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On the Other Side

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The second time around, they stop the apocalypse and save the world. Granted, they mostly just save it from themselves, but still. Batting five hundred. Go team!

Klaus expects—oh, some arguing, of course, but maybe donuts too. Some kind of reward for figuring out how to keep their family problems from ending all life on Earth. Five minutes of peace and quiet, at the very least.

So of course the moment they get home, mansion handily de-exploded thanks to the wonders of time travel and sibling dysfunction, Five turns to them and says, “Well, that’s one apocalypse averted.”  They don't even make it out of the foyer.

Oh no. No. “Please tell me I’m hearing things and Five didn’t just say that,” Klaus begs Allison. She pinches the bridge of her nose, like that will somehow make everything less infuriating. Judging by her expression, it doesn’t really work.

“What do you mean, one apocalypse?” Vanya demands, eyes flashing blue again, and Five shoves his hands in his pockets and shrugs.

“We didn’t end the world today, but let’s be honest, that’s not exactly setting a high bar for personal victories,” Five says wryly. “What’s to stop us from fucking over the rest of the world tomorrow? Or next week? We may have slapped a band-aid over our issues, but they’re all still there. I mean, Jesus, Luther still doesn’t know what he did wrong--”

Luther huffs. “I didn’t do anything wrong--”

“--Klaus thinks he’s actually hiding his PTSD--”

Oh, rude. They had an agreement—unspoken, yes, but still binding—to ignore trivial things like each others’ mental and physical well-being.

“Wait, what? What PTSD?” Vanya asks, eyes back to normal again.  Klaus pauses, wondering if that’s a shitty thing to think. Maybe terrifying electric blue eyes are Vanya’s new normal, and that’s a-okay. He should tell her that, at some point. Positive affirmations and all that. Far more necessary than Five talking about Klaus’ anything.

PTSD? Allison scribbles out, pointing urgently to the notebook like they can’t see it perfectly well already. When she doesn’t get an immediate response, she underlines PTSD twice, then adds three question marks and an exclamation point.

“Since when does Klaus have PTSD?” Luther asks, brow furrowed. He glances uneasily at Klaus, who would very much prefer to not be here right now.

Oooh, that’s a thought.

But Diego, the traitor, reels him back by his vest when he tries to slink away. “You wanna explain what he’s talking about?” Diego asks, actually looking to him for an answer on his mental state.

Klaus appreciates that and decides his favorite living brother deserves a reply. Just, you know, not an honest one. “He’s crazy, man. Projecting. I mean, going through puberty twice, that’s gotta mess with a guy.”

Five actually nods a little, like Klaus is making a fair point.  But Diego looks unconvinced, and Klaus slumps in defeat; if he’s ignoring an opportunity to take a jab at Five, then he’s actually serious about getting some answers.

“You didn’t honestly think that would work,” Ben says flatly, somehow managing to look simultaneously amused and deeply judgmental. Klaus ignores him, because Ben’s such a smarmy little tool, with all his sound advice and genuine concern.

Klaus,” Diego says sternly, but his eyes are worried and so terribly soft that Klaus can’t quite bring himself to lie again. Ugh, family is the worst.

“There might be. You know. Some itsy-bitsy teensie-weensie auditory hallucinations. Now and then. Maybe a flashback or two.”

“Well, I certainly stand corrected,” Five drawls, hands up in mocking surrender. “Luther still doesn’t realize he did something wrong at all, Klaus is successfully hiding his PTSD—”

“Why thank you,” Klaus says airily. “One does like to be recognized for one’s accomplishments.” Diego gives him a little shake, which more or less translates to ‘don’t turn this into a joke, asshole’. Klaus considers explaining all the reasons that’s terrible advice, but settles for rolling his eyes exaggeratedly instead.

“--and is still Klaus, despite all our best efforts--”

Luther chuckles, which is why Luther is the worst.

