It had been a tough few days. In between getting tortured by the FBI, finding out that her nice new siblings hadn’t always been so nice, and them all barely managing to get to the future alive, Vanya was ready to explode with stress. The only glimpse of light in this whole mess was Ben.
When he had slowly walked down the stairs and smiled at her like he always did when they were kids she didn’t believe it. It wasn’t really Ben, it was just the trip, just her twisted mind taking something sacred and molding him into something unrecognizable. But she didn’t care, at first, she didn’t care. She just wanted her brother back, wanted to cry without fear of judgement or anger because Ben had always understood. He had always been the kindest of them, and it was the memory of her fallen brother that made her tell him all of the overwhelming worries that had been building up over the weeks, the years, really. Even with powers Vanya was still inadequate, she still didn’t fit in, and worse now, she was a murderer. A monster. She didn’t deserve to live.
Hallucination Ben would agree, hallucination Ben’s face would turn into tentacles as he screamed how dangerous and pathetic and murderous she was while her violin world shattered around them.
Instead, this Ben had gently smiled at her, shifting closer.
Dad treated you like a bomb before you ever were one.
His words had echoed through her mind, and it had left her with no doubt that this was really him, this was really her Ben.
His words of sympathy and encouragement weren't even what calmed her down the most. It was his voice, his touch, his gentle smile that even her shaky memories couldn’t completely forget.
But of course, she couldn’t have anything good.
I can’t go back with you.
Ben was so calm as his form drifted off bit by bit, floating away like blue ash as Vanya's power tore him apart and it didn’t matter what Ben said, it was her fault, just like Pogo and Allison was her fault. It was always her fault. Ben had been so resigned, just like he said, he had died seventeen years ago, but it still felt like he was being ripped from her all over again.
And what he said about Klaus…
These years with Klaus…
He had paused, and she had waited, waited for him to say something that she would always remember, that she would tell Klaus at the soonest opportunity, because after spending god knows how long together, they must have had some sort of special bond, they must have–
It’s all been gravy.
Her first response had been confusion at the new phrase, but she couldn’t ask, she couldn’t afford to waste any time as Ben tentatively requested a hug, quietly murmuring what he wanted her to tell Klaus, and she had fervently memorised it, planning to tell Klaus at the first chance she got. But she still couldn’t quite shove what Ben said about his years with Klaus to the back of her mind.
What did ‘it’s all been gravy’ even mean? Vanya had never heard the phrase in her life before, so for it to be an important part of her brother’s final goodbye was distressing, to say the least. She could only assume it meant something like boring, or dull or maybe it meant that the years went by fast, like a gravy train? Maybe Ben was saying he didn’t enjoy his time with Klaus because he didn't like gravy?
There was no way of knowing, except for asking one of the others, and they already had enough on their plates, and Klaus…
Klaus was a wreck. He had been close to Ben, closer than she remembered them ever being when Ben was alive, and even with the knowledge that Ben had really been with Klaus all these years, his pure pain when he had inquired where Ben was, and she didn’t– couldn’t respond, took her by surprise.
She had never really seen him use his powers before, not like this, not with his hands literally glowing blue, desperately summoning what was practically a small army of ghosts in search for Ben. No matter how many times Vanya forced herself to explain what happened to their brother, he just wouldn’t listen. He had to be talked down by Allison, the ghosts had been looking like they were on the cusp of getting violent and with how distressed Klaus was, no one was confident in his ability to stop conjuring the ghosts in time. Since then, Klaus had been determined to act as if it never happened, and Vanya had never felt worse.
It sent her heart physical pain to think that Klaus obviously loved Ben with all his heart, enough that he didn’t even seem to know how to be a person without him, and regardless of the seventeen years Ben had spent with him, he had not felt the same, after all.
She couldn’t– she couldn’t just not tell him, Klaus deserved to know Ben's final words, but that would mean having to say to him that his best friend had spent the last seventeen years of his life with him miserable. She couldn’t imagine how much it would have devastated her if someone told her that Five had actually hated every moment he’d spent with her, but at the same time, she would rather know than to live out her life in blissful ignorance, missing someone who didn’t miss her back. The memory of having her powers hidden from her for years rose in her mind unbidden, and she repressed a shudder.
