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Love is the Kindest Word

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Growing up should not have been difficult, but it was. Making friends should not have been impossible, but it was. Being your own person should never be an unattainable dream, and yet at seven years old, Number Six had already been told enough that there was absolutely no need for him to be himself. 

At seven, he was learning how to have a body count without including any of his siblings, and his brothers were busy learning to stay out of his way. One sister wasn’t allowed to play with him at all, while the other was supposed to focus on supporting him. He hated that he was last, that of all his siblings that were allowed to fight, he always seemed to be ranked last even if they all treated him like he did the most. Whenever they trained, he was supposed to stay back and out of the way until it was time for him to come in and finish the job. Number Three got the bad guys to do whatever she wanted them to; One could easily toss them across the room. Five could move in and out of danger, confusing and tripping up their foes. Number Two had deadly accuracy and could hold his own with any weapon. Seven stayed home but always played such sweet music, and even if Number Four had a bad habit of getting distracted by spirits passing by, he always did his best to support his siblings. But they’d always pull in Number Six when they’d rounded up the rest that survived; that was always the strategy. 

Even before they started engaging in real fights during real crimes, he hadn’t enjoyed it. He could barely stand how deadly his power was. Everyone else’s could be controlled; they could all cause harm but not kill. He found his difficult to control. Their father always praised him for it, but watching the children playing out in the street, it always fell flat. He didn’t want praise for a life he didn’t ask for.

 

When they were nine, Four developed a strange sort of attachment to Six. He could usually be found at his side, braiding his own hair if not Six’s. The braids were short and never stayed, but it seemed to make Four happy, and it was admittedly comforting for his brother to treat him like a person instead of just ‘the Horror,’ so he paid it no mind and let him continue in his ways.

If he was honest, their first game night was nothing but a hazy memory. It had been a few months before their tenth birthday, and Four had strolled right into Six’s room with his arms full of smuggled snacks piled high on to what was probably a stolen game of Monopoly.

“Where did you even get that?” Four hadn’t answered, just shrugged and sat himself at the end of Six’s bed. 

“Does it matter? It’ll be fun.” He got the pieces out before Six could ask him anything else. If their father caught them, they’d most definitely be in trouble, but trouble had never exactly kept Four from doing things before. Number Six, on the other hand, usually preferred to stay quiet- out of sight and out of mind. Most of his siblings paid no attention to him outside of training and lessons. But here Four was, ripping open a bag of chips and offering him the shoe piece. So he took it, shivering when his brother’s freezing hand pressed the game piece into his own. 

They barely noticed when the sun came up.

 

Number Four kept finding his way into Six’s room at any hour of the day. If he didn’t come in during the night to play a game or simply to escape the crushing solitude of his own room, he was almost always who woke Six up in the morning, jumping onto the bed and bouncing while he loudly complained that they hardly ever had waffles for breakfast. It was a routine that should have quickly grown old, but Six found it oddly comforting. 

On this particular morning, Four flopped down across Six’s stomach with a groan. Six had already gotten used to waking up with Four and sat up to run a hand through his half-washed hair.

“That good of a morning?” Four didn’t answer right away, instead choosing to throw an arm dramatically over his face.

“Awful. My stomach is killing me.” Six rolled his eyes and shoved Four off of the bed. He managed to land on all fours but gasped anyway. “I can’t believe it. Betrayed by my own brother!”

“Keep your voice down, Four. Dad’ll yell at us both if he catches us up this early.” He tossed the blankets over Four’s head while he got dressed. “Don’t throw up on the floor. Or on my blankets.” Four ended up tossing the blankets back on the bed. Six managed to get his pants zipped before he turned around. 

Four really did look miserable, and even though he’d wrapped himself into a bundle of blankets, he was still shivering terribly. Six sighed and plopped down next to him and pressed a hand to his forehead. For once, Four wasn’t freezing cold to the touch. In fact, he was burning hot.

“Jeez, Four, why didn’t you go tell Mom?” Number Four just shrugged and pulled the blankets tighter around himself.

“And have her tell Dad? He’d probably tell me off for not taking care of myself or something.” Six rolled his eyes and pulled Four out of the blankets and off the bed. “Oh, are we going somewhere?”

