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Second Chances

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The whirling gale of Five’s teleportation vanishes suddenly, dropping Klaus to his knees amid fading wisps of electric blue, and he loses his grip on the brothers to either side of him to catch himself before he faceplants into the floor. The dull thuds and groans around him suggest he’s not the only one to land on the ground. His head swims and throbs and his stomach roils, and he forces down the sick sting of bile before it gets past his throat. Vaguely he can hear retching beside and across from him- his siblings don’t have his years of practice at keeping their stomachs under control by sheer willpower, and his legs throw him backwards away from the mess without any need for input from his brain.

His back thuds into something firm and warm, that emits a startled “Hey!” in a voice both familiar and not, and he turns, wide eyed, to see Ben wriggling out from under him. Klaus’s eyes go even wider and his jaw goes slack.

“Get! Off! Me. You di…..”

And Ben trails off, eyes widening to match Klaus’s as his brain catches up, just in time to brace himself as Klaus launches himself at Ben, gangly arms wrapping around his brother’s frame and clinging like his life depends on it. The lights in background waver as tears sting his eyes, and his throat, all unbidden, lets out a gurgle that is something between a sob and a laugh.

“Oh my god….” Ben’s voice is shaky, as full of tears as Klaus’s eyes, and Klaus feels his brother’s arms slowly reach around him, fingertips tentatively brushing at Klaus’s shoulders, cobweb light at first, then stronger, fingers pressing more firmly as Ben’s thumbs stroke up and down the fabric of Klaus’s top. “Oh my god!!” Ben’s fingers grip Klaus’s shoulders hard, and Klaus feels the warmth from his palms against his bare skin, pulling them closer together, feels Ben’s face buried against his neck just like his is against Ben’s, feels Ben’s wide grin, and tears, and warm, gasping breath- breath!- and they both choke out unintelligable rubbish around giggles and sobs and cling to each other in amazed wonder.

Ben’s here. Physically here, solid, warm, breathing and alive, not just solid but breathing, actually breathing, exhaling out warm air against Klaus’s skin when there’s been nothing warm about Ben for 13 fucking years, and Klaus never wants to let him go, no matter how much snot Ben is currently depositing on Klaus’s neck, and why the hell shouldn’t he when Klaus is certainly depositing just as much on Ben’s?

“I’m alive, Klaus,” Ben breathes delightedly, “I… I can feel.. feel... everything!” He squeezes Klaus harder as if to demonstrate. “Oh god, I... Klaus, I’m breathing, I can feel my heartbeat! I’m alive!”

Grinning stupidly Klaus pulls back just enough to bring his hand round to Ben’s chest, to press inside his hoodie, and even through Ben’s shirt he can feel that his skin is warm, and there, there it is, he feels the faint thud-thud of his heartbeat below his palm, and he laughs out loud, grin spreading impossibly even wider as he slings his arms back around his newly alive little brother.

Only Ben isn’t his little brother, hasn’t been for years- they’re practically the same size. But now that the initial shock of touching his living brother is easing there’s some room opening up in his brain to notice other things. Like how Klaus’s arms reach so much further round Ben than Ben’s do Klaus. Like how Klaus’s spine is curved over, bending him down to put his head on Ben’s shoulder. Like how the leather of Ben’s jacket is hanging so baggily on him.

Klaus loosens his hold on Ben again, forces himself to lean back and really look at him.

Ben’s grip on Klaus’s shoulders doesn’t waver, nor does his grin. But that grin is on a face Klaus hasn’t seen for a very long time, big eyes shining out in a face slightly too small for them, against cheeks that are round, not sharp. Klaus remembers Ben’s shout when he fell back against him, the voice that he knew, but not quite. Because Ben hadn’t sounded like that since they were… what? 12? 13?

“Oh...” he starts, his euphoria suddenly tempered by his racing thoughts, and… What the hell? Since when was his voice so high?

Ben’s grin is wavering now, fading into something more akin to confusion as he looks at Klaus. He finally releases Klaus from their hug, though his hand catches Klaus’s and clutches tightly. Ben’s gaze runs over Klaus’s shoulders and down his arms to his hands, then back to Klaus’s face for a moment, before shifting focus on something behind Klaus. Ben’s eyes dart left and right, and his lips stretch into a grimace, a realisation dawning on him that he doesn’t look entirely happy with.

Oh, right, the others! “Shit!” Klaus blurts out, in his somehow wrong voice, as he turns to see the rest of his siblings strewn behind him, mostly doubled over clutching at their stomachs or splayed on the floor in varying states of awareness. “Shit, shit, shit...” He’d been so caught up in having Ben back everything else had just fallen away, but, yeah, apocalyptical Vanya and time-travelling assassins and time-travelling strike forces and giant bits of moon rock hurtling straight at them and mass family bonding time travel- these were all things that had actually happened, ‘cos that’s just what it’s like being part of his family.

Klaus still feels the nausea from time travelling, but after so many years of pumping his system full of every illegal (and a fair few legal, if not exactly for him) narcotic he could get his hands on, 10 months in a war zone with very variable availability and quality of supply, two previous time trips and a recent cold turkey experience he is an expert at just keeping on while his stomach cramps and contorts and his brain tries to dribble out of his ears. Not so his siblings.

Luther, Klaus thinks, should be best equipped to deal with physical inconveniences like this. Aside from his obvious strength he’s always been more or less immune to any of the illnesses that occasionally did the rounds through the rest of them as children, has soldiered on through injuries that would have floored anyone else countless times, and has healed from said injuries in hours as often as days.

“Luther?” Klaus seeks out Luther’s giant form and blond hair, and is momentarily confused when he sees that the blond head rising to meet his eyes is attached to a pretty normal looking, if obviously ripped, body. A body swamped in a massively oversized overcoat.

Luther looks like shit, but he’s alert and taking in the situation with wide but determined eyes. He pushes to his feet, scrubbing his mouth with the sleeve of his giant coat and nearly stumbling over the hem. “Klaus.” He nods. “Ben.” This is said with a warm smile that lights up his too young face, and he shrugs himself out of the coat to make the short walk to wrap Ben in a brief, but fierce, hug. There are definitely tears in his eyes.

“You guys are OK?” Luther asks, seeming more surprised than concerned by their apparent lack of time travel symptoms.

“Yeah,” says Ben, at the same time as Klaus replies, “Welllll…. No, actually, I feel like utter crap, but, hey, turns out all those years of getting high were perfect training for coping with the effects of teleporting through time and space! Dad would be so proud of me being so prepared, don’t you think?”
Ben snorts out a laugh and Luther sighs, rolls his eyes and shakes his head.

As they turn their attention to their other siblings Ben says, “I’m guessimg time travel doesn’t have any physical effects if you don’t physically have a body. Well, at the start at least.” Despite their less than ideal situation he’s still smiling, and still holding Klaus’s hand tight. Fair enough, Klaus thinks. He’s pretty sure he’d want to keep touching too if he’d spent 13 years unable to touch or be touched. And only able to talk to Klaus. Ben deserves a fucking medal for that- Klaus has seen the sort of behaviour it takes to earn a medal for real, and those guys have nothing on Ben.

“So,” Ben continues, “we’re all back in our… 13? year old bodies. 12? Thereabouts anyway.”

Klaus glances at his ink-free palms, looks over his brothers and sisters, and nods, then says, “Actually, I might be able to pin-point things a little more…. Gimme a minute.”

He’d been about 12 and a half when he’d taken that fateful tumble down the stairs, and he’d never really been fully sober since- the least influence he’d ever been under, since Grace had declared he didn’t need those wonderful pain killers any more, was the whisky his father hadn’t realised he probably ought to keep locked away. It had tasted awful at first, but Klaus had quickly discovered that if taken in suitable quantities it had the lovely dual effect of quieting the ghosts and making him not give a shit about how bad it tasted. Or about anything else, if he was honest. It didn’t take him long to teach himself to enjoy the drink as much as its effects on him, though, and by then he was already moving on to bigger and better things, things that expanded his mind and contracted his world and blocked out the ghosts completely. It had taken a couple of months, he thought, for that development.

He ponders things as Luther and Ben check the others. It’s a little difficult to tell, what with the lingering effects of travelling through time, but he is remarkably clear-headed. Experimentally he does a few sums in his head, quickly progressing from simple addition and subtraction to running through the 12 x table. He doesn’t do so well with the multiplication as he had at actual age 12, but he finds it’s not a lack of concentration or clarity and more a matter of just, well, not remembering it all. What he doesn’t remember he finds he can very quickly work out.

He looks around their surroundings, properly, for the first time since they landed here. They’re in the Icarus theatre. It’s quite dark, with only side lights on, and there’s no light at all coming in through the giant glass dome in the ceiling. He feels a twinge of panic at the lack of visible moon, but then again, he’s very pleased at the lack of visible moon rock and debris, and the moon isn’t always in the same place in the sky, or even always visible depending on phase and clouds, so no, he will not panic. He will be pragmatic and sensible and perform his final sobriety test.

How many people are likely to have died in a theatre, he wonders? There’s a distinct lack of ghosts around his siblings (of all of them only Vanya and Klaus hadn’t racked up at least a single figure kill total by this age) but does that mean anything when they’ve literally just teleported here? How quickly can ghosts travel spatially? He’s confident they can’t travel in time, otherwise surely Ben would have been with him in Vietnam. And that leads to thoughts that are absolutely not going to help right now, so lets just get back to the matter at hand…. He doesn’t hear anything other than his siblings’ murmering (Diego’s awake, and oddly non-aggressive by the sound of things, and he can hear Allison’s cultured tone, and that is very welcome) but there’s something in the darkness of the wings that he keeps catching in the corner of his eye. And maybe something in the stalls too.

He casually (he hopes to god this looks casual- he does not want to give any indication to any lingering ghosties that, hey, here’s someone who can see you, and hear you, and who you can pester and shout at and scream at relentlessly) looks out over the auditorium, letting his eyes drift over the barely lit seats, and then forces them to continue drifting rather than let them settle for even a second on the old white man with the pasty, sweaty face and the evening attire torn open, revealing a long vertical scar and carefully placed electrodes on his chest. There are worse ways to go than a heart attack at the theatre after a long life, and Klaus really doesn’t feel sorry at all for ignoring the man.

So. He’s sober. Absolutely and completely sober. Which, he suddenly realises, doesn’t mean a damn thing if these bodies they’re wearing are somehow their own bodies regressed. But he’d heard Allison. He walks over to his siblings to find all but Five and Vanya sitting in a cluster on the stage, talking quietly. Allison holds Vanya’s head in her lap, stroking her hair and whispering soothing words to her. Klaus doesn’t think Vanya can hear anything right now, but he can clearly hear Allison’s voice, and there’s neither wound nor dressing on her throat.

“So...” he speaks quietly, catching their attention, “we’re 12. It’s sometime before April 2001.”

There’s a flurry of “How can you tell”s and “What makes you think that”s so he lays out his logic. “We’re back in our old bodies- our actual 12 year old bodies, I mean.” He gestures to Allison’s smooth, unblemished throat. “We’ve not just been de-aged- that would just have made us younger, not healed Allison. Or you, Diego,” he adds, noticing there’s no scar at Diego’s temple.

“So? What the hell does that have to do with the date?” asks Diego. The others look just as puzzled.

Except for Ben, who has realisation dawning on his face. “You’re sober.”

“As a judge!” Klaus trills, flinging his arms out in true ‘tah-dah’ style, and following up with a deep and courtly curtsey, which he, rather gracefully, he thinks, turns into a smooth descent to sit cross-legged between Ben and Luther, who cradles an unconscious Five in his lap.

Ben’s eyes roll and he shakes his head fondly, but Luther and Diego still look a little confused. Allison’s face has frozen, and her fingers have stilled Vanya’s hair.

“Klaus.” She sounds absolutely horrified. “Are you seriously trying to tell us you were constantly high since we were 12 and a half?”

Luther, mouth agape, says, “What the fuck?!” his arms tightening protectively around Five, seemingly without him even realising.

Diego’s eyes widen, then narrow in anger, as the penny drops, and his hand automatically finds the hilt of a knife, gripping tightly.

“No! No, no, not high! Well, not always, at least not to begin with...” Klaus sighs. Shit. He hadn’t thought about this part. Ben reaches over and pats Klaus’s knee, then takes his hand and squeezes encouragingly.

“You were in the shit that young?!” Diego growls. He looks around the circle of siblings, eyes gleaming with…. something. “And none of us noticed it? Dad didn’t notice it? Or Pogo?”

On that point Klaus really isn’t at all sure. Well, hey, how could he be? He was as out of it as he’d been able to manage with such meagre resources. And how exactly was he expected to tell the difference between Dad being disappointed and disgusted with him for getting trashed and Dad just being generally disappointed and disgusted with him?

“Well, you were all busy with training and your own shit.” Klaus flaps a hand airily, dismissing the comment. “And it was just booze at first, after my jaw healed enough that I didn’t need the painkillers any more.” He can’t quite look up as he talks, his fingers, of the hand not being squeezed bloodless by Ben, playing with the hem of the military vest that’s now really much baggier on him than he’d like.

“So, what, the painkillers made you high? And you decided, 12 year old you decided, that that was what you wanted for the rest of your life?” Luther’s voice is angry, and he shakes his head in disbelief. “Klaus, what the hell happened to make you think that that was a valid life choice? I get that Dad wasn’t the best father, but for fuck’s sake, you had everything in front of you and you just threw it away to chase a constant high?”

This is going to shit. Fuck. He was trying to help, he was trying to be useful and somehow he’d managed to make a shitty situation even shittier, to actually lessen his siblings’ opinion of him. They think it’s all about the high. And ok, yes, the high is nice, and after a while maybe it was about the high as much as anything, ‘cos god knows by then he had nothing else positive in his life, no other reason to haul his ass out of the gutter each day. He fucking knows he’s made shitty decisions all his life, but is it his fault that all the options were just different shades of shit?

What happened? What happened was the ghosts went away. What happened was, all of a sudden, he could look down a corridor and see Luther walking alone, not trailing a disfigured and bloody entourage. He could sit in class and not have to filter out the angry mutterings of the man shot in the head by his own partner because of Allison’s rumour. He could sit at dinner and not be distracted by the guy with a knife in his eye dripping blood and vitreous fluid on to the table while screaming in Klaus’s face. He could sleep (kind of- unconsciousness counts dammit) without the constant wailing in the house’s halls at night.

He could even face the fucking mausoleum without screaming and tearing his fingers to shreds on the walls. Funny that- Dad stopped taking any interest in him when he emerged, face blank and emotions blessedly numb after that last night.

He sits there, jaw clenched and lips tight because he doesn’t know how to deal with this. He wants to yell. He wants to scream in their faces, just like their ghosts have done to him a thousand times, just so they know, so they can understand just a tiny little bit. He wants to shrivel up and disappear and vanish from existence completely, so he can’t disappoint anyone again, and they can’t disappoint him, can’t hurt him any more. He wants to slump to the floor and wrap his arms around himself and cry ‘till there’s nothing left of him, and he wants to punch Luther’s stupid face, and to rip that stupid harness from Diego’s shoulders and to push away Allison with her stupid sad, caring eyes, and he wants to jump up and just run, run and run until the soles of his shoes are worn to nothing and his legs won’t hold him up any more and his chest bursts from the exertion, and he wants to fall into Dave’s arms and tuck his head against his chest and listen to his heartbeat with Dave’s strong arms wrapped around him….

There are arms around him, he realises. Not Dave’s, much too thin and short to be him. But there are arms around him, determined and gentle and holding him tightly, despite an awkward size difference. Ben. Klaus sobs and buries his face in his brother’s shoulder, clinging to him and trembling. He can hear Ben’s voice, but the words don’t register, just the angry tone. He hears Allison’s voice too, closer, soothing, and feels a warm hand on his arm, stroking softly, another arm around his shoulders, another hand- this one bigger, rougher, but still gentle- squeezing his shoulder. He’s surrounded by warmth, by gentle touches and gentler voices and he recognises Luther’s murmering apologies and Diego’s offering reassurances, “It’s OK bro, we got you, we got you.”

They huddle together, Klaus and his (awake) siblings as Klaus cries himself out- he doesn’t know how long it’s been when he finally lifts his tear-stained face from Ben’s shoulder, fully aware now of Allison sitting at Ben’s side in front of him, her arms wrapped snuggly around him, of Diego pressed at his back, hands on Klaus’s shoulders, alternatively rubbing and squeezing, of Luther at his side, tentatively stroking his arm and peering at him with guilt-laden eyes. Five and Vanya are still unconscious, laid carefully on Luther’s and Allison’s coats.

“I’m sorry.” Luther speaks first, his voice shaky and hesitant. Klaus manages a nod, and Luther responds with a simple squeeze of his arm, before standing and pulling back a little, eyes darting over to Five and Vanya before returning to the huddle around Klaus.

Ben catches Klaus’s eyes, silently checking that he’s doing OK now. He is, he’s just tired, and he tries to put that into the look he shares with Ben. Ben gives him one last squeeze before nodding and letting him go. That prompts Allison to pull back too, but Diego stays behind him, slings an arm across his shoulders and pulls Klaus to rest his head against his shoulder. Klaus finds he’s quite happy with this new arrangement and lets his weight slump against Diego’s sturdier frame.

No-one seems quite sure what to say now, glances darting awkwardly among them, until Luther takes a deep breath and squares his shoulders determinedly.

“OK. We’re 12. We’re in 2001, sometime in the Spring, and these bodies are our original 12 year old bodies.” This summary receives weary nods from his siblings. “We now have 18 years to help Vanya learn to control her powers, and for us to actually learn how to function as a family and support each other. And no,” he says, raising a hand as if warding something off, “the irony of me being the one to say that isn’t lost on me.” His gaze only settles on Klaus for a moment, apology still plain in his eyes.

“18 years, man….” Diego does not sound enthusiastic about this, and Klaus doesn’t blame him. That’s a lot of life to re-live….

“Unless,” says Ben, “maybe Five can take us a bit further forward?” He shrugs and continues, “Y’know, after we do the important things like keeping Klaus from breaking his jaw and spiralling into drug dependency, and stopping me from dying….”

Luther nods slowly, gathering Five back up into his arms.

“Uhm, is he…. OK?” Klaus asks. “And Vanya?”

“Yes, we think so,” says Allison. She gestures to Five, “I mean, bringing all of us so far back, that must have exhausted him, it’s really no wonder he’s out cold. And Vanya….” Allison’s face falls as she looks over at her sister’s ashen face.

“And Vanya will be fine,” Luther says firmly, brooking neither argument nor self recrimination from any of them.

Allison’s nod isn’t nearly as firm as Luther’s voice, but she sets her jaw and stands. “Yes,” she says, determination strong in her tone, “she will be. We all will be.”

She holds out a hand to Klaus, and he lets her help him to his feet. Klaus in turn reaches for Ben’s hand, and helps him stand. Diego crouches by Vanya, wrapping her in Allison’s coat before picking her up.

Klaus looks around at his siblings and nods to himself. They’re the most dysfunctional family he can possibly imagine, all of them now adults (emotionally stunted at the best, unredeemably fucked up at the far more likely worst) in the bodies of children. They’ve been through hell, both together and apart, and here they are about to embark on that journey all over again.

But this time they’ll be there for each other. This time, they’ll do better.

Chapter Text

For once in his life Klaus feels appreciated, at least a little bit.

 

It had been Diego who’d pointed out the obvious problem with five kids stumbling around the city streets in the middle of the night, in too large clothes, carrying two more unconscious kids. Sure, it’s NY and there are a shit load of folk who just won’t care, but it’s sure to raise a few eyebrows, and at best it will stick in people’s heads. None of them really want to be flagging themselves up to the Commission right now, thanks very much.

 

So Klaus takes the lead, through the dark and twisting back alleys that he knows so well how to navigate unseen. It’s a little more difficult with such a large group, but they’ve all been trained to be stealthy, and Klaus knows exactly which close dark places can hide them, and which are to be avoided. In less than an hour they’re looking up at the fire escape that Klaus had so often used to sneak in and out of the Academy unnoticed.

 

He doesn’t quite know how to feel as he looks up at his childhood home. When he last saw it, only yesterday evening, it was a heap of smoking rubble from which they’d barely escaped, and from which Mom and Pogo hadn’t. Two days ago, despite all its horrible memories, it had been a haven- after ten months of blood and fire and death. With Dave’s blood on his hands and chest and face and his loss, so recent and raw, having ripped a chasm in Klaus’s very soul, he’d actually felt some relief as he dragged his feet up the stairs to his room. Jesus, he thought, only two days since he was fighting in the trenches by Dave’s side. Klaus will say this for the apocalypse- it’s a hell of a distraction from the pangs of grief.

 

But now he’s12 years old again and the Academy’s neither ruin nor haven- it’s nothing less than the bane of his very existence. The building, utilitarian and ugly from the back, looms oppressively over them, dark and threatening with the knowledge that he’s in there, alive, probably (hopefully) deep in sleep and oblivious to the night’s goings on. No doubt with a minute by minute itinerary planned for them for the day ahead. Once Klaus had thought Hargreeves’s daily schedules, training and discipline to be militaristic, but he knows better now. He’d been the lowest of ranks in Vietnam, but even when he was stumbling over his own feet still learning how to use a damn rifle there had been more human warmth and empathy in his sergeant’s bellowed orders than he had ever received from his father. Reginald Hargreeves had never so much as cracked a smile in his children’s presence. He was no sergeant, any more than he was a father. He was a jailor. A torturer.

 

Klaus realises he’s gritting his teeth and breathing too fast through his nose. His hands are in fists at his side and his mouth is dry. The sound of feet shuffling on the concrete behind him catches his attention. When he looks around he sees his siblings don’t seem much happier to be here than he is. He resolutely ignores the slowly gathering crowd of ghosts exhibiting varying degrees of mutilation. Of course, Ben’s alive now. He should have expected his ghosts to re-appear. He focuses on Ben, and only Ben, refusing to acknowledge the limbless torsos and pulped messes gathering among the more recognisably human ghosts around his siblings.

 

Ben, so small, seeming even younger than the rest of them, is pale and wide-eyed, swallowing hard when Klaus meets his eyes. He has more reason than any of them to fear their father. Klaus makes to force his feet to move, to give Ben the contact he seems to need, but Allison is there first.

 

She puts her arm around Ben’s shoulder pulling him to her chest. Her face is… set, is probably the safest term, even inside Klaus’s own head. She looks Ben right in the eyes as she says, soft but firm, “We are NOT losing you again, Ben. He doesn’t get to hurt you this time.” She looks around at the rest of them. “He doesn’t get to hurt any of us this time, no matter what happens.”

 

They’d all agreed on this, but it’s good to hear it reinforced, and to see everyone (everyone living and conscious, that is) nod without the slightest hesitation- even Luther.

 

“We’re not just a team now. We’re family. And we’re gonna act like it,” say Luther, shifting Five slightly in his arms, so that he can rest a hand on Ben’s shoulder. Ben’s eyes close like a cat’s as he leans back into the touch of his sister and brother, clearly still relishing the experience of physical contact. None of them are remotely aware that they’re standing in the remains of people. “It’s us against Dad,” Luther continues grimly, and the tightness of his jaw tells how hard that is for him to say, let alone think. Diego’s eyebrow rises, but he says nothing, and Luther nods at him, “Yeah, I never thought I’d say that either...” he sighs. “But I mean it.”

 

With his arms full of Vanya Diego can’t give the shoulder squeeze he looks like he wants to give, so he settles for grunting “Good. We gotta look out for each other, ‘cos sure as hell no-one else is going to.” His eyes linger on Ben and Klaus as he growls, “And fuck ‘special’ training.”

 

That makes both Ben and Klaus swallow, and Klaus tenses, wide eyes immediately seeking Ben. He’s never spoken to anyone but Ben about his special training. He remembers Ben cradling him back in the theatre, speaking angrily to the others, and Klaus feels ice creep up his spine. Did Ben tell them?

 

Ben meets Klaus’s eyes intently, lips set firmly together, and gives a tiny but very emphatic shake of his head, and Klaus breathes a little more easily. He’d close his eyes in relief, but he refuses to let his eyes be a screen for those memories.

 

Allison, Diego and Luther all have a similar wary look on their faces at this exchange, and Luther opens his mouth to speak, but Allison stops him with a look and a shake of her head.

 

“It’s late,” she says, “it has been one hell of a day, and now is neither the time nor the place to be having difficult conversations.” The look she directs at each of them, though, promises that those conversations will be had at some point. But for now she looks up at the fire escape. “Let’s at least get out of the cold. Klaus?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, good plan,” he mumbles and moves to the fire escape. It’s higher than he remembers, of course, as he’s a good bit shorter than when he last used this entrance. He has to jump and scramble a bit, but he gets his feet onto the first rung and starts climbing, turning back to help Ben up. As he climbs he can hear a muffled conversation about the logistics of getting two unconscious people up the ladder. The fire escape shakes, and he looks down to see Allison hauling herself up. Five has been laid on the ground freeing Luther to pick up Vanya. Diego leaps on and manouvers until his knees hook over the bottom rung, with Allison just above him. Between them leaning down and pulling and Luther reaching up and pushing, they manage to get Vanya over Diego’s shoulder in a fireman’s carry. Allison squeezes aside to let Diego past, then helps Luther to keep Five secure over his shoulder as he hauls himself up. Yay, teamwork! Their ghosts meander below, some looking up curiously, most seemingly not really aware. Klaus prays for that to continue as long as possible. They’re quiet for now.

 

Klaus starts back up again, heading for his own window which he knows won’t even be closed, let alone locked. He tries to ignore the dread coiling tighter in his belly with every step. It’s not going to be the same this time, he can do this.

 

He reaches the platform outside his room and looks in. His lamps are all on, unsurprisingly. It’s smaller than he remembers, and the walls are bare of his fairy lights, posters and artwork and drug addled scribbles. The floor is clear of clothes and the bed’s even made. It looks wrong. He silently lifts the sill of his window, and slips in, beckoning Ben to follow. The two of them take Vanya from Diego as he reaches the window, and lay her on Klaus’s bed while Diego climbs in, shortly followed by Allison. When Luther appears at the window he’s struggling slightly with a sleepy but wriggly Five. Diego rushes to clamp his hand over Five’s mouth as he starts to grumble, and pulls him clumsily into Klaus’s room, somehow still managing to keep the noise to a minimum. Luther follows with a great deal more grace, then turns to close the window.

 

Five, sitting on the floor in front of Diego, is looking murderous behind the hand over his mouth. Klaus positions himself directly in front of Five with a finger to his lips, making shushing noises and checking Five’s eyes for signs of comprehension. Five rolls his eyes and nods briefly, eyebrows turning down in an angry frown, and Klaus nods his head at Diego to release him. Diego withdraws his hand, and from the glare Five shoots at him he’s lucky to still have it.

 

“Jeez, chill bro,” says Diego, leaning back with his hands up, “I just know what a cranky bastard you are waking up without coffee.”

 

This is a perfectly fair observation, thinks Klaus, but only makes Five’s frown deeper. He looks around as they all settle into the tiny space of Klaus’s room as best they can, and Klaus can see those old eyes taking everything in: his surroundings, his too young siblings in too big clothes, his formerly dead brother (which brings to his face the most genuine smile Klaus thinks he’s ever seen on Five) and finally his white clad sister, unconscious on Klaus’s bed. He lets out a huge sigh and his shoulders slump.

 

“Well. We’re alive.” He rubs at his temples, wincing. “And looks like you’ve all managed not to kill each other while I was out, so I guess that’s something.” He looks to Ben and says, “Good to have you back. Wasn’t certain about that.”

 

“You knew Ben would be alive?!” Klaus gasps.

 

Five rolls his eyes, again, and glares at Klaus, “Do you understand the meaning of the word ‘certain’, Klaus? I hoped, nothing more. Tried to send us far enough back for it, but looks like I overshot things a bit. Like I’ve said, time travel’s a crap shoot. At the best of times.” He raises his hand to hide a truly spectacular yawn, and continues, “And for the record, carrying all 6 of you through time after a lot of jumping and being shot at, near death by whatever the hell that was Vanya did to the four of us,” he gestures to Diego, Klaus and Luther, “with no calculations and impending incineration? Not the best of times.”

 

No one really has anything to say to that.

 

“So, we’re at the Academy. Do we know when?”

 

Klaus decides to keep his mouth shut on this point, and lets Luther take the lead. “2001, we think. Round about April. We’re 12, and apparently Klaus hasn’t broken his jaw yet.”

 

That earns Klaus (muttering a quiet “Yet? You think I’m planning on doing that again?”) a quizzical look, but nothing more before Five nods and carries on. “Earlier than I’d intended, but alive is alive and I’m not inclined to complain.”

 

“That’s a first,” Klaus can’t help but blurt.

 

Five just looks tiredly at him with raised eyebrows, but he’s earned himself a warning stare from Allison.

 

“Sorry,” he mumbles, a little surpised to realise he actually is. After all, they had just recently promised to be a supportive family. And Five has literally just saved them all from the fiery death of the apocalypse with an honestly heroic and clearly exhausting jump through time. Looking past Five’s perma-frown Klaus can see he’s running on nothing more than fumes, and there’s an enduring fear there too. “I mean, thanks, Five.” He tries a soft smile, “Are you OK?”

 

“Nothing a few weeks of sleep and a gallon of coffee won’t fix.” Five snorts and shrugs, and then lets his head fall back, a little more dramatically than Klaus thinks may really be necessary, “Ugh, there’s no coffee in this place, is there? Not even the crap stuff.”

 

Luther chuckles quietly, and pats Five on the shoulder.

 

“Plenty of alcohol, though,” says Klaus, with a bright smile. “I know how much you love that. And I can tell you with absolute certainty that Dad doesn’t lock it away, or notice when any disappears.”

 

Five looks to be pondering this quite contentedly.

 

“No, Absolutely not. Either of you.”

 

Luther’s statement is backed up by matching glares from Diego and Allison, while Ben simply sighs, “Klaus…..”

 

Klaus lifts his hands, warding them off, “Joking! Really, I’m loving being sober!” Five sniggers at that, and shakes his head. Ben unobtrusively leans his shoulder against Klaus’s, finding his hand for a quick squeeze and giving him a worried glance. Klaus deflates, and drops his head, teeth grinding. He would fucking love to be raiding Dad’s liquor cabinet right now.

 

Most of the ghosts haven’t come into his room (yet) but there’s a young woman with a hole in her neck staring at Five as she tries to block a fountain of blood with her fingers, and a boy no older than 18 by Five’s shoulder, looking vacantly at the wall while rubbing the back of his head in confusion. It suddenly occurs to Klaus that his oldest brother has spent many years as a notoriously prolific professional killer.

 

Fuck. He’d thought it was bad before, but if Five’s victims all turned up….

 

He sucks a breath through his clenched teeth, eyes squeezed shut against the threat of yet more apparitions, and tries desperately to stamp down the panic that spikes in his chest. He focuses on Ben’s warmth against his side, on his own breath, cold in his nose as he breathes in, gently tickling the back of his throat, filling his lungs and pushing out his ribs. He follows the reverse of the process, the warmth of his expiring breath being pushed out of his body. He’s aware of someone speaking, but it takes a few breathing cycles before he can open his eyes and actually listen.

 

Five’s face is right in front of him, blocking out the view of his ghosts, which seem to be getting more numerous- just focus on Five, just on his face, and his voice. He looks concerned, and his hand is on Klaus’s shoulder. Five hates touching people.

 

“You back with us, Klaus?” Five’s voice is gentle. For Five. His eyes are intense and far too knowing. He holds Klaus’s gaze, keeping his frame carefully within Klaus’s field of vision, and Klaus realises he knows. He’s blocking Klaus’s view deliberately. “This is going to be difficult.” Klaus says nothing- what is there to say? “You know, there’s a lot of literature about addiction, lots of different therapies and treatments. Cold turkey can be really dangerous.”

 

“Five, where are you going with this?” Luther sounds ominous. “He’s clean, he told us this body’s totally sober. He already did his cold turkey back in the apocalypse and this Klaus hasn’t ever taken anything.”

 

“Physically, yes,” Five nods, never dropping his eyes from Klaus’s, “but the emotional dependancy is much harder to break free of. And I can’t help but wonder,” and at this he does finally look away, turning to Luther, Diego and Allison in turn, “have any of you ever actually thought to ask why it started?”

 

Ben, still tight by Klaus’s side, clutching his hand and rubbing his back, is noteably spared Five’s piercing gaze. Klaus shuts his eyes, tries to focus on his breathing again and to shut out the trembling of his body. Ben discards his hand to instead envelope him, as best his short stature can, in a crushing hug, letting Klaus rock gently with him.

 

Klaus can hear intakes of breath- he can’t tell who- but he definitely hears both Luther and Allison start to say something, only to stop before anything more than a breath has escaped. There’s a tension in the air that Five seems intent to let linger, until suddenly, like one of his beloved knives, Diego cuts it with a whispered, “Fuuuuuuck! The gh...osts. Can’t c.. c..onjure them when he’s high...”

 

“Well, yeah, we know that.” Luther sounds genuinely confused.

 

“I don’t think ‘conjure’ is the right word to describe Klaus’s powers.” Five’s voice is quiet, and more compassionate than Klaus could have imagined possible. “It implies both a a specific target and purposeful effort on his part.”

 

Klaus counts his heartbeats thudding dully in his head four times before the silence breaks again.

 

“They’re just… there….” Diego sounds horrified. “L… like a, a TV set you can’t turn off. Aren’t they?”

 

Klaus’s eyes, streaming tears, are still shut tight- he cannot look at his brothers and sister for this- but he nods mutely from within Ben’s arms. Ben tucks Klaus’s head under his chin, squeezes him even tighter and continues to rock with him. Klaus can feel wetness in his hair. Ben’s crying too.

 

The room is silent except for the breathy sobs Klaus is trying to stifle, and the faint whisper on the edge of his hearing that he’s been dreading. He whimpers.

 

There’s a touch on his shoulder, but Klaus really doesn’t want to open his eyes right now. He lifts his head to show he’s listening.

 

“Does alcohol work like the drugs?” Five asks.

 

Klaus can’t speak. If he opens his mouth right now he’s going to wail. He shoogles his head, not quite a yes, not quite a no. He hears Ben speak, “It helps. Makes them less… there. Mutes them.”

 

“Five, we can’t-” Luther starts, but doesn’t say any more.

 

“Luther, we’ve all killed,” says Allison, sounding small and numb, “some of us a lot.” That has to be directed at Five.

 

“Exactly,” says Five, tone now all business. “I’ll be back in a moment.” Klaus hears the telltale whoosh and knows Five is gone.

 

“Klaus, I’m so sorry,” Diego’s voice is cracking. Klaus feels his hand on his shoulder. “Shit, I am sss..o sorry, I never even thought...”

 

“None of us did,” Allison whispers. “Five’s right, we never asked why. We never did a damn thing to help.”

 

Klaus’s eyelids light up blue and Five is back, pushing a bottle into his hand. Klaus traces the shape of it with shaking fingers.

 

With a ragged breath Klaus opens his eyes. His vision is blurred by tears, and he’s grateful for that because the outskirts of his vision are filled with strangers, some pale, some dark, some bloody, some barely recognisable as people, and he doesn’t want to see them clearly. But in the center of his vision are his siblings. Luther’s jaw is slack, his eyes wide and helpless. Allison’s face is streaked with tears, and her eyes shine with more. Her lips are moving constantly, as if trying to form words, but none come. Diego is openly and shamelessly weeping. He looks devastated.

 

“We’re going to help you with this, Klaus,” says Five, “help you find a way to control it, to keep them away. But right now this is the best we can do.”

 

Klaus shuts his eyes again, too overwhelmed to see any more, burrows against Ben’s chest, and drinks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Five’s head is pounding. He longs to reach for the half empty bottle of whisky which Ben has recently taken from Klaus’s unresisting grasp. Klaus himself lolls his head against Ben’s chest, eyelids heavy. It’s going to be tricky to get the right balance of mild intoxication to leave him lucid and functional while still supressing his powers enough for him to tolerate the ghosts. Particularly given that his 30 year old mind and 12 year old body have such vastly different tolerances (and desires) for illicit substances.

 

But there’s nothing more Five can do for Klaus right now, and with him calm there are more pressing considerations. The sky outside is still dark, but the night won’t last nearly long enough, and they all need sleep before whatever tomorrow brings.

 

Five pulls himself to his feet and shuffles over to Vanya, still out cold on Klaus’s bed. “Has she woken at all?”

 

“No, not a twitch,” replies Diego.

 

Five looks her over. He knows lots about the human body these days, but mostly about how to stop it working, and to confirm it won’t start again. He checks pulse, eyes, breathing, all the same tell tale signs he’d check on a target. All seem normal. His knowledge unfortunately doesn’t extend any further than those checks- it’s never had to.

 

“Ok,” he nods to himself, “as far as I can tell she’s just in a really deep sleep. Guess blowing up the moon is a bit tiring.” He rubs at his head as he turns back to the rest. “I need to think things through. Come up with a plan.”

 

We need to.” There’s a bite to the words, an edge and a challenge that completely throws Five off for a moment. He swings his head to roll his eyes at Luther and/or Diego only to find them staring in shock at Ben.

 

Well, this is new.

 

Little Ben is still wrapped around a drunken Klaus, looking even smaller in comparison to his brother’s gangly limbs. Out of all of them Ben was the last to start developing, to lose the soft lips and round cheeks of childhood. It makes the glare he directs at Five seem vaguely comical.

 

We Five. All of us.” Ben expands his glare to include the rest of their siblings- even glances to Vanya and Klaus. “You saw the future, and you know the Comission, and you’ve lived the longest and you’re smarter than all of us- great- share that with us, don’t just hold it over us! Don’t hoard all that knowledge and dribble out just enough that we can follow your orders once you’ve decided what to do.”

 

Five’s jaw is tight, teeth grinding, fists clenching hard enough to dig his nails into his palms and who the hell does Ben think he’s talking to like that?

 

Ben raises his chin, looks Five right in the eyes, and says, “That’s Dad’s way.”

 

The little shit! Five is frozen, muscles tightened in fury suddenly locked solid as he glares back at his kid brother, only vaguely taking in the gasps and hisses of breath from Luther, Diego and Allison.

 

“Dad sway!” sniggers Klaus, “Dad swaaaaaay!!” He lifts his hands to dance in the air before him with a high pitched giggle. That draws Ben’s gaze from Five to Klaus, and his steely challenge disappears into a weary smile of fond exasperation as he shushs him.

 

“I am not Dad.” Five keeps his tone level, even when Ben’s eyebrow raises at him, and Allison and Diego share a meaningful glance.

 

“No,” Ben agrees, “you’re not.” He nods his chin towards Klaus, “Dad never gave a shit how his powers affected him. You’re better than Dad, Five. Don’t let your arrogance lead you the same way his does.”

 

The room is silent save for the throbbing in Five’s head. Jesus, since when did Ben of all people get so ballsy? …. And, maybe, Five grudgingly concedes in the privacy of his own head, perceptive…. Five lets out a breath and forces his shoulders and jaw to relax. He concedes a terse nod in Ben’s direction.

 

“Wow. Guess death really does hold no fear for you now, huh, Bro?” says Diego, grinning at Ben.

 

“After following this one around for 13 years there’s really not much left in the world that can scare me,” Ben shrugs. “There’s only so many times you can walk in on your doped up, bare assed brother’s latest sexual encounter before your brain resets your definition of terror.”

 

Diego’s grin evaporates at that, a look of utter horror spreading across his features. Five isn’t too sure if the noise Allison chokes on is a gasp or a guffaw, and decides he’d rather not investigate.

 

“Moving on,” says Five quickly, “we,” a nod to Ben, “need to plan. Might I make some suggestions?”

 

Ben nods graciously.

 

“Thank you. OK, first, we need to be ready when Vanya wakes up. It’s safest to assume she’ll remember everything, and plan for that.”

 

“She’s not gonna be happy,” says Luther, quietly. No-one seems inclined to disagree, or to disabuse Luther of the guilt written all over his face.

