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The Dead Can't Testify

Chapter Text

He was a twenty nine years old man in a fourteen year old’s body. Meaning any manner of roguishness he had accrued over the years had completely gone to shit. Replaced by the ham fisted muscle memory of a gangly, prepubescent child. He tried to ease the door closed, but tugged a little too quickly and may as well have slammed the thing, for fucks sake.

“What are you doing, Klaus?”

Klaus flinched. He slowly peaked over his shoulder.

The hallway was completely dark, save for a small light coming out the bedroom just a few feet away. Diego’s too small silhouette leaned against the door frame. Arms crossed over his chest, Klaus didn’t need to see his face to know there was a disapproving scowl directed at him.

“Oh, hey, Diego. I was just, um,” Klaus turned around, shifting the duffle bag behind him. It was twice as long as he was wide. There’s no way Diego hadn’t noticed it. “I was gonna sneak out and grab some snacks to stash away. I forgot how Dad doesn’t let us keep junk food in the house and you know me, always smackin’ for a snackin’.” He smiled. Even Klaus didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.

“I can’t let you run away, Klaus.” Diego stood up straight.

“You let me go before.” Watching Diego’s shoulders sag, Klaus immediately regretted saying it. It felt like a low blow some how. The panic burning in his chest didn’t care though. He felt trapped and, like a cat, he swiped blindly.

“How fucking-“ Diego cut himself off to keep from raising his voice. He took a step forward, despite Klaus' pseudo accusation. When they were actual teenagers Diego would have let him go, already fed up with his shit. But Klaus could clearly see he had no intention of backing down again.

“Please, Diego. I can’t…” Klaus’ voice cracked and he had to pause. He couldn’t risk becoming too loud and alerting their other siblings. Normally he was better at keeping it together, but the bucket had just filled up so high, any little stressor threatened to make it overflow. “I can’t be here anymore.” Klaus could barely force the whisper out of his tight throat. “Not with… him.” The last word wobbled in to a near sob. He looked away, beginning to shake and sniffle.

“Hey, hey, whoa.” Diego crossed the distance between them, grabbing Klaus’ shoulders.

Klaus twisted away. His bottom lip shuttered as he tried not to cry. He didn’t want to hear any of Diego’s hyper masculine bullshit about ‘not being so sensitive.’

“Why don’t we go for a walk? Get some fresh air?” He said instead. Diego craned his neck to peer down the hall, then checked all the corners from where he stood.

It was not a suggestion, Diego didn’t make suggestions. Klaus couldn’t speak without croaking, so he nodded. He could have argued, pushed him away, maybe even actually run for it. But this was Diego, not Allison or Vanya. There was no version of that scenario where Klaus even made it out of the house.

“'Kay. But first let’s put that bag away.” Diego reached for the strap on Klaus’ shoulder.

“No. I need it.” Klaus pushed his hand away, palming the tears from his cheeks.

“Look, you can have it back when we come home. But it’s gonna be a bitch to carry with us all the way to the donut shop. You always pack too many clothes.”

Klaus huffed a weak laugh at that. “Yeah, well, you always pack too many weapons.”

“Hey, you can never be too prepared for a fight.”

“And you can never be too prepared to serve looks either.”

Diego tried to look annoyed but he was biting his lip like he was holding back a laugh. “Come on, Klaus. Before Dad finds us.”

All the mirth Diego had mustered out of him was sucked away at the very mention of their father. Without a second thought, Klaus handed Diego the bag and glancing around the room for any trace of activity.

Diego brought the bag in to his room. Klaus wanted to argue but was afraid he might be too loud. He could hear the scrape of wood as a drawer open and shut, then another. The bedside light turned off and Diego closed his door on the way out.

“Okay, let’s go.” He zipped up his blue hoodie and pulled at the backs of his sneakers.

Klaus stayed close at Diego’s heels as they crept through the dark hallways. The hardwood floor creaking under their feet. There was an empty room not too far down the corridor from their bedrooms. Mom would let them do arts and crafts in there when they were little. Klaus could see the interior clearly with the street light coming through the windows. There were still art supplies organized on a table in the corner. Crayon drawings posted up on the walls. Klaus got distracted when he saw one of his own.

It was simple black outlines of people with sad eyes and frowns. They were just…there, sagging in the emptiness of the page. The bottom of the big sheet was all scribbled out in black. The was a circle in the middle, lined with white triangles and filled with red squiggles.

What a quintessentially fucked up kid he was.

“Klaus, come on.” Diego called. Sitting on the sill of the open window, he flicked his hand for Klaus to follow.

They climbed out to the fire escape and made their way towards the street. Klaus caught his reflection in the convenience store window down the block. In his long, scrawny body with it’s pink, cut off t-shirt and panel leggings, Klaus suddenly realized just how much he had not thought his plan through. Had he even packed a sweater? It was spring time, but still, it got chilly at night.

“Klaus.” Diego grabbed his hand and pulled him along.

He had gotten distracted again. That happened a lot when he was overwhelmed with stress. His mind just wanted to take off anywhere it could.

Diego continued to hold his hand while they walked. Probably just to make sure Klaus wouldn’t get lost, but Klaus would take the physical contact where he could. Up until then, Ben had been the only person willing to reach out to him since they traveled back.

Griddy’s Doughnuts was open, with a few patrons still inside. It wasn’t so late that two boys walking in would have been cause for alarm, but two boys walking in holding hands…that did get them a couple looks.

Diego didn’t seem to notice. He led Klaus to a booth near the big windows and instructed him to sit.

“Is double chocolate still your favorite?”

Klaus blinked, trying to remember how to talk. “You remembered.”

Diego looked around the room. “You want one or two?”

“Two’s good.” Klaus said, because he was a gluttonous heathen, always willing to push his luck for calories.

Diego walked to the counter and Klaus looked for something to do with himself. Adjusting the napkin holder, wiping the table of crumbs, looking around the room.

Diego was right to pick the donut shop if he was hoping to lure Klaus in to a false sense of security. The place served Klaus’ favorite snack, and the pink accenting all the furniture was suit Klaus’ perfectly. He enjoyed the smell of cigarettes wafting in through the door. It reminded him of a time not too long ago when he was allowed to smoke. He remembered how Luther hated it though.

They had some good memories there. Probably the only fond moments he ever had with his siblings, before they turned proper teenagers and everything went to shit.

When he ran out of things to fidget with, Klaus looked out the window. He wanted to space out like he did when they were walking. He didn’t have to think because Diego was taking point, like he always did. Klaus could just enjoy the warmth of his hand and stare blankly at the lights from the storefronts. There was no pressure to talk.

But then they would be sitting, alone together, and in a place where they weren’t hushed or rushed by the potential presence of their family. Klaus could feel the heat of anxiety creeping up under his skin. Diego was being short with him. That was never a good sign. At least Klaus knew he wouldn’t yell with all those people around.

Diego returned with two little plates in hand. One with two double chocolate doughnuts for the heathen, and the other with two powdered jelly doughnuts for the apparently equally as heathenish.

“Move over.” Diego nudged Klaus’ thigh with his knee and Klaus did as he was told.

Klaus shouldn’t have been letting Diego command him around. He was supposed to be bratty and annoying and hyperactive. He was supposed to push, push, push at your buttons, even when he knew he was in way over his head. But he was sober and that gave him some sense of humility and self-preservation. However small they still may have been.

There was a perfectly good empty bench on the other side of the table, but Diego sat down next to him. To trap him, Klaus figured. Make it easier to hit him, if need be.

Klaus drew his boney knees up to his chest. There was a calm about Diego that Klaus didn’t know what do with. It wasn’t like him to reach the ‘so furious you’re zen’ level, especially with him. That was bad.

Diego took a bite of his donut, chewing slowly and watching the jelly drip out.

Klaus didn’t move. Didn’t speak. Only watched Diego.

“I hate him too. Everyone does, but I think you and I are the most bitter about it.”

Klaus nodded, and continued watching.

“This whole past month…”Diego took another bite. “I’ve felt like I’m being choked. I’m a different person and I’m trapped here, in this time, in this body. And we worked so hard to get away and change ourselves, but this is where we ended up and that really fucking pisses me off.” He wiped his mouth and licked some powder off his fingers. “So at night, you know what I do? I leave. I take my knives, and I just go out and walk around town. Find a shitty place to eat by myself and drink coffee and read the paper. And yeah, I get weird looks, but you know what…It helps. Cus I get to do something for myself, something I wouldn’t have done when I was fourteen. I get to remind myself that I’m not actually a kid anymore and I don’t have to be stuck in that place. Not in the house, but, ya know, in here?” Diego looked at Klaus and tapped his temple.

Klaus nodded, still waiting to see what Diego was getting at. It was the most chatty the other boy had been since they talked about Vietnam.

“I’m glad that I figured that out, but…” He put his donut down and starting shaking his head. “It’s fucked up. I knew it was fucked up, but I just got so used to doing things by myself.” There was a lull then. Diego was waiting for some confirmation Klaus was actually listening.

Klaus stuffed his mouth with donut, forcing himself to think before he could say anything. Diego didn’t seem as pissed as Klaus thought he would be. Was he even…opening up? Why?

“What’s so fucked up about it?” Klaus asked.

“That I leave by myself every night, but you, and Ben, and Vanya, you’re all at home, still choking.”

Oh, god. He was opening up. Watching the normally so dark and edgy boy stare at the table like a guilty puppy made Klaus’ skin crawl. It wasn’t right.

Klaus shoved another big bite in his mouth. “So? What’s that got to do with me leaving?”

Diego huffed. “I’m trying to say I know how you feel, idiot.” He jabbed Klaus with his elbow. “And that… I’m sorry. That I haven’t been a better friend. I…” Diego leaned back, worked a hand through his hand. Powdered sugar dusted his head but he didn’t seem to notice. “One of my biggest regrets has always been letting you run away.”

Klaus’ whole body tingled and turned cold. He hugged his knees tighter and looked away. There were plenty of nights Klaus had spent lying on a thin mat in a homeless shelter, staring at the ceiling, just coming down from a high. He would think about that night and nearly regret it. Then, Diego came to mind.

They were sixteen at the time. Klaus had been half out the window on to the fire escape when Diego came in and flicked on the light. He lowered his knife once he realized who it was. His eyes flicked to the same duffle bag, then back at Klaus. Klaus remembered the moment Diego realized – This was it. There was a brief moment of resignation Klaus refused to recognize at the time, then pure anger. ‘Good. No one wants you here anyways.’ Diego had snarled at him. He had turned off the lights and closed the door without a second glance. Klaus remembered crying himself to sleep that night, convinced that it was true.

“I didn’t mean what I said.” Diego cut through Klaus’ thoughts.

“Sure didn’t sound that way.” Klaus tried to be biting but his voice wavered.

“I was mad, okay? I felt like you were abandoning us. Hell, you were abandoning us. I was hurt and I didn’t know how to say it.”

He could feel Diego shifting in the booth, then a skinny arm wrapped around his shoulders. Diego pulled Klaus to lean on him and Klaus just froze. What the fuck was happening? Diego didn’t do shit like that.

When they were kids, Klaus learned pretty quickly that Diego was a teddy bear full of tacks. You could hug him, but only if you wanted to get stabbed in the process. Klaus was too young at the time to understand how Diego’s given place as ‘second best’ gave him his hyper aggressive attitude. Meaning that every punch, every shove, every ‘Get off me, weirdo.’ would be taken personally; Etched in to Klaus in the way only the sharp sting of rejection could be.

“I’m sorry, okay? I’m really, really sorry.” Diego spoke in to his ear.

Klaus shoulders bunched and he hid his face. It was all wrong. Klaus had it all wrong. The Diego at his side was not the perpetually pissed off boy he knew. It was the Diego holding his shoulder in the veteran’s bar. The Diego willing to defend him from a bunch of geezers, in a bar fight that Klaus had started. But in there old bodies, that was so hard to remember.

“Why are you being so nice to me?” Klaus whispered, afraid his voice might crack if he spoke any louder.

“Cus,” Diego rested his cheek on the top of Klaus’ head. “I don’t wanna lose you again.”

“I hate it there, Diego. I hate him.”

“I know. We all do. But we can’t run away, Klaus. We promised each other at the family meeting, we’d all be in this together.”

“I know. I just…I don’t know…How I’m gonna…” Klaus started sniffling again. He was so damn weepy when he was sober.

“We’re adults now, Klaus. We’ve all seen a lot worse shit than Dad getting pissed. You have to remember that. Don’t let him put you back in that place.”

Klaus nodded as he quietly cried.

“I’ll help you. But you’ve gotta stay, you understand? We promised we would all stay.”

Klaus nodded a little too hard. “Yeah, yeah, I promise.” He gave a long sniffle and his shoulders shook with another silent sob.

Diego reached in front of him and pulled out a wad of napkins from the holder.

“Are you alright, sweetie?” Klaus could hear a woman say while he blew his nose.

“He’s just upset he got a C on his math test.” Diego said to the waitress.

“Aw, it’ll be okay, honey. Math is tough for all of us. Can I get you boys anything?”

“A cup of coffee and some water would be nice.”

“Should you be drinking coffee this late at night, young man?”

Diego took a deep breath. “I promised to help him with his homework tonight. Need a little boost, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Alright, I guess. At least you’re being a good boyfriend.”

Diego retracted his arms from Klaus immediately. “W-We’re not-“ He didn’t have the chance to finish before Klaus could hear her walk away. Diego sighed and turned back to him.

Klaus giggled and wiped the tears from his cheeks. “Remember that mom, in the bowling alley? She thought we were Five’s gay dads.”

Diego nodded. “The look on Five’s face.”

“I thought he was gonna throat punch her.”

“He probably would have too. Salty old bastard.” Diego started to chuckle, Klaus giggling in to his shoulder. That night had been so god damn wild, they hadn’t had time to review all the ridiculous details.

“Glad to see you’re feeling better.” The waitress came back with some water and a single cup of coffee. “Don’t expect any refills after that. That last thing a boy your age needs is extra energy.” She pursed her lips and wagged a finger at Diego before leaving.

“What is with the wait staff here?” Diego shook his head and started pouring sugar in to his cup. “So, you’ll stay?”

Hardly was there ever a time in their lives when Diego actually looked at Klaus like he was hoping something good would happen. Klaus had forgotten what it looked like. Those big, wet eyes shining in the light had normally only been reserved for Mom. It made Klaus uncomfortable with how vulnerable Diego looked. Still though,

“Under one condition.”

Diego blinked and pulled back.

If Diego really meant what he said, Klaus was gonna need him to prove it. He wasn’t going to stick around just to get fucked up all over again. This had to be better then before.

Klaus pulled Diego’s arm over his head and placed it on his shoulder. Then he snuggled up to Diego’s side and leaned in to him. “I want more of this.”

“More of…Like, Like what?”

“Christ, Diego. Phy-si-cal af-fec-tion. Hugs, cuddles, rubbing warm circles in to your back while you hurl, you know, stuff like real families do.”

“Oh, um, that.”

“I know you’re not super good at anything that isn’t punching, but that lady thought we were dating so I guess you can’t be to-ta-lly inept.”

“I know how to snuggle, dammit.”

“So are you gonna try?” Klaus quirked his head. “Or is The Batman too edgy for huggies?”

“Klaus, come on.” Diego pulled his arm back. “I’m being serious.”

“I’m being serious too, god dammit!” Klaus small hands gripped at Diego’s arm. “I just want someone to show me they love me!”

Normally Klaus wouldn’t have given a shit if he caused a scene. Causing scenes was his thing. Except this time, he didn’t mean too. He hadn’t meant to raise his voice, and certainly hadn’t meant to say something so pathetically sincere. The entire room had fallen in to silence, save for the radio, and the they were left sitting in the wake of Klaus’ declaration to the sound of The Smits’ 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want'.

It was bullshit, in Klaus’ opinion. Grade A Bullshit.

“Oh.” Diego said, like all the air had just left him. Klaus could see in his eyes that it had finally clicked. That, for once, Diego wasn’t trying to be silly or cute. He was genuinely trying to barter for something he needed.

