and that Five was technically older than all of them. Klaus didn’t correct him, just smiled pleasantly. Smile stretched too thin and eyes jaded. Klaus saw it too, and Five felt a rush of warm pride bloom in his chest.

Alessandro didn’t pull away or stiffen but his eyes froze over, locked onto Klaus’s face in a new form of concern. It seemed he didn’t want Klaus anywhere near his uncle, especially not while Klaus was soaked and looking so vulnerable. Then again- lately, ever since he’s gone sober- Klaus always looked vulnerable.

“Uncle,” he greeted smoothly, “This is Klaus and his brother. They knew Lyla.”

Oh? How so?” Alessandro’s uncle inquired, “I wasn’t aware she had many friends outside of her work.”

Klaus held his hand out towards the man, eyes flickering to where they were still holding onto Alessandro’s arm as he said, “I slept with her several times. The sex was very good, she always told me.”

The man released his hold on his uncle to accept Klaus’s hand. Klaus looked a bit more relaxed at that- a detail Alessandro didn’t seem to miss if the gentle way his eyes melted was any indication.

Then his uncle had to open his mouth and say, “One of Lyla’s little whores. I thought I had been acquainted with them all.”

Mister Pennycrumb growled, and Five could have too. Instead he settled on glaring, was impressed by just how fierce Alessandro’s eyes became as they flickered to where his uncle was still holding onto Klaus. Klaus didn’t pull back or correct him as he continued to smile all pleasant and gentle and kind.

“Lyla didn’t talk about me?” he pouted, “You don’t think she was ashamed of me, do you?”

Alessandro’s eyes iced over as his face turned into something frightful. Even Five felt it, and he didn’t acknowledge fear easily. Didn’t admit the dangers another person could bring him but Alessandro was someone he would have tried to avoid if not for Klaus.

“That’s a possibility,” Alessandro’s uncle reasoned squeezing Klaus’s hand so hard it made his bones pop, “or perhaps there’s something I’ve missed. Lyla had never been shy in her activities outside my nephew’s marriage. That’s what happens, I suppose, when a woman marries a gay man.”

“Uncle!”

Five felt a pang inside his chest. It wasn’t because he liked Alessandro or felt bad for him or anything as cliché. It was because he grew up with Klaus, who hadn’t been shy about his sexual preferences but hadn’t been open about them either. Because Reginald would have never understood or because the pressures of their responsibilities was treated as more important than anything else. Or because none of them had ever bothered to stop and ask.

And that was why Five’s stomach tightened at the hard tone the man used because as screwed up as Klaus was, who he chose to take to bed was his business. Even Mister Pennycrumb realized something was off or maybe he was just tired of the man clinging onto Klaus.

Klaus’s smile didn’t falter- a simple feat considering it had never been real.

“A woman’s got needs,” Klaus winked, green eyes flickering towards Alessandro, “as do the men I would reckon.”

The hand squeezed Klaus’s even tighter in disapproval. Klaus didn’t even flinch, green caught on blue and holding steady. Five squinted up at his brother, and Klaus has always been a bit of an enigma but there was something obvious Five thinks he had missed.

“We’ll just have to agree to disagree,” Alessandro’s uncle told him, “Perhaps over coffee sometime. I’m very curious to know what my nephew’s wife had to tell you.”

“Oh, I reassure you we didn’t do much talking,” Klaus hummed, “though I’ve never been accused of being shy before. If you want then we could-”

“No,” Alessandro interrupted, stepping forward to free Klaus from his uncle’s grasp before inserting himself between them, “Thank you for coming Klaus. Lyla would have appreciated it.”

“Yes,” his uncle agreed and Five was reminded of what had made him so uncomfortable about the man, “She was so very fond of her toys.”

To Klaus’s credit, his face remained passive. A gentle smile on his face as he played the impossible part of one of Lyla’s many passing fancies that perhaps felt more for her then she ever could have for him. Five had been there, Klaus curled in on himself on the floor and it hadn’t been any of them who helped him out of it.

Klaus wasn’t a passing fancy- that had been the reason Alessandro’s uncle never knew about him. And now everybody knew it too.

Mister Pennycrumb gave a low whine. Five didn’t turn his attention away from the man before him. Afraid that if he looked away then he’d attack his brother, and he wouldn’t be fast enough to stop them. Klaus was the one who turned away.

He turned around, revealing his vulnerability, and bent over to scratch Mister Pennycrumb on the top of his head. Mister Pennycrumb melted into the touch- adored Klaus like he was Klaus’s dog and not Five’s. Five was surprised by how little that bothered him, always held a strange mix of possessive jealous rage for his personal belongings.

Water dripped from his pale features, green eyes shining. He was consciously making himself vulnerable as to convince Alessandro’s uncle that he wasn’t what he thought he was, and it was a shocking revelation. Then he remembered that Klaus had lived by himself on the streets for all those years and, impossibly, survived.

It was the first time Five’s felt any respect towards any of his siblings. Understood how hard it was to scramble for dinner and a place to sleep every night while surrounded with very little, but it had made Five bitter and angry. Klaus took it like he took everything- an easy stride that could make anybody burn in jealousy.

Then Klaus rose back to his full height and didn’t glance back as he offered Five a grin and said, “Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

Ben was sitting in one of their chairs, book open and expression almost bored, when they got back. Mister Pennycrumb barked excitedly at the sight of him as Five unclipped his leash from his collar and allowed him to rush towards their brother. Five squinted at him–the hovering starting to annoy him.

It had been predictable, in the beginning, because Klaus just sort of freaked out after playing a very convincing imitation of being fine. Ben had been reluctant to leave him after that. Klaus didn’t seem to notice, and Five was willing to let him hover if only to pacify him.

Now he was annoyed.

Klaus stepped past him, hair and clothes dripping, as he stepped towards his desk in search of a towel and ugly shirt that looked like a Kindergartener’s finger-painting project. Klaus made it look less terrible than it actually was, somehow. Five stopped beside Ben, staring down at him with dark eyes.

Ben ignored him as his eyes focused on Klaus. Klaus had seen Ben when they’d walked into the room–he was very attentive–but he’d yet to acknowledge him. Five would have found that odd if he didn’t remember Klaus spent most of Ben’s afterlife seeing him everywhere he went. At how Klaus was very good at seeing things and pretending he didn’t.

Five kicked Ben’s shoe as Mister Pennycrumb begged for attention on his other side. At first it had been enduring, how much Ben had so obviously cared about Klaus, but now was time to tell him to get on with his life–a life Five suddenly wasn’t sure his brother had outside of Klaus Hargreeves.

“We need to talk,” Five told him.

Klaus turned at the abrupt tone, green eyes wide. Ben glared up at him and didn’t move, if anything he slumped in the chair defiantly.

“Then talk,” Ben announced.

Five ground the back of his teeth together–thoroughly annoyed–as he bent over to grab the front of Ben’s black jacket. He felt the familiar thrum of the air as it bent around him. Then they were outside, rain soaking them.

Ben stumbled. Awkward change in position forcing him to try and regain his balance in the most ungraceful display of long limbs Five’s ever seen. Ben recovered quickly though.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Ben demanded and because he was feeling petty he snarled, “Little brother?”

Five ignored the obvious jab at his height. Anyone except his siblings wouldn’t have gotten away with it–especially considering the mood Five was in.

Instead Five straightened his spine, folded his arms and announced, “You have to stop.”

Confusion flickered across Ben’s face as he tipped his head to the side and asked, “Stop what?”

“The hovering and stalking,” Five said sharply, “Klaus is not a thing you own. Klaus is not a lost puppy. And, as much as you hate to admit it, Klaus is not your responsibility.”

Ben blinked, reeling back. Five expected him to get angry and start yelling again–was tense at the ready to fight his brother on this–and it wasn’t that he cared how they all dealt with the changes in their lives. It was something else.

“This isn’t healthy,” Five continued, “For either of you.”

“You sound like Diego.”

Five blinked, head tilting to the side. Ben continued to stare up at him with dark eyes before they flickered over his shoulder.

“Klaus is watching from the window,” he noted, “He’s waiting for one of us to start fighting the other.”

Five didn’t have to look to know Ben was right. He could feel Klaus’s nervous gaze, and that was part of the problem. Klaus was trying to move on with his life because he thinks it’ll help Ben switch from death to life. He was right, Ben allowing his need to be with Klaus overcome his thought.

“I’d win,” Five told him bluntly, earning him a soft laugh.

“Probably,” Ben conceded, “When I’m not with him I’m overcome with thoughts of Klaus at his worst, and there’s plenty to choose from. It makes me wonder if saving me from dying was worth it.”

Five didn’t respond. He didn’t really know what to say–never the one for heart-to-hearts. He turned back to look at Klaus, staring at them both with an unreadable expression. He had Mister Pennycrumb in his arms.

“It was worth it,” Five reassured, “You just need to find your place.”

“And I don’t know where that is,” Ben told him, moving past him towards the shop.

That time, Five didn’t try and stop him.

“Diego’s outside.”

Ben’s voice was dull, eyes never leaving the page of his book. Mister Pennycrumb lying in his lap. Five glared at him so perhaps Ben wasn’t being as discrete as he thought. Then again, Five’s always been observant.

Klaus glanced up from the family pictures he had laid across his desk and saw the furious expression is Diego’s eyes as he approached the shop. It had him on his feet in an instant, hurrying towards the door to intercept him.

Klaus,” Diego said, sounding pleasantly surprised at his appearance.

Klaus allowed the door to close behind him. Diego looked startled as Klaus rose his hands as if to catch him, to stop him from entering.

“Everything okay?” Diego asked.

“Just dandy,” Klaus promised–unsure at how Diego would react with Ben sitting in the chair like the immovable force he was and not wanting to give another one of his siblings a reason to fight Ben. “I’m hungry. Lunch on you?”

Diego actually rolled his eyes, like he was amused, but he stepped aside so Klaus could duck in the passenger seat of his car so Klaus figured it was an argument he won. Diego took him to a café down the road and ordered Klaus a hamburger with sweet potato fries and Vanilla Orange Cola. Klaus was surprised by how little he hated it.

Not that Klaus was particularly picky about what he put in his body. If he was desperate enough he could swallow past most anything, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have preferences. One of those preferences tended to lean towards savory.

Probably because savory foods usually meant he was less likely to get hungry as quick. Or, perhaps, it reminded him of Grace and her cooking and his life had never been simple but it had always seemed less complicated. Less screwed in ways he knew was no one’s fault but his own.

He’d never been a fan of sodas though. Luther and Allison had, thought it made them rebels, but it just put gas in the pit of Klaus’s usually empty stomach.

There was no way for Diego to know any of this, and Klaus wasn’t about to tell him. He just sipped through the straw, staring up at his brother’s dark expression and waiting for him to start. Diego didn’t keep him waiting long.

“Your ex came by the station,” Diego said like he wasn’t sure how he felt about the words, “For a statement. He was – Christ on a cracker he came after the funeral Klaus.”

He wouldn’t have gone at all–fought anybody who tried to force him–except Klaus had showed up at the funeral and he’d gotten the message. And there was very little, Klaus has discovered, that Al wouldn’t do for him.

That was another thing Diego didn’t necessarily need to know.

Klaus hummed thoughtfully. “You sound disappointed.”

Diego scrubbed at his face, shook his head. He looked older. Tired in ways Klaus hasn’t seen since before the apocalypse and sibling reconciliation. It made Klaus feel a sorrow deep in his bones and–this time around–Klaus didn’t have the drugs to bury it all.

“It was his wife’s funeral,” Diego said so sadly, “She didn’t even have a file. No one knows her name. I mean, I do, because you’ve said it, but I can’t tell anybody because then they’ll ask how I know. She’s just some nameless victim everyone’s overlooking because of who her husband was.”

“Lyla was a complicated person in life,” Klaus reaffirmed and she wasn’t there so he assumed she was trying to lend her strength down at the police station, “In death more so. She knew Al cared about her though. And she cared for him.”

That was why she’d ask Klaus to save the world from Al. It was why she wanted him to save him from this, whatever it was.

Klaus started sucking on air so he pushed his empty glass from him. Diego was staring at him with the intensity Klaus thinks would have made him an excellent cop. He wanted details but since he’s always treated Klaus like some fragile thing he isn’t prying.

“Al and Lyla got married when they were eighteen,” Klaus explained without being asked, “It was for political reasons.”

“Crimson Sword politics?”

Klaus isn’t sure how his brother’s heard of the name but from the confused furrow of his eyebrow Klaus figured he’s heard the wrong things. Klaus tilted his head to the side and stared back, when he spoke his voice remained calm as if afraid of frightening his brother.

“Something like that. Al is the head of it, after all.” Diego’s eyes grew wide, skin losing all color and that Klaus didn’t understand. “Why? What did you think his part in the Crimson Sword was?”

“Klaus we didn’t even know if it was real or not,” Diego shook his head, looking troubled, “and from what little we pieced together it seemed your ex held a minor position at best.”

His words didn’t shock Klaus. Klaus has always known that chasing after the Crimson Sword was comparable to chasing smoke–real but barely tangible and the longer you remain engulfed in it the bigger the headache you received for your efforts. They were good at tying up loose ends and were rarely sloppy.

Klaus still wanted to know who told his brother about it. Wanted to know which idiot clued–however innocently–his brother to one of the most dangerous gangs in the whole world.

“Does Al know you know about the Crimson Sword?” he asked instead–needed to know because Al’s spared one brother’s life but may not feel so generous the next time around.

Diego seemed taken aback by the intensity Klaus’s words came out as. It got him to hesitate, at least. Blink in his shock.

“He says it’s fake,” Diego said dumbly, “Everyone says it’s fake. Klaus, these people–”

“No. Absolutely not,” Klaus interrupted, “I’m not giving you anything so you can chase after these people Diego. I’m not handing you a gun so you can go shoot yourself with it.”

The very thought made Klaus’s chest hurt and stomach sour. He began to worry he’s already said too much, his anxiety making his hands shake. Diego reached out to fold his over Klaus’s in a very un-Diego manner that only made the shaking worst.

“Klaus. Nothing is going to happen to me.”

Klaus tried to jerk away, but Diego squeezed tighter. Dark eyes were bright with a sincerity that made the cola roll in his stomach.

No,” he protested, rouge tears slipping from his eyes, “You don’t understand. These people are good at what they do. They’ll kill you.”

“You survived,” Diego reminded, “Tell me how?”

“I don’t know how Diego,” Klaus practically shouted, drawing unwanted attention so he repeated in a softer tone, “I don’t know, and I’m not going to tell you anything that’s going to put you in danger.”

“Is that why Ben hasn’t locked you away in the academy yet?” Diego prodded, “You’re the only one who can survive.”

Klaus shook his head. The tears hadn’t stopped, and people were starting to squint suspiciously. Klaus knew from experience that nobody was going to come over here to make sure he was alright though.

“It’s not that simple Diego,” Klaus told him, “Lyla’s dead. The world isn’t going to be that much further behind.”

Ben met them at the doorway, eyes flickering to over Klaus’s shoulder to where he knew Diego was hovering. They shared a look, and Klaus knew Diego was the only person that could drag Ben away however momentarily. Klaus almost felt bad for wishing he would.

Every sympathetic look they offer him is like a thorn under his skin. Every crease of their eyebrow and empty smile was a reminder. Klaus was doing this to them because he was such a disappointing little screw–up.

It had been part of his reason to ask Five to be his partner in his business destined to fail because they don’t even have a name. Five’s eyes didn’t grow weepy or hard in pity. He was more of a kick-you-while-you’re-down-so-you’ll-get-up-quicker type of person, and Klaus could use a few good kicks at the moment.

“Klaus?” Ben asks as he shoulders past him to the door.

“Go. Please,” Klaus begs and perhaps his earlier observation had been incorrect.

Diego wasn’t the only person who could get Ben to leave. Klaus was a master at chasing his brother away whenever he probably needed it most.

Ben hesitates. Reels away like Klaus had burned him or struck him or something as equally malicious and maybe that was it. Lyla and Al never killed him because they looked at him and knew he wasn’t worth killing. People didn’t tend to stay around him.

“You can take Mister Pennycrumb on a walk,” Five offered for them, “Klaus and I need to go to the store for some supplies.”

Klaus couldn’t think of any supplies they’d need because this whole thing was stupid anyways. Klaus wasn’t even sure why he’d come up with it. Five looked at him with a face that left very little for arguing and that was the other reason Klaus chose him.

He ended up in the back of Five’s van, staring at a bookshelf stacked with trinkets Klaus didn’t think originated from this century. It wasn’t tied down to anything, surrounded by Five’s stuff.

“You don’t have to sit back there,” Five told him, starting the van.

Get out of the van Klaus.

Klaus forced a smile and chipper tone as he brushed off, “I like all the space,” and because Five didn’t look convinced he asked, “Where are we headed?”

“There’s a pawn shop several blocks from here. I was going to try to pawn off some of this junk for cash,” Five explained simply.

Klaus nodded, slipping his shoes off. It was a habit he’s picked up as a child–his shoes always too constricting. A silly concept but it almost made him feel lighter.

“Anything in particular?” Klaus prodded–silence worse than his own thoughts bouncing around inside his skull.

Five had the decency to not look annoyed. Klaus had to remind himself that he’d been invited along and that he wasn’t going to get thrown out. He still might but not because of the sound of his own voice.

“No,” Five said curtly, “Just stuff.”

Klaus stared at the back of his head before turning away. Even still, he felt like he missed it–the unmistakable crunch of metal on metal as the van was forced from its current path. It spun out, taking Klaus and Five with it, and Klaus heard himself cry out for his brother before he went airborne.

His back struck the side of the van–all of Five’s stuff raining down on him–as they all tumbled, an overcrowded dryer rolling around and around. Klaus heard something behind his right ear crack, and his shoulder was burning but all of that paled to what Klaus thinks he knew was coming. The bookshelf tipped over, landing on top of him.

That had Klaus crying out for a completely different reason. His ears ringing from the impact and mouth tasted of copper. Something sharp and heavy digging into his calves and stomach and chest, but he was still alive.

Five!” he shouted, remembered how he’d once read how victims of car accidents shouldn’t move or they risk causing permeant injury to their spine.

Klaus tilted his head to the side, awkward under the shelf pinning him against the metal floor, in search of any signs of his brother.

The windshield had blown out upon impact. Glass sparkled mockingly back at him but there didn’t be any signs of Klaus’s brother.

“Five!” Klaus repeated in his panic, shelf shifting. “Five, you little prick, answer me! Five!

Klaus!” but his name came from outside, and there was no reason for Five to be outside.

Klaus felt the ice surge through his veins, making his fingertips tingle. The shelf groaned its protest before, slowly, it began to rise off him. It stopped just above him, dangling amongst invisible strings. Klaus stared dumbly up at it, reached out to give a gentle poke against the corner closest to him.

It moved, wobbled in the air, but remained above him. Klaus figured he should crawl out from it, before gravity reclaimed its hold and dropped back on him. Either the shock or awe kept him where he was.

“Klaus!” Five shouted again, sounding distressed. Sounding like someone was holding him, keeping him from moving freely and–Klaus remembered–Five wasn’t a careless driver.

This probably wasn’t an accident.

Klaus was almost embarrassed it’s taking him that long to stitch the thought together. He rolled over, from out beneath the shelf and heard it clang noisily back amongst impact. His ankle was itchy and shoulder ached and he felt something sticky pinning dark curls to pale skin, and none of it mattered.

Five was in trouble.

Despite the fact the van had toppled to its side Klaus got the door open with relative ease. The sun made his headache increase, and he couldn’t fully stand on his left foot. The men in suits reeled back from the sight of him all the same.

Five, who was being held upright by a large hand around his wrist, looked relieved. His pupils were blown, and his skin was pale and–for a second–Klaus thought it was because of the wreck. Then he saw the needle.

“Hey!” he shouted stupidly.

He took one step out of the car before his whole body crumpled on itself. Paper being discarded now that it held no purpose, and he hadn’t even needed the assistance of drugs.

“Klaus!”

Somehow Five broke free, hands rolling him to the side. Dark smudges hovered over his brother’s shoulder, matching the wispy darkness inside Five’s eyes. Klaus opened his mouth, but whatever he meant to say was lost in the nothing.

To say this was the first time Five’s woken tied to a chair, wrists swollen beneath grey tape, would only technically be true. It had only happened once–in the very beginnings of his work in the Commission–and he’d allowed it.

He did not remember allowing this to happen.

Admittedly, he’s been in worst situations. Even so, none compared to the terror he felt upon opening his eyes and realizing that he wasn’t alone. That Klaus’s pale expression was the first thing he saw. His eyelashes dark against pale skin, head lulling to the side in a way that made his whole body begin to tilt.

Klaus,” Five gasped past his swollen tongue and the ash in the back of his throat. He squinted past his headache, ignored the pain tickling the nerves of his wrist and elbow.

He’d been driving and someone hit him.

Klaus had been in the car. Klaus had been in the back, not wearing a seatbelt, surrounded by all that stuff that Five never bothered tying down because he’s never been in a car accident before.

Klaus was bleeding. Five’s brain kept short-circuiting to that image. Klaus slumped in unconsciousness, pale features smeared with a bright red like a poor imitation of a Vincent Castiglia painting–or perhaps the supplies he so famously uses. Five’s head dipped and rolled around his neck.

Nothing ached. All his senses were dull and muted, and he felt an itch underneath his skin. Something wasn’t right–something unrelated to the accident or the chair or how the room was thick with dust.

“Klaus,” he repeated. Klaus responded.

It wasn’t much more than a soft hitch of breath. A stutter in his chest, gentle like a bird’s wings fluttering, before settling back to the gentle lull of his unconsciousness. Maybe it was kinder that way. Klaus looked to be in poor shape and waking could only cause him pain.

And it was cold. Five needed to get them out of here.

“I know,” a female voice proclaimed in an annoyed tone of voice, “The local psychic has taken residence in that pretty little head of his.”

Five glared. His skin was itching and back of his skull was thrumming loudly. Everything he wanted to say evaded him, though. Words trailing along the wind, gone every moment he reaches out for them.

“Not a psychic,” Klaus grumbled.

His eyes were closed, and he was so still. Small and thin and fragile and, mostly unconsciously, Five strained against the bindings around his wrists. He remained in his chair, felt something in the back of his brain pop.

It made him gasp. His nose burned and his muscles ached under the strain but he stayed in the chair. Five furrowed his eyebrows as black dots smudged the edges of his vision. Something was very not right.

The woman with dark curls and dark skin and long legs she barely tried covering with her skirt smirked at him. Her skin was glittery and hair long and she was holding a gun in a too casual hold. She stepped next to Klaus’s listing form. Her fingers gentle and kind as she ran them along his arm.

“Good morning gorgeous,” she purred against his skin and her hands were too familiar against Klaus–whose eyelashes fluttered weakly against the curve of his cheeks–and Five was still dizzy and his nose was bleeding and the room was spinning and only one thought buzzed around his skull.

“Get away from him,” he growled, gravel under boots.

The girl, too young to hold that malicious light in her dark eyes, just grinned sharply back at him. Five strained under the tape.

“Why?” she demanded, “You’d have to be blind to not want this?”

The gun slipped down his side, began to edge itself in the elastic waistband of his pants. Klaus’s eyes fluttered open at the intrusion. Green slits that glared up at her like he was annoyed, and Five doesn’t think he’s ever seen Klaus so irritated before.

“Tennessee,” he said in warning, “Don’t.”

“You went to Lyla’s funeral,” she chided him, “and Alessandro went to the police station. Willingly. For you.”

Five remembered the way blue eyes basically melted when they settled on Klaus. The way the hard lines settled on his face, and the way it was like his whole world settled whenever he looked upon Klaus. It was an expression–a kind sort of affection–that Klaus deserved.

Now Klaus was tied to a chair with a gun down his pants and barely clinging to consciousness.