 

“No, I don’t imagine she will be,” says Five, “and I don’t imagine she’ll be terribly inclined to trust any of us either.” He gestures to himself, Luther, Diego and Klaus. Luther and Diego share a chagrined glance, nodding wryly and avoiding Allison’s rather pointed glare. Klaus drools quietly, soundly asleep now against Ben’s chest.

 

Five looks to Allison, “You and Vanya had been spending time together before the shit hit the fan. Seemed like things were going well?”

 

“Ohh... no…. no, Five, I can’t...” Allison’s open mouthed and grasping for words which normally come easily. “Five, I did this to her!” She gestures at Vanya’s prone form, eyes pleading.

 

“She doesn’t know that, Allison,” says Luther softly, reaching to take her hand. “The last thing Vanya saw was her brothers attacking her. If she wakes to one of us….”

 

He doesn’t need to continue that thought- they’ve all seen what can happen when Vanya feels threatened and loses control. Their entire purpose here is to keep it from happening again.

 

“It can’t be Ben,” says Diego. “No offence, Bro, but if I’d woken this morning to find my long dead brother staring at me...”

 

“I’d be dead again with a knife in my chest?”

 

Diego gives a sheepish grin, “Yeah, pretty much. Hard to keep a knee jerk reaction like that in check y’know.”

 

Allison’s eyes squeeze closed, clearly keeping back tears, and she grimaces but nods. No-one wants to provoke a knee jerk reaction from the woman who just inadvertantly (god, he hopes it was inadvertantly) caused the apocalypse.

 

Allison steels herself and looks around them all. “I’m not going to rumour her, and I’m not going to lie to her.” Her tone makes it very clear this is not up for discussion. “She’ll sleep in my bed, and when she wakes… I’ll...” she shrugs helplessly, “I’ll explain things. Everything.” She looks sick at the thought. Five doesn’t envy her.

 

“What about Dad?” asks Luther. “He’ll be expecting us all at breakfast in just a few hours.”

 

Allison snorts softly, “Him I will happily rumour, if need be. But let me play the ‘women trouble’ card first. There are some advantages to being a pubescent girl again, and this time I’ve got the life experience to make it the most akward conversation he’s ever had and the acting experience to really make the most of the hormonal and emotional teenage girl role.” She actually looks like she’s relishing the chance to make Reginald squirm.

 

Luther gazes at her with naked admiration, a smile playing on his lips. Ben grins widely and Diego sniggers, and even Five has to admit that’s a performance he’d pay to watch.

 

“He might just fob Vanya off on Mom, though,” says Diego.

 

“Nah, I think Mom’s gonna have her hands full with Klaus,” says Ben. “This body isn’t used to knocking back half a bottle of whisky in the space of twenty minutes.” He sighs sadly, stroking his snoring brother’s hair, “He is gonna feel like hell in the morning.”

 

“She’ll know why, though,” Five points out.

 

“Leave it to me,” says Diego. “I think I can convince her to let it go, just this once. Worst that can happen is she tells Dad. Makes no difference if Dad finds out Klaus got drunk from Mom, or from watching him stumble through training with the mother of all hangovers. And at least this way Klaus gets out of training with a chance of keeping Dad in the dark.”

 

“That brings up another point,” says Luther, drawing everyone’s eyes. “Do we tell him?”

 

“About us time travelling?”

“About Vanya?”

“About the apocalypse?”

 

“Well, yeah, all or any of the above,” Luther shrugs. “He knew the apocalypse was going to happen, and he knew, at least roughly, when. What else might he know? Maybe he can help?”

 

“Luther….” Allison begins, warily.

 

“Nu-uh, not happening,” from Ben.

 

Seriously?! After everything you’ve learned about that man, you still wanna trust him with this?!” Diego’s gone from lazing on the floor to fighting stance on his feet within the space of two seconds.

 

Five puts himself between Diego and Luther, hands spread and eyebrows raised in warning. “Hey! It’s a valid question.”

 

All of them goggle at him, even Luther, and he waves them back.

 

“We have to consider all our options,” he peers intently at the nay-sayers, “even those we might not like.” No-one looks convinced, but he carries on anyway. “Luther has a point, Dad obviously knew something, and I’d certainly like to know what and how. But.” He spears them all with his glance, “I think we can all agree that we can’t trust Dad.” He waits for them all to nod, and not even Luther makes a move to defend the man. “Right. So, we give him no more information than we absolutely have to, at least for now. Agreed?”

 

He receives immediate nods from Ben, Allison and Diego. Luther’s nod is slower, and a little reluctant.

 

“Luther, you always got on the best with him. He talked more with you than the rest of us combined.”

 

Luther looks less than comfortable with this being brought up, so Five continues quickly, earnestly “So, talk to him. See what you can find out. He’s always said he was preparing us to ‘save the world’- isn’t it natural to wonder what he might mean by that? How he knows its coming? You’re his Number One, you’re in the best position to ask. Say you want to be prepared, want to help him prepare us- he won’t question that from you.”

 

Diego looks stunned at this thought, but Ben is grinning and Allison is nodding emphatically, and Luther looks like the skies have just opened up above him to reveal the secrets of the universe.

 

“Yeah, yeah….” He smiles, grimly but with real relish, “I can do that.”

 

Five knows his answering smile is smug, but he feels he’s earned this one.

 

“And the rest of us just, what? Carry on as normal?” Diego asks.

 

“Not quite,” says Ben, before Five has even opened his mouth. Five steps back and lets him continue, curious as to what his previously shy brother has to propose.

 

“Vanya’s still on her meds, for a start,” Ben continues. He looks to Allison. “This will be her choice once she’s up to speed, but it seems to me we can kill two birds with one stone. Vanya slowly stops taking the pills, so she actually has a chance to process all the emotions Dad denied her. That leaves spare pills as another option to help Klaus manage his powers.” There are nods of aggreemnent all round as Ben once more glances down fondly at a drooling Klaus. “And when each of them are ready, we’re all here to support them however they need. To help them train how they want to, and actually get their powers under control.”

 

Five nods along with the others- it’s good to hear some common sense from someone other than himself for a change.

 

“Well, would you look at that,” Five smiles proudly, “Looks like, in bringing you back, I’ve managed to raise the family brain cell count to two.”

 

He ignores the eye rolls and withering glances and chuckles to himself.

 

They all seem satisfied that they’ve bashed out a solid enough plan to get them through the next morning, at least, and Luther urges them to head to their own rooms. Luther gently lifts Vanya from Klaus’s bed, and Allison holds the door open then follows them out.

 

Five helps Ben and Diego manhandle Klaus into his bed. Klaus mutters incoherently, brows pinched together and eyebrows raised fearfully, but he calms at the touch of Ben’s hand on his cheek with a gentle “Shhh, Klaus, I’m here”.

 

“I’m gonna stay with him tonight,” Ben mumbles, climbing in beside Klaus. Ben looks at Five and Diego a little defensively. “It’s been thirteen years, guys. He was my only connection to… well…. Anything.” Ben’s voice is small and a little shaky.

 

Five wonders if ghosts sleep, or is this Ben’s first time doing that in thirteen years? Vanya, Klaus, Ben, all of them, they’re all varying degrees of broken, aren’t they?

 

Five gives Ben a warm smile, and a quick squeeze to his shoulder. Diego, perhaps emboldened by Luthor’s absence, indulges in a tight hug that Ben reciprocates wholeheartedly. Five’s no expert on physical affection, but the hug goes on longer than he thinks is standard. He thinks, once this is all done, they may all look back and be glad they couldn’t stop the apocalypse first time round, since its let them have Ben back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The first thing Vanya becomes aware of is an overpowering weariness, a heavy, bone deep exhaustion that weighs down her limbs and even her eyelids. So she lies there, just breathing and being, and remembering white. She doesn’t remember anything about the white, just that it.. was. Was everything. Her brain still seems shrouded in it, in the sound of it and the brightness of it, but she can’t comprehend any logic to the sensations.

 

Slowly the intensity, but not the presence, of the white recedes, and other stimuli emerge. The softness on which she lies. The warmth at her side. The faint wisps of warm air against her cheek, slow but rythmic. Someone’s breath?

 

Sluggishly she forces open her eyes, squinting briefly at the brightness of the room she’s in. Not like the white (nothing could be like the white) but a sudden enough contrast to the darkness of sleep that her eyes take moments to adjust. The world isn’t white, now- it’sfull of cream coloured frills. Vanya blinks in confusion. She can’t raise her head for the aching weariness that seeps through every muscle, but turning it takes far less effort. She is lying under cream frilled linen, on a soft pillow, staring at posters of her young sister on a cream wall . Why is she in Allison’s bed?

 

Recalling the warmth and breath at her side she forces her head to turn the other way, and blinks in confusion once more at what she finds.

 

Allison lies beside her, wide eyed but silent, a frail smile on her lips. But this is the Allison in the posters on the wall - tight dark curls trail on her pillow and her eyes take up so much more of her face than Vanya would expect. She looks scared, and sad, and relieved and guilty but mostly she looks so young .

 

Vanya,” she whispers, with an intesity and a warmth that Vanya is completely unfamiliar with. Tears fill her eyes, and she makes no move to brush them away or hide them. “How are you feeling?”

 

Her voice is young too, but still full and warm, and strong despite the low volume. Vanya’s thoughts snag on something, to do with Allison’s voice, something that makes her gut churn and her brain shy away. She feels there are memories hovering on the edge of her mind, waiting to cascade down on her- they’re hard and sharp and painful, and although she’s confused she isn’t ready to be caught in that downpour yet.

 

Tired,” she responds. And her voice is wrong too, pitching her mind back to when they were children. But Allison never would have lain beside Vanya like this. Would never have let Vanya set foot in her room, let alone on her bed.

 

T here’s an image of Allison in her mind- tall and collected, smiling with lips and eyes, overbrimming with pride and love. For her, for Vanya. The image is so strong, and it means something, something important, but she can’t place it. Not lying here in Allison’s childhood bed, Allison clearly not the regal woman of that image (memory? But it can’t be, they’re both children). There are other scenes floating through Vanya’s mind, vying for her attention- an orchestra, harmonies ringing, surrounding her; an apartment that she knows is hers ; herself, playing her violin, lost in the swelling sound she created; a book with her face on the cover, but an older face, not the one she knows she wears now.

 

I had such a vivid dream,” she murmers. It had to be, didn’t it? Those things can’t be real when the two of them are lying here, children. “So strange… We were all grown up.” All? Yes, her brothers were there too. The thought makes her uneasy somehow, echos with an unfamiliar anger. She blinks suddenly as another piece of this odd puzzle comes to mind. “Dad died. And Five was there. But he wasn’t grown up like the rest of us. It felt so real.”

 

Allison takes a deep breath- almost like she’s bolstering her confidence, except that Allison’s confidence has never needed any bolstering.

 

“That wasn’t a dream, Vanya. We are… were, all grown up. But some… things… happened.” Allison drops here eyes, fiddling with the edge of the blanket. “I’ll explain eveything, as much as I can, and please know that I’m sorry, we’re all so sorry,” her tear-filled eyes lift to Vanya again. “We should have done so much better, Vanya, especially by you.” Another deep breath, “But now we get a chance to do that.” She pulls herself up to sit cross-legged by Vanya’s side before she continues, gesturing at herself, “We’ve come back in time. Five brought us all, to save us from…. Well, I’ll get to that. But, you didn’t dream being grown up. We’re 29 years old, and when you were last awake it was 2019. But now we’re back in 2001 in our 12 year old bodies.”

 

Vanya’s mind whirls. Her immediate thought is that this is some sort of joke at her expense. But all those scenes in her head, years worth, most of it so utterly mundane. She remembers the shape of the wine stain on the bedroom carpet in her apartment, the way the pain t is peeling from the doorframe. A steady stream of young students standing by her front window praticing scales with her.

 

Allison is looking at her warily, and that look tickles something else in Vanya’s memory. Something like she’d felt earlier, thinking about Allison’s voice. The memory is circling, wanting in, but she can feel the weight of it, the pain of it. Not yet.

 

Vanya struggles to raise herself up on her elbows, the effort dizzying. Allison is there, helping her to pull herself up to sit against the head board. From here she can see herself in the mirror on Allison’s vanity un it . Straight brown hair hangs from her head, long bangs almost in her eyes, her face exactly as she remembers herself at 12.

 

“You won’t remember the time travel- you were unconscious. It was pretty intense.”

 

Vanya nods at that. She doesn’t remember it, but she remembers the white. And her brothers. There’s a numbness to her emotions that is perfectly familiar, almost welcome as her mind tries to put snatches of memory together. There’s something about that image of her brothers’ faces amid the white that makes her feel sick to her stomach. It’s a maelstrom of emotions, not all of which she can identify, but among the strongest is anger, and there’s a sense of betrayal too. It all seems somehow muted, or far away. She thinks she’s glad of that right now.

 

She remembers Five, her long lost brother, in her apartment. “The world ends in eight days, and I have no idea how to stop it.” She meets Allison’s eyes in the mirror and says, “Five… said the world was going to end.” It sounds as ridiculous when she says it as it had when Five did, but if she can accept that he’s brought them all back in time, then is anything really that outlandish?

 

“It did,” says Allison, voice brittle. “We’d be gone with it if not for Five.”

 

Vanya has a very strong feeling that she doesn’t want to know the details, there’s a dread curling inside her at the very thought. She can sense those circling memories just waiting to pounce. Five, child’s face set in grim determination, appearing before her in a burst of blue, hands reaching to hurt her.

 

“Vanya?” Hesitant, softer than anything Allison’s said so far. “Do you remember your powers?”

 

She remembers Allison’s face, frightened, desperate above a pooling lake of blood . She remembers her brothers, trapped in the white, writhing, faces sunken and hollow and pained. She remembers her violin, burning, incandescent. She remembers herself, still and silent, but fury seething inside, turning to purpose, vengeful and rightious. She remembers the white, luminous and blinding, feeding ravenously on the music she’d made - all encompassing and uncontainable.

 

Her hands are in Allison’s, her sister’s fingers stroking gently over the backs of her wrists. “Vanya?”

 

It was real,” Vanya says , voice small. “ So much hurt… rage… All that white...” She forces her eyes to meet Allison’s. “Your throat,” her hand reaches unbidden to ghost over the smooth skin at Allison’s neck. “ I almost killed you,” she breathes. Something deep in her is screaming but in her head there’s just a numbness.

 

“You were upset, Vanya, and I shouldn’t have pushed you. You just acted on instinct. I know you didn’t mean it.” Allison is staring intently, like she’s trying to imprint these statements on Vanya with the sheer force of her gaze.

 

Vanya blinks slowly back at her, mouth working soundlessly. There had been so much blood. She feels tears prick her eyes.

 

“Luther’s sorry too.”

 

Oh god. The chamber. Vanya’s breath hitches and she feels her heart beat quicken. She sees their faces, silent through the glass- Klaus and Diego angry and horrified, pleading; Luther grim and implacable, even against Allison.

 

They’d left her there. Alone, in the silent dark.

 

Until she’d made her own way out.

 

“I…. killed Pogo.” It’s a simple statement, no audible emotion. She remembers being so hurt, so angry, so desperate to lash out and balance the hurt against one who had caused it. Now there’s just blankness. No regret, but no relief.

 

Allison swallows. “I saw.” Allison’s hands still hold Vanya’s, stroking gently. There’s regret but no judgement in her tone. “I understand.”

 

The guys… They attacked me.”

 

“They were desperate, Vanya, desperate and stupid. They thought it was the only way to stop you. To save the world. None of them ever wanted to hurt you, I promise.”

 

They were dying. The white was…. I… I was killing them...”

 

But you didn’t, Vanya. They’re OK, all of them.)

 

I… don’t remember...” But there had been something, hadn’t there? She’d been gazing up at the tortured faces of her brothers, watching impassively as the white leeched the very life from them. T he enery in her had crescendoed, resonating more and more strongly, giving more life to the white, building the power, lifting her senses soaring so high. Then suddenly it was… dischordant. The resonance was shattered, and she’d fallen. All that power reverberating through her body, turning her bones to fire…

 

You…. How…..” Vanya tries to shake the fog from her thoughts, face screwed up in confusion. The white had been too strong, it had been everywhere, everything , it had utterly overwhelmed her, consumed her. How could Allison have stopped that?

 

A llison reaches her left hand to tuck a lock of hair behind Vanya’s right ear. Her fingers rest there, palm cupping Vanya’s jaw, and fingers stroking the shell of her ear. “A gunshot.” She looks solemn and regretful.

 

“How am I alive?” she asks Allison. “All that power… I felt it, it was pulsing, rushing through me… And I was channelling it, through my music, but then I lost the resonance, but the power was still there…. There was so much of it in me, Allison. How did it not destroy me?”

 

“It kind of… shot? Out of you. When you fell unconscious.”

 

There’s something ominous underlying Allison’s tone, and Vanya knows there’s more. She holds Allison’s gaze, eyebrow raised, urging her to carry on.

 

You, sort of.” Deep breath. “Blew up the moon.”

 

V anya’s jaw drops and so does her heart. She what ?

 

“But! That was in 2019. And we’re back in 2001, so it hasn’t happened!” Allison smiles encouragingly.

 

I. Blew up. The moon.” That is not a rational thing for anyone to say. It’s a phrase that could only ever be uttered hysterically, acompanied by manic laughter. Yet her voice is a monotone.

 

Allison winces apologetically, “Yeah. If it’s any help, it’s not much easier to say than to hear.”

 

Vanya stares. At Allison’s earnest expression. At her own hands. At the cloudy sky visible through Allison’s window.

 

“I blew up the moon,” she whispers.

 

“We thought,” says Allison, a little hesitantly, “if you’re up for it, maybe we could help you train with your powers? Help you get some control?”

 

Yeah,” says Vanya numbly, still staring out the window. I blew up the MOON. “That…. might be a good idea….”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

They’ve been 12 again for approximately 14 hours. He’s been alive again for 14 hours.

 

Ben is smart, enough to know, even when he was a child, that their childhood had been painful and wrong, that Dad had never been a father to any of them. Had he not known it then, he certainly knew it now, after years of watching helplessly as Klaus steeped himself ever deeper in whatever drugs he could find to obliterate his lucidity and his memories, and whatever meaningless hook up he could find to simulate the affection he so craved but had never experienced. Ben never romanticized their childhood, never wished to be back there, but oh, he had longed to be alive again.

 

Ben has spent 13 years watching life carry on without him; yearning to be heard, to be seen, to touch and taste and dream and feel . His memories of life never really faded. H e’d treasured them , held them close, his proof to himself that he’d once been more than just Klaus’s invisible friend/ conscience/ thinking-brain-dog . He’d relived them in his mind whenever he could- the heady excitement of sneaking out to Griddy’s at night, surrounded by his siblings; chasing each other around the halls in those rare moments of childish exuberance that not even Dad could suppress; the sweetness of Grace’s pancakes and syrup and the softness of her fingers stroking through his messy hair; the simple joy of curling his tired body under a soft blanket, warm and sleepy and content, and of waking the next day, still warm and content and stretching out his limbs and muscles.

 

For 13 years he has craved physicality like Klaus has craved drugs, and now, finally, he has a body again. And he aches .

 

“It shouldn’t feel so.. ughh,” Ben pants against Diego’s shoulder. Surely his body had done all this only yesterday, and every day before- it must be used to this. But Ben hasn’t experienced pain and fatigue in so long, and he doesn’t remember it feeling so awful.

 

Diego looks a little confused, but allows himself to be used to prop Ben up while Dad strides off to change for some meeting or other.

 

“Welcome back to corporeality,” smirks Five, who’s only slightly glistening with sweat from all the morning’s exertions.

 

With a heroic effort Ben marshals the strength to move. A single finger. Five only grins wider and chuckles.

 

Luther, bless him, offers another shoulder to lean on, and says, “Knock it off, Five. It’s not easy adapting to a new physicality.”

 

Ben shoots him a grateful smile. “Yeah, kinda forgot that muscles get sore. And I was tired anyway. Turns out I kinda forgot how to sleep too.” That had been a blessing, in a way. At least he’d been awake as Klaus, still slightly drunk, roused groggily mumbling about “gory messes” in his room. Which was when it struck Ben- now that he was alive again, he’d have a ghostly entourage, just like his other siblings, only bloodier and bigger. The realisation that, for Klaus’s good, he’d have to avoid him when he was sober, had itself been very sobering.

 

“Doubt that’ll be a problem for you tonight, buddy,” says Diego, helping Luther to half drag, half carry Ben up the stairs to their rooms. Ben thinks he’s probably right- right now he feels like he’d be asleep the moment his head hit a pillow.

 

But in the meantime we need to act normal in front of Dad, Pogo and Mom,” says Luther, “so take a quick break, get a shower and get changed before lunch.” He gently propels Ben into his room. “This afternoon is just lessons, so it should be easier.”

 

Ben snorts. “Oh, yeah, I’m the King of sitting quietly listening to other people talking, I can ace that.” Actually, can he? He’s gotten so used to saying whatever he thinks (which tends to be sarcastic, at best, and downright scathing at worst) as and when it occurs to him. This may not be a useful tendency in Pogo’s history class.

 

The thought of a hot shower (ahh, he does remember those fondly) followed by lunch (Grace’s cooking is incomparable- breakfast that morning had been the most blissful experience of his life) renews his flagging energy enough to keep him going when his brothers release him. But there are more important things than hot water and food, and Ben is far too used to being the sensible grown-up to ignore those things, so he turns and walks (OK, maybe its more of a shuffle right now) back into the corridor.

 

L uther puts out a hand to stop him, “Ben, take a break.”

 

Yeah, I’ll check on Klaus,” says Diego. Klaus had, as expected, been exceptionally hung-over that morning, and somehow Diego had managed to convince Mom that it had nothing to do with alcohol. Or perhaps he’d just given her sufficient plausible deniability in case of questions from Dad. In any case, she’d been happy to sit by Klaus’s bed offering him water and painkillers and gentle touches.

 

I’m not going to see Klaus,” Ben says, although he really does want to. He sags a little as he explains to the brothers who haven’t yet figured it out (Five has- he’d nodded in what looked like relief when Ben said that.) “I can’t be around him when he’s sober- not until he gets a better handle on his powers.” Both Luther and Diego look surprised at that, but Ben has no desire to talk about this, so he pushes past them, trusting that Five will explain if needed. Ben can’t get near Klaus, but he has another sibling he can check on.

 

Allison’s door is closed, and he knocks on it, only a little hesitantly. He feels his brothers crowding nervously (even Five) at his back.

 

The door opens only a crack, Allison peeking out warily. She breathes easier on seeing Ben there, and opens the door more fully. And there’s Vanya, sat cross legged on Allison’s bed, looking pale and uncertain. Her eyes widen and well with tears as they fix on Ben, and a smile spreads across her face.

 

There are huffs of relief from behind him. Allison looks questioningly to her sister then back to her brothers, and gives them a look . Ben can feel his brothers suddenly looking at the floor and shuffling their feet, and then they’re gone. Allison turns a warm smile on Ben, and pulls him into the room.

 

Vanya has made it to her feet now, and stumbles forward, whispering, “Ben!” in a voice full of wonder. Ben catches her and wraps his arms around her (and she, Vanya the Small, is taller than him now, how is that fair?) and lets her sob and shake into his shoulder. Her hands cling weakly to his arms, and he can feel her legs trembling.

 

“She’s really weak,” Allison murmurs, a hand on each of her siblings’ backs, coaxing them towards the bed.

 

Ben lets her lead them, and sits himself and Vanya down, Vanya still clinging and weeping. He strokes her hair, and holds her, still revelling in the fact that he can offer physical comfort to someone who needs it. He pushes back the many, many memories of times he had wished he could do this for Klaus over the years (and the many, many times he would have delighted in deck ing the idiot if he could have). Now is for his sister, the one they’d all but ignored all her life.

 

E ventually Vanya’s breathless sobs slow, and she slumps bonelessly against him letting out little sniffles. He keeps her held close and murmurs soft words in her ear until her breathing returns to normal and she lifts her head from his shoulder. She pulls back a little. Her face is pale everywhere that isn’t tearstained and red and puffy, and she’s biting her lip. He squeezes her hand, smiles at her.

 

Allison caught you up?” Allison, he suddenly realises, is nowhere to be seen, having apparently given Vanya privacy to break down in her previously dead brother’s arms.

 

Vanya nods with a pained attempt at a smile. “I blew up the moon.”

 

Ben snorts softly and says, “You should see some of the things Klaus has, deliberately, done over the years. Well, actually, no, you shouldn’t, ‘cos it would scar your brain. But honestly, accidentally blowing up the moon is not even close to being the dumbest thing someone in this family has done.”

 

Vanya sniggers at that. She’s looking down at their tangled fingers, seemingly conflicted about something.

 

“Vanya?”

 

She doesn’t meet his eyes, but he sees her steel herself and she gives the impression of carefully choosing her words. “They hurt me, Ben. They treated me like nothing, all of them. It wasn’t just Dad it was everyone. It hurt so much. And Allison’s trying so hard to be better, but… I only ever wanted to be part of things, for them to care, and now I am, but it...” her voice wavers, and there’s an undercurrent of resentment. “Am I only part of it now because now I’m the problem?” Her eyes are squeezed shut, and words tumble out of her. “They never cared before, never included me in anything, turned me away at every chance- why would they care now?”

 

Vanya….”

 

They attacked me, Ben. It was my concert, my moment to be something, and they didn’t care- they didn’t come to hear me play, they came to attack me.”

 

Oh, this isn’t good. “Vanya,” he says, as gently as possible, “they didn’t come to attack you. They came to stop the Apocalypse. And, yes, they attacked you, but that was because they’re a bunch of disorganised, incompetent dumb shits who couldn’t put together a better plan. But I promise you,” he catches her eyes and squeezes her hand, “I promise you, not one of them wanted to hurt you.”

 

She looks blankly at him.

 

Vanya, you’re our sister, and we love you. And I know you’ve been hurt, so badly. Everyone has done things they regret recently, because everything has been crazy and they’ve made bad choices...”

 

“Like choking me unconscious and locking me in a soundproofed cell?” Vanya asks. Ben isn’t sure whether there’s more fear or resentment in her voice.

 

Yes,” Ben nods emphatically, “that would probably be the worst one- something that no-one is going to let Luther forget for a very long time. Including Luther.” Ben chooses his own words carefully now. “He just over-reacted because it was Allison who was hurt.”

 

“I didn’t mean that!”

 

I know you didn’t mean it, and I don’t blame you for it. But it still happened, because it’s instictive to lash out when you feel threatened. Like it’s instinctive for kids to be selfish little shits and not see each others’ pain. I never realised how much anyone else was suffering back then, because I was sunk too deep in my own fear and misery. I felt guilty at first, after I died and was stuck following Klaus- oh, yeah,” he interrupts himself at Vanya’s shocked look, “he’s been telling the truth about that, even at my funeral, and for the record I absolutely do not care that he was high for that ‘cos he needed something to support him through the ordeal of formally saying goodbye to the brother who was actually standing right beside him as little more than a bloody pulp, and none of his family were in any rush to help.”

 

B en breathes. Shit, that had gotten away from him a bit. Vanya is staring at him, eyes and mouth wide.

 

Uhm…. Sorry, that’s just been bothering me for a very long time. But it illustrates my point- selfish kids, just focussed on ourselves. It took being dead and only able to experience life through Klaus for me to even consider what life could be like for someone else. And I’m sorry, Vanya, but it sucks just as much for everyone. I’d had no idea what Klaus had been put through, and not just because he hides the trauma so well under the flamboyance and drugs. I never thought to wonder, when I was alive, what things might be like for him, because I was too caught up in my own hell. Never thought about you being left out and alone, because I was too busy fighting my own, literal, demons.” He looks Vanya directly in the eyes as he says, “And you never thought about what any of the rest of us were going through either, because you had more than enough on your plate trying to deal with your own pain. Did you?

 

I….” her eyes wander and her mouth works soundlessly for a few moments, before she says, in a small voice, “No, I guess… I didn’t...”

 

None of us did, Vanya. And you know what? That’s fine. That’s probably the only thing about our childhood that was normal, because kids are supposed to be selfish like that. It’s part of growing up. I don’t feel guilty any more for not realising what Klaus and the rest of you were going through- I’m sorry for what you- we- all went through, but it wasn’t on me to notice it, let alone fix it. I was a kid. We were all just kids.”

 

H e doesn’t give voice to the obvious extension of that logic- he has no doubt that Vanya is as aware of Dad’s abuse as the rest of them. Looking at her now, features lax, nodding almost imperceptibly, he’s hopeful that he’s gotten through her defences.

 

“He abused all of us,” she says quietly, like she’s testing the sound of the words. “I wanted to be part of it all, so badly, but… You didn’t.”

 

Ben gives a humourless chuckle. “We wanted to be you, Vanya. At least, Klaus and I did,” he sighs. “We’d have given anything to be rid of our powers, you know. The others not so much, but Dad screwed them up just as much in other ways. They only thought they were happy back then.”

 

Vanya looks to his abdomen, nodding in understanding. He’s not sure how she could ever have been jealous of his ‘gift’ of opening a rift in his body to pour out monstrous and bloodthirsty tentacles, but it’s good to see she’s opening her mind a little to the realities of it all.

 

There’s a knock on the door just then. After a moment Allison pops her head in. “Hey. Sorry to interrupt, but we’ll be expected downstairs for lunch soon. If you’re up to it, Vanya? Dad won’t be there.”

 

Ben gives Vanya an encouraging smile and another squeeze of her hand.

 

She smiles back, shyly, and turns to smile more brightly at Allison, nodding, “Yeah, I think I’d like that.”

 

Allison’s return smile is beautifully genuine, Ben thinks. “Great!” she says. “First, though, did Ben tell you the plan?”

 

Vanya looks puzzled. “There’s a plan?”

 

Ben grimaces. “Allison, I don’t think a few vague ideas about medication and training can really be called a ‘plan’.”

 

Allison shrugs. “Well ‘plan’ is fewer syllables to say, and makes it sounds like we have a clue what we’re doing.”

 

Vanya giggles and Ben rolls his eyes.

 

“We didn’t quite get around to talking about the plan,” says Vanya, a little sheepishly.

 

Hmm, well, I suppose there have been a few other gossip worthy happenings recently,” says Allison. “And Ben does have a point about vague ideas… But one of those ideas is a little urgent, and needs your agreement, Vanya.”

 

At Vanya’s quizzical look Allison continues, “Your medication. We know now that Dad only put you on it to suppress your powers. You stopped taking it, didn’t you?”

 

“After those creeps at the house, yeah. I ran out.” Her lips purse together and she frowns in thought. “At least, I thought I did, but maybe...”

 

“Maybe some manipulative, patricidal scumbag helped you run out?”

 

Maybe,” Vanya agrees.

 

“How did you feel without them?” asks Ben.

 

“Good. Great, in fact. Not numb like I’d always been.” Vanya looks warily between her brother and sister. “OK, I guess I see where this is going but from what I’ve been able to work out so far my powers react to my emotions. Emotional me is probably not a good idea.”

 

But you just stopped overnight before,” says Ben. “I think it would be different if you just slowly dropped the dosage. I mean over weeks, even months, the emotions will come gradually. You’ll get used to them and be able to deal with them and your powers.

 

“I guess...”

 

Vanya,” says Allison, “This is totally up to you, and we’re suggesting it for you- you don’t deserve to live your life not feeling things. I honestly think cutting down your pills, maybe even stopping them completely eventually, is the best thing for you. But I want to be totally honest with you.” She glances to Ben, who nods his agreement. “We’re also hoping that, if you decide to reduce your pills, you’ll let Klaus try taking some.”

 

What?!” Vanya goggles, eyes darting between Allison and Ben. “You want to drug Klaus up?”

 

It’s a bit complicated,” Allison says, “and we’re not talking about doping him up- we want to give him a safer option to suppress his powers than booze and cocaine. One that will let him still think and function, but keep the ghosts from bothering him so much, while we help him work out how to control his powers.”

 

All that time I was with Klaus, I saw and heard the same things he did. And as much as I hated watching him rot his brain...” Ben sighed, hand running through his hair. “Honestly, sometimes it was a relief to watch him curl up unconscious in an alleyway.”

 

His eyes plead silently for her to understand. To not be the overwhelmed kid unable to see her brother’s suffering.

 

I’ve seen the ghosts that surround our brothers and sister. And I’ve killed more people than Luther, Diego and Allison combined. Not just killed- the Horror ripped them to pieces. And suddenly I’m alive again and I know what Klaus will see, what he’ll hear, all around me. Up until this morning I’ve been with Klaus every moment of the last 13 years. And sometimes- OK, a lot of times, actually- I’ve wished I could smack him so hard in the face, but he’s been the one constant I’ve had in all that time- it’s like he’s a part of me, and now I...” his voice is breaking. “I can’t go near him, Vanya. I can’t put him through that, and I can’t be the reason he goes back to drugs...”

 

Suddenly Vanya’s arms are around him, and she’s hushing him, and holding him in a perfect mirror image of their earlier roles, and Ben can’t stop the tears running down his face.

 

A llison speaks softly behind him, “It really would help, a lot, if you could spare some pills for Klaus, Vanya. All this time we thought he was just chasing a high, but he was just.. blocking the ghosts out.”

 

He got clean,” Ben sniffs. “Right before everything happened, he got clean, to see someone he loved. I was so proud of him. I am so proud of him- he worked so hard. And dammit why can’t I stop crying?!” Damn body, with its damn neurochemicals.

 

“Oh, Ben...” Allison has joined their hug huddle. “He’s missing you too.”

 

Well, that doesn’t help! Klaus is missing him, and he’s missing Klaus as desperately as he’d miss his limbs, and he can’t just go to him, because he’d only hurt him if he did. He clings to his sisters, takes what comfort he can from the still novel sensation of warmth and human touch, and wills his breathing to steady and his eyes to stop leaking everywhere.

 

If today has shown Ben anything it’s that being alive isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. He never lost control like this when he was dead. But then, he never felt much of anything when he was dead. Much like Vanya, on her medication, he supposes.

 

Speaking of Vanya, now that Ben’s tears are drying she’s pulling away, and to her feet, a resolute expression on her face.

 

I don’t think I’ve ever actually helped anyone before,” she says. “Don’t think I’ve ever even considered that I could help anyone.” Her smile is sad, but somehow hopeful. “And I don’t think I want to be a kid any more.” She holds out her hand to him. “Come on, Ben. Let’s go get our brother some of my drugs.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Klaus had woken with a thumping headache that morning. Of the vast range of unpleasant awakenings in Klaus’s life, this struggled to chart- he can ignore a headache in his sleep. So to speak. What had been more of a surprise was how, upon opening his eyes and wincing at the brightness, that thump became more of a screaming drill shattering his skull and embedding itself deep in his brain. He hadn’t experienced that kind of searing pain the morning after since his earliest days of self medication, and to feeling it again caused a spike of panic. Which, of course, had made him shoot straight up from his prone position to stare around with wide eyes (stupidly wide, considering the brightness). And that in turn had prompted his head to explode, and him to cry out and slump right back down into the bed whimpering like a wounded animal.

 

Which is how Allison had found him, however much later it was when he next woke . She spoke softly to him, but with his head throbbing he couldn’t really focus on the words. He caught something about Ben, that prompted him to open his eyes and seek his brother out, but Ben wasn’t there- why wasn’t Ben there? He lifted and swivelled his head, looking for him to no avail, and the throbbing in his head swelled until he was barely aware of Allison pushing him back down and pulling the blanket over his shoulders. She murmured something that he couldn’t make out and stroked his head until his eyes fell closed again.

 

He woke again to Mom’s hand on his forehead. Diego, she explained, had told her Klaus wasn’t well. She would sit with him, and care for him until he felt better, while his brothers trained. She had brought him water, and painkillers, and she smiled gently and held his hand until he fell back asleep.

 

Klaus has no idea how long ago that was, but when he wakes now his head only throbs dully, even when he opens his eyes, and the light streaming in his bedroom window doesn’t seem as bright as it was before. Mom is gone, but there is a glass of water and more painkillers beside his bed. He wastes no time in downing them, then has to sit on the edge of the bed for a while until both his head and his stomach settle a little.

 

Hey,” comes a quiet voice.

 

Klaus does not squeal in shock. Nor does he jump, or cast his gaze frantically around his room.

 

How are you feeling?” Vanya asks, smiling and unfolding herself from the darkest corner of his room where she had evidently been hiding, he could absolutely not have been expected to have any idea she was there.

 

H e gathers his wits enough to think that really, he should be asking her that. Now that she’s stepped into the light he can see she’s looking surprisingly well. Far less pale than he’d last seen her. Far less blankly murderous than he’d last seen her awake.

 

“Fine, fine.” He turns on his smile. “Just normal me, you know… Hangover? Pah! I laugh in the faces and all that. Maybe not too loudly, right now, but still…..” He shrugs. Peers at her cautiously. “Uhm. You?”

 

She sits beside him, and he very determin e dly does not flinch or lean away, but he’ll admit (to himself) that he does hold his breath. She’s smiling sweetly, the little Vanya he remembers from childhood, mostly. But there’s a set to her features that’s entirely new, that reminds him a little of that disdainful, impassive gaze peering out from a blaze of white.

 

“I’m good,” she says simply. “Tired and a bit shaky on my feet, but good.”

 

“Oh, good, good, that’s good. Yeah, you look good.”

 

He’s not sure what else to say. He’s (rightly) known for his meaningless prattle, but he finds it just somehow doesn’t come so easily when every thought in his head is along the lines of “So, you annihilated mankind, that’s impressive!” He’s never been known for thinking before he speaks, but there’s a first time for everything, and if that time isn’t when he’s sitting alone with his possibly mentally unstable but definitely, and very justifiably, traumatised tiny sister who, when last she was conscious, was not overly enamoured of him and actually seemed to be in the process of killing him, who is in fact a powerhouse of apparently unlimited potential, and who undoubtedly possesses sufficient power to blow up the moon, which he knows for certain because he very recently watched her do exactly that- well if that isn’t the time to think before he speaks then that first time for everything saying is, quite frankly, bullshit of the highest order.

 

S o, it’s Vanya who breaks the rather uncomfortable silence.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

Uhm. Okaaay, yes, that’s good, isn’t it? Klaus clamps his teeth together before his mouth can relay the “For… trying to kill us?” or “For killing Pogo and Mom?” or “For destroying the world?” clammering to get out.

 

“For not believing you about Ben.”

 

Uh. What?

 

She’s staring down at her fingers, twisted in his blanket. She looks… ashamed?

 

“And for what I wrote. Especially about the funeral.”

 

Klaus’s brain helpfully supplies another ‘ what??’ but even with his jaw dropped as it is hi s throat can’t make any words come out.

 

He’s still drunk, isn’t he? Or maybe still asleep?

 

As he sits there gaping like a fish Vanya lifts her head, meeting his gawk with hesitant eyes. She swallows, and says in a voice so small it’s barely audible, “Klaus?”

 

Right, yes, he should respond, shouldn’t he? As he marshals his features back to something less resembling a fish out of water he sets his brain to thinking of something suitable to say.

 

Thank you.” This is apparently the best his brain can come up with in this moment, and even to Klaus’s ears it’s woefully insufficient. But suddenly he can’t improve upon that feeble response because his chest constricts and his throat closes and his eyes water and his heart just swells.

 

Unable to speak, Klaus takes Vanya’s hand in both of his and just holds it between them while his mouth works soundlessly and hot tears roll down his cheeks and then his lips stretch into a smile so broad it hurts his face.

 

Thank you,” he manages again. And apparently that is enough after all, because Vanya’s face lights up with a smile as broad as his and she brings her other hand up to his shoulder and pulls him into a hug.

 

It’s nice, hugging Vanya. She’s small but warm, and that ever present timidity has vanished. Her hug is fierce .

 

When she releases him he moves back a little, really looking at her, trying to identify that difference he’d noted earlier. Her lips twist into a puzzled little smile as he searches her face.

 

Ah, that’s it. His smile becomes a grin. “It’s gone,” he says.