“You have to get dressed. Dad’s gonna get super pissed if we’re late to breakfast, sick or not.” He ended up practically shoving him down the hall to his room, absolutely refusing to go in with him, telling Four that he was perfectly capable of dressing himself. It was probably going to take him a while; he had a bad habit of taking forever even when he wasn’t sick.

Six busied himself with running to the kitchen as quietly as possible to catch their mom before she started making breakfast. She was caught up in gathering everything she needed to start cooking, and he had to tug on her sleeve to get her attention at all. She gave him a smile that was almost too warm in the cold of the kitchen and ruffled a hand through his hair.

“You’re up early,” she chirped. Six shrugged it off, taking a step back and casting his gaze down to the floor.

“Can we have waffles for breakfast?” Grace smiled at him again and started getting out different ingredients. 

“Of course we can,” she told him, shooing him out of the kitchen with a wave of her hand and a kiss to the forehead. “Why don’t you go on and wash up for breakfast?”

Number Four still looked miserable, even at the idea of breakfast. He was shivering, but if he were to take his blazer off he’d probably be on the verge of sweating through his shirt. Six caught him in the hall with a damp cloth before he could make his way downstairs. He tugged him into one of the hall closets before loosening his tie and shoving Four’s hair out of his face.

“Well, if you wanted to do this you should have asked, but we are brothers you know.” Four gave him a grin that lasted only a second before he coughed, a deep sound that rattled around in his chest. He winced, and Six felt bad that he’d almost smacked him for his remark.

“Shut up. I’m just trying to help, but maybe you can just go cough a few times in front of Dad and see how well that goes.” Four shut up then, letting Six wipe his face and just under his collar while he reached up to pick at the skin of his lips. Six swatted his hand away and handed him the cloth instead. “Blow your nose. No need to be dripping snot over breakfast.” He left before Four could make any dumb jokes and went to find his seat at the table.

Four ended up being only a few minutes late. He still looked terrible, but he managed a half hearted wink at Six as he slumped into his seat. There was no way for him to ask what he was so late for without alerting their father, so he settled instead for saving the question for later, instead pressing down the smile at how Four’s face lit up when he saw the table piled high with waffles.

Six ended up keeping an eye on Four all day, watching him to make sure he stayed steady on his feet and aware of what was happening around him. He was glad for his vigilance when Four’s face twisted and he managed to lead him out of the room and to a bathroom before he threw up. He’d never thought of Four as looking weak or fragile before; spacey yes, but never fragile. But now, watching his body betray him while he shook and choked on a breath, Four looked his most vulnerable. Six’s hand stayed firmly between his brother’s shoulders, rubbing his back while Four tried to catch his breath. He helped him wipe his face, ignoring Four’s spitty hands clutching to his shirt. 

“Just breathe, alright?” Four nodded, his eyes doing a mix of frantically glancing around the room and slowly slipping closed. “I’ve got you.” Six tossed the washcloth he’d used aside, wrapping both arms around his brother as Four sank into his chest. He stayed quiet, not nearly as good as comforting others as he wanted to be, listening to the sound of the both of them just breathing together in the cramp of the bathroom.

“Tha’s what you need all them arms for… for hugging.” Six laugh and pulled Four closer, trying to ignore the way he was pressing his still dirty face into his shoulder. Four coughed, and it rattled through his entire body. “You’re the best, man,” Four told him, his voice slipping into the edges of sleep. “I love you…” And then he was out, drooling onto Six’s blazer with the occasional sniffle. 

“Love you too, dumbass.” Six sighed. He ran a lazy hand through his brother’s hair, trying to figure out how long they could stay like that, the both of them curled up on the bathroom floor, both of them equally content even if the air smelled undeniably of illness. Their father would surely notice soon enough that they were gone, and they would both be in trouble if they were caught here like this. But Four was asleep, and there was absolutely no way Six was going to wake him up. He ended up carrying him back to his room. Four was out cold, doing a mix of snoring and coughing, so Six had to take his jacket and shoes off for him. He took the tie off as an afterthought before sitting by the door to keep a watch out for their father.

He didn’t remember falling asleep, but he woke up slowly to a warm pressure at his side: Four, who at some point had gotten out of bed to sleep at Six’s side. He was shivering, even with a blanket still wrapped around him. He was awake, barely, but it was clearly getting dark outside and there was no doubt that their father would have their heads if he realized they’d been gone nearly all afternoon. The dinner bell rang and Six cursed, shaking Four the rest of the way awake and tossing his shoes and clothes at him.