“--and Diego thinks not killing someone means he’s dealing healthily with his girlfriend’s death--”

“Oh, hell no,” Diego snaps. “One, she's not dead anymore, so your entire point is shit.  Two, you don’t talk about her—or me, for that matter--”

“Your girlfriend died?” Vanya asks, one hand fisted in her hair, voice worryingly high-pitched. She looks more like, well, Vanya, than she has all week. “What—when did this happen? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“Well maybe I didn’t want someone writing a book about it,” Diego says, the sassy little snot.

Vanya jerks like she’s been slapped, but then her eyes narrow and boy, Klaus feels silly for thinking the moon might get more than a couple hours’ reprieve.

Before an actual brawl can erupt, though, Allison does this thing where she claps her hands together sharply and fixes them all with one of the most effective glares Klaus has ever experienced.  Suddenly everyone’s silent and kind of frozen in place, watching her warily. Once she has their attention, she turns back to Five and gestures exaggeratedly for him to finish up his little diatribe.

Right, Klaus remembers, awed. Allison’s a mom. Who can do mom things.

“My point is,” Five sighs, like they’re the ones being know-it-all little assholes at every opportunity, “We are a time bomb when we’re together, we all know it, and yet here we are. Together. Which means we need to figure out how to interact without ending the world.”

It should’ve sounded reasonable, but something about Five’s tone was worrying. Ominous, even.

“Ooh, this should be good,” Ben murmurs, entirely too entertained.  Klaus suspects if his brothers and sisters could actually hear their dead brother some of the time, they’d stop talking wistfully about the good old days when Ben was around and start working out ways to punch a ghost in the face.

“Just what are you suggesting?” Klaus asks slowly, already sure he’s not going to like the answer.

“Therapy,” Five answers. “Family sessions.”

Oh noooo.

“Oh yesss,” Ben says gleefully.

“And are you included in this family therapy?” Diego asks dangerously, after Five’s words have a chance to settle around them like an old, smelly, unwashed, flea-ridden, suffocating blanket.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Five scoffs. “Why would I need to go?”

Ben’s smile falters. “He’s joking, right? Klaus, tell me he’s joking.”

“Sorry, buddy, but I don’t think I can,” Klaus says, struck by the sudden fear that Five doesn’t actually realize he’s crazy as shit and just painfully terrible with people, their family very much included.

“I don’t see why I should have to be a part of this either,” Vanya says, jaw tight, and Ben mouths a silent ‘wow’. Klaus wholeheartedly echoes the sentiment. “I’ve already seen a therapist--”

“And you’re so well-adjusted that you killed the moon,” Five says brutally. “Not to mention took up with a murderous stalker just because he said some nice things to you."

"It's not like he told me!"

"You went to Luther for help with a personal crisis.”

“Okay, that’s just unfair,” Luther says, wounded.

Five doesn’t bother listening, of course, finishing with an exasperated, “Christ, Vanya, you don’t even have locks on your windows!”

Vanya goes from deeply affronted and probably murderous to utterly confused and possibly murderous so quickly Klaus is a little worried about the emotional whiplash. “My windows? What the hell does that have to do with any—”

“Hold up,” Diego says, cutting Vanya off like that’s a good idea when she’s already visibly seething. “No locks?”

“None.”

Diego drags his free hand over his face. “Goddammit, Vanya, rapists can climb.

"That's what I said!" Five announces, looking terribly pleased by such a touching show of sibling solidarity.

“Are you kidding me right now?” Vanya demands, glancing from Five to Diego and back again. “Are we seriously bringing my windows into this conversation?”

“See?” Five says to the rest of them. “No sense of self-preservation or self-worth, but sure, her last therapist worked wonders.”

Vanya sputters. Klaus considers reminding Five that they’re supposed to be talking about family therapy, not just Vanya, then pictures Five’s possible responses and immediately reconsiders.

Diego seems to make up his mind on something, nodding sharply to himself before asking,Hey, jackasses, where are the tools? I’m taking care of this window bullshit.”

“Oh, the bag's in my room,” Klaus says, bouncing on his toes. He doesn’t know why everyone immediately trades troubled looks. He hasn’t gone around smashing things with a hammer in ages.

