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Painting pictures in my head

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As soon as Number Five stormed away from the dinner table after being refused permission to time travel, Reginald Hargreeves knew he had to prepare a suitable punishment so the infernal boy understood that such atrocious behaviour was not tolerated in this household.

As soon as Number Five didn't return during the night however, Reginald Hargreeves began to suspect he had lost one of his more interesting experiments. It was possible that the boy had run away of course; but Reginald knew that to be unlikely. As arrogant and clever as Number Five was, and as above the others he liked acting, Reginald knew he would never leave without at least one of his siblings in tow, most likely Number Six or Number Seven. Even more likely, both. The boy thought he was hiding how much he cared for them.

Reginald's suspicions were reinforced when the boy did not return the next day, or the next evening. Number Seven had been crying in her room. He would have to double check that she takes her medication, as she was obviously quite emotional over this new development. It was for this reason only that he did not interfere when he observed her through the security feed rising in the middle of the night to go into the kitchen and make some sort of disgusting sandwich. She left it out on the kitchen bench, along with leaving several lights on around the house.

He supposed she would need some sort of outlet for her erratic emotions, if only to ensure the medication remained effective.

When Number Five did not return for a third day in a row, and Number Seven had made a sandwich for the second night in a row, Reginald decided the boy had had enough time to return if he wished, therefore something had happened. Number One reported to his office and requested somewhat nervously that they be allowed to go out and search for Number Five. Reginald denied him this request, as it would be of no use to anyone and a waste of time. If Number Five was stupid enough to get himself lost in the city, then he deserved to have to find his own way back with no assistance.

Reginald knew Number Five was not that stupid.

On the fourth night, as he watched Number Seven complete her new nightly ritual, this time accompanied by Numbers Four and Six, Reginald thought it was time to actually check where the boy was. He switched the security feed of the three children on the monitor onto a data display he only used somewhat often; A screen that displayed the global co-ordinates of the current location of each of the children. This was provided by a small tracker present in every piece of clothing they owned.

He skipped the first four values, as he knew exactly where Numbers One-through-Four were. The fifth values however, made him raise his eyebrows.

There were none. Instead, the slot was home to a jumble of messy pixels. It seemed as though the tracker in Number Five's uniform was malfunctioning.

There were only two possible causes for that. If the boy had simply disposed of his jacket, the coordinates would show where he had left it. If he had simply destroyed the tracker, the slot would be blank, and not glitching everywhere and ruining his neat data arrangement. Number Five was currently either in-between jumps, or somewhere his satellite signal did not reach.

After the ridiculous argument about time travel, it wasn't hard to deduce which one of these it was.

Reginald had no doubt that Number Five was capable of time travel, as he had so avidly insisted. He had the physical capability, and he was also sure Number Five would know all the equations involved perfectly, if only for going forward, before even considering bringing it up.

So yes, Reginald knew Number Five could definitely time travel if he so wished. It was the true implications of this power that the boy did not fully grasp, hence Reginald insisting he was not ready.

It was also levels more difficult to travel backwards in time than forward, and no matter how intelligent the boy was, Reginald knew it was impossible for him to comprehend what was involved at his current stage of mental development.

The boy had left in a rage, and one thing that Reginald Hargreeves knew for sure about Number Five was that he often let his anger get the best of him, and it interfered in his reasoning more than he would like to think. It also interfered in the intensity of his powers. Reginald had found that, with most of the children, the more emotional they were, the stronger their powers got. Number One often found himself throwing much farther when angry, Number Two with a much more fierce intensity, and even Number Three often gave more malicious commands when riled up. If Number Four were to ever get over his preposterous fear of the dead, Reginald had no doubt the same thing would happen when he fully grasped his powers. The beasts from Number Six always tended to respond to the boy's emotional state, though they were always violent. And Number Seven, well.

Number Five was no different. One thing that had become apparent through their weekly training was that the more he managed to provoke the boy, the farther and faster he managed to teleport, or he used what seemed to be significantly less energy. He wasn't even entirely sure if Number Five himself had noticed.

