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The Library

Chapter Text

1996

Despite everything in the library dwarfing his little body, Ben felt right at home. Though the library was technically part of the larger mansion where Ben lived, this singular room was different. The rows of books often felt more like family than those who he lived with. And the armchair he clambered into each day parented and comforted him more than Reginald ever had. Reaching for a new book off the shelf, Ben frowned. The pain in his head hadn’t gone away, even after the glass of water Mom had given him. Maybe reading something would help take his mind off of it. With a fresh volume clasped in his little fingers he settled down into the armchair and opened it up. As he read all he could hear was the sound of his fingers against the paper as he fiddled with it when trying to turn the page. It was nice. There was no shouting, no headaches. The house was never quiet, but in Ben’s mind the library wasn’t the house, it was his own little world, where he could feel peaceful even while reading about thrilling adventures. Some days he would run through the paragraphs, desperate to reach the ending but today he strolled along the road each word paved, taking in each detail. Well, as much as a seven year old can do so. It didn’t take long for Ben to become totally engrossed in a book and this one was no exception. Each book he read was like a new friend, welcoming and warm. And always there for him. Books were constant, sturdy and structured. Reading the book was like hanging out with said friend in a quiet spot. Tranquility was however, never long lived in the Hargreeves household.

”Benny! Can you come play with me? We’re doing odds versus evens hide and seek and it’s not fair if it’s just me and Diego against everyone else!”. Klaus flopped himself over the arm of the chair that Ben wasn’t leaning on and sighed dramatically. Ben felt a little annoyance flare up in him. He had gotten to a really good chapter before Klaus had barged in. Instead of protesting Ben just rolled his eyes and heaved himself out of the armchair, already missing its embrace. He would go and play with his siblings. He would probably get another headache. But what he really wanted was to be alone.

All Ben wanted was to be alone in the library.

Chapter Text

2002

 

Five had been missing for three weeks now. There was an emptiness that filled not only his seat at the table, but conversation and training. And Vanya. After a week the quiet optimism she had clung onto was flickering out and at this point she only dared hold onto the faintest sliver of hope. That sliver stayed up late making sandwiches and flicking on light switches. But that sliver was nowhere to be found when Vanya stayed up at night worrying with damp eyes. It was nowhere to be found now as she stared sadly at the chair in the library where Five usually sat and read. The pillows seemed to have a thin layer of dust beginning to settle onto them, which only shrank the sliver once again. It shouldn’t be collecting dust she wanted to shout. But no one had dared touch Five’s chair, not even Mom to clean it. The more she thought about everything the worse she felt. She felt like she was drowning, with waves of confusion and hurt crashing down again and again. She knew she should have taken her anxiety medication before coming in here. This was the first time she had set foot in the library since Five had ran away and as she had suspected it didn’t feel right without him. There were just too many memories of him in that chair.

 

Five would sit there reading for hours, finishing entire books in one sitting. On several occasions Vanya brought him water to make sure he remembered to drink something. When she read alongside him he would help her with words she didn’t understand, and every so often her, Five and Ben would all read the same book together, like a book club. Maybe one day just her and Ben could do it. Not right now though. All Vanya wanted was Five to glare at her every time she was about to dog ear a page.  She just wanted him to be sitting next to her.

 

Her emotions were welling up inside her. It was all too much, being in the library. Five’s presence or lack thereof weighted down on her like a ton and she wanted to just break down. The thump of books falling was heard next to her. But no one had touched them. Vanya rose from the chair and left the library briskly. She just needed to take her medication and everything would feel better. Maybe it would all just go away.

Maybe Five would just come back.

Chapter Text

2019

Five had been stuck in the apocalypse for three weeks now. He had searched for any sign of life nearby but at this point he had come to accept that he was stuck here alone. Five knew that his survival was dependent upon his own ability to be as pragmatic as possible and that sentiment would not keep him alive. Yet for the third time this week he found himself standing in the ruins of the Hargreeves family library. Looking at his home decimated was painful and the dead bodies surrounding it more so yet he kept finding himself back here. It hit him each time returned that he might never get to see his siblings grow up to be the people who lay at his feet. Thinking about that wasn’t going to help him get back home or stay alive that one minute more but he was too tired from walking nonstop looking for supplies and too drained from being thrust into this hellscape with no way out to care about the practicality of his emotions. By the time Five had gotten past all the rubble and reached what was left of the library he practically crumbled to the ground. He just sat there, staring forward. That’s all his life was now, look forward, move forward, think forward. Yet here he was, sitting surrounded by the past.

