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If Your Life Won't Wait

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None of Klaus’s siblings are in their rooms. This isn’t a surprise, really, but Klaus had called dibs on room search when he and Ben split up, so he figured he might as well uphold that and actually look in his siblings’ bedrooms. 

Klaus doesn't find his siblings, but when he starts to walk past his own room, he notices Mom.

“Hi, sweetie,” she says when he walks in. “You don’t have any laundry for me to wash.”

“No, sorry,” he says, and then he wonders if he should be apologizing for making Mom’s life easier. Then he wonders why Mom is still stuck doing all the housework when she lives with a bunch of adults. Has Luther done a load of laundry ever in his life? Well, he was on the moon for years, Klaus remembers, but do they do laundry on the moon? Is moon laundry a thing? Klaus thinks about his own laundry, and how one time he gave a blowjob behind the green laundromat for thirty bucks and two floral-scented dryer sheets, and then he realizes that Mom is talking to him. 

“—don’t mind,” she’s saying. 

“What?” Klaus says. 

“I promise I don’t mind,” she says. 

“Right,” he says. 

Mom smiles at him. She hasn’t stopped doing that since he walked in, but again, not a surprise. She’s just like that, always has been. Klaus doesn’t know why their grim, emotionless father bothered programming a smile into their robot guardian, but he’s eighty-five percent sure it has something to do with misogyny.

“Mom, how are you doing?” Klaus asks. He sits down on his bed. As much as a ghost can sit, anyway. The bed doesn’t creak and the blankets don’t crinkle or bow under his weight. He hasn’t got any weight. But he’s sitting, sort of. 

“I’m swell,” Mom says. She sits down next to him. “How are you?”

“I’m good." 

“You don’t look well, sweetie,” she says. “Are you getting enough sleep?”

Klaus laughs. “Yeah,” he says, since zero hours of sleep are enough for a ghost. “Yeah, I am. Thanks, Mom.”

“You and Ben always slept the worst,” Mom says. “I worry about you still.”

Klaus thinks about all the times he'd asked Mom to let him and Ben have a sleepover in Klaus's room when they were very little and how many times Mom said no. Sometimes he and Ben had little sleepovers anyway.

And what Mom said just now—that shit right there is what makes Klaus think, sometimes, that their Mom might really be sentient, or at least spontaneous, breaking in little ways from whatever rigid code their father had set. There was no reason for her to say that. Maybe for their health she would think it. And maybe for Klaus’s health she’d mention that she’s worried about him. But why bring up poor dead Ben at all if she didn’t really miss him? 

Klaus thinks his internal self is starting to sound too much like Diego.

"Do you remember,” he says, hesitant, “how you used to leave a plate out for Ben all the time for dinner? And then you didn’t anymore?”

“I remember,” Mom says. 

“And you did the same thing for Five.”

“I remember,” she says again. 

“Why’d you stop?”

“I received a patch updating mealtime protocols,” Mom says. 

Klaus’s shoulders sag. “Yeah, I thought so.”

“I thought your brothers were coming back,” she says, and she doesn’t lose the smile, but something changes enough to make it a more serious smile, something gentle and more appropriate for the topic. “My code was updated to reflect their absence.”

Klaus bites his lip. “Did you miss them?”

“Of course,” she says. “I love you all.”

Klaus nods. He wants to, he wants to so badly, but he still doesn’t know if he believes her. He’s not sure how much is code and how much is something real. Or is code real enough? Does it take a command for someone to love them unconditionally? Klaus used to think so, but after Dave, he’s not as sure. 

"Mom, you know I see ghosts, right?" Klaus says.

"Yes, dear."

"Do you remember what happened with me when Ben died?"

"You were all very upset," Mom says. "It was a shock."

"But with me specifically," Klaus presses. "Do you remember?"

Mom tilts her head quizzically, like a dog that doesn't understand the command that it has been given but is very happy to be in front of its owner anyway.

Maybe that's not fair. Or maybe it's Klaus's inner Diego that's making him feel guilty for thinking it. Has Mom ever been more than their father's thing-servant-object-creation-pet?

Well. They were all their father's things, weren't they.

“If I told you I’d seen Ben’s ghost all these years,” Klaus says quietly, “would you believe me?”

