Actions

Work Header

broken still you breathe (breathe, breathe, just breathe)

Work Text:

 

Luther doesn’t consider himself a bad person. 

He doesn’t necessarily consider himself a good person, either, but certainly not a bad one. 

A good son and a good soldier, yes. A good person…well. He doesn’t have a particularly good frame of reference for what separates a good person from a bad person; people are just…people. 

When it’s obvious, it’s easy. 

When they’re on missions, the bad guys have guns.

They have knives. 

They’re hurting people. 

Luther knows that, at least, generally tends to make someone a bad person. 

(“You don’t need to call me by my number anymore. I’m the only one left.”) 

But it’s been ten years. 

They haven’t seen Number Four in ten years, and he can’t even be on time for their fathers funeral. 

Luther thinks that might make Four a bad person; everyone else arrived hours ago and they may not necessarily have been happy to be here, but they were still here. 

Luther can’t say the same for Klaus. 

With a sigh, he picks up their fathers urn (dead, dead, Dad is dead) and makes his way towards the living room. 

“We should get started.” 

Two scowls at him from where he’s leaning against the door frame, cleaning his nails with one of his knives. “Isn’t this supposed to be a family thing?” He sneers. “We’re not all here yet.” 

“Do you really think Klaus is going to show up, Diego?” Luther asks, rolling his eyes. “He’s probably passed out in an alleyway somewhere.” 

“Don’t be rude,” Allison chides, but her heart isn’t in it. She knows how flighty Four can be just as well as he does; they all do. Honestly, Luther isn’t even sure why they waited this long. 

“Are we sure we don’t want to wait?” Seven asks meekly, and Diego scoffs.

“Why do you care?” 

“He was my father too, Diego,” she says, voice stronger than usual for one startling moment, but it quickly tapers back off as she adds, “I just think we should all be here.” 

“He’s not coming,” Luther says impatiently. “Let's just get this over with.”

“Who’s not coming?”

The voice sounds behind them suddenly, and all of them startle and whip around in synchronization. 

“Klaus,” Luther hears himself say distantly. “You’re…here.” 

Four tilts his head, bringing his hand to his lips and inhaling deeply around the cigarette dangling between his fingers. When he exhales, the smoke curls around his head like a halo before drifting into the air, but Luther can’t even bring himself to be upset about it. He’s too surprised, and he can see it mirrored on the others' faces, too. 

Not necessarily because Klaus showed (which is, actually, surprising in and of itself), but because he actually looks…good. Healthy. Alive (not in the way he used to look; drifting around like a pathetic little ghost, like he was there but not really there. He looks like he finally figured out how to live. Luther…isn’t sure how he feels about that.) 

His skin is pale, but Luther suspects that’s more, well, Klaus than it is anything worrisome. His eyes are clear and his eyeliner is clean and his hands are steady. His hair is longer than Luther remembers it being, and pulled messily away from his face with some sort of soft looking purple fabric, though stray curls have escaped the binding and spill into his eyes. He’s wearing a matching purple top that’s short enough to show off some sort of vaguely Asian looking tattoo on his stomach, and a flowing black skirt that swooshes around his calves with every movement. He’s wearing a couple fistfuls of thick silver rings, and layered silver necklaces that clink against the- dog tags?- resting against his chest (long hair, long skirt, jewelry, cropped shirt; dad always said Four shouldn’t dress like this, that it was too feminine, that it was bad.)

(Dad is dead.)

“Yeah, well, I would’ve gotten here sooner,” Four says around the cigarette. “But I just really didn’t want to.” He grins, this slow building sort of smile that says he has all the time in the world. 

Luther feels a familiar bubble of irritation rise up in his chest, and he does his best to push it back down. Pogo told him he shouldn’t argue with the others. Not today. That doesn’t make it any easier to deal with the blatant show of disrespect from their wayward brother. 

Two snorts. “Join the club.” But he’s looking at Klaus with the same sort of unsettled shock that Luther feels, so he doesn’t say anything about that, either. “Happy now, Seven?” Diego bites out, smiling coldly and Luther is momentarily taken aback, because Two is a lot of things but cruel was never one of them. But he knows they all deal differently, and Diego sometimes got mean when he was embarrassed or hurt. That’s what Mom told Luther, at least, when he would complain to her. “We’re all here. Y’know, as a family. Not that we ever really were one.” 

Vanya ducks her head, wrapping her arms around herself, but Luther is once again startled when Klaus immediately jumps to her defense. 

“Don’t be a dick, Di,” Four says with that same lazy sort of smile. There’s a sharper edge to it now, though, and it unsettles Luther thoroughly. “Dad was an ass. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t our dad. Don’t lash out at others because you’re about as emotionally competent as a slug. Van might not want to bite back. I will.” His eyes flicker momentarily to the left, and then back to Diego, unrepentant. 

Diego shifts uncomfortably before grumbling to himself, “Yeah, whatever. Lets just get this stupid thing over with.” 

Klaus just smiles and swoops Vanya into a side hug, leaning down to kiss the top of her head like it’s natural. Vanya eeps in surprise and then blushes furiously, leaning into his side. 

Four’s smile goes…softer, more genuine, before he releases her and turns to face Allison, smile firming back into a flashy grin. 

“Oh my god, is that really you? Allison Hargreeves the movie star?” He flaps his hands, sloshing the iced coffee in his other hand all over his pink painted fingertips, and throws his arms around her. “Can I get your autograph pretty pretty please?” 

Allison laughs lightly, warm and genuine (Luther feels a pang in his chest), and says, “It’s good to see you, Klaus.” And then, because she’s always been one to speak her mind, she voices what they’ve all been thinking. “You look good. Really good.” 

Four flutters his hands over his heart, batting his eyelashes. “Why thank you, dear sister! It’s the new skincare regimen I’ve been trying. Retinol! That’s a thing, did you know that? A wonderful thing.” Purposefully, deliberately misinterpreting. Typical Four, then. Luther fights against the urge to roll his eyes. 

Allison notices, too, and her smile tightens. “Yes, I did…know that was a thing. But I meant…” she gestures vaguely, likely trying to find a way to form her sentence more delicately, but Two doesn’t have any such reservations. 

“She meant the fact that you don’t look like a rabid raccoon that just dragged itself out of a dumpster.” Diego says bluntly, and Klaus giggle-snorts inelegantly. 

“Oh, well, I figured I’d try something new.” 

Diego punches him lightly in the arm. “Whatever it is, bro, you’d better keep it up.” 

“Trust me,” Four says with a wild grin. “I intend to.” 

“So, we should probably…” Luther awkwardly holds up their fathers urn, and Klaus hums and lets out another puff of smoke. 

(Dad hated when Four smoked.) 

(Dad is dead.) 

“Should we really, though?” He wonders, but it’s in a floaty tone they all know well; talking to himself still, then. More than likely high. Maybe he’s not as put together as he seems to be. He always was a phenomenal actor when he actually tried. A novel experience for him, Luther knows. 

“Yes,” Luther stresses anyway, gritting his teeth in frustration. God, it’s like trying to herd a pack of rabid cats. “We’ve been waiting for you.” 

Four flutters his eyelashes again. “Aw, Luther, you shouldn't have,” he croons in sugary sweet tone, and Luther’s jaw clenches so hard he swears he hears it crack. 

No, he thinks, but doesn’t say. No, I don’t think we should have. 

“Let’s just get it over with so we can leave,” Diego mutters, and marches decisively towards the yard. The others fall in step, following Two’s lead, and Luther feels that bubble in his chest get bigger, close to bursting. He’s Number One, he’s the leader; why the hell are they listening to Diego of all people? 

Four is last, save Luther, and he pats Luther’s shoulder patronizingly like he knows exactly what he’s thinking. “I think it’s the tone,” he says, lips curling in a slow smile. A puff of smoke wafts into Luther’s face. “You’re not assertive enough. You’re just bossy.” 

Luther feels that bubble pop and he yanks the cigarette out of Klaus’s mouth with an annoyed hiss, grinding it out on the hardwood before shouldering past him.

Four’s delighted laughter follows him outside. 

***

“Do I have to go?” Klaus whines, burying his face in Dave’s bare chest. 

Dave snorts and cards his fingers through Klaus’s hair, tugging just enough for him to take notice. “Well, you don’t have t’go. I sure ain’t gonna make ya. Far as I’m concerned, fuck Reginald Hargreeves. You don’t owe him a damn thing.” 

Klaus sighs contentedly, rubbing his face into Dave’s peck. This is why he loves Dave. Dave is the best. The greatest. The most amazing, most loving, most incredible- 

“But I think it would give ya some closure.”

-ly awful person in the history of ever. 

“I don’t want to,” Klaus pouts, biting at the hard muscle under his lips in retaliation. 

“Then don’t,” Dave says with a shrug. “We could stay here ‘an sleep all day, an’ then go on a coffee date?” 

“And then come back here and fuck like rabbits?” Klaus asks hopefully, and Dave laughs. 

“We could come back here and fuck like rabbits,” he agrees mildly, and then tugs sharply at Klaus’s hair again, urging his head up so they have to meet eyes. “Or,” he continues. “We could go get some coffee, and then we could go to the funeral, an’ once we get back, we could get some dinner and then we could fuck like rabbits.” 

Klaus purses his lips. “Why are you going all logical on me, huh?” 

Dave just leans in to kiss his pursed lips with a cheeky smile. “S’what you get for tellin’ me you needed some closure. Ain’t gonna get it if you keep hidin’ from ‘em.” 

“I’m not hiding!” Klaus protests, even though he totally is. “It was a- a tactical retreat!” 

“Mm,” Dave hums and nods sagely. “Dangers passed, I think. How long are you gonna keep retreatin’?” 

Klaus makes a face and grumbles, tucking his nose back into Dave’s neck and Dave obligingly falls quiet, letting him work through his thoughts on his own. 

On one hand, ten years is a long time. 

Maybe they’ve changed (though he doubts it.) 

Maybe they’ve grown, like he has; he hasn’t really kept up. Occasionally, he’ll see something about Allison in the tabloids, or he’ll see Vanya rushing through the streets towards the Icarus Theater. He did talk to Diego three times after they both left; once to ask for money, once when Klaus had OD’d and Diego was listed as his emergency contact. The final time had been two days after that. Klaus had slurred his way through Ben’s name, Diego had told him not to bother calling him anymore if he was going to bring their dead brother into the fray; they hadn’t spoken since. Klaus didn’t really blame him for that one. He’d been higher than Luther on the fucking moon (yeah, that’s a thing that happened; Luther. On the moon. What the fuck?) 

