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If Your Life Won't Wait

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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—

Wait. Luther.

Where’s—?

“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. Klaus!”

That’s Ben. 

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. 

“Klaus.”

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. 

Klaus doesn’t. 

 

 


 

 

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 to Vietnam 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.

Chapter Text

 

Vanya and Klaus are the same age.

Well, not anymore. Klaus is a year older, because of time travel and Vietnam and love and love and love and Dave

Anyway. Vanya and Klaus are practically the same age.

But.

But even though Vanya’s memoir said unkind things, she wrote kindly the memories she had of Klaus borrowing her pretty civilian clothes. But Vanya followed Klaus around like a duckling during that brief spell where Klaus and Vanya were the last two Hargreeves children with "undiscovered" powers. But Vanya cried as a child when she accidentally poured water on an anthill and drowned the ants. But Vanya was always so quiet. But Vanya never stuck up for herself. But Vanya. But Vanya.

So, Vanya is Klaus's little sister, really. Klaus's baby sister. And it's absolutely ridiculous that Luther thinks locking her up in some basement prison is what's best for the family.

Klaus thinks that, maybe, this is the first time that four of them have all been united on one front since they were small—Allison and Diego and Ben and Klaus himself, all rioting against Luther, all trying to get him to open the fucking door with his ridiculous gorilla arms. Granted, only Klaus knows that Ben is on their side, but Klaus hopes that Vanya knows that Ben wouldn't want her trapped in there. And Allison hits Luther. He'd always been her favorite brother, and she hits him, beats at his chest, stomps on the top of his foot—and Klaus knows that hurts—until he wraps his arms around her and essentially frogmarches her up the stairs. And Diego goes with them, because he's a mess, because he's confused, because he's probably still holding a grudge about that stupid fucking memoir, because he knows he doesn't have the strength to open the door even though he thinks he wants to. 

Klaus lets himself go invisible in the heat of the argument. None of them notice how abruptly he'd gone.

"We can't leave her here," Ben shouts, and Klaus waves a hand at him to get him to shut up.

"I know, I fucking know," he hisses. "Stop yelling. All of you useless fucks, too, shut the fuck up!"

So maybe Klaus is a little distracted by the swarms of ghosts in this basement. Sue him. He's been sober ever since he died.

"I'm going in there," Klaus says.

Ben frowns. 

Klaus throws his hands up in frustration. "What, you got a better idea?"

"Are you going to be able to get back out?"

"What?" 

"Well, it blocks powers. Think it blocks ghosts, too?"

Klaus stares at Vanya, who has collapsed against the door, sobbing. She'd beaten her palms against the glass of the door until she couldn't anymore. Klaus remembers that feeling—the mausoleum, the mausoleum—and somehow his wispy, bone-cold state gets even colder. He feels like he's got goosebumps on his arms. He doesn't want to be trapped again, he hates it, he hates it, but it's Vanya. She's alone in there. And maybe, just maybe, Allison and Diego and Five will convince Luther to open the door and let Vanya out, and Klaus would breeze out with her.

So Klaus shrugs. "One way to find out."

 


 

Vanya knows, distantly, that she's hyperventilating. She tries to remember what her old therapist used to say—breathe in, hold for seven seconds, breathe out for four—and the numbers make her breath hitch again, and she's spiraling, she knows she's spiraling. Four—Klaus—Klaus had put his hand on the glass while the others were arguing, Klaus hadn't looked away from her once, Klaus had argued on her behalf, and he still disappeared, he still left her here in the end. Like the rest of them. Useless Seven has powers now, Useless Seven almost killed her fucking sister with her stupid fucking powers, Useless Seven has powerful powers and she still can't get out of this prison hellhole. She's got to get out. Please, please, she's so sorry, she's so goddamn sorry, she didn't mean to—

"C'mon, Vanya, in through the nose, out through the mouth, breathe. That's it, c'mon, breathe."

Fuck. She's hallucinating. Auditory hallucinations. Is she running out of oxygen? Does this place even have air vents? Does Luther want her to suffocate in here?

"No, no, not that fast. Slower, come on. Match my breathing. I'll breathe for you. C'mon. It's me, it's me, it's Klaus."

But it can't be Klaus. Vanya refuses to open her eyes, because she doesn't want the hallucination to go away. She doesn't want to be alone, doesn't want her siblings to have abandoned her again, isolated her again, locked her up, locked her away, shut her out—

"Look at me. Look at me, Vanya, deep breaths. Please. I'll do the chicken dance. I'll salsa around the room all by myself, if you breathe. C'mon, don't you want to see your brother trip over his own two feet?"

Vanya takes a ragged gasp and almost laughs. She still doesn't open her eyes, but it's easy to picture Klaus doing something stupid like that. 

"There we go. See, Ben, I told you—"

Vanya opens her eyes. There's no way she'd hallucinate Klaus hallucinating Ben, not on purpose. She's always hated that for him, that he's suffered through the "denial" stage of grief for Ben for years, still stuck there—

And it's Klaus, in front of her. He's wearing that ugly neon tank top he hasn't taken off for days on end, and his green eyes are wide, staring right at her.

“Hey, sis,” he says. 

Vanya turns her head sharply to look at the door, but it’s still closed. 

“How’d you get in here?” she gasps. 

“Uh. New power?” he says. 

“Like Five?” 

“No, like—like a ghost.” Klaus laughs for a second like he can’t help himself and then he quiets. 

“You can walk through walls?” Vanya asks. She wipes at the tears on her face and inhales shakily. New powers. Okay. This is easier to think about than Luther and how he—

“Yeah, I can.”

“Can you get me out of here?” she asks, and she hates how wobbly her voice sounds. She sounds pathetic. Like she’s twelve years old again. 

Klaus sags. "I can't open the door."

Vanya looks at Klaus's track-marked, noodle arms. Of course Klaus can't open the door; that was a stupid question. She puts her face in her hands and tries breathing really slowly. In seven, out four. In seven, out four. The Navy Seal way to calm somebody's breathing is in four, out four, but that had never been enough for Vanya. Her therapist had her count to seven. In seven, out four. In seven, out four.

"How are we doing?" Klaus asks.

Vanya hates how cautious he sounds. 

"I'm fine," she says, but she was too sharp, too aggressive, he's going to leave—"I'm sorry. I'm okay. Thank you for asking."

"It's alright," Klaus says. He looks to his left. "I'm not good at this comforting thing. Cut me some slack."

"It's okay, Klaus, you're doing great," Vanya says, giving him a shaky smile. Don't look at the hallucination. Look at me. 

"Look at my brilliant sister!" Klaus says. "I'm trying to comfort you and you're the one reassuring me. Sorry, Vanya."

Vanya reaches out for him, but he stands up abruptly. He stretches, throwing his arms up so wildly that she expects to hear his joints pop. 

"We should play charades," he says. "It's going to get boring in here really quickly."

Vanya presses her lips together in order to stop herself from crying again. Klaus notices, and he flutters his hands. 

"It's going be okay," he says. "They're not going to keep you here. Allison will convince Luther."

"I hurt her so badly," Vanya whispers. 

"She knows it was an accident. She loves you."

"Luther's going to convince her to leave me here," Vanya says. She wraps her arms around herself. "They're never going to let me out. I'm going to die in here."

"No, no," Klaus says. "They're not stupid. They know better. They'll get you out."

"They don't care about me!" Vanya says, and there's some sort of ringing in her ears. "They never have!"

"No, look, yes they do. Luther had to force Allison out! She cares so much! And we're here! Ben and me! I'm here, I'm here, I'm not going to leave you. Look at me, Vanya." Klaus sits in front of her again, leaning in close but not touching. "You wrote about me, remember? We used to play dress up together. And I loved your music, Vanya. You always calmed me down when I was upset; you'd leave the door open and you'd play violin and I'd sit in my room and I wouldn't cover my ears. The ghosts, Vanya, they were so loud, and I loved you so much. You played violin and I wasn't afraid anymore."

Vanya inhales, a deep shudder running through her. "Really?"

"Yeah. They were always so loud. But your music helped."

"I was useful," she says.

"No," Klaus says. "You were good."

They sit in silence for a moment. Well, near-silence. Quiet. Klaus is humming some song. Nothing is ever silent when Klaus is around. It's what she'd missed, at first, when she'd moved out of college and into her own apartment. At home, if she felt alone, she could usually find somebody doing something and watch them from afar, and it was usually Klaus, talking nonstop or playing music or getting into an argument with the empty air. In college, the dorms had been similar. No Klaus, but somebody was always awake somewhere. And Vanya was always alone, even when people were around, but the apartment she'd moved into had just been alone-ness. It was the isolation that consumed much of her childhood but with no relief, no Diego and Luther arguing, no Klaus being obnoxious, no Ben, no Allison, no Mom, no Dad, no Pogo, no anyone. It was a release—no failed expectations, no one to shut her out—and loneliness, both at the same time. 

"Are you okay?" she asks.

"Me?"

"Yeah. You look a little—" Vanya doesn't know how to say twitchy without sounding like an asshole.

"Oh, yeah. I'm great. I just don't, uh. Don't really like small spaces." Klaus's smile is wobbly. "But don't worry about me! We're worrying about you! Er, I mean, not worrying. We're thinking about you?"

The room is actually kind of big, but she can feel it, too, the claustrophobia creeping in.

"Klaus," she says, and she doesn't look at him, instead plucking at her sleeve. "You could—you could go up there and try to convince them."

"I, uh. I don't know if I can leave. But they probably wouldn't listen to me anyway." Klaus smiles a little helplessly. "Don't worry, though, Allison's got it covered. She's the one who got hurt and she forgives you; you'd think she'd have the most say. And she will," he adds quickly. "She will have the most say. And Diego hates everything Luther does, you know. And you're Five's favorite! As soon as he figures out what's going on, he'll make Luther open the door, don't worry."