Not for the first time, Vanya desperately wished that someone else could take up the responsibility, that someone else had watched Ben die for the second time so they could struggle with the mess of emotions she was feeling right now. But that was a horrible thing to wish on her siblings. She was so, so grateful that she got to say goodbye, but it still cut her open like shards of glass.
No, it was her who had to tell Klaus, who had to see the devastation on his face once he found out the truth of his relationship with Ben, who would probably have to hold him as the last of his walls broke down and he finally let himself fall apart. She did not want to see her always happy brother anything like the way he was in Dallas, when he first realised that Ben was gone, and that just made her feel even worse.
Vanya shook her head. She couldn’t just sit here pitying herself, the way she would have done before she found out about her powers, just a few months ago. She had to toughen up and get Klaus alone to tell him.
It was easier than she expected, despite how wild and unpredictable Klaus was in her memories, Klaus now was quiet and slow, even at the obligatory family meetings, he rarely ever said a word, looking hungover and miserable.
Most of them had moved back into their old homes because as nice as it was to be together, the house just held too many bad memories. Despite that, some of them stayed here—namely Five, Klaus, and Luther, simply because they had no other place to go—so all she had to do was stay for dinner, and follow Klaus into his room, smiling apologetically at him when he jumped in surprise as he finally spotted her.
“Christ on a– Jesus, Vanya, we need to get you a bell.” She smiled tensely at the joke, noting his flask that was undoubtedly filled with the best of dad’s alcohol, and his disheveled, dirty clothing. Ben wasn’t here to remind him to change.
She forced out a huff of laughter. “Then where’s the fun of sneaking up on people?” Klaus hummed in agreement, shrugging. Vanya swallowed down the guilt rising in her stomach, moving closer to her brother. “Klaus… I need to talk to you about something.”
She nearly missed the way he minutely tensed, prepared for the worse. “Three of my worst conversations have started that way,” his voice was light and airy, but she knew better now than to be fooled by it.
She sat on the bed next to him, trying not to feel hurt when he shifted slightly away from her. It wasn’t personal, she reminded herself. She hoped. “It’s about Ben.” This time Klaus did freeze, and Vanya had to swallow back tears as she thought how much this would hurt for him.
But she had to tell him, she couldn’t let it fester within her as her brother remained blissfully unaware. “When I told you what he wanted me to tell you… That wasn’t the only thing he said about you.” The guilt in her intensified when Klaus perked his head up, his face surprised, hopeful, and more alert than it had been in days. She felt tears prick at her eyes and watched Klaus slowly deflate when he saw the look on her face.
“Aw, shit, he said he hated me, didn’t he? Well, I guess that’s my fault, you hide a guy from his family, you get what’s coming to you, right?” Her heart jumped as Klaus suddenly stood up, shooing her from his bed. “Okay, well thank you for informing me about that wonderful little tidbit, it was on a need to know basis, really, now can you–”
She shook her head wildly and stood up, “No, no Klaus, that wasn’t what I was gonna say–”
“Then what were you going to say? I can’t imagine it was anything good, me and him weren’t exactly on the best of terms when he–” he cut himself off and his hand twitched, moving the flask closer to his lips.
Vanya touched his hand with her fingers, gently pulling his hand back down.
“It’s– it’s not anything as bad as that.” she hoped, god, she hoped it wasn’t, but she couldn’t know for sure. “It’s… He talked to me, before he was… before he left, and he said something about the seventeen years he spent with you.”
Klaus blinked, looking guarded. “Seventeen years? It felt a lot shorter, but that might be due to all of the drugs–”
“He… he said that the years he spent with you were all gravy!”
Klaus froze. Oh god, oh god. “What?”
“Gravy,” she swallowed back the lump in her throat, holding onto Klaus’ hands miserably. “That’s what he said. I can’t remember his exact phrasing but– Klaus? Klaus, are you laughing?”
“Stop laughing, this isn’t a joke.”
Ben knew there was no use bugging Klaus about his hysterical state, but this was too far. They needed a place to stay the night, and Klaus had just gotten them kicked out of the only motel in miles.
