Haunting Klaus can best be described as an experience. Not a pleasant experience, watching his brother dumpster dive for food, and sell himself for drugs was never enjoyable. But the worst part is seeing how alone Klaus is, and knowing that if he hadn’t died Klaus would only be more alone.
They weren’t close growing up. Allison and Luther, Vanya and Five, they were close but Ben was always too afraid of himself to spend much time with his siblings preferring to read alone. Diego liked to pretend he was a loner, but he was also fiercely competitive and spent most of his time fighting with Luther, or hanging out with mom.
Klaus though, Klaus drifted between all of them, generally he was a nuisance, he egged on Diego and Luther, cheered from the sidelines as they fought, or interrupted Ben’s reading. It wasn’t until after Ben died that he saw how lonely Klaus was.
“What are you thinking about?” Klaus asks, and he sounds genuinely interested, he always does. Ben knows that some days Klaus is glad he died, and more days he feels guilty for thinking that. The truth is sometimes Ben is glad he died too.
“Waffles.” He answers, deadpan. “I can barely remember what they taste like.” It’s true, he can barely remember the taste of most foods, and he misses them.
“Would you like me to eat some for you?” Klaus offers, because that’s the way Klaus is, caring, but moderately insensitive.
“I would be honored.” He jokes, bowing low to the floor. Klaus jumps to his feet, swaying slightly, and then starts heading for the window. “You know mom will probably make you waffles? Right?”
“Oh yeah. This is a real house.” Klaus remarks, turning on his heel. He’s used to squatting in empty buildings, having electricity and food is a novel experience. “God, it’s been so long since I’ve been in a real house.”
Ben remembers the last time, remembers Troy, and his quick temper. Remembers exactly how many bruises he left on Klaus’ body before Klaus was finally willing to leave the warmth of the apartment for the cold of the streets. Remembers that it only took one hour locked inside a closet before Klaus was slipping out the window, shaking but not from the cold.
“Yeah, but mom will have food downstairs, and you can ask for waffles for me.” Ben says, following Klaus into the hallway. Klaus is sober now, but he still tends to lose focus, Ben understands he can see the things attracting Klaus’ attention after all.
“True, true, I bet she’ll even make you your own plate.” Klaus bounces slightly, nearly tumbling down the stairs. “I swear I won’t steal any.” He promises, fingers crossed behind his back in clear view of Ben who is standing behind him.
“Uh-huh.” Ben agrees, and Klaus turns to give him an offended look.
“You don’t believe moi.” Klaus asks, leaning back against the banister dramatically. “My own brother, betraying me in my own home.” He looks around. “Well, mansion. The point remains.”
“Sorry, you’re just not that trustworthy.” Ben remarks, walking straight through Klaus’ dramatics and down the stairs. Klaus shivers, and then follows him.
“It’s rude to walk through people.” He grumbles, pouting slightly. Ben turns the corner without looking back.
“Really, you thought it was pretty funny with Luther last night.” It had been fun to stick his face through Luther and pull funny faces until Klaus couldn’t help but crack up in the middle of Luther’s meeting. Making fun of Luther was always enjoyable.
“Okay, but making fun of Luther is always hilarious.” Klaus points out, following him around the corner.
“Who’s making fun of me?” Luther asks, and Klaus stops short. Ben laughs at him.
“Ben.” Klaus answers immediately pointing at his ghostly brother because he’s a fucking snitch. Luther looks in Ben’s general direction with a scowl.
“I thought you were clean Klaus.” He turns away, and Ben wants to smack him. Seriously, do all of his siblings forget that Klaus see’s ghosts when he’s sober.
“I am.” Klaus says, and Ben hates the way his face falls. He knows he should be used to it by now, saw this face a hundred times when Luther, or Diego told Klaus to go away. Saw it the day Vanya said he couldn’t come to her concerts anymore, because he kept making a scene. Saw it the day Allison left and didn’t leave behind a phone number.
