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i fear for our lives and i fear your closed eyes

Chapter Text

“Some lady called for you. Said she needs your help.”

Al’s words keep ringing in Diego’s ears on the drive to the address Patch mentioned. A shitty motel on Calhoun.

“Said she found your brother.”

He is torn between focusing on that last part, or on the fact that Eudora actually wants his help, for once, maybe even needs it, and maybe–maybe she’s in danger and, and he was out looking for Five and what if he didn’t get her message in time? Half an hour is an eternity. What if she got hurt? He can’t afford to lose her. Especially now, when he just– lost Mom. It would break him.

He swerves his car slightly to the left to surpass some asshole that decided to drive at a snail’s pace, slamming his foot on the accelerator, and decides that maybe he should stop panicking and rather focus on the part’s of Al’s message that doesnt evoke in him feelings of crippling anxiety and terror in favor of the part that just fills him with confusion and annoyance (which, to be fair, are easier to deal with). And maybe a tiny bit of worry.

Klaus. His brother.

The most unpredictable and unreliable creature to ever inhabit the Earth. Also the only member of his fucked up family that actually isn’t accounted for after the shootout at the Academy. Not that it’s too surprising, considering his lifestyle. But between looking for Five and mourning Mom, he hasn’t had the chance to check on Klaus. Who, incidentally, also happens to be the most vulnerable of their dysfunctional bunch, not including Vanya – and when has Vanya ever counted? he wonders (ignoring the way his heart tightens as it always does whenever he thinks about their sister) – with the unfortunate result that Diego has always felt very protective of him.

He has to take a moment to breathe deeply and try to stifle down the instinctive concern that rises up in him. What he needs to do right now is rationalize.

Klaus probably got in some kind of trouble that ended up involving the police and Eudora called him out of whatever lingering feelings she undeniably still has for him – even after he, admittedly, acted like a huge dickhead – and right now Number Four was probably high off his fucking ass in a shitty motel and they needed some next-of-kin to, who knows, pay for damages or drag his junkie ass to rehab or even post bail.

Diego sighs, and tightens his grip on the wheel. He really misses Mom.

The others don’t know, but he has actually sneaked into the Academy to visit her more than once. Actually, it was at least once a month. They’ve always known that he is a momma’s boy through and through and even if he pretends not to be, he’ll never be ashamed of how close he is to Grace. Even as a robot, she is the kindest being he’s ever met. Closely followed by Eudora.

God. Eudora. He still loves her so much.

His thoughts are halted by the motel sign blinking neon lights at him. He parks hurriedly, not bothering to actually do so decently. He’d probably get a ticket if the cops saw it.

...Which will not happen, because there is not one damn police car around. Which also means that the scenarios he devised were mostly incorrect, because if Klaus actually was in trouble there would certainly be at least a couple of police cars and an ambulance – and this, Diego knows from experience.

Which means that Eudora is here alone. After a quick glance around the parking lot, he can see her car neatly parked a few meters away.

Diego gets a few more knives from the trunk of his car, and quickly slides them in his harness. He’s careful to keep one in his hand, in case he needs to act fast, and he tightens his grip on its handle to fight the panic crawling inside him.

Eudora is alone. Eudora decided to do things his way, for once, because he told her to and she listened. Eudora doesn’t have any backup with her. Eudora called him, and he is late and if something happened to her he will never forgive himself. Eudora would never call him unless it was really serious. Eudora is alone, and possibly in danger, and the one time she calls him he’s fucking late.

Or rather, Eudora is not alone because she is (supposedly) with Klaus and he has absolutely no fucking clue how she found Four or why she needs him and damn it, if Klaus got her in trouble Diego is going to sic Luther on him. Or worse, if Klaus got himself in trouble bad enough that Eudora has to call him, even when she knows how fucked up their family is, Diego is going to personally empty out all his stashes and scare off all drug dealers in New York to make sure he never does anything even slightly dangerous again. (He ignores the voice in his head that tells him he should have done it many years ago. It sounds like Ben.)

Diego tries to stop his thoughts wandering and enters the motel, his body buzzing with adrenaline. He steels his mind and prepares for the worst, but, instead, he finds Eudora waiting at the reception, looking anxious, but unharmed.

The reception desk is empty, the owner probably having fucked off somewhere far away from the armed detective lady.

He sheathes his knife. “Eudora,” he calls, walking swiftly towards her as she turns. “Are you okay?” he asks, and he thinks he probably sounds every bit as worried as he feels because her eyes go soft (as they used to when he would surprise her with a romantic dinner, years ago) and the corner of her lips quirks up into a half smile.

“You sure took your sweet time, didn’t you? And don’t call me that,” she adds, for what must be the hundredth time this month alone. “I’m fine. It’s just–“ she lowers her voice, eyes roaming around, “this place is kind of sketchy and I’m not comfortable doing this without someone covering my back.”

Diego longs to grab her and get her out of here, far away from any possible danger, but she never did like his extremely protective streak and she’s most definitely capable of making her own decisions. Also, priorities . “You said you found my brother?”

Her brown eyes focus on him. “There was an explosion, not too far away from here, and I was called on the spot to investigate, when I saw a van that matched the description of your brother’s van, and there was a message on it, and also a match box from this motel,” she explains rapidly, handing him the tiny box.

Diego’s brow furrows, as he twirls the box between his fingers. So she wasn’t taking about Klaus, he realizes, and finally manages to marginally relax.

The last time he saw her he’d been looking for Five and had told her how his van looked in case she could help. He hasn’t yet told her he already found him, or that it was actually Five he was looking for.

His mind races with questions and he wonders who else knows about Five being back, and who could think of leaving a message on his van. To whom was the message addressed? Probably Five. Who wrote it? Was it the two thugs with the masks? Did they leave a message for Five and an address so that they could ambush him?

While his brain tries to scramble for clues and tries to figure out what the hell is going on, he notices Eudora looking at him expectantly, probably waiting for some more details. He just shrugs. “I actually already found him... Drinking his troubles away in a library,” he says, rolling his eyes, and doesn’t even try to mention that Five is actually thirteen because he knows with utmost certainty that it won’t go over well with her. Teenage alcoholism and all that.

Patch actually knows a fair bit about his family. After all, they used to be the protagonists of a comic book series, and little Vanya also decided to write that wonderfully flattering book of hers on them. So, she knows at least what everyone else knows: they were a bunch of weirdos with freaky powers and a fucked up relationship with each other, adopted by an unfeeling and eccentric asshole with a lot of money. She knows slightly more than the average New Yorker, sure, as is expected considering their past.

But she doesn’t know everything. She doesn’t know Five is back. Or that he time traveled. She just knows that he was looking for one of his brothers, and probably assumed it was one of the two left – One or Four. After telling her they found him drunk, she’d probably bet on Four. It’s only reasonable, he knows. He’d assume the same.

He’ll let her believe what she wants. Right now is not the time for explanations.

Eudora looks confused. “The note sounded like he was taken, though,” she muses, looking around, talking mostly to herself but still loudly enough for him to hear. “It said ‘your brother says hi’.  I thought it could be a message for you, about him. That’s why I wanted backup, and why I didn’t involve my colleagues. I didn’t want to risk him getting hurt,” she tells him, her big brown eyes as compassionate and kind as always.

And oh, Diego could kiss her now. He was definitely too lucky to have ever gotten the chance to be with her. He didn’t deserve her back then, and he sure as hell doesn’t deserve her right now.

Still, she’s here. And he’s not oblivious enough to ignore the fact she’s doing this for him, because he knows that, under his tough act, he does care about his family and doesn’t want any of them to get hurt. So he lays a hand on her shoulder and squeezes it gently. “Thank you. And I’m sorry about before. I was still upset about Mom, you didn’t deserve that. Thanks for putting up with my shit,” he quips, winking and smiling at her. “And thanks for waiting for me. I’m sorry I was so slow.”

She rolls her eyes, but her lips twitch into a fond smile as she grabs the hand he laid on her arm and holds it. “You’re welcome, Diego, and to be frank I was minutes away from saying fuck it and going on my own,” she replies, only half-joking, and Diego’s heart tightens at how close a call it was; a few minutes later and she would have gone alone to face possible danger, without backup. Because of him and his fucking family.

He smiles at her and she immediately smiles back. They stand there, in the reception of this shitty motel, as close to each other as they dare to get, soaking in each other’s presence, for a few moments.

Eudora is the first to step back, trying to disguise the blush that has worked its way up her neck. She fiddles with her gun, checking the chamber and readying it. “Even if you found your brother, I’d like to take a look around and see if we can catch those two masked guys. This is the only clue I’ve got, and I’m not about to waste it. The owner is gonna come back soon, so we better hurry up. You in?” she asks, shooting him a tiny smirk, the one she'd use back in the police academy when they were paired up together and she knew he’d do anything she said because she had him wrapped around her finger.

What a stupid question. Of course he’s in. He’s never been able to tell her no and he’s not gonna start now.

“I’m in,” he confirms, once again unsheathing two knives, one for each hand, standing straight and ready for combat. Just like dear old Dad taught him. Time to kick some asses.

Patch nods, relieved, and turns around, gun lowered but ready to fire if needed. Diego follows after her, stealthy and quiet as a mouse and every bit the leather-loving vigilante his siblings like to make fun of.

He works alone, usually, but Eudora and him always clicked in a way that he can’t explain. He doesn’t complain and even lets her take the lead. This way, he gets to cover her back and prove she can trust him (and maybe, just maybe, she’ll see that he’s changed for the better and she can rely on him now).

They walk slowly, hyper-aware of their surroundings, straining their ears to hear any kind of suspicious noise that could be traced back to the masked bastards.

