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The old house was stuffy and covered in dust. It had never been any different as long as Number One could remember. At least, Luther had no recollection of it being different even when the house had been a beehive of activity. The house seemed smaller now that his siblings had moved out and left. The dust seemed heavier in the air. The creaking of the floorboards in the middle of the night when the old house was turning over in its sleep louder. The shifting of the wooden beams and the groaning of the old pipes more daunting, almost like a beast roaring in the distance.

Sometimes, he found it hard to sleep as he was listening to the sounds of the old house and hoped, all the same, to hear the familiar pitter-patter of naked feet just outside of his door when one of his siblings had hurried to the bathroom after lights out. He missed hearing the giggling through the wall when Allison would read some of those stupid teen magazines. She had left most of them behind on her vanity - just like the locket that he had given her when they were thirteen and still oh so naive.

He missed hearing Diego swear at Klaus from further down the hallway for some reason or another. He missed the scratchy sound of Vanya practicing her violin until they were sent to bed. He missed the way Klaus would sometimes barge into his room as if it was an emergency just to ask him some random thing. He missed Ben’s silence - just the presence of his brother sitting somewhere and reading a good book. He even missed Five zapping through the house and making snarky comments.

The house, as Luther walked through it on this night, was suddenly too small and too big all at the same time.

The first to go had been Vanya and it had surprised no one. She had left them the second they had turned eighteen pretty much. He remembered the day well. The morning of October 1st, 2007. It had been a dull grey early autumn day. September had ended in a thunderstorm the night before and October had greeted them with the first leaves turning orange. They had gathered in the kitchen like every morning and like every year on their birthday, Mom had greeted them with the same cake as every year for them to share.

Since there were only five of them left anyway, there hadn't been much drama about the cake anyway. Ben had died only a few months before and Klaus still had insisted on cutting a piece for him the same way he had still insisted on setting up a plate and a cup for Ben every meal they had since his death. His brother was adamant that Ben was still with them but, of course, none of them had ever believed him. He would have been too high to see Ben anyway.

He remembered Vanya pushing her piece of cake around listlessly. It should have been an exciting day. They had turned eighteen, after all. Yet, Ben’s recent death had weighed heavily upon them and none of them had really wanted to celebrate. Ben, Luther had thought back then, was the glue that had held them all together as a family. With him gone, they had broken apart piece by piece and the first piece to fall off was Vanya.

She had packed her bag the night before. Luther had seen it through the crack in her bedroom door. In all honesty, he had expected her to be gone before the morning came. He remembered hearing her sniffle as she had put the few personal items she possessed and one of her old uniforms into the duffel bag. And then, after breakfast that morning, Vanya had gone to her room, grabbed the bag and her violin case and left the house without a goodbye. No one had even noticed.

Allison had been the second to leave not long after that. It had been the natural progression of things. Her career as an actress was finally picking up and so she had left them for Hollywood around Christmas that same year. She had sent them postcards for the holidays from L.A., wishing they would be there with her. Empty words, of course. Growing up, Luther had lost the naivete that had glued her to Allison and kept him from seeing that, if she would have really wanted her brothers with her for Christmas, she would have just come home or invited them.  

Diego had been the third to go. That too hadn't been a surprise. The only surprise in that was that he had held out for such a long time. Luther and he had always been fighting but after Ben’s death, it had only gotten worse and worse by the day. Diego blamed him for Ben’s death. Everyone blamed Luther for Ben’s death and Luther couldn't even say that they were wrong. He was Number One, after all. He was meant to look after him - after all of them. And then Ben had died on his watch.

The day Diego had left for the police academy, however, had been a dark one. He recalled it vividly as he stopped in his hike up the formal staircase and took a moment to look down into the entrance hall.