“You’ve been doing great Klaus.” Ben assures him, and the smile is back in place no more fragile than usual as Klaus bounds ahead into the kitchen.
“Mom, Ben would like your finest plate of waffles, and I would like a plate as well.” Klaus declares, and Mom smiles at him.
“Coming right up dear.” She promises, and he turns to smile at Ben, not noticing the irritated glare Diego is shooting his way. Ben wants to tell him to shut up and he hasn’t even spoken yet.
“You shouldn’t use Ben’s memory like that.” Diego grumbles, bumping his shoulder against Klaus’ as he leaves the kitchen.
“But, you asked for them.” Klaus says, turning hurt eyes on Ben. Ben just nods, and settles down on the counter.
“It’s okay Klaus. Thank you for getting me some waffles.” He smiles, and Klaus smiles back relaxing into his seat and humming as he waits for mom to finish the food. It’s worse than dying watching his siblings treat Klaus this way, knowing that they think he’s just a useless junkie.
“Thanks mom.” Klaus calls randomly, remembering that he was supposed to thank her.
“Of course, sweetie.” Mom at least, is always kind to Klaus, it’s a small comfort. Klaus just beams at her and Ben is left wishing that someone alive would at least try to understand him.
“Why the long face Benny boy?” Klaus asks, and Ben rolls his eyes. For now, he’s here and that’ll be enough. Maybe he can’t make the screaming woman in the corner go away, or the creepy man with the bloody neck, but he can be here. He can try and wake Klaus from the nightmares. Maybe it’ll be enough.
Chapter 2: Time for Ben to Yell
Ben yells at everyone, and Klaus get's a hug.
“Are we ready?” Ben asks, and part of the question is directed at Klaus, but truthfully he doesn’t know the answer, is he ready to see his siblings again? To be seen by someone other than Klaus? He isn’t sure.
“I think, if you want to, I could try.” Klaus hedges, not wanting to get Ben’s hopes up. Honestly, he appreciates it, this could go horribly wrong and Klaus could be left standing next to nothing staring down their whole family.
“I’d like to, try I mean.” Ben says, he craves it as much as it scares him. “It’d be nice to talk to someone other than you for once.” He teases, and Klaus nods seriously before skipping out of the room like a child on a sugar rush.
“Family meeting!” He shouts, in a voice that echoes through empty hallways. Ben doesn’t have the heart to tell him that it’s 3 o’clock in the morning, and anyways this will be much funnier. There’s a crash from Diego’s room, and then a very angry Diego standing in the doorway, knife in hand.
“Oh.” He mumbles when he sees Klaus, alertness draining from his face as exhaustion takes over. “Wha’ s it?” He slurs. “Something happen? You hurt?” He glances over Klaus looking for obvious signs of injury.
“What? Hurt? No. It’s family meeting time Diego, get the others.” Klaus rolls his eyes as if Diego is the ridiculous one in this situation. Ben attempts to hide his laugh at the bewildered look on his face.
“I’m going back to bed.” Diego decides, after a long moment turning back into his room. Klaus’s face falls, and once again Ben wishes he could kick his brother’s ass.
“It’s okay Klaus, you tried.” Ben starts to say, ready to wait until tomorrow.
“This is important.” Klaus stomps his foot in irritation and as much as he looks like a disgruntled toddler Ben can’t help the wave of fondness. Klaus is doing this for him, is facing all of their siblings at 3 am just so Ben can have a chance to talk with them. Diego hesitates.
“It better be.” He grumbles, and then he’s headed off towards Five’s room. “I’ll get Luther and Five, you get to wake the girls.” He says, and then he’s gone. Ben would think Klaus got the worse end of the stick, but Five was always a nightmare in the mornings so who knows.
“Thanks.” Ben bumps his shoulder through Klaus’ earning a thumbs up and a wide smile before Klaus is skipping off towards Allison’s room.