 

And now Vanya sits bemused, mouth open for words that she seemingly can’t find.

 

“The meekness,” he explains. “You always tried to shrink into yourself, like you didn’t want to intrude on anyone, even when you were talking. Which you hardly ever did, ‘cos, y’know, meekness- ‘Not here, don’t notice me, oh I’m so sorry to have to bother you by, y’know, existing..’”

 

Her eyebrows rise in surprise.

 

“Your face isn’t apologising for you any more.” He studies her speculatively, nodding to himself. “It’s a good look for you.”

 

She gasps out a laugh and grins back at him. She’s happy. Klaus finds he very much likes seeing it.

 

Well, that’s good. I mean I’ve never bothered much about how I look, but if my face gets your seal of approval….”

 

“There is no higher accolade to be had,” Klaus agrees solemnly. Vanya giggles.

 

H e’s properly woken up by now, and the painkillers are muting the remaining headache. His brain is a little less sluggish, which is nice, but mostly its Vanya’s giggle that disperses the last vestiges of wariness.

 

“I’m sorry too, Vanya,” he says.

 

She cocks her head, and waits expectantly for him to elaborate.

 

We were kinda shitty to you. When we were kids, and recently too.” He grimaces. “And that fucking cell...” his head shakes as he looks at her, words failing him.

 

Her face tightens, lips a thin line and eyes darting away. “That was... Not anyone’s best moment.” She meets his eyes again. “But I do remember you and Diego and Allison fighting for me. That meant something. And. Well, I’m not too keen to buddy up with Luther any time soon, but. I get that it made sense in his head.”

 

Klaus snorts and shakes his head. “Made no sense at all. We’re all dangerous. And we’ve had years to practice with our powers...”

 

“Yeah… Uhm… About that?” Vanya reaches into a pocket, and brings out a small container. It rattles.

 

Klaus forces his hands back from their involuntarily twitch towards the bottle of pills.

 

“I’ve been talking with Ben.”

 

Klaus huffs fondly. Well, that explains her calm and collected demeanour in the face of the absolute chaos that is their family. His eyes wander automatically looking for his brother before he remembers Ben doesn’t have to be his shadow any more. Klaus is so happy for him.

 

He turns a (not even slightly brittle) smile on Vanya. “I’ll bet he’s been talking everyone’s ear off! It’s soooo good to be able to share that burden, finally! You guys think I talk a lot? I’ve only been trying to cover up his incessant nattering for years!”

 

Vanya just raises an eyebrow.

 

Klaus sighs. Fiiiine. “Is he doing OK?” I miss him .

 

He’s missing you,” she says. “That’s why I’m here, actually.”

 

Oh?

 

Ben told us about how the ghosts follow him and the others.”

 

Klaus nods , vaguely recalling images of torn bodies littering his room.

 

“He doesn’t want to get too close to you just now, when he knows you’ll be able to see them all.” Vanya articulates the exact thought that had been forming in Klaus’s head. “But you can’t just keep getting drunk to block them out.”

 

“No?” Klaus sighs. “Worked well enough the last time I was this age.”

 

Vanya thumps his shoulder with a tiny fist. “No, it really didn’t. And this time we have a better option.” She rattles the pills. “If they suppressed my powers it seems likely they’ll suppress yours, too.”

 

Oh. Oh! Now that’s interesting. But…

 

That sounds, great actually, yeah, but- and I’m attaching no blame here, pointing no fingers, this is a safe space full of love and positivity and all that good stuff- but, uh, don’t you kind of need them? Things didn’t exactly work out…. optimally… when you stopped before.”

 

She grimaces. “Last time I was forced into stopping all at once and then manipulated into depending on a man who hated you all. This time I’m in control and I’m going to slowly reduce the dose with Ben and Allison to support me. Besides, if I need more I’ll just tell Dad I lost them,” she shrugs. “I’m the useless one anyway- I can’t exactly slip any further in his estimation.”

 

Oh, Vanya, you sweet summer child… Have you no ambition? Do you truly believe you’ve reached the depths of the chasm of Dad’s boundless disdain? One can always slip further in Dad’s estimation- behold the living proof, his- and I quote the man himself- ‘greatest disappointment’!” Klaus grasps dramatically at his chest with one hand while the other waves expansively.

 

Vanya winces and shakes her head, but can’t stop the smile her lips curl into. “Klaus….” she sighs, wearily.

 

Me, Vanya, Klaus, little Number Four. The greatest. I earned that title, I’ll have you know- years of diligently talking out of turn and getting high, being utterly useless on missions but just too damn fabulous for Dad to simply ignore-

 

“Klaus...”

 

“I will fight you for this accolade, Vanya, don’t think I won’t! I’ll conjure him, and tell him all the sordid details of my life, depravity you couldn’t even begin to imagine-”

 

“Klaus!”

 

“His greatest disappointment- it’s the pinnacle of any achievement I could ever accomplish-”

 

“KLAUS!!”

 

“…… Yes, dear sister?”

 

“Shut up and take your medicine.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 


It’s 11pm and they’re all gathered in Allison’s room, it being the biggest. It’s still rather crowded, especially to Klaus’s eyes. The ghosts, however, are only vague, dark shapes, their voices nothing more than incoherent mumbles. This is the third day he’s taken one of Vanya’s tablets after his breakfast. They don’t give him any kind of high (pity) but they keep the ghosts at bay quite well so far, and after a bit of mugginess the first couple of days he’s found his head quite clear today.

“So,” Five is saying, “now that things are getting back to a semblance of normal, for our definition of normal, anyway, we need to start thinking about the practicalities- training for Vanya and Klaus being the priority.”

“Priority?” asks Luther. “What else is there to focus on?”

Five glares at him. “The Commission? You remember? Time travelling assassins, hit squads, an organisation with limitless resources and technology, the entire world and time stream open to them, who are utterly dedicated to bringing about the end of life on Earth? Ring a bell?”

“Ah.”

“Such eloquence. No wonder you were always Dad’s favourite,” Five mutters.

“Uh, speaking of the old man,” Diego pipes up, “is nobody else thinking about the obvious solution to at least half our problems?” He caresses the blade of one his knives rather meaningfully.

“What the… No! That’s going too far!” Luther’s the one to immediately decry Diego’s suggestion, but Allison looks equally troubled by it. Vanya looks uncomfortable but thoughtful and Ben is staring contemplatively at Diego while his head nods almost imperceptibly and, Klaus thinks, unconsciously. 

Klaus’s own reaction is a little delayed- his head is clearer now on day three of Vanya’s meds, but he’s less reactive than he’d normally be. “Guys, I don’t think so...” There’s a sense of impending dread where, he thinks, there would normally be horrified panic. Klaus is coping well among the multitude of hazy, humanoid blobs, but he does not want to think about how he’d cope wondering if dear old Dad was one of them. Irrational as it may be he can’t help but feel that Dad wouldn’t allow himself to be relegated to indistinguishable blob-hood.

Five, however, breaks the apparent deadlock, hissing as he turns on Diego. “Absolutely fucking not!”

“Really?” Diego’s eyebrows crawl towards his hairline. “Mr ‘Four fucking horsemen’ draws the line at eliminating the sick bastard that set the Apocalypse in motion?”

“It’s not a matter of morals, you moron,” Five sneers. “I literally just reminded you about the Commission. You don’t think they’d take note of Reginald Hargreeves being murdered?”

Diego’s mouth opens and closes a few times. Luther breathes a sigh of relief. Five rolls his eyes and seethes.

Klaus doesn’t think his own sigh of relief is that obvious, but it catches Ben’s attention enough to draw an understanding nod, and an apologetic smile.

“OK,” says Allison, all calm and rational as if her brother didn’t just suggest murdering their father, “now that’s out of the way… Five, are you sure we don’t need to worry about the Commission before we start on training?”

The sensible question seems to calm Five, who stops pacing circles to answer. “Not certain, no, and I’m sure they’ll have eyes in every time period, but I don’t think we’ve done anything to draw their attention since we arrived here.”

“Uh, point?” Klaus raises a hand. “You don’t think five of us climbing the fire escape with two of us unconscious the other night might have stood out as, I dunno... a little... odd?”

“Apparently not, or we’d have known about it before now. And we’re the Umbrella Academy- a little odd is just slightly below baseline freaky for us.”

Klaus has to admit that this is, indeed, the case, and sees matching resigned nods from all of his siblings. Well, this meeting has a been a rousing success already- a disagreement which was peacefully resolved and they’ve found something they can all agree on!

“So, I’ve been thinking about training Vanya and Klaus-”

“Oh, actually,” starts Vanya, then trails off uncertainly as she realises she just interrupted her brother.

Klaus nods encouragingly at her (her newfound sense of self-worth is just a fledging thing) and is pleased to see similar reactions from Ben and Allison. Even Five isn’t overly obvious in biting his tongue as he gestures for Vanya to continue.

“Uhm. I was just remembering something,” Vanya says. “Leonard.. Harold had a book, a journal, I think? Of Dad’s. It had all sorts of notes about us all, and how he was training us.” She looks a bit sheepishly at Allison. “That’s how I found out you’d been right all along.”

Allison makes a quiet “Oh...” sound, but other than that her only reaction is to squeeze her sister’s shoulder.

Ben, on the other hand, gapes almost comically, his eyes wide and staring straight at Klaus, who catches up with Ben’s thoughts just a few moments later.

Oh. Shit.

Ben and Klaus’s interaction seems to have gone unnoticed, as Five starts talking again.

“Huh. Well, that sounds useful. Do you remember what he wrote?”

“Not a lot. I kind of… well… lost it, a little, when I realised what it meant that Harold even had it...”

Ben is staring meaningfully at Klaus, eyebrows waggling and pupils darting to the corner of his eyes, motioning in Vanya’s direction. Klaus remains frozen, mute in horror.

“Damn. Well, we know Dad has it, and logically it can’t be locked away too tightly, otherwise how on Earth would Jenkins have got his hands on it?”

Ben’s face is now making ridiculous mugging expressions, and his head is jerking slightly towards their sister. Klaus is doing a rather mortified combination of ‘deer in headlights’ and ‘fish drowning in air’ and is unable to move a thing except for his jaw, which is flapping uselessly and quite independently of his brain. There’s a very small, and very strangled, sound trying to force its way out of his throat.

It’s the sudden silence that clues Klaus in to the fact that his facial conversation with Ben is no longer private. He sees the realisation in Ben’s eyes too. First Ben’s face freezes. Then his eyes slide to the side taking in the variety of looks being cast in their direction. Oooh, fun game! says Klaus’s brain, frantically trying to delay the encroaching disaster. How many of these emotions can you name? Bemused! Disturbed? Suspicious! Exasperated! Annoyed? Oh, no, that one’s turning into Murderous Rage! Aaaaand, now, now is when it might be a good idea to talk. Or run! Running’s good for you, you know...

Diego (Exasperated) says, “Klaus? Is there maybe something you and Ben would like to tell us about?”

Klaus does not eye the door. What would be the point with Five poised to jump after him?

“Uhm.” He looks to Ben, pleading soundlessly Help me!

“Ben?” Diego asks.

Ben heroically drops his eyes to the floor, shrugs his shoulders and says not a word to help Klaus out. Bastard.

Klaus is now the focus of every person in the room, excluding Ben, who doesn’t even have the decency to look ashamed at his betrayal. “You dug this hole yourself, Klaus….” he mumbles, shaking his head.

Klaus squeezes his eyes shut and lets his head slump to his chest. Damn but he misses cocaine.

“Uhm, so… Silver lining, guys! I might know where to find this journal?”

“.…...” says everyone.

“And you would know that, how, exactly?” asks Luther.

“Look, I didn’t know what it was!” he says. “Just a boring looking book with his initials on it, and I mean, really, why would I have wanted to read anything the old bastard had to say? How was I to know it was important! It was in this fancy, expensive looking box, and it just looked worthless, and I may have been a bit too high to read his chicken scratch writing and no-one was going to pay for a shitty notebook, so of course I tossed it...”

You gave Harold the journal?!”
“Klaus, you idiot!”
“Oh my god. You caused the Apocalypse. The world was destroyed so you could get a fucking high.”
“For fuck’s sake, Klaus….”

Everyone is on their feet, crowding in on him, and the anger in the air is thick enough to choke him. All the angry voices are just merging into one big noisy harangue with no discernable words, just disgust and fury, and Klaus is shaking even worse than it feels like the room is. He drops to the floor (hard, cold, stone), huddled, arms over his head, head tucked in against his knees, no, no, no no nonononono….

“Klaus!”

They’re so loud, they scream and they scream, and they scream his name so spitefully, so hatefully as they reach out with skeletal hands.

He shuffles back, away from them all, until he’s back to the wall (more cold stone, carved in the semblance of an angel, sharp angles digging painfully into his shoulders and they follow after him, trap him against that carved mockery of kindness that grazes his skin as he forces himself ever more desperately backwards, though there is no more backwards to be had, and he cries and he pleads and he begs them to please, please just leave him alone, he’s sorry, he can’t help them, he’s sorry, but they just press in, fingers freezing his skin, his very flesh and bones, where they sink right into him, and they just keep shrieking ‘Klaus!’ ‘Klaus!!’ ‘Klaus!’)

“Klaus?”

“Nononono, please, please, no...”

Warmth on his face, something soft but firm, moulding to his cheek.

“Klaus...” A soft voice. One he knows?

“No, no no...” he hears the ragged whispers but only recognizes them as his own when he feels the strain in his throat. Feels the rapid in and out of his breath.

“Shhhh. It’s OK, Klaus, you’re safe.” The warmth on his face is a hand. He realises this when another moulds itself to his other cheek, cupping his face, gently tilting it upwards. “You’re safe, and I’m here, and it’s all OK, Klaus.” Thumbs are rubbing gently over his eyelids, his brow. 

Ben. It’s Ben’s voice. Calm and soothing and safe. And Ben’s hands? Yes, Ben’s hands, warm on his face, because Ben is here again, not a ghost any more, but here, and holding him, and he can trust Ben, Ben always knows best, even when, especially when, Klaus doesn’t want to listen to him.

“Just breathe, Klaus, nice and slow, 1… 2…. 3….  That’s it, that’s good. In….  And out….. There you go, you got it.” Gentle fingers on his face, in his hair, stroking. “We’re in the Academy, in Allison’s room.”

Klaus drops a hand to the floor beside him. His fingers find soft, plush carpet.

“Can you open your eyes for me, Klaus?”

Klaus nods. He can open his eyes for Ben. And, slowly, he does.

Ben’s face hovers in front of him, blocking out most else in his field of vision. Warm brown eyes hold Klaus’s as Ben continues to stroke his cheeks and murmur quietly to him, grounding Klaus back in the present.

“See? You’re safe, it’s all good...”

Klaus clutches at Ben’s sleeves, an action and another sensation to bring his mind firmly back where it should be. He nods. Breathes evenly. Manages a smile back at Ben. “’M back. Thank you.”

Ben nods and smiles too, relaxing but not releasing Klaus just yet.

Klaus looks past Ben to the empty (except for the scattered humanoid blobs that are becoming a very tolerable norm for him) room. He frowns. “Where-”

“They were… not helping,” says Ben, somewhat grimly. “I had to be quite stern with them.”

“You threw them out?” That act of heroism may just make up for Ben’s earlier betrayal.

“You’re welcome.”

“What for? Taking the heat off me? You threw Allison out of her own room, you are going to die.”

Ben winces. So does Klaus, actually, when his own words sink in.

“Sorry. Those kind of jokes really aren’t funny any more.”

“They never were, Klaus, you were always just too high to realise.” Ben’s smiling though, so it’s alright.

“There were occasional times when I wasn’t high, you know,” Klaus says, “and I still found those jokes funny, because I have a sense of humour.”

“No, you found them funny because you use humour to deflect attention from just how badly Dad fucked you up.”

“Stop being perceptive and knowing. Remember I can hit you, now.” Klaus demonstrates this with a fist to Ben’s shoulder. It is a mighty blow that would fell all but the strongest of feathers.

“Oh. No. However shall I defend myself from the power of your noodle arms? I guess I’ll have to call the others back in to protect me.” Ben raises his eyebrows, questioning.

Klaus sighs, nodding, “Yeah, I suppose you’d better...”

Ben gives his hand a quick squeeze then bounds to the door where, presumably, their siblings are shut out into the hallway.

They all file back in; Allison concerned and surprisingly not immediately turning on Ben for commandeering her room; Diego almost pushes her out of the way in his haste to get in, looking Klaus over worriedly as he makes a beeline for him; Luther is hesitant, eyes downcast; Vanya’s glance flits between Klaus and Ben quizzically before her eyes settle on Klaus with a timid smile. Five strides in like he owns the place, of course, and leans against the wall, studying Klaus thoughtfully.

“You OK, Bro?” asks Diego, voice and face serious as only Diego can be, hand gripping Klaus’s shoulder.

Klaus nods.

“What the hell was that?”

“Diego,” says Vanya, “maybe now isn’t the best time for an interrogation...”

Diego looks torn, clearly taking Vanya’s point, but needing to know. So Klaus decides to suck it up and put him, and the others, out of their misery.

“That,” he says, “was one of Dad’s more generous lasting gifts to me. I...” He swallows, thinking about what to say. He’s not up to going into details, but after that freak out he figures he owes at least the bare bones of an explanation. “I… go back sometimes. In my head. To the.. special training.” And that’s going to have to do them for now, because his hands are shaking again and he can hear the whispers of them in his head, and he needs to be talking and thinking about something else now, please.

Diego’s grip on his shoulder tightens briefly- Klaus can’t tell whether it’s in support or just an anger reflex- then he lowers himself to the floor beside Klaus and pulls him into a fierce hug, while announcing to the assembled siblings, “I would like to revisit my earlier plan.”

Surprisingly it’s Five who responds, “In an ideal world, so would I. But then in an ideal world the old bastard wouldn’t exist and we wouldn’t need to.”

No-one argues this, not even Luther, who is looking rather sick.

Five takes the floor again. “So, I don’t want to gloss over what was clearly a significant PTSD flashback, and I certainly don’t want to incite another one so let’s all keep a lid on any antagonism we might have, but I believe we were in the midst of a fairly important conversation….”

Klaus grimaces, steeling himself, but then Ben’s standing at his side and glaring murderously around the room.

“We are doing this without any finger pointing, blame throwing, shaming or bullying,” he says. “Everyone in this room has made stupid and selfish decisions, made mistakes that hurt themselves and others- I know, because I watched it happen, and no, Five, you don’t get out of this, ‘cos you were the most secretive, sneaky bastard of the lot after you came back- and we are accepting those mistakes and forgiving them and moving on. Clear?”

Klaus loves Ben.

Diego whistles softly, grinning. “Klaus has been a bad influence on you, Ben.”

Klaus sticks out his tongue at Diego. He doesn’t have the energy to banter any more.

Ben’s declaration goes unchallenged, and he motions Klaus to go on.

“Well, this is going to be a bit of anticlimax, really, but... It’s in a fancy locked box, about yay size,” he holds his hands apart in demonstration, “black with gold and fancy shiny inlay, locked in a secret compartment under his desk.”

Five disappears.

“Wow. That was rude.”

“But,” drawls Diego, “it is kind nice to get a break from him being all superior over us.”

Allison snorts, not at all the sophisticated movie star she’ll become, and Vanya smiles but says, “Be nice, Diego- he’s trying.”

“Yeah, that’s the problem.”

“No, she meant he’s making an effort,” clarifies Luther, for the benefit of absolutely no-one. Allison pats his hand, her face something between a wince and a smile. “Oh,” says Luther, and wisely shuts up.

Klaus, sandwiched comfortably between Ben and Diego, leans back against the wall and lets his mind drift as they wait for Five’s return. Allison and Vanya are talking quietly about her medication- she’s taking two tablets 4 days a week, and one the other 3, in alternating days. It’s too early, she says, to really feel much difference.

There’s a flash of blue, and Five is back, holding aloft a vaguely familiar red, leather clad book. He lays it on Allison’s bed, and they all cluster round, looking at it as if it’s a live snake.

“Did you...” Vanya gestures at the book.

“No. I figured since we’re trying to be a family then this is something we should all be together for.”

It’s a nice sentiment, especially from Five.

They look at the book. They look at each other. Luther reaches out, lets his hand hover over the book, as if restrained by some invisible force. He looks up at each of his siblings in turn. One by one they nod their assent. Klaus realises he is holding his breath, and forces himself to let it out.

Luther picks up the book. He sets his shoulders and he sets his jaw. He takes a deep breath. And he opens it.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The snap of Five shutting the journal, like he’s slamming closed a door on a dangerous animal, brings Klaus’s mind back to the present. He lets his eyes wander the room, his sluggish mind taking in the expressions, varying from blank emptiness verging on dissociation through horrified shock to barely restrained fury. He vaguely wonders which has won the battle on his own face. He swallows, blinks and very deliberately arranges his features into a vapid grin.

“Weeeeell, wasn’t that just the shittiest ever bed-time story?” He claps his hands as if in delight and pushes himself to his feet. “Don’t know about you guys, but I for one am all tuckered out and ready for beddi-byes after that!” He’s light on his feet, starting to dance towards the door, voice lilting, fingers tangling in the hem of his shirt. “The land of nod is calling me,” he sing-songs, “and you all know how I do so hate to disappoint, so…..”

In a flash of blue a grim Five appears before him, blocking the door. Klaus thinks he manages quite successfully to stifle his hiss, turning his grimace back into sunny smile beaming down on his smallest sibling.

“Fiveeeey, it’s way past your bedtime, you know, and I’m just soooo sleepy...” he yawns exageratedly, one fist curling at his cheek, the other stretching high and his back arching.

This is a mistake, he soon realises, as his exposed midriff is suddenly full of Five’s fist, whumping the air and the inane words right out of him. The punch isn’t hard, just unexpected, but Klaus instinctively doubles over, arms across his abdomen, and if he gasps for air just a little dramatically well that seems pretty justified, quite honestly.

“Jesus, Five! What the hell?”

“Sit. Down.” Five glares at him.

Of them all Five is the only one who doesn’t look thoroughly traumatised by what he’s just read. His face is all grim determination, with just a hint of controlled anger in the set of his jaw. He waves the journal in Klaus’s face, and Klaus can’t stop himself from flinching back.

“We need to talk about this,” Five says, looking around at each of them, daring them to deny it.

Privately Klaus doesn’t disagree, but, right now? Really? He follows Five’s gaze around the room, watching as each of his siblings suddenly look away from both him and Five as their eyes meet. Except for Vanya, who Klaus can’t quite look at, and Ben, who catches Klaus’s gaze with an intense compassion that wipes Klaus’s attempt at a smile right off his face. Klaus squeezes his eyes shut, head falling back and his entire torso slumping in a sigh of defeat.

Only for Diego, of all people, to come to his rescue. “Fuck that,” he growls, pushing past both Klaus and Five as he stalks to the door.

“Diego-” Five starts, but even his eyes widen at the violence inherent in Diego’s glare.

“I’m going to the gym.” Diego’s mouth barely moves with the words, so tightly are his teeth gritted, making veins rise in his neck. He’s breathing hard through his nose and his hands are clenched into tight fists hovering a hairsbreadth from his knives. 

“We have to talk!” Five snaps, but Diego is already marching aggressively down the corridor, slicing a hand in the air behind him dismissively.

That breaks some tension, seems to free the others up from whatever has been going through their heads. 

Vanya doesn’t say a word, doesn’t look at anyone or anything but the floor as she clambers to her feet and stumbles past a still seething Five. He goes to grab her arm, but she flinches and yanks herself away from him and positively flees back to her own room. Klaus watches her tense scurry down the hall with a lump in his throat and a trembling in his limbs that he can’t quite identify through the whirling torrents of emotion rising back up in him.

“Luther?” Allison’s voice is soft, carries a wealth of love and worry. Klaus tears his eyes from Vanya’s rapidly receding back and looks over to see Luther shake his head, and brush off Allison’s hand on his arm. Luther, silent and ashen faced, looks utterly broken. Lost. He hauls himself up and takes a shuffling step, haunted eyes blinking. He turns back to Allison, mouth opening and closing, face twisting as he fails to find words. Finally he simply shakes his head apologetically, and he, too stumbles from the room with his gaze fixed firmly on the floor. Allison watches him go, tears trickling down her face.

Five humphs much too loudly, folds his arms, and returns his glare to Klaus.

“Not now, Five,” says Ben, wearily.

Five turns his frown in Ben’s direction and opens his mouth to retort, but Ben cuts in.

“Yes, we need to talk, but for god’s sake, not now. Give us a chance to process it all. We can talk tomorrow, yeah?”

Five looks at his remaining siblings in exasperation, mouth as thin as his patience and dimple twitching with tension. “Fine!” he blurts. “But I’m putting this,” he waves the diary again, “back tonight, so we’ll have to talk without it.”

“What?!” cries Allison. “You’re giving that back to him?”

“Well obviously,” says Five, “otherwise we’re screwed when he notices it’s missing!”

Klaus feels sick. It’s like rewarding the bastard, like condoning all the crap he’s done to them for the sake of the writing in that damn book. He finds his voice, weak as it may be. “No, no, Five, no, he doesn’t get it back, no way. That’s not fair.”

“Klaus?” Klaus hears Ben’s voice just as his hand settles lightly on Klaus’s shoulder. Klaus turns slightly to see concerned dark eyes searching his face. “Five’s right. Dad’d never misplace something like that, he’d never believe he’d lost it. He’d know we took it, and then...”

And then…. Klaus’s breathing is coming too fast, too shallow, and his throat is too tight to speak. He hates how scared of Hargreeves he still is. With Klaus’s emotions already heightened from the journal’s revelations his sensitivity to the spirits of the dead is also increased, and those two words send his fear spiking sharply. The dark blurs surrounding Ben seem more defined than they did earlier, more like the remnants of people, vague white noise becoming more identifiable as whispering voices. They’re becoming more aware of him too, more drawn to him. He can’t stop his eyes from flitting over them as his panic rises. He turns away from Ben, away from the ghosts, forcing down the surge of emotion (fear, guilt, shame, shame, shame) as he does.

“We’re only days away from our first mission, Klaus,” says Five, voice uncharacteristically soft. “He’ll be wanting to review his notes and make final assessments. There’s no way he wouldn’t miss it.”

Shoulders slumped and eyes fixed firmly on the floor, Klaus just nods. From the corner of his eye he can see Allison, finally rising to her feet, do the same.

“OK then.” Five casts one last look over them, an unfamiliar and fleeting sympathy evident. “Get some sleep and we’ll talk tomorrow.” And with a curt nod and a flash of blue he, and the journal, are gone.

Klaus focusses on his feet as he starts for the door, determinedly shutting out the sounds around him. So he has no warning of Allison’s approach, and he damn near shrieks to find her arms suddenly wrapped tightly around him, pulling his head against her shoulder. She mumbles something that sounds like an apology for startling him and squeezes him even tighter. His face is becoming wet from the tears now pouring down her face.

“I’m sorry, Klaus, I’m so, sooo sorry! I had no idea… What he did… I can’t… Even for him I never thought… Oh my god, it must have terrifying, no wonder you...” He can feel her head shaking as she gasps out her thoughts. “I’m so sorry we didn’t realise, that we didn’t help you. That we didn’t save you from that. Oh god, if we’d known...”

No, no this is not good. Well, OK, it maybe is a little, ‘cos wow, Alli gives a shit, and that’s lovely, really and makes something curl warmly in his chest- but no, he can’t think about that, he can’t be taking on any more emotion right now please. He’s trying really hard to keep his shit together after that absolute mind fuck of revelations- and why the fuck did Dad never mention any of it??? Did the old bastard actually take some sort of twisted pleasure in making Klaus’s life a non-living hell? It could all have been so different….

Klaus stands rigid in Allison’s embrace, keeping his jaw clenched against his own threatening tears. The urge to comfort her is so strong it wars with his desperate need to get the hell out of here, but he physically can’t make a sound- that lump in his throat is a damn holding back the mother of all floods and he can’t let it go, because he thinks this flood could truly sweep him right off the face of the Earth. He forces his arms around her, and manages a feeble pat on her back. Hopes that she can’t feel his trembling through her own as her weeping subsides.

When she finally releases him she steps back to look into his face, and he forces his lips to turn upwards. She means well, and he genuinely does appreciate her apology. He knows his smile is shaky, and he still can’t speak a word, so he just squeezes her hand and nods his thanks, and hopes that will be enough. Allison looks a little disappointed at his lack of response, but mostly she just look truly sad for him, and he thinks maybe she understands, at least a little.

Ben definitely understands. As Klaus yet again makes for the door Ben is at his side, a comforting hand resting warm on his shoulder, but he makes no attempt at conversation as the two of them shuffle down the hall. He seems to understand Klaus’s reluctance to look in his direction when they reach their rooms.

“I’ll keep this short,” he says, as he gives Klaus’s shoulder a gentle squeeze, “’cos I’ve a feeling it’s not just us two here at the moment.”

Klaus, eyes shut tight, gives a terse nod and desperately hopes that Ben isn’t expecting words from him tonight. 

He hears a controlled breath, followed by a brief but somehow steadying silence, and knows Ben is choosing his word carefully. “That was a lot to take in. It changes a lot of what we thought, about a lot of things. I know you’re going to need time to yourself to come to terms with it, and I’m not going to get in the way of that. Just please know two things. First,” and here Ben’s voice chills and hardens like crystallising ice, “all of the shit we, and you, have been through? It’s all on Dad, all of it.”

Is it though? Klaus thinks. Shame shoots through him like an electrical shock. Ben must see his wince, because he continues.

All of it, Klaus. I don’t deny we’ve all made some shitty decisions over the years- and for the record I don’t take back a single one of my rants”- Klaus can hear the wry smile in Ben’s voice. It’s comforting. It’s how he imagines home would feel- “but ultimately we are the way we are because of him, and what he did to us. We’re none of us responsible for what we did, or didn’t do, when we were four years old.”

Klaus allows himself a quick glance at Ben’s face. His eyes are fixed intensely on Klaus, features dead serious. This is important to him. Klaus’s stomach roils and his jaw clenches even tighter, and he directs his gaze away again, guilt rolling over him in waves. He feels guilty over feeling guilty, and he can’t even muster a laugh at himself for it.

“Second.” Ben’s hand finds Klaus’s. “When you are ready to talk? I’m here. No matter what. I want to help you work through this, Klaus. Please let me?”

Klaus can’t look at him again. He can hear Ben’s ghostly entourage, whispers only indecipherable now because there are so many overlapping each other, and he fears to see them. But it’s his wildly fluctuating emotions that keep him from opening his eyes. He’s a confused maelstrom of guilt and fear and hate and shame and anger and pain and though Ben’s compassion, his love, could be a warm haven among it all for now everything’s just too fractured, too raw. It’s overwhelming.

He’s biting his lip, eyes pressed shut against the tears that he can’t hold back any longer, throat and chest so painful it feels they should be bursting open with each ragged breath he manages. It’s all he can do to give Ben’s hand a squeeze in thanks as he finally opens the door to his own room.

Shutting the door behind him, he collapses to the floor right there. He curls up into himself, face pressed against his knees, fingers digging divots into the arms that wrap around his shins, pulling himself into the smallest ball he can mange. 

Klaus drags in a deep, tattered breath that makes the agony in his throat and chest swell unbearably. And then there are gasping sobs heaving from him uncontrollably, and his entire body is tense and shaking and tears are pouring from his eyes down the tortured rictus that his face has become. And his mind is full of thoughts of the life he could have had, and an endless, anguished, screaming loop of why? WHY? WHY?!

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Contrary to his siblings’ frequent jibes, Five is not in fact an emotionless murder-bot. He experiences a broad range of emotions, encompassing everything from fond exasperation all the way through to homicidal fury. In moments of weakness or great need he’ll even express the overwhelming love he has for his infuriating siblings. That expression may take the form of a small smile, or of him biting back the sharp retorts that leap so easily to his tongue, or of him expertly annihilating a group of fully grown, fully trained, fully armed and armoured military professionals in less time that it would take Luther to squeeze himself into a car, but his unconventional displays don’t make the underlying emotion any less real. He’ll admit that he was uncomfortable with emotional displays or physical contact even before his life in the Apocalypse. Growing up alone in a desolate wasteland with only a partially intact shop mannequin for company did nothing to help him develop or understand conventional emotional bonds or displays. For Five, emotions are expressed through the action they provoke, such as spending 35 years crunching numbers, living on expired canned food and cockroaches, alone in ashes and ruins, for the sole purpose of getting back to his family and making damn sure he never had to bury any of them ever again.

It’s always a little bit of a kick in the teeth, then, when one of them gives him the ‘you’re being an inconsiderate jerk’ glare. Well, pardon me for trying keep you all alive! It’s on the tip of his tongue, his frustration and need to be doing something propelling him like always, but then Ben’s gaze turns softer, more sad and resigned than accusing. And its Ben, his little brother, the one he didn’t even get to see as a corpse, because he died before he even got a chance to live, and Five can’t snipe at him when he looks so incredibly sad.

So he bites his tongue and softens his tone, and once he’s returned the journal to its previous hiding place and ensured that he’s left no trace of ever having been in the office, he jumps straight back to his own room.

As eager as he is to put the knowledge they’ve just learned to use he does realise that, for some of his siblings in particular, sections of that journal delivered a gut punch not dissimilar to what he felt on that ill-fated jump all those years ago. Some of the revelations had taken even Five by surprise, and he could imagine how painful they must be for those actually involved. Ben, he accepts, is right- there is processing to be done before anyone is in a fit state to discuss what they’ve learned.

Five might not be equipped to soothe the pain of those revelations, but he can capitalise on his lesser reaction by planning practical ways of overcoming them. He pulls a notepad and pen from his desk, thinks back to Reginald’s musings on Vanya’s powers, and starts filling the page with his own ideas to help her develop control. Loathe as Five may be to accord the man any measure of respect, Reginald did have some solid theories and training strategies- he simply lacked the humanity to work with his children rather than against them.

Five has several suggestions for Vanya (training locations, sibling(s) [not Luther] best suited to guide her, potential training exercises, risk mitigation strategies) jotted down when a knock at his door pulls him from his thoughts. His annoyance is only fleeting, quickly replaced with puzzled curiosity- Five is the absolute last person to whom he would have expected any of his siblings to turn tonight.

He opens his door to find a nervous, but grimly determined, Ben in the hallway.

Five can hear the dryness in his voice as he asks, “Weren’t you the one who didn’t want to talk tonight?”

Ben rolls his eyes. “No. I was the one who told you to let everyone process things.” At Five’s quizzically raised eyebrow Ben continues. “It is not the same thing, Five. It’s just….” He sighs. “Some of us have more to process than others.” At that he looks so downcast that Five feels his usual smug indifference slide from his features, and he almost reaches out to touch Ben’s shoulder.

Five gives a slow nod. “Is Klaus OK?”

Ben’s grimace is answer enough, but he shakes his head and says, “No. Not remotely. And the more emotional he gets the more the ghosts are overwhelming his medication so there’s not a damn thing I can do to help him right now, except keep the hell away.”

Ben’s fists are clenched and his jaw is set, and when he looks up Five can see his eyes are wet and red. “Five, I have spent years sitting helplessly on the side-lines watching him be shattered into splinters, and I am done with that! I thought maybe you might be up for figuring out how we can help him- help them all- once things from tonight have settled a bit.”

This is something that Five completely understands- the need to do something to help his brothers and sisters, to keep them from harm and mend their broken parts. He ushers Ben inside and gestures for him to take a seat.

“You thought right,” Five picks up his notebook and waves it in Ben’s direction, showing him the neatly laid out lists of ideas. “I started with Vanya, obviously, given the scale of her abilities, and the nature, and likely impact, of Reginald’s revelations.”

Ben nods in understanding, taking the offered notebook. He only glances over it, though. “Five?”

There’s a moment of silence as Ben apparently seeks the words or strength he needs to proceed. Five lets him take his time.

“Do you remember? Before Grace, I mean.”

Not an unexpected question, really, and an important one. Five’s memory has always been better than any of his siblings’, and in his usual humble fashion he hadn’t exactly hidden his superiority in this regard.

He frowns as he casts his mind back to their earliest years- memories from his infancy are unstructured and disorganised, hard to recall on demand and when he does manage to bring specific memories to mind they are often focussed on small details rather than the bigger picture. He thinks of the first time he saw Grace (vivid red lips smiling brightly, blonde hair shining in a neat bun). He remembers noting the contrast, this colourful cheer something new and unfamiliar. Pushing his thoughts back further he can see another face- more pinched, more drab, darker hair pulled back severely. A slightly crooked right upper canine tooth when she smiles broadly, and compliments his math work. An accent? Further back again, and an English accent? He can’t recall a face, just a heavy grey wool skirt and sensible shoes. And before her another woman, French, he’s sure. She is petite and pretty, with a high frilled collar to her white blouse, and she likes to sing.

Five pulls his mind back to the present to find Ben scrutinising him hopefully, eyebrows raised.

“There were nannies before Grace,” Five says. “Quite a few of them, actually, and, I think, in a short space of time. One after the other.”

He meets Ben’s eyes with a grimace. “More than that I can’t say. I guess even Reginald knew to protect infants from dead nannies.” Five winces as he glances in the direction of Klaus’s room. “Well. Mostly.”

Ben sighs and seems to deflate at that. His shoulders slump and his head droops. “I’d hoped, maybe….” He shakes his head, straightening back up again, “So, if that much is true then I guess Vanya…”

“Vanya killed them,” Five finishes. “Whether it was accidentally losing control, or lashing out not knowing her own strength, or even lashing out deliberately, she was still four years old, and couldn’t have understood what she was doing.” Reginald, on the other hand, would have known exactly what he was doing, and the risk he was subjecting those women to. It spoke volumes to Five that the death of a nanny just meant a new nanny, whereas the one time it seemed Vanya had lost control and wounded Reginald prompted him to drug her senseless and wipe her memory.

“She doesn’t have ghosts,” Ben mused. “I never saw any around her, not even when Klaus was sober.”

As uncomfortable as the reminder of Ben’s own former status may be, he has unique insights and Five is curious by nature as well as necessity. “Does everyone become a ghost? Or everyone who dies violently?”

“Not from what I’ve seen, but I could only see other ghosts when Klaus could, and he put a lot of shit into his body specifically so that he couldn’t see them, so…” Ben shrugs one shoulder. “But, the journal was pretty clear that at least one of the nannies interacted with Klaus after she died.”

Five hums quietly to himself as he thinks this over. “So, could she have just…." he waves a hand randomly, “moved on?”

“I guess, maybe, but… I’ve seen so many ghosts literally begging for Klaus’s attention, crowding him and screaming mindlessly at him… I don’t think they tend to move on by themselves. They just seem to lose themselves, but stay anchored to a place or person.” Ben’s face is grim, paler than it should be, as he very pointedly meets Five’s eyes. “I think Klaus banished her.”

“Me too,” Five nods. “You said the medication was less effective at supressing the ghosts as he got more emotional- did he tell you that?”

“No. But I can tell- his eyes were darting around, he was flinching at apparently nothing, avoiding even glancing in my direction. He didn’t even try to deny it when I sort of mentioned it.”

“Interesting. A problem, but an interesting one- the two least understood and least controllable powers are both tied to the emotions of the bearer. The intensity of the power appears to directly and positively correlate with the intention of the emotion!” He grabs his notebook back from Ben excitedly. “I wonder if the nature of the emotion has an effect too?” He’s muttering to himself as he starts scribbling potential constants and variables. “From what Reginald wrote, Klaus was terrified by whatever that nanny told him, or showed him. I’ll admit I never looked beyond the flounces and idiocy before, but on the basis of what I’ve seen tonight, fear is pretty overwhelming for Klaus, right?”

“Really? You think?” Ben just glares.

