“What do you mean you’re not going to Allison’s?”
Ben felt like shit.
His head was throbbing, the entire alleyway was spinning, and it only got worse with time. Ghosts weren’t supposed to experience pain. Not like this. Then again, Ben had just done something regular ghosts couldn’t do; he’d borrowed someone else’s body.
Possessing Klaus had felt like spinning—when Ben took the leap towards him, it was as if all of his senses rebooted at once. As a ghost, everything was muted. He was part of the real world, sure, but most of the time it felt as if he was merely getting a preview of it. Sounds didn’t tickle his ears, the light didn’t hurt his eyes, the things he touched all felt the same… It got better, the more sober Klaus was, but it was never the same as when he was alive. It never would be.
Ben simply didn’t feel like he belonged in this world anymore, but there was nowhere else to go. Well. Nowhere he wanted to go, anyway.
Then his senses came rushing back to him when he finally settled into Klaus’ body and it was almost as if he was alive again. He could feel the sun settle on his skin, could feel its warmth. The vibrations in his ears after a buzzing sound. The smell of the gardens, of the flowers, of the air—he could breathe, he could actually breathe and feel the oxygen in his lungs.
But above all, Ben felt textures. The smooth surface of the glass door at the mansion, the softness of his face, Klaus’ face, underneath his fingertips. The wooden fence that led to the gardens, the flowers’ petals tickling his nose as he held them close to smell them, the stickiness of the orange’s juice as he ripped it open and its incredibly acid flavor on his tongue. The boots slipping off his feet, the grass, his toes curling into the dirt, his cheek buried in the soul, his hand brushing against Jill’s as they played on the ground, and when he started giggling like a child, it didn’t matter that the voice coming out of his mouth didn’t belong to him, because for the first time in seventeen years, he could feel it building up in his chest as he released it into the air.
But all that was gone now, and Ben was craving it more than anything.
He put it aside though—the twitching, the headache, the muteness—because Luther had asked them to find out why Allison hadn’t made it to the alleyway in time, and instead of checking up on her, Klaus was walking towards the opposite direction.
“Do you need me to spell it out for you, Beetlejuice?” Klaus said without losing his step. “I-am-not-go-ing-to-Al-li-son’s!”
“That’s syllabicating not—it doesn’t matter.” Ben struggled to keep up—as to why, he didn’t know, since ghosts weren’t supposed to lose stamina, at least when they weren’t tangible—but kept walking fiercely behind Klaus. “Look, you can’t just walk away!”
Klaus scoffed. “Watch me.”
“She could be in danger,” Ben said. “She needs our help. There has to be a reason she didn’t make it.”
“You know what, you’re right!” Klaus said. “Maybe she was possessed by our other dead brother.” Sarcasm was spilling all over his words.
Ben clenched his fist. “This isn’t about you,” he said. “You need to get your shit together, Klaus, or—”
“Or what?” Klaus said, suddenly coming to a halt, turning around to look at Ben. “You’ll possess me again, is that it?”
Ben huffed. “I’m not going to—”
“Whatever,” Klaus interrupted. He was about to start walking again, when his eyes widened, as if he recalled something. “Oh, and ‘Pull your shit together, Klaus,’ these are pretty bold words coming from someone who was covered in vomit a few minutes ago. Makes you look real wise.”
The mere mention of the incident made Ben’s stomach turn. He was fully clean now—perks of being a ghost, he supposed, but he still felt filthy. “And whose fault is that?”
“Yours, Ben!” Klaus yelled, seemingly oblivious to the people staring at him. “You lied to me, and then betrayed my trust. You tiptoed on every single boundary we set and took advantage of me!”
“No, you gave me permission—”
“To walk around!” Klaus said, widening his arms. “To talk to someone, maybe grab a bite! But oh, ‘let’s get it on with some chick I’ve never talked to,’ and ‘hmm, it’s quite comfortable here, maybe I’ll stay for a few days, start my own cult,’ were more appealing to you!”
“It wasn’t a few—” Ben cut himself off, recollecting his thoughts and taking a deep breath. “I wasn’t trying to get it on—I wasn’t going to—”
“Save it for someone who cares, Ben,” Klaus said, picking up his step again. “I’m going home.”
“You don’t have a home!”
Ben knew Klaus had heard him, but he chose to ignore him and started to walk away. This wasn’t fair. They had just butchered their chance of making it to 2019 again, and Klaus was swiping it under the rug as if it wasn’t a big deal. Their family was in danger, but he didn’t care. And Ben wasn’t going to stand for it.
“All I’m saying,” Ben said, “is that no matter how upset you are, you need to put it aside. People need you, Klaus. So help them.”
For a second, Ben thought that might have done it. Klaus seemed frozen in spot, as if he was considering Ben’s words. But then he turned around, and walked up to Ben, pointing his finger at him. “You know what your problem is? You always try to reason with logic. ‘Doing this doesn’t make sense,’ ‘this isn’t right,’ ‘why aren’t you thinking ahead?’”
Klaus extended his finger to poke him, but it went through Ben’s chest.
Shivers went down Ben’s spine. The feeling of being walked through in itself was bad enough—cold and hostile and violating—but the thought of it was worse; Klaus was too exhausted to make him corporeal.
Ben’s expression must have changed, because Klaus pulled back his finger looked him in the eye instead. “Some people feel things, Ben. We can’t all have a flawless moral compass like you.”
And that was that.
Later, when he’d think back to this moment, Ben would wonder why he hadn’t been angrier. But right then, after Klaus had said these words to him, it was as if all his anger had vanquished, as if he couldn’t feel anything at all and he didn’t care.
Ben didn’t care anymore.
“You know what?” Ben said, his eyes still locked on Klaus’. “You go back to your pool, and your gardens, and your cult. I’m going to Allison’s.”
Klaus huffed. “Sure.” He shook his head, grinning with spite. “Can’t wait to see how that conversation goes.” Ben turned around and started to walk away. He had bigger things to worry about; like how he was going to grab a taxi to Allison’s with no one to call it for him. “You need me to exist, bro,” he heard Klaus say from the other side of the street. “The catch is I don’t need you.”
Ben froze for a moment, but only for a moment. Then he kept walking, biting the inside of his cheek as hard as he could. Klaus was right; Ben needed him for everything, but not this. He could walk to Allison’s, he’d find a way. It would all be fine.
He didn’t look back.
When Ben finally arrived at Allison’s, the sun had long set. He stood in the middle of the street for a while, taking in the neighborhood; it was late, so there weren’t any drivers, nor cars parked on the sidewalk to begin with. Ben liked how the world seemed to stop at night there. Back home, no late hour could get in the way of cars driving past The Academy at night, disturbing the silence.
But in the suburbs of Dallas, aside from the distant sound of a record player, everything was quiet.
Everything except Allison’s house.
Ben came closer to the porch, paying close attention to the voices. There was light coming from the living room, but all the curtains in the house were pulled back. Ben could make out his sister’s shadow as she talked to a man, her husband, by the looks of it. They didn’t seem to be fighting, but they were yelling, which couldn’t mean any good.
He took a deep breath and went through the wall.
Going through walls had never been a problem before—it was mostly the thought of it that alarmed Ben—but this time, he couldn’t shake off the abominable sensation that came with it. Ben’s first instinct after making it inside was to curl into himself and lean against the wall he had just went through. His body was shivering, his hands were trembling, and his vision became blurry for a few seconds. Ben let out a groan.
What the hell.
The feeling retreated, eventually, but Ben couldn’t shake it off his mind. Distancing himself from Klaus was affecting him way more than he’d expected.
“Allison, you killed a vacuum cleaner salesman in our goddamn living room!”
The voice snapped Ben back into reality. Raymond was pointing at Ben’s left, where the body of a man was lying. He’d been stabbed in the eye, but the wound didn’t look fatal. He had quite the build, so it must have taken more than that to bring him down.
“Okay, technically, his brother killed him,” Allison said. “And they were not here to sell vacuums!”
Ben kneeled in front of the body, searching for other wounds. It didn’t take long for him to spot the marks around his neck, which, according to Allison, were put there by his brother. It didn’t make sense though. If they’d come there to kill them, why would they turn against each oth—
“Christ, Allison,” Ben mumbled. He considered sitting on the couch, but he wasn’t particularly keen on the idea of sharing it with a dead body. He settled for the chair across of it instead.
Allison and Raymond kept going back and forth at one another, but Ben tuned them out. He needed to piece together what had happened.
Who was that guy, and why was he after Allison? Ben had never seen him before in his life, and he didn’t exactly look like he belonged in the ’60s. Not to mention he hadn’t been alone, though his partner had apparently been rumored by Allison off to who-knows-where, which couldn’t mean anything good.
Whoever he was, he was the reason Allison hadn’t made it back in time. Ben remembered the desperation in Five’s eyes as he threw the briefcase in the air, watching it travel to 2019 without them and—
Briefcase. Where did Five even get a briefcase?
So his old work-place was involved somehow. The more he thought about it, the more sense it made. Five had also mentioned Hazel before, though Ben doubted it was him who gave Five the briefcase. But if not him, then who?
It wasn’t worth moping over, Ben decided. Even if he did figure it out, it wasn’t as if he could tell Allison… or Klaus.
He was the last person Ben wanted to be thinking about, but he couldn’t help it. He hadn’t meant to be gone for that long, and even though he could just reappear next to Klaus whenever he wanted, part of him wasn’t ready to go back yet.
It hadn’t even been one of their biggest fights. There hadn’t been much yelling, and it’d ended rather quickly, so why couldn’t Ben stop thinking about it?
