Fandom: The umbrella academy
Riassunto: Ben Hargreeves doesn't want to be a superhero but it's not like ever had any other choice
Note: Scritta per la M2 della 4° settimana del COWT9 per "Mettersi a ridere all’improvviso"
Ben never wanted his powers, nor his father’s cruelty. He never wanted to be in the spotlight, or be a superhero, of all of his siblings he thought he was the least suited for this kind of life.
Weak, his father would have said, and Ben was too young to know how to ignore the words of the man that raised him.
In the beginning, everyone was excited about the academy. About the idea of being real life superheroes.
Ben could never share the excitement.
"You're too soft, number six," his father used to tell him, while his brothers and sister trained. And he would feel it all on his skin.
The softness that his father recriminated him, the weak parts under his skin, the weakness festering and growing.
He could call monsters from another dimension, let them wreak havoc in his place, but he wondered exactly how much space was inside of him. Could he really hold everything that always threatened to spill from inside him?
He lied awake at night with no answer in sight.
One by one, his brothers and sister started to fall too. It's gradual, but Ben watched it happen with the feel of inevitability growing inside him.
He tried to help where he could, of course, but Ben knew all too well the feeling they were experiencing. There was a sickness growing inside of all of them.
It grew with every time their father ignored them. It grew with every time he didn't look at them.
It grew with every experiment.
They were powerless to stop it just as Ben once was.
The first, but also the last, a wreck wrapped in tragedy was Klaus.
Not because Klaus was the worst of them, the one more damaged (but maybe he was, maybe he will always be) but because Klaus was the sweeter of them.
Ben was soft, always had been, but Klaus was carefree and light. Where Ben brought with him insecurity and shyness, Klaus' touch was a breath of fresh air.
He was the most empathic of them, and so he was crushed the hardest.
Ben will never know what exactly happened in those weeks where Klaus was taken away from them. The only thing they knew was that Klaus was taken from them one day and returned a shell of what he once was.
They tried to ask him what happened, of course, but Klaus was never really with them after that. Most of the time he listened to things, to ghosts, that they couldn't see.
He started laughing out of the blue, as if he was reacting to a joke they couldn't listen, but they could never be sure that there ever really was a joke.
Vanya was a broken thing that they never could put back together.
She was different from them, ordinary where they were all extraordinary, but most of all she was quiet. She never talked much, watched them and envied them.
What a joke.
It always was, or so Ben thought, the reason why they never got along. Him, the rest of his siblings and Vanya.
She wanted what they all had, but couldn't realize how terrible it was. She wanted the tests, the torture, the bodies on their conscience to be connected to them.
To be connected to father.
Ben had never wanted anything less in his entire life. He would have gladly gave it all to her if he only could.
Still, Vanya broke anyway, just like they did.
Maybe it wasn't about being ordinary or not. Maybe it was just the world they were born in, maybe there wasn't a place for them if not as broken, terrified things.
Five reacted to strictness like a challenge. He was the only one of them to talk back. The only one that refused to bend, to change, to dull himself.
Ben always thought that he could have been the best of them. That of all of them, Five could have actually made it.
Considering how their lives went, it's really not that surprising that he was the first one to go. Lost in time and space, but most of all lost because of their father's callous words.
Diego was always the second son, always a step behind Luther and scrambling to be one in front of them.
He was mom's favorite for no other reason that he needed to be.
Father looked at his problems with words as a personal failure and refused to help him in any way and so mother took her time, encouraged him where his father had given up.
And yet Diego never could surpass Luther in their father's eyes, nor he could ever take enough of a distance from them.
Ben didn't really saw it as a bad things. In the nights where the rumbling from his stomach got too loud, where all the could think about was the abyss where his monsters came from, Klaus was the only thing that could stop the terror. He knew that Allison and Luther found help in each other.
He had hoped once that they could bring the same peace to Diego in some way, but the other always refused.
It was not their place to help someone who didn't want to be helped, not when they didn't have enough to help themselves
Allison and Luther, because it always seemed wrong to talk about one without the other, they always seemed to be an exception in the fucked up mess that was their family.
Luther was the first one, Number One in all the ways that mattered to their father and none of the ways that mattered to them. He was supposed to lead them, but he never realized that they wanted to be led oud of there.
His biggest flaw was his need to be of use, to live up to the name his father had branded on him with iron negligence and strict manipulation.
Allison, on the other hand, seemed to be the less touched by Father's manipulation. Which wasn't to say that she didn't receive them, or that she wasn't treated as badly as they all were; but there was a strength in Allison that didn't seem to exist in them all.
Ben thought so, at least, until the night he sneaked out of his room to go to Klaus' and heard her talk to the mirror in the room.
"I heard a rumor," she said, looking at her own reflection, with a hard stare, "that you're stronger than this."
After that, Ben didn't wonder about her anymore.
Ben didn't think much about his death. When it happened it was quick, probably quicker than any of them deserved, and that was all that he cared about.
He always thought about the effect it had on his brothers and sisters, however. How he could not when everything he did now was follow Klaus around and be a witness of what his death had caused?
He could never forget the first time he had appeared in front of Klaus.
His brother was in Ben's room, crying over his unmade bed, and Ben had reacted unconsciously at the sight. He had walked forward, trying to touch his brother's back and bring him as much comfort as he could.
Ben's hand had passed through his brother's back. Incorporeal. Dead.
Klaus jumped, surprised at the touch, and turned towards him.