“That’s dinner. Wake up or Dad’s gonna kill you.” Four rose slowly, shaky on his feet even if his grin was stable. 

“You too, we were both gone,” he shot back, stifling a cough long enough to get the last word out. He straightened up as he adjusted his tie, circling two fingers over his eye with the other hand. “Now then, Number Six, just what do you think you were doing all day? Slacking off? You know that fun is not permitted.” Four’s voice was ridiculously posh, and he was doing his best not to cough or sneeze, which resulted in lilted words and a scrunched nose, and even with the genuine threat of punishment looming over them, it made Six laugh. It only encouraged Four, and he continued, pacing the room as he spoke. “And Number Four, is that a runny nose? Absolutely disgusting! Illness is not permitted. How are you ever going to stop being a disappointment if you don’t take care of yourself?” Four was laughing, but all that reached Six was the last of it, and he reached out to rest a hand on Four’s cheek.

“Hey,” he told him, softening his voice, “you’re not a disappointment. Okay? No matter what Dad says.” Four shrugged, pressing into Six’s hand for a moment before pulling away. “I mean it. Don’t talk about yourself like that.”

“Just a joke, man.” Four grinned and stepped out into the hall, walking off to dinner before Six ever had the chance to argue.

When they got to dinner, all of their siblings were seated, but the hall was quiet and their father was stood angrily at the head of the table. Four’s hand found its way into Six’s with a hold so tight he couldn’t feel his fingers. 

“When I come in for dinner, I expect all my children to be present and ready to be seated. But either I have lost the ability to count, or two of my children have forgotten the most basic of rules.” Their father’s voice boomed through the space, loud and angry with a barely-concealed rage that had Number Seven covering her ears. “What on earth were you two doing that could possibly be more important than dinner?” Four started to speak, but Six cut him off.

“I asked him to help me do something and I lost track of time. I’m sorry, sir.” He tightened his hand around his brother’s, feeling the way Four leaned into him with a swell of pride at knowing he was someone who made his brother feel safe.

“Perhaps this will teach you a lesson about doing things on your own time, not other’s. Sit down, Six. I don’t want you missing dinner again.” His gaze flicked down to their joined hands as he sat. Six’s grip loosened, but Four’s only tightened. His scoff was loud and rang out in the awkward silence.

“Like you care,” he said. “You couldn’t care less if we eat or not. You just want us to think we’re some happy family. If you actually cared, you’d have noticed that I haven’t even eaten anything these last few dinners!”  Their father recoiled at his words, starting to speak back, but then Six found his confidence, not at all willing to let his brother get punished alone. 

“We don’t even have names.” Their father looked entirely thrown off balance by their outbursts. He straightened his tie even though it had never been tossed out of place. When he sat, it was rough enough that Four winced and the chair slid back.

“Fine,” their father spat. “If you really want names that badly, Grace will name you before bed. Now, sit. Down.” Four gave Six’s hand a final squeeze before finding his seat at the table. Six sat next to him, switching the hand he usually ate with in order to hold Four’s hand under the table. Even if their hands got too warm, neither brother let go the entire meal.

 

Grace stood them up in a neat line in the hall after dinner in numerical order, smiling softly at each one. Their father was not present. She started with Number Two, placing a gentle hand on his cheek while he smiled nervously.

“Diego,” she decided, “for ‘teaching.’” Diego looked pleased with his new name and graciously accepted the warm hug she gave him. She moved to Number One, placing her hand on his shoulder instead. “Luther,” she told him, “for the strength of an army.” Luther nodded, standing a little straighter as his pride clearly swelled. She moved on to Number Three, who looked nervous at the thought of a name meaning something she wasn’t willing to admit. “Allison,” Grace announced. “For the beauty of a noble girl.” Allison let out a breath of relief. Grace moved on, giving Four a kiss before she named him. “Klaus. For victory of the people.” Klaus grinned, squeezing Six’s hand in the space that Five had left empty upon declaring the whole thing a waste of his time. Grace skipped Six then, moving on to Number Seven, who looked entirely surprised to be included at all. “Vanya,” she was told, “a fitting name for such a gift of god.” 

She’d left only Six, who was ashamed to know he was absolutely soaking both his own and Klaus’s hand with sweat. All his siblings had names stemming from their valor or integrity. How was he, Number Six, The Horror, ever supposed to earn a worthy name like the rest of them? Grace cupped his cheek. Even though she wasn’t human, there was a depth of affection in her eyes that was warmer than any of the rest of his siblings.