Because you’ve never needed to, he reminded himself. Ben barely ever spent that much time—with that much distance—away from Klaus. As much as they both needed the occasional time-out from each other, putting distance between them stripped Ben of almost all his senses. Possessing Klaus had been a great reminder of just how dull they were without his own physical body, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t take what had.
So Ben never really went away and therefore was never really alone. Most of the time, he simply let their arguments pass, and Klaus did the same. It wasn’t healthy, never talking about things. Ben knew that. But they’d survived this long, and there wasn’t any reason why that should change. Well, perhaps until now.
Because it wasn’t just the two of them anymore.
When Allison plopped down on the chair next to him, she’d cleaned up and changed into her nightwear. Her and Ray had apparently decided to deal with the body in the morning, but had the decency to place it on a rug on the floor first.
She looked exhausted.
Once again, Ben wondered if going there alone had been a good idea. Aside from the obvious fact that his sister couldn’t see or hear him, this was a personal moment. Allison was leaning her face on her palm, and it took everything in Ben not to reach out and hold her.
He had been right about one thing though; Allison was in deep trouble. He knew he should’ve probably left to alert Klaus, but seeing how late it was and what a day it’d been, he was probably asleep. Keeping an eye on things for now and regrouping in the morning was probably their safest bet.
Still, Ben was feeling a bit tired. He’d thought the feeling would have worn out by now.
He couldn’t stop thinking about it either. The dirt underneath his feet, the sweetness of strawberries in his mouth—as opposed to the acid taste of that orange; he’d forgotten how much he hated citruses—the smell of flowers, Jill’s voice in his ear, Diego’s arms around him… Ben missed it.
But he knew he’d never do it again.
He didn’t regret all of it, not really. Up to a certain point, everything was going according to plan. But Klaus was been right; Ben had violated his boundaries, and as furious as he was with him, he deserved an apology.
Besides, Ben wasn’t even that angry anymore. He just missed him.
Allison let out a sound that strongly resembled a weep, but not quite. Ben sighed, leaning further back against the chair. If he pretended hard enough, it was almost as if they were spending time together, like normal siblings did.
“I miss you.”
Ben felt his heart drop. His sister was looking at his direction, and Ben was frozen in spot. This couldn’t be; she would have said something if she could see him. Ben sat up straight, trying to stop his lip from trembling. “Allison?”
A few seconds later, Allison went back to looking at her lap, and Ben let go of a breath he didn’t know he was holding. Of course she couldn’t see him; it was a stupid thought. Something had probably creaked behind him as he spoke up, and that was what had gotten Allison’s attention, and hell, he needed to stop getting his hopes up so much. She didn’t even know he’d time travelled.
Ben threw another glance at Allison before taking out his book to pass the time.
He was so cold.
The night passed as quickly as it came. It felt… weird, to say the least, to be away from Klaus for an entire night—it was so much easier when he could blink in and out of existence whenever he wished, even though he didn’t really enjoy it. It wasn’t an option though; disappearing would mean he’d return to earth next to Klaus, and Ben had to see how this played out for Allison if he was going to get help.
The moment he stood up from the chair, a wave of cold ran through him. Ben froze; it was as if he’d been stripped of every piece of clothing he owned and put right in the middle of a glacier. It burned him.
For a split second, a rush of anger overtook him. He was sick and tired of being taken for granted, of existing in a world that couldn’t see him, of being ignored, of his actions not having an impact, of being powerless, of forgetting how to feel with every passing day, of being in so much pain that—
And then Raymond walked right through him.
Ben didn’t know how long he’d been standing there thinking about all of these things, but it couldn’t have meant any good. Everything was still chilly, his muscles felt sore, and his head hurt more than it had the previous day, after possessing Klaus. He hesitantly made his way to the couch that no longer had a single sign of a body ever being there, and let himself sink in the pillows. They didn’t warm him up at all, but he could at least pretend it was better.
He couldn’t spend much more time away from Klaus.
It was odd, though. Sure, Ben didn’t often distance himself from him, but in the past, when he’d stormed off a couple of times, this had never happened, except for when…
Well. As far as Ben was concerned, Klaus didn’t have a time-travelling briefcase in hand this time. Besides, he could still feel his presence. It was distant, yes, but it was out there somewhere, like a beacon in the dark. Still, Ben couldn’t shake the feeling that something horrible was about to—
The room flashed in blue, and Ben flinched harder than he ever had in his life.
“Oh, good, you’re here.”
“Diego, Jesus!” Allison yelled.
In front of them, Diego and some other guy in a suit had blinked in the middle of the room. Said guy chuckled. “Wow! Number Two and Three. A few more and we’d have had an Umbrella straight flush here!”
“Ray,” Allison said, ignoring the comment, “this is my other brother, Diego.”
Ben felt a smile tug at his lips when Diego walked up to Ray to shake his hand as if everything about this was normal. It’d been less than a day since he got to talk to him at the mansion, but he already missed him so much. It was nice to have Diego around, even though he couldn’t see him.
And suddenly, the room flooded with warmth; it was like opening a curtain for the first time in the morning, like taking a deep breath after spending hours underwater, like being seen, like being summoned.
It was Klaus. Klaus was calling for him.
Ben considered giving in to the feeling, but he couldn’t leave without hearing what Diego had to say first. Diego, who, although had been the one to tell Ben about the alleyway, hadn’t made it in the end. There had to have been a reason—he did now have a briefcase and a new companion after all.
Diego didn’t waste a second. He introduced Herb, who apparently monitored the time-space continuum for a living, the same way Five had.
“I know what causes doomsday,” he said. His words hung in the air for a lingering moment. “It’s Vanya.”
It all went downhill from there.
Diego went on about breaking into The Commission looking for a way to save Kennedy; turns out, he didn’t have to. Because Kennedy made it out alive. But the moment he drove away, the streets of Dealey Plaza—and every other street, for that matter—lit up in blue, the same blue that took over the Icarus Theater three years ago. According to Diego, the moment the light hit the streets, everyone started turning on each other, attacking them, killing them, until there was no one left alive. The government assumed it to be some sort of radioactive weapon from Russia so they struck back, until the world went up in nukes and blue.
“Wait, how can we be sure it’s Vanya?” Allison asked. “I mean, she wasn’t even there, was she?”
“No, but about a dozen wanted posters of her were, in every street,” Diego said.
“I don’t know, Diego,” Allison said. “I mean, people suddenly attacking each other? That sounds more like my power than hers.”
“Well, are you planning on ending the world in—” Diego checked his watch “—approximately less than an hour?” Allison rolled her eyes, but didn’t protest. “And, get this; the energy source didn’t even come from the Grassy Knoll.”
Allison crossed her arms. “What do you mean?”
“It came from Klaus’ mansion.”
Ben’s heart dropped.
“How is that even possible?”
“I don’t know,” Diego admitted. “But she’s fortified herself in it. Remember the way she shielded herself from us the first time around?” Allison nodded. “It’s way worse. We gotta find her and stop her, now.”
Allison went off to comfort Ray, but Ben couldn’t focus. It all made sense; the cold that made him shiver, it’d appeared because Klaus was in trouble. And the warmth that surrounded him before, it wasn’t just Klaus reaching out to him, to announce their little fight was over; he was calling for help.
Well, at least Ben knew what had happened now, and there was no need to stay any longer. He closed his eyes, answering Klaus’ call, and when he opened them again he was—
Still at Allison’s.
Ben tried again. And again, and again, and again, until the voice in the back of his head turned into ringing, and his connection with Klaus started trembling, as if he didn’t want Ben to come anymore. This couldn’t possibly be happening.
“Dammit!” he yelled, kicking the first thing he found in front of him. His leg ended up going through the coffee table, for no one to see or hear, except—
Diego was looking at him.
There it was again; the feeling of the ground being swept from his feet as he helplessly balanced on air. This time there was no mistaking it. “… Diego?” Ben held his breath as Diego took a step closer to him. This was it.
And then Diego pointed at the dead body behind Ben. “Hey, Herb? Think you can take care of the body for my in-law?”
Ben couldn't believe he'd fallen for it twice now. He was dead and gone meaning his siblings couldn't see him, not to mention Klaus wasn't even in the room with him. Even if he did somehow manage to work out how his powers worked, he wouldn't be able to use them from the other side of town.
"Let's go," said Allison, interrupting Diego from his conversation about The Commission's body removal services with Herb.
Ben supposed he didn't have a choice. If Klaus' powers weren't enough to channel him, he'd need to get there by himself.
"You do have a car, right?" Diego asked as they walked down the street aimlessly.
Ben let himself panic for a moment, but then Allison got to work. Ignoring Diego's question, she walked up to a man watering the plants in his garden. "I heard a rumor you let us use your car."
The man's eyes went blank as he started shuffling in his back pocket. He smiled politely at Allison as he handed her a set of keys, and she jingled them at Diego's direction, making him groan. "Show-off," he mumbled, unaware that Ben could hear all of it.
A few seconds later, they were inside the car; Allison on the wheel, Diego in the passenger’s seat, with Ben slipped in the back. As the engine started, Ben buried his hands in his hoodie and took a deep breath. Allison and Diego were talking again, but he was too busy trying to cling onto Klaus to pay attention.
Ben couldn’t understand why it felt like Klaus was in the car with him, yet every time he tried to reach out, he’d slip away.
All he knew was that if what Diego had said was true, if Vanya had lost control again, if Klaus was facing her alone, then he was in grave danger, and Ben could feel it; a shiver running down his spine amongst the familiar feeling of being summoned.