Klaus chuckled, a wet noise, as his eyelids fluttered and he muttered weakly, “Did he say that?”

“No. I did,” Tennessee told him, “I know about you and Alessandro. I know that if it wasn’t because of Lyla he would have left everything to be with you. You’re his only weakness, and now Lyla’s dead. She can’t protect you from the big bad wolf anymore.”

“His uncle.”

The gun slipped from his pants. Tennessee settled it casually against his chest, coming to rest behind him. Her long arms hugged him around his neck. Dark eyes peered back at him from over his head, crocodile peeking out from the water.

“I sold you out,” Tennessee affirmed, “and this is my in to Roberto’s good graces. You understand, don’t you?”

Klaus didn’t look bothered. He didn’t even look fazed–like this wasn’t the first time someone’s done this to him. Five felt the back of his teeth grind together and jaw pop. It’s the concussion, he lied to himself. That was why Klaus was looking so calm.

Klaus didn’t argue with her on any of that.

He just met Five’s level gaze and asked, “The drugs they asked you to sell. How much did you give my brother?”

Tennessee blinked. She looked surprised at the question so she didn’t expect Klaus to be so okay with all of this either. She’d probably thought he was going to curse her, cry or beg or something besides the soft calm that’s settled on his face. It sent a shiver down Five’s spine and he blamed it on the concussion and drugs, not used to feeling this way.

He knew–some part of him buried deep down–that the hard glint that settled at the base of Klaus’s jaw had set every instinct inside of Five ablaze. Like Klaus was dangerous or deadly or a threat and from the way Tennessee gripped the gun she sensed it to.

“You don’t even know what it does,” she protested.

“Does that matter?” Klaus challenged, voice clearer, “You drugged my brother with the same stuff Cloud died for.”

Tennessee’s expression grew dark. Five pulled at his wrists not liking the angry shadow that crossed her face while she held a gun so close to his brother. Klaus didn’t look bothered. He was still staring at Five so sadly.

“Cloud was a coward. I am not.”

“Because you think Roberto will protect you.” It wasn’t a question.

“Roberto is twice the man Alessandro claims himself to be,” Tennessee snapped, “He knows that you are a danger to everything he’s worked for, and that you need to be eliminated.”

Klaus’s grin sparkled red as he asked, “Since you couldn’t sleep your way into the Crimson Sword’s good graces you’ve demoted yourself to its kill dog. You really are a foolish child, and Cloud was smart to keep you away.”

The gun came up, reared back like she was going to hit him with it. Then realization flickered in her dark eyes as a smile smoothed her features. She settled the gun back against Klaus’s shoulder.

“Here’s the deal, little whore, we’re going to play a little game. I would say I hope lady luck smiles down upon you, Klaus Hargreeves, but then I’d be lying.”

Klaus’s muscles grew taut, pulling against his bindings. It wasn’t fear in his eyes though. It was panic for Five–Klaus always trying to protect them. Five swallowed past the lump in his throat and tried not to think of Klaus doing this alone once before because of him.

“Tennessee. Don’t.

She smirked, pointed the gun at Five. He wasn’t entirely sure what he’d thought was happening, but it began to dawn on him now. Still he was more surprised at the relief that settled over him now that the gun was directed towards him.

“Relax Klaus. I’m giving your brother the highest odds,” Tennessee purred, hand not holding the gun pressed in the spot beside Klaus’s dog tags on his chest.

Five was more distracted by that–the way her hands rubbed against Klaus’s chest–then he was the gun. He didn’t even hear her pull the trigger, or the soft click indicating an empty chamber. He just saw the way Klaus’s shoulders deflated in relief and realized what had happened.

No,” he said, eyes returning to the gun.

Her smile was bright, and she looked too excited to press that gun against Klaus’s temple. Klaus barely paid her any attention, green eyes locked onto Five. He wanted the gun to go off, Five realized with a jolt. He wanted to spare Five this.

“Klaus,” he groaned, but Tennessee pulled the trigger and Klaus remained not dead and he remembered how to breathe.

It was Klaus’s turn to look pale and wild-eyed, red smeared across translucent skin. The gun clicked disappointingly and all of Klaus’s muscles jerked before relaxing as the barrel pressed back into his temple.

The hammer clicked against another empty chamber, and Klaus’s eyes were wide as he realized there was a fifty percent chance he was about to be down a brother. Five straightened his shoulders and willed the gun to go off.

It didn’t, and they were out of luck.

Tennessee smirked–too bright and sharp and fake. Her eyes shone with her excitement as she pushed the gun back into pale skin. Klaus didn’t even look frightened. Klaus just met Five’s gaze and offered him a reassuring smile.

It was okay, it seemed to say, you’re okay.

Five shook his head firmly. He strained against his tape–against whatever drug they’d given him that was preventing him from closing the distance and snapping that girl’s wrist in half. It’d just been that once his ability was like a rubber band. That no matter where he went, he always snapped back in place.

Now the rubber band wasn’t stretching. It’s been cut, severed in two, and now he was trapped. Forced to watch as Klaus’s eyes melted into kind relief, dark eyelashes fluttering closed because he didn’t want Five to see him that way.

Five didn’t want it either. He pulled, strangled sound escaping his throat.

No. No, don’t. Not Klaus. Not Klaus not Klaus not –

The gun went off. Klaus slumped over like a discarded marionette. Unloved and unwanted and nothing more than a broken little thing. And Five just sat there and watched it happen. Let her pull the trigger when he knew there was only one way that it was going to end.

Five shook in the chair. Hands curled in white-knuckled fists that made his tendons pop and muscles shake. He couldn’t breathe. The world was narrowed, hyperaware of nothing except Klaus and the fact that he was dead. He was dead and gone and there was no coming back from that. And then–

No!

The back of his brain exploded in white static, red droplets staining his khaki shorts. None of that mattered, though, because his brother’s murderer was just standing there staring at him. The gun was still in her hands, useless now that Klaus was dead.

Five needed to get out. He needed to break free and make the person responsible pay. He needed – he wanted – he had to–

Klaus deserved better. Klaus deserved more. Klaus who was all soft fond expressions and sweet promises that it was going to be okay. Klaus who closed his eyes because he knew Five watching his normally soft green eyes go hard and empty in death would be too much.

Klaus!

Five needed to get himself under control. The white static in his brain had turned into a swarm of bees, buzzing loud and insistent and crying out for blood. Her blood–the woman with cold dark eyes and a casual hold on the gun she’d used to – to–

He cried out, the sound mixing with that of a gun going off. It echoed, bounced, inside his skull as the man in the dark suit standing on the other side of Klaus’s chair tipped back. Tennessee jerked around. She raised the empty gun as if to protect herself.

Five glared, waiting for her to get shot. Instead the other three men in suits lingering, watching, tumbled back in a cloud of red mist. Blood had never made him squeamish–couldn’t in his line of work–but after looking at Klaus’s for so long. After hearing it drip-drip-dripping for the last couple of minutes Five felt himself grow nauseous.

A hand in a dark glove pressed reassuringly in his shoulder. Five jolted–not one to be easily frightened but Klaus was dead. Nothing about anything was normal anymore.

Klaus was–

Klaus is–

Klaus is gone. Klaus is dead. Klaus was shot and now he’s dead, and Five has a concussion and is probably in shock. His head was still alight with noise, and he thinks it was grief. He hadn’t been around the first time–when he’d disappeared–or the second time–when Ben had died–and never had to deal with the aftermath of losing a sibling.

At least, before, Klaus had still been alive. Klaus, who could see the departed after and connect them to the living. Klaus who was soft and quiet and cried shamelessly about other people’s pain because he that was just who he was. Despite everything Reginald did–despite the fact that Klaus should have turned cruel and cold–Klaus chose empathy.

And nobody ever pretended to care.

The tape was gone, cut by the man with cold blue eyes. Five ignored him. He knew him, meet him once, but that had been before. While Klaus was still alive and not dead and his skin was already cold by the time Five reached him.

“I’m going to get you out of here,” Five promised in a gentle tone, hands grasping onto pale cold cheeks damp with his own blood. His eyelashes were dark and curled against the curve of his cheeks, and Five felt himself lean forward.

He didn’t say it was going to be fine. He didn’t make any promises or pleas because his hands had gone tacky in Klaus’s blood and the bees hadn’t gone anywhere and nothing else mattered.

“You’ll pay for interfering,” Tennessee promised but when he looked at her he realized her focus was elsewhere.

“I’ve already paid,” Alessandro said dully, “There’s nothing left for you to take.”

“So what are you going to do now?” she asked, taking a step back and away like the thought of the man moving into her space frightened her.

She was scared, Five realized. Terrified.

Blue eyes turned towards them, on Five’s protective hold on Klaus’s limp form. His skin icy and curls damp and sticky with blood that’s already begun to dry. Five thought he recognized the pain of loss that flickered on Alessandro’s face but Five was already listing sideways. Tipping, tumbling ever downward.

He didn’t hear whatever he told Tennessee, but she had still been alive when she walked away. Five rose to follow her–wanted to hurt her–and show her that she wasn’t allowed to treat Klaus’s life like a joke. That she shouldn’t have been allowed to play with his life like it was some sort of game.

He stumbled. Hands caught him, pulled him up into the security of strong arms. Five wasn’t crying but his chest burned. It was the same useless feeling that had bubbled inside him when he’d accidentally jumped into the apocalypse.

“Can you walk?” Alessandro asked.

Five didn’t answer. He didn’t have the strength to but he managed to nod. A small jerky thing that probably made him look younger than he was. The arms let him go, turned to pick Klaus up and press him into the chest of an expensive grey suit.

Five followed, trailing behind and ignoring the lifeless way Klaus’s whole body bounced with every step. He followed one of Klaus’s exes and tried not to think of the others.

He tried not to think of how the hard edges Luther’s carried since childhood had started to soften now that they were all together. He tried not to think of Allison or Claire who had already gone through one family breaking apart–tethered at the seams as it slowly unraveled in front of them. He tried not to think of Diego or Ben or how close they’d been with Klaus or Vanya and how she’d nearly destroyed the world because they’d hurt her.

He tried–really, really tried–and it was the only thing his mind seemed capable of fixating on. Everything else was lost somewhere amongst the white noise.

He doesn’t remember getting in a car and he doesn’t remember the ride over to what was going to be Klaus’s office. He doesn’t remember unlocking the door or allowing Alessandro inside. He doesn’t remember Alessandro lying Klaus out on the floor or Five making his way towards the payphone outside.

I need to call the others he might have said. Then again, he may not have. He may have said nothing as he stumbled on uneven feet.

He must have dialed the house though because he could hear the ringing even as he slumped downwards. His back pressed into the glass as he slumped down. Alessandro was the one to catch the phone from his lax fingers, eyes staring down at him.

“Hello?” Luther’s voice answered, small and oblivious. “Hello?”

Alessandro waited, as if waiting for Five to tell him what to say. Five said nothing–thoughts lost between the dark shadows of his brain and his mouth. Alessandro seemed to get it though. He must have because he held the phone to his mouth and said –

“You need to come to the ocean. Klaus is dead.”

Claire was crying, little choked sounds that made her sound like a bird, and Allison hadn’t left her side. Arm draped over her shoulder as she pulled her near her chest and held her. Her eyes were dark and teary and focused on Five pale and unconscious with the hospital machines beeping around him.

Luther wasn’t beside her. Luther was in the corner trying to make himself look smaller than he could ever accomplish. Vanya watched him with sad eyes, tried to keep her eyes from landing on the copper stains smeared across his grey sweatshirt.

Klaus’s blood. From where he’d landed beside Klaus’s limp body, reaching out to probe the pale figure. Klaus’s body had slumped at his touch. Tipped over because it no longer held any life and though the man on the phone had been very clear about it Vanya still felt her heart ache as she began to realize it for herself.

Klaus was dead. Klaus had a hole in his head and blood soaking his curls and was gone.

Vanya saw the realization break her brother. A low sob escaped his throat as he bent over to draw Klaus’s blood–soaked form to his chest as tears escaped his eyes and he began to cry. He hadn’t stopped either. Vanya could see the tears from where she sat beside Five’s bedside, his tiny hand folded in both of hers.

Diego and Ben weren’t there. She didn’t know where they were, but considering they’d yet to find Mister Pennycrumb she hoped they were with him. She also hoped that they didn’t know about this. Not yet. Her eyes burned and throat swelled and everything inside her was twisted.

If she wasn’t careful she was going to hurt someone.

“We’ve done all that we could,” the doctor had told them with sad eyes, “Unfortunately, the drug they gave him is very potent.”

“Is it going to kill him?” Allison had asked–the only one capable of words. “Is he–”

“The fact that he’s survived this long this promising,” the doctor had reassured and he hadn’t said it but Vanya heard it.

The drug the kidnappers had given Five was deadly. It killed people, and it might still kill Five. Vanya tightened her hold on his hand.

That was several hours ago. Five remained stubbornly unconscious. Claire continued to cry beside her mom, and Luther’s wide-eyed gaze was watching the machines like his will was enough to keep Five alive. Maybe he was. Five hadn’t died yet. None of them spoke.

Perhaps it was because she was always tuned in to the sounds around her, but she knew the moment Ben and Diego arrived. Her heart leapt at the reassurance of them both being alive, but it dropped just as quickly when she remembered what was waiting for them.

Luther didn’t notice their brothers tumbling into the room. Claire buried her head in Allison’s chest and gave a soft low whimper. Vanya was the only one who looked up. She was the only one who saw Ben’s dark eyes and Diego’s wild gaze.

“Is it true?” Diego asked.

He stepped up to the bed. He kept his eyes on Vanya, and Vanya got it. She felt it inside her chest. The loss and the pain–the certainty of the loss on Klaus and the uncertainty of their loss of Five–and it hurt so much she couldn’t breathe.

“Is it true?” Diego repeated, snapped.

His tone was harsh. The same biting tone he’d used towards Vanya most of their lives, but this time it didn’t make her reel back. She didn’t even feel the words. Her shoulders slumped and her expression was wide and pained if the soft sound Ben made was any indication.

“It’s true,” she said.

Ben stumbled. He reached out, grabbing onto Diego’s sleeve. Diego didn’t push him off but he didn’t draw him in either. His steps were uneven, and he tumbled towards the ground.

Luther was the one who caught him. His large hands caught beneath his elbows and Vanya wasn’t sure who was more surprised: Diego or Luther. It was a testimony to how far they’ve come that they didn’t pull away. Or, perhaps, it was a testimony to their grief.

When Ben had died they’d been young and Reginald hadn’t allowed them to properly grieve. Klaus had broken, though. Klaus had cried and gone all pale and shaky and Vanya had thought that was the worst she’d ever have to see him.

She’d been wrong. Klaus dead was so much worst.

Ben made another low sound. He looked a lot like Klaus had whenever Ben had died, and Vanya closed the distance between the two of them without consciously doing it. She drew him to her chest, closed her eyes and held him.

Ben shook in her arms. Vanya squeezed him tighter, hoping to do the thing none of them had for Klaus when he’d broken. She caught him.

Klaus woke.

The world was wrong–dark and cold and empty of color. He was sitting in one of the seats in the theater Vanya has her concerts at. His wrists were pressed against the armrests, a reminder of his life. A tie securing him to the world in ways Klaus hadn’t understood the first time.

He was in the front–in the section Vanya always tries to get them to sit in but hardly had enough seats to accommodate the six of them. Now Klaus was alone, and the theater was empty save for the small pale figure sitting in front of a grand piano.

It shimmered with the soft afterglow of the moon from the skylight as delicate fingers danced across the keys, playing a low somber melody. Klaus blinked, squinted unsurely. He knew this song. Vanya played it, when she thought no one was listening, and it always made the thing inside that was always moving, always keeping him awake, still. Relax as he slipped to places he had never known.

Now, Klaus supposed, he knew where those places were.

The boy brought his hand down on the keys and the note rang longer than he thinks it was meant to be–an abrupt ending in the middle of the song. It hung in the empty space. Rang and buzzed around Klaus’s hair. And then –

“There’s something not right about you.”

Klaus felt his nose twitch.

He didn’t say anything though. He wasn’t in the talking mood, head emptier then he thinks it’s ever been, and this was different from that time at the rave. His mind wasn’t clear. It was foggy and disoriented and he was struggling to piece together a thought longer than five seconds.

His body protested as he rose to his feet. Exhaustion pulled at his bones, gravity looping through his joints and tying him to the ground.

It wasn’t the first time he’s been tired. It was the first time he’s felt this particular way.

The boy reached out, pushing against one of the black keys. It caused a high ringing to vibrate in the air that, for some reason, burrowed beneath Klaus’s skin. So far it made his fingers twitch in their need to scratch.

“Then again,” the boy amended, “there’s something not right about all forty-three of you.”

Klaus felt himself perk at that. He knew this story–the closest to a bedtime story their father ever disclosed to them. In October 1984, forty-three women around the world gave birth. None of these women had been pregnant when the day had begun. Klaus had been one of those babies. Klaus and forty-two others.

“You’re talking about the baby boom,” Klaus said, finding his words as he stopped in front of the stage to stare up at the boy by the piano with bright green eyes.

The boy’s head tilted to the side. He still hadn’t turned to look towards Klaus but, unlike last time, he didn’t seem to reject Klaus’s presence.

“You’re not here to talk about that. I’m not entirely sure why you’re here,” the boy said, “The only clear conclusion I can draw from this is that you’ve died before. That out of the forty-three children, you’re the one here.”

Klaus drummed his fingers against the stage’s wooden boards. He hadn’t told anybody about the rave, and Ben never talked about it. Ben hadn’t even talked much after it had happened and every time he brought that night up Ben would only shake his head and give a soft sigh.

This is a bad idea,” Ben would say.

Klaus would be quick to agree, and in the back of his mind convinced himself that it didn’t really matter. None of it mattered because it had only happened once. A freak thing that meant nothing and it got them what they needed, in the end.

Klaus really couldn’t be blamed to not have anticipated getting kidnapped and shot in the head. Though the more he thought on it the more he realized there had only been so many ways this could play out. Only so long he could outrun the shadows he used to live in.

And he drug his brother down with him.

“I have a theory about that,” Klaus said to distract from his thoughts, “I think it has something to do with my ties to the – you know – dead.”

“It’s an interesting theory,” the boy hummed, “but, technically, untrue. My sister likes to think that the forty-three of you come from her because it’s the most sensible line-of-thought.”

Klaus furrowed his eyebrow.

“She didn’t create us?”

The boy shrugged. “Who can say for certain? She might have and just forgot. You’ve met her though. Did she seem like a forgetful person to you?”

Klaus forced his hands to press against the stage. Smooth his palm and fingers against the grey surface in an attempt to ground him from something very far from reality.

“No,” Klaus conceded, “So what’re you saying? That she’d have rejected any of us.”

The boy shook his head, which contradicted his words. “You weren’t rejected. You were pushed away. You were pushed to me, and now you’ll be pushed to him and perhaps that’s it. All of this orchestrated by him like some little game.”

Klaus tipped his head to the side. “Him?”

The boy raised his hands, fingers striking a particularly painful cord. It jolted something inside of Klaus. Sent him reeling back as he pushed his hand against his chest as if to expel the cold feeling that created inside him.

“You’ll know soon enough. It seems he’s finally hooked you. One of his perfect little–” he played the cord again. “–somethings.

“So we’re his?” Klaus clarified.

“I don’t know. Nobody tells me anything” the boy asked, “Your very existence is a mystery that’s stumped us all, and I’m very eager to see how this ends.”

Klaus was growing impossibly more confused, and it was making his head ache. Some part of him thinks it was the state in which he’d died. The other, traitorous, part thinks that this was part of who he was. That this was his life. Cursed to return to a place that’s never welcomed him before.

“I thought I was the only one who can come back from dying.”

The boy turned to look at him–for the first time since his arrival–revealing golden slits. When he spoke his voice seemed to vibrate, as strong and sure as the piano cords he’s been playing.

“You’re the only one who has come back from dying. That doesn’t mean that you’re the only one who can.”

So–?”

The world blurred and twisted together. Blending in over the greys and making the pain in his temple spike. The hook in his chest yanked, pulled him back towards a world Klaus didn’t want to go. His fingers gripped against the edge of the stage as if to keep him there.

“You’ll figure it out,” the boy reassured, “You’ve made it this far.”

Klaus’s head tilted to the side. “I’ve died twice now.”

“Technically, you were murdered one of those time,” the boy reminded, “and, you’ll soon discover, very little of what’s happened is in your control.”

“What?” Klaus asked the same time the jerking won over.

His fingers scraped past the wood as he momentarily floundered. Then air found itself back in his lungs.

His chest ached, and he did this weird combination of coughing and gasping. It sent him heaving, shoulders shaking. Klaus rolled over, propping himself up on his elbows as his vision blurred and cleared and blurred again.

He coughed until tears gathered in the corners of his eyes. His ears rang and his head felt empty. His skin was cold and tacky with dried blood, and it took him far too long to realize he was lying on the floor of his shop that never made it anywhere.

It stirred something inside him. A thing–fuzzy and gone every time he reached out for it–but enough to get him up on his knees.

Five,” he gasped.

He needed to move. He needed to find him, make sure he was okay, and if he wasn’t then he was going to make the person who hurt him hurt back. Klaus needed –

He stumbled ungracefully to his side. He collided against the floor, jolting his shoulder and sending phantom pains running through him. He gave out a choked cry that nearly strangled him. His vision blurred but he didn’t stop breathing. He didn’t end up in the woods or theater or wherever else. He stayed stubbornly in life.

Five,” he cried, tears streaking his face, and making the ceiling blur above him. “Five, please be alive.”

The door Klaus couldn’t see on his spot beside his desk gave a low click, indicating the arrival of another person. Klaus’s stomach lurched as he rolled over to his side, but he didn’t recognize the footsteps moving towards him.

Chapter Text

Klaus twisted and because he was accustomed to his brain going all wibbly-wobbly he just swallowed past it. His body flopped over, felt the comfort of the wood under his hands and whatever he had been expecting to be approaching him it wasn’t Allison’s ex-husband’s meek face.

Klaus has technically met Patrick once. It had been in passing at Allison’s wedding, and they’d seemed happy together. Klaus had been high the whole time – not one of his greatest moments – so most of his memories with the man was foggy at best.

He did recognize his face. Every magazine stand in the country posted it, proclaiming he was better off without Allison. Klaus had kind of agreed, vaguely remembered Allison being a bit snobbish when they were younger. Now, when he looked at the man, he couldn’t help but wonder how Patrick ever allowed what he had go.

“Oh my goodness,” Patrick proclaimed as his eyes settled down on him, “Are you alright?”

Words were barely an option at the moment – explanations impossible. Instead he nodded, holding his arms out like a prudent child demanding attention.

Patrick gave a low chuckle and, proving his worth of Allison’s once husband, bent down to pacify him. Warm fingers twisted around Klaus’s icy skin as he tugged him up in his arms. It was probably under the impression that once on his feet Klaus would be able to stand on his own.

He was wrong. Klaus’s knees buckled the moment he was up on them, and something sharp and electric and blinding stabbed the inside of his brain. He groaned at the sensation and perhaps leaned a little too much in Patrick’s space. Patrick took it like a recently divorced husband with full custody of a child could.

His fingers gripped Klaus’s elbows as Klaus slumped, keeping him upright. Klaus’s head dropped to Patrick’s shoulder, and he burrowed his head in the crook of Patrick’s neck and shoulder. It was wrong, and Klaus knew it. He barely knew Patrick, and after Allison’s devoice he didn’t really have any reason to not shove him away.

Patrick didn’t. One of Patrick’s hands folded at the back of his neck, fingers squeezing. Kind and supportive as he continued to hold him upright.

“My brother,” Klaus said, voice a slow slur on account of getting shot in the bed, “Five? Where?”