There’s a possibility they’ve evolved. 

On the other hand, ten years is a long fucking time. 

Whatever demons he needed to face in regards to his family have long since been exorcized and he did it all by my damn self, thank you very much. 

But…Dave is right. He does need closure. He needs to remind himself why leaving was his best option, why staying away continues to be his best option. 

(Sometimes at night, when the darkness is heavy and the silence is oppressive, he wonders; what it would’ve been like if he’d stayed, or if he’d tried to drag them away with him. Dave holds him extra tight on those nights.)

“I’ll go,” he finally says, voice grudging. “On two conditions; one, we get coffee first. Two, you don’t go.” 

“Hang on a damn minute-” Dave starts, sitting up in protest and dislodging Klaus. 

“I’m serious,” Klaus says, scrambling upright. “It’s gonna suck without you, but I can’t let that place touch you, David. The darkness there…it fucking takes root. And I’m not letting that happen to you.” 

Dave’s lips thin and he watches Klaus intently. “You’re sure?” You’re sure you can do this alone? 

Klaus inhales, holds it (onetwothreefourfivesixseven), breathes out. 

“I’m sure. Besides! I won’t be alone. Ben will be with me.” 

“Gonna tell ‘em?”

Klaus laughs. “Fuck no! But I’m not going to hide him, either. Not unless he wants me to.” Ben isn’t the biggest fan of their siblings, either. Not after the funeral. They’d damn near come to blows, Luther had apparently said some pretty awful shit (not that Klaus can remember; he’d taken so much he’d nearly stopped his heart), Vanya and Allison had broken down in tears, Luther said some more awful shit, and Diego hadn’t even been able to stutter his way through a full sentence. Klaus can’t remember any of that, either. 

Dave hums and nods, and then pinches Klaus’s ass, making Klaus yelp indignantly. “Hey!” 

“Up and at ‘em,” he says with a cheeky grin. “Go talk to Ben while I get the shower started.” 

Klaus groans but dutifully rolls out of bed, grabbing his favorite fluffy pink robe and wrapping it around himself. 

He pads out of their bedroom and makes his way to the one across the hall, knocking twice on the door before letting himself in and throwing himself face down on the bed. 

“Good morning to you, too,” Ben says, sounding vaguely amused. 

Klaus groans again and headbutts where he thinks Ben’s thigh is until Ben snorts and gives in, scratching his fingers through Klaus’s hair. 

“Dave wants us to go to the funeral,” Klaus finally grumbles, voice muffled by the mattress. The fingers in his hair still for a moment before continuing. 

“Might be a good idea,” Ben says finally. “Closure or whatever. Adult things.” 

“I don’t wanna do adult things.” 

“But do we need to do adult things?” 

“I don’t know where this ‘we’ is coming from, Benny boy. I’m the one who's gonna have to talk to them.” He pauses. “Unless you want to, I guess.” 

“Yeah, no, I think I’ll let you do that. Too many bombs in one day might just make their heads explode.” 

“It shouldn’t be a bomb,” Klaus grumbles petulantly. “I told them you were here. Many times.” 

“And they didn’t believe you any of them,” Ben argues mildly. “So it will be a bomb, and their poor little brains will explode, and then you’ll be stuck with five dead siblings.” 

Klaus hums. Processes. “Yeah, that does sound pretty terrible,” he admits. “I love you, Benji, but I could not handle four more you’s.” 

“Hey!” Ben protests. “I’m way better than them.” 

Klaus pokes his thigh. “Okay, point. Still. You are coming, right?” 

“Oh, yeah, of course. I can’t wait to see their faces when you walk in. It’s going to be hilarious.” 

Klaus laughs and wriggles around, flopping onto his back instead. Breathing is important, generally, and while he knows he would come back, he doesn’t think death via suffocating on a Batman comforter (“it reminds me of Diego, Klaus, shut up”) is a good look. On second thought, objectively, it would be pretty hilarious. How many people can say Batman suffocated them? Though he supposes there’s probably someone with a Batman kink out there, so maybe more people than he thinks? He does wear a lot of leather. Maybe Diego has a Batman kink, he wears a lot of leather too- 

“Klaus,” Ben says in that overly patient tone that means he’s had to repeat himself more than once. 

Oops. Rabbit hole. Dad’s funeral. Annoying siblings. Right. 

“Yes, dear brother?”

“I asked what time we need to be there.” 

“Oh! Uh, noon, I think?” 

“So, we’ll get there sometime after two then?” 

“Fashionably late,” Klaus agrees somberly, and Ben grins. 

“As long as we get coffee first.” 

“Yes, yes, we’ll get coffee first. It can be as black as your soul, you heathen.” 

“Black goes with everything,” Ben says sagely, grabbing his book off his nightstand.

“Eternally stuck in your emo phase,” Klaus sighs mournfully. 

“I look great,” Ben responds with a lopsided grin, and Klaus huffs. It’s true and it shouldn’t be; no one should be able to confidently pull off black everything. 

“Yeah, whatever, I’m gonna go shower. Have fun reading. We’ll leave in…” Klaus peers around, eyes landing on the clock on the nightstand. “An hour?” 

Ben snorts. “We’re supposed to be there at noon, not leaving here.” 

“We’ve already established we will not be on time today, Benji.” 

“You just want to make Luther mad.” 

“That vein in his forehead gets so big!” 

“I bet Diego is gonna make that thing pop faster than you can.” 

Klaus tilts his head. “What are we betting?” 

“Loser makes dinner for a month.” 

“You drive a hard bargain, Benjamin.” Klaus holds out his hand. “You have yourself a deal.” 

Ben grins and shakes his hand. “Now go shower. You reek.” 

Klaus gasps and flutters his hands over his heart. “You would me, Ben. I’ve been wounded.” 

Without looking, Ben grabs a pillow and lobs it at his head. Klaus laughs and races out of the room, slamming the door shut before it can hit him. 

***

Ben dies when he’s seventeen. 

It’s really not as much of a defining moment as he thought it would be. 

Because he dies and it sucks, and it sucks that he’ll never get to grow old with his siblings, and it sucks that Klaus is the only one he can talk to, the only one who knows he’s still there, but in the grand scheme of things, nothing really changes. 

Sure, he doesn’t have to train anymore (which is great) and he doesn’t have to go on missions (which is even better) but he’s still there. He still listens to dad berate his siblings, and watches as they break pieces off of themselves trying to fit into the shitty mold he’s created for them.

If anything, he knows more than he used to, and he really fucking wishes he didn’t. 

Witnessing Luther’s shift from obedient Number One to downright militant is more painful than he’d like to admit. 

Seeing the aftermath of Diego’s personal training, when he’s sweating and shaking and clutching at his head, is different too now that Ben can watch what his training actually entails. 

Watching Allison dry heave in the bathroom after dad forces her to rumor different rodents heads into exploding is one of the worst experiences of his life, and that’s saying something because he’s literally dead. 

Nothing can compare to the mausoleum, though. 

Ben knew, of course, the kind of training Klaus went through. He didn’t share it with everyone; Ben was the winner for that, and he always made sure to keep an extra blanket in his bedroom for the nights dad dragged Klaus back home from ‘special training’. 

Bundling Klaus up in his fuzzy blanket and holding him tight while he shakes and shudders is so much different than witnessing that training personally. 

He still doesn’t know what he was expecting, when he first phased through the doors of the mausoleum. 

But it wasn’t the screaming. 

That was the first thing he’d noticed. 

The second was the space. 

Or, well, the lack thereof. 

Because the place was full, brimming with wailing, screeching, mutilated corpses, and all of them were scratching, clawing, tearing at Klaus (tender hearted, soft little Klaus) while he curled his arms over his head, rocked himself slowly, and sobbed. 

(Ben didn’t think Klaus had enough of himself left to feel anything but numb. 

He was wrong.) 

The day they turn eighteen, Klaus leaves. 

He never looks back. 

And for two years, Ben watches. 

It’s all he can do. 

(Just like the mausoleum. Helpless.) 

He watches Klaus drug himself so heavily his heart stops, watches as he whores himself out to whoever will give him a bed to sleep in, money, a few pills, a bottle. 

Watches as Klaus tears himself apart and tears himself down, piece by piece, until there’s hardly anything left. 

And then Klaus meets Dave. 

(Freshly discharged, a nasty scar star-fished across his thigh, a Purple Heart against his chest and a haunted look in his eyes that says he’s just as lost as Klaus.)

And suddenly things are…better. 

(It’s not that simple; Klaus claws his way kicking and screaming into sobriety, and Dave helps keep him there. There are bad days, obviously. More often than not, if he’s being honest- at least in the beginning. Days where Klaus relapses or screams at them to leave me the fuck alone, or digs deep gouges in his own arms in a futile attempt at grounding himself in reality. But Dave sticks with him, and so does Ben, and slowly but surely, Klaus improves. He heals, and that’s not something Ben ever thought would happen. Not because he lacks faith in his stupidly stubborn brother, but because dad went full-fucking-stop trying to break him.)

(Some days, Ben thinks he succeeded. Others, he marvels at just how much he didn’t.) 

And then. 

And fucking then- 

Klaus has been working himself to the bone since he got sober. 

Banishing ghosts, silencing them, summoning them; whatever he could do, he did. He discovered another one along the way, too; some sort of telekinesis, maybe, or maybe something they don’t even have a name for yet because he can channel his power. Usually, he channels it into floating. Hovering a foot above the ground so his shoes don’t get wet, reclining in the air just because he can and finds the baffled looks he gets hilarious. Sometimes, he lets it wrap around his hands and snake up his forearms and he’ll move something ridiculously heavy that even Luther would struggle moving. That always leaves him dizzy and exhausted, though, so it’s not something he does often. 

But. 

Before that, before he discovered his second power, before he learned he could banish ghosts, before he got sober- manifesting Ben was always his number one priority. He pretended it wasn’t, but Ben could see the guilt eating him up every time he tried and, subsequently, failed. 