Klaus didn’t know what to do. He panicked. He shoved half a chocolate donut in to his mouth like a god damn chipmunk. When he noticed some guy a booth down staring at them, he started shrugging and gesturing wildly.

“These donuts, am I right? Makes the bitches go crazy.” He tried to say around the food in his mouth.

The guy squinted and gave him a concerned side eye before returning to his newspaper.

Good. He didn’t need spectators for what was already the most awkward thing to ever happen between Klaus and that emotionally constipated manchild.

“Klaus.”

“Hm?” Klaus turned back to Diego. His mouth could barely shut with all the pastry inside. He felt ridiculous in contrast to Diego’s sad, serious expression.

“You’re right. I’m really not good at that stuff.”

“Big fucking surprise.” Klaus murmured, rolling his eyes. Diego yanked him back by the collar of his sweatshirt.

“I should be tho. I wanna be.” Their faces were only a few inches apart, Diego stared him point blank in the eyes. “So, just, cut me some slack? Okay? I know that we- Klaus? Bro, are you okay?”

Klaus hadn’t felt it at first. Had tried not to cough because Diego was having a sincere moment. But when Diego tugged him it must have jostled some donut in to the back of his throat and he-

“Oh shit.” Diego let go of his sweatshirt and Klaus fell forward in to his chest.

Something shook loose enough for him to cough. Chunks of wet donut sprayed all over Diego’s, well, just about everything, as Klaus hacked and heaved.

“You okay, buddy?” Diego whacked at the back of his ribcage. “You cool? You with me?”

Klaus nodded as he continued to cough, taking wet gasps of air where he could.

“Are you two alright? What happened?” Klaus could hear the waitress approach.

“That one boy stuffed his mouth full of donuts and then they started horsing around. Dumb kids.” Said the man who had been staring.

Klaus looked up from Diego’s shoulder to see the waitress with her pressed lips and furrowed brow.

“I think you boys should go home.” She snatch the cup of coffee from the table. “You’re clearly too rowdy to be out this late at night.”

Diego huffed. “Could we at least get a box for our donuts, then? Or,” He looked down at the mess in his lap. “What’s left of them.”

“Sorry for blowing chunks all over you.” Klaus said as they walked home.

“Sorry for choking you.” Diego replied.

Trying not to think about it too much, Klaus grabbed the hand Diego wasn’t using to hold the donut bag.

“So I don’t get lost.” He explained when Diego gave it a glance.

“Right.”

They walked like that in silence for the next several blocks. It was nicer than it had been the first time. Klaus intentionally relaxed instead of involuntarily spacing out. He could enjoy the spring air and the sounds of the city. Cars splashing through puddles. Spanish hip hop on the radio in a convenience store. Walking in step with Diego as he took point yet again. That was the shit he missed from being a kid. Those rare nuggets of gold when they were allowed to be free.

As they approached the fire escape on the side of their home, Klaus paused. Diego stopped short to keep from tugging his arm.

Klaus swallowed hard, his gut churning as he stood under the shadow of the four story, stone monstrosity. The idea of ever being free suddenly felt so far away.

“Klaus.” Diego called.

Klaus looked at Diego. There was powdered sugar caked in to the corners of his mouth and still in his hair. Smears of chocolate batter and frosting coated his clothes. Evidence that they had lived a life outside of that prison.

Diego was still holding his hand, he gripped tighter even. “Come back inside. Please.”

Klaus looked up at their bedroom windows. In the third window, he could see a small light on. Ben was still awake, reading a book no doubt. Probably something scary, because he was an idiot like that.

“Does Ben like chocolate donuts?” Klaus asked.

Diego looked at the windows, then back at Klaus and smiled. “I don’t remember. But we’ve got a jelly filled one too, if he doesn’t.”

Chapter Text

“No, Klaus.”

“Just hear me out.”

“Why? There’s literally nothing about this that’s a good idea.” Ben dropped a stack of books on to his desk. The heavy thunk carried through out the library.

“That’s not true.” Klaus perched himself on the edge of the hardwood. “We could get a place close to campus?”

“Which would be farther away from the diner and you can’t drive.” Ben sat down, shuffling stacks of papers around to make room for his notebook.

Klaus opened his mouth…

And you’re chronically late for the bus.”

Klaus snapped his jaw shut. So much for that, time to reroute. He leaned back on to the table, resting on his elbow.

“Okay, we can compromise on lo-cal. But you have to admit, it would be nice to have a place to yourself, wouldn’t it? No Five to shit all over your thesis papers, or Vanya typing while you index.”

“It wouldn’t be to myself if you lived there too, dumbass.” Ben scowled. Yellow light illuminated the desk space as he turned on the lamp at it’s corner.

Klaus’ eyes flickered to the burgundy curtains over the windows. “It’s the middle of the afternoon, Benny. Get some natural sunlight. Wouldn’t you prefer to spend some time in a place less…” He observed the ornate wallpaper, the glass cases of bugs and animal skulls, the dark hardwood bookshelves, and the long shadows they cast.

“…Drab?” Was the most diplomatic adjective Klaus could think of.

“Nope.” Ben popped. “And I already told Allison that if she redecorates my library, I’m going to rebuild the wall between her and Luther’s bedrooms.” Library and Information Center Management was pulled off the top of the book stack. The spine cracked as Ben opened it and leafed through.

“Could you sound proof, while you’re at it?” Klaus scoffed, but received no response.

Klaus remained steadfast in his cause. He watched his brother with an unrelenting pouty face, but Ben remained unphased, as he had predicted. Time to move to phase two, Klaus decided.

He tapped at the desk with his black painted nails in a rhythmic motion.

Ben’s pen halted for a millisecond, but he persisted.

The tapping grew louder and faster. Klaus thought of Vanya’s typewriter, doing his best to replicate the beat and force of the sound.

The ballpoint pen tore in to the paper.

“Have you even thought about this from a logistical standpoint?”

Klaus opened his mouth to say something when he realized. “I don’t know what that word means.”

Ben groaned and rubbed at his brow. “It means thinking about our finances. How would we even afford an apartment?”

“We have jobs.”

“I’m an intern at a public library, Klaus, and you’re just-“

“Just a waitress.” Klaus whispered, looking around at anything but his brother. Still, he could see Ben’s pensive gaze in his peripheral.

“You’re not ready for this, Klaus.”

“Whatever you say, brother.” Klaus double tapped the desk with a sardonic smile before sliding off.

“We can talk about it more later, if you want.” Ben called out as he made his way to the door.

“No, thanks. Have fun studying for midterms.”

Walking in to the foyer, Klaus took a few deep breaths. The dull sting of his nails pressing in to his palms kept him grounded. In truth, Klaus did not expect anything to come of his conversation with Ben. It was a shot in the dark. An act of impatience and pure frustration. He should have known better.

A car honked from the road just beyond the front door. Klaus could see numerous headlights passing by, shining around the dark umbrella emblem etched in to the cloudy glass. He needed some fresh air, or a walk, or a cigarette, or maybe all of those things? Really, he just needed to get the fuck out of that house.

The crashing sound of the pouring rain on pavement bombarded Klaus’ eardrums as he foisted open the double doors. The wind blew hard, pushing the sheets of rain to fall at an angle. Klaus had to hold on to the doorknobs to keep from falling backwards. A fresh gust pushed the skin of his face up in to a grimacing squint. Fat droplets rushed through the door, slapping Klaus’ cheeks and eyes.

Taken aback by the sting in his eyes, Klaus lost his grip on the door knobs and flew backwards. His back hit something soft but solid.

“Careful, Sweetheart.” A cheerful voice told him.

Klaus was set back on to his feet. He wiped his eyes clear in time to see his mother rush to close the front doors and lock them.

“It’s best you stay inside for the time being, Klaus.” Mom turned back and smiled at him. A handkerchief was pulled from her 50’ style skirt pocket. “The forecast predicts stormy inclement weather for the rest of the day, with a seventy percent chance of heavy thunderstorms starting at four pm…” She reset Klaus’ bangs and blotted at his face. He could see her white handkerchief getting smudged as she wiped away the mascara streaks. “…and escalating to one hundred percent chance by nine pm.”

“Thanks, Mom. That’s, that’s great, good to know.” He struggled to catch her efficient little hands as they began fussing with his tank top. He decided to take a step back from her instead.

“I placed flashlights with fresh batteries outside all of your bedrooms, just in case we lose power.” Finally taking the hint, she laced her hands together and rested them in front of her.

“Don’t we have the back up generator?”

“You can never be too prepared, silly.” She grinned.

Klaus smiled slow. There was hardly ever a moment with his mother where she didn’t find some way to endear herself to him. “How are you so perfect, Mom?” He asked in all earnest.

She smiled and looked away, putting a hand to her cheek. “Thank you, honey. Though clearly I’m not that perfect. I can’t seem to find your sister, Vanya, anywhere.”

Just like that, Klaus’ spidey sense was tingling. “Oh really? She’s not in her studio?”

“Or her bedroom. I’ve looked in all the usual spots and so far, not a trace.”

Perfect!

“I was hoping she could help me pluck through some of your father’s old classical rec-“

“I’ll find her for you.” Klaus almost shouted.

“Oh!” His mother flinched, but only with her eyes. “That would be wonderful, dear! If you could tell her I’ll be in the study, that would…” Her voice trailed after him as he sprinted up the stairs.

Something to do. Thank god. Maybe after he found Vanya, they could go through the records together. He didn’t care much for classical music, or Dad’s old garbage. But maybe if he asked the right questions he could get Vanya rambling about the nuances of tonality and rhythm. Not having to think about his life choices for a god damn second would be a true mercy, if there ever was one.

Mom was right when she said there was neither hide nor hair of his sister. He checked her room, her studio, Mom’s reading room. Nothing. He checked the bathrooms next because, sometimes, you just wanted to take a shit in peace and when you have six siblings, that is harder said then done. He found Five instead; Who barely spared Klaus a glance away from his newspaper crossword puzzle. What a boring, old man.

Clearly, he would have to get more creative with his search. Their home wasn’t the Winchester Mansion, but it did come with it’s fair share of nooks and crannies. While perusing a vacant room on the second floor, Klaus heard something. There was a muffled creaking of wood above his head. It migrated in short bursts from one end of the room to the outer wall.

The attic was hardly his favorite place, with it’s dry air and itchy, exposed insulation. Regardless, Klaus made his way up the second flight of stairs. He tip toed to avoid any potential rusty, upturned nails like the one he had encountered when he was eight. As he rounded the corner of the naked wall studs, something skittered down the wood.

“Jesus, fuck!” He jumped.

There was a sharp gasp and the creaking of floor boards. Allison stood in front of the window at the far end of the room. Luther’s oversized hoodie almost hid the hand she was holding behind her back. But really, who did she think she was fooling?

“Oh…Klaus. It’s just you.” She relaxed, revealing the lit cigarette she had been hiding.

“Oooooo, you smokin’.” Klaus teased. Looking Allison over, the ‘house slippers and sweatpants’ ensemble seemed an odd choice for his most stylish sibling. But then again, no one was going outside in that absolute bullshit weather.

“Shhh, quiet.” She sat down beneath the window sill. “If Pogo finds out, he’ll tell Luther.”

“Not to mention give you, the look.” Klaus pursed his lips and gave her a disappointed stare beneath his brow.

Allison giggled before taking a drag. She gave her brother a quick once over as he sat down. “What are you doing up here, by the way?”

“I can’t meander in my own home?” Klaus feigned at being scandalized.

“There is no meandering up here, Klaus. You are terrified of those spiders.”

“And with good reason. Have you seen those things lately? They’re like mega fauna from the Mesozoic era. What has Ben been feeding them?”

“Why do you think it’s Ben?” She laughed.

“Because, you remember when we were kids, Five and Diego would capture spiders and-“

“Put them in our beds. Yes. And I remember the ass whooping I gave Diego later.”

“Yeah, well, Ben would collect them from my room after and catalogue them in those little glass cases. Like the ones we’ve got in the library? Half of that’s probably from him. And everyone still thinks I’m the creepy one.”

“How come he never collected them from my room?” Allison whined.

“Because you didn’t insist on sleeping in his bed until he did it.”

“That’s right. I almost forgot you were such a prima donna. Hey!”

Klaus snatched the cigarette from her fingers and took a drag.

“You’re not supposed to be having this anyways.” He mumbled around the filter. “Looks like you’ve already had plenty.” He pointed to the tiny tea plate above them on the window frame. Numerous butts were mashed together at it’s center. They had become damp with the spray of the rain falling from the roofs overhang.

Allison sighed and worked a hand through her tight curls. “I’m just a little stressed, is all.”

“Oh?” Klaus blew the smoke away from her face, scooting closer until they were shoulder to shoulder. “Pray tell.”

“Luther and I got in to a fight.”

“Unfathomable.” He took a drag. Allison slapped his knee. “Kidding, I’m kidding. Continue.”

“Ever since Dad left and Luther inherited the house, it’s kinda felt like, the old him has come back? I know you see it too.” They shared a sober look. Even with the flawless foundation, Klaus knew his sister’s face well enough to see the exhaustion about her eyes. “He feels like he always has to be in control, like he can’t ever ask for help or admit when he has no idea what he’s doing.”

“Wow, you and Diego should start a podcast.” He looked away.

“He puts so much pressure on himself, like that presentation he’s been preparing for the astronomy convention? Luther spent months on it. I knew that he wanted it to be perfect, so Ben and I offered to help. But he refused and when Ben began explaining things to him, he just…totally blew up at us.”

Was that why Ben had been so crabby lately, Klaus wondered. Why would Ben get involved in the first place? Something wasn’t making sense.

“But…you guys don’t do space shit, right?” Klaus reached back to ash in the dish. “Or is Ben double dipping on his major and didn’t think to tell me?”

Allison pilfered the cigarette from between his fingers and took a drag. “I’m not talking about ‘space shit’, Klaus. I’m talking about Power Point.”

Klaus’ eye went wide. “No…”

“Yes.” She exhaled with the smoke.

“How bad was it?”

“Unironic use of comic sans bad.”

Klaus had to hold his mouth with both hands to keep from laughing too loud. Thank god he had at least one sibling with basic meme knowledge. “Oh no, Alli. Tell me you didn’t send him off with that. Wait! No! Tell me you did. That’s much more hilarious.”

“Ben copied the file and made some…Improvements. I swapped them out on Luther’s laptop before he left for the airport this morning. He can thank me later.”

“What a devious thing for you to do, sister.” Klaus gasped. “I respect that.”

“Is that why you and I get along so well?”

“Eh, I’d say it’s because we have similar taste in lip gloss, but, yeah sure, respect and all that too.” Klaus took the cigarette back from her when she offered.

Allison leaned away and reviewed his features. “How are you doing with all of this, by the way?”

He should really get back to searching for Vanya, Klaus thought. Getting a status update from Allison was great and all, but he really didn’t have time to play a game of twenty questions.

“With what?” Klaus blinked. Maybe if he played dumb he could find a way to wiggle out unscathed.

“Just, all of the changes that have been happening recently? Vanya’s going on tour soon. I know Ben’s been really busy with school. And Diego…” She puffed air through her lips. “He has been so stressed since his promotion.”

Klaus trained his features to remain neutral.

“I know it can get really easy for everyone to get caught up in their own shit. I just want to make sure we don’t lose track of you, is all.” The soft pads of her fingers grazed his knuckles as she slid her hand over his.

Should he feel grateful for the concern? Or hurt by the sentiment of it? Klaus couldn’t decide. Why did Allison feel like she had to ‘keep track’ of him? Like he was a child at an amusement park. He would get lost in the crowd if someone wasn’t holding his hand.

“Dawww, that’s so sweet of you, Alli.” He leaned on to her shoulder and nuzzled. “But you don’t need to worry about me. I’m doing just fine.”

“You’d tell me if you weren’t, right?” His sister’s eyes were hyper focused on his, searching for any measure of insincerity. A flash of light caught on the shimmering highlighter over her high cheek bones.

The two of them peeked over the window sill. Black clouds were rolling in over the horizon. Tendrils of lightning flashed within them.

“Mom said the lighting wasn’t supposed to start till 4pm.”

“I don’t think the storm cares what Mom says.” Allison replied.