His voice was near breathless and as weak as the rest of him. Patrick blessedly didn’t call him out on it. He moved him over to his desk, leaning him against it.

“Are you okay?” Patrick asked instead, “You’re covered in blood. Hey – look at me. That’s it. What happened? Is the blood yours?”

Klaus was pretty sure it was. He also didn’t think he had any open wounds – not anymore. At least, he hoped so. He didn’t like the thought of him running around with a hole on either side of his skull.

Mostly unconsciously he reached up to prod at his temples. Patrick caught his wrists, eyebrows furrowed. He didn’t ask if he was okay again – must have figured out Klaus was the furthest thing from okay there was.

“Focus on my voice,” Patrick told him, “I think you’re in shock and have a concussion.”

But he wasn’t high. Five had been high, tied to a chair with blood smeared under his nose and dark eyes popping out from translucent skin. Five wasn’t there now, and Klaus needed to find him.

“My brother,” he repeated in a low whine.

“I think your brother is in the hospital,” Patrick reassured, “I’m more worried about you. Do you know why they’d leave you here?”

Because Klaus had been dead, and the Hargreeves siblings have always dealt with death and grief poorly. Their concern had been for Five – their urgency directed towards the sibling that had still been breathing. They had no reason to suspect Klaus would bolt upright a handful of hours later.

Klaus didn’t say any of that though. He didn’t say anything at all, another whine pushing past his throat as he leaned forward.

Patrick’s warmth welcomed him, drawing him to his chest and wrapping securely behind his shoulder blades. Impossibly, it made Klaus feel safe.

“I’m going to take you to the hospital,” Patrick announced, “Do you have any shoes?”

Klaus shook his head, hadn’t even noticed he was barefoot. It seemed like the least of his worries at the moment.

“Okay. Okay, that’s fine. Can you walk?” Patrick continued, stepping back in hope of Klaus being able to move on his own.

Klaus couldn’t feel much of anything. Whenever he looked down he realized he was shaking and knew he wasn’t making it very far on his own. Patrick didn’t look okay though. Patrick’s skin had lost several shades and his eyes were wide and he looked worse than Klaus felt.

Patrick could still walk. Klaus could not, the moment he pushed from the desk he was tumbling back towards the ground. Patrick caught him, held him up with an arm around his waist. Klaus gave a low sigh and had to close his eyes because the room was trying to flip itself over.

“That’s okay. You’re okay,” Patrick breathed, “We’ll do this together. Me and you. One step at a time. Are you ready?”

He waited until Klaus nodded. Then, slowly, they stumbled towards Patrick’s car. Klaus immediately moved towards the backseat–tired and sick and in desperate need to lie down. Patrick didn’t fight him, patted his calf supportingly once he got him settled and gave another low promise that he was going to be alright. That he was going to take him to the hospital, and then he’d be fine.

Klaus was too sick to protest. He couldn’t even be sure if the dead were yelling, lost in the dead space of Klaus’s brain. All he knew was that he was sick and tired and his hand was covered in blood that hadn’t been there before.

The realization got him to sit upright. Patrick gave him a concerned look from the rearview mirror – dark eyes wide with concern.

“I think I’m still bleeding,” Klaus explained dumbly.

Patrick’s eyes grew, and the car pushed forward. Klaus, who was still terribly unbalanced, tumbled over. He attempted to catch himself with his arm, which sent a spike of pain through him and wrangled another cry from him.

“I’m fine,” Klaus wheezed, breathy and small and fake even to himself.

“You’re not fine,” Patrick protested, “You’re skin was as cold as ice when I’d touched it. You’re covered in blood and you’re still bleeding and I don’t even know your name.”

Klaus blinked dumbly.

“Uh…I’m Klaus,” Klaus said, eyes listing up to the car mirrors. “I think we’re being followed.”

Klaus recognized the car as the one Al would mysteriously disappear in whenever they’d still been sleeping together. He told him it was a work vehicle, and Klaus had never pressed the matter. His words only succeed in panicking Patrick further.

How had he and Allison ever been married?

Patrick didn’t have long to ponder this newest development. Klaus’s hunch was confirmed when the people behind them started shooting.

“Holy shite!” Patrick cried loudly but – to his credit – he didn’t serve or try and stop. His hand did flail wildly behind him as he demanded for Klaus to get down because those people had guns and Klaus was hurt and that was how Allison had loved him for so long. Still loved him, Klaus knew.

Klaus wasn’t paying much attention to what was happening. He no longer felt the cold or the way his blood was all dried and peeling from his arms and temple. The thing taking hold of his bones was no longer this tired heavy thing that made him want to close his eyes and never move again.

It was the sensation of how he always imagined swimming through syrup was. Everything had slowed around him, but his brain was focused. Hyperaware of everything around him, and he could feel a part of himself in each of those things. And if he wanted to, with nothing more than a thought, he could just tip it over.

It felt a lot like that time Five’s bookshelf fell on top of him except this time it wasn’t terror fueling him. He was calm, and all he had to do was push – so he did.

The car flipped behind them. Tires summersaulting in the air before metal crunched against asphalt. Glass shattered and whatever connection Klaus held receded back inside himself.

“Keep driving,” he said, once he realized Patrick had started to slow down to check on the people in the car. “They’ll be fine.”

The Crimson Sword didn’t die easily. By noon there wouldn’t even be any evidence of the accident.

“Klaus?” Patrick asked, concerned.

Klaus slumped, retaken by his exhaustion. He began to fall back towards the seat and the last thought he had before his eyes fluttered shut was that he needed to be careful about all the blood. Then he was in a dark room with only a fish tank and clock that had stopped working. The water in the tank looked a bit foggy, lone goldfish swirling in bored little circles.

Klaus squinted. He was in a chair opposite to the tank, and he gave a curious glance to his left. To his right. He saw only shadows, caught in the corners of the room.

“I’ve lost my mind,” Klaus proclaimed, hands rubbing at aching temples.

“No, dear boy. You are the sanest you’ve ever been before. That I can assure you.”

The voice made Klaus’s head go up. The only other living thing in the room was the fish, and the moment realization dawned on him his head tilted to the side. It wasn’t shock that followed his next words, though. It was a tired whine.

“Come on.”

“You look well Klaus,” the voice said, coming from the fish tank.

“I don’t feel well,” Klaus replied, “Am I dead again? Is this that other place people go to after getting kicked from everywhere else?”

“No,” the fish reassured, “You are not dead. Neither is that brother you seem to be oh so concerned about.”

Klaus perked. “Five? He’s alright?”

“He’s in a bad spot,” the fish hummed, “but he’s strong. I believe he’ll pull through. It was quite a nasty drug they’d given him.”

“Oh thank Christ,” Klaus breathed, body folding over himself as he released a heavy sigh of relief. His body was back to shaking and he didn’t even care that the fish tutted disappointingly at him.

“You need to focus because we don’t have much time,” the fish berated, “You need to solve the waitress’s murder. That first one.”

Klaus glanced up and asked, “Cindy?”

“And the home security employee. And the woman with red hair. Solve their murder, Klaus.”

“What? Why?” Klaus demanded, but his ears were ringing.

“It seems you’ve run out of time,” the fish said, “Solve the murder. Prove yourself.”

Klaus gasped, chest aching. When he opened his eyes, they burned underneath the overhead lights. Something was humming above him. People in scrubs and masks were cluttered over him, voices indistinguishable and words unintelligible.

A needle pricked his elbow, and Klaus knew no more.

“Patrick?”

Claire perked up in Allison’s arms, Allison’s eyes dark and bright as they stared at the spot her ex-husband stood. His skin was pale and he had drying blood on his clothes and hands and neck. Vanya perked up at her sister’s voice and she felt Ben beside her do the same. Luther and Diego blinked blurry eyes at him from their spots on the opposite of Vanya and Ben.

Patrick gave all six of them a very tired smile. Relief clear in his dark eyes.

“Hello Hargreeves,” he said, heavy sigh escaping his chest, “The nurses told me I could find you all here.”

He swallowed thickly, eyes falling onto Five and his relief left him. Vanya tightened her hold on Five’s hand–not for the first time. Claire bolted from her spot next to Allison, voice wet with her tears.

“Daddy!” she exclaimed, leaping into his arms.

He caught her, despite the blood. Vanya’s brain kept getting drawn to it–the red smears spotting his clothes and tan skin. Allison, at least, was one step ahead of her.

“Patrick,” she greeted a step behind her daughter, “What’re you doing here?”

“I came to see my favorite girl,” Patrick responded, “and to come make sure you were okay. Are you, Allison? Okay, I mean.”

He looked so serious and worried that it made Vanya smile. Ben shuffled, attention drawn back to their unconscious brother. Vanya suspected that he wasn’t really seeing Five in that bed, though. He was seeing Klaus pale and limp and lifeless.

Allison was on the same wavelength of Ben in that sense, it seemed. She hugged her center and her eyes were fierce and bright as she swallowed past the last couple of hours.

“Now’s not really a good time,” she told him.

Patrick, for all Vanya hated him for leaving Allison and trying to take Claire, nodded in understanding. His face was kind–not at all the asshole Vanya mentally proclaimed him to be all this time–as he offered Claire back to her.

Claire hugged his neck. Her eyes were still red and swollen from mourning Klaus and potentially Five. Patrick resettled his hold on her and gave her cheek a kiss before his eyes fell seriously back on Allison.

“I can’t even imagine,” he affirmed, “How’s he doing?”

“He’s high on a drug nobody knows,” Luther finally spoke but he didn’t move from the chair, “A drug that kills people, apparently.”

Luther didn’t sound harsh or hostile. He sounded tired and weak and he wasn’t crying anymore, but his voice still sounded sad. When he glanced at Patrick he didn’t look like he had the energy to pretend to be bothered.

Vanya rubbed at her face. She felt every bit how Luther sounded. Patrick didn’t seem bothered. His eyes were still kind and soft, voice matching.

“If you want I can go wait outside,” Patrick offered, shifting Claire up on his hip, “For news on Klaus, of course.”

The mood in the room shifted. Beside her Vanya felt Ben stiffen but he didn’t look angry. His dark eyes were wide in hope, and Vanya felt her insides twist at the look. Diego and Luther’s face just grew dark, and Allison stepped back as if struck.

Allison recovered quickly. She stepped forward, hands outstretched in demand of his return of Claire and her voice was cold.

“Klaus is dead Patrick.”

Patrick squinted, didn’t release Claire. Vanya hated how innocent and confused he looked because she very much wanted to hate him.

“I just left him,” Patrick said, “He was in surgery, but he – they haven’t told me anything so I thought – I immediately came to find you. Did something already happen?”

Diego looked less vicious the longer Patrick spoke. He rose to his feet but Vanya had to remind herself that he hadn’t been there. He hadn’t seen Klaus’s lifeless body. It was easy for him to find hope in the words.

Luther remained every bit of how Vanya felt. His blue eyes were clouded and mournful and he reached out to catch Diego’s wrist in warning. Diego didn’t shake him off because he knew this wouldn’t be something they’d lie about, but it was enough to offer hope. Vanya couldn’t blame him on that, but she was surprised at the hope that began to spark in Allison’s dark gaze.

“What?” she demanded.

“Yeah. I found him on the floor of that business you told me about,” Patrick explained, “We spoke for a while, but he seemed confused and tired and lost consciousness. Have I – Allison did I miss something?”

Just Klaus cold and pale and gone to them. Ben was on his feet, face bright with thought. Vanya eyed him warily. She still wasn’t prepared for when he spoke.

“Son of a bitch!” Ben exclaimed loudly, stepping around her. He was smiling, “You’re sure it was Klaus? Like, for sure for sure?”

Patrick nodded, still confused. “I’m sure.”

“Ben, that’s not possible,” Vanya spoke up because her chest was twisted and pained. “Klaus is dead. We all saw it.”

“Yeah. I know,” Ben agreed, “but Klaus has died before – son of a bitch!

All eyes turned towards Ben, but he barely seemed to notice. Luther was the one to speak – voice a more subdued sort of grief.

“What’re you talking about Ben?” he demanded.

Ben grimaced before he began to ramble, “Klaus snapped his neck once when he – well – it was at a rave. He’d been trying to protect someone from a jealous boyfriend.”

His eyes settled on Luther – urging him to remember. Vanya wasn’t sure what, but when she glanced at Luther’s face she think he did. Her heart lurched at the thought of Luther knowing something the rest of them didn’t. Diego seemed to agree with her.

“What?” he snapped, tone harsher than Vanya thinks it’s ever been.

Luther’s eyes remained wide and clear in thought. He didn’t seem to notice Diego’s tone – Vanya would be surprised if he’d even heard him.

Diego must have counted his losses on that brother because his eyes narrowed back on Ben moving across the room as he repeated, “What do you mean Klaus snapped his neck? When?”

A chill crept down Vanya’s spine. She hadn’t even thought about when that could have been, but if Luther knew about it then it had to be recent. She squeezed Five’s hand.

Please be okay. Please wake up.

Please let Klaus be alive.

“Where is he?” Ben demanded, ignoring Diego. “I need – I need to see him.”

Patrick looked almost cornered at the urgency in Ben’s voice. They’d been doing so well Vanya had forgotten how intense Ben could become whenever it came to Klaus. He recovered quickly though.

“He’s in surgery at the moment. I can – I can go wait. I’ll tell you whenever I hear something.”

“I’ll go with you and wait,” Ben immediately offered. Vanya prickled and knew it wasn’t her place but she felt a surge of protective fury in regards of Five. She was surprised by the sound of her own voice, though. The way it was clipped at the ends – her voice cold.

“You need to be here for when Five wakes up,” she said.

Ben blinked. He turned to look at her before Five. He swallowed and looked conflicted. Vanya felt bad, but Five deserved to have them all here for him. Still under his dark gaze she felt ice begin to poke under her skin in reminder of how selfish she was acting. After all, if what Patrick was saying was true then Klaus needed them too.

I’m sorry Klaus.

“We don’t even know when that’s going to be,” Ben reminded, choosing his side and Vanya wasn’t that surprised – Ben always chooses Klaus. “Klaus doesn’t deserve to be alone either.”

“I don’t mind waiting,” Patrick said, “I promise I’ll tell you the moment I know something.”

That wasn’t good enough for Ben–Vanya could see it in his dark gaze–but he was as equally as concerned for Five and there really was nothing he could do for Klaus. The realization made his shoulders slump, features drawn.

He turned on Patrick – features blazing – as he snarled, “The very second.”

Patrick nodded, planted another kiss to Claire’s cheek before turning back down the hall. Ben didn’t come to settle back beside Vanya. He moved over to where Diego still looked like he was going to stab Luther.

“I have to tell you all something,” Ben announced, hand on Diego’s shoulder. “About Klaus.”

Vanya felt her heart sink.

Klaus woke alone surrounded by white. There was a machine beside him, indicating that he was still alive, and a bag that wasn’t going to help stop his drug habit. His head was clearer, though, and he no longer felt as if someone had stuffed cotton in his brain.

He reached up, tearing the IV from his elbow. Blood began to pool and spill over pale skin, and it stung but Klaus has never been a stranger to pain. He barely wobbled as he climbed from the bed, hospital gown open and flowing in the back.

His brain was quiet. His brain was never quiet.

He needed to get out of here. He needed to find Al, stop him from doing anything violent. He needed – he needed – he needed to stop. He needed to breathe.

Klaus stumbled, hand against the wall. Passing nurses kept asking if he was okay, demanding to know what he was doing. Klaus just brushed them off, and he only snapped twice – pushing from the wall to continue back down the hallway.

His knees didn’t crumple until he reached the waiting room. Hands caught his arms and saved him from embarrassing himself any further.

“Are you okay?” Patrick asked him, voice gentle and kind.

Klaus nodded, head spinning. He didn’t bother question why Patrick was around because Claire was here, and her safety had always been the one thing him and Allison consistently agreed on.

“I don’t believe you,” Patrick told him firmly, “You look awful Klaus.”

Klaus smirked. He was dizzy but his brain no longer felt like it had a bullet shot through it so progress. He pressed his forehead against Patrick’s chest – took several calming deep breathes – before he pulled away.

“I always look like this,” Klaus said.

Patrick’s frown deepened. He allowed Klaus to maneuver himself back on his feet, but his fingers never left his elbow. Dark eyes peered up at him, half expecting for him to tumble back over. A legitimate concern, Klaus knew, all things considered.

“And you can explain to me why your siblings thought you are dead,” Patrick continued, shrugging off his jacket to wrap it around Klaus’s shoulders.

Klaus accepted it gratefully. He thinks his body was dropping into shock, but he had one thought on his mind and if his family was here then that meant…

“Five?” he asked.

Patrick gave him a confused look. His dark eyebrow furrowed, eyes reflecting the question he didn’t ask. Klaus answered it for him anyways.

“My brother. The little one.”

Last he saw him, Five’s pupils had been shot from the drug Tennessee had given him. The same drug Cloud died for because he refused to sell it.

Killed a man right in front of me. Writhing like a worm in the sunlight, choking on foam.

Klaus didn’t know anything about this mystery drug – he didn’t know how long it took for it to take affect nor how long it required to kill someone.

Roberto is looking for something. He thinks he can find it here. That’s what Lyla had told him, while she had still been breathing and since she’d also directed him towards Tennessee, Klaus figured that Roberto was using the drugs to do it.

Oddly enough, Klaus hoped Five was a part of whatever Roberto was looking for.

“Your brother is in a coma,” Patrick explained sadly and a coma wasn’t writhing and choking on foam.

Klaus swallowed, nodded. He must still contain some sort of his sense because he recognized that showing his relief beyond that would give Allison’s ex the wrong impression. Patrick’s grip on him tightened.

“Klaus?”

“I’d like to see him,” Klaus admitted.

Patrick paused before he took Klaus around his waist and lead him down the hallways. Klaus blacked out for a brief moment, but his senses returned to him before they made it to the door. And he wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting but it wasn’t the sight awaiting him.

Luther was in the chair furthest from the bed, skin waxy and blue eyes lifeless. His hands were clasped tightly between his knees, and no one was around him. Not even Allison, who was always one step behind Luther to help pick him up. When Klaus squinted at him he could see the darkening blossom of a bruise around his left eye.

It made Klaus’s heart lurch up his throat at the sight, insides twisting in sympathy. He pushed away from Patrick, brother’s name pushing past his lips. Luther’s head shot up and his blue eyes seemed almost frantic as they stared wild-eyed back at him.

“Klaus?” he asked, rising to his feet.

Diego appeared from somewhere deeper in the room to shove him back down. Luther didn’t fight him – blue eyes still wide as they stared at Klaus – but the back of his skull did hit the hospital drywall. Klaus felt the crack inside his bones.

“You stay away from him,” Diego snarled as Ben and Allison appeared to help steady Klaus on his feet.

Allison didn’t fight with Diego for being unnecessarily mean to Luther. Luther didn’t even fight it. He just continued to stare up at Klaus with soft apologetic eyes, and that wasn’t right.

“Guys?” Klaus said, pushing from Patrick.

His knees wobbled and threatened to buckle, but Ben caught him on his elbow and against his shoulder blades in what was probably meant to be comforting. Klaus found he couldn’t look away from Luther’s sad blue eyes.

“Klaus?” Ben asked, fingers tight around him. “What happened? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Klaus lied, “What happened with all of you? I feel like I’ve missed something.”

“You haven’t missed anything Klaus,” Diego reassured, “You just neglected to tell us that this idiot managed to get you killed at that rave. Or the fact that you can’t die.”

Klaus’s stomach sank, even as he forced a carefree smile to his features. It was a reckless thing to do while Diego’s fingers were twitching so close to his knives, but Klaus figured the chances of his brother stabbing him while he’s still in a hospital gown was low. Unless Diego figured that would be the most opportune moment because then they were already in the hospital.

Thinking was making his brain swim.

“Klaus?”

“Look, whatever you think is going on isn’t really right,” Klaus settled, “I can – technically – die, I think, and Luther wasn’t really to blame for the first time. He’d just been–”

“There and left with some nameless girl to sleep with,” Diego supplied.

“Yes,” Klaus said, a little too eagerly. He closed his eyes and corrected, “No. That’s not it – it’s not, Diego. It was just the unfortunate case of wrong place at the wrong time and – and! – I had finally managed to summon dear old dad so not all bad.”

He was trying to diffuse the situation, but it seemed his words only succeed in making things worst. Luther’s skin got impossibly paler, and Diego’s eyes nearly popped from his skull. Ben and Allison’s grip on him tightened, making Klaus ground the back of his teeth in frustration.

“It’s not like that–” he started the same time Luther said, “You told us that morning, and we didn’t believe you. We accused you of being–”

“I’m aware Luther. Thank you,” Klaus interrupted through gritted teeth. He attempted to soften his expression as they settled back on the rest of his siblings and he said, “I’m fine. See. Not even a bruise.”

Diego’s eyes narrowed further as he demanded, “Then why do you act so dodgy whenever he reaches out for you. Vanya I get since he attempted to crush her, but if you really are as fine as you want us to believe then enlighten us.”

Luther still looked wrecked, and Klaus’s head was pounding. There were no ghosts around, which he currently started counting as a bad sign, and there was no guarantee on Five’s life. In every bit of Hargreeves fashion, though, his siblings decided to have this conversation now.

Klaus clamped his mouth and refused to speak. It didn’t matter. His silence spoke volumes enough.

Diego cursed – loud and, from the confused furrow of Allison’s eyebrows, in a different language – as he spun back towards Luther. Something glittered his hand, sharp and shiny.

“You absolute asshole!” Diego screeched, and Luther looked so defeated that he probably wouldn’t have protested even if he understood what Diego was saying.

“Diego, please!” Klaus shouted back, brain popping.

He learned, at a very young age, that attempting any sort of powers while on the influence of drugs was typically a bad idea. He hadn’t thought much more along that train of thought because his powers were useless and not having them was something he very much wanted.

Now he felt the warm trail of blood burst from his nose and his eyes rattled, but the knife was no longer in Diego’s hand. It was suspended above him, and Reginald had been quick to teach them that once was an accident, twice was a coincidence. Three times generally meant Klaus had a new ability.

“What the hell?” Diego and Luther asked together as Klaus smirked past the blood and black smudges.

“For the record,” he proclaimed as his weariness caught up with the rest of him, “You’re both assholes.”

Five woke up before Klaus.

They’d managed to convince the staff to move them in the same room so Vanya could stay by Five’s side and Ben Klaus’s. Luther hadn’t moved, though he looked like he wanted to. Diego must have sensed it first because after Klaus had passed out in the hall he’d turned a dark look at their brother.

“Don’t even think about abandoning him,” Diego warned in a low growl, “either of them.”

It had seemed badass in the moment, but it quickly turned to unashamed concern as nurses got Klaus on a bed and connected to more machines and more IVs. It made Vanya feel childish for her past envy of Klaus and Diego’s relationship – how Diego was always there for Klaus no matter what he did to himself or others.

She was beginning to understand it now though. The way her heart stopped beating the same moment Klaus’s legs dropped from underneath him. The way her fingers curled around Five’s as she caught sight of dark red smeared across pale features.

“I’m so sorry,” Patrick had apologized, looking as shocked and horrified as the rest of them.

Allison had settled her hand against his shoulder and promised, “It’s okay. This wasn’t you,” and that had been the last Vanya heard either of them speak.

None of them spoke. Ben had paced for a while – restless and strung so tight Vanya could see the tension thrumming beneath his skin – but had given up hours ago and settled by Claire. She immediately demanded his attention so he held her to his chest protectively, dark gaze settled on Klaus.

They needed to talk about what had happened. They needed to talk about what was currently happening, and what they were going to do if they fall short one miracle.

Her fingers tightened around Five’s and it wasn’t that she wished that it was Klaus – she didn’t – but Klaus always blew through life, making it look easy. He’s died twice, and the only time they knew about it was because some random man called to tell them the second time.