The sound of Patch’s heels echoes in the silent hallway, ticking like a clock. Tick-tock, tick-tock. It reminds Diego of the old grandfather clock that sits in the mansion.  

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

His heart beats in unison with the even rythm of Eudora’s steps.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

Patch stops abruptly and Diego almost slams into her back, but he manages to stop in time, just brushing against her.

She turns towards him and shushes him, pointing to a door that lies slightly ajar a few meters away. Room number 225. The bluish light coming from outside paired with the shitty motel lighting makes the whole scenery seem creepier than it has any right to be.

Diego nods once, and lets Patch take the lead, once again, keeping watch as she opens the door with her foot. His palms are damp with sweat, but his grip on the knives is as firm as always.

The door creaks open.

Eudora enters quickly, raises the gun and, of all things, Diego really does not expect her to gasp loudly and call his name. “Diego!” she exclaims, turning around to face him and stepping back, and he knows it means there’s something he has to see so he walks to the door, dread curling around his heart. Eudora still holds her gun up, watching his back just as he was ready to do for her minutes ago.

He tightens his hold on the knives, trying to ground himself, and then looks into the room.

It’s dark, except for the light coming from the bathroom and from behind him. It’s enough to make out what is inside. It’s enough for him to notice, a fraction of a second after he enters, what Eudora just saw and what made her call him.

There’s a body.

There’s a body, pale and sweaty, slumped onto a chair, arms tied down with tape. His head is lowered, chin grazing his bare, bloodied chest, dark hair damp with what is probably a mix of blood, sweat, and maybe water, Diego thinks, seeing the bath-towel wrapped around his hips.  

Diego scrunches his eyes shut and prays to whatever deity exists that when he opens them again, it won’t be to the body of his brother.

(Not again. Not like Ben.)

His eyes open again, and there’s no mistaking it this time. It’s him. It’s Klaus.

The body on the chair, tied up and left to bleed and die alone in a shitty motel room is his brother’s.

Diego’s knives fall from senseless fingers and clatter to the floor, and not for the first time in his life he wishes he could fall down with them.

 

Chapter Text

In all the time they’ve known each other, Eudora has learned that Diego rarely talks about his family, and she never really pushed him because she knows it’s a touchy subject for him. However, if she had to point out the most often mentioned sibling in his stories, it would definitely be Klaus.

During some of the nights they’d spend wrapped around each other all those years ago, he’d open up and talk about a boy with eyes too big and too bright who could see farther than anyone else, haunted by literal demons.

“He was my best friend,” Diego had admitted once, a soft and sad smile on his face.

“We even had a secret handshake. Our siblings always think it was just Ben and Klaus, that they were the closest of the bunch, but they forget that I was there too. We were the Even-Numbers-Trio-of Awesomeness. Klaus picked the name, of course,” he had said, chuckling at the memory.

“We were inseparable, brought together by the fact that, no matter how hard we tried, our father would never be proud of us. So we decided we’d settle for being proud of each other,” he had explained.

“I would practice reading every evening as some sort of speech therapy, and Klaus would stay with me until I finished. He said it distracted him from the ghosts. Ben would be there, too, most nights, quietly devouring a book I probably wouldn’t even be able to read now,” he had recalled, a sad smile on his face.

He’d wiped his eyes roughly, after that, and settled into her arms to sleep.

Years have passed since then, but thinking about it now, Eudora can easily picture it. Three children without names, not related by blood but bonded by heart, holding a united front against their abusive father and finding comfort in each other. They always look small, in her mind’s eye, and Reginald Hargreeves is the terrifying, huge troll that wants to tear them apart. (One is dead, another one as good as, and the other keeps on grieving for them both. Nobody ever accused Hargreeves of being anything but successful at being a horrible father.) 

She used to watch the Umbrella Academy fight on television, when she was younger. They were just kids, a couple of years younger than her, and yet instead of playing and studying and worrying about their first crush they had to fight against hardened criminals (and sometimes even kill them) and take care of their own wounds. All with bright smiles plastered on their faces for the press. Back then, their lives reminded her of a fairy tale. Children born through magic and blessed with amazing powers. Of course they’d fight against evil, she used to think, of course. She would have done the same, in their place. 

After meeting Diego, the once famous Kraken, though, she overcame that childish fascination with superheroes and learned that, even with all their incredible powers, they needed help too. And most times they didn’t get it. 

She never told Diego, but she actually decided to become a cop because seeing the Umbrella Academy fight criminals on live television made her notice how much wrong and evil there is in the world. She wanted to fix it. And she may not have superpowers, but becoming a cop was a first step towards being able to make a difference. 

Sometimes, though, it gets hard, doing what she does. Even harder now that she’s a detective. Sometimes she’s assigned a case that will keep her awake for many nights before she solves it, and often for many nights after that. (Some cases haunt her just like ghosts haunt the Séance). 

It certainly is hard right now, she admits, as she opens the door of the motel to see one of Diego’s (once) many brothers covered in blood and bound, either unconscious or dead. 

And she knows that she has to keep away and stay alert for any dangers. But really all she wants to do is drop everything and hug Diego because she can tell he is seconds away from falling apart. Instead she does her job, and stands back, gun raised, doing nothing but watch as Diego almost trips on his dash to his brother. 

She closes her eyes for a moment, not willing to look at the heartbreaking scene as she hears his desperate whispers of “no, no, no, no, no, Klaus, come on, you’re alright, you’re okay–” and breathes in, ignoring the smell of blood and sweat and tears, and tries to be strong for him. 

Diego is fumbling around, trying to rip the tape in half as if he doesn’t remember that he’s literally covered in blades. He seems to gather himself enough to get one tiny knife from his harness, and cuts the binds quickly. “It’s okay, you’re okay, you’re fine,” he keeps murmuring, half to his brother and half to himself. “I’m here, it’s okay.” 

When Klaus slumps bonelessly against his shoulder, he’s there to catch him, and Eudora knows he blames himself – he always will – for not having been there to catch him in the past. “I got you,” he whispers, and she can almost feel the pain in his voice, making her own throat close up. Her grip tightens on the gun to the point that it almost hurts. 

She doesn’t even know the guy, not directly. She only knows him through Diego’s stories and, to her, somehow he never felt quite real. A larger than life creature that could easily belong in a storybook rather than in the real world, with a charismatic and magnetic personality and yet the capacity to push away any and all attempts at real affection, as fleeting as the spirits that plagued him. 

Eudora’s knowledge of Klaus Hargreeves is, admittedly, filtered through Diego’s eyes. Her ex never quite resigned himself to the fact that he couldn’t manage to save his brother from himself, she thinks, and perhaps that is the failure that haunts him the most to this day. Which also explains why he was always so quick to absolve Klaus of his faults. That, and because, at heart, Klaus really is kind. 

She can’t see kindness in his actions, though, in letting his siblings mourn a brother that is still alive physically but whose soul is deader than his ghosts. But then again, she really doesn’t know him and his problems, and can’t hope to really be able to understand why he spiraled into addiction and never tried to get better. 

Patch knows Diego still sees him as the tiny slip of a child that would knock on his door with tears in his huge green eyes and ask for a hug because he was scared of the monsters. That’s why, she thinks, he can’t bear to give up on him, to let him go. Diego still hopes, deep down, that his best friend of long ago is still somewhere inside him. 

She always slightly resented Klaus for how Diego would unfailingly forgive him and wait for him with open arms, no matter how often he would pop in to crash for the night and then disappear with the contents of her then-boyfriend’s wallet. And yes, she was probably a bit too hard on him, given their traumatic childhood and the scarring experience of having corpses following you around from a young age. But his actions had hurt Diego, who’d tried his best to help, while his brother had just used him. So she could afford to be biased. 

She can’t bring herself to resent him now. As ethereal and intangible as he’d always come across in Diego’s stories, Klaus certainly looks real now, Patch thinks, all long, skinny limbs and pale, bloodied skin. He looks as real as he can get, as his brother gingerly wraps him in his own shaking arms. 

“Come on,” Diego murmurs. “I’m here, I found you, it’s okay. I got you,” he reassures, and Eudora truly, deeply regrets having waited for him. At least, if she had gotten here alone, she could have spared him this sight. 

As dysfunctional as the Hargreeves siblings have always been, they also undeniably care for each other. Much like brothers in arms, their misadventures and the abuse they faced as children irrevocably formed an eternal bond between all of them. 

And really, while she does think that Klaus is a bit of an asshole most of the time, she knows he cares for Diego just as deeply as Diego cares for him. And that, if nothing else, is his one redeeming quality in Eudora’s eyes. He’s probably the sibling that tried to keep in touch with Diego the most, clearly wanting to check on him, and he even tried to get clean sometimes. But then he’d give in and get high and steal and run away. And then the cycle would begin again, but it always ended up with Diego hurt. 

So yes, while Eudora does somewhat resent Klaus, she also worries about him a lot (mostly for Diego’s sake, but also for the sake of that sweet, scared kid from the stories). She has never met him in person, not before this, but she has always thought of him as a deeply tortured soul who needed help, but didn't know how to ask for it or accept it when offered, who wore his heart on his sleeve and shamelessly displayed  his emotions for the world to see – which is not a smart choice for someone living on the streets. Diego has always been really protective of his favorite sibling, and Eudora has to grudgingly admit that she kind of feels the same way towards Klaus Hargreeves.

That’s why she immediately came to this address once she found the message on Diego’s brother’s van. She now knows it must belong to another brother (and it can only be Luther’s, seeing as the other two brothers have been gone for years), but at first she was sure it was Klaus’s and that he was the one Diego was looking for. The van also happened to be at her crime scene, so she felt somewhat duty bound to investigate the lead. 