“You have to admit, it isn’t not funny,” Klaus snickered, giggling to himself as they walked down the street. Or well, Ben walked, Klaus staggered, the copious amount of drugs and alcohol in his system made putting one foot in front of the other a challenge. “Did you see the motel owner’s face? ‘No, I don’t have a client with me, I’m afraid… unless you’re interested?’” He broke into another round of giggles as he recalled what he had said to the poor owner.
“Klaus, it’s freezing,” Ben sighed as they turned into an alleyway. “You need somewhere to stay the night.”
Klaus grunted as he staggered into a car, balancing himself with a shaky hand on the windscreen. “No one’s arguing with you, Benny,” he said as he inspected the vehicle. “Well, hello, you.”
Ben sighed. “You do know that’s someone’s car, right?”
“Yeah, duh.” Klaus walked around the car, locating an opening, and Ben groaned when he realised there wasn’t any.
“Don’t be a dumbass, you’ll attract attention if you break in.”
“No, no, I'll be quiet, you know I'm good at breaking in,” Klaus grinned drunkenly as he wrapped his coat around his hand and punched as hard as he could. Ben winced. To his credit, the sound of glass breaking wasn’t as loud as Ben feared, but now there was glass everywhere. It was no place to sleep for the night, but as usual, Klaus didn’t care.
He wasn’t at all perturbed, snaking his hand through the window in search of the handle, not seeming to even notice the small cuts he gained in the process. When he was rewarded with a click of the car’s door unlocking, he gave Ben a shit-eating grin, pointing celebratory thumbs at himself.
“See? I told you!”
Ben sighed, but didn’t bother to voice his many, many protests with the idea. Protests ranging from ‘you can’t just sleep in a car full of glass’, and ‘that’s nothing, remember when we were kids and I broke into that safe?’ As much as he didn’t want to admit it, the car was their best option, and with the way things were going, probably their only one too. Klaus opened the door, wiping the glass away from Ben's seat as if he was a butler wiping the dust off of a queen’s throne.
Ben rolled his eyes as Klaus made an aborted bow, climbing in and making himself comfortable. Klaus followed, shutting the door as loudly as humanly possible. “Did you really have to put on a whole show like that?”
“Only the best for you, sir Beninto. Seatbelts!”
“You’re not actually driving this thing,” Ben said as Klaus started pulling at random levers. “You don’t know how to drive. And you’re drunk.”
“‘Ooh, Klaus, don’t drink and drive, you’ll get hurt,’ I don’t need mothering, Ben,” Klaus said. “And of course I’m not driving, I’m just… concerned about your well-being.”
Ben raised an eyebrow. “My well-being?”
“Yeah, yeah!” Klaus turned to his side to look at him. “I mean, what if some street rat crashes into us from the back and ka-pooshhhh.”
“A street rat?”
“Yeah! You know, rats who can drive. I wonder how they can reach the pedals, though. Is that too insensitive to ask?”
Ben refused to dignify that with an answer, staring at Klaus in bewildered silence. He was way too tired to process Klaus’ nonsense. He leaned forward a bit, until he was close enough to make out the grime on his brother’s face. Klaus really needed a shower. “Sleep.”
Klaus groaned, hitting his head on the back of the seat. “I’m not tired, Mom.”
“You haven’t slept in almost two days, you’ve practically stolen a car, and you’re talking about rats with a driver’s license!”
“Who said they had a driver’s license?”
“Ugh!” It was Ben’s turn to throw himself back, but unlike Klaus, he actually made sure to fall on the car seat.
Klaus always did this. He navigated around the world as aimlessly and carelessly as possible, crossing every line he could and refusing his help, and it drove Ben insane. He wasn’t asking Klaus to be a model citizen—God knew that wasn’t possible—but this was ridiculous. All he wanted was for him to be safe, but his ‘nagging,’ as Klaus insisted it was, was to no avail.
Ben sighed, turning away from Klaus to look outside the window. It was starting to rain.
“Awww, Benji,” Klaus leaned forward into his line of vision, causing Ben to turn away from him even further. He was the only thing keeping Klaus awake right now, and if ignoring him meant he’d finally get a few hours of sleep, that was precisely what he’d do. “Relax, I’m doing peachy. It’s all gravy, really!”
But alas. His brother was entirely incapable of shutting the fuck up.
“You can’t just turn random foods into phrases, Klaus,” Ben sighed, still staring stubbornly at the rain.