A gust of wind whistled outside. Water dripping from the roofs overhang flew in through the window. Klaus and Allison dodged to either side of the wall to keep from getting splashed.

Klaus took his last drag and rushed to stamp the cigarette out in a small puddle forming on the tea plate.

“We should go, befor-“

A boom reverberated in the distance. The single light bulb above them flickered. It reminded Klaus too much of the brown outs he witness from street lights and bedroom lamps. The sting of panic blossomed in his chest. All those years of practice and he still dreaded an unexpected apparition. What the hell.

Klaus clambered to his feet, taking his sister’s hand and pulling her up.

“Klaus, woah!”

He dragged Allison along, keeping his eyes fixated on the floor. Clinging to the railing, Klaus nearly fumbled down the steps as the lights flickered again. Once downstairs, he began a brisk walk down the hallway, away from Allison.

“Hey, where are you going?” She called after him.

“Somewhere. I’ll see you at dinner. Oh, and Mom left flashlights outside our rooms.”

“Don’t we have a back up generator?”

“You can never be too prepared.” He rounded the corner, hoping she wouldn’t trail after him to continue their conversation.

Another flash of light came through the doorway of an open room. Anxious to find any sign of his other sister, Klaus peeked inside.

Mom’s room. The pastel paint of the walls and floral prints of the furniture was washed out in foreboding bluish grays. Another flash of light shined on the plethora of picture frames filling her wall and bureau space. Klaus walked forward when he spied one in particular. Picking it up, he took a closer look.

They were in the living room, Mom and him. His body was still only, seventeen maybe? Mom hadn’t aged a day. She smiled in that perfect way that she did. The way she was programmed to, he used to think, but something was there. The imperfect squint in her eyes, the awkward way she wrapped her arms around him in a rushed attempt to bring him close. Klaus felt truly loved in that moment. Something that was still so alien at the time.

His cheek was mushed against her chest, but Klaus could still see that he was smiling. In his hands was a paper he was desperately trying not to drop as he held it out to the camera. The certificate for his GED. His first big accomplishment of formal education. Everyone had been so proud. Mom made a special dinner and Vanya had ordered a three tier cake. Klaus ate it for an entire week. Five complained non-stop about finding edible glitter all over the house.

Klaus chuckled at the memories, before the pain of shame and disappointment burned under his skin. The picture frame was slapped face down on the dresser.

Another flash, swiftly accompanied by thunder. The house vibrated ever so slightly. The walk in closet door to his right creaked open a crack, showing nothing but pitch black inside. Klaus’ muscles twitched. There wasn’t anything in there. Klaus would be able to sense it. Nevertheless, he backed out of the room and walked away with a faster than a casual pace.

He headed towards the back of the house away from their bedrooms and, hopefully, away from Allison.

The thunder boomed again. It was getting closer. There was another sound of a muffled impact. Klaus slowed. It wasn’t thunder, but much closer. Looking up the hall, there was a yellow light spilling out of a wide doorway. A chain rattled and something squeaked like sneakers on lacquered floor. Oh god. The gym. Should Klaus turn back? He would have to completely back track around the front of the house and risk seeing Allison and her probing questions again. Maybe he could just sneak by, Klaus thought. He was pretty good at sneaking.

Walking slow, hugging the opposite wall, Klaus focused all his energy on rolling his feet heel to toe. The impact on the floor was minimal, keeping his footsteps virtually silent. He had just begun stepping in to the light from the doorway when the foundation of the house shook with another crash of thunder. Klaus flinched and stilled.

Around the very edge of the threshold he could see Diego, panting in his sweat drenched t-shirt, clutching both sides of the black punching bag. His wrapped hands kept it in place while the house settled. Diego waited a beat, cocking an ear up to the ceiling. When the thunder didn’t come again, he released the bag. Turning his body to the side and bringing his fists up chin and cheek, Diego struck with a punishing blow that would have knocked Klaus on his ass.

Thinking Diego was properly distracted again, Klaus continued to creep. He kept his breath as slow as possible, not that Diego would’ve heard it over his own pants and grunts. But one couldn’t be too careful when sneaking past the literal rouge of the family, could they? When Klaus was fully in the square of light, he looked over to check Diego’s status again.

Diego slammed the bag with a kick before stumbling backwards. He put his hands on his knees and tried to catch his breath. Klaus wondered how long he had been at it. He thought maybe while he was looking for Vanya, he should text Mom to distract him, make sure Diego didn’t over do himself.

Diego stood up straight. He wiped the sweat from his brow back in to his hair. Grasping at the back of his red T-shirt, he pulled it clean off, then tossed it to the side. Klaus watched as Diego stretched.

Washboard abs had never been a priority in their family; They had very little practicality, Five had explained to Klaus once, and Diego was no show pony by any means. He was all thick, lean waist and broad shoulders, his arms being his crowning achievement. Pure muscle roping around his bones from shoulder to wrist. Klaus could feel the strength whenever he got too excited and picked Klaus up to spin around. He missed that kind of enthusiasm, if he was being honest.

Klaus looked away. He picked his left foot up to keep creep.

“Ahhhhhhhhhhh!”

The scream erupted from his throat at maximum volume. He pressed himself flat against the wall, scrambling for anything to hold on to. The house continued to quake and the entire hall had gone dark without a moments notice.

“Klaus?” Diego called out, but it sounded strained.

“I’m here.”

“You good?” Diego seemed to grit through his teeth.

“Um, yeah. How ‘bout you?”

“Yeah, I um,” There was the sound of fumbling, then a slap and a sneaker squeak. “Ah, fuck.”

“Diego? You okay?”

“The punching bag knocked me on my ass. I-“ There was a hiss. “I think I hit my head.”

“Hang on. Don’t move.” Klaus patted around in his pockets, then his shirt… then his underwear. Where was his phone? He thought he put it in his pocket before leaving the library. Dear god, don’t tell him he lost it in the attic or some shit. The spiders must have stolen it. Without his phone, Klaus had no flashlight. But he did have an idea. So he stumbled out in to the open waters of the darkness anyway.

“Don’t we have a back up generator?” Diego groaned.

“I think everyone just thinks we have a back up generator. Like we all collectively assumed someone else went out to buy one. Or maybe it’s like the Mandela effect? Where a bunch of people watched his funeral broadcast on national television even though he was still alive.”

“What. The. Fuck. Are you talking about?”

“Collective fabricated memories, Diego. It’s a real thing. And If I keep talking maybe my voice will bounce off the walls and come back to me. Then I’ll be able to tell where you are.” Stumbling inch by inch with his arms outstretched, Klaus wasn’t quite sure if he had entered the gym. He hadn’t hit a wall yet though, so there was that.

“You are not seriously trying to use echolocation, are you?”

“Do you have a better idea!?” Klaus flailed his arms in frustration.

“Not…really…” Diego groaned. Klaus could hear something shifting on the floor a few feet away.

He stopped. Diego had been a professional vigilante once. He lived for dark and scary places. Why wasn’t he getting up? Exactly how hurt was he? Growing impatient to reach his friend, Klaus decided to try a new approach. He shook out his wrists and tried to focus.

For a split second, his palms glowed blue, then flickered out before he could survey the room. He tried again, but it was the same. “God dammit, this isn’t…ugh…” Klaus muttered to himself.

“Would it help if you focused on something?” Diego suggested.

“Yes, but I can’t see anything.”

“You got anything on you, like, keys maybe?”

Klaus searched his pockets again, but came up empty. Finding his keys would have to be yet another fetch quest to add to the list. Great. None of his usual jewelry had made it in to his wardrobe on that day either. All he had was his ratty yellow tank top, jeans and

“Perfect!” He hopped on one leg as he made a frantic attempt to rip a shoe off his foot. The old converse was tied a little too well for once and he almost fell over, but dammit, he got it. Having an object in hand, Klaus trained his focus. His hand was coated in a thin, blue glow as the shoe began to hover just an inch above his palm. The light was faint, but it was more then he had before. It at least gave him the confidence to step forward without worrying he would smash in to a wall.

“Diego?” One small, uneven step at a time, Klaus moved in to the room.

“Right in front of you. Keep comin’.”

Klaus shuffled a little faster until he could make out the shape of Diego’s broad body sitting on the floor. He waved him over. Klaus crotched down beside him and held the shoe up close to his face.

“Could you not?” Diego leaned away.

“I’m just trying to see if you’re bleeding.” Klaus rotated Diego’s head with his free hand.

“I’m fine, my arm took the brunt of the fall. Just a little dizzy now.”

“You could still have a concussion though.” He felt around in Diego’s sweaty, short hair for cuts or tender spots. Anything that might insinuate he had sustained a more serious injury. Nothing came of it except for Diego humming low as he appreciated Klaus’ light touch on the skin of his scalp. “You seem fine.” Klaus tried to retract his hand before he could hear any more sounds.

Diego caught his wrist and placed his palm back on his head. He rested his forehead on Klaus’ shoulder and sighed. “Keep doin’ that for a sec?”

“Um, yeah, sure.” Klaus responded without thinking. His left hand went dark and he placed the shoe back on the floor. Then, using both hands, he grazed his nails through Diego’s hair at a slow pace.

Diego took a deep breath and sighed again, leaning on to Klaus with the weight of his upper body. Either Diego was more hurt then he thought he was, or something else was going on. It was rare for him to pursue physical affection so unprompted.

Klaus almost asked, but then he remembered he wasn’t really all that interested. If Diego wanted to talk, then far be it Klaus’ responsibility to pry it out of him.

Klaus tried to get his body to relax as Diego wrapped his arms around his waist, but it just wasn’t happening. Fingers mused at Diego’s hair by themselves, while Klaus wondered how much longer he was going to have to be there. How much time was it appropriate to let pass before it wasn’t suspicious for him to leave? Diego said he was dizzy, would that mean he needed help getting to the infirmary? What if the lights didn’t come back on? He really did not want to be Diego’s chaperone, using up what little mental energy he had left to make a makeshift flashlight for them.

There was another thunder strike. Not on top of them, like the other had seemed to be, but close enough to make the house rumble. The wind whipped at the exterior walls and the rain clattering against the shutters.

Looking around, Klaus noticed just the tiniest sliver of gray peeking through a broken slat in one of the window shutters behind them. He squinted but couldn’t make out much more of the piece of décor. Still, if he could see it, he could direct some focus on to it. Pulling a hand from Diego’s head, he stretched it towards the window.

It would’ve been better if he could see the latch on the shutters, then maybe he could open them. He was no good at sending a telekinetic push like Vanya. Even if he was, he had to be careful not to break the glass. His hand glowed the same translucent blue as before but it…just….wasn’t going anywhere. The light became brighter, but it also began to prickle at his skin.

Forced to give up before the full on burn began, he decided to instead try comforting Diego a bit more earnestly.

“What’s been goin’ on with you lately?” Diego asked.

Klaus froze. Oh come the fuck on!

Something clicked. Klaus and Diego cried out and buried their faces in to the crook of each other’s shoulder, blinded by the yellow lights above them.

“So I guess we do have a back up generator.” Klaus blinked. His eyes did their best to readjust.

“Son of a bitch.” Diego wiped at his eyes as he took stock of his surroundings.

Klaus extracted himself from Diego’s hold, pushing the floor to stand. “You can walk on your own?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Diego grunted as he made his way to his feet. He rolled his right shoulder and rubbed at his elbow. A long bruise had already begun to discolor his forearm. He’d be fine though, nothing he hasn’t dealt with before, Klaus knew.

“Good. Awesome. Get some rub or whatever from the infirmary, I’ll see you later.” Klaus smiled, making finger guns as he walked backwards out of the gym.

“Hey. Where are you…“ Diego trailed off in to a frustrated sigh as he booked it down the hall.

Klaus kept his pace rushed and checked over his shoulder while he walked, making sure Diego wasn’t following him. Hopefully, his body ached too much to give chase. Rounding the corner of the corridor to the very back of the house, Klaus heard a light, high pitched noise.

“Finally.” He rolled his eyes and sighed.

A low, drawn out note guided Klaus down the hall. The music descended down a flight of heavier tones as he made his way to a hardwood door left ajar. The pads of his fingers eased the door open enough for him to slide inside.

The barren state of the room made it feel expansive but hollow. The only furniture being a metal fold out chair and a singular book stand holding abandoned sheet music. Tall, naked windows lined the far wall, facing in to the courtyard. Rain slapped at the glass panes, providing a fitting undertone for his sister’s melancholy music.

Vanya stood with her back to him. The silhouette of her body and the violin only outlined by the overcast light from outside. She swayed in rhythm with the push and pull of her bow. It was beautiful to watch. It had always been beautiful, the rest of her family had simply taken far too long to notice.

Klaus leaned against the back wall to watch. He may not have cared for classical music, but watching Vanya play never proved to be less then soothing. Until the light hum of a pitch higher then Vanya’s notes pressed his ears. He tried to ignore it, but as Vanya played faster, the frequency became stronger. Her volume increased. The air began to feel as though it was pushed out of the room. Klaus’ head ached as a pressure pushed at his temples.

Becoming uncomfortable with the sensation, Klaus focused and swatted a glowing hand at the air as if it were a fly. It was a stupid mistake, done on reflex. The pressure dissipated as the frequency was rejected from his space. It gave a sharp ring as it reverberated off the walls. There was a crack as fissures sliced through a few window panes.

Vanya’s practice literally screeched to a halt. Her long hair sprawled as she whipped around. She held her bow up to her opposite shoulder, glowing white hot and ready to strike.

“Wait!” Klaus flinched. He held his hands up and crouched. They had never tested whether he could deflect a direct hit from her.

“Oh…” Vanya gasped. “Klaus. I-I’m sorry. I thought.” She dropped her bow to her side, the power fading as she took a shaky breath. “I forgot that you could do that.”

“Uh, yeah, so did I.” Klaus own voice shook, not just at the fear of getting hit but at the exertion of his own power. “Sorry.”

“It’s alright.” She shrugged. “At least we didn’t end up on the floor this time, or…shattering the windows.” Her bottom lip pulled down in a dramatic grimace at the memory.

Klaus looked at the large cracks in the window panes.

“Did you need something or was my practice bothering you?”

“No! no. It’s just, Mom and I have been looking for you. She wanted help going through Dad’s tired old records. But you weren’t in any of your regular haunts so, being the master scavenger hunter of the family, I offered my services to help.”

“Uh huh.” She gave him a dubious side eye.

“I must admit, it was quite a challenge. What are you doing in here?”

“Allison emptied out the room to redecorate. I wanted to test out the acoustics. Before she filled it with post-modern garbage that is.” She looked at Klaus and flinched. “Please, don’t tell her I said that.”

“I see you’re not a big fan of her little ‘renovations’ either?”

“I just, why couldn’t it be something useful? Like moving our bedrooms farther apart? At least then I wouldn’t have to listen to the two of them…ya know.”

“Oh, yeah. Ever since Wallgate twenty-nineteen, it’s been non-stop.”

“Right?!” She walked to her violin case on the floor to her right and situated the instrument inside.

“So why don’t you make this your bedroom instead?” Klaus inspected the room. “You don’t need the walk in closet, but there is a lot of good natural lighting. Perfect for someone with depression, or taking selfies.” He shrugged.

“Yeah, maybe I’ll talk to her. I just feel like…This is more of their house now then it is ours, you know?” She slipped the case closed, picking it up by the handle as she stood.

Given Allison’s well established soft spot for Vanya, Klaus was confident his two sisters could work something out. But…. What if they couldn’t?

“You could move out?”

She blinked at him, as though the thought had never crossed her mind. “That’s a bit extreme, don’t you think?”

“You wouldn’t have to worry about Allison’s post modern garbage, or Luther and Diego’s fights, or Ben going nuts every time you type in the library.”

“He does not ‘go nuts’, he lectures….for an hour.”

“You could bring home whoever you wanted without Allison rumoring them in to spilling all their dirty laundry.”

“And who was it that rifled through the last girl’s purse to check her ID?”

“And found out it was fake, plus Mom’s pearl necklace.” Klaus crossed his arms. “You’re welcome, by the way.” He did not understand how Vanya could still be so naïve, especially after what happened with ‘Leonard’ or whatever the hell his name was.

