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They don’t all switch powers, only Klaus, Five and Luther. Luther notices almost immediately. Granted, it’s difficult not to notice when in one second he is in his own room and the next he is in Ben’s. WITHOUT MOVING. The first thing he does is call Allison. Ok, he screams for her, but to be fair, he had just teleported and yelling does get her attention. Allison spends the next fifteen minutes shepherding Luther into the living room and attempting to calm him down. Every time he freaks out he teleports, so it’s a bit of an ordeal, but eventually, the deed is done. Allison calls Diego and, after making sure he can still use his powers, asks him to go find Five and see if whatever this is has affected him.

Klaus is upstairs with Ben when he notices. The two have been trying to make Ben solid for days now, and it is becoming incredibly frustrating. In a flash of anger, Klaus throws the ball at Ben. It goes right through him – of course – hits the wall, and smashes right through. Klaus freezes. Then he turns to Ben to get a reaction. Ben isn’t there. In fact, as Klaus looks around he sees that no one is there. For the first time in his life, Klaus is alone. He does the only thing he can possibly imagine doing. He flops on the bed and, in the unimaginable silence, he goes to sleep.

Ben figures out what’s going on pretty quickly. Klaus throws item through wall + Klaus can’t see him = Klaus having Luther’s powers. From this conclusion, he assumes that Luther has Klaus’s powers, and goes to find him. Ben finds Luther in the living room with Allison. Their sister is on her phone with Vanya, “No, your powers are normal? Ok, good. Do you think it’s just Luther then? You’re right, I’ll text everyone,” which means she’s called a family meeting. Ben doesn’t have a lot of faith in his siblings, but this is kind of important, so he figures they’ll put some effort into figuring it out. He sidles over to Luther. “Hi.” Nothing. He waves his hand in front of his bigger brother’s face. Nothing. Luther can’t see him. Oh no.

Five is in the middle of an incredibly difficult equation when his phone dings. He rolls his eyes. It’s Vanya’s text tone though, so he picks it up. As he scrolls, he finds that Allison has called him for a family meeting three times. Great. He had thought it was getting louder around here, but seriously, could they not go one day without almost blowing up the building? He goes to jump and finds that his power isn’t working. He must be low on fuel. When was the last time he ate? He groans and walks downstairs.

By the time he makes it to the living room, all the rest of his siblings have assembled and are sitting around in a circle. Klaus is sitting on the floor. He seems a little fidgety, even for him. Five will have to check his room for drugs again, but he’s pretty sure his brother will be ok. Luther is sitting on the couch with Allison very close on his left side and Vanya resting her shoulder on his back. Meanwhile, Diego is sitting in the seat closest to Klaus, and looking back and forth between him and Luther. Ben is perched on the back of the couch in between and looking thoroughly confused. Five raises an eyebrow and enters the room.

“Are you ok?” Vanya asks immediately, and Five’s other eyebrow rises to meet the first.
“Yes?” He asks, and then, “Why?” Which launches Allison into a long-winded story about Luther teleporting and freaking out and Klaus having super strength and SLEEPING, which means that maybe when he said he couldn’t see the ghosts, he was telling the truth. This earns an annoyed, “Hey!” from Klaus, which Allison apologizes for before bringing the story in for a landing. “So basically,” she says, “If Klaus has Luther’s power, and Luther has yours, we kind of thought you might have Klaus’s.”

There is a long silence. Klaus breaks it by saying, “I feel like he woulda told us already, if he could see the ghosts.”

Vanya frowns and shakes her head. “It’s Five,” she says, “He doesn’t tell us anything,” which is fair, but kind of offensive anyway. The room erupts into a bunch of murmurs and raised voices. Five can’t hear much of anything they’re saying because the room is so freaking loud, but he does hear Ben say, “You’re all idiots. Shut up and talk like normal people.” Five snaps.

“Listen to Ben you idiots,” he yells, and then freezes because… Ben.

The rest of Five’s siblings are frozen, including Ben, looking at Five like he’s grown a second head. Then, “You can see Ben?” It’s Allison who asks, because none of the rest of them thinks to, but Klaus is the one who puts the rest together.

“If you can see Ben,” he asks, “Why can’t you see the rest of the ghosts?”

Five considers this. Ben gestures to a chair and he sits down absentmindedly, smiling at his brother. Ben smiles back and Five turns back to Klaus and says, “What’s it like? When you see the ghosts?”