Ben huffed. “I said, not all foods are phrases.” Ben knew better than anyone how much Klaus loved to use idioms to express himself, but that was just stupid. He knew that Klaus was only doing it to get on his last nerve, and the worst part was that it was working. Ben was extremely pissed.
“Why, is gravy not cutting the mustard for you?”
Ben gave up on his staring contest with the rain, snapping his head over to glare at Klaus. “It’s not a phrase, Klaus.”
“Yes it is.”
“No. It’s not.”
“Yes it is.” Ben stared at Klaus furiously, and Klaus blearily blinked back. “You seriously don’t know what it means?”
Ben avoided Klaus’ stare. He seemed surprised that Ben didn’t know what it meant, so maybe it actually was a phrase? But he wasn’t about to trust a word from the person who genuinely thought that rats could drive not five minutes ago.
Klaus, the bastard, picked up on his uncertainty. “Holy shit, you really don’t know what it means.”
“That’s because it’s not a saying, I've never heard of it before in my life.”
“Well, that’s not hard for you, isn’t it?” Ben glared to hide the hurt that came with Klaus so callously referencing his short life. Klaus blinked, seeming to notice that he had stepped on a sore spot even through his drug-addled haze. “Sorry, sorry, it’s an actual phrase, I’m not making it up. It means… uh.”
“So you did make it up!” Ben cried, feeling far more vindicated than he should.
“No, dammit, I didn't! All my thoughts are just…” he waved his hands around, resembling a disorientated mime. “It’s, it’s like good, you know? It’s something happy, or nice, or whatever.”
Ben wrinkled his nose. “Why would gravy ever mean something nice?”
“Not everyone has your vendetta against turkey gravy, Ben!” Klaus lurched forwards a little, but he quickly righted himself, “Some people like it. I think it might have come from something old and English-ish…ish? Has to do with kings and shit. Luxury.” He scrunched up his face, as if fighting the beginnings of a headache. Good. Let him suffer for being a dick. “I don’t know. I’ll have to google it later at the library.”
Ben huffed. “If you wanna do that, you have to actually look presentable.” He pointedly eyed Klaus’ raggedy clothing and the heavy bags under his eyes, and Klaus stuck out his tongue.
“Nah, they love me there, that last librarian let me stay for all of twenty minutes–” he cut himself off with a yawn, slowly blinking his eyes open. Ben sighed, miming a nudge at him.
“Just sleep, man. I’ll wake you up if anyone comes.” Klaus barely argued, his eyes slipping closed as he slumped into his seat. Ben turned his attention back to the window, noting unhappily that the rain had turned into sleet. Hopefully, it wouldn’t get any colder. Being a ghost, it was hard to tell the temperature. He was always cold, no matter what.
But if he poked his head through the window, he could see the slithers of sunlight peeking through the buildings. Not ideal for Klaus’ sleeping schedule, but the buildings should shelter them from the sun’s rays for a good few hours. Maybe in the end, everything was gravy.
“Klaus? Klaus, are you laughing?”
He couldn’t help it, really. When Vanya walked into his room, when she said she wanted to talk about Ben of all things, he prepared himself for the worst. God knew no one in this abomination of a family did the whole talking thing right. She spoke with such dread in her voice that Klaus was certain he was about to hear the worst news in his life, and then—
The last thing Ben had said about him was that the years they spent together had been gravy.
That overdramatic asshole.
“Sorry, sorry,” he said, struggling to catch his breath in-between his giggles. “Count on Ben to be a little shit even after he’s dived head-on into the grave, am I right?”
Vanya was staring at him with her mouth gaped open, her expression trying to desperately balance somewhere between shock, devastation and confusion. Klaus knew he should have probably enlightened his dear sister, but her reaction only caused him to spiral into another round of laughter.
“I—I don’t understand,” Vanya said, her voice close to cracking. “I don’t get it, he said—Ben said it was all—”
“Gravy,” Klaus offered, letting go of Vanya’s hands and wiping a tear off his cheek. He hadn’t laughed like this in a long time.
“Exactly!” Vanya said. “So why are you all…” She gestured toward him wildly. “Like this!”