"Wait, wait," Vanya says. "What do you mean, you don't know if you can leave?"

"Well, the room blocks powers, right?" Klaus fidgets. "My, uh—I walked through the wall to get in. I don't know if I can walk back out unless it's through that open door."

"I don't think the room blocks powers," Vanya says. "I think it's just soundproof. And impossible to get out of. You know?"

"Oh," Klaus says. "Well, then. We don't even need to convince Luther! We just let Five know you're down here and he'll teleport in, grab you, teleport out. Easy peasy."

"Will you go tell him?" Vanya asks. "Just—promise you'll come back. Please?"

"I'm not going to leave you alone here," Klaus says, shaking his head. "I'm not going to do that to you. I—no."

"Ask Ben to stay with me," Vanya says, because she's willing to play along with his hallucination if it means she'll get out of here. "I won't be alone. I'll know Ben's here." Vanya reaches out to take Klaus's hand reassuringly. "I trust you," she says.

But she doesn't grab Klaus's hand. Her fingers go through his wrist.

"Oh, shit," Klaus says.

Vanya just stares. She tries to grab him again and her fingers pass through him like he's a hologram.

"You're not real," she says. The room tunnels. "Oh, my God. You're not even real. I'm hallucinating. Oh, my God.

"No, no, I'm real!" Klaus says. He's waving his hands around. He's always talked with his hands, she remembers. "Shit! Vanya, c'mon, breathe slower, it's okay! I'm just—um—making myself transparent to go through the wall to go tell Five. I mean, incorporeal. I'm making myself incorporeal. That's the word; thanks, Ben. I'm real, Vanya, I swear I'm real!"

"Then let me touch you," Vanya says, and maybe she says it too angrily. Maybe she says it just angrily enough. "Stop being incorporeal for a second. Just—let me hug you. Or hold your hand. Or just touch your shoulder. Something."

Klaus stares at her a little helplessly. "I can't."

"Why not?"

"My powers—"

"Stop lying!"

"Okay, okay, just calm down, just don't be mad," Klaus says, holding his palms out in front of him. "Hello" and "Goodbye."

Vanya takes a shuddery breath. It feels like the room is shaking. In seven, out four. In seven, out four. She tries to calm down, breathe slowly. "Okay," she says. "Okay. What's wrong with you?"

Klaus gasps out a laugh. "Want a list?"

"I mean, what's wrong with you right now."

"Okay, right now." He runs his "Goodbye" hand through his hair. "Right, um. Well. I'm dead."

"Dead," Vanya repeats. There's some sort of ringing in her ears. "Dead?"

"Dead!" He laughs, and it sounds strained. "Yeah, see, I died a few days ago. I'm a ghost. That's how I got in here." He watches her, looking a little nervous. "Surprise?"

The ringing in Vanya's ears gets a little louder, and then the room explodes.

Chapter Text

 

Vanya wakes up with a sore throat and a massive, massive headache. Her first instinct is to let her eyelids flutter shut, in case the lights are too bright. She must groan, because all of a sudden Klaus is talking. Not that he ever stops, she thinks, and then she regrets the thought, because it was a little unkind.

"Vanya, are you awake?" he asks, much too loudly, and then, in a whisper, "Sorry. Vanya, are you awake?"

"Yes," she whispers back.

"How are you feeling?" he says, still quiet.

She clears her throat. At a near-normal volume she says, "My head hurts. And my throat. Are—are the lights on?"

"No, do you want them on?"

"No, thanks." Vanya opens her eyes.

She's in her bedroom. Not in her apartment—her childhood bedroom, in the Academy. Klaus is standing near her bed, close but not too close, and he looks a little pale in the dark. He's still wearing the neon tank top and skinny black leather pants that he's been wearing for days, which makes her frown. There's something—

"There's a glass of water next to you," he says, so she sits up and drinks it, automatically feeling around for her pills. Then she remembers—her powers, her powers, Allison, Leonard, getting locked up downstairs—

"Hey, deep breath," Klaus says. His voice sounds a million miles away. 

She forces herself to look at him and realizes the wetness on her face is her own tears. 

"C'mon, breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. Watch me." Klaus inhales dramatically, overdoing it, and holds it for a few beats, and then he exhales just as dramatically and just as slowly. Vanya finds herself copying him despite his silliness.

"Attagirl. You still with me?"

"Yeah, yeah." She wipes her eyes and her cheeks. "I'm right here. What—what happened?"

Klaus blinks. "Well, uh. What's the—what's the last thing you remember?"

"Luther locked me in the room downstairs," Vanya says, and this time she's not whispering on purpose. She rubs at her throat, feeling tears pricking behind her eyes again and hating it. Keep it together. Don't be a baby.

"Then what?" Klaus says.

"I don't know," Vanya says. "Did I pass out?" She frowns. There's something about Klaus's stupid shirt. "Were you there?"

"Right, right." Klaus runs his hands through his hair. "Well, spoiler alert, we stopped the apocalypse!"

Vanya can't breathe for a second and then forces herself to try. In seven, out four. "We did?"

"We think so. Yesterday was the day the apocalypse was supposed to happen, and it didn't, so we must've stopped it! Five's still a little wired; he's been practically bouncing off the walls waiting for you to wake up, and he keeps mapping out these contingency plans on all the bathroom walls. At least he’s not killing people, I guess.” Klaus shrugs, a smile painted on his face.

"Yesterday," she says. She's got to be forgetting something. Something important about that day specifically. "Yesterday—oh, my God, the concert!"

"Don't panic!" says Klaus. "It's okay! The concert didn't happen!"

"I was supposed to be first chair. I had the solo. Oh, my God, I'm going to get fired."

"No, no, breathe, Vanya. It's okay. They didn't have the concert. It didn't happen. You didn't miss anything."

"What happened? You keep—you keep giving me these non-answers. Stop lying to me. Just tell me the truth! I'm so tired of this, Klaus, not knowing what's going on and people lying to me—"

"I'll tell you everything," Klaus says. "I swear. I just don't know if it's a good idea to do it right this second."

Vanya forces herself to breathe slowly some more. She doesn't like how nervous Klaus looks. She's not sure why, but she thinks that maybe he's afraid of her, and that's not what she wants—she doesn't want her siblings to look at her like she's Dad. And Klaus isn't looking at her like that, but she's worried that's the direction they're headed in, and that's not at all what she wants. So. Slow breathing. Stay calm, so he stops looking so anxious. 

"Why isn't it a good idea?"

"I, uh. I'm not the best at—at not being blunt. You know? I had a whole lecture from Ben about it while you were unconscious. Sleeping," he corrects himself. "That sounds better. While you were sleeping."

Vanya rubs her face with her hands. "Is Ben here?"

"Yeah. He's in that corner over there." Klaus points.

Vanya looks to the corner and waves. She doesn't believe Ben is actually here—why would she, when Klaus is high all the time—but it doesn't hurt, just in case she's wrong.

"Actually, I should probably go get Allison now,” Klaus says. “I think she’d explain everything better. With, uh. More tact. Writing it out means she has to think about her words. I don’t think, you know. I’m the stupid impulsive one in the family. All the drugs. Hey, don’t look at me like that; I’m no good! The last time I gave you the bad news, the basement exploded.”

“The basement exploded?

Klaus closes his eyes. “Fuck me. I'm so not good at this." He opens them again. "Breathe slowly, Vanya. It’s okay, don’t worry, the house is fine. It hasn’t collapsed into a sinkhole or anything. Nobody got hurt.”

“How is the Academy still standing if the basement exploded?”

“It wasn't really the entire basement. Just the wall of the little, uh. The prison cell thing?” Klaus shrugs.

Jesus Christ. “Why? How?”

“Your powers. I, uh. I think you were in shock. Being locked up down there didn’t look too fun.” Klaus fidgets. 

“There’s something else,” Vanya says, feeling her brow furrow. “You were there. Right?”

Klaus runs his hand through his hair. “I—listen. The last time we had a conversation like this, stuff exploded and then you fainted. I don’t—I don’t really think this is a conversation we should have right now. I don’t think I can explain it right. What if—if I don’t lie—if I promise I’ll tell you the truth—can we just take a rain check on that one until you train your powers a little more?”

Vanya puts her head in her hands. Deep breathing, she tells herself. “No lies.”

“No lies,” Klaus agrees. “I’ll tell you everything when you’re ready. Just—now seems like a bad idea.”

“Okay,” Vanya says. “Rain check.”

“Rain check,” Klaus repeats. “So, after you accidentally blew up the prison wall, Five found out you’d been in the basement in the first place, which he was super pissed about, and he punched Luther in the face.”

Vanya laughs despite herself and then covers her face. She can feel her cheeks heating up from embarrassment. “Sorry,” she mutters. 

Klaus beams at her. “Hey, no, you’re good! I might have applauded a little when it happened. Maybe screamed, ‘Fuck yeah.’” He does a fist pump in the air. 

“How’d Five even reach Luther’s face?”

“He teleported up higher.”

Vanya can’t help but laugh again. “I wish I could’ve seen that.”

“Well, Luther’s got a habit of getting into fights. Maybe you’ll get to see it in the future.” Klaus gives her a thumbs up. “Anyway, after that, Five went out and bought a newspaper and had a little panic for a while, because of the headlines or whatever, but I distracted him by having him go burn down your concert hall."

"What?"

"Yeah! No, it's a good thing!" Klaus claps his hands once. "Look, see, no concert hall means no concert, and no concert means you wouldn't be sad about missing out on your performance! Because you didn't miss it! It didn't happen! No venue means no concert!"

Vanya closes her eyes and breathes slowly. That is—that is such a Klaus solution, she decides. That's a very Klaus solution. That's all she can say about it to herself without freaking out.

"So they're going to reschedule?"

Klaus shrugs. "Fuck if I know. You're the one in the band."

"The orchestra."

"The orchestra," he echoes, sounding reverent. "That's a much prettier word. More musical."

