Klaus comes to with a ragged gasp, sucking in air. He touches his throat and then the back of his head, and then he just rests his hand on his chest and breathes. In and out, in and out. It doesn’t calm him down. There’s a ringing and a buzzing and music, so so loud, and in his peripheral, he can see a crowd of people, all staring.
“Should we call 911?” someone asks.
“I’m fine,” Klaus says, because he assumes they’re talking about him and because an ambulance is just going to fuck him over, slow him down. Luther would be pissed if Klaus got bogged down in hospital paperwork when the apocalypse is at their door. And Dad—
“Is he moving?” says someone else.
“Holy fuck, I think that’s blood.”
Klaus looks down at his hands. No blood there. Are they talking about Luther? Where’s Luther? That gorilla freak getting his freak on with that freaky fucking furry, Jesus fucking Christ—
Klaus swivels his head, feeling like his skull is full of bricks and they’re all shouting. He tries to say Ben’s name, but his mouth feels like it’s full of sand, and his vision is too blurry to make eye contact with his brother.
“Oh, God,” Ben says, and that doesn’t sound right. What’s Ben worried about now? Klaus woke up, he’s fine, it isn’t even his fault this time. Or drugs. It wasn’t drugs.
Klaus stands up, and then he looks down at his feet.
Or, where his feet should be.
Klaus is ankle deep in his own pelvis.
Klaus chatters nonstop while he and Ben meander around, looking for Luther. It’s a commentary on anything and everything, and Klaus won’t let Ben get a word in edgewise, because Ben probably wants to talk about feelings. Klaus does not to talk about feelings. Klaus wants to get Amy Winehouse’d so bad that he can’t feel his limbs.
But he can’t do that, because he’s dead.
Klaus wonders if ghosts can hyperventilate and changes his rambling topic to the practicality of having a zebra as a pet. He can’t find Luther, and no one can see him, and his body—his body—is back in that club, surrounded by trashed and stoned losers incapable of giving Klaus so much as a decent round of CPR. Fuck his rights, or whatever.
It makes Klaus giggle. And by “it,” Klaus means the fact that he survived the mausoleum, and mission upon mission, and so many overdoses, and a few suicide attempts, and sort-of-prostitution, and prison, and prison again, and torture in a motel room, and the fucking Vietnam War—he survived all that just to die in a nightclub from head trauma. From a broken skull.
“Wow,” Klaus says. “Luther, I fucking hate you.”
Luther isn’t here, which Klaus is glad of, because he doesn’t really mean it. Klaus himself has done plenty of things he regrets while he was high out of his mind. He hopes Luther will regret leaving his dead brother in a nightclub. It feels like the kind of thing Luther would take upon himself, flagellate himself with until Klaus is another useless moon.
Or maybe Luther will pull a typical “I’m all-important Number One” move and focus on the useless bit. Useless Klaus Hargreeves Dies in a Nightclub, Age 30 or 31, No One Charged with Manslaughter. Klaus can see the headline now. Vanya better write one hell of an article.
It’s Ben again. Ben’s been trying to talk to him for a few hours now. If anybody would know how to cope with fresh death and fresh ghosthood, it would be Ben, but Klaus is too embarrassed to talk to him. It doesn’t matter that Ben spent the first week of ghosthood alternating between sobbing, screaming, and being comatose with his eyes open. Ben’s okay now, so Klaus doesn’t want to lose his marbles (any more of his marbles, anyway—does he have any left to lose?) in front of his composed little brother.
“Klaus, please talk to me,” Ben says. “Please. Even if you’re upset. Just—can you—can you see me? Just talk to me, Klaus, please just—”
Now Klaus feels like an asshole.
“I can see you,” he says. He makes eye contact, and Ben’s shoulders visibly sag. “Sorry. I was ignoring you, but I can see you. I can see you. I’m sorry, Ben.”
“I thought—maybe, since you’re—that you couldn’t—that you hadn’t figured out—I thought I was alone again.”