“Well, what if The Commission comes after us again? Five said it’s still a possibility.”

“Five is a paranoid, old man. Besides, it’s been a year. Don’t you think they would have come after us again by now? Or maybe they finally took the hint after we’ve been kicking their asses for fifteen years.”

Vanya sighed, then she froze and looked up at him again. “Why are you so adamant about this?”

The wind lashed at the house’ exterior. The windows creaked at the force of the gust. Klaus watched from over Vanya’s shoulder as one of the cracks elongated in a jagged formation. Maybe he should get some duct tape for that, he thought.

“Oh,” Klaus worked a hand through his hair. “No particular reason. I just thought it would be a nice change of pace for-“

“Klaus.”

“I’m moving out and I need a roommate.” He sighed.

“Excuse me?” Vanya dropped her violin case. Klaus flinched at the sound. “Why? When?” The rate at which she walked toward him made Klaus back up. She grabbed his biceps the second he was in reach, holding him in place.

There was a flash. The thunder followed a few seconds behind.

“Did something happen? What’s wrong?” Vanya seemed unaffected by the rumbling of their home.

“Wha-Nothing’s wrong. Why do you all think something’s wrong?”

“So Ben doesn’t like this either?” She straightened, giving him a pensive expression.

“Why does that matter? Why is his opinion second to godliness when it comes to all thing Klaus?”

“That’s a rhetorical question.” Vanya let him go. “Just talk to me? Please?”

“Ughhh, I just want some god damn in-de-pen-dence, okay? I didn’t get to be like the rest of you. I didn’t have a day job and a nice apartment. I just want my own home.”

“I thought we were your home.”

The rain started coming in sheets with the wind. Rhythmically slapping at the foundation.

Klaus’ stomach dropped and his shoulders went slack. “You think this is about you?”

“I think that you left without saying goodbye, and we never fully recovered.” She gave a tender touch to his arm. A secondary flash of lightning reflected in her dark, dewy eyes.

‘You were abandoning us.’

Klaus prickled. Something in the room snapped but he didn’t care to look for what. He pulled away from his sister’s touch. “Why does everything I do need to be about how you guys feel?”

“Klaus, that’s not-“

“Never mind, whatever, this doesn’t matter.” He turned away for the door. “Mom wanted me to find you. I found you. Mission complete. I don’t know why she didn’t just text you, for fuck’s sake.”

“Klaus, wait!” Vanya touched his back.

He whirled around, ready to spit venom.

Light flooded the room. There was a splintering crack and a boom that vibrated through out every inch of Klaus’ body.

The floor shook.

Vanya lost her balance.

Klaus couldn’t hear her body hit the floor over the high pitched screech of shattering glass.

Klaus jumped to cover Vanya with his body as huge shards flew in to the room. He laid across her torso, holding one hand up to protect his own face.

The room exploded in a cacophony of ear splitting clatters while the shards fell to the rumbling floor.

It wasn’t until the foundation settled did Klaus begin to breath again. It wasn’t until Vanya nudged his shoulder and insisted he look up did he have the courage to open his eyes. Fully prepared to find jagged fragments piercing his sister’s legs, he peeked.

Huge shards of glass hung motionless in the air a few feet in front of them. Their sharp edges outlined by the flash of a lighting strike.

“Your hand, Klaus.”

Klaus looked at his right hand, still held up in front of him. His palm was incased in the same thin light, which was quickly becoming too hot to sustain. He dropped his hand and shook it out to cool down. The glass dropped straight to the floor from where they hung.

Vanya sat up after Klaus rolled off of her. “Your telekinesis is so much more useful then mine.” She griped.

“Umm…yeah…about that.” Klaus gritted out.

“Oh, shit.” Vanya whispered, gaping at the shard caught in the side of Klaus’ thigh.

“So much for useful.”

Chapter Text

Thump, thump, thump.
"Klaus?"

 

Thump, thump, thump.
"Klaus."

 

"What?"

"I'm leaving in twenty. Better be ready if you want a ride."

Pain pressed Klaus’ temples, reaching towards the back of his scalp, while needles pricked at his eyes as he pried them open. He rolled over to face the door. His muscles ached, wrung out like wet towels.

Through the window, a pale blue stripe gradated in to the room. Everything was shrouded in dark vignettes, save for the edge the light carved against the amber ashtray on his coffee table.

Encased by the clouded smell of old cotton and irradiated in the warmth of his blanket cocoon, Klaus was tempted to disregard Diego’s words. Looking at his alarm clock on the bedside table, it's electric green numbers stung at his eyes.

Five O'clock, it said.

Five O'clock.

Why would Diego wake him up so -

Oh shit.

The comforter proved a formidable foe as Klaus wrestled to escape it's grasp, rolling off the bed.

There was a snap - his headphones. Damn it.

Slithering out of the blankets, the well worn area rug chaffed at his bare chest. He hissed at the sudden clutch of pain in his thigh, the blanket had caught at the raised edge of his stitches. Easing out, he scooted to the coffee table. He snatched the half full pack of cigarettes, it's sides bowed in from being crushed in to his jacket pockets.

He glimpsed at the clock. Five-oh-five, it said. Only fifteen more minutes. If he didn’t take Diego’s offer, he would have to take the bus. He would be late, again. The ache of his muscles flared at his resigned sigh. Time to be responsible. The cigarettes were tossed back on to the table.

Fresh underwear. Dog tags. He sniffed at a baby blue button up shirt, still clean. Fuck the undershirt. Disinfectant and adhesive bandage for his wound. The black jeans were a little too big, but they were the only pants that didn’t strangle his legs. The dark suspenders helped to keep them up.

In the bathroom, he splashed cold water over his face. Wiping any remnants of makeup from the day before was of critical importance. Using the remaining water on his hands, Klaus tried to reset the chicken feathers of his wavy, chestnut hair. It at least looked like he tried.

Mom met him in the foyer. The patina of her golden curls and laser cut edges of her lipstick made Klaus feel greasy by comparison.

"Good morning, sweetie. I’ve made you lunch. Chicken and spinach sandwich, along with an orange and carrot sticks. Don’t forget, you need to keep a high protein and vitamin diet if you want that wound to heal faster."

"Mother, you are a saint." Klaus slipped on his work sneakers, grabbed his jacket, and snatched the brown paper bag from her hands.

“Stay away from those doughnuts, and don’t have too much caffeine.”

He waved over his shoulder as he left.

Diego's car was parked on the street out front. The same 1980's, metallic dark green Buick he owned in their past life. The Exact. Same. One. Complete with the engine that rumbled like a tired, old man getting up from his chair.

Diego rested back in the driver's seat, one hand on the wheel and the other scruffing the passenger's seat headrest. He watched Klaus' approach from under his brow with budgeted impatience. Diego said twenty minutes, it had been twenty-five.

Klaus nestled in to the passenger's seat, resting his bag on the floor.

“Wow, a blue tie. Really diversifying the portfolio there, Di.” He gestured to Diego’s whole outfit. Black pants, black button up, black canvas jacket. There was undoubtedly a black knife holster and bullet proof vest under there too. “I’m still surprised they let you wear the leather pants.”

"Being part of the Umbrella Academy has it’s privileges.”

"For some of us.” Klaus breathed.

"Mom made you lunch again?" Diego cast a glance at the paper bag while he shifted gears. The engine blustered as the car pulled away from the curb.

"She doesn't make you lunch?"

"No, cus I'm a grown ass man."

"Of course.” Klaus peeled a post it note off the side of Diego’s travel mug resting in the center console cup holder.

‘I love you. Be safe’ with a coral kiss mark, dangled in front of Diego’s face until he snatched it - throwing it as a crumpled ball in to the back seat.

Klaus snickered.

He reached in to the pockets of his leather jacket, wincing when he found them empty. He had forgotten his cigarettes on the coffee table. Amazing! What a start to the day. He rifled through his bag, but sure as shit, no sweet nicotine in there either.

“Check your breast pocket.” Diego said.

Klaus gasped when he produced another crushed pack of smokes from the inner breast pocket of his jacket. “How did you know?”

“You always forget stuff in there.”

“See, this is why I’m always wearing these oversized coats. The potential for finding goodies left by your past self is endless.” Clawing in to the white and gold packaging, Klaus found only two cigarettes huddled together in the corner, twisted but not broken. He shrugged. He’d take what he could get.

Lighting one up, he rolled down the foggy window. The collar of his jacket required some adjusting as the crisp breeze scraped at his cheeks and neck. He relaxed in to the suede cushions, watching red tail lights illuminate the concrete and storefront windows as cars passed them by.

Every other morning, it was Klaus and Diego, driving to work together at the most ungodly hour - tired and quiet and miserable. Klaus smoking his cigarettes. Diego taking strategic sips of coffee at every red light. The stillness of the city at that hour made it feel dreamlike. The only time of day Klaus’ mind wasn't running circles around him at ten-thousand miles an hour.

"Ya know, you look kinda weird when you dress normal." Diego said.

"Excuse me?" Klaus squinted at him.

He just had to ruin the moment, didn’t he?

"Why don’t you get done up for work? Pretty waitresses pull better tips, right?”

"I'm a gay twink, working at a donut diner. I'm not every patron’s ideal 'pretty waitress'."

"You’re still pretty, though."

Klaus nearly bit through his cigarette filter.

"We all know that, Diego." Klaus crossed his legs and flicked his wrist. "But not every employer is fond of the way I choose to exploit that. I’d actually like to keep this job, so I thought I’d take Luther’s advice instead.”

"And what advice was that?" Diego feigned at innocent curiosity.

"That perhaps I should learn to...'tone it down'."

Diego huffed. A rhino about to charge. “There's nothing wrong with the way you look."

"He was right. I've had this job for...what? Three months now?”

"Klaus, they can't fire you for wearing make up."

"No, but they can make my life a living hell, wait for me to screw up, and then fire me." Klaus lulled his head toward Diego. “You know, the same kind of shit you’re scared of.”

Diego worked his jaw, but said nothing.

The car pulled up to the curb outside Griddy's Doughnuts. Klaus collected his bag into his lap, prepared to make a swift exit. He leaned over the center console, just a few inches from Diego’s face.

"There's a certain kind of privilege that comes with being comfortable in the closet. Isn't that why you're still there?"

Diego’s nostrils flared.

Gotcha' bitch.

Klaus twisted an acerbic grin, slinking out of the car.

How much Klaus pulled for tips was none of Diego’s god damn business, and hopefully, he’d been too distracted by Klaus’ Luther comment to think about it again.

He turned away and, taking the last sweet drag of his cigarette, walked toward the restaurant. The rumble of the engine behind him flared up, then faded off in to the distance.

Neon piping buzzed overhead. Open before nearly every other restaurant that side of the river, those pink and yellow lights were a beacon. Calling to every third shifter in need of a re-up, and elderly church group hoping for an early bird special.

The trill of the bell atop the door frame had Klaus wincing as he walked in. The white fluorescents stabbing at his eyes had him missing the dull, piss colored lights the place had during his childhood. But the new bulbs were more energy efficient, or so Wendy had told him.

Wendy emerged from the kitchen. A massive doughnut tray held steady as she hefted it to the display rack. Bulging baker’s arms strained the sleeves of her powder pink dress.

“You’re late.”

“Welcome back, how are you feeling, Klaus?” He approached the counter. “I’m tired as hell. How are you, Wendy?”

The tray hit the back of the display rack with an aggressive clang. Wendy glowered, her narrow eyes and round cheeks sagging. Even the manufactured slope of her dark bob hair-do seemed too tired to give a shit.

“Also tired as hell, but you don’t see me complaining about it. Now get ready.”

Klaus rolled his eyes, walking down the hall to the office. It reminded Klaus of an interrogation room, with it’s near burnt out ceiling lights and the metal desk with corners that could crack your skull.

From the black cube shelving at the back of the room, Klaus pulled his work accessories from his cubby, marked with an upside-down smiley face sticker. He tied the black apron around his waist and pinned the plastic name tag on his shirt as straight as he could manage. He began rolling up his sleeves, but spotted the umbrella tattoo on his forearm.

“Welcome back, buddy!”

Klaus quickly pulled his sleeves down.

Luke peaked in to the hall before closing the door. Turning back to Klaus, the light caught on the squares of his teeth as he grinned.

“Thank god, you’re finally back.” Heavy palms clapped on to Klaus' shoulders. Luke slouched and Klaus lean back so they could stand eye to eye. He could smell the cooking oil and dish soap that stained the apron tied around Luke’s neck.

"At least someone’s happy to see me.” Klaus said. “Wendy wants to stuff me in a burlap sack and throw me over a bridge.”

"Some wild shit’s happened while you been gone. She's just about ready to light the place up and collect the insurance."

"Like that window?"

"Amongst other things. You see me cuttin’ onions a lot, it’s so I can have a stress cry without anyone noticing. I need you, buddy." He shook Klaus gently.

"It’s an honor to be your emotional support waitress.” Klaus tapped his bicep.

“Boys!" Wendy opened the door. "A little help. Please.”

The two men hustled out of the office to the kitchen.

“Klaus, take those out front.” She pointed to a tray of donuts on the table at the center of the room. “Luke, dishwashers done. I’d check the skillets again before you use them though.”

“What’s even the point in having a dishwasher then?” Klaus said.

Lifting the tray, pain darted across his thigh. His fingers stuttered, losing their grip.

The tray tumbled out of his hands.

A blue glow.

It stopped.

Klaus’ palms braced the bottom.

The tingling in his fingers dissipated.

The tray resumed it’s full weight.

Doughnuts settled back on to the wax paper.

Klaus took a deep breath.

“The hell was that?” Wendy said.

Shit, had she seen anything?

“You still hurtin’, buddy?” Luke asked.

“What? No. It’s fine. I can work. I just have to take it easy.”

“‘Taking it easy’ isn’t going to be an option today.” Wendy said. “Brittany called out, which means you’re staying until close.”

“A whole twelve hour shift? Is that even legal?” Klaus whined.

“If I give you a break it is. And If you get hurt, I am not paying for it. You understand me?”

“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.”

“Don’t talk to me like that. You’re the one who decided to come back early. Now get your ass out there - Start making coffee.”

Klaus rushed out of the kitchen, down the hall and back behind the counter. Flinching, he dropped the unwieldy tray on to the display rack. It wasn’t the pain from the wound that bothered him, so much as the unpredictability of when it spiked. He could never brace himself.

Resetting the jostled doughnuts, they felt like memory foam pillows in his hands. Shining with glaze and frosting, Klaus lusted over the double chocolates. Would anyone notice if one went missing?

Glancing around, Klaus noticed a newspaper held up at the counter, a pair of exhausted eyes peering at him over the edge.

"Not you..." Klaus muttered. "How did you even get in?"

"Door was unlocked." Franklin’s bulldog jowls shook as he spoke. “Thought they fired you.”

“Me? Fired?” Klaus put a hand to his chest. “With my beautiful face and congenial personality? Perish the thought.”

"Where's the other girl? She's a dipshit too, but at least she's pretty."

A strangled noise eked out of Klaus' throat as he muzzled himself.

"Hey there, Franklin!" Luke smiled through the window to the kitchen. "Getting your usual today?"

"Same as always." Franklin turned the page of his filthy, crinkled newspaper. Had he pulled it out of the trash?

"Great! We’re just settin’ up shop, give us a sec and we'll have that right up for ya."

Franklin grumbled.

'Thank you' Klaus mouthed.

Luke gave him a wink.

Klaus booted up the coffee maker. Mugs on the rack clinked together as the whole counter quaked with a monstrous rumble. While the machine warmed up, it was time to clean the dinning room. Dozens of orange chairs, plywood tables and cushioned booths needed to be wiped down and restocked. Ideally, it should have been done the night before, but Klaus somehow doubted that.

Set the napkins and place mats? Check.

Fill the sugar dispensers? Check.

Restock little jelly packets?

“The hell is that?”

Klaus was just about to check the task off his list when Franklin interrupted. He flipped his notebook over in his hands to see what Franklin was pointing at.

‘Charlie, Window washer. Died 1987 - Fell from scaffolding’ was scribbled next to a graphite drawing of a heavy set man with one side of his body crushed in. Colored pencils highlighted blood and fractured bones in white and fire truck red.