The new year had just started and Klaus had begged Diego to stay. Begged. The usually drugged out Klaus had been completely terrified of staying behind without Diego. A bad trip, Klaus had later muttered to Luther when it had only been the two of them at dinner that same day. A bad trip, yes. They had never spoken about the way Klaus ran after Diego the whole way from Diego’s bedroom to the front door and a bit further down the street. Only when Diego had hopped into the old car he had purchased a few months prior, Klaus had finally given up. He almost would have jumped into that car as well, had it not been for Diego shouting at him to let him go. Needless to say, Diego’s departure had been hard on Klaus and his brother had never spoken of Diego once after that day.

In all honesty, Luther had thought that Klaus would leave the next day and never return. That was two years ago and Klaus was still here. Albeit Luther only seeing him rarely. Most of the time, Klaus would be out partying or, when he had returned in the wee hours of the morning, sleep the entire day. Well, and the rest of the time, when he would actually be awake and inside the house, he would be too high to function anyway. It was like living with a ghost - No pun intended.

And yet, despite all of this, having Klaus at the house was, in a way, comforting. It meant that he wasn't completely alone in this big old mansion - this mausoleum of sorts. It meant he still had his little brother to look out for and protect and he liked having a purpose in life, having a role to play - besides his role as a superhero. Klaus and he might not have the best relationship or the closest bond of the siblings but that changed little about the fact that Luther loved his brother dearly and was worried for him every day that Klaus would go on a bender and not return home the next day. He would still enjoy sitting with him in the living room even if Klaus was high and mumbling incoherent crap to people that weren’t there. At least he wasn't alone then. Alone with his cold-hearted father, a robot, a chimpanzee, and the echoes of past mistakes sounding from the high walls and through long corridors.

Yet, he had always known that this day would come. He had always known that one day their father would have enough of this. It was a cold December day as Luther made his way towards his father’s office and outside the world was covered in the first snow of the year. Christmas was right around the corner and so soon another one of Allison’s yearly Christmas cards would arrive at the house. He had last seen Vanya and Diego two years ago and despite extending an invitation to celebrate the holidays with their family every year since, Luther knew that they wouldn't show up this year either. The last thing he had heard of any of them, Diego had been thrown out of the police academy after half a year into his training.

As he reached the office at the end of the hallway, his heart felt heavy. He already knew what was about to hit him and yet knowing it didn't make it any easier for him. He tried not to show it, of course. He was Number One, after all, father’s perfect soldier. So, Luther straightened his shoulders and lifted his chin as he knocked sharply at the door. His father’s response from inside was dull and bored like always as he allowed Luther inside. He had called for him, after all. Walking into Reginald’s office had never lost its weight and significance for Luther. As he stepped over the threshold now, he still felt like a child.

»You called for me, Father?«

His father’s office had never changed in all those years. It was still the same dark room overflowing with books and papers and notebooks and research material. He had no idea what his father was still researching now, though. The room was only lit by a few old-timey gas lanterns as it had always been the case and since not even Grace was allowed inside to clean, there was a thick layer of dust that had settled like snow over the furniture that was unused apart from the desk and the chair his father occupied. An old grandfather clock was ticking loudly in one corner of the room and Luther’s eyes caught briefly on one of the last photographies that had been taken of all of them. The oil paintings were on display downstairs but in his office, his father kept actual photos. Almost like any normal father would. The only person missing on this photo was Vanya. He remembered how she had called out for their father as the photo had been taken. None of them had dared to move a muscle.

The old man didn't look up as he was writing in his notebook. »Yes.« He muttered instead. »I want you to tell Number Four that he is no longer welcome in this house.«

It was like a punch in the gut even though it was not him being kicked out. It sure felt like it though. »What?«

»You heard me, Number One.« Reginald replied and this time his voice was laced with annoyance. »Your brother’s behavior is unacceptable and I have put a blind eye to it for far too long. Tell Number Four that he only has two options left: Either he gets clean and focuses his energy on the development of his powers and his training or he can leave this house immediately and never return as long as I am alive. If he is smart enough to choose Option A, he will be admitted effective immediately into the best rehabilitation facility our state has to offer. I already made the calls to make sure that he can be picked up right away if he chooses to accept this offer of help. If he will not choose to get help, you will personally see him out right away. No bargaining.«

Only then, his father looked up at him through narrowed brows. It was this cold dead stare that Klaus would usually mock and that instilled the fear of God in Luther. This was not his father Reginald Hargreeves looking at him and giving him an order, this was the Monocle, the leader of their band of superheroes, his boss, giving him a direct order and Luther couldn't refuse it.