“Is it true?” Mom asks. 

“Yes."

Mom smiles. “Well, then, of course I believe you, silly!”

Klaus blinks back the tears that spring up. He's not sure if she understands, but her easy affirmation—he can't do this. He really can't.

"Thanks," he manages to say, trying not to sound too choked.

"Of course," she says.

"He's not here right now," Klaus says, "but, um. Is there anything you want me to tell him?"

"Tell him that he's late for dinner," Mom says.

Klaus closes his eyes. Of course this is all she can comprehend as a robot. Of course this is all she can say.

"Tell him," she continues, a little slower, "that I love him, and that what happened was not his fault."

Oh.

And Klaus knows she’s talking about Ben, but just for a second, Klaus’s throat closes, and he thinks about the rave, and about the fact that the sound his head made against the floor was the last thing he heard as a living man, and about how foolish and stupid he felt knowing that this is the way he died after all this time.

"I'll tell him," Klaus says, and he wipes at his tears.

Mom reaches out to wipe his tears with her own hand, but he leans back, not out of reach but far enough to signal that that's not something he wants. It's not true, that he doesn't want it, but he can't have it, so he pretends. Her smiling expression doesn’t change when he avoids her touch, which is what Klaus has missed the most about Mom these past fifteen years. Yeah, she's a robot, but that means everything is face value with her. There’s no justification or explaining yourself or overexplaining yourself, just the yes/no, the does/does not compute.

“Klaus."

When Klaus turns, Ben is peeking his head in the doorway like he’s a Scooby Doo character.

“Hi, Ben,” Klaus says. “Hey, Mom, Ben’s here now. Is there anything you want to tell him?”

“Where?” Mom asks. 

Klaus points. “He’s there.”

Ben walks fully through the doorway. “Klaus, this isn’t going to work.”

"No one is there," Mom says.

"No, he's there, he's real. He's just a ghost, you know?"

"No one is there," Mom says again.

"Ben's here," Klaus insists. "Just—"

“I can’t see him,” Mom says. “Visual input error. Attempting heat signature scan."

Klaus blinks. Ben just sighs. 

“Klaus, where is your heat signature? I can see you and hear you, but you’re not here. There's some pocket of air here that's too cold. There's another in the doorway. Ben has no audible or visible output. Visual scan and heat signature scan are experiencing errors. Ear modules pending review dependent on Ben’s current audio output status.”

“Hey, Mom, it’s okay,” Klaus says, reaching out despite himself. “It’s okay. Hey, look at me.”

Mom does. A smile replaces her befuddled expression. “What is it, sweetie?”

“Will you tell me again what you’d say if Ben was here?”

“Of course,” she says. “I’d tell him that he’s late for dinner.”

Ben makes a pained noise, and when Klaus turns again, Ben’s hand is covering his own mouth. He just—he looks wrecked. Absolutely wrecked. 

“I’d tell him that I love him,” Mom says. “I’d tell him that what happened to him is not his fault.”

Ben bows his head, shoulders tense, and Klaus gets up from the bed and walks over to him. Klaus is afraid to try to hug him, afraid of what it’ll feel like when his hands pass through, but Klaus can at least be here for him. 

Ben recovers. He’s always been more resilient than Klaus. He still looks a little off-kilter, though. A little shaken. 

"There's been a development," Ben says instead of talking about his feelings. 

Klaus almost wishes Ben would talk about his feelings, but Klaus isn’t going to pry, at least for the moment.

“‘A development?’ What is this, Charlie’s Angels?”

Ben shrugs. “You better get out here.”

Well, alright then. 

“Bye, Mom,” Klaus says. 

“See you later, sweetie.” 

As soon as Klaus steps out of his bedroom and out of her line of sight, he turns invisible. 

"Sorry, I got distracted."

"It's fine," Ben says, voice tight. “You know, that didn’t work the last time you tried telling Mom.”

“I tried to tell Mom about you before?” 

“Yeah. It was pretty soon after the first time you saw me, and the same thing happened. When we were kids, too, you told her about some gory ghost that was scaring you while you and I were hanging out, and she told you there was no one there. It didn’t help, obviously.”

Klaus frowns. “I don’t remember.”