"Where's my phone?" Vanya looks at the bedside table, but her cellphone isn't there. Her gaze goes next to her bedroom door, which is closed. Did they take her phone? Is the door locked? Did they seal it? Is she trapped in here, trapped again—

Vanya finds herself yanking the door open before she can even realize that she has gotten out of bed. She stares down the Academy hallway, feeling untethered. She lets out the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding and turns back around, finding Klaus standing worriedly behind her. He looks a little too mother-hen.

"I just—" she says, and it sounds too silly to say aloud, now that the door's open.

"No, I get it," he says. "No judgment here. Judgment-free zone."

 

 


 

 

Allison looks up from her book at the soft knock she hears coming from the kitchen doorway. It's Vanya standing there, her arms folded in front of her, her eyes down. Klaus is standing behind her, peeking over her shoulder. Allison stands up. 

"Hey," Vanya murmurs. "I'm—I just wanted to say that I'm s—"

Allison cuts her off with a hug. She tries to pour everything she can't say out loud into a tight a grip as she can get. I love you. It was my fault. I'm sorry. I love you. I forgive you. Please forgive me. It's going to be okay.

Vanya hugs back just as tightly.

When they let go of each other, Allison pulls out a chair at the kitchen table and tries to implore with her eyes for Vanta to sit down. Vanya ducks her head, still unable to make eye contact, but she sits.

"What, no chair for me?" Klaus asks. He puts a hand over his heart. "I'm wounded by your callous, unfeeling soul! Gravely, mortally—"

Allison yanks a chair out for him and rolls her eyes. 

He settles into it silently. "Thank you very much," he says, faux-haughty, and then he rests his elbow on the table and his chin in his hand, eyes flitting between them.

"How are you feeling?" Vanya asks.

Allison flips to a page in her yellow notepad and shows it to Vanya. I'm good. How are you?

"I'm loving the stock phrases," Klaus says.

They both ignore him. "I'm doing okay," Vanya says. "I'm just trying to—to stay calm. Leonard and I—I mean, I figured out it's strong emotions that, uh. That activate my powers. God, that doesn't get less weird to say. My powers."

Allison scribbles out, I'll help you get used to it, and she offers Vanya a small smile after Vanya reads it.

 

 


 

 

"They're going to notice eventually, Klaus," Ben says. 

"I doubt it," Klaus mutters.

"What?" Vanya says, looking over to him.

"I said, I'm going to head upstairs if that's okay," Klaus says. "I think I need a nap." At Vanya's panicked face, Klaus adds, "Nobody's going to lock you up again. But, if they do, just start screaming, and I'll be there."

"I thought the whole point of today and calming me down and everything was to get me to stop screaming," Vanya says. It's a weak joke, but, hey, A+ for effort, right?

"I'm the absolute last person who should be saying anything bad about anybody who panics in a small, locked space," Klaus says. He stands up from the table. "Oh, one more thing."

"Yeah?"

"Don't quit the pills cold turkey."

Allison writes a question mark on her yellow notepad and holds it up.

Klaus tries to look cheery. "It'll fuck with your head! C'mon, you don't want that. I'm all for quitting the pills—fuck Dad, amiright?—but if you quit cold turkey it'll be bad, just trust me. Wean yourself off. Lower the dose slowly, you know? Treat it like a hangover. You have some beer so the hangover stops sucking so bad, but you don't dive back into the vodka, but you also don't just sit there with your hangover and let it fuck with your brain."

Allison starts scribbling on her notepad again. She's getting good at speed-writing, Klaus thinks.

That's not how you handle a hangover, the notepad reads.

"Okay, so it's a bad simile." Klaus shrugs. "Do you know what I mean, though?"

Vanya nods. "I get what you mean."

"Maybe," Ben says, "she could see a real doctor. With real medical qualifications. To get a real medical opinion on whatever cocktail of drugs Dad has been feeding her all these years, and how best to get off it."

Klaus claps his hands together. It doesn't make a sound, but the visual is good enough. Lots of people put their hands together for faux-claps for effect, right? Vanya hasn't called him out on it yet, and he's pretty sure this is, like, the third or fourth time he's done it. "Good idea, Ben," Klaus says. "Vanya, Ben says to go see a doctor about the meds."

Allison frowns, but Vanya peers around, looking a little curious. "Ben's here?"

"When's he not? Bane of my fucking existence, this one."

"Fuck off, crackhead," Ben says, but it's without heat.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Klaus is low-key pissed off that he can't finish learning how to knit.

The most inconvenient thing about being dead, he has decided, is that he can't touch anything. He can't pull out chairs, can't open doors, can't take any pills—though Ben would argue that that's a good thing—and he can't pick up knitting needles. He'd been trying to figure out how to make a scarf in the days before he died, completely unsuccessfully, and now he can't keep practicing.

Instead, he spends his time practicing making Ben visible. Klaus knows how to distinguish when people can see himself and when people can't, and now he's trying to get Ben to experience that same feeling.

"This is stupid," Ben says. "You can always see me. You're not going to be able to tell if I'm really visible or not now."

"But you should be able to tell!" Klaus whines.

The two of them are alone in Klaus's room. The door is ajar, which is risky, but Klaus can't close it himself, and none of his living siblings have stopped by and closed it on their way out. 

"How am I supposed to tell?"

"I told you. It'll be itchy. Tingly." 

"I always feel kind of tingly," Ben says. "The fucking tentacle portal in my ghost-stomach makes me tingly every second of the day."

"Okay, but isn't that just in your stomach area? This should be a full-body tingle." Klaus makes himself jitter and shake, miming getting electrocuted.

"Practicing this is stupid without a third person here to tell us if they can see me or not."

"You know I can't ask anybody," Klaus says. "I could focus on you so much that I stop focusing on me! I could flicker in front of them! Or disappear to them entirely!"

"Which wouldn't be a problem," Ben says, "if you'd just tell them that you're dead."

"I am not doing that."

"Come on. Let's talk this out." Ben sits down on Klaus's bed, visibility practice forgotten about for now. He's using his forced-patience voice, which means he's ready to argue. "You should start planning how you're going to tell them you're a ghost."

"What if I just never tell them?" Klaus says, pacing instead of sitting down. He throws his hands up in the air. "I think that sounds like a great idea!"

"They're going to find out. You should tell them before that happens. They should hear it from you."

"If they were going to figure it out, they'd have done it by now."

"Vanya did," Ben points out.

"Yeah, but don't you recall, brother o' mine, how that turned out?" Klaus says, remembering the shock wave that threw him so far he flew through several walls.

"It's just because she found out the wrong way. You've got to take the time to explain it, really calmly, and they'll all be able to handle it and calm each other down."

"Do you really believe that?" Klaus laughs, shaking his head. "They'll all just start yelling, and then the Academy is going to explode around us."

Ben frowns, but he doesn't disagree. "Maybe pull them aside one by one, then."

"I'm sure that'll go great," Klaus says. "'Hi, Five, do you have a minute? I know your entire purpose for living for like thirty years was to prevent your siblings' deaths in the apocalypse, but I just wanted to let you know that another one of us died anyway.'" Klaus then makes his voice a little more nasally in a shitty impression of Five. "'Thanks for letting me know, Klaus. Good to know my good for nothing addict of a brother threw all my hard work in my face by getting himself killed!'"

"Klaus."

"Or maybe I'll start with Luther. 'Hi, Luther, hope you're having a great evening. Just wanted to let you know that I'm dead.' 'Alright, Klaus. Go be the lookout some more since you're even more useless in a fight now.' And he'd be right to say it!"

"Klaus, stop."

"Besides," Klaus says, on a roll now, "how the hell am I supposed to explain that I'm dead? I can barely wrap my head around it and I'm the one who's dead!"

"You helped me work through it when I died."

"It's a little bit different than working myself through it!"

"I'm telling you," Ben says, "you have to tell them. This is only going to get worse the longer you put it off."

"Well, sorry I'm not so keen on listening to your advice, Ben! It's just that the last time I did that, I died!"

Klaus pants despite his lack of lungs. He stares at Ben, who stares back, mouth open for a half-second before it presses into a thin line.

"I didn't mean it," Klaus says hurriedly. "Don't be mad or disappear. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it."

"No," Ben shakes his head. "I'm—" He pauses, chewing on his lip. "Look, I'm the one that should be sorry, okay?"

Klaus blinks. "What for?"

"I told you to help Luther because he'd do anything to help you, but then he left you there. You weren't feeling well; you wanted to go home. If I hadn't made you go after him—if I hadn't encouraged you—"

"Then maybe Luther would've OD'd on stuff he wasn't experienced with," Klaus says gently. "Or gotten brained by that furry girl's boyfriend. You did the right thing, making me go after him."

"No," Ben says, and he looks away, shaking his head. "No, you were so tired; you were going through withdrawal; you—"

"Hey, better me than Luther, right?" Klaus tries not to sound as tired as he feels. "Luther's at least useful."

Ben looks back at Klaus sharply. "Don't say that."

Klaus shrugs.

 


 

Klaus tries to enjoy his time as an invisible man now that there's no apocalypse to stop. He doesn't really think of his wandering around the house as spying. It's not his fault that they can't see him if he's not forcing himself to concentrate; it's just a byproduct of ghosthood.

Diego and Vanya alternate between their respective homes and the Academy. Vanya comes by more often, hanging out around Allison and Mom and reading up on Dad's journals. Vanya's not sure how to train her power yet, but Pogo suggested she start there. The three of them, Pogo and Vanya and Allison, are almost eternally in the library. Allison has two stacks of books she's been working through. One stack is parenting books, and the other is sign language books, and she alternates between them. Klaus practices a few hand signs by watching Allison work at it. It's something nice to focus on other than his stupid mental craving for drugs that he'll never be able to have again.