“College art project.” Klaus clapped his notebook shut.

“Fuckin’ weirdo.”

A few regulars began to trickle in while Klaus cleaned up behind the counter, restocking a series of supplies.

Gurtie, a sixty-two year old nurse who deserved to retire, but was trapped in the kind of financial situation that would never allow it.

Arnold, who was fifty-five and apparently had a problem with his cholesterol. He kept asking Klaus 'not to tell his doctor he was here'.

And then....There was them.

Between the knifelike trill of the bell and the full bodied sound of their jabbering, Klaus' migraine carved the back of his skull.

"Your favorite people are here." Luke said. The stove top sizzled as he cracked a fresh egg.

"You remember their regulars?"

"Already got em’ started."

The gaggle of grannies never waited for Klaus to seat them. Congregating around a series of tables – in the center of the restaurant, between his and Wendy’s sections – They shifted from foot to foot, cordial at the sight of their inconvenience.

"Yoohoo! Klausy!" Prudence waved to him.

As always, he adjoined two tables so the seven of them could sit together. There used to be eight grannies, but only Klaus could see Florence anymore. No need for menus, it was the same order every Friday. 'Friendship Fridays' they called it, making Klaus want to gag.

Putting in the order with Luke, Klaus took sanctuary behind the counter. He avoided the elderly like the Westboro Baptist Church. Their perceived obligations to make long winded small talk were unbearable, but even more so were the things they brought with them.

It was reasonable to assume that anyone over the age of sixty had witnessed death. Family, friends, lovers, comrades - Veterans being the worst. The grannies had their fair share of losses, and Klaus was not so bitter as to feel unsympathetic towards them - Except her.

Agatha was an eighty seven year old retiree, with clip on earing and atrociously colored blazers. She was also a liar, a cheater, and a murderer.

Her husband, Clifford, ambled along side her at all times, mumbling profanities and impossible promises of violence. He had died young, thirties, tops. He had a full head of blonde hair and the kind of broad shouldered Army body Klaus had come to recognize. Spit, foam, and some sort of residue collected in the corners of his mouth and dripped down his chin.

From what Klaus had gathered, Agatha had poisoned Clifford to be with another man. She mentioned before that her current husband had been in the military. More than likely a comrade or superior officer of Clifford’s, who had swept her off her feet.

Despite his inadequacy to be moral authority, Klaus became incensed by her presence none the less. Because, okay, if she wanted to commit murder on her own time, fine. Klaus wasn't going to pretend to know the circumstances of her marriage. Maybe Clifford was a huge asshole? Who knows! But the fact that every week, he had to look her in her cataracts and serve her eggs, while her ex-husband spit filth next to his face - That shit was not fair.

He wished he could say Clifford was the worst part of his shift, but that spot was reserved for himself. As the sun came up, so too did the early risers of the world. Within an hour the dinning room became congested with both people and ghosts.

Klaus was a beached whale, floundering on the shore - Over stimulated by socialization, menial tasks, and the stretching ache of his injury. He forgot to place orders, brought food to the wrong table and, at one point, actually had to call out 'Who ordered pancakes?' only to see half the tables raise their hands. Not until almost eleven o’clock did the crowd begin to dissipate.

“Is there anything else I need to bring out?” Klaus wilted in the kitchen window.

“Nah, think that’s it, Bud. We've successfully defeated the Breakfast Crush." Luke ruffled Klaus’ hair.

"And not a moment too soon, I can see you limping."

Klaus rolled over to face the counter. “What do you want, Five?”

“A cup of coffee would be nice.”

Five’s wry smile stopped being endearing the second he became a proper adult, all limbs and sharp angles, with his pointed jaw and quaffed hair. Now, the smile just made people want to punch him.

“Fine, but I’m not the mood for ‘constructive feedback’ today.” Klaus poured his brother a cup of black coffee, placing it at the edge of Five’s newspaper on the counter.

Five took a sip and winced.

“If I didn’t know you any better, I’d say you were burning this coffee on purpose. Otherwise, how would you manage to make it so consistent."

"First of all, how dare you –“

"What's he complaining about now?" Wendy crossed her arms and lifted her chin, looking down her nose at Five.

"You're coffee is shit." Five said.

"He says your coffee's shit." Klaus said.

"If my coffee's so shit, why doesn’t he go home and make some himself?"

"She says you can fuck off, but I’d really like it if you stayed." Klaus said.

Five took a sip of his shit coffee. Klaus saw his eye twitch, just a little.

"Seriously, Wendy. When are you going to destroy that abomination?" Klaus motioned to the gurgling monstrosity that was their only coffee maker. The stainless steel of it’s body dented and very much stained with a decades worth of coffee backsplash.

"I'll buy a new coffee maker when I stop paying you to complain about it." Wendy walked away.

Klaus pressed his lips together and looked at Five as if to say 'You see what I have to deal with?'

Five took another sip, recoiled, and - in an act of desperation - reached for a cup of creamer in the dish nearby.

"Why do you keep coming here?" Klaus said.

"It's good to get out of the house every so often."

"Five, you can literally go anywhere you want."

"Yeah, well, I choose to come here." Five raised his chin.

Klaus shook his head and sighed. “What would Dolores think of you now.”

“Excuse me?”

“Your own family serves you a beverage, and you have the nerve to, not only talk smack, but lie to them too. And here, she thought you were a distinguished gentleman.”

"Never once in her life had Dolores called me that, and I’d ask you to keep her name out of your filthy mouth if I knew it would do any good.” Five pulled a pencil from the breast pocket of his suit jacket, flipping his newspaper to the crossword puzzle on the back.

Klaus watched his brother’s brow pitch and twitch as he tried to focus on the words.

Three…Two…One…

“And if you must know…”

We have lift of.

“…I wanted to speak with you about this moving out business you’ve proposed to Vanya.”

Uh oh.

"She said you asked her to be your roommate? What a spectacularly awful idea."

"And why's that?"

"Your powers cancel each other out. It’s incredibly dangerous. Your renters insurance would be through the roof.”

"Shhhh…" Klaus checked the kitchen window over his shoulder.

Luke was scrubbing a skillet in the sink on the far side of the room.

"What? These people don't know who you are? What you can do?"

Klaus leaned over the counter, crowding his brother. "And I’m not about to advertise.”

"Klaus, our family is famous."

"Was famous."

"Is famous. The Umbrella Academy never officially disbanded in this timeline, remember? Why do you think the mayor called us last week?”

“Something about a spider farm at the edge of town? I told Ben I didn’t wanna know.”

Five sighed.

"Regardless of any other issues, I don't think it's a good idea you move out at all. We're barely a year past the apocalypse’ due date."

"Not this shit again. When are you gonna let that go?"

"When I can be sure it's over. Vanya's powers may have been managed, but yours-"

"Do you really still think that I, me, Klaus, could bring on the end of days? I can barely get up in time for work."

"There’s too many open variables. Years of research that I still-“

"Last week, I couldn't even open the shutters."

"And then you saved Vanya from a hailstorm of glass."

Klaus bit his lower lip. He pushed up from the counter and turned away, working his hands in to his short hair. He was beginning to understand how Five felt trying to explain the apocalypse to their family. No one would listen. No one would understand.

"Listen, I relish in the idea of no longer being roped in to your ridiculous hi-jinx. But, I also firmly believe that now is not the time for you to be leaving us."

'Leaving us.'

The bell rang.

Klaus turned back around.

"What's it gonna take to prove myself to you, Five? Fifteen years of letting you kick my ass wasn't enough?"

Klaus grabbed a menu and pulled his order pad from his apron, walking around the counter to his latest customer in a booth against the window.

"Hey, I’m Klaus, What can I get -”

Klaus became cold concrete. His only feeling being the TV static beneath his skin.

“You alright?” The man said.

“Yeah, sorry.” Klaus shook his head.

The soda machine behind the counter shushed as Klaus fill a cup with the Diet Coke the man had ordered.

A man built of bricks, his canvas jacket strained at the shoulders and biceps. Lines beveled his skin and his cropped hair was thinning. Work gloves were crammed in his back pocket. His steel toed boots tracked in gravel stuck between the treads.

"Who’s that?" Five whispered.

"No one you need to worry about." Klaus pulled the cup away before it nearly overflowed.

"Here’s your Diet Coke, sir. Why you wouldn’t go the full Monty for a regular Coke though, is beyond me. Fake sweetener can be just as much of a killer. Did you know they can –“

“Are you gonna take my order or…”

"Yeah, yeah, right.” Klaus jotted down the man's order, flicking glances to the person next to him while he read the menu.

Arms as thin as satin curtains - littered with bruises. Her entire body was dusted with white powder and congealed in her long, black hair. Blood calcified in her nostrils, her lips were shredded against her teeth. Dark purple hand prints closeted her neck.

With eyes like a prey animal, she searched his face for any sign of recognition.

Klaus looked down to his order pad.

"You get all that, sweetheart?"

Sweetheart?

Klaus nodded, smiled, and assured him he'd have his food soon enough. He placed the paper on the sill of the kitchen window and rang the bell to alert Luke.

Five glanced between Klaus and the man over the edge of his newspaper. A new hypothesis being introduced and disregarded every minute. That is why Klaus didn’t tell Five anything – He could never leave it.

"If you want to keep an eye on me so bad, why don't you move in with me?" Klaus said.

Five snorted a laugh. He waved his empty coffee mug in front of Klaus. “Hit me.”

Klaus was tempted to take that literally.

Mr. Murder only stayed for twenty five minutes, treating Luke’s hard work like a gas station burrito. He paid in cash and told Klaus to keep the change, with a smile. A smile. Klaus didn’t take the tip, he put all the cash in the register. What if those bills had come from that girl’s wallet?

Klaus didn’t see Five leave. He was busy treading water during the lunch rush - doggy paddling right up until close. He was less than thorough with his cleaning after. The adhesive of his bandage begged to be relieved, chaffing at his leg as he shifted to sweep the floor.

The phone rang in the office.

“Klaus?” Wendy said. “Detective Diego called, said he’s staying late at the station.”

Klaus groaned. Fifteen years ago the smell of wet laundry and the sound of empty aluminum forties rolling on the floor wouldn’t have bothered him. But sobriety and the comfort of his sibling’s cars had spoiled him for good.

Checking the clock, he had ten minutes to reach the bus stop...A block away.

Shit.

Klaus skittered to the office. The door banged it's handle on the wall. Wendy jumped in her seat. He untied his apron and flung it in to one of the cubbies, seized his bag and coat, then blitzed out the diner’s back door.

Pogo had warned Klaus his endurance for agony was dangerous. He could push an injury to lethal limits, only forced to acknowledge it when it might already be too late. Sprinting down the sidewalk, it was only when Klaus’ whole leg seized and he fell over, did he feel it. His hands were fast enough to catch his body, but not his bag.

Keys, wallet, cigarettes - the whole shebang - scattered. Hands going phosphorescent, being telekinetic had never been so convenient. Goods back in his bag, Klaus’ sneaker scraped the pavement. Shocks bolted his body with every stride.

White headlights backlit the bus stop sign. The worn break pads screeched as the bus slowed to a roll.

"Wait, wait!" Klaus' flailed his jacket.

The engine wheezed as the bus picked up speed again. With the help of the cold fluorescents inside, Klaus could clearly see the bus driver’s apathetic glance as she passed him by.

"Asshole!"

Ambling to the bench, he collapsed. Sweat chilled on the back of his neck. His body was wrapped in a blanket of lead. He considered walking back home, but with his injury? It might take longer than waiting the hour for the next bus. Klaus leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his face in his hands.

What if his siblings were right? What if he couldn't take care of himself? What if he really did need Allison’s supervision, Diego’s structure, Five’s discipline? Would he always be so pathetic?

"Klaus?"

Klaus head snapped to his left.

"Oh, hey, Five." Klaus smiled, blinking away any semblance of tears. "To what do I owe the pleasure?”

"Diego called the house. Said you might need a ride.”

“And I’m sure you weren’t the least bit insistent that you were ‘busy’ and I should get my own damn ride. Yes?”

"Okay. Have fun heating up Mom’s leftovers.” Five turned away.

"Wait, wait, wait. You’re right. Mom would be so disappointed if I wasn’t there for dinner." Klaus stood and put a hand of Five’s shoulder.

Klaus stumbled when his feet came to meet the pavement, as they reappeared outside the mansion.

“A little less turbulence on the flight next time. Okay, pilot?”

Five rolled his eyes. Blue light flashed. He was gone.

What’s crawled up his ass?

Klaus took care to avoid his family on the way to his bedroom. His skin was soggy with sweat and his clothes smelled like grease and maple syrup – he needed a refresher.

Sitting on the edge of his bed, he sucked air threw his teeth as coarse denim slid down his thighs, past his bandage. The adhesive had retired, pilled with dark fibers from his jeans. Heavy with blood, the bandage wilted away from his skin. Careful not to pull the wound, Klaus peeled it off.

The black, plastic thread was strained, but intact. The curved line of his cut was furious, puckered and red. A corner peaked open, still wet with freshly clotted blood. Hobbling to the bathroom, he painted it with disinfectant before replacing the bandage. Pogo would never need to know.

Touching himself up with eye makeup and a fresh outfit, Klaus finally felt like he could breath. The silk slip underneath his pleated skirt was gentle to his skin and his t-shirt didn’t chaff at his neck like collared shirts did.

The scent of roasting herbs and sizzling oil made Klaus’ empty stomach ache as he descended the stairs to the kitchen.

" - clean up the greenhouse? Get some new plants for the courtyard, too."

"I don't know, Allison." Vanya said. "Would any of us have the time? Who’s gonna water them ever day, Mom?”

“I suggest we start a vegetable garden.” Mom said.

"Great idea, Mom.” Allison said.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, pain traced Klaus' thigh. Leaning against the far wall, he tried to breath through it. Vanya couldn't see him flinch.

"When are they coming to fix the windows?" Vanya asked.

"Not for a while. With all the damage around town, the contractor was overbooked. We were lucky.”

"I guess so..."

Klaus peeked around the bricks of the threshold. His sisters were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table, Mom cooking at the gas stove behind Allison. Lights hanging from above washed them in honey colored hues, casting a long shadow on Vanya's face as she sulked over her cup of tea.

"Vanya. You're not still beating yourself up over that, are you?"

"The glass wouldn't have cracked if I hadn't-"

"That storm was insane. Those windows probably would have broken with or without you're help." Allison tilted her head to get a better look at Vanya's face. "But, that's not what this is about, is it?"

"What?"

"Did something happen that night? Between you and Klaus?"

Klaus' stomach compressed.

Vanya opened her mouth but thought better of herself. She inspected the grain of the table.

"I've told you before, about how Klaus and I can kind of… sense each other."

Klaus felt as bewildered as Allison looked. What did that have to do with anything?

“We spent years training our powers together. We used to feel so close.”

Used to? Past tense?

"But now, it feels like he...repels me."

"What does that mean?" Allison asked.

"Like, when you try to push two negative magnets together? It's hard to explain, but,"

"You think he's upset with you?" Allison leaned forward. Klaus could see her appraising every inch of their sister.

Klaus began to reconsider an appearance to family dinner - Lest he be chased by the bloodhound of family discourse.

"Last week, during the storm, I hurt him. I don’t understand how and…I’m not sure how to fix it."

"Klaus' injury is not your fault." Allison put her hand over Vanya's. "He made the choice to save you, and I'm glad that he did."

Vanya's face crumpled. "That's not what I'm talking about."

"Klaus."

Shit!

Luther’s hand captured his shoulder. "You alright?"

"Welcome home, sweetheart." Mom turned off the oven’s burners, abandoning it to greet her son.

"Hey!” He smiled and hugged his mother. Over her shoulder, he met Vanya’s eyes.

She looked like she was about to puke.

"Why don't I help you set the table, Mom?" Klaus said.

"Klaus, you don’t have to – I can take care of that.” Luther said.

“No, no. I insist. You go sit with the girls, it looks like their fresh out of hot new theatre gossip.”

“Oh yeah?” Luther took off his tweed jacket and hung it over the back of his chair before sitting at the head of the table. “How’d rehearsals go?”