“Christ, does no one in this family appreciate idioms?” Klaus mumbled. For a question, it sounded an awful lot like a statement. “Vanya, dear, what do you think ‘it’s all gravy’ means?”
“I—I don’t know,” she said, panicking. “Like, blunt? He didn’t care much for gravy, did he? And he despised turkey gravy. He refused to touch his plate on thanksgiving, maybe that’s what he was referring to—or, or quick. Like the years went by in a flash, I don’t know, Klaus, I really don’t—”
“It means,” Klaus interrupted her before she had a full-blown panic attack in front of him, “it’s all good.”
“There’s no point in supper without some gravy to spice things up, am I right?”
“But gravy isn’t spicy…”
“Don’t think about it too much, Vanny,” Klaus said, plopping down on his bed. “Just let yourself commune with the gravy for a couple hours, it will be okay—”
“Commune with the gravy?!” Vanya said, raising her voice just a bit, but enough to startle Klaus. “Klaus, I thought I was delivering the worst news of my—your life!”
Klaus raised his hands in innocence, his eyes locked with Vanya’s. It had been a while since he had to do this; have a heart to heart. With Ben, it was all easier. All he had to do was mask it under some joke, and he’d do the same, and everything would be okay.
Until it wasn’t.
Because at the end of the day, Klaus didn’t get to say the things he wanted to say. Didn’t get to hear the things he wanted to hear, and he didn’t even know if Ben wanted to say these things to him. They spent almost seventeen years together, knew each other better than anyone, so why couldn’t he figure out if Ben had left things unsaid too?
“Are you okay?”
Vanya’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts, and he realised he still had his hands up. “Lo siento, lo siento,” Klaus said and let them drop on his stomach. “Fit as a fiddle. Sorry.”
Now, Klaus wasn’t an expert in emotions—that was usually Ben’s expertise, letting him know when he messed up—but he had a feeling that pacing around the room wasn’t generally a sign of being ‘fine.’
Vanya did stop, eventually. Stood still in the middle of the room. Spent a few more seconds looking at Klaus. “Give me that.” Held her hand out and asked him for his flask. Just normal sibling things.
Klaus couldn’t help but smirk. “Well, I’ll be jitterbugged, Vanos,” he said, handing her the flask. “Didn’t know you had it—wait, what are you—hey!”
And just like that, the flask went flying out the window.
“I was using that,” Klaus pouted.
“You weren’t,” Vanya said, sitting down next to Klaus. “And you won’t be needing it, not anymore.”
“That’s not what you said at the beauty parlor—”
“I suffered from amnesia, back then, I didn’t know you were an addict, Klaus!” Vanya said, raising her voice again and making Klaus freeze in place.
That day in Dallas, with Vanya and Allison, it’d been a break from all the doomsday bullshit, from the cult, from Ben, who had been more than a shade annoying the few days prior, talking to him about responsibilities he didn’t want to carry.
Klaus hated himself now, for wanting a break from it. There was nothing in the world he wouldn’t do to have Ben’s nagging back. So while part of him would continue to selfishly miss the few hours with his sisters at the beauty parlor for the rest of his life, he wished he’d spent these last moments of bliss with Ben.
Vanya shifted a bit to lean against the back of the wall, sighing deeply. Somehow, Klaus knew what she was going to talk about before she even began. “… I know I only talked to Ben for a couple of minutes, but… I could tell he cared a lot about you.”
Klaus snorted. “Ben cared about everyone.”
“I’m just saying, isn’t this a bit cliché—”
Vanya raised her finger up. Klaus zipped his mouth.
“He always had a way with words,” she continued. Ben did come up with creative insults, yes, Klaus wanted to add, but stayed quiet, if only for the sake of Vanya’s sanity. “But it doesn’t really matter in the end, does it? Because no matter what he said, it was more about how he said it.”
Vanya wasn’t looking at Klaus anymore; she was playing with her fingers—flicking them, tapping on her thighs, rubbing them together—and her gaze was empty. Klaus had known Vanya long enough to know she was struggling to keep her emotions under control.
“He stopped me from ending the world in three minutes,” she said, her voice becoming shakier. Klaus pretended not to notice. “In just three minutes, he—three minutes.” She glanced at Klaus, smiling weakly. He couldn’t say for sure, but he wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if his own smile mirrored hers.