»But … Dad, please-«

»That is the end of this discussion, Number One. I have told you what I expect of you and I expect you to do as you were told. You are dismissed.«  

※※※※※※※

Waking up in a dirty alley behind a bar or a club was not really all that new for Klaus Hargreeves. By now it was a pretty regular occurrence, actually. Not nearly as regular as waking up in some stranger’s motel room or apartment with no recollection of how he got there, though.

He was alone as he laid there on the cold hard ground. Even being in pain was nothing new or strange to him. Pain was an old friend by now. He was often waking up in pain. He often didn't know how he got somewhere or what had happened before. Maybe the thought should be scary to him. It surely would be scary to other people. There had been a time in his life, much earlier, when it had scared the shit out of him.

He couldn't remember the first time he had had sex, for example. He only remembered waking up in some motel room alone, naked and alone and hurting all over after some wild party. He remembered seeing this weird guy every now and then at parties after that, winking at him. To this day, Klaus had no clue who that person was. He could make an educated guess, though. Still, compared to now, teenage Klaus had been much tamer. He had just turned twenty years old and was now the wildest he had ever been - the most reckless.

Perhaps, one might argue, he had lost control and went completely flying off the rails after Ben’s tragic and all too sudden death a few years ago. Well, seeing the ghost of your freshly deceased brother right after his death and still ripped to shreds by the monster in his chest, would do something like this to a person. Klaus was a firm believer of that. He also firmly believed that any other human being with powers like his would have sooner or later gone completely off the rails. It was only natural.

»Klaus you need to get up!«

He lazily swung at the voice next to him but was probably off by a mile. His whole body felt sluggish and weak and he hardly had the energy to even lift his head up or open his eyes. His skin was crawling and his feet felt numb. In fact, he didn't feel his feet at all. Perhaps they were gone. What if someone had cut them off? He wouldn't be surprised.  

»Klaus!«

»Shut it, Benjamin.« He slurred against the cold hard concrete where he was resting. He wanted to go back to sleep now. He wanted to stay right where he was and go back to sleep, fall back into the sweet cold embrace of darkness and not feel a thing. Death, his constant companion, didn't look that unpleasing anyway. By all means, Death seemed more like an old friend to him now more than anything. Unlike most people in his life, Death had never left him too. Death had always been there for him, in some way.

»Klaus, you need to go home! Please! You are hurt. You are freezing! Luther will know what to do!«

He almost laughed. Luther. His big brother Luther. Half the time, and Klaus was sure of that, his brother didn't even realize that Klaus was still there or that he even existed in the first place. No … No, Luther was just as clueless as the rest of them. And even if he would go home to Luther … his brother would immediately run to their dad and tell him all about what a mess Klaus made of himself again, right?

And then what? The mausoleum? Or would his father just throw him into that dark room in the basement again until he would have puked out his guts and successfully went through cold turkey? The first time the old man had forced the drugs out of his system like that was when he had barely been sixteen years old. He had almost died - only to realize that Death didn't want him.

The flashbacks started around an hour later, although it was hard to tell the progression of time when you don't have a watch. Somehow, Klaus had managed to get his ass up from the ground. His pants and underwear had been down to his ankles. He had pulled his pants up again and started walking into some unknown directions - perhaps straight into the jaws of a beast lingering in the darkness.

Klaus hadn't even wasted a thought about why his pants had been down to his ankles in the first place or to feel embarrassed about lying there with his pants down like this.

The city was quiet, dark and empty at this time of night. The first bit of snow of this winter had settled quietly over the streets and houses all around but was already melting again. It was the time of night when all the clubs and bars had closed for the night but the rest of the world had not yet awoken. A precious window of time, the veil between the land of the living and the dead as thinly woven as the web of an especially lazy spider. It was like walking through a fever dream. No one was around, doors were sensibly shut, everything was locked up securely, and dark. In the distance, dogs were barking and alley cats shrieking. But that was it. No living soul seemed to roam the streets at this particular hour of the night.