When Diego's at the Academy, which isn't often, he mostly sharpens his knives and broods. It's so stupidly Diego, and it's also really boring to watch. Diego does hang out with Mom a lot, though. There was a teary apology from him that Klaus had left the room for, uncomfortable with the idea of eavesdropping on it, but now Diego just spends time with Mom, sharpening his knives while she does cross stitch. 

"You should take Mom outside," Klaus says one day, making himself visible in the doorway while neither of them is looking up.

"Jesus Christ," Diego says. "I'm gonna put a bell on you."

"You couldn't catch me if you tried," Klaus says. "But, yeah. You should take Mom for a walk."

"She's not a dog," Diego says, affronted, and Klaus waves a hand at him.

"Poor phrasing, whatever. You guys just look so bored."

Diego looks at Mom. "You want to go outside?"

"Whatever makes you happy, dear," she says, smiling that fifties housewife smile that has always given Klaus a mix of warmth and the creeps.

"I'll ask Pogo to expand your programmed boundaries, and maybe we could go to the park or something," Diego says. "See some real flowers and trees instead of those paintings, yeah?"

"Maybe you could introduce Mom to your girlfriend."

"Girlfriend?"

Diego points a threatening finger at Klaus. "Eudora is not my girlfriend."

"Just give it some time," Klaus teases. "Maybe get her some roses. Do women still like roses? The last time I tried to woo a woman I just gave her cocaine."

Diego raises his eyebrows. "Really?"

"No, of course not. You think I'd willingly give up cocaine?"

Klaus actually can't remember the last time he'd wooed a woman. The last time Klaus had wooed a man, it had been Dave. But that's not something Klaus wants to talk about right now. Diego had only been half-listening the one and only time he'd tried, anyway.

 


 

Five, Klaus thinks later that same day, drinks way too much for that tiny body. It's going to stunt his growth or something. 

"Five, you drink way too much for that tiny body. It's going to stunt your growth or something."

"Fuck off," says Five, not looking up from the book on particle theory he's reading. How rude! And when Klaus had gone to all the trouble of making himself visible, too.

"I mean it," Klaus says. "You don't want to end up like me, do you? All fucked in the head from young drinking?"

Ben, beside Klaus, snorts. "I can't believe we agree on something for once."

"Shut up, Ben."

Five ignores Klaus and flips another page, which pisses Klaus off a little too much. Klaus knows he's being irrational, but it's a chore, being around Five. More and more ghosts pop up around him, these days--usually only one at a time, luckily for Klaus, but it probably won't stay that way. It's like all his marks in the past have just now started to realize that he has settled down somewhere--somewhen?--and have started popping in to haunt him. Klaus ignores the woman without a jaw staring at them from the corner and waves a hand in front of Five's face until he looks over, irritated.

"What?"

"You should go have lunch with Vanya. She's been in the house library all day again. I don't think she's eaten since yesterday afternoon."

Five grumbles, but he closes his book. "I wanted peanut butter and marshmallows anyway," he says.

Klaus doesn't know who Five thinks he's fooling. Caring little asshat. "Uh-huh."

"Shut up. And that tank top is hideous."

"Why, thank you."

"Don't you have other clothes?"

"Bold words from the grown man who wears the same schoolboy outfit every day."

Five swears at him and teleports away.

"I think that went well," Klaus says to Ben.

"You're being weirdly considerate," Ben says.

"I'm always considerate!"

Really, Klaus has nothing to do but be nosy. He just happens to be keeping track of Vanya because she's the most worrisome at the moment, that's all. He says as much to Ben, but Ben still has some sort of delusion that Klaus is a better person because he's sober as a ghost. That's ridiculous. Klaus knows he hasn't changed at all since he was thirteen, except for the fact that he's got more torture under his belt now, and he fell in love for the first and last time. 

 


 

Klaus has noticed that Luther's been drinking a lot lately, too. Not as much as Five, not by a long shot, and not as much as he was the day they went to the rave, but still too much for the goody two shoes that he is. Klaus isn't sure what to do about it, though. Trying to dissuade Luther from drinking had not exactly gone well for Klaus last time. It was his own fault he'd gotten thrown across the room, though. He hadn't really thought through what he was going to say when he tried talking Luther out of it. He's not entirely sure what he'd said wrong, but he knew it was something. He'd try to think it through next time. Not that Luther can shove him anymore, but still.

Klaus has figured out that Luther hits the liquor cabinet more often when he notices that Vanya's avoiding him. Klaus doesn't blame Vanya for avoiding Luther, though. Klaus always hated training with Luther, and he's sure that's what Luther wants Vanya to do. Not to mention, Vanya's powers get out of control when she gets emotional, and the last thing Luther did to her was lock her in the basement. Not exactly a fond, calming memory.

Klaus has had to avoid Vanya a bit, too, though, at least when he's visible. Just yesterday he'd been sitting on one of the tables in the library while Vanya and Allison were practicing sign language together when Vanya had started getting too notice-y. Observant, that's the word.

"Since when have you worn dog tags?" she'd asked, and Klaus had reached up to his neck and grabbed them instinctively, which just drew both of their attention even more.

"Since a week or two ago," he'd said.

"Whose are they?"

"Someone I loved very much," Klaus had said, because anything else would've been a disservice to Dave. Klaus had left right after that, though, because it looked like they both wanted to hug him, and he didn't want them to fall through him.

Later, Klaus wanders into the living room to find Luther and Vanya sitting awkwardly in there, each on opposite couches doing opposite things—Vanya eating a sandwich and Luther pretending to read some book by H.G. Wells—but both seem too stubborn this time to call it quits and leave the awkward silence.

"Did Klaus have a serious boyfriend?" Vanya asks, completely out of nowhere.

Klaus stumbles where he's standing, and he does a little self-check to see if he's made himself visible on accident. He hasn't.

"What?" Luther says, looking up from his book with confusion.

"I noticed yesterday that he was wearing dog tags, and he sounded really sad when I asked about them. I was wondering if he had some sort of boyfriend who maybe passed away."

Luther shrugs. "If his boyfriend died, wouldn't he just be able to see his ghost anyway?"

Vanya frowns. "It would still be upsetting, Luther."

"I guess so. But I don't know anything about a boyfriend. I was on the moon these past four years, you know. I didn't exactly exchange postcards with him."

Diego walks through Klaus into the room.

"Fuck!" Klaus says, and he moves out of the doorway. "Fuck, I hate that."

"You never really get used to it," says Ben, who's leaning on a wall.

"Are you talking about Klaus's dog tags?" Diego says. "You know, he had me drive him to this VFW bar back when we were trying to prep for the apocalypse. He was acting kind of weird."

"Fuck off, Diego," Klaus says, but he doesn't really mean it. Diego had backed him up, that day, even though he hadn't known what was going on.

Luther frowns. "VFW?"

"Veterans of Foreign Wars."

"What on earth is that about?" Vanya says. "Wasn't the last foreign war we fought Vietnam? Like, years ago?"

"Maybe he's got a veteran sugar daddy," Luther says.

Vanya chokes on her food, and it turns into a half-laugh. "Holy shit. How do you know what a sugar daddy is?"

"Klaus was really upset at the bar," Diego says, frowning, and Vanya immediately stops laughing. Luther looks down at his book again, his cheeks a little pink.

"What did he say?" Vanya asks quietly.

"Something about being a veteran. But I think he was just high. In the car afterward, though, he did say he lost someone." Diego rubs the back of his own neck. "I've never seen him that sad, you know? Not since Ben. So, sugar daddy or older boyfriend or what, let's just not be assholes to Klaus about it, okay? Whoever he was, he was important to him."

Klaus leaves the room before he can hear Vanya's or Luther's reply. Ben trails after him.

"You okay, man?"

Klaus doesn't say anything, because he knows he'll start crying if he opens his mouth.

Chapter Text

 

Eudora Patch has had a long day. A good day, but a long one. She and Diego had lunch together, which was nice, and it hadn't devolved into arguing, which was even nicer. He's been a lot calmer this past week. He'd even asked her if she wanted to meet his mother. She'd been confused until he reminded her that his mother is a robot, so whatever kind of death she'd had was impermanent and she'd been rebooted or turned back on or something.

Eudora's first instinct was to say no. She hasn't been dating Diego for years. Why would she want to meet her ex's mother? So awkward.

But it's Diego, not just some random ex. Not to mention the fact that they're just friends, not dating anymore, so if she and his mother don't like each other—or, more likely, if she's weirded out by the fact that his mother is a robot—there's no weird tension between them, because it doesn't matter, because they don't have a romantic future together.

Probably. Probably don't have a romantic future together.

Eudora puts all thoughts of Diego and his fucked up family life out of her head when she hears one of the newbies knocks his stapler off his desk with his elbow. He swears as he bends over to pick it up.

"Having a rough time over there?" she asks him.

She doesn't know him well, but Will seems like a nice enough guy. He's from some backwoods town in the Midwest—in Idaho or something. The group of newbies from the city had absorbed him into their hang-out time and taken him around to a bunch of local spots to try to get him caught up. Eudora only knows this because he'd come back in crowing about how good cannolis are after he ate one for the first time, and another newbie had slapped him on the back, and it had devolved from there into an off-task recount of their lunch breaks for the past few weeks.

"It's not going too hot, no," Will says, and he puts his stapler in his desk drawer.

"Did they stick you on a cold case?" Eudora asks.

"No, it's newer, but it's just a junkie John Doe. They picked up the body, like, two weeks ago, but this file was stuck in some paperwork limbo or whatever because they're backed up at the morgue with all those mysterious killings. The shootouts at Griddy's and all that, you know the ones."

Eudora knows them very well, considering those are her cases. But she'll forgive the guy for not remembering. He still hasn't actually eaten at Griddy's Donuts yet, poor sap.

"I've been staring at this guy's ugly mug for almost a week now," Will continues. "Not to mention he had somebody else's dog tags on. I was on a wild goose chase with that one for a while, but the owner of said dog tags has been dead for forty years—Vietnam War—and nobody I could get in contact with knew anything about a missing junkie, or a junkie at all, especially not one with these tattoos."

