Klaus startles when he sees it, almost innocuous, sitting on the coffee table in the big room with the big bar in their big mansion. It’s not a big briefcase, but it is a fucking briefcase. He turns to the bar.
“What the fuck is that doing here?” He demands, sharply, to Five, who is mixing himself a drink.
“What are you complaining about now?” Five asks, and then looks where Klaus points. He rolls his eyes. “Relax, nobody’s going to send you back to ‘Nam.”
“Ha. Ha,” Klaus grinds out. “Get it out of here.”
“Uh, no,” Five tells him. “I’m working. That is for work.”
“I thought that was over?” Klaus says.
“Well, think all you want, you still won’t understand very much.” Five knocks back his drink. He’s fucking caustic this month, Klaus notes sourly. Or maybe he’s always been this way, and Klaus has just always had something in his system to soothe the experience before now.
“What is your problem, man?” Klaus throws up his hands. He edges closer to the bar, eyeing the bottles, mixers, comforting, numbing booze.
“I don’t have a problem,” Five says, not even looking at him, refilling his glass. “You’re the one complaining.”
In the corner of his eye a figure enters stage left, sits silently on the sofa. Five doesn’t react, so Klaus assumes they’re dead. He creeps closer to the alcohol, fingers twitching, psyche longing.
“You’re so…” Klaus breathes out through his nose, purses his lips, thinking about the way Five always speaks to him at the moment, how much it stings; he’d assumed Five would have grown up with the rest of them, and he just talks to Klaus like he did when they were kids. Patronizing, with a healthy dose of ‘don’t care’.
“Looking for a drink?” Five says then, calmly eyeballing him over the top of his glass.
“Give him a break, Five,” says the figure on the couch, who is Diego, not a dead person after all. Klaus turns to thank him for butting in. Diego’s hands are at the latches of the briefcase.
“No!” Klaus shouts, as blue light flashes across the coffee table, and then Diego is gone.
Just. Like. That.
Klaus turns back to Five, frantic, hands over his mouth, horrified.
Five just looks pissed off. Incredibly pissed off. He slams his glass down, straightens his tie. “Great,” he says, “that’s just great.”
“What do we do?” Klaus whispers, terrified for his brother, unable to comprehend the possibilities of where he’s gone.
“Leave this one to the grown ups,” Five says, pats him. “And focus on staying away from the bar.” And then he’s gone, God knows where, before Klaus can react to that.
He just stands there, staring at the couch.
“Where’s Five?” comes Luther’s voice, from the hallway. He sticks his head in, looks around.
“Um,” Klaus says, trying to think about how to explain what just happened.
Luther looks at the bar. “Have you been drinking?” He asks Klaus.
“No,” Klaus manages.
“Oh. Good. Sorry,” Luther says, awkward. “Uh. Bye.” And then he’s gone down the corridor, looking for Five somewhere else.
“Fuck,” Klaus squeaks.
The thing is, the thing is, the thing is. Klaus is trying.
Since their impromptu family gathering wherein Dad died, Vanya got a crazy boyfriend, Allison rescued her from said crazy boyfriend, aforementioned crazy boyfriend tried to kill Allison… and then Vanya using her motherfucking powers nobody knew she had – including Vanya, apparently – sorted it out by killing her own crazy boyfriend by herself – yeah, since then:
He’s been back living in the pit of expensive furniture and bad memories that they grew up in, along with Luther and, he guesses, Five, although the guy is rarely there. He doesn’t pay rent, so he doesn’t need to make money. His inheritance would probably cover rent somewhere else, but Klaus doesn’t know the first thing about living on his own, not in a proper grown-up not-getting-shitfaced-and-having-constant-parties way, and besides that entirely he doesn’t want to be alone.
Grace and Pogo are here somewhere, but Klaus doesn’t see them. Sometimes another sibling will wander in or out, but it’s never to see him, really, so Klaus just. Doesn’t have much to do.
Idle hands wait for the devil to put tequila in them and give up on all the hard work they’ve been doing trying to stay sober. Or some such.
Klaus ends up in the garden a lot.
He needs a distraction from thinking about Diego, and briefcases. There’s nothing he can do.
“That buddleia,” an affronted voice tells him, “needs a trim, young man.”
Because nobody is watching, Klaus engages with him. “I’m not a gardener, old man. We’ve been over this.”
“You mean you haven’t taken it upon yourself to look after this garden, which is on your property. I planted that buddleia twenty eight years ago,” he says, and Klaus looks at him skeptically, because fucking hell though the thing is huge. It’s sprawling everywhere, practically a nest of a tree. Twenty eight years doesn’t seem like enough time.
“And those things grow fast. It’ll suck the life out of all the rest of this patch if you don’t do something about it now.”
And he has a point, Klaus thinks, looking around. There isn’t much thriving in the five or six meters closest to the tree.
“Well, look at me,” Klaus tries, “I’m not exactly built for manual labor. That thing’s enormous.”
“You could start easy,” the old man says, “a little at a time. It won’t matter if you cut the wrong bit. It’s a hardy bush.”
“Well go on,” the ghost wheedles. “You know where the shed is.”
It’s better than fretting. It might tire him out enough to sleep a little better, too, now that he thinks about it.
This particular ghost is of a nice old man named Frank who apparently used to be the Academy’s gardener, not that Klaus remembers him at all. He says that the lovely young Seven accidentally killed him one day, bless her soul not that she meant to at all, which came as a startling bit of news – but then since sobriety happened Klaus has also bumped into the odd ‘accidentally killed’ nanny around the house, and since Vanya’s little revelation, well. He’s not as surprised as he feels a brother probably should be at this point.
He has told exactly no-one, though; not even really discussed it with Ben. The family doesn’t need that kind of upset right now.
Everybody is kind of reeling from one horrible childhood betrayal or another as it is.
The shed is still in decent condition. Frank had told him where to find the keys the day he appeared out of nowhere to bug Klaus about the state of the lavender. Klaus had a look out of curiosity and habit (there was nothing he really wanted to sell… no fucking point selling it now, besides). Since then, he’s been out here on occasion; especially when he just.
Needs something to do.
“So my brother accidentally opened a time travelling briefcase,” he tells Frank, conversationally, because he can’t stop thinking about it. He feels, more than sees, Ben, joining them.
“Whatever do young people get up to nowadays,” Frank says more than asks, and then shakes his head grimly.
“Your who did what?” Ben asks, sounding only mildly alarmed.
“Diego,” Klaus says, after a quick check again for living people who might decide that he’s nuts. “Five brought a stupid briefcase into the house and Diego had to go and open it.” He locates the shears in the shed. Once upon a time this would have caused entertainment and alarm.
“Fuckity fuck,” Ben says, wide eyed. “Where’d he go?”
“How would I know?” Klaus mumbles, makes his way back to the overgrown monstrosity he was meant to be distracting himself from this with and considers where to begin first. How times have fucking changed.
Frank appears to have stayed in the shed. Ghosts are like that, Klaus is finding now he’s trying to let them in a little. He hopes Frank will come back to appreciate Klaus doing what he’s told for once.
“Didn’t Five know?” Ben asks.
“Didn’t get much of a chance to ask,” Klaus says, and then just has at it, snipping at random branches.
He’s sweating less than fifteen minutes later, having not been kidding at all about not being cut out for manual labour.
Still. It’s a good job. He’s started it, he’s going to finish.
Ben just watches, the way that ghosts are wont to do, for the entire hour Klaus butchers the plant. When he’s done, he kicks the spare branches into a neat pile and realizes he has no idea what to do with them. Frank is nowhere to be found, and Klaus hasn’t mastered summoning one ghost without summoning a whole heap of other ghosts so he doesn’t try it.
He’ll be around again.
Klaus heads inside and gets rid of his shoes and socks, realizes he’s covered in little purple flowers.
He makes it to the bathroom, shedding clothing as he goes. By the time the bath water is running he’s buck naked but for dog tags and there’s a trail of his things behind him. He gets in while it’s still a little too hot, entertains himself by putting in way too much bubble bath because, now, nobody is around to tell him off for it.
Wishes he had a joint, so, so, so badly.
Tries to relax.
Thinks about dopamine. A lot.
At the point where the water is on the verge of needing a top up with some hot, he hears humming and heels clacking down the corridor. He looks through the open door, watches as Mom picks up his clothes where he left them. She smiles, waves her fingers at him through the open door. He waves back. She resumes humming and clacks away.
Klaus tops up the bath again, adds more bubbles. Then he adds more bubbles again, watches as the foam gets bigger and bigger, drips over the top of the bath and on to the floor. He turns the water off guiltily, then leans back, lets one leg hang out.
It’s quiet. A nanny with a broken neck shuffles down the hall in the same direction as Mom.
It’s too quiet.
He can’t bear to put headphones on in the bath, any more, so his options are kind of limited.
“Do do do do do do do dooo,” he starts.
“Da na na, da na naaaa.” he sort of starts to get into it a bit.
“Mmmmhmmm back upon my life, la la la something something shame, I’ve always been the one to blame, da da da da do.”
Klaus gets a bit more into it.
“No matter what or where or who, something else in common tooooooo, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sin! It’s a sin! Everything I’ve ever done,” bath water splashes about as his arms get in on the picture, “everything I ever do,” guilt free bubbles descend to the floor in droves, “every place I’ve ever been, everywhere I’m going to! It’s a sin! Do do do do do do do dooo.” Klaus gives in to the urge to be ridiculous now, and belts,
“At school they taught me how to beeeeee so pure in thought and word and deeeeeeed they didn’t quite succeeeeed! For everything I long to do no matter when or where or who that la la la in common tooooo!” He’s practically caterwauling at this point. “it’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a sin! It’s a sin!”
Klaus has never imagined himself a singer, particularly. Well. He’s never tried.
He notes that Ben is just in the chair by the doorway, staring at him like he’s a lunatic.
“Oh my God,” yells a different voice, at the sink, “would you shut up? It sounds like you’re dying!”
Fuck off, random dead guy. This is his fucking bath time! Klaus starts to repeat the chorus again, louder.
“Hey,” Ben tells the dead guy. “Don’t be a dick to my brother.”
“Your brother sounds like a stuck pig,” the ghost complains, and Ben promptly unleashes the eldritch horror from his midsection, which makes Klaus scream a little bit and flail a little bit and then stare at Ben.
“He was saying mean things,” Ben tells him, looking kind of guilty.
“You can do that?” Klaus says, gesturing to the now utterly gone asshole ghost. “You can obliterate the other undead folks?”
“Uh,” Ben scratches at his head. “I didn’t know that was what would happen. I just wanted to scare him and figured they can’t hurt anyone now that I’m dead.”
“Uh, how about thanks for telling me that now,” Klaus says, crossly, and hits the water. “Oh my God!”
“Uh, how about I didn’t even know,” Ben snaps, “it’s not like it’s fun letting them out, you know.”
“Uh how about holy shit Ben,” Klaus bounces, suddenly, good mood racing back. “You can never leave my side ever again.”
Ben stares pointedly at him in the bath, where the bubbles are receding.
“Really? Because there’s a bunch of stuff I really don’t want to see.”
“Psh like you haven’t seen it all and worse, bruder,” Klaus waves him off, free of all shame. Winks at him.
Ben rubs his forehead. He looks up, says, “is that Five?” Before Klaus can tell him that he has no idea, obviously, Ben says, “I’m going to go see if he’s talking to Luther about Diego,” and is promptly… not there.