As she now looks around the motel room, keen eyes sweeping it for clues, it doesn’t take much to figure out what happened here. She has seen enough cases of people who were tortured to be able to rapidly reconstruct the events. 

The cigarette burns on Klaus’s arms, the thin, long cut near his ear, dripping blood down his neck. The reddish areas – bruises not quite ready to blossom yet – scattered across his midsection and face. The bucket in the corner of the room, probably meant to keep bottles of champagne cold, but judging by the blood soaked rag peeking over its border, she guesses he must have been stubborn enough to induce whoever did this to waterboard him. 

Eudora looks around again, and decides that enough time has passed to consider the hallway clear. She walks inside, closes the door behind her, and goes to check that the bathroom is empty too, finger ready to press on the trigger. 

While she confirms that there is, in fact, no one else in the room, she puts her gun back into the holster. She sees Diego lay his brother on the filthy motel floor and cringes. Well, an infection is inevitable at this point, and that’s not even the main problem right now, she reflects, as she anxiously watches Diego frantically search for a pulse. 

“He’s alive,” he gasps out, visibly relieved. Eudora can’t deny that her heart has lifted slightly, too. 

In spite of how bad he looks, Klaus is still alive. His thin chest stutters with shaky, uneven breaths, the tape on his mouth puffing slightly with each exhale. Diego doesn’t hesitate to peel it off, gently, likely hoping it will ease his brother’s breathing. The act is enough to pull Klaus back to consciousness, and Diego is quick to react, getting into his line of sight. “Hey, bro, it’s me. You– you’re okay, you’re fine, we’re gonna get you help,” he explains, his quiet but confident tone clashing with his suspiciously bright eyes. 

The man on the floor doesn’t reply, at first, looking to the side for a moment and blinking slowly. Eudora thinks he might be looking at her, for a moment, but she soon realizes that his eyes have settled somewhere behind her left shoulder. She wonders if it’s a ghost, and fights the urge to turn and check. 

Klaus blinks tiredly again, and then turns to his brother. “Diego?” he breathes out, voice nearly silent, so unlike the loud man Eudora has always expected him to be. 

Diego smiles and pats his cheek. “Yeah, it’s me. You’re okay, bro, I got you,” he repeats. 

Klaus nods, split lips twitching into a half smile, tired eyes focused on the dirty ceiling as tears slip unbidden along the sides of his head, old traces of eyeliner staining his lids. He lets out a breath, probably relieved to finally see a friendly face, and then chokes on it and coughs raggedly and painfully, shivering. 

Diego hurries to check him over, careful hands shaking as they swiftly run along his brother’s face, his arms, his torso. He halts abruptly when he reaches the chest, his hand coming away bathed in red. He stares at it for a beat, before quickly pressing both his hands to the wound, blood immediately seeping through his fingers. It must hurt like hell, but Klaus barely reacts. Eudora worries he might already be far too gone to feel it. 

“C...c...c–,” Diego tries, “–call an ambulance,” he chokes out, turning to throw Eudora a desperate glance, his childhood stutter making a not so unexpected comeback. It happens when he’s really stressed and scared, which he definitely is right now. “No cops. Please,” he adds, voice strained. 

Eudora nods and immediately uses the motel phone to call 911, still looking at the two brothers while she waits for a response. From what she can see, Klaus was stabbed on the right side of his chest, a couple of inches below his collarbone, and after a glance at the way he struggles to breathe, she thinks he may have a collapsed lung. She doesn’t have an extensive medical knowledge but she knows it means this could get very bad, very fast. 

“Yes, hello,” she says quickly when she gets a reply. “We need an ambulance. Address is 4535 Calhoun. Yes, the Luna Motor Lodge Motel. Room 225. There’s a man in need of urgent care,” she explains, years of dealing with these situations allowing her to be clear and concise. “Puncture wound to the chest, and various other wounds. Thank you,” she says, and then, “please hurry,” she adds, quietly, when she sees more blood pour from under Diego’s hands. 

He’s panicking, Eudora can tell. She can’t blame him. She’s very close to panicking herself. 

Klaus keeps looking at the ceiling languidly, taking in short, fast breaths, slightly flinching when even that tiny movement aggravates his wound. Most of the energy he has left is probably spent on trying to get air in his lungs. 

“Four minutes out,” she tells Diego, hoping to console him – and maybe it’s the fact that she just accidentally used his brother’s name or maybe it’s the fact that said brother is literally dying under his hands, but he doesn’t seem all that comforted. She wants to get closer, but she already feels like an intruder. She’s witnessing something she should probably not be present for. 

However this ends, she has to give Diego space. He needs this, to be here to comfort his brother, knowing that he’s trying his damnedest to keep him alive. 

Years ago, Diego told Eudora that one of his biggest regrets was not being there when Ben died. 

It happened during a mission, he said. They were seventeen, and Ben and Luther had paired up together, while Diego was with Allison. Klaus was the lookout, by then too high too often to really be of much help, and Five had been gone for years. Ben got hurt, the Horror reacted badly to it, and the monsters literally ripped him apart. It wasn’t immediate, Diego said. The boy had held onto life with all his might but he’d still died in a pool of blood in Luther’s arms. Diego and Allison only arrived when he was already gone, and no rumors would make him wake up or get better. 

When Ben died, Diego wasn’t there for him, to hold him and tell him it’d be okay. And he always felt bad for it, blaming himself for being too slow, as if something could have changed had he been there. (Diego also told her that Klaus was the last to know, except Vanya. He always felt like a part of Klaus died with Ben that day, and he was never quite the same. Number Four ran away soon after the funeral, without so much as a goodbye.) 

(Eudora thinks that a part of Diego might have died, too, after that. She would have liked to meet the Diego from before, who maybe was quicker to trust and smile, but she knew she never would.) 

Not being there for Ben in those last moments always haunted Diego. But watching him and Klaus right now, she thinks he might regret ever wishing to be present for something like this. Losing someone is hard, true. It’s painful. But to watch them as they struggle for breath, tremble and suffer, all the while knowing they won’t make it? That’s something else entirely. 

And Eudora is sure that Diego has, at least subconsciously, realized that at this point there’s a serious chance Klaus is not going to make it. She can see it in the way his eyes widen when Klaus coughs again, and chokes, and Diego has to turn him on his side to spit some blood. It drips on his cheek and Diego is quick to wipe it away, but more comes up to replace it. 

She checks her watch. Just two minutes until the ambulance gets here. C'mon, Klaus, you stubborn bastard. Hold on just a little while longer. 

Diego wipes the tears rapidly filling his eyes, and uses one hand to hold Klaus on his side so that he can breathe better and the other to keep pressure on the wound still oozing out blood. “Come on, man, hold on. The ambulance is almost here, you’re gonna be okay,” he almost begs, and Eudora longs to wrap him in her arms and never let him go but her feet are frozen to the ground as she witnesses a family tragedy unfold. 

Klaus’s eyes slowly shift up towards Diego as he raises one hand to weakly pat his brother’s arm. “I know,” he whispers quietly, out of breath, a glimpse of red teeth in his small smile. “It’s okay, big guy. I’m not afraid.” 

Ah, Eudora realizes. There it is. Diego was right. There is kindness left in Klaus, after all, and she immediately feels guilty for ever judging him. 

Looking at them now, almost thirty years old and covered in blood and tears and fear, she can almost see the children they used to be, small and scared and yet lucky enough to have each other. 

With a rush of cold realization Eudora suddenly wants, with all her heart, for Klaus to be okay. She wants him to heal and finally realize that Diego would do anything for him, and she wants him to get clean with his brother’s support (and hers, if he’ll take it) and to get the happy life he deserves. She wants to actually get to know him in first person and talk to him, she wants to meet Diego’s best friend, with his huge eyes and wide smile and wild jokes. She wants to laugh at his antics and make fun of Diego with him and learn about his powers and his past. She wants to see them become the friends they used to be once again. She wants Diego to finally have the family he always so desperately wanted. 

For a moment, she can almost see it. The three of them, eating together and having a good time, Diego’s arm around her shoulder as they listen to one of Klaus’s wild adventures, laughing and making jokes at his expense. 

(She’s never heard Klaus’s laugh, but in her head it’s just as loud and warm as Diego’s.) 

Her thoughts are interrupted by Klaus’s sudden, loud gasp, and Diego almost drops him as he’s gripped by panic, his brother nearly seizing with how strongly he’s shaking. 

“No, no, wait, what – what’s happening?” Diego shouts, looking at her in desperation. 

Eudora’s heart sinks as she realizes what’s going on. Her feet finally move and she rushes towards them, landing hard on her knees right beside Diego. “There... might be blood pooling in his chest. I think he’s going into shock. Get something to cover him up, we need to keep him warm,” she tells him, and his eyes look lost when she meets them, but he nods. 

He gets up and she takes his place, helping Klaus sit up while Diego grabs the heavy black coat laying on the bed, wrapping it around his brother’s shoulders. The clammy form in her arms is struggling much less now, and he’s pale and cold and limp, lips bluish and eyes glassy and bright. 

They’re running out of time. 

Eudora chews on her lower lip as Diego takes Klaus in his arms again, and lets his head fall on his shoulder, hoping the close contact will provide more warmth. “Keep pressure on his wound, if he loses much more blood...” she trails off, knowing he understands, and he puts one bloodied hand on his brother’s chest again, the other holding him close. Klaus’s breathing has gotten worse in a scarily short time, and now he’s barely conscious in Diego’s arms. 