“Ride and shine, it’s meeting time!” Klaus calls, banging his fist against the door and snickering at his own rhyme. There’s a thud from inside, and when Ben sticks his head through the door Allison is on the floor.
“Klaus! What the fuck!” She yells, grabbing onto the bed and yanking herself to her feet, fury on her face.
“Family meeting!” Klaus yells back, and then has the good sense to run away, headed for Vanya’s room. He rounds the corner before Allison manages to yank the door open, she’ll follow, if only to yell at him.
Klaus stops by Vanya’s door, cracking up.
“Did you see her Ben?” He wheezes out between giggles. “Movie star Allison Hargreeves, woken up in the middle of the night, she must be pissed.” He kicks off another bought of laughter, doubling over. Ben can’t help thinking his brother is kind of an asshole.
Then again so is he considering the smile he can’t keep off his face. Klaus raises a hand to knock on Vanya’s door, and it swings open nearly knocking him on his ass.
“Family meeting?” She asks, blanket wrapped around her shoulders, and her eyes slightly glazed with sleep. Klaus nods eagerly. “Great timing Klaus.”
“I know right.” Klaus agrees, ignoring the sarcasm dripping from her voice, and the eye roll he gets in return.
“Let’s go then.”
She gestures down the hall towards the living room, and Klaus bounds ahead. Ben shakes his head fondly, and follows after.
“Klaus.” Luther says, the moment Klaus enters the room. It’s his I am Number One so you have to listen to me voice. “What is this about?”
“I have called you all here today,” Klaus starts, hopping up onto the coffee table and ignoring everyone’s protests. “At the request of, drum roll please,” He points to Vanya, who humors him, sleepily tapping on the table. “My favorite brother, Ben!”
“Drama king.” Ben grumbles, trying to ignore the spike of anxiety that suddenly runs through him. He hasn’t spoken with his siblings in years, and if he had a heart he’s sure it would be racing. An irrational part of his brain asks if they even want to speak to him.
“Queen!” Klaus corrects, ignoring the confused look on everyone else’s faces, he’s long since gotten used to strange looks.
Half of their siblings roll their eyes, slouching back in their seats and crossing their arms over their chests. The fear that they won’t want to talk to him worsens.
“Not this again.” Diego huffs, and if Ben hadn’t spent more than a decade with Klaus he would think his brother hadn’t heard. As it is he knows better than that. See’s the way the smile stills on his face, how he blinks once, twice, takes a deep breath to center himself, it all happens in an instant.
After that, there’s a pulling sensation in Ben’s gut and then a sensation that can only be described as the moment when a rollercoaster goes over a drop, and then he’s solid.
“Yes, this again.” He can’t help but say, shooting a glare at Diego. He’s spent over a decade with Klaus, at this point sarcasm and sass are basically the only language he speaks.
“Ben?” A few people ask at the same time, and Ben waves at them all an awkward smile on his face.
“That’s me.” He wants to hug them, but he knows if he does Klaus will run out of steam sooner so he stays where he is, he can hug them some other time, but this time he wants to talk. Klaus sits down on the table, and focuses.
“How?” Five asks, and it strikes Ben for the thousandth time how much he’s stayed the same despite all the changes. He always did need to know anything.
“Someone’s been practicing,” He says, beaming at Klaus like a proud mother. “We finally felt ready to share with the group.” Klaus glances up, a brilliant smile on his face. There’s a few mumbles of appreciation, but Luther is glaring at Klaus.
“Wait, you’ve been doing this for a while and you didn’t say anything?” He demands, taking a step forward.
“I just-“ Klaus stutters to a stop, and Ben can feel himself flickering. He crouches down in front of Klaus.
“Focus, you’ve got me, I’ve got Luther.” Ben says, and Klaus nods seriously. He whirls to look at Luther sick and tired of how everyone treats his brother. “And you, where do you get off scolding him?”
“He kept you from us!” Luther roars, as if he has any right to be outraged.