Dead people, Klaus thinks uncharitably.
By the time he gets out of the bath and into a towel, Ben comes back, tells him Five and Luther are talking about – wait for it, Ben says, and then, with Jazz Hands – the moon.
More specifically, the possibility that there are – wait for it, Ben says, and he’s a sarcastic shit as a dead guy – Nazis on the moon. And Pogo is indulging them.
“Oh for God’s sakes,” Klaus throws up his hands, and tries not to be very, very, very worried about whatever Diego is up to right now. Or… not right now. Whenever he ended up.
He gets dressed and makes his way upstairs, catches the tail end of what appears to be Luther and Five making a plan. Pogo is shuffling out and ignores him entirely.
“Guys,” he snaps at his brothers. “How is whatever the hell you’re doing going to help Diego, pray tell?”
Five levels him with a look. Luther sort of frowns.
“Diego’s probably fine,” Luther says, all reasonable. “He can look after himself.”
“We have more important things to do right now, Klaus,” Five tells him. “Go back to singing in the bath.”
“I knew that song,” Luther says, “I thought it was pretty good.”
“Well not everybody did,” Klaus starts, and thinks about telling them about Ben, but doesn’t. His brothers are frowning at him still, but it’s mild. “But what about Di-”
“Klaus,” Five interrupts. “Seriously. Not now.” He looks at Luther. “Are you ready for this?”
“Sure,” Luther says, and then they’re walking out, all tough guy, mission guy, and Klaus stands and throws his hands up in the air, despairing. There is nobody else around to go to, at this point.
Then he remembers that their house has a phone.
It takes a while to read the numbers right, but Pogo has a phone book in the little drawer of the phone table, and it contains, in Pogo’s cramped handwriting, a means of getting hold of each of them where they can.
Starting at the top, Klaus finds the entry for Allison, waits while the phone rings.
And actually, the only other person to call now is Vanya. Fuck sakes.
At least there’s a number listed, Klaus thinks, trying to stay positive.
“Hi, Vanya!” He puts as much cheer into it as possible. “How’s it going?”
Oh, right. “Yeah, it’s me, hello,” he waves, even though she can’t see.
“What – are you okay, what’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing, nothing,” he says, “well, something. Diego’s in trouble.”
“What kind of trouble?” Vanya asks.
“He opened one of little Five’s briefcases and it took him off on an adventure through time and possibly space, I’m not sure. And I don’t know where he’s gone to or how to get him back, and Luther and Five are acting like it’s not at all important and he could be having a really shit time, Vanya, he could even in fact be in Vietnam or something and watching the love of his life get shot and bleed out before his eyes, I don’t know.” Oh dear, he’s shaking. Something that happens without any drugs, then, Klaus observes with disappointment.
“Uh, Klaus, is… is anyone else there with you?”
“Uh, no, just me,” Klaus says, “Luther and Five don’t seem to think it’s that important for some reason. They’re going after Nazis on the Moon.”
“Listen, Klaus,” Vanya says, “I know you’re trying really hard and I know slip ups happen and if you need somebody – are you calling from the house phone?” Like it’s just occurred to her.
“Uh, yes?” Klaus says, confused and hoping he’s misinterpreting what she’s saying.
“Right,” says Vanya, sounding surer. “Okay. I want you to get to Mom, and tell her whatever you’ve taken and see what she can do to help you calm down and get it out of your system. One screw up doesn’t mean you’ve failed, okay? I’ll tell you that again next time I see you if it helps.”
“What, Vanya, no, I haven’t-”
“Mom, Klaus. Go get Mom. Promise me.”
“Please, don’t make me listen to you do this to yourself.”
Klaus’ jaw more or less hits the floor. He moves the phone away from his ear, stares at it in shock.
Then, suddenly enormously pissed, temper breaking through, he throws the handset so hard it cracks the mirror and ricochets back.
He holds up his free hands in middle fingers, backs away.
He can hear Vanya saying something, but it’s too quiet to make out.
He ends up outside, again.
“Now, young man,” Frank says, out of nowhere.
“Where’s your secret stash of herb, Frank? Don’t tell me you don’t have one.” Klaus says, mood sour, longing for some fucking relief.
Frank looks affronted. “I’ll have none of that from yourself,” he says, “I’d thank you not to speak to me that way. I may be just the gardener-”
“No, no, I’m sorry,” Klaus tries to placate him. “I’m sorry. That was about me. Not about you.” But Frank disappears without a word.
Klaus makes a mental note to do whatever he asks Klaus for next time he’s in the garden without a fuss.
He leans back against the fence, and revels in being almost completely hidden in the long grass. Nobody who looked outside would see him.
Nobody is likely to be looking outside for him, but still.
“Ben,” he says, out loud, lonely, just to test it.
“What’s up?” Ben says, and Klaus doesn’t jump but it’s close.
“How did that work?” Klaus demands. “Why did that work? Are you like Beetlejuice?”
“What’s Beetlejuice?” Ben says, and Klaus remembers that Ben may have been around a lot, but he hasn’t necessarily been around every time everything happened ever.
“It’s a film about – actually,” Klaus says, “we should watch it. Let’s watch it. Want to watch it?”
Ben shrugs. “Don’t care. Never really got television.”
“I know,” Klaus says. Figures. “We don’t have to. Just a thought.”
“What are you doing out here?” Ben asks, grass sticking all through him.
“Hiding,” says Klaus.
“What from?” asks Ben.
“Everything,” Klaus huffs. He pulls his knees up to his chest. “It’s fine,” he says, “it doesn’t matter.”
Ben looks at him for a long minute. “You matter,” he says.
“Sure,” Klaus returns, agreeably.
He wakes up at 2:30 in the morning from a confusing nightmare about Ben dying over and over again, except Ben was Diego and he was drowning. Diego can’t drown, he tells himself. It was just a dream.
He comes down to the kitchen and is more than surprised to see Luther there.
“Oh, hi,” Klaus says, taking in the coat and the gloves and the way Luther doesn’t look tired at all. “What are you doing?”
“Oh,” Luther says, “don’t worry about it Klaus, it’s just stuff Five wanted to look into. Nothing big.”
“Moon Nazis,” Klaus nods, politely, internally screaming what the fuck, what the fuck.
Luther frowns. “What do you know about that?”
“Oh, nothing,” Klaus waves him off, goes to the sink for a glass of water. “So. Diego not back yet, huh?”
“What? Oh,” Luther shrugs. “Hey,” he says, “listen. I know you worry about people. You don’t need to, honestly. Diego’s gonna come back and he’s going to be just fine, probably pissed that Five and I were doing this without him.”
“Or,” Klaus poses, “he could be very not fine, in a very strange place and time, where he could legitimately die at any moment, and horrible things could happen.”
Luther just smiles at him. “It’s really nice that you care so much,” he says. “Hey, why are you up? Is it like… a withdraw thing?”
Klaus’ mood sours again. “No,” he says, tries so hard to continue being polite. “Just a regular. Uh. Nightmare.”
“Oh,” Luther says, and then appears to not know what to say at all.
Klaus takes pity on him. “It’s fine,” he says, and “don’t worry,” and “have a good… morning,” somewhat stupidly, and wanders out of the kitchen door, bare feet crunching the little bits of dirt underneath him.
It feels good to have no shoes on, he thinks, sipping his water. When he gets to the grass he thinks about all the nasty things it could be hiding, but, fuck it. What’s the worst that’s going to happen? He sits in a nice spot near the only slightly out of control poppies.
“Frank,” Klaus tries, soft, picturing the old man in his minds eye.
For a second, he thinks it hasn’t worked. But then he hears, “a little late for you to be out, isn’t it young man?” and he looks up.
Klaus can’t think of what to say for a minute, so he waves his ‘Hello’ palm.
“If you’re short on things to do,” Frank says, and Klaus straightens up eagerly, but Frank then looks around and frowns, like he’s just noticed that it’s dark. “Lad,” he says, confusedly, “what are you doing in the grass at this hour? No shoes on, to boot?”
“Oh,” Klaus wiggles his toes in the dirt, looks down. “Uh. I couldn’t sleep.”
A rectangle of light shines from the kitchen, and he can make out Luther’s silhouette. He’s probably too far away to hear, and Klaus figures he’s probably hidden from view here.
Frank follows his gaze, frowns some more. “That one of those siblings of yours?” He inquires, and then, when Klaus sighs and nods, “what are you doing hiding out here with me? He upset you somehow?”
“No, no,” Klaus waves. “Well a bit. He doesn’t mean to, though.” He looks at his toes, digs them into the dirt a little. Luther’s silhouette doesn’t move.
“Do you know,” Frank says, after a minute, “that sister of yours had another nanny out of one of those top windows the other week.”
Klaus guesses that it was probably actually years ago, but, well, he doesn’t need to correct a nice old dead man.
“Seven, you know, not Three,” Frank clarifies, “she is a lovely one though. Going to be famous, she says. In the films.”
Klaus wonders then if Allison remembers Frank at all. He’ll have to ask. He doesn’t understand why he doesn’t.
The rectangle of light closes; Luther gives up on looking out, Klaus figures.
“Did we ever speak, Frank?” Klaus asks. “When I was small?”
“Oh, not much that I can remember,” Frank tells him. “Little One and Three used to pinch my strawberries. Ever so scared of getting in trouble, when I found them. You Father is a good man but a stern hand, I’d say,” he adds. “Not that I’ve anything to say on the subject.”
Klaus wishes someone had had something to say on the subject, he really, really does. He also really, really wishes that there was anyone left he could phone to help. Someone competent.
OH. “See you later, Frank,” Klaus says, scrambles up and scrunches his toes all the way back to the house.
Mom is charging.
Klaus has no idea how any of this works.
“Mom,” he tries. “Uh. Grace.”
He pokes her tentatively, and then feels bad and smooths her shirt back over her shoulder on the same spot.
“Mom,” he says, “I’m sick.” He tries coughing. Nothing. “Diego’s sick!” Nothing. “Diego’s in trouble and I need somebody to help me,” he tries, “please, Mom.”
Nothing at all.
“Fuck,” Klaus says, and goes to the kitchen, comes back with a large vegetable knife. Positions it over his jugular. “Oh no Mom I’m in danger,” he kind of monotones.
“Okay,” Klaus says, “fine. Okay.” He breathes out through his nose. Moves the knife to his wrist. He’s done far worse to himself in the grand scheme of things.
He closes his eyes and presses down a little.
“Darling, stop that,” makes him jump out of his skin, and, unfortunately, drives the sharp edge between his tendons down half way through his fucking arm.
“Ow, ow ow ow ow ow,” Klaus wails, and goes to pull it out but that seems to make things worse, oh Jesus fucking Christ on a fucking bicycle.
“Don’t worry sweetheart, Mother’s here,” Grace informs him soothingly. “Come to the infirmary so that I can fix you right up.”
“Oh my God,” Klaus says, and the blood situation is very real, and he thinks he might be going into shock possibly.
It’s a nice change from the monotony of the usual, at least.
“Now,” Mom deposits him on a gurney, ties a tourniquet above his elbow and pulls the knife out of his arm. He howls. “Be brave,” she says. “On three.”
“Mom you already did it,” Klaus wails, but she’s busy running something over the wound now and pressing it closed.