Five’s fingers squeezed.

It was brief – barely a twitch – but she felt it and a rush of excitement overcame her. She didn’t rise to her feet because she’s barely slept and hasn’t ate and felt weak and jittery.

She leaned forward and breathed, “Five?”

He responded with a flutter of his eyelashes. Vanya’s breath caught. Diego’s hand – where’d he come from? – grabbed her shoulder and squeezed supportively. Vanya didn’t even glance at him, watching her other brother’s eyes open before he made a face.

“Lights,” he complained because he was Five. Vanya felt a sob break free from her chest, nearly suffocating her.

She dropped her head. Tumbled forward until her forehead was pressed against the mattress as she finally breathed since the night began.

“Vanya?” Five asked, voice strong despite everything. “You okay?”

Vanya nodded in the mattress. She didn’t trust herself to speak just yet, but the doctors had said that if he wakes up then there’s a good chance he’ll be fine. That had been the thing at the time. If. If he wakes up, and now he was awake and the dam had finally broken.

“We’re more worried about you, buddy,” Diego explained – painfully kind and patient – as he took the spot beside her head, “Do you remember what happened?”

Five paused, eyes still foggy but they cleared when something dawned on him. Pain creased his youthful features as he began to mourn someone the rest of them had stopped several hours ago.

Klaus,” he said.

“Klaus is fine,” Diego continued softly, “He’s in the bed beside you. He – well – this isn’t a first for him, it seems, and he’s a little out-of-it at the moment but should be fine.”

Five shook his head at the reassurances even as he started to rise to see Klaus over their heads. His eyes were dark in uncertainty because Klaus was dead and people didn’t come back from that. Apparently, Klaus did.

“He got shot in the head,” Five protested, but his eyes found Klaus’s sleeping form and he paused. “How?”

“We’re not sure yet, buddy,” Diego reassured, “but we’ll figure it out. Together. As a family.”

“Klaus should be dead,” Five repeated, voice dull. “Our lives are weird but not even we’re that weird.”

Another body settled at her side and Ben spoke. “Not us. Just Klaus.”

It was the closest to the truth they were going to get, anyways.

Klaus found Luther on the roof staring up at the moon.

It was where he and Allison used to escape to as children – thought nobody else knew about it – and it was almost nice knowing that some things never changed. Unlike when they were children and through most of their adult life, however, Allison hadn’t comforted him. She didn’t draw him away from the ledge he always seem to balance precariously on.

It was daunting, especially considering Klaus had seen just how far their brother was capable of falling.

“Hey big guy,” he greeted with fake pleasantness in his voice.

It’s not that he didn’t like Luther – he does, of course he does he’s his brother – or that he was uncomfortable being around him. It was everything else. All the emotions that came with being in a family that cared about everyone else’s well-being. It was exhausting.

Luther tensed under his overcoat because he was still ashamed or scared or whatever by his body. Klaus’s chest ached for him.

“You shouldn’t be up here,” Luther told him. He must have realized how that sounded because he corrected, “I’m dangerous. I’ve already hurt you before.”

Klaus shrugged even though Luther wasn’t looking at him. He was too busy dangling so far out the window Klaus was impressed gravity didn’t drag him the rest of the way. Klaus recognized the look in his eyes, though. It was something caged and frightened because of Klaus.

Great.

First, he woke in the hospital to find that Five was fine and would make a full recovery but he’d be less lucky. Or that Ben just leveled him with a look that promised that Klaus wasn’t going to be able to pee alone, which was wrong because sometimes a guy needed to pee in privacy. Or that Diego returned the day after him and Five were released from the hospital to tell them that Miggins released Alessandro and that he’s disappeared along with his uncle and Tennessee.

Nine days and still nothing except his siblings’ constant hovering and worrying, and the only relief he had was knowing that Five was getting as stir-crazy as him.

“If you think you’re special because you’re the only person whose hurt me then you’ve got another thing coming,” Klaus told him, earning a pained expression and dramatic shudder from his brother.

“Klaus – please – you’re not helping,” Luther begged.

Klaus hummed. “I rarely do. This isn’t – you don’t have to act weird about this. The rave was ages ago. There’s no need to feel guilt over it.”

“I left you there,” Luther reminded with a fierceness he rarely carried, “I left for some woman whose name I don’t even know. How can you not be angry at me? How can you look at me with that sympathetic expression when everyone else downstairs hates me.”

That was the problem.

They did hate Luther – for Klaus, because of Klaus, it was all the same. They were angry and not planning on forgiveness anytime soon and this had been why Klaus hadn’t told any of them the first time because it didn’t really matter. Not because Klaus didn’t matter but because when you die and then wake up then it’s really like not dying.

Diego had threatened to punch him when Klaus had brought that up to him five nights ago. Klaus thinks the only reason he’d only threatened and hadn’t actually punched him was because he still looked at Klaus and saw dead, gone, pale

Klaus rubbed at his temples and soothed, “You didn’t know. If you had known then I know you wouldn’t have left me. Why isn’t that good enough for the rest of you?”

Luther settled more firmly back in the window, shoulders still tense and eyes still troubled. Klaus wasn’t Allison – he wasn’t good at this – but he was it so he was going to have to become good at this.

“Because I did leave,” Luther said, voice lifeless, “If you didn’t come back then we wouldn’t have known until we found your body in some morgue or alley or–”

“And you’d all have to learn to move on after that,” Klaus affirmed, “because there wouldn’t have been anything you could have done. It was an instant kill, I’m told. Both times.”

Luther spun on him – blue eyes blazing – but Klaus has seen his brother angry enough to know that it wasn’t directed at him. He just needed an outlet, so pent up he was moments from exploding. Klaus folded his arms and waited patiently.

He was already an outlet for the dead. He could do this for his brother – his family.

“How can you be so flippant about this?” Luther demanded, “It’s like you don’t even care that you’ve died.”

Klaus sighed again, rubbing at his features. He didn’t wish he was high though so progress.

“It’s not that I don’t care,” Klaus promised, “It’s that I’m not still strung up about it like the rest of you. I died, and it sucked but now I’m not. Why can’t we just be happy about that instead of this pissed-off-concern everyone seems to have?”

Luther still looked pained, though less upset. “You died–”

“And that was always a possibility. We’re not invincible Luther. We never were no matter what we thought as children.”

Luther’s face twitched, but he didn’t argue. He knew Klaus was right. Klaus settled in the empty space beside him on the window, staring up at the moon he’s spent most of his life ignoring.

“What kind of Number One lets their men die under their watch and not even notice?” Luther challenged.

“The same one – I imagine – who locks his apologetic sister in her own personal prison downstairs,” Klaus affirmed, “You made a mistake. It’s only human.”

Luther made another face and said nothing. He felt bad – was mentally going through every wrong he’s ever inflicted upon them. Klaus appreciated the sentiment but wasn’t sure now was the time.

Alessandro was missing, and there was a killer on the loose.

Also, drugs.

“I’m not sure I’d call those mistakes,” Luther finally said, “I was selfish and a bully and that’s inexcusable. Unforgiveable. I–”

Klaus wondered if Al was looking up at the moon, thinking of him. Probably not if Five was to be believed. Al thought that he was dead.

The world really was going to burn.

“You feel penitent now,” Klaus interrupted him, “That’s the first step in forgiveness, I’d say. Now, I’m going to need you to stop sitting up here feeling sorry for yourself.”

Luther perked up at the words, turning towards him to ask, “What? Why?”

Klaus was sullen as he replied, “Because I figured out what kind of drugs Five was on. I’m calling an emergency family meeting.”

The thing about being dead was that you were forced to watch your family constantly bicker, always at each other’s throats, and promise yourself that if you were alive then you’d be different. You’d be better – more understanding.

Then Klaus got involved and Ben didn’t feel particularly understanding.

He glared from his spot on the couch at Luther, who’d taken Dad’s favorite chair almost subconsciously. His blue eyes were watching Klaus fidget nervously – standing on his feet, tall and uncertain – and Ben thinks that maybe Klaus had been right. Luther wasn’t to blame for his death.

Luther was to be blamed for a lot of things, but not that. Not the thing Ben wants him to because then he had something to yell at. The thought of Klaus dead and actually gone one he wished to avoid.

Diego was beside him, muscles taut under his leather jacket. Klaus had deposited Mister Pennycrumb in between them. Probably because he knew putting them in a room with Luther without a dog was hazardous.

Allison was standing, arms crossed and hair pulled back in a bun. She looked tired, but they were all tired. Vanya had been the only one brave enough to take the chair beside Luther. She was making a statement, Ben knew. One Klaus probably asked her to assist him with.

If Vanya can forgive Luther for what he’s done to her then they can find it within themselves to do the same.

Five wasn’t standing, but he looked annoyed. He wasn’t as graceful as Klaus could be about being fretted over. He was the only one – Ben noted – Klaus was looking at. This meeting was for him, and they had just been invited because they were all too high-strung to be trusted out of it.

“They call the drugs Fairy Dust,” was the way Klaus thought was the appropriate way to begin explaining this.

“Who?” Diego and Allison asked immediately as Vanya wrapped her arms around herself and Luther stared blankly up at Klaus.

Christ, they were a real mess.

Klaus shrugged and plowed on, “People. Out on the streets. I found one of my old dealers and asked.”

Ben had to look away as Five cursed, “Jesus Klaus.”

“I’m still clean,” Klaus promised them, “I didn’t get anything. I just needed to ask some questions.”

“When?” Vanya asked, “I thought you were on a twenty-four hour watch. You and Five.”

“Yeah,” Klaus said simply, “but I’ve been sneaking out for years – even with the new open doors policy it wasn’t difficult.”

Something Ben had hoped would prevent what was currently happening. When he looked at Klaus he knew he hadn’t been lying about the drugs though. He was still painfully sober.

“So this Fairy Dust?” Diego demanded, putting them back on track – Ben was impressed. “What does it do?”

Klaus grimaced, face twisted as he thought about something unpleasant. Ben could relate – remembering the way Klaus’s entire body would flop bonelessly over as people sought out a pulse that no longer existed. Helplessness never suited a Hargreeves well and for whatever reason Klaus was taking this drug thing personally.

Though one of the main dealers did wreck Five’s car, kidnap them, pump Five full of an illegal substance (that had been fun explaining to the doctors) and shooting Klaus in the head. Klaus looked better now but he still had lapses – nine days evidently not long enough for him to heal from a bullet to the brain.

“It kills people,” Klaus told them, “A lot of people. My dealer knows of only one person who came back for more. Maria Andrews.”

Ben didn’t recognize the name nor should he have.

Instead his gaze flickered over to Five, who’s dark eyes narrowed as he offered in a tight protest, “I’m not addicted to drugs Klaus.”

“No. Not this one. It’s not addictive,” Klaus affirmed, still looking troubled. “It’s a suppressant. Maria was born on the first of October. Her mother hadn’t been pregnant with her before going into labor. She’s part of the forty-three.”

Ben heard the beast growl. The only other person he’s met on that day is Alessandro, and Roberto was a way worst parental figure then Reginald. At least he’d wanted them to put forth good in the world. Roberto twisted the kid into something cold and calculating. A weapon to use at his disposal.

“What can she do Klaus?” he heard himself ask, feeling sick. “What was she running from?”

People like Luther and Diego didn’t take drugs to hide who they were. Never found a reason to suppress some fundamental part of yourself because it made you chaotic and dangerous and that scared you. Klaus had believed he needed to take matters in his own hands to get the voices to stop. Ben had never thought that there could have been others.

He should have.

Klaus looked stricken as he said, “She kills everyone she goes to bed with. One moment they’re having a great time, and then the next the poor fellow is having a heart attack and she’s left all alone.”

Oh God,” Allison gasped – looking horrified.

Luther’s eyes bulged and Vanya turned several shades paler. Diego fumbled with a knife, nervous habit. They’d all thought that their lives were as worst as it could get. It seems Reginald had been right when he’d said that it could always be worst.

“She…um…on Fairy Dust the bloke didn’t die so she returned for more,” Klaus continued, “When Five had been on it, he couldn’t jump. His nose began bleeding whenever he tried. Everyone else dies. Normal people die.”

“Why?” Luther asked, voice hoarse. “What purpose does putting something so dangerous out on the streets?”

“He’s looking for something,” Klaus said, sounding weird. Thoughtful. Like he was echoing the words of someone else as he pieced it all together. “He wants to find the people who survive.”

Luther’s fingers curled into the arms of his chair, blue eyes bright in thought, before he decided, “So we find Maria and bring her in for protection.”

“I already found her,” Klaus noted, “Yesterday, I found her and we talked. I asked her to come with me and she said she would but there was something she needed to do first. This morning I woke up to her in my bedroom.”

“So she’s here then?” Luther asked, sounding excited at the prospect of a new mission – a new purpose. Ever the soldier.

Klaus leveled him with a look that didn’t share his enthusiasm. Ben felt his heart sink in recognition.

“She’s dead,” he said, voice dull. It wasn’t a question.

Klaus nodded anyways. He still looked the trouble and not in the way he usually did when the ghosts came to him.

“Her throat was slit,” Five noted – wore the same expression as Klaus and Ben could see why Ben had asked for his help over the rest of them.

Five was smart. He’s always been smart, and Klaus needed smart for moments such as these where he got what no one else was.

“That waitress. The surveillance man. Your ex. And now this person,” Five said, eyes bright. “All killed by the same person seemingly at random. There’s always a pattern though. You found the pattern.”

Klaus shrugged, but Ben got it. Excitement thrummed inside his chest and he leaned forward. Mister Pennycrumb made a soft noise as he shuffled over to Diego’s lap with a dark glower.

Ben said, “All those people had different genders and races and age. They held different interests and jobs. They were all connected by only person.”

“Me,” Klaus agreed, nodding.

Beside him, Diego straightened. Luther’s blue gaze turned hard, and Vanya looked sick. She hugged her center, face pale and drawn. Allison had to grab onto the back of Vanya’s chair for support.

Her voice was soft and raspy as she asked, “What does that mean?”

“They all met Klaus,” Five said, “but why kill them?”

“I don’t know,” Klaus admitted, “but I think the person killing them wants them to come to me. They want me to get involved.”

“So they know about your powers,” Vanya tried, “That narrows the list down some at least.”

Klaus didn’t correct her – far too polite – but Diego gave a soft snort as he explained, “Yeah. Narrows it down to anyone who’s opened a book before. Or did you forget about Extra Ordinary Vanya?”

Vanya’s eyes widened as she adopted a distressed expression – the realization that she potentially was the cause of this making her grow pale and almost sickly. Ben sighed, scrubbing his face with his hands because she wasn’t really to blame, and Klaus didn’t think that accusing her was fair. Ben could tell by the face he was making.

“Come on Diego,” Klaus protested, voice soft and pleading and it made Diego’s face go lax. Only Klaus could illicit that sort of response from their usually grumpy brother.

Diego didn’t apologize, but he didn’t have to. Vanya’s gotten better at picking up on their more subtle clues to identify their real emotions. The slightest waver in Diego’s voice whenever he’s yelling or the way Allison’s eyes melted into warm chocolate when she was supposed to be disappointed.

They all cared for each other and that’s always been their problems. They’ve been too busy caring that they forgot the others felt the same.

“Why you though?” Allison asked.

Ben was curious himself but didn’t think that was something Klaus had the answers to. None of them praised him for putting this much together by himself with all of them breathing down his neck.

Luther and Allison would have been preening for the attention – practically begging for it. Diego would have pretended not to care about their opinions but would grow more aggressive and hostile the longer it took them compliment him. Five would have made them acknowledge his accomplishment, and Vanya would have stewed and allowed it to fester into something bitter and ugly and resentful.

Klaus didn’t notice – used to being pushed aside in favor of something or someone else. Ben thinks that was one of the things that he hated the most about his brother.

“Good job Klaus,” he said, “In figuring all of this out. It’s good.”

Klaus grinned – soft and shy – and Vanya must have picked up on his cue because he agreed, “Yeah. Good job Klaus.”

“Why you?” Allison repeated.

Klaus shrugged – good mood at Ben and Vanya’s praise gone – as he was forced to admit, “I don’t know. I haven’t figured that out yet.”

“So we have nothing?” she demanded – sounding annoyed.

Diego glared at her. Her face refused to soften as she continued, “My daughter and Patrick are here. I’d like to understand what’s happening so I can protect them.”

“Allison’s right,” Luther jumped in predictably, “We are better suited to face the threat if we understand the threat. That had been Dad’s–”

“Number One Rule. Yeah. I know,” Klaus interrupted – annoyed and tired, “I also know that whatever is happening seems to only involve me. You should all be safe as long as you distance yourselves from me.”

“Yeah that’s never going to happen,” Diego told him immediately.

Ben nodded his agreement and he could tell by Vanya and Luther that they weren’t going to let Klaus face this by himself. Klaus didn’t look amused or comforted. He met Five’s eyes and Ben knew what that look meant.

Five ended up in the hospital because he’d unintentionally aligned himself with Klaus. Klaus didn’t want to risk anymore with the rest of them.

Klaus,” he warned.

Klaus looked at him and seemed to reel back in surprise at what he saw there. He crossed his arms, fidgeted on both his feet. He avoided Ben’s eyes.

“Klaus is right,” Five said, “but it’s also been a long couple of days. We need rest and time to think about this. Come on Klaus. You’re with me.”

Klaus looked up as he asked, “What? Why?”

Five didn’t respond, only gesture vaguely. Ben rose to his feet, felt Diego do the same. They were going to follow them because they were overprotective and that’s what they did. Five narrowed them both with a glare.

“Just Klaus,” Five clarified, “the rest of you seem to need to get your shit together and figure out where you stand. Come on Klaus.”

Klaus followed, over-eager and boundless.

It took all of Ben’s inner strength to not disobey and follow. He wanted to – needed to be close to Klaus – but there was a reason Klaus had started pulling away. He needed whatever this was and he needed it without Ben.

And Diego.

Ben reached out to take the sleeve of his jacket, pulled him back with a shake of his head. Diego furrowed his eyebrows, but he didn’t protest – had been doing everything he could to get Ben to stop being so dependent.

Klaus didn’t seem to notice, but Five gave them both a proud smirk-head nod thing. Ben sat back down on the couch, head in his hands, and wasn’t sure what the rest of them spoke about. All he heard was static.

“You know you could be taking me away to kill me,” Klaus said – annoyed by the silence that stretched between them.

Five didn’t looked amused – expression dark – as he reassured, “I’m not going to kill you Klaus.”

Klaus hummed. “So a good surprise then? Never heard that one before.”

Five remained silent. Klaus grinned at him but backed off, settled his hands in his lap and waited patiently. He had an idea of where Five was taking him – a strange thought considering he’d almost been certain Diego and Ben would forbid him from ever revisiting this idea.

Five pulled into the front of their office.

The window – the broad one on the side of the building – wasn’t bare anymore. Instead in big blocky green letters was the word Foursight. Klaus stared at it an embarrassingly long time, mind going blank.

“Vanya was taking too long and all your names sucked,” Five started to explain, “Foresight as in the as in looking forward to the future. Four because of you.”

“Because of me?” Klaus repeated, voice almost dreamy.

“Yeah,” Five agreed – the closest thing to nervous he was capable of, “You don’t have to keep the name if you don’t like it. I’ll pay to get it removed. I just thought–”

“I love it,” Klaus interrupted, unclicking his seatbelt and tumbling ungracefully from the passenger seat to get a better look. “I’m impressed you came up with it, though. I wasn’t aware your brain was capable of thinking in puns.”

Five smiled at that. Klaus didn’t see it because he wasn’t looking at his brother but he felt it. It brought Klaus’s own smile to his face as he approached the building. His building. His business.

“There’s nothing wrong with asking for help,” Five started, “but don’t let it deter you from this thing before you even got a chance. It’s a good idea.”

Klaus hummed.

“And the Umbrella Academy failed for a reason,” Five continued, “It failed because dear old dad was incapable of caring for anyone except himself. Whatever it was meant to be died with him. This isn’t the Umbrella Academy. This isn’t Dad. This is you.”

“You just want an excuse to stab someone in the face,” Klaus told him smugly.

Five shrugged, but he didn’t deny it. Klaus gave him another grin.

“What’re you saying, brother mine?” Klaus asked him teasingly, almost to the door but he turned to look at his brother.

“I don’t want this to die,” Five told him bluntly – the seriousness shining in his dark eyes. He needed this. He needed it as much as Klaus thought he did.

Klaus gave him a reassuring smile as he turned back towards the door and reassured, “It won’t.”

“Are you aware that you misspelled foresight?” Patrick asked, announcing his arrival.

Five was behind his desk, boxes moved to the ground so he could sort through paper. It looked boring and tedious but apparently small businesses needed them completed. Klaus had taken to moving around the space, moving picture frames and Diego’s plant.

Five had scrubbed Klaus’s blood from the floorboards. He’d removed some of the security cameras Diego had installed, leaving only a few in place. It made Klaus feel less suffocated and Diego would probably get mad later.

Klaus saw Patrick pull in front of his office. Five glared at his entrance.

“It’s a pun on my name,” Klaus clarified, “My first one. Number Four from–”

“From the Umbrella Academy,” Patrick nodded, “I remember Allison talking about it. I thought she’d been joking about the number thing though.”

Klaus grinned sympathetically at him. He’s never put much thought in how people would feel about their childhood. It was weird, thinking they’d glorify a childhood Klaus had once thought of as nightmarish.

“It’s clever,” Patrick told them after a pause, “and the word? Foresight?

Klaus wriggled the wrist with Lyla’s bracelet. The cold metal was oddly comforting to him, and he’d never thought he’d miss the dead. Getting shot in head did something with his ability, though. He could still see the dead lingering purposelessly in the spots they’d died.

The older ones – the ones demanding things from him – were gone. Lyla hadn’t found her way back to him. Maria Andrews had, throat slit and almond eyes red from crying.

“Always look towards the future,” Klaus explained as he turned to him, “Can I help you with something?”

Patrick nodded, “That’s a good philosophy. I was – uh – looking for your sister.”

“Allison isn’t here,” Five told him but at Klaus’s raised eyebrows he gave a frown and conceded, “I’ll call the house.”

“I actually just came from there, and she wasn’t–” but then there was a blue light and Patrick was talking to no one.

Klaus could see him through the window. He didn’t move towards the payphone outside. He just crossed his arms and glared at the door. Patrick was relatively harmless, Klaus realized, but he was starting to talk about emotions and Five didn’t want.

“Does he do that – Is that–?”

“Normal?” Klaus offered kindly, “Yeah. Is there something bothering you Patrick?”

Patrick shrugged, and in the beginning – from what Klaus saw, at least – Allison and Patrick have been getting better. Not good or normal because they’ve both hurt each other in ways the other couldn’t easily forgive. The worst part was that Klaus understood why Patrick did it.

She manipulated their daughter because it had been the easier thing to do. She’d always been like that – didn’t know how to not do that – but that was hardly an excuse. Klaus got all of that, but Patrick tried to take Claire. He almost took Claire because people had stopped romanticizing about the Umbrella Academy and realized they could be dangerous.

“You think I was wrong, don’t you?” Patrick finally asked after a long moment, “You think I overacted and am just another huge asshole.”

Klaus squinted and realized what was bothering him.

“Did someone tell you this Patrick?” Klaus asked him – thought of Vanya corning him in their childhood home or Diego with his many knives or Ben with his intense expressions.

Patrick’s eyes flashed in panic. So they all did at some point when they weren’t hovering or micromanaging. Klaus turned his attention back out the window – eyes settling on Five, heart stilling – and perhaps he was just as bad as the rest of them.

“No,” Patrick tried lying, “Nothing like that. I just – they’re being protective. I deserve it. I took Claire. I fought her at every turn.”