She has never seen him as terrified as he looks in this moment. She mentally curses, raising her right wrist to look at her watch again when she finally, finally hears the sirens of the ambulance approaching. She turns towards the sound and smiles, relieved, and then looks at Diego, but he doesn’t notice. 

His attention is on his brother, and he carefully pats Klaus’s cheek, unbothered by the blood smeared on it, gently shaking him. “Klaus. Hey, wake up. Wake up, Four. Come on, wake up, the ambulance is here,” he says, but Klaus doesn’t open his eyes. The painful wheezes have stopped, and silence rings loud in their ears. 

The paramedics burst in the room, and the tiny space is soon full of noise and frenzied movements, as the team tries to revive Klaus. 

It's too late, she thinks. She closes her eyes to chase away the sting of tears, walking towards Diego to help him up, pulling him away from his brother and the paramedic attempting CPR on him, and holds him close. “Everything is going to be fine,” she whispers into his hair. 

It feels like a lie.

 

Chapter Text

Ben, for all his sarcasm and wit, has always been painfully aware of his own passivity. 

He was like that when he was alive, and he only marginally improved after he died, after he became free of the bonds that held him tied in life. 

As a child, unlike Vanya, he was undoubtedly part of the team, but he also kept to himself a lot. He knows, as he knew back then, that he was probably the only sibling that everyone went along with. All the others had their favorites and their least favorites, but everyone adored him and wanted to spend time with him, and he knew it. 

It came in handy when he needed comfort, a shoulder to cry on, but also when he stood in the corner, silently staring as their lives unfolded, just as passive as Vanya and letting himself be swept away by the flow. Never objecting, never rebelling, always the obedient little lamb whose powers mildly disgusted and infinitely fascinated his father, and whose mellow temperament made him pliable to Reginald’s manipulations, so much so that it ended up killing him. 

His death came as a shock to everyone, and most of all himself. His power had always made him feel somewhat invincible, the monsters that shifted under his skin viciously tearing apart any possible threat to Their host. 

They had made him a murderer before he could even speak, killing the birds that landed on his windowsill and splattering his crib with red. They had forced him to learn to clean blood from his clothes and his skin with the same efficiency of a butcher, arms scratched red by frantic rubbing and nail beds never as clean as they should have been. They had made him turn to books and fantasy to get away from the horrific thought that maybe the monster was him all along, and not the Horror. 

Contrary to what his siblings thought, he did have some measure of control on the creatures living on the other side of the portal in his stomach. He could influence them, and he did really want to hurt those criminals, because they were evil, because he wanted to protect his siblings and all those innocent people in danger, but also because he wanted to please his father. So maybe the fact that they were ripped apart, brutally torn to pieces, was not just because of the Horror’s thirst for blood, but also because of his own desire to maim and destroy. 

(These doubts had festered inside Ben for his entire life, and lingered even after. He never quite managed to give himself an answer. He’s not sure he wants to.)

The monsters had shaped his life from the moment it began. It was only fitting that They would be the cause of it ending. 

He doesn’t really remember it, actually. What Ben knows of his death is limited to what Klaus told him of that day. Which wasn’t much, really, given his brother’s knack for being very cryptic when he wanted to. They were on a mission, Ben was shot in the stomach, the Horror freaked out, and They tore his body apart as though he was one of the criminals the Umbrella Academy was sent to fight off. 

Klaus never went too much into detail, but Ben knows it was gruesome. He could see it on his body, after he came back as a ghost. He could see it in Klaus’s horrified gaze, shifting from his unmarred face to the gaping hole in his middle – slowly dripping phantom blood to the floor – the first time he appeared to his medium brother after his death. (He can still see it in the way Klaus’s eyes brighten with tears whenever he wakes up from a certain recurring nightmare, a call for Ben’s name stuck in his throat.)

Klaus and he had worked together for a long time to change the way he looked. During Klaus’s various stints in rehab, when he was forced to experience his powers without inhibitions, the least they could do was try to use them to their advantage.

Ben doesn’t really understand Klaus’s powers, he never has, and his brother probably doesn’t understand them himself. Still, with a lot of trial and error they managed to make him look less like an extra from a snuff movie and more like he looked in life. With the addition that Ben, inexplicably, also aged – while dead. Neither Ben nor Klaus ever understood how that was possible but hey, it was a good thing, so they weren’t going to complain. 

Klaus always hated training his powers in any form, but he always did his best to ensure that his brother’s ghost would look as human as possible. 

Which is why, when Klaus stops breathing on the dirty floor of that dingy motel room, when his heart stops beating – even though he can’t touch him, Ben can tell that his brother is gone. 

There’s no other explanation, not when he can tell he’s back in his old uniform, his beloved black hoodie nowhere in sight, and looking down he can see that the eternal drip of blood is back, and so is the hole in his stomach. And he’s sure that if he looked in a mirror – or better, if a mirror able to reflect the image of a ghost existed, and he looked in it – he’d look like a teenager again. 

Not that he really knows what he looks like as an adult, but there’s not much he can do about that. Klaus draws portraits of him, every now and then, so he has a vague idea, but no matter how good an artist Klaus is, his hands always shake too much to sketch him accurately. 

But Ben Hargreeves has never been vain, and he doesn’t spend more than a second to balk at the blood spattered shorts he was wearing when he died, before he focuses on what really matters right now. 

Klaus.

 


 

When Klaus was taken from the mansion, Ben was mostly annoyed at him for being so careless, and maybe just a tiny bit worried. His brother had never been helpless, after all. Life on the streets is not for the faint of heart. Klaus just had to hold on until one of his siblings came to rescue him, right?

Then those two – Hazel and Cha-Cha, as the ghosts called them – started torturing Klaus for information. But what they didn’t know was that Klaus was high as a kite and couldn’t really feel much pain, that he had definitely been through worse things than being beaten and strangled and water-boarded, and lastly, that he really didn’t know shit. So Ben was still not overly concerned. 

But then Klaus started going into withdrawal, which was when Ben actually started to feel scared for him. The others probably hadn’t even noticed he was missing (and if he could he’d give them a piece of his mind) and not only that, but Ben knows perfectly well how Klaus gets when he’s clean. 

Desperate. Irrational. Reckless, willing to do or say anything for a fix.

And then those two masked assholes noticed the drugs, and they smashed them, and Klaus told them some stuff but mostly he kept saying that no one would notice he was gone, no one would come for him, no one really cared about him and to just please let him go– 

If Ben still had a heart, it probably would have tightened uncomfortably at his brother’s words. He would have loved to discredit them and convince Klaus that no, help was coming, that their siblings were just stupid and emotionally constipated and couldn’t express their feelings or deal with them, but they still really care about him – but the thing is, Ben isn’t too sure. He doesn’t really trust his siblings when it comes to Klaus. He loves them, yes, with all his (unbeating) heart, but Klaus is much more fragile than he likes to admit, and there’s no one Ben would trust to deal with him besides himself. (The thought might be a touch obsessive, but the guy is the only living person able to see him and speak to him, so he has his reasons for being overprotective.)

Plus. He’s always had a soft spot for Klaus, just like Diego, and he remembers all those afternoons the three of them would spend together. The memory makes him miss his childhood with a sudden fierceness. It hadn’t been easy, growing up as they had, but it certainly was easier than having to witness your brother being tortured while sobbing that nobody cares about him. 

As it turned out, the kidnappers had left a message for Five, and nobody had come yet, so maybe Klaus wasn’t totally wrong.  

So Ben figured it was time to push Klaus to save himself. He told him to use his powers to creep the assholes out, to drive a wedge between them, to somehow weaken them - and Klaus, much to his surprise, was brilliant  and managed to do it almost flawlessly.  

The two started arguing, which made Ben sigh in relief (well, mimic the act of sighing). His brother started struggling and trying to free himself but the tape was very resistant and Klaus was really weak, so he only managed to sweat and bleed and make a lot of noise, but nothing of real consequence. 

Except. Hazel and Cha-Cha stopped arguing and came back. “Hazel,” the woman said, and yeah, Klaus was right. Scarier without the mask. “This guy is trying to put us against each other so he can run,” she said, and then abruptly punched Klaus in the cheek, his head jerking sharply to the right. She then grabbed his face with her left hand, pressing her fingers into his already bruised flesh. “And if Five hasn’t come until now, I doubt he’ll ever come. He’s probably right, the old man doesn’t care about a useless creepy junkie,” she grinned at that, and Ben saw Klaus swallow and try to hide the fear in his eyes. “I say we get rid of him.”

Ben’s stomach plummeted to the floor at that. The Horror, now just as immaterial as him, suddenly started squirming inside him, and he had to put a calming hand on his abdomen, his fist tightened over the hoodie. It wouldn’t do any good to release the immaterial ghost of a monster. 

He really hoped Five would hurry, or really anybody else, but he was never too much of an optimist. That was the moment when real fear took over him. 

He saw Hazel nod, slightly pale. “Yeah, he’s useless. You wanna do the honors?” he joked, handing the woman a gun, at which Ben almost felt like throwing up (can ghosts puke?) because how dare he joke about his brother’s life? For once he wished his monsters could kill them both. He’s not a violent person by nature but he is  very protective of his family. 

Cha-Cha huffed out a breath, bored, and didn’t move to take the gun. She released Klaus’s face and stepped back. “No, a gun would just alert the police,” she pointed out, and damn did Ben hate the fact that she was actually smart. She took a long, thin knife out from somewhere around her ankle and handed it to her taller companion. “You do it. Prove to me I can actually trust you to do one damn job properly. No mercy this time,” she said, her tone harsh and unforgiving, and Ben could see Hazel inhale sharply. Even he  was clearly afraid of that madwoman. 