“Ben,” she told him. He let the name wash over him. It was simple, basic, a filler name that held absolutely no meaning, and if it did it could never hope to compare to ‘noble’ or ‘gift’ or ‘victory.’ His gaze dropped to the floor as Luther snickered. Klaus’s hand gripped his tighter, a silent demand for him to find any pride in his name even if it didn’t mean as much as the rest of them. But he hadn’t earned a good name. How could he? A horror of a little boy blossoming into a horror of a teenager. So, Ben. If that’s what he had, that one syllable, then so be it. Grace tilted his head up to look at him again. “Ben,” she repeated, “because it means good.

Klaus’s hand turned into Klaus’s whole body, pressing against him in a tight hug while the word bounced around Ben’s skull. Ben, for good. Ben, because even if he hadn’t, his mother had seen something in him that no one except maybe Klaus had.

“See,” came Klaus’s voice, soft in his ear, words meant only for them, “you’re not a disappointment either.”

 

Something had happened to Klaus. Ben wasn’t sure what, but something had happened. He’d disappeared for days and when he came back, he’d changed. They’d been close before, sharing seats and having sleepovers in each other’s rooms, but after that, some part of Klaus that had cared snapped entirely. More often than not, Klaus had his hand in Ben’s, and even if there was another empty seat, he’d plop himself down in Ben’s lap. He wouldn’t talk about it, but for the first few days back, he didn’t eat or sleep either. Ben ended up sneaking food into their rooms most nights, doing his best to slowly get Klaus to eat something, anything, and he almost always stayed to help him sleep. He became Klaus’s lifeline at night, saying nothing when Klaus held to him so tight that he bruised and brushing off apologies on the mornings they woke up in sheets soaked in sweat- or worse. If he let Klaus sleep alone, it was worse. He could hear his cries from his own bed, and when he stayed with Klaus, he only whimpered, and Ben held him tighter if he got too loud.

The first time Klaus came home high, he was upset, but he wasn’t surprised. If he couldn’t help Klaus on his own, he would at the very least do his best to keep him safe. So even though Klaus was spending more and more of his time getting high, Ben kept holding his hand and sitting with him and sharing the bed. Klaus hadn’t told him to stop, and he didn’t plan on it. As much as he hated to admit it, none of the other members of their family seemed to care enough about them to notice that Klaus wasn’t sober. 

On one of his rare nights that he wasn’t entirely high, Ben caught him in the hall after his shower.

“Get dressed,” he told him. “Let’s go do something.” Klaus grinned, looking the happiest he’d looked in a genuinely long time.

Klaus had taken up the habit of stealing Allison’s clothes, especially since Five wasn’t around anymore to tell him to stop. He’d taken one of her shirts this time, some low cut blouse that undeniably came from his sister’s closet. Their father constantly complained about Klaus wearing women’s shirts and pants that he had deemed too tight, but Ben didn’t care if they made Klaus happy. As for Ben, he was more of a ‘hoodie and day old jeans’ kind of guy. Klaus did complain when Ben insisted that he wear a jacket. He blatantly refused, in fact, but Ben brought a jacket of his own that Klaus ended up practically begging for.

They weren’t going anywhere in particular, just walking to enjoy each other’s company without the looming threat of their father and his expectations. Klaus was thankfully keeping his hand firmly in Ben’s; with his drug use had also come a tendency to wander off without thinking. He simply got sidetracked too easily. But tonight, his attention was focused on the things Ben was saying, and he was coherent enough to respond to him. It was cold, so they stayed close. It earned them a few odd looks, but only one person said anything to them.

“Faggots.”

A slur, half murmured and half spat, and it had Ben flinching, but Klaus recoiled entirely. The rage that bubbled in his stomach was all too familiar, but he swallowed it, pushing it down in favor of a grin and a harsh slap to Klaus’s ass. He yelped, but didn’t pull back as Ben’s hand slipped into his back pocket, instead copying the action on Ben. The passerby looked thoroughly disgusted, and they didn’t remove their hands until they turned the corner. They only made it a few feet before their hands found each other again in Ben’s hoodie pocket.

They ended up staying out far too late, only making it home as the sun rose. They sat on the roof together to watch the sun rise.