Klaus was calling for him, and Ben couldn’t answer. Whatever Vanya was doing, it was blocking his powers, because there was something else there, something more than just a cry for help. Ben felt not only needed, but also demanded. His presence wasn’t wanted, it was vital, crucial. It was above Ben, and above Klaus, and if he didn’t get there soon, then—
“—don’t understand how Vanya made it to the estate,” Diego said, snapping Ben out of his thoughts.
“Well, if you’ve apparently been there, even an idiot could find it,” Allison said. “And I guess Klaus could have mentioned it at the hair salon?”
“But of course you don’t remember, because you were drunk off your ass.” Diego sighed. “Let me ask you a better question,” he said, “even if she knew where it was, why would she go there?”
“I thought you saw what happened,” Allison said.
“I didn’t say I knew why,” Diego said. “What business could a farm-girl-nanny with amnesia possibly have with a cult? It just doesn’t make sense.”
It dawned on Ben, then, that this had nothing to do with him.
There had been nothing personal about Klaus’ calls, nothing connecting them to Ben specifically; it was just Klaus. That was why everything about this felt so off, so different; Klaus wasn’t calling for Ben, or rather, not just him.
Klaus was calling after anyone who would listen.
Demanded to see any spirit who would listen.
Because Vanya wasn’t the bomb.
“Oh, God,” Ben muttered softly, letting himself fall back against the car seat.
The car came to a sharp halt, sending them all flying forward, and the impact with the front seat hurt much more than Ben had expected. He was dead, he wasn’t supposed to feel pain. Ben rubbed his head with his hand, and only then did he notice a faint blue glow around it, which could only mean—
“What the fuck, Allison?” Diego said, his voice trembling. “I get it, we’ll be dead in an hour if we don’t do anything, but that’s no reason to deliberately get us into a car crash—”
Diego’s rambling came to a stop as he followed Allison’s finger pointing at the rear-view mirror. And then slowly and in-sync, they turned around, looking at the back seat, right at—
Allison and Diego’s gazes were pinned on him, a faint hint of disbelief glazing their face, and this time it was real. It wasn’t just a glimpse of Ben’s imagination, of perfectly timed events, his siblings were actually looking at him.
“You can see me.”
Deep inside, Ben knew that wasn’t a good sign; Klaus was miles away, and couldn’t possibly be manifesting Ben on purpose, but at that moment, Ben didn’t care. He breathed out in relief, already feeling the beginning of a smile tug at his lips, and before he knew it, both Allison and Diego were climbing over the car seat, settling on his left and right respectively, and pulling him into a bone-crushing hug.
Ben could feel the weight of his siblings on his sides, and squeezed back instinctively, without wasting a second. He couldn’t say for sure who started crying first, but when they pulled away—just enough so they could look at each other, still joined to the hip—their cheeks were stained with tears.
He turned to Allison first; she was still frozen in place, her hand shoved behind Ben’s back, and her mouth gaped open, and she laughed, genuinely laughed, and Ben hadn’t heard that sound in so long that—
He was forced to look away when Diego spun him around, covering his cheek with his hand and pulling him towards him. His brother looked even more vulnerable and exposed than he did on their meeting the day before, when Ben didn’t have a body of his own. Diego made a sound similar to Allison’s and cupped Ben’s face with both his hands, leaning his forehead against his.
And Ben could feel it.
The warmth of Diego’s palms on his cheeks, his eyelids closing, the wetness of his tears on his face… Ben finally had his own skin, could finally feel, could finally be himself, without needing another body as a vessel. This was all him. All Ben.
“Holy shit,” Ben said back, a giggle escaping his lips.
Diego moved away so they could look at each other, and Ben opened his eyes. They broke into giggles again, and if a few choked sobs were thrown into the mix, that was fine too. “It really was you before.”
“No shit,” Ben said, causing Diego to laugh once again. “Hell, this feels so much better when I’m… me.”
“Diego, enough,” Allison finally found her voice again. “It’s my turn.”
“Don’t I get a say in this?” Ben asked jokingly, trying to look at Allison with the corner of his eyes.
“No,” Allison said. Ben didn’t need to be looking at her to know she was smiling.
Diego rolled his eyes, but didn’t resist. He gave Ben’s cheek one last playful pat, causing Ben to blink intensively, and released him.
The moment he turned around, Allison held him in the same way, laughing as she seemingly studied every last detail of his face. “You’ve grown so much,” she said, wiping a few tears off his cheeks.
Ben huffed. “You’re acting like I’ve been dead for seventeen years.”
She took one hand off his face to shove him playfully on the shoulder. “Don’t you dare joke about this, Ben, cause God knows what I’ll do to you.”
“Hold up, she’s right though,” Diego said. “How in the world did you age?”
Ben stayed quiet for a moment. “The thing is, I don’t actually know.”
“Yes but… you’re dead,” Diego continued. “You are dead, right?”
“You say that as if it’s a good thing,” Ben joked, earning yet another shove from Allison. “Yes, Diego, I am dead.”
“Who cares?” Allison interrupted, stroking his face again.
They got together for yet another hug, a softer one. Ben closed his eyes and savored the touch as if it was the last bit of it he’d ever have. He was hugging his family. Somehow, after all these years of being invisible, after begging Klaus over and over to let the others know he was there, he’d found his way back to them, and everything was—
“Klaus!” Ben yelled suddenly, thrusting forward and breaking off the hug.
Allison and Diego exchanged looks. “Yeah, speaking of the jerk, where is Klaus, anyway?” Diego said. “I thought you couldn’t exist without him.”
“I can’t,” Ben said. “And I’m not doing this by myself, Klaus is causing it.”
Allison shook her head. “But Klaus isn’t here.”
Ben took a deep breath, unwrapping himself from his siblings. Getting the message, they gave him some space, but didn’t fully break all physical contact; their knees remained touching, and if his mind hadn’t been occupied with worrying about Klaus, Ben would have started crying at the gesture.
“Diego, you said that back at the commission, you saw the world glow blue.”
Diego nodded. “Like the Icarus Theater,” he said. “And hold on, how could you possibly know about that?”
“I’ve been at Allison’s since last night,” Ben explained. “Klaus and I, we were supposed to check on her together, but we got into a fight, and… it doesn’t matter. The point is, he went back to the mansion without me and—”
“Ben,” Allison said, “you aren’t implying that Klaus is—”
“I don’t know,” Ben said. “And I could be wrong, I hope I’m wrong, but whatever this—” he gestured vaguely all over himself before shoving his hands in his pockets, “—is, it’s not supposed to be happening. He hasn’t been able to make me corporeal to anyone other than himself since Vanya’s concert.”
“I’ll drive,” Diego said. He gave Ben one final pat on the shoulder before climbing over the driver’s seat again, starting the car.
Ben and Allison took their seats next to the windows, and Ben tried to focus on the road for a bit. His heart was still pounding from the adrenaline of talking to someone again, and as happy as he was, there were other things to worry about. He didn’t know what they’d find when they returned to the mansion, only that it wouldn’t be good. His connection with Klaus was getting stronger, but it felt like Klaus himself was no longer part of it; just his power.
Ben turned to his left, his eyes locking with Allison’s. She was smiling at him, but a hint of concern was visible in her eyes. Ben smiled back to reassure her, but he could feel how much weaker his lips were.
“Come here,” Allison said, lifting her right arm. Ben didn’t have the energy to argue, so he scooted closer, and Allison wrapped her arm around his shoulders. She giggled.
“What?” Ben leaned back so he could look at her again.
“It’s a hug, Ben, not another death sentence.” Ben huffed and rolled his eyes at her. “Loosen up.”
And he did.
Ben let himself fall a bit lower in the car seat and huddled closer to Allison, so that his head rested just below the crook of her neck. Allison started rubbing circles on his upper arm, and Ben slipped one arm behind her waist in return. Their free hands came together, fingers tangled with each other’s as they rested on Allison’s lap. Ben took a deep breath and closed his eyes; he hadn’t felt this safe in a long time.
“So… apparently you and Diego saw each other yesterday, huh?”
Ben smiled. He’d never forget what it felt like to be hugged, really hugged, for the first time in two decades. “Kinda.”
“He possessed Klaus,” Diego said from the front seat. “At first I thought he was off his tits.” Ben chuckled.
“So wait, that was you at the supper with Dad?”
“That’s amazing, Ben, holy shit,” Allison said. “I mean, how long have you been able to do that for?”
He shrugged. “It was an accident.”
“Of course it was,” Diego said. “You guys can’t spend a single hour without making a mess.”
“Or starting a cult,” Allison added.
Ben chuckled again, this time to himself. He’d missed this; being teased by his family, being part of a family. As a kid, he always went out of his way not to be seen, but after becoming a ghost, he wanted everyone’s attention so much he forgot how to accept it.
But Diego was right; he and Klaus did cause chaos everywhere.
Granted, it was mostly Klaus’ fault, but some of the credit belonged to Ben too. More than once, he’d encourage Klaus to go on with his mischief, and even taken part in it himself. This mess right here though, that was all Ben.
“I fucked up,” he said. He almost didn’t realise he’d said it out loud, but then Allison’s hand let go of his and moved up to his face to stroke his hair off it. Ben cracked an eye open, looking up at her. The touch of her fingers sent shivers down Ben’s spine, but it was a welcoming feeling.
Ben sighed, head leaning on Allison again, his eyes pinned on the window handle. “I should have never possessed him.”