Diego grimaces, glances around for help, then sucks it up and asks, “...And why are the tools in your room, Klaus?” Klaus would be amused if he weren’t so offended. Or is that offended if he weren’t so amused?

“Do you really want to know, Diego?”

Ben forgets he’s invisible at the moment and tries to catch Diego’s eye, shaking his head furiously. Diego must sense it somehow, though, because he shivers and says, “Shit. No. You know what, you’re right. Tell me nothing, just lead the way.”

Klaus claps Diego on the shoulder a little harder than necessary, then turns to frown at Vanya. “Thieves can climb too, you know.”

Why are we still talking about my windows?"

 

 


 

 

 

Vanya’s had a very, very long week. Partly because she’s lived it twice, and partly because anything involving multiple Hargreeves lasts a million times longer than it needs to.

So she watches, headache building, as Klaus and Diego tear up the stairs and—wait, are they racing?

They are. They’re racing. Klaus tries to elbow Diego in the ribs to get ahead and almost overbalances instead, while Diego grins and darts forward.  What, are they still twelve? Christ.

“Kids today,” Five says, shaking his head at the foibles of youth. The rest of them unanimously decide to ignore him for their own sanity.

“Did Diego really just go from picking a fight about the book to lecturing me on safety?” Vanya asks instead.

Allison’s shoulders shake in a silent laugh, and Vanya smiles reluctantly, trying not to stare at her sister’s throat or think about how she doesn’t even remember what Allison’s laughter sounded like.  None of them ever really had many opportunities to hear it.

“Look, Five,” Luther says slowly, like he’s approaching a wild animal, “This therapy idea—I mean, it sounds very...uh, proactive, but—”

DOING IT. Allison’s eyebrows—and her punctuation—leave no room for argument. Five glances up at Luther smugly, and Vanya’s pretty sure she can hear Luther’s molars grinding together. Then Allison scribbles something else and pointedly raises it in Five’s direction. ALL OF US.

Five glowers, Luther deflates, and Vanya can’t really argue her I-don’t-need-more-therapy point to the sister she nearly killed in a violent rage a few days ago. God, the next time Allison suggests a shopping trip, Vanya’s going to have to agree, isn’t she?

“The poor therapist,” Vanya settles for saying, and all four of them are briefly united in a moment of silence for whatever foolish soul winds up taking the Hargreeves on as patients.

And then Diego and Klaus are clattering back down the stairs, and Diego’s carrying...a plastic baggie full of nails. And a hammer.

“What, exactly, are you doing with those?” Vanya asks, because she’d kind of assumed that Diego was planning on installing locks or something. Not just, Christ, nailing her damn windows shut.

“Nailing your damn windows shut,” Diego says, like it should’ve been obvious from the start.

Allison stares at the ceiling for strength. Vanya considers copying her, but it’s probably a bad idea to let any of her brothers out of her sight right now.

And then, incredibly, Klaus provides a voice of reason. “Oh, Diego, no, we can’t do that,” he says, reaching over to pluck the nails and hammer out of Diego's hands.  He eyes them critically, like he has any idea what they'd actually need to make her windows less accessible to all those people out there climbing up the sides of apartment buildings.

“What? Why the hell not?”

“Because...we’ve spent enough time shutting Vanya away,” Luther says quickly, glancing at Allison hopefully, and all Vanya can do is stare in disbelief. Does he really think shitty home security is remotely the same thing as--

“Jesus, Luther, really?” Five groans, while Allison covers her eyes with one hand and Vanya tries to remember why she’d wanted to be included in anything with these, these—people.

Luther looks expectant and a little hurt, like he thinks he deserves brownie points for sensitivity and doesn’t understand why he’s not getting them. Vanya kindly doesn’t throw him across the room with her powers, even though she’s pretty sure none of her other siblings would blame her.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Luther,” Klaus says lightly, though the look he gives Number One speaks volumes. “I’m talking about something much more important. Guys, if we nail her windows shut, she can’t open them whenever it rains and play sad music into the storm while one solitary tear trickles down her face. She’s an artiste. Aesthetic matters.”