“Well, when you were trying to tell her about me, you were so drunk I’m surprised you could talk. And when we were little kids—“

“—we were little kids,” Klaus says.

"Yeah. It's a toss-up what we remember from back then. I'm sure you remember stuff I don't."

"I don't know about that," Klaus says. “My subsequent substance abuse blurred all my childhood memories, probably.”

“'Subsequent,'” Ben repeats. “Studying those SAT words? Going to get your GED?”

“What the fuck is an SAT?”

“Never mind,” Ben says.

“So what’s up? Five didn’t get himself stuck in the future again, did he?”

Klaus is only half-joking. At this point, he's gotta be prepared for anything.

“No, but, uh,” Ben pauses. “The jig is up?”

“What the fuck is the jig? The only dance I know is the salsa.” Klaus suggestively swivels his hips and Ben makes a disgusted face. 

“That’s not the salsa,” Ben says. “Look, man, they—”

Five turns the corner, Diego and Luther at his heels, and Klaus presses himself flat against the wall so his brothers don’t walk through him, because ugh. Uncomfortable. Ben just lets them walk through him because he's got no sense of personal space. Or because he's used to it; whatever.

“I don’t think he doesn’t know, actually,” Diego is saying.

"What?" Luther says.

Diego rolls his eyes. “I mean. I think he knows.”

Five frowns. “Why?”

“Vanya told Allison and me that she remembers Klaus walking through the wall in the basement to sit with her in that cell. If he walked through a wall, and if he survived the basement explosion, then he’s gotta know he’s dead, right?”

Dead. Gotta know he's dead.

“‘Survived’ is a strong word,” Five says. "Do you even hear yourself when you speak? 'Survived' and 'dead' in the same sentence?"

"Shut up," says Diego.

"You have a point, though," says Five, and then they turn down another hallway, voices fading out of earshot. 

“Klaus,” Ben says. 

Klaus just stares at the end of the hallway. He doesn’t move from the wall, bracing himself on it. 

“Klaus, hey, talk to me.”

Klaus hears Ben through a haze. It's like his ears are stuffed with cotton. He thinks he's forgotten how to breathe, and he has the delirious thought that it's a good thing he's dead already, because he'd have passed out and died by now otherwise. Not that it would matter. Not that anything he's done has mattered. 

"Come on, look at me. Hey," Ben waves his hand in front of Klaus's face for what's probably not the first time, and Klaus looks at him.

“They’ve known,” Klaus says. “Did you hear that? Vanya remembered. They’ve known this whole time. And they—they’re joking about it, you heard the—the tone of voice, the way they—you heard Five, I’m just a fucking joke—”

“No,” says Ben, “no, that’s not—”

Klaus chokes on a laugh. “Wow. Why did I bother? This whole time, pretending, why—”

“Stop,” Ben says. “Stop. They love you.”

“No,” Klaus says. “Vanya was right. When she wrote her memoir, she was right about everything.”

"You don't mean that."

Klaus remembers how uncomfortable the chair had been when he had sat down and read Vanya's memoir for the first time. He'd stolen a copy of the memoir from a Barnes and Noble before checking into rehab, and he'd read through it over a few days. He'd had to reread sections because of how shit his concentration had been during withdrawal, but Ben reminded him which page he'd been on, since he'd hovered over Klaus's shoulder. Klaus's bony fucking ass had ached sitting in that chair, and his back hurt, and the plastic smelled funny, but he sat in it for a long time each day, captivated by the trainwreck of a family that Vanya had thrown onto the pages. Not a family, she'd said. Strangers living in one house. People who didn't care about each other.

And maybe things are different now—maybe Five and Vanya are doing better, maybe Allison and Vanya are closer sisters, maybe Diego and Five drink together now and then, maybe Luther and Allison are repairing their fractured friendship, building something real overtop the ashes of their previous bond of being powerful, being favorites, being One and Three. Maybe they act like a family. Maybe there's some love there, some trust, some looking out for each other.

But that has never included Klaus.