“You’re very lucky I keep my kitchen sterile,” Mom comments, with a smile, and Klaus whimpers.
She gives him six stitches. Luckily she remembers to numb him up before she starts, but it’s still horrible to look at. Klaus feels nauseated and awful and wants to lie down and get wasted and forget he ever thought this was a good idea.
“Mom,” he tries, “Mom, I was trying to get your attention because I need help with something.”
“Oh darling,” Mom says, “you don’t need to hurt yourself for attention.”
“No, that’s not-” Oh for God’s sakes. He tries again, ignoring the fact that she wouldn’t come online until he needed fucking first aid. “Mom. Diego’s in trouble.”
“Oh dear,” says Mom, “Is there anything I can do?”
“Uh,” Klaus hadn’t actually thought this far ahead. “Okay,” he says, “this is going to sound nuts.”
And he tells her the story of the time he opened a briefcase on a bus and ended up in a war zone. And he talks about meeting people and getting shot at and relearning how to use a gun like he belonged in the army and not how they got taught how to use them growing up. And he sort of briefly mentions sort of maybe meeting someone good and wonderful and perfect but it’s not important, but they died, but it’s not important, and he’s crying and Mom is stroking his hair and holding his hand, and his arm is starting to feel again and that’s not good, but – oh, yes, Diego accidentally did the same thing. And now Klaus doesn’t know how to get him back.
“I’m so very sorry that you went through that alone,” Mom comments, not pausing at stroking his hair. Klaus sniffs. She’s good like this, is Mom. “I would have loved to have met David Katz. He sounds wonderful.”
“He was,” Klaus says. Realizes he’s getting off topic. “But Mom. That can’t happen to Diego.”
Mom frowns. It’s a strange look on her. “I am unable to formulate a strategy,” she says. “Would Five be of any help, dear?”
“He doesn’t seem worried,” Klaus says, ignoring the sinking feeling he’s getting. He… needs an adult. A more adulty adult than him. And apparently that doesn’t mean Mom.
“I am unable to formulate a strategy,” Mom says again. “For how long were you missing in the present timeline, when you traveled unintentionally with your briefcase?” She asks him.
“Uh. I don’t know. A few days maybe?”
“Well,” Mom says, petting him. “Then maybe he’ll be back soon and you won’t have to worry after all.” She looks at him, smiles. “I’ll make brownies,” she tells him and then bops him gently on the nose, and leaves.
Klaus stares at the wall.
“Fuuuuuuuuuuck!” He yells, and it’s a definite yell by the end. He wants to throw something. His arm is starting to hurt, badly. He wants to take something. He doesn’t want to take anything.
Klaus tries Allison’s number again. He doesn’t get through.
“What do I do, what do I do, what do I do?” He asks himself, out loud, pacing the family room. The carpet feels good underneath his bare feet.
He needs a drink.
He gets some water, the glass from a set definitely nice enough to be worth pawning – oh wait, there’s no fucking point – paces with it.
“What do I do, what do I do, what do I do,” he asks himself. Out in the hallway, a nanny is shrieking about naughty children, something about oatmeal. Klaus tries to block her out.
He’s pacing like that when Luther walks by, and his brother does a double take and sticks his head in.
“You okay?” Luther says, and then, before Klaus can respond, “what happened?” gesturing at the gauze on his forearm, and then, again before Klaus can say a thing, “are you drinking?” with a hard stare at the whiskey tumbler Klaus ended up putting tap water into and is now half way through.
“YES, Luther,” Klaus says, “I am drinking, because hydration is how you stay alive. Do you have any interest in helping me figure out how to get Diego back yet?”
“You’re… I don’t know what you mean,” Luther says. “You are drinking? Klaus I thought you were trying to get sober.”
“I am sober, you bag of dicks,” Klaus tells him, loudly. “I am fucking sober, so fucking, fucking sober, watch this,” he says, and for shits and giggles, conjures the nanny in the hallway.
“- employment by that lunatic and his unnatural children, my father never knew why I disappeared, there were more after me besides, I’ve seen it-”
“What the hell?” Luther turns to the shrieking woman.
It’s an effort, but Klaus holds her there, lets her rave where Luther can finally see and hear.
“You unnatural boy!” She screams, having noticed that he’s looking directly at her. “You unnatural boy and your brood, none of you should be on this planet, none of you-” she starts coming at Luther directly and Klaus panics, lets her slide back into something Luther can’t see.
Luther has no idea that there’s a ghost attempting to hit him on his great big chest. Not that it would have probably made any difference. Klaus’ breath comes in heaves.
Luther turns to look at him, wide eyed. “What was that?” he asks.
“Just a ghost,” Klaus tells him, swallows. “She’s still here, you just can’t see or hear her.”
“Klaus,” Luther says, steps forward tentatively.
“I. Am. Sober,” Klaus says, desperately. “Can we please talk about something else?”
“It’s a big deal,” Luther tries, soft.
“Fuck off,” Klaus advises, sick of it now. “Diego. Missing. Briefcase. What are we doing?”
“Don’t tell me to fuck off,” Luther says, looking bizarrely hurt. “Look, we only ask because we care about you.”
“You care about me being sober, you mean,” Klaus says, and it feels like something’s about to click in his brain, something he hasn’t realized until now.
“About you being healthy, Klaus,” Luther says, and steps towards him. Klaus takes a step back. “About you being… you.”
“What’s my favorite color,” Klaus demands, flat, possibly about to lose his temper.
“What’s my favorite color,” he repeats. “Come on. You’re so invested in me being ‘me’. Who is this mythical One True Klaus? What. Is. My. Favorite. Color?”
“Alright,” says Luther, “I get it. Calm down.”
“Get what?” Klaus shoots back, temper infusing the feeling of power, suddenly. Knows what Luther means but still can’t stand that he asks. “Can you answer the question, please?”
“Uh,” Luther looks lost. “I. Um.”
“Okay, let’s do something else. What’s my favorite food?”
“Easier? What’s my favorite song? TV show? What do I even like to do for the sixteen hours of the day that I’m awake and not with you?”
“Klaus,” says Luther, looking sad. “Please.”
Klaus feeling suddenly enraged lets his hands glow blue again; the shrieking nanny is back in the hallway, pacing and yelling, and Ben manifests on the couch.
“Hey,” says Ben, to Luther’s face that is now doing something that Klaus doesn’t want to understand.
Luther looks back at him. Klaus realizes, abruptly, that he’s crying a bit.
“This is what you want, isn’t it?” Klaus says, voice no different for the tears, how about that. “This is what you all bug me about getting sober for. So you can see and hear every dead person in the building. I can tell, Luther, that this is something you think about all the time and desperately want, and that must be why it never fails to be your favorite topic of conversation; Klaus, are you sober? Klaus, are you doing drugs? Is it a drugs thing, Klaus?”
“Please,” Luther says again, looking downright miserable now. Good. Klaus wants somebody else to be with him on the fucking misery train.
“Diego’s missing,” he says flatly, “and you give exactly as much of a shit about that as you give about me.”
“That’s not true,” Luther says.
“Okay,” says Klaus. He looks at Ben. Feels toxic. “You can fuck off now. Do whatever it is you do when you don’t want to be around me.”
“Hey,” Ben complains. He stands up. “Somebody needs a time out.”
Klaus thinks he could make Ben leave, if he wanted to enough. Luther is looking at Ben with huge eyes. Ben comes close enough to hover a hand over his arm. Looks him in the eye. The genuine concern in his face makes Klaus re-evaluate what he’s doing.
“Hey,” Ben says again.
“What’s going on?” says Five, who has apparently joined the party. “Jesus,” he says, “Klaus?” and he looks at Ben and blinks.
Ben looks right back for a moment.
Then he turns back to Klaus. Squeezes his arm.
Klaus has the briefest feeling; as though he’s tired, can’t push through but – but – what if he hit that second wind? Something invincible feels like it’s on the other side. He imagines waiting to feel what it’s like.
He pussies out. Ben goes back to normal. The nanny goes back to normal. Luther and Five both look around stupidly, even though the occupants of the room haven’t changed; they just can’t see or hear it.
Jesus, Klaus is tired all of a sudden. He pushes by his brothers, not wanting to bother any more.
As he leaves he turns suddenly and gives them both the finger, one from each hand, still walking away, just backwards.
“Fuck you,” he says, ignoring Luther’s face and the way Five’s mouth falls open.
Klaus goes back to his room, shuts and locks the door and tries to go to sleep.
He dreams of Diego again. This time they’re in a car, driving across the desert. Diego says, “what happened?” and Klaus hears himself respond with, “did I ever tell you about what happened to me in jail?”
He wakes up with a start, feels ill and off center. Runs a bath and empties it because he doesn’t actually want one.
“You’re being weird,” Ben tells him, while he’s lying on his bed on his back, trying to think of nothing. “I’m worried about you.”
“Maybe fuck off,” Klaus says, not interested. He hears someone moaning before he sees them; a man in an apron just walks on in. Klaus glances over. His face appears to have melted off.
“Help me,” the man is sort of saying, through his ruined mouth. “Help me.”
“No, no, no, no, no,” Klaus tries to get across, determinedly, looking at the ceiling, desperately restraining the urge to just take a fucking pill, anything to control this.
It’s cut off. Ben sighs, a moment later. “Well,” he says. “The eldritch horror is consistent. I’m sorry, I didn’t know it could do that, before. It might have been useful.”
“Oh Ben,” Klaus says, suddenly realizing what a tool he’s being. “Ben. I’m so sorry. I’m in such a shitty mood and I’m so fucking worried about Diego, and I fucking…” He stops, grinds his palms into his eyes. “Why does nobody think I’m doing this? I am trying so hard,” he scrubs at his face, “it’s fucking hard and I get it, it’s pathetic, whatever. But it’s still hard.”
“It’s not pathetic,” Ben says, suddenly next to him. “It’s not. I’m so proud of you.”
Klaus abruptly bursts into tears. He curls sideways on the bed, hugging himself.
“You shouldn’t be proud.”
“Suck it up, I am.”
“I’m so worried about Diego.”
“I know. You think…” Ben trails off, looks unsure.
“What?” Klaus says, when he doesn’t continue.
“You think maybe you aren’t dealing with what happened to you, and that’s why you’re so worried?”
“Don’t be stupid, Ben,” Klaus says, picking at the covers of his bed. “I deal with everything that ever happens to me.” He shoves his face into the fabric, resists the urge to yell where it will be muffled.
“I don’t like how much it’s hurting you,” Ben says. “I don’t like it at all.”
“Okay,” Klaus says, “poor you. Having to do all that worrying.”
He hears rather than sees Ben throw his hands up and move away.
Klaus sleeps, wakes up, has water, goes back to sleep. He can’t sleep.
Klaus sits on his bed, stares at some unfinished knitting.
“Frank,” he says, instead. Nothing happens. “Ben.” And when nobody turns up, then, “…Dad.”
Oh, there’s a nanny up the hall. A cook somewhere.
He cracks his knuckles on his knitting needles, thinks about all the illicit substances hidden around the room ‘just in case’.
None of it enough to get high on. Just enough that he doesn’t panic and need to get more. Just enough that he isn’t going completely fucking free and clear, or whatever. Because it. Doesn’t. Work. AA does not work. NA does not work.