A year and a half after he met Dave, a year and a half after he got sober, eight months after he banished his first ghost, they’re playing hand games at the dinner table, trying to pull Ben into the physical realm.

Dave is cooking something that smells delicious and makes Ben eternally jealous that he can no longer eat because food. 

The radio is set low on an oldies station in the background, and Klaus’s hands slam down on the table in frustration, but Dave reaches back to card his fingers soothingly through his hair and Ben hums encouragingly and-

Klaus’s 

hands 

come 

back

up 

and 

they

make

contact. 

For a moment, neither of them move. Klaus isn’t even breathing. 

And then with an ecstatic cry 

Klaus lunges forward

Ben meets him halfway

and

they’re

hugging. 

(Dying wasn’t a defining moment. There was no mark of demarcation, not really, but this- this is the beginning. This is when they start anew.) 

***

“I’ve changed my mind,” Klaus says, staring up at the big, looming doors of the Academy, swirling his iced coffee absently just so he has something to fiddle with. 

“You did not change your mind,” Ben says, but he hasn’t moved either, so he doesn’t have any room to talk. 

“I did. I changed my mind. We’re going to go get doughnuts and then we’re going to go home and binge watch How to Train Your Dragons and then Dave and I are going to do things you’ll hit me if I tell you about.”

Ben hits him anyway,  even though he doesn’t, and then says, “Get inside, Klaus.” 

“I hate you sometimes.” 

“I hate you too. Now get inside before I make you.” 

Klaus scowls but carefully extracts his power from Ben; it’s a much more delicate process than it should be, but then his power has been braided intricately with Ben’s since Klaus figured out how to even do that. It’s what keeps Ben tangible and visible, and taking it back now feels wrong, but they both know it’s the best option they have. 

Both of them shiver at the loss once it’s done, but neither of them say anything; there isn’t really anything to say. 

With a sigh, Klaus fumbles in his pocket for his smokes and lights one, inhaling deeply a few times, letting the smoke sit heavily in his lungs and soothe the trembling in his hands. 

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he whispers to himself, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he hypes himself up. “Okay. Okay, we ready, Ben?”

“No,” Ben grumbles.

It’s a sentiment Klaus understands well.

They go inside anyway.

***

The sky cracks open. 

Five is-

He’s-

Five is home. 

Vanya wants to feel joy. She knows she should. 

Their brother is home. He’s alive, he’s safe, he’s healthy, he’s here. 

But all she feels is…numb. 

Detached. 

It confuses her but only in a vague sort of way; of course she felt grief and sadness when Five disappeared. He was her confidant, her safety net, the only person whoever gave a damn about what she was going through or how she was feeling, but- 

Diego didn’t speak to any of them for days (she still doesn’t know whether it was because his stutter was so bad that he couldn’t, or if he simply chose not to.) 

Luther lumbered around, still his usual high and mighty self, but she caught him crying in the bathroom once when he thought no one was around. 

Allison spent hours rumoring empty air. It didn’t help, of course. There wasn’t anyone around for her to rumor, and her powers can’t bring back what was lost. 

Klaus got so drunk that he couldn’t walk straight for a week, and snuck into Five’s bedroom every night after lights out. He didn’t disturb anything, he just slept (as well as Four ever slept, at least.) 

Ben joined him almost every night, and stared at Five’s empty spot like he’d seen a ghost. The only person he interacted with was Klaus, even when Klaus was too drunk to string together a full sentence. 

Vanya, though…she made those flutternutter sandwiches, and she left the kitchen lights on (he couldn’t come home in the dark. She still doesn’t know why she felt that way, but he couldn’t.) 

She was sad in the vague sort of way you would be sad if someone told you their pet died. 

Five didn’t come home, and Vanya stopped feeling much of anything. Even sadness. 

Fifteen years later, she meets Leonard. 

And her world fucking explodes. 

Her meds sit untouched in the butter container in her fridge, but she’s never been happier. He brings light and color and joy so intense she can hardly breathe past it; she laughs openly and freely, and she loves just as easily. He’s everything she could’ve hoped for, everything she never even dreamed she could have. 

And then-

and then-

Boom. 

A bomb is dropped. 

Vanya has powers. 

She has- powers? 

The world sings to her, and it’s the most beautiful melody she’s ever heard. She guides the song into something bright and hopeful, and lets the notes wash over her heart and soothe her soul. 

Boom. 

Another bomb. 

Leonard is nearly killed. Her happiness, her warmth and comfort, her rock, and she’s never felt anger quite like this; she’s aware, distantly, that she just killed at least three people. 

She doesn’t care, not really; Leonard is alive, and it’s because she’s special, not useless and ordinary. 

Boom. 

Allison rumored her. 

Allison rumored her.

Allison rumored her.

Allison rumored her. 

Allison- 

Vanya isn’t sure what happens next. All she knows is she feels rage, pure and incandescent and all consuming and

 the 

world 

goes

  white. 

***

Vanya has powers. 

Vanya has powers. 

Really fucking strong powers. 

She spent her entire life drugged to the gills to suppress her emotions because that suppressed her power. Can’t cause the apocalypse if you don’t have the tools to do it. 

(Klaus thinks that might be why dad toppled him into a decade-long high once he discovered the drugs made the ghosts go away. Or at least quiet enough that he stopped caring if they were there or not.)

(Who gives a ten year old morphine for a scraped knee?) 

(He suspects that’s why Ben is dead, too. Too many coincidences.) 

What do you do when you find out your children are destined to end the world? 

Answer: you weed out the most likely candidates and you break them. Drown them in their failings. You throw them in the ocean and hope they never learn how to fucking swim.

(Klaus learned. He’s going to teach the rest of them, too.) 

***

“Open the door, Luther.” 

Klaus’s voice is quiet, but it’s enough. 

Diego and Luther stop arguing long enough for Luther to scowl at Klaus, something weary and cautious in One’s eyes, but he pushes forward without hesitation and without remorse, as he always does. Always sanctimonious, always righteous, always Number One. 

God, but Allison wasn’t much better, was she? Different, but not better. Two sides of the same coin. 

She’s learned. She’s grown. Luther never had the chance. But this? She knows the hold their father has over Luther hasn’t diminished in death (not even slightly, though the long-squashed optimistic part of her hopes not yet), but she truly didn’t think Luther would be capable of hurting one of them. Deliberately, carelessly. She was wrong. 

(She was wrong about so many things, but she’s trying to do better. She’s still learning. She hopes that maybe, one day, they’ll be able to forgive her.) 

“She’s dangerous! This is the only way to keep us safe!” Luther booms, something wild in his eyes, fingers curling into fists. 

Careful, Allison thinks but doesn’t say. Can’t say. Her throat is ripped to shreds but she doesn’t think she’d be able to force the words out even if it weren’t. 

Luther is treading on very thin ice and, as per usual, he doesn’t even seem to notice. Allison isn’t certain he’s going to survive if it breaks. 

“Open. The. Fucking. Door.” 

Oh, there’s something dangerous about Four, now. Maybe it’s in the way his eyes burn blue, maybe it’s in the way groaning shadows flicker suddenly in their peripherals, or the way he’s gone so incredibly still that Allison isn’t even certain he’s breathing; like he’s waiting, a predator stalking its prey. Or maybe it isn’t any of those things so much as it is Klaus, and this darkly powerful, eerie sort of thing he’s turned into. 

Luther smiles meanly and pushes forward into Klaus’s space like it’s natural, a familiar movement that makes Allison cringe (Allison and Luther were always AllisonandLuther; she didn’t care how he treated the others, she only cared how he treated her, but she’s just now realizing maybe she…should have.) 

This isn’t a person trying to argue their case or explain their reasoning; this is someone gunning for who they perceive to be the weakest link and trying to take them down. 

Luther is- he’s a bully. 

(Allison thinks maybe she was, too.) 

And as much as she may not want to admit it, she’s looking forward to someone knocking him down a peg. From the looks of it, it’s been a long time coming. 

“What are you going to do, Klaus?” Luther sneers. “You really think you can make me?” 

One versus Four. 

Brawn versus beauty. 

Brute strength versus…whatever it is that Four has become. 

Yes, Allison thinks Klaus can make him. She doesn’t even think he’ll break a sweat doing it. 

Klaus tips his head back to peer up at Luther, blinking languidly at him. “Yes.” 

Behind them, Vanya has stopped banging on the glass. Her eyes are red rimmed and watery, but she’s watching One and Four, entranced and more than a little concerned because that’s who she is (she was always a worrier), and Allison’s chest aches because she can’t do anything to help her.

Hell, she can hardly stand on her own. She’s not going to try to work her way through whatever stand off One and Four are having. She isn’t certain her legs would carry her that far.

“Ben,” Klaus says, and the already frosty atmosphere goes icy.

“D-d-don’t bring him into th-this, bro. Not c-cool,” Diego stutters; he’s on Klaus’s side because of course he is, but he also knows this is taking it too far, and Allison is inclined to agree. 

Klaus doesn’t even look at him. Doesn’t acknowledge them. His eyes are still locked with Luther’s. A blatant challenge. A fearless challenge. Allison can’t remember the last time she’s ever seen Four unafraid. Maybe never. 

“Ben,” Klaus repeats. “Open the door.” 

“Are you sure?” 

They all startle with various shades of intensity, whipping around to find the owner of the (painfully familiar) voice and- 

There, shimmering into existence next to Klaus is- 

that’s-

it’s-

Ben. 

Whole and unharmed and there, a faint blue heat mirage dulling his edges but he’s still him, and Allison’s chest aches for a different reason. 

“I’m sure. I can handle this asshole on my own.” 

Ben nods, sure and trusting, and turns towards the door. 

And then he 

grabs

the

handle

and

turns 

and 

Vanya tumbles 

out. 

There’s a moment of intense, collective silence, and then Vanya’s legs are giving out and she’s folding into their dead brother's embrace and sobbing. 

Ben hugs her and holds her and doesn’t let her fall; his eyes flit between each of them, steady and assessing, before landing back on Klaus (Four, Four, Four; it always seems to come back to Four. Allison rationalizes, in a distant sort of way, that it makes sense; while AllisonandLuther were strong, BenandKlaus were stronger still. But unlike One and Three, Four and Six never parted. One doesn’t exist without the other. Allison never realized how true that really is.) 

