The glow of several monitors illuminates the small surveillance room. Allison smiles fondly, the rare sound of her siblings’ laughter filtering in from the old recordings.
“Hey,” Luther greets, poking his head in from the hall. “What are you up to?”
He shuts the door behind him, coming to stand beside her.
“I don’t know, I just….” She pauses, considering how to best frame her feelings. “Things have been so heavy these past few days, I was hoping to find some good memories you know.”
Luther nods, peering curiously into the screens.
“How’s that going?”
“Much harder than it should be unfortunately.” She gestures towards the two tapes she’d already tried, stacked innocently on a corner of the desk. “Dad yelled at Ben and made him cry on the first one, and by the way Klaus was vomiting in the second, I’m pretty sure he had alcohol poisoning.”
Luther’s face contorts in a pained expression. Allison can practically hear him blaming himself. “This one’s been good so far,” she adds quickly, hoping to deter that direction of thought. “Look.”
Luther grants her a grateful smile before turning to watch, catching sight of a younger Diego and Five racing each other down the halls, then at their own younger selves looking through magazines on her bed.
“Oh god, we were so small!”
“I know,” Allison giggles. “I mean Five is still tiny, but he used to be taller than me!”
Luther chuckles, the sound of china smashing, cutting off the sound.
Leaning in, Allison finds the source.
Diego stands in the living room, Dad’s big, blue Ming dynasty vase smashed to pieces at his feet. His hands fist in his hair anxiously, as he backs away from the mess.
Five appears next to him in a flash of blue. He takes in the broken vase, the way Diego is panicking, and then steps between the two and towards Diego.
He takes Diego’s hands in his own, stopping his hair pulling. The other boy shakes his head frantically, mouth freezing up in the choppy way she has come to associate with his childhood stutter. He might be crying but it’s hard to tell.
His words and Five subsequent response are lost, having both spoken in whispers the camera was unable to catch. But whatever Five says seems to calm him, the tension in the child’s body easing.
Allison watches as Five steers Diego away from the mess and towards the door, glancing up towards the stairs warily every few seconds.
For good reason.
Reginald Hargreeves stalks down the stairs on another monitor with booming, angry steps. He’d probably heard the noise from the open door of his study. To her memory, breaking any of their father’s expensive home decor was always met with a severe lecturing and some additional form of punishment.
Usually a loss of her already few privileges, in Allison's case.
Five guides their brother all the way to the kitchen to Mom, who takes one look at Diego’s state and pulls him into a warm hug.
He hesitates a moment at the doorway, shifting restlessly from foot to foot. Ultimately, he makes his decision, and heads back to the living room. He practically drags his feet the whole way there, looking uncharacteristically small.
By the time their father enters the room however, Five’s poised himself again. Back straight. Chin up. Hands clasped behind his back.
Their father says something, Five responds, and Allison chokes on a surprised gasp when Reginald slaps him across the face with enough force to knock his head to the side.
Her hands shake as she scrambles to turn down the volume on the other monitors, hoping to better hear what they’re saying. Needing to know what Five could’ve possibly said to result in such a violent response.
She misses the rest of the conversation, their brother blinking away.
Reginald pulls out his watch, impatiently timing his return.
When he reappears, Five carries a broom and dustpan, as well as a large black trash bag.
Their father yanks the former from his hands, tossing it behind him.
Allison catches his words this time.
“You’ll clean your mess with your own two hands.”
Five doesn’t correct him. Simply kneels to the ground, carefully picking up the shards and tossing them into the trash bag.
Reginald’s cane slams down on the hardwood, loud enough to make Five flinch back. “Today Number Five!”
He hurries to comply, carelessly grabbing handfuls of the sharp ceramic.
Allison’s hands twinge in sympathy. There’s no way he hasn’t cut open his hands doing that.
The second he’s finished, Reginald grabs Five by the back of his jacket, pulling him to his feet and forcing him along, the child scrambling to keep up with their father’s longer strides.
But instead of taking him up the stairs towards his office as she expected, they make their way downstairs.
Allison stands from her seat, tracking their journey through the old monitors, stomach twisting in apprehension.
On the basement camera’s screen, she watches Reginald wrench open the door and push Five down the small flight of stairs.
He lands hard, bloody handprints marking the place he manages to catch himself, barely keeping from slamming head first on the ground, and confirming Allison’s prior suspicion.
She hopes that she’s wrong. That what she thinks is about to happen doesn’t actually happen.
In her bedroom, the younger versions of Luther and Allison whisper and giggle on the bed. Vanya plays the violin a few doors down in her room, swaying to the rhythm, a gentle smile on her face. Diego prepares a batch of cookies with Grace’s help in the kitchen mood uplifted under the force of her affection, as Ben and Klaus hide out in the attic, playing with a deck of cards and betting contraband candies.
In the basement on the lower level, Five cowers before their father as he beats him with his cane.
Allison feels sick.
“No.” She’d been so engrossed, Luther’s voice startles her. “Dad wouldn’t...He never...”