“I’ll take that as a yes. If even Reginald recognised Klaus’s terror it must have been really intense. We’ve already seen Vanya in the grip of that kind of intense emotion and we all saw what she was capable of. I’m not sure she even knew what she was doing at the time, certainly not with that blast at the end, and I know she doesn’t remember it clearly now- it all seemed to be instinctual, no real conscious thought, which, along with the overwhelming emotion at the time, would contribute to the lack of recollection- no active thought pathways have been laid down for them to think back on, it’s all just a nebulous mass of instinct and emotion- the neural connections aren’t there to support controlled use of the powers at this level! And they were both so young when this first happened- at four years old they couldn’t possibly have understood, even if Reginald had bothered to try to explain in terms a child could understand- no, he just piled more trauma on top of them both, doped up Vanya, had Allison mess with her mind, and let’s be honest, probably all the rest of us too, so not only was all that power in Vanya supressed and bottled up, there was no chance for any of the necessary neural growth- she couldn’t go back through those muddled memories ‘cos they’d been blocked! And Klaus… He’d just had this terrifying experience, at fucking four years old, that changed everything that he understood about himself and the people he saw around him, and that in itself is enough for a mental block, but then dear old Dad has Allison rumour him to think Vanya’s normal and that means no dead nanny! He can’t remember, the rumour won’t let him, because how could normal Vanya have killed our nanny? But his subconscious still knows, still remembers that terror and it all bubbles up and just attaches to any ghost, to his powers in general, and he becomes terrified of himself. And Reginald, if he even cared to, can’t explain to Klaus why he feels scared, and why he actually doesn’t need to be, because he knows that would mess with the rumour, and maybe unblock Klaus’s memories of Vanya’s power! Damn bastard spent years belittling and torturing Klaus for something he caused! Klaus could never overcome his fear, because he couldn’t understand it, where it came from. And all that time Reginald was encouraging Vanya to think of herself as nothing, encouraging the rest of us to think of her that way too, deliberately pushing down every scrap of self belief or self esteem she might ever have, all to make sure she never questioned her uselessness, never accidentally stumbled on her supressed powers. He fucking crippled them both!”

A loud snap brings Five’s attention back into his room, where Ben is sitting mouth agape and eyes wide, on his bed. Five frowns. Why is his hand sore? Ah. Half of his pen has fallen to the floor; the other half is partially embedded in his palm, where he had apparently been clenching his fist tightly enough to force the splintered end through skin. It’s not deep, but a little blood wells from the wound when he pulls the pen out and tosses it aside. He wipes his palm on his shorts.

Ben hasn’t moved, except to close his mouth. In fact his lips are now pressed in a very thin, very tight line. His jaw is clenched, as it seems is every muscle in his body- hands in fists pressed against his belly, shoulders hunched and tight.

“Ben?”

Ben is rocking, slightly. Still coiled tight like a spring. Sweat beading on his skin. His wide eyes are filled with fury, then fear, terror. Horror.

Five backs slowly away. “Ben?” he asks, voice soft and, perhaps, just a little faint.

Ben’s eyes snap closed, squeezed tightly as if to shut out the world. His breathing is harsh and his teeth gritted.

“Five.

Get.

Out.”

“Ben… Are you…” What? He’s clearly not OK!

“NOW.”

And Five, mouth drier and heartbeat faster than he’s felt in years, jumps.

Chapter Text

 

 

There’s a very faint light filtering through the dusty air. Squinting, he follows the beam to its source- a thick crack in a wall. He blinks, and sweat and dust sting his eyes. He reaches a hand to wipe his eyes clean and finds it just as dust covered. He looks down at himself, half collapsed on the floor. His sweater is shredded, and all of him is covered in plaster or dust or splinters of wood. He lets out a sigh of deep relief- there is no sign of the blood that would normally cover him.

With that discovery he allows his mind to better take in his surroundings. A ruined room, ceiling falling in, glass everywhere, furniture smashed and broken. The window is blocked by what looks to be a mostly intact but turned on its end bedframe. The mess of fabric and springs strewn around must be what’s left of the mattress.

There’s a clatter of feet on stairs, panicked voices shouting. He mostly can’t make out any words, until there’s a terrified scream of “Ben?!” followed by a rapid pounding of feet. “Ben! BEN!!!” “Klaus, NO! It’s not safe!” Thump! “BEN!”

Ben has just enough time to haul himself to his feet before the door bursts open and Klaus tumbles in, wide eyes frightened and chest heaving with exertion and sobs. He freezes as he sees Ben stumbling towards him, and his eyes flit up and down Ben’s frame before resting on his face.

“I’m OK,” Ben mumbles. His voice is shakier than he’d like, but it’s enough to spur Klaus to leap and wrap his gangly limbs around Ben like a particularly clingy octopus.

Rather predictably this sends them both to the floor, but Klaus doesn’t let go or even loosen his grip- he just clings and breathes out a litany of “Thank god, not again, thank god..” half under his breath between sobs.

Ben sags against Klaus, pats his back and just lets him cry. He doesn’t really have the energy for much else right now.

Five is picking himself up from the floor outside, where it seems Klaus had flung him out of the way, and Diego is peeking cautiously around the doorframe. The heavy steps on the stairs suggest Luther isn’t far behind.

Five takes a cautious step inside the room, eying the destruction and waving Diego and, yes Luther now, back. “Careful, it might not be stable.”

Which of course is the perfect cue for a ceiling beam to fall in- Ben instinctively looks up, and is almost surprised to see the remaining ceiling sitting there perfectly stable, just the odd dust cloud trailing lazily downward. He thinks he can see right through to the attic in some places.

Five is picking his way across the debris strewn floor, and how the hell did Klaus of all people not fall on his face running through that? Five stops before Ben, and a still weakly sobbing Klaus, and crouches down, offering a wan smile.

“Not quite the remodel I might have chosen…” he says dryly. “You OK?”

Ben nods. “Sorry, I just. Couldn’t hold it back.”

Five holds his eyes. “You held it back for long enough, Ben,” he says, seriously. “Thank you.”

“What on Earth is going on here?!” Reginald’s bellow precedes the man himself. He pushes past the gathered siblings (the remaining four all now peering ashen faced and wide eyed from the hallway) and strides imperiously into the ruin of Five’s bedroom. Pogo and Grace follow him meekly, but Grace gasps and rushes to Ben’s side when she sees him.

“Well?!” Reginald demands. He’s in his pyjamas, housecoat and slippers, yet still manages to exude authority and menace. He is, quite literally, the very last person in the world Ben wants to see right now. His gut roils nauseatingly at the sight and sound of the man. Behind the portal he can feel the Horror rouse again, keen for the blood it was denied in its most recent rampage, and he pushes it down firmly.

Five faces up to Reginald, positioning himself carefully to block the man from Ben’s view. “We were talking about Ben’s powers,” he shrugs. “and suddenly….” He spreads out his hands, gesturing to the wreckage around them.

“Number Six? And Number Four, get a hold of yourself, boy! I will not have such a ridiculous display of weakness from a child of mine.” He grabs Klaus by the collar of his pyjamas and hauls him bodily from Ben. Klaus sniffles, and flinches away from the man, but allows himself to be pushed backwards towards the hallway, stumbling over the debris on the floor but never taking his eyes from Ben.

“Well, Number Six? Can you explain why my property is in ruin?”

Ben closes his eyes, tries to concentrate on Grace’s soft hands on his face and her soothing noises. He tries to soothe himself and by extension the Horror. When he opens his eyes to glance at Klaus he finds his brother surrounded by his other siblings, both Diego and Allison with arms firmly around him and defiant tilts to their chins. Diego’s eyes burn with pure hatred into Reginald’s back.

“I’m sorry, Sir,” Ben says finally, voice quiet and as humble as he can make it. “I wanted to talk to Five ‘cos he’s got such good control, and I thought maybe I could learn something. But I just… lost control. I think….” He bites his lip. “I think maybe I was more tired than I’d realised from the last few days of training.” Ben has not exactly excelled in physical training since his return to corporeality as a 12 year old- in fairness, none of them but Luther and Diego had kept up anything like the level of fitness and physical ability Reginald had drilled into them, and they had all been somewhat below Reginald’s expectations. So, of course, he had worked them all the harder.

Reginald frowns. “Number Six, striving for greater control of your powers is admirable, but as we have discussed on many occasions the development of your powers, and your control over them, must be progressed with great caution and in accordance with the results of careful study. I applaud your persistence and commitment. And I share your frustrations over the limitations of your control of the beast, but you cannot hope to advance your abilities in such an uncontrolled manner. Quite aside from breaking your curfew,” he pauses to include Five in his glare, “you have put yourself, and all members of this household, at risk.”

Ben forces his neck muscles to relax, to hang his head as if in shame. “I’m sorry, Sir,” he repeats.

Reginald merely “hmph”s and turns expectantly to Grace. She smiles her sunny smile and reports, “No serious injuries, Sir, just some minor bruises and grazes. But there is quite a build up of lactic acid in his muscles, and he truly is overtired. I recommend a good night’s sleep and reduced physical activity for a day or so.”

“Very well. To bed, Number Six- we will speak more of this tomorrow. I trust that, under the circumstances, you will have no objection to Number Five sharing your room for the time being.” It is not a question.

His judgement having been proclaimed Reginald turns sharply on his heel and makes to leave, only to stop abruptly in the face of his five other children hovering worriedly in the doorway.

“To bed, all of you!” he snaps. He waits stiffly, seemingly oblivious to his children’s half hidden fearful or venomous glares, until they have all shuffled their reluctant way back down the stairs. Then, without a backwards glance, he follows them.

“I’ll get some pillows and blankets, dear, and set you up on your brother’s floor,” Grace strokes Five’s shoulder. “It will be almost as if you two are camping together!” With a flash of her brilliant smile she leaves to see to the sleeping arrangements.

Ben slumps into a heap on the floor, tension flowing out of him with Reginald’s departure. Five sinks down beside him, looking almost as exhausted as Ben feels.

“I’m sorry I trashed your room.”

“Point number one- you didn’t. And point number two- you really think I give a damn about a room? What matters is that you’re OK. And you held on long enough to make sure I was too- that’s impressive.

…..

Besides…. this was my fault.”

Ben looks up sharply. “What? How is this,” he gestures hopelessly at the destruction he’s wrought, “your fault?”

“I got carried away. I pulled a thread and couldn’t stop pulling, never thinking to check what I was unravelling. I had literally just acknowledged the potential effect of our emotions on our powers and control, then blithely reeled off atrocity after atrocity that Reginald committed against Klaus and Vanya never thinking that I was saying all this to the brother who spent 13 years as a ghost watching Klaus suffer and destroy himself, unable to touch him or get someone to help him, or even be noticed by anyone else-“

“You’re kind of doing it again, Five,” Ben winced.

“See?!” Five grabs at his hair in annoyance. “I moan about Klaus talking too much, but sometimes I just can’t shut up when I need to.”

“Well, you do have 35 years of solitude to make up for.”

Five chuckles. “This is why you’re the one everyone likes, you know?”

“Nah, they only all like me ‘cos I died before I could do anything too fucked up.”

Five snorts back his laugh at that. He grins at Ben, open and honest. “It’s not just that, Ben. But I guess you’ve learned a bit about life, and people, following Klaus around on the streets all those years.” He rises to his feet, and holds out a hand to help Ben up. “Come on. Let’s get some sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be interesting.”

Brushing off his ruined clothes as best he can, Ben starts to follow Five to the door, when suddenly movement from the darkened corner near the door catches his eye.

Leaning lightly on his cane, his face stern but puzzled, Pogo steps from the shadows and places himself between Ben and Five and the door.

“Yes, Master Five, I daresay it will be.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Five never shared his siblings’ sense of familial affection for Pogo, the instinctual deference to his seemingly paternal care- even as an actual child Five never looked on Pogo as anything more than a wise and respectful servant, albeit one placed above him in the hierarchy of Reginald’s household. Pogo shared none of Reginald’s cruelty, true- he treated Five and his siblings kindly, even sought to defuse Reginald’s ire on occasion, but ultimately he was Reginald’s creature completely and in all things, obedient to his master and complicit in all the abuse inflicted on seven vulnerable children for whom he claimed to care. Worse than Reginald, even, for Five’s observations over the last few days convince him that Pogo knows the cruelty of Reginald’s program, understands how it is destroying these children. Five has seen Pogo wince in sympathy, flinch at a harsh outburst, his eyes welling with pity and regret, and then meekly hang his head and turn his back on it all.

Perhaps that is why it has become almost automatic for Five to mentally dismiss Pogo’s presence- a potential ally steadfastly refusing to act, become a useless chess piece. IDIOT! Five fumes at himself, horrified at his own carelessness- he watched Pogo follow in on Reginald’s heels, inwardly seething at the ape’s chronic placid devotion to the monster he serves, then promptly dismissed him and never even noticed when he slunk back into the shadows.

Well, he notices him now, and that is something Pogo may come to regret, because now what Five sees is a threat- a threat to his family. His fury refocuses on Pogo, standing hunched before him, gazing up with assured authority, confident in his expectation of both answers and obedience. Five’s eyes narrow and his body is moving without any need for conscious direction, shoulders turning, knees relaxing to springiness, hips twisting just so and one foot flying, catching Pogo behind the knee and yanking, and Pogo is on his back on the floor, gasping for breath, before he could even register Five’s movement. Five is on him, knee on his chest and hands at each side of his head, teeth bared and more feral than the ape below him could ever be, and all it will take is a firm grip and a twist of his arms-

“FIVE!” The stifled yell comes from Ben, behind him, quickly followed by a hand on the back of his collar, and he’s being hauled backwards to be unceremoniously dumped on his ass on the filthy floor.

Ben rushes to Pogo’s side, and Five glares at his brother’s back. Ben knows what’s at stake- this is not the time for sentimentality! Still, he reins in his anger, coiling it tidily inside ready to lash out again at a moment’s notice. His eyes don’t leave Pogo’s form as Five picks himself up and dusts himself off, and Ben (“Jesus, Five! What the hell? Pogo, are you OK? Shit, that was…. Fuck!”) helps a stunned Pogo to his feet, and retrieves the glasses knocked flying by Five’s attack. While Pogo, wide-eyed and indignant, arranges himself and steadies his breathing, Five moves to position himself very deliberately between Pogo and the door, feet braced and joints loose and ready to pounce, eyes never leaving Pogo for an instant.

Pogo regains his composure quickly, waves away Ben’s hand, and takes a cautious step back from both of them. He eyes them both, taking in Five’s position and stance, and no doubt expression too, and Ben’s wary uncertainty, outstretched hand as easily turned to capture as to assist. He clearly understands with whom his best chances lie.

“Master Ben,” he nods carefully in Ben’s direction, “my thanks for your assistance.” He pulls himself to his full, inconsiderable, height and looks back and forth between Ben and Five. “I believe I may have erred in announcing my presence in quite such a dramatic manner. My apologies, to you both.”

Ben says nothing, eyes sliding to Five. Is he looking for guidance? Or just for warning signs of an imminent attack? Well, that all depends on Pogo, doesn’t it? Five will not countenance any threat to his siblings, or to their mission, but for now he is in control and can safely allow Pogo to speak. This certainly wasn’t in Five’s plan, but now that he has to deal with Pogo in any case he may as well take this opportunity and see what comes of it. Five smiles toothily.

There’s little intact in the ruins of his bedroom, but he gestures to Pogo to find what seat he can. Five himself holds his position blocking the only exit. Pogo sighs, nods and finds a seemingly stable corner of wardrobe to sit on. Ben keeps to his feet, but leans back against the wall opposite Pogo.

“Might we now talk in a civilised manner, Master Five?”

Five inclines his head. “And what, in particular, would you like to talk about, Pogo?” He knows what Pogo heard- let’s see how he’s interpreted that.

“A great many things come to mind, and one,” Pogo looks Ben over concernedly, “troubles me most greatly. But another, I think, offers the greatest potential for explanation.” He spears Five with a shrewd gaze. “Your father has mentioned your interest in applying your ability to travel through time, not just space. Might I assume that you have experimented with such?”

“You may.”

Pogo’s eyes widen and gleam excitedly and Five doesn’t think he’s aware of leaping to his feet. “You managed it,” he breathes, lips widening in a proud grin despite himself. “How far did you go? Did you note any specific effects on your body or mind? You appear unharmed, physically at least….” His excitement wanes somewhat as he casts his gaze between Five and Ben.

“As you say, physically, at least.” Five grins broadly, all teeth.

“Indeed.” Pogo’s answering smile is weak, to say the least. He drives himself on. “You are older than you appear. You and Master Ben.”

Five nods.

Pogo considers this for a moment, hands playing with the top of his cane, head bobbing with his thoughts. “And the others, too, I think. Yes, this would certainly explain such sudden changes in manner. You brought all of your siblings back in time?”

“I did.”

Ben snorts, shaking his head slightly. Yes, Ben, I know I’m making him work for it.

Pogo evidently sees this too, and alters his questioning accordingly, with a simple, “Why?”

Five takes his time on this one, looking over Pogo’s puzzled expression. The excitement is still there, beneath the confusion, but what Five sees the most is concern.

“Master Ben? You….” Pogo winces, swallows and starts again. “You implied that you…. did not survive…” Pogo speaks quietly, tentatively, as if the words distress him, and looks pensively at Ben. Five peers at Pogo’s face, seeing what appears to be genuine pain. And, regret?

Ben holds Pogo’s gaze, smiles sadly as he nods. Pogo blinks back unshed tears, and his voice is unsteady as he turns to Five. “Is that why you travelled back, Master Five? To save your brother?”

Pogo, Five decides, may deserve a chance. Just one.

“I brought all of my siblings back in time to save them all, Pogo. And to save everyone else, too.”

Pogo physically jerks at that, and his jaw hangs loosely. Yes, Five thinks, I know about the Apocalypse.

“You wanted a civilised discussion… Tell me, Pogo, how much experience do you really have of civilisation? Of cities, and people?”

Pogo blinks again, and stammers, “As…. as you well know, Master Five, I have….. I have studied humanity’s civilisations, both modern and ancient, in great deta-“

“Not study, Pogo, experience.”

“….. I am not precisely equipped to wander the streets of any city, Master Five. I will concede that my direct experience is … limited. My understanding, however, is exceptional.”

Five gives a tight smile. “I’m not convinced it is, Pogo. You see, I have also studied human civilisation in great detail, but like you, I’ve never really lived it. I’ve had the opportunity to observe it in many times and places, to watch people interact and live their lives. I understand how it all works, and how it doesn’t. But something I’ve come to realise in just the last week is that I don’t really understand people very well at all.” He cocks his head as he stares Pogo in the eyes. “I don’t think anyone can understand people by studying them from afar. Academic study misses so much of what’s important, because humans aren’t logical. They don’t do the sensible thing. They don’t react based on information and understanding of how things are, they react based on what they feel, what they want. It’s all terribly childish, really,” Five sighs, in genuine frustration. “But, while my logical approach might be in the minority I am still logical and have to accept what is, not what I want. And that means accepting that humanity is ruled by emotion, not reason.”

“That is certainly a valid opinion, Master Five- one which many philosophers of note have espoused, but I fail to see-.”

“And yet you still unquestioningly follow a man of pure logic. One who gives no consideration to the effect of emotional trauma on the psyche of his charges. Who doesn’t consider the impact of those damaged psyches on subsequent thoughts and behaviour.”

Pogo flinches, then blinks slowly, eyes widening in horrified understanding.

“Reginald didn’t just fail to stop the end of the world, Pogo.” He hardens his voice. “He caused it.”

Pogo stumbles back, aghast, head shaking in frantic denial. “No, no, that… that is simply not possible… it’s not…” His weak voice trails off, whisper becoming harsh and rapid breaths.

Five stares at Pogo, standing mute and stunned before him. Under his unwavering glare Pogo manages to regain some composure, his jaw tight once more and his shoulders high, but his eyes flit wildly over Five’s face, searching, Five presumes, for some hint of a lie or a joke. He doesn’t find it, of course.

“How?” he croaks.

Five catches Ben’s eye before he answers. “That is for later.” Ben nods, readily agreeing to protect Vanya, and Five returns his gaze to Pogo, shell-shocked before him. “All you need to know right now is what I’ve told you- Reginald’s actions caused the Apocalypse and we’ve all come back in time to change that.”

Pogo stands almost motionless under their gaze, staring ahead of himself and shaking his head minutely. Five isn’t completely without sympathy for his predicament- Pogo’s entire world is collapsing around him after all- but the iron is glowing hot and now is the time to strike.

“You have a choice to make, Pogo. We’re here to stop the end of the world, and if you’re half the person I’d like to think you are, you’ll help us do that.”

“Of course! Of course, Master Five, as will your father…”

“NO.”

The quiet fury in Ben’s voice shocks even Five, after so long a silence from him. His face is implacable and cold as ice, and Pogo shrinks back from him in sudden fear. Impressive. Five tries to memorise that look on Ben’s face for future use.

“He’s destroyed enough already, Pogo. He dissects what he doesn’t understand, never even thinks of putting it back together, and then gets angry when it doesn’t work the way he wants it to. He kills everything he touches. He is not touching this, or us, again.”

“I… I cannot betray Master Hargreeve’s trust…” But Pogo is looking around the Horror ravaged room then back to Ben’s glacial features, and to Five, still poised ready to strike if necessary, and perhaps realisation is sinking in.

He eyes Five, pleading. “Master Five, your father made me. He raised me above anything I could ever otherwise have imagined, bestowed upon me a level of consciousness attained by few even among humans, and blessed me with great purpose. He is my creator, as god might be to a human, but with the certainty of his existence and intervention on my behalf.”

“Hah! Talk to Klaus about that analogy, Pogo,” Ben says. “God’s no more benevolent, all-knowing or loving than Reginald, and mindless worship is a poor excuse for helping a monster in any case.”

Now that’s a fascinating morsel, but Five quickly smooths the curiosity from his face and follows up on Ben’s statement.

“Can you truly live with yourself, Pogo, watching silently while he tortures us and leaches every shred of joy from our lives? As he extolls the virtues of teamwork while systematically stripping us all of our compassion? While he plays us off against each other chasing some meaningless vision of perfectly obedient, soulless killing machines? Our ‘father’ made us too, Pogo, but we’ve found the strength to stand up for ourselves, and each other. It’s a pity it took the literal end of the world for that to happen, but here we are. And we’re giving you a chance to do the right thing now. To stand up for the children in your care. And, ultimately, to save the world. Maybe even to save Reginald.” Truthfully Five sees little chance of that last, and in no small part because he fully intends to rid the world of the evil bastard as soon as it’s safe to do so, and he can be reasonably certain Reginald won’t end up hanging around Klaus like a bad smell. But there’s no need for Pogo to know that.

“You can save us all, Pogo,” murmurs Ben. “I see you worrying about how we’re growing up. And you’re right to.”

Five nods. “You’re right, Pogo- Ben dies. Young. But he’s still the only good thing in Klaus’s life. Which, by the way, is one of drug fuelled oblivion, sleeping on the streets or in strangers’ beds if he’s lucky. Streets Diego walks night after night beating the shit out of petty criminals to feel like he’s worth something, only to come ‘home’ to mop the floors of the gym where he lives in the boiler room. I can go on, if you’d like?”

Tears are running freely down Pogo’s face now. “I thought…. I had hoped…. That Master Hargreeves knew better than I. That my concerns were unwarranted…” His voice is little more than a whisper.

“I suspect that’s what most witnesses of child abuse tell themselves,” says Ben. “You’re lucky. You get to hear, first hand and with complete certainty, that what you’ve been seeing is child abuse. Abuse which has already, and will do again if left unchecked, ruined every damn one of our lives.”

“Which really just leaves one question, Pogo,” for now, Five thinks. “What are you going to do about it?”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Tonight, Klaus thinks as he lets his door thud shut behind him, has been a shitty fucking night.

He’s having very fond thoughts of the warm, fuzzy mindlessness in which he’d wrapped his entire adult (or rather, his entire post pubescent) life. He can’t conceive of how his siblings managed to navigate the hellscape of Hargreevedom in complete sobriety. Well, OK, yes, he can conceive that they navigated it badly, but that they did it at all and still retained a semblance of not only sanity but also (moderate) functionality- that’s just baffling. Klaus has been sober less than a week and it feels like his mind is being shattered afresh every other hour and that he’s cutting himself to ribbons on the scattered shards.

He leans heavily against the door, already missing the comfort of his brother’s and sister’s arms, wishing even one of them could have stayed with him. But no, not with Reginald’s measured footsteps sounding at their heels- the one glance back that Klaus had dared proved a mistake when Reginald locked eyes with him, all haughtiness and steely disdain that turned to pure disgust as the man physically yanked Klaus from his siblings’ embrace and all but threw him towards his room. Breathing shakily Klaus counts himself lucky that Reginald restrained himself to a sneer rather than a diatribe- that he expects will come tomorrow.

Fuuuuuuck!! Wasn’t tonight awful enough already without …… Oh god, Ben! Klaus’s face crumples and his breath catches painfully in his throat. He could’ve lost him again! After everything, everything Ben’s been through, he could’ve lost the life he’d only just regained days ago. Klaus wants, needs to be with him, feeling Ben solid and alive and whole beside him, needs to be there for him, like Ben always has been for him- for Ben to have lost control like that he must have been in pieces inside, and what had Klaus been doing? Klaus had been sobbing into his pillow over his own selfish woes. While his brother was, literally, trying to fight off a monster.

Klaus angrily scrubs the tears from his closed eyes and stands, chin and shoulders high and rigid. He clenches his fists and his teeth, and forces his harsh breath through his nose, disciplining his aching chest to slow it’s in and out, to weaken the exertion. His throat is agony with the insistent lump he diligently ignores, until finally it starts to ease as his breathing calms. He concentrates on the simple task of breathing lightly in and out until it no longer feels like his heart is trying to thump its way up through his gullet, and each new breath is a gentle balm, not the painful, desperate gasp of before.

He’s still raw inside, but there’s a defiant pride in having regained control of himself, at least for the moment.

With his breathing returned to near normal he can focus again on the sounds around him instead of those coming from him, but there are none. Not even a whisper of a ghost, although that may well be due to the extra couple of Vanya’s pills he knocked back after the journal reading. No more of the barely stifled sobs he had heard from Vanya’s room back then either. Another sibling he’d not been there for, but even now he feels his heartrate jump and his throat close when he thinks of her, and his mind is a tangled mess of anger and fear and pity and regret and outright jealousy, and he takes a mental step back to refocus his mind on nothing more than his slow breaths in and out. Untangling that particular snarled mess is a task for another time.

For the moment there’s not a lot he can do to help Vanya or Ben, or anyone else for that matter. They’re surely as exhausted and emotional as Klaus and letting them get what sleep they can seems the best idea. Klaus’s own brain is having definite thoughts in direction too, trudging wearily through the endlessly circling recriminations of what he could have done, should have done, actually did. He’ll be no more use to his siblings than he was tonight if he doesn’t manage to break out of that thought cycle, and he thinks he might just be exhausted enough to pass out. He makes his way to his bed and collapses on top of it. He buries his face in the pillow and cocoons himself in blankets silently begs his brain to just shut the fuck up and let him sleep.

And then there’s a knock on his door and he’s jerking awake to encroaching daylight and struggling to lift his groggy head from the pillow. Huh, sleep happened after all….

He doesn’t get as far as swinging his legs out before the door opens and Five marches in, his usual impeccably dressed self and entirely too bright for whatever time in the morning this is.

“Oh, yeah, sure, please just come right in”, Klaus mumbles, rubbing sleep from his eyes, “no need to wait for an invitation….”

“I’ve seen things you can’t even imagine, Klaus, I could handle seeing you undressed. And your idea of clothing is most people’s idea of scanty underwear, so don’t try to pretend you give a damn about modesty.”

Well, yes, OK, he has a point, but still… “It’s rude.” Klaus tries to fix him with a glower, but he knows it’s just a waste of a good scowl- Five couldn’t care less about such things. Besides, now that his brain is starting to wake up he’s more interested in the two following in Five’s wake.

Ben gives Klaus a wide smile, which Klaus is returning before he even realises it. Having made it to his feet by now Klaus can’t keep himself from reaching out for Ben, just to feel the solidity of his arm.

“I’m still alive,” Ben grins, “don’t worry.”

Klaus ducks his head a little sheepishly, but after last night he thinks he’s perfectly justified in wanting to be sure. And Ben really doesn’t look too bad, all things considered- just a little dark under the eyes, a little tense.

Vanya, on the other hand, looks like shit. Klaus has just enough tact to not say it, but it takes some serious self discipline to wipe the shock from his face. Not that he thinks Vanya is likely to have noticed. She’s pale, which in Vanya terms means practically translucent, shoulders hunched and head drooping, vacant, red rimmed eyes fixed on the floor. Her arms are wrapped around her torso, gripping the sleeves of her pyjamas tightly enough to make her knuckles even whiter than the rest of her. She’s shivering.

“Van?” Klaus touches her shoulder gently, and Vanya flinches back, eyes jerking up momentarily before fixating on the floor again. Klaus takes the hint and backs off a little. “Hey, Vanya, you cold?” He offers her a smile and an open hand, and gestures to the bed and blankets with the other. She shrugs and her glance flickers between him and the floor. “C’mon, here…” Klaus coaxes her over to sit on his bed, then sits beside her as he wraps his blankets around her.

Vanya draws up her legs, to sit cross legged. She gives him a tiny smile, frail and fleeting, and inhales shakily. “Thanks.”

He smiles back encouragingly, but Vanya’s gaze is back on the floor again.

Klaus looks to his brothers. Five stands by the window, arms crossed and eyes typically fierce. Ben closes the bedroom door and leans back against it. The two share a look, Five glaring at Ben and Ben calmly raising an eyebrow back. Klaus frowns to himself. What the hell is going on here? “Uh, guys? Not that I don’t appreciate being woken abruptly at whatever god forsaken hour even Mom isn’t up at, after a hellish night with, like, maybe 2 hours of sleep, but why are we all here? Without Luther, Allison and Diego? Is this some sort of non-medal numbers club or something? ‘Cos awesome as we undeniably all are, I’m not sure that fits with our new ‘being a family, everybody counts, no secrets’ ethos.”

“Shut up, Klaus.” Five says without any rancour, yielding his staring war to Ben, sighing and rubbing at his temple.

“Well now, that really is just rude! You’re the one who came barging into my room, remember?”

“For a reason, one which we were just about share before you started prattling!”

“And here’s where I step in,” says Ben, doing just that and directing a pointed look at Five. Five rolls his eyes and waves him on.

“So,” Ben continues, “Five and I talked over a few things last night.”

“Hmm, like ‘how to control your powers’, right, yeah, I think I remember something abo..”

“Shut up, Klaus,” Ben sighs, head shaking. “We couldn’t exactly tell Reginald that we were talking about his journal entries about us.”

Klaus can feel Vanya tensing at his side, but she stiffens even more when he stretches his arm around her shoulders, so he restricts himself to gently patting her arm before pulling back to give her space. She’s wrapped herself in his blankets like a hooded cloak, so he barely sees her face, but her eyes gleam wetly. She looks so fragile.

“Specifically,” Five says, “we were talking about an entry he made about you, Klaus, which stemmed from an incident with you, Vanya. From before Grace was here.”

“And that’s why we haven’t brought the others in, just now,” says Ben. “It’s not really their business.”

“But it’s yours?” Klaus hears his tone, cold and brittle as ice. He can feel that ice seeping through his veins. The hand he’d been using to comfort Vanya curls into a fist. There’s a strong current of panic running under this sheath of ice that suddenly seems to surround him, but if he can freeze his anger enough the panic won’t break free.

Ben crouches in front of him, leaning forward intently. His face is solemn and open. He nods slightly, slowly. “If we can help you work it all out? Yes. Yes I think it is.”

Klaus, jaw clenched and body rigid, fear and fury and ice and pain seething through him, glares furiously at Ben. The brother who always knows better than him, always has to know everything that’s going on in his life, always has to have an opinion about everything in his life, all the things he, Klaus, should and shouldn’t do, No, Klaus, you can’t sleep there! No, Klaus, don’t take that. Come on, Klaus, you can be better than this! Klaus, do this, Klaus, do that, Klaus, no, don’t!

Ben simply looks back at him, placid and sincere. His eyes are warm. There’s a flicker of motion at the corner of Klaus’s eye, and Ben makes a shooing motion, stopping Five in his approach, but Ben’s eyes never leave Klaus’s.

It’s Klaus who eventually breaks eye contact. He huddles in on himself, definitely more fear than anger now, but still so very cold. He blinks and shudders, and can’t even think of any words to say, let alone speak them.

Vanya hasn’t moved or spoken. She’s still bundled up in Klaus’s blankets, as small as a person can make themselves.

“So, long story short, I worked out what happened back then, and, more importantly, how it all screwed you both up in the head and prevented you controlling your powers,” says Five.

Ben winces. “Five, we had an agreement.”

“Your softly-softly approach was taking too long! We still need to have a whole other meeting with everyone after this, remember?”

Ben rubs his forehead despairingly. “Dear god, you have the emotional sensitivity of a donut, I swear…..”

“What matters,” says Five, “is that….”

“Is that we were all four years old,” says Ben, breaking Five off and glaring him into submission, “with no concept of right or wrong, no understanding of actions and consequences. We were kids who didn’t have the first clue about ourselves or the world, and the only example we had to go by was Reginald Fucking Hargreeves. And all he cared about was our powers and us learning to use them.”

Ben turns to Vanya, peers earnestly into her hood of blanket. “You know it’s normal for little kids to lash out when they’re angry or afraid, right?”

The bundled blankets seem to be quivering, and Klaus can hear Vanya’s breaths becoming harsher. An occasional whimper escapes.

“Vanya,” says Five, “Ben’s right- all kids lash out. For most it’s physical, obviously, but we were all trained to use our powers as much as possible, right from the very start, so it’s only natural we would have lashed out that way.”

“I killed them….” Vanya’s voice is tiny, a sliver of a whisper folded over on itself. It’s dwarfed by her soft sobs. Klaus feels something twist inside him.

“No, Vanya, Reginald killed them,” says Five. “He only ever cared about making us into weapons- it’s like… as if he made a landmine, laid it out in the hall then told the maid to polish the floor. It’s not the landmine’s fault when the maid gets blown up.”

Vanya is shaking with the force of her sobs, now, choking on each breath.

“What the fuck, Five?! A landmine?!”

“It’s a perfectly valid analogy!”

“Oh, god, Vanya…” Tears are flowing freely down Klaus’s face as wraps his arms around his sister. He half expects her to push him away but she just weeps and quivers. He pulls her closer, against his chest, and rocks with her.

“I killed them, and you… They hurt you, Klaus!”

“No, no, no, no…. Five’s right- absolutely horrible at analogies, but right- it wasn’t your fault, Vanya. It wasn’t, I promise.”

Fuck Reginald.

“And I… I don’t think I was hurt. I’m pretty sure I’d remember that.”

“Actually, Klaus,” says Five, “I don’t think you do remember.”

Huh? Klaus guesses his expression must convey that sentiment well enough, because Ben rushes to explain, with a sharp glance at Five that says back off and shut up.

“The thing is, we know Reginald made Allison rumour Vanya, but none of us remembered Vanya’s powers. It’s more than likely that he had Allison rumour us all to forget about Vanya having powers.”

OK, that tracks, but Klaus isn’t seeing the connection. This tangent has, at least, taken some of the focus from Vanya and given her time to compose herself a little. Her tear streaked face peeks out curiously from beneath her blanket hood.

Ben continues. “We know from the journal that at least one of the nannies came to you as a ghost. And I know that there are no ghosts following Vanya around.”

Klaus shrugs warily at this. He’s not sure he likes where this is going- it seems to be wandering perilously close to his own thoughts from last night, and he’d rather not dissolve into that sobbing heap again, please.

“Klaus, we think you don’t remember what happened with the nanny because of Allison’s rumour. If you remembered the nanny you’d remember not just that she died, but how, and you’d remember whatever she might have said to you- probably about Vanya.”

“So… I don’t remember talking to a dead nanny because it would have messed with the rumour making me forget Vanya had powers?” OK, that makes sense.

But Ben isn’t stopping. He draws a deep breath, and says, “And we think the reason that there isn’t a dead nanny following Vanya, is that you banished her.”

“I can’t banish the ghosts, Ben, you know that.” Klaus’s response is automatic, immediate and it is final, determinedly ignoring his own suspicions and the nausea welling inside him.

“Klaus,” Ben reaches out to rest a hand on Klaus’s knee, “there’s no other explanation for her not being here.”

“She moved on!”

Ben just raises an eyebrow at that- he knows as well as Klaus how unlikely it is.

“Or, or maybe Reggie was wrong, maybe there was never a ghost…” The words sound desperate to his own ears, and he knows it’s a feeble hope. There was too much detail, and why on earth would Reginald have made it up?

“Klaus,” Five speaks up, “I think you and Vanya have something in common about your powers- maybe we all do. But certainly for you two, your powers get stronger with emotion. And when you’re highly emotional your powers aren’t just stronger, they’re instinctive- like when you conjured Ben physically at the Icarus theatre.”

“No….. No, no, it can’t….” Klaus sobs. Vanya has now twisted in his arms to lift her head up, big eyes, still red from her own weeping, wide with sympathy.

“You were four, Klaus. You were used to seeing people that we couldn’t, and when you were four, well, what did it matter if some of your friends were invisible to everyone else? A four year-old can’t understand death, and even if you had, you’d never known them as anything other than ghosts, so it wouldn’t mean anything anyway. They weren’t scary, they were just there.” Ben speaks softly, gently. “But that all changed when someone you had known alive appeared as a ghost. It must have been frightening, even if she hadn’t said a word. But to hear this nanny who’d cared for you suddenly speaking about life and death, to see her injured and bitter, spiteful and angry about being killed… That must have been terrifying.”

“And that terror stoked your powers,” Five continues. “Fight or flight kicked in, instinct kicked in, and you banished her.”

Klaus shakes his head, eyes squeezed shut, chest heaving. There are arms around him, and his head is pulled against something soft while fingers stroke through his hair. He draws his knees up to his chest and leans into that softness, sobbing helplessly. They’re right, he knows it. He knew it already, as he stumbled from Allison’s room last night.

Every pill he’s ever taken, every line he’s snorted, syringe he’s emptied into a vein, every moment he spent on his knees in a filthy bathroom or up against an alley wall- it’s all been for nothing. He’s nothing more than a junkie whore after all.

He’s always been able to banish the ghosts.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Everything can change so damn quickly.

Vanya had known, even as she wrote all those years ago, how her father craved control over everything and everyone in his life. And she’d known that she only had part of the Umbrella Academy story. She hadn’t particularly cared. If anything the knowledge had only emphasised her feelings of ostracism, fuelling the anger and resentment that drove her fingers to stab at the typewriter keys. The Umbrella Academy had had their time in the spotlight, to dazzle the world with their brilliance and bask in the warmth of the public gaze upon the characters they so willingly portrayed, with never a thought for the sister hidden away like an embarrassing disease. It was finally Vanya’s turn to be heard, and if her siblings didn’t like what she had to say, well then maybe they should have thought of her earlier instead of just blithely dancing to Reginald’s oh so carefully orchestrated tune all that time.

What Vanya had known about the Umbrella Academy, she had known for certain. That Reginald had been commandeering and domineering was never in question, but what did that matter when he noticed them? When he spent hours each day with them, collectively and individually? When he bestowed his time on them, and cared what they said and did? When he valued them? What matter a little hard work when the reward was to be lavished with their father’s attention, to be a part of the family? Nothing in her siblings’ stories could possibly change how blessed they had been to hold their father’s regard, and how miserable Vanya had been in the isolation her entire family imposed upon her.

She’d been so wrong. And, chillingly, even more right than she’d realised.

In the last week she’s had her entire existence re-written, had to re-assess everything she’s ever known about herself. She… didn’t do a very good job of it, to put it mildly, and once she got over the shock she was relieved to have a second chance courtesy of Five.

But now she has to reassess everything again, not just for her (precociously murderous) self but for the siblings she had thought she knew, and every moment of their shared childhood.

She’s adrift without sails, anchor or a smidgeon of nautical understanding and there’s a storm coming in. She means this metaphorically, of course, but Diego’s face is suitably filled with restrained thunder as he slinks into Klaus’s room. Five is rounding up Luther and Allison.