“What did you do?!” Luther snarls, and there’s fear more than anger in his eyes but fear has always made him lash out, and Klaus has always been the easiest target. 

Luther lunges towards Vanya and Ben, panic in his clumsy movements. Diego lunges, too, though he’s trying to stop Luther, but he doesn’t stand a chance against their inhumanly strong brother and is knocked aside like a rag doll. 

Allison wants so badly to shout, to scream, to rumor their largest brother into compliance but she can barely stand and her throat hurts and she can’t breathe without pain, let alone speak. 

But it turns out she doesn’t need to do anything at all. 

As fast as Luther had moved, he’s stopped, as though he hit a wall. 

And, though Allison has to squint to see it…she thinks he does. 

A shimmering blue light, hardly visible but there, in the same hazy way that Ben (Ben, Ben, Ben, Ben’s here) had looked before he’d become tangible. 

Upon closer inspection, Allison realizes with more than a little amount of alarm, it’s people. 

Immovable, impenetrable and not entirely distinguishable; a barrier holding strong between Luther and their sister. 

(Not people, she realizes belatedly. Not truly. Ghosts. Echoes. In formation, protecting the asset, doing exactly what Klaus wants them to do with little to no visible effort on his part. Four, she thinks, has well and truly outshined them all. She would be impressed, if she weren’t so terrified.) 

“She’s dangerous!” Luther roars, spinning on Klaus, and Allison stumbles back a step, feels her legs wobble. 

Diego’s just gotten back to his feet but he catches her, wide eyes on Luther. 

“She’s our sister!” Klaus snaps back, and the glow in his hands gets brighter. Luther either doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care. “You don’t abandon your family when they need you, Luther!” 

The ice beneath Luther’s feet fractures, crumbles. She can see the moment he free falls, the moment reality really kicks in (it’s an expression she recognizes well; they’ve all felt it, one way or another. Vanya’s moment was when Five vanished. Diego’s was when Ben died. She isn’t certain when Klaus’s was, but she thinks back to pale skin and frightened eyes and shaking hands and thinks maybe he’s always known. Allison’s was somewhere between Five disappearing and Ben being torn apart, or maybe it was when dad blamed them for both of those things.) 

“You did!”  

That seems to pull Four up short; he falters, blinks at their brother with furrowed brows, and then lets out a sharp bark of laughter, voice hollow as he says “You didn’t need me, One.” 

“I needed all of you!” Luther yells, over a decades worth of pain and loathing in his voice but for the first time, Allison wonders if…maybe it isn’t for them. That maybe, when Luther looks in the mirror, he feels the same way the rest of them do. “I needed all of you and you left!”

Four’s voice is softer now, steadier. More Klaus and less Four (Allison thinks she should stop calling them by their numbers in her head.) 

“You could’ve come with us,” he says, sure and strong. Gentle but not patronizing. Certain but not righteous. “We needed you, too.” 

“But I-” Luther starts. Stops. His tone is confused, fragile. His hands are limp at his sides, his brows furrowed. 

The immediate danger has passed now that Luther is actually thinking, Allison knows, and all of the adrenaline that was keeping her upright vanishes between one blink and the next. 

She thinks she hears someone say her name, but she’s unconscious before she hits the ground. 

***

With Allison safely back in medical and Vanya bundled in Five’s room with him and Ben (and Diego posted at the door like their own personal bodyguard), Klaus slips into dad’s study.

Luther is standing in the middle of the room, staring blankly at the empty desk, an awful sort of realization in his eyes.

It’s a feeling Klaus recognizes well; one most of them had over a decade ago but then, they’ve all been free from their father (as free as they ever can be, at least) just as long. 

It’s what Klaus has aptly (“inappropriately, you mean” “shut up, Ben”) deemed the My Daddy Doesn’t Love Me Look. That’s putting things way  too simply, he knows, but that’s really what it boils down to. 

“Luther-” Klaus starts, but Luther holds up a hand, stopping him. Obligingly, Klaus falls silent. He knows now isn’t the time to push.

“I tried,” Luther says finally. “I tried so hard. To be the good son, the good soldier. To be everything you guys weren’t because that’s what dad wanted.” His fingers have curled into fists again, but Klaus isn’t worried. He can handle it if Luther decides to get violent, but Klaus doesn’t think he will (Ben would say that’s optimism. Klaus would just laugh and say he’s good at reading a room. Realistically, he thinks Luther is just too broken to bother.) 

“I told him,” Luther says on a bitter laugh. “After you all left. I told him he could call me by my name because it was just me. I was the only one left.” 

“What did he do?” Klaus encourages. He doesn’t need to. He knows exactly what dad did, but he thinks Luther needs the prompting. 

“Nothing. He didn’t do anything. He- he ignored me. I didn’t ask again.” 

Klaus hums and nods, and then reaches out to put a hand on Luther’s shoulder. Luther flinches at the touch, and then leans into it like a starved man (absently, Klaus wonders how much he can actually feel; his skin is thick and rough from- whatever it is dad did to him (and not for the first time, Klaus silently curses their bastard of a father; every time he thinks this is it, dad couldn’t possibly take any more from us, he’s wrong. Every goddamn time. He can’t even bring himself to be surprised anymore.)) 

Luther huffs out a sad laugh. “I was pretty naive, wasn’t I?” 

“Naive?” Klaus shakes his head. “No, Luther, it’s not naive to think your father loves you.” 

“What do I do now?” He questions, finally turning to face Klaus. He looks desperate, and Klaus supposes that makes sense. He’s spent his entire life following orders but now, he’s adrift with no solid land in sight. 

(A dark, bitter part of Klaus is overjoyed that their high and mighty Number One is getting even a fleeting glimpse of how Klaus spent the first twenty fucking years of his life. The other part of him, the softer part that Dave has spent the last eight years nurturing, feels nothing but pity.) 

“You stop trying to be Number One,” Klaus says, keeping his voice gentle but firm. “Stop trying to be a good son and a good soldier. Start trying to be a good brother.” 

Luther sucks in a shuddering breath, blinking wetly. He laughs weakly, the sound breaking in his throat. “I haven’t been very good at that, have I?” 

“No,” Klaus says bluntly, and then gives into the urge he’s been feeling since Luther got The Look down in the basement and wraps his brother up in the tightest hug he can. Luther lets out a startled gasp, and then folds into the embrace, arms coming tentatively up around Klaus’s back. “But all you have to do is start trying, Luther.”

“That’s it?” 

Klaus thinks it’s going to be a hell of a lot more difficult than ‘that’s it’, but he just nods and tightens his arms around Luther, feels Luther’s arms tighten around him in return. 

“That’s it.” 

***

It took Klaus a lot longer than he would care to admit to realize that daddy doesn’t love me and who am I are not mutually exclusive. 

That he isn’t defined by his father, that he can live his own life on his own path; that whatever Reginald Hargreeves may or may not have wanted has absolutely zero impact on who he chooses to be. 

It was a difficult lesson to unlearn, and he even had the predisposed knowledge that their father was an abusive piece of shit. 

Luther, he suspects, is going to have a very difficult future ahead of him. 

Realistically, he thinks they all might. 

He never thought he would say he and Ben (but mostly him) are the well adjusted ones. 

But…well. Life has a funny way of turning out, doesn’t it? 

*** 

“Those dog tags don’t belong to you,” Five states primly, watching as Klaus’s head jerks up in surprise at the sudden intrusion. 

His eyes have been glued to his phone (a sleek looking thing with a touch screen that makes Five uncomfortable for some inexplicable reason he can’t explain), a smile permanently etched onto his face. 

“They sure don’t,” Klaus answers cheerily, typing something out before finally putting the stupid fucking thing away. 

Five feels a jolt of irritation, but he squashes it as best he can. They’ve all been trying, and Five has been assured he is not exempt and there will be consequences should he fail to comply (from Klaus of all people. Worse still, Five believes him.) “Whose are they?” 

“My husbands,” Klaus responds with a shrug, stretching out and draping his arms along the back of the couch. 

Five’s brain short circuits. “Your what?” 

Klaus rolls his eyes. “My husbands, dear brother.” 

“You…have a husband.” 

Klaus lifts his left hand and pointedly wiggles his fingers. Five stares blankly at said fingers because there’s a ring on every single one of them, but- 

Oh. 

The one on his ring finger is thinner, and it looks more expensive. Less gaudy; just a simple silver band with a small diamond set flat into the metal. 

“Not very observant, are we?” Klaus teases, but despite the fact that Five has failed to notice something so glaringly obvious, he is incredibly observant. Hazards of assassinating people for a living, he supposes. It’s the only reason he notices the tension in Klaus’s deceptively casual frame, the anxious tick of his right index finger against the smooth leather cushion. 

Five, admittedly, isn’t entirely certain where the sudden tension came from and replays their conversation in his mind until, suddenly, it clicks. 

“Klaus,” Five says, shooting his brother a flat look. “Are you genuinely trying to come out right now? And you’re concerned I’m going to take issue with your sexual preferences? I assure you, that’s not necessary.” He could walk better in mom's heels than mom could by the time they were eight. He danced. It was awful. 

(Five loved it. It was one of the few times he could actually remember laughing in this godforsaken place.) 

“Maybe,” Klaus says, even though he absolutely means yes, but the tenseness has eased from his shoulders so Five brushes off whatever strange moment they were having. “But!” He continues. “But we’re just going to- y’know, move on past that. Ask me what you actually came down here to ask me.” 

Five frowns. Has he really been that transparent? Evidently, the answer is yes, and he can only stall for so long. “I…need to ask you for a favor.” 

Klaus gasps and wiggles excitedly in his seat- actually fucking wiggles. Five already regrets every decision he’s ever made that would lead him to this moment. 

“Oh! Oh, okay, hold on. I have to burn this moment into my memory.” He presses his fingertips to his temples and squeezes his eyes shut. Five feels that little spike of irritation dig deeper. “April seventh. Five willingly comes to Klaus to ask for a favor.” 

“I will stab you with every single teaspoon we have in this house.” 

Klaus flails, blinking his eyes back open, amusement written across his face. “Okay, alright, I’m sorry. Go ahead, ask. I’ll keep the teasing to a minimum.” 

Five scowls but pushes forward. No need to keep stalling; he just needs to ask. Like ripping off a bandaid. “I need you to train Vanya.” 