Klaus thinks back to all the meetings he has ever been made to attend; thinks of all the lies he was told about getting sober. Thinks about how God was supposed to help him through this, or some such absolute bullshit. How he has a ‘disease’ he can’t possibly control without that holy intervention.
Ben showed him some national study on statistics of relapse and recovery from the groups he was always dragged to, and, suddenly, Klaus had felt like less of a freak. Less of a total failure. Like he might actually have something in common with 94% of the American addict population, wow, how about that, fuck, fuck, fuck.
He does not have a disease. He also doesn’t need God to stop getting fucked up. Additionally isn’t fucking helpless, actually.
So he just wants a bit of a fucking break now and then, and this was the first and best shortcut he found; so fucking sue the fuck out of him. Nobody bothers those assholes who spend all day in the gym or escaping in math or literature.
Give those stupid cunts at those stupid religious meetings one day in his tee total body; wait and see how much they want to preach about their stupid ideas on God then.
Klaus knows God. Much, much better than they do. He would never presume she’d want to help him do something as banal as stop poisoning himself just to feel a little better.
Ben says, “Klaus,” waking him up some time after he’d managed to fall asleep again, after a few hours spent dropping stitches and picking them up rows and rows later, marveling at his capacity to fix rib stitch. “Klaus!”
“Hmm?” He rolls over, looks up at his brother.
“Allison’s here,” Ben says, reasonably urgently. “So is Vanya.”
“What?” Klaus rubs his eyes. “Is this about Diego?”
“I don’t know,” Ben says, “Wake up so you can go see them.”
Klaus frowns. “Luther and Five?” he asks, with a stretch.
“Upstairs, too.” Ben says. “Come on.”
It’s not a fucking search party for Diego.
It is, apparently, a fucking cunting motherfucking intervention.
Klaus does his very best not to scream. That nanny is back, shrieking her head off in the hallway. He doesn’t quite give in to the urge to summon her for everybody else, but it’s close.
“Klaus,” Luther says, first, tentatively. “Look.”
We are gathered here today, thinks Klaus sarcastically.
“Look,” Allison suddenly looks between them both, picks up. “I can’t imagine how hard it is,” she says, and there it is, lovely fake smile, oh good, oh good, she’s coming in for a hug. Klaus lets her, pats her gently on the back with his eyebrows raised.
“Oh my God,” Ben says, and nobody else hears it but it’s a shame because Ben indulges his dramatic side and slaps a hand over his eyes and it’s so fitting. “Oh my God.”
“Klaus,” says Vanya, who is perched next to Five, who is looking at her like everything she says is correct, A+, obviously, and oh wow what would her self esteem have been if Five hadn’t fucked off? Different, that’s for sure. “There’s no shame in taking a break,” she’s saying. “I’ve done it. Five’s thinking about it.”
“I talk to someone,” Allison offers, and Klaus knows that it’s literally only because of her court mandated therapy sessions that she does so, and his blood boils underneath his serene expression.
“Ah, Allison,” he interrupts them all, clasps his hands at his chest. “You know, I did try talking to someone. Oh, just one moment.” He spins, leaves the room at a pace, stalks to the telephone stand in the hallway. When he gets to the drawer and digs out the phone book, he leaves it open in his hurry to return. Still, he feigns placidity.
“Ah yes,” he says, and then rattles off Allison’s phone number. “Here’s the number. I called and called. And nobody answered. Poor me,” he says, trying not to let the edge bite through his words. “I’m so grateful you could be here right now though.”
“Hey,” Vanya says, jumping up, putting a hand on the arm of her suddenly slightly guilty looking sister. “That’s not fair. It’s not Allison’s fault. And anyway, I spoke to you, you weren’t just… alone.”
“Ah,” Klaus says, flipping in the phone book as much to bide time while he collects himself about it as to find her number. “Ah yes,” he says, “look, Vanya, there you are! How lovely.” Vanya blinks. Allison seems to be petting her hand, pleased to be reassured she isn’t a total fucking twatbag, her and Vanya on one stupid team.
“Oh yes,” Klaus says, “you know, I do recall. I was fairly wild,” he winks at them all, and waits for Vanya’s expression to relax so he knows he can go for it. “I was scared for my brother, who disappeared the exact same way I did a couple of months ago – because of my other brother,” he says. “And – oh, yes! None of my siblings gave two shits about it, despite the fact that I'd already been abducted from the house in a bath towel and tortured for two days. Thanks Five,” he shoots his free hand over in a finger gun.
“Fuck,” Ben says, “please be-”
And Klaus rolls his eyes, and his fists glow blue, and it’s no effort at all.
“-careful,” Ben says, to an audience who gawp at him.
“No, no,” Klaus says, “Ben has a good point. I should be careful. You would all rather believe I need saving, by you virtuous lot – thank God you’re here!” He laughs, bleakly. “Oh, but you are all such shitty people. Fuck all of you. So fucking much. I’ve been sober for months, plural.” He doesn’t say the exact amount of time, because ‘months’ sounds kind of pathetic, and he’s also trying desperately not to count.
Once, in rehab, he’d met an anorexic. They weren’t allowed to weigh themselves, because it drove them fucking nuts. Klaus doesn’t understand why they try and push the same numeric system on him of days and weeks clean, like that won’t cause any more problems.
Now, strangely, it’s Allison’s expression that gets to him most. Her face speaks of devastation. The prickles of guilt start in on his conscience; then he remembers-
“-children meeting unsupervised, the Master will have my head-” and oh, yeah. It wasn’t just Ben. Oops.
“You again,” Luther says, standing, moving toward the front of the group.
“What do you mean, ‘again’?” Asks Allison, moving forward.
“Klaus keeps summoning her,” Five says, “he did it before with Luther.”
“I’m not summoning shit,” Klaus says, outraged. “Jesus. Fucking. Christ. She’s been there this whole time. She’s always here. She’s been yelling her head off every day since I could see her on this floor. It just fucking happens-”
“Hey,” and it’s Vanya, “hey, Klaus, maybe calm down,” and he is incensed, suddenly, and she’s taking a step backwards. “Oh my God,” she’s saying.
“What,” Klaus snaps, moves towards her slightly. He feels powerless and powerful at the same time; like he has the world at his fingertips but no way to actually make his fucking family fucking listen to him. Even try to understand him.
“What-” Five says, staring, kind of at his feet, and Klaus is about to give a shit when a flash of blue light over the coffee table precedes a dark shape crashing into the room. The body lands on the table with a thump, recovers impressively into a backward roll, ends up against the wall.
Klaus stares, forgets what he’s doing. The blue lights go out, his fists fade to skin instantly. Ben stares with him. The nanny is forgotten in the background.
Against the wall, hair long enough to be tied back, beard long enough to… be a fucking beard, Jesus, dressed all in loose fitting black, clutching a knife while his eyes warily dart around the room, is – Diego.
“Die-” somebody starts, before he stands abruptly, reaches for – oh Jesus God, a fucking semi automatic that he gets from a fucking holster at his waist, who the fuck even is this?! And then Klaus’ hands fly up to his ears, because that’s the sound of gunfire.
He opens his eyes, didn’t realize he had squeezed them shut. The first thing he registers is the briefcase on the coffee table. Or, rather, the remains of it.
Klaus stares around the room.
Everybody looks like they’re in shock.
Diego, in contrast, calmly disarms the gun, slides the ammo out and puts it in another pocket, looks at it for a second and somehow knows how to immediately dismantle the thing. It ends up in six parts, and he throws them away in opposite directions.
He looks around again; his eyes skip past Klaus.
“Oh good,” he says, “you’re all here.”
“Diego,” Luther steps forward. Stops when Diego immediately holds up a palm.
“Klaus,” says Diego. “Get out of here.”
And fucking hell, after everything and everything he’s tried to do and – everything; it just hurts. A lot. He is too blind-sided to even do anything other than utter, “What?” thinking, fucking hell you sound pathetic, to himself, and then, why the fuck did I bother-
“Hey,” Diego says, sharp. He moves forward purposefully, stops just in front of him. Pokes him in the chin with a finger. “Not what you’re thinking,” he says, sure as anything. “I need to yell at these guys,” he says. “You haven’t done anything wrong, that I know of,” he says, and oh, there's a little bit of a tease in there, he’s not all serious and awful at least, “so you don’t need to be around for it.”
“We should go,” Ben says, suddenly, just behind him.
“Na-ah-ah,” Diego says, claps a hand on his shoulder. Squeezes it, looks distracted. Looks back at him. “Come on. You hate yelling. Get.” He nods his head toward the stairs.
“Come on,” Ben urges. Klaus steps backward, confused, still kind of hurt even though he’s not sure he can pick a good reason why right now. “Come on,” Ben demands, and he never does that so Klaus looks at him. Ben gives him a meaningful glance, gestures ‘follow me’. Klaus looks back at Diego, looks him up and down.
“Sure,” he says, quiet. “Okay,” and turns and retreats to the hallway with the door to the courtyard, meaning to go and sit out there. Ben comes with him for ten steps, says,
“Okay, go sit outside or whatever, don’t come back in. I’ll go listen.”
Oh. Oh. Klaus smirks to himself. Ben, that little schemer. Klaus will get to play whatever game he wants after this, so long as Ben tells him everything – and why wouldn’t he? Klaus is the only one who can listen.
Klaus sits outside for what feels like a long time. He doesn’t have a watch and can’t see a clock, so he doesn’t know.
It’s a little while later that one of the ghosts around the yard wants to talk to him directly. The guy doesn’t have anything frightful going on, and actually asks if he can sit, gesturing besides Klaus. After a quick perimeter check for ordinaries, Klaus says, “oh, fine, why not. You seem polite.”
“Thanks, man,” the ghost says, sounding so grateful. He sits and says nothing else for a while. Klaus plays with a thread coming undone by one of the buttons on the cuff of the blouse he’s wearing.
“I just wanted to remember what it was like to sit by someone in the quiet,” the ghost guy says, then. Klaus looks at him.
“Yeah?” he prompts, unlike him, but this guy is unlike most of the ghosts, so.
“Yeah,” the guy laughs. “Hey,” he says, “does shell shock carry on into the afterlife or whatever this is?”
Klaus shrugs. “It would be kind of the universe if it didn’t,” he muses, “but...”
“… but,” says the guy, and runs his hands over his face. “Guess what war I was in,” he says, and it’s not loaded, it’s not anything, until Klaus says,
“Guess which one I was in,” and the ghost says,
“That’s not funny, man. I served and died,”
and Klaus says, “I served and lived, tell me what’s worse?” and the ghost says,
“Vietnam, any fucking thing about Vietnam, that’s what’s worse,” and Klaus freezes, because is this –
“’Nam?” He asks, “you served in ‘Nam?”
“Worst place on Earth,” the guy says, and suddenly all Klaus can think is –
This guy fought in Vietnam
He’s here for no reasonable purpose
Dave fought in Vietnam
He’s not here, for no reason Klaus can discern
Klaus fought in Vietnam and fell in love and watched Dave die and hasn’t seen him since
Klaus sees dead people
Dead people from Vietnam can come to Klaus whenever they want
Klaus feels his fists light up, but it feels like more than that. It feels like his body lights up. He looks at the guy sitting next to him, considers him.
“I’m sorry,” Klaus tells him, sincerely as he can, before he just pushes everything he can out of his skull and a blinding blue light engulfs the courtyard. The ghosts are pushed, pushed, pushed, sucked down, up, away. Taken. Moved. A nanny. Frank.