“Who’s fault is that?” Ben asks, throwing his hands up in frustration. “He fucking mentions my name and it’s all rolled eyes, and rude comments.” Ben pulls himself up puffing his chest out, and doing his best Luther impression. “I thought you were clean Klaus.” He wanders over to stand next to Diego, and attempts to look sulky. “Don’t use his memory like that. Oh, not this again. I fucking asked for those waffles you asshat.”
“That’s not fair Ben.” Luther grumbles. “What, we’re just supposed to believe him?” Ben snaps and points at Luther.
“Bingo!” He shouts, and Klaus is clearly trying not to giggle. “Why on earth would he tell you if you never would have believed him?” He steps back over to Klaus. “Why would he tell you just so you could accuse him of relapsing when he is trying so damn hard to stay clean?”
“You could have told me.” Vanya says, voice soft and quiet. Ben looks at her for a long moment considering the way that she never laughed at Klaus, always at least pretended to believe him. Klaus opens his mouth, most likely to apologize.
“When?” Ben asks, before he can.
“What?” Vanya asks, and every pair of eyes is on him, even Klaus.
“I said, when? When should Klaus have told you?” He asks, and he’s suddenly aware that this is something he’s mad about. “Vanya, when was the last time you chose to spend five minutes with Klaus. Actually, all of you, if you can tell me the last time any of you actually chose to seek Klaus out and spend five minutes with him, without needing something.” He points to Five and watches as the old man’s mouth snaps shut. “Then I will apologize, but I’ve been with Klaus for over a decade, so I can tell all of you that the answer is not since before I died.”
No one speaks for a moment, and he glares around the room only to grind to a halt on tear filled eyes.
“Really?” Klaus asks, and he feels himself fading. Klaus’s voice cracks. “Have I just been bothering them this whole time?” He sniffles, and Ben’s heart breaks.
“Not at all.”
“Of course not.” A chorus of denials from their siblings, but Klaus is looking at him still, trusting him to be honest.
“Klaus, you haven’t been bothering anyone,” Ben says, gesturing to the group. “It’s just that they’re all selfish assholes.” They don’t hear him, can’t anymore, but he watches as they climb to their feet as a group and move towards Klaus.
Suddenly Klaus is in the middle of a tangle of arms. “A group hug? For me?” He attempts to lighten the mood and all of them have the good sense to ignore the fact that he’s still crying. “God, I haven’t been hugged in, what is it Ben? Six years?” He doesn’t notice the stricken looks on his siblings faces, the guilt.
“Well you guys fucked up.” Five grumbles, kicking a foot at Luther.
“You’ve been back for months old man.” Ben growls, and would go right back to scolding if Klaus wasn’t ready to pass out already.
“Ben says you’ve been back for months, so shut up.” Klaus translates, and Ben loves him even more when Five’s mouth snaps shut with an audible clack.
“When did Ben get so mean?” Allison whispers, mostly to herself. He softens slightly, some of the anger leaving him as his siblings cling to Klaus. He’s not the brother they lost, being able to talk to one person alive was lonely, but seeing the world through Klaus’ eyes was heart breakingly lonely. In a way death made him bitter in a way life never did.
“Tell them I love them, and next time you make me corporeal I want a hug like this.” Ben asks, and Klaus smiles sleepily at him.
“Ben says he loves us and he wants a hug tomorrow after I’ve had a nap.” Klaus announces, and it’s close enough.
“Asshole.” Ben mumbles, poking a finger through Klaus’ hand.
“You love me.” Klaus teases back, and the fragile smile is back, but it looks a little stronger than before.
“So do we!” Their siblings chorus, and Klaus’ eyes nearly bug out of his head when Luther squeezes him. Ben laughs, and can’t help but think that, despite everything, despite his siblings being massive idiots, he missed this.
A moment passes, as he stares at the group.
“I do.” He promises, Klaus doesn’t hear him, having fallen asleep in the moments since Luther loosened his grip. It’s okay though, Klaus knows.