Why should it, really? What's he worth? It's not like his death changes anything. He's still that obnoxious, annoying, lingering bastard he's always been. And it's not like he was useful to begin with, always on lookout, high out of his mind half the time towards the end of their fights as a group anyway. And he'd not been much use stopping the apocalypse, either, had he? They're probably glad he's dead, glad they don't have to keep track of their junkie brother, glad that they don't have to watch out for the weak link anymore—

But he'd thought—maybe, now—

Klaus covers his mouth. He can’t feel his palm. Klaus is hyperventilating into his palm and he can’t feel his own skin because he doesn’t have skin because he’s dead and nobody cares. He can’t get enough air; why can’t he get enough air?

“That’s not what’s going on," Ben says. "Listen to me. I heard them on the roof, Klaus, they were so upset, and they were screaming at each other. Diego tried to stab Luther.”

Klaus chokes on a laugh. “Diego always tries to stab Luther.”

“Sure, but he was furious. They were arguing about you. I think they just figured it out,” Ben says. “Today, or just now. Remember Vanya crying on Allison? She must have remembered; they must know because of that. They love you, Klaus, they do. I think they just found out. Deep breathing, alright? We're a family. We are.”

Klaus rubs at his eyes and inhales deeply. "A 'family.' Diego and Luther arguing about me, that's not so unusual, right? I'm never contributing enough; I'm—"

Wait. What had Ben said?

Klaus goes cold, colder than normal, a kind of psychosomatic cold that almost makes him wish he could get goosebumps just to give an outlet to the chill that runs up his spine.

"Vanya."

Ben blinks. "You're Vanya?"

"No," Klaus says, "Vanya was upset. With Allison. If she remembered me being dead, and she's upset—Ben, we left Allison alone with Vanya. We left them alone."

Klaus remembers the basement explosion. He remembers how the irises of Vanya's eyes had gone white, so horrifyingly, blankly white, and she'd screamed, and Klaus remembers, too, why they'd been in the basement at all—the floor of that cabin, and Allison, limp on the floor and soaked in blood, blood everywhere, and they thought she was dead, they thought—

"Oh, God," Ben says.

 

 


 

 

They find Allison and Vanya on the same couch but sitting separately now. Vanya's looking much calmer, there's some half-eaten sandwiches on a plate, and there isn't any blood anywhere.

Klaus's shoulders sag with relief. "Oh, man."

"Yeah," Ben says. "Fuck."

"That could've been so bad."

"I know."

They stand there a second more, just staring at their sisters, before Klaus notices what Vanya is holding in her hands.

Dave's dog tags.

Klaus touches the dog tags that dangle from his neck. He doesn't really touch them, but he kind of does. There's no cold there, no metallic texture, but he can feel them. He can feel them. They've got Dave's name and number, and Klaus remembers pulling them from Dave's body.  Klaus had washed the blood off of them in the bathroom sink as soon as he got back, and he'd turned away from the mirror so he wouldn't have to watch himself sob. Klaus had run his hands over them so many times that he's surprised the letters of Dave's name weren't permanently imprinted on his fingertips.

They're Dave's dog tags, and Klaus died wearing them.

And now Vanya has them.

"Where did you get those?" Klaus says.

Vanya and Allison both jump.

"Jesus, you scared me," Vanya says. "How long have you been standing there?"

"Can you just answer the question?"

Whatever levity Vanya had been trying to keep up disappears. Allison looks just as somber.

"You have my dog tags," Klaus says again.

"No," Vanya says. "I have Dave Katz's dog tags."

That had been something Dave had wondered about after they slept together. He'd noticed Klaus didn't wear dog tags. How could he not? And when Dave finally asked later, Klaus had lied and said, I lost them, and Dave had said, But what if— and Klaus had said, We're gonna make it, and Dave had said, I'll remember you, if we don't. I'll remember you. And to lighten the mood, Klaus had said, You'd better remember me, after I do this, and then he'd reached into Dave's pants.

We're gonna make it. Klaus should've known better.

When Klaus doesn't say anything, Vanya's face crumples.

"Diego brought us this," she says, and she reaches under the couch and pulls out a large plastic bag with—with Klaus's clothes in it. Klaus's clothes. The clothes he wore when he died. Vanya holds out the bag, but of course, Klaus can't take it. He doesn't even try.

"When?" Klaus asks.

"Earlier today. After lunch."