And the boy had seemed particularly mad that dinner. Reginald had no doubt he had accidentally traveled much farther forward than he had intended to.

If the boy had not returned within the month, Reginald was almost certain he would never be seen again. This would be because Number Five tended to get too cocky and had likely traveled far enough forward that Reginald himself was no longer around to train the boy to get back. And that meant it was at least seventeen years ahead he had travelled, if everything went according to plan. And the apocalypse would come soon after that if his predictions were correct, which they always were.

If the boy did not return within the month, Reginald was officially writing him off as dead.

No great loss.

 

---

 

Two weeks in, one of his wretched children called the police. 

He never worked out who it was, as apparently they had used a public payphone while they were out on a mission and he hadn't noticed. Before, he would have thought the only one even vaguely capable of something like that would have been Number Five himself.

Apparently not. He would have to monitor the children much more closely in the future. 

The police were waiting at the mansion when Reginald and the children returned. He sent them all a withering glare, and all of them exchanged frightened looks as they shuffled inside.

Reginald turned to the group of police, all looking at him with neutral expressions.

"Hello," He grit out. "Can I help you fine officers?"

It ended with the house being searched, of course. Much to Reginald's annoyance, there was also a news story the next evening and he had to make several statements.

The police filed a missing person report, and the children exchanged hopeful glances.

Three weeks later, Number Five was officially declared dead. This was only a week after Reginald himself had come to the same conclusion.

With the whole world looking for him and his face fairly well known, after no news came, there was nothing else that could be done. The police were out of their depth with a teleporting child disappearing without a trace. 

(Interestingly enough, there would only be two sightings of him to ever be reported; one where he was seen on a crowded street, a few doors down from their mansion in fact, two summers later before teleporting away again not even eight seconds after he had appeared. The next was seven winters afterward, under similar circumstances; he appeared once again on the street their mansion was on, during a snowstorm no less. He was said to be walking confidently without falter, only to disappear again ten seconds later. Nothing else was ever reported after that. This served to further confirm Reginald's earlier theory.)

It had not even crossed Reginald's mind to tell the children, but he supposed he could use this. Use Number Five as an example so maybe the horrid things would respect his authority more. Surely, when they thought of Number Five, who had always been the most rebellious of them, they would think of what happened to him. Gone, gone so thoroughly that not even the entire world looking at once could find him, and they might think it could happen to them.

Look at Number Five, he disobeyed his father, and now he's just gone.

Yes, thought Reginald. Useful indeed. He would get Grace to create something. Something that would serve as a constant reminder to the children that if you do not respect father's wishes, bad things will happen.

 

---

 

One month and three weeks after Number Five last stepped out of the Hargreeves mansion, the remaining six children were called for a meeting in the living room by Pogo. They lined up in numerical order, like they had been taught, a glaring absence between Klaus and Ben. They had not been told whether they were allowed to close the gap or not, as that would be out of order, so for now it remained.

"What d'you think this is about?" Whispered Ben to Vanya. Vanya shrugged half-heartedly, looking at her shoes. 

"It's obviously important," said Luther proudly, standing up straighter. "Father hardy ever wants us all together if it's not about training or missions."

Ben and Klaus side-eyed Vanya in concern at that. She was still looking at the floor. 

It was true though, as much as it was terrible that Vanya was never included when they were called together. The only times that were not mission related was when their Father commissioned a new portrait every year, on their birthday. And Vanya wasn't in those, anyway.

"I hope it doesn't take too long," sighed Allison, "I had the rest of the day planned out.."

"Yeah, w-well," began Diego, "Mmm-mum was going to help me wit-with my throw-w-wing tech... tech..."

He frowned as he struggled to get the word out.

"Techniques?" Supplied Ben helpfully.

"Yeah, that," waved off Diego, "and I doh-don't want to b-be late, so..."

"Don't worry about that," grinned Klaus, rolling on his feet. "Whatever it is the old man wants, he's definitely told Mum, so she won't be surprised if you show up a bit late!"

"I g-guess..." sighed Diego. 

"Speaking of mum," Began Luther thoughtfully, "She's been really busy lately. I wonder what all that's about..."