Klaus frowns and it suddenly occurs to Five that no one has ever asked his brother that before. Eventually Klaus opens his mouth. “They’re everywhere,” he starts, “And they’re all different. There are all the nice looking ones, the ones that I don’t notice are dead for a while. Most of the time I only know they are cuz you guys can’t see them.” He takes a deep breath and then plunges further in. “And then there are the grisly ones. Half of ‘em look like they died from execution or war. Bullets through heads and chests. Knives in weird places. One guy I met got murdered by being run over by a car multiple times. Same car too. One girl – French, and still wearing one of those weird time period dresses – had like, an enormous spear thing sticking through her stomach. She kept shrieking about how long it took her to die. Oh! That’s another thing. They never shut up. Screeching. All. The. Time. Can you imagine?” Klaus looks around at his siblings. They’re all staring at him in horror. Klaus himself looks rather perplexed at the looks on their faces.

When it becomes obvious that Klaus isn’t going to say anything else, Five says calmly, “That explains it then.” All the heads in the room whip around to look at him, which is incredibly annoying. “I mean, I thought it was a lot louder in here.” He shrugs. “The screeching explains it. The real question is how we are going to fix it. I’ll go work on the equation, or I could try to talk to some Shaman or something? I sound ridiculous. Klaus, what exactly were you doing whe-” Which is when Vanya starts talking. Over him. He hates his family.

“Five,” Vanya says slowly, “Why can’t you see the ghosts?” Five looks around to find that his siblings are all looking at him with confusion on their faces. Five sighs. His family is made up of idiots.

“I CAN see the ghosts Vanya.” They still look confused. Five sighs again. This is ridiculous. “The fact that I can see real ghosts makes no difference,” he says calmly. “I can always see the people I’ve killed. The only difference is the noise.” Klaus opens his mouth to say something and Five waves him away. He’s just seen Vanya’s lips pinching in that way that means she’s about to cry. He’s not sure why, but he knows it’s his cue to leave. “I’ve got equations to figure out,” he says, and then he’s gone.

Chapter Text

Klaus has never called a family meeting before, but this is important. His siblings have been giving Five sideways glances for days. Even after their powers had been returned to normal – Five tried to explain, but it just sounded like technobabble to Klaus – they still couldn’t help feeling on edge around their youngest oldest sibling, so he calls the meeting, sans Five of course.

When everyone has entered the attic – Klaus feels pretty bad for hiding out from his brother, but this is necessary and he’s pretty sure that Five doesn’t often come up here – Klaus calls the meeting to order. “We need to talk about Five and the ghosts,” he says. The room is silent.

Finally, Diego says, “There’s nothing to talk about. We can’t do anything Klaus. We can’t help him.”
Allison’s argument is halfway out before Diego has finished, “We could try to take him to a therapist – “ but Vanya is shaking her head before her sister has finished.

“I’ve asked him,” she says. “He won’t go anywhere. He says they’ll call him a liar, and even if they don’t, they don’t know how to help someone who was alone for forty years. I’m not sure it would be a good idea either. It would mean admitting that he was an assassin for five years, which is, well, illegal.”

Klaus nods. Five’s rationale makes sense. “The problem,” he says, “is not our little brother. It’s us.” Diego opens his mouth to talk but Klaus cuts him off. “We’re not acting the same Diego, and Five’s noticing. Vanya, you didn’t try to hug him yesterday” Vanya winces, “Allison, you keep ducking your head whenever he’s around. Luther, every time Five comes in a room you look at him with this utterly horrified sad look on your face. Diego, you’ve stopped – “

“It’s not like you’re innocent either,” Diego says. “Half the time he comes in a room you look around him like a crazy thing. How often are you wondering if the ghosts with him are ones he’s killed? You barely even look at HIM. Just the ghosts.”

And Diego is right. As much as Klaus hates to admit it, Diego is absolutely right. He can’t look at his brother anymore. He wants too but, “I see so many ghosts,” he blurts. “I see ghosts all the time. Everywhere. And there are so, so many, but Five didn’t notice, which means Five always ‘sees’ that many ghosts too. But… but…”

“It’s because I've killed a lot of people Klaus.”

Chapter Text

“It’s because I’ve killed a lot of people Klaus.” Klaus almost jumps out of his skin when he turns to look at his brother. “Come on, you really thought you could all sneak up here and just get past a time-travelling assassin?” Five sounds rather annoyed. Klaus smiles sheepishly and moves over for his brother to enter the circle. They sit for a while in silence and then –

“Five,” Luther says, “We’re not therapists. We’re going to believe you, and we’re not going to send you to jail, so why can’