Klaus just stares at her and at the bag. "Where did Diego get this?

"Eudora called me yesterday," Diego says, and Klaus turns to see Diego and Luther standing behind Five, who has stopped in the doorway. They all look grim. Luther won't meet Klaus's eyes.

Vanya says, very quietly, "Klaus, do you remember when you told me that we needed to have a rain check on a conversation?"

"Yeah," Klaus says, feeling a little sick. "Yeah, I do."

"I think now's the time," she says.

Klaus sits down in an armchair. He doesn't know what else to do, where to start, what to say at all.

His brothers take seats around the room, too—even Ben, who sits on the arm of Klaus's armchair—and then there's a moment of silence.

Luther still won't look at Klaus.

"You all know," Klaus says.

"Yeah," says Diego. "I found out yesterday. I had to—I had to identify your body, Klaus." His face twists, and he looks down at his hands.

"Oh, man," Klaus says weakly.

"Is that all you have to say?" Diego says. "'Oh, man'?" He shakes his head. "Jesus Christ—"

"Shut up, Diego," Five says. "Klaus, what happened?"

Luther, and the club and its loud music, and everyone pressing up too close together, and Luther, and Luther's girl, and Luther's girl's guy, and seeing that fight before it could even begin, and jumping on that guy's back, and then the world tipping over and a loud crack and then nothing but pain and black-dark—

"I died," Klaus says.

Vanya closes her eyes. 

"That was too blunt," Klaus amends, eyeing Vanya, who opens her eyes again but still looks pale. But she always looks pale. "What I mean to say is—well. I don't know." Klaus looks at Ben for help, but Ben just gestures for him to keep going. "Two weeks ago, I passed away. And then I came back. No surprise there!" He tries to smile. "I've always had the ghosts, so it's no wonder I became one, right?"

"Two weeks ago, nightclub, head trauma," Five lists. He pulled some folder from a couch cushion and holds it in his hands without opening it. "Who did it?"

Klaus blinks. "Does it matter?"

Five leans forward in his seat, and from between clenched teeth, he says, "Yes. It does."

Klaus can't even remember the guy's face. It had been kind of dark, and what lights were on lit everything up in a neon glow, and everything had gone so quickly—

"I don't know his name," Klaus says, which is true.

"But there was somebody?" Luther says. "You didn't fall?"

Ben says, "Are you kidding me?"

Klaus catches Luther's gaze for a split second before Luther looks away again.

"No," Klaus says, and then he laughs, because of course Luther didn't notice. Of course Luther didn't see. "No, I didn't fall."

Luther can't stand the sight of Klaus, can he? Especially not after learning Klaus was killed by somebody, right? Less embarrassing than a fall, but it's failure against an attacker. Of course Luther's ashamed.

"What did he look like?" Five says. "What was he wearing? Did he say anything? How did he talk?"

"Why does it matter?" Klaus says. 

Five just stares at Klaus for a second. "Because I need to know who he is so I can kill him," he says slowly, like he's explaining something to a small child. "He killed you, Klaus. He murdered you. I'm going to make him wish he was never born."

"Oh."

That shouldn't make tears come to Klaus's eyes, but it does. It does. He blinks them away, and when he's got himself under control, he says, "Thanks, but no thanks."

"What the hell do you mean, 'No, thanks'?"

Klaus smiles wryly. "I appreciate it, but if you kill him and he comes back to haunt you then I'll have to see him all the time, and I don't really want that."

Some of the rage in Five's face gets overtaken by surprise. "You can see the ghosts of the people I've assassinated?"

"More often than not," Klaus says.

"There's a lot of them, and they're usually covered in blood," Ben adds, even though Five can't hear him.

Five doesn't say anything. He just leans back in his seat, his eyes wide and his lips pressed into a thin line.

"You know, for a second there we thought that we were going to have to explain to you that you'd died," Diego says.

"Wait, what?" Vanya says.

Klaus blinks. "What the hell?"

"Well, what else were we supposed to think when you've been acting alive all this time?" Diego says. "What was your plan, Klaus? If we never figured it out, what was your plan? When all of us aged and you didn't, is that when you were going to tell us? When we did the laundry and realized you've been wearing the same outfit for two weeks?"