He couldn’t get it out of his head, the first time he tried to wrestle Klaus, only to stay inside his body instead. Ben still couldn’t understand what had been so different than all the other times; maybe it was Klaus’ lack of sobriety that got rid of Ben’s solidity, but wouldn’t accepting another being into his body technically require more power? Ben didn’t know.
“He wouldn’t tell you guys I was here,” he continued. “And I was so angry at him, that I—”
“That wasn’t your fault,” Allison said. “Trying to use your voice, only for it not to be heard… it sucks.”
“Maybe,” Ben said. “But the rest of it was.”
All Ben wanted was to be seen again, to talk to someone other than Klaus, be it his family or Jill or whoever else. He’d been so excited when Klaus let him into his body, when he got to experience everything he’d missed out on again, to the point where he became obsessed with it.
“I wouldn’t let him gain back control,” he said. “He tried to push me out so many times, and I kept insisting, until he threw up.” A lot. Ben was still nauseous from that. “That’s why we fought before.”
“You didn’t mean to,” Allison said.
Ben huffed through a laugh. “No. No, I didn’t. But that doesn’t make it okay.”
“It doesn’t,” Diego said. “But it makes you feel sorry. And when we find Klaus, and I yell at him into oblivion for keeping you all to himself, you’re going to apologise.”
Ben didn’t try to hold back his laugh this time. “Thanks, man.”
“You’re going to be okay, Ben,” Allison said. “We’ll find Klaus, and you’ll talk everything out, and it’ll be okay. God knows that’s not the weirdest thing this family has had to get past.”
Ben couldn’t argue with that. The seven of them had probably—definitely come across more bizarre things the average person did in a lifetime. But Allison and Diego were right; they could get past this, or at least, Ben hoped they could. He needed to find Klaus and apologise, no matter the consequences.
He just hoped he was safe.
Ben hadn’t realised his shoulders had tensed up again until Allison squeezed him tighter, and her head came to rest on top of his. It was only a hug, but Ben already felt better. He’d have to make it up to both of them later.
He closed his eyes again, trying to focus on Allison’s touch, but the energy surrounding him got stronger and stronger, and Ben didn’t like that one bit.
He could sense the other ghosts too, now. Over the past three years, Ben had gotten the chance to talk to a few Dallas spirits that hadn’t lost their minds, but the ghosts making their way to Klaus’ right now were nothing like them. They were corrupted souls, desperately clinging onto the last bit of humanity they had left, only that it didn’t belong to them; it belonged to Klaus.
Klaus was the only thing connecting them to the real world, and they had no choice but to follow him.
Ben was suddenly too aware of what things were like for the screaming souls that haunted Klaus throughout his life. The thought scared him.
Part of Ben had known they arrived before Diego announced it. The voice in the back of Ben’s head wasn’t asking him to arrive anymore; it was giving him orders. Trying to, at least. For the time being, Ben was still himself.
He brushed it off, slowly untangling himself from Allison. “You okay?”
Ben smiled thinly. “Never better.”
“Uh, guys?” Diego yelled from outside. “You need to see this!”
Allison gave Ben one last squeeze before opening the door. They made it out the car as quickly as they could, and Ben immediately felt the chill of the air against his skin, and since when had it become so cloudly? The sky above them was a deep grey, but much as he wanted to, Ben didn’t have time to admire it. The moment his eyes fell on the mansion, his footsteps slowed down, and Ben froze on his feet right behind Diego and Allison.
It was not the mansion he knew.
A field of energy, almost resembling a bubble, shielded the manor and everything in a hundred-yard radius. The entire estate was covered by a blue glow, rising from the ground. The bushes, the trees, the flowers, they’d been ripped from the gardens and scattered all over the place.
And the dead.
Hundreds of Destiny’s Children lying lifelessly around them, their blue-colored robes stained with a deep shade of red. Ben felt his heart tighten at the familiar faces, but there was no time to mourn. After all, they weren’t alone.
There were ghosts everywhere.
Ben couldn’t make out the faces of those inside the field, but he could feel them; he felt them being stripped of their sorrow and confusion, only to be replaced by anger, envy, and the need to destroy, and blind trust in their savior, their Prophet, Klaus.
The ghosts outside paid no attention to them. They simply kept making their way to the mansion, with no intension of ever going out again. They only seemed to care about getting inside the field, but it was only a matter of time before they started turning against everything outside of it too.
“Klaus, what have you done this time,” Ben mumbled under his breath, but not even he could hear what he was saying; the rumbling of the wind was too loud.
“He has to be in there!” Diego yelled, trying to make himself louder than the ghosts’ moans. “We need to make it inside!”
“No shit!” Allison yelled back, holding onto Diego’s arm for balance. “But we can’t just waltz in, look at what it did to his cult!”
At the mention of it, Ben’s mind wandered back to the cult. Less than a day ago, he’d been sharing these grounds with them, listening to their stories. They’d exchanged hellos and goodbyes, even though they didn’t know who he really was, he’d asked for flowers and fruit and laughed as he tried them, he’d talked to Jill—
Most of the ghosts in there had been dead for years, but Ben could sense those who had died only a few minutes ago. He’d known for a while the cult situation was no longer in their control, but he could have never imagined this; they forced these people to remake their lives based on a lie, and then throw their new ones away too.
“I’ll do it.”
Diego and Allison turned to him then, and Ben got to see the fear in their faces at last. “Come here!” Diego yelled, and put his arms around their shoulders. Ben got the message and put his own around Allison’s. Soon enough, they’d formed a small circle, so they didn’t have to yell.
“I’ll do it,” Ben repeated, his forehead almost bumping against Allison’s as she shook her head.
“No way,” she said. “You’re not doing this on your own.”
“You two are alive. You’ll become targets in seconds.” They already were targets, at least for the ghosts inside. Ben didn’t know how he knew that. “Besides, I won’t be alone.”
“Klaus,” Diego said, and Ben confirmed it with a hum. “You sure about this, buddy? You’re not even glowing blue anymore.”
Ben took his eyes off the ground to look at Diego in confusion. “Sorry?”
“In the car,” Diego said, “you had a faint glow around you. That’s gone now.”
Ben had officially lost him.
“Okay? What does this have to do with—”
“No, he’s right,” Allison interrupted, and Ben turned to her. “Remember the Icarus Theater? You were there, yes, but you were blue. In the car, you had your colors, but you were glowing. And now, that’s gone, and—”
“You think it’s an indicator of how strong Klaus’ powers are,” Ben said, earning a nod from both his siblings. He laughed nervously. “I could have saved you guys the color theory and told you that myself.”
“Ben…” The way Allison said his name made something tighten in his chest.
“He’s strong,” Ben said, “but I don’t think he knows what he’s doing.”
“That makes sense,” Allison said. “I mean, remember Vanya? She didn’t know what she was doing either.”
Ben nodded. “Exactly,” he said. “I can feel him. Recruiting all these ghosts is his only goal, and he’s using all he has to achieve it. That’s why you guys can see me. I was already stronger than most ghosts, and now…”
“Is that good or bad?” Diego asked. “That we can see you.”
It was the first time since he died that Ben had truly felt like he belonged in the world. He didn’t feel dependent on someone else, nor held back, he had his senses back, he had his family back. But if the chaos around them was the cost, then…
He smiled. “I don’t know.”
A loud crash came from inside the energy field, startling them all. The center of it was still too foggy to tell what had happened, but it couldn’t have been good.
“I have to go,” Ben forced himself to say.
“We know,” Allison said, smiling. Ben looked to the left, only to see that Diego’s smile resembled hers; proud, happy, scared. Ben felt his laugh build up in his chest before it came out, and let his hands fall on his sides. “Come here, you…”
Allison pulled him in for a hug, and Ben didn’t resist. He wrapped his own arms around her waist, his chin coming to rest on her shoulder. He hadn’t realised how much more present he was until Diego and Allison had brought up his lack of glow, but he certainly felt it now.
Ben closed his eyes and breathed in the faintest hint of apple blossoms. He couldn’t help but smile as he remembered the dozens of shampoos Allison had experimented with when they were kids, eventually settling on fruity blends. Her hugs always smelled of it, but most importantly, they smelled of home.
Eventually, Allison pulled Ben at an arm’s distance, holding him firmly by the shoulders. “Listen to me, Ben Hargreeves,” she said, clearly trying to suppress a smile, but failing spectacularly. “You have a sister that loves you very much, and you’re going to make it back to her, got it?”
Ben chuckled, placing his hands on her arms. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “We have so much to catch up on.”
That got another laugh out of Allison, mixed with a choked sob. She grabbed Ben by the sides of his face, pulling him in to press a kiss in the center of his forehead. Ben’s heart skipped a bit at the gesture; there were still too many sibling things he wanted to do again.
He was immediately passed onto Diego, who clung onto him like a magnet. Ben didn’t think it was possible for him to be held more tenderly than he had the first time they hugged, but he’d been proven wrong. Diego hugged him like he was the only person in the world that mattered, and Ben gave into him like he was.
He had to force himself to pull away; he really, really didn’t want to. Diego got the message, eventually, and pulled away too with the same reluctance. He pressed a soft kiss on Ben’s temple, and Ben leaned into the touch like he needed it. “Love you, asshole.”
“I love you too,” Ben said, his voice barely above a whisper. He never thought he’d say these words out loud to his family again, and that they’d actually hear him. “Both of you.”
Allison held back a sob and held Ben’s face between her hands again. “I love you so much,” she said, her voice similar to Ben’s. “I’m so proud of you.”