He thinks he was protecting them – like they cared rather or not Klaus knew they intimidated the guy who took Allison’s whole world and tried everything he could to make it permeant. He was also, coincidentally, the person who found Klaus on the floor of the office and brought him to the hospital. Maybe that was the problem.

They wanted to hate Patrick for what he did to Allison but also didn’t because he’d rescued Klaus.

People are complicated. It seemed the Hargreeves were just now starting to learn that.

“It’s okay to tell me that they warned you not to repeat what you did,” Klaus reassured, “I know my siblings. Do you – uh – are you upset? With them?”

“Of course not,” Patrick said instantly, “I – I don’t know what I would have done if the roles had been reversed, and some part of me hates that I ever put Allison through it. Another part of me hates that I want to take it all back.”

“You did what you did,” Klaus told him, “The real question is: why did you come here? Why now? Was it because Claire was here or was it something else?”

“Something else maybe,” Patrick shrugged, “but also because of Claire. I don’t – fighting with Allison is exhausting. Hating her is exhausting. Raising our daughter alone is–”

“Exhausting.”

Patrick nodded. He gave a breathy laugh as he chuckled dryly, “See you get it and – as bad as this is about to sound – I’m tired of being tired all the time.”

Klaus grinned at him.

He never knew Patrick – the only time Allison let any of them around him had been at their wedding and Klaus had been too high at the time – but he was easy to like. Klaus figured that had been why he’d only been intimidated and not physically harmed.

“And I want to befriend Allison again,” Patrick continued.

“I thought you were mad,” Klaus told him with furrowed eyebrows, “because Allison rumored your daughter. Repeatedly.

Patrick rolled his eyes but his smile was bright as he rolled his head and said, “All the time. For every little thing. But I’m starting to realize that that was just normal for all of you and I should have just listened to her. I was just scared. She could get anything she wanted with just her words.”

Klaus remembered the soccer team and Allison’s first job. He remembered missions they would go on and how she always got an extra free donut whenever they snuck out. He remembered looking at her and thinking that it wasn’t fair. He was stuck with constant shouting and dead people, and she could get whatever she wanted.

Klaus had been young and foolish then. He’d been a child and spent most his days frightened about the dead.

“Would it help if I told you that she feels bad about that?” Klaus inquired.

Patrick shook his head. “I know that. I think that’s part of the reason I came back because I don’t want to hate her forever.”

“So why tell me?”

Patrick rubbed his hands together as he hummed, “Believe it or not – you’re the easiest Hargreeve to talk to.”

Klaus felt a rush of warmth. It was nice, thinking people wanted to be around him. To talk to him. To tell him things.

“Do you think I’m wasting my time?” Patrick asked, “Allison, I mean.”

Klaus looked away, found Five out the window. He hadn’t moved from his spot staring at him through the window.

“I think so,” Klaus told him, “You are – after all – the only man that hasn’t resembled Luther in some way.”

Maria Andrews was sitting beside Reginald on his bed that night.

She looked bored and disinterested. Reginald was reading a book in that way Ben always did, except this time Klaus felt annoyed at the sight.

“I see you two have been acquainted,” Klaus sighed – beginning of a headache forming behind his eyes, hammer banging between his ears.

Reginald didn’t look up. Maria blinked up at him.

“He’s not much of a talker, is he?” Maria asked him in response, “He just sits and grunts. Never even asked me for my name.”

Klaus hadn’t known Maria long but in their short time together Klaus has realized exactly three things. She was the most beautiful person Klaus has ever seen – in that unfair way some people were. Her skin was a smooth hazelnut color, almond-shaped eyes dark and kind. Her hair was dark with long curls that settled at the small of her back.

The second was that she was as kind as she was attractive. Klaus used to think that the darker the power they’d been granted, the worst the person was meant to be. Vanya had agreed in her book – writing how he had never seemed the same after his extra training.

She’d written the words in a bad place. Klaus understood that, and it hadn’t really bothered him. It had bothered Ben, he knew. Recalled the way he’d exclaimed “She wrote that?” as he read over Klaus’s shoulder. At the time it hadn’t been anything personal – bad powers, bad people. Simple, easy to remember.

Maria wasn’t like that. She was kind, bought Klaus his coffee when they met despite Klaus reassuring her that he had money. She had been thoughtful, and the only wrong thing about her had been her powers.

The last and most important thing was of how social she had been. Everyone in the coffee shop seemed to know her by name by the time they left. There was a light to her, and someone had just slit her throat. Watched her bleed out and die.

That had been when Klaus realized what the connection with all the murders had been. Solve the murder. Prove yourself. That had been what the fish had told him.

Now Klaus understood why.

Klaus closed the door – knew Ben was going to break it if he catches him – and stared at them both with as neutral an expression as he could manage. He felt better but still had lapses where he only felt weak and tired and it would be so much easier just to let the world burn.

“Maria meet daddy dearest,” Klaus introduced, “Reginald, Maria.”

Reginald looked up at his name being spoken. His eyes were the same empty darkness they’d been while he was alive. Klaus was too tired to try and process the hidden messages he’d buried in the vacant nothing.

“Number Four,” Reginald greeted – was going to say more but Maria interrupted him with a wild-eyed gaze.

“Are you serious right now?” she demanded, “That’s a bit dark. Naming your kid after numbers.”

Klaus shrugged. It was just common now.

“Maria, do you remember who killed you?” Klaus asked, hid his smirk at Reginald’s face at her words behind his hand.

Maria blinked but shook her head. Klaus hadn’t thought so – still getting the weird dreams of the fuzzy outlines and constantly changing voice – but it had been worth asking anyways.

“Useless,” Reginald sighed, “I taught you better than this Number Four.”

“No,” Klaus told him, “You didn’t but, you know, I’m doing the best I can with the little I have. Alright Maria. You ready to move on? I think daddy dearest was just moving on.”

Reginald disappeared, though it was unclear if that was because Klaus willed him away or if he went on his own. Ghosts were fickle things and Klaus was still getting used to them.

Maria stayed, but her eyes were wide and hopeful as she reached out for him. Klaus gave her a gentle look as he took her hand in his.

Chapter Text

Ben found Klaus in the kitchen. He was set at the table, piles of cookies and cupcakes and lemon tarts spread out in front of him. Patrick stood behind him. Their mother’s apron was wrapped around his front, and he had on oven mitts.

“I thought you didn’t like sweets,” Ben noted, taking the spot across from Klaus.

Patrick glanced over. He looked surprised, but Klaus smirked as he picked up another cookie – chocolate chip, with both dark and white chocolate chips – and inhaled it in almost three bites. Ben crossed his arms and watched, unamused.

“You should go to sleep,” was what Klaus offered as a reply – reminding Ben that as transparent as Klaus was to him, he could just as easily see inside Ben.

“I feel like I’m intruding,” Patrick announced uncomfortably, fidgeting from his spot by the oven.

“I don’t see how,” Klaus told him, turning his head so he wasn’t looking at Ben, “Ben’s the one who crashed this party.”

Ben didn’t act offended.

He had no reason to. It was Klaus, and Klaus was still annoyed about the breathing down his neck. Especially considering it was Ben, and he was operating under the impression that Ben needed to move away from him. That Ben needed to grow as a person that wasn’t a ghost.

Klaus wasn’t wrong. The fact that Ben hadn’t slept or ate since Klaus had been released from the hospital because every time he closed his eyes he saw Klaus pale and unmoving, chest no longer breathing because he was dead, gone, cold was evidence enough that Ben’s attachment towards Klaus was unhealthy.

Klaus had been polite enough until now not to mention it. To let Ben flaunt over him in his poor attempt to protect him. Even Klaus had his breaking point, though, and as much as the others tried everyone knew that Ben wouldn’t back off until Klaus forced him too. The thing they didn’t completely understand was that Klaus felt that he needed Ben as much as Ben needs Klaus.

Patrick – poor guy – still looked uncertain and uncomfortable. He didn’t move, protective over Klaus considering he’d found him hurt and disoriented on the office floor and seemingly abandoned, but he was wary of all of them.

Ben had died before the wedding, but he’d technically been present. From what little he saw it appeared as if Patrick had adored Allison in that way she’d always craved but rarely noticed. He’d thought that despite everything that Allison could find happiness with him.

In many ways she had. Claire had been the best thing to ever happen to her, and Patrick was good in ways she’ll never admit because it was easier to call him mean names. Patrick had been the first to tell her that she couldn’t use her powers and expect no consequences though. He’d taught her the one lesson they could have benefited from learning at a young age.

And he’d been there for Klaus when Ben hadn’t – for that there was very little the guy could do to get Ben to dislike him.

“Threes a party Klaus,” Ben said smoothly.

“Really? I thought three was a crowd,” Klaus corrected, voice deceptively sweet as he found a lemon tart and started nibbling on the edges.

Klaus rarely indulged himself in sweets because eating them didn’t feel like indulgence to him. The plates spread in front of him seemed mostly empty though. An impressive feat for the baker – one Patrick will never truly understand.

Klaus squinted at him, “When was the last time you’ve slept Ben? Really, I mean?”

Ben shrugged casually, eyes dark. He kept his face expressionless, emotions buried deep inside his gut. The monster purred, content at being near Klaus alive and surprisingly healthy. Spoiling himself on sugar and sweets.

Klaus continued to stare. He was waiting for a real response, and Ben swallowed thickly. It wasn’t a thought he’d ever believed he had, but Ben missed being dead. Klaus never worried about Ben’s health and could focus more on himself – however little that had been at the time.

Ben gave a low sigh and conceded, “I got three hours of sleep last night. A record for the past couple of days.”

Klaus blinked sympathetically. Patrick looked horrified but kept his opinion to himself. Ben wouldn’t have snapped or thought less of him if he had. The Hargreeves all dealt with things in different ways but none of them what most people deemed healthy.

“You should go to bed,” Klaus told him as he pushed a plate of tarts towards him.

Ben plucked one of the table but didn’t move it towards his mouth. “It won’t make much of a difference. The dreams keep what little sleep I get restless.”

Klaus looked away, guilty. Ben wished he could reach out and convince him that he wasn’t to blame. It wouldn’t do much good – not when Klaus knew the dreams were about him.

Instead Ben bit into the tart. It practically melted in his mouth, and he made a low indecent sound from the back of his throat. Then he reeled back, blinking in shock. Klaus gave him an amused smirk.

“Allison is a fool to let this man go,” Klaus affirmed, “I’ve never eaten anything so good.”

Patrick snorted – quick to pick up on Klaus’s odd sense of humor. Constantly bouncing between insulting and playful teasing.

His voice was low and serious, though, when he corrected, “Marriage is more than just food, Klaus.”

He didn’t mention how he’d been the one to leave her. Or that it was because Allison rumored Claire, repeatedly.

Ben let him have it.

Klaus seemingly did too. “You can’t just not sleep Ben. You’ve told me that plenty of times before.”

He didn’t explain what he meant by that word, but Ben got it. Before when Ben had been dead and Klaus had not. Before when the world had seemed large and cruel and uncaring towards anything different. Before when it had been Klaus who was getting lectured.

“It was different before,” Ben sniffed, “I had been the one giving the advice.”

Klaus frowned disapprovingly. He plucked a cupcake from the plate, green icing smearing across his nose as he bit into the side. His eyes remained open through the whole ordeal, even while he chewed in thought.

“It’s not that I haven’t tried. Even the monster is in pain through this,” Ben explained, rubbing at his itchy eyes, “I’ve started hearing colors, Klaus. Do you know what blue sounds like? Because I do.”

Klaus looked at him with a sad expression. Ben had to force his hands from his eyes, had learned several days ago that it only made the pain worst.

“I’ll draw up some tea,” Patrick offered.

Ben gave him a curious look but didn’t protest or correct and tell him that Grace fixed him a cup of tea five days ago. He’d been desperate then, was desperate now.

“Would you like some Klaus?” Patrick asked.

Klaus was quick to hum and nod enthusiastically. He was still looking at Ben so missed Patrick’s fond smile. The beast gave a low possessive growl – always the worst of Ben – and he settled it with a firm hand pressed against his stomach.

Despite the fact that the beast didn’t technically reside there. It was somewhere else, ingrained in a part of him, and moved in ways only Ben could detect. It wasn’t human, but it wasn’t entirely monstrous either. Klaus must have noticed because his head tilted to the side.

He didn’t call him out on it, though – knew how self-conscious Ben got about the subject of his ability. He just accepted the cup Patrick handed him with a gentle hum of thanks.

Patrick smiled – soft and gentle – before offering Ben his own cup. Ben took a sip. It was oddly sweet and the thing stilled, gave a soft huff as it retreated to some dark corner inside of Ben. Ben gave Patrick an accusing look.

Patrick took it well, gave an amused huff. “No. No. I didn’t drug you. Don’t worry. It’s meant to just be soothing, and your body will do the rest. I make it for Claire when she’s being particularly fussy.”

Ben continued to glower.

Klaus smirked victoriously as he rose from his seat to take Ben’s shoulder underneath his hand. Ben’s eyes drooped as his head tipped.

“I’ll take him to bed,” Klaus reassured Patrick. He gave Ben’s shoulder a tight shake, “and make sure he stays there.”

The monster gave a low whimper at the dangerous glint in Klaus’s eyes. Ben was inclined to agree.

Ben was laid on his bed, dressed in the clothes Allison saw him in earlier. His shoes were gone – leaving socked feet – and his head was propped in Klaus’s lap. Klaus was awake, shoulders folded towards Ben’s head as he ran pale fingers through dark hair.

Klaus met her eyes as she passed, offered her a reassuring smile. Allison couldn’t help but smile back – the sight of both of them, alive and okay, making her chest twist painfully.

She moved down the hall, found Patrick in the kitchen. Luther had taken Claire out, and Diego and Five disappeared with Mister Pennycrumb several hours ago. Patrick was wearing an apron, doing dishes in the sink. He glanced up as she entered but didn’t smile.

Allison’s eyebrows furled as she remembered how they’d been before.

Men can be irredeemable shits. That’s what she’d told Vanya, and though she’d been annoyed at Patrick at the time she recalled the pale faced way he’d explained how Klaus was in surgery when they’d believed him to be dead.

Klaus had been dead, though. That was the thing. He’d died and come back to life, and the only person who’d been there for him both times was Patrick. It kind of made her feel like the irredeemable shit, but – worst – it made her acknowledge that she’d been wrong.

Patrick was headstrong and frustrating, but he had been right. It didn’t make him a bad person. It made him the first person to tell her no over something that she really wanted.

“Ben’s sleeping,” Allison said, eyes falling on the tea cups still set on the table. “Your tea?”

“It’s good,” Patrick reminded, “You’d used to think so, I recall, and it would get Claire to bed without rumoring her.”

Allison didn’t flinch at the insult, but the words stung. She remembered now – why it’d been so easy to keep her anger towards Patrick. He wasn’t the forgiving type and could be petty when he wants. And he was stubborn – oh so very stubborn.

She forced a smile and agreed, “Yeah.”

Patrick narrowed his eyes at her before turning back to the dishes. Allison thumped her fingers against the tabletop in thought.

“I made some treats if you want any,” Patrick tried, “I think your brother left some for the rest of you.”

It was said as a joke but Allison found herself frowning uncertainly. Klaus wasn’t a big sweets eater, but Patrick’s sweets were good. She used to think she’d gain so much weight from eating them every day.

“I’m not hungry,” she declined, straightening her spine, “How’d you get Klaus to eat them?”

He gave her a funny look. The expression he makes whenever he’s done something incredible and didn’t know and was now being called out on it. Allison suppressed the sappy smile as she felt a rush of fond affection for the man she’d been certain would get her to swear off guys entirely.

“I didn’t force him,” he said before he was back to being impassive and cold and it wasn’t fair that the only person he was treating that way was her.

Her siblings were just as screwed as her. They were as self-centered and destructive and emotionally stunted, and Patrick was acting like she was it.

She released a heavy breath. “Why’d you come here Patrick?”

He tilted his head to the side and explained so simply, “Claire called and asked me to. You didn’t know, Allison?”

No, she did not.

Her breath caught in the back of her throat as she demanded, “Why?”

Patrick’s eyes narrowed, like he didn’t quite believe her. Or maybe he didn’t understand why she hadn’t put the pieces together. An uneasy feeling began to open deep in her gut.

Patrick must have seen some sincerity in her expression because he gave a low sigh as he hung his head. He was a couple months younger than her, but in that moment looked ancient in ways that extended beyond just being a single recently divorced father – this was about her as much as it was about Claire.

“Someone like you can’t have a kid and not expect for them to come out completely normal, it seems,” was what he offered in explanation.

The rest clicked in her brain, an audible snap as it fitted together.

She gave a low preening whine of denial.

No. It’s not possible – it’s not.

“What–?”

Patrick was quick to shake his head and reassure, “It’s not like that. Jesus, Allison. It’s not. She just. She can sense whenever bad things are about to happen to people around her. She must have felt it while she’d been around your brothers and panicked.”

“But why’d she call you?” Allison demanded, hurt at the thought. “Why didn’t she just tell me? I’m just as capable of protecting her as you are.”

Patrick ran his hands through his dark hair. It tumbled in limp strands around his face and even after everything she still found him ridiculously attractive.

After they’d gotten divorced she convinced herself that she’d never been in love with him. That he’d just been a pretty face during a time she was trying to discover a new her. That she’d been emotionally vulnerable, and he’d taken advantage of that – of her – and it was easy to hate someone once you strip them from everything else they had.

She didn’t think Patrick ever did that to her. He remained painfully aware of who she was and all of her flaws, and she’d been in the wrong. It was a hard pill to swallow.

“Would you have listened, Allison?” he asked in a soft voice and it wasn’t a demand – Patrick never demanded anything from her. Even now, after everything.

And he’s been the closest thing to ever completely destroy her and it had never been his fault and it was hard to forgive someone who hadn’t done anything that needed forgiving. So she’d always respond to his soft inquiries with anger.

She was angry now. “Of course I’d listen, Patrick. I–”

“No. You wouldn’t have Allison,” he interrupted, “You may have stopped talking long enough for Claire to get the words out, but you wouldn’t have heard them. You wouldn’t have been able to bend down, look her in eyes and realize that it was bigger than you or her. That’s why our daughter called me.”

“Because you would have come swooping down to rescue her?” Allison scoffed, arms crossed in a defensive stance.

Patrick gave another low sigh, and he sounded so tired and old because of her. Allison’s gut twisted in the slightest bit of guilt but she held firm.

“Claire doesn’t want anybody to rescue her,” Patrick told her, “She wants her parents to stop hating each other long enough to realize we’re not the only people affected by the divorce. Did you know she cries herself to sleep every night?”

Allison straightened her spine, “That must only happen when she’s with you.”

Patrick’s eyes cut through her defenses, striking her center and throwing off her entire equilibrium. His voice soft and steady as he said, “No. She doesn’t, and I know you love her Allison. I know you want to do right by her, but your whole life you’ve seen people as nothing but a means to the end. Even me and, yes, I’ve seen the way you look at your brother. I know when I’m a rebound.”

Allison sniffed. “You never complained before.”

“It hadn’t involved our daughter before,” Patrick told her, “and you’ve missed the point. Again.”

He went to move away, annoyed at how dense she was being or tired of being treated as an enemy when he was anything but. She tried not to think of all the things she’d whispered in his ear. Low and soft, knowing he wouldn’t be able to deny her. She didn’t realize he remembered it and chose to never hold it against her – only got really mad when it started happening with Claire.

She reached out to grasp onto his wrist, her expression pitiful as she pleaded, “So explain it to me. Please Patrick. I want to be better.”

He didn’t pull away but he still looked uncertain. “It’ll be difficult for you – hearing about all the things you’ve done wrong.”

Allison’s fingers tightened even as she nodded, “I know, and I’ll need time but I have to start somewhere. Please.

She expected a reluctant sigh, all his movements rigid and tight as he sat down in front of her. Instead he gave her a smile she hasn’t seen since they got married. Even now, after everything they’ve been through, it made butterflies dance in her stomach.

“Yeah, sure Allison,” he said, “Whatever you want.”

Vanya found Klaus in Ben’s room.

He wasn’t asleep but had Ben’s head in his lap, combing through dark tangles. Ben’s face was smooth in sleep – all signs of his normal distress absent under Klaus’s presence.

“You should teach me that trick,” she said, shuffling awkwardly in the doorway.

She didn’t know why she was feeling so out-of-place around Klaus. They weren’t children anymore, and they’ve worked through a lot of things together.

She’d still chose Five over Klaus, though, and had forced the rest to do the same. She liked to think that it was because she hadn’t known at the time – had been there when they found Klaus’s body – but she knew those were just empty reassurances. The truth was she was still the small petty child that never left this house.

“Lyla used to pet my hair whenever the dead became too much,” Klaus said without looking up, “It always made me feel better. In hindsight, I should have figured out her and Al were married earlier. They knew the same trick.”

It was said – like most sad things from Klaus – so casual and flippant that it made Vanya’s insides twist. When they’d been younger, they’d been jealous at how well Klaus was able to fake it. Now she realized that it was real. That Klaus was this comfortable with the distressing things in his life.

“Did you love them?” but she didn’t know if that would make things better or worst.

Klaus was quick to reply with an airy, “No,” though.

Vanya gave a deep sigh as she twitched nervously. It was easy – talking with Allison or Five or even Diego – because they were the sharpest part of the blade. They could cut deep, merciless. Klaus was soft and blunt, wounds lasting longer.

She wasn’t the only person who’s ever suffered beneath Reginald’s hand.

“Did you ever talk to them?” she asked, “About our childhood?”

“Sometimes,” he allowed, “I told them about the mausoleum, at least, when they’d asked about why I avoided graveyards. Lyla told me once that I couldn’t avoid everything forever – that I needed to learn some control if I was ever going to start a satisfying life.”

Vanya flinched. “That sounds a bit harsh.”

Klaus did look up at her with that. His eyes were intense, burning a soft green. He wasn’t wearing any shoes and was dressed in Ben’s grey sweatpants and white sweater. A little casual for Klaus, but Vanya was starting to realize they were just signs that he wasn’t as okay as he’d like them to think.

“She wasn’t wrong,” Klaus told her simply, “I could either continue drowning myself in pills or I could learn to do something with the voices on my own. I chose the pills.”

Vanya’s chest was tight, her breath curled in her lungs. She didn’t feel right – how could he be so nonchalant about everything? – and she needed some air. She didn’t dare turn to leave, though. It was hard – thinking Klaus was dead. It was harder to realize Klaus was dealing with it on his own because he didn’t think they cared enough about him.

How did Ben put up with this all these years and still be able to look at them and smile?

“Klaus–” she started. Stopped.

What could she say? Sorry we suck as siblings? Sorry about being so caught up in our own misery that we never realized you were suffering as well? Sorry we thought you were fine all these years because that’s what you wanted us to believe?

“You can start with apologizing about not noticing when I disappeared,” Klaus’s voice cut through her thoughts.

She blinked, surprised. When she looked up at him, his eyes were back to staring down at Ben’s peaceful expression. Only Klaus.

“What?” she asked, dumb.

“I recognized the look,” Klaus explained smoothly, “Luther was wearing it earlier. You’re trying to figure out when you started wronging me, so apologize about not noticing when I’d been kidnapped by Crazy One and Crazy Two and I’ll call us even.”

She blinked. “You mean when Tennessee crashed Five’s van? Did you not think we noticed? Klaus–”

“No,” he said, “I’m talking about after those people that shot up the house.”

Vanya had to stop to think about it, brain working. Then it dawned on her and she felt her mouth go dry. She’d left with a cut temple to go lick her wounds and simmer in just how much her siblings are assholes – never realizing what their words did to her.

She never even thought about one of them being kidnapped. Missing. Tortured.

“I–” her eyes fell to his neck. To his chest. To his bicep. To things that hadn’t been there one day, appearing so suddenly she’d just thought they’d always been there. “Klaus, who’s Dave?”