Klaus blinks at him, wide eyed. “Wh- moi?” 

Five grits his teeth. “Yes.” 

“Why?”

Five groans internally. “Unfortunately for myself, you seem to have the most experience in training…unruly, volatile powers. You have more patience and a much gentler hand than anyone else would, myself included. I had intentions of doing it myself, but I have to take care of the Commission.” 

Klaus nods slowly, head tilted thoughtfully. “Okay, sure. I get that. But- hear me out- what if I help you with the Commission, and then we help Vanya. Together. You have waaaay more discipline than I do. We’d make a good team.” 

Klaus does make a rather good point, however-

“No. I’m trying to keep you people safe from the Commission. You’re not going to come with me to them. That would be like handing you over on a silver platter.” And Five will not- cannot- lose any of them again. He can’t. 

(He isn’t certain he would survive that twice.) 

“Okay, I get that too. But one,” Klaus ticks off on his fingers. “I think you’re severely underestimating me. And two, I think you’re underestimating them, too.” 

“Klaus-”

“They let you rot in an apocalyptic wasteland for forty-five years and watched you try to survive like you were Friends reruns.” 

“I’m aware-”

“And it’s a building full of assassins. That would a fucking playground for me and my powers. Everything and everyone is fair game.” 

Five pauses and tilts his head consideringly. It does make sense, he supposes. Having a brother with some sort of dominion over the dead does have potential to be helpful. Either in gathering confidential information so they could- metaphorically- tear down the organization from the inside out, or bringing them onto the physical plane so they could physically tear down the organization from the inside out. Their own personal army at their disposal. But-

“As helpful as that may be, I won’t risk you dying for it. This is my fight, not yours.” 

“Okay,” Klaus nods, and then gets shifty-eyed in a way that instantly makes Five suspicious. ”But hypothetically-”

“Are you sure that’s the best idea?” 

Five certainly does not jump, but if he did, it would have been warranted. Ben is even sneakier than Five himself is, and that’s saying something because he can literally teleport. 

“Were you spying on us?” Five asks, raising a brow, unsure whether he should feel offended or impressed that Ben managed to sneak up on him at all. 

Ben snorts. “Obviously.” He turns back to Klaus, brows shooting up. Klaus points at him, his own raising in return. The pair seem to have a silent conversation through nothing but intense eye contact and eyebrow dancing alone, but eventually Ben relents. 

He sinks onto the couch next to Klaus, blue light washing over his body as he drags himself into the physical plane, the cushion dipping beneath the sudden weight (and, one day, Five is going to be able to explain the physics behind that. One day.) 

 “So hypothetically,” Klaus continues, while Ben mutters something about it not being hypothetical at all. “If one of your siblings couldn’t die- or well, they can, but God hates them and kicks them out of the afterlife- then would you let m- ah, said sibling help you?” 

Five blinks.

Rewinds.

Processes.

Stares.

“Are you…saying you don’t stay dead?” 

“I said hypothetically!” 

“Is it actually hypothetical?” 

“Not really?” 

Five stares some more. Takes a slow, even breath and counts backwards from ten. “Do I want to know how you discovered that?” 

(He has an idea. He hopes it isn’t true, but he isn’t that naive.) 

Klaus laughs lightly, a wry smile working its way onto his face. “I’m pretty sure you know the answer to that one, brother dear.”

Dad. Of-fucking-course. It always comes back to dad, even now. Still screwing their lives over, even from beyond the grave. It is, truly, very on par with Sir Reginald-goddamn-Hargreeves, and it makes Five want to scream. 

But he forces down the hot bubble of rage threatening to burst, breathes deeply and evenly until he’s certain he’ll be able to speak without his voice trembling in anger, and tries to think about the situation logically. 

(Emotions get you killed. 

Facts and logic keep you alive. 

A hard-learned lesson but- well. He wouldn’t be here today if he hadn’t.)

As much as it pains him to admit, he’s only one person. He could use the help. 

And having a brother who happens to come back from the dead…that could be an advantage the Commission may not be expecting (assuming it comes to that, though he’s desperately hoping it won’t; he can’t handle another dead sibling on his conscience.) 

He regards Klaus calmly, raking his eyes over his brother, gauging. “You genuinely think you can help?”

Klaus grins. “I think between Ben’s tummy residents and my…everything else, we could do a lot more damage than they’re ever going to expect.” 

A new realization hits, sudden and startling, and a proud sort of vindication comes to life as the beginnings of a plan starts to form. “We could behead the Commission.”

Klaus’s grin widens and he leans forward, an almost manic glint in his eyes. “We could behead the Commission.” 

Five feels a cold smile break out across his own face, the need for vengeance burning through his veins. It isn’t a guarantee, he knows, but it feels promising. It feels like victory. “What, exactly, did you say you could do, again?” 

Klaus smirks, and Five can see it now; that darkness lurking just beneath the surface that has had their siblings in an absolute fucking tizzy. 

(He likes it.)

“I didn’t.” 

***

Diego and Luther are arguing again. 

Typical, right?

Ben wishes he could do something to shut them up, but Klaus had vetoed murdering any of their siblings on the basis that it would actually be worse, because then they would be stuck with the ghosts of the siblings that Ben had killed, and that would be no fun. 

Not that Ben was ever seriously considering committing fratricide, but Diego and Luther have been doing an excellent job at making him want to reconsider his stance. 

Klaus had stepped out of the room for literally two minutes, and then One and Two were at each other’s throats. 

It wouldn’t be a family meeting if someone wasn’t fighting, though, and Ben was counting down the seconds. 

“Listen, Number Two-” Luther starts, and Klaus promptly skips back into the room like he can sense trouble is brewing. Hell, he probably can. He certainly had a knack for finding it. 

“Nope!” He says cheerily, and both Diego and Luther swivel to face him. 

“What?” Luther snaps, brow furrowed.

“Don’t what me, big guy,” Klaus responds. “Be a good brother. Remember that conversation? It was a whole thing, tell me you haven’t already forgotten.” 

“No,” Luther grumbles, and physically takes a step back from Diego like it’s the only thing stopping him from throwing hands. “But-”

“No buts!“ Klaus pauses. “Not a sentence I ever thought I’d say. Anyways! We will not be calling each other by our numbers anymore. Capice?” 

“Why the hell not?” Diego grouches, and Ben snorts in amusement. 

Diego scowls at him. 

Ben blows him a kiss. 

(He really has spent way too long with Klaus.) 

“You don’t like being called Two anymore than he likes being called One. Don’t play with me, Di, I wasn’t born yesterday. You should know, we were all born on the same day. Shame, Diego, shame.” 

“I-”

“I personally will kick the ass of anyone who tries to use numbers instead of names. Got it?” Klaus bulldozes over him, not giving him any time to argue. 

“I’d like to see you try,” Diego mutters mutinously, but it’s Vanya who swoops in to Klaus’s rescue. 

“He’s right,” she says, voice hesitant but determined, and Ben feels a fierce jolt of pride for his sister. He can see that same feeling mirrored on Klaus’s face, in the delighted curve of his smile. “It’s rude and demeaning, and way too much like dad. We’re people, not numbers. All of us. And we need to start acting like it.” 

Allison nods in agreement, pointing at Vanya in silent solidarity. 

“Whatever,” Luther says, but he’s already wilted. Of course he did, because Allison agrees so therefore he has to agree now. Ben is pretty sure it’s written in some ancient, cosmic rule book somewhere. 

“I suppose no one is willing to risk Klaus’s wrath? I could use some proper entertainment.” Five asks blithely, flipping a page in his newspaper. 

He’s met with nothing but silence. 

Diego’s glare deepens, but he doesn’t push, which is really answer enough. 

(Diego does, in fact, risk Klaus’s wrath approximately three days later when he pointedly calls Luther by his number at the dinner table. Klaus does, in fact, kick his ass. Ben cheers. Five brings popcorn. It’s great.) 

***

“I can’t remember!” Klaus’s voice sounds from the bathroom, hushed and panicked, and Five cautiously edges closer, poised and ready to attack if necessary. 

The door isn’t latched, and Five peers through the small sliver of space between the frame and the wooden edge. He doesn’t think he’ll need to intervene with whatever is happening here (before, his mind had only registered the panic in his brother's voice; the words came after), but he’d rather be prepared. 

Klaus is hunched over, ass planted on the edge of the tub, fingers of his free hand tugging at his curls while the other clutches at his phone in a white-knuckled grip. 

“Shh, it’s alright, darlin’,” another voice says from the other line (masculine with a gentle southern drawl, Five notes absently.) “Take a breath. S’alright-”

“But I don’t- I don’t fucking remember,” Klaus bites out, breathing raggedly. 

Fear, Five realizes with no little amount of surprise. Vulnerability. Their brother isn’t quite as put together as he seems, then. He supposes that’s to be expected; Klaus is just as traumatized as the rest of them, and it wouldn’t be logical or fair to expect perfection. 

(Some cold, cruel part of Five wants to burst in, wants to dig his fingers into this new open wound and tear, wants to upend Klaus’s world like he’s done to theirs, but he refrains. His sense of morality may be fraught, but he has enough presence of mind to know that would be cruelty for cruelty’s sake, and despite his callous demeanor, he doesn’t actually want to hurt any of his siblings.)

“I know, Klaus, and that’s okay. I need you t’breathe with me, alright? In four, out four, y’know how this goes.” The man (the husband, it must be) breathes deep, exaggerated breaths, and after a moment of fumbling, Klaus matches them. 

“It was our anniversary,” he eventually whispers, voice quiet and pitiful. “And I forgot. How could I forget, Dave?” 

“It ain’t the first time,” Dave soothes. “And it probably ain’t gonna be the last. If shitty memory was a dealbreaker, Hargreeves, you’d’a been out a husband years ago.” 

Effects of long-term drug abuse, Five guesses. Of course Klaus isn’t as perfectly put together as he appears to be; he spent the first twenty years of his life high, drunk, or both to escape the horrors of his own powers. It isn’t something Five has ever truly understood but, objectively, he can grasp the concept. He supposes he may have gone down the same path if he had screaming, mutilated corpses following him around. 

Klaus laughs this watery little thing, but says, “I still feel bad, though. I should’ve been there.” 