That was the last straw for Ben; he took hold of Allison’s wrists leaned his head forward, bringing their foreheads together and laughed so he wouldn’t cry, and Allison laughed too, and then Diego came behind them and pulled them into yet another gentle hug, and Ben rested his face on his chest and Allison did the same and he really really didn’t want to leave this behind once he became a ghost in the shadows again.
“Okay, okay, okay,” Ben said with a quavering voice, but didn’t pull away yet. “You need to wait here, but stay in the car. Klaus will—” He sniffed. “Klaus will need someone to… someone to drive him out of… out of—”
“We know, we know,” Allison said.
They broke apart, but Diego and Allison still held one of his hands each, rubbing them soothingly. “You got this,” Diego said, and Ben believed him. He could do it. He could save the world.
“I got this,” Ben repeated. “I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?”
Ben blinked at Allison, surprised she was comfortable enough with joking about this now. But she was right; there really wasn’t anything that could hurt him. Not Ben. He cracked a smile. “Exactly.”
Ben looked at them again, really looked at them. The last time they’d spoken like this… they hadn’t, ever. Nothing was the same as when they were kids, and maybe that was a good thing—it was definitely a good thing. Back then, none of them would have dared to tell each other how much they meant to one another. They’d been through so much, and all they needed to do was go through a little bit more. A little bit more, and then they’d finally have this every day, for as long as they liked.
Ben gave their hands one last squeeze and slipped away. “See you soon,” he said, and his siblings nodded back at him.
He turned around and started walking towards the energy field before he could change his mind. He only stopped when he was right in front of it, far too close to turn back. Ben bit the inside of his cheek and almost put his hands in his pockets, but stopped himself. He still felt Diego and Allison’s touch on his fingers, and he wanted that feeling to last a bit more.
Ben forced down a sob, but let his tears roam free. He didn’t know what was waiting for him on the other side, but he knew his family would be waiting for him in this one. They knew he existed now. Nothing could take that away from him anymore, not even Klaus’ stubbornness.
All he had to do was save the world.
Ben wiped his tears off with his sleeve and took a deep breath. He stretched his arms and bounced on his feet. He almost treated himself with one last look at Allison and Diego, but it’d do him more harm than good. He’d see them again. This wasn’t goodbye…
Ben took the step.
It was a weird sensation, going through the shield. The moment he made contact with it, it wrapped around him, pulling him in, welcoming him. Keeping him. Ben knew, then, that unless he stopped Klaus, there would be no way out.
It took exactly three seconds for everything to hit Ben at once.
If things were loud before, Ben didn’t know what they were then. Objects crashing, ghosts screaming and snarling, yelling every variation of Klaus’ name. Ben could even hear the makeshift wind coming from the mansion, could feel it against his hair after years of not being affected by the faintest breeze.
Everything was dim, but also blinding. There was light coming out of the ground, and the dead kept rising from it. They were racing aimlessly against each other, attacking anything that moved and everything that didn’t.
And in the center of it all, the mansion, surrounded by fog, glowing in blue; it was too far away to tell, especially with all the lights, but it looked like it was rumbling.
Klaus was in there. Ben knew he was.
He took another deep breath before starting to walk towards it, and then he felt it again; that shivering feeling from last night, only this time it was stronger. The cold was wrapping itself around him, trying to hold a part of him back—just his mind. Not his body, the army ahead needed his body to fight.
The only other time Ben had felt the presence of such strong power was right after he died, when he stood in front of the light. He knew that feeling all too well, because every time he visited that void, it was the same. And yet, as similar as the force was, it wasn’t the same; it was the opposite.
The light, or heaven, or whatever, was supposed to grant him eternal peace. The grounds Ben was currently standing on felt nothing like it. Every last soul except his own had long lost their mind.
It was a beautiful catastrophe. An organized chaos set loose.
The further he walked, the more bodies he stumbled across. It was even worse in there than outside, where the ghosts couldn’t reach them. These bodies had been vandalized, and Ben knew what that was like all too well.
Aside from Klaus, there wasn’t a single person alive left in there. Ben was doing his best to avoid looking at the corpses’ faces, but who knew how long there was left until his eyes stumbled upon the lifeless figure of someone he knew all too well like Keechie, or Jill or—
The atmosphere changed again.
Suddenly, the freezing cold became hostile rather than captivating. Ben wasn’t being lured in anymore; he was being pushed away.
And then he saw them.
Or rather, they saw him; dozens of ghosts solely focused on him. Ben couldn’t remember the last time he’d been the center of attention of so many people. It reminded him a bit of their missions back in the academy, when those they’d been ordered to take down spotted them—their intruders. Because that’s what Ben was to them. An intruder.
They knew he wasn’t there to kill. They knew he was trying to get rid of them.
Ben was honestly surprised he’d gone this long unnoticed, but that didn’t solve his little problem. He scanned the area for places he could run to before spotting an opening between two ghosts; so he made a run for it.
It didn’t take more than a second for the ghosts to come running behind him. Ben didn’t know why he was so afraid; he was already dead. It wasn’t as if they could hurt him. Probably.
His vision was blurry from the fog, his heart was pounding, his feet were burning, but he didn’t stop. He didn’t stop, because if they got him, he wouldn’t be able to get to Klaus, and the rest of the world would flood with them, so he kept running and running without looking back, without knowing where he was going, without—
It was a broken pillar piece that had done the trick, and although Ben was unhurt, it gave the ghosts the time they needed to catch up. Soon enough, there were more ghosts circling around him than there had been chasing him.
They all knew he was there.
Ben stood up as fast as he could, spinning around in case there was a pathway he’d missed, but it was pointless. The ghosts were closing in, speaking in incoherent screams, and all Ben could do was watch.
Something sparked in his chest then—no, not his chest, it was never his chest, it was—
He barely had time to register the pain in his stomach as The Horror launched forward, knocking the ghosts off their feet, but when he did feel it, he let out a scream not too different from theirs.
It was almost like he was a kid again; he could feel his skin being ripped apart as the tentacles came through the portal. Thick tears streamed down his face as he gritted his teeth and clenched his fists and shut his eyes closed, because he couldn’t really focus anymore, not with the piercing pain spreading from his stomach to every last inch of his body.
But he let it.
The pain was just an illusion. The Horror had no real power over him anymore, not since it got him killed in the first place, so Ben sucked it up, for the sake of saving the world. For Klaus, who had attempted to call for his help, before his calls were heard by the rest of the dead. Klaus, who probably had no idea what was happening. Klaus, who was hurting, who was scared.
Well, Ben wasn’t afraid of hurting anymore. As long as he got to Klaus in time, he’d be okay.
And slowly, the pain started to retreat.
It was subtle at first, starting with Ben realising he could feel his nails dig into his palms, but it didn’t stop there; it was as if the pain was converting into energy, as if the anger was turning into power. Ben didn’t know how to describe it, but it felt as if everything was falling into place, like this was how it should have been all along.
He didn’t feel violated. He didn’t feel like a vessel. He didn’t feel like the victim.
Because for the first time in his life, The Horror was cooperating.
The ghosts continued crying out in pain as the creature in his stomach pushed them aside for Ben. This wasn’t about some mindless blood-thirsty creature looking for its prey. It was trying to protect him.
Ben let his eyes fall open to look ahead. The Horror was still picking ghosts up and knocking them down, and had seemed to catch up on the fact that the ones it tore apart came back like nothing had happened. In fact, all of the ghosts kept coming back. There was no real way to win this.
But he didn’t have to win, not against them. Ben tried to take a step forward, but was weighted by the tentacles’ mass as another wave of pain shot through him.
I have to get us inside.
He concentrated on the words as hard as he could and tried again.
Please, I need to do this. I don’t want to hurt you.
The next thing he felt was the idea, or the permission, to walk forward being planted in his head. Ben took a step towards the mansion, and this time there was no resistance.
His steps were slow and heavy, but they were enough. He was still crying out, could feel his screams in the back of his throat, but it wasn’t because of pain. The creature was shielding him from the dead as he turned around to face the ghosts, starting to backtrack his way to the mansion. Ben managed to squeeze through the pillars decorating the entrance, but his back hit against the door—it was shut close, and Ben highly doubted he could lean down to grab the key under the rug.
As if on cue, the Horror reached behind Ben’s back and pounded on the door, breaking the lock and forcing it open. Ben didn’t waste any time as he kept backtracking, going through the doorframe, and it was only then that the Horror started to retreat.
Ben gasped and almost lost his balance at the force—the tentacles slipped back inside his stomach, and the portal closed.
And then he laughed.
It was funny, really. Almost seventeen years into the grave, and he finally made the first step in figuring out how his powers worked. He raised his hoodie up to look at his stomach; no wounds. Of course there were no wounds, he was dead. After all, this was the reason the Horror had finally—
No. No, this wasn’t about Ben being dead. He had called upon his powers again in the Icarus Theater, and although the pain wasn’t as bad as when he were alive, it was still present. It had felt like he was fighting a battle against them, not The Commission.
But this time he talked to them. Probably. Maybe? Ben wasn’t sure. All he knew was that for once, he didn’t feel like dying after using his powers. He felt good. If only he had figured out how to do it all these years ago, then maybe…
But it was okay because he had the next best thing; being manifested by Klaus.
The screams of the ghosts outside snapped him out of his thoughts. They clearly couldn’t get inside—an invisible force was holding them back—but Ben closed the door anyway. He wasn’t too keen on the idea of being watched.