Klaus laid out the table fixings while his sisters regaled them with their current work frustration. The theatre director for Allison’s latest play wasn’t being receptive to the absolutely unnecessary and overly demanding editorial feedback she was giving him. Meanwhile, Vanya had to get savage with the cellist who was the opening act for her national tour. Something about Vanya being a hack who was only popular because of The Umbrella Academy.

Luther had cut the tension like a warm butter knife. Keeping not just his sister’s minds, but their eyes off of Klaus. As he moved the stack of plates from the counter to the table, his leg clutched when he shifted. A minor flinch, but he caught himself. The girls didn’t notice, but Luther did.

“How was your first day back to work?” Luther asked.

“Just dandy.” Klaus tossed his hair. “Brittany called out, Franklin made his usual vaguely homophobic remarks, and Clifford was writing a god damn soliloquy of a death threat. A real Oscar Wilde, that one.”

"I still feel like you should tell someone about Agatha." Luther said.

"What's the point? She's on her way out. And do you think any cop would listen to me?”

"Diego would listen."

"And what? What do you think would happen when he listed 'ghost testimony' as evidence?"

Luther pressed his lips in to a hard line.

Klaus got over-ambitious transporting the food, but he wanted to show Luther just how ‘fine’ he was doing. Balancing platters of food on his forearms and supporting smaller plates with his fingers, he nearly got all the food to the table in one go - until Ben swooped in to the room.

Ben rubbed at the purpling bags under his eyes, misjudging the distance to the table. Hip checking the edge, he pushed it in to Klaus’ legs, in to his wound.

Klaus fell on to his forearms, plates dropping to the table. He glared at his brother.

"Sorry." Ben withered.

"You get that one." Klaus pointed to the chicken breast that had slid down the table, a long track of oil, herbs, and breading smeared in it's wake.

Ben ducked his head as he picked it up with his fork and put it on his plate.

"What happened here?" Five appeared behind Vanya. He suit jacket and tie had been abandoned, a tall glass of iced tea in his hand. He took in the state of the table as his siblings settled the food. "What did you do?" He looked to Klaus.

"What!?"

"Just a little oopsie. Take a seat, sweetie.” Mom wiped the table with a wet dish towel. "Ben, are joining us tonight?"

"Sorry, Mom. Gotta study." Ben reached between Five and Vanya to collect some veggies and potatoes.

Vanya gave Five’s iced tea a side long glance as he sat down next to her.

Klaus shrugged when she met his eyes. Five seemed like he'd been doing well the past year. Klaus wasn't about to be the asshole who doubted him.

Luther caught Ben’s arm as he rounded the table.

"Hang on a sec. I have some important news I'd like to share with everyone."

Everyone leaned forward on the table to look at him, bodies rigid with anticipation.

"It's nothing bad."

They breathed a sigh and leaned back.

"Although my presentation at the astronomy convention last week had it’s, set backs,” Luther and Allison shared a look.

"You're welcome." Ben said.

"Today, I received a call." Luther looked between his siblings faces and smiled. "I've officially been offered a contract with NASSI."

…Crickets.

"…What’s NASSI?" Vanya said.

"Like the sea monster?" Klaus gasped. “Are you gonna put a sea monster on the moon? Is that ethical?”

Luther sighed. "The National Astronomy and Space Science Institute."

"Oooooh." Everyone said.

"Congratulations, babe." Allison smiled, but it fell flat. Hard to be excited, when you don’t know what you’re getting excited for.

“Yeah, congrats. Gotta go. Thanks, Mom.” Ben dodged Klaus as he made his way around the table and out of the room.

The rest of their family began putting together their plates of food.

Watching Luther deflated, Klaus’ chest throbbed. He had made a big accomplishment and no one understood. Hittin’ a little too close to home there, buddy.

“Please, tell me their not sending you back to space.” Klaus said. “I don’t think this household could handle that. I mean, who’s gonna pick up furniture while I search for spare change? You don’t want me doing that by myself, do you? I’ll be smooshed.”

Luther perked up, and even chuckled. “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be working with their astronomy team observing and documenting various moon based phenomena - and not just our moon either."

"There are multiples?"

"Yes!” Luther smiled, collecting an insane amount of potatoes on to his plate. “Jupiter has sixty-seven, that we can confirm, Saturn has sixty-two, and Uranus-"

"Nobody wants to hear about your anus, Luther."

Vanya choked on a sip of water.

"Diego!" Mom said.

"Hey, Mom. Sorry I'm late." Diego gave her a quick squeeze around the waist.

Klaus was not loving the unaffected expression on Diego’s face and was quick to find a plate and silverware for their Number Two.

Taking the plate when offered, Diego took the seat furthest from his other siblings.

Luther’s smile disappeared. "I was just telling the others I received a new research contract."

"Congrats." Diego didn't spare so much as a glance to their brother as he speared some asparagus with his fork.

A silence came over the table that made Klaus itch. He sat across from Diego, pilfering some chicken before handing the platter to him. Vanya caught his eye. She flicked her eyes to Diego, asking Klaus 'are you going to do something about that?'

No, he was not, Vanya. Get off his ass.

"How was work, dear?" Mom sat at the end of the table.

"Fine." Diego hunched over his food like an animal protecting it's kill.

"Good. That's good." Mom’s lashes fluttered, her processor stalling.

Klaus couldn’t stand to watch his mother twitch as she struggled to find a way to remedy the situation. He had to save her.

"Today I met these two truckers, Bob and....Carlton? One of them wears jorts tho. Which I'm sure is the least of his problems, but still, not doing him any favors."

Diego spared Klaus a glance from his food.

Good. He was listening. Now for the kicker.

"They finally answered all my burning questions about those piss bottles on the side of the highway."

Vanya and Allison groaned.

Diego twisted his brow.

"Not at the dinner table." Luther said.

"No, listen, it's fascinating, I promise. It’s all about these haunted rest stops and urban legends about raccoon people – Totally not how I expected to spend the last hour of my shift.”

"What a bunch of bullshit.” Diego said.

"But hilarious bullshit. And another little interesting tidbit they told me, and this part, this part actually got to me, because I have been to rehab many times and I have heard some really screwed up shit, but I have never heard of anyone doing this." Hands making their usual sweeping gestures, Klaus leaned in to the table. "Apparently, and this is what the truckers believe, hitchhikers and roaming homeless will drink the pee bottles, hoping to get some sort of...secondhand high - because truckers are known to do a bunch of drugs, you know?"

Everyone but Mom retracted from the table with a sound of disgust.

"Sweetheart, I don't think that's very appropriate dinner table conversation." Mom said.

"Sorry, Mom, but I just had to, ya know?"

"You really didn't." Allison said.

"I have to say, despite my disapproval of you moving out, Klaus, I'm not going to miss these constant updates on the irrelevant, often disgusting, discoveries you make." Five said.

"You're loss." Klaus shrugged.

"Wait, Klaus is moving out?" Luther asked.

"What?" Allison and Diego said in unison.

Diego looked at Klaus, his mouth hanging open like he wasn't sure what to do with it.

Klaus froze. A criminal in the spotlight.

"Oh, yes, you didn't know?" Five's tone turned in to that of a tattletale. "Klaus has plans to move out of the mansion."

"What, no he doesn't. No you don't." Diego said.

Klaus quirked his head at the aggressive tone.

"You're leaving us?" Mom asked. Her big blue eyes looked so confused. Why would he ever want to do such a thing, they asked him.

"It appears as though he's asked every eligible person in the house to be his roommate. Everyone, except you, that is." Five turned to Diego, raising his eyebrows.

His siblings always said Klaus was the agent of chaos in the family, but sometimes… he wasn't so sure he could trust their judgment.

The room was left in silence as the sharp sting of Five's statement cut through all of them.

Diego assessed Five's expression for signs of deceit. He swallowed hard and took a shallow breath that made his nostrils flare. It was hard for Klaus not to turn away when Diego looked forward. The light above them cast a shadow under Diego's brow but reflected in the wetness of his eyes, making him look both vulnerable and violent all at once.

Vanya knocked Five in the shoulder.

"What? He deserves to know."

"Why?" Diego asked.

"Why, what?" Klaus said.

"Why are you moving out?"

"Ugh, not this again. I just...need a breath of fresh air?"

"You're bored? Is that it?"

"Wha-no."

"And you think moving out is gonna fix that?"

"That's not-"

"Where the hell are you gonna go?"

"Diego."

"Stay out of it, Luther."

"I don't know yet. But, hey, if you can find a place to sleep as a loser who mops floors and moonlights as a vigilante, I guess anything's possible."

"Hey, it was better than sleeping on park benches."

"Diego, stop."

"Shut up, Vanya."

"I can take care of myself now, Diego."

"Oh yeah, like you took care of yourself last time you left us?"

Klaus felt gut punched.

'You were abandoning us.'

"Fuck you."

It felt like Klaus was trapped in a burning building - hot and sweaty, hard to breath, hard to see. He was out of his chair and headed for the stairs.

"Klaus." Diego tried to reach for him as he passed by and Klaus fumbled to side step away.

Prickling traced Klaus' fingers. He smothered it in his fists, double timing up the stairs. He could hear footsteps coming after him. If it was Diego - Even if it wasn't, nothing good was going to happen if they caught up to him.

"Klaus, wait."

"Let me go, Vanya."

"You know Diego didn't mean it. Five got him riled up. Please, don't leave."

"Why!?" Klaus pivoted on his heel just in front of the door.

Vanya flinched and stepped back. "Because, I can feel that." She looked to the light flickering in his hands.

He was fine. Klaus was fine. He had plenty control over his powers. He didn't need someone like Vanya to babysit him.

Vanya looked him in the eye and approached with slow baby steps. She didn't need to do that. He wasn't some god damn feral dog with it's hackles up and teeth out. He wasn't something she needed to leash and collar, to confine and control.

The glass felt cool on his neck as Klaus backed up in to the double doors.

"…are you okay?" She whispered, still creeping closer.

The other door flew open.

Vanya put a hand over her face to shield her eyes from the wind.

Klaus took the opportunity to slither out of the house, the door slammed behind him as he ran down the front steps. He darted around the block and kept at a brisk jog until he was sure no one was following him. Once the adrenaline began to wear off, his thigh was screaming at him. 'Why couldn't we just have gone to sulk in our room?' It asked.

There was nothing a single door would’ve done to help. Luther would feel obligated, as the self-proclaimed head of the family, to make some ham fisted attempt at fixing the situation. Allison would be convinced she could weasel her way inside with soft words and sweet promises. And as for Vanya....

Poor Vanya. It shouldn't have come as a surprise to Klaus that she was the one who pursued him. It was in her best interest to diffuse the situation. It wasn't his fault that they could sense each other's telekinetic wavelength bullshit.

Walking through the grass in the park, his socks became damp with dew and stained by the dirt. Christ, he hadn't even remembered to put on shoes.

Spying a bench under one of the park's warm street lamps, Klaus remembered when he used to sleep there. Just a couple of pills and he had been knocked out. He woke up the next morning to find someone had stolen his shoes. Stealing from a homeless junkie – How fucked up was that?

He continued further in, down the paved path. There was a bridge that arched over a small lake in the middle of the park. Klaus' foot steps were hardly audible as he strolled across the lacquered wooden planks. The lamp light grew thin the further he traveled from the end of the bridge. His hands grazed across the thick wooden railing to keep him on course.

During the summer, Klaus remembered standing on the bridge when he was a kid. He couldn't recall what he was doing, but Diego found him. He dared Klaus to jump in to the lake, to see if he was brave enough. Klaus didn't want to. He didn't know how deep it was. He imagined that if he fell to the bottom, it would be dark, too dark. He was afraid of what he would see there.

Diego called him a wimp, like he always did. He was always making fun of Klaus, telling him he was too weak, too sensitive, too scared. He was a bully. Competitive, aggressive, always over compensating - such a dick. He threw Klaus over the railing, head first in to the water. Klaus hadn't even had time to hold his breath and came back to the surface sputtering dirty lake water from his mouth and nose. All of his siblings laughed when he reached the shore, coming out a soggy mess.

Klaus rested his stomach on the railing and let his arms dangle over the edge. He stared in to the moons reflection on the water. Something shifted at the corner of his eye.

"Ah! Christ on a cracker. Have you ever heard of personal space?"

"You can see me?"

"Yeah, I can fucking see you! Now would you have some common decency and get out of my face?"

"Okay, jeez, sorry." The girl pulled herself up on to the railing and turned around to sit, her thick legs dangling over the water. Klaus gave her a reproachful look and she scooted a few inches away. "I'm not used to people being able to see me."

"Doesn't give you the right to get up in their face." Klaus muttered.

It had become harder for ghosts to scare him once the lines defining reality became less blurry. But bloodshot eyes and clammy, grey skin that hanged off bones like a rubber Halloween mask? Not something Klaus was really in the headspace to deal with during a late night brooding session.

He tried not to pay attention to her. He came to the park to sulk, not hear someone else's sob story. But out of his peripheral, he could see her glancing over to him. Klaus puffed air through his lips. Maybe she’d be a good distraction? A new entry for his journal?

"When’d you die?" Klaus spared her a once over. Her attire - a soggy black T-shirt and grey sweat pants - gave no indication of the decade she was from. If she was wearing any make up, it had gotten washed off by the water and her brown hair was pulled back in to a pony tail. Perhaps she died from lack of personality, Klaus wondered.

"Twenty-fourteen. Cracked my head open on the rocks at the bottom."

She pulled up her ponytail and turned the back of her head towards him. Klaus couldn't make out all the detail in the dim light, nor was he inclined to, but he could see an open wound at the base of her scalp. The bone had been crushed in to her brain, flaps of skin and muscle tethered in place only by the roots of her hair.

Klaus thought about Diego chucking him over the bridge. That bastard could have killed him. "You know kids swim in this water, don't you?"

"I wanted to die somewhere people would find my body. And I thought...If I died in the water, there would be less clean up. All the blood would be washed away by the time they found me." She looked at her bloated hands, the coat of moister reflected the moonlight. "I didn't think it would be like this."

"Sounds like you really had your heart set on that open casket funeral, didn't you? My condolences."

"You're not going to kill yourself, are you?"

"Been there, done that. Got the T-shirt."

Her whole face scrunched in a baffled squint.

"A guy can't take a relaxing night time stroll?"

"You're limping and you're not wearing shoes. I somehow doubt this was how you planned to spend your night."

Klaus gave her a tired look.

"Come ooooonn." She whined. "Dish. Who am I gonna tell?”

A ghost who wanted to hear his sob story for once? He couldn’t recall meeting one of them before. After a moments deliberation, Klaus decided, fuck it, what did he have to lose?

"I'm a fuck up." He said.

"Welcome to the club."

"I invented the club.” Klaus stood and lifted his ass up on to the railing to sit. “Everyone else has some sort of… calling, ya know? Some passion they just knew they were meant to pursue? And here I am, god damn ADHD basket case." Klaus took a deep breath. His chest ached and, shit, did he really wish he had a cigarette. "A community college drop out, who’s only life skills are talking to dead people, unpredictable telekinesis, and putting straight men in a gay panic."

"You have telekinesis?”

“That’s not important.”

“Are you sure? I feel like that’s not something you shouldn’t just gloss over.”

“Do you want me to talk to you or not?” Klaus’ hands lashed out in her general direction.

“Okay. Alright. Please, resume the wallowing in self-pity.”

Klaus huffed.

"Anyway… Dropping out of school while your best friend graduates from the police academy? Yeah, you can bet your ass that sucked. But it was the getting fired that really cut the deepest. Over and over, and over again. While your brother hangs out with astronauts and your sister books a world tour.”

“I feel like I’m missing a lot of important information…”

“But I had a lot going on up here, ya know.” Klaus made circular gestures around his head. “And fighting time traveling assassins for a decade makes it a little hard to ‘find’ yourself.”

“Um…”

“But I told myself to just…keep trying, and then I got this job. I hate it, but I like too. My co-worker’s nice, the doughnuts are free, and my family visits during my shifts. When I came home from the interview, I was practically high on the idea of telling my family, but…” Klaus’ throat constricted. He was picking at the padlock of a feeling that had been locked away for months. It was so petty and childish to be upset over. He had no right.