Yet Hazel grabbed the knife, and came closer to Klaus, and Ben could see his brother struggle against the tape and gape in abject terror at the weapon inching ever closer towards him. “No, no, no, please,” Klaus begged, “you don’t have to do this, I won’t tell anyone about you! I’ll even forget your faces, just give me a moment to get some drugs, my memory is shitty anyway, please–“ he kept saying, and then he looked to the side and Ben knew his brother could see on his face the same fear reflected in his own eyes. 

The man didn’t listen, he just put his right hand, the one enveloped in a bloodied bandage, on Klaus’s mouth, and raised his left – the one holding the knife – and whispered a tiny “I’m sorry”, before slamming the blade into Klaus’s upper chest. 

Ben saw his brother’s green eyes widen, his scream of pain stifled behind Hazel’s palm, and tightened his fists. There was still time for someone to save him. He suspected Hazel had purposefully missed any immediately lethal place, maybe to give Klaus an actual chance to survive, or maybe because it’s just his m.o. to let his victims bleed to death rather than just straight up murder them in one hit. Ben was still somewhat grateful Hazel hadn’t just slit Klaus’s throat or stabbed his heart or just chosen some other quick way to kill him. Yes, Klaus would suffer more, but he could still make it. 

Hazel kept his hand on Klaus’s mouth until he stopped struggling and just slumped on the chair, dragged into unconsciousness by overwhelming pain. The assassin then proceeded to gag Klaus with a piece of tape, again, probably to make sure he wouldn’t be able to make any noise when (if, Ben’s mind unhelpfully supplied) he woke up.

The guy stood up, wiped the knife on his pants, before handing it to Cha-Cha. “Let’s go,” he had said, “but it’s your turn to lug around that fucking briefcase.”

After that, they grabbed some stuff from the room and left. Ben didn’t really care. His focus was on his brother. 

“Klaus,” he called, softly. The other ghosts around him were staring at the unconscious man in a mix of worry and sick fascination. “Klaus,” he repeated, walking forwards to crouch in front of him. 

He raised a hand to shake him, knowing it wouldn’t work, but still couldn’t help feeling disappointed when it just went through. He swallowed the lump in his throat and sat there, waiting, keeping vigil over his wounded brother. 

He waited and waited and waited and then. Footsteps. And then, a woman, a beautiful woman came in, a gun raised high, her eyes scanning around the room and landing on Klaus, and then she stepped back and shouted “Diego!” and Ben really thought it was over, that Klaus was safe, that Diego – Diego, wonderful, secretly sweet and shy Diego, always so protective of all of them – had come to save their brother, that Klaus would be okay and everything would be just fine

 


 

But no. It’s not fine. Nothing is fine. 

Ben watches, as passive as he always was, a silent witness to the world turning around him, as Diego frees Klaus and holds him and tries to save him and his beautiful friend – Eudora – calls for help, and he’s so relieved, but then. 

But then. Something happens. Klaus . Klaus chokes and, and there’s blood all over him, on his chest, on his back, trickling out of his mouth and tracing a path from his ear to his neck and Ben can’t help him , he can’t help him and he’s never felt deader than he feels right now. 

And then. Then, after a few minutes, Klaus just. Falls limp. Stops breathing. 

Diego panics, Eudora panics, Ben himself panics while Klaus lays there motionless and placid and all the things that his brother, his wonderful, wild and desperately full of life brother should never be. 

The ambulance arrives, the paramedics fill the room and Eudora holds Diego as they try to revive Klaus and Ben just stands there, and – no

No. He can’t. He– Klaus can’t die. He can’t. Not on his watch, not when he vowed to watch out for him, all those years ago – and anyway Klaus always comes out unscathed, right? Always wakes up after his heart is shocked back into sinus rhythm. He’s insanely lucky, Ben thinks. 

His luck can’t give out now, right? (They only just got Five back.)

But the paramedics try and try and nothing happens. Klaus just lays there, and doesn’t move, he doesn’t open his eyes and get up and laugh and he doesn’t high-five the man who was just using the defibrillator on him - and then the guy stops, and shakes his head. 

And then Ben feels the hole in his stomach, and he knows that he looks just like he looked the day he died, young, young, and scared, and seeking out Klaus because Klaus could help him–

But Klaus is gone. Klaus is gone and he can’t help Ben anymore and Ben couldn’t help him either. 

He sees Diego struggle out of Eudora’s embrace and walk towards the paramedics with an angry frown on his face, something wild at the margins of his eyes. “W-W-What the fuck?! Why’d you stop?! That’s my brother– you gotta save him, man, you gotta try again,” he pleads. 

Ben lays a hand on the once pristine white shirt of his old uniform and feels liquid spilling through his fingers, mirroring the way blood pours out of his brother’s chest. He closes his eyes. 

“I’m sorry, sir,” says the paramedic. “There’s nothing else we can do.”

Ben keeps his eyes closed, but he still hears Diego’s almost feral growl, and he knows his vigilante brother is about to punch the man and yet he doesn’t blink to look. 

He doesn’t hear the punch land, though, and opens his eyes to see Eudora holding Diego again. “I’m sorry,” she whispers in his hair, and she’s crying, she’s crying, and not even Diego is crying yet because he’s still in denial. 

Ben isn’t, though. He’d cry, he really would, he feels the knot in his chest begging to find an outlet, but he stopped crying when he was six - when his father forced him to use his monsters to kill a stray kitten he'd brought home and hidden in his room - and now he doesn’t remember how it works. Besides, ghosts can shed no tears. 

“Diego,” says Eudora, her voice soft. “I’m sorry. He’s gone.”

Ben can perfectly point out the moment it finally dawns on Diego that Klaus is dead. That he’s lost another brother. His dark eyes widen and he recoils back, stumbling out of Eudora’s arms. His mouth opens, and closes, and then he turns and lands on his knees beside Klaus, his gloved hand hovering close to his face. He pulls back, takes the glove off with his teeth, and then with a startlingly gentle movement, wipes the blood from Klaus’s cheek. His hand stays there for a while. 

Ben sees Eudora show her badge to the ambulance crew and tell them to go, that she’ll deal with this. He’s thankful. Diego needs privacy, and so does he. He doesn’t want Klaus to be taken away just yet. 

Where is Klaus’s ghost? Shouldn’t he be here?

Ben looks around, but he’s alone. The other ghosts left with the two assassins. 

Where is Klaus? Why isn’t he here? 

He can’t have moved on, no. Not without him. He wouldn’t. No. He can’t have left him alone. No. No. No

While his fear and pain nearly overwhelm him, he can tell that, a few steps from him, his other brother is not doing any better. 

“I don’t understand,” Diego whispers, his hand moving from Klaus’s cheek to his matted hair and softly carding through it. “How... what... Fuck, Eudora, he was alive when we got here!” he exclaims, slamming his hand on the floor, before turning to face the woman, with reddened eyes and anguish on his face. “I– I told him he’d be okay,” he whispers, voice rough, broken. 

Ben is alone. 

Diego looks back at Klaus, and he shudders so hard Ben himself almost feels it. “I told him he’d be okay,” Diego repeats, nearly silently. “And now he’s gone, he’s gone, just like Ben, and– and– and he didn’t even know about Mom and, and I-I-I don’t know what to do without them,” he chokes out, and finally, finally tears start falling down his face. 

Ben is alone. 

Eudora, her own cheeks wet and visibly working on trying to compose herself, hurries towards Diego and lays a comforting hand on his harm. Ben thinks, distantly, that she’s probably an amazing person, but the thought slips from his mind in a second, because

Ben is alone

Diego doesn’t even react to Eudora’s touch, because he shuts down and just kneels, right beside Klaus, only moving to hold his hand.

(Ben tries not to think of that time when they were eight and Diego did the exact same thing after Klaus came to him for comfort after a nightmare, one hand holding onto Ben’s pajamas sleeve, having dragged him into Two’s room, and the other outstretched in a silent plea for comfort from his bigger, stronger brother, who had promised he’d always protect them.)

Ben is alone, but Diego is even more alone than he is because he bears the weight of two deaths on his shoulders, the guilt of having failed two brothers now, incidentally the two he felt the most protective of. 

Ben kneels on Klaus’s other side, and longs to touch him and offer him empty comfort. He’s never felt as dead as he feels right now. Alone, alone, and unseen by everyone. A ghost, for once, an actual ghost. He’s always felt half alive, since his death, thanks to Klaus – his brother’s body always too wiry, too thin, bursting at the seams to hold such a huge personality inside. Ben didn’t ever feel actually dead when Klaus was with him, because Klaus could live enough for both of them. 

He already misses him, and he’s so scared, just as scared as he was back when he died, because he doesn’t know what will happen to him now. Will he become an actual monster, too, like those that haunted his brother?

He looks at Klaus’s pale, lifeless face and hopes to find the answers there. 

Something moves, and the rustling of clothes catches his attention as he raises his head to look at the other two occupants of the room. Eudora has wiped her eyes dry, but they’re still red and puffy, and Diego stares in silent shock at Klaus’s body, tears still inexorably tracing paths down his cheeks. 

“I’ll call your family,” croaks out Eudora, a whisper that seems to almost echo in the dark motel room. She waits for some sort of reaction, probably, but Ben suspects that Diego didn’t even hear her. 

She gets up and moves, and picks up the motel room's phone, and Ben doesn’t care to figure out how exactly she knows how to reach the Hargreeves, because that’s not important right now. 

While she’s distracted, Diego finally blinks, and softly clears his throat. “Ben, are you here?” he whispers, and Ben startles. How does he know? Can he feel him? 