"Ben?" his voice was a whisper. An incredible thing that betrayed a loss so deep and a hope that not even their father could completely extinguish.
Ben was going to do it with his own two hands, however, and he hated himself for it.
"Klaus," he said, like he was talking to someone who needed to be protected. "I..."
Klaus didn't let him finish, he stood up and tried to take Ben's hand. For a moment, for reasons Ben didn't want to think about, he could actually feel the touch of Klaus' skin. It was familiar, something he felt many times before in his life.
If he tried enough he could remember the warmth, the texture of Klaus' skin. For a moment, he could have closed his eyes and forgotten anything about his own death, anything that wasn't Klaus right here in front of him.
But Klaus' hand passed through his and all they were left were the broken pieces of a life they could never take back.
"Oh," Klaus said, his voice small. Scared.
"Oh," Ben repeated. Because there wasn't anything more he could said.
Klaus took his first pill the next day. Ben tried, he tried so much and so hard, but Klaus looked at him with so much sadness in his eyes.
"I can't do this, Ben," he admitted, showing him so many of his emotional scars, so much of what their father had done to him. "Don't ask me to, I'm not strong enough."
Ben wanted to tell him that he was wrong, that they were all stronger than what their life had thrown at them, but how could he when he was proof enough that there was no salvation after?
Ben had died just as broken and just as fragile as their father had made him.
There was no hope for him to give. And so Klaus had took the pill and he had closed his eyes.
When Klaus had opened them again, he had smiled sadly, looking at the place where he could once see Ben. Klaus couldn't see anything there anymore and he had cried for hours, asking forgiveness for something that wasn't his fault.
Ben knew it all because he had still been there. Just because Klaus couldn't see him, it didn't mean that Ben had left him.
He was now really a ghost, haunting the only brother he could hope to reach.
Klaus hadn't been sober in years when their father died. Ben had followed him all the time, saw him getting higher and higher, wasting his life away between drugs and alcohol because he didn't believe he was worthy of more.
In the rare occasions, between a dose and the other, where Klaus was sober enough to see him, Ben would sit beside him and try to be as encouraging as he could.
"If I was there..." he once said, but Klaus had laughed. Something cruel and fragile at the same time. It wasn't a laugh supposed to hurt Ben, only Klaus himself.
Much like their powers, unfortunately no one of them had any control on who they hurt.
"But you're not," Klaus had answered, watching the dead man on the other side of the room. Someone probably killed him in this alleyway long ago, judging from his clothes and the gunshot wound on his chest.
It was always strange seeing other dead people. Ben could only see them when Klaus conjured them, the other times, he was alone with his afterlife and Klaus.
"I am," Ben tried, desperately. Maybe not like Klaus needed or wanted, but Ben was there, clinging to this reality with all the strength he had left.
Klaus only shook his head and looked ahead while the voices of the dead got stronger and stronger.
He had told Ben about the crypt once, the terrible place where their father had locked him up, and Ben understood better than most how terrifying it must have been, being locked away with only the dead for company.
Klaus had the same haunted look in his eyes, and so Ben knew he didn't have much time before his next dose.
"I just hoped there was something I could do for you," he said, honestly. If there was something he could do for Klaus, to make this a little easier for him, he would do it. "I can disappear if you want. Next time you're sober, I won't be here."
Ben didn't really know if that was possible, had never even tried to get away from Klaus before, didn't ever felt the need to. But if Klaus wanted that, if he needed Ben to leave him alone?
He would do it.
Klaus turned towards him, his eyes getting bigger with tears and guilt, and Ben waited.
"Don't go," Klaus told him with a smile. "I'm a terrible person, but I don't want you to go. How terrible am I?" Before Ben could answer, Klaus took the next pill, and Ben was alone once again.
Still, he said it anyway: "You're not a terrible person, Klaus. Why do you think I'm here?"
The other couldn't hear him, of course, but that wasn't the point.
The day of his father's funeral, Klaus couldn't see him. Not until later, but Ben stayed with him. Watched the whole terrible day unfold and observed with morbid curiosity when his statue got destroyed in the fight between Luther and Diego.
He had to admit, that was a little funny.
Only after, in Diego's car, Klaus let himself be sober enough for Ben to appear.
Klaus talked about breakfast, as he sometimes did, and Ben replied to him in kind, happy to be able to have a conversation with his brother, but his head was somewhere else.
Something was changing, he could feel it. Five's return had set something in motion, and Ben didn't know how he could just standby and watch it all happen from the side, but what other options did he have?
The apocalypse, when one thinks about it, is a funny concept. The end of all existence, wiped away in a couple of seconds at max.
Poetic, quick. Impossible to stop, it appeared.
After all even after all their efforts, after everything they did to stop Vanya, they were still there, watching the moon collapse upon them.
Really, what a joke.
But then Five gave them a possibility. Hope.
And even after all this, even after everything they went through, they were ready to do it again.
This time, they were ready to hope again.
Ben opens his eyes and he's in his room in the academy. He looks down at himself and he's thirteen again. If he has to guess what day it is, he thinks it might be the day Five disappears.
Before he can move, before he can even register anything, the door to his room opens and there is Klaus, looking at him.
Ben watches back and for a moment he can't even say anything.
"Oh, Ben," Klaus says and then he throws himself at Ben. Ben hugs him back immediately and closes his eyes.
This time they'll do it better, he thinks.
This time they'll do it like they should have in the beginning.