Klaus never felt closer to the dead than during this time. And although he should dread it because of this, he rarely felt this at peace as he watched the ghosts lazily roam the streets, stuck in their own endless loop. The only reason why he could see them anyway was because his last hit was wearing off already. He had just enough drugs left in his system, however, that the ghosts were nothing but mindless phantoms roaming the streets. Except for Benny, of course. Ben was always right there with him. He had been ever since he had died.

He could have enjoyed it had it not been for the flashbacks. Hands on his skin, caressing and praising. Hands on his skin, bruising and squeezing. The pain in his jaw made him believe that he had taken quite the beating. Not that he would remember. What was visible of his exposed stomach was black and blue and he figured that most of his body looked this way.

The night was freezing cold, after all, Christmas was right around the corner. Soon, Allison would send them a Christmas card again, lamenting how much she missed her siblings yet unwilling to extend an invitation to them. Last year she had remarked on meeting a guy named Patrick. Klaus was sure that, this year, she would tell them about how she was going to marry him. Poor Luther. It would break his heart.

He remembered a tongue being dragged over his neck, teeth biting down on his flesh. He remembered struggling lazily - too drugged up to fully function or express his discomfort as he was pushed into that wall that had scratched up the side of his face. He could feel the scratches were they had already scabbed over as he dragged trembling fingers of his cheek.

If his pants weren’t black he was sure that they would be stained with blood. Not that it would be the first time. He was, by now, used to this. He was a junkie, after all. It was so easy to take advantage of a junkie passed out on the street somewhere. And it was even easier to take advantage of a junkie who was awake and willing to do anything for their next hit. He wondered if he had fought the other guy. He wondered if that was why he had been beaten to shit. Did it matter, though? It wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last time either.

The thought made him stop shortly as he braced himself at a wall to his side. He wanted to vomit.

»Klaus come on.« Ben was flickering in the corner of his eye almost violently.  »Klaus, you need to get home, okay? You are hurt. You need help. Maybe Mom could help you. Luther could help you.«

He wanted to laugh. Ben. Benny, Benny, Ben. In death, his quiet brother, his withdrawn brother, was so much more annoying and loud and outgoing than he had ever been while alive. Fuck that. Ben, for as long as Klaus could remember, had always taken to himself, holed himself up in his bedroom with a good book and ignored the rest of the world around him. And, at the same time, somehow Ben had always managed to be the most loved of them all, the kindest, the sweetest, the most compassionate and calmest. He was the glue that had been supposed to hold them all together and then he had died and left them. Left him. Well, then again he had not really left Klaus, right? He was still here with him - nagging him.

He started heaving as he managed to reach the end of the alley but besides stomach acid, there was nothing his body had to offer as it splattered against the concrete to his feet - splashing a little onto his sneakers as well. His head was a fireball. His body a popsicle. He felt sick and alone and weak and pathetic all at once. After he had emptied out his stomach, he leaned heavily against the corner or the alley, the bricks of the wall digging harshly into his spine and ripping his skin up even more where his crop top wasn’t protecting him from the assault. Hadn't he had a coat earlier this night? Even trying to breathe hurt. It felt like he was being stabbed over and over and over again by Diego’s knives.

»Maybe« He began but had to stop himself as his stomach revolted once more. He tumbled forward, bracing his left forearm against the opposite corner of the alley and dry heaving until he could breathe again. »Maybe … You are onto something there, Benedict.«

Again, he leaned against the wall in his back, his fingers digging into the gaps between the red bricks, feeling the plaster dig into his fingertips roughly. He was alive. That was what being alive felt like, right? He could feel the plaster and the bricks, the fresh air of the night as wind picked up and brushed over his face. He could feel the ground underneath his feet and see the clear sky above him. He was alive. He only had to remind himself of that fact from time to time as he forced deep breathes into his lungs and tried to suppress the trembling of his body as the winterly cold settled deeply into his bones.