"Did the coroner fingerprint him? Dental records?"

"Yesterday.”

“Think the results will come in today?”

“Oh, yeah. I’ve got them.” Will waves the file. “The fingerprints came back, like, twenty minutes ago matching some guy named Klaus Hargreeves."

Eudora can't breathe for a second. "Hargreeves?"

"Yeah, weird name, right? He's got a rap sheet a mile long, but no emergency contacts or next of kin. I swear I'm about to give up and just Google the guy's name."

"Hey, did you say Hargreeves?" Another newbie, Bautista, pokes his head up from his desk. "Isn't that the name of that actress from that Sandra Bullock movie?"

"Which Sandra Bullock movie?"

"Give me that file," Eudora says, and she snatches it from Will before he can say another word. 

It takes her a second to recognize him, because she's only met him once before—not that his state after being kidnapped to that motel room was at all forgettable—and because everybody looks a little different in death. But all of the photos together—it's Klaus. The shoulder tattoo in one of the photographs is new to her, but she could never forget those hand tattoos. Hello, Goodbye.

Eudora has to remind herself that she just talked to Diego today because her first thought is that Klaus has been unclaimed for so long because all of the Hargreeves are dead, the Umbrella Academy attacked again but this time everyone has been shot and killed. But she talked to Diego today, had lunch with him. He's safe. He's okay. 

Eudora wonders if Klaus's family knows he's missing. She wonders if they think he's out looking for drugs, or if they think he's high out of his mind somewhere, or what. She wonders if they're looking for him at all.

"Can I take this case from you?" Eudora says.

"Be my guest," says Will, which won't ever get him far, promotion-wise, but it helps Eudora, so fuck it.

Eudora goes to the copy room and makes color copies of all the documents and photographs in the file. She locks the original in her desk drawer, tucks the copies under her arm, and calls Diego's cellphone from her desk phone. She looks at Klaus's criminal record while the phone rings. Two stints in jail and a rap sheet a mile long. No violent crimes, though, except for one or two fights it looks like he won but didn't start.

"Who are you and how did you get this number?" Diego says when he answers his phone, which is very Diego of him.

"It's me," she says. "It's Patch."

"What's up? Everything okay?"

Something must be off in her voice because he sounds concerned.

"Can I come pick you up? You need to see something."

"What is it?"

Eudora tries not to sigh. She can't do this over the phone. She really can't. "It's—it's this case file."

"Anything interesting?"

Eudora bites her lip. "You just need to see it."

"I can meet you at the station."

"No, I think it's better if I pick you up."

Eudora convinces Diego to wait out front for her and then leaves the police station. She doesn't want him to drive when he's upset, and she thinks that, after he reads the file, he's going to be a mess. Maybe he'll be a mess with a temper, and maybe he'll shout at her—kill the messenger and all that—but she's an adult, and they're not together. She's just trying to help a friend. And this—this is bad. This is so bad. 

He's not waiting at the front door when she pulls up, which is good, because it gives her time to take Klaus's criminal record out of the folder and shove it under her seat. It's not something Diego needs to see—she has no idea how much of Klaus's past Diego knows about or how much Klaus would even want Diego to know, and she'd like to respect Klaus's privacy, even in death. Criminal records are public, but if Diego is that curious, he'll just have to look it up himself.

Diego walks out to the car, and he's wearing all black, but he's not wearing his knife halter. Eudora is sure he has knives on his person, but he's not wearing the halter. That's progress, she thinks. Good on him.

He gives her a small smile when he gets in the car. "Where are we headed?"

She takes him to the parking lot of an abandoned building. She can't remember what it used to be, but it's a shell of itself, now, and it's private.

"You're kind of spooking me, you know," Diego says. "Is this really that bad?"

"Yeah," Eudora says, and she can't help how tired she sounds. "I don't know how to tell you this."

"You're sick?" Diego says.

"No, no, I'm fine."

"Oh, good," he says. Then, "You're pregnant?"

She blinks. She's overcome by the sudden urge to thwack him on the shoulder, but she doesn't. "Diego, what?"

"I mean, I know we haven't had sex, but—"

"No, I'm not pregnant. Just—God. shut up for a second. Look, I have this file."

He stops trying to lighten the mood. "Okay."

"I think you just need to read it."

"Okay."

Eudora hands it to him. She stares out her car window at the abandoned building while he reads it. The sign on the front has paint peeling beyond legibility. There's a few vines that snake through broken window panes, and neon caution tape is striped in an "X" across the front doors. Some areas on the brick walls have been graffitied in bright pink and orange. Sunset colors. 

Denial hits Diego first. "This can't be right," he says. His voice sounds halfway to broken.

Eudora closes her eyes. "I'm sorry, Diego."

"No, you don't understand—this c-can't—" He cuts himself off and stays silent.

When she turns her head to look at him, his jaw is locked, lips pressed together in a thin line. He looks through the file again.

"Two weeks?"

"Paperwork limbo or something. I called you as soon as I found out. I'm sorry." Eudora puts her hand on his shoulder, all gentle. She presses a little bit, but she doesn't grab him, not really. He won't take his eyes away from the file. It's the copies of the photographs he's looking at now. She'd moved them to the back of the folder, so he had time to read through it all before he had to see Klaus's pale, dead face.

"No, this isn't right. You've got the wrong guy."

"We fingerprinted him. And the tattoos—"

"There have got to be other people out in the world with hand tattoos!" Diego slams the folder shut and then opens it back up again. "Look, this can't be him, okay? It just can't. He's not dead."

"Diego, he passed away two weeks ago. He's gone."

"Take me to the morgue," he says.

"Diego—"

"Take me now."

Eudora takes him. It's a silent drive, aside from the quick phone call she makes to let them know that she's coming. 

The walk to the room where they've prepared Klaus for viewing feels like the longest walk of her life. The building is all white walls and chemical smells, and Diego is silent, completely closed off. She wants to know what's going on up there, in his head. He won't even look at her as they walk together. Doors, doors, more doors, and then they're in the room, a body under a white sheet and a man in glasses waiting for them.

Eudora takes two steps in before she realizes that Diego had stopped in the doorway.

"Hey," she says softly, turning back to him. "You can change your mind. We don't have to do this."

"It doesn't look like him," he says.

"He hasn't even pulled the sheet back, Diego." The body is just a blanketed silhouette. 

"Klaus is shorter than that."

"He's six feet tall." She reminds him as gently as possible. It's something she'd noticed when she was reading his file—Diego's the same height. For some reason, in her head, Klaus was taller than her but not as tall as Diego. It's Klaus's willowy frame, she guesses. He's too thin.

He was too thin.

Diego walks into the room, but when he stops next to Eudora, he puts his face in his hands. "This is stupid. He's not dead."

"Diego—"

"How did he die then, huh?" Diego rounds on the mortician, who stares passively back behind his glasses. 

Diego already knows how Klaus died. He read the file. But Eudora doesn't say anything.

The mortician looks at her, and she nods. The guy starts talking, and Diego's jaw clenches the more he talks. Date and time of death. The nightclub; the rave. No drugs in Klaus's system. No reliable witnesses, but evidence points to a hard fall, so his death was ruled accidental. He cracked his head on the floor. The blood loss and head trauma combined killed him.

"What was he even doing there?" Diego mutters. "There was nobody with him?"

"No," says Eudora.

"What, what, so he was there to score a hit and he falls on the dance floor before he can get his hands on some drugs? Is that it?"

The mortician shrugs. "He was clean when we ran the tox screen."

"He didn't just go there by himself. He—what day was this? I—he hadn't been feeling well. He barely dragged himself up the stairs. How the hell—" Diego inhales shakily. "It's not him. Take off the sheet, it's not him."

Eudora puts a hand on his shoulder, and the mortician pulls back the sheet, and it's Klaus. Pale and still, completely unmoving, the back of his head resting a little oddly on the metal table despite the support item underneath his neck. His eyeliner is a little smudged.

Diego stumbles back and hits the wall.

"What the actual fuck," he whispers. "W-w-w-w—"

"I'm so sorry, Diego," Eudora says, turning, and the mortician politely averts his eyes.

"I—what? No, no, this—this doesn't make any sense, this—he's not—" Diego's eyes dart between Klaus's body and Eudora and back to Klaus's body again. He strides over to the body, then, and reaches his shaky hand out. His fingertips brush Klaus's forehead, moving his curls up. A keening sound escapes Diego before he snatches his hand back like the coldness of Klaus's skin had given him frostbite.

Eudora puts her hand on his trembling back and looks at the mortician, giving him a small nod. The mortician pulls the sheet back over Klaus's head.

 


 

When Eudora drops Diego off back at the Umbrella Academy, he almost asks her to come inside. 

Klaus is in here, he wants to say. He's right here. I just saw him yesterday. Come look. He's not dead.

He doesn't ask her to come in. He can't remember the last time he talked to Klaus with more than one person there. He'd seen Klaus yesterday, and Klaus had made some disparaging comment about Diego's boring wardrobe, and then Klaus had wandered off, not there when Diego peeked his head around the corner. When was the last time Diego had interacted with Klaus when someone else was there? He'd talked to Klaus and Mom at the same time, right? What the fuck is going on? What the fuck?

He's got the copy of Klaus's file in one hand and a big plastic evidence bag with Klaus's belongings in the other. It's folded clothes, a pair of shoes, and dog tags, all of which Diego remembers seeing Klaus wearing every day for—for two weeks. Two weeks. Diego had stared at the green and orange of the tank top, and he had stared at the palm trees on it, the whole car ride back to the Academy. 