Only then did Ben finally get a good look at the entrance hall. It was a mess; broken windows and shards of glass, furniture turned upside down. Ben did his best not to step on the bodies as he walked, but he lost his footing on someone’s arm.
He had promised himself not to look closely, but that man… he wasn’t part of the cult. He was geared up and had a gun on him, which didn’t make any sense. Upon further inspection, there were others like him on the floor. The feds, maybe? Though unless they finally tried to arrest Klaus for tax fraud, they had no reason to be there.
Ben walked past the rest of the bodies, approaching Klaus’ meditation room. Only one of the doors was open, but both of them were broken beyond repair. There was a soft glow coming from inside, illuminating upon the remaining shards of glass.
Ben got inside.
The atmosphere immediately changed; it wasn’t cold anymore. It almost reminded Ben of the way Klaus’ calls felt from before. Inviting, but not quite there. Like peace before the storm.
The room was in a much more horrible state than the rest of the house. All the furniture had been pushed to the side against the blood-stained walls, the chandelier and the fireplace were broken. There were bodies there too, but not of Destiny’s Children—just the feds.
The only thing that remained untouched was one of Klaus’ pillows, because he was sitting on it, or rather, floating over it. His legs were crossed and his hands raised up and glowing, proudly displaying his tattoos. He almost resembled his portrait above the fireplace, which now covered in blood.
“Klaus,” Ben said, immediately rushing to his side. He put his hand on his back, shaking him lightly. The contact sent shivers down his spine. “Come on, time to snap out of it.”
“Klaus!” Ben said again, now shaking him. “Come on, focus! You need to stop this, you need—you need to come back.”
“Please, Klaus, you’re the only one who can put an end to this,” he continued. “Please, just… please, come back.”
It might as well just had been Ben in the room, because Klaus remained motionless. Ben inhaled deeply, falling on the floor. This wasn’t working. Why wasn’t it working?
He’d been too late.
Ben should have manifested there the moment Klaus called after him, but he’d been too selfish, wanting to spend a few more minutes with his other siblings. The past week had been the hardest of Klaus’ stay in Dallas, Ben had known that, but he hadn’t been there for him. Not when he started drinking again, not when the cult found him, not when he sent off the love of his life to his death again.
It had been too much; Klaus was scared and alone, and he finally lost control, the way Vanya had three years ago. And instead of trying to help him, Ben had decided to possess him without his consent, and to—
Ben had possessed him.
He bounced on his feet, gently pushing Klaus on the floor so he wasn’t floating, and it worked surprisingly well. If Ben couldn’t get through to him from out there, maybe, just maybe, going inside his mind would snap him out of it.
He took a few deep breaths and rubbed his hands together. It was a long shot, but it was the only one he had. Ben had told himself he’d never possess Klaus again, but he didn’t have a choice. He needed to save him and the rest of the world, and his family was counting on him—he’d promised them he could do it.
“I’m really sorry,” Ben mumbled as he stepped into Klaus’ body one last time.
It was odd; unlike the other three times, Klaus accepted him in his body immediately. He didn’t fight, didn’t push, didn’t give himself time to adjust.
Ben opened his eyes—he hadn’t even realised he’d closed them—and suddenly he was standing outside a courtyard. It was the middle of the night, but there were no stars in the sky, just clouds, like the ones outside the mansion. He took a step back, only to bump into something.
Ben turned around, his eyes coming to rest on a car. It was black, and certainly didn’t belong in the ’60s, and it dawned upon Ben that he had seen it before; it was Dad’s car. But what was his car doing in—
It wasn’t a courtyard; it was a cemetery.
He opened the fence door and let himself in. For some reason, it felt like he was never going to come out again.
He hadn’t noticed the graves before, as it was too foggy so see clearly ahead of him, but he was slowly trying to piece everything together. He continued walking down the graveyard, paying close attention to the gravestones; First Floor Bathroom Ghost, Dr. Terminal, Headless Alleyway Girl, Cha-Cha, Zoya Popova, Tongueless Triplets, Juan Mueller… All people who had died either by the Academy’s hand, or ghosts Klaus had seen before. Ben didn’t recognize all of them, and other engravings were simply mindless scribbles and shapes. That was until his gaze fell upon a very familiar name.
1 October 1989
18 December 2006
May the darkness within you find peace in the light
Well. At least it wasn’t a statue.
It didn’t make seeing it any easier though. He never actually saw his grave; only the stupid monument in The Academy’s courtyard that didn’t resemble him at all, hell, he probably didn’t even have one. They’d buried his coffin in the courtyard, and planted the statue on top of it.
Ben had to force down the sudden lump in his throat. He wasn’t going to pretend he knew what his own headstone was doing in Klaus’ head, but at least that was all it was—Klaus’ imagination. None of this was real, nor did it really matter, and maybe he would have held onto that thought a bit longer, if his eyes hadn’t fallen on the next grave.
1 October 1989
10 November 2002 To adapt is to overcome
The date Five had disappeared into time had been crossed out with something sharp. Ben couldn’t help but wonder; if this was supposed to be an illustration of Klaus’ mind, then did that mean he’d thought Five to be dead until he appeared in 2019?
But that didn’t make any sense. Klaus had said to Ben more than once that he never truly believed Five had died.
Ben shook his head. It doesn’t mean anything, he reminded himself. This was just an illusion, a peak in Klaus’ imagination. Ben knew he should have stopped paying attention to what the gravestones said, but he couldn’t help himself.
1 October 1989
True strength comes from within
Luther’s grave was empty.
There was a hole on the ground, and a pile of dirt to the side, but no coffin. Ben glanced at the other two again. His grave looked just like any other grave would, fully covered. Five’s strongly resembled Luther’s, only there was a coffin—opened, covered with dirt. As if someone had crawled their way out.
Unlike Five and Ben, Luther’s headstone didn’t have a date of death. Somehow, that made it even worse; it was as if Klaus was expecting him to die.
Ben kept walking.
1 October 1989
To wield a blade is to put on a mask. To throw it is to take it off
The grave was open, clearly free of a body, but the mere thought of Diego lying in that pit one day, when less than an hour ago they were in each other’s arms, made Ben want to throw up.
It was up to him to prevent this.
So he kept going.
1 October 1989
All these rumors whispered in their ears tell a story you cannot bear to hear
Ben had to blink at the engraving to make sure he wasn’t making it up; Allison’s grave was decorated with plagiarized Adele lyrics. If there were any doubts that this was some trick of Klaus’ sick imagination left, they were all gone now.
But Allison wasn’t. She was still alive, waiting for Ben to get back—Ben had promised her.
1 October 1989
1 April 2019
May you dive into the greatest of symphonies
Similarly to Five’s grave, the date on Vanya’s had been crossed out—the day the first apocalypse was supposed to happen. Ben closed his eyes, the sound of Vanya’s violin playing faintly in the back of his head. The piece she was orchestrating when the world went up in flames in 2019 was vivid in his memory, but it didn’t matter; all that was in the past.
If Ben didn’t hurry up, the world would end again today.
1 October 1989
21 March 2019
Fuck off, old man
Had it been any other moment, Ben would have laughed at the words on the stone. It was certainly better than their Dad’s actual one, not that Ben had bothered to memorize it. After all, if there was anyone that belonged in a graveyard, imaginary or not, it was Dad and his stupid car.
David Joseph Katz
23 July 1940
21 February 1968
There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story
Ben had never officially met Dave.
Not that it was ever an option; Ben was dead, and back in 2019, so was Dave. The version of him that lived in Dallas wasn’t the person Klaus had met in Vietnam, and yet he loved him all the same.
For years and years, Klaus had hooked up with people he didn’t know, and on the rare occasion of him dating someone, it was never because of any real feelings.
And yet, in the middle of the godamn Vietnam war, he’d managed to fall for a soldier.
Ben couldn’t grasp the concept of it; falling in love. The only way Ben had ever known love was through his family, who he loved more than anything in the world, and that was enough. What he felt for Jill… he could never have it, and so it never bloomed.
In the end, it didn’t really matter anyway. Ben was dead, while she was alive.
But just because he couldn’t understand it, it didn’t mean it wasn’t real. Ben remembered that day at the paint store, how he’d referred to Dave as Klaus’ Vietnam fling in the middle of arguing. If he could take it back now, he would.
“I’m really sorry,” Ben whispered at the grave and kept going, only to freeze in spot a few steps away.
1 October 1989
22 November 1963
Welcome back to the land of the dead
Ben was running out of time.
It felt too real to be a dream, but too bizarre not to be. Ben didn’t know what the meaning behind all this was, he didn’t know what Klaus was thinking, but he knew he was in danger now more than he had ever been, and if he didn’t find him soon, the consequences would be irreversible.
Pushing down the thought of Klaus actually inhabiting the grave, he kept going. At the end of the cemetery, Ben came across a small building, not that much taller than a shed. It had walls made of stone and a heavy black door.
Not just any mausoleum; it was the same one Dad kept Klaus locked up in for hours on end when they were kids, haunting him almost every single day since then. Ben had never been there in person, but there was no mistaking it. He pushed the door open.
The light shined upon the mausoleum’s doors, but it almost made no difference. The door’s opening was the only source of light, and it was far too dark outside, but it was just enough for Ben to spot Klaus’ figure in the corner.
“Klaus?” Ben called out, taking a careful step down the stairs. The smell of mold struck him almost immediately, and he could feel the dampness in the air. He kept walking until he was kneeled down by Klaus’ side. “Klaus.”