Allison doesn’t bother to answer. There’s no point. The evidence is right in front of them.
It doesn’t last long. Their father strikes Five a handful of times. But Five must be all of ten years old and Reginald Hargreeves is a grown man.
Throughout it all, Five doesn’t cry. Doesn’t beg or plead with their father to stop. Entirely silent except for the choked noises of pain he can’t quite hold back.
He doesn’t fight either. Simply curls in on himself, protecting his head like he’s done this before.
Allison feels infinitely worse in light of it.
“Since you are so clearly in need of extra discipline,” their father sneers, “you are to return to your room and you are not to leave until I fetch you for private training tonight. Do you understand?”
Five swallows thickly before responding, voice brittle. “What about dinner? If we’ll be training I need to eat...”
“No. You won’t be having dinner tonight.”
The cane slams against the floor in warning and Five’s jaw snaps shut, posture changing from the open defiance of looking up at their father’s face, to submissively gazing at his feet.
Apparently satisfied, Reginald leaves his son on the floor without so much as a backwards glance. The door swinging shut behind him with a bang.
The tension in the room could be cute with a knife. Luther is a statue beside her, as frozen as she is by the truth they’d unwillingly uncovered.
Five is the one who ultimately breaks the silence.
The child gasps out as he makes it to his knees on shaky arms, stopping there to control his erratic breathing. By the way Five holds his side, Allison guesses that at best he has a bruised rib, at worst a broken one.
Likely more than one.
Having steeled himself, Five painfully pulls himself up the rest of the way to his feet. Leaning heavily against the walls, he begins the journey to his room.
It’s heartbreaking to watch.
He looks pale and woozy by the time he makes it up the first flight of stairs, and he still has two more to go.
Allison prays for someone, anyone, to walk past him.
She gets her wish and almost wishes she hadn’t.
Her younger self is laughing, racing down the hall with Luther hot on her heels. With a glance backward to see how close he is to catching her, younger Allison darts down the stairs.
For a moment, she feels a flare of hope. Surely they’ll run into Five. Surely they’ll see him and help.
Except she doesn’t remember this moment, and there’s no way she’d ever forget seeing Five hurt like this.
Not Five, who was always so strong and invincible.
Turns out, Allison doesn’t remember, because she never even got a good look at him.
They meet halfway on the second staircase. Her younger self is in the middle of throwing a taunt over her shoulder at Luther, when she clips Five in the side sending him off balance.
“Watch where you’re going!” Young Luther growls, grabbing Five by the collar and shoving him against the wall and out of the way.
Definitely broken ribs.
Five stumbles once he’s released, just barely catching himself against the rail before he can tumble down the stairs, biting into his fist to keep from crying out and drawing their attention.
It works. Their younger selves don’t even notice, disappearing down the next flight of stairs.
Tears slip down her cheeks.
She doesn’t know what happens next, because Luther lunges forward then, slamming the pause button on the VHS with such force the device splinters and cracks, static filling every screen.
The reprimand catches in her tight throat when she sees the tears welling in his eyes as well.
“I hurt him. God Allie, I hurt him.” Luther’s staring down at his own shaking hands, backing until he hits the wall and then sliding down it.
“You didn’t know,” she hurries to reassure, dropping down beside him.
“I was Number One! I was supposed to know. I was supposed to protect you all…”
Allison sighs. “Luther,” she lifts his chin so that he’ll meet her gaze. “You were a child. The fact that you were numbered first as a baby shouldn’t have made it your job to protect us. That should’ve been Dad’s job…”
Instead, their father constantly threw them into danger. Instead, their father had been the one hurting them.
“That’s—” Luther chokes, scrubbing a hand wearily over his face as he composes himself. “God…did dad ever hit you?”
Allison startles. “No, of course not! Did he—”
“No, no. Do you think...the others?” His voice quivers ever so slightly, and Allison wishes she could reassure him that of course not. Of course their father never abused any of their other siblings. That this time with Five was a one time thing.
But unfortunately, that’s just not the reality they live in.
“There’s only one way to find out.”
They find Ben and Vanya reading together in the living room, in companionable silence. Vanya is stretched out on one of the couches, while Ben is curled up in a recliner, snuggled into a thick blanket with a cup of hot chocolate.
“Did dad ever hit you?”
Allison knows Luther is anxious. That he’s been working himself up to be able to ask and that he can’t stand the not knowing for a single second longer. That these two things culminated in him just thoughtlessly blurting it out. Allison knows this. But that doesn't stop her from wanting to facepalm all the same.
A bit more tact would’ve been helpful.
Vanya doesn’t even glance up from her book, simply raising an eyebrow in disbelief. “Dad didn’t even look at me.”
While it’s a relief to hear, the blunt way Vanya points out her neglect as the only reason it hadn’t occurred isn’t very encouraging.
Ben shrugs, looking up from his reading and patting at his stomach absentmindedly. “Pretty sure the eldritch monsters would’ve eaten him if he tried.”