He thinks they get caught in it.
I’m killing you, he thinks, but I can’t kill you, you’re dead. I’m sending you away.
Suddenly it doesn’t seem real. He can’t do this. He could never do this. He could never stop any ghost from bothering him before. Klaus blinks, and the blue haze is gone, but he’s alone, the entire courtyard is empty. It’s so quiet. He can hear a bird. He hadn’t noticed any birds five minutes ago.
He looks at his hands. Looks around again. Klaus swallows, decides to just go inside. He has knitting to keep him busy.
When he gets to his bedroom, he finds Ben sitting on the bed, frowning at him.
“So?” Klaus asks.
“What was happening outside?” Ben says. “I was going to come out and I couldn’t. It was like I got stuck here.”
Klaus doesn’t want to talk or think about that, so says, “shut up Ben, you were going to spy for me,” and then remembers that the door is still open and anyone could hear him, which sort of defeats the whole ghost spy thing. Whatever. Nobody cares. Nobody would be listening to him.
“Oh,” Ben says, “I mean, yeah.” He looks vaguely concerned. “Look. Yeah. Diego really did yell at them all.”
“Where’s he been?” Klaus says, and Ben’s head shoots up, and Klaus blinks, and Ben says,
“God, you should listen more to your surroundings,” and there’s a knock on the door.
“What?” Klaus says, automatic.
Diego takes it as an invitation, it seems, walks around. He doesn’t close the door behind him.
“Got questions?” He asks, hands around his stomach loosely. “Hi Ben,” he adds, “I take it that’s Ben, anyway.”
“Uh,” Klaus says, slightly unmoored by the easy acceptance of the fact. “It. Is.”
“Tell him I’m leaving,” Ben says, sitting down in a chair in the far corner, crossing his arms.
“He’s leaving,” Klaus tells his other brother.
“Is he,” Diego says, with a look, and Klaus can’t tell what that means. Ben just leans back, watches. “Shit,” Diego follows with, and then runs a hand through his hair, pushes back the stray bits in his face. “You two are pretty tight,” he says.
“Well, yeah,” Klaus shrugs, confused. “Spending sixty percent of the time out of one hundred percent of the time together for the last nine years straight will do that.”
“What about the other forty?” Diego actually asks, and Ben can’t seem to help snickering, looking at his brother directly while he can’t be seen.
“Where’d you go, man?” Klaus says, instead of answering.
“Well,” Diego doesn’t even protest the subject change, which gives Klaus a start. “Technically, somewhere that will no longer exist now, according to Five.”
“Where,” breathes Klaus.
“It won’t be the future, now,” Diego says, quiet. “Ten years time, though, give or take a little.”
“How long for,” Klaus demands, urgently.
“I didn’t count,” Diego tells him.
“Liar,” says Klaus.
Diego smirks. It fades. He turns, pushes the door shut.
“Ten months, one week, four days.”
“Was I there?”
Diego smiles at that, even though it looks a little strange. “That you were,” he says.
“It’s not happening,” says Diego, annoying and mysterious, thinks Klaus, “don’t worry about it.”
“Okay,” Klaus tells him. “So now, all I’m going to do is worry about it. Just so you know.”
“Figures,” Diego says. He actually smiles, looks at Klaus a little too long for comfort. “It’s really good to see you like this,” he says, and Klaus thinks – what the fuck? Nobody else is happy with him ‘like this’, so Diego must have something awful going on, maybe Klaus should offer to pay for donuts or something, although Diego would have to drive, and then Diego says, “you wanna go out, get some shitty food somewhere not here?” and Klaus looks at him, and Diego says, “it’s been a really long time since I got to eat really shitty food. I want eggs.”
“It’s too late for eggs,” Klaus tells him, stupidly. Nobody ever asks him stuff like this.
“Waffles, then,” Diego says, seemingly serious.
“Are you driving?” Klaus asks, wondering what the fuck happened, but at least it wasn’t war, at least his brother is in one piece, talking, in a decent mood… wanting… waffles.
Diego shrugs. “If I can find the car keys.”
Klaus dives into a pot in the corner, takes out a key he copied long ago – from a pile of copied keys, all kinds of keys, none of them labelled but this one is weird and chunky. He notes that Diego doesn’t actually look surprised.
“Come on then,” he says, “if you’ve got nothing better to do.”
Diego follows him.
They end up at an all-night diner. Ben doesn’t sit with them; chooses to nose around the place. Klaus suspects he doesn’t get out enough. Knows it’s not because he’s physically tethered to Klaus, but that doesn’t make the knowledge that he’s hanging around just him and his haunts all the time any better.
Diego orders two stacks of waffles and fetches every condiment in the joint for the two of them.
He eats with a kind of strange but recognizable fervor.
“I know you didn’t like waffles ten months, six weeks, eleven days or whatever ago,” Klaus accuses mildly. “Did you miss actual food while you were gone?”
“You have no – oh, hah,” Diego says, after stuffing his mouth with another massive bite. “Maybe you do have some idea.”
Klaus can’t help it, he tries to look as serious as the comment warrants. He ends up laughing in his maple syrup covered food. “All this lovely MSG,” he snorts, “nutritious fake sugar.” Diego kicks him under the table. It’s not hard, it’s practically playful.
Klaus almost chokes on the mouthful he just shoveled in.
“You’re supposed to swallow it, not deep-throat it,” is Diego’s response to his gagging, continuing to shovel in his own food.
Swallowing what he has, painfully, Klaus picks up his napkin in a wad and throws it at his brother.
Diego looks up frowning. Swallows his own mouthful. Reaches for the fruit sauce. Without breaking eye contact, squeezes the bottle so hard it shoots all over Klaus.
As Klaus sits there with his mouth open, Diego stabs his waffle, spears a piece and begins to chew it, looking unreasonably smug.
Okay, so maybe lunging across the table to shove waffle in his brothers face is an overreaction, but Klaus is not going to be the one left most embarrassed here.
He’s smashing whipped cream into Diego’s ponytail when a member of staff comes over, clearly about to tell them to leave, and Klaus manages to get out, “we’re tipping, we’re tipping, I swear, wait for the tip,” and thanks God for the hour and wonders what the fuck has got into Diego once again when his brother piles the plates to the side, shoves a fresh napkin at him and practically beams at the server.
“Sorry,” Diego says, “catching up with my brother is usually messy.”
“Oh,” says the server, “uh,” looks nervously at the kitchen.
“God. Wow, okay,” Diego says, and then pulls a wad of cash out of his belt. “Here you go. This is for you,” he says, “and this is for those,” he throws a smaller amount onto the table, “and we’re gone,” and he fucking winks. Klaus is amazed nobody nearby keels over.
“Have a good night,” Klaus waves, standing, overjoyed out of old habit at getting a free meal.
They walk outside, Klaus shoving his finger over his blouse, picking up fruit syrup bits, sucking it off. Diego doesn’t seem to care, which would have been unusual a few days ago.
“So,” Diego says, “Done anything cool lately? How long has it been for you again?”
“Uh,” Klaus blinks. They’ve never ever, ever, ever, well, actually, no member of the family has ever talked to him like this. Ever. “Um. Oh. Like. A couple days.”
“Basically nothing,” Diego looks pleased. “Good.”
“Why good?” Klaus asks.
“I like to think I’m integral to the timeline,” Diego says, “or something.”
“Huh?” Klaus stops walking. “Man, you’re gonna have to be less cryptic.”
“Don’t worry,” Diego says, “I’ll tell you. Probably. Once I fix everything.”
Oh, holy shit. Klaus giggles. “Oh wow,” he says, “oh wow. You’re the new number one?”
Diego just smirks, grabs him via an arm around his shoulders. Klaus is kind of warmed. Overjoyed. A little bit wanting to cry. “I’m not even number two,” Diego tells him. “I’m Diego, buddy.”
He can’t help it. He can’t. He tumbles sideways, catches Diego around the chest, shoves his face into Diego’s shoulder. Waits to be punched in the ribs or something, but cannot stop himself from doing it.
“Buddy?” Klaus mumbles, mortified when it comes out as a question.
Diego stuns him even further by squeezing him back, and they stand there in the parking lot, Klaus feeling like his heart is about to burst. “Always, brother,” Diego tells him. “Hey,” he follows with, “thought you’d hate the smell of gunpowder,” and oh, yeah, he does kind of. Klaus cannot bring himself to care, feels like he’s getting some kind of salve over a bunch of burns. One member of his family wants to hug him. One of his siblings considers him a ‘buddy’.
It’s worth so much that he can’t breathe.
“Hey, now,” Diego says, worriedly. “Don’t go all panicky on me. I’m here. Everything’s fine. It was only a couple of days.”
How the fuck is Klaus supposed to explain this? He’s overwhelmed.
“Guess I was a little bit shitty to you, before I jumped,” Diego says, and he sounds a bit amused, which is so weird, so so weird. “Hey, is it midnight yet?”
Klaus shrugs, which prompts Diego to shuffle about a bit. Klaus figures he’s checking something.
“Oh, four minutes!” Diego tells him, and then all but drags him over to the car. Klaus scrubs his face with his hands. It stings. “I know I had one in here,” Diego is saying, and then coming out of the glove compartment with a fucking flare stick. He pulls a light out of God knows where on his person; despite wearing loose clothing with no harness in sight. “Hey,” Diego says, and then holds it out. “Guess what day it-” he checks his watch again, “-is!”
Klaus stares at him, his grinning brother, wonders if it’s a trick, what the fuck is going on. Diego looks at him for a moment and then rolls his eyes impatiently. “Reconfigure the calendar for how long I’ve been gone, the time between now and when you came back, and how long you served in ‘Nam,” he says, which… how, exactly is Klaus meant to – OH. OH. OH.
“Happy fuckin’ birthday, to us,” Diego monotones at a singsong tempo to Klaus; lights the flare.
Leaning back against the car he looks like something out of a fucking movie, so over the top it’s not true. He actually toasts Klaus with it. Klaus takes it, wonders if it will burn him. It doesn’t.
“We’re both the second oldest?” He says, and Diego looks smug.
“Happy accident or fate?” Diego shrugs, like it doesn’t matter to him.
“What the hell are you people doing?” Someone yells, sticking their head out of the diner door. Klaus blinks. Diego raises his eyebrows, hollers,
“Why, what are you gonna do about it?”
and Klaus grabs the flare, meaning to throw it away where it can’t be associated with them and… accidentally lobs it at the diner window.
Diego immediately cracks up laughing.
Klaus stares, with horrified regret.
Diego manhandles him into the passenger seat, and they book it.
“Are you not worried?” Klaus asks him frantically as they speed in the opposite direction from the academy. He’s never known Diego to speed.
“Don’t worry,” Diego reassures him, confidently. “I’ll check in with the police database later, make sure we’re not-”
“Who ARE you?” Klaus can’t help. “Guns and speeding and waffles and hacking and-”
Diego abruptly pulls over. So abruptly, Klaus feels the G-Force and snaps forward. He checks right. Warehouses. No traffic. Diego is breathing more audibly, both hands on the wheel, looking down. He stares.
“Okay,” says Diego. “Okay. I don’t really know what I’m doing, big surprise. It’s been almost a year for me, okay?”
“I know what that’s like,” Klaus offers, tentative.