»Okay.« He then muttered and looked at Ben who by now stood right outside the alley on the sidewalk, his arms crossed and his hoodie casting deep shadows on his pale face. »Okay, Ben. Okay. I’m going home. You’re … You’re right. I’m hurt … I feel like shit. I need to get home.« And yes, he was freezing. It was so fucking cold that he was confused about how he was not already dead. He needed to get to his cozy warm bed. He needed to take a hot bath. He needed some food as soon as he would have slept. And maybe … just maybe, he needed Mom’s helping, soft hands. Maybe she could even spare a cookie or two for him.

They made their way down the street, walking side by side in silence for the longest time. Ben and he never needed many words. They understood each other just fine without words. It had always been like this.

»I’m done with all this.« Klaus whispered as they were only three blocks away from their childhood home now. His feet hurt. Maybe he should just have called a cab. Not that he had any money left. All he has had in terms of money had been in his coat.

»What do you mean?«

»I mean … the parties, the drugs, the alcohol … being … being fucked by random strangers in dirty alleyways for money or drugs or pleasure or whatever. I’m done waking up like this.«

As he looked at Ben, he saw the way his brother pinched his lips into a thin line. He knew that look and he knew what Ben wanted to say. Ben was always good at pointing out that he couldn't consent to anything while being so high off his ass that he didn't even remember his own name. He was right, of course. He knew that Ben was right. He, after all, was in the possession of the last remaining Hargreeves’ brain cells after Five vanished and had selfishly taken them all to an early grave. Yet, Klaus didn't dare to say the big bad R-word. He just wouldn't do it. He couldn't. Saying it meant acknowledging it and acknowledging it meant he would need to deal with it.

He was not ready to deal with it. He was not ready to deal with a great many things.

»I’m glad to hear that.« Ben said instead. A rare smile graced his pale ghostly face. Sometimes, his brother almost seemed solid to Klaus as if he was still there - as if he would be able to touch him if he would reach out to him. Oh, how he missed him. Oh, how he missed all of them. Sometimes, he wanted to sneak into Diego’s apartment and curl up in his bed like when they had been kids and still so very naive and innocent. He missed Diego. The last thing he had heard of him, though, was when he had been kicked out of the police academy. He had tried to act as if it would faze him back then but inside, his heart had broke for his brother. It had always been Diego’s dream to become a cop and protect people.

They both knew, as they focused their eyes on the street ahead, that Klaus didn't really mean what he said. He wasn’t ready to mean it. He would wake up in some alley again and again. He would get fucked by strangers again and again. He would shoot up and lose his mind again and again. And, at one point, he would completely lose himself, forget who he was, join Alice in her tea party as the Mad Hatter and continue living in a blissful hellish dreamscape.

When Benny and he finally reached the mansion, the sun was creeping up at the horizon with an unrelenting stubbornness. He wished the sun would just stay down a little while longer. While Klaus was slowly stumbling down the street towards the iron gate, the first people were leaving their houses to go to work or jogging or anything equally displeasing and utterly responsible. Sometimes he wondered if he would ever be like them. Going to work in the morning. Going for a run as the sun was creeping up on the horizon.

No, that wasn’t him.

And yet, a part of him craved a normal life. A part of him craved even his old tarot cards. He used to play with them when he was nervous. He hadn't touched them since Ben’s death.

As he reached the iron gate, he closed his hands around the sharp spikes of the gate for a second, feeling the metal beneath his fingertips before pushing the gate open with a foreboding little screech like the scream of a Banshee. He didn't care much about waking up his father or brother. Knowing them, they were already awake anyway. Luther was probably doing his early morning workout routine in his room or the gym and his father was already buried behind a wall of books older than himself. Walking up to the front door was a tedious task. He could barely lift his feet but he managed to get inside at last. Inside it was not much warmer than outside and yet a shiver ran through him at the sudden change. He allowed the door to fall shut behind him as he sauntered towards the formal staircase.

Right now, he just wanted his bed.

