Klaus can’t breathe.
Not with the dusty stench of ice filling up his lungs like ocean water. Damp and dark and cold. His lungs burn, ready to burst inside his chest, yet every inhale of air slides down into his lungs like chunky blocks of ice dissolving into a puddle of acid. His temperature drops fast, until what little color remains in his face goes down the drain, and his blood slows into a sluggish state of goo rather than the rush of boiling heat in his ears.
Klaus can’t hear.
Gone are the screams, the terrified shrieks of children and women echoing along concrete walls. Their wails and demands drowning in the pleas for mercy spilling past their dry cracked lips like the static noise of an old radio running on an endless source of energy. Never ending and far too loud in his bleeding ears to ever ignore.
The air is silent and noiseless around him. As silent as the inside of the glass coffin must be.
Vanya’s lips move. Fast but mute. Despite the lack of her voice, her words are louder than any scream could be. Louder than her book or the faint nails dragging down on the chalkboard that is his conscience. He doesn’t hear her beyond the metal door keeping her away—unmovable and unrelenting. Final.
Klaus doesn’t need to see.
How the glass turns bloody beneath her fingers. Her cheeks glistering wet from tears. Eyes bloodshot and swollen red—wide open in the fear of blinking and finding herself left alone to the horrors of her walls. The paperwhite skin her face is painted in—like she’s put on the face-paint Japanese hostess wear to impress—and how her lips would match the lipstick such beauties adorn from biting the tender skin raw into a bloody parody of a clown’s smile. Jaw unhinging to howl—
(“—let me out. Please, let me out—")
Isolation and overstimulation are two sides of the same coin. Both a punishment resulting in each other. Robbing someone of all their senses will push them into an overwhelming sensitivity. Dialing the senses up will numb them to a point of detachment. A vicious circle lacking balance. Control.
Something none of them ever had. Not under Reginald Hargreeves’ watch.
But he was dead. Gone. A pile of ash rotting away in the courtyard.
Klaus knows. He checked. To make sure. He knows the Bastard isn’t coming back, couldn’t hurt any of them from beyond the grave aside from him, or at least, tear open old wounds that never quite stopped aching over time.
Even so, his shadow stuck. In the scene playing out in front of him, worn like an old memory, tainting the image of little kids with his own. Poisoning them far more than Klaus ever did to himself willingly.
For a fleeting moment, he wonders, if that’s what his siblings thought of upon catching him red-handed with the drugs and alcohol. The shriveling terror choking them at the sight of watching him drug himself to the brink of death, unable to help him sober up.
No wonder they deemed him a lost cause after the third try. Probably ran out of air.
Even Diego, with his ability, could only cling on for so long before suffocation caught up to him.
A hand brushing against the bare skin of his upper arm shakes him out of his stupor. Hot in a way only the living could be, Klaus flinches away from the touch, tearing his gaze away from Vanya to glance up.
Diego inclines his head towards the door, the stairs, the message clear in his eyes.
(Dad’s gone—has left him here in the freezing chill of the dead for another three hours. Left him to rot away like the mangled corpses dripping blood over the floor. Their torn flesh crumbling away to dust as they reach for him with claws in the shapes of hands—)
Klaus can’t breathe. Because the dead have long stolen the air out of his lungs.
His choked little laugh turns halfway into a hysterical shout of incredulity. He grips onto his arms, nails digging into his skin to ground himself.
“—we can’t. We can’t just turn around and walk away and pretend this isn’t happening! What the hell, man? What happened to helping her?”
Diego’s jaw clenches. “There’s nothing we can do.”
“Bullshit,” Klaus can’t believe what he’s hearing. “You’re just giving up. On—on Vanya. The sister who cried when we stepped on ants.”
He twists away from the hand reaching for him, watching it hover in the air before curling into a fist and dropping back to Diego’s side. Useless and motionless. Unwilling to be of use in a show of strength.
Diego says and stops. He doesn’t elaborate or put his thoughts into words. His name lingers in the air with an unspoken expectation, to follow without making a scene, to listen when nobody ever extends the same courtesy to him, and there’s a hint of a warning in the way Diego grits his teeth. Eyes narrowing in an attempt to soften him into agreeing to leave.
Turning around and walking away would be easy. Especially with the shameless excuse of Diego’s insistence to hide behind and to push the blame onto. He could let his feet carry him upstairs towards the bar and drown himself in a bottle of whiskey to forget about reliving his nightmare in a different perspective.