“We’ll celebrate next week, yeah? Once everythin’ has settled. Maybe you can officially introduce me to your family, hm?” 

Klaus snorts. “Do you not value your life, David? Or your sanity?” 

He sounds marginally more like his usual self now,  and Five nods to himself and blinks back to his own bedroom, reassured that he doesn’t need to murder anyone for hurting his brother. 

Clearly the situation is well in hand, and he supposes trying extends to not spying on his siblings while they have secret conversations in the bathroom. 

How boring. 

***

“Hey, Van!” 

Vanya startles as Klaus sidles up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and tucking his chin atop her head. 

He’s been doing that a lot lately. The hugging, she means. It’s nice. 

(She doesn’t think she deserves it, not when she blinks and sees rage and blood and white white white-) 

She shudders and sinks back into his embrace, letting the warmth and comfort of another person soothe the anxiety thrumming through her veins. 

“Hi, Klaus,” she murmurs, resting her hands over his. 

He’s just as tall and lanky as he’s ever been, completely dwarfing her in height, but there’s more strength to his muscles now, more warmth to his skin. She thinks before, the dead ruled over him. He was always so cold, no matter the season, no matter how many layers he had on. Now, it seems to be the opposite. It’s…good. He’s gotten better. He’s healed. He’s grown. It’s well deserved. 

(A small, minuscule part of her is bitter; Klaus is the only one who's managed to outshine and outlast their fathers cruelty. The rest of them are floundering, but he learned how to swim years ago and left them all in his wake.) 

(He’s back. Klaus is back, now, and he’s not going to let any of them drown. She isn’t sure how to express the amount of gratitude he deserves.) 

“Is it done?” She asks after a moment of comfortable silence, and feels the movement of his chin as he nods. 

“Sure is.” 

He sounds happy, but he also sounds tired , and that prompts Vanya to pull out of his loose grasp so she can look at him fully. 

If he sounds tired, he looks exhausted. There are dark smudges beneath his eyes and his hair is more unkempt than usual, like he’s been running his hands through it. There’s a faint tremble to his fingers that Vanya hasn’t seen in a long time, but she knows this time it isn’t due to drugs or alcohol, but pure exhaustion. He must have overused his powers, then, helping Five. 

“Are you okay?” 

He looks surprised, like he always does when they genuinely inquire about his well-being or, well, his life in general, but then he smiles and nods. “I’m okay, sis. Tired, but okay.” 

She nods and fiddles with the collar of her shirt, debating internally for a moment. “What did you have to do?” She asks finally. She knows the bare bones, but Five hadn’t gone into detail so Klaus hadn’t gone into detail, either. 

Klaus regards her thoughtfully. “Well,” he says slowly. “The Commission didn’t take too kindly to Five- ah, politely- requesting they leave us the fuck alone. So we asked…less politely. And that seemed to do that trick.” 

Vanya blinks. “What does…‘less politely’ mean?” She isn’t one hundred percent certain she wants to know, but she’ll rest easier knowing exactly why they no longer need to worry about the Commission. 

Klaus shifts awkwardly on his feet. “Ah, well, Five may have murdered the Board- don’t ask, I have no idea who they are- and Ben’s tummy tentacles um, potentially tore the Handler apart? And I sent a few dozen of my ghosties around to gather every single piece of confidential intel they could get. We have enough information to ruin them if they try anything against us.”

“We really don’t have to worry about them anymore?” It seems…a little too easy, in the grand scheme of things, and she suspects it wasn’t really easy at all. 

“We really don’t have to worry about them anymore,” Klaus confirms with a small smile. “New management, too, and Five says he trusts them. As much as Five ever trusts anybody, at least. Little fucker is worse than Diego, and Diego thinks he’s Batman.”

Vanya snorts inelegantly. “You’re not wrong.”

“Are you okay?” Klaus asks, raising a brow, and Vanya blinks up at him in surprise.

“Yes?”

“You don’t sound sure.” He looks amused, but she can see the genuine concern in his eyes. Something in her chest gets a little bit warmer, and she has to smother a smile. 

“Yes,” she repeats, firmer this time. And it’s…true. Her hold over her powers is tenuous but getting stronger every day, and she’s finally weaned fully off of her medication. Dealing with her emotions has been…strenuous, but Klaus and Five both assure her that that’s entirely normal. After all, she spent almost her entire life taking drugs that suppress them; it makes sense that she’s been struggling. So she’s been told, at least. 

There’s bad days, too, because of course there are; none of them have gotten off scot free. But those days are few and far between, and getting fewer and farther with every passing day. That’s largely due to Klaus, and his surprisingly unrelenting determination when it comes to helping her, and the rest of their siblings, heal. It helps, of course, that his stubbornness to give a big fuck you to their father has been infectious; her brothers and sister have gone from being reluctantly dragged through the currents to swimming full steam ahead, following Klaus’s lead with enthusiasm instead of suspicion. It’s been a nice change of pace. 

She’s looking forward to seeing where those currents take them. 

“Yes,” she says again, smiling and reaching out to squeeze her brother's hand, ignoring that little voice in the back of her head (it’s getting quieter every day) that tells her she shouldn’t reach for her siblings. “Yeah, I’m great.” 

***

“Hey, Diego?” Klaus nudges his side with a bony elbow, and Diego grunts and smacks his arm away. 

“Jesus, Klaus, you got any meat on your bones?” He grumbles as he wraps his knuckles. 

“Oh, I’ve got plenty of meat, if you know what I mean,” he says with a lewd wink, and Diego groans. 

“Just assume we all know what you mean, all the time,” Ben pipes up, and Diego points at him.

“Yeah. What he said.” 

Klaus sticks his tongue out. “You’re never allowed to talk to each other again if you’re just going to gang up on me.” 

“Is that what we’re doing, though?” Ben wonders aloud, and Klaus throws a boxing glove at him. It phases right through him, because he still has a tendency to stay in incorporeal (doors are tedious, apparently), but he still looks deeply offended. 

Diego snorts out an amused laugh that he quickly smothers into a cough. Not quickly enough, though, if the stupidly proud look on Klaus’s face is anything to go by. 

“Whatever, get that smirk off your face, Casper. C’mon, hold the bag for me. That’s why we’re here.” Diego says, and Klaus rolls his eyes like he’s being wildly inconvenienced (even though this was his fucking idea) but dutifully holds the bag, hands glowing a faint blue as he channels his power into the muscles of his arms. Because that’s a thing he can do, apparently. 

(He can also fly. Hover. Whatever. That’s a thing, too. The first time he saw Klaus floating over the railing of the stairs to get to the first level, Diego just about had a fucking heart attack. Klaus laughed until he cried, and then hugged him tightly and thanked him for caring. It was a goddamn rollercoaster.) 

Diego finishes wrapping his hands and pulls his gloves on, steadying his stance before falling into a familiar pattern. 

Cross, hook, jab. 

“So I was wanting to ask you a question,” Klaus says, holding the bag completely immobile. 

Cross, hook, jab.

“Ask,” he grunts. 

“Are you still dating that pretty detective?” 

Diego falters, and then strengthens his attack. 

Cross, hook, jab. 

“No.” 

“Why not?” 

“We had different interests.” She didn’t want to see me tear myself apart trying to up Number One, I couldn’t figure out why. 

Cross, hook, jab. 

Klaus snorts. “Was her interest, perhaps, seeing you live to your thirtieth birthday?” 

“Drop it, Klaus.” 

“Look, you obviously still hold a torch for her-”

“I said-” Cross, hook, jab. “Drop it.” 

“-and it’s not like she’s dating anyone new-”

“How do you even know that?!” 

“Ben. Anyways, may as well reach back out. Say you’re a changed man or whatever. And then, y’know. Change.” 

Diego grinds his teeth, puts even more power into his set.

Cross, hook, jab. 

“Klaus-”

“She’s worth more than your stupid fucking superiority complex, Diego! Are you really going to let that be what ruined the best thing you ever had?” 

Cross, hook- aw, fuck it. 

Diego shoves the bag out of the way and swings at Klaus’s stupid face instead. 

The punch doesn’t land because of course it doesn’t, Klaus has become some sort of fucking ninja since he left. 

He holds up a hand, and Diego’s fist meets a wall of blue light instead, bouncing harmlessly away mere inches from his jaw. So close. 

He swings again, and again, the same thing happens. 

Diego isn’t sure what happens next, though, because between one blink and the next he’s on his stomach on the mat, Klaus’s knee digging into the small of his back and his fingers curled around Diego’s wrist, pulling his arm up and back at an uncomfortable angle, while the other knee pins his free wrist to the ground. If Diego struggles, he’ll dislocate his own shoulder, but with Klaus’s other hand pressing down on the back of his neck, he can’t go anywhere anyways. 

“What we’re not going to do,” Klaus says mildly. The fucker doesn’t even sound out of breath. “Is that.” 

“Get- off- me-” Diego snarls, helplessness and rage burning hot in his belly. 

“Do you know,” Klaus continues conversationally like Diego hadn’t even spoken. “How many times I took so much shit I stopped my own heart?” 

Diego stops breathing. 

“Seven,” Klaus answers for him. “Seven times in the two years between me leaving the Academy, and me meeting Dave.” 

Diego can hear the smile in Klaus’s voice, now. He doesn’t interrupt. “And then I met him. And it was- god, it was the most cliche shit, Di. I swear the sun shone brighter.” 

He sighs softly. “That was all it took, Diego. One person believing in me, one person putting in the time and effort to help me. And Ben- I love him, don’t get me wrong, I do, but he never really believed in me, y’know?” 

Diego flinches, and then twists his head slightly so he can meet Ben’s gaze. His eyes are shuttered and he doesn’t look- guilty, exactly. Accepting, maybe. Like it just…is what it is. 

“I don’t blame him, obviously,” Klaus continues, undeterred. “I didn’t believe in me. How could he? He’s seen all my shit, y’know? But Dave…Dave inspired Ben, and then he inspired me, and- here we are. Eight years later, eight years sober, eight years with the love of my life.” His voice softens, his grasp loosens. “One person, Di. That’s all it takes. She was your person. You need to fight to keep her.” 

Diego is quiet for a while, processing. His first instinct is denial, anger. But- but. Forcing himself past that, shoving down the sharp words trying to push past his lips that are meant to hurt, he realizes…Klaus is right. And sure, he’s probably always known that, but he’s never known that.