Klaus is still huddled in on himself beside her, and she can feel him quivering. His eyes are closed and his face is blank- an expression so utterly alien to Klaus that it has to have been carefully constructed. He hasn’t responded to anyone with anything more than a shake of his head or shrug of his shoulders, not even for Ben, who now sits pressed against Klaus’s other side in resigned but concerned silence.

Klaus has just had his entire existence re-written too.

Vanya wriggles out from her blanket cocoon and wraps the blanket around both her own and Klaus’s shoulders. She wraps her arms around him too- one behind his back to pull him against her, and the other around his middle, holding the blanket securely around them both. She gets no response at all as she gives him a squeeze and rests her head on his shoulder.

Five strides back in, and Luther isn’t far behind. Allison follows; her hand on Luther’s back somehow gives the impression of propelling him as much as being moral support. Luther glances at his assembled siblings and for a few moments looks like he’s about to speak, but then his shoulders and his eyes drop and he just backs up against the wall. Bizarrely this only deepens Diego’s thunderous expression, and for a moment Vanya thinks he’s going to let loose. Then his eyes squeeze shut and a vein briefly stands out against the side of his head, an odd mirror of the scar that would normally be there. His chest and shoulders sink with a carefully controlled exhale and, despite the fists clenched tightly at his sides, there is no outburst. Vanya lets slip a tiny gasp of surprise, which draws Diego’s glance. His eyes flash with momentary fire and that vein pops again, then his eyes are fixed on the floor, the vein smoothing once more with the steady rise and fall of his chest. His face is grim and his lips are set in a thin line. The thread of panic worming through Vanya stills to a more bearable dread, but she jerks her eyes away anyway.

Five speaks up. “Well, last night was quite an experience for us all, but as time is of the essence, and also I’ve been advised I have the sensitivity of donut, I’m not here to host the therapy we all so desperately need.” He sighs, winces, and continues, head high and defiant. “I’ve pulled us all here because I screwed up last night and you guys need to know about the fallout. Pogo knows.”

There’s a general widening of eyes and intake of breath, but no-one gets a chance to say anything before Five holds up a hand and bulldozes onwards.

“I didn’t mean to tell him. I forgot he was even there after Reginald marched you all downstairs, and he heard Ben and I discussing…. things. Too much for us to fob him off.”

Things? Like, her blowing up the Moon things? Vanya’s heart is suddenly racing and sinking in to her stomach at the same time.

“What the hell, Five?!!” The leash on Diego’s temper has finally snapped, and he’s up in Five’s face as instantaneously as if he was the teleporter, teeth bared and lifting Five right off the floor with his hands fisted in Five’s blazer. Five, of course, calmly jumps from his grip in a bright flash of blue, and glares right back from his new position in front of the bedroom door.

“I said I screwed up, it wasn’t deliberate! But we dealt with it.” He straightens his tie and smooths down his lapels as he speaks.

Air streams into Vanya’s lungs in a rush she hadn’t even realised was missing. “You dealt with it? Five, you didn’t….” She can’t finish the thought, let alone the sentence, but in her mind she sees Pogo, hanging limply on the wall, bloody prongs protruding from his chest. Her head spins. There are angry overlapping voices but she can’t make out what’s being said.

“Pogo’s fine!” Ben snaps over them all. He’s risen to standing by the bed, but one hand still rests on Klaus’s shoulder. “Yes, Murder Boy gave him the fright of his life, but then we all calmed down and talked about things like semi-rational adults, and long story short, we’ve got an ally now.”

“You think?” Diego growls. “What makes you so sure he didn’t just run straight to Reggie and tell him everything? Or maybe he was just humouring you and is actually reporting right now that you’ve lost your mind?”

“Well, for one thing he’s had the fear of Five put into him, and that’s a pretty significant fear, but mostly because I’ve spent 13 years with nothing to do but watch people, and I’ve gotten pretty damn good at reading them- I know when someone’s bullshitting, Diego, and trust me, Pogo wasn’t. He will do everything he can to help.”

“And that includes telling us exactly how Reginald was training Vanya,” says Five. That shuts everyone up as quickly as it freezes Vanya’s blood.

Five looks over at Vanya and she instinctively shrinks back further into the blanket beside Klaus. He still hasn’t moved or opened his eyes, and his breathing is slightly too fast and shallow. She tightens her arms around Klaus, and receives only a flinch for her trouble.

Vanya steels herself and meets Five’s eyes. “Pogo knows what I did?” Her voice is a hoarse whisper, and she swallows to wet her throat.

Five shakes his head but it’s Ben who answers, voice gentle and reassuring, “No, he doesn’t know anything specific about when or how the apocalypse happens.”

“He reluctantly accepted that for him to know too much would be a risk to this new timeline,” Five puts in. “He knows a few things, mostly from what he overheard; Ben’s death, my time in the apocalypse and Reginald unwittingly being the cause. That we figured out Vanya has powers when she ran out of meds. That’s it. No journal, no Moon, no Commission, no manipulative psychopath, no shitty excuse for a father killing himself to bring us back together.”

Vanya nods a little shakily. OK, she can cope with that.

“And, like I said, he knew how Reginald was training you, Vanya. It’s fairly simple actually, and makes a lot of sense. It seems it was working pretty well until he messed it up by expecting you to be a mindless automaton.”

“So, you think you can help Vanya learn to control her power?” asks Allison.

“Yes, I do. I’d had some thoughts in that direction anyway, and it won’t take much to tweak my ideas with what I’ve learned from Pogo.”

“But. I’ve barely started coming off my pills….” Vanya can hear the trembling in her own voice. The prospect of deliberately using her powers is something she hadn’t foreseen happening as soon as this.

“Best time to start,” Five declares. “The pills will help you regulate your emotion and through that your powers. And I expect they’ll also limit the extent of your power, which is exactly what we need when you’re still learning.”

“Oh… OK...”

Warm fingers wrap tight around hers under the blanket. Startled, she looks to Klaus, still and pale beside her. His eyes remain shut and his expression hasn’t changed in the slightest (except… were his eyelashes wet before?) but his thumb rubs the back of her hand as his fingers squeeze hers gently. Was it her voice that gave away her fear, of did he feel her trembling even over his own? She squeezes his hand back, tightens her other arm around him, and nods against shoulder.

Vanya straightens up a little, lifts her head and meets Five’s eyes. She swallows, and nods again, more firmly. “OK. When do we start?”

She’s rewarded with one of Five’s rare genuine smiles, splitting his face wide and lightening the shadows in his eyes.

“We start today, I hope. Which brings us to another reason for this little gathering.” He looks around at the three who aren’t huddled together on Klaus’s bed, while gesturing back to those who are. “We had a bit of a confab already about some things specific to Vanya and Klaus’s powers- specific and personal before any of you start whining about being left out-“

Vanya sees three pairs of eyes flicker to Klaus’s unresponsive form, confusion and no little concern on all three faces.

“-and we’ve got some work to do to even begin to undo the damage Reginald inflicted. Work that absolutely cannot happen with the prospect of him marching in on us at any time.”

“Sounds to me like something your new best buddy could help with, no?” drawls Diego.

“As best he can, yes,” retorts Five, “but he can’t outright rebel any more than we can.”

“Pogo thinks he can divert Reginald this afternoon- some sort of business deal that can suddenly need his personal attention,” says Ben. “Might even need him to travel to Europe for a day or two.”

“But that still leaves this morning.” Five finishes.

“You’re asking us to draw his attention,” Diego says.

Five rolls his eyes. “I thought that was pretty obvious.”

Diego, Allison and Luther all look over at Vanya and Klaus (whose breathing has become more shaky in the last few minutes- for all that he’s determined not to take part in the conversation he’s clearly listening to every word). Vanya forces herself not to shrink from her siblings’ gazes. Five’s right in this- even if Vanya could somehow make it through breakfast without raising suspicion there’s no way Klaus can manage that right now. She meets each gaze in turn, eyes pleading.

“Shit,” Diego grumbles, breaking away first. He grunts, then turns to Luther, raising an eyebrow. “Well, Number One? You’re our leader- what’s it to be?” There’s a challenge to his tone, but none of the usual bite.

Luther stares blankly. “I, uh… I don’t… Not up to me…”

Diego stares intently at Luther. There’s anger, absolute fury, smouldering in Diego’s eyes, but he’s keeping it banked, for now. “Fine.” He nods, thoughtfully. “Then I guess I get to decide. And it seems to me like someone needs to ask Daddy for a refresher course in leadership skills.”

“Diego!” Allison snaps.

Diego spreads his hands in innocence. “What? He didn’t want to make a choice, so I made it for him. It had to be one of the three of us.”

“He’s not…” Allison trails off, clearly thinking better of what she’d been about to say.

“No, Allison, it’s… it’s fine…” Luther mumbles. “I’ll ask…. Dad. For a personal session.” His shoulders are slumped as he pushes off from the wall. “Makes sense. For it to be me.” And with his eyes still set on the floor Luther walks stiffly out.

Allison glares at Diego, “You asshole! He’s… He’s not…” Her voice breaks.

“I know he’s not!” Diego whisper-shouts. “He’s probably more screwed up than all of us from hearing what the old bastard wrote about him.”

“Then why?”

Vanya’s wondering much the same thing, and from his puzzled frown so is Five.

“’Cos it’s about me and him, Allison! All that shit between us, him being built up and put on a pedestal, me being the rival…. You think talking is gonna fix that?”

“Not everyone fixes things with their fists, Diego,” says Allison, coldly.

“No shit, but we do, ‘cos that’s how we were brought up. Programmed even! Trust me, he needs this.”

“You just threw him under the fucking bus!”

“I gave him something important to do! You know as well as I do how much he needs that. And yeah, he’ll fucking hate it, but you know what? Right now, he wants to suffer, and he needs to get that out of his system!”

“Oh, of course, and you don’t enjoy him suffering at all, do you?”

“Right now? No. I don’t. But please, don’t let that stop you from hoarding the moral high ground you love so much.” He glares right back at her until she breaks her gaze, blinking back her tears.

“Allison…”

Ben starts to speak, but she waves him off angrily, and stalks from the room.

Five snorts. “Nice work, Diego.”

Diego peers at him as if he isn’t sure whether or not the statement is sincere. Vanya certainly isn’t.

“Whatever.” Diego dismisses Five and glares pointedly at Ben. “You damn well better fix this.” He jerks his head to gesture to Klaus, and Vanya can see the worry beneath Diego’s bravado. “I’m gonna go hit things ‘till breakfast time.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Luther has never been given to introspection, or sentimentality. He’s shouldered the burden of responsibility for the team, their effectiveness and their safety, too long and too completely to waste his time thinking about himself. He always had emotions, of course, he’s just never let them rule him or his actions. Well, mostly- he’ll admit to losing his temper on occasion, but only under the extreme duress Diego and Klaus are both so adept at inflicting. Luther has always had a strong sense of self and of purpose, stronger than any fleeting joy or distress could ever be. He is strong, he is honest, he is loyal and he is determined, and that’s as much as he needed to know or show. There was never any need to examine himself beyond the important questions of how to improve himself, how to become the best soldier and leader he could be.

 

His time on the Moon was an exception, of course- four years of isolation in a cramped tin can surrounded by the vacuum of space didn’t give him much opportunity for anything but introspection. It only confirmed for him just how unsuited he is for existential philosophy or personal reflection. He’s a do-er, not a thinker, and a few weeks ago he would have cited that as one of his positive features.

 

Right now he’s struggling to think of himself in any sort of positive light.

 

Throughout his life his entire focus has been on maintaining his father’s approval, and to this end he’s built his physical strength and stamina, honed his mind and learned all he could of tactics and strategy, gauged his own and his siblings’ aptitudes and attitudes and wrangled them into as cohesive a unit as he could manage, dedicated, always, to achieving peak performance and success. It’s always been challenging; inspiring Ben, curtailing Five’s arrogance, getting Klaus to take anything seriously, remaining resistant to Allison’s wiles, maintaining his authority over Diego, impressing upon them all the importance of their role, their duty to the world; all these tested his leadership capabilities to the limit, all while he strove to master his own body’s capabilities. Through it all he never once questioned that this was right and necessary and that Dad’s, admittedly punishing, training and discipline were for the best. Dad was wise and powerful and Luther could only hope to one day be as deserving of respect and admiration as his father. He would push both his mind and his body to their absolute limits and beyond in service to his father and his father’s mission for them, and he could never comprehend why his siblings were so reluctant to do the same.

 

Crouched in the training room, sweating and straining to hold aloft the thick steel panel that threatens to crush him, Luther wonders how on earth his brothers and sisters ever tolerated him at all.

 

“Number One! Focus!” snaps Reginald, as Luther loses some ground against the hydraulic arm pressing down on the panel.

 

Focus is not coming easily this morning though- at least not focus on this training session. Luther’s body acts to preserve him on autopilot, muscle memory keeping the panel aloft, while his thoughts circle endlessly. Thick creamy paper covered in Reginald’s neat cursive, page after page of thoughts and observations, recorded with all the warmth of a coroner performing an autopsy. Luther and his siblings, reduced to nothing more than laboratory rats running in mazes of Reginald’s construction, since before they could even crawl.

 

Luther had been so proud of his position. Of Reginald’s clear approval, so rarely earned by anyone else. Number One, the strong one, who worked so hard and heeded instruction so well. The one against whom all the others were measured, because he was the best of them, he was the example for them to follow. He’d treasured every pleased nod in his direction, the evidence of his value, his worth, and tried in vain to explain to his siblings how this would be theirs too, if they’d only try.

 

Even the anger and betrayal of finding all his packages from the Moon hidden away unopened couldn’t have prepared him for the journal. For how expertly Reginald had blinded him to the truth of their childhood. How he had manipulated Luther into isolating himself from the only people in his life who mattered, into unwittingly abusing them further.

 

It had all been laid bare last night, on those damned pages. Reginald had used Luther as a tool to keep the others in line. Had praised him, shown him small kindnesses to elevate him above the others and buy his loyalty. All coldly calculated. To antagonise Diego into competing all the harder for the so-called top spot that Reginald would never have conceded to him. To convince Allison that this was right, for why else would Luther follow Reginald’s instructions so readily? To spur Five to ever greater efforts while exemplifying Luther’s perfect obedience. To inspire Klaus and Ben, and when that failed, to recruit Luther’s complicity in simply bullying them. And Luther, naive and trusting and prideful, had helped Reginald to hurt them all, to twist their minds and stunt their growth, to drown them all in misery, never once realising the harm he was doing to his siblings.

 

“Number One!” comes Reginald’s voice again, sharp and disapproving, and Luther realises he is on his knees, his arms bent under the pressure of the hydraulic arm. His arms tremble with the effort of holding the thing off, his entire body does, and sweat is streaking down his face and stinging his eyes. “You must concentrate! Would you let your siblings be crushed?”

 

Luther grits his teeth, biting back his growing fury. How dare he? How dare that man imply concern for his brothers and sister? Luther remembers such words from Reginald before, and always they have spurred him onward to greater effort, determined to be strong enough to protect his siblings and make his father proud. But now he knows that he’s never protected them no matter how well he has performed in his father’s eyes, because Reginald has never given a damn about his children’s well being. Everything he’s ever done has been for nothing more than control of his little soldiers- tools for him to use as he will, with no regard for the damage they might suffer in the course of it.

 

Luther forces his aching shoulders to push upwards, muscles burning, and feels the machine above him yield a few inches. It’s enough to let him lift his head and look at Reginald. The man stands straight and stiff behind the control panel, head held high, pristine in his fine woollen suit, monocle gleaming, radiating power and control. He does not smile (even for Luther the man has rarely smiled), but there is a satisfaction to his features.

 

“Yes, better!” Reginald fiddles with something on the control panel, and Luther feels the pressure against him suddenly intensify. “You must be prepared for anything, Number One! Your strength is not simply for attack, it will be your siblings’ greatest defence should a mission go awry. You must be ready, to shield them as they re-group, as masonry falls or enemies rain fire down upon you. You must have the stamina to persevere in the face of exhaustion, to protect your siblings, and inspire them with your endurance!”

 

Luther seethes, and an unfamiliar feeling boils up in him. Not just anger- he’s well used to that, though it’s only once before been incited by Reginald rather than one of his brothers- but contempt, sharp and stinging, for this man who pretends concern for the very children he has tortured and warped mercilessly. He remembers Klaus last night, broken and pleading, terrified, curled into himself on the floor of Allison’s room, and Luther knows now where Klaus was in his head, and who kept him trapped there, why he has so willingly given away his consciousness to the lure of drugs and hedonistic pleasures from such a young age. He remembers Ben’s bloody corpse, years from now, and Reginald’s cool acceptance, his fleeting disappointment; nothing more than annoyance at the loss of his investment. He remembers, shamefully, Vanya’s desperate terror as she screamed, silently, to be released from the cell that Reginald had built to contain her when she was just four years old and into which Luther had betrayed her. He remembers them all being marched downstairs to witness the installation of Five’s portrait- not a memorial, but a stern warning against disobedience, against the folly of questioning Reginald’s wisdom. He remembers pointed jibes against Diego- how could he hope to match Number One if he won’t apply himself, how could he expect to be taken seriously as Number Two if he couldn’t even string three words together? He remembers four long years spent on a barren world with only a single plant as living company, and hundreds of pointless samples and reports. He remembers Allison, distraught and bereft of the greatest love in her life, because this man never bothered to teach her not to simply take what she wanted and could so easily have. Because he encouraged her to wrap the world around her finger, told her that people were her puppets. And he remembers her tearful determination to do better, to be better, something this man could never even comprehend, let alone teach his children, but which Allison had taught herself. 

 

Luther has never loved their father, but his admiration for the man has verged on worship. No longer.

 

He staggers beneath the steadily increasing pressure, arms burning above him and sweat streaming from every pore. He doesn’t care what Reginald thinks of him, but he will protect his family.

 

He takes all his fury, all his pain and shame and sudden burning hatred, and feeds it all into the adrenaline coursing through him.

 

You’ve used me my whole life.

 

He braces his legs, calves and thighs straining.

 

You stole my childhood.

 

He sets his frame, hips, back, shoulders all aligned above his feet.

 

You hurt my brothers and sisters.

 

Sweat is pouring down his face, stinging his eyes, but he ignores it, just like he does the screaming of his muscles.

 

You made me hurt my brothers and sisters!

 

He screws his eyes shut, grits his teeth and heaves upwards with every ounce of strength he can muster.

 

There is a furious, guttural yell (from him, he realises) and an ear-splitting cacophony of metallic screeching and bolts shearing and joints snapping, and hydraulic pressure bursting forth. He continues to push upwards through it all, his motion continuing unabated even after the pressure is suddenly gone, all that momentum surging up from his legs up through his body, through his shoulders to his arms and beyond, sending the metal plate soaring up through the remains of the hydraulic arm in a shower of sparks and a clatter of broken metal. The arm itself is ripped from its dock and carried with the plate to smash through the control panel where moments ago Reginald stood.

 

Luther’s chest is heaving and his legs deposit him gracelessly on the floor, from where he lifts his face to glare at Reginald. The man stands calm and regal, a sidestep from the sparking ruin of the control console, chin raised in that familiar haughty demeanour and lips pressed firmly. But his eyes are wide as he looks at the wreckage of his machine.

 

“I will protect my family,” Luther growls through heavy breaths. “From anything that would harm them.”

 

Reginald’s eyes snap back to him, that distinguished mask back in place. He nods, sharply. “As well you should, Number One! As their leader they will look to you for protection as well as for instruction.” His eyes track back to the dismembered hydraulic that’s carved a path through his electronics. “A most impressive display of strength, Number One. It would seem however,” Reginald turns back to look down coldly at Luther, “that your control and accuracy require some improvement.”

 

Luther has made it to his knees by now, breathing still heavy and ragged. He schools his face to blankness as he meets Reginald’s gaze, and says nothing.

 

“Hmph. That will be all, for now, Number One.” And he turns from Luther to regard the wreckage, cataloguing the damage, apparently trusting that Luther will obediently trot along now that he has been so clearly dismissed.

 

Pulling himself to his feet, Luther simply stands there, head high and shoulders back. There is a steely determination creeping over the earlier fury (though that fury still bubbles and seethes, whispers to him about how easy it would be to ignore Five’s warnings, how comforting it would be to sink his fist deep into that smug, supercilious face).

 

“Sir.”

 

Reginald turns from his examination of the wreckage, eyes widening again to find Luther still there, making no move to depart. He sets his cane sharply against the ground, his hands resting upon it, and tilts his head curiously. “Yes, Number One?”

 

Luther swallows down…. something. It could be anger, or it could be fear. But he is riding the crest of a wave of unfamiliar and long suppressed emotion, and he will use this to do some sort of good.  He has been this man’s puppet for too long, has been this man’s weapon against his own brothers and sisters for too long.

 

“I do want to protect my family, Sir,” says Luther, forcing his breathing and his voice to calmness. “I’m Number One,” he says, ignoring the pang of shame that comes with that admission, now that he knows exactly what the position really means, “and it’s my duty to lead and protect. To help my brothers and sister reach their potential.”

 

Reginald nods again, a frown beginning to form. “Yes, yes, and it is good that you understand-”

 

“Sir!” Luther has never interrupted Reginald before. He rushes on before the man can respond, and before Luther can second guess himself. He’s making this up as he goes along, but there’s a semblance of a plan, or at least an idea, putting itself forward as he speaks. “Sir, I want to help. With the…. cataclysm to come.”

 

“That is the purpose of this training, Number One.”

 

“Not just as a pair of fists, Sir. I…” He fumbles for the right words, pinned under Reginald’s expectant gaze. Luther allows a sigh to escape, sets his shoulders and ploughs onwards, determined now that the idea has taken hold. “I want to understand what’s coming, what we need to do, to be to save the world.”

 

Reginald’s face is impassive. “You must all be your best, Number One, achieve your full potential! I have made this clear, have I not?”

 

“You have, Sir, and you know how committed I am to being my best. But some of the others…” Guilt roils in his belly at the words he’s about to say, but they aren’t his real thoughts anymore. Words are just tools. “They’re not as committed as they should be. And I think that I could better inspire them to reach their full potential if I knew more about what we might face.”

 

Reginald eyes Luther icily. “You understand, Number One, that even a leader must be guided by his superiors. It is not for a Lieutenant to devise the battle strategy.”

 

“No, Sir. But can’t that strategy be better communicated, enacted and, if required, adapted to changing circumstances, if the Lieutenant understands the reasoning behind it, and something of the overall war effort?”

 

Luther holds himself straight backed and high headed under Reginald’s scrutiny for several moments.

 

Finally Reginald says, “I appreciate your initiative, Number One,” in his usual clipped tone. His face betrays nothing, but Luther can practically hear the cogs turning in the old man’s mind.

 

“I will consider your request. In the meantime, however, we both have tasks to accomplish before lunch: I have several costly repairs to arrange, and you must shower and change.” With a nod Reginald turns on his heel to once more inspect the mess of tangled metal and wiring of the console Luther has destroyed.

 

As he makes for the changing rooms Luther feels something of the old pre-mission exhilaration surging through him, his new purpose overpowering the guilt and shame of last night’s revelations. He has a lot to make up to his brothers and sisters, but, he thinks, this is a good start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Ben is tired. Weary in his bones (which he still isn’t quite used to having) and utterly drained of mind and spirit. He truly had forgotten just how important sleep is to the embodied, and the scant few hours of rest he’s had in the last few days are apparently not enough to overcome his newly physical limitations. Not to mention the minor detail of the Horror’s first manifestation in years and the ceaseless emotional trauma with which he’s surrounded. But ultimately he’s just not used to his mental capacity being restricted by anything other than his frustration with Klaus’s obstinacy/stupidity/reckless impulsiveness (delete as appropriate, or even on some memorable and cringe worthy occasions, try to put up with all three at once).

So his brain isn’t quite firing on all cylinders this morning. Which, he assumes, is why he didn’t even think to step in when Diego riled Allison earlier. This is a problem because Allison is actually a rather crucial part of Ben and Five’s carefully (if quickly) considered plan to progress Klaus and Vanya’s control of their abilities, but Allison has been giving them the silent treatment since she rushed out of Klaus’s room earlier, and is now studiously ignoring everyone but Luther, at whom she flicks concerned glances every few moments.

Luther, apparently, wasn’t able to deter Reginald from the usual breakfast routine, and they now all sit in uncomfortable silence picking at bacon and eggs while some ancient adventurer drones on about how best to escape while preserving a limited air supply, should one find oneself trapped underwater in or under a contained vessel. On the plus side, the lecture is sufficiently tedious to account for Klaus’s glazed features as he stares unseeing at his plate and pushes a piece of bacon back and forth with his fork. Ben has managed to sneak half the egg and a piece of bacon from his plate, to hide the fact that Klaus is quite simply too shut down to eat. Ben considers it quite an achievement that he and Vanya were able to get Klaus into his Academy tracksuit and steer him down the stairs.

Speaking of Vanya, she sits timidly at the far end of the table mechanically lifting food to her mouth, alternating between peering worriedly at Klaus and fearfully at Reginald. Her gaze snaps immediately back down to her plate at the slightest noise or movement from Reginald. Her eyes are still tinged red from earlier, and her face pale. Overall, Ben thinks guiltily, her appearance and behaviour are much as he remembers when they were this age for real. Reginald certainly doesn’t appear to take any more notice of her than usual.

Ben looks back to Reginald to gauge if he can remove some more of Klaus’s breakfast- no-one will be allowed to leave the table until every morsel is gone. Reginald is engrossed in his broadsheet newspaper, so Ben risks grabbing Klaus’s last piece of bacon, almost colliding with another fork as Diego helps himself to the remaining egg from Klaus’s other side. The two share a brief smirk, but it fades quickly at the sight of Klaus blindly continuing to push his fork around his now empty plate.

In only a few minutes more Reginald is finished with both his food and his reading, and he abruptly pushes back his chair and stands. The children all follow suit (Ben and Diego surreptitiously urging an vacant Klaus to his feet).

“I will be spending time with Number One on personal training this morning. The rest of you will run laps of the training area for one hour- Number Seven will count and record. Then sparring- no weapons and no powers,” he declares, his focus on folding his paper. “Number Two versus Numbers Three and Four, and Number Five versus Number Six. Number Seven will score the bouts. This will be followed by strength work in the gym until lunchtime.” He tucks his meticulously folded newspaper under his arm. “Number One!” And he marches off without so much as a glance at any of them.

Luther, head bowed, hesitates only long enough to gently brush off Allison’s hand before following Reginald out. Allison’s face crumples.

“Well,” says Five brightly, as Grace appears to start clearing the table, “we have our instructions. I suppose we’d best get to it.” And then he’s gone in a flash of blue, because god forbid Five should walk downstairs to the training wing.

Diego gives Grace a wide smile. “Thanks, Mom, that was great.”

Allison stifles a glower, and Ben sighs. Thanks for pissing off, Five.

“Allison?” Ben tries. He gets a flat look, but that’s certainly more encouraging than her response to Diego. And she’s not stalking off, so Ben will take what he can.

Ben, being rather more empathetic than most of his family, decides to try a compassionate approach first. He gives his sister a sympathetic smile and says, “He’ll be OK, you know.”

Allison crosses her arms- never a good sign- and her voice actually quivers as she responds. “’Cos he’s strong, right? Good old dependable, tough, boring Luther- can’t hurt the feelings of someone who doesn’t have them, right?”

“No-one thinks he doesn’t have feelings,” Ben rushes to reassure her. “Except maybe Luther, up until last night. Look, Allison, I get it. He had his loyalty and pride in the Academy and I don’t think he ever really acknowledged his feelings beyond that before, and now that his faith has been so completely betrayed he’s overwhelmed. He’s hurt and blaming himself for things he couldn’t control, and of course you want to protect him from that.”

“Yeah, well someone should, and it seems like you’re all perfectly happy to throw him to the dogs!”

“That’s not what’s happening here Allison, and you know it. Diego was a bit of a dick about it, but Diego’s a bit of a dick about everything. I actually think he has Luther’s best interests at heart, for once.”

Allison’s eyebrows rise almost into her hairline.

From the corner of his eye Ben sees Diego himself creeping past behind Allison, Vanya (wide eyed but determined) trailing behind and Klaus (staring blankly and shuffling like a zombie) letting himself be led by the arm. Diego gives Ben a half-hearted grin and nods in Allison’s direction with an exaggerated thumbs up. Ben sees him chuckle grimly and mouth ‘thank you’, and Vanya’s lips twitch in a smile as she waves in Ben’s direction. Then they each take one of Klaus’s hands and urge him down towards the training area. Klaus raises his head a little, slowly, like he’s just waking up, and turns his head back towards Ben, face slack and eyes searching and uncertain.

Ben can’t help the relieved sigh that rushes out of him. Fearful Klaus may be, but that’s the first unprompted activity from him in over an hour. Ben meets his eyes and gives him a wide, encouraging smile and nod. Go on, Klaus, I’ll be right there, promise. Klaus gives no answering smile, just a slow blink, then a tiny nod. He drops his eyes to the floor again as Vanya and Diego lead him out, so Ben’s pretty sure he doesn’t see the pained but hopeful smiles on their faces.

All of Ben’s staring past her has, of course, earned Allison’s attention, and she’s watching the trio depart too. Her lips are drawn in a thin line and she looks like she’s in physical pain.

“Whether you can see it right now or not, Diego actually did the best he could for Luther today. He’s just about as repressed as Luther, you know- he might not have any tact but he knows what would work for him and that’s what’s most likely to help Luther too.”

Allison tilts back her head, eyes squeezed shut and mouth set in a grimace. “Damn it, we’re all just so fucked up.”

“Yeah, we are,” Ben agrees. “But I think we have a shot at un-fucking us. At least a bit.”

“Poetic,” Allison snorts.

“Gimme a break- my conversational options have been limited to one off his face man-child for over a decade- I haven’t had much occasion to practice sonnets.”

That draws a smile that actually reaches her eyes.

“And speaking of that man-child… Five kind of had a… revelation, I guess, about him. About something that happened, something that Reginald completely screwed up, when Klaus was really small. That completely screwed Klaus up. More than Reginald’s regular screwing us all up, I mean.”

Allison’s looking at him strangely now, intrigued but concerned. “Does this have anything to do with you redecorating Five’s room?”

Ben’s momentarily taken aback. “How did…” He sighs. “Yeah, yeah Five got a bit carried away on his train of thought, and every word he was saying made so much sense and I just got so angry….” He shakes his head. “Doesn’t matter now. And it’s not for me to say much more than I have, except that in one fell swoop Reginald managed to effectively mentally cripple both Klaus and Vanya, permanently.”

He catches Allison’s eyes and holds the gaze. “And that he used you to do it.”

Allison draws back, eyes and mouth widening, but she doesn’t look away. She swallows. “The rumour that took away Vanya’s powers.”

Ben just nods, lets her take it in. Then he asks, “Have you ever un-rumoured someone?”

She blinks. “I’ve… Never even thought of it.”

She’s clearly thinking of it plenty now, and Ben gives her time.

“I guess it might work?” she says. “If I were to rumour them that any previous rumours were, I don’t know, void? Inactive? But, Ben, if I got the wording wrong….” Her features finish that sentence more powerfully than words could. “They were four, that’s almost their entire lives I’d be playing with…”

Ben nods, understanding. He and Five have discussed this, and figured for themselves that it could be more risk than it was worth. But still… “We could help with wording, Five and I. Between the three of us surely we could come up with something that would do just what we want it to. And,” he continues, anticipating the objection Allison is poised to broach, “nothing at all would happen without Klaus or Vanya’s say so- we work out the best possible wording, then we let them decide.”

She’s clearly uneasy with the idea, but she saw Klaus this morning. Hell, even Vanya was a mess when Allison first saw her this morning, and to anyone who cares to actually look at her (which would be anyone except Reginald) she still was.

“You don’t need to decide right now,” says Ben. It’s a lot to dump on her, he knows. But that wasn’t the only reason he’d sought her out today.

“But regardless of that, we’d like you to help with the training we have planned, for both Klaus and Vanya. Hopefully you wouldn’t actually be part of the training, but there to step in if things get out of hand. Like, ‘I heard a rumour you fell asleep for 2 minutes’ kind of thing, instead of, potentially, Vanya losing control and bringing the house down.”

Allison chuckles wryly. “I guess that would be the lesser of two evils…. Yes, that I can definitely do. If they both agree to it.”

Ben smiles, relieved, “Let’s go find out then,” and extends his hand as he steps off towards the stairs to the lower level. “Might help keep you from worrying over Luther, too.”

He’s further relieved when she sighs with a sad smile of her own and takes his offered hand. He still hasn’t lost the novelty of feeling solid, physical touch, and it’s especially comforting when that touch is warm, human and from someone he loves. Allison’s smile grows less sad as she watches his hand tighten around hers. Her dark eyes study his face for a moment, then her smile broadens into a delighted grin, and he feels almost embarrassed to realise his joy in such a simple thing must be blindingly obvious. Not too embarrassed, though, ‘cos, damn, he thinks he’s earned this little bit of happiness.

Allison pulls him into a brief, but fierce, hug. “I am never going to get tired of being able to hug you!”

“I’m never gonna get tired of being hugged, believe me!” he says with an answering grin.

They make their way downstairs hand in hand and still grinning like idiots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

They find all of their siblings (sans Luther) in the smaller of the two sparring rooms. The room is relatively bare- one wall is mirrored, another holds a tall cabinet Ben remembers to contain blunt objects and training weapons and there are broad foam based mats covering the floor. This part of the building is below street level, and there are no windows and no other rooms branching off- a good choice to make sure they aren’t disturbed or overheard.

Ben’s gaze immediately seeks Klaus, and finds him still sandwiched between Diego and Vanya, arms wrapped around himself and head bowed, swaying very slightly on his feet. He looks up as he hears Ben approach, lips parting then closing without making a sound, then pursed together as tightly as his suddenly closed eyes. By the time Ben actually reaches him there are tears rolling down his face.

Ben doesn’t say anything, because there’s really nothing he can say that’s going to make this any better. He just pulls his brother into his arms and holds him while he cries. Klaus grips tight fistfuls of Ben’s shirt, but his crying is subdued, no sign of the heaving chest and gasping sobs Ben has become used to. Klaus is overwhelmed and exhausted and more than a bit broken and Ben is content to sink to the floor with him and let him cry himself out on his shoulder.

The others have moved away to give him and Klaus some space. He can see them huddled together a few feet away and hear Five talking about his ideas for training Vanya. Ben’s focus is mostly on Klaus, still, so he doesn’t really hear specifics, but he and Five had already discussed this, so he doesn’t need to. He lets the murmur of their voices wash over him as he strokes up and down Klaus’s back.

After a few minutes of this Ben feels Klaus’s head lift from his shoulder, so he pulls back enough to look at him. Klaus lets go of Ben’s shirt only to pat uselessly at Ben’s now sodden shoulder.

“’m sorry,” he mumbles, eyes downcast yet again.

Ben find his ridiculously small body has an advantage here- he doesn’t even have to crouch to look Klaus in the eye and say, very firmly, “Don’t be. I understand. You’re right to feel like this, Klaus. Just let us help you, OK?”

Klaus blinks back lingering tears and nods mutely. “Just… ‘M so tired Ben…”

“I know.” And he does. He can feel the weariness just pouring off Klaus. “Just take it easy today, yeah? I’ve got some ideas for helping you get a handle on things, but they can wait. We can talk a bit later, work some things out, but that’s all for today, OK? We’ll fix this, Klaus, I promise.”

Klaus looks less than convinced, but he gives a small nod. Ben will take it- baby steps.

Ben pushes to his feet, and helps an unresisting Klaus up too, and they make their way over to the others.

Vanya and Allison are just separating from a hug, by the look of things. They, Five and Diego all turn to welcome Klaus with gentle words and supportive smiles. Or, in Five’s case, a nod and an upturn of the corners of his mouth that’s considerably less scary than an actual smile on his face tends to be.

“Hey, Bro,” says Diego to Klaus. “Apparently I’m still not allowed to kill the old bastard, or even beat him to a pulp, but…  Well, I know it’s never been quite your thing, but working out can really help with recovery, y’know? And beating the shit outa a punching bag… Well, it sure as hell makes me feel better about old Reggie’s crap. Lemme know if you wanna give it a try sometime, yeah? Or, hell, even if you just wanna talk, or, I dunno… stuff yourself full of ice-cream… just let me know, yeah?”

Klaus manages a twitch of the lips that can’t quite be called a smile, but is a vast improvement on earlier.

“For now, though, apparently its my turn to be the lookout,” Diego says with a roll of his eyes at Five.

“Quit whining, Diego. Who else is free to do it?” says Five flatly.

“Yeah, yeah, so you say.” He leans in conspiratorially to Klaus and Ben. “Really he’s just scared I’ll show him up with my superior teaching skills.”

Ben snorts at that, and there’s a huff of breath and the ghost of an actual smile on Klaus’s lips.

“I’ll be just up the corridor, guys. Just yell or scream when you need a knife stuck in the gremlin here,” Diego says, jerking his head in Five’s direction as he walks out.

“Hey,” says Allison warmly, reaching out to gently squeeze Klaus’s shoulder. “I’m going to stay as back-up in case Vanya feels like she’s losing control. Wanna sit with me?” She gestures to the wall opposite the mirrors.

Ben and Klaus follow Allison’s lead and sit themselves on the floor against the wall. Five has Vanya stand in the middle of the room while he goes to the cabinet and picks out an armful of items- mostly wooden batons, Ben thinks. Five brings them back to Vanya.

“So,” Five says, “here’s my thinking. You can clearly move things with your mind, and these are all relatively small and light things to practice with, so I think there’s a good chance you’ll be able to affect them even though you’re still coming off the pills. They’re also sturdy and blunt, so even if your control does slip, I doubt you’ll do too much damage either to or with them.”

Vanya nods, seeming encouraged by this. She’s definitely nervous, but Ben thinks she’s a little excited too. She reaches out to pick up one of the batons- it’s no more than a foot long, and a couple of inches wide, and even Vanya’s tiny hand nearly encircles it. She bounces it in her hand, testing the weight, and Five nods approvingly.

“Get a feel for them, their weight and mass, how much force it takes to move them,” Five says. “Chuck some over against the far wall, get a sense for the energy that takes.”

Vanya does as instructed, tossing a baton up and catching it a few times. Then she draws back her arm and whips it forward, flinging the baton down to the far end of the room. Or, at least, Ben assumes that was her intention. It’s a messy throw and the baton slips from her fingers much too late and with only a fraction of the momentum and very little of the direction it should have, and thuds to the floor not ten feet away. Vanya’s face flushes red. “Uhm….”

Five is remarkably quick to smooth his features and snap his mouth shut and go to retrieve the baton. He returns it to her, calmly nodding to himself. Vanya never had the same kind of physical and combat training as the rest of them, and they were never exactly encouraged to play ball games, so Ben thinks this may actually be the first time she’s ever really tried a throw like this.

“OK, that’s a start,” says Five. “And honestly, no offense Klaus,” Five glances over at Klaus with a wry grimace, “probably a better start to missile projection than Klaus made, back in the day.”

Ben winces. That’s…. Well, it’s actually a fair assessment, right enough, but he’s well aware that Klaus is still very raw, and really doesn’t need his self-loathing to be encouraged right now. Klaus, though, surprises him with a faint snigger, followed up, when he sees Ben looking at him, with a shrug and a sad smile. The motions and expressions are subtle and timid, would go unnoticed in comparison to Klaus’s normal extravagance, but they’re definite, and release a huge weight from Ben’s shoulders.

Five spends the next few minutes teaching Vanya how to throw properly, and her next attempt is considerably better. Ten minutes later there’s a small mass of wooden batons at the far end of the room, some of them having been bounced quite violently off the wall, and Vanya is breathing harder and sweating slightly and looking more alive than Ben’s seen her since they all materialised back in their twelve year-old bodies.

“Alright,” says Five with a grin, “I think it’s fair to say you’re getting an idea of things like mass, and force and momentum.”

Vanya grins back.

“But, it’s not your arm we’re here to exercise.”