“Klaus always said he could see you, you know. But we never believed him because he was always high. All the time. But even if he couldn’t actually see you, maybe you’re still here to look out for us? I don’t know, I’d like to think so,” he murmurs, his lips twitching, in what could be called a tiny smile were it not for the tears. 

Diego doesn’t know he’s there. But he’s still talking to him. And he feels marginally less alone. 

“So if you’re here,” Diego continues, softly. “If you can hear me... do you promise to find him? To not leave him alone?” he very nearly begs, his voice choked up. Ben really, desperately wishes he could cry, too. “He– he needs someone to look out for him, you know how he is. And please– can you please hold his hand, if it’s dark, wherever you two are? I don’t know if you remember, but he used to be so afraid of the dark. I think he probably still is. Please, Ben,” he says. “I hope you’re really listening. I don’t, I don’t want him to be scared. I don’t want him to be alone. I didn’t find him in time, but you can. Please. I hope, at least, you can finally see each other again. He missed you so much,” he finishes, voice fading, and then puts a hand on his face and starts sobbing. 

The knot in Ben’s throat is the size of a fist, now, and he holds his arms around himself, mimicking the feeling of a hug. “I’m sorry, Diego,” he whispers, unheard, unseen. “He’s not here. I can’t help him, I can’t protect him. And I can’t,” he pauses, swallowing. “And I can’t even hold his fucking hand ,” he says, and then the knot finally gives, and he starts sobbing, too, no tears leaving his eyes, no, but still he cries and cries and cries, harder than he ever did in life or death. 

Two brothers cry together, and yet so very alone, utterly out of reach from each other. 

Eudora comes back, tells Diego they have to leave, they have to get Klaus home, and Ben wants to tell her that it was never home to Klaus, the only home Klaus ever had was with his family, and yet his family let him die – but Eudora wouldn’t hear him, anyway, so he doesn’t bother. 

Diego nods, and gets up to take a blanket off the motel bed, and gently, ever so gently, wraps it around Klaus. He picks him up and hugs him to his chest, his brother’s head falling limply on his shoulder and his bloody hair tickling his chin. His face is still wet, when Ben looks up at him. 

Eudora and Diego (and Klaus) leave, and Ben can only follow. (Haunting them, phantomwise.)

The ghost of a teen in uniform, long dead, unheard, unseen and so very alone.

Chapter Text

Five opens his eyes to his brother’s blurry face hovering above him, the filthy ceiling of a boiler room painting a somewhat sad background behind it. 

Right. He’s in Diego’s – home, for lack of a better word. He got drunk in the library, where his brothers found him, and then he woke up here. He and Luther talked about his old job and the Apocalypse and all of them dying, and the whole thing left him so drained that he ended up dozing off again, still very much under the influence of that bottle of whatever-it-was. 

“Five?” Luther calls. “You awake?” he asks, but Five doesn’t bother to reply. 

He just groans and sits up, resisting the urge to throw up again, and closes his eyes when his head starts to spin. As much as he hates hangovers, they never stopped him from drinking himself stupid whenever any sense of hope ran out – which, unfortunately, has happened way too often in his life. 

“Five,” Luther repeats, sounding worried. “Five, we have to go.”

Five doesn’t bother opening his eyes yet. He just grunts and uses his hands to slowly massage his temples. His head aches. This tiny body is not built for huge amounts of alcohol, clearly. He doesn’t regret it, though. He wanted, needed to forget about everything for a while – and anyway, if Klaus managed to live through his teenage years while constantly drunk and high, so will Five (and he is way tougher than Klaus).  

“Five,” Luther repeats, clearly agitated, yet refrains from touching him, which he appreciates, because he’s not good with unwanted touching, not even from this strange version of his siblings that he’s only ever seen as dead and who he is only now learning to know – just in time to likely see them die horribly in a few days. Wonderful.

In spite of his weariness, his eyes slide open in reaction to Number One’s distressed tone. It’s not like him to get worked up over nothing, so something must have happened. Something less important than the Apocalypse, certainly, but probably not something completely stupid. Luther’s pretty smart, under all that muscle, he’s just very easily manipulated, and their father was always the best at keeping him under a tight leash made of fear and obedience disguised as love. Five and his biggest brother never were the best of friends, because they were both way too competitive and inclined to arguing, but he does respect Number One’s single-mindedness and his drive to focus on the most important things in life, rather than trivialities. If only they could agree on what important means. 

His thoughts are once again interrupted by his brother. “Five,” he repeats, again, and his tone is forceful, in stark contrast with his wide eyes. He looks scared. Luther doesn’t do scared, and it makes Five frown in confusion (and concern, even though he’d never admit it). “Five, a detective called. We need to go home, something’s happened, and we need to go,” Luther explains, half stumbling on his words, his huge frame bent around itself in a poor attempt to disguise his worry. 

Five’s eyebrows raise in interest. The haziness from the alcohol is now barely more than background noise to him, this new development replacing it at the forefront of his mind. He may not be at his best, but he doesn’t need to be, always ready to work on the Apocalypse equations in order to accommodate for any new detail. 

“A detective?” Five asks. “Why is the police involved? You know they can’t do shit,” he huffs, stretching his back in annoyance and flopping his legs on the side of Diego’s bed. It’s thin and old, but way more comfortable than sleeping on the floor like he’s used to. “And how the hell does this detective know where we are – does he know about me?” he questions, eyes narrowed in suspicion. 

Luther gets up from his chair, shaking his head and looming over him. “I don’t know, I think she may be working on the case of those two – Hazel and Cha-Cha, you called them? She said she’s a friend of Diego’s and that he’s somehow involved – and I think Klaus might be, too? Diego went to look for him, I think,” he digresses, forehead creased in concentration. “I didn’t really get everything, she sounded in a rush when the old man out here called me to answer the call, and I didn’t get to talk to Diego, so I don’t know what actually happened. I just know that we need to go home, and fast,” he explains, and Five doesn’t bother to reply because the ape hasn’t answered all his questions. 

Luther must notice his annoyed expression because he sighs and crosses his arms. “She didn’t mention you at all, she just knew one of Diego’s brothers was here, so don’t worry, nobody said anything about you,” he finishes, and looks almost hurt at the thought that Five doesn’t trust them, doesn’t trust him, but Five has been away for years and in those years he has learnt to trust himself and only himself, so he doesn’t apologize. There will be all the time in the world for apologies after he prevents the Apocalypse – what good is sorry if his family dies? He’ll find the time to mend his relationship with them after he is sure they will actually get to have one.

Luther seems to shake it off quickly, though. (How very mature of him). “Well. Whatever is going on sounds urgent, so we better get going,” he says, and looks at him expectantly. Five almost rolls his eyes at his brother, still taking on the role of the leader after so many years, but interrupts the gesture when he realizes it will just aggravate his headache. 

“Let’s go,” he says, and walks past Number One, knowing that he’ll follow. He may have been the leader once, but when it comes to the Apocalypse, there is an unspoken agreement that it’ll be Five who has the last say.

 


 

They reach the old mansion in an impressively short time, even without Five jumping.

No matter how many times he has gone in and out of it in the past couple of days, it still feels surreal for him to be back in his childhood home, a place he had truly believed he would never get to see again. And isn’t that a funny thought – when he was actually thirteen, he had wanted nothing more than to leave that house, that cage, so badly that he made a stupid decision that ruined his life. Now he still looks thirteen, and yet he has to physically stop himself from breaking apart at the fact that he did it. He came back. He has a chance. He can’t focus on that now, because it’s still just a chance and not a certainty, and he needs to make sure that he can actually save them before he can let himself enjoy being finally home.

Five steps inside, Luther at his back, the ancient door thudding closed behind them. Even though he knew that Grace would not be welcoming them – Luther told him about her when they were at Diego’s – he wasn’t ready for the silence that her absence entailed. 

The sound of their footsteps echoes in the main area as they walk around the fallen chandelier towards the living room, coming to a stop when they notice an unfamiliar woman at the base of the stairs. Five’s keen eyes are drawn to the badge hanging from her neck, and then the second detail he immediately notices is the redness of her eyes. 

“Uh, hello, Miss...?” begins Luther, and Five lets him speak because he really doesn’t feel like pretending he’s actually a teenager at the moment, thank you very much. 

The woman studies them, too, before breathing in heavily and extending her hand. “Patch. Detective Eudora Patch. I’m a friend of Diego’s. You two must be Luther, and...?” she asks, eyebrow raised, looking at Five expectantly.

Luther shakes her hand, his movements careful and controlled. “Pleased to meet you. This is, huh, my son Finn–”

Five rolls his eyes, and it hurts because he’s still very hungover, but the urge was just too strong. He doesn’t even say anything, he just turns around and leaves the main hall, and lets Luther deal with this. The perks of looking like a teenager is that he can act like a brat and no one will blink an eye. He finds a column behind which he can hide and listen to them, out of the woman’s sight.

He can hear Luther finish what was probably a very unconvincing, highly suspicious tale about his son Finn, and the big lug apologizes for his behavior by saying “he’s usually polite, he’s just not used to being in this house,” which is not completely untrue. 

“So, huh. What is the reason you called me, Detective?” Luther asks, politely, and Five understands why he was always the one who would talk to the press after missions. 

The woman hums in assent, but she doesn’t sound too interested. “I’m sorry, sir, there is no easy way to say this. Diego is in the infirmary with your brother Klaus, but I’m afraid we were too late. I’m sorry, he’s–”

Five jumps. 

As soon as he appears in the infirmary, his eyes are drawn to a body under a sheet, laid on the metal gurney Five had spent more than a night lying on, when he was young, after some particularly intense training sessions or missions. 