“I learned a lot, in the time I was.” Diego stops. His jaw works. “Okay,” he starts again. “I didn’t know a bunch of stuff. About us. About everyone in our family. And somebody showed me.”
“Okay,” Klaus allows.
“And while they were showing me, maybe some bad stuff also went down and I heard a lot about eggs and waffles and junk food and now it’s on my mind.”
“Okay,” Klaus says.
“And maybe,” Diego says, tentative himself now. “Maybe guns are quicker than knives and they still hit targets the same. And maybe that’s better when you’re working with people who can move things with their minds anyway.”
“Um,” Klaus says, lost again. “Who can do that?”
“I don’t know,” Diego laughs, “who spends most of their time levitating but can’t do it at all in shoes?” He cackles, leans forward, breathing heavier. “Whose One True Weakness is fucking shoes?” He asks, but it’s sort of bordering on hysterical.
“Are you okay?” Klaus asks, reaching out nervously.
“Yeah, man,” Diego says, grasping his hand, squeezing it. “Thanks. For, uh. Not thinking I’m nuts.”
“It’s only because I don’t want anyone stealing my thunder,” Klaus tells him, gratified when he laughs again.
They make it back to the academy. Klaus makes a beeline for the gardens. He should-
“Frank?” He tries. “Frank.”
Fuck, what if that had been real, earlier?
“I’m here,” Ben says, but he’s frowning.
“What’s up?” Klaus asks.
“Nothing to worry over,” Ben tells him. He seems distracted somehow.
“Did you come back here on your own?” Klaus asks him. “From the diner?”
“Who are you talking to?” a new voice comes from what seems like nowhere.
Anybody else would have jumped; Klaus, too used to ghosts at the point, does not.
“Allison,” he says, smiling tightly. “Ally. Sis. Hey.” He turns to see his sister walking towards him, frowning a little at the long grass as she does so.
“Hi Klaus,” she says. She folds her bare arms.
“Hi,” Klaus says, wondering when they’re just over-egging the point of the greeting.
“Who, uh,” she says, “so who are you talking to?”
“Um,” Ben raises his eyebrows next to him, so Klaus shrugs. “Ben,” he tells her. “He’s right-” and jerks a thumb in Ben’s direction.
“Ben,” Allison repeats. “Okay. Can I talk to you about earlier? Please.”
“What is there to talk about?” Klaus attempts a laugh, really absolutely not keen on doing that at all.
“You seemed pretty angry at us.”
Klaus stops before he speaks, picks at his sleeve. “Okay,” he settles on. “What’s your problem with that? Exactly? Just so I know.”
“What-” Allison sighs. “Klaus,” she says. “Can you just have a straightforward, normal, sensible conversation? For once?”
And wow, that stings. Outwardly, Klaus shrugs, keeps smiling. “Why would I want to do that?” He says. “You’d all get bored.”
“Look, your temper is wicked lately, Luther says you snapped at him a couple of times just the last few days, and Five said you were summoning dead people to yell at them-”
“Please stop,” Klaus advises, shortly.
“-it just doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you’re using something, and whatever it is you need to get some help. I get that-”
“Please, stop,” Klaus asks again, wondering where her logic is on this one.
“-it’s hard, that’s why there are rehab centers all over the city, you can go out of town if you need to, we just care about you and want you to sort your head out, whatever’s going on.”
It just hurts. A lot.
Klaus doesn’t doubt that she means well. He really doesn’t. But he’s so sick of this already and it’s only been a few weeks. How the fuck he’s going to put up with it for much longer, he has no idea. There’s something akin to rage brewing in his chest, rage at everything about this. He lets it sit.
“Allison,” Klaus says, adding some fake cheer to his tone, trying desperately to keep it light. “That’s very thoughtful, it is. But deeply, deeply misguided. I’d thank you and Luther and Five to shove your fucking opinions back up your arses,” and oh, he doesn’t miss how her jaw drops at that, whoops, he was meant to be keeping this light, oh well, “and if you want to debate the point any further, I’d invite you to take it up with Ben,” he lights up his fists, sorry Ben, but he’s about to lose his temper, again, and apparently it’s not helping his case. “I’ll be indoors,” he concludes, leaving Ben corporeal as you like, Allison staring at him, Ben staring at Klaus.
He doesn’t want to hear the conversation.
His hands and wrists glow blue for over an hour without any strain. He doesn’t hear any screams or see any other corporeal dead folks. He does wonder at how much easier this is getting.
Three little knocks on his door, mid-morning. Klaus takes his sweet time getting to the intruder.
When he opens up, it’s Diego, back in a turtle-neck but harness free, and he hasn’t cut his hair but he has shaved.
“Looking good, bro,” is the first thing Klaus manages, and he winces at it, waits for the repercussions.
They don’t come. “Thanks,” Diego just shrugs. “You busy?”
“Uh. No?” Klaus says, unfortunately reminded that he basically never is any more.
“Got time for five of your six favorite siblings?”
“I’m not doing karaoke,” is the first stupid thing that comes out of his mouth.
“Me either,” Diego says, easily. “It’s also not an unnecessary intervention.”
“Unnecessary?” Klaus inquires, feeling sharp.
Diego just frowns, raises an eyebrow. “What exactly do you need an intervention for?” he asks.
Klaus wants to swoon forward and hug him. He doesn’t, but he does reach for his brothers sleeve, holds on a little bit. “Uh,” he says, “in that case.”
The sight he sees when he enters the attic Diego’s dragged him to is not actually one he would have ever predicted, no matter how much PCP he’d managed to ingest.
“No, no, no, no, I can reach,” Allison is insisting, and Vanya says,
“You’re on a timer, you know that right?”
And Allison says, “I know that,” sounding irritated, and then she pokes Five hard in the side where he’s holding some kind of plank position, clearly expecting him to fall. Five just smirks at her.
“That’s cheating,” Luther says, off to the side, in an unreasonable amount of awe, just as Allison slips, and ends up on her back on the mat.
“Left foot blue,” she says, “left foot blue, that thing is not random, why else would he be winning?”
“Structural integrity?” Five says, righting himself with a neat little flip. He hadn’t been able to do that at thirteen the first time around, Klaus is pretty sure.
“Why,” Klaus asks the room in general.
“Because I thought I was going to win,” Allison grumbles, in response, having apparently gotten over yesterday then.
“You should have just Rumored everybody else to lose,” Diego tells her, sitting cross-legged by the spinner. “Twister was obviously going to be Five’s game.”
“No!” she insists, clearly sore, “I’m taller, I do yoga, I should have had it.”
“You guys have been… playing Twister all morning?” Klaus asks, just for clarity.
“No,” Vanya pipes up, “Luther and I came up here and found a bunch of games. Allison found us and picked Twister and Diego went to see what you were doing, and Five came in and kicked her ass like four times in a row.”
“I’m amazed half of you even know what Twister is,” Klaus says, ignoring several dirty looks and a swift poke in the ribs from Diego. “And games. Why are there games? In the house?”
Besides him, Diego twitches, doesn’t comment. Five, on the other hand, looks away.
“Okay,” Allison says. “I’m going to do it. ‘Fess up, Luther,” she says with a smirk.
“Shut up,” he says, which – Klaus has never heard Luther telling Allison to shut up before. And he looks strangely uncomfortable.
“Hey,” Klaus tries, always having been the one to interject nonsense to resolve conflict where possible. “Did you two used to steal strawberries off of our nice old gardener?”
Luther, distracted, frowns at him. “What are you talking about?” he asks.
Allison glances at him, looks back at Klaus expectantly.
Oh, well. He’s been meaning to ask after all. “When we were kids. His name was Frank,” Klaus says, and gets a bunch of blank stares in response. “I met him in the gardens,” Klaus carries on, slower. “He said… stuff.” He trails off.
“Ummm, when did we have a gardener?” Luther asks, genuinely confused.
“Met him as in, he’s dead?” Diego asks. “Just making sure,” he adds, shrugging.
“Yeah,” Klaus tells him. “Our dead gardener. I don’t remember him at all. But he knows us and talked about you guys.”
“I don’t steal,” Luther says, suddenly.
“Okay,” Klaus says, “I meant when we were kids and it wasn’t a big deal.”
“I don’t steal,” Luther repeats, and Allison is eyeing him worriedly now.
“Hey,” says Vanya, “hey, nobody thinks you did-”
“Oh, okay, so he was lying?” Klaus asks before he can think it through.
Luther stands abruptly, looks around the room. He looks uncomfortable and sort of hunted. He opens his mouth to speak and nothing comes out, and then he just leaves; Allison hot on his tail, looking like she wants to offer comfort of some kind. She looks back at Klaus before she goes, opens her mouth, says nothing.
Then they’re both gone.
“Jesus,” Klaus says, throwing up his hands. “I’m not saying I said it.”
“Klaus,” says Vanya, and she sounds kind of careful, and, weirdly, looks at Diego.
When Klaus looks at him, his mouth is in a thin line and he’s not looking at anyone, but he looks kind of pissed and like he used to look when he couldn’t solve a problem.
“Look,” Five says, and claps his hands, having been silently watching up to this point. “We could just forget about that whole three minutes and play another rousing game of Five-kicks-everybody’s-ass.” It’s clearly meant as a concession.
“You guys really don’t believe me, do you?” Klaus asks, kind of marvels. “Even after everything.”
“No, Jesus,” Vanya says, “it’s not that. Just.” She looks pained. “Uh. I guess if you talk to dead people around here you know a lot of… secrets.”
Klaus stares at her. “Yeah,” he says, “I kind of do.”
She looks confused, and not at all like she’s thinking about the four or five times she killed the nanny. Or gardener. Or chef. Or… God knows who else.
She looks kind of sweet, actually, like normal.
“Well,” Five says, “not everybody likes hearing about their ‘secrets’.”
“Well,” Diego echoes, “maybe some people should fucking grow up before their ‘secrets’ get them into trouble.”
Klaus doesn’t understand what he’s saying, but okay, Diego kind of sounds like he’s on Team Klaus, so…
“Hey,” Vanya says, “I know that you don’t get along, but Luther-” she cuts herself off, looks back down at her hands. Five frowns.
“Diego,” he starts, looking at Vanya. “Just because you spent ten minutes in a version of the future that doesn’t even exist right now, doesn’t mean you’re the new authority-”
“Excuse me, Mister apocalypse now?!” Diego shoots back, rather fairly if Klaus thinks about it… not that he’s really following here.
Five, clearly not appreciating being interrupted, continues, louder, “-on anything at all to do with time travel. For all we know you headed into some kind of warped acid trip and imagined the whole thing, because frankly half of it didn’t make much sense and I really don’t see the other half, right now.” His eyes slide over to Klaus, back to Diego, and he raises his eyebrows.
Okay, so he has no idea what’s really being said here, has clearly been left out of a bunch of discussions, and Five finds yet more things about him lacking right now. Klaus’ blood boils. He can’t help it.
“Why,” he manages to get out, “do you do that?”
Five looks him up and down and rolls his eyes.
Something starts to vibrate in his chest, the same rhythm as the suddenly pulsing rage; his heart, his breathing, reality.
He can’t stand it.
He wants it to stop.
All at once, he feels that power, that huge great big thing just out of reach and he just. Shoves. It. Outward.
Klaus watches in slow motion as some kind of pulse of blue-hued energy moves Vanya, moves Five, moves the Twister mat, moves two chairs in his eyeline, spills a stack of magazines and pushes the small pile of games two more feet clear from him.