"But?"

"Diego, he was home early….” Klaus could feel his limbs begin to huddle. “He had just gotten promoted to detective."

While Klaus just became a damn waitress.

"Oh." She whispered.

"That's when I knew, nothing I did would ever measure up. And what’s worse then that?" Klaus blinked. His eyes were beginning to sting. "Nobody expects anything else from me." He wiped his cheeks with the heel of his palm.

"Hey," The girl's voice quivered. "I hate to interrupt. But, uh, w-what’s that?"

His eyes traced the line of her arm, pointing towards the void at the opposite end of the bridge. Where was the streetlamp? There was supposed to be one. Even more peculiar, there was no reflections from the moonlight – not on the metal lamp post, the trees, the bridge railing – it was just…a vacuum.

A fire clawed up his spine to the base of his scalp.

There was the glint of moon light.

The street lamp flickered. Cut from the light was still a black hole, a vignette. Not a person, not an animal.

The TV static fizzled under his skin again.

"Ghost guy. What is that thing?" The girl began scooting towards him on the railing.

Klaus would never wish death on Ben, ever. But if there was ever a good time to have a ghost like him around, that would have been the time.

There was snapping, like twigs breaking under your feet in the woods. Neon yellow orbs bloomed from the void.

"What the fuck is that thing!" She skittered back, her body phasing through his shoulder.

Klaus shivered at the contact.

Moonlight shined a long, stretching line beneath the eyes. It glinted in drops of moisture that dripped out.

The ghost peered at him over her shoulder. Between her bottom lids and bloodshot eyeballs, Klaus could see all the exhausted blood vessels and muscles outlining her eye socket.

"You need to run."

Chapter Text

The table jumped as Luther slammed down his fist. “Can't we just have one nice family dinner?"

"Screw you, Luther!" Diego said.

“And Five, wha-“ Luther turned to Five’s seat, but it was empty. “Where did he go?”

"Boys, enough." Mom stood. "Diego, finish your dinner, then march right upstairs and apologize, Mister."

"I don't think just one apology is going to fix this, Mom." Allison locked eyes with Diego, her level brow pinched in disappointment.

“I had a legit point.” Diego barked.

"Vanya," Mom picked up Klaus' barely touched dinner. “Take this to your brother. I’m sure he’s starving."

"I would, Mom, but, he left.” Vanya looked away.

"What?" Everyone said.

“He can’t be alone out there,” Luther said. “He’ll get himself hurt, again.”

"I tried to stop him, but then -“ Vanya sealed her lips shut. Her eyes flashed to Five’s seat, then back to Luther.

“’But then’ what?” Diego said.

“He’s just had a really rough day, okay? I think he’s entitled to be a little unstable.”

“Yeah, well, I had a rough day too.”

“That doesn’t give you the right to be an asshole.” Vanya stepped forward in to Diego’s space.

“What do you mean ‘unstable’?” Allison asked.

“What?”

“You said he was unstable.” Diego stood, getting in to her space now.

Mom set down Klaus’ plate and stepped up next to them.

Vanya flitted glances between Allison and Diego, her mouth hanging open as she tried to find the words to lie. “No, I didn’t. I – He’s – He’s fine. He’s fine.”

“You’re still a terrible liar.” Diego shook his head.

"Alright, everyone." Luther said. "Pair up and search the surrounding area. Klaus couldn't have gotten far.”

“Luther, don’t.”

“He’s in pain and unbalanced. You of all people should know how dangerous that can be.”

“Luther.” Allison scolded.

“No, he’s right, I do.” Vanya said. “And I also know that if we gang up on him, it could make things worse.”

The room fell silent. Floor boards creaked as everyone shifted on their feet.

“Alright, enough.” Allison broke in. “Klaus isn’t going to destroy the moon, you guys.”

Diego leaned back, turning to Luther. He tilted his head and lifted his eyebrows - ‘What do you think?’

Luther gave him a tight lipped look - ‘They have a point.’

Diego knitted his brow - ‘So do we.’

Luther shrugged - ‘So what do you want to do?’

Diego’s expression sustained.

“Boys, is there something you would like to share with the rest of the class?” Mom said.

Luther sighed - ‘You still want to go after him, don’t you?’

“I am going after him.” Diego said.

Vanya stepped in front of him as he tried to walk past. “You’re the last person he wants to see right now.”

“Then I’ll go with him.” Allison stood. “You can stay here, in case he comes back.”

“I should-“ Luther stood.

Allison gave him a high browed look.

“Okay, yeah, I’ll uh, I’ll stay here.” Luther sat back down.

Vanya sighed and sagged.

Allison walked around the table to the doorway, laying a hand on Vanya's shoulder. "I've got this, I promise. Now, which way did he go?"

"Towards the park, I think."

“Diego.” Mom said. Her expression was tight, but her thumb rubbed at her fingernails, thinning the nail polish. “You apologize, young man – Or I’m taking away your punching bag.”

“Wha-“

Mom held up a finger. “No excuses.”

Allison snickered behind him.

He muzzled himself and nodded.

Diego and Allison made their way to the front door. Grabbing their jackets from the coat rack, Diego noticed Klaus’ leather coat still hanging beneath his. His sneakers were still on the mat too. Briefly, Diego thought about bringing them, but decided against it. It was the idiots own fault for forgetting.

Stepping outside, a breath of wind reached down between the brick buildings. Spring’s nighttime chill needled Diego’s hairline. He adjusted his lapel and thought about Klaus’ thin T-shirt. Maybe he should have grabbed the jacket. Allison’s heels clicked the sidewalk in time with the scuff of his boots.

“Park’s only three blocks away. He couldn’t have gotten much farther.” Diego scanned the neighborhood. The lacquered benches beneath the orange street lamps, the curbs traced by the occasional pair of headlights – Barely a stray pedestrian in sight.

"Have you figured out how you’re going to apologize?”

The heat under Diego’s skin bit back against the cold like a fever. "He really didn’t tell you he was leaving?"

"No, and I don’t know why." She sounded wounded by the admission. Was it bad that it made Diego feel better?

"Five said he asked everybody else to be his roommate, except me. Why not? What's wrong with me?"

"What do you mean, 'why not’?. This whole situation is ‘why not’." Allison stopped walking and he paused. "Diego, you were a ticking time bomb from the moment you came home and we all knew it."

"That’s got nothing to do with him."

"But here we are!"

“Can we just keep going.” Diego walked ahead, turning on to the street to the right. He heard Allison huff, her heels clicking in double time to catch up with him. “It’s not my fault he’s leaving.”

“Um, I never said it was?”

"Maybe it’s cus you and Luther took over the house? You ever think about that?”

"We are not taking over, and don’t try to change the subject.”

"Maybe that’s why he didn’t tell you.” Diego shrugged.

“He wo-”

There was a scream.

In the distance, a figure passed beneath the street lamps. Diego squinted, but it was hard to see with the lights burning out behind it. All the lights. His stomach plummeted. The figure flailed and shrieked as it came closer.

"Klaus?" Allison squinted.

"Run!" Klaus shouted, dozen yellow lights springing back to life behind the pitch.

“Oh my god.” Allison muttered.

"Go!" Klaus screamed. His hand glowed and swiped. A nearby trash can flew out behind him. It bounced on the cement with a clang. Klaus twisted to look behind him, then he cried out and clutched his thigh, collapsing beneath the streetlight.

"Klaus!" Allison bolted forward.

Diego chased after her.

The light flickered.

Klaus rolled over, covering his face with an arm.

Allison shielded him with her body.

The light screeched as it burst, and the block went black.

Allison screamed.

Diego fired three knives. One of them hit an eye. An eye!?

It flinched.

Diego grappled his siblings, pulling them away.

Allison’s heels scraped at the concrete as they both scrambled to their feet.

Klaus winced and fell in to Diego.

Diego hooked his arms under Klaus’ back and knees, twisting on his heels as he lifted, and propelled himself forward. A chill chased after him like the wind. The muscles of his back twisted and jerked as something traced his spine.

Heel clicks matched in time with his heaving breaths.

Lights and structures jostled in Diego’s tunnel vision with every sprint. His muscles strangled his bones. Warm liquid splattered at the corner of his eye. Flinching, he
lost a half step.

“Go! Go! Go! Go!” Klaus’ voice blasted his ear drum.

White light from their door step sparkled like a beacon. The tip of his boot caught on the edge of the steps, shoulder smashing in to the double doors. They flew open, hammering the walls. Klaus was dropped to the floor. Allison and Diego each grabbed a door and slammed them shut, shaking hands scrambling for the deadbolts. Putting their backs to the doors in a weak attempt to barricade them, the two collapsed.

“What happened?!” Luther ran in from the living room, kneeling beside Allison.

"Monster." Diego gulped for air. He pointed over his shoulder. "Monster."

Luther tore off his shirt, buttons flicking Diego in the face. Allison hissed as he applied pressure to the wound on her shoulder, Blood trickling down the creases of her jacket to the floor.

"It's not that bad." She said.

Diego bit his lip and tasted blood. He should’ve been faster, should’ve gunned for Klaus first. If he had pulled him away a few seconds sooner…

Luther looked at Diego. Shut up, Number One, he knew what he should've done. But Luther’s eyes darted down every piece of Diego’s body. “There’s blood on your cheek. Are you injured?”

Oh…Okay. Diego rubbed his thumb under his eye and it came away red. “Must be Allison’s.”

“What about your hand?”

Holding up his other hand, the chandelier lights shined in the wetness of his finger tips and pads of his palm, coloring the blood a near fire truck red. Diego looked past his hand to the smears patted along the floorboards.

Resting back against the banister of the stairs, arms and legs splayed out on the floor, was a human ragdoll. Eyes dazed at the ceiling, Klaus’ chest heaved as he continued trying to catch his breath.

Luther let Allison mind her own wound and moved to Klaus, gentle when he put a hand on his shoulder. “Klaus?”

Klaus took a breath and blinked, his lips twitching as he tried to forge a smile. “Hey, Number One, how’re you?”

Luther’s face fell. Klaus only called him Number One when he needed reassurance someone was in charge. “I’m fine, but you’re bleeding.”

“Oh, yeah.” Klaus looked to the blood dribbling on the floor through the tears in his skirt.. “It’s, um, it’s….Yeah.”

Luther’s brow pinched and finger twitched at Klaus shoulders. Number One was faltering, he hadn’t been prepared for a fiasco.

“Take him to the infirmary.” Diego winced, muscles crying as he got back up to his feet. “I’ll find Pogo.”

“No need for that, Master Diego.” Pogo peered over the balcony above them. “After Master Klaus took his leave, I thought I’d make myself available, should something occur. Unfortunate, to see that is has.”

Luther moved to Klaus’ uninjured side and gingerly scooped him up in to his arms.

“It would be best if you took the time to get yourself cleaned up, Master Diego. I can take care of the others from here.”

In the bathroom, Diego washed the blood from his face and hands. Allison’s blood. Klaus’ blood. The cold water and the soap suds rinsed it all away. Sweat soaked every fiber of Diego’s cloths, damp and sticky. Pulling off his jacket, he shrugged off the knife side holster that looped around his arms and crisscrossed over his back. Resting it on the toilet seat, he noticed three empty slots in the left side pocket. Diego threw three knives at that…thing, and all it did was flinch. Barely. Muscles twisted over his shoulder blades and around his spine. He still felt too hot and stripped down to his undershirt.

He should check on the others.

The antiseptic smell of the infirmary burned Diego’s nostrils and scathed the back of his throat.

Allison sat on a stool, stripped down to her bra. The sterile white of the overheard lights shined on the exposed tissue beneath the gashes in her shoulder and glittered in the specks of glass dusting her hair.

Pogo sat next to her, medical supplies laid out on a metal table at his elbow, threading a needle with surgical string.

Klaus laid on the table, Mom standing by his side. His hair matted with sweat and cheeks devoid of color. Bright red patches shone through the holes worn in his mud soaked socks. Eyes meeting, Diego could see just enough white around Klaus’ pupils - a prey animal on high alert. He seemed to have his wits back about him though, because not a second later did Klaus cross his arms and lift his chin to make a show of not looking at Diego.

"You okay, Ally?" Klaus asked.

"I'm more upset about my jacket than anything else.” Allison hissed as Pogo rubbed the wound with disinfectant.

"Consider yourself lucky, Miss Allison. An inch or two deeper and you might have torn a tendon." Pogo said. He took the needle in hand again, and Diego backed the hell up.

"What's the damage?" He leaned over Mom's shoulder as she hiked up Klaus’ skirt.

"What do you care?" Klaus sneered.

"Hey, I just saved your ass." Diego raised his voice.

"Can we please not do this right now." Allison said. She flinched as Pogo made the first stab.

Diego felt nauseous.

“I’ve got everyone waiting downstairs.” Luther appeared in the door. “We’re having a family meeting.”

"Right now!?" Klaus said.

"You were just attacked!” Luther gawked “So yes, right now.”

"Do I have to?” Klaus wiggled and whined.

“Sweetheart, lie still.”

Luther and Diego huffed in unison. "Mom, make sure he comes down when you’re done.” Diego left with Luther in tow, making their way to the living room.

"You want to explain to us what happened out there?" Luther said.

“I already told you, we were chased by a monster."

Stepping in to the living room, black airbrushed every crevice, making Diego’s shoulders clench - his back felt cold without the press of his holster. The overhead lights were a distant flame. They glowed over the upholstery of their embroidered couches and mahogany coffee table.

“What about a monster?” Ben lifted his head from the coffee table, suddenly enthused.

"Cool your jets, creepy crawler." Diego turned on a lamp next to a couch. He scanned the room.

“No.” Ben whined. Turning away from the light, he buried his face in his elbow.

“What are you looking for?” Vanya’s eyes flitted around from her corner of the couch.

“Light.” Diego spotted some candles on a table behind Luther, a box of matches lay close by. The scrape of the match head along the scratch pad sounded like Allison’s heels scraping the pavement.

“Do you think it'll attack the Academy?" Luther asked.

"I don't know. It didn't come to the door." He clicked on another lamp in the opposite corner of the room.

“Will you stop?” Ben said.

"What’d it look like?" Vanya asked.

Diego came back to the center of the room, standing across from Luther. He opened his mouth but his tongue felt heavy. The shriek of exploding glass. Allison’s scream. Klaus’ grappling hands. The freezing air that made his skin feel dead. The endless emptiness of the dark…

"Eyes…It had eyes." It was stupid to say, but with the strangling sensation at the base of his throat and the pressure in his chest, he was lucky he said anything at all.

"So it can see, amazing." Luther paced, hands on his hips.

"Very astute of you, Diego." Ben rested his cheek in his hand.

"It's not Diego's fault." Allison walked in, the gauze on her shoulder taped up to the crook of her neck, under the strap of her tank top. That couldn’t have felt good. "The whole block lost power.” She sat on the couch opposite Vanya's, noticing the empty space next to her sister. "Where's Five?"

"He's...indisposed." Vanya looked at the floor.

Ben nearly nodded off in to the table, but caught himself. “He’s drunk.”

“Drunk?!” Luther said.

"Explains why he was such an asshole." Diego said.

"You were too." Vanya frowned.

"Really? Right now?"

Vanya remained steadfast in her expression.

"I'm sorry, okay?" Diego huffed. "I was just...Can we talk about this later?"

"Diego's right, we need to focus." Luther said. "Ben, you're our monster expert."

"Um, yeah..." Ben’s eyes fluttered open. "I'm gonna need a little more to go on then 'eyes' though."

"Klaus got the closest, he maybe he saw something.” Allison said.

"Speak of the devil." Klaus limped in, an arm slung over Mom's shoulders. "And he shall appear." He made his way to the couch, gingerly resting his bare bandaged feet on Vanya’s lap with a grimace.

Mom stood behind the couch, hands folded in front of her.

"Well, this is cozy." Klaus smiled at everyone. "Love the candles, wonderful ambiance. Is that lavender, I smell?"

"Care to tell us what happened after you left." Luther asked.