"Mom does the laundry."

"Shut the fuck up," Diego says. "Why did you keep it a secret? If you knew all along, why didn't you just say something? What the hell was your plan?"

"I don't know," Klaus says. "I didn't think that far ahead."

"I told you, you should've told them," Ben says.

Klaus puts his head in his hands. "Shut it, Ben."

"Don't bring Ben into this," Luther mutters. 

"Hey," Ben says.

"Look, I get why you didn't tell me," Vanya says. She wrings her hands. "I get it. Since you did tell me, technically, and I—I blew up. Right?"

"I was too blunt," Klaus says. "It was my fault. I'm sorry."

"No, it's okay," Vanya says. "I, uh. I don't remember exactly what you said, but I'm sure I wasn't in a good state to hear it, however it was said. So I get why you didn't try to tell me again. But why didn't you tell anyone else? Allison or Diego or somebody? You kept it a secret this whole time? What, did you think that we—that we wouldn't care?"

"Well, when you put it like that," Klaus says weakly, and then he looks at each of his siblings.

Diego, Five, Allison, Vanya. Luther, who still won't look at him.

"Look, what was I supposed to say? 'Hey, guys, I know we're all very focused on trying to stop the apocalypse, but can I take a moment to distract you with the unchangeable fact that I happen to be dead now?' What would've been the point?" Klaus's voice breaks, and he takes a second to close his eyes, swallow past the lump in his throat, and collect himself. "And then the apocalypse got stopped." Klaus shrugs. "And everything was so normal. Hey, you know, for all I knew, you'd had to identify the body ages ago, Diego," Klaus says, pointing, "or any of you, really, and then you'd moved on because the apocalypse was the more important issue. And I wouldn't have blamed you!"

"Klaus, what?" Vanya says. "We wouldn't just ignore you being dead."

"You've all done a great job so far of ignoring all the hints about Klaus being dead so far," Ben mutters. 

"I don't know what you want me to say," Klaus says. "I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize to them," Ben says.

Klaus can't stop himself from turning to look at Ben because of how angry Ben sounds.

Ben aims a long-suffering look at the ceiling. "It's not like they haven't been ignoring you this whole time, Klaus! All your weird behavior. What does it say about them that you haven't eaten or slept or touched anyone for two weeks and they didn't know? And Luther's been quiet this whole fucking time, no surprise there, right? After practically making you go to the nightclub and then getting himself into enough trouble that I talked you into helping him, now he's got nothing to say?"

"Ben?" Allison gasps, her voice shredded and raspy, and Klaus jolts.

Klaus looks back at the rest of his siblings, and they're all staring.

"You can see me?" Ben says.

"Holy shit," says Klaus.

Ben looks down at his hands. "I, uh. I do feel tingly."

"Ben!"

Diego and Luther jump up from where they're sitting. Five grips the arm rests of his seat with white-knuckled hands.

"Ben, you're here?" Luther reaches out a hand, but it goes through Ben's shoulder. 

"I've always been here," Ben says. "Can you still hear me?"

"Yeah, we can hear you," Vanya says. "Oh my god."

"Uh, surprise," Klaus says. "Yeah, Ben's a ghost, too."

"So—all this time—" Diego says, and Klaus nods.

"Yeah."

"Ben, we—" Vanya begins, but Ben holds up a hand to stop her.

"I love you guys so much," Ben says, "and I promise we're going to have a really heartfelt reunion. I'm definitely going to cry. I love you. But I need to yell at you for a second."

"Okay," Vanya says.

"Wait, what?" Diego says.

"I've been telling Klaus this whole time that he just needed to tell you guys," Ben says, "but I'm sitting here now listening to you all and I get it. I think I get it. I know you're upset, because I saw you on the roof—"

Luther blinks. "You what?"

"—but how the hell is Klaus supposed to know? You're all sad and grieving and blaming yourselves, sure, but are you showing it? What are we supposed to be feeling other than shame right now?"

"Of course we're upset," Luther says, but Ben cuts him off.

"Don't get me started on you!" Ben stands up. "This is our fault!"

"Ben," Klaus says, but he can't get any other words out. His throat feels like it's closing up.

"We did this, Luther!"