There’s nothing he can do. Klaus is weak, the lookout, useless. In spite of his powers, he’s powerless against steel, nobody would blame him for taking the easy way and walk out without sparing a glance back.
Nobody but himself.
His feet don’t move. Shaky but unmoving. Diego’s brows furrow and Klaus turns away in a desperate attempt to gain an ally. His gaze flickers across the room, a glimpse of Ben’s angry look of disbelief turns into Allison’s furious tears.
Luther won’t let her open the door.
Just like Dad wouldn’t have let him out.
“We can try again later,” Diego’s whisper cuts through the thick fog inside his mind, low and angry, “But now’s not the time. C’mon, see reason here, bro. When even Allison cannot convince him, we don’t stand a chance.”
Later. Another three hours. Every minute counts and yet—
Diego’s right. Allison without her voice is no better than them. Luther won’t let Vanya out.
Luther, who promised them to look after them as their Number One. Eager to please Dad, to be perfect. His brother that never got to cry, but when he did, would fold into himself like a card house in the wind, leaning into touches of affection like a freezing man towards fire. Their big brother apologizing for hurting them with his strength and swearing to be better. To prevent another Ben incident from happening ever again.
Where did that boy wander off to? The moon?
That kid got buried underneath Reginald’s shadow like rubble.
“She’s our sister,” Klaus repeats, hoping it’ll stick. They don’t seem to understand. He waits for the act to drop, for Luther to come to his sense.
Luther just stares, eyes cold and hard. Chin held tall. “She’s dangerous.”
Allison punches him in the arm, shaking her head vigorously. She’s trembling in her fury, quivering lips pulled back into a tooth-bared snarl to express her distaste. A volcano ready to implode. She hits him with her notepad, stomping her feet and cries.
Tears are nothing but a waste of time and effort.
Klaus’ sobs didn’t convince Reginald to open the doors.
Neither would Luther.
The thought cuts him to the bone. Familiar and tangible with the taste of blood in his mouth. Bitter to swallow.
(“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” He cries, rocking back and forth in the dark. “I’m sorry I can’t help you!” He wants to, desperately so, if only to get them to leave him alone, but he’s useless, nothing more than a terrified mess of a child, afraid of never seeing the land of the living again—)
He’s weak. What little muscles he possesses would tear sooner than they’d move the wheel to open the door. Even Diego would have trouble forcing his way into getting Vanya out.
Rapid heartbeat slowing, the tips of his fingers grow numb in cold sweat.
If he had Luther’s strength, he could get his sister out. Could get tiny Vanya out of the prison he never wished on anyone else. Luther with his sheer size in muscles might not even break out a sweat.
For a moment, he craves such strength harder than his drugs, wishes with every fiber of his soul he could switch powers, exchange places if only for a moment—to fix this mess before it’d ruined them like their powers ruined their lives. Klaus never wanted to be someone else before—a normal, healthier, useful version of himself, yes—but not once in all the years, did he yearn to trade places with anyone.
Christ knows he would never wish for any of his siblings to be put into his shoes.
Luther’s gaze turns away from Allison and her betrayed anguish, darting across the room.
Their eyes met.
Klaus’ mind sharpens, jostling him into focus. Like a camera going off in a flash, in the next heartbeat he slips through a waterfall into a warm shower. It’s sickening to slide from ice into a mold of lava, to ease into a gentle pressure like into a new pair of shoes that are too tight and don’t fit right just yet, but he lets himself fall forward—
—Just in time to see his body crumble to the ground in a heap.
“What the fuck.”
Diego catches his body before his head cracks open against the floor, lowering him in one graceless movement to the ground.
“Klaus? Klaus! Don’t do this shit, not now.” Diego tries to slap a little color onto his face, peering down onto his face with wide-eyes.
Allison hurries over, dropping her notepad to kneel and put his head into her lap.
“He’s not breathing—” Diego checks his pulse. “—he’s…there’s…there’s no pulse!”
Klaus watches Diego press a trembling finger onto the pale line of his throat.
“Shut the fuck up, Luther,” Diego glares at him from across the room, next to his body— “Are you happy now? Is that what you wanted? Allison—”
What the hell?
Wait, did Diego just say Luther?