They were interrupted when Pogo entered, hobbling on his cane, and stood in front of them. Their Father followed behind a moment later, standing as straight and proper as a plank of wood. Lastly, their mother entered, carrying something large and square shaped, covered in a white sheet. 

The children stopped talking immediately, and stood up as straight as they could.

"It has come to my attention," Began their Father, calculating eyes passing over the six children one-by-one. "That Number Five," Vanya took in a small breath at that, "Has been declared dead."

Nobody moved, but six pairs of eyes widened. 

"And as such," continued Reginald, looking incredibly unperturbed by the fact he had just announced one of his adoptive children dead, "I have had Grace paint a portrait of him in his memory, that will be displayed above the fireplace from now on."

Their mother gently took off the sheet from whatever it was she was carrying, something horribly akin to grief on her face. 

And there it was, a large portrait of their fifth sibling, looking like a small businessman with his hair parted neatly to the side and an incredibly serious look on his face. Physically, it looked just like him. Their mother had, after all, a lifetime of recorded moments with him in it she could refer to.

He did seem, however, incredibly cold and distant. How on earth was anyone going to remember any of the good times with him if that portrait was all that was left?

Vanya let out a shaky breath as their mother climbed a stepladder that had been set up in front of the fireplace, and gently hung the portrait from a hook, obviously there for this moment. Ben shifted slightly, wanting to move to comfort her but not wanting to get in trouble. A small lamp above it shined a yellow light onto Five's face.

It made him look sad, thought Vanya. Like a sad old man.

She felt herself tear up, her breath hitching in her lungs at the very thought of Five being...

"I will allow a week to do what you will," said their Father. "After that, I expect it to be back to business as usual, no nonsense. You are dismissed."

With that, Vanya let out a sob and ran from the room.

"Vanya...!" Called Ben unsurely, reaching for her.

The room remained silent for a few minutes after their Father had left. Luther looked shaken, staring with wide eyes at the portrait. Diego was seething, yet a glassy sheen was visible over his eyes and he was blinking furiously. Allison had her head in her hands, shaking slightly into them, and Klaus just looked vacant as he stared into the fireplace. Ben kept glancing between the portrait and the door, unsure.

The silence was broken by Diego, growling and stepping up to Klaus.

"Www-w-well?" He asked, and Klaus focused his eyes on him, a small frown gracing his face. "Is... ii-is h-hh-h-e deh... deh.. d-d-dead?"

Allison took her face out of her hands to look at Klaus with wide and hopeful eyes, and Luther turned his attention on them, trying to compose himself. Ben gave one last glance to the portrait before also turning to Klaus.

"Uhhhhh......" said Klaus slowly. "How should I know? I literally was told this just now! Like you guys!"

"But maybe you saw him?" Asked Allison, her face falling at the idea.

"Nope," denied Klaus, shaking his head. "If he's dead, I've been given nothing, zero, zip, zilch, nada."

"Okay," sighed Diego in what could be relief. "F-father did ss-say he had b-been only declared duh... dead, not that he was dead..."

"Maybe he'll come back," Whispered Ben. Diego and Allison nodded frantically, and Klaus took something out of his pocket with shaking hands.

"...but wouldn't Father know?" Asked Luther slowly, turning back to the portrait. "Maybe they found something, maybe he..."

"Don't," growled Allison. Luther took a step back, eyes wide. She sighed. "Let's go," She said, before sparing the portrait a final glance and turning around to leave the room. 

"Allison-" Luther tried, following after her like a lost puppy. Ben, Klaus and Diego watched them go, before the room was once again enveloped in a stuffy silence. The fire crackled in the background. 

"W-well," said Diego finally. "Muh-mum won't wait for-r-rever," He glanced at Klaus. "Puh...please tell us if you see anything?" He asked, his voice trembling.

Klaus nodded. "Why wouldn't I?" He mumbled, fumbling in his pocket for a lighter. Ben glared at him, and he held his hand out in surrender. Diego nodded in thanks, then turned to leave.

"I'd better go check on Vanya," Sighed Ben. "You should come too, Klaus, and tell her you haven't seen him. It might make her feel better."