“Ben, I- I have something to tell you.” Klaus was picking at the sleeves of Ben’s jacket, his eyes full of gold and worry as he looked anywhere but Ben’s face. Ben’s spine went rigid, a slight panic going through him as he feared the worse. Thoughts about what Klaus could say raced through his mind, anything from suicide to telling Ben he wasn’t needed to admitting that when he said ‘I love you,’ he didn’t mean it the way Ben did, but the way Allison did to Luther. It could be anything, as long as it wasn’t that he was going to leave.

“Anything, Klaus.” 

Please don’t leave.

“I- well, I’ve been going over it for a while, and I…”

God, please, say anything except that you’re leaving me here.

Klaus took a deep breath, bracing himself as he finally looked at Ben.

“I’m pan.” Thank god. “So like, I like girls and guys, it doesn’t really matter, I mean I kinda like guys a little more, but… I just wanted you to know I’m not- I’m not any different…” Klaus kept picking at his sleeves, barely able to meet Ben’s gaze. 

“Klaus…” And then Klaus’s warmth was gone from Ben’s side and his voice was shaking.

“I can go. If you want, I get it, you don’t- you don’t want someone who likes that kind of thing around you.” Ben grabbed Klaus by the wrist before he could take another step. 

“I never, ever want you to go anywhere. I don’t care if you like dick, Klaus. You’re my brother, and I love you.” Klaus stared at him for a while, searching Ben’s face before entirely collapsing against him. He was shaking, a mix of laughter and sobbing bubbling up out of his chest. Ben laughed with him, tears streaking down his face as he held his brother tighter. With Klaus feeling so far from them lately, it felt so good to just be together again, like when they were kids.

“I love you too,” Klaus said, his voice muffled in Ben’s hoodie as he rubbed his snotty nose on his shoulder.

It wasn’t until later that night when Klaus was tiredly drawing circles on Ben’s arm that Ben decided to put the same amount of trust in Klaus.

“Hey, Klaus?” Klaus only hummed in response, his gaze flicking up to Ben’s face for a moment before returning to his circles. “I- um. Me too. About the liking guys thing.” That seemed to get Klaus’s attention, as he sat straight up in bed, absolutely throwing the blankets off the bed.

“Seriously? Girls too, or…?” Ben shrugged, not entirely sure. Whenever they went to watch movies, he always found himself watching the guys, but he didn’t have the same interest in the girls. Klaus shook his head and pulled Ben into a crushing hug. “Thank god. I was so- I thought you were just handling it because you’re my brother.” Ben laughed, bumping his head on the wall as Klaus knocked him back.

“Never,” Ben told him. 

They would have been awake the whole night, but sleep dragged them both under with their legs tangled together and the first of one of Klaus’s smiles in weeks.

 

When Ben died, it was painful for all of them, but Klaus’s whole world fell apart around him. He stayed in his room for days leading up to the funeral and for days afterward. He got out of bed once, when his father was getting rid of most of Ben’s things. He refused to let him, instead taking anything he could. He slept with his face pressed into Ben’s jacket, staining it with his tears and crying harder when it no longer smelled like him, like freezing rooftops at sunrise and soft reassurance and Ben’s god tier hugs.

It was two weeks after the funeral that he first saw him. He accepted it, because Ben didn’t speak at all. He assumed it was drugs, or sorrow, or both. But then he spoke, finally, and when Klaus realized he couldn’t touch him, it hurt. At the least, Ben was still there, talking to him and giving him soft smiles. It hurt every time Klaus reached for his brother’s hand only to be met with chilled air, but it was almost like Ben could tell, and every time his hand slipped through, there was Ben, pressing a cold kiss to his cheek.

“I love you, Klaus,” he’d remind him, and even though Klaus’s cheek felt like ice, and he still couldn’t feel Ben, his chest always warmed knowing that Ben was there. 

It was a habit that faded, the reaching, but in its place came new, worse habits. If he was high, he couldn’t see or hear the other spirits, but Ben never left. So he stayed high. And if he overdosed, for a few moments Ben could touch him. Ben hated it, hated that he risked himself just for the chance to hold his brother again. This time, he almost didn’t make it back.