He feels powerful for a second, and he knows that was him, and he could have pushed them more, and-
“Oh my God,” Klaus lets out, and his hands are shaking less with effort and more with surprise.
Five’s jaw is hanging open and Vanya looks almost afraid of him, and that isn’t right at all.
His head snaps to Diego, unmoved, by his side.
Diego is staring calmly at their siblings, an unreadable expression on his face. Klaus thinks it’s a cousin of smug, or something, because Diego looks a lot like he’s been proven right about something.
“I-” Vanya starts, stops, looks around at the scrunched up mat. Seems to just not know what to say.
“This isn’t over,” Five says, cryptically, looking livid all of a sudden. “Vanya,” he says, looking over. “Go to the kitchen.”
“I- okay,” Vanya says, stands and practically runs for the exit. Five disappears.
Klaus turns to Diego. “What the hell?” He complains. “That was so cool. Nobody thinks that was cool?”
Diego looks at him for a second, but it’s not hostile. “Plenty cool,” he says, “they’re just dip shits.”
“Thanks, buddy,” Klaus chances, shuffling sideways a little.
He melts inside, the anger receding completely and utterly as Diego throws an easy arm across his shoulders, gives him a squeeze.
Klaus wants to ask why the hell nobody else even tolerates him – actually, Diego kind of only just about seemed to, before he time traveled and whatever happened there happened. He doesn’t, though. Can’t bring himself to voice the question out loud.
“There really was a gardener named Frank,” he says, instead. Diego still has a hold on him.
“I believe you,” Diego says, and Klaus doesn’t cry at the words, but it’s close.
If he sits with his brother for twenty more minutes in the same position; well, it’s not weird. He was pretty starved for affection as a child.
When they head back downstairs, it’s sort of nearing lunch time anyway, but as they approach the kitchen it becomes apparent that, as well as the refrigerator, it’s currently hosting what sounds like a kind of heated debate.
Diego stops in his tracks, puts a hand out. “Hey,” he says, abruptly. “You should go somewhere. Else. You don’t want to be around this crap.”
“I want food,” Klaus frowns.
“Please,” Diego says, “let me handle it.”
“Handle what?” Klaus asks, looks over to see Ben, a little nearer to the room with the raised voices. His brother looks miserable. Instead of imparting an opinion like usual, Ben just looks at him, swallows, looks away.
Klaus kind of possibly actually really does need to hear this then. And Diego doesn’t want him to, what? Hurt his little ear drums? When Diego looks like he’s going to try again, Klaus pats his arm. “Sure,” he says, “have fun.” He turns and walks down the corridor in a hurry, until he’s in the courtyard. Once there, it takes less than a minute to hop around the side of the house, until he’s coming up on the kitchen door which is closed but – open windows! Yay.
“- I’m saying Diego was telling the truth, we just saw the beginning of it,” and that’s Five’s voice. Klaus settles quietly in a spot to overhear as much as possible.
“He wouldn’t, it’s Klaus, he wouldn’t,” and that’s Allison, and, okay, what wouldn’t he?
“I almost did,” Vanya is saying. “I would never have – I don’t know, okay? You don’t know what it can do to you, suddenly having all that power and not knowing how to control it –”
“Diego said Klaus knew how to control it,” Luther says. “Right?”
A moment of silence. “Yeah, he absolutely did.” Klaus gets a cold, cold feeling in his chest. “It wasn’t like Vanya. This all already happened. Vanya couldn’t stop him. And by the way –”
“No, I – no,” Vanya interrupts, and Diego continues,
“You didn’t see it. You didn’t see him, and you didn’t see what was left of the fucking world.”
“Swear it,” Five says. Klaus feels his heart clench up in his chest. What the fuck are they talking about?
“I already did.”
“Swear it again, like this. So: Klaus’ powers go nuclear some time in the next decade. Klaus effectively rules the world, as you described it, which is apparently half dead people anyway, who mindlessly do whatever he says, and none of us are around.”
“You’re twisting what I’m saying to sound so bad –”
“Or like it was? Is that true or not, Diego?”
Klaus wants to shrink. He wants desperately to never have listened. He wants to know why nobody told him this before. Why they haven’t talked to him about it. Why…
“You don’t understand what he went through,” Diego says.
“I don’t need to,” says Five, and Diego snaps,
“How do you not see that’s part of the fucking problem, you moron? Do you have any idea the shit he was telling me about? After he finished trying to drown me because, to him, I disappeared ten years ago and he didn’t believe it was me? You have any fucking idea what Klaus was doing at twenty three, twenty six, fucking… seventeen? Let alone after?!”
It’s a nightmare. He’s having a nightmare.
“Pick one person in this room who hasn’t lived through a lot of really awful stuff,” Five hisses, “and answer the damn question. Is what I said true?”
There’s a slapping sound, and then Diego says, “yeah. Fine. It’s true,” and Klaus abruptly loses his shit.
It’s not chaos. Nothing so dramatic. Nothing lights up. Klaus just finds himself on his feet at the kitchen door, kicks it hard enough to smash the old fashioned clasp on the lock. He doesn’t even feel pleased to see Vanya and Luther jump out of their skins. Allison has both hands in a white knuckled grip on the back of a chair that she is directing her gaze at. Five is just staring at him, then he glances at the window and says, “shit.” Diego’s jaw is set, practically ticking.
“Anything you want to tell me?” Klaus manages.
“You want the whole story or the shitty short version that doesn’t take a month to tell?” Diego asks him. Klaus just looks at him.
“Is this why you’re being nice to me now?” He asks. “So I don’t, what, try and drown you in ten years?”
Diego looks frustrated. “That’s not –”
“No,” Five interrupts him. “No more trying to make this sound like something it isn’t.” He stares at Diego, who looks between him and Klaus.
“If… if we all just stay calm,” Luther tries, but trails off.
“This is so great,” Klaus addresses them all, humorlessly. “So I’m a massive fucking pain the ass that you require complete and utter sobriety of, except for when you don’t want to be reminded that ghosts exist all the fucking time, just when you need Ben to obliterate some bad guys.”
Allison looks up. Klaus swipes a “zip it” across his own mouth. She says nothing. He would, ordinarily, have been stunned. Klaus is not thinking ordinarily.
“So Diego goes to the future, which I hear I’m in, how about that. And now here I am, still a massive fucking pain in the ass apparently, that you now need to have secret meetings to solve.” He looks around. Vanya swallows. Luther’s face is crumpled. Even Five doesn’t appear to know what to say. He doesn’t look at Diego. “Okay,” says Klaus, “message received. I. Can. Do. Nothing. Right. Can’t actually die, either, it turns out, don’t know if I mentioned it,” and he looks at the ceiling rather than at them, “so tell you fuck heads what. I’m going to go out and get trashed because what’s the point. Fuck you all, maybe see you tomorrow, who can know.”
A large knife from Mom’s drawer plants itself in the wood just behind him, and Diego is leaving, exiting immediately through the other end of the room. “Oh,” Klaus says, “I recognize this.” He dings the handle, watches the knife wobble. “Guess what was half way through my arm the other night?” He holds up his arm, covered in gauze. “Yeah! Wow. Full circle, buddy, hey,” he says, and then abruptly turns and leaves before he can look at them or say anything else or anybody can say anything to him.
It’s a quick exit around the side to the front street, and even though he has no fucking shoes on, he doesn’t care at all, just needs to get out, get a drink, get a hit, get away.
There’s a carnival in the park about eight blocks from the academy. It’s small but colorful and fun, and Klaus ducks in.
He gets lost among the streamers and confetti for a while, and ends up dancing to the samba band up on the stage.
By the time it’s getting dark, his feet are tired and dirty but he’s chilled out; the colorful surroundings have moved his mind away from his siblings.
He starts dancing to the groove intended to wind the party down with a middle aged couple wearing t-shirts with “FREE MOM HUGS” and “FREE DAD HUGS” on their respective chests.
“Hey,” Klaus says, “what’s this about?” He pokes the letters.
“What it says,” the guy says cheerfully. “I’m a Dad. She’s a Mom. We give out hugs. We started wearing them at Pride and a couple of littler festivals, and a lot folks miss out on hugs from their own Mom and Dad it turns out, so we wear them any time we’re okay giving them out for free.”
“That’s so nice. I’m my Dad’s biggest disappointment,” Klaus tells him, remembering being told so a thousand or so times. “The last time I saw him I got an excellent shave and another reminder that I’m a complete failure.” He grins. “Though I’ve recently discovered that I’m not ending the world like he always wanted or whatever, so maybe I’m not doing quite so bad.”
“That a metaphor?” DAD asks, but he listened despite not following, apparently, and Klaus, just. Wonders about all the good people in this city.
“Can I hug you?” Klaus says. “Good son hugs. You ever wanted an adult son who was staying sober and wasn’t actively trying to hurt people?”
“Absolutely,” DAD says, sounding delighted. “Get over here.”
They hug it out in the middle of the dissipating dance ‘floor’; Klaus’ feet in the mud, DAD holding on just enough that he feels secure, safe, tucking a chin over one lovely shoulder and swaying idly with the remaining background music. DAD lets him hang on for a good while, and Klaus thinks it might be one of the best hugs he’s ever been a part of. Top five. No. Three.
By the time the carnival is wrapping up, he thinks that actually, shit, what is he really supposed to be doing here? And he can’t think of anything good, and is a little tired besides, and kind of wants a bed and a nap before he goes back to thinking about his family and his… whatever. He doesn’t feel the least bit like doing anything destructive to the world.
Maybe it’s because he hasn’t seen his family in a while, though.
Okay. Fuck it. Nap, academy, probably knit some – that shit is soothing. If he wakes up and bumps into anyone and goes back to feeling like shit – he’s got to… He has to move out. He has to get a place, somewhere else, where he can just walk to carnivals and let his soul feel okay again because nobody is doing anything other than existing, however they want to.
By the time he makes it back to the academy, it’s properly dark. He took his time. So what if he also decides not to use the front door, instead goes around to where he knows he can hoist himself up to a ledge high enough that he can scoot through his window – even if it’s shut he’s been jimmying that shit since he was fourteen. He doesn’t want to see anybody.
He flops over the sill, expecting to land on his bed.
Well, he does land on his bed, but doesn’t expect the living, corporeal person to be sitting up against the headboard, looking miserable.
“What?” Klaus barks, scooting backwards. He glances at the door, sees it’s shut. Looks back at his brother, Diego, where he’s scrunched up, misery all over his face.
“Wait,” Diego says, “please, give me five minutes. I know you’re angry.”
Klaus blinks at him. “You don’t care if I’m high?” He asks, and, God, it’s like a fucking hunger pang saying it, he suddenly wants to be so bad. But he isn’t.
“You look okay,” Diego says, wary. “If you want to talk about it tomorrow I can come back. If that’s what you mean.”
“Right,” Klaus says. “So you’re okay that I’m high?” he lies.
“No,” Diego, frustrated, scrubs at his face. “I’m not. I’m not the boss of you, though, am I. You look okay. Do you want any water or anything?” He looks back at the covers. “I don’t really know what to do for… that.”
“What did you want five minutes for?” Klaus asks, instead, perching on the opposite end of the bed, moving his dirty feet over the edge.
“To explain,” Diego says. “To tell you. I should have just told you. If I told anyone. I thought I was doing the right thing. I’m sorry. I fucked up.”