Maybe he should have known that it wouldn't be so easy this time.

»Klaus? That you?« Luther’s voice called from the sitting room and Klaus couldn't quite fight the urge to roll his eyes and drive a hand through his hair. He couldn't deal with his giant of a brother right now. However, his hopeful look at Ben was met with cold indifference. Of course, Benny wasn't able to get him out of this one either.

»No, it's Santa! Ho, Ho, Ho!« Klaus called back and gave his best to sound as cheery as possible despite how scratchy his voice sounded.

A beat of confused silence and then: »Would you come here for a moment? There is something- I need to talk to you.«

He sounded so serious. Oh, Number One being serious was never good.

※※※※※※※

Luther had stayed up all night. Sitting and pacing and scratching his head as he tried to figure out how he would go about this. The entire night he had hoped to hear Klaus come back home and dreaded it at the same time. The truth was, he was always worried when his brother was out and about. He just wanted to keep him safe and apparently, he was failing so miserably all the time. That had never been clearer than right now as Klaus walked into the room.

He looked a mess. Well, Klaus always looked a mess but it seemed worse this morning. He was all beaten up and bloody. Had he gotten into a brawl? Klaus? His scrawny little brother? Klaus had never been much of a fighter. He could fight tooth and nail if he had to, of course, but under normal circumstances, he wouldn't seek out fights like this. Well, clearly he had lost whatever fight he had been in.

Still, something inside him froze when he saw Klaus saunter in like this. He rose to his feet on instinct just as Klaus flopped down on the sofa he usually liked to occupy. He tried to play it cool but he couldn't fool Luther. The wince as his body made contact with the sofa cushions was undeniable. He was in pain and he looked a little sick. Had he been out there in the middle of December wearing only a crop top and a pair of black pants? He must be freezing!

His instincts told him to call for Mom and help his brother but his father's orders were clear. He couldn't disobey him. He knew that. No matter how much he wanted to pretend that Klaus had not yet returned to give him a bit of time to recover before their father would get involved again, he knew he couldn't do it. After all, he was the only one his father had left, right? The only one who wasn’t so selfish as to run away and abandon the mission. And, in addition to all of that, there were cameras everywhere in this house. Father probably already knew of Klaus’ return and he would spare him no mercy.

He was Number One for a reason. A good leader sometimes had to make hard decisions and be upfront with everyone.

»So, what's up, big guy?« Klaus smirked playfully as he wiggled his eyebrows at him. His hair was unkempt and longer than it should be. He needed a shave and he looked like someone had pulled him out of a sewer or a dumpster. He was, at least in their father's eyes, a disgrace to their family's name and Luther could understand what he meant as he looked at Klaus now. And yet, Klaus was his brother. He was his family.

»I talked to Dad last night.«

»Big surprise.« Klaus scoffed. »So what did the old man say? Is he sending you on another pointless suicide mission soon? Or is he sending both of us so that I can play the distraction? That worked wonderfully last time, didn’t it?« Last time, Klaus almost got shot on his watch. He had been too high to function and yet his father had demanded Klaus to go with him. Sometimes he wondered if his father would really care if Klaus would die on such a mission.

»It was … It was about you, actually.«

»Moi?« He laughed in mock surprise as he put a hand to his heart. »Is he finally giving me a raise? The recognition I deserve?«

»Klaus … this is serious.« Luther sighed and sat down heavily on the coffee table before Klaus. The wood creaked dangerously underneath his weight. Still, Klaus looked … Oh, he looked so bad. Luther couldn't stand looking at his scratched up and bruised face. »Okay, listen. There is no nice way to say this so I’m just going to say it. You have two options left, Klaus. Dad says you either get clean and focus on the mission and your powers or-«

»Or he kicks me out.« Klaus concluded and from his face alone Luther was unable to discern how Klaus might feel about this. He seemed calm. He didn't even seem surprised at all.

»Yes.« Luther nodded. »And if you don't allow us to admit you into the best rehab facility nearby to get clean and stay clean, he asked me to … show you out immediately. No second chances, no discussion. It's either A or B and you need to decide right now

Please say A, Luther begged in his head. Please be reasonable. Please stay. Please get help. Please let me help you.