“Get off me, Klaus,” Diego says quietly, and this time Klaus complies, stumbling to his feet and offering Diego a hand up. 

Diego uses it to lever himself upright and then eyes him for a moment before punching him in the arm, and then pulling him into a hug. “When did you get so smart, huh?” 

Klaus snorts and hugs him back. “Well, sometime between the first and the seventh OD, I figured something had to give.” 

Diego’s stomach twists uncomfortably, but he doesn’t mention it. “Well, I’m glad it did.” 

Klaus hugs him even tighter. “Me too, bro. Me too.” 

***

“So, I think we should conjure dad.” 

There’s immediate uproar at the dinner table, but Klaus flaps his hands, waiting for his siblings to quiet back down. 

“Why?” Ben asks, head tilted. There’s no judgement in his tone, only honest curiosity, and Klaus shouldn’t have a favorite sibling, but this is one of the many reasons why Ben is definitely his favorite sibling. 

“Because,” Klaus says, and then frowns. He really should’ve planned this better. Prepared a speech or something. “Because I just think- I think the closure would be good. I know I have some questions I want to ask him, and I’m sure you guys do, too. And I think…I think this would be a good final step, you know? Our- send off into growth and happiness and healing or whatever.” 

“I…I think that’s a good idea,” Vanya says meekly, and then shakes her head and strengthens her voice. “I think he’s right. But we should vote. Majority wins.”  

Klaus feels pride stir to life in his chest, and flashes a winning smile at his sister. She returns it with a blush and an open smile that makes Klaus want to coo. She’s adorable. 

“Alright!” Klaus claps his hands together. “All in favor of summoning dad, raise your hands!” Klaus immediately raises his, and Ben and Vanya’s follow quickly. 

Five appears deep in thought, but slowly, his hand comes up as well. “Why the hell not?” 

Allison glances at Luther, and Luther looks at Allison, and in sync, their hands tentatively raise. 

Diego looks disgruntled, scowling around at the table. “Really? We’re giving that asshole another chance to say something that’s going to fuck with our heads?”

“Diego,” Klaus says, meeting his eyes, trying to convey just how serious he really is right now. “I’m in control. If he tries anything, he’s gone. Poof. Goodbye.” He holds up his goodbye hand to send the point home. “He doesn’t have any hold over us anymore. I think it’s time we show him that.” 

Diego’s lips purse, and he lets out a colorful string of curses before raising his hand as well.

Klaus grins. “Aaannnnd that’s it, ladies and gents, we’ve come to a unanimous vote!” 

Ben snorts. “That might be the first time that’s ever happened.” 

“It most definitely is,” Klaus agrees cheerily. “After dinner, then. And then I’m going home to cuddle the fuck out of my husband. I haven’t seen him in so long.” 

“You saw him at breakfast literally this morning,” Five points out, rolling his eyes in exasperation. 

“And you see him every night,” Ben adds. “I should know. I go home with you.” 

“Exactly!” Klaus bemoans dramatically. “It’s been like, eight whole hours!” 

“You’re so whipped, bro,” Diego grumbles, throwing a noodle at Klaus’s head. 

Klaus snatches it out of the air and slurps it into his mouth with a nod and a wink. 

Allison slaps her notebook down in the center of the table with a tentative smile. 

I THINK IT’S CUTE. 

Klaus leans over to read it, and then shoots her finger guns. “It is cute.” 

“You two are pretty cute,” Vanya agrees. 

“We haven’t even met him yet though.” Luther frowns in confusion. “Have we?” 

“Nope!” Klaus shakes his head. “I’m seeing how long I can keep him safe from all of your terrible, terrible little gremlin hands.” 

“Maybe he isn’t real,” Five wonders, pouring himself another mug of coffee. 

Klaus gasps in mock outrage. “Of course he’s really! Benji, tell them he’s real!” 

“You made your bed,” Ben says, going back to reading his book. “Now you get to lie in it.” 

“I hate you,” Klaus bemoans. 

“No you don’t.” 

“No, I don’t. But I could.” 

“Guess you’ll have to introduce him to us, then,” Diego says with a smirk. 

“I will not be doing that, thank you v-”

“All those in favor, raise your hands,” Five says, cutting him off. 

Instantly, six hands raise. 

Klaus groans and buries his face in his hands. “Nooooo!” 

“Would you look at that,” Five says, and Klaus can hear the smirk in his voice. “Another unanimous vote.” 

***

“Are we ready?” Klaus asks, scanning the room. 

Luther is…actually very much not ready, but then he doesn’t think he’ll ever be. He has a feeling the others feel the same, but they all nod anyway and…he guesses that’s that. 

Klaus smiles, bright and carefree, and settles himself on the ground in the center of the room, sitting with his legs crossed and his upturned palms resting on his knees. 

Ben sits beside him (it’s always them, Ben and Klaus and Klaus and Ben), close enough that they could touch but not close enough that they are, and Luther feels a bolt of jealousy jolt through him. He rides out the feeling, lets it build and ebb until it fades away again (it’s unfair, he knows, to expect any sort of natural closeness with his siblings; he has to work to earn their trust again, and he won’t stop until he does.) 

Klaus inhales, exhales, and goes completely still. 

Luther can feel the shift in the air; he swears the temperature drops ten degrees, and for one startling moment it feels as though the whole world has gone silent, waiting in anticipation. An eerie feeling washes over the room and the hair on the back of Luther’s neck raises; he sees Diego shift uncomfortably, Vanya snatch up Allison’s hand, and Five clench his fists like he’s preparing to blink. There’s a growing sense of imminent doom, like they’re about to plunge off a cliff with no idea how far away the ground is, and it builds and builds and builds until- 

Suddenly, it just stops. 

Dad is in the middle of the room. 

He’s standing- no, he’s towering over Klaus, looking down his nose at him, and for a moment it feels as though Luther has been punched in the chest. 

“Ground rules!” Klaus says cheerily, breaking the tense silence that had fallen over them. 

“Excuse me?” Dad narrows his eyes, looking taken aback. 

“You heard me.” Klaus stands and stretches languidly. “Ground rules. One: I am in charge. If you so much as think about stepping out of line, I am sending you straight back to whatever circle of Hell that I just dragged you out of. Capice? Two: you are going to be nice. As nice as someone like you is capable of, at least. I know you’re seriously lacking in the basic human decency department, but the bar is so fucking low it’s on the ground, okay? Even you shouldn’t be able to fuck that up. If you need to address one of us, you call us by name. Any use of our numbers, and I’m booting you straight back to the afterlife. But! You shouldn’t need to address anyone anyway; we have questions for you. You have answers. That’s the only time you should be talking. Understood?” 

Luther is just as speechless as dad seems to be; he knows Klaus has grown. He knows Klaus has pulled his life together, he knows he’s more resilient and braver and kinder than any of them.

But. 

But looking at Klaus now, listening to him, Luther realizes…Klaus isn’t afraid. He used to be. He used to be scared of everything, sometimes even his own shadow. They were all afraid of dad. For good reason, Luther has realized. 

But Klaus is looking at their father, and there’s no fear or nervousness or caution. He’s entirely confident in himself and his abilities; any tether that had been holding him back has snapped, and he’s so much stronger for it. It’s as startling as it is reassuring. 

Luther didn’t think it was possible for any of them to be unafraid of their father. 

He’s never been more happy to be wrong. 

They all collectively hold their breath, waiting. 

Finally, finally, dad’s eyes go pinched and his lips thin, but he nods sharply. 

“Excellent!” Klaus claps his hands together with a grin, and looks around at everyone. “So, questions?”

No one says anything. It seems that, now that they actually have the chance, no one knows what to say. Luther included; any words he tries to force out get stuck halfway, like his tongue is made of lead. 

Klaus raises a brow. “No? Nothing? Okay.” He turns back to face dad. “I have some suspicions, then. All I need are yes or no’s, daddio. Got it? Good. I’m gonna talk, you’re gonna respond where you’re supposed to respond, and that’s fucking it.” He blows out a breath and shakes out his shoulders. “Whoo. Okay. Here we go. You bought us- I mean, us seven specifically, for a reason, correct?” 

“I-” dad starts, but Klaus holds up a glowing blue hand threateningly, voice going icy enough to send shivers down Luther’s spine. 

“Yes. Or. No.” 

Dad’s lips go even more pinched, but he nods. “Yes.” 

“Excellent!” Klaus smiles brightly. “Said reason being that you had inside information that one of us seven was going to cause the end of the world. Am I right?”

Another nod. 

Klaus hums and nods like that’s exactly what he was expecting to hear, but Luther is still struggling to get past “inside information” because that means- 

that implies-

“But you didn’t know which one,” Klaus barrels forward. “You just knew it was one of us. So you bought us with the intent to break us so we couldn’t do it. You just had to identify the most likely candidates, and- well. After our powers manifested, that was pretty easy, wasn’t it?” Klaus is on a roll, now, either unaware or uncaring of the rollercoaster he’s just thrown the rest of them on. ”You drugged Vanya and made her think she was ordinary so that she wouldn’t have access to her powers. You pushed and pushed and pushed Five until his pride took him to the end of the world. Did you have Ben killed too, I wonder? Or was that just a happy coincidence? Don’t answer that, I don’t think any of us want to know. But me, well. Once we figured out the drugs made the ghosties a little quieter, a little fuzzier, it was easy, wasn’t it? I got hooked, you paid the bill until I left, and suddenly I’m a homeless addict with no idea how to control the powers that have been tearing me apart for the last twenty years. Am I on the right track here, dad?” 

“What is the point of this?” Dad asks finally, and- that’s really all the answer they need, isn’t it? “If you think you know so much, why summon me at all?” 

Klaus tosses his head back and laughs. 

It’s not a nice laugh. 

It’s a laugh fueled by a lifetime of pain and anger and cruelty. 

“Why?” Klaus asks, a cold facsimile of a smile breaking out across his face. “Because I wanted to see the look on your face when I tell you that it’s May 1st, and you failed.” 

Dad- he doesn’t have the decency to look shocked; honestly, Luther isn’t even certain he could make the expression if he tried, but he jerks like he’s been shot, and that’s…that’s a lot more rewarding than it really should be. 