“Klaus,” Ben greeted him like he always did. He pulled Klaus into a tight hug, pressing his nose just under Klaus’s ear. He melted into it, into the reassuring pressure of Ben holding him tighter than anyone ever had. Ben had never cared that Klaus was freezing cold to the touch from all the spirits constantly hounding him, he’d hugged him all the same. “Klaus,” Ben repeated. “You know I don’t like that you risk yourself for me. You need to take care of yourself.” Klaus shrugged, pulling Ben tighter. He never got this much time, and he didn’t care. He didn’t care if he stayed here forever or if he woke up on the floor or in an ambulance; he truly couldn’t care less.

“I just want to be around someone who cares about me.” Ben shook him, pulling back from the hug.

“I know, but I don’t want you to stop living. You really have to go back, Klaus. You can still turn it around. I love you, okay?” Then Ben’s hand was gone from Klaus’s face and he was sitting up in an ambulance, the rush of blood to his head mixed with Ben’s soft words making him giddy as he high fived the paramedic. The tv next to Ben flicked to a news broadcast. Their father was dead.

 

Showing up in a war zone was not what Klaus expected. At the end of the day, he found himself slumped against a bed.

“Man, that sucked, huh Ben?” He reached over, an old habit resurfacing in the face of anxiety. But it was met with nothing but warm air. He cracked open an eye to glance around, only to find the room full of soldiers, living and dead, but no sign of Ben. And there was the panic. The deep, unsettling fear of being alone, surrounded by ghosts and bombshells and people he’s never met. There was no way for him to talk to Ben. He was alone, stuck in the past before his brother was ever born. He doubled over; the panic that was gripping him was unbearable, and he struggled to breathe. 

“Hey, man, you okay?” Klaus looked up, right at the man from earlier in the day, Dave. “You seem a little spooked.” Klaus nodded, wiping the burning tears from his face as he straightened up.

“Yeah, just- just miss my brother is all,” he answered. He found himself curling in on himself. “He died a while back, but I used to see him everywhere and now he’s- he’s nowhere and it’s like I’ve lost him all over again.” Dave lowered himself next to Klaus with a comforting smile. 

“Close to him, then? Yeah, I get that.” Klaus laughed, throwing his head back to stare upward.

“You have no idea…” 

 

When he got back, there was Ben, waiting for him in his room, smiling at him in that way that meant he was happy to see him, but worried all at once.

“You disappeared there for a second.” Klaus shrugged and plopped himself down on the bed.

“I was gone for a year. I missed you…” Ben laughed.

“No shit. I missed you too.” Klaus reached for Ben’s hand, something he’d found himself doing a lot. Ben settled his hand in Klaus’s open palm. There was still no pressure, no warmth, just the chill of a spirit’s body, but it was still comforting. “I love you,” Ben offered. The familiar reassurance shook Klaus to his core.

“I love you too, Ben.”

 

The end of the world was not something Klaus had ever thought of as being a good thing. When Five took them back, the first thing he noticed was the pressure of Ben’s hand on his shoulder. Sure, he was younger again, back to years ago when he wasn’t the mess of an addict he’d grown into, but most importantly, Ben was alive again, and the very thought brought him to tears. He pressed his face into Ben’s neck, both of them wracked with sobs as they were finally able to give each other a hug with both of them alive and breathing, no more dead Ben and dying Klaus, no more chilled hugs and whispered conversations to save face. The rest of their siblings seemed happy to see Ben, but even if they wanted a hug there was no way for them to get one through Klaus, so instead they crowded around, lumping together in one misshapen group hug.

“You’re alive!” Klaus’s voice was loud to his siblings’ ears, but he couldn’t even be bothered to think about it over his joy at seeing Ben’s smile and feeling his pulse under his fingers.

“I know!” Ben greeted the rest of his siblings, his hand never leaving Klaus’s. Klaus squeezed his hand, glad for the chance to be able to do so again.

“I love you,” he told him, in a voice that was barely anything more than a murmur. It wasn’t meant for the others, just Ben. Ben smiled at him, pulling Klaus into one of his infamously tight hugs.

“You know, I really do need all those arms for hugging.” Klaus laughed, he really laughed, loud and clear and genuine, and it made Ben’s head light to be able to really hang out with his brother again, to see a smile on his face without seeing the signs of death pulling at his features. Here he was, sober and happy and holding tight to Ben’s hand. He’d been dead for so long, he forgot what it felt like to truly have the presence of his brother at his side. 

“I love you too, Klaus.”