"Oh, you mean after Diego’s hissy fit?" Klaus looked at Diego with a high browed smile and heat steamed at the back of Diego’s neck. "And Five...Where is that antagonistic bastard?"

"He's -" Vanya started.

"He's drunk." Ben said.

"Oh, god dammit."

Vanya looked Klaus.

"Okay, yes, you were right.” Klaus rolled his eyes. “I guess iced tea’s off the menu again."

"Can we please, focus." Luther nearly shouted.

"Right, yeah, okay. I was just at the park, taking a stroll, collecting my thoughts, doing perfectly normal stuff that normal people do."

Diego and Allison shared a look.

"I got to that bridge in the middle? You know, the one Diego threw me off once. I could have died, by the way. Turns out the water’s a lot more shallow than you thought."

"Klaus!" Ben slammed a palm on the table.

"O-kay! I'm on the bridge, and the lights go out, and this thing just...comes after me. So I booked it, as one does when being chased by a…." He twirled his hand in circles. “I don’t know.”

"So, you didn't get a good look at it either?" Allison said.

"Uh, a little busy running for my life, sis."

The room sighed and sagged.

"Oh! I do remember one thing!"

They all perked up.

"Eyes. It definitely had eyes."

They all groaned and shifted.

"Yeah, big, freaky, yellow eyes." Klaus pulled his bottom lids down and stuck his tongue out at Vanya.

She was not amused.

They all knew what Klaus was doing. Pretending he wasn't scared shitless, that he didn't almost die. That didn't make it any less frustrating, though.

"Alright, Be-..."

Ben’s cheek slipped off his palm. The whole room flinched as he face planted in to the table with a painful thunk.

"Finally," Mom whispered. "He's been awake for thirty-six hours, twenty-four minutes, and 15 seconds."

“Yeah, Benny’s got the right idea. We could all use some Z’s. Freshen up a bit.” Klaus said.

"What we need is a plan." Luther said.

“A plan for what?” Vanya said.

"What if somebody sent it that thing after him?"

"Oh my god, please don't do this." Klaus’ voice shook, his hands rubbed over his face.

"It's a possibility."

"No, it's not!” Klaus jumped to his feet. Stepping forward, he fisted Luther’s shirt. "And don’t you try to make this a UA thing. Don’t -Ah!" His body jolted, legs crumbling beneath him.

Diego reached out on reflex, but Luther caught Klaus under the arms and lowered him to the floor.

“Stop. Just…stop.” Klaus turned away to hide his face.

Luther looked at Diego.

Diego sagged. An ache spidered it’s way through his muscle fibers, anger strangling the back of his neck, and worry pressuring his temples.

"Let’s get you back to you room.” Luther lifted Klaus to his feet, stooping down to sling an arm over his shoulders. Even without his gorilla body, Luther was sizably bigger than him. It would have been easier to carry Klaus, but he knew that would only make him feel pathetic. The two walked out and the moment the stairs creaked, the hinge pin of silence pulled from the room.

“Am I the only one who thinks Luther’s grasping at straws here?” Vanya asked.

“He’s panicking.” Allison said. “I think we all are. Diego?”

Diego looked between his Mom and his sisters, dumbstruck by the sudden attention. He was their Number Two. He was supposed to have answers when Number One didn’t, but…“I don’t…I don’t know.” A painful admission, but true. Supernatural shit was above his pay grade. Way above.

“Don’t worry, kids. We’ll figure it out.” Mom looked at Diego and smiled. “We just need to stick together.”

Their family dispersed soon there after. Ben, barely alive, was taken back to his room by their mother. Vanya left to update Five on the situation, and Allison…Didn’t say much of anything at all.

Diego was alone, frustrated with the feeling of coming away empty handed. They had learned nothing, they had planned nothing, and therefore, Diego could do nothing. He could get some rest, maybe get ready for work tomorrow. Oh god, work. He’d have to look at Eudora’s pinched expression. Beeman’s half-hearted optimism. The entire precinct pretending everything was fine, when it clearly was not. He headed to his bedroom, hoping he might be able to pass out and pretend the day never happened.

“Go away, please.”

“We were attacked –“

I was attacked. What’s this ‘we’ shit?”

“It’s not something we can just sleep off.”

“Really? Are you sure? Because I’ve been doing it my whole life.”

Diego tiptoed around a stack of pillows to Klaus’ bedroom door, peeking through the opening. Klaus sat up on the bed, while Luther stood at the foot, both of their faces pleading with one another.

“You remember, when you were attacked by that ghost?” Klaus said.

“That was years ago.”

“Doesn’t matter. Creepy shit like that, it just happens with me –“

“Klaus,“

“- And there’s nothing you, or anyone, can do about it. So just…Leave it alone. Leave me alone.” Klaus hurled a pair of broken headphones from the bed side table.

Luther caught the fragments. His lips pressed together and face turning red.

“Get out.” Klaus shouted, like a little kid throwing a tantrum. “Get. Out.”

“Fine, I will!” Plastic snapped in Luther’s fists before he chucked the pieces to the floor. “But the next time you need help getting carried around the house, don’t expect me to be there.”

“Good!”

“Good!”

Stomping out of the room, the door slammed an inch from Luther’s backside, making him flinch. He noticed Diego standing there and flinched again. “Diego, I was just –“

“Trying to help. I know.” Diego said.

Luther deflated. He seemed to feel as helpless about the situation as Diego did.

“Don’t take it personally.” Diego said. “He’s got a point though. Crazy, dumb shit always happens to Klaus.”

Luther opened his mouth.

“I’m not saying there couldn’t be more to this monster thing.” Diego cut him off. “I’m just saying, there also might not be. And I think you know that too, otherwise, why would those be here.” He pointed to the stack of a dozen pillows - dressed in old, mismatched patterned cases - and the step stool leaned against the wall next to Klaus’ door.

"You remember…What did Klaus call it? Ghostfest two-thousand and five?”

Diego chuckled. “Ooooh, yeah.”

They both looked up to the ceiling.

"That's still your fault." Diego said.

"You pushed me."

"You were –“ Diego took a sharp breath. “You should go find Allison, she’s not in a good place. I’ll stay down here in case the baby needs a bottle.”

Luther looked between Diego and Klaus’ door. “Are you going to apologize?”

Diego’s nails dug in to his palms. “Go find your girlfriend.”

With that, Luther took his leave.

Diego gave a side-long look at Klaus’ door. Klaus was on the edge of hysterics by the time Luther left. Diego couldn’t apologize, even if he wanted to. Looking at the pillows, he remembered realizing for the first time just how strong his mother was – pelting him in the face as she frantically pulled them from the linen closet. Laying pillows all along the floor, his family gaped at each other, unsure of what to do next. Even Ben, with all his years haunting Klaus, had never seen anything like it. Reginald was no help, watching from afar, jotting notes in his journal.

GhostFest Twenty-O-Five had been a trip, for everyone. The attacks, the uninvited dinner guests, the Pepsi-Velveeta incident. But it was the sense of helplessness that was truly difficult – for Diego especially. Holding Klaus as he cried himself to sleep was all he was good for. Klaus was right when he said that no one could help him, and that gutted Diego like a fish.

Crumbs of spackling smattered Diego's cheek and he looked at the ceiling.

A slim fissure crept from one wall to the other, sprinkling more spackling across the floor. The ceiling sounded like it was breaking it’s bones and above it a muffled noise reverberated through the walls. It came in long bursts and short pauses, becoming shrill. Diego booked it down the hall, taking the stairs two at a time up to Five’s room.

"You're. Not. Listening-"

His socks slipping on the trembling stairs, Diego’s arm hooked the railing as he toppled, keeping his face from smashing the ground.

"How can I? You're hysterical."

Grappling the railing, Diego continued to climb to the hall.

"D-Don’t you even care that - that they got hurt?!”

"Their alive. So who gives a shit.”

Vanya’s barely contained scream made Diego lose his balance. His fingers caught on to the molding of the door but his body pressed forward, sending his forehead in to the wall with a ‘thunk’. Eyes going spotty, he collapsed in the doorway. There was a snort and snicker that only Five could’ve made.

“Ah, yes, the majestic Diego. Observe him, Vanya, in his natural habitat – the floor.”

You’re gonna be on the floor in a second.” Diego groaned, holding his head. There was already a bump forming with a tender ache.

“Y-You don’t care if - if anyone gets hurt. Do y-you?”

The room rumbled and Diego was thrust sideways, his head whipping back in to the door frame. He cried out as pain shot through the space between his skin and his skull.

“Shit.” Vanya’s foot steps came closer, her little hands resting on his shoulders. “Are you – Are you okay?” She sniffled.

Five giggled in the distance, giddy and hollow.

Shut –

“Vanya!” Diego pulled her in by the shirt, her bloodshot eyes blurring in to view. “Please. Stop. You’re gonna give me an aneurism.”

“I’m-I’m sorry. He just..” She sniffled. Her cheeks were rubbed raw as she cleaned off her tears. Vanya was one of those people that cried when she got rip-shit pissed and man, did it make Diego uncomfortable.

“Right, yeah, uh,” Diego blinked away the spotty colors. “Listen, unless you wanna bury Ben and Klaus under the scaffolding, this has gotta stop. So I need you,” He looked Vanya in the eyes and squeezed her shoulders “to take a deep breath, and go do literally anything else. Okay? Let me handle the drunk dumpster fire.”

Five continued snickering in the background.

Her eyes narrowed and cheeks puffed up again. She looked at Five like she wanted to twist his head off.

“Okay?” Diego turned her face back to him.

Vanya nodded. She helped Diego to his feet, but hesitated before she left, looking in to his eyes and reconsidering something.

“What?”

“Guess I’ve lost the moral high ground for today, haven’t I?” Her lips quivered as she looked down at the floor. Her shoulders bounced as she sniffled and Diego had to look away.

He could feel the grimace on his face by the clench in his teeth. He should be pissed for what she just said, but Vanya was crying and getting angry would just feel like punching a puppy, and Diego shoulders were slowly rising to his ears and, god, he just wanted it to stop.

“Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll get it back by morning.” He said.

Vanya rubbed the tears from her chin and looked at him, the corner of her lip quirked.

Five flailed on his bed, growling and grunting as he struggled out of his button up shirt.

“Good luck.” She whispered, taking her leave.

Diego waited for her footsteps to fade.

"Are you going to lecture me now too?” Five said. He tried to throw his shirt at Diego, but it barely made it a foot from the bed.

"I’d much rather give you a beat down,” Diego stepped in to the room “but I don’t think that’ll be necessary."

"And why’s that?”

Giving Five a good once over, Diego remembered when him and Luther carried the piss drunk little bastard back to his place from the library. Maybe it was the juxtaposition of watching a little kid down a fifth of whiskey, the surrealness of it all, that made it feel less sad; But seeing him as a thirty year old man, striped down to his briefs and tank top, greasy hair, bags under his eyes, a light pink stain that resembled the hue of the iced tea pitcher nearly empty on his bedside table reaching down his clothes to the bed sheets – Five was a god damn travesty. He would probably fall asleep in those sheets too.

"Because I know that tomorrow, after Klaus wakes up, he is gonna. Tear. Your. Ass. Apart." Diego smiled and worked his hands together. “And I’m gonna have front row seats.”

Five’s sardonic expression evaporated, his eyes becoming cold and distant. He reached for the pitcher and turned away, Diego following his resigned gaze. Stained coffee mugs and half a dozen binders littered the desk across from his bed, the red binders labeled ‘Vanya’ and the black ones ‘Klaus’. Five’s research. He had taken over that department after Reginald had proven he couldn’t do it by ethical means.

A black binder sprawled open in the center.

“What does it matter.” Five took a gulp of tea. “He’s leaving soon anyway.” He didn’t seem to notice when Diego gawked at him. Only took another gulp and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

Diego clenched his teeth so hard his head injuries throbbed. “You’ve gotta be kidding me. That’s what you’re upset about? Losing some god damn research project?”
Five took another sip.

“Screw it, then. Go ahead and drink yourself to death.” Diego walked out of the room. “See if I care, you clearly don’t.”

Diego descended the stairs one by one. He strangled the railing as a stray squiggle of color floated through his vision. Mom would have to check for a concussion before he could risk sleeping. Thanks, Vanya. Reaching the landing, he leaned against the wall and sighed. He wasn’t tired, he wasn’t exhausted – He was spent. Any amount of patience or resolve he had was cashed in at the office, and his clusterfuck of a family was putting him in the negative.

There was a scream.

The aches in his bones froze over as his blood ran cold, and Diego found it within himself to sprint again. Wood splintered as Klaus’ bedroom door slammed in to the wall. Klaus shrieked, scrambling to the other side of his bed. There was a cacophony of thuds and clinks as floating objects fell on to the furniture and floor. The ash tray turned over on the coffee table, spilling ashes and butts on to the rug.

"What happened?" Diego's eyes flitted around the room for any sign of ghosts, or monsters, or some other kind of ridiculous bullshit.

“Jesus Christ, Diego!” Klaus peaked out from under a pile of blankets. He took a shaky breath, wiping the mascara streaks from his cheeks. “It’s, um, it’s nothing, there’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. Just, uh, just go. It’s fine.” Klaus pulled a quilt around his shoulders, his teeth making sharp snaps as they chattered.

“’Nothing’ doesn’t make shit float around the room.” Diego motioned across his bedroom, with the make up splattered on the vanity, records spilling out across the floor, posters hanging from a single piece of tape on the walls.

“Maybe my subconscious decided the room needed some redecorating. I’ve gotta keep that whole…” Klaus sucked in a breath as he quaked. “manic-depressive millennial aesthetic.”

“Right now, your aesthetic is freezing.” Diego stepped closer to get a better look.

“What happened to your head?”

Diego’s temples had tightened, creating pressure behind his eyes. If the bump was noticeable, it was probably worse then he thought. Awesome. Knees popping, he sat at the edge of the bed, the plush give of the mattress only serving to amplify the pain in the rest of his body. He laid back, head resting next to Klaus’ leg. It should have felt awkward, considering everything that had happened, but Diego was swiftly giving up on giving much of a shit.

“Seriously, Diego. You should get that checked out.”

“Klaus.” Diego rested a hand on his bare knee, skin frigid to the touch. Klaus looked at it, but didn’t pull away. “Stop.”

Why couldn’t Klaus ever just tell him what was wrong? What he needed? Why did he always have to be so much work? Why did he have to pull away? Why did he have to make Diego feel lonely? Why couldn’t things just be like how they used to be? Why couldn’t he just be close to him again?

“You know, I'm still pissed at you.” Klaus said. “But, um… Given the state that you’re in, I think I could table that for now.”

“What?”

“I mean,” Klaus unraveled himself from the blankets. He reached over the edge of the bed to lift Diego’s calves, pulling them sideways to pivot Diego’s body so that he was lying long ways across the bed. “You’re already lying down, and who am I to kick an injured man out of my bed?”

Diego wasn’t so concussed that he couldn’t see the insecure plea in Klaus’ eyes, even as he refused to look at him. The corners of Diego’s lips curled despite himself. Why did Klaus have to be like that? Just say it.

‘Just tell me you want me to stay.’

“So, I’ll let it slide, for now.” Klaus pulled his comforter up to his neck as he huddled up next to Diego’s side. “But I’ll be tearing your ass a new one come the morn’, I assure you.”

“Sure. Sounds good.” Diego squeezed his arm underneath Klaus' body and wrapped it around his back. It wasn't for him, but Diego enjoyed the closeness none the less. The warmth and weight of someone beside him - of Klaus beside him. It had been so long, months even, apart from that night in the gym, when the power when out and Diego asked Klaus to sit with him. It was awkward, Klaus clearly wanted out, but Diego was so damn desperate for just a little affection. Pathetic.

'..Five said he asked everybody else, but not me. Why not?'

'What do you mean, 'why not?'. This whole situation is why not.'

Staring at the ceiling, he noticed a tiny fissure in the spackling creeping in from the corner.

“Hey.”

Diego looked to Klaus, who shifted to rest his cheek on his shoulder but still not meeting Diego’s gaze.

"Thanks." Klaus said. "For saving me."

Diego rested his head back on the pillow and closed his eyes.

"Always."