“No,” Klaus says. “No. I’m here. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” says Ben, and he smiles a little timidly. “How are you feeling?”
A woman walks through Klaus and he full-body shudders.
“Peachy,” says Klaus. “How are you?”
Klaus somehow, somehow, figures out how to manifest himself visibly, as some sort of shade passing as a living man, to talk a high-as-a-kite Luther into going home. He doesn’t touch Luther once, and his ghostly self feels a bit lightheaded, but he walks beside Luther until they’re back to the Academy.
He lets himself release the tension—he imagines that he vanishes to the living eye—once they’re back at the Academy and Luther has fallen asleep on the staircase.
“I’ll tell him I’m dead when he’s sober,” Klaus tells Ben. “I’ll do it.”
“Okay,” says Ben.
It’s ridiculously easy to pretend to be alive, Klaus realizes. Manifesting himself, making himself visible, that’s the hardest part. He has to keep himself tense and strong, praying he doesn’t flicker in front of them or disappear entirely, and he has to do it until it’s socially acceptable—or understandable for Klaus standards, anyway—to get “bored” and meander his way out of a room.
“Once I get the hang of this, I’ll make them see you,” Klaus wheezes. “We can be visible together.”
“Okay,” says Ben. He looks a little concerned. Probably because Klaus still does alive-people-stress-things like wheezing and deep breathing.
Klaus had a trainwreck of a life before, and now is no different. He “wears the same outfit every day.” He never touches his siblings, and he never lets them near enough to touch him, even on accident. They’d just go through him like wind, and that’s not a conversation any of them are ready to have right now. They’re all too busy focusing on their own shit, or each other’s shit, or stopping the fucking apocalypse. Mostly the last bit. Klaus flits in and out of rooms and conversations like a hummingbird, acting ridiculous, talking to Ben, trying not to have flashbacks when a car backfiring outside sounds like gunfire.
In the mirror, Klaus notices a faint ring of bruises around his neck. From Luther choking him out that night, he guesses. They just look like an odd shadow; they hadn’t had enough time to truly develop into grape-purple before he cracked his head open on the dance floor.
“Am I bloody?” Klaus asked Ben, the first night. “Like. From the back, can you tell?”
“You sound like Allison on her period,” Ben says, but he looks at the back of Klaus’s head. “Your hair just looks dark back there. Maybe a bit wet. Like you’ve just showered.”
Klaus keeps thinking the phone is gonna ring, the police on the line, saying they’ve found a body. The body. Some junkie a few days clean murdered in a nightclub. But it doesn’t.
“You don’t have an emergency contact, right?” Ben reminds him.
“Right, right. So sensible, brother dear. But our family name is so funky. They’d probably call one of our dear brothers or sisters.”
“Maybe they need to fingerprint you or something and they haven’t done it yet.”
“Maybe,” Klaus says, “those innocent club bystanders felt bad they didn’t call 911 and hid my body somewhere. Bricked me in the walls,” he intones, using a voice he heard on television once in rehab—some character in a horror movie telling a scary story around the campfire. Klaus casts around his head for some detail to make this theory less depressing. “Amontillado!” he cries. “In the basement! Professor Plum, with the candlestick—”
“Shut up,” Ben groans. “Pretend I’m throwing a pillow at you.”
“Pretend I’m throwing one back.”
“Pretend I’m ripping it in half.”
“Pretend I’m throwing the feathers at you!”
Sometimes, during family meetings—arguments about stopping the apocalypse or whose turn it is to wash the dishes—Klaus wonders if maybe one of his siblings already got the call. If they identified the body, know he’s dead, and don’t bother to talk to him about it. Option one: they’re relieved that their junkie brother is mostly out of their hair now—not that he went to them for help on purpose in the last fifteen years of his life anyway. Or. Option two: it's not relief or grief; they just don’t care at all.
Klaus can’t decide which would be worse.