Vanya’s grin falters.

Five gives her a sympathetic half smile.

She nods back resignedly. “What do you want me to do?”

“Well,” says Five, walking over to gather up the previously flung batons, “it’s takes less force, and is much more instinctual, to push than to pull, or even lift, so…” Wandering back over towards Vanya he starts to drop the batons in a wide circle around her. “Why don’t we start with seeing if you can push these away?”

“OK…..”

“Pogo told me Reginald used a tuning fork to give you sound to work with- that’s one of the things I think the old man actually may have gotten right. Not too loud so shouldn’t produce too much energy, and it’s a steady, constant note.”

“That sounds OK, yeah. But… I don’t think it has to be constant,” Vanya says. “I mean, I worked on this a bit with… you know…” A sick look crosses her face, and Ben doesn’t blame her in the slightest for not wanting to speak the piece of shit’s name. “And I could use things like trickling water. And in that chamber….” She suppresses a shudder. “It was my own heartbeat.”

Five’s eyes widen. “Your heartbeat? But that’s…. How could you even hear that?”

She shrugs, eyes darting away. “I was kind of panicking, so it was pretty loud to me, I guess.”

Five looks troubled, and Ben can guess what he’s thinking- panic or not a heartbeat is not loud. It’s not a comfortable thought, that such a faint sound could power the destruction of the Academy. Now he’s rethinking his position here on the side lines with Klaus and Allison. He catches Five looking questioningly their way.

“You’ve only just started reducing your dose, haven’t you Vanya?” asks Ben.

“Yeah, I’m on a three quarter dose, or near enough. It’s only been a few days.”

Nodding, Ben says, “Your emotions still seem pretty subdued, so they shouldn’t interfere with your concentration and control. But I think, for safety, it might be best to use a more controlled sound, like the tuning fork. That way if things do get out of hand we can shut off the sound, and it should be like breaking a circuit.”

“Good point,” says Five, sounding a little surprised. And a little reluctant to concede that someone else had a good idea. “We can use a controlled external sound like a plug- and we just unplug if there’s a power surge.”

“Yeah, that. That sounds good.” Vanya’s sounding a little more confident with the prospect of an additional failsafe. She looks to Allison. “And, if that doesn’t work, then….”

“Then you take a nap for a minute,” says Allison, smiling warmly. Then a thought strikes and she says, “Maybe you should sit down, just in case? Don’t want you falling if it does to come to a rumour.”

“Oh, yeah…” Vanya arranges herself cross-legged on the floor, in the centre of the circle of wooden batons. “OK then….” She looks over at Five expectantly.

Five pulls a tuning fork from his pocket and walks over to the nearest wall. “Ready?” On Vanya’s nod, he strikes the fork against the wall.

A high, clear note rings out, filling the room.

Vanya closes her eyes, and bows her head. Her hands visibly relax, resting on her knees. She looks like she’s meditating, and perhaps that’s not far from the truth. Ben can see the rise and fall of her chest slowing and steadying over the next few moments. He can feel both Klaus and Allison tense beside him, and realises he’s tensed up as well. Five is staring hawk-like at Vanya while he holds the tuning fork aloft in one hand, and the other hand outspread around it ready to grasp the fork and cut off the sound at the first sign of trouble.

Ben has counted ten breaths since the bell of the tuning fork started ringing through the room, and suddenly there’s…. something…. emanating from Vanya. It’s ephemeral at best- almost like a heat haze. His breath stops. The haze seems to roll outward from Vanya, slowly sinking as it does, and if he really squints he can see it approach the circle of batons.

The batons, every one of them, tremble, and roll outwards. They move only a few inches before the haze dissipates and they rock to a standstill.

Ben draws in a shaky breath, and looks up to meet Five’s grinning countenance. He hasn’t moved to silence the tuning fork, but Ben realises he can no longer hear it, the vibrations having come to their natural end.

In her (now expanded) circle of wooden batons Vanya is opening her eyes with a pleased smile, widening to an excited grin when she sees what she’s done. There’s a fine sheen of sweat on her face that only makes her happiness more glowing. “I did it!”

“You did,” says Five, wide grin still splitting his face. “No power surge, nothing broken, everything exactly where it was planned to be. It’s an excellent start, Vanya.”

The unfamiliar praise turns Vanya’s face crimson, and her gaze darts self-consciously between one or other sibling and the floor, but her shy smile only grows brighter, reflecting the faces beaming back at her. She brightens even further when she looks at Klaus, who is grinning at her in genuine delight, a spark of hope in his eyes.

Five, of course, can’t let all this happiness continue unopposed for long.

“OK, that’s good! But can you do it again? Can you push in just one direction, and not all around you? Can you narrow it to just a few, or even just one, of the batons? Can you pull them towards you? Push them a set distance? Maybe lift them, control them in the air? Throw them at a target?”

Vanya deflates a little. “I… I don’t know…”

“Well then.” Five’s grin slides back over his face. “Shall we find out?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

By the time lunch rolls around  Vanya has progressed to being able to launch small groups of the batons in any specified direction, and with enough force to have left several dents in the far wall. Manipulating them in the air has proven a little less successful, and is much more draining for her, but Five seemed pretty pleased with her shakily levitating ring of batons for the short while it lasted, and declared it an excellent start. She hadn’t even needed the sound cut off, let alone Allison’s intervention. Overall she’s delighted with how the morning has gone, and she all but skips her way along the corridor as they head out to collect Diego and go back upstairs. Klaus follows a little sluggishly, but under his own steam now, at least, and she sees occasional small smiles on his face as Ben chats at his side.

After they’ve all changed into their uniforms they assemble around the dining table for lunch. Today’s lunchtime drone, on how to build a shelter in the wild with nothing more than a pen knife to hand, is being delivered by a man with an accent that suggests his closest experience with the wild is probably chewing on venison, prepared by his live in kitchen staff and served by his live in footmen.  Luther is back, looking much brighter than earlier, and smiling at Allison’s concern.

At precisely 12.30 Reginald strides into the dining room. He gives the assembled children, waiting obediently behind their chairs, a cursory nod of acknowledgement before his curt, “Sit!” heralds the beginning of the meal. That is, of course, the last word anyone utters until all of their plates are empty and Grace has appeared to start clearing the table.

Unusually Reginald doesn’t immediately rise and disappear back to his office, but instead looks around the table and says, “A matter has arisen which requires my urgent personal attention. Consequently I will be away for the rest of today and all of tomorrow.”

Vanya tries to keep from grinning at this news. Five and Ben had said it was likely, so it’s no surprise, but she’s both tired and giddy from this morning’s exertions, and she’s not sure her face obeys her commands. Not that Reginald even glances her way as he continues, laying out his instructions for them in his absence- training, lessons, chores, further study. Vanya doesn’t really listen- all that matters is that the man won’t be here. The knowledge lifts her spirits even higher as she follows her siblings to the classroom for their afternoon lessons.

Not all of her siblings, he realises. “Where’s Luther?” she asks Allison.

“Reginald wanted to talk to him before he left,” says Allison, face pinched with worry.

Vanya frowns, worried both for her brother, and, if she is honest, about him too. If any of them are likely to fall back under Hargreeves’s spell it’s Luther, and the memory of her brother’s hug turning to painful suffocation is still very much in her mind.

Pogo is already in the classroom, waiting to greet them as they file in. He looks uncharacteristically awkward and unsure of himself. Vanya feels equally tense in his presence, though for vastly different reasons. Five has assured her that Pogo knows nothing about her destroying the mansion or blowing up the Moon, but he does know that she’s discovered her powers. She wonders if he’s aware that she knows about his and Hargreeves’s deception. That she knows all about them locking a four year old girl in a dungeon, drugging her and warping her mind and manipulating her as she grew. Pogo smiles kindly at each of them as they file in, and she feels that stab of betrayal again- he’d smiled at her like that all her life, knowing full well what had been done to her.

Five leans back casually against Pogo’s desk, effectively claiming authority over the situation. “Right, let’s get this over with. Everyone, Pogo knows all about us being from 2019 and traveling back to stop the end of the world. He also knows that life didn’t exactly turn out to be a bed or roses for any of us, and he’d like to change that.”

Pogo nods his head sadly. “Masters Five and Ben have explained a great deal to me.” He is leaning more heavily on his cane than he probably needs at his current age. “It seems that, despite my best efforts and intentions, I failed you all.”

Is it just Vanya, or do Pogo’s guilt laden eyes linger on Klaus and Ben?

“I am, irrevocably, indebted to your father for all he has given me, and for all that he has made me. However that debt is mine to pay, not yours, and I was wrong in my unquestioning complicity in the abuse to which you have all been subjected. I am deeply sorry for my part in that. For my failure to protect and care for you children.”

Vanya blinks. Did Pogo just admit that Reginald abused us? That he was wrong? Vanya scans her siblings’ faces only to see them as dumbfounded as she imagines himself to look, all except Ben, who just looks sad, and Five, who looks grimly satisfied.

“So,” says Five, “with that in mind Pogo is going to do what he can to help, but there are limits to what he can practically do.”

“Indeed,” says Pogo. “I cannot be seen to outright disobey your father, nor appear to question his methods, lest I lose his confidence. Were that to happen, I fear I could be of no help to you at all. But I can certainly divert his attention elsewhere at times, and alleviate the worst of his ruthlessness.”

“And share his secrets?” asks Diego, bluntly.

“Yes,” say Pogo, “I am quite willing to share what I know. But please understand, your father is not a forthcoming man, and there is much about him, and his activities, that I simply do not know.”

“And plenty that you do,” says Vanya. She hadn’t meant to speak, but the words seem to have a life of their own.

“Miss Vanya…”

“You knew. All these years you pretended to be on my side, but you knew.”

Vanya stands stiffly before Pogo, staring down at him unblinking and tight jawed. Maybe she’s high on the success of this morning’s training, or maybe she’s just starting to really believe she’s worth something, but suddenly she wants him to know what she can do. She doesn’t want him to look at her with guilty but pitying eyes. She wants him to fear her.

She’s starting to realise that sounds just appear to her when she needs them. A moment ago she couldn’t have identified any sound other than the faint breaths of herself and her siblings, but all at once she hears cars passing by outside. There’s wind gusting through the streets and rustling leaves in nearby trees. The faint buzz of electricity coursing through the wires in the old walls of the house. She focuses in on that buzz, so faint as to be almost her imagination- she can’t take much power from such a tiny sound, surely. But it’s enough that she feels her hair lift from her shoulders, feels the slight resistance of the simian body before her as her powers, slowly but firmly, push Pogo back one step, two…

She startles at the sound of the classroom door opening, and her focus is gone.

Luther walks in, satisfied smile slipping from his face as he takes in the scene before him. “Uh… Everything OK?”

Five is no longer casually lounging against Pogo’s desk, but is on high alert on his feet, poised to jump and eyes fixed worriedly on Vanya. Allison has moved to Vanya’s side without Vanya even realising, and has a hand laid on Vanya’s arm. Klaus is staring at her with wide eyes and a pale face, one hand tentatively stretched towards her, the other clenched tight in Ben’s pullover. Ben’s hand is on Klaus’s shoulder, as if trying to pull him back. Diego is frozen in place, eyebrows raised and eyes darting warily.

Pogo has stumbled backwards several paces and fallen to the floor. He is breathing heavily, his mouth is gaping and his eyes, fixed on Vanya, are filled with the fear she had wanted to see there. But so are her siblings’.

“Vanya?” Allison’s soft voice draws Vanya’s attention. She looks more concerned than afraid, but Vanya hadn’t intended either.

“I’m…” She looks around her siblings once more and sees similar concern to Allison’s replacing the alarm from moments ago. Five is once again leaning, apparently nonchalantly, against the desk, but his eyes are sharp and searching. Klaus takes Vanya’s hand as his eyes search her face. He is still wide-eyed and pale and looks so incredibly sad she feels momentarily sick for worrying him. She squeezes his hand back and gives him an apologetic smile. Beyond him Ben stands silently, and then there is Diego, lips curved in a slight smile, but his eyebrow raised to ask the what the hell was that she knows is on everyone’s minds.

Vanya sighs. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.” Or at least, not in front of all of you she thinks.

 She looks back to Pogo, only now cautiously picking himself from the floor and eying her warily. She can’t help but feel some small satisfaction. He’s clearly unharmed, just unsettled, and her only real regret is worrying her siblings.

Luther helps Pogo back to his feet, and the chimp takes a moment to dust himself down.

“Master Luther, welcome.” Pogo sends him a weak smile. “We were discussing,” he sighs deeply, avoiding Vanya’s gaze, “my failures as a guardian to you all.”

“Are you OK, Luther?” asks Allison.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine…” He takes a moment to look over the tense gathering he’s walked in on. “I’ll explain soon, but. I’m thinking maybe right now isn’t the time…”

Vanya nods. She turns to Pogo again. For better or for worse she’s made her point, and if he’s prepared to help them she’d be a fool to jeopardise that. She can’t just brush off the years of betrayal, though.

“How can we trust you, Pogo? Knowing what you hid from us? What you did to us?” Her accompanying gesture encompasses herself, Klaus and Luther, making Luther’s eyebrows rise in surprise. She’s mildly annoyed about that- yes, she’s still wary of him after he locked her up, but does he really think she hasn’t noticed, or doesn’t care, that he was broken by the contents of Reginald’s journal almost as much as she and Klaus?

She half expects one of the others to jump in to try to soothe her or defend Pogo, but there’s not a word from any of them. Pogo huddles under the cool gazes of her siblings. Allison stands with her arms crossed, staring at Pogo expectantly. Luther looks… hurt, Vanya thinks, confused and betrayed. Ben watches impassively, with frequent glances at Klaus, who stands stiffly between him and Vanya with his eyes closed, each of his hands gripping one of his siblings’ tightly. Diego, perhaps coincidentally, stands between Pogo and the door, eyes dark with subdued anger. Even Five, still leaning against Pogo’s desk, raises nothing more than an eyebrow.

Pogo barely lifts his head as he speaks. “I will not ask for your trust, any of you, because you are right- in all these years I have done little to earn it. I’m sorry. I followed your father’s instructions, even when I had grave concerns for your wellbeing. It pains me greatly to know that I was right in those concerns, yet did nothing to act on them. I shan’t ask your forgiveness either, but I….” Pogo raises his eyes to Vanya’s, and continues in a hoarse voice, “I cannot change the wrong I have done you all in the past, no matter how much I wish I could. I ask that you, please, let me make what amends I can now.”

The room is silent as Pogo hangs his head, awaiting judgement.

“For what it’s worth,” chips in Five, “I believe he’s honestly sorry.”

And with that her siblings fall silent, waiting for her response.

Vanya’s face is stone. “No more lies, Pogo. No secrets. No half-truths, or omissions. No feeding information back to Reginald, for any reason. And none of us get locked up ever again.”

“I give you my word, Miss Vanya. And I will do everything in my power to keep it.”

Vanya nods her acceptance. A collective breath is released.

“OK, that sounds good,” says Luther. “And, thanks to the conversation I just had with the old man, I know just where to start.”

Instantly the lingering tension drains from the room, to be replaced by a rather stunned surprise.

It’s broken by a smug Diego. “Well, look at that. Number One’s back.” He throws a meaningful glance at Allison.

Luther sighs and rolls his eyes at Diego, who grins broadly back at him. Ben’s quiet groan almost goes unheard.

Five, of course, is above such sibling interaction. “And?” he prompts, glaring at Luther.

Grimly, Luther turns to Pogo. “So, now’s your chance to tell us everything Dad ever mentioned, and anything you ever saw or heard, about the old employers he had a falling out with. Because to me they sound an awful lot like the people we know as the Commission.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

The Commission. Well, that would certainly explain quite a bit, Five thinks to himself. And really, has there ever been a better ethical fit between employee and employer? That said, though, who would ever had thought old Reggie could have demeaned himself so much as to be anyone’s employee?

Five has spent the last fifteen minutes grilling Luther about his private meeting with Reginald; the precise words the man used, his tone of voice, how he reacted to each of Luther’s questions. Because, apparently, Luther actually has put his Number One status to good use at last, and managed to persuade Reginald to let him in on his grand plans, at least a little. And the first secret to be shared is that his main concern about young Five’s determination to time travel has nothing to do with the physical and psychological risks- what Hargreeves is worried about is Five drawing unwanted attention.

Luther has been tasked with keeping Five in line, and persuading him against any thought of attempting to time travel. Hargreeves knows there are people watching for anomalies in the one true timeline, because, he admitted to Luther, he once was one of them.

“He must have been a Commission surveillance agent,” Five mutters, raking through his notebook. “That must be how he knew about the Apocalypse.”

“That’s pretty much what he said, yeah. Although he didn’t name the Commission- just called them ‘arrogant and dangerous fools who think they own time itself’.”

“You’re right,” says Diego. “That does sound a lot like the Commission.”

Five lets Diego’s inadvertent agreement with Hargreeves pass without comment.

“So, what made him leave?” asks Five, finding the page he wants, and starting to score things out.

“He didn’t really specify, just that it was long before we were born. But he implied it wasn’t on the best of terms.”

Five frowns.  “The Commission aren’t exactly in the habit of just letting people waltz out the door, not unless the terms are very much in their favour. You break contract, they break you.”

“Well he was pretty adamant about not bringing their attention on the Academy…”

“Oh my god, he’s hiding from them!” gasps Allison.

Five looks up sharply. “For all that time? While making an international name for himself as a billionaire inventor? How the hell has he avoided them with a target like that painted on his back?” He turns to Pogo expectantly.

“I am not aware of this Commission, but Master Hargreeves has told me much the same as he has told Master Luther. And that he parted company with them when he realised how vastly their goals differed from his own.”

Allison snorts. “Well, he’s never been shy about training us to save the world.”

“And the Commission have made it very clear that ensuring the world ends on time is their main priority,” nods Five.

 “As to how Master Hargreeves has remained undetected…” Pogo pauses, and frowns in thought. “Master Hargreeves has many experimental devices in his laboratory, and I believe that some, at least, were… liberated… from his former associates. There are some which he has told me generate fields of some sort. I know of one which generates an electrical distortion field, and another which creates a field impervious to radio waves.”

Five’s eyes widen. “You think he has something that hides him from timestream observation?”

“It’s purely speculation, Master Five, but, yes, I think it is possible.”

“And he doesn’t think it would hide me time travelling.”

“But,” comes a quiet, and confused, voice, “you did time travel. And I don’t remember any crazed time travelling assassins storming the mansion back then.” Klaus glances questioningly at each of his siblings, and asks in an even smaller voice than before, “They didn’t, did they? I mean, I was never that out of it… I think?” He’s mumbling by the end, with his eyes cast down to the floor again.

“No,” says Allison, firmly, with a gentle smile in Klaus’s direction. “There was never anything like that.”

“But it’s a very good point,” muses Five. “Whatever technology he has in place did apparently hide my time travel from the Commission. At least initially. It was decades before they approached me. So, whatever is keeping Hargreeves off their radar covered my initial jumps, but didn’t extend to me in the Apocalypse.”

“Hazel and Cha-Cha didn’t know about us,” says Diego. “When they barged in and trashed this place, they weren’t expecting to be up against trained, superpowered fighters.”

Ben nods at that. “He’s right, they definitely didn’t know about Klaus’s powers.”

That statement prompts puzzled frowns from Luther, Allison and Vanya. Ben, disapproval painted on his face, looks set to elaborate, and Five decides now probably isn’t the time for that story.

“OK,” he says, before Ben can open his mouth, “So somehow, despite me time travelling exactly as Hargreeves had feared, the only person the Commission picked up on was me, and that wasn’t until years after I jumped. They didn’t know about the Umbrella Academy, even after they sent Hazel and Cha-Cha after me. What does that tell us?”

“Reggie was wrong,” drawls Diego.

Five sighs. “Yes, OK, but what useful thing does it tell us?”

“Personally, I find it very useful to know that he was wrong. It’s like a soothing balm on an angry burn.”

“Diego….” Five rubs the bridge of his nose. Not that he disagrees, but…

“That there is something here, in the Academy itself, that’s hiding us all,” says Luther. “Like an umbrella, shielding us from their view.”

Five cocks a finger gun in Luther’s direction. “As long as we’re here, we’re off their radar.”

“What about Allison?” asks Vanya. “She’s like, the most famous person in the world, or at least she was… or will be…”

Allison nods. “Maybe they wouldn’t have had an interest in me, but the whole world knows who my father was. And Dad travelled to all sorts of places all the time- he’d be pictured with World leaders in front of famous monuments! If the Commission were looking for him they could have found him easily, Five. Maybe they just weren’t looking?”

“Or maybe they were looking for someone else?” suggests Klaus.

Luther and Diego’s carefully blank faces remind Five that they’re being gentle with Klaus today, so he holds his tongue, and limits himself to an irritated squint in Klaus’s direction.

“What?” asks Klaus, shrugging. “You wouldn’t change your name and appearance to hide from an evil corporation full of time travelling murderers?”

Oh.

The shock of that, in hindsight, blindingly obvious possibility being missed by everyone except Klaus leaves Five standing open-mouthed, inwardly cursing his own stupidity.

“That’s… Actually quite likely, isn’t it?” Allison fills the silence, and Klaus looks them all over with an odd mixture of incredulity, concern and a smugness that’s actually quite reassuring given his state earlier in the day. This gives Five time to reboot his brain and pick up his jaw from the floor.

“It would explain a few things,” Five nods, ignoring the heat in his cheeks. “But the Commission are very good at finding people, no matter how they hide. It would still have a been a massive risk for Dad to be so much in the public eye.”

“Ah, Master Five,” says Pogo, “that makes me think of something. An oddity I have long wondered about. There was an incident when you were all very young which resulted in your father’s pocket watch being damaged- he was most upset about it, in fact. What was odd, however, is that he had me cancel all of his travel plans, and he did not set foot outside of the Academy again until he had repaired the watch.”

Interesting… So… “A personal field generator!” Five breathes. “If I could get my hands on that…” Hell, with that and a briefcase he could wipe the bastards out!

Ben snorts. “Yeah, good luck with that. I’m sure Dad’ll just leave it lying around for any of us to pick up.”

“He would if the right persons tells him to…” Diego lets the sentence trail off, eyeing Allison with a lazy grin.

Allison grimaces, but dips her head in acknowledgement. “I guess I could,” she says with clear reluctance, “but didn’t we want to keep things ‘normal’? Something as important to him as that- he won’t just accept that he misplaced it somewhere.”

“Allison’s right,” Fives sighs, disappointed. “I’d give just about anything for that device, but a rumour’s too risky, overall. Let’s keep that as plan B.” And he does, after all, have a far less risky alternative to investigate. He turns to Pogo. “So. Dad’s lab. He’s bound to have notes on the technology, and the parts and tools to fix it. Not to mention the other devices you mentioned. Maybe even notes about the Commission themselves.”

Pogo nods. “I had expected you’d want to see it, Master Five. It is however one of the few places in the Academy which your father still monitors with video surveillance. I can interrupt the recording, of course, but the interruption would be noticeable, should he check the footage.”

Five casts a hopeful glance in Ben’s direction. “I remember you used to be pretty good with this sort of thing. You think you’ve still got your electronics skills?”

“Five, for thirteen years my only options have been to watch this idiot slowly self-destruct,” he grins fondly as he nudges Klaus’s shoulder, “or to train my brain. Which would you have chosen?”

“Nothing wrong with having fun, you know,” Klaus pouts. “And at least I was destructing with style.”

“I’m not an expert on style, but I’m pretty sure it usually involves a bit more walking upright and a bit less collapsing face-down in the gutter. What you’re thinking of, Klaus, is drama. Now that, I will concede, you have in spades.” Ben grins at Klaus before turning back to Five (missing Klaus’s stuck out tongue). “Yes, I can loop the security footage.”

“Well then,” says Pogo, “if you’ll follow me, Master Ben?”

Ben clearly hasn’t lost his touch, because they’re back in only ten minutes, Ben with a smug grin on his face, declaring that they can take as long as they like in the lab, as there aren’t even any windows to let in the changing sunlight and give the looped video away.

Pogo leads the way through a maze of stairs, corridors and locked doors that even Five finds hard to memorise. From the looks on his siblings’ faces they’re as unfamiliar with this route as Five is. Finally they come to a set of unmarked steel double doors, with no noticeable handle or keyhole. Pogo briefly holds his palm against a slightly off colour section of the adjacent wall. There’s a low beep, and the steel doors slide smoothly apart.

Amidst a lot of raised eyebrows it’s Ben who mutters, “I don’t remember that sort of technology being around when we were twelve.”

Pogo smiles apologetically. “Your father prefers to keep some of his technical advances to himself.”

The huge room beyond is being slowly illuminated by successive ceiling lights turning on, apparently an automatic response to the room being accessed. Five’s feet itch to propel him through the doors, but Pogo’s cane is suddenly barring his way.

“You must all keep in mind that your father knows every inch of this laboratory, and the precise location of everything within it.” His voice is always serious, of course, but there’s a distinct warning now as well, as he peers over his glasses. “I would advise you all not to move or remove anything. In fact, it would be best to touch as little as possible. I believe some of your father’s more practical research may be… potentially volatile. For some devices that may, in fact, be the intent.”

Five’s barely listening. He’s too busy gaping at the bizarre array of things strewn around the space in what could best be described as an organised clutter. At least, he thinks he can make out some sort of organisation to it all…

The room is indeed windowless, leaving the wall space free to be covered in cabinets, shelves of reagents and preserved biological specimens and seemingly endless schematics and diagrams and charts and several black/white boards filled with algebraic formulae so complicated they make even Five’s head spin. Several sections of wall seem to almost call to him, their contents just on the far side of familiar. Mentally he notes these for later, and turns his attention to the assorted devices he can see.

Labs are fairly familiar territory for Five- a significant number of his jobs for the Commission took him to research facilities of one type or another: from the gleaming white benches and open spaces of global conglomerates to the ad hoc scrap of a lone, and questionably sane, visionary’s basement. He’s long since realised that those involved in and around truly ground-breaking research are of particular interest to the timeline monitors. So he can recognise a fair amount of standard equipment- centrifuges, both desk-top and massive floor standing machines; temperature controlled storage (including a small liquid nitrogen chamber, which begs the rather frightening question of what the hell is Hargreeves doing with stored cell lines?); chromatography machines (looking very out of time with their controlling computers attached) with a confusing tangle of thin tubing connecting to vials and bottles of innocuous looking liquids. There is a fume hood, and a safety cabinet, and even a small isolator. A balance is a balance, no matter how high tech, and glassware is glassware, but what on earth is the segmented steel monstrosity with glass coils poking out the top? And that delicate looking system of tubes (copper?), winding around a central glass column which tapers into an odd spiral at the top, all suspended atop a deep stone basin? A round cage made of thin metal wires enclosing what looks like some sort of clockwork, a single brass tube leading through the cage to the intricate workings. Alongside the familiar lab tech are countless odd devices for which Five can’t guess the use. Some small enough to sit on the various benches, some standing floor to ceiling, most inert but some humming or spinning away and often with no apparent power source. There’s a desk-top… something…. that seems little more than a solid cuboid of some dark and unfamiliar metal, but parts of it light up as soon as Five approaches and he can see outline of compartments and a strip of colour that might be some sort of display?

“What the hell?” breathes Ben. That more or less sums it up, right enough.

Five’s siblings all seem equally bewildered, and for once in his life Five doesn’t even blame them. He suspects he’s staring at Pogo with the just the same look on his face.

Pogo sighs. “Regrettably I know the function of very little of your father’s equipment. Nor,” he continues, hand up to stall the question on the tip of Five’s tongue, “its origin.” He walks slowly further into the lab, pausing to gently smack Diego’s hand away from the strange copper tube/glass cylinder contraption with a pointed frown.

Five, on seeing Diego’s hackles rise and mouth open to protest the admonition, contributes a far less gentle smack to the back of his head. “Touch. NOTHING. … Asshole.”

Pogo effects not to notice the interaction. “What I do know, or at least strongly suspect, is the identity of the temporal field instrument you intuited, Master Five.” He leads them past a side door (of course Five peeks through the window- a small antechamber with a pressure gauge visible on one wall, another door leading into another lab area barely lit in a subdued violet, and the rest of that wall mostly taken up with what appears to be a built in autoclave- double ended unless Five misses his guess. The set-up suggests a high hazard pathogen lab, which isn’t remotely terrifying in Hargreeves’s hands) and to a large metal cabinet on the floor at the end of one of the benches.

As Five’s pulse races with anticipation Pogo produces a small key, unlocks the cabinet and carefully pulls open the doors.

The contents are underwhelming, really. There are three reinforced shelves, and each shelf holds two large, heavy looking, metal boxes- they appear to be made of the same material as that odd cuboid that had reacted to Five’s proximity. But he’s closer now to these, and there’s no reaction at all from any of them. He casts a quizzical glance at Pogo, who gestures for him to go ahead and touch, indicating the box on the middle right. Well, OK, he guesses, he’s proved his trust-worthiness so far…..

Five reaches towards the box, but before he makes contact there’s a strange tingling in his fingertips. Reflexively he yanks his hand back, and glares at Pogo.

Pogo’s eyes have widened a little. “You felt something? Without even touching the device?”

“I wasn’t supposed to, you mean?”

“Well I have certainly never noticed anything, nor have I seen your father react in such a way. But then, neither of us have inherent time travelling capabilities….”

That’s not very reassuring. It does make a certain amount of sense, though, and it bodes well for Pogo and Five being right about what this device does.

“Can I? To see if it is your weird time powers reacting or not.” Luther’s framed it as a request but he nudges past Five, taking his place in front of the cabinet, his patented ‘I’m Number 1 and its my job to keep you all safe’ expression firmly in place.

Over-protective or not, it won’t do any harm, and Five is interested to know if the others feel that tingling sensation too, so he nods his permission.

There’s silence as they collectively hold their breath. Luther reaches in towards the same box, slowly and warily, and the silence somehow gets deeper. He’s a hairsbreadth from touching the surface, and turns to Five with a shrug. “Nothing for me.” His hand lands on the box, and he frowns. “OK, now there’s something, but it’s just like… Like I can hear it humming, only I’m hearing it with my fingers.”

“An apt description, Master Luther. It feels much the same for me.”

“So it is a time thing, then?” asks Diego.

“Yeah, it must be.” Five can’t quite take his eyes off the device now that he knows it’s somehow specific to him, or at least to his field of expertise. He reaches out again, and this time pushes past the tingle. The feeling is stronger the closer he gets to the surface of the box, but it’s not uncomfortable, not even by the time he lays his hand on it, and feels it positively vibrating. In fact it’s vibrating so hard that there’s a faint rattle to the cabinet. He pulls his hand back again, flexing his fingers to rid himself of the lingering tickle. Experimentally he reaches out to another of the boxes, but there’s no such sensation, nothing at all until he touches the surface, when he feels the hum Luther had mentioned. “This one must be similar, but not time related,” he muses.

“Indeed,” confirms Pogo. “That one blocks radio waves, over a very large area, at specific frequencies. The actual mechanism can be adjusted if you open the box. The others all block, or contain, one specific energy type, as far as I’m aware, though I’m really only familiar with the radio frequency device and this one,” he points to the top left box, “which interferes with electrical current. I imagine that they all cover a similar range, and can be adjusted in the same manner.”

Five quickly runs his fingers over the other devices- two others have that same hum as he touches them, and two emit nothing that he can determine.

“Are they all active?” he asks.

“Not always, at least not all of them, no,” says Pogo. “But the radio wave field generator is always on, to my knowledge. As is the one which seems to be time related.”

Five nods his understanding- that makes sense for a man in hiding from the Commission. He’s intrigued by the others, but it’s the time field that matters. He’ll have a hard time studying it if it reacts to him every time he touches it, but if these devices have similar mechanisms he can start with looking at one of the inert ones first.

He turns to Luther. “We need to see inside one of these.” He points to the two inert boxes. “Can you lift one out onto the bench?”

He doesn’t even wait for Luther’s response before turning to Ben, gleefully, “Tinkering time!” Then back to Pogo, “Do you know where the old man keeps his schematics and designs?”

Pogo is already shuffling towards a heavy bookcase at the back of the room, obviously having anticipated this request. He gestures to the top two shelves, crammed full of leather-bound tomes, bristling with uneven and unmatched paper sticking up where additional notes have been filed.

Five grins widely as he lopes over to the bookcase. Finally, something useful from the old man! He feels more than hears his siblings at his heels, the same restlessness he feels in restraining himself from lunging forward and just grabbing indiscriminately at all the knowledge here.

None of the books are labelled on the spine, so Five has no clue which might be most useful. Well, he has to start somewhere….. He decides on a particularly bulky red bound tome, with lots of bristling extra pages that he hopes will be schematics, and reaches up to pull it free.

He barely makes it out of the way of Luther and Ben. And Diego, which is a surprise, but then Five hears him muttering about “designs for Mom” and his eagerness makes sense.

Please, all of you, remember that everything must be put back precisely in order!”

“Sure, Pogo.”
“Uh-huh….”
“Yes, we will!”

Five feels momentarily sorry for Pogo, sighing resignedly as he pulls out a notepad and pen, presumably to keep track of things. Five’s sympathy is only momentary, though. His eyes fall back on the book, and then the device which Luther has placed on the bench, and Pogo’s plight falls right out of his head.

This is how he’s going to beat the Commission!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Klaus had not had high hopes for today. Last night he’d succumbed to exhaustion in a state of despair, and he woke this morning in much the same, fully expecting that despair would be the highpoint- and that was before his delightful brothers had dropped a bomb on him. But since then he’s had a kind of, sort of, almost bonding experience with his little sister (what better way to bond than in near catatonic misery?), been granted a reprieve from his father’s oppressive presence and watched his (newly close) ultra traumatised and untrained sister make leaps and bounds in mastering her earth shattering powers. All of which has turned attention from him (an unusual desire on his part, but a fervent one today) and given him the space he needs to reboot himself back to something vaguely resembling sentience.

He had not expected the turn the day has taken, but he finds himself curiously unaffected by the revelations- perhaps he’s finally reached full saturation for his giving a damn abilities. So he doesn’t really feel anything but a slightly morbid fascination as he looks around the old man’s super secret lab full of weird shit.

Five’s in his element, pouring through page after page of indecipherable gibberish with a manic grin on his face. Luther has found what he believes to be Moon base schematics, apparently featuring a complicated array of long range sensor equipment, and he’s buried himself in that, while Diego is still manfully trying to convince himself he understands more than the occasional word of Mom’s programming scripts and circuitry diagrams. Ben is alternating between peering over Five’s shoulder with occasional questions or comments and peering in at the now open radio wave blocking device, giving a tentative prod at its innards every now and then. Klaus has still caught him looking up to check on him a few times, and has marshalled a reassuring smile each time.

Neither Vanya nor Allison are terribly interested in schematics, but they’re both searching through the vast collection of books and notes for any clue as to their father’s history or dealings with the Commission. As useful as that would be Klaus can’t help but feel Hargreeves isn’t quite enough the stereotypical cartoon villain as to write down his own villain origin story and file it away for safe keeping.

That said he’s clearly subscribed to the supervillain research lab aesthetic. Klaus finds himself drawn to the specimen jars lining the shelves- his siblings’ faces had screwed up in disgust with barely a glance, but Klaus has seen far worse on a daily basis for as long as he can remember. There’s an incredible variety of preserved animals, and bits of animal, floating in sepia coloured liquid. There are various organs suspended like gruesome pickles- eye balls; kidneys; hearts; pale tubes of tissue branching out again and again and again until they’re nothing more than tangled threads barely visible through the semi translucent covering of the lungs. Some of these organs are clearly diseased or damaged. A large number of jars appear to hold embryos. Klaus never paid enough attention in class to know too much about vertebrate development, so he can’t exactly be certain, but he thinks some of these creatures have more budding limbs than they should. One jar holds a baby pig, but it has a grossly oversized head, brow bulging unevenly atop tiny eyes. Another jar, another piglet, larger and presumably older, with a normal sized head but numerous fleshy lumps growing from its back and neck. The next jar displays a lizard of some sort- even through the yellow/brown of the preserving fluid Klaus can see the greenish colour of its scaled skin. That skin continues over the oddly shaped protrusions growing from each side. Intrigued, Klaus squints closer trying to work out what on earth they are- stubby wings perhaps? He counts five distinct spike like formations; four align more or less in a row, with a fifth offset and lower and seemingly linked to the end of the row with a ridge of flesh. Peering even closer he sees each of the spikes is a slightly different size. And… jointed? Startled he jerks back, staring wide-eyed at what he can now see is a crude hand growing right out of the lizard.

Maybe the others had the right idea about the specimen jars after all…

“Is that…” Diego’s sudden voice behind him fades off, and Klaus turns to see his brother’s face taking on a gruesome tint as he studies the contents of the jar.

“Mmhmm, I think so,” Klaus replies weakly. Then he grasps Diego’s sleeve and tugs him away, because Diego seems to have been lost the ability to look away from the damn thing.

Diego gives himself a little shake and manages to focus back on Klaus. “Ben asked me to get you.” Klaus frowns in puzzlement and Diego just shrugs back. “Maybe he’s trying to protect you from the creepy floating in jars things?” Diego grimaces as he glances back at the specimen shelf.

Klaus starts back towards the study group, noticing along the way that his sisters seem to have disappeared. “Where are…”

“They couldn’t find anything on Dad- decided they’d be better spending their time with Vanya’s training,” says Diego. “And, as fascinating as this place is, I’m gonna go join them- I’m kidding myself that I can make any sense out of anything in here.”

Klaus huffs, “Yeah, me too. What good does Ben expect me to do with all… this?” He gestures vaguely around him. But, Ben asked for him, so he dutifully waves his left hand at Diego and trots over to his remaining brothers.

Luther is still ensconced in his Moon base papers, but Ben and Five are both now bent over the device Ben had opened up, muttering quietly to each other, or perhaps to themselves. Ben looks up with a smile at Klaus’s approach.

“Hey, Klaus. We need you here.”

Uh. What? “You need me. What, as a guinea pig for some weird experiment?”

Five shoves a sheath of paper and a pen into his hands.

“We need to document the precise assembly of this device, the detailed sequence, placement and alignment of each individual component, including non-active structural and fixative subsidiaries, in order to facilitate optimum eventual reassembly.”

“Uhm.”

“We’d like you to draw, please, Klaus,” translates Ben. “So we know where the bits go, once we start taking this apart.”

“That’s what I said.” Five spares a brief glare for Ben, then stalks off back to his big book of schematics and equations.

Is that what he said?”

“Kind of,” Ben shrugs, and shifts over slightly to make room at the bench for Klaus. “Drawings will help a lot, though- do you mind?”

“Nah, it’s fine,” says Klaus, dragging over one of the few stools to sit on. “Nice to be useful for something, I guess.”

Ben smiles and squeezes is arm, then turns back to the open box and continues prodding and peering at the mechanism inside. To Klaus it’s really nothing more than a complicated puzzle of metal wires, coils, plates, switches and relays, but he doesn’t need to understand it, he just needs to copy what he sees.

As he puts pen to paper Ben speaks again, softer, for Klaus’s ears only.

“Five’s gonna have me spending every waking minute on this thing now. Which is fine- I get how useful this could be. But we still need to talk.” His attention still seems mostly on the device, but his gaze flickers over at Klaus as he talks. “You OK with that?”

Klaus sighs, and lifts his pen from the bracket he’s just drawn. He nods, but doesn’t speak- Ben’s the one with the ideas, so maybe Klaus can get away with just listening this time.

“OK. Well, let’s get the biggie out the way first.” Ben draws a deep breath, which does not help Klaus’s nerves at all. “There’s a possibility that Allison could undo the rumour that wiped your memory- give you back the instinctive control that you used to have as a kid.”

Klaus’s head snaps up from his drawing and he stares, blinking and mouth slack, at Ben, who is very deliberately keeping his eyes focussed on the device. Klaus’s thoughts are still sluggish after his breakdown this morning, still somewhat numbed by sheer emotional exhaustion, but Ben’s statement has stirred something… A sort of bewildered disbelief/dread/hope that steals his breath and makes his stomach roil.