"Yeah okay," Sighed Klaus. "In a minute though, I'll catch up to you..."

Ben nodded and left the room.

Klaus was left alone with the portrait. He took out the lighter from his pocket, the joint in his mouth waiting as he lit it. He took a long drag, and looked up at Five's painted face.

"Do me a favour," He said, "And don't be dead. I dunno if I want to see your stupid face in my room at night. And I dunno if any one of us could handle it if you were..." He took another shaky drag. "Especially Vanya, she's already crying her eyes out at night, if you really were dead..."

He let out a breath and shook his head out like a dog, before turning and following Ben out of the room.

 

---

 

That night, several things happened in the Hargreeves household. Klaus, at Diego and Vanya's request, sat in his room after having laid off the drugs for (most) of the day, and attempted to summon Number Five. After an hour or so of trying wielded no results, he gave up, and the children were given no clear answer as to the fate of their brother.

Allison also sat in her room, steeling herself in front of her mirror.

"I heard a rumour..." She breathed, "that Number Five came home."

When nothing happened, she let out a small sob and tried again. "I heard a rumour... that Five never even left."

The room stayed still. She quietly got up and opened her door, her head peaking down the hallway where she knew Five's room was. Glancing up at the camera in her room and in the hall, she left the doorway and treaded towards his room. When she reached it, she knocked lightly.

"...Five?" She tried. Silence. She turned the handle and creaked the door open. The room was dark and empty, a fine layer of dust seen to be covering his neatly made bed from some moonlight coming in from the window. 

She quickly closed the door and ran back to her room, jumping into her bed. She let out a sob once again. 

Vanya stumbled down the stairs into the kitchen, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. Ben trailed after her, rubbing at his eyes sleepily. They reached the kitchen, and Vanya got to quick work taking out a plate from the cupboard, setting it on the bench, and then moving over to the pantry to pick out the peanut butter and a bag of marshmallows. Ben silently moved to the higher cupboards in search of a mug.

"I'll make us hot chocolate," he said quietly. Vanya nodded.

They sat in the kitchen in companionable silence, a peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich in the middle of the table between them. Grace would find them asleep in their spots hours later, and carry them up to their rooms while Pogo disposed of the sandwich with a sigh.

Diego lay in his bed, staring at the ceiling, twirling a knife in his hands. He listened to Klaus, in the room across from his, harshly whisper their brother's name over and over, accompanied by the occasional 'no, no, no...' 

Diego felt his stomach swoop whenever he heard that, but it was always accompanied by a small sigh afterwards. Diego knew Klaus had no luck. 

Once he heard his brother finally give up, Diego gave up too, and flung his knife at a random spot in the wall before pulling the covers over his head and going to sleep.

Luther sat in his room, at his desk, his head in his hands, thinking.

"Father would know..." He whispered to himself. But he found, for once in his life, he hoped his father was wrong.

"But he would know..." he said to himself again, unsure. He pressed a hand to his forehead. His father knew what was best for them, right? His father had never been wrong before, as far as he knew. And why would he lie to them? Especially about this?

"Father would know," He said again, this time more confidently. He took in a deep breath, letting it out shakily.

The week to 'do what they will' had begun. He would use it wisely, so that when it was over he could perform to his best ability again. He was the leader, after all. He would make sure the others did the same.

Their Father would know.

Reginald Hargreeves sat in front of several monitors, the current image trained on Number One's room.

He smiled to himself as he watched the boy finally come to an agreement after the obvious battle that had been going on in his head.

It seemed the message had gotten through.

Reginald Hargreeves turned off the monitor, got up, and left the room. Pogo was waiting for him.

"Ensure that disgusting sandwich is disposed of by the morning," He said, not even looking at Pogo as he passed.

"Yes sir," Sighed Pogo.

Reginald Hargreeves went to bed, planning to spend the next week preparing for extra challenging training sessions for his five remaining extraordinary children. He supposed Grace might need an update, too. He should modify her programming so that she triple checks each day that Number Seven had taken her medication.

And with that, the house turned dark and silent.