He takes the stairs two at a time when he gets back. He slaps the file down on his desk and shoves the bag under his bed, and then he runs straight to Klaus's room. The door is ajar, but Klaus isn't there. His fairy lights are on and his stuff is strewn about, but that doesn't mean anything; Klaus's room is always messy. Diego heads to the bathroom, next, thinking that maybe Klaus is in the bathtub listening to music, but he's not in there, either. Diego catches a glimpse of his own reflection in the mirror on his way out and stops. 

His eyes are red-rimmed and wide open, and he looks ragged, somehow. His hair isn't in disarray or anything, but he just—he looks crazy. He feels crazy.

He takes the stairs two at a time again on the way back down. Klaus can't be dead. He felt—he felt real in the morgue, but that doesn't mean anything. It's a prank, or some sort of sci-fi bullshit that Five will understand, or something. Klaus is fine. Klaus is fine. He can't have died. Diego would've noticed, Diego would've—

He finds Klaus in the kitchen, sitting on the counter. Vanya's standing up and leaning against it, close to Klaus but not touching him, and she's reading some sort of knitting book—or, flipping the pages, at least, while Klaus reads.

"Hi, Diego," she says when they notice him. "We're learning how to knit. Klaus has been insistent that we learn together."

This is the part where Diego should say something. He can't tear his eyes away from Klaus, who's grinning at him, as full of motion and energy as ever. His dog tags clink against his chest—or, they should. They move as he moves, but they don't make any sound.

"Diego! Welcome back!" Klaus says. He throws his right arm out wide, the arm that's not on the same side as Vanya. It's a theatrical welcoming gesture. Diego thinks he's going to throw up. 

Klaus doesn't have a shadow.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Working up the strength to talk to one of his siblings about Klaus takes an entire night. Diego has to sleep on it. Figuring out who to talk to first, on the other hand, only takes Diego a few minutes when he thinks about it the next morning. He’s not ready to talk to Klaus himself, he doesn't want to talk to Luther, he's afraid of setting Vanya off, and he doesn't know where Five is, so that just leaves Allison.

He finds her in the library in the morning, staring at an open book and practicing what must be sign language with Mom and Pogo.

"Hey," Diego says.

Allison waves and gestures between herself and the other two.

"I uploaded an ASL database to Grace's hard drive," Pogo explains, "since we are uncertain how long it will take for Miss Allison's throat to recover."

"That's great," Diego says. "Can you give us a minute?"

Pogo looks at Allison, who nods and signs something at him and then at Mom. They both leave, and Mom gives Diego a cheery smile as she goes.

Allison writes on her notepad, What's with the purse?

It's a shoulder bag, but whatever. Diego pulls his copy of Klaus's file out of it and puts it on the table. "It's been a long day," he says, instead of Klaus is dead, which is what he'd been planning on opening with.

Allison eyes the folder with wariness. She opens her notepad to a page that just has a big question mark on it.

"I went down to the morgue yesterday," Diego says. "I got a call. When I got there, they showed me a body. It w-w-w—" He inhales sharply. "It was Klaus."

Allison just stares at him, eyes like dinner plates, and then she shakes her head, writing on her notepad. Just talked 2 him.

"I think he's a ghost," Diego says. "Just look at the file."

Allison opens it slowly, her expression transforming from disbelieving to horrified. Real? Sure? she writes.

Diego nods. "I saw him myself." He swallows the lump in his throat.

Allison sits back in her seat, looking too shocked to cry. She opens her mouth and then closes it again.

I have so many questions, she writes. 

"You can ask," Diego says. "Take your time. No rush. I'm here."

He spends an uncertain amount of time with her in there, reading through each long line of questions she writes out, answering them as best he can. Some of them are questions that are answered by the file, but he answers them anyway. He hadn't really believed the information in ink himself, the first few times he read it. He still can't, not really. It's too distant, too clinical, like reading about somebody else's brother in a newspaper. Something that could never happen to his brother.

Diego had thought he'd been preparing for this day ever since Klaus's first overdose. He was wrong. There was no preparing for it. It's the jack in the box and the freight train and every other cliche about something he should've seen coming but surprises him anyway.

Allison seems like she feels the same way. Her head is in her hands, and she's been sitting like that for a few minutes now, shoulders tight. Diego can't even tell if she's breathing. 

With a ragged gasp, she sits back up, and she tilts her head back, blinking tears out of her mascara. Then, with a stiff hand, she writes, We have to tell Vanya.

Diego's shaking his head before he has even finished reading it. "No. No way. What if she loses her shit?"

Allison writes, She can't be the last to know, and can't is underlined four times.

Okay, yeah, that would be bad. Diego can admit that much.

"Tomorrow," he says.

Today, Allison writes. After lunch. We'll drive her somewhere.

"You sure you're up for it?" he asks.

Are you? she writes.

"No," he admits.

Time bomb, Allison writes. Could realize any day now.

"We didn't," Diego mutters, looking away. He looks back when Allison snaps her fingers at him, holding up her notepad. "Sorry," he says.

It reads, She and I hang out with him a lot in here. Risky.

Right. Fuck.

"After lunch," Diego agrees. "We'll drive her somewhere."

 


 

Klaus sits on the kitchen counter at lunch. They don't always do family lunches, but Diego seems to think Mom likes doing it, so on days when Diego is in the house during lunchtime, they all eat in the kitchen. Klaus secretly suspects Mom does it for Diego rather than the other way around, since on days that Diego is not here she just prepares food and leaves it in the fridge for them to eat whenever they're ready. For the most part, they all show up to lunch consistently. Sometimes Five is out researching or on a bender, sometimes Vanya eats at her apartment, and sometimes Diego goes for lunch with his lady friend Patch, but for the most part, it's like being thirteen again, only they're allowed to talk and Mom is allowed to sit with them. Sometimes Pogo joins them, too, but Klaus thinks that the old guy usually eats his lunch alone elsewhere because their chaotic bickering irritates him.

This afternoon, everybody's at the table except Five. Klaus hops up on the counter, since Mom hasn't pulled out their chairs for them today. She even forgets to lay out a place-mat for herself, so Diego does it for her, gently steering her to the table by her elbow so she remembers dear old Dad isn't around anymore to make her stand in the corner or leave the room.

"Klaus, you gonna sit down?" Luther asks, voice a little irritated, and Klaus wonders if he's hangry.

"I'll pass," says Klaus, swinging his legs where he's sitting on the counter. Ben sighs from the corner, but Klaus soldiers on, since this usually works. "I had food earlier; I'm good here."

Diego, whose seat is next to Klaus's, reaches an arm over to the back of Klaus's seat and yanks it out for him. 

"Okay, okay," Klaus says, raising his hands in surrender. "I'll sit. But I won't eat."

"You never do," Luther says, half a glare on his face. "You know, Mom works really hard over this food."

"And I work really hard to not do drugs anymore, but you don't see me complaining." Klaus gingerly eases himself into the seat, trying not to let any of his limbs pass through the wood in inhuman ways. Diego didn't quite yank it back far enough for that to be easy.

Ben says, "You complain a lot," at the same time as Luther says, "You're not getting sober."

"Yes, I am!" Klaus sputters. "I haven't been high in over two weeks! And I'd know, sobriety sucks!"

Luther doesn't say anything else, but he looks irritated. Klaus tries not to get angry and only half succeeds.

"I believe you," says Diego, and when Klaus looks to his right at him, Diego is staring at him really intently.

It's kind of a surprise, actually, that Diego believes him. And it's more of a surprise how real and tangible Klaus's relief feels at being believed for once. Klaus didn't think—well. It's just nice, that's all.

"Thanks, pal," Klaus says.

Diego stares at him for a little longer. It's a little weird. Then Diego goes back to his food.

"Hey, that's great!" Ben gives a little cheer from his corner. He's moved a bit, actually, so he's in Klaus's direct line of sight, right behind Luther and Allison. "Look at you, getting taken seriously."

If Klaus was alone with Ben, he'd tell him that yes, that was good—weird, but good. He's not alone, though, and he'd like to keep up his streak of nice words from his siblings, thanks very much. He doesn't need them telling him to shut up about Ben. He'd like to ride this metaphorical high as far as it'll take him.

Allison slides her yellow notepad towards him. He leans forward to read it. 

It says, How was your day?

Klaus signs, G-O-O-D, and then he signs, How are you?

Allison beams at him and makes a sign at him, then spells out G-O-O-D. Klaus copies the sign and she gives him a thumbs up.

Klaus glances at the rest of them. Vanya has a small smile on her face, Luther looks befuddled—not out of the ordinary, really—and Diego is staring at Klaus really intently again. Klaus gives Diego a little wink, hoping he'll roll his eyes and look away. Diego only does the latter.

 


 

After lunch, Allison and Diego stop Vanya while she's putting her jacket on in the front hall.

"Do you have orchestra practice?" Diego asks.

"No, I had it this morning, and we have the afternoon off today. I wanted to practice more in my apartment, though."

"Can Allison and I talk to you for a minute before you go?"

Allison shoots Diego a look. He notices, and he corrects himself.

"It'll probably take longer than a minute, actually. We have to, uh. We have some bad news."

Vanya glances between them, her brow furrowing. "I'm listening."

Allison holds out her pre-prepared note. This bad news might be really upsetting. Do you want to leave the house just in case? We'll go anywhere you want to go.

Vanya ducks her head a little and then catches herself making herself smaller and straightens back up. She looks uncomfortable, though. "Think it'll be bad?"

"Yeah," Diego says.

"Okay." Vanya runs her hand through her hair. "Uh. We could find, like, an empty field or something?"

"I'll drive," Diego says, and he leaves to get the car ready. 

Allison takes her jacket out of the closet and wraps a thin scarf around her neck. She offers Vanya what she hopes is a comforting smile. Vanya gives her a shaky one in return.

Diego must have a field in mind because he doesn't bother using GPS. While they're driving, Diego glances in the rearview mirror and says, "Luther and Five haven't heard yet, by the way. We haven't figured out how best to tell them, yet."

"Okay," Vanya says.

Allison squeezes her hand. They're in the backseats together.