That’s…also not very reassuring.
“What’s this?!” Klaus exclaims, skipping into the room, Diego trailing behind him. “A family gathering and we weren’t invited. Can you believe this Di?”
“I can barely hold back my tears,” he gruffs, but his lips curl into a smirk at the other’s antics.
“You see!” Klaus strikes a dramatic pose and sprawls himself out across from Vanya, like a 19th century housewife on a fainting couch.
Despite everything, Allison finds herself smiling. Small and weak, but a smile nonetheless.
“Have you guys seen Five?”
Klaus jumps back up at Luther’s question, brightening. “He’s out on a doughnut run! Well it was a coffee run but, as you all know, I am irresistible.”
“You’re something alright,” Ben mumbles.
Klaus sticks his tongue out at him, before turning his attention back to her and Luther, cocking his head curiously. “So, what's got you guys all riled up?”
Allison opens her mouth to respond, but Ben beats her to it.
“They were asking if Dad ever hit us.”
She has a tactless family.
“Oh fun! Casual family conversations.”
Luther wrings his hands. “So um, did he?”
Diego crosses his arms, eying Luther critically from where he leans against the side of the couch Klaus has claimed. Finding whatever he was looking for, he turns away, muttering defensively. “Ya, so what?”
“Awww,” Klaus whines beside him, “and here I thought I was special!”
The knot in her chest returns.
“What! He did?” The admittance is enough to draw Vanya’s attention, eyes widening. Clearly she hadn’t thought they were serious.
It’s depressing that somehow, Reginald’s cruelty continues to surprise them.
Diego shrugs self consciously at her ogling. “Ya. He’d knock me around whenever I did something he didn’t like. Used to slap me if I stuttered while answering him too.”
Klaus nods in agreement. “Even kicked me once,” he admits, “I was too old to be crying apparently. I’d like to see him get locked in a mausoleum for hours. Bet he’d cry too.”
Luther curses under his breath and Diego narrows his eyes at him. “Are you saying he never did anything like that to you?”
Diego snorts. “Figures.”
“God,” Luther laments. “I can’t believe I had no idea he was hurting you three.”
He doesn’t bring up that the grief stems largely from his failure as Number One, which is probably for the best. She can’t imagine Number Two taking that very well.
Diego however, is focused on something else. “Three!?” He turns to Vanya and Ben, hands clenching into fists at his side. Klaus perks up beside him. “That bastard hurt one of you?”
“Five,” Allison clarifies softly.
Vanya’s surprise is palpable, but Ben simply sighs heavily, as if he already suspected as much to be true.
She’s about to ask him about it when Diego interrupts.
“Nah, he never laid a hand on Five.”
The words are confident. He’s completely self assured and Allison’s confused as to why. Particularly when she's seen with her own eyes that he's wrong.
“He did, Diego.” Luther confirms slowly.
“Did Five tell you that?”
Diego shakes his head. “No way. Old man loved him. Barely ever got into trouble and when he did Dad wouldn't even lecture him. Usually just gave him extra practice and Five liked training, so it was basically a reward. He told me so himself.”
Allison closes her eyes, the final pieces of the puzzle settling into place.
“What do you mean?” She prods, just to be sure.
“He uh, he saw Dad him me this one time. I was helping Mom with the dishes and dropped one, damn bastard. Five jumped into my room that night and made me tell him everything. You know how he can get, so I told him. He looked pretty angry about it so I asked if Dad ever did anything like that to him and he said no. That Dad just gave him extra training and he was trying to get better with his powers anyway, so sometimes he'd even goaded Dad into it on purpose. Told me if I ever wanted him to take the blame for something like that, to let him know. That it would be better for both of us.”
“Said the same thing to me,” Klaus recounts. “Confessed one time when Dad found a stash of my weed. Don’t know how he ever believed that, but hey! I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth.”
Luther seems to put it together too, if the way he glances at her is anything to go by.
Unfortunately, it's not very inconspicuous and Diego catches it easily. “What! What’s that look for?”
“We were just watching an old recording. And Dad…dad—”
“He hit Five?” The disbelief is clear on Diego’s face, like he couldn’t possible fathom such a thing.
“He...he beat him with his cane,” Luther corrects.
Vanya’s exclamation is lost in Diego’s angry bellow. “WITH HIS CANE?!” He’s absolutely livid, fists shaking at his sides. Klaus’ carefree mood is gone. His brow furrowed in thought, as he whispers quietly to himself.
“What the fuck! What the hell did he do to deserve that?”
Luther turns to her again, looking incredibly lost. Diego’s head swivels back and forth between them, like he’s watching a tennis match. When neither of them answer, he turns hard eyes to her.
It’s a demand for the truth.
God she doesn’t want to give it to him.
“For breaking a vase,” she starts, dragging her words and trying to delay the inevitable. “The big blue one that used to be right there.” She points at the place.
Diego follows the motion, glaring at the place she points. It takes him a second, but she can tell the moment he connects the dots, because all at once, the color drains from his face.