“Okay…” not what Klaus expected, exactly. He chances another look at Diego, still sitting, miserably. “Am I going to hate this?” He asks.
“No,” Diego says, instantly. “Well,” he amends, “maybe. I hope not. It’s not. Fuck. Shit.”
Klaus waves a hand. “You hate me. I get that. Just fucking… tell me already. Everybody else already knows.”
“No, no, no, fucking no,” Diego suddenly glares at him. “Shut up. Okay, fine. Listen until the end.”
He waits until Klaus raises his eyebrows. Raises his own back. Klaus rolls his eyes. “Fine,” he says, “talk.”
“You’re not a pain in the ass,” Diego starts, and at Klaus’ immediate sharp look, amends, “I opened the fucking briefcase,” and Klaus nods and gestures for him to continue. Diego sighs.
“I was somewhere weird. Buildings had been leveled. There was rubble everywhere. I didn’t understand where I was.” Klaus looks down at the comforter now, picks at it while he listens. “I looked around. I found some people. They were talking about you. So. I went to find you.”
He pauses, but Klaus doesn’t look up. Diego breathes out hard through his nose, continues, “I found you. I got hauled in by your security and you saw me and looked freaked out and thought I was some kind of plot, I gathered I’d disappeared ten years ago to nowhere and you didn’t believe it was me. So you, uh,” he rubs a hand over his eyes. “You tried to get rid of what you thought was a bad guy. But I came back. I found you again and tried to find out what had happened.”
“You mean –” Klaus can’t ask, suddenly. “Wait. Why would you come back?”
“Because you’re my brother?” Diego says, looking confused.
“You said I drowned you.”
“Yeah I can’t drown, so. It worked out okay.”
“Okay. Oh my God.”
“I – okay. I came back. Convinced you it was me. Watched you do a ton of cool stuff. Move things by thinking about it. Huge things. Bring people back to life. Not that it mattered because dead people were solid around you. I mean. Some of it wasn’t so great, morally, I guess,” Diego says, looking shifty, “but, man.” He breathes. “People… You have to get this. People were either afraid of you or practically worshiped you. They would do anything you told them. And you were – fucking floating around, like six feet off the ground most of the time. Most of the conversations I had with you, you were just sitting at like, head height. It was wild.”
Klaus can’t imagine that at all, but he blinks, doesn’t say anything, lets Diego continue.
“Okay so I guess you could spin it to look bad, but I was just trying to understand how the world got there, you know? And you weren’t happy. I didn’t think. And every time I asked what had happened you told me something else, that had happened, that I didn’t know about. Just another awful thing that happened because nobody in your family really looked out for you, or stopped in on you, or –”
“Please stop,” Klaus says, covering his face with his hands. He’s crying. He’s definitely crying. He doesn’t want Diego to see it. “Just. I get it. Just skip ahead.”
“Right,” Diego says. “Look. It wasn’t. Good. So much. But, man. I’m never going going to.” He stops. Breathes. Looks upset. “Okay,” he starts again. “I get that I’ve been shitty, and not there, and then fucking disappeared for ten years,” he says, and Klaus says,
“not yet,” because he can’t bear the weight of that on Diego’s shoulders, that’s so stupid.
“Alright,” Diego allows. “But you have to get it through your head. I’m never going to come up against you. I’m never going to fight against you. Doesn’t matter what you do. You’re still my brother.”
“Diego,” Klaus says, distraught, muffled into his hands, because he can’t think of the proper words.
“And I swore that even when I was opening that fucking briefcase again to get back. I swore to you that I was going to make it better. If I could. So you didn’t have to be alone. And whatever happens to the world, I’m there, man, I’m with you. So is the rest of the fucking family just as soon as they get their heads out of their asses.”
Klaus just cries. He can’t describe how he’s feeling, other than really, very much feeling. It’s a lot to process. The story and the implications.
“Can I hug you?” Diego asks, and Klaus sniffs, tries to wipe his face, tries to nod at the same time. It doesn’t work very well because he’s still crying. Diego shuffles over and grabs him with both arms, and Klaus buries his face against his brother’s shoulder and starts getting tears and snot and all the good stuff on Diego’s turtle neck. Good, maybe he’ll have to change into something else. Or maybe he owns like seventy of them. Klaus hiccups, feels a little bit hysterical for a moment.
“I’m not high,” he tells Diego, who squeezes him a little, and then, “you’ll tell me,” he says, after a long minute, when his tears and breathing are under control. He rolls his head sideways. “You promise you’ll tell me if I start doing anything bad now.”
“You won’t,” Diego tells him, confidently, and Klaus shuts his eyes.
Luther butts in on them some time in the morning. Klaus thinks he should be embarrassed to have fallen asleep on his brother, and there are still gross stains on Diego’s shirt. Luther doesn’t seem to care, though, and Diego doesn’t really move as Luther angles himself in beside them both and wraps them in a giant arm.
They don’t talk, but when Klaus tentatively grabs his hand he doesn’t move away.
“I have to pee,” Klaus says, drowsily, some time later. “But I’m so warm and comfy.”
Diego squirms underneath him and Klaus all but falls off the bed. He’s caught by Luther, who lets him go with a grim expression. Diego sits up, flexes his back, wincing.
The trip to the bathroom doesn’t involve any nannies, or any ghosts whatsoever. Not even Ben.
“I think I banished that gardener,” Klaus says, when he comes back. “Uh. If talking about that isn’t gonna make you mad again.”
“I wasn’t mad,” Luther says, and then stops short, frowns. “I uh.” His face crumples, and then he sits up like he’s receiving one of Dad’s best lectures, ready to take on any verbal abuse whatsoever without comment because he’s the best one of them all, the best, the best. “Look, I.” He clears his throat. “Dad kind of got into it one day. About… stealing,” he manages. “He. I. Think I wasn’t supposed to forget the lesson. It… seemed really important. To. Him.”
“Dad was a stupid asshole and he’s dead,” Diego opines, and then reaches over and holds Luther’s hand. Holds Luther’s hand. Klaus blinks so rapidly he thinks he might pass out.
Luther looks at their brother. “Yeah,” he says, and Klaus doesn’t understand why he’s conscious, maybe this is a dream. “Thanks,” Luther says, and Diego’s expression is a bit like when he says ‘you better be’, all narrowed threatening eyes, so maybe this is still real life.
“Wait,” Luther says, looks back at Klaus. “What do you mean, banished?”
“Oh,” Klaus says, “that’s what I’m calling it. When I make them all go, like, away, away. And I can’t call Frank back any more so I’m guessing that I really did send him on. Uh. Wherever ghosts go when they aren’t bothering me.”
“Oh, okay,” Luther says, in the tone of one who hasn’t really thought about what it’s like to be plagued by the dead day in day out for years. “Should we. Like, make a memorial or something?”
Not at all what Klaus was expecting but… he likes it. “He’d have been really touched by that, I think,” Klaus says, nodding. “We should uh. Probably also look at trimming back the cherry tree and maybe doing something about that thing that used to be a vegetable patch. If we’re honoring the memory of the guy, and all.”
“I don’t know how to do gardening,” Diego says.
Klaus waves him off. “There’s a shed and everything,” he says, “there must be books. I was just listening to Frank, before.”
“Listening to a dead guy tell you how to garden,” Diego says, amused.
“I’ll have you know I’m a diligent and attentive student,” Klaus says, because now Frank isn’t around to tell anyone otherwise. And, he guesses, he did try.
They end up outside, the three of them, pulling the weeds and long grass away from the shed so it stands out.
“We could paint it,” Luther suggests. “It used to be red. We could paint it so it’s clean and bright again.”
“And call it ‘Frank’s Shed’,” Diego adds.
“What are you guys doing?” comes Vanya’s voice behind them. She looks smaller than usual, and a little pale, and when she looks at Klaus it’s tentative.
“Fixing up Frank’s Shed,” Klaus tells her, lightly. “He’s moved on to the great beyond, but he was very loyal and attentive to these gardens even twenty odd years after he snuffed it.”
“I really don’t remember him,” Vanya frowns. “I thought Mom took care of all of this.”
“Mom doesn’t leave the house,” Diego says, “I kind of thought it was Pogo.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Klaus decides. “Just another mystery. Want to help?” He asks Vanya, an olive branch.
It takes them almost six days, in the end, which is way longer than Klaus was anticipating, but there’s a lot of painting and removing of old plants and things and then Luther wants to sort out the inside and Diego wants to sharpen everything and Vanya finds some planter and maintenance schedules and lays them out in the kitchen to see if there’s anything that sounds like it needs doing.
Five finds them and joins in.
Allison brings a chair and a book to the garden and suns herself while they work.
“You don’t want to join in?” Vanya asks her, sounding curious rather than reprimanding.
“No,” Allison says, then sighs. “I…” she stops, sits up, pushes her hair out of her face. “Guys,” she calls. “I think I probably should tell you something.”
Klaus stops short where he’s pulling up a particularly well embedded dandelion family. “Why do I feel like this isn’t going to be nice,” he mumbles, then turns to look at her. His other siblings have done the same, more than half of them brushing dirt and bits of plant off themselves.
“Okay,” Allison takes a deep breath. “I should have learned my lesson when we figured out about Vanya. But. If I start trying to remember every time Dad made me Rumor something or someone, I’d be here for a very long time and probably end up morbidly depressed.” She looks at the dirt, continues determinedly. “We had a gardener named Frank. I haven’t thought about him in years. I used to talk to him when I was little. And. Uh. Pick flowers. And eat strawberries.”
Klaus chances a look at Luther. His jaw is set, he looks kind of like he’s bracing himself.
Allison carries on, “so, uh. Maybe one day Dad caught us and Frank didn’t care but Dad did and laid into Luther like holy hell.” She wipes at her eyes quickly. “So we stopped going out to talk to him. But then maybe a little while after that, Frank wasn’t there any more and Dad got everyone in a room and told me to make you all not remember anything about the gardeners or the cooks. He said it was practice.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Luther whispers, when she doesn’t carry on for a long minute.
“Because I feel so horrible about it,” Allison says, and really does start crying. “I feel so awful. What else have I done? I said Dad made me an accessory to what he did to Vanya, but I still did it. I still did so many things.”
Klaus stands still in the grass, quietly processing.
“Do we need to put an embargo on keeping information like this to ourselves?” Five considers aloud. “I know nobody likes it, but that kind of thing would have been useful to know when we were trying to play happy families for Diego’s bizarre idea on averting an ‘apocalypse’.” He says the last part with bunny ears. Klaus is too distracted by the fact to even care about the content of the speech.
“Maybe go easy on the reveals,” Klaus says, then, thinking about nannies and ‘special training’ and all the hurt that they have the potential to cause each other.
There’s silence for a minute.
“So,” Luther says, suddenly. “He was nice to us? Frank?”
Allison sniffs, wipes her eyes for the last time. “Yeah,” she says. “He was.”
“Then he definitely deserves a memorial.”
“Frank, man, I know you’re gone,” Klaus says, and wonders if this is how people who aren’t him feel when they talk to the dead. “But check this out.”
He breathes in, waits a moment, exhales. Waits a moment.
He does that four times. In the last space between breaths, he feels lighter, looks down.
There’s a clear distance between his bare feet and the dirt underneath them.
Klaus wiggles his toes in the air.