“I wanna go home,” Klaus mumbled. He was curled up on his side with his eyes shut, covering his ears. Ben had never seen him this vulnerable before. “Please, please, I just want to go home…”
“Klaus, it’s me,” Ben said, hesitantly placing his hand on Klaus’ shoulder. Klaus flinched at the contact, sitting up straight and folding his legs to his stomach, his eyes wide open as he scanned around the room. “Easy. It’s just me, okay? It’s me.”
Klaus slowly seemed to register what was happening, because his gaze finally settled on him. “Ben?” he asked weakly, uncovering his ears, resting his hands on his knees.
“In the flesh,” Ben said, smiling at him.
Klaus stared at him for a few more seconds, before his eyebrows furrowed together, and his forehead creased. “Where the fuck have you been, asshole?!”
Well. That was certainly one way to go at it.
“I told you I was going at Allison’s—”
“You were gone for an entire day!” Klaus yelled. “I called for you!”
“And you weren’t here.”
There was a stinging feeling in Ben’s chest, but he ignored it. He took a deep breath, crossing his legs and making himself more comfortable across from Klaus. “I’m here now.”
“It’s too late,” Klaus said, resting his chin on his legs. “Ben, it’s happening again, the ghosts, they’re… they won’t leave. I tried everything we worked on, it just wouldn’t—they wouldn’t—”
“You weren’t sober,” Ben said. “No wonder you couldn’t control it.”
“But you warned me.”
“I always do.”
“And I didn’t listen.”
“Do you ever?” Ben sighed, shaking his head. “But no, Klaus, this isn’t your fault. I shouldn’t have left for this long or at all, if I had been there, then maybe—”
“No, no, it wouldn’t have made a difference,” Klaus said. “Not sober, remember? Couldn’t have manifested you.”
“Still, I—” Ben paused. Why would Klaus need to manifest him in the first place? “What happened?”
Klaus huffed. “What didn’t?” he said. “Little Number Seven is apparently the FBI’s most wanted. They think she’s partying with the Soviets or something, I don’t know.”
Ben remembered Diego saying there were posters of Vanya all over town. “But what does this have to do with you?”
“Oh, you know the feds,” Klaus said, leaning his back against the wall and gesturing as if he was typing on a keyboard. “They just looove to look up names, and they happen to adore mine.”
“Hargreeves,” Ben mumbled. “They looked her up, and found you.”
“Ding, ding, ding!” Klaus said, resting his hands on his knees again. “They came looking for her. Tried to get to me, but my cult was getting in the way, you know?” Ben nodded. “Cops told them to leave, threatened to lock them up and everything. Some of them did—leave, I mean—others stuck around to watch the shit-show go down.” Klaus pressed his lips together. “That was yesterday.”
Ben was almost too scared to ask. “What happened next?”
Klaus leaned his head on his knees again. “They were trying to get information out of me all night.”
“Did they… hurt you?”
Klaus huffed. “Nah, they asked kindly and even offered to give me a handjob when I said I didn’t know.” Ben’s face grimaced in disgust. “But then the alcohol started to wear off, and it all backfired.”
“And then you reached out to me.”
“Tried to,” Klaus said, then started to chuckle. “Apparently all the other ghosts got jealous, and—I don’t remember much after that.”
Ben nodded again, but in truth, he was still trying to wrap his head around everything. None of this would have happened if he had been there. The mansion would still be intact, the Destiny’s Children would still be alive, and Klaus wouldn’t have lost control.
“Christ, you look like you’re in a graveyard,” Klaus mumbled, earning half a giggle from Ben. For some reason, he was getting really tired. “She’s alive, you know.”
Ben glanced up at him—when had he even looked away?—and tilted his head.
“Jillie Jolly,” Klaus said. “It’s why you’re so down in the dumps, isn’t it? Though I’d expect you to be more excited if she joined you in up in heavens above—”
“I don’t care about Jill,” Ben said. Klaus raised an eyebrow. “I mean it, Klaus, this isn’t about her. You almost got yourself killed.”
“You care a little bit,” Klaus said, the smirk never leaving his face.
Ben sighed. “A little bit,” he mumbled. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t relieved after hearing the news. At least Jill was safe, wherever she was. And soon, all of them would be alright. Klaus just needed to wake up. “Klaus, can you—”
“Remember the first time I made you corporeal?” Klaus asked.
Ben wanted nothing more than to ignore the question and tell him to get the hell on with it, but there was a voice in the back of his head telling him to cherish this, to let it happen. So he smiled. “Like it was yesterday.”
“Yeah, of course you’d like that one,” Klaus said, overdramatically punching himself in slow motion.
Ben chuckled, but he still couldn’t shake off the feeling that they needed to speed things up. “Klaus, where are you going with this?”
Klaus grinned and scooted closer to Ben, crossing his legs. Ben was about to ask what he was on about, but then he slapped his hands on his thighs and raised them in front of Ben’s face.
“Really?” Ben asked. Even he could hear the smile in his voice. Klaus didn’t respond—instead, he repeated the motion.
Ben sighed deeply and brought his hands to Klaus’.
Klaus cheered. “There you go!” he said. This time he clapped his hands together instead of on his legs and brought them forward again. Ben didn’t bother resisting this time; he copied Klaus’ motions, and soon enough, they were clapping their hands in a steady rhythm, as if they were kids.
It was… nice.
Ben couldn’t remember the last time they’d done this. The first, at least after Ben’s death, was unforgettable—it was on the same day Ben had punched Klaus in the face, and they’d been trying to make him corporeal once more. After they landed in Dallas, they’d tried again. They didn’t get it right from the start, but after weeks of practice, Klaus got the gist of it. It was how he learned to make Ben corporeal to him, but not to others.
They had no reason to be playing games like that now, but Ben liked the simplicity of it. Not to mention he could feel the contact more vividly than he ever had before. In a way, it was even more real than when Ben had pos—
He sighed but didn’t stop clapping.
“I never should have possessed you,” he said.
They continued playing in silence, as if Ben had never spoken. Maybe it was better that way. Ben wasn’t really in the mood for talking anyway; he was feeling rather drained.
“You shouldn’t have.”
Well, that settled that at least. Still, Ben couldn’t leave it at that. “I mean it.” He sighed. “I just… I’m sorry, okay?” He paused. “I’m not exactly good at this.”
“I know,” Klaus said and Ben shot him a look. “Kidding, kidding… It’s fine, Ben, can’t this wait till later?”
“No.” Ben had no idea why he said it so abruptly. “It really can’t. I’m serious, Klaus.” His sibling didn’t respond, so Ben kept going. “I’m sorry for possessing you, for yelling and leaving without you, for not… trusting you about Dave.”
Klaus tensed up.
“I was being selfi—”
“You weren’t the only one,” Klaus said. His movements were becoming sloppier. “I shouldn’t have hid you from the others, I don’t—I don’t know why I did that, okay? I guess I… wanted it to just be us for a little longer.”
Ben bit his lip. “Am I that fun?”
Klaus huffed through a laugh. “The funnest,” he said. He took a deep breath. “I shouldn’t have compared you to Dad.”
Ben froze. It was only for a second, but it was enough for Klaus to notice, because he stopped clapping his hands and took Ben’s in his, letting them rest between them.
He looked up at Klaus, their eyes locking.
“I humbly apologise.”
Ben snickered, rolling his eyes. “Apology accepted.”
“Good,” Klaus said, also at the edge of laughing. “I also choose to forgive you, in case you were wondering.”
“Lucky me,” Ben said teasingly, but he did feel like a big weight had been lifted off his shoulders. It almost made him feel more tired. He looked down at their hands. and started playing with their fingers. “I saw them, Klaus,” he said. “Diego and Allison, I saw them, I talked to them.”
“You did?” Klaus asked. “But how… how is that possible?”
Ben shrugged. “You did something to me,” he said. “Manifested me, from the other side of the city, and Klaus—” He looked up at him. “It was as if I had never died.”
Klaus smiled. “Totally did that on purpose. Happy birthday, Ben—ouch!” Ben pinched his hand, and Klaus flinched it away. “Asshole.”
As Ben started to giggle, the urge to doze off became more and more present. He felt weirdly relaxed, almost too relaxed, but the feeling wasn’t unfamiliar. It was like like wrapping himself up in a warm blanket in winter, like closing his eyes after a long day, like waking up under the sunlight’s warmth—
It wasn’t sunlight, it was—no.
No, no, no, this couldn’t possibly be happening. Not now. Not after finally seeing his family again, not after learning more about his powers, not after making things right with Klaus, after saving him.
Ben didn’t want to die again.
“Well, I think it’s time we get going, don’t you?” Klaus said, standing up. “Wouldn’t want to miss dinner! … again.”
But Ben wasn’t looking at Klaus; not when it started to feel like as if the floor faded away, not when his heart started pounding in an empty hole in his chest, not when his eyes became watery, not when he forgot how to speak.
Ben wasn’t looking at Klaus when his fingers slipped out of his hands.
“Ben?” Klaus said, finally realising something was wrong. “What happened?”
“I—” Ben tried to speak, but his throat was dry. “I can’t go back with you.”
Klaus scoffed. “What are you saying?” It was only then that Ben looked up at him, and it broke him to see the desperation in his eyes. Klaus must have seen something in Ben’s too, because his expression completely changed, worry overtaking him. “Ben. What are you talking about?”
“I want to, if that’s any help,” Ben said, his voice already shakier than before.
Klaus shook his head, reaching for Ben’s hand. Ben took it, and Klaus helped him up. Ben felt like he would lose his balance any second. “I’m hurting you.”
Ben looked away.