"Wait, what about Klaus? Does Klaus know?"

"It kind of involves Klaus," Diego says.

Vanya looks like her brain is going a mile a minute, so Allison squeezes her hand again.

"Okay."

After a pause, Diego puts on the radio. They don't speak for the rest of the drive.

Diego pulls over on a back road really far out of town, next to a field full of dry grass. It's sunny enough that Allison wishes she had brought sunglasses. The three of them walk a short way away from the car, Diego with the folder in hand. It's a copy of the copy that Diego has, just in case Vanya accidentally destroys it when she reads it. Diego stops walking once they're ankle-deep in grass—the grass further in is waist high—and he rubs the back of his head. 

"So here's the good news first," he says. "The good news is that Klaus is still around. He seems happy enough meandering around the house."

"Right," says Vanya, not understanding at all. "What's the bad news?"

Diego glances at Allison. She gives him an encouraging nod. They practiced this.

"We think that Klaus might have p-p—" Diego pauses, and then he continues. "Passed away."

Vanya blinks at them and then folds her arms across her chest. "What do you mean, you think he passed away. Klaus is—dead? That doesn't make any sense; I was just talking to him. We're learning how to knit."

"Have you seen him holding any knitting needles?"

"I—I mean, no, but we're just learning theory right now."

Diego raises his eyebrows. "Knitting theory?"

"I don't know; I didn't question it; he just said he wanted us to read the book together." Vanya shakes her head. "Diego, what—"

"We think he's a ghost," Diego says.

Vanya inhales sharply. "What's going on? Where is this coming from?"

Allison takes the copy of the copy of Klaus's file and hands it to Vanya.

Vanya stares at the closed folder and then back at the two of them, her eyes wide, looking between them like she's hoping this is some sort of joke. Whatever she sees on their faces isn't reassuring. She turns around on her heel and marches further into the field, wading through waist-deep yellow grass. 

Allison reaches out to her, but Diego grabs her arm, and when she looks at him, he just shakes his head. Allison stays stationary with some reluctance. Powers or not, Vanya shouldn't be alone for this.

A few minutes pass. Diego and Allison stand together, tense, watching Vanya stand in the field alone. Allison sees something in Vanya change, something about her posture, the line of her shoulders, a warning sign even from this far of a distance. Allison grabs Diego's arm and starts pulling him back toward the car, and before he can question her, Vanya lets out a wild scream. Allison and Diego break into a sprint, sliding into crouches behind the car just in time—there's some sort of loud, metallic crunch, and for a moment Allison is terrified that the car is going to flip onto them, but it just rocks a little bit, and then there's silence. 

Allison and Diego make eye contact for a long moment and then slowly, slowly stand up, peeking over the hood of the car. The grass in the field is flattened, and Vanya's standing in the center. It looks like her head is in her hands. When nothing happens for another minute, Allison and Diego walk out from behind the car. It looks like it physically pains Diego to see the massive, straight-line of a dent along the side of his car like a racing stripe, but he doesn't say anything about it. When another minute passes disaster-free, Allison starts walking out into the field. Diego takes her wrist to stop her, but she shakes free of him and keeps walking.

She tries to walk loudly enough that Vanya hears her approach. Vanya doesn't turn around, but she does wipe at her eyes and take the file out from where it's tucked underneath one arm. 

"I feel like I"m having deja vu," Vanya says. She won't look at Allison. "This can't be real."

Allison puts a hesitant arm on Vanya's shoulder, and when Vanya doesn't turn away, Allison wraps her in a hug. They stand there like that for a long time.

Eventually, they walk back out of the field together. Allison keeps a hold of Vanya's hand.

"Sorry about your car," Vanya says when she sees the massive dent.

"Hey, no worries," Diego says. "You did good. It wasn't so bad."

Allison had been worried that Diego was going to chew out Vanya, so this is a good enough response instead, she decides.

They all get into the car, and Diego puts the radio on, starting to drive them back to the Academy.

"Can you turn that off?" Vanya says. Her voice is a little hoarse. "A lot of sound isn't a good idea right now."

Diego turns the radio off without a word.

"I think I knew," Vanya says.

"What do you mean?" Diego asks, voice measured.

"I think I knew but didn't want to know. I kind of remember Klaus being in the same room with me when Luther—when I got locked up."

Diego shakes his head. "That's impossible. Klaus was outside with us. And when we went upstairs, the door was sealed shut."

"Did Klaus go with you upstairs?" Vanya asks.

"I think so," Diego says. "I don't actually remember seeing him up there, though."

Allison thinks about it and then squeezes Vanya's hand to get her attention, and when Vanya looks at her, Allison shakes her head no.

"I think he walked through the wall, since he's a ghost, you know?" Vanya stares out the window. "This doesn't feel new. This doesn't feel like the first time I've known this. I thought I was misremembering, but now—" Vanya stops talking and closes her eyes. 

Allison looks at Diego and sees that he's clenching his jaw. She wants to tell him that it's not Vanya's fault that she didn't remember until now, that it's not Vanya's fault that her memory is still cloudy, but Allison can't say anything. Shoving a notepad up into the front seat would just distract Diego from driving, anyway.

"I want to hold a family meeting to tell Five and Luther," Diego says. "I'll talk to Pogo and Mom later."

Allison writes on her notepad, Do you want to be there?, taps Vanya on the shoulder, and shows it to her.

"I'll come," Vanya says.

"You sure?" Diego says, glancing up at the rear-view mirror to see them.

"Yeah. I owe it to Klaus. He sat in the basement with me, I think. I can sit in a family meeting for him."

Allison writes, Klaus would want you to do what's best for you.

Vanya says, "This is what I want."

Allison nods. 

 


 

Allison convinces Diego to hold the family meeting that day. He wants to wait, but she reminds him that they need to plan Klaus's funeral, and even though Diego goes grey in the face, he agrees. She lets him call it to order since he's Two, and since she can't talk. Diego brings down the evidence bag full of Klaus's things, and it's the first time Allison has seen it. There's some sort of comfortable pang in her chest at the sight of Klaus's tank top and leather pants. When all of them, minus Klaus, are in the living room, Diego gives Luther and Five the news. Klaus is a ghost, Klaus died two weeks ago, Klaus's body is in the morgue, Klaus is a ghost, Klaus is a ghost, Klaus is a ghost. Klaus is dead.

Five doesn't leap out of his armchair like he looks like he wants to, but his thirteen-year-old body goes rigid. He looks at them all, something in his face changing when he realizes that Diego, Allison, and Vanya all know already. "Why the hell am I the last to know?"

"You weren't here when I found out," Diego says, which Allison only approves of because it's more tactful than trying to explain that it was more important to rebuild Vanya's trust in them by letting her know ahead of time.

Diego passes Luther the copy of Klaus's file, and Vanya gives Five her copy of the copy. Five flips through it quickly, eyes speeding over the pages, and then he holds out his hand for the evidence bag. Diego hands it over, and Five pulls out dog tags, studying them, turning them over in his hands.

Allison remembers Vanya asking Klaus about them in the library. He'd given them a cryptic answer and left. She makes a mental note to corner him about that sometime and get a real story. He'd seemed really upset.

"I still don't understand what he was doing at the nightclub," Diego mutters.

"Junkie habits, probably," Five says, not looking up from the dog tags in his hands.

Luther makes a choked sound. Allison puts her hand on his shoulder, but he doesn't look up from the file he's reading.

"Klaus was clean when they found him," Diego says, shaking his head.

"Doesn't mean he wasn't trying to get his hands on stuff," Five says. He's not invested in the argument, though, Allison can tell. His eyes are distant.

She doesn't know what to do with Five—he's in his fifties and has more trauma than anyone she knows, but he also functions so well that she doesn't know how to call him on it—so she focuses her attention on Luther, who's still staring at the file. She rubs Luther's shoulder, hoping her brother will look at her or say something, anything that'll give her a thread to pull on in order to help him. His breath hitches, and then he holds it, and then he sags in his chair.

"It's my fault," Luther says.

Diego scowls. "Can you not make this about yourself for five minutes? Not everything is about you."

"No, I mean—" Luther closes his eyes like he's bracing himself. "Klaus and I went to the nightclub together that night."

That's enough to capture even Five's attention. They all stare at him, and Allison notices Vanya wrap her arms around herself.

"You went to a nightclub?" Diego says. "Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes Number One? Am I hearing this correctly?"

"I think the more interesting thing here is that Luther left Klaus's dead body in a nightclub," Five says, and his voice is mild, but when Allison looks at him, he's clenching his jaw.

"No," Luther says, and then he looks away. "I mean, I don't think so. I don't remember him being dead! I don't—I don't remember a lot, really, and I did I leave without Klaus, but he found me later!" Luther says. "He walked me back to the academy. I remember that. I wanted to take a taxi but neither of us had money."

Allison takes her hand away from Luther's arm. She shouldn't be surprised that Luther started out blaming himself and immediately switched to the defensive, but she is surprised. He'd always found it hard to admit his flaws—it was a trait he and she shared—but she'd thought that he was getting better, now that he was an adult. 

"Did you touch him?" Five asks.

"What?"

"While you were walking back," Five clarifies. "Did you touch him? Lean on him at all?" 

"I don't remember. I know I woke up on the stairs the next morning."

"Why don't you remember?" Diego asks, and he's gripping the armrests of his armchair in a way that makes the hair on Allison's neck stand up. "What were you doing at the nightclub, Luther? And don't tell me you were babysitting Klaus, because he was clean when they found him. He was clean."

Allison tries to talk, but when she opens her mouth, no sound comes out. She can't tear her eyes away from Vanya, who's staring at Luther with a look on her face that's terrifyingly indecipherable. 

"I—" Luther swallows. "I was furious at Dad. You know, I was so angry—I sent him all that research from the moon, and all that time he didn't read a single thing—"

Vanya's jaw locks, and her arms tighten around herself. Allison tries to talk again, and she can't say anything, so she starts scribbling on her notepad.