“If anyone could do it, it’s Ben,” Klaus said. “That stubborn bastard.”
Vanya huffed, nodding. “He was always stubborn,” she said, “but he changed a lot.”
Klaus hummed in agreement. “I mean, he did get a glow-up, yes, but we could do something about that hoodie—ouch!” Klaus flinched as Vanya elbowed him. “Rude.”
Vanya shook her head, a small tugging at her lips. “He did change,” she insisted.
Klaus bit his lip. “I know.”
He remembered the way Vanya had described Ben in her book; after his death, the family fell apart. She hadn’t been wrong. Growing up, Ben hated being the center of attention, but in the end, his quiet presence spoke the loudest and it was what kept them together. But as a ghost, as Ben changed over the years, all he wanted was to be seen, and Klaus had taken that from him.
“I’m sorry it was through me,” Vanya said. Klaus tilted his head in confusion. “His last words,” Vanya explained, her voice starting to break. “I’m so sorry you had to hear them from me—”
“Hey, hey, hey,” Klaus said, putting a hand on her knee to calm her down as she choked back a heart-wrenching sob. “It’s not your fault, don’t—there’s nothing to apologise for.”
“But it is,” Vanya said, not holding back anymore. “I didn’t end the world, but I killed—”
“No. Don’t ever say that,” he interrupted, squeezing her a bit tighter. “It wasn’t your fault, Vanya. He died seventeen years ago.”
After all, if there was anyone to blame, it was Klaus. Ben saved the world in under five minutes. Had Klaus let him talk to the others earlier, given them a reason to stick together again, maybe all of this could have been avoided. Maybe then, Ben could have said goodbye.
“For the rest of us, maybe,” Vanya said. “But to you, it was only a week ago.”
Klaus averted his gaze, his eyes pinned on that stupid, untouched unicorn plushie he’d ripped apart before Ben had punched him in the face three years ago. He hadn’t bothered to clean up. “Yeah,” he said, his voice hoarse and deep. “It was.”
Klaus had been haunted by ghosts his entire life and for the first time, that wasn’t the case. He saw them, heard them, felt them crawling around the house, calling his name. He felt Ben too. But his aura was different.
Ben’s aura felt familiar; like stumbling upon a street he recognized after getting lost in the shady parts of the city. It felt safe; like finally sleeping in a motel for the first time in weeks, without having to look over his shoulder. It felt safe; like knowing he was never alone, and that he’d never have to be. Ben felt like home, and when he went away, it was as if Klaus was roaming around the streets all over again, all by himself.
Vanya placed her hand over his, and Klaus offered her a smile in return. If a few tears stained his cheeks, he didn’t care.
“I’m sorry I worried you,” Vanya broke the silence. “I can’t believe I convinced myself Ben would say these things about you.”
Klaus chuckled. “Wouldn’t put it past him,” he said. “But it’s okay. Apparently everyone is too good for idioms, all of a sudden.”
Vanya’s giggles mixed with Klaus’. “It makes much more sense now,” she said. “I mean, it’s all gravy? Who even says that!”
Klaus shook his head. “It’s a long story.”
Vanya squeezed his hand a bit more then, and Klaus turned to look at her. “I’d love to hear it.”
Klaus huffed, bumping his head against the wall. He hadn’t let himself think back to these years with Ben yet; remembering made them real, and real things could be mourned.
But they had been. Real. And Ben didn’t deserve to be tossed to the side like that, not anymore.
“If you want, of course.” Vanya added. “It’s not really any of my business.”
Except maybe he didn’t have to do it alone.
Klaus turned his hand around so his fingers could lock with Vanya’s. “Well, Vanny,” he said. “It’s your lucky day.”
Vanya nodded and leaned forward, stretching to pick up a blanket Klaus had banished on the floor. She curled up closer to him, leaning her head on his shoulder, and he helped wrap the blanket around them.
She nudged his side. “Go on then,” she said.
Klaus curled up as close to her as he could and smiled. “Well, it all started about a decade ago, when I tried to catfish a motel owner…”
And as they sat there in the dim light of Klaus’ room, talking for hours and hours like children whose bedtime had long passed, Klaus couldn’t help but think it was all going to be gravy again one day.