It’s a few moments before Klaus becomes aware of Ben’s gaze having shifted, studying Klaus warily and a little expectantly. Expecting some sort of response, of course, but Klaus has none, beyond staring wide-eyed at his brother, mouth working to no effect.

Ben smiles wryly, and says, almost to himself, “Well, I did say it was a biggie, I suppose…” He fixes Klaus with his gaze and continues. “Y’know, I honestly can’t tell if that goldfish impression you’re doing means you like the idea, or you hate it. But, either way, you need to know that it could be risky. Allison’s never un-rumoured someone before, and she doesn’t even know if it would work, let alone how it might affect your memories over all- we’re talking almost a lifetime’s worth.”

A lifetime’s worth of utter shit, is Klaus’s immediate mental response. There’s a flutter of real excitement at the thought of it all just… gone. No mausoleum. No regimented childhood of failure after failure. All his mistakes, all his terrible decisions and stupid actions wiped clean. Every meaningless, shameful encounter, the desperation, the uselessness, the ever-present fear and loneliness and self-hatred and helplessness. To be free of all that pain…

But Dave…. Those crystal blue eyes fill his mind, the crinkles at their corners, the huff of warm breath against his cheek, strong fingers dancing lightly along his jaw, that smile, so open, full of trust and joy and love

Those eyes dull and staring sightlessly at the sky, sticky blood still hot on his hands but no longer pumping out with every beat of a heart gone still. No more smile, or warmth, or trembling limbs, no more stealthy glances, stolen kisses or whispered secrets. A fleeting, beautiful glimpse of sunshine, only for him to be plunged headfirst back into a darkness all the colder for knowing what could have been.

A whimper escapes his throat and he feels tears prick at his eyes, so he squeezes them shut. Oh god, to be FREE of it all…. Would he give up the memory of sunshine to never have known the dark?

There’s a gentle hand on his, thumb stroking his wrist. Klaus swallows down the lump in his throat and opens his eyes. Ben’s lips are pressed tightly together, brow furrowed and eyes filled with understanding.

“There have been some good times, Klaus. And I know I take the piss, but I like who you are. You’re stronger than you realize. Better, too.” He draws another deep breath. “I know it’s selfish, but I don’t want to lose you. You you, not just the brother with ghost powers.”

Ah, that’s just not fair! “Bastard,” Klaus sniffles.

Ben squeezes his hand and blinks away the wetness from his own eyes.

Klaus wipes his eyes and takes a few deep breaths. “So, what’s the not-biggie, then?” he asks, picking his pen back up. He forces his mind to blankness- to the methodical task of making his hand copy the forms he’s tracing with his eyes. See, copy, nothing more.

“Training,” Ben says, simply. “Like with Vanya we’d have Allison nearby to rumour you to sleep for a minute or two if things get out of hand.”

Klaus navigates a particularly twisty section of wiring, twining around a delicate coiled spring-like structure. “Mmhmm? Training how?” He’s at least confident the mausoleum will play no part in this, but any training of his powers is going to be unpleasant.

“I was thinking the simplest, and safest, way to start might be for you to try summoning a specific ghost. One you know would never hurt you. One you actually want to see.”

Oh no, Klaus does not like where this is going… He doubles down on focussing on his drawing.

“Klaus?”

Nope. Not having this conversation.

“You don’t want to see Dave?”

Oh god YES, he wants to see Dave, in the same way that he wants to breathe air, but…

“No. Absolutely not happening, Ben.”

Ben’s jaw drops. “Seriously? Klaus, you can’t just not try for fear of it not working!”

Klaus glares at him. “I’m not going to try for fear of it working, you asshole.”

Ben looks utterly baffled.

“Ben, look at me!” Klaus turns his hands inwards to gesture from his head down past his torso, and looks at Ben expectantly.

Ben raises his eyebrows and his upturned hands and stares blankly at Klaus in total bewilderment. “What? What possible reason could you have to not want to conjure Dave? You were desperate to, before- seeing him again was the whole reason you got clean!”

Dammit! He really is clueless. This is what comes of dying at seventeen and spending years without a body, isn’t it?

Klaus tries his hardest to speak calmly. “Ben. My body is twelve.”

Puzzled frown. Oh hell, he really is going to have to spell this out.

“One day, when I’m not a physical child, I intend to conjure Dave. I intend to conjure him physically. My boyfriend. My very hot, grown-up, tall, strong boyfriend, with the heavenly shoulders and sinful abs and thighs that could crack a walnut and…” Klaus trails off. His mouth is getting far to dry to continue this speech, and his mind is getting further and further from what he’s actually trying to say.

The light of understanding is beginning to glimmer in Ben’s eyes.

“When I finally conjure him and give him a physical body, I do not want him to have the image of twelve year old me in his head while I try to do some distinctly non-twelve-year-old things to that body.”

“Ah.” Ben’s cheeks are flushed. “OK, I guess I didn’t think of that…”

And now Klaus feels shitty, ‘cos it’s not like Ben ever had a chance to actually experience a physical relationship- why would that side of things occur to him?

He forces out a laugh. “Don’t worry about it. Gives me something to work towards, y’know?” A grin and a wink and Ben’s wincing and chuckling and changing the subject with absolutely zero aplomb.

“OK, so how about you try banishing one of our ghosts, then?”

“Banishing sounds great, but it’s not like I’ve never tried before.”

“True, but you’ve never had reason to believe you could do it before. And you’ve always been on your own, or worse, under pressure from Dad and surrounded by more ghosts than you could cope with.”

“Hate to tell you this, Ben, but without Vanya’s lovely pills you have way more ghosts than I can cope with.”

“What about one of the others? Allison doesn’t have too many, does she? And she’d be there anyway.”

Klaus considers this. As loathe as he is to skip the pills and face any of the ghosts that follow his siblings he knows he has to face his fears somehow to have any chance of gaining control. And Allison’s entourage is the smallest and generally speaking is also the least gruesome. He huffs out a breath and nods, reluctantly. “OK.”

Ben’s face lights up as if Klaus has just handed him the hand-written manuscript of ‘Origin of the Species’. “That’s great, Klaus!” His grin stretches his face wide. “You can do this, I know you can!”

Can I, Klaus wonders? He feels sick. But Ben is so excited Klaus can’t dampen his enthusiasm. He smiles back at Ben, then with a jerk of his head towards the radio wave device returns his attention to his drawing.

This, at least, he knows he can do. As for the rest? Well, he’s going to try his damn hardest, and that, he supposes, is as close as he’s ever come to deserving his brother’s faith.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“So, just how many ghosts do I have following me around?” Allison asks, voice and smile vying for the ‘who can appear most casual’ title. To be fair Klaus actually might think it a casual question if her eyes didn’t look just a bit too bright. And weren’t dancing around trying to look everywhere at once, as if she might catch one hiding if she can only take it by surprise.

The answer, of course, is ‘too many.’ It always is. But for all his siblings’ opinions of him Klaus does, in fact, possess a little tact. “Meh, just a few. It varies.” He waves the question off as if it’s of no importance. Which, really, it isn’t- were there one or a hundred ghosts clamouring in Allison’s wake they’d still be trying this.

“Oh?”

“Yeah. It’s like, sometimes they just get fed up of being ignored, and vamoose off to limbo for a while.” Which is, he and Ben have determined, more or less as close to sleep as ghosts can get- a state or place or plane of existence where they’re not really conscious of anything, even the passage of time. But something always tugs them back sooner or later- for Ben it was always a subconscious awareness of Klaus on the other side, a faint pull that he recognised and made a choice to follow. Klaus isn’t sure if other ghosts feel the same when he’s around, or if they’re pulled back purely by their own lingering issues. And really, what does it matter when the end result is the same?

“So… how many right now?”

He and Allison are sitting facing each other, cross-legged on Allison’s bed. It’s just the two of them, thankfully, the others being occupied studying weird devices and notes (Five, Ben and Luther, still holed up in the lab, and having to be literally dragged out for minor inconveniences like eating and drinking) or sparring (and who would ever have thought Diego and Vanya would end up an ideal sparring match?). Of course Klaus hasn’t taken any tablets since yesterday, so while to Allison’s eyes there are only the two of them in the room things look quite different for Klaus.

Today there are four disgruntled spirits wandering around Allison’s room, muttering to themselves and shooting occasional glares at Allison. Their focus on Allison is a relief for Klaus- they either don’t realise he can see them (and he is trying very hard not to let his eyes follow them, for fear of tipping them off) or they simply don’t care about him when the woman (girl, at the moment) who killed them is right there.

“Just four.” Holding his head still Klaus studies them from the corners of his eyes. One, he thinks, is a regular, and was still following Allison back in 2019, clearly determined to hold his grudge. Klaus thinks he recognises him from one of their earliest missions, before they were well known- an angry, hulking jewellery thief who’d been first affronted at the sheer audacity of anyone daring to oppose him, and then brutally violent when he realised they weren’t the simple school children they seemed. Allison had rumoured him to freeze, unfortunately at the exact same moment that Luther had thrown a hard upper-cut at his jaw- classic unstoppable force meets immovable object, and the resulting snap of the man’s neck had sounded clearly above the blaring alarm. Odd that the man seemingly blames Allison and not Luther, who had delivered the killing blow. Or perhaps that’s more to do with the racist, misogynistic bullshit the man has a tendency to shriek in Allison’s face. The others he hasn’t seen as often, but a couple look vaguely familiar- no doubt he glimpsed them once during a drug hazed mission.

Allison looks at him warily, eyebrow cocked in curiosity. Of course she wants to know, she just doesn’t want to know. Or ask. Klaus sighs.

“The only one I know is that steroid-pumped jewel thief from when we were really young- remember, with the,” he brings his fist to his chin, jerks his head sharply backwards, miming a flopped head, suddenly protruding tongue and wide bulging eyes.

Allison winces. “Klaus!” she hisses, eyes darting instinctively for an offended reaction she wouldn’t  even be able to see.

Klaus just flaps a hand at her. “Don’t worry about it, he’s an asshole anyway- couldn’t have happened to a nicer violent, woman-hating thug. Honestly, the way he goes on about women, I’m pretty sure he was a rapist too.”

Ah, shit. Said asshole has realised he’s the topic of conversation, and is now focussing on Klaus. His head hangs awkwardly enough that he has to turn side on to glare at Klaus with narrowed eyes. His lips are pulling back into a furious sneer and Klaus can see the deep (unnecessary, but apparently still instinctual) breath in preparation to let fly his usual vitriol.

Allison’s features have hardened at Klaus’s words, any trace of potential sympathy snuffed out. “Well. He sounds like a prime candidate for sending on.”

Klaus nods agreement, all the more vehemently for the escalating profanities the ghost is directing at him and his sister. Which is, of course, drawing the attention, and increasingly loud wails, of the other three, just exactly  what he needs when he’s trying to keep calm and collected and focussed on the, previously inevitably impossible, task of making them just fuck off

His mounting anxiety must show, because Allison suddenly reaches over and takes his hands in hers, squeezing tight and smiling up at him encouragingly. “We’re gonna make that happen, Klaus. Maybe this time, maybe next,” she shrugs, “maybe it’ll take a few tries. But I believe in you.”

Klaus manages to keep a lid on the disbelieving laugh trying to bubble up his throat- the tiny huff of air that escapes could just as easily be a sob as a snort, and honestly he’s not entirely sure himself which it is. Just a week ago those words, from anyone, let alone Allison, were unthinkable.

“Alli….,” he shakes his head slightly, holds her eyes in an awed and earnest gaze. “You’re incredible, you really are. How is it possible that you’ve not won an Oscar yet?”

There’s a flash of the familiar annoyance as she groans and slaps the back of his wrist. Her eyes roll as she pulls out a notepad, filled with neat lines of handwriting. “Ben did warn me….” she sighs, ticking off a bullet point in the notes. “Any more diversionary tactics you’d like to try before we start on this properly?”

“Wait, he… He actually gave you notes?!”

“Uh, yeah,” Allison replies. “Why? You think he trusted you to tell me everything I need to know?”

Klaus gapes. Allison smiles sweetly. “Is this going to be ‘melodramatic offence’, ‘betrayed puppy’ or ‘righteous anger’?” she asks, pen hovering over Ben’s bulleted list.

Klaus’s jaw drops even further, and his eyebrows seem to be reaching for his hairline, and where the hell have all his words gone?!

“Ah!” says Allison. “‘Flabbergasted silence’.” She nods appreciatively. “That one’s a real rarity- wasn’t even on the list.” She sets the notebook aside, places two fingers under Klaus’s chin, and lifts his chin to close his soundless mouth.

Well, now she’s getting melodramatic offense! Klaus frowns and pouts and glowers and crosses his arms at her, but there’s not the slightest hint of remorse on her features.

In fact, so remorseless is his sister that she sits up straight, snaps her fingers in his face, and announces, “OK, let’s make a start, shall we? There’s an asshole to be exorcised.”

Oh. Yeah. The screaming is still going on, Mr Roid-Rage all but foaming at the mouth. Klaus realises that he has just been quite skillfully distracted from an impending anxiety attack. Somehow even his renewed awareness of the angry spirits surrounding them can’t quite smother the warm feeling in his chest as Allison smiles encouragingly and takes his hands again.

“Ugh. Fine! If it’ll stop you being all smug…”

“Close your eyes.”

Klaus closes his eyes. This…. Isn’t his favourite thing, being in darkness surrounded by screaming ghosts. But Allison’s hands are warm around his, and her voice continues soothingly.

“Just breathe, slowly, in……Out…… Feel the air moving through you, in through your nose, past the back of your throat, that slight coolness in your oesophagus, all the way to your lungs, expanding and filling….”

Klaus, for once, does as he is told, and turns his focus entirely to his own body, every detail of his breath, his diaphragm raising, his lungs and belly expanding, the temperature difference between the inhaled and exhaled air. Allison’s voice is soft, but quietly compelling, enough to push the shrieking ghosts to the periphery of his awareness. She takes his focus deeper, tensing and relaxing each muscle, “just your body and my voice, Klaus, there’s nothing else, no other sounds, nothing else you need to be thinking about. If your mind wanders, that’s fine, just gently bring it back. Feel my hands on yours, the weight of them, the warmth, feel the cloth of your shirt on your arms, of your pants on your legs, feel the weight and the texture of the fabric. Feel the bed underneath you, supporting you, firm and solid, grounding you….”

There’s a strange familiarity to this that makes it easy to relax into the sound of Allison’s voice. His thoughts intrude, of course they do, but he just bats them away and sinks back into Allison’s monologue and the sensation of his own body, solid and warm and alive, and it’s somehow simple to just let everything else drift away.

“You’re in control of your mind, Klaus. You can focus it wherever you choose, just like you’ve focussed on your body. Your thoughts answer to you. And your powers answer to your thoughts.”

He hears the words. They make sense. He can tell his mind what to think, what to be aware of. Just breathe…. In…… Out…..

“You’re in control, Klaus,” she murmurs. “Your mind is yours, you tell it where to go, what to think, what to focus on… Remember that focus. You can keep it, control it, direct it where you want…”

He nods. Yes. He can. He knows this.

“Take a few deep breaths now, Klaus….”

In…… Out……

In….. Out…..

In…..

“And, when you feel ready, open your eyes…”

Out…

Klaus opens his eyes. Allison’s face fills his vision. She smiles. He smiles back.

She draws back, lips parting to speak again, and Klaus’s vision is suddenly filled with angry, hateful faces, spitting venom and vitriol and his ears are pierced with furious screeching.

Klaus’s breath comes too fast, and his heart beats too loudly, and there are clawed hands reaching for him, and his throat is too tight for air, but somehow that doesn’t stop the scream that rips from him, that just keeps coming, over and over again, a high pitched wailing that even drowns out the dead, the dead that surround him, pleading with him, shouting at him, clawing at him, and he can see Allison, wide eyed and pale faced, frantically reaching for him, lips moving but any sound lost beneath his own endless shrieks, and he throws himself back from those reaching hands, desperately scuttling away, his hands up to ward them off, but they’re blue, his hands are blue, and they’re glowing, and no, no, nonononononoo!

A bloody hand clutches his ankle, another grabs his other leg, and they know, they know now that they can touch him, their dead eyes sparking with a sudden gleeful malice. He yanks his legs back, kicks and flails as hard as he can, but there’s Mr Roid-Rage, swinging one huge fist at Klaus’s face while the other closes around his throat, squeezing tighter, gripping hard while his free fist lands solidly just below Klaus’s eye, and the others claw viciously at Klaus’s skin while Roid-Rage pulls back for another blow, and tightens, tightens his grip on Klaus’s throat, so tight Klaus’s scream is nothing more than a thin wail that gurgles to nothing, and Klaus sees that meaty fist flying straight for his eye, and he can’t breathe, can’t suck down even a thread of air, and pain explodes in his cheek and eye and spots dance bright in his dimming vision and he can’t breathe

Klaus!!!” The ghosts still wail and scream as they claw him, but Allison’s voice is shrill with terror, and soars above them. “I heard a rumour!” She’s gasping, sobbing through her fear. “I heard a rumour you fell asleep!”

And he tumbles into darkness.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

In the sudden stillness echoes of screams hang in the air- her own, the ghosts’, her brother’s. Allison’s knees fold and drop her, trembling, to the floor. While the shrieks linger in her mind her ears catch only her own gasping sobs, barely stifled by her knuckles stuffed in her mouth. She is once again alone in her room with Klaus- the shimmering blue apparitions that filled it moments ago have evaporated back into nothingness. She can feel her heart hammering as wild as her eyes are wide and her gaze roams the room, wondering. Are they still here? Oh God, they could be all around her, at any time, and she wouldn’t even know, not without Klaus.

Klaus, her brother, who is sprawled unconscious and bleeding on her bed. His head and shoulders are hanging off the edge, so she can’t see his face. Moments ago she couldn’t see him for the ghosts, but she could hear him, his thin high pitched wail chilling her even more than the screams of the dead. She’d never heard such terror and hopelessness in a human voice.

Allison blinks away her tears and pushes all thoughts of the dead from her mind (Oh, dear god, is that what Klaus sees and hears all the time??) - she can unpack all that later. Their detested upbringing has at least prepared her for dealing with a crisis, and right now she can see that Klaus’s clothing is torn and there is blood smeared on the bed covers. She crawls nearer and sees angry red blotches, already starting to mottle into dark bruising, around his neck and on his face, and livid cuts and scrapes on his cheek, eyelid and eyebrow that are oozing blood. She quickly runs her fingers over his neck, his spine, his collarbones- nothing seems broken, at least- then settles him fully back on the bed. She takes off his tie and unfastens his shirt to find more red marks on his chest and shoulders, but nothing that looks serious. His breathing is fast and shallow, but it’s regular and it sounds normal. There are scratches on his lower legs, some redness that might bruise, but no real damage there.

She arranges him comfortably on her pillows, as best she can, and perches on the edge of the bed by his side. Klaus’s skin is deathly pale- a stark contrast to the darkening bruises and weeping scrapes. Tears have traced their way down his cheeks to his jaw and his eyes are reddened and screwed tightly shut, his eyebrows furrowed, even in his sleep. Tentatively, Allison touches her fingertips to his jaw and finds it clenched hard. Is he dreaming of those… things?

Klaus had always had nightmares. As long as she could remember he’d frequently wake, screaming, in the middle of the night. She’d startled awake too, the first few times, leaping from her bed to face a threat that wasn’t there, and she’d worried over the brother crouching fearfully in the corner of his bedroom, flinching away from her touch. They’d been, what? Seven? Eight years old? And Dad had haughtily lectured Klaus for his childishness, commanded him to pull himself together and sent them all back to bed with an imperious glare. None of which did a thing to stop Klaus waking night after night, soaked in sweat and screaming in terror. But it did keep the others in their beds, worry for their brother gradually fading to wondering, and eventually just to irritation at the disturbances.

No wonder he was so scared….

It’s a force of sheer will to stop herself looking over her shoulder, peering into corners for the phantoms she knows she won’t see. Not now, at least- she doubts she’ll ever sleep again without those scenes replaying in her mind. Allison gazes down at her sleeping brother’s twelve year-old face, childish features pinched in fear. He’s a grown man now, in a child’s body, but that childhood terror obviously still grips him as strongly as when he was actually a child, and now that Allison knows exactly why she seethes with fury and guilt. They’d all just abandoned him to face that on his own- a terrified child not much older than Claire, besieged by literal horrors and his family’s reaction had been annoyance and ridicule.

Fighting back tears, Allison lays herself by Klaus’s side, cradles his head against her chest and wraps her arms around him. It feels oddly wrong, this body sized so close to her own when she’s so used to her adult self rocking her six year old daughter. But Claire doesn’t exist yet. Maybe she never will… Allison’s vision blurs with the tears she suddenly can’t keep back, and she chokes on breaths that don’t want to come.

No! She will ensure her daughter’s life. Somehow. There’s no other option. She’s failed her so badly, and she will make everything right again. But right now Klaus is here, and he’s hurt and broken, and she’s damned if she’s going to let him down again.

Klaus flinches occasionally, whimpering in his sleep, and his features twist fearfully.

Are the ghosts still here? Are they still shrieking in his ears and clawing at him?

Oh dear god, what if she’s trapped him in sleep, unable to escape their vicious screaming? She casts her mind back to those frantic few seconds where she’d scrabbled for the words to make the ghosts go away. Sleep, that was all she’d specified. It could be either the ghosts or nightmares of them that are troubling Klaus’s sleep, but he sleeps all the same, and maybe he’ll continue to sleep until Allison rumours him awake. She should do that, she thinks. Should she? She could release him from a nightmare, but would he be waking to another? A shiver runs through her at the thought of him waking to the ghosts still crowding him- would he panic and manifest them again? Even ready for the possibility, could she do anything to fight them off, to protect herself and Klaus? Can ghosts be rumoured? Maybe she should get the others? But no, she can’t leave Klaus alone, not now, not even to get an ice-pack for his swelling face.

But she can’t just leave him slumbering in terror.

She rocks him gently, like she would Claire, and whispers soothing words. “You’re safe, Klaus. I’m here. You’re safe now….” Allison barely recognises the croaking voice as her own. Perhaps that’s why her words have no effect. She strokes her brother’s hair and murmurs soft platitudes as she thinks.

Klaus had trusted her to help him manage his powers. So had Ben, and Five, and Vanya. Even after a lifetime of her casually abusing her power, twisting unwitting minds to her own benefit, Allison’s siblings had trust enough in her and her powers to place arguably the most fragile of them, at his most vulnerable, in her care. Loathe as she is to overuse her powers, this isn’t for, or about her. She just needs the right words…

 “Klaus,” she whispers in his ear, “I heard a rumour… that you’re sleeping peacefully, no bad dreams or sounds disturbing you, no unpleasant thoughts or memories. You’ll sleep peacefully until you’re properly rested, and wake refreshed and calm.”

She smooths his hair back, and watches as his expression smooths too, relaxing into features almost unrecognisable, so rarely has she seen him at peace. His body slumps in her arms, his breathing slows and deepens, and his lips fall apart to breathe out a soft sigh that sounds like pure relief. Allison echoes that sigh, holds him closer, and sobs quietly into her pillow until the rhythm of his gentle snores lulls her into her own slumber.

Some time later, though she couldn’t even guess how long, she’s startled awake by stomping feet and voices in the corridor outside her room. For a moment she’s confused to find herself cradling her pre-pubescent white brother instead of her cuddly baby girl, and then reality and its familiar, hollow ache set back in. Klaus sleeps on undisturbed, face lax and a slight trail of drool pooling on Allison’s shoulder as she gently untangles herself from him, and sits up.

There’s giggling coming from the corridor- not a sound she’s accustomed to hearing in this house, and certainly not from Vanya. The answering snort of laughter from Diego is equally unexpected. Before Allison can open the door there’s a knock, almost immediately followed by a grinning Diego.

“It’s official- I am a better trainer than Five!” he boasts, at the same time as Vanya bursts out, excitedly, “Hey! Guess who managed to not kill each other?”

They all but tumble into the room, giddy with the excitement of what appears to have been a very successful training session. Vanya thumps Diego on the arm. “I did not say that! Don’t you dare tell him I said that! Training with you was just more fun than I expected….” She trails off as Diego stiffens with alertness and looks around warily.

“What happened here?” he asks.

Allison follows his gaze to the overturned stool and the vanity items strewn across the floor. Oh. She hadn’t even noticed knocking those over in her earlier panic.

And then, “Oh my god, Klaus!” as Vanya catches sight of him behind Allison.

“What the hell, Allison? You were supposed to be working on his powers, not combat!” Diego’s eyes are wide as saucers. He’s torn between gaping at Klaus and glaring at Allison, which results in him staying rooted to the spot and not actually doing anything. Considering he looks like he wants to stab something Allison will happily take that right now.

Klaus has regained some colour in his skin, but the developing bruising has gained colour too, dark purple, almost black over his eye and in places around his neck. His left eye is swollen enough that he’ll probably have trouble opening it when he wakes, and dried blood has crusted on his cheek and brow.

Diego thinks she did this to him?!

“We were working on his powers, Diego! You think I’d try to strangle my own brother?” she snaps, gesturing to Klaus’s throat, where finger-shapes can easily be distinguished among the darkening bruising.

Diego’s face and jaw both fall as he takes in Klaus’s injuries and realisation dawns. “Ah, shit, Klaus….” He slumps to the bed by Klaus’s legs, laying a hand on his knee, and just stares at their brother’s face.

“But how… I don’t…” Vanya looks between Allison and Diego in puzzlement. “They’re just ghosts? Aren’t they?”

“He can make them solid,” Allison swallows, eyes still fixed on the brother in question.

Diego huffs, and tears his gaze from Klaus to look at Vanya. “I guess you were a bit too far gone to take in his and Ben’s big moment at the theatre?”

“They attacked him?!” Vanya sounds horrified.

Allison wholeheartedly sympathises with that. She can only nod, hugging herself and eying the (for now) empty air around them. She guesses her exhaustion kept the bloody, maimed and furious faces from her dreams, but now they fill her mind again. And the sounds they made……

“You rumoured him?” Diego asks, when his gentle shoogling of Klaus’s leg fails to wake him.

Allison nods again, not quite trusting her voice right now. She’s keeping her arms wrapped around herself for warmth, nothing more.

Diego is checking Klaus over now the initial shock has worn off, hands flitting over his body to check limbs and torso for any broken bones or abnormalities, just like Mom had taught them all those years ago. Allison sees no benefit in telling him she’s already done that, he’d still insist on doing it himself- that’s why she just stands and watches. And she’s only trembling because it’s cold. She hugs herself harder.

“Nothing serious,” Diego grunts, finally, “but I wouldn’t be surprised if that cheek is fractured.” He frowns at that. “Swelling’s pretty bad- really should’ve had ice on that.”

Another nod. Allison knows this. But she couldn’t leave him. They know that, right? Klaus was scared and broken and helpless and he needed someone there with him, holding him, much more than he needed an ice-pack.

“How long will he be out?” Diego asks.

“…………” Allison swallows to wet her dry throat. “…..” Oh, screw it! She meets Diego’s eyes through a teary haze and shrugs.

Her eyes are drawn back to Klaus’s pummelled face. The bruise over his eye is massive- it seems to take up half his face. She remembers that huge fist flying at him. The ghosts had looked like some sort of illusion, ethereal, and translucent, almost beautiful…. Except for the blood. And broken parts. And gaping wounds, and exposed bone. And the blinding, almost manic, hatred and rage.

She’s vaguely aware of glances exchanged between Diego and Vanya.

“Allison?”

There’s a tug on her sleeve, and Vanya’s face pops into her line of vision. Vanya is smiling gently, encouragingly. She tugs again, and nods her head towards the bed. Numbly, Allison allows herself to be pulled down to sit facing Vanya. Beside them Klaus sleeps on, oblivious.

Allison shivers, and tightens her arms around herself, and her eyes flit around the room for something she knows she won’t see. It’s no comfort at all that she doesn’t see it.

“Diego’s gone to get ice,” Vanya explains, as if Allison had asked.

Oh. She thinks Allison was looking for Diego. Allison tries to stifle the harsh laugh that prompts, but it comes out as a snort. Then a huff of air that turns into more of a sob. She unwraps her arms from herself so she can cover her mouth with her hands, but those desperate huffs just keep coming anyway, and her eyes are watering now, and the noises she’s making, and her shaking shoulders, are nothing to do with laughter anymore, but they just won’t stop. Not even when Vanya pulls her close and lets Allison burrow her sobbing face into her neck, and folds her in her arms and rocks her like a baby.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Five is a prodigy. From the age of thirteen he survived, alone, in a post apocalyptic desolate waste for an entire lifetime. He is possessed of an intellect to rival the greatest minds humanity has ever produced. He has, entirely unaided, made breakthroughs in the theories of mathematics and physics that have eluded those great minds for centuries, and he has followed through on his ground-breaking theories and actually travelled through time and changed the course of history, even before taking into consideration his career at the Commission. He is quite possibly the most deadly and, among the very few who even know of him, the most feared assassin in the whole of human history. He crippled the super secret, time controlling, seemingly all powerful organisation that trained him in the arts of death and watched over his every move. Number Five Hargreeves is a self made legend the likes of which the world has only ever encountered in fantastical fiction.

He stares at the dimly lit shelves before him in bafflement, and no little exasperation, and curses how perfectly suited for this ridiculous task his abilities are.

The only light in the store shines weakly through the chinks of the security screen over the window- a sickly orange from the old streetlights outside. It doesn’t help him in this particular mission, but then he’s never in his life considered colours or shades of foundation before, and he doubts a well lit stock would make such frivolous idiocy any easier.

“You probably need one of the palest you can find,” Allison had said. “But not the palest- it needs to look natural but not like a zombie.”

And, “No cheap shit, Five, it has to be good quality.”

And, “And not a mousse! They’re awful.”

And, “And we need a concealer too- a little lighter than the foundation, and again, really good quality. Oh, and pressed powder too.”

What the fuck is the difference between concealer and foundation? Pressed powder?? He’d thought that was an out of date cliché. And how the hell is he supposed to know what’s good quality? And how is he supposed to avoid this mousse thing when as far as he’s concerned the word refers to a fucking food-stuff?

There’s row upon row of little pots of…. Stuff. Section after section with different brands and pictures of overly made up women who couldn’t hold a candle to Dolores, and tubes, and vials, and flat round containers and long thin containers and pencils (which he can at least eliminate, because even he knows about eyeliner, even if he was unusual in having learned about it from his brother).

“Dammit, Klaus!” he hisses. Under his breath, because that’s just the kind of situation this is. And also because no matter how irritated he is right now he can’t quite bring himself to be truly angry with his idiot brother. Not when the sight of him pale, unconscious and with ghost inflicted purple bruising around his throat and over half his face is still so recent. If he’s honest with himself (which he is. Sometimes.) Five can admit that at least part of his anger is directed at himself- he’d seen Klaus manifest Ben in the theatre, and he should have considered the extended implications of that. But he’d been caught up in the sudden spate of good fortune- Reginald’s absence, Vanya taking to her powers like a duck to water, Pogo revealing the secret lab, the lab itself and those devices with all their glorious possibilities, and Ben ready, willing and actually capable of making Five’s adjustments to their designs.

Five sighs in frustration and glares at the bottle in his hand, wondering if this is foundation (24 hours staying power? Fantastic! But what the hell are you??). It stubbornly refuses to answer and he’s suddenly had enough of this. He flings the bottle hard across the store. Fuck this. If it’s quality it’s got to be expensive, right?

Plan decided, Five studies the pricing on the various displays and settles on the most opulent display with the most consistently sky-high prices. That’ll do. A brief search later and he’s back in front of the display, holding a newly filched canvas bag in front of him. Theft is theft, and he might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, so to speak. There’s a strange satisfaction in sweeping the overpriced contents of the shelves filled with jars of beige into the bag. He ponders a moment then continues to deposit the contents of the other shelves into the bag too. Both Allison and Klaus always did, for whatever bizarre reason, find happiness in plastering themselves and each other with sparkle and colour, and Allison certainly looked like she could use some cheering up.

It’s just a few calculated jumps back to the Academy, to find things much the same as he left them.

Klaus is still out cold on Allison’s bed. The bruising on his face and neck is slowly spreading and darkening, and Five can’t deny Allison was on to something in sending him out for supplies to hide the damage.

Allison herself is still subdued and showing no interest in moving from the protection of Luther’s arms any time soon, but her tears have stopped and her eyes are no longer so red or so haunted. She’s perched on the edge of her bed, Klaus’s hand in hers, gaze falling back on their unconscious brother every few seconds. By default Luther is also perched on the edge of the bed, so as to keep his arm around Allison’s shoulders. This puts his back to Klaus, but he twists around frequently to check on him. Diego paces the room while he twirls a knife in his hand, looking like it’s an effort to keep himself from launching it through the air. Vanya is huddled on the floor by the bed, chin resting on the mattress and eyes barely leaving Klaus. The look on her face makes Five pause- why does she look guilty? This isn’t her fault. Ben also sits on the floor, nearer the foot of the bed and just out of range of Diego’s route. Of them all he seems the least upset, but troubled all the same, and deep in thought.

“Behold!” Five deadpans, bag of cosmetics held high. “Foundation and concealer! Well, I assume so, anyway- some of these things have to be.”

He ignores the puzzled looks from Diego and Luther to pass the bag to an incredulous Allison.

“Five, you didn’t have to steal the whole store!”

“Actually, I kind of did, if you wanted to be certain of getting what you wanted. Seriously, what the hell has mousse got to do with cosmetics?

Allison stifles a laugh (good to see) and her eyes go even wider when she looks inside the bag.

“Think you can work with that?” Five asks.

She nods, mutely, eyes still wide, but now sparkling a little with excitement as she pulls out various colourful or sparkly items. Five gives her a cursory nod and turns away before his smile escapes.

Vanya’s eyes are darting from sibling to sibling, never quite meeting anyone’s gaze before coming back to rest on Klaus (who sleeps on oblivious to the series of beige jars now being held against his good cheek by a studious Allison). Five nods a brief greeting to Diego and Ben as he passes them to sit cross-legged in front of Vanya. He waits patiently for her to look at him, and when she does he lets a rare genuine smile creep over his face. Her gaze immediately falls, but he’s having none of it.

“Vanya?” he asks, gently demanding her attention. When she continues to focus on Allison’s search for the perfect colour match Five takes more direct action. He reaches for her shoulder, and firmly turns her to him, ducking his head to catch her eyes. “You OK?”

She flashes a (fake) smile back at him and nods, eyes slipping away again. “Yeah. I’m fine.”

Five follows her gaze back to Klaus’s unconscious form, and sees that guilt in her face again. He grimaces. This is not his strong suit, but maybe simple logic will suffice?

“Vanya,” he starts. “You know this wasn’t your fault, right? Not today, and not back when things got screwed up in the first place.”

She looks unconvinced, but Five is suddenly distracted by a presence behind him. Diego’s stopped his pacing, and is frowning down at Vanya. God dammit, Diego, if you say one damn word…..

“You think this is your fault?” Diego asks Vanya, puzzled. And a little angry, which is of course normal for Diego, but Vanya does not need anger right now. None of them do. Five opens his mouth to intervene, but before he can…

“Vanya, we all agreed on who was doing what today. This is not your fault. And don’t you dare feel guilty for doing well with your training while Klaus was struggling.” Diego points a knife to emphasise his next point. “You’ve worked damn hard today, really focussed and pushed yourself, and I’m not having you feel bad for doing good. We had no way to know things weren’t going well up here, and honestly? What could we have done if we’d been here? Chances are I’d have flung a knife right through a ghost and impaled Klaus or Allison. You’d probably have freaked out and shaken the house down.” He grimaces. “Don’t think I’d even have blamed you, from what Allison described.”

Five’s mouth hangs open. Fortunately Diego’s focus is on Vanya, and Vanya’s (slightly less obviously amazed) focus is on Diego, so Five has time to snap his jaw back into place unnoticed. He nods vigorously at Vanya. “Yeah. What he said.” Dear god, I’m agreeing with Diego. Today cannot get any weirder.

“I…” Vanya croaks. She stops, swallows, licks her lips and starts again. “I just feel bad for him. I’m supposed to be the real learner, but…”

“But your powers and situations are very different,” says Five. “Your powers might be scary in terms of what they can physically do, but they’re not inherently horrific, and you haven’t been living in fear of them all your life.”

“I guess…”

Diego snorts. “Vanya, you’ve spent your whole life wishing for powers. Is it really so weird that you’re more excited about them than you are scared of them? That’s nothing to feel guilty for. And y’know, for all that Klaus can be a dick, he’s not gonna blame you for it either.” Diego grimaces at that, and lets out a loud sigh, glancing between Vanya and Five, then finally up to Klaus. He frowns sadly. “He’s gonna blame himself.”

“You think?” Five muses. “I’ve never known anyone as quick to find excuses for himself as Klaus.”

Diego stares blankly at him for a moment, then his face twists in… something that’s not quite his usual hostility but certainly isn’t warm and fluffy. “Five. You do know that’s bullshit, yeah? And that he knows it’s bullshit, too? Even if he’d never admit it.”

Ah…. I see… Five nods slowly, reconsidering to account for Klaus’s façade. Yes, he will really blame himself, won’t he? This could be a more significant set-back than just a fright and some minor injuries.

“If this was anyone’s fault it was mine.”

Everyone startles a little at Allison’s statement. Luther rushes to assure her it’s not her fault, but she speaks over him, and the other dissenters. “The whole purpose of me doing this with him was to rumour him calm if things got out of control. Only I panicked too much to do that in time.”

“Not your fault, Allison,” Ben pipes up. “If anything that’s on me and Klaus- we should have considered the shock effect of any of you guys actually seeing the ghosts. And hearing them. That’s not something you can get your head around in advance.”

“And I should have considered the possibility of the ghosts becoming corporeal,” says Five.

Allison shakes her head. “We could all have considered that, Five…”

“You know,” says Luther, standing suddenly, “there’s probably a whole load of things we could all have thought of, but that doesn’t make this anybody’s fault.” He fixes them all with his best Number One glare. “We could have thought of things that would have made no difference, or even made things worse. Maybe we could have done things better, but we all sat and talked and agreed on what we thought was best, all knowing that there was no guarantee it’d all go right. Shit happens. We deal with it. Yes?”

There’s silence in the wake of Luther’s outburst, but not for long. Incredibly it’s Diego who’s the first to nod, firmly, in agreement. “Yeah. Luther’s right- this wasn’t anyone’s fault. At least, no-one here,” he finishes with a glower.

Just minutes ago Five had thought the day could get no weirder, but now here’s Diego agreeing with Luther, and now Luther is nodding resignedly in agreement with Diego. All of which leaves everyone else with no choice but to put aside any self-blame of their own and accept that this whole mess lays solidly at Reginald’s feet and no-one else’s. Looking around at his brothers and sisters Five sees a distinct lack of distress at this conclusion.

“So,” says Luther, “let’s get down to practicalities. Allison, you’re good to cover up the bruising?”

“Yeah,” Allison answers, with a small grin in Five’s direction. “The master-thief provided everything I need for that.”

Five gives a half bow from his position seated on the floor. “But of course. I am the best, after all.”

“Good. Vanya’s doing really well with her training, and we should keep that going.” Luther gives Vanya a bright smile, and she smiles shyly back. “You OK to keep helping out with that, Diego?”

“Sure.” Diego grins warmly at Vanya, and her answering smile is far less shy than for Luther.

“Five and Ben, can you guys move your project out of the lab? To somewhere you can access more safely, keep closer to the team and still keep it hidden?”

Five and Ben share a look, and Ben shrugs. “Yeah, I should think so. It’s not that big, with Five’s design changes, and it would hardly be the first time I had an electronics project stashed under my bed.”

Five nods, “We don’t need the original anymore, but I will need to take the schematics. It’s probably safest if I get components and tools from elsewhere. Put my newly acquired thieving skills to good use.”