For a moment, they all just stare at him in stunned silence. It doesn’t last.

Have you been watching me?” Vanya yelps. Klaus blinks, lips parting in surprise, and Vanya realizes she’s made a terrible, terrible mistake. “I mean, uh—I, I—”

“Wait, you do that?” Five asks, incredulous. Allison stops communing with the ceiling long enough to stare at her pityingly.

And Diego...oh shit. Diego smiles.

“...of course not,” Vanya says weakly. “Who’d do something so...strangely satisfying…?”

Really, ” Diego says, eyebrows raised. “ So if we go over right now and fix your windows for good, we wouldn’t be getting in the way of your artistic aesthetic?

She manages to bite back an irritated comment about her windows not needing to be fixed, thank you very much, because her asshole brother will just take that as an admission of guilt. Instead, she says, “Not at all. Nail them shut. Board them up, even. Doesn’t make a difference, who even uses windows in this day and age—aside from rapists and, and thieves, apparently—”

With every passing second her voice gets a little higher and Diego’s smirk gets a little more smug.

“It’s okay, Vanya,” Luther says earnestly, evidently determined to prove Five wrong about what he does or doesn’t know. “You’re free to be as sad and, uh, well--”

One more word and she’s gonna...do something, and shit, Five might really have a point about the whole therapy thing.

Good talk! ” Klaus says quickly, slapping a hand over Luther’s mouth.  “Now let’s discuss literally anything else—oh my god Luther did you just lick me?

“Don’t put your hand in my face!”

“Are you six?” Klaus demands, face contorted in absolute disgust, like Vanya hasn’t caught him fishing stale donuts out of the trash and eating them for funsies. His eyes dart to the side for a moment and he adds, “Shut up, Ben, no one thinks you’re funny.” Then, without warning, he wipes his slobbery hand on Diego’s shoulder.

“What—get the hell off me, oh my God, what the shit, I don’t want Luther’s ape germs on me!”

“Maybe I don’t want your clothes on my germs, Number Two!”

“If anyone says anything about cooties, I’m killing all of you and then myself,” Five informs the room grimly.

Diego, of course, already has his fists raised and, yep, there it is, right on time: “You wanna go, big boy?”

Fight fight fight,” Klaus chants with a feral grin. As far as Vanya can tell, the biggest difference between drugged Klaus and sober Klaus is the relative fluffiness of his hair now. And, admittedly, he looks a lot less like he’s dying inside. Plus he can make Ben visible sometimes. And—okay, shit, so maybe she’s being unfair.

Klaus cheers as Diego lands a punch.

So maybe she’s not being that unfair.

Allison sighs, then nudges Vanya softly, drawing her attention. U CAN SAY SMTHG, she scrawls. DO MORE THAN WATCH. Her eyes are terribly soft, with a touch of sisterly humor—like she’s saying we both know we’re the only ones here sensible enough to put an end to this nonsense. Like she’s saying now’s the time to make them listen to you.

She’s right, is the thing. Vanya’s so used to being left out that at some point, she stopped trying to be included. Her siblings are still assholes for always ignoring her and idiots for not even realizing they were doing it half the time, but she’s an adult, now, more or less. She needs to pull some of the weight here, too.

They ignored her at Dad’s funeral when she shouted at them to stop, but this time, things will be different.

So she swallows down her hesitation, shuffles a little closer to Klaus, takes a deep breath, and cries, “Fight! Fight! Fight!

Diego actually wheels around to gape at her for a moment, before Luther nearly takes his head off with a punch. And then they’re right back at it.

Klaus laughs wildly, grabbing her hand and twirling her around even as he yells at Diego to nail him in the face already. Vanya squeaks in surprise, nearly losing her balance, and starts to wonder if she’s gone a little too far. This isn’t—this isn’t her.

But then she sees Pogo at the top of the stairs, watching the scene with tight lips and disapproving eyes.

Pogo, alive again, thank God.