He didn't want to lose another one. It seemed a miracle he hadn't already lost Klaus the way his brother looked right now. Whatever happened to him tonight - what if he had died while Luther had been waiting for his return? He couldn't stand the thought of finding out Klaus had died somewhere out there in the streets with a needle in his arm or beaten to death by someone he had hooked up with. He felt like the worst brother in history as Klaus sat up then and looked at him suddenly with those pleading green eyes. Oh, he was good. Klaus had always been so good at directing his puppy eyes at Luther. Fuck. He crossed his arms as if this would help him in his resolve against his brother. Suddenly, he understood why Diego left the way he had. Had he not shouted at Klaus that morning … Klaus might have swayed him and Diego would have stayed. Diego had not just run from the house, the academy, Luther or their father. He had run from Klaus as well. Otherwise, Klaus would have destroyed him.

»Lu« Klaus began quietly, knowing full well that Luther always broke down easier when he would hear this little nickname. »It's not … It's not like I don't want to get better, right? I just talked to Benny about it. I said that I want to get clean, right Ben?«

He cringed at the sound of their dead brother’s name and as he watched Klaus look at the corner with wild eyes. Instead of shouting at Klaus for using Ben’s name when it was clear that he only made stuff up, he bit his tongue. Now was not the time.

»B-But … It's not that easy, Lu! I mean … I can't go cold turkey right now, okay? It's … I’m hurt and … I’m sick. I think I have a fever. I don't know … I-I might have a concussion. I don't think going clean right now is the best idea - Not that I wouldn't want to! Geez, I would love to get it all over with and start new! It's not like I like waking up in all kinds of strange places with a headache as big as the Empire State Building!«

»Klaus-«

»If you could just ask Dad to give me … I don't know … A week? I only need a week to get better and then I’m all on board with this whole getting clean thing, I promise!«

Klaus reached over to him and grasped Luther’s arms next. His hands were freezing cold and trembling badly and his eyes were those of a feral animal. He didn't look directly at Luther though. He seemed to look through him. Up close he was in even worse of a state. His lips were brittle and bloody, his cheek scratched up, there was blood underneath his fingernails. He smelled unpleasant as his clothes were dirty and ripped.

»Klaus … I really … I don't want to do this.«

»Then don't! I mean … You are the only one Dad would ever listen to anyway, right? Please - If anyone can convince him to allow me to stay- Just another week! I-I-I can do it! I really can do it! I want to! I-I’m done with all this! I promise, Lu. Give me one more week and I will go to whatever facility Dad sends me to in his infinite wisdom and be a model patient! You will be so proud of me, I swear! I-It's just … I need this week to … to get my head clear, right? I-I need to get better first … A-And I can't get better if I’m sober because … Because they won't let me rest! They won't let me sleep unless I’m high … So … So how am I supposed to get better if I cannot sleep?«

His heart ached. He wanted to help him. He really did. He wanted to take his thin brother into his arms and hold him close and tell him that it was okay and that he could stay and just continue like this. This was hard. This was unbearable. He could see how desperate and afraid Klaus was. Afraid of getting clean. Afraid of being kicked out of the only home he had ever known. Afraid of needing to fend for himself.

He is manipulating you, a voice in the back of his mind told him. That voice sounded a lot like Dad - or Five. Hell, Five would have known how to handle this. He is manipulating you the same way he was manipulating Diego to give him money.

He remembered hearing Klaus plead with Diego on numerous occasions before Diego had left them. »Please, Dee, just this once. Just one more time! Please, I just need a few bucks. One more hit to ease into it. Please, if you don't give me money … I have to find someone who does.«  

Shortly, Luther's eyes fell upon the camera that was mounted to the corner of the room and pointing directly at them. Dad was watching them. He knew that. He was watching and judging Luther on his behavior. On his weakness. He was weak. The same way Diego had been weak until he hadn't been able to continue like this and fled.