“And there he is, the man of the hour,” says a voice, and Five turns his head to see Diego sitting on the floor, back resting on the wall, in a strategic position that lets him see the gurney and the door at the same time. His knees are bent, arms lazily leaning on them in a position that is clearly meant to convey relaxation. To Five, it looks more like defeat – he used to see that same expression that is now on Diego’s face whenever he stared at his own reflection in the broken mirror he kept at his base, almost every day, for forty years in a barren wasteland. 

Diego doesn’t look good. His eyes are red and irritated and his knuckles are bruised, and Five knows his brother must have punched the wall behind him until he was forced to stop, or break his hand. There is dried blood under his nails. 

“You have some real guts showing your ugly mug here at this time, you know that?” Diego says suddenly, almost making him jump, voice rougher than sandpaper. His eyes look at Five, but there is nothing in them. Just a sense of desolation that reminds him of staring at the burning ruins of the Academy. “And here I was thinking Vanya was the worst sibling I have, but no, no, of course dear little Number Five has to come first even in that,” he adds, and barks out a sharp laugh, but there is not trace of humor in it. “And of course a fucking book on our private shit wouldn’t suffice, no, you gotta fucking take it to a whole other level,” he continues, fists clenched. There is a knife in his right hand. 

Five rolls his eyes, “Diego, what the fuck are you talking about?” he asks, arms crossed over his chest. “Actually, why don’t you tell me what that detective wants, and where the fuck is Klaus?” he asks, “she said something about–”

“You’ve been pretty busy lately, huh?” Diego interrupts him, which angers him to no end, but he chooses not to bring it up, for now. “The shootout at Griddy’s, and the one at Gimbel Brothers, they said there was a kid– that was you, right? The guys in the masks, when they attacked us. They said they just wanted ‘the boy’. They were looking for you, huh?” Diego questions, with a certainty in his eyes that tells Five confirmation isn’t necessary.

Still, he looks irritated already, and if there’s one thing he hadn’t missed in the Apocalypse, it had been Two’s short temper. “Yes,” he replies. “Hazel and Cha-Cha, they’re trying to get me back to– it doesn’t matter right now, where is Klaus?” he asks again, trying not to look at the body on the gurney. He doesn’t know who it is, but it doesn’t matter because it’s not–

“You know, your friends left you a message,” Diego goes on, as if Five hasn’t spoken, flipping the knife between his fingers. It’s an old habit of his, when he’s anxious about something. Five doesn’t care to know what it was that made his brother so tense. He’d rather deal with angry Two than with anxious Two, because Diego may be a hothead but he’s not stupid, and if something is bothering him, it probably means something really bad is going on. The body on the gurney has not moved, but it seems to be looming closer the longer Five is in the room. “On your van,” continues Diego, interrupting his thoughts.

“Diego,” he intercedes, voice stern. “Where is Klaus?”

“Do you want to know what it said?” Diego continues, ignoring his question, unbothered by the clear annoyance exuding from Five. “It said ‘your brother says hi’. There was an address, too, how fucking considerate!” he goes on, huffing out another mirthless laugh. “They fucking– they fucking left you the address to go and get him back, but you were busy drinking your tiny ass off in a library, while we were busy looking for you,” Diego concludes, pointing at him with his free hand, before dragging it on his face, suddenly looking a lot older than before. Just as old as Five feels.

“Diego,” he says, calmly, slowly. “Tell me,” he orders, and holds his breath. He used to do it as a kid, whenever he was scared or Reginald was about to punish him. It made time slow, and it made him feel like he could control it. How foolish of him. He was never and will never be able to control time, just mess it up. “Where is he?”, he asks, and his voice is tiny, young, scared. He barely recognizes it.

His brother doesn’t look angry anymore. Just sad, and hurt, and scared. It doesn’t look right on him. He gestures with his head, raising his chin sharply towards the gurney, and says nothing.

Five nods. He knows. He’s known since he walked in, since he saw the dried tears on Diego’s face, since the detective said “too late”. He knows, and yet…

He walks towards the body. He needs to see. He knows, but he needs to check. To be sure. 

His hand looks small as it moves to grip the edge of the sheet. Just as small as it looked when he used it to bury his family, forty-five years ago and four days from now. He can almost see the dirt under his nails, the ash on his knuckles. It shakes just like it did back then.

A deep breath, and he raises the fabric to look. It’s– no.

He drops the cover as if it’s burning hot. It’s

–he can’t have fucked up already. It can’t be. He still has four days, he can’t– this is– it’s not how it was supposed to go

In the corner of his eye, Five sees Diego stand on shaky feet, walking towards him with a concerned expression. He looks like he’s saying something, but the only sound Five can hear is the blood rushing in his ears. A hand lands on his arm, gentle, caring, so unlike the Two he remembers (yet just as hesitant as Five was when he shook him to wake him up, in the ruins of their house – his head screaming Diego, get up and help me, I’m scared!). 

The only occasion this family comes together, the only reason they remember how much they care about each other, the only time they show concern, and affection, and love–

(The body is still, silent, just like he was back then, the faded tattoo dark on his skin–)

–is when someone dies.

Five jumps.

 


 

“Five? Is that you?” a voice called, catching Five’s attention. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon and the Hargreeves siblings had been left to their own devices for the day, after hours of training. Five was walking towards the library to grab another book on quantum superposition (the last one had not quite lived up to his expectations), but he stopped at the sound of his name. 

Rolling his eyes, he followed the call and came up to Klaus’s room. Opening the slightly ajar door, he noticed that Ben was there, too. His brothers were both sitting on the floor, legs crossed, one in front of the other, Klaus’s tarot cards spread between them. “Fivey!” exclaimed Klaus, throwing his arms up in greeting. “How nice of you to join us. Come, come, let me read your future or whatever,” he said, scooting on the floor slightly to make space for him, hands fidgeting to shuffle the deck. 

Five sighed long-sufferingly, but did as instructed, sitting between his two brothers. Four, Five, Six. They didn’t hang out together often, the two even numbers usually spending time with Diego and Five himself preferring to be around Vanya, but he did enjoy talking about books with Ben. Klaus was, usually, too infuriating for them to be alone for too long without one of them trying to punch the other, but Five had to begrudgingly admit that his eccentric brother did have a wild sense of humor that always managed to make him smile. Ben’s calming presence was usually enough to mitigate their contrasting personalities.

He watched as Klaus took a drag from his joint before offering it to Ben first, and then Five. Both of them shook their heads, and their brother shrugged, mumbling something like “more for me” before sticking it between his lips, and picking the deck up again and shuffling it again. 

Carefully, Klaus laid down three cards. The Three Fates, Five remembered. It was the spread Four favored, not being the kind of person who was capable to stay still enough to be able to appreciate the depth and detailedness of the Celtic Cross spread. Five observed with keen eyes as Klaus’s hands, slightly unsteadily, turned the three tarots around.

His brother’s brow furrowed momentarily. His fingers took the joint and stubbed it out in an empty glass of something Five suspected had not been water. “So, Five, Five, Five, my friends here tell me you’ve been struggling with something lately, haven’t you?” Klaus asked, grinning smugly, probably thinking of the most ludicrous scenarios he could come up with.

Five rolled his eyes. Of course, he should have known it would go like this, Klaus had never been able to be serious about anything in his life. “Yes,” he simply said, ignoring Ben’s questioning gaze. He wasn’t going to tell any of them that he was thinking about time travelling, about leaving so that he could come back so powerful Reginald wouldn’t be able to stop him from taking all of them away from that hellish place.

Klaus hummed. “Always so cryptic and mysterious, huh? Well. I’m here to help with… whatever it is that’s troubling you,” he said cheerfully, unbothered by his brother’s lack of enthusiasm. He pointed to the first card on the left, representing the past. “This is your past. The Emperor, reversed. The stoic ruler. It represents a man who wants to take control of your actions, who makes you feel powerless. Or it could mean that you’re playing the part of a weak ruler, trying to avoid the tasks that come with having responsibility. I’d say that it means that, so far, you’ve been dealing with your shit – and we all know by shit I mean dear old Reggie – in the wrong way. The Emperor should care for his people, and yet in this position he has abused his authority. He has forgotten what really matters. Which probably means you’ve been focusing on the wrong things,” Klaus explained, his nails tapping an irregular rhythm on the card, reciting most words from memory, having spent years being forced by his father to read about divination.

Five didn’t want to admit that it was much more accurate than he expected. He had been focusing on his powers so much he had forgotten why he had wanted to improve them to begin with. To make sure that he could give them all a better life, away from there. He wouldn’t make the same mistake again. 

“You’re getting better at this,” Ben said, softly. He never raised his voice, often too shy to speak up. But Five knew that he felt safe and comfortable around them, which made him bolder. That was the version of Ben he liked the most, clever and sarcastic, for once not suffocating under his siblings’ stronger personalities.

Klaus made a non-committal noise, shoulders shrugging. “Daddy dearest will be proud,” he deadpanned, and Ben snorted, Five’s lips twitching. “Alright, so, this one,” he said, point to the card in the middle, the present. “This represents your present, Five. It’s an interesting one. The Moon, and this one is reversed, too. This could mean that the negative aspects of the moon are present in your life. It could represent confusion and unhappiness – you want to make progress, to change, to do something new, but you’re not sure what’s the right thing to do. You gotta deal with your fears and overcome them. They’re just shadows in the dark. I’d say this means that whatever you’re thinking of doing, you should do it. You gotta believe in yourself,” Klaus told him, green eyes bright in spite of the redness around them.