"What're you talking about?" Luther says, eyes wide.

"We made him go to the nightclub! He didn't feel well, and we made him go! You grabbed him by the throat and you pinned him to that pillar and then you threw him across the room! And you left him there thinking you were going to get yourself killed! So I told him to follow you. And he's a good brother, so he did. But what the hell are we, huh?"

"Ben—"

"Your reckless, stupid, manipulative actions got Klaus worried, and I gave him the push, and then we were at the nightclub, and Klaus was trying to stop you from getting in over your head with the drugs and the booze and the girl. And you weren't paying attention."

"I was high!" Luther says.

"Klaus got killed by the fucking boyfriend of the girl you were dancing with and you left him there!"

Luther blinks back tears. "Ben," he says.

"You left him there. He was trying to help you, we were trying to help you, and you left him there! I believed in you!"

"I'm sorry," Luther says, and he's crying, he's actually crying. Not the drunk tears of the day he'd decided to go to that stupid nightclub. He's crying.

Klaus's vision blurs for a second, and when he wipes his eyes, he realizes he's crying, too.

"How did this happen?" Ben says. All the fight goes out of him for a second. "After everything, how did this happen?" And then it's back, it's all there, all fight and no quit. "After everything—after everything—we're dead. We're dead and we're never coming back to life. We're never going to change! We're never going to get grey hair or go to college or have a family. We're dead! We're here, but we're not here, not really. We can't come back. Things will never be the same! You know that, right? You left us! You left us!"

And Ben isn't making sense, not anymore, but he's sobbing, and Klaus can't take it, he can't—he can't take this conversation, or Ben crying, or his siblings—he can't look at their faces, he can't—

Klaus stands up, wanting to leave, wanting to be anywhere but here, and when he starts to move, his elbow bumps into Ben's shaky self.

Klaus's elbow bumps into Ben. Klaus bumps into Ben.

There's silence. Ben and Klaus stare at each other, slack-jawed, and then Ben bumps Klaus's hand with his elbow again, and then all of a sudden they're clutching each other, and Ben is sobbing, and Klaus can't see through his tears. For two weeks Klaus has been avoiding touching Ben because he thought they'd just ghost through each other, but what the fuck for? He can touch Ben. He can hug him. He's not—he's not fucking alone in this stupid absence of a body.

They hug like it's the first time they've hugged each other in fifteen years because it's the first time they've hugged each other in fifteen years. 

Klaus doesn't ever want to let go.

"I had to watch you die," Ben says. "I had to watch you die."

"I know," Klaus says. "I know. I'm so sorry. I'm so goddamn sorry."

"I couldn't save you."

"I couldn't save me either," Klaus says, laughing a little despite himself.

And then Ben gets a hold of himself, inhaling shakily, just as Klaus breaks down into sobs. Klaus clutches Ben's eternally bloodied shirt, dry and flaky under Klaus's ghost-hands, and he weeps.

"I'm so sorry," Luther says. "I'm sorry, Klaus."

When Klaus looks up, they're all crying. Not Five, but Five doesn't even cry when he gets shot, and his wide eyes and clenched jaw and bleach-pale face are basically the same thing.

"I love you," Vanya says.

Allison signs it over and over. Klaus wonders how long she's been doing that and he wishes he could hold her hands to make her stop. He signs it back because he can't talk through his tears. He sways where he's standing. I love you, he signs.

I love you, she signs right back. I love you.

"I love you," Diego says, which shouldn't take Klaus by surprise, but it does, if only for the fact that he thought Diego would be too caught up in his masculine pride to say it. But Diego says it, and he's crying, and he wipes his eyes. "Klaus, man, I—"

"You know I love you," Five interrupts, looking down, but then he looks back up, and he looks every inch the small thirteen-year-old that Klaus knows he hasn't been for years but might still be stuck in there, somewhere. Five is a man, Klaus remembers, but he's also, deep down, a small kid who gets angry and can't express his feelings right because he's embarrassed or afraid. And hey, Klaus has been there.

"I'm so sorry," Luther says. "I'm sorry. I—I love you." It's low and quiet and hesitant, but then, the second time, it's stronger. "I love you."

"I know," Klaus finally manages to say. "I know."

And he means it.