So, he took Klaus’ trembling hands and dislodged them from his arms. He held his thin wrists firm and tried not to think about how easily he reached around them or how easy it would be for him to break them with just a flick of his own wrists. Klaus had always been the smallest, the weakest - the runt of them. Except for Vanya, of course. Vanya had always been the exception. But out of them boys it had been Klaus. He had always been the least likely to survive and yet he was still here and Ben was dead and Five was gone.

It wasn’t fair.

Klaus was still here, begging to continue his pathetic junkie life while Ben was rotting in the ground. And then he had the audacity to take his name into his mouth. He really wanted to be angry and the pleading look in Klaus’ eyes made it even harder not to scream at him.

»I want you to leave, Klaus.« He finally muttered and let go of his brother. He still saw how Diego jumped into his ugly green car down the road on that fateful morning. He had watched the scene unfold from his bedroom window. He had seen how Klaus had pleaded with him and cried and sat down on the sidewalk after Diego had left. He still heard him scream out for their brother. The brother whom he had driven away because Diego hadn't been able to take it any longer that Klaus would beg him for money for his drugs. The constant threat of Klaus selling himself otherwise always looming over Diego’s head. Slowly, Luther rose to his feet and started to move away from him. Klaus, however, reached out once more and Luther swatted his hand away. »You had your chance and you blew it.«

»But, Lu-«

»No, Klaus. I told you. I told you what would happen if you would blow your chance and you did it anyway. Go.« He kept his back to Klaus as he spoke because otherwise, he might cave in again. He needed to stay strong now. He had read somewhere that sometimes it was necessary to push someone like Klaus away for them to realize that they needed help. He was pushing Klaus away so that he wouldn't need to watch his brother throw away his life anymore while Ben was rotting in the ground and Five was god-knows-where. »Go and take whatever you need, Klaus, and then leave. You are no longer welcome here. This is no longer your home.«

»B-But, Lu- Luther I need help, please. Please, I need Mom and m-medical attention. P-please, Lu! Please, you can't send me to the streets like this! Look at me - I won’t survive out there … Y-You are sending me to the slaughter!«

He bit his lip so hard it drew blood and squeezed his eyes shut. He couldn't do this. He couldn't. He needed Klaus to leave right now or otherwise, he would cave in. He needed him out of the house right now. And so he turned around again. The hopeful look in Klaus’ eyes didn't escape him but Luther just grabbed him by one wrist and pulled him from the couch until he stood on unsteady legs.

»Luther!«

He didn't respond, didn't turn, didn't look as he pulled Klaus out of the sitting room. His brother was no match for him. And yet, Klaus struggled badly as Luther dragged him through the entrance hall and towards the front door. He struggled as Luther opened the door and started crying and screaming and sobbing and punching his arm with his free hand as Luther pushed him out into the crisp morning air.

The sound of the front door slamming shut the second Klaus was out there echoed all throughout the house and so did the sound of the locks on the door being flicked.

»Luther!« Klaus screamed through the locked door before his fists started slamming against the wood and the glass. »Luther, please! Please, I promise you I get better!« He couldn't take this. Hearing Klaus cry like this, hearing how desperate he was, was breaking his heart into a million tiny pieces. He didn't walk away, though. He stayed at the door, his back pressed against it while his brother pounded the door.

And there he was. His father was standing on the stairs to the entrance hall, one hand resting on the handrail, his pocket watch in the other studying it with great caution. Almost, Luther hoped that his father would tell him to open the door and allow Klaus back inside. He waited for the old man to tell him that he had passed the test and could take his brother back inside and help him get better. Instead, the old man gave him one long look before turning back around and marching up the stairs. Klaus, on the other side of that door, was oblivious to all of this.

He could almost see how he was leaning his forehead against the cold glass of the door as he sobbed violent little sobs now. As Luther finally walked away, he could still hear his brother’s pleas. They would haunt him for the rest of his life. He was sure of that. He felt like a monster and, sure enough, just a few years later, he would see a monster in the mirror too.

It had been only the two of them left. Now he was alone. A monster in a big dusty old house.