His smile was soft and sad. His fingers stilled, settling protectively over Ben’s head.

“It’s funny, isn’t it? How people say war is hell?” his eyes met hers, sending a shiver down her spine. “I’ve been to both and – got to say – hell is preferable.”

Vanya was suddenly, unexplainably, very cold.

“Klaus,” she started but he blinked and offered her a warm smile.

“You don’t have to pity me Vanya,” he reassured, back to being casual in a way that made the back of her neck itch. He was about to say something distressing and very unamusing. “It’s okay to think I stayed for some dude, all things considered, but he was actually the reason I stayed alive all those months.”

Months, Klaus stayed. Months and not for some random dude with a pretty face and kind heart because she’d heard what he hadn’t said.

I didn’t stay for Dave. I stayed to die.

She shook her head, gave a low whimper. “Klaus–” but he was no longer listening.

His eyes grew wide and pale in realization – the way they had whenever he realized who Tennessee was. Like that time Vanya wasn’t sure where she liked where this would drag her brother.

“Vanya shush,” he reprimanded, rising from Ben’s bed – careful not to jostle him awake. “I need to go to the police station.”

“What?” Vanya demanded, stepping aside to follow him down the hall. “Why?”

“Because I just realized something. Two somethings actually,” he explained quickly but didn’t elaborate at Vanya’s silence.

They reached his room and she watched, arms crossed, from the doorway as he scrambled for a jacket and pair of black boots. He looked oddly vulnerable despite the crazed way his eyes were lit up.

“What’d you realize Klaus?” she asked, voice feather soft and delicate despite the traitorous voice in the back of her brain that still proclaimed Klaus didn’t need to be treated carefully.

“That I need you to watch Ben for me until I get back,” Klaus lied, easy and quick, giving her cheek a soft peck before moving down the hall.

That time, Vanya didn’t follow.

“You’re looking better Klaus,” Eudora told him when she saw him, and it was true.

Diego had told her about his miraculous return from the dead – apparently not for the first time – and she’d imagined getting shot through the brain would have had longer effects. Besides a paler sheen to his skin, Klaus looked almost normal.

He was dressed as if he was still being coddled and considering how protective Diego was capable of being she imagined he was. His hair was unbrushed and filled with tangles. Curls drooping sadly against white skin.

He didn’t even have a scar and walked with a smooth purpose. The kind men had when they were trying to be convincing in order to hide something. With Klaus, though, it felt real.

He gave her a dazzling smile that made her knees go weak and heart flutter and she’s never even been with him. She’s slept with his brother, and Diego could never get her to melt so quick – even in bed.

Worst, she knew it wasn’t because she wanted to advance her relationship with Klaus – knowing one Hargreeves was plenty for her. It was because Klaus skirted seamlessly between unquestionably attractive and an innocence so rare and precious it made her chest ache. It made for a potent combination.

“Thank you Detective,” Klaus hummed, not bothering to remember her name – apparently. “I’ve come to report a missing person.”

Eudora squinted at Klaus, suddenly unsure.

Most of the time when people wished to report someone missing it was with an air of a bit more distress and trauma. Not that she thought Klaus lacked in trauma or distress – she just didn’t know what to make of Klaus’s contradictory emotions.

“Who’s missing?” she asked – awful thought suddenly occurring to her.

He must have seen it in the shift in her eyes because he was quick to reassure, “No, not Diego. Not any of my siblings – really. It’s for Tennessee.”

Now Eudora felt really unsure. Alarms blaring in the recesses of her mind. Klaus didn’t respond well with concerned denial, though, so she gave him a gentle smile.

“Only you – Klaus Hargreeves – would ask to fill out a missing person’s report for someone who tried killing you a week ago,” she told him without moving.

His smile grew more brilliant and knowing – proud that she seemingly seemed to get it – as he gestured for her to lead the way.

“That’s the idea.”

“What’s happening here?” Diego asked Allison and Patrick.

They were sitting at the kitchen table, Allison’s face pinched in discomfort. Patrick didn’t appear distressed but he didn’t seem victorious either. He wasn’t being malicious, and that was a struggle they were all battling with.

Except, maybe, Klaus because Patrick has been as protective of him as the rest of them.

Allison scratched the top of her head, looking pained and remorseful. It wasn’t a look Diego’s ever seen his sister wear before – like she was acknowledging something as her fault. He shifted, on edge.

“Claire’s special,” Allison said simply. “She has been for a while.”

Diego’s breath caught. “And you’re just now realizing this?”

Allison shrugged, didn’t comment. Patrick remained silent. Diego realized this had been the thing they’d been discussing before he’d interrupted.

“Aw Jesus Allison,” he cursed, running a hand down his face. “How is that even possible?”

“I didn’t think it was,” she admitted, “Where’s Five and Mister Pennycrumb?”

Diego’s fingers twitched, nervous habit. His siblings were separated, and he didn’t like it. Despite how long they lived apart, the short time they’ve come back together was enough to awaken the primal need to have them all under the same roof. Where he could protect them – keep them safe.

“Vanya’s got Mister Pennycrumb. Five went to find Klaus at foresight, whatever that means?” he said.

Patrick was the one who answered. “It’s the name of their new business. Four-sight. A pun on his name or something. They explained it to me, but I never really got the umbrella thing.”

Allison’s eyes widened, making Diego feel a little better about not knowing that they’d came up with a name. Diego hadn’t even thought they’d continue their business after everything that’s happened. He’d hoped, at least.

“I thought you said Klaus went to bed,” Allison protested, sounding distressed seemingly at the thought of them being back with the thing that almost got them killed.

Patrick shrugged and as protective as he’s been of Klaus he didn’t seem all that concerned about the thought. Diego gave a deep sigh, mentally conceded with the idea that Patrick had a lot of things to be concerned with.

“Luther’s with Claire so she’ll be safe in case of an attack,” Diego reassured.

Both Patrick and Allison perked up at the words. Diego was kind of surprised that the thought hadn’t occurred to them yet.

“Klaus thinks the people mysteriously dying are connected to him. They’re all people who just recently met him before they’re kidnapped and their throats are slit,” Diego explained patiently, using the voice he’d adapted when he’d thought he was still going to be a cop.

Allison blinked, realization clearing her gaze.

“So what does that have to do with Claire?” Patrick asked, sounding pained.

“Klaus had just recently met Claire,” Diego explained patiently, “though considering how long she’s been around she’s probably safe. I’m more worried about you. You probably shouldn’t leave the house without someone accompanying you.”

He looked downcast but seemed to settle after Diego lift the probably nonexistent threat from his daughter. Diego never had children of his own – Eudora never wanted them, thought it would be too dangerous with them both being their parents – but from how much Allison has changed he could imagine their safety always came before oneself.

It was an odd thought, but not a strange one. Diego knew he’d throw himself in danger for any of his siblings, which probably isn’t the same thing but was as close as he was ever going to get.

“I’ll be careful,” Patrick promised, rising from his chair.

Allison eyed him in concern. “What’re you doing, Patrick?”

He stretched his arms over his head, looking tired, as he reassured, “Just to the guest room Grace gave me. I’m going to try and get a couple of hours of sleep.”

Allison leaned back, allowing it to happen. Diego watched him go before he turned back towards his sister.

“You alright?”

Allison scrubbed her hand down her face as she sighed, “Patrick was afraid to tell me about Claire because of how manipulative I had been with my own ability. He didn’t want her to grow up thinking that how I used mine was okay.”

Diego internally cringed in sympathy, though he didn’t think Patrick was wrong. Allison had been pretty obnoxious when they’d been younger, and he liked this new her – the person she became under Patrick’s influence.

“Must be hard.”

Allison craned her neck, looking defeated. “I needed to hear it, I think. Have you seen Vanya or Ben by any chance?”

Diego nodded. “Ben’s asleep in his room. Vanya’s with him, though she didn’t seem like she’d wanted to speak with me when I’d passed.”

Allison gave a low sigh, folding her hands on top of the table. “What’re we going to do Diego? This time is different than with the apocalypse. We don’t even know what this person wants.”

Diego didn’t need to be reminded.

“Whatever they want from Klaus they can’t have it,” he said firmly, jaw tight and voice low in that aggressive way it seemed to get whenever Klaus was in trouble.

“You know the thing I can’t understand is how he captures his victims,” Allison admitted, sounding listless. “The waitress – Cindy – I understand because she was probably just desperate. The other guy – Charlie? – seemed to have some interest in men. It’s the ex that confuses me.”

Diego nodded, doubt beginning to creep into his thoughts. From what little he was able to gather, she didn’t sleep around freely. She chose her men – was as much a game to her as it was for them.

“I don’t think the killer is luring them in through sex appeal,” Diego offered, rubbing the back of his neck.

“So why go with him freely?” Allison inquired, “What could he possibly tell them that offers so much blind faith that they’d go willingly?”

Diego shrugged. He wouldn’t know, considering he wasn’t a sociopathic seral killer.

It was something to think about though. Four victims, disappeared leaving behind no signs of a struggle. They didn’t fight back. They didn’t protest. They just went.

Why? Who could offer such immediate comfort and trust?

Diego could tell the moment it clicked in his brain was the same for Allison. Her eyes widened considerably, skin going ashy. Diego cursed. Low and fierce, chair clattering against the ground as he jumped to his feet.

“We need to get to Klaus,” Allison said quickly.

Diego nodded, falling in place behind her. “I’ll drive.”

There was a knock at the door. Despite the fact that Five had the CLOSED sign hanging on the door, and Klaus still hadn’t returned from wherever he went. Five stopped filling out their papers and waited. Listened.

They knocked again.

“We’re closed!” Five shouted.

“Police! Open up!” the voice called back, making Five’s frown deepen.

Why would the police be here? Five blinked down at the papers in front of him, couldn’t come up with a reason they’d be here? Even with this being Klaus’s business, they haven’t even got the chance to do anything illegal yet.

More banging followed by an impatient, “Police!”

Five sighed and was at the door. He opened it to find dark eyes grinning back at him. The officer was wearing a nametag – Miggins – and Five frowned at him. His smile was kind and warm, didn’t match the cold gleam in his eyes.

“Go away,” Five snarled, ignored the tingling in the back of his skull that he’s seen this guy before.

“Aren’t you the cutest little welcome mat?” the officer asked, “Where’re your parents, little boy? Don’t tell me you’re here all by your lonesome self?”

Five leaned against the door, effectively blocking the man from entering. Miggins didn’t appear to be in any rush, though he would occasionally try to peak over his shoulder. As if he was searching for something.

Or someone.

Five’s frown darkened. He didn’t like this increased interest in Klaus – didn’t know something like that could bother him as much as it did. Klaus has always just been in the back, unseen and unheard. No one held any interest in him. He wasn’t that special – all things considered – and floated towards the shadows. More invisible than Vanya.

Now someone is murdering for him. To provoke him or teach him or something. They were killing people Klaus meets – coming and disappearing without a trace, which seemed more like the Commission’s training and expectations then the work of some random obsessed serial killer.

A stalker was a stalker, though, and this one has proven himself dangerous.

Five continued to glare – knew Hazel hadn’t found the deflected agent because people kept dying. People kept coming to Klaus post humorous, and it’d lost its charm after the waitress.

“No one else is here,” Five told him simply, “so go.”

Miggins whistled, “You’re brother in the habit of leaving you all by yourself? That’s not safe. A cute little thing such as yourself should be with someone.”

He was trying to provoke him.

Five realized where he knew him.

“It was you,” Five accused with a narrowed expression, “Why would you deflect from the Commission?”

Miggins’ smile turned dark and he didn’t even attempt to hide as he leaned forward and purred, “An interesting case popped up on my desk one day. Something about the Umbrella Academy stopping someone from dying who should have died. I looked into it – thought it would be one of you who could fix the broken timeline. You couldn’t but your brother – that was something I couldn’t just ignore.”

Five furrowed his eyebrows. “Klaus?”

Miggins tipped his head to the side as he affirmed, “That’s the one. Sweet faced and docile nature, nothing like I’d expected from a drug addict who could see the dead. I just knew he was the one.”

“One for what?” Five demanded, skin hot as he realized how long Miggins has been waiting for this.

It made sense. He tried recruiting Klaus to the police and got punched by Diego. He got involved in the first murder investigation, and again with the Russo case. He kept pushing because it was Klaus and he couldn’t stop.

“I am very sorry,” Miggins continued, “I held great respect for you, back in the Commission, and I wanted to leave you out of this.”

Five didn’t stop to wait for the but.

He ducked backwards, knife brushing the tip of his neck. Miggins grinned sharply as he launched forward after him. Five hadn’t even seen him reach for the knife, and he’s managed to avoid the Commission for years. Miggins was smart, but so was Five.

Five flashed behind him, going for his back. Miggins stepped aside but had to swing with the arm not holding the knife to bat him away. Five hit the doorframe, stumbled. Miggins spun back towards him as he rose the knife above his head.

Five flashed back behind him, leapt back towards him. This time Miggins caught him around his throat, buried the knife in his chest.

“Anybody ever tell you how predictable you are?” Miggins asked him, pulling the knife free.

He tossed him backwards, towards the main room. Five stumbled but remained upright, hands pushed into his ribcage. Blood spilled out from behind his pale fingers, and his head was spinning. He couldn’t jump, headache anchoring him to the ground.

“I laced it,” Miggins explained with a tight expression, “with that new drug that stupid gangster is releasing into the streets. It inhibits your powers. Took him quite a while to figure that one out.”

Five cursed him as he leapt forward.

Miggins didn’t even bother trying to block him, knife burrowing itself in his stomach. That time when Five coughed it was to the taste of copper. Miggins released his arm, pushed him backwards. Five stumbled, tilted and ended up staring at the ceiling.

Everything hurt.

Tacky blood was sticking to the walls of his throat, and he was going to die. The realization wasn’t particularly shocking or daunting. It just made him tired.

Miggins knelt down beside him, dark eyes downcast and serious.

“It is a shame,” Miggins whispered, “You should have just minded your own.”

Klaus is my own, Five tried to say but choked on the words. It wasn’t the dying part that scared him. It was that this maniac was after his brother and no one knew.

Five jerked at the sound of the door banging against the wall hard enough that he could hear it busting a hole in it. Miggins glanced up, turned with a bright smile. Five didn’t have to look to know who it was.

“Klaus,” Miggins greeted, like he would an old friend.

Klaus ignored him, closing the distance and shoving Miggins to the side. His eyes were pale and wide, and he looked almost sick.

Five,” he breathed, fingers fluttering down to his chest wound even as his eyes continued to drift to his stomach. “Five? Stay with me, buddy. You need to stay with me.”

Five only spat up blood, eyes rolling in his skull. Miggins was standing behind Klaus, wearing a pleased expression. Five tried glaring at him but was aware of how small and pale his expression must have been. He was dying, after all.

“Five?” Klaus repeated, fingers gripping onto his wrists and moving them to his stomach as he commanded, “Push here. Don’t let go. Okay, buddy? Please. You’re going to be fine.”

Miggins moved, taking hold of Klaus’s shoulder and jerking him away. Klaus lashed out, twisting his body in an attempt to free himself. His eyes never leaves Five’s dark ones, and Five felt his chest tighten in his sudden wave of panic.

He choked on his brother’s name, blood painting his lips.

“Five!” Klaus screamed, feet scrambling for purchase but Miggins was strong and had wrapped his arm around his waist as he continued to pull him away.

“Klaus, Klaus. Klaus!” Miggins protested. “Klaus, calm down! I can save his life, but I need you to calm down!”

“Stop!” Klaus screeched as he continued to struggle, “Let me go! Let me go!

Miggins arms wrapped around Klaus and his eyes were practically shining by how close he was. Five rolled over, spitting blood on the floor before the rush of pain crippled him back to the ground. His forehead pushed against wood, his chest wheezing.

“Five, stop!” Klaus screamed at him, “You’ll further hurt yourself!”

He didn’t care about the pain. He didn’t care about the blood or the injuries or the drugs. He just wanted that maniac away from his brother.

Klaus!” Miggins shouted at him, arm snaking around his throat and squeezing.

Klaus’s eyes popped as his skin lost what little color it held. His struggling slowed, limbs beginning to go limp.

Five growled.

Klaus’s eyes rolled in the back of his skull as he dropped into unconsciousness. Miggins didn’t release his neck.

Five wanted to scream at him. He wanted to yell and tell him to stop – he was killing him – but a shadow moved behind Miggins and Klaus. Five squinted, recognized Hazel as he reared back to strike Miggins’ skull.

His eyes flickered to where Five was laying, blood slick beneath him, and hesitated. Miggins grinned against Klaus’s ear.

“Weak,” he accused, finally – finally – letting go of Klaus’s neck to drive his elbow in the soft spot of Hazel’s throat.

Hazel gagged, stumbled backwards.

Miggins slipped past him. He was dragging Klaus’s limp body with him, and whatever he wanted with him Five wanted him away for the same reason. He couldn’t move, though, was still bleeding on the ground.

Hazel let Miggins go, chose to instead kneel beside Five’s head.

“You’re going to be okay,” the man reassured softly as the corners of the world began to go fuzzy and dark. “Just hang on, old man. Hold on.

Five blacked out.

When he woke he was in a white room. His head hurt, vision swimming, and his mouth was dry and tasted like sand. He squinted as he sat upright. Five ignored the way his entire body swayed, wilting back towards the bed.

Somehow he managed to stay upright as he glanced around his surroundings. The medical supplies he was attached to were far more advanced than what they had in the time he’d left. The time were Klaus had been abducted by his crazed stalker, who was going to hurt him or worst.

Five’s stomach rolled, an unrelated side effect of his anemic induced nausea.

He reached out, ripping the IV from the crook of his elbow before removing the alligator clip from his ring finger. The machines immediately woke with an annoying blare of warning, panicking as if he was dying.

Five ignored them as he threw the cover onto the floor before rolling after it. His feet were bare and cold against the smooth tile. The door opened with a soft click, and Five turned towards them with a narrowed glare.

Cha-Cha strolled in – shoulders squared and back straight – and she walked with a special purpose she’d lacked before. Hazel followed behind. An agent following after their boss.

Five’s eyes fell back onto Cha-Cha and she must have seen something in his face because she was smirking. He didn’t share in her joy, however strained it appeared on her face.

“I didn’t realize the Commission was in search of a new leader,” he said, voice raspy and hard.

Neither Cha-Cha nor Hazel appeared affected by his hostility. Hazel at least looked sympathetic, and Five realized it was because he’d been there. He’d seen Miggins and Klaus, but Five wasn’t an idiot. He knew Hazel didn’t care about either of those things.

He’d seen Five bleeding out on the floor of Klaus’s business, and he brought him back here to heal.

“It needed someone to keep the cogs turning,” Cha-Cha offered professionally, “or whatever that old broad was so fond of saying.”

Five hummed as he tipped his head to the side.

He didn’t like either Cha-Cha or Hazel. It was a little hard to after they spent a week hunting him down and harassing his family, but he always thought of them more as nuisances then threats. The Handler had been dangerous in that she tended to be the smartest person in the room and knew as much. Annoying but not arrogant because it was only arrogance if it was false.

Knowing she was gone, though, didn’t come as a relief. It made his skin start to tingle as cold began to seep inside his bones.

People like she had been weren’t killed easily, which made whoever succeed much more dangerous.

“Who finally got the last shot?” Five asked – not from curiosity or mourning.

He never cared about the Handler. They were never friends. They didn’t have that special connection where they tried killing one another to show their affection. She’d been too risky to count as a complete enemy however, and he needed to know.

Hazel coughed as he fumbled with his tie.

Cha-Cha narrowed her gaze as she snapped, waving her hand flippantly, “Unimportant. I see you’re feeling better.”

“Yeah,” Five agreed, “and it appears that luck has turned to your favor.”

“Fortune favors the bold,” Hazel offered – not helpfully because his eyes weren’t narrowed in protective warning.

Whatever happened between the two of them they still hadn’t worked through. Five wasn’t entirely sure they were even working with one another, couldn’t imagine Hazel bending his knee after spending so long angry at her.

Five scratched his wrist, ignored the blotched red that began to blossom under his nails. He’d seen Klaus scratched there several times – either nervous habit or a sober man’s temptation – but counted it as another sign of his brother’s weakness.

Klaus had died, twice, and somehow found his way back to the rest of them. He’d gained a stalker, and survived by himself on the streets for years. Klaus was the furthest thing from weak there was, but he never argued on the contrary. He just let them hold their beliefs with a soft expression and gentle smile.

He wasn’t allowed to die anymore.

“My brother,” Five heard himself say, “What happened to him?”

Cha-Cha turned an unimpressed glower towards Hazel. Hazel met it head-on, but when he spoke it was clear it was directed towards Five.

“Surely you must have figured out by now that the person I’ve been looking for was the one who attacked you,” he said.

Five hummed, waited for him to continue.

“I had been following a tip I received at the motel I had been staying in,” Hazel continued, “It went into great detail about this mysterious person I’d been searching for as well as where he’d been in the coming hours. I got to say, old timer, you hit it right on the nose.”

Five wrinkled his nose but his voice was dull as he noted, “I didn’t send any note. I didn’t give your man a second thought until he had his knife buried in my chest.”

“Yeah. We didn’t save you for free,” Cha-Cha told him sharply, “It had been under the impression that you actually knew something worth saving.”

Five shrugged, “You were wrong. Why would I care about your little rogue agent? I’m not a part of this. I never was.”

She didn’t look impressed. Hazel sighed, shaking his head. He sounded remorseful like he didn’t chose saving Five’s life over taking down Miggins when he’d been standing right there. Five glanced between the two of them, feeling like he’s missed something. A familiar feeling whenever he was around the two of them.

“I can tell you who he is now,” Five sneered meanly, “He was the idiot who’d kidnapped my brother. He’d been right there, and you’d let him go.”

“I know,” Hazel affirmed with a bluntness that made Five’s insides sink, “I didn’t bring you here to ask you that.”

Cha-Cha remained still.

He’d missed something. Five didn’t like being the least informed person in the room but like most things that dealt with the Commission he didn’t seem to have a choice.

“What?” he demanded, voice sharp.

Cha-Cha blinked at him, unmoved and unimpressed. “You can go for now. We’ll call upon you whenever we need something.”

“So a favor then?” Five asked, crossing his arms. “That’s why you saved my life.”

Hazel shrugged. “You have to play the long game, old man. We’ll be in touch.”

“How does this keep happening?”

Allison glanced up from her spot crouched beside the pool of blood slowly seeping into the floorboards. Klaus and Five were missing – again – and the blood was warm and sticky to the touch. Whatever happened here happened right before they showed up.

Diego had stormed further in the room, stepping over the pool and calling their brothers’ names. Nobody responded because they were the only ones there. Now he was rifling through some papers on Five’s desk, vein in his temple throbbing in his suppressed rage.

Allison didn’t blame him. She felt much the same.

“They would have only opened the door for one person,” Allison noted in distraction to her thoughts.

Diego set the papers back on the desk, oddly delicate. His left hand curled around one of the knives he had strapped to his chest.

He shook his head. “Klaus wasn’t here. Klaus had figured it out.”

Allison’s eyes fell back onto the blood as she asked, “So this is–?”

“Five’s?” Diego nodded, “Yeah.”

Allison rose to her feet, face set in thought. “So where is he now?”

“I don’t know,” Diego said, “but there were multiple reasons I had security cameras installed. I think the library has a computer that can play the footage tape.”

The door opened, and they turned together.

Five – looking young and tired – stared back. He was dressed in cotton pants and white shirt, bandages wrapped around his elbow.

“That didn’t take long,” Five declared, almost sounding annoyed but his voice held a hint of exhaustion that made his shoulders droop.

Diego fingered the hilts of his knives as he demanded, “What happened to you?”

Five scrubbed at his face before dark eyes flickered down to the pool of his blood, “I should clean that before it stains the wood. Klaus would have a fit if he returns only to discover that he’s going to have to pay to redo the flooring.”