"So what?" Diego hisses, leaning forward in his chair. "So you were too drunk to notice that our brother had died?"

Vanya and Luther both flinch.

"Stop," Allison says, and it comes out as a bizarre rasping sound, but it makes everyone but Vanya look at her. Allison holds up her notepad. Take this elsewhere, it says, and when Diego and Five and Luther follow her head nod, they see Vanya, who's staring at nothing, face whitening. 

Diego lurches up from his chair. "Follow me," he says to Luther, and it's almost a growl. 

Allison doesn't bother watching them leave. She hurries over to sit next to Vanya on the couch, trying to prevent a meltdown. Her heart hammers in her chest, remembering the pain of her throat sliced open, but she's not leaving Vanya here. She hugs her tightly, wrapping herself around Vanya like a squid, comforting her as much as possible without words. Allison tucks Vanya's face into the crook of Allison's neck, and she rests her head on Vanya's. Vanya takes shuddering, gasping breaths. She's hyperventilating, Allison thinks.

After a few seconds of this, Allison looks up and notices that Five is still there, watching them sit together.

"It's going to be okay, Vanya," he says. "Deep breathing."

"Luther," Vanya gasps. "Luther."

Allison wants to scream at Five to stop talking, to keep his mouth shut. She wants to yell, Can't you see you're going to make her more upset? But she should know better. Five and Vanya were always each other's favorites; Five knows what to say, and he won't shut up for anyone.

"Luther has always been a little bit of a blockhead," says Five, and Vanya laughs into the crook of Allison's neck, and then it turns into a sob that's quickly stifled by Vanya's jaw clacking shut.

"Here," says Five, and it's more gentle than Allison has ever heard from him before. "Why don't you hold onto Klaus's friend's dog tags for him? I think Klaus would like that, yeah? He still hangs around, so you'll be able to put them wherever he wants. He'll be all bossy about it. Might make him happy to let him boss you around."

Vanya untangles just enough to hold a hand out but not enough to look up from where she's hiding her face. Five drops the dog tags in her hand, and she closes her fist around them and tucks her arm away again, curled up against Allison. 

Five and Allison make eye contact with each other. Five looks so very, very tired. It's a moment of emotional honestly Allison knows she'll probably never see again, not from him, at least not for a long time. She gives him a small smile that she hopes is reassuring, an "I'll take care of her," smile, an "I trust you to handle this," smile. It's all she has.

Five nods, and then he teleports away.

 


 

Klaus and Ben meander through the house, bickering about books. Ben argues on behalf of Frankenstein while Klaus argues that Wuthering Heights is better. Klaus ignores the ghost in the corner with the snapped neck who watches them as they walk by one of the bathrooms. She groans, calling out, "Four, Four," but he pretends like he doesn't hear it.

"You've never even read Wuthering Heights," Ben complains. "You're just in love with young Ralph Fiennes!"

"Was he the whitewashed Heathcliff in the movie we watched in rehab together?" Klaus says.

"Yes."

"Okay, so whitewashing is bad," Klaus says.

"Whitewashing is bad," Ben agrees.

"But Ralph Fiennes! Those baby blue eyes," Klaus sighs. "Teenage me is swooning."

"You're swooning right now," Ben says. "You know he played Voldemort later, right?"

"Oh, please, Daddy, Avada Kedavra me," Klaus says, and Ben makes a face.

They walk into the living room. Klaus is saying something about how nobody in Frankenstein has ever been hot when Ben's expression becomes unpleasantly serious.

"Don't give me that look, I'll take it back," says Klaus. "I know I'm not even talking about book quality anymore."

"No, look," Ben says.

Klaus looks, and there are Vanya and Allison sitting together on the couch. The ghosts behind them are what catch Klaus's eye—two men who are whining about getting killed doing paid work, whatever the hell that means—but then he really looks at his sisters. Vanya is curled up on Allison's lap like a roly-poly, and Allison rocks her like a baby, looking distressed. Near-tears, even. Vanya sounds like she's having a hard time breathing—hyperventilating maybe.

"Oh, yikes," Klaus says. He turns and walks out of the room.

"Hey!" Ben says, but Klaus cuts him off.

"Relax, I'm going back in. I just need to walk in like a normal person." Klaus, in the hallway, makes himself visible. He lets the tingly feeling sweep over his body, and then he walks back into the room.

Allison's eyes widen when he comes in, and she shakes her head minutely so as not to dislodge Vanya.

Klaus signs, W-T-F?

Allison just stares at him, her mouth pressed into a thin line, and she looks like she's really going to cry now.

Klaus signs, Want H-E-L-P?

Allison shakes her head again.

Klaus exchanges a helpless look with Ben, and Ben shrugs. 

"I don't know, man," Ben says. "It looks like Allison has it under control."

Klaus gives Allison two thumbs up, hoping that's reassuring, and then he leaves the room. 

"Maybe one of our brothers knows what that's about," Klaus says. "Might as well make sure whatever set Vanya off isn't going to come back and bite me in the ass later. Where the hell is everybody, anyway?"

"We can split up," Ben suggests.

"Yeah, sounds good," says Klaus 

 


 

When Five teleports to the roof, Diego and Luther are already pissed off at each other. Five is wryly surprised it hasn't come to blows yet.

"I needed to destress! I was tired of being Number One all these years and getting nothing from Dad in return—"

"So you asked Klaus to take you clubbing?" Diego says. "Seriously? Get a grip!"

"I think he said no," Luther says, and it's not a shout this time. He sounds defeated. "I don't remember. I was—I was a little drunk already, when I asked. I think I went without him. But he was there, later. I was dancing and he was there. And then—and then there was this girl, and I don't remember much after that except walking back to the Academy with Klaus."

Any sympathy Diego had felt for Luther's guilty voice evaporates, and his expression is thunderous. "You left Klaus to die in a nightclub because you wanted to get laid?"

"I didn't know he was hurt!" Luther shouts. "For all I knew he was scoring a hit!"

"Klaus was clean!"

"Look, I was high, I didn't know what I was doing," Luther says. "What, you don't think Klaus hasn't made mistakes himself while he was high?"

"I know he's never left his brother for fucking dead! Two weeks, Luther! Klaus's has been alone and cold in that morgue for two weeks and we didn't even kn-kn-kn—"

"Use your words," Luther spits out, and Five can see the instant regret on his face—he's probably just trying to drown the hints of guilt he feels in rage at someone else—but it doesn't matter. Luther dodges two knives and then Diego flies at him himself, a knife in each hand, and Luther keeps dodging, then blocking the hits that Diego tries to land, one knife slicing his sleeve, leaving a thin red line in his furry Gorilla skin.

Five doesn't stop them, at first.

He's angry. He's so angry. All that time he spent working as an assassin for the Commission in order to get home and save his family, and Luther fucks it up by abandoning Klaus somewhere after Klaus got strangled, his head cracked open. It might not have been strangulation, but there'd been a strong hand on his throat. Five knows that from the autopsy report and the faint ring of bruises visible on Klaus's neck in the photographs. The bruises are at least a few hours before time of death, though, the report reads. The report also says that Klaus's death was ruled accidental, but Five thinks that that's bullshit, and not investigating the bruises around Klaus's neck—even though they're faint—is a lazy, lazy choice. Five wants to know how long they were in that nightclub. Five wants to know who was there, who knocked Klaus to the ground, who cracked his head on the floor. Five wants to know who thwarted Five's efforts to keep his family safe and he wants to put a knife in that person's eye himself.

He can't find out anything, though, if Luther is dead—and even though he's deeply furious with Luther, he loves his brother deep down—so he decides to put an end to Diego and Luther's little tussle. He yells at them, first, to stop fighting, then to stop being assholes, and then he teleports into Diego and knocks him to the ground. Luther rears up, but Five spins on him, one of Diego's knives lifted up, and Luther freezes, realizing he was about to hit Five's thirteen-year-old head.

Hadn't stopped Klaus, Five thinks with some amusement, but that had been for a purpose. It wasn't the same. Not to mention—Klaus punched hard, but Luther punches like a tank.

"It's Luther's fault that Klaus is fucking dead!" Diego yells from where he's been knocked on his ass.

"Yeah," Five says, "but we've got bigger problems on our hands right now."

Diego stands up, and Five is met with twin stares of incredulity. 

"Like what?" Diego says.

"Well, for starters, I'd like to track down the bastard that did this to Klaus and flay him alive," Five says. "And secondly, does Klaus even know that he's dead?"

Diego stares. "What?"

"No, it makes sense," Luther says. "You'd figure he'd have brought more attention to himself over it by now."

"Watch it," Diego hisses, and he's got a knife at Luther's throat again.

"Yeah, you're walking on thin ice there, Luther," Five says, but he snaps his fingers at Diego to get his attention and gestures for him to put the knife away. Diego lowers it, which is good enough. Five continues. "I meant that he wanders around like he's still alive. He still jokes around and engages in his interests and everything. Doesn't seem much like a dead person to you, right? He might not even know that he's dead. We might have to figure out how to tell him."

Diego looks a little bit green. "Jesus Christ."

"And a funeral," Luther says. "We've got to figure out where to bury him and when."

Diego runs a hand through his hair, still looking ill. "Yeah, I know." He takes a deep breath. "Allison should decide how we're going to talk to Klaus."

"I agree," Luther says, and Diego looks like someone spat in his applesauce, but he doesn't say anything.

"Let's go back downstairs, then." Five says. "And can you two stop trying to kill each other, please? I didn't spend decades in an apocalyptic world just to come back to my siblings dying around me."

They both look stricken, but they don't say anything against him.

Five turns on his heel. Normally, he'd just teleport away, but he doesn't trust them not to get into another argument without his supervision. As he heads toward the rooftop door that leads back into the house, Five strides through a cold spot and shivers.

Chapter Text

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.