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whoever shouts the loudest gets the most attention

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Four is back.

He's sitting at the table when Seven goes down to the kitchen for breakfast, shoveling eggs into his mouth like they're going to disappear.

She doesn't know where he's been. Dad told them yesterday that he had, 'special training,' and left it at that. They weren't allowed to ask any questions about it either.

The others just went on like they usually did, training for when Dad decides they're ready for a mission.

It didn't make a difference. Four's power isn't really suited to combat situations anyway. At least, that's what One said when she asked him about it.

Seven doesn't like when he says things like that. Pogo says all of them are special, even Seven, and they shouldn't treat each other any differently. Or maybe he only says that to make her feel better about not being special.

She finishes her breakfast quickly and goes back upstairs, putting Four's reappearance out of her mind. It's time to begin her studies.

Today, Pogo teaches her about the Kennedy assassination and the effects it had on the country. She zones out and listens to the ticking of the clock on the wall. Any other day she would be paying attention, but today is Saturday, and on Saturdays they get to have fun for half an hour before lunch.

Pogo takes pity and lets her go two minutes early. She hugs him and hurries up to her room as quietly as she can. If Dad catches her, she won't be allowed to play at all.

She stops in the hallway, just outside of Four's bedroom. She can hear something through the door. When she opens it, she sees him sitting on the floor, leaning against his bed with his arms wrapped around his knees.

He's crying.

No matter what Pogo says, the others treat Seven differently. She's never allowed to learn how to fight with them, or join in on their games.

But Four. Four tries to include her sometimes. He comes to her bedroom on Saturdays and invites her to play dress up with him and Three. He tells her all of Two's and Six's hiding places so she can always find them in hide-and-seek.

She goes into Four's room and closes the door, sitting beside him on the floor. He gives her a quizzical look, eyes full of tears, and she smiles in response.

She doesn't say anything, not wanting to make it worse somehow. It's Four who breaks the silence.

"Sometimes I think maybe I'm a ghost, and I just haven't noticed yet." His eyes widen, like he's surprised that he said it, like he didn't mean to. "Don't tell Dad. Please, I don't want to go back."

She doesn't know what he means, but if it has him this scared, it's no trouble at all to say, "I won't tell. I promise."

He buries his face in her shoulder to muffle his cries.

Seven rubs her hand in circles on his back, like Mom does for her when she's sick. She doesn't know if it helps, but she doesn't know what to do. "You're real," she tells him.

"I'm real, I'm real," he repeats, over and over, like maybe if he says it enough times, it'll be true.

She sits with him until he stops crying, then helps him wash his face in the bathroom so nobody will know.

They walk down to the kitchen together for lunch. They've missed playtime but, when Four smiles upon seeing that Mom has made his favorite, Seven decides she doesn't mind this once.