Risking a glance at Vanya in the hopes of catching sight of his reflection, he inches closer towards the door. His sister stopped hammering on the door, instead staring in open mouthed horror at where Diego is hovering over his body. She’s nearly pressed against the glass, not cowering back when he approaches and sees—
“—wait, I think I felt something.” Diego tightens his grip in what would surely leave bruises around his wrist, frantic eyes pinned onto his closed ones. “There! Fuck, he’s got a pulse. It’s weak as hell. Allison, g-go get M-Mom.”
—Luther’s face staring back at him.
Klaus stumbles back, head beginning to ache.
“Fuck,” He mumbles, squeezing his eyes shut only to be greeted by Luther’s face when he blinks them back open. “Holy shit.” His voice pitches higher—Luther’s voice pitches higher and he winces at the sound.
What the hell?
He’s inside of Luther’s body—which is gross—more than a little disoriented and motion sick.
His—Luther’ skin crawls and Klaus wants to scrub the skin off until there’s nothing left.
“What? You’re just gonna stand there, asshole?” Diego says, “Fuck you. It’s your fault, stressing him out when he’s trying so goddamn hard to be sober.”
Klaus shakes his head. Diego’s got a point.
Freaking out could happen later.
He walks over to the door; fingers wrapping around the metal and pulls—
Only for his lungs to squeeze and his grip to grow stiff.
Anger. Luther’s frowning face flashes across his mind. Confusion.
Something tugs at his conscience, harsh and unrelenting and it takes a moment for Klaus to realize it’s Luther trying to wrestle back control like they’re playing a childish game of tug war.
Allison’s slit throat. Klaus grimaces at the mental picture. Worry. Grief.
“No, no,” He mumbles, trying to shake of his breathlessness. “This isn’t the solution, big guy.”
Blood. Over Luther’s hands and Allison’s clothes. Klaus swallows down bile. Luther hugging Vanya. The house started shaking. Fear.
“She’s our sister!”
“What was that?”
Diego’s head jerks up to glower at him, lips twisted into a scowl. He glances between where Klaus is frozen in prying the door open to Vanya, who looks seconds away from another breakdown behind the glass.
Right. If verbal communication didn’t work then—
A dark little cell. Ghosts screaming until he’s deaf. Their grotesque half-rotten faces leering at him. Trembling and cold, waiting for Dad to come back for hours on end—
Klaus tries to picture the memory, feeling the vice grip around his lungs loosen up.
—Dad calling him a disappointment and leaving him. His pleas for home ignored. Crying and choking on the smell of rotten flesh and bitter blood. Dust on his skin and ice in his veins.
He pulls at the wheel, hearing metal creak in respond and shift underneath his palms. Little by little it moves.
Vanya crying behind the door. Begging like thirteen-year-old Klaus was. All alone. Staring in longing at the door—flashes of Diego’s exasperated frown, Allison’s lovely and mischievous grin, Ben’s fondly rolled eyes and Five’s cocky smirk appearing.
His stomach sinks, clenching. The moon. Beautiful in the sunrise, glistering white stone. Beautiful but silent. Lonely.
Klaus nods, squeezing his eyes shut. Vanya’s tearful face. Standing behind the door of her cage. Vanya’s eyes bright with unshed tears during the last family meeting. Vanya standing in her room, age twelve, visible through the tiny crack in her door, staring down at her violin with a sad little frown.
His chest twinges like someone pulled at his heartstring. …Allison’s slit throat.
Klaus wanted to groan in frustration. Luther…Luther picking him up by the neck. Throwing him across the room. Luther running off without looking back— A wave of nausea hits him, making him pause and then push on twice as insistent. Going after Luther! Throwing up in a trashcan but not stopping his search. Going after Luther at Ben’s insistence. Finding Luther in the club and jumping onto the man’s back—
He stops. Breathes in. And out. Turns the wheel with a bit more force as he pushes down the stinging in his eyes and the growing static noise in his ears. Ignores the flashes of blurry pictures in front of his vision, shoving them aside with a firm push.
Metal creaks, loud and final. Dark spots appear in his vision when Vanya squeezes herself through the gap in the door, rushing over to Diego, trembling from head to toe and cups his face in her hands.
Klaus clings on, burning the scene into his memory before something ties his stomach into knots and violently tears himself out of the suffocating heat of another’s body. The connection cuts off, the sights and colors blending together until the light goes out and he’s shoved underwater.
The darkness swallows him whole.