He didn’t sound concerned about Klaus. Allison couldn’t determine if that was a good thing or not – knowing that Five didn’t want bad things to happen to their brother. He’s always seemed protective of them, buried under his brash attitude and past his snide remarks.

Klaus was missing, though, and that never seemed to spell good things for him. Allison’s stomach soured at the thought of even more bad things happening to her usually docile brother.

Diego must have been thinking the same thing.

“Five, what happened here?” he pressed as gently as he could, “Where’s Klaus?”

Five met Diego’s dark gaze and his voice remained dull as he explained, “Your officer friend took him. He’s the one who’s been killing all those people.”

Allison swallowed in an attempt to smoother the need to find Klaus and hurt whomever took him. “Is he the one who stabbed you?”

Five gave her an apathetic stare, “Obviously.”

Behind her Diego – who has always concerned himself with Klaus’s health – began to curse, “The slimy bastard’s been obsessed with Klaus since the first day in training.”

“Since before that, actually,” Five corrected, “He worked with the Commission and defected to follow Klaus. Guess he was waiting for him to get sober.”

Diego cursed in a language Allison didn’t know. Or, at least, that’s what she assumed he was doing. She could relate.

“Are you absolutely certain?” Allison demanded and Five gave her a simple nod, still looking annoyed at their questions.

“Where did Miggins take Klaus?” Diego asked instead, seemingly back in control of himself.

Five shrugged.

“Why did he take him?” Allison pressed a bit more gently because they were getting off track and needed to focus.

Five shrugged again. “Does it matter? He’s not getting a chance to do anything.”

His eyes were dark, face drawn. Allison blinked – accustomed to her brothers’ anger burning hot and fierce. She’d forgotten that as upsetting being around Five could be whenever he got truly upset over something it was with a cold type of anger.

Someone was going to die.

The realization sent a thrill through Allison’s gut. She’s never thought of herself as a particularly malicious person who found cheap thrills in violence, but Klaus was missing. Again. And apparently nothing good comes from Klaus suddenly dropping off the face of the earth.

Except Klaus didn’t just disappear. He was taken, and though it wasn’t the first time it was the first they’ve noticed.

Diego – surprisingly – seemed to be the only one who retained any sensibility in this whole ordeal. “How long have you been gone, Five?”

Five rubbed at his chest, hiding behind a mask of indifference. However Allison caught the wince. He was still sore and had lost a bit of blood and it was a miracle he’s managed to stay upright this whole time. A miracle or–

“What does the Commission have to do with any of this?” she demanded, knew she was right by the way his face darkened.

He shrugged – was surprisingly convincing – as he explained, “They want Miggins.”

She opened her mouth to press because there was something he wasn’t sharing and keeping secrets never worked in anybody’s favor. Diego was tense beside her, and she knew he was thinking much the same as her.

The world erupted in smudges of blue.

For the briefest moment Allison was convinced she was losing her mind because one moment it was the three of them, and the next another woman was in the room. She was gorgeous in that unfair way most people could only accomplish on magazine covers.

Allison blinked as Five’s scowl deepened as he turned to glare. Diego actually reeled in shock, the slightest quiver of his muscles. The blue figure wavered – her outline fading in and out of existence. It reminded Allison of that first (second? – time travel hurts her brain) time around with the end of all she ever knew. When Klaus made Ben corporal.

The woman stood above them and had short hair and heels so tall that it made Allison’s feet ache.

She locked eyes with Allison and commanded, “You need to save him. The officer took him.”

“Allison. Five,” Diego called, eyes trained out the window.

Allison looked and was surprised to find the vague figures of the departed wavering in and out of view. There were so many, mangled and torn apart. It made her stomach turn and head spin as most of them spun to whomever was closest and immediately began to shout for help. The living shrank under their desperate pleading – skin pale and eyes wide.

Help us! Save us! Please please please–

“You need to focus!” the woman snapped, “He’s in danger! Boy, please!”

She spun towards Five, who did not shrink under her intensity. His voice didn’t even shake as he said, “I’m aware Lyla. You going to fill us in on where he was taken.”

Lyla – Klaus’s ex Lyla? – shook her head. Her eyes were wide, apparently just as desperate as the rest of them.

“Please,” she begged again, beginning to flicker, “You need to – he’s in – dying.”

Then she was gone.

Or, at least, they no longer possessed the ability to perceive her. Diego was the first to speak – a sharp intake of air.

“What the hell was that?”

Chapter Text

Klaus was back in the room, sitting in the uncomfortable chair. His legs were crossed, and his chin was propped up by his fist. There was a steady clicking from the clock as the fish swam in lazy circles behind the glass.

“You should wake up soon Klaus,” the voice said, “You’ve been here too long.”

Klaus didn’t move in the chair. “Did you know? About Miggins?”

The fish sounded like it sighed – low and remorseful, “Klaus.

He uncrossed his legs and repeated, “Didyouknow?”

“Yes.”

“And my brother was – what? Unfortunate circumstances?” Klaus demanded, voice tinged with anger. He didn’t think the fish was impressed.

“Five is fine,” he said, “You’re the one in trouble.”

Klaus leaned back in his chair, crossing one leg over the other and focusing on the corner of the room. He was annoyed – couldn’t get the image of Five pale and bleeding on the floor out of his head – and he wasn’t anybody’s pawn.

“Wake up Klaus,” the fish repeated, growing impatient. “We can discuss this later.”

Klaus blinked and the room changed. The fish disappeared, turning into a sink, and the clock ticking became water dripping from the faucet. He squinted, head aching. His throat was sore but he couldn’t rub it because his arms were bound to the back legs of the chair he was propped in.

Footsteps clipped against the tile floor behind him. He didn’t try turning his head to look – knew who it was without looking – and he was still angry about what he did to Five.

“You’re awake,” the man said, sounding excited by the prospect as he stepped into view.

His face was bright and pleased. His dark eyes stared down at him with an almost fond expression, but Klaus has woken up sore and tied to furniture with people beaming down at him like he’s hung the moon enough times to remain annoyed.

Klaus licked his lips, trying to regain moisture in his mouth. He remained silent because that was what Miggins didn’t want.

“I’m sorry about keeping you in my kitchen,” Miggins continued, “It was the safest place I could think of for you.”

Klaus craned his neck away from the man’s needy expression and said, “It’s slightly better than being kept in the basement.”

Miggins gave a soft chuckle, his eyes shining and expression bright and – ah no – this had been what he’d wanted all along. It wasn’t as deep as him wanting to find lost loved ones as he knew his siblings have probably convinced they’ve pieced together. Young in their ideals despite their age. Klaus has spent too long on the streets, surrounded by the worst types of people, to not recognize the maniac look in Miggins’ eyes.

It was the look of a man who’s found what he’s spent so long looking for – obsessed in the way that only came from the passage of time. He’d wanted Klaus, and now he had him.

Miggins must have seen something in his eyes because he shuffled nervously, fingers gripping the counters so hard his knuckles bleached white. Klaus continued to stare up at him and knew he’d captivated the man’s attention, has had it for years.

Klaus tested his bonds as he kept his steady gaze on the man. Miggins didn’t make any indication of noticing. He grinned sharply, and Miggins tried really hard not to reel backwards.

“Can I get you something?” Miggins asked, fidgeting with nerves, “Perhaps some water or juice? I have milk.”

Klaus stared up at him incredulously, his voice a dull unimpressed sound. “The last time I’d been offered water it was forced against my will when they’d water-boarded me.”

“Yeah I heard about that,” Miggins agreed with a hint of bitter resentment in his voice. “You must forgive me for not stepping in to save you. I had to keep up with appearances.”

“Yeah,” Klaus agreed, “You and everybody else.”

Miggins’ eyes darkened – an interesting development – and his voice sounded too controlled as he said, “Your siblings should have noticed your absence.”

“My siblings are not my keepers,” Klaus reminded, feeling the conversation begin to slow to a stop, “I’ll take that water now.”

Miggins grinned, hopelessly pleased with himself as he turned to compile. Klaus twisted his wrists against the chair’s legs, but his fingers were shaking. Actually, his hands were shaking – the telltale signs of Klaus coming off a high.

Klaus became acutely aware of the way his temples were now throbbing. It was like he was sixteen and coming down from his first high all over again. His power he’d been trying so hard to suppress rolling over him all at once. It made his fingers itch in anticipation and he swallowed, trying to shove down the sudden swelling.

The world went blue, which wasn’t all that different than what Klaus usually saw because it was the dead and he always saw the dead. The difference in color was the only indication that the spirits have turned corporal. They continued to press into him screaming, begging please please please

Klaus ground the backs of his teeth together but now the ghosts were in his head, draining him in order to stay there. It made his head roll to the side, and he was vaguely aware of the sound of a glass filled with water shatter against the tile.

“Klaus!” Miggins’ frantic voice cried, mixing with everyone else’s voices. “Klaus, turn it off!”

Klaus’s eyes were closed, chin rest against his chest. His fingers were fluttering against the ropes around his wrists. He needed to concentrate. He needed to turn it off – easier to ignore the voices when the two planes remained separate.

Now they were blurred, and Klaus wasn’t strong enough at the moment to force them back apart. Black dots smudged the edges of his vision, and he was so heavy and so tired and–

“Number Four!” Reginald’s harsh voice barked and because he was Reginald Hargreeves he immediately captured Klaus’s fading attention.

Klaus forced his head up, eyelashes fluttering weakly against pale skin.

Miggins was gripping the countertop – skin pale and eyes wide – and he looked like the equivalent of the Commission agents in shock. Blue figures, people he’s killed probably, crowded around him screaming in a cacophony of noise.

Reginald was beside him, all serious and harsh. Klaus didn’t even have the energy to smirk or give a smartass quip his father undoubtedly deserved. He just stared as his ears began to buzz and nose started to bleed.

“You need to control your urges Number Four,” Reginald continued harshly, “Number Four! Four! Klaus!

At the sound of his name Klaus’s insides jolted.

He jerked against the chair, but felt the power that’s swollen inside his ribcage like a balloon start to deflate. It lessened, receding back in itself. With it went the ghosts, though Klaus saw that most of them stayed back in that space only he could see.

Reginald hadn’t, blinking from existence as Klaus went limp in the chair. His hands continued to shake violently so he curled his fingers towards his palms in an attempt to steady them.

“Klaus?” Miggins’ asked worriedly, “Klaus, are you okay?”

Klaus nodded his head, which was real more of a pathetic rise and fall of his head. He hadn’t realized he was barefoot until he looked down to see his toes.

“Klaus,” Miggins pressed, hand against his shoulder, “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Klaus said, voice raspy for some reason, “Why’d you give me Fairy Dust?”

Miggins hesitated, evidently shocked at being caught. Klaus didn’t respond any further. He wasn’t really in the mood for the man’s excuses anyways. Not while he was tied to the chair and couldn’t do anything with his hands shaking.

“Klaus,” Miggins finally spoke, soft and sweet and almost deplorable, “I needed to ensure you wouldn’t cause me any further complications.”

Klaus stared, unimpressed.

Miggins blinked down at him, evidently unmoving.

Klaus snarled, “Complications before or after you stabbed my brother and left him for dead? Or perhaps when you strangled me into unconsciousness. I’m so sorry my unwillingness to side with a lonely sociopath has caused you an inconvenience.”

Miggins’ eyes grew hard as he took a step back. His face no longer looked remorseful, but Klaus couldn’t bring himself to care.

“I’ll let you rest this attitude of yours off,” Miggins finally decided before turning to leave the room.

Klaus didn’t bother watching him leave. It wasn’t like he had anywhere to go anytime soon.

The thing about war is that everybody is disgustingly aware of what it is, and people still don’t seem to care as long as they’re not the ones standing on the frontlines. The soldiers have seemingly accepted their fate. Have all managed to convince themselves that they only wanted to win and that living was just a pleasant surprise.

Dave hadn’t, then – survived. Klaus knew that a part of him hadn’t either. That he’d left it in that clearing beside the only person he’s ever truly cared about. Even so, Klaus had gotten almost a year with him, still vaguely remembered when Klaus had been ambushed in one of the towns they’d thought had been empty.

It was getting late, and the squadron had split up. Dave and Klaus had split up, with the other men making snide comments about the two of them missing the other. Dave had been apprehensive, when they got together the first time, about the other men finding out.

Klaus had hummed. He vaguely recalled being told about the closed-mindedness that had fueled the sixties, and he didn’t really want to share Dave so he’d complied. It still took an embarrassing short time before someone walked in somewhere catching them in a compromising position. It had been funny then. That as horrible as war could be it could just as quickly become just as boring, and soldiers made the worst gossips.

Dave fretted about it for weeks afterwards. His nerves growing so intense that he would refuse being in the same space as Klaus as if he could convince all of them that he didn’t want Klaus in that way. Klaus let him, but they weren’t dragged from their beds in the middle of the night and beaten. They weren’t asked to leave.

It was almost liked nobody cared.

Klaus knew they did. People didn’t get over being uncomfortable around two men being together, and it was unfair to ask them to agree completely. They accepted it, though, and the people Klaus has grown to care very much for made his entire body go warm and weak.

Not because he was fearful of what would happen to him or how people’s perception of him would change, but because Dave cared. Dave worried. And the people in their squadron knew it too, so they kept it mostly to themselves. That still didn’t stop them from the occasional gentle teasing. It almost reminded Klaus of his siblings whenever he or Allison picked up a new lover.

Dave, who’d learned to take their jostling as lightly as it had been intended, had only smiled as he kissed the palm of Klaus’s hand in an attempt to get them to turn away with burning faces. Mike and Jet snickered as Arty gave an impatient huff.

“The sun is getting low and, unlike the both of you, I enjoy my bed for the sole purpose of sleep,” he’d snapped at them both, “and we’ve been stomping around in the forest and muck and shit for the better part of two weeks. I need my sleep.”

Klaus smiled, heart going gentle around these men. Dave’s face went impossibly soft as his grip around Klaus’s hand tightened.

“All in good time Arthur,” Dave reassured, forcing himself to pull away, “I have been feeling a bit restless lately.”

Klaus’s smile went dark with mischief as he hummed, “I bet you have, Katz.”

Dave paused, could still be taken aback by how forward Klaus was, but any uncertainly quickly morphed into a dark hungry look. Martin coughed, bringing everybody back on track.

“Avery. Googletree. Hargreeves. With me,” he commanded and Klaus gave Dave one last longing look before Jet slung an arm around his shoulder and begun to pull him away.

“Come along, lovebug,” Jet said in his thick Southern drawl, “I promise we’ll take good care of you in his absence.”

Klaus rolled his eyes, didn’t have to look to know that Dave had scoffed and moved on. It was hard to feel threatened by Jet when he wore his engagement ring around his neck. Klaus had been quick to realize that Jet was just a naturally flirty person and had been the first to begin teasing them about their relationship.

“Oh, please,” Klaus shot back, “you couldn’t handle all of this.”

Jet grinned, “You’re right. You’d drive me crazy, Klaus Hargreeves.”

“Jet, I did not separate them for you to take their place,” Martin snapped in annoyance without turning around to glare.

Arty snickered as Jet pulled away, still grinning. Klaus gave his own soft smile as he moved in formation with the other three people. They were responsible for the west side of the village, looking for any potential civilians.

They made it to the far edge before Martin stumbled in a cloud of red a heartbeat before the gunshot was heard. Klaus made a startled sound, but refused to feel bad about that because Arty and Jet made identical ones as well.

Martin was unconscious, skin pale and breathing labored but he was alive. His shoulder was already soaked by the time Klaus bent down at his side, hands refusing to shake as he pressed against the wound. Shadows moved in the trees around them, mimicking the ones by the buildings.

They were surrounded, and this had been an ambush.

Klaus’s jaw ached by how hard he was clenching it. Arty and Jet stepped closer, surrounding their injured comrade in a protective huddle. They had their guns out but there were too many around them at the moment, and Klaus could only hope that the ambush was specific on this side of the village.

“If smart you’d lower those things,” a deep voice commanded, English jilted by the accent.

Klaus didn’t move from his spot beside Martin as he said in a smooth tone, “I can speak your language better than you can speak ours.”

Jet and Arty shuffled. Unlike Klaus neither were fluent in any language other than English much less the one their enemy spoke. That was fine, though. Klaus could translate for them.

Dark eyes settled on him as the man noted in a more comfortable tone, “Impressive, little bird. You know what’s going to happen next, don’t you?”

Klaus shuffled his hold on Martin. Arty took the hint, swooping down to take Klaus’s place by the unconscious and still bleeding man. Jet puffed himself out by Klaus’s side, green eyes dark and narrowed but he didn’t protest.

“You going to kill us?” Klaus asked, knowing that at least Arty knew that word.

To Arty’s credit, he didn’t react. He continued to press into Martin’s wound with steady hands as he awaited whatever was about to happen to them.

The man gave a dark chuckle as he corrected, “No. Not yet. You boys are coming on a little adventure with us.”

Hands reached out to force Arty on his feet and away from Martin as Klaus and Jet stepped back. Nobody moved for Martin, which was concerning because he was still unconscious and bleeding out. It was also a relief, though, because if he was captured with the rest of them then he’d undoubtedly die.

“And you boys must forgive me,” the man declared before something hard bounced against the back of Klaus’s skull, and he was forced into the darkness.

Klaus blinked, head tipped to the side in an uncomfortable angle, as he took in his surroundings. He was still in Miggins’ kitchen, tied to one of his kitchen chairs with Reginald’s ghost staring down at him. Klaus was too tired to be startled by him, though, so just blinked owlishly back.

“You’re influx of power has left you near defenseless, Number Four,” he pointed out – ever the helpful old man.

Klaus snorted, allowing his chin to roll back down on his chest. The Fairy Dust withdrawals were somehow worse than his other withdrawals had been. It had left him lethargic and feeling heavy, and it pained him to know Five had gone through these not even a week ago.

“I strive to please,” Klaus noted uncooperatively, eyelids flickering as he strained himself for any signs of Miggins moving around the house.

They were in a one bedroom, one bath cabin in the middle of seemingly nowhere but Klaus knew most places out of the city looked like the sticks. That meant he could either be a couple minutes away or several hours, though he doubted the latter.

Reginald’s frown deepened as he snapped in that calm controlled way of his, “If you don’t pull yourself together then you’re going to die out here. Tied to that chair.”

Klaus hummed but said, “He drugged me to keep me pliant, but the dose was relatively low considering the withdrawals I’m experiencing. Probably about half the recommended dose for a grown man to my height and weight, and based off how it had affected Five every full dose lasts about thirty minutes. Half a dose means fifteen minutes. Traveling fifteen minutes at the recommended speed limit of forty miles per hour is anywhere from eleven to twelve miles from the city. Our family can find me with those parameters, I’d say.”

If Reginald was impressed he didn’t let it show on his expression. He didn’t sound as cynical as he had before, though.

“You’re plan is the academy?” he asked.

Klaus shrugged weakly, “It’s always worked for me in the past. Unfortunately, this time around, I’m a bit impatient on the matter.”

“So you’re plan isn’t the academy, and I’ve never taught you how to free yourself from that position,” Reginald reminded; his words earning him a dark smirk.

“It seems you’ve forgotten,” Klaus said, “I spent a whole lifetime outside of your control.”

Klaus woke up tied to a chair with a bag over his head. He could hear a low groaning noise, which he hoped was from either Jet or Arty. Klaus twisted his wrists as he tested the bounds, and he kept his voice his voice a soft raspy whisper.

“Jet,” he called, “Arty.”

He didn’t get a reply. Klaus mentally cursed as he allowed his body to go limp, chewing on his bottom lip in thought.

Martin was either dead or the other group hadn’t been captured and had found him. If that was the case – and Klaus hoped it was, couldn’t imagine a scenario where Dave was dead without him knowing – then they knew that the three of them were missing. That meant Klaus only had to stall, but it was a gamble in the best case scenario.

Not that Klaus minded gambling with his own life. It was just the inclusion of Arty and Jet’s that caused him to hesitate.

“I hope both of you assholes are still alive,” Klaus admitted into the course fabric as something began to scratch outside followed by a low groan – the sound of metal scraping against metal.

Klaus forced himself to still. His breath grew even, and he didn’t really want to think about Reginald in moments such as these but the old man’s voice rarely left his voice.

Don’t show any fear. Don’t show any discomfort. Don’t give them anything to indict they have the upper hand on you.

Klaus wasn’t sure that they needed him to give them a hint that he was at their mercy. It was pretty obvious, considering he was tied down to a chair with a bag over his head. He couldn’t do anything about that, though, so he focused on what he could.

Don’t give them anything. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.

The bag was yanked off his head before discarded to the side. Klaus squinted at the sudden onslaught of light as he blinked meekly at the three men standing above him. Two had guns pointed at his head, whom Klaus decided were unimportant and ignored them.

He turned his attention to the man in the middle, glowering darkly down at him. Klaus tried to not look as unimpressed as he was.

“The other two who were with me,” Klaus demanded, “Where?”

The two with the guns shuffled uncomfortably, evidently not accustomed to Americans speaking to them so clearly. The third just narrowed his eyes.

“They are alive and unarmed,” he reassured, “which is more than we can say about you. How do you know this language? Who sent you here?”

“Nobody sent me,” Klaus snarled meanly, annoyed, “You were the ones who shot and kidnapped us.”

The man drew a knife from his belt, pressing it into the soft flesh of Klaus’s neck. Klaus didn’t flinch, gaze lidded. He twisted his wrists testily, but Reginald never found importance in training them on how to free themselves from being tied down. The one thing that would’ve actually been helpful.

“What were you doing in that village?” the man demanded.

Klaus said nothing, earning him a hard whack to the side of his head. His vision blurred, and something wet and sticky began to slip down his cheek. Other than that Klaus made no indication of being bothered. That Reginald taught him well.

“Picking flowers for my lover,” Klaus replied cheekily.

The one on the left smacked the butt of their gun against Klaus’s face. Klaus’s head snapped back as he felt his face crunch. It made Klaus laugh – his voice tinged with hysteria. His forehead was throbbing and he was tired and sick and sore but Klaus was beyond caring.

“What were you doing in that village?”

“I have insomnia and decided to take a leisurely stroll.”

Another strike, this time on his cheek. Klaus grinned past the blood staining his teeth, spitting on the floor. Fingers curled tightly in his hair, forcing his head back.

“What were you doing in that village?”

“I got turned around on my little hike. As it turns out you’re supposed to go left at the knotted tree, not right.”

The left one reared back. A gun went off out in the hallway.

Klaus’s eyes flickered to the door before back to the man. “I think it’s for you.”

The leader tilted his head towards the door. The men with the guns gave each other an uncertain look before moving to follow. They never made it.

The door opened from the other side, quickly followed by guns going off. Klaus curled on himself, straining against his bounds but the newcomers weren’t there to hurt him.

“Klaus, baby,” a familiar voice hissed before a gentle hand reached out to touch his face, “Klaus, please look at me.”

Klaus blinked, taking in Dave’s handsome features. Dave’s eyes were wide and frantic and his usually handsome features were twisted in concern. Klaus offered him a weak grin.

“Hello lover, you’ll have to pardon my manners. I’m a little tied up at the moment,” Klaus said reassuringly.

Dave chuckled, face warm. He didn’t move to free Klaus, which was a little irritating. Klaus made a mental note to learn how to free himself from these things on his own.

“As good as you are at everything you’d think this would’ve been child’s play,” Dave noted, bending forward to place a feather-soft kiss against his split cheek.

“Not this,” Klaus confessed.

“We’ll work on that later,” Dave promised, and he managed to make it sound oddly sexually.

Klaus’s stomach lurched in excited warmth as he nodded in Dave’s hands. Dave continued to pepper his features with gentle kisses, whispering promises in Klaus’s ear as his hands continued to move across his skin.