Pogo, watching them all like they’re the ones letting him down.

Pogo, who knew all along.

So she shouts “GET HIM!” at her brothers, not even sure which one she’s cheering on, and lets Klaus dance her safely away from any flying fists.

“Jesus Christ. Yeah, I’m done here,” Five says, throwing his hands up in disgust. He stomps away, grumbling to himself about being surrounded by children, forget therapy, what they really need is daycare and what he needs is a goddamn drink.

Vanya ignores him and yells, “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!”, and if she and Klaus giggle a little too hard, tinged with hysteria, well. It’s been a hell of a life.

And if the look Luther gives her is one of total betrayal, well, he can suck it.

And if Diego falters for a moment, if he makes a strange, strangled noise that sounds suspiciously like laughter, well, maybe she can stand to spend a little more time being on his side. Because it shouldn’t mean so much, that he wants to nail her stupid windows shut, but it does, it really does.

And if this isn’t what Allison was going for with her carefully chosen words of support, well, that’s what she gets for judging Vanya’s artistic aesthetic.

But Allison doesn’t look disappointed. Allison looks...happy, actually, almost incandescent as she finishes writing something, catches Vanya’s eye, and mouths, “Watch this.”

‘This’, it turns out, is Allison nailing Diego right in the side of his head with her pencil.

“What the fuck, Allison?”

She holds up her notebook, showing them a messy WHOS THE KRAKEN NOW BTCHS?, and Vanya doesn’t think she’s ever heard Luther laugh like that, not a single time in their long, stupid lives.  It’s kind of infectious.

Klaus twirls Vanya again as she cackles, and this time she doesn’t stumble at all.

 

 


 

 

 

Three hours later, none of them are laughing. Except Ben, who is actually kind of a jerk these days, as it turns out. And also mostly transparent. And blue.  As far as Vanya can tell, Klaus is keeping him visible entirely so Ben can point out everything they're doing wrong without ever once offering a useful suggestion on how to do things right.

“Oops,” Luther says, very quietly, as they stare at the remnants of Vanya’s windows.

Klaus crosses his arms and says, “Oh, if only someone had thought to say ‘Luther taking a hammer to a wall is a bad idea’. But wait! I seem to recall all of us saying Luther with a hammer is a bad idea.

"I can be delicate!"

"Oh, clearly."

“You know what, Klaus--”

“Hey, back off, asshole--”

“Oh, Diego, my hero--

“Tell me,” Five says, sipping at a martini, watching their dumbass brothers with a detached sort of amusement. “You wanted to be included in this...why?”

Allison whacks him upside the head with her notebook, but Vanya just sighs. “Grass is always greener, I guess.”

Five snorts, all cynicism and knobbly knees.  “Yeah, because it’s well-fertilized. By which I mean—”

“Full of shit?” Vanya finishes for him with a lopsided smile.

Five somehow makes even his boozy hiccups sound patronizing. It shouldn’t be possible, but here they are, being condescended to by a drunk thirteen year-old in knee socks.

Again, because they grew up with Klaus.

Vanya shakes her head. “So. Family therapy, huh?”

(“Let go, Klaus, I can fix it!”

“Make me, asshole!”

“Wait, no, Klaus--”)

“Can’t be worse than the apocalypse,” Five says pragmatically.

SINCE WHEN R U AN OPTIMIST? Allison asks him, looking entirely too pleased with herself when Five tips his glass to her, wordlessly conceding the point.

(“I know what I’m doing!”

“Shit, Luther, don’t--”)

Vanya thinks she loves these people, really and truly.

And for the first time in a long, long time, she thinks that, just maybe, they love her too.

“Sooo we’re okay with letting Klaus and Luther fight over the hammer, are we? ” Ben asks idly, popping up at Five’s shoulder, and they all stare at him for a moment, still shaken by the very sight of him. Vanya wants to reach out, to touch him, to apologize for wasting so many years doubting Klaus—well, okay, so many years doubting Klaus about Ben—

And then his words register and they’re shaken by something else entirely.

“Oh shit.