Warnings: blood; briefly described gore; drug use; dysfunctional families like whoa (though that's almost a given); mention of miscarriage.
*


Pogo had set up a cake for him in the dining room, sixteen candles and all; but as Allison was being more of a bitch than usual, Diego was out somewhere with Vanya again, Mom was undergoing maintenance, Ben was having a bad day with the monsters, and Number One was in some kind of pretentious-prick contest with the old man Hargreeves himself... no. Klaus had thanked Pogo but elected to stay the fuck out of that nonsense.
He wasn't upset. It wasn't like they were actually a family or anything, he didn't expect them to act like it anymore. Besides, he had some important work to do by himself in his room. Work that involved as many hallucinogenics as he could get his recently-tattooed hands on, and some old-time rock and roll.

The weed turned out to be okay, but not good- and he didn't even remember who he'd bought it off of, damn. Waste not want not, though, so he breathed it in deep anyway.
After he'd smoked a bowl or three and relaxed as much as he'd like to, he got ready to move onto the acid tabs, and it was then he'd looked up and seen the woman at the foot of his bed.

There wasn't a big deal, no howling winds or suddenly homicidal objects or anything. She was just standing there, staring at him; early forty's maybe, wearing her hair loose, in a sensible blouse and sensibly short skirt that was wet-looking and dark around the line of her hips. Her legs were bare; trickles of blood ran down the insides of her legs.
Klaus froze, the pipe and lighter still in his hands.

But then the woman stepped forward, and he relaxed. The blood dripping off her wasn't making any marks on the carpet, not one drop, and her feet didn't make a sound. A ghost. He knew how to deal with ghosts.

She walked right up to the bed and then through it, like it was water, until her legs weren't visible from the knee down and she was about a foot away from him. She was prettier up close; there was something familiar about the set of her face. She looked lost.
"Hello," Klaus said, raising his right hand. ('HELLO', it read. 'GOODBYE' was tattooed on his opposite palm, his skin still healing scabby and gross underneath the word. Plain black ink, Ouija board lettering; it was a cheap joke, but those were his favourite kind.) He smiled. "How are you today, ma'am?"
"You're alive," she said. Her voice had the same whisper-tightened edge that all departed voices did, but he thought underneath that she might have an accent. Somewhere European.
Klaus nodded. "That I am," he said, giving her a little wave. "Flesh and blood and bone, all right here."

Her phantom eyes filled with phantom tears. For a few seconds, her mouth moved but Klaus couldn't hear anything except for a soft wail (radio static; it happened sometimes), and then her words came through: "My son."

Klaus dropped his hand and his smile abruptly. Shit, he thought. Of all the days to pick up a wandering closure-needer, and he hadn't even left his room. "Sorry, ma'am, nope," he replied. "No son here. No one but us chickens. Well, and Space."

The woman shook her head slowly, as if she wasn't used to the movement- and hell, maybe she wasn't. When she reached out her hand, it was shaking, even though she couldn't have been frightened or cold. She cupped Klaus' cheek. "My son," she said again. She started to cry, making no sound. "I- it's your birthday."

The pipe and lighter landed on the carpet with a soft thump. He couldn't feel the spirit's hand on his face but he jerked back anyway, catching himself mid-air so he didn't fall off the edge of his bed. The pleasant buzz he'd built up from the weed was almost entirely gone. A waste on top of everything else, but- "What?"

Her smile was shaky as her still out-stretched hand. "You were so small," she barely said. "Even brand new, you were so pale... so quiet, and I could barely lift you. Your skin was so cold." Tears slid down her cheeks and evaporated. "I thought you were dying." The blood was still dripping from under her skirt, thick and fast, leaving no trace on the the bed.

Klaus had seen this sort of thing before on a trip downtown, some dead guy walking with a gaping wound in his throat, invisible to anyone else. And a few years ago, when Luther- when Number One had had his accident, and Hargreeves had pulled off his goddamn experiment, and they were all in the hospital to see their supposed brother. Klaus gone wandering on the lower floors where the giant freezers were. Scores of ghosts, all bearing some kind of mark of their death, walking around and through everything, trying to speak to someone. (None of them had come up and tried to touch him, though. Certainly none of them knew his birthday.) This woman was bleeding so much; she'd either had a late-term miscarriage or some kind of botched abortion, or-
or a sudden, violent wrench of a birth.
Klaus swallowed. He'd read all of the media blitz bullshit that had surrounded his and his 'siblings' (step-siblings, house sharers') births once he was old enough to understand them, which was about nine years old. Old man Hargreaves hadn't seemed to pleased with that when he found out, which could mean anything because Old man Hargreaves was never pleased, but Klaus had still wondered. Where had he come from? And the others? Why weren't all of them the same? He had theories,sure, but to know concrete details... it would be something. And if the woman-ghost had actually been there when he was born, if it had happened to her, maybe she could give him some answers.
Even if this was some kind of hallucination. Or a trick Hargreeves was pulling. Those possibilities made him pause.
But it didn't feel like a trick; try as Hargreaves might, and he did, the old bat could never successfully siphon Klaus' powers away from him for long and he couldn't create fake ghosts. Klaus would know the difference. So that was out. And Klaus had only done the three bowls of pot today, unlaced leafs at that; no hallucinogenics in his system at all. He wasn't just making it up in his head. Which meant that this woman-ghost was actually manifesting there; she had to be.
(Plus. He didn't want to think about it much, but this was, or at least might be, his mother. His actual mother, who gave birth to him and seemed like... like she cared about him. She just didn't have enough time to care about him in. Maybe.)

Despite himself, he floated a bit closer.

"Did you know my father?" He asked.
"An engineer," she answered. "His name was-"
"No," Klaus interrupted, waving his hand a little impatiently. "I meant, Hargreeves? Did you know Hargreeves? Before..." He stopped. Before you died? That was a little harsh.
Still, she seemed to understand the implication, and frowned for the first time. "Grieves? I... he invented things, didn't he?"

The small hope went out, and Klaus sank down onto the bed. "Damn," he muttered, rubbing his face.

There was a sound like rain hissing through air. He looked up.
The woman was close to him again, looking like she might have been sighing; cradling his face like he was something precious to her. It was a weird feeling, to have someone look at him like that. "Yeah?" He said. (The spirits rarely went away if he ignored them.)

"What did they name you?" She asked, her wistfulness like leaves scratching along a sidewalk.

"Numbe- I mean, Klaus," he answered.
Her expression tightened, and after a second the tears came again. But she still smiled, just a tiny quirk of her mouth, vapour falling from her eyes. "That's a good name," she nodded.
"... what would you have called me?" Klaus asked the ghost. He wasn't sure what made him ask, nor what made him not have pulled back from the woman's hands yet. Maybe the drugs' were stronger than he'd given them credit for.

She paused, for a long time. Her form was fading in and out, too. He wasn't sure she was going to say anything at all, but then- "It doesn't matter," she answered finally. He had to lean forward to hear her, she was really just about gone. "Klaus is a good name."

Klaus nodded. Then, slowly, he raised his left palm and took her hand.

***