He should have just listened to Dad. It was a special kind of frustration when your least favourite person (a hefty title considering Fives general disdain for everyone) makes a good point, especially when it was advice you should have heeded. Holding his head in his hands, Five sighed. He wanted to cry, to let out the plethora of emotions he knew were building but instead he just… didn’t. He couldn’t feel anything strongly enough to let tears fall. Everything just felt like a sad tinged nothingness, like a blunt dull ache. He let a scream come hurtling out of his lungs. A raw painful scream. A scream for the world, for his family, for himself, for his childhood, for his loss. But it didn’t make the hollowness go away. It just hurt. Five stood up, looked at the library, a place where he had spent a large few of the happy moments in his life so far and kicked the rubble. It didn’t mean anything anymore. It couldn’t. There was only one item of practical value left there, so Five grabbed it and walked away. He didn’t know when he would return. The object he had taken was thrown into the red toy wagon he’d started pulling with him. It was one of the few undamaged books left; Extraordinary: My Life as No. 7 by Vanya Hargreeves. And while Five planned on using it as paper to write in equations on maybe he would read it. Maybe there was comfort to be found in knowing that at least his family got their lives, even if they would be… cut short. Maybe it could be a way to feel like he was there for some of it.

Maybe he didn’t have to miss everything.

Chapter Text

Ben had been dead for two weeks. That could be stated without much fanfare at this point given how heavily Reginald had brushed over it. Mere days after the funeral the kids were back out on missions, although it was clear that they weren’t at their regular performance ability. Luther in particular was trying to keep everyone together but he could hardly be expected to emotionally support an entire family while everyone else fell apart. Although the unit known as the Umbrella Academy would probably find something off about the use of the term family to describe them. Ben could hardly do anything to reassure them. After all, being non corporeal rather stripped you of your options when it came to what to do. So Ben fell back on old habits. Yet again he was pacing the library. Of course, it wasn’t the same feeling of home or safety that he used to find when he sat there with a good book. When you’re dead everything feels kind of cold and numb. Although that could also be the emotional dissonance that comes from dying horribly and watching the people you love spiral into a variety of horrors as a result. Sometimes it was ok. Sometimes Klaus would talk to Ben. Sometimes Klaus was there. But Klaus left the moment the drugs entered his system. And that’s when Ben was really alone. It was one of those times. Klaus had been too tired to face reality so chose to slip out of it. So Ben was left to beg him to stop and after giving up because it was futile, to go to the library.

He hadn’t figured out how to pick up physical objects so he couldn’t even find solace in a nice story. All he could do was pace aimlessly. It wasn’t helping. It turns out pacing around a room on your own is never going to make you feel less alone. It’s just going to remind you that you’re never going to be able to read with Vanya again, that you’ll never train with Diego again, that you’ll never be able to talk to Allison again. Being dead is shitty. It sucks. No one’s enjoying it, you can’t help them and you'll never get a chance to again. Instead you get to hang around pointlessly, invisible to almost everyone that matters. What was the point of being around his family if they didn’t get to know? He wanted to punch something. Instead his fist fazed through each bookshelf. It seemed almost unfair he was unable to mess up the library since death had just meant messing everything else up, including his own emotions. But nope, no destruction. Nothing. Destruction probably wouldn’t have actually felt good but feeling, good or not sounded like a dream right now, instead of calm quiet numb Ben who could only bring himself to cry at his own dead body when alone for fear of making Klaus feel worse. Calm quiet Ben had felt invisible even when alive. It was too late now though. Nothing could be done. No resurrection. No do over. Nobody was going to be there for him. No one.

Ben was alone in the library