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Like I Do

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Like I Do

              It had been a long time since Allison had thought about her siblings.

              It sounded harsh, and in a way it was. She was a busy person, as an actress, a celebrity, a wife, a mother. Between all those things, she barely had the time to think about them, about being a child superhero. About being a child soldier.

              And if when she did have time she went looking for other things to do, well nobody needed to know.

              The point was, Allison had done a lot to lay her past to rest in the eyes of the public. She’d ignored questions asking about them, heard a helpful little rumor in some of the more persistent reports ears, redirected Patrick’s attention when he wondered about them, and refused to allow any of the Academy’s fan merch in her line of sight.

              Her life was perfect without them, and nothing needed to bring it down.

              Which, perhaps, was why it came as such a shock to see him.


 

              Saturday mornings were one of the most hectic in Allison’s workweek. It was the day they had the most extras on set, and thus the day they shot all of the big scenes in whatever movie she was currently in. Thus, she had to be up and out of the house by seven.

              Claire, however, in typical four-year-old fashion, was not happy when her mother had to work on Saturday, even though they always spent Sunday together. She had made a habit of getting up early on Saturday’s Allison had to work to beg her to stay home.

              Normally this was fine because Patrick would get up and distract her until Allison could leave, but Patrick was out of town, and the baby-sitter she’d hired wasn’t supposed to get there for another fifteen minutes. Allison desperately needed to make breakfast for herself and Claire, but her daughter just wasn’t having it.

              “Mommy please,” Claire cried, close to tears. Once Allison would have dropped everything to reassure her daughter, but now she was well aware that Claire was fine, just dramatic. “Stay home with me, please!”

              “Claire, baby, I’ve already told you I can’t,” Allison huffed, feeling a headache start. She loved Claire more than anything, but that didn’t mean she didn’t wish Claire could be a quieter child. She was just so loud. Not for the first time, she felt a wave of sympathy for her own mother, who’d had to deal with seven of them at this age.

              “Please!”

              “Claire be quiet! I’ve already told you I have to work, but next Saturday I don’t, remember?” She painstakingly flipped the pancake – blueberry, Claire’s favorite – while her daughter wailed ever louder.

              Her irritation built, and she snapped.

              “I heard a rumor that you stopped crying and went to watch TV while I make breakfast.” Claire immediately stopped crying, her eyes whitening. She released Allison’s leg and wandered into the living room. Allison heard the TV turn on, and she released a sigh of relief she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

              Finally, peace.

              She finished breakfast, sliding the pancakes and eggs onto two plates. She handed one to Claire, who had flipped to some children’s channel. Claire gasped in excitement, all baby teeth, and excitement, digging in.

              “Chew with your mouth closed baby,” Allison reminded her, smiling fondly. Claire huffed around her mouthful of pancake but obeyed. Allison got comfortable just in time to hear-

              “And in today’s special episode, we have a special quest. Everyone, please welcome Number Five Hargreeves.”

              Allison most certainly did not choke on her food.


 

              Apparently, the TV station had decided to play reruns of Bill Nye the Science Guy today.

              Apparently, Five had guest-starred on one of the episodes.

              Apparently, that was the episode they’d decided to play at this time.

              Apparently, Claire had decided to watch it.

              Apparently, the sight of her long-missing brother had the strange and unusual effect of knocking all the air out of Allison’s lungs.


 

              It wasn’t like she hadn’t known. As the “Child Genius” of the bunch of them, Number Five had gotten numerous offers to guest-star on children’s TV shows, usually to talk about and encourage kids to learn science. Back when they’d first debuted, their father had forced Five to accept, though Allison didn’t know why.

              But she’d almost forgotten. How had she forgotten?

              She hadn’t wanted to remember

              She stared at the television, watching as her brother thanked the host for having him, and they chatted about what they were going to do. Something about batteries and carbonation and copper sticks. It went in one ear and out the other.

              That was her brother.

              Her brother, who’d run away and had been presumed dead.

              “Mommy?” Claire asked, breaking into her thoughts. “Are you okay?”

              “Wha- yes baby, I’m okay.” Allison sniffed; food forgotten. Her face felt hot, and when she pressed her fingers to her cheek, they came away wet. Her mascara was running.

              She found she didn’t care.

              She and Five had never been close by any stretch of the imagination. He was loud and prickly and snapped at them constantly for irritating him, as well as constantly pushing the boundaries and getting into trouble. He’d also stuck more with Ben and Vanya, while Allison had been close to Luther, but…

              But he’d also been the reason she’d wanted to be an actress in the first place.

              Allison remembered accompanying him to one of his shoots, remembered him complaining about the “dumb, childish jokes” they’d written for him. She distinctly remembered being horrified and confused as he’d immediately turned around and told those same jokes without even a hint of his earlier derision to the camera.

              Right then and there, she’d decided she wanted that power of deceit, and she had the perfect power to get her started.

              In turn, Five had accompanied her to all her early shoots, told her to smile, and that he knew she could do great. He’d even…

              Hadn’t he even starred with her in one of her early movies? She could barely recall.

              “Mommy you’re crying.” Claire worried. Allison huffed a laugh.

              “Yeah, I am.” She murmured. “Baby, come here.”

              Claire scooted over as Allison set their plates down. On-screen, Five and the host were setting up their science experiment. The camera narrowed on her brother’s face as he grinned and it was such a distinctly Five grin that she wanted to cry. God, he was so young in the episode. He couldn’t have been more than ten.

              Had they really been that young?

              She looked down at her daughter, only four, and wanted to cry more. How could their father have been training them to choke a man with a toaster at that age?

              “Mommy?” Claire asked again. Allison smoothed her hair with one hand.

              “I’m here sweetpea.” How was she going to word this? “You remember the stories I’ve told you about your uncles?”

              “Yeah!” Claire wiggled excitedly. “Spaceboy!”

              “Yes, but also Kraken, Séance, the Boy, and the Horror.” Allison reminded her, their old superhero names coming to mind easily. She didn’t talk about the others much, mostly Luther, since his name was the most child-friendly, and also Claire loved talking about what adventures her Uncle Luther could be having, following his own name up to the moon. “Well, you see the kid on TV?”

              “Yes?”

              “…That’s your Uncle Five, sweetheart.”

              Claire’s eyes, if possible, widened more. “Really?

              “Really.” Allison rested her cheek on her daughter’s head. When Five had left, they’d all waited months for him to come home, they’d all looked for him wherever they went, watching the crowds for a familiar brunette boy. Mom had paused at his door for literal years on her nightly rounds, hand resting on his doorknob like she expected him to open it.

              Waiting for her little boy to come home-

              They’d never found him, and finally, they’d all accepted that he must have died, though Klaus had never seen him.

              But they all knew Klaus couldn’t see ghosts when he was high.

              “…I’d forgotten he acted.” She murmured regretfully. Claire wiggled some more.

              “Like you do!”

              On-screen, her brother chuckled at something the host said, eyes bright and happy and alive. Alive like he no longer was. Happy like they’d never truly been. Bright and alive and fake, because her brother never really acted like that.

              Allison turned away from the screen.

              “…Yeah. Like I do.”