“Yeah,” Klaus grins, grinds the point home. “You. Failed. You tried to break us. You tried to contain us. You tried to tear us apart and it didn’t. Fucking. Work. Vanya uses her powers to get shit down from tall shelves. Her and Allison have lunch every time she’s in town, and they video chat daily. Five is back, and he’s the reason we’re all here now; living, breathing, healthy, together. He and Diego spar together at the gym that Diego is now part-owner of. Ben is- well. Ben’s still dead, but he’s here, and he has full autonomy. He draws off my power, and he can do whatever he pleases whenever he pleases. And me? I’m clean. I have a husband and I have a house and I have full control over my powers. I control the ghosts. I control you. Because that’s what you should’ve been teaching us. But you were scared of us. So you tried to turn us into your perfect little soldiers for your perfect little army and guess what?” Klaus laughs again. “You failed! We grew! We healed! We learned how to control our powers and how to love each other and how to live a free, fulfilling life and it wasn’t because of you, it was despite you.” 

The room is deadly quiet; Luther swears none of them are even breathing, until, finally- 

“Is that all you’ve summoned me here to do, then? To gloat?” 

-outrage. 

All of them scramble, talking over each other angrily. 

“Are you fucking kidding me-”

“How delusional are you-”

“So god damn pathetic-”

“Really, dad-”

“God, you’re such an asshole!”

The room falls silent. 

Everyone turns to look at Luther, and it takes him a moment to realize it’s because he just said that. 

He waits for the panic, for the fear, for the nervousness, but there’s…nothing. 

Acceptance, maybe a distant sort of sadness, but other than that, he’s just…relieved. 

Because suddenly, abruptly, he’s realized dad has no power over them. No hold. No more missions, no more training, no more “I expect better, Number One.” 

He’s free. 

He didn’t know that was something he wanted until he had it. 

“He’s an asshole,” Luther repeats, turning to look at Klaus. “And I think we’re done here.” He looks around, waits for confirmation from the others, and then glances back at Klaus expectantly.

Klaus grins, hands glowing blue, but- 

“Number One-” da- screw that, Reginald, starts, sounding scandalized, but Klaus’s grin widens. 

“I said no numbers!” He says cheerily, and 

with 

shove 

Reginald is sent back to the afterlife. 

There’s nothing but silence for one quiet, tense moment, and then-

Laughter.

Luther isn’t sure who started it, but suddenly they’re all laughing breathlessly (maybe a little hysterically) out of sheer relief. 

“Oh my god-”

“Did you see his face-”

“He looked like he wanted to die again-”

“That was fucking amazing-”

“You okay, big guy?” Klaus asks quietly as Luther wipes at his eyes and catches his breath. 

Luther looks around at his smiling, laughing siblings and realizes with a start that he can’t remember the last time he ever saw genuine joy in this place, if there was ever any here to begin with; realizes how much happier the Academy feels, how much lighter the weight on his shoulders is now that dad is gone. 

“Yeah,” he says with a nod, and is only a little startled to realize that it’s true. “Yeah, Klaus. I’m great.” Better than I’ve ever been. 

***

“Dude, you need to breathe,” Ben says, watching him pace with that look on his face that says he’s judging everything Klaus has done in the history of ever. 

“I’ll take that suggestion into consideration,” Klaus says, and continues to hyperventilate. 

“Klaus, it’s really not that big a deal.” 

Klaus stops to gape at him. “What do you mean it’s ‘not that big a deal’?” He asks shrilly. “It’s only the hugest deal ever, Ben! What if they don’t like him? What if they’re upset that he’s a man? What if they’re mean to him and scare him away? What if-”

A couch cushion pelts him in the face, cutting off his rambling mid-sentence, and he splutters in outrage. “Excuse you?” 

“Ben’s right,” Diego says, brandishing another cushion threateningly. “You do need to chill out.” 

“What did I say about ganging up on me?!” 

“Well then chill out!” 

“No!” 

“Eudora is coming, too; I’m not freaking out!” 

“You washed all the dishes in the kitchen twelve times!” 

“So we can’t have clean dishes?!” 

“Today! You washed them twelve times today!” 

“Both of you shut up,” Five snaps, pushing his way past Diego so he can get to the kitchen unhindered. 

Klaus and Diego glare at each other mutinously, but Five hasn’t had his third cup of coffee yet, and Klaus values his limbs too much to argue with him. Diego must feel the same way because he doesn’t argue, either. 

Eventually, Five re-emerges with a steaming mug, and settles himself comfortably in one of the arm chairs. “Let’s go down the list, shall we?” He says, sounding much less murderous now that he has his coffee. “You like him. It doesn’t matter if we like him. We’re not married to him. No, none of us care that he’s a man; give us a little more credit, will you? And lastly, if he scares that easily, he wouldn’t be married to you. You literally see dead people.” 

“See!” Diego exclaims, pointing at him. “I told you!” 

“You,” Five turns his eerie stare on Diego instead, who gapes like a fish out of water. “Have washed the dishes. Twelve. Times. In the past three hours. You’re more freaked out than he is.” 

“Yeah, Diego,” Klaus says with a delighted grin that only gets bigger when Diego turns to glare at him. “Besides, Eudora is super chill. She’s totally badass, too. She’ll be fine.” 

“Wh- when did you even meet her?!” Diego asks shrilly. 

Klaus shrugs, unrepentant. “After one of your secret midnight love trysts last week. I snuck out to meet her after you came back inside from sneaking out to meet her. It was romantic, Di,” he swoons. “Sneaking down the fire escape to go kiss her like you’re secretly the love child of Batman and Spider-Man. She’s awesome! We’re having brunch next Sunday.” 

“It wasn’t a secret midnight lo-” He cuts himself off with a groan, hiding his face in his hands. “Whatever. You didn’t threaten her or anything, did you?” 

“Of course I did!” Klaus responds cheerily. 

(He didn’t. Diego’s a terrible liar. If Eudora hurts him, Klaus will know. He’ll deal with it then. It’s just more fun this way.) 

“Klaus!” 

“Don’t worry,” Vanya says as he wanders into the living room and plops down on the couch next to Diego. “He didn’t. She is very nice, though. We’re getting manicures tomorrow with Allison.” 

Diego turns to gape at her. “You were there too?!” 

Vanya blinks innocently at him. “No?” 

Klaus cackles. “The only people who haven’t met her are Luther and Allison, and that’s because they’re in Cali. I almost called them but I didn’t, so you’re welcome.” 

Diego’s head swivels to look at Five. “Why were you all watching us?!” 

Five raises a brow. “Actually, Ben was watching you. He told Klaus, who told Vanya, who told me.” 

Diego’s voice goes even higher. “You’re back at your apartment! Why was Ben watching me here?!” 

“I’m always watching, Diego,” Ben says in a flat tone, shimmering abruptly back into visibility about half an inch from Diego’s face.

Diego jumps half a foot in the air and curses loudly, while Vanya eeps in surprise and then hides her blush in her hands as a lightbulb bursts in the lamp next to the couch. It’s adorable. And a relatively normal occurrence. Klaus is fairly certain half of their inheritance is going to replacing all the lightbulbs Vanya breaks. 

“I hate you all,” Diego grumbles, folding his arms as he hunkers back into the couch. 

“Don’t be a baby,” Ben responds with a grin, and then turns to look at Klaus. “Allison and Luther just got here, by the way.” 

“Well then,” Klaus claps his hands together. “Let’s hope all that sun has been good for him.” 

He wanders towards the front door, feeling a burst of genuine delight when he sees Allison and Luther chatting idly as they put their bags down. 

“Ally!” Klaus exclaims with a grin, throwing his arms around his sister. 

Allison laughs lightly and hugs him back. “It’s nice to see you, Klaus,” she says hoarsely. Her voice still isn’t one hundred percent, but it’s better every time Klaus talks to her. “I like your skirt, by the way.” 

Klaus pulls back and glances down at the emerald fabric. “Danke,” he says with a bright smile. 

Allison squeezes his hand and then moves past him to go greet the others, while Klaus throws himself onto Luther’s back and hugs him tightly from behind. 

“Hey, big guy. LA been treating you well?” 

Luther chuckles but pats his arms. “Hi, Klaus. It’s been nice. Never seen that much sun before, but it’s nice. It’s much less…stifling.” 

“Yeah,” Klaus nods and wriggles back to the ground, coming around to peer at Luther’s face. He even looks happier. Lighter. “Yeah, no kidding. How’s the uh, museum thing going?” 

“Good!” Luther grins. “The kids love it.” 

“Well, duh. What kid doesn’t want to learn about the moon?” 

“Uh,” Luther blinks. “Boring ones?”

Klaus laughs. “Rhetorical question, Lu, but you’re definitely not wrong.” 

Luther blushes. “Oh. Well, uh, are Dave and Eudora here, yet?” 

“Sure aren’t! Why don’t you go take your and Allison’s bags upstairs and I’ll check with Benji to see the ETA.” 

“Sure.” Luther nods and scoops up the bags like they weigh nothing- which they probably don’t, to him- before making his way up the stairs. 

“Ben?” Klaus calls, peering around. 

Ben wanders over, squeezing Allison’s hand in greeting as he passes. “What’s up?”

“How long until Dave gets here?” 

“How should I know?” 

Klaus huffs and rolls his eyes. “I know you’ve been popping back there every like, five minutes. You’re just as nervous as I am.” 

“I just want them to like him!” Ben defends immediately, and Klaus grins knowingly. 

“Exactly. So?” 

Ben huffs and punches Klaus’s arm, before smirking. “Should be here any minute, actually.” 

Klaus feels his panic ratchet back up to an eleven. “What?!” 

And, as if on cue, the doorbell rings. 

Klaus freezes, wide eyed, as Luther thunders back down the stairs, calling, “I’ll get it!!” 

Ben’s grin widens. “Well, Klaus, you ready?” 

Klaus glances over as Diego vaults the couch and physically shoves Five into the wall in his hurry to get to the door; watches as Five coughs and splutters and glares daggers at Diego’s back; lets his eyes drift over to Vanya grabbing Allison’s hand and bodily dragging her back to the doorway, while Luther dents the doorknob in excitement as he opens it. 

“Fuck no,” Klaus says with a grin, something going warm and gooey in his chest. “Let’s do it anyways.”