“Fine, just make sure the schematics are well hidden. I’m planning on taking some folders for myself too- I’m close to figuring out what he’s doing on the Moon and I’m not abandoning that.” Luther ignores the few eye-rolls he receives at that. “Then we get Pogo to help us make sure everything in the lab is put back how it was.”

“What about Klaus?” Vanya asks. She sounds uncertain but determined.

Luther looks down at Klaus, and sighs sadly. “I guess that’s going to depend on how he is and what he wants when he wakes up. But we’ll need to cover for him in training until he’s healed, at least. Try to keep him out of the line of fire.”

Allison clears her throat, drawing everyone’s attention. “I’m willing to try again, if he is.” Her chin is high and her jaw is set, and her eyes are fierce enough to almost drown her fear. “I have an idea for a different way of focussing, that might work better. And if it doesn’t, well, I won’t be caught short again.”

“There is still plan B….” Ben offers hesitantly. They haven’t discussed this much since Ben broached the idea with Allison, but after today Five has been wondering about it himself.

There are glances exchanged in the subsequent silence. It quickly becomes apparent that some of these glances are knowing and worried, and some are just plain baffled.

“Uhm, hi, yes.” Diego holds up his hand, knife and all, and glares pointedly around the room. “Someone want to enlighten Luther and me on this plan B?”

“Not really, to be honest…” Allison sighs.

“It’s a memory thing,” Five explains. “We think Dad had Allison rumour us all into forgetting Vanya’s powers when we were little. For reasons I’m not going to go into, because it’s personal for both Klaus and Vanya, that rumour had more impact on Klaus than Dad intended.”

“Uh-huh… And plan B is?”

“Plan B is Plan Z as far as I’m concerned,” says Allison. “It’s really risky, but Five thinks I might be able to undo the rumour.”

“With the right wording…” Five begins.

Allison is nodding. “Yes, with the right wording, maybe, maybe I won’t scramble his memories of his entire life, I know. And I’ve been thinking about the wording, I have. But it’s still the very last resort, Five. Seriously. He could end up being a four year old child in an adult…” She shakes her head, wincing, and sighs. “In a twelve year old body.”

It’s a testament to how much they’ve grown as a family that no-one makes the obvious joke, although there are a few glances towards Klaus with firmly pressed lips that suggest Five isn’t the only one thinking it.

“Last resort,” agrees Ben, “but I’ve talked about it with him, and it is an option. You guys don’t need me to tell you how reckless Klaus is with taking risks, and I’m not even sure how much of a risk he considers this- there’s not much in his life he actually wants to remember...” Ben’s fingers trail over Klaus’s foot, and he continues almost under his breath, “and what there is hurts him the worst, I think….” He straightens suddenly, finding his feet and stuffing his hands into his pockets. “We should give him a few days before we suggest trying again.”

Allison, eyes wide and a little watery, bites her lip, but nods slowly.

Ben catches Allison’s eye and fixes her with a solemn, if sympathetic, gaze. “But in the meantime…. We should talk about wording. Just in case.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Klaus wakes sluggishly, and with a reluctance so strong it carries with him into wakefulness. The remnants of his dream slip from him, leaving just a sense of warmth and safety, and a hollow ache growing in the pit of his stomach. He can’t remember the dream, but he can guess.  If he keeps his eyes closed he can see that beautiful face smiling down at him with such wonder. He can make himself feel the fingers stroking his jaw, his neck, pushing back the curls falling in his face.

His face hurts, though, when he smiles back at the Dave in his head.

His brain automatically cycles through his wake-up checklist, feeding him information even before he can think of opening his eyes. Warm, dry- good start- lying on a soft, firm surface- mmmm… comfy…- fully clothed and unrestrained- better and better- sharp pains in his cheek and eye, and a deeper pain in his chest, burning harder on each intake of breath- ah shit, well, the luck had to run out at some point…. There’s a burning ache around his neck, one that’s intimately familiar and immediately prompts him to double check that he isn’t naked after all, but sure enough that earlier “fully clothed” status report was right. Odd for a choker to miss a chance like that…

His attention turns outward just as he’s just starting to expect Ben with his usual situation update and scathing aftermath analysis. There are murmuring voices, not Ben’s though. Ben sure as hell wouldn’t be murmuring…. Klaus feels a grin spread across his face at that thought, all ready to combat the glower he knows Ben will be wearing. The grin wavers as that pain flares. He hisses in a sharp breath, only for the pain in his chest to sear through him, making him moan and flinch.

The murmurs stop immediately, and the mattress dips with the weight of a person. “Klaus?” asks a familiar, but oddly out of place, voice. Ah well, no point in pretending to be asleep then….

Pain be damned. He fixes the grin back on his face and opens his eyes. Then blinks them rapidly several times at the sight of a very young, and very worried, Allison peering down at him in the vaguely pinkish light cast by her bedside lamp. He stares back stupidly for an embarrassingly long moment, as his brain reboots itself. Oh. He lets his eyes wander, taking in Allison’s childhood bedroom. Vanya, even tinier than she should be, looks up at him from where she sits cross-legged on the floor. There’s no sign of Ben. Oh, yeah. Of course there’s not. Allison is looking him over with almost maternal concern, apparently oblivious to the sullen faced young man over her shoulder, glaring daggers at the back of her head, gripping an actual dagger in a white knuckled hand and bleeding profusely onto the carpet from the gaping slash in his throat.

Oh. Right. That happened. Klaus’s grin slips off his face as memories flood back. He eyes the slashed throat ghost warily and wriggles himself to a sitting position further up the bed. Which hurts his chest, of course, but it’s a small price to pay for more distance between himself and the ghost, especially when he suddenly has two sisters helping him sit up and easing the pain.

“Oh, thank god you’re awake!” Allison sounds a little breathless, and her eyes are wide and suspiciously shiny. “I was so worried you wouldn’t wake up.” Her hands reach for his face, but jerk back just inches from his skin and instead settle one on his shoulder and the other on his thigh. “Are you OK? I’m so sorry, Klaus, I just panicked and froze, while you…. I….. I couldn’t speak at first, I tried, I promise, but I couldn’t make words, it was just screaming, I’m sorry, I was so scared, I didn’t think… I wasn’t ready, I thought I was, but….”

“Allison.” Vanya places a steady hand on Allison’s arm and holds her gaze while Allison’s litany of apologies runs down. Vanya turns a reassuring smile on Klaus. “We’ve all been worried about you, Klaus. It’s really good to see you awake. How are you feeling?”

It’s a good question. Because honestly, with the memories of cold ghost hands clamped around his neck, and a bloody and hostile ghost hovering just feet away, Klaus should be feeling terrified. But all he’s really feeling right now is confused.

“Uh. I’m… okay, I guess?”

And he is. A bit sore, yes, and quite relieved that Mr Roid-Rage has buggered off to wherever ghosts bugger off to, and a bit guilty at Allison’s obvious upset, and no, he doesn’t want to get chatting with Slit Throat any time soon, but still…

“Yeah, yeah, I’m good.” He emphasises this with a nod and grin, both of which exacerbate his injuries, but he’s practiced enough with this sort of thing to breeze through it. He reaches out a hand to rub Allison’s shoulder. “Really, I’m okay, Alli. You handled it.”

Allison shakes her head. “Not well enough. They shouldn’t have been able to hurt you, Klaus- I should have been more prepared. I wasn’t fast enough, and I’m sorry for that.”

“Alli, it’s fiiiiine, really…”

“And I’m sorry for you,” Allison continues, more subdued.

“Uh… “

“I just…” she falters, shaking her head like she’s trying to shake words loose. “We’ve always been so damn flippant about you, Klaus, and all this time….” She holds his gaze with wide, heartbroken brown eyes, and whispers, “That’s what you grew up with. What you’ve lived with every day of your life.”

Okaaaay, now this is just awkward. “Well, yeeeeees, but not actually every day, when you think about it….”

“Because you drank or doped yourself into oblivion,” says Vanya, expression half eye-roll, half exhaustion and somehow still leaving enough left over for 100% sympathy. Allison simply nods in agreement.

Klaus shrugs, ignoring the pain that he’s realising probably means broken ribs. “Worked, though.”

“Past tense,” Allison notes. “Good.” She has that ever so Allison single raised eyebrow look, the one that would be smug on anyone else, but that on Allison somehow says “I am mildly surprised, yet very pleased, and now fully expect this to continue, or else!”

Klaus nods back at her with a sunny grin, because he is absolutely not stupid enough to challenge that look in any way. He will happily assume that the half stifled noise from Vanya was not a snigger at his expense, but was in fact an expression of sympathy.

Besides, he doesn’t need narcotics and alcohol anymore, not now that Vanya’s lovely pills are on the table. The thought comes unbidden, but with a surge of such pure relief it’s truly like a weight lifted from his shoulders. Well, mostly lifted- there’s guilt settling in in its place, because he knows how much his siblings want him to master his powers. But last night just proved that he can’t do that, and he nearly got Allison hurt in the process.

Some of this must show on his face, because Allison is peering at him with narrowed eyes. “Klaus? What are you thinking?”

“I am thinking, dear sister, that you look amazing! That eyeshadow is just stunning, Alli, it really is!” It’s perfectly true, of course- Klaus had noticed and appreciated Allison’s immaculate make-up some time ago, and had simply now found the perfect moment to turn the conversation towards this far more interesting topic. “And your nails! I love the sparkles!”

Allison sighs. Vanya’s shoulders shake a little.

Klaus reaches out to grab Allison’s hand, turning it over to better admire her nails, sparkling in alternating pink and gold. He tilts her fingers this way and that, letting the glitter catch the light. It’s really pretty, so he angles Allison’s hand a little more. “Vanya, isn’t it lovely?”

Vanya indulges him, reaches over as if to take Allison’s hand herself, but then takes Klaus’s hand instead. She grins, and lifts Klaus’s hand to display his own nails. “Mmhmm. Pretty.”

Klaus gasps. His own nails are a rainbow of glitter, each one a different colour, starting with a deep purple on the little finger of his left hand, and shifting through the rainbow to end back on purple again on the little finger of his right hand. He wiggles his fingers, delighted. Vanya giggles, and holds out her hand for inspection, revealing her own shiny shades of blue.

“Courtesy of Five, believe it or not,” says Allison.

“Uhm, I think I’m gonna go for ‘not’ on that one…” Klaus replies in bemusement.

“It’s true.” Allison grins. “We sent him out for make-up- to cover up the bruises on your neck.” Her smile falters a little, but she carries on anyway, with a roll of her eyes. “Honestly, you’d think we’d asked him to rip off his arm the way he moaned about it. Claimed he just grabbed everything because he didn’t have a clue what foundation was.”

“Even I know what foundation is,” Vanya grins.

Allison nods, grin back in full force. “He totally got the nail polish to be nice.”

Vanya also nods, face suddenly sombre and serious. “But you can’t ever tell him you know that, or he’ll kill you. Or maybe us.” Then she bursts into giggles.

Klaus laughs with his sisters, and admires their sparkly nails, and wonders why the hell they never did this when they were actually young.

Allison and Vanya are both now half lying on the bed on either side of him, and despite the smiles he can see they’re both tired. Somewhat belatedly perhaps, he thinks to ask what time it is.

“Nearly 3am,” says Allison. “We herded the boys out a little before midnight- figured there was no point in all of us staying up watching you sleep. And it’s my room, so I wasn’t going anywhere.”

Klaus raises a quizzical eyebrow at Vanya, who responds, “What? I’m not allowed a sleepover with my sister?”

“I was a little… shaken… after what happened earlier,” Allison says. “Vanya was kind enough to volunteer to keep me company.”

“And in return Allison has been kind enough to share some expert tips on men and dating. Little things, like how to tell when your boyfriend is a psychotic, obsessive, gaslighting serial killer, and that maybe rushing headlong into a serious relationship with the first person to ever show any interest in you might not be the best life choice.”

Ouch.

Allison winces too. “I didn’t mean to sound condescending…”

“No, you didn’t!” Vanya considers for a moment. “Well, OK, maybe you did a bit, but let’s be honest, I kinda needed to hear it.”

Klaus wraps an arm (carefully, his ribs hurt) around Vanya and sees Allison take her hand. “Jeeez, Van, you had a really sucky time. We were all such assholes to you, Dad doped you and literally sabotaged your self belief, and then the first person to actually appear to give a damn about you, that you let yourself believe in, turned out to be a manipulative dick even more hellbent on destroying us all than Dad was.”

“Yeah, well, he got what he deserved.”

“A drawerful of cutlery to the chest…” Klaus muses aloud. “Yeah, that seems about right, actually.”

“You think?” Vanya asks. She looks genuinely worried. “I mean, at the time I was just so angry, and betrayed, but… Looking back… You don’t think it was maybe a bit overkill?”

“Oh, hell no!” says Allison.
“Nah, you’re good,” says Klaus.

“He was an abusive, controlling prick, right from the start,” Allison clarifies.

“Honestly, that time you brought him to the house? Just from looking at him I wanted Diego to stab him. In retrospect, I should probably have taken more note of the guy with the smashed-in head moaning and flailing at him.”

“I’m sorry, what?!” Vanya jolts upright and stares wide-eyed at Klaus.

“Uh. ‘What’ what?” he asks, bewildered.

“You saw a bloody ghost haunting the guy I just introduced as my boyfriend and you didn’t think that was worth saying anything about?”

“Uh, No? I mean, it’s hardly unusual. There are bloody ghosts haunting almost everyone. I know now that it was his dad, who’s head he’d caved in with a hammer, but it’s not exactly the first thing you think of- I figured it was some unlucky dude from a car crash or something.”

Vanya stares in speechless confusion, and Klaus feels a vague stirring of panic. OK, yes, in retrospect he’d missed a chance to un-fuck things, but….

“Vanya,” Allison’s voice is quiet and a little trembly, “I didn’t understand until last night either. Until I saw them. There were four of them, right beside me. And,” she looks at Klaus to confirm, “sometimes there are more?” He nods. “And that’s just me. Add in Luther and Diego, and Five… There must be ghosts everywhere for Klaus.”

“Because you all killed people!” Vanya says. “Normal people don’t have a body count!”

“That doesn’t mean they don’t have ghosts, Vanya!” Klaus blurts out, a little desperately. “Maybe not as many as Five, and I guess normally not quite so bloody, but they’re still there anytime I’m sober enough to see them. If there are people there are ghosts.”

“With their heads smashed in?”

Klaus squeezes his eyes shut and breathes deep. Both actions cause a flare of pain and he’s grateful for it- it helps him focus, connect back with his usual nonchalance. “Oh, you’d be surprised, Vanny. Dead people aren’t pretty, even if they weren’t brutally murdered. So many ways a body can be mangled, broken, scorched, ravaged with disease, crushed by a falling fucking tree…. The details stop mattering after a while.” He sighs and studies his bright sparkly nails. “I’m sorry, for whatever it’s worth. I knew he was a dick, he just oozed dickishness. But it didn’t really seem like you wanted to listen to any of us at the time.”

“Be fair, Vanya. If Klaus had said anything, would you have listened to him anymore than you did me?” asks Allison.

Vanya glares at Allison, who just stares calmly back at her while Vanya’s chest heaves with laboured breaths. It’s Vanya who looks away first, shoulders slumping and head shaking.

“No. No, you’re right. I wouldn’t have.”

“Don’t feel bad, Vanny. It’s not like anyone else would have listened to me either.”

“In our defence, Klaus, you generally babble meaningless gibberish. It makes it really hard to tell when you’re being serious,” Allison says.

“Moi?!” Klaus gasps theatrically, open fingers splayed over his heart. The light catches his glittered fingernails prettily, so he extends his hand towards it, wiggling his fingers to make the nails sparkle.

“Yes, you. Master of glib nonsense and diversion. Don’t think I’ve forgotten the conversation you clearly didn’t want to have.”

Damn. That was exactly what Klaus had been hoping. Vanya, looking in puzzlement between them, apparently has forgotten, so he can claim that as a victory, at least.

Allison however is now back on track and clearly determined not to let him weasel out of it this time. “You’ve been doing great without the drugs, Klaus, and we’re all so proud of you. Ben especially.”

Oh, come on, that’s playing dirty! Klaus opens his mouth to respond, but doesn’t get very far.

“And now I understand so much better what it must have been like for you, how horrible it still is, and I promise you I’m going to help you learn to deal with your power yourself, not using drugs to block it all out.”

“Alli….”

“We’re all going to help you, Klaus,” Vanya nods, joining Allison to gang up on him. Her big eyes are so earnest as she smiles up at him.

“Look, I appre..”

“Last night was a set-back, but we’ve learned from it, and we’ll be better prepared next time,” says Allison.

Next time?! “Ohhh, no, no, I don’t think… no….” Slit Throat is still glowering in the corner of the room. He’s been joined by another two ghosts, a middle aged man and woman similar enough to be brother and sister, sporting matching gunshot wounds to the head. No, no next time, next time is a very bad idea.

“Klaus?” Vanya follows his gaze, but obviously sees nothing. Hopefully she sees nothing. He studies her a moment, suddenly frightened that he’s brought the ghosts to visibility, but no, she’s just concerned, not frightened, and her eyes skim right over the ghosts unseeing. She meets his eyes, though, and presses her lips into a firm line as she nods to herself. “It’s time you get to have a life. It’s time we all do, but you… You need to believe in yourself, Klaus.”

“Yeeeah…. That worked so well last night….”

Vanya’s having none of it. “Last night you lost control,” she nods, “and you’re hurt and scared and thinking ‘What if it happens again?’. I get it- it’s scary to not be in control of your powers. But Klaus, it’s not the end of the world. I mean, literally, it’s not. I lose control of my powers and I blow up the moon and end all life on Earth.” She shrugs with a pained smile. “You’re a long way from fucking up that badly.”

“Right. Yeah. Managing to not destroy the world is a pretty low bar, Van. No offense.” Her words are perversely comforting though.

“None taken. The point is, I’m not gonna blow up the moon again. I lost control once, and lashed out, and shit hit the fan, but I learned from that. I’m gaining control, and now even if my control slips I can get it back, or limit the damage. Because I’ve been practicing, and every time I do, even when I slip up, I learn a little more about how not to slip up the next time.”

Klaus almost laughs. “Perhaps this hasn’t been fully evident to you, dear sister- and, I hasten to add, that is not your fault at all given how expertly our loving father steered us all towards maximum emotional isolation, and, indeed, in your case, literal isolation- but I’ve never been particularly adept at any sort of control. In fact I’d go so far as to say I’ve spent much of my life actively dismantling any self-control mechanisms I may have inadvertently picked up from dear old Daddy.”

“You controlled yourself, and your powers, in the auditorium, Klaus,” says Allison. “You manifested Ben, and saved all of us.”

“No, no, no…. That wasn’t control, that was…” he sighs, tiredly, head shaking almost imperceptibly. “Just, luck, I guess. Serendipity.”

“We’re Hargreeves, Klaus. Our luck isn’t that good. Besides, I saw your face- the focus, the determination to keep Ben solid. He didn’t stay solid just exactly long enough to take out all the Commission goons because of luck-that was you.”

“But I don’t know how! I never tried to manifest him! I was just thinking how screwed we were, and suddenly my fists were glowing and he was just there.”

“Five was right,” says Vanya. “Your powers are instinctive. Like mine. But you can learn to use them deliberately, too.”

“What if I can’t control it?” Klaus whispers, voice near to cracking. “What if, even if I learn how to not screw up, I can’t keep myself from screwing up anyway?”

“You controlled it in the auditorium,” says Allison.

“Oh, perfect, so I just need a life or death situation to help me focus.”

“That’s where the ‘believe in yourself’ part comes in, Klaus.” Allison’s voice is warm. “Maybe that’s what we need to work on first.”

“Oh, yeah, I’ll get right on that. I’m sure all it’ll take is one of those ‘Well done, Son, I’m proud of you’ speeches that Dad hands out so freely.”

 “Oh, fuck him.”

“Vanya!” Klaus gasps, genuinely surprised.

Vanya shrugs. “He’s not worth considering beyond his potential to get in our way. Took me a long time, a lot of pain and, apparently, an apocalypse to not just realise that but to actually believe it. You’re worth a hundred of him.”

Klaus has no response for that. Vanya’s big brown eyes bore into him earnestly, and she squeezes his hand as her lips curl in a slight, shy smile.

“What she said!” Allison’s arms wrap around him and she grins broadly.

Vanya also wraps her arms around him, grasping Allison’s arm across his middle. His sisters smile at each other, then back at him again. Klaus still can’t find any words, but neither can he stop the warmth spreading through him nor the smile creeping across his face. His eyes are not getting teary, thank you very much.

“Actually,” says Allison, “I can think of few things that would piss Dad off more than us all not needing him and not caring what he thinks. For real,” she adds, glancing meaningfully at Klaus, “not just playing at it to piss him off or deflect.”

Vanya nods. “I’m going to learn to use my powers, and be part of this family, no matter what he wants.” She holds out a hand, palm down. “Fuck him.”

“I am going to love and support my brothers and sister and care about people beyond what I can take from them, and do good, no matter what he thinks I should do,” Allison declares, placing her hand atop Vanya’s. “Fuck. Him.”

They both turn expectantly to Klaus. Sheeesh, no pressure! He bites his lip. Nods.

“I’m going to try….” To believe in myself. “I’m going to try….” To master my powers. To be useful. To be a good brother. He can’t make himself say the words- it feels like a lie. But isn’t that, itself, progress of a sort? He takes a deep breath and firms his features. “I’m going to try.”

It’s the most he can believe of himself, and more than he ever thought he’d promise, but he feels that promise like steel inside him. However this turns out, it’s not going to be through lack of effort on his part.

Klaus shares a grim smile with his sisters. “I’m going to try. For you and the guys. And for me. Even if it is what he wants, it’s not for him.” He sets his hand atop theirs’. Nods determinedly. “Fuck. Dad.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Diego is impressed.

With Klaus.

The sentiment and subject are not normally associated together, in Diego’s experience. Infuriation. Frustration. Occasionally, perhaps, amusement. Pity, resigned tolerance, even recently guilt. But admiration? Pride? He’s in uncharted waters here.

Klaus’s eye is swollen nearly shut, and is every bit as purple and very nearly as shiny as some of his nails. Diego’s no stranger to black eyes, but yeah, that makes even him wince in sympathy every now and again. The bruises on Klaus’s neck though- even knowing they’re there the only evidence Diego sees is the faint trail of paler skin where rivulets of sweat have trickled down his neck. Guess Allison actually learned something useful from Hollywood after all.

In fact, Diego concedes, Allison really is proving herself to be a lot smarter than he’d given her credit for. The only one of them to have noticed Vanya’s struggle to find her place, and the only one of them to realise maybe brute force wasn’t the best way to deal with her. Diego thinks, maybe, if they’d all listened to Allison earlier then 2019 might still have a moon in its sky. So he’s willing to try listening to her ideas for helping Klaus, no matter how much it goes against his instincts.

Diego stands opposite Klaus, legs braced in a fighting stance, and watches his brother haul himself back to his feet. Again. Klaus is breathing heavily, and occasionally Diego notices his face flicker with pain, but all in all he’s holding up pretty well.

“Wanna walk me through what went wrong there?” he asks.

“You feinted and like the screw-up I am, I fell for it,” says Klaus. Then adds, almost, but not quite, under his breath, “Literally.”

Yesterday Diego would have let that go without a second thought, but he talked with Vanya earlier, while Allison was working her camouflage magic on Klaus’s bruises. Vanya has always been the queen of self-deprecation, so when even she’s worried about how Klaus sees himself then maybe it’s time they stop letting him denigrate himself so casually. It goes against every instinct Diego has to let go the half-formed “screwing around” retort in his head and keep his features smooth, but he manages to meet Klaus’s eyes levelly.

“There’s a difference between screwing up and being a screw-up, Klaus. Everyone screws up, especially when they’re learning- doesn’t make them a screw-up.” Diego is going for open and sincere, here, and the momentary widening of Klaus’s eyes suggests he might actually have hit his target.

But. He is still trying to teach Klaus some basic skills here. 

“Anyway,” he nods, “Yeah, you fell for it. You can’t just focus on the most immediate and obvious threat. Gotta take in the whole. You see my fist coming for you, you ask yourself where the other hand is. What are my feet doing? Your brain is as much a part of this as the rest of your body.”

They’ve been at this a while now, and Klaus is clearly tiring, but astonishingly he keeps picking himself up and retaking his place for another go. He hasn’t landed a single hit on Diego, despite Diego deliberately slowing himself and telegraphing every move. But over the course of the last half hour Klaus has increasingly had success dodging or blocking several of Diego’s (pulled, this is his injured and recently drug addled brother after all) kicks and punches. And most astonishingly of all, Klaus has committed to it all with good grace and genuine determination. Well, sort of. Once Diego managed to drag him from Allison’s bed (seriously, how the hell did three of them manage to squeeze comfortably enough onto a single mattress to sleep as soundly as they had?) and convinced him that physical activity before breakfast wasn’t the unholy evil he whined it was.

Honestly, when Diego had decided on today’s strategy it had been with the expectation that he’d have to cajole and badger Klaus relentlessly. He’d come prepared to physically block Klaus’s escape, and failing that to hunt him down and drag him out of one of the many hidey-holes the Academy offers. He’d never have thought that his rational suggestion to try developing physical discipline before mental would be enough, but here they were…

“Ugh… What happened to ‘Don’t over think it, Klaus, your muscles remember this even if your brain doesn’t?’” Klaus pushes sweat soaked hair from his forehead, fingers moving gingerly around the puffy bruise.

“That’s your base skills, your toolset.” Diego grins. “Gotta learn how to use ‘em, buddy!”

“Oh gaaaaawd, no. No tools. Bad enough I’m getting sweaty upright-mostly- in a tracksuit, now you’re bringing DIY into it? I’ve changed my mind. Let’s not bother. I’ll just die quietly instead.”

“Klaus, you managing to do anything quietly would be a sure sign of the apocalypse. Another apocalypse.” Catching Klaus’s thoughtful look Diego pointedly adds, “And that is not a challenge.”

“Aww, Diego, you take the fun out of everything.”

“Not sure we’re entirely on the same page as to what constitutes ‘fun’,” Diego says, starting to circle around Klaus again. “I’m perfectly happy getting sweaty in a tracksuit.” He grins at Klaus. “Of course, I’m spending a lot more time upright than you…”

“It’s not the upright part that’s the problem, really,” Klaus muses. He’s turning with Diego, tracking Diego’s progress over the mats, eye flickering between Diego’s feet, frame and face warily. “Upright sweaty can be lots of fun. But as soon as you get tracksuits involved….. Or brothers, of course….” Klaus gives a theatrical shudder. His eyes squeeze shut for just a bare second.

Which is just asking Diego to dart forwards with a jab to his shoulder. Except that Klaus is suddenly not quite where Diego had expected him to be, jerking his body round a little quicker than he had been moving and then turning and leaning back away from Diego’s fist. Klaus grins gleefully as Diego punches only air. Then squeals indignantly as Diego brings his elbow back sharply to catch Klaus’s shoulder, blocks Klaus’s retreat with a carefully placed foot, and brings his opposite knee up to drive (gently!) into Klaus’s gut, making him double up and trip over said foot in the process.

Klaus thumps ass first onto the mat, and pouts up at Diego.

“Nice distraction,” Diego concedes with a toothy smile, “and nicely dodged. Once. You’re getting the idea, you just have to think a bit further ahead. No-one’s gonna lay off ‘cos of one single smart move.”

“I hate thinking,” Klaus grumps, but accepts Diego’s offered hand to help him back up.

“Yeah, it’s not really our family’s strongest trait, I guess. But with enough practice it’ll come. I mean, I’m not exactly the most intellectual sort of guy myself.”

“Yeah, no offense, but I don’t know that I really want to model myself on you, mon frere. You eat raw eggs.”

“Excellent source of protein! Speaking of which,” Diego gestures at Klaus’s sweat covered self, “you might wanna hit the shower before breakfast.”

Klaus’s eyes widen. “Already?” He goes to grab Diego’s wrist, but misses when Diego instinctively yanks it back. “Jeeez, Di, like I could hit you even if I wanted to,” Klaus mock grumbles, rolling his eyes. “I was just checking the time.”

“Get a watch,” sighs Diego, and starts off up the stairs.

Oddly, that most prosaic of statements actually makes Klaus still in thought for a moment, then he’s suddenly scampering to catch up with Diego. “Huh. I guess I could, actually. I mean, if I’m not actively gonna try to screw around and piss Dad off anymore it wouldn’t hurt to be on time for things…”

That gives Diego pause. He stares flatly at Klaus. “You mean all those times you were late for training, or dinner, or just not there at all, weren’t just you being flaky and spaced out? All the rants we had to endure, all the times one of us was sent to find you, all Dad’s pissy harumphing… You did that deliberately?”

“Well, not all the time- like you say, with enough practice it just comes naturally,” Klaus shrugs.

Diego stares blankly.

“What?” asks Klaus, all innocence. “I was going to be the Academy disappointment anyway, so why not own it? And don’t think I never noticed you sniggering at how wound up Luther got.”

Well, that’s a fair enough point- Diego had taken delight in anything that stuck in Luther’s craw, and had quite deliberately made plenty of contributions to that himself.

“Besides,” Klaus continues, “Dad was always so damn pompous about it all- someone had to bring his nose out of the clouds about his precious, world-saving Academy.”

“Hmmm. Well, congrats, your plan was clearly a roaring success.” Diego snorts and jerks a thumb towards the upper atrium they’re just passing, and its collection of rigidly posed oh-so-serious team portraits.

“Yeah,” Klaus sighs. “They tend to be.”  He scuffs his shoes as he drags his feet along the corridor to their wing of the building.

Diego slings an arm around his shoulders as they walk. “Now that is definitely a Hargreeves family trait. Can’t blame yourself for that. And to get back to your original query, we’ve got about twenty minutes before breakfast.”

“Twenty minutes?! That’s barely enough time to wash my face!”

“It’s twice the time any normal person needs to shower and dress,” Diego says, stopping outside his room. He gives Klaus a squeeze on the shoulder. “That was good work this morning, dude. Your body’s got twelve-year-old-you’s stamina and muscle memory. Keep working like you did there and it won’t take too long for your brain to catch up.”

Klaus looks sceptical. Diego gives him a light, friendly thump on the shoulder.

“Seriously, Klaus, for someone who hasn’t trained in, what? Thirteen years? That was really good progress. You’ll get there, and much sooner than you’re thinking.” Diego gives Klaus his very best proud trainer look, and is rewarded with a downcast, rather embarrassed looking, smile. It’ll do. He gives Klaus a light push towards his own room. “Now go de-sweat yourself, dude, you stink! And you ‘barely have enough time to wash your face’!”

“Don’t hate me just because I aspire to a more elegant appearance than neanderthal just dragged from the stone age, Diego!” Klaus twirls dramatically, but then wastes no more time in running for the bathroom.

There’s a fond smile on Diego’s face, even as he shakes his head and shuts his bedroom door.

 

 

 

Diego, having significantly less concern with sartorial elegance than his brother, is freshened up, changed and striding into the kitchen just ten minutes later. The aroma of freshly cooked pancakes, and Mom’s bright smile are enough to offset his disgust at the schoolboy uniform he’s obliged to wear, and he smiles back freely as he takes his seat. He’s the first of his siblings today, but he’s happy to just sit and enjoy watching Mom bustling contentedly about. He’s spent some time looking through Dad’s blueprints, which admittedly don’t mean much to him other than the fact that they’re her. The sheer complexity of those hundreds of diagrams and schematics is baffling, but he still can’t see her as a machine. She’s just as much his mother as if she were blood and bone, and he knows her love for them is real, no matter what the others may think.

“Diego, darling! You’re eager today!”

“Worked up an appetite already, Mom,” he says. “They smell amazing.”

“Well, thank you, dear! Hopefully they’ll taste as good as they smell. I’ll have everything ready in just a few minutes. Oh, good morning, dears!” She turns her bright warmth on Five and Vanya as they saunter into the kitchen, talking quietly.

“Morning Mom,” Vanya says, with a shy smile. Five offers a tight smile and a wave of a hand in greeting, and they both pull up chairs opposite Diego.

“So,” Five starts, “how did the sparring session go?”

“Surprisingly well, actually.” Diego nods in Vanya’s direction. “You and Allison may be on to something.”

Vanya’s smile becomes a little less shy and a little smug. But then she leans forward seriously, and speaks under her breath. “Yeah, we think so too. He really believes he’s useless, and I really think he’s not going to be able to make progress with his powers until he can have some hope in himself.” She pauses, and takes the time to pin Five and Diego in turn with her gaze. “That means we do not belittle him. No snarky comments, no matter what daft things he says or does, and no matter how hard you two might have to bite your tongues.”

Five glowers at her. “So you do concede he’s an idiot?”

“No, I do not. I’ll concede he’s done some stupid things, but it’s because he keeps trying to cover up how hurt he is, and he is not an idiot,” Vanya replies fiercely.

“To be fair, we’re all idiots, as far as normal human interaction goes,” Diego interjects before Vanya can call out Five’s eye roll. “Klaus just doesn’t bother to hide it.”

Five grimaces at that, but wilts a little under Vanya’s continue glare and finally nods his assent. “Fine, we’ll try this. But you owe me so much coffee.”

This is seemingly enough for Vanya, who leans back in her chair to break their conspiratorial huddle.

Footsteps in the corridor announce Ben’s arrival, and he’s followed shortly after by Klaus and Allison, the former looking more lively than usual for this time in the morning. Diego mentally congratulates himself on that.

They all take their places at the table, among friendly greetings and smiles that would never have happened when they were really this age. If Mom notices anything out of the ordinary she certainly doesn’t mention it- just smiles at them all as she deposits happy-faced pancakes in front of each of them. Then she stops, with a piled plate held in mid-air, before Luther’s empty seat. She blinks, twitches her lips back up to her usual wide smile, and deposits the plate on the empty setting. “My, how unlike your brother to be late for breakfast,” she says. She turns to the refrigerator to fetch the orange juice. “I do hope he’s not unwell.”

Luther’s absence hadn’t actually registered with Diego, but now that it’s brought to his attention he frowns in concern. It really is very unlike Luther.

Ben speaks up, voice muffled through a mouthful of pancakes and syrup. “He was studying- seemed pretty engrossed in it. He’s probably just lost track of time.”

Diego snorts. Only Luther could become even more of a sad case while working to undermine Dad.

“Oh dear,” Mom says. “I’ll go call him.” And she walks out smartly, to the sharp click of her heels.

Diego shakes is head, “Jeez. He’s never gonna get over his obsession with the moon, is he?”

“Well, Diego,” drawls Five, “I’d say it’s a healthier obsession than skulking through dark streets in leather and a mask.”

“Not as sexy, though,” offers Klaus, tonguing a strawberry suggestively.

“Klaus, please don’t go there.” Ben somehow manages to sound both desperate and resigned, and despair paints his face when Klaus grins evilly, waggling his eyebrows and straightening his posture ready for a performance. Oh no….

So, Klaus!” Allison butts in. “How are you feeling after everything yesterday?”

It’s an obvious diversion, but both Diego and Ben leap on it while Klaus is irritably brushing Allison off with “Alli, we literally just talked about that...”

“Yeah, Klaus, that sounded like some pretty heavy shit, not to mention the bust ribs,” Diego says, over the top of Ben’s, “Sorry it didn’t go so well, Klaus, but I’m really impressed with how you’re dealing with it.”

Five follows up before Klaus can jump track back to his previous train of thought. “Yes, you do seem much more relaxed than I would have expected, after what Allison described.” He peers intently at Klaus, then gets right in his face, not even attempting to hide that he’s sniffing Klaus’s breath.

“Hey!” Klaus shoves Five away, bristling.

Five spreads his hands, an apparent apology, though he doesn’t exactly look sorry. “I’m not accusing or judging. You can’t blame me for wondering.” Vanya elbows Five sharply, glaring daggers at him. Five stretches his lips in something between a grimace and a smile, and nods in Klaus’s direction. “Good to see you coping so well, Klaus,” he says, and he sounds sincere.

“Yeah,” says Vanya. “We’re proud of you Klaus.” Her smile looks proud, too. So does Allison’s, though she doesn’t say anything- just catches Klaus’s eyes meaningfully and squeezes his hand.

Ben is positively beaming at Klaus. He doesn’t seem to need words either, when Klaus finally meets his gaze- the two of them just look at each other for a long moment, Ben’s grin widening and Klaus’s eyes dropping to his hands as his lips gradually draw into an embarrassed smile.

The click of Mom’s heels ends the conversation, and they all focus on clearing their plates as she walks in.

“Such a silly boy!” she declares, presumably of Luther, and shakes her head fondly. She busies herself at the worktop, preparing a sandwich. “Dears, your brother won’t have time to join us for a proper breakfast now, so can I ask one of you to take this up to him? A growing boy needs something in the morning.”

They all murmur some form of assent, and Mom beams fondly at them all before starting to collect the empty plates and glasses. “Now, you all run along and get ready for your lessons, children.”

Diego rises and gets the sandwich she’s prepared for Luther. Mom smiles even more brightly, squeezes him in a quick one-armed hug, and kisses his head. He feels his cheeks flaming, but he’s loathe to reject the affection, and when he glances at his siblings he sees them either departing, oblivious, or smiling in understanding. “Thanks Mom,” he says, giving her a quick hug back. Then he follows the others upstairs.

They all file up the corridor to Luther’s room, to find him sat cross-legged on his bed in shorts and shirt with his tie undone, flicking worriedly through pages of several of the files he’d taken from Dad’s lab.

Diego steps in, offering up the sandwich. “Hey, Spaceboy. Mom made you this, since you missed breakfast.”

Luther waves him off, staring intently at the pages before him.

“Luther?” asks Allison. “Are you alright?” She sits at his side, glancing between his face and the folders, puzzled.

Ben and Five both move to flank the bed, looking over Luther’s shoulders to see what has him so transfixed. Diego just stands there, with an unwanted sandwich in his outstretched hand like an idiot, swapping bewildered glances with Klaus and Vanya. What the hell?

Five draws a sudden sharp breath and everyone snaps their attention to him. Except Luther, who can’t seem to look away from the open folders.

“Shit,” says Five.

“Yeah.” Luther nods slowly, still fixated on whatever the hell those pages are telling him.

Ben frowns, peering more intently at the indecipherable (to Diego) mass of schematics and equations. “Is that…..”

“Yeah,” says Luther.

“…… Shit,” whispers Ben. His eyes are wide and his mouth is gaping.

“Yeah.” Both Luther and Five nod.

Diego’s getting pissed off now. He looks up to find Allison, Vanya and Klaus looking just as bemused and annoyed.

“Ok, so, we’ve established shit. Anyone feel like elaborating on that?” he asks.

Finally Luther lifts his head, looks around at his siblings. “So, good news. I figured out what Dad’s been doing on the moon.”

“That’s a signal receptor,” Ben mumbles quietly.

“Yes, yes it is,” Five nods. “That is a very sensitive signal receptor.”

“Which means…..” Diego prompts.

“And it’s directed….” Ben trails off, apparently not keen to finish his sentence.

“Away from Earth, yes.” Five swallows. “It’s directed, in fact, upon a very specific set of co-ordinates well beyond the limits of the solar system.”

“Uhm. Guys?” Diego’s brain is starting to join dots in a shape he really doesn’t like.

 “And it’s set to detect a very specific energy signature- one that I’ve only ever encountered as a theoretical possibility,” Five continues.

“OK, seriously, what the hell?” Diego is going to punch someone soon if they don’t actually explain.

“But that…” Ben croaks, pointing to a string of numbers indistinguishable from anything else on the page, “That’s not theoretical…”

“No,” Five says. “No, it is not.” His voice is flat, factual. His eyebrows are in his hairline.

Diego’s stomach is dropping fast. The sandwich, he realises, is a disgusting mush in his clenched fist. “Guys. What. The. Fuck?!”

Luther looks at Vanya. Swallows. “The apocalypse Dad raised us to prevent. It wasn’t Vanya. It wasn’t us.”

No way. There is no fucking way Luther’s saying what Diego thinks he’s saying. The next words out of his mouth had better not be….

“It’s aliens.”