“Jesus, that’s just—” Klaus leaned against the wall, laughing in his hands. “Shit!” He ran his fingers through his hair, then threw his hands back down. “Fuck!”
“It’s not your fault,” Ben said, but Klaus interrupted him before he could say anything more.
“If I’d come with you at Allison’s, then—”
“You didn’t.” Ben felt bad about interrupting, but if there was one moment that Klaus shouldn’t have been drowning in self-pity, it was this one. He needed to remain calm in order to stop the apocalypse. There was nothing else they could do.
There was something dissolving inside of Ben. He didn’t know what it was, but he already felt lighter.
“I made you stay.”
Ben looked at Klaus in confusion. “What?”
“The day of your funeral,” Klaus said. “I told you you could go through the light whenever you wanted, remember? I lied.” He smiled. “I had no idea what I was talking about.”
“You really think I didn’t know that?”
The smile disappeared from Klaus’ face. “What?”
It was now or never. “It wasn’t you that made me stay.”
“Ben,” Klaus said, “what are you talking about?”
Ben looked to the side, his cheeks heating up with shame. “I could have moved on anytime I wanted,” he said just loudly enough for Klaus to hear. “Where do you think I go to when I drift off?”
He ignored Klaus’ comment. “It’s like a void,” he said. “There’s a light there, a blue light, it’s always there.” Klaus wasn’t saying anything, so Ben continued. “You said I could cross it whenever I wanted—you were right, even if you were bullshitting me.” Nothing. Ben swallowed. “I… I never told you, because—”
“Because you’re a pig!” Klaus yelled, and although Ben knew he didn’t actually mean the insult, it still hurt to hear. “You shit-heel! All these years and I thought it was my fault you didn’t get your ticket to heaven—Jesus Christ, Ben! Do you have any idea how much I beat myself up over this?”
“I was scared, okay?” Ben raised his voice too, catching Klaus’ attention. “I was scared.” Klaus looked like there was something on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to say it. “And I wanted to stay. With you.” He sighed. “For what it’s worth.”
They stayed quiet for a while. Ben buried his hands in his pockets, wishing he had his hood on to hide his face.
Klaus let go of a deep exhale. “Jesus, what is wrong with us?”
Ben let go of a huff, soon joined by Klaus. “I have no idea.” They looked at each other, and they laughed awkwardly for a bit, until they fell into silence again.
Ben was scraping the floor with his shoes when his gaze focused on a blue flake in the air. It didn’t take him long to spot another one, and it took him even less time to realise they were coming from him. They were him. He took his hand off his pocket and held it in front of his face, staring at the spots on his fingers that had started to turn transparent.
It was a matter of time before it happened to the rest of him.
Klaus turned to look at him, immediately noticing Ben’s hand. He stared at it for a second, with the same concern as Ben had, before finally locking his eyes with Ben’s.
“Can I ask you a weird favor?”
It was a broken joke, but Ben breathed out in amusement anyway. “Can you…” He opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. He looked at the ground again, as he rubbed the tip of his left boot on the ground. “Can you hug me as I go?” The words felt heavy on his chest, but there was no coming back now. “I know we don’t really do this stuff, but—”
He was cut off by Klaus launching himself at him with full force.
Not for the first time on that day, Ben found himself getting comfortable in someone else’s embrace. He buried his face on Klaus’ shoulder and shut his eyes closed, wrapping his own arms around him as tightly as possible. Since they landed in Dallas, he’d hugged Klaus many times, but rarely ever like this, and never before could he feel it so vividly.
It felt like an eternity that went by in two seconds.
“This is comfortable,” Ben mumbled. He was getting drowsy. “You give good hugs.”
“Better than Allie and Diego?” Klaus asked, but Ben barely registered it as a joke. “If you wanted a hug so bad, you could have just asked.”
Ben hummed in response. He didn’t have the energy to tell him that half of the times he wrestled him, it was in hopes they’d end up in a cuddle—he’d been so desperate for physical contact that he never asked for it.
But this was nice. He wanted to do this all the time.
With much difficulty, Ben forced himself out of his spot and pulled away to rest his forehead on Klaus’. He kept his eyes closed as he stroked the tears off Klaus’ cheek—the same way Allison had done to him in the car—while trying to hold back his own. He didn’t want to be crying in Klaus’ last memory of him.
“Me too,” Ben mumbled. “But I think that’s okay. It means all this has been worth it.”
Klaus choked back a sob. “Why couldn’t you have been this nice all these years ago? You were so rude after you died.”
“Because you’re an asshole, Klaus,” Ben said, only half-joking. They both broke into giggles and pulled away, finally opening their eyes to look at each other. “But you’re lucky I love you,” he said, his voice cracking. Ben had seen Klaus cry before, but never like this—never when saying goodbye.
Ben didn’t think it was possible, but Klaus pulled him in tighter than before. “I hate you so much,” he said. Ben laughed, shoving him with his leg. “Of course I love you,” Klaus said, and it was only then that it really hit Ben that this was happening. He returned the hug with the same intensity, as if he was never going to let go, and in a way, he wasn’t. “Stop this,” Klaus said. “Tell me how to stop this.”
“I can’t,” Ben said. “You need to say goodbye, Klaus.” He felt Klaus shift against the fabric of his jacket, shaking his head “Please, you—you have to say goodbye, or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”
“I can bring you back,” Klaus said, his voice almost unrecognizable. “I’ll get clean, and I’ll—”
“No, no, Klaus,” Ben interrupted, not caring about how shaky his voice sounded anymore. “You have bigger things to worry about, okay? You need to clean this mess up, you need to stop doomsda—”
“Who cares about the end of the world?” Klaus said. “We all die, eventually, but—but you don’t get to do it again, you hear me?”
He didn’t want to.
“Besides, you already saved the world,” he continued. “Show-off.”
Ben wanted to laugh more than anything, but he just barely managed to hold back a wail as he buried himself further into the fabric of Klaus’ shirt. “I’m so sorry.”
“Stop it,” Klaus said. “Just stay. Ben, please, please, stay.” Ben was biting hard into the inside of his cheeks, shutting his eyes as tightly as he could. He shook his head. “Just a little longer,” Klaus continued. “You said you can go into the light whenever, so just—just hold on a little longer, Ben, okay? You’ve always been such a stubborn prick, you can manage some more, right? Just a little longer. Please.”
“Klaus,” Ben managed to choke out. “I’ve been holding on for as long as I can, but—”
"I don't want you to die!" Klaus said, causing Ben to shut up. He snuggled closer to Ben’s neck. “I don’t want you to die…” he whispered again.
Ben could physically feel his heart breaking at his sibling’s confession. He wished he could tell him it was going to be okay, but both of them knew that wasn’t true.
“Klaus… I died seventeen years ago,” he said as calmly as he possibly could, but there was no holding back his tears anymore. “All the rest of this, the years we spend together… it’s all been gravy.”
“It’s been more than that, you asshole!” Klaus said, sniffing loudly as he did. “Christ, Ben, it’s been so much more than that, and I took it all for granted.”
Ben didn’t know why he was smiling. “I did too,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for you, I would have never gotten to see what the real world was like.”
He could hear Klaus gulping. “You mean a shitshow?”
Ben chuckled. “A total shitshow,” he repeated. They let silence take over for a little bit. Ben couldn’t see the rest of his body, but he could feel himself fading away. He forced his eyes open, trying not to pay too much attention to the light around them, and gave Klaus a gentle push so he could look at him one last time. “Promise me something?”
Klaus did the same, nodding at him. “Consider it done.”
“Tell Diego and Allison I’m sorry,” he said. “And… tell the others that I love them, okay?”
“And,” Ben interrupted, catching Klaus’ attention again. “When you get back in 2019…”
Klaus looked as if he was only hanging from Ben’s words and nothing else—he almost felt bad for leaving him waiting.
“… please, tear that fucking statue apart.”
Klaus gasped and shoved his shoulder as they broke into another round of laughter. “I can do that.”
“Thank you,” Ben said, his chin coming to rest on Klaus’ shoulder again as he breathed him in. “For everything.”
Klaus returned the hug, his curls tickling Ben’s cheek as he whispered in his ear. “Thank you.”
There were so many more things Ben wanted to talk about; what it was like to feel again, the smell of flowers and the sweetness of strawberries, the dirt beneath his feet, Allison’s face when she first saw him, the way Diego held him in his arms, his powers.
He caught another glimpse of the blue light surrounding them.
Landing in Dallas, learning how to drive, learning how to get rid of their—now crashed—car to avoid getting arrested, actually getting arrested, picking up Klaus and pretending he could levitate, using song lyrics as prophecies for those who needed to hear them, travelling the world in a silly van, realising their family was there and they weren’t alone after all.
It was like stardust dancing in the atmosphere.
The day they ran away from The Academy, the stars and the rooftops, the first time they stayed at a motel, their weekly stops at diners for waffles even when they were out of money, stealing shopping carts and riding them across the city, the movies, the ocean, Dad’s funeral, seeing the others, dancing to old records in the basement until Five appeared, learning about the apocalypse, being manifested, working together to save everyone, time travelling.
Finally reaching the end felt strangely comforting.
Sneaking out into the night for donuts when they were kids, swapping homework and hoping no one would notice, getting names and giggling as they practiced them, sleeping into each other’s rooms for comfort, growing up—
Instead, Ben snuggled a bit closer to Klaus, hoping the action would speak for itself, and held onto these thoughts for as long as he could.
He closed his eyes.
At least this time, it was beautiful.
1 October 1989
18 December 2006 Canticum in tenebris