“We should probably go find the others,” Klaus breathed, not wanting to move.

Dave breathed into his skin, making no move to comply, as he said, “Later.”

Reginald was watching him with an unimpressed glare. Klaus ignored him, kept his steady gaze on Miggins leaning against the counter in front of him listening to his babbling. Klaus wasn’t even sure what he was talking about at this point. He just needed to keep Miggins’ focus on him.

“Did you fight any wars, little assassin?” Klaus finally asked him and at Miggins look he clarified, “You have the same look my brother has.”

“No,” Miggins admitted, “What’s it like?”

Klaus gave a lifeless chuckle, “They say war is hell. I’ve been to both. Hell is preferable.”

Miggins looked disturbed at the thought, which was part of the point. Klaus was careful to keep thoughts of small boy set beside the piano, speaking as if afraid of the thing coming next. Of the fish in the tank. Klaus thinks he was beginning to understand that.

“I’m told you found a reason to stay in war.”

Klaus shrugged. “I enjoy the pain.”

Miggins shuffled. His eyes were wide with concern. Klaus felt his body shift – a new freedom he hadn’t had before.

“Want to know something else?” Klaus verbally pressed, eyes flashing dangerously. Miggins didn’t notice as he dipped his head in eager acknowledgement. “You never watch the mouth.”

He leapt to his feet, free from the chair. He grabbed it by its back and swinging it at Miggins head. He had the advantage of surprise, but Miggins was quick.

Miggins ducked out of the way. He had managed to pin himself against the kitchen counter, so his movements were limited. Klaus adjusted his hold on the chair, and this time he struck the top of Miggins’ head.

The man went down as the chair split apart in his hold. Klaus tossed them both to the side, bringing the base of his knee against Miggins’ chin. The man, who’d been attempting to rise to his feet, tumbled back against the counters. He was still conscious so Klaus took hold of the countertop on either side of his head before kneeing him one last time.

Something cracked as Miggins’ gave a low groan. Klaus stepped back, allowing him to slump boneless on the tile floor. Klaus wasn’t even breathing heavily as he stared down at his unconscious form.

“Is this the part you say I told you so?” Reginald asked, tone as cold as it usually was.

Klaus bent over to pat down the man’s pockets. They were mostly empty, except for the keys to his car. Klaus took them, rising back to his feet.

“Those are useless,” Klaus told Reginald’s ghost as he moved to the living room.

The door banged open before Klaus made it over to it. Luther blinked at him in shock, features twisting from angry to confused.

“Klaus,” he said, “You’re okay.”

“Obviously,” Klaus affirmed, bending down on one knee to catch Mister Pennycrumb as he rushed by.

The puppy gave a loud yelp. Klaus rose to his feet, scratching the top of his head. Mister Pennycrumb immediately settled under his hands. Luther remained unmoving from his spot at the entrance. Over his shoulder Klaus could make out the vague shapes of Grace and Vanya.

“We can trade stories in the car,” Klaus told his brother as he moved past him.

As it turned out, according to Luther, they’d returned to find him missing. Diego and Allison had figured something out and left so Luther went to find him. Klaus was grateful his brother had the foresight to that, and Klaus had been right in his calculations. Miggins hadn’t taken him very far from the city.

“Klaus?” Luther asked him in the car, pressed against him in the backseat, “Are you alright? Did he do anything to you?”

Klaus squeezed Mister Pennycrumb to his chest before relaxing as he admitted, “I’m fine. Thanks for coming for me.”

Luther smiled brightly at him. “Of course, Klaus. I’ll always come.”

Klaus wasn’t aware of falling asleep in the backseat, slumped over so he was pressed against the cool glass window of the car. All he knew was one moment he’d been in the car with his family, and the next he was in that little room with the fish tank.

“You make for an excellent detective Klaus,” the voice praised.

Klaus narrowed his eyes at the fish, but his voice was offhanded and casual. “Most people would too if they had people like Ellis Parker and Allan Pinkerton yammering at them every waking moment of every day.”

“Sounds stressful.”

“My siblings would disagree,” Klaus argued smoothly, “They tend to say my life is a rather stress-free. No cares in the world. That’s me!”

The fish just hummed, as if in thought. Klaus was much too tired to linger on any of it. After a long lapse of silence the fish finally spoke again.

“You’re probably wondering why I tasked you to solve this thing.”

“Did you?” Klaus challenged, “Now correct me if I’m wrong – my memory gets a bit fuzzy because of, you know, drugs – but I remember you telling me to just solve the waitress’s murder.”

“Which you did.”

“Did I though?” Klaus asked, “My stalker I didn’t know I had asking for attention doesn’t seem like ground-breaking stuff.”

The fish gave what sounded like a low chuckle as he amended, “Perhaps not, but you had it figured out before the abduction. And you freed yourself.”

“Yeah,” Klaus murmured a little more sourly.

He slouched in the chair he’s always sitting in whenever he comes here. Thoughts of Dave – his breath warm as he whispered instructions, hands firm and guiding – crowded his mind. Klaus pushed the thoughts away. Dave had, unintentionally, saved his life today.

Although Miggins didn’t seem to be in any hurry to hurt him, and Luther arrived moments later. Klaus wasn’t a little damsel in distress, and he wasn’t going to let whatever this thing was do anything to him or his family.

“Now onto our further business,” the Shubunkin continued.

Klaus lazily flickered his gaze towards it. He’d be lying if he said he was shocked or surprised by this development. He’s dealt with figures like these before, and they always want something more. Always pressing, endlessly needy.

Klaus didn’t mind because, despite what those types likes to think, it gave him control. Far more control then they’d give up willingly.

“You want to tell me your terms,” Klaus sighed tiredly.

“You got it.”

“Great,” Klaus said as he rose from his chair. He closed the distance, pressed his weight against the front of the glass tank. “Let’s talk terms.”

He was being aggressive. He was pushing and forceful and practically snarling his words. Klaus didn’t care.

“You think you can intimate me, little human?” Shubunkin challenged, misinterpreting the point like Klaus knew it would.

Klaus leaned back and shrugged. “Is it working?”

“I’m not easily intimated,” Shubunkin said, “Don’t feel bad. It was a valiant effort and can be used quite usefully. Along with your fetching looks.”

Klaus forced himself to blush, shying away like he hasn’t heard those words his whole life. Shubunkin seemed pleased by his reaction. Klaus didn’t bother correcting it. To tell it that it’s made the same mistake most did when interacting with Klaus. That they think he’s some meek little creature begging for a reason to roll over submissively. Predictable and boring and one of Klaus’s greatest allies.

“Great,” Klaus hummed as he moved back to set himself in the chair, “I’m useful.”

“You don’t sound impressed by the thought.”

Klaus made a show of looking at his nails. From between his fingers he could make out flashes or orange and black and white from the goldfish twirling around in the tank. It probably didn’t even know Klaus knew he was a Shubunkin because Klaus spent most of his life on drugs which made him stupid.

Perhaps it did, but Klaus also spent his life with dead people yelling so many things at him at once. He knew things. And he didn’t always voice those things out loud.

“Well I know how this goes,” Klaus admitted smoothly, “I’m only useful until I’m not, and then it’s on to Vanya or Five or Luther. Someone in my family more willing and generally better than me.”

A pause.

“And if I promise not to?”

Klaus grinned. Got ‘em.

“Let me clear this up because again,” he made a vague gesture towards his head, “I help you without question, and you leave my family out of it. Completely.”

The Shubunkin paused, as if just now realizing what Klaus had trapped it in. It didn’t sound angry, though. It sounded impressed.

“Very good Klaus,” it approved, “Anything else you’d like me to agree to? And, please, don’t be coy this time around.”

“Okay then,” Klaus said, “Three things: my family is off-limits, I’m never going to hurt someone for you or whatever this misguided cause is and from here on out no more of this timidity. You want me to do something you don’t dance around until I figure it out.”

“Sounds reasonable.”

Klaus sat back in the chair and agreed, “Glad we can come to an understanding.”

The room was swallowed by the ever-surrounding darkness.

Chapter Text

The diner was a modest thing – simple and elegant and, even though everyone banned Klaus from even thinking about working, it was near Foursight. Even just the small mercy of allowing him this close to his business settling a yearning desire that’s been building these past couple of weeks.

Klaus understood their concern so he’d allowed them this without much of a fight. Five had almost died, again. He’d disappeared, again. Foursight has proved to be more dangerous than anything Reginald had asked them to do as children. That thought made Klaus smile, which he skillfully hid behind his glass of water.

It didn’t escape Diego and Vanya’s eagle gaze, however. Neither of them brought it up because they knew they weren’t going to like Klaus’s answer. Not while Klaus remained so flippant about the repeated attempts on his life as well as his newfound stubborn confidence now that he’s found something that he wanted. Foursight wasn’t debatable and the only person fighting for it as fiercely as him is Five. His siblings eventually realized it as well and were wise enough to back off.

They weren’t going to take Foursight from Klaus. He can suffer through the hovering and worrying – somehow more intense then when he’d done drugs. That thought made Klaus smile and – this time – he didn’t bother hiding it.

“What’s gotten you so happy?” Vanya finally asked, eyes sparkling in her curiosity.

Her hair was down – a subtle hint of her growing confidence now that they’ve begun mending the Hargreeves siblings’ relationships – and she was watching him to pick up on all his non-verbal cues. Diego, who had barely glanced at Klaus since they’d sat down, briefly glanced over before craned his neck to stare at something over Klaus’s shoulder.

It didn’t matter. He saw things about Klaus even the most attentive siblings missed. It was, surprisingly, not a cause of anymore jealousy. If anything, it drew Diego and Luther together because Luther remembered the way Klaus had looked in that cabin, and he hadn’t known what to think. He only saw what Klaus wanted him too.

Neither of them has spoken of that night. Vanya was the only one, and she’d been in the car at the time and – like Luther – could see only what Klaus had allowed. A discerning sensation, she said, considering Klaus has always worn his heart on his sleeve.

Diego countered her by reminding them all that five of them missed the fact that Klaus fought almost a year in the Vietnam war without them noticing. Four, Klaus had corrected because Five hadn’t been there to do it. Ghost Ben had known, and Five had almost instantly figured it out. Diego’s eyes grew dark at the words but Klaus ignored him, even as they all increased their hovering.

Klaus swirled his finger around the lip of his cup as he said, “Just thinking about how Claire’s grand opening is at the end of this week.”

Patrick, who was impossibly worse than any of Klaus’ siblings, had decided to open a bakery to remain close to Allison’s family. It was also an excuse to force Patrick and Allison to work together on that’s unrelated to their daughter, who has already suffered from her parents’ arguments. From what Klaus has seen it’s working so far but they haven’t opened yet.

Diego and Vanya frowned at the mention of the bakery. Klaus didn’t think they were completely sold on it for two main reasons: they named it after the main concern of their divorce the first time and they didn’t want to be nice to Patrick. They wanted to take Allison’s side, to support her decisions.

“It’s weird, right?” Vanya said, “Having Allison stay.”

“And since she’s staying with Patrick, Luther’s lost any chance he had,” Diego chimed in causing Klaus to snicker.

Diego’s eyes flickered over to him, and though his face remained stoic Klaus could see his eyes shining in a pleased manner. It wasn’t really fair. Luther had backed off Allison now that he’d begun opening up to the rest of them – now that he had more positive relationships in his life.

“Well I personally cannot wait,” Klaus told them, “I’ve gained three pounds since Allison and Patrick moved into that apartment downtown. I’ll probably go bankrupt on them alone.”

He won’t because Patrick doesn’t charge Klaus for the sweets he bakes him. He says it’s because he enjoys the compliments Klaus showers him in. Klaus knows that they’re first meeting is playing a major part into his concern. It couldn’t be easy walking into a building with someone practically dead discarded on the floor like he hadn’t mattered.

Typical Hargreeves’ compartmentalizing that Patrick did not find charming nor cute. He didn’t have to though. He didn’t even really have to accept it, he just had to know that it was an unhealthy habit that stemmed from childhood and not something they were getting over any time soon.

Vanya gave him a gentle look at the mention of him gaining weight. Rebuilding everything he lost all those years he spent in dark alleyways and rundown buildings.

“That’s good,” she praised.

Diego grunted and said, “You’d think Patrick was your mother by the way he’s constantly spoiling you.”

It was said like most things Diego said, cold with a hard edge that sent most people’s nerves on edge. The corners of his mouth being the only indication that he was teasing. A subtle thing Vanya missed. Klaus did not, and he beamed over at his brother.

“A little spoiling never hurt anybody,” Klaus reminded helpfully – a thing Diego told him sometime around week two of this strange sibling watch they’d initiated despite the fact that Five was fine and Klaus had been the one to free himself.

They couldn’t help worrying, and Klaus wasn’t going to fault them on it. He’d be too, if the situations were reversed.

“Speaking of spoiling,” Vanya piped in, still uncomfortable with the ease of Klaus and Diego’s communications, “Any word on Ben?”

“He’s leaving for med-school by the end of next week,” Klaus told them.

It had been a thing Klaus had fight for because he knew it’s been Ben’s dream since he was young. Ben had been hesitant, but they’d eventually found a compromise. The college Ben chose is an hour and a half drive three counties over, and Klaus was to call every Friday night. All things considered it was an easy thing to promise. Proof that this was still something Ben truly wanted.

Vanya grinned at the reassurance. Even Diego looked pleasantly pleased because they’d all wanted this for Ben since they managed to save him. They just hadn’t pushed because they understood Ben’s need to be near Klaus for at least a little while.

Luckily, Klaus had managed to annoy them all into convincing themselves that he was fine. A true gift.

“That’s great!” Vanya chirped, eternally cheerful lately. “We should all celebrate the night before he leaves. A Hargreeves siblings’ feast.”

Klaus gave her a gentle smile, soft and sensitive, as he reassured, “He’d appreciate that.”

“You going to be okay without your smarter half?” Diego asked him, tone light and playful.

Klaus hummed, “I think so. After all, I’ll have Five and if anyone is capable of keeping me in line it’ll be him.”

Vanya and Diego shared a look. Neither pointed out that they were just as worried for Five as they were for Klaus. They were just cautious while he was around sharp objects and didn’t fight when he left to work on Foursight.

“Yeah?”

Klaus nodded. “He thinks my stalker stemmed from us changing the timeline – again. That it somehow happened without any of us really noticing.”

A sensible conclusion.

“And what do you think?” Diego asked. Always to the point.

Klaus continued to thumb at his glass’s lip as he explained, “I think I’ve had Max Planck in my head more and more recently, and I’d looked up Ronald Mallett in my free time. Time travel is a sticky thing that nobody understands so I figured, why not? It makes just as much sense as any other explanation.”

Diego and Vanya furrowed their eyebrows at the names. Klaus figured that they weren’t fans of quantum theory, which worked in his favor. That way he didn’t have to explain how he’d first heard Ronald’s name while he was back in the Vietnam War. An Air Force officer they’d gossiped about around the fire, Dave’s hand folded in Klaus’s own.

He had not, however, anticipated the question, “Do the ghosts always seem so…oppressive?”

Klaus shrugged and admitted, “There’s good days and bad days, just like with anything else. It’s gotten better lately as I’m starting to learn more about it.”

They didn’t take the bait of the reassurance as Diego’s eyes narrowed and he grunted, “And is today good or bad?”

Klaus’s temple throbbed, reminding him what type of day it was. He didn’t bother lying as he ducked his head and chewed his bottom lip. An easy tell they picked up on almost instantly, coloring their eyes with sympathetic expressions.

Klaus forced his hand away from his water as he tilted his head and admitted, “The constant screaming used to frighten me, and I resented Reginald for trying to push something I believed never was going to happen. Now I’m loathed to admit darling paw-paw may have had a point. I hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface of what I’m capable of.”

Vanya heard what he didn’t say, “The telekinesis, right?”

And the fact Klaus woke up pressed against the roof the other day. Ben had blanched when he’d walked in Klaus’s room – not even bothering to knock because Klaus was still under that opened door rule – witness that.

Klaus smiled and nodded. “And it got me thinking. If my powers were capable of feeling so disjointed then what else could Reginald had missed when we were younger? What other abilities do we not even know we have yet?”

Diego and Vanya glanced at each other. It was the first time the thought occurred to them but now that the idea was there it intrigued them. Pulled them into the tantalizing thoughts lurking – the possibilities.

Vanya was the first to shut down the thoughts because her abilities were still relatively new to her, and the memory of how frightening the beginning of that can be is still fresh to her. Diego had his head tilted to the side, as if in thought.

Over their heads, the bell on the door chimed. Klaus sat up straighter and offered the familiar figure a smile as he waved Luther over.

Luther’s smile was warm and his movements careful as he maneuvered his way over to them. He never complained about his now disproportional body, which Klaus thought was unfair. Klaus didn’t think he’d shut up if he woke up one day with too much muscle and hair and skin that looked wrong. It was perhaps the only thing Luther was capable of taking with any sort of grace.

“Hello,” Luther greeted them kindly if not a little shyly – still under the impression that he wasn’t worth their compassion.

Honestly, Klaus didn’t think any of them deserved kindness from any of them. That was also the reason Klaus believes they all deserve this second-chance.

Klaus allowed his smile to reach his eyes, the only one at the table, and simply said, “Hi.”

Luther remained standing at the end of the table awkwardly. Klaus wasn’t sure why he was there, but he wasn’t going shame Luther for it.

“Well, Luther? Do you have something to say?” Diego asked, quicker than Klaus, and though the words sounded harsh it was said in a gentle tone.

Luther shifted from one foot to the other before he admitted in a long rush, “I’m thinking of reopening the academy. For people other than us.”

Klaus smiled, tried not to think of Maria Andrews. Of how her face had grown soft in understanding as she’d taken his hand so he can push her along to the other side, Lyla watching them both with a fond expression. They’d probably have been great friends in life.

“That’s great Luther,” Vanya said, though she didn’t look like she was entirely convinced.

Klaus scooted aside, allowing an opening Luther eagerly accepted. He nearly shoved Klaus against the wall in his rush. It made Klaus smile at him, leaning against his warmth.

“I’m…uh…uncertain,” Luther admitted, “Allison thought it was a good idea but I know I’m more like dad then anybody will say to my face and I don’t want others to turn out like us. I don’t want to be like him. Not in this. Not with other people.”

Vanya scratched the tabletop. Diego looked a little bad because he was part of the reason Luther believed that and it wasn’t an entirely fair assessment. Luther at least cared. Reginald never had.

Luther smiled when none of them jumped in to correct him so he continued, “That’s why I’m going to ask for help now. Diego, are you free?”

Diego blinked, though it shouldn’t have come as a shock. Diego has always been a good contrast to Luther, and they were the only ones ever interested in bossing the rest of them around, and now Diego is the only one without a real job.

Vanya beamed at the thought. She’s always struggled with them both but felt more comfortable in calling Diego out on his bullshit, and he was the only one who really made sense. Luther and Diego were capable of butting heads in a rare way that only returned results. Progress.

Klaus gave them both a warm glance as he said, “That’ll be great. You two will do great as soon as you manage to find the others.”

The reminder that they didn’t really know about the other babies born that day brought an uncertain look onto Luther’s face. Klaus looked at it before back at Diego, waiting expectantly. Diego narrowed his eyes at him but his words were directed towards Luther.

“We’ll figure it out,” Diego said, “After all, we did manage to stop the end of the world.”

Luther looked so relieved by the words that Klaus didn’t remind them that they technically had failed the first two times.

Five didn’t ask Klaus if he was okay. Diego had, so had Vanya and Allison and Ben and Patrick and even Luther. Five didn’t, and Klaus thinks that had been why he’d asked him all those days ago. Five just stared down at him, waiting.

Klaus gave a low sigh as he rose to set his mug into the kitchen sink. It must be getting late if Five was back from Foursight.

“Everything okay at the store?” Klaus asked him because Five’s eyes were dark and serious and it was hard to forget how many times Klaus has almost gotten him killed.

Five didn’t seem willing to give it up, though. He claimed that it’s the first interesting thing that’s happened to him since the apocalypse and Commission. He could use the stimulation, keep him active and Klaus is safest around Five. It’s one of the few things that eventually got Ben and Diego to relent despite the obvious danger.

The other thing is the reason Five is standing in the kitchen staring at him, watching him. Waiting for Klaus to breach the subject because Five didn’t ask Klaus if he was okay. He was hoping he could just infer it, though now they were starting to think that Klaus’s emotions weren’t as obvious as they all perceived them to be.

“I haven’t heard from Al,” Klaus told him, which wasn’t entirely true.

Save him, Lyla had said as he’d nudged her along, save the world.

Klaus hadn’t thought his siblings needed to know about how Klaus had cornered Al in that bar, reaching out to force him back into the barstool. Al had stared up at him with wide eyes, and Klaus knew that he’d get the message when he’d reported Tennessee as a missing person.

Only you Klaus, Patch had said – which had been the point.

He needed to knock some sense into Al and Lyla had been right when she said on Klaus could because Al loved Klaus or was obsessed with Klaus or whatever label wanted to be used.

Klaus knew this in a way the others could never. Klaus was soft and emotionally fragile, but he’d overcome addiction and survived Vietnam war and has died twice now. That didn’t make him weak, though, and he’s spent far too much of his life dealing with people like Alessandro.

“You take care of yourself, you hear,” Al had growled at Klaus as he engulfed him in an encasing hug that made Klaus’s knees weak.

Klaus pressed his forehead against his shoulder and allowed himself to take a moment to live in what-ifs and what-could-have-beens. If Al wasn’t under his uncle’s control for most his life then they could have run off together. If the war went a little differently than maybe Klaus could have kept a strong moral support whom loved him.

If only.

Five didn’t look impressed by Klaus’s lying skills as he released a heavy breath and inquired, “What’s going to happen next?”

Klaus tapped his fingers against the counter by the sink before he made up his mind and admitted, “Al is going after Roberto. Roberto is going to keep Fairy Dust on the streets, and Luther and Dave are reopening the Umbrella Academy.”

“And you?”

The question everyone seemed to want answered. The thing Klaus doesn’t think he can – not yet, at least.

He rubbed his face and shrugged. “I want to see where Foursight is going to lead us. I want to help people and I – uh – found someone.”

Five, who never found interest in relationships with other people, raised an eyebrow. Klaus gave him a shy smile.

“Not like that,” he said, “It’s a group thing. For soldiers who didn’t completely return home.”

Five paused.

The words were there – the admission however soft it had been – but then Five released a heavy breath as he sank down at a kitchen chair to ask, “Group therapy for veteran PTSD? Are you serious?”

Klaus could only offer a small shrug and replied, “I’m tired of hearing screaming and guns everywhere I go. I can’t handle that and the dead, and there’s no shame in asking for help. Or, at least, that’s what Dave had used to tell me.”

Five’s eyes flickered down to Klaus’s chest, where the cold metal of the dog tags pressed into pale skin, before back to Klaus’s face. Klaus was careful to keep his face neutral. It still hurt – thinking about Dave but Dave would want him to continue his life. He’d want him to help people. He’d want him to get his life together.

Klaus would do anything for Dave. He could do this. He had to do this.

Five swallowed audibly, “Is it working?”

Klaus shrugged.

It wasn’t, really, but he’s been told that’s normal. At least, for the beginning and then it gets better. He just had to be patient.

Five nodded, seemingly understanding, as he admitted, “That’s good, Klaus. I’m happy for you – really.”

“Yeah,” Klaus agreed in a soft tone, “I hope I’m not making a mistake. With Foursight, I mean, and everything else.”

Five’s smile was sharp and dangerous and, oddly enough, brought Klaus comfort; his voice was light as he announced, “Of course it isn’t, Klaus, that’s what you have me for. And, besides, every ladder has to start somewhere.”

Klaus just smiled back at him, happy that life after the apocalypse was no longer boring, and agreed, “Yeah.”