He was always either drunk or high, lately. At that moment, he looked relaxed thanks to the weed, but nothing more than that. It was nice to be able to hear him talk without slurring too much, to be around him when he was able to be as rational as someone like Klaus could ever be. Five would never say it aloud, but he’d missed that. His brother was possibly the most infuriating creature on the planet, but he loved him just as much as he loved all his other siblings, and he had missed actually talking to him (in very short increments, of course, because not even on his most charitable days could Five stand Klaus’s inane chatter for more than ten minutes).

“Five?” Ben called, unsure, probably having noticed he had zoned out. 

He shook his head, looking at Ben on his left and smiling slightly, before focusing back on Klaus and his tarots. “Go on. You’re not half bad at this,” he admitted, reluctant but sincere, because it was true. He had been struggling with what to do for a long time and he finally felt like this was the sign he had been waiting for.

His brother snorted. “Ah, a compliment from Five. Be still my beating heart. I shall now die and go to heaven– nah, hell sounds better,” he joked, before his eyes widened, noticing the near murderous look in Five’s eyes. “Alright, jeez, fine. You have no sense of humor, I swear. So, brother mine, this,” he said, pointing to the last card to the right, the future. “This is one of the possible futures. Remember that whatever I say here and now, even if it is the most accurate reading I could give you – and even that’s debatable, I don’t really trust my abilities on this – it’s still just a prediction of one of many possible futures. I know you believe in the whole multiverse thingy, so you could see this as me taking a glimpse into one of those many universes. Your choices are what impact the future, not this dumb card,” Klaus warned, as if this was the first reading Five had subjected himself to. But well, trusting divination was not something he was wont to do, his mind far too rational to believe in something so foolish as ‘fate’, so he just nodded and took the advice to heart.

Five nodded. “I know.”

Klaus smiled tightly. “Your future, then. This is the Death card, upright. Now I don’t want you to be worried – the meaning of this card is one of the most positive in the whole deck. It signals that a major part of your life is ending, and a new one is about to start. You have to leave the past behind you, so you can focus on what is ahead of you. The old version of you needs to ‘die’ to allow the new you to be created. This can be a scary, but even if you’re scared, you should welcome the change because you are opening the door to new life events,” he explained, eyes taking on a faraway look that tended to slightly creep out most people, but which had always fascinated Five, wishing he could have the ability to see beyond what everyone else saw like his wayward brother. “So once again, what I get from the cards is that you’re thinking of doing something that makes you anxious and worried because it could be a big change, but you’re also realizing that a change is needed because you focused on the wrong shit in the past. You’re thinking of fixing that by doing – whatever it is you want to do. And if it’s a sign you’re waiting for?” Klaus asked, looking at Five questioningly, and it was almost eerie how good he was at this. “Then I’d say this,” he said, pointing at the Death card. “This is it.”

Five nodded. “Okay. Thank you,” he said, and watched as his brother beamed at him, shuffling the deck again.

“You’re welcome, Fivey. We do this quite often, if you wanna join us again,” Klaus offered.

Five looked at him, and then at Ben. He couldn’t have known, back then, what his future would hold. He would see both of them at breakfast, the next day, one last time before all their lives changed, but none of them usually looked at each other in those occasions. Ben would be reading a book and Klaus would be rolling a joint under the table. 

In that moment, in Klaus's tiny room, standing there looking at his brothers before waving at them and turning around to leave, he couldn’t have known what was going to happen. He couldn't have known that it would be the last time he’d ever see Ben’s gentle smile, brown eyes soft as they welcomed him as part of their little esoteric group. He couldn’t have known that the next time he’d see Klaus’s huge green eyes, they’d be lifeless and fixed on nothing, his brother lying prone in the rubble, dust and ash on his clothes, almost unrecognizable but for the umbrella tattoo on his wrist.

He couldn’t have known, back then, what his future would hold. (Death, Klaus had said.)

He just knew that he had gotten the sign he was waiting for. That was it, he was sure. The next day he was going to ask Reginald about time travel.


 
Five appears in the bathroom on the second floor. 

A moment later he falls to his knees (–he’s on his knees in front of the ruins of his home–) and leans over the toilet to vomit. He thought he had emptied his stomach on Luther’s shoes, but apparently his stomach doesn’t agree, since it clearly still has enough left in it for him to throw up, the back of his throat burning. 

When the fit stops, there are tears on his cheeks. That’s normal, he thinks. He always cries (–when his family dies–) when he throws up. 

He wipes his face none too gently, flushes the toilet, and lets himself sit on the cold tiles, back resting on the wall, staring at the antique interior of the mansion he had hoped to see again for so long.

The bathtub is the central piece of the room. He remembers knocking on the door angrily whenever Four decided to take a soak that lasted hours. He’d often end up jumping inside, opening the cold water right on his brother’s face to make him yelp, screaming at him to hurry up, or else. Klaus would whine and splash him and flip him off, and sometimes Five would slip and fall and they’d end up laughing together. (No one used to be able to make him laugh as hard as crazy, wild Number Four did).

The house is mournfully quiet, so unlike the one he left behind, and yet so similar to the ruins he found his family in. Five is back home (–rubble, fires, ash and smoke–), after so long, and his family is (–gone, gone, gone–) here, and yet nothing is the same. 

Luther is huge, Diego is angry, Allison has a daughter (Claire? he’s an uncle), Klaus’s entire life revolves around drugs and Ben is dead (–he looks for Ben for weeks before finding the book, because he knows Ben wouldn’t have left without the others–). The only one who never changed is Vanya. Still quiet, still unassuming and gentle, still only half there most of the time, as if something is holding her back from being whole. Just as wonderfully ordinary as always. And of course, thanks to her book (–her book says she never stopped waiting for him–), he knew his family had changed a lot, but he had hoped to go back far enough that it wouldn’t matter, had been arrogant enough to assume that his presence would affect their existences as much as his absence had. 

That’s his problem, after all. He’s always been far too prideful. He had thought he was ready for time travel, that he could save the entire world, that he was always right, always better than everyone else – even when he jumped away and left Klaus alone at Meritech after his brother helped him, nonchalantly mentioning that he’d been homeless all these years, because Klaus was stupid and useless

Klaus went with him when he needed help, no questions asked, acting as his father in exchange for a few bucks, but mostly for the fun of it, maybe even just to spend time with him, and he actually was surprisingly helpful, even if the entire endeavor turned out to be a dead end.

And Five let him die. No, worse, Five got him killed

He got upset (his only clue, gone), got drunk in a library, didn’t notice the message on his van quite literally inviting him to save his brother (Diego was right to be mad), and of course those two damned bastards would conclude that Four was useless as bait because Five didn’t care about him, because if he did, he would have fucking noticed and would have gone after him and saved him–

(–he should have been there, should have protected them, saved them, or at least died with them–)

–but he didn’t. He didn’t, and now his brother is gone. And it’s all his fault. Klaus got mixed up in his business and died because of it. Because of him.

Five barely got a glimpse of him, under that white sheet, but it was enough for him to recognize the signs of Hazel and Cha-Cha’s meticulous touch. They needed information about him, and that’s how they found out about Meritech. How long was Klaus with them? Waiting and hoping for help, being tortured for things he knew nothing about. More than half a day, certainly, between the attack at the Academy and the fire at the lab. Klaus was there for such a long time that those two had to leave him a message, which he didn’t even get because he was drunk. And their family was out looking for him, instead of Klaus.

His eyes burn, and so he closes them. Behind his eyelids, the two images of his brother’s body overlap, one of him lying face-down in the rubble of their home, eyes open and fixed on nothing (–no, no, no, that tattoo, it can’t be, no, no–), and the other one of him lying supine on the gurney in the infirmary, eyes closed, covered in blood, a hole in his chest. He keeps seeing him, again and again, back in the infirmary and back in the Apocalypse (–he buries them, one by one, holding their hands and apologizing and promising to save them–), and he knows he can’t let this be how it ends.

The Apocalypse wasn’t his fault, he knew he was blameless for that, at least. He had been a child, ignorant and naive and arrogant and careless. Fifty-eight years spent fighting against his siblings, with his siblings and for his siblings, against his asshole father, against the entire world, and then surviving even after the world itself had ended, the last living person on Earth, and then killing innocent people, countless deaths on his conscience, endless blood on his hands – everything, all of it, just to come back and save his family.

And he did it. He came back. And he fucked up after barely days. He fucked up so bad he got his brother killed even faster than before. One more death on his conscience, more blood on his hands, and this time he is anything but blameless, because he isn’t a child anymore, and he should have known better, and it’s his fault.

But not being a kid allows him to do something. Fix this.

He’s been trying to prevent the Apocalypse for so long that he almost forgot why he wanted to, in the first place. He’d like to think he’s a better person than this, that he wants to save the world, save Klaus, because it’s the right thing to do, but he’s always been selfish. He’s doing it for himself, because he was always fiercely protective of his siblings and he loves them and he would – and literally did – move the entire world just to protect them. Right now, he needs to save his stupid, sweet junkie of a brother, and then he can save the rest of their family. And the rest of the world, if they’re lucky, but that’s just a side benefit. Not his main concern.

Five allows himself a few minutes to break down, in the bathroom, to cry in silence and fall apart, to apologize to his brother, to punch the wall because he really should have done better, but that’s it. He can lose a few minutes, take a moment to compose himself, but no more than that.

“Your choices are what impact the future,Klaus had said, all those years ago, the Death card on the floor between them, just before everything changed. He’d also said to leave the past behind him, but Five thinks that maybe he should hold onto it for a little longer, still.

He gets up, wipes away the tears on his face and the blood on his knuckles, straightens his tie, and leaves the bathroom. He blinks and, this time, behind his eyelids, he sees Ben’s smile and Klaus’s eyes (wide, bright, alive) – a moment from the past, forty-five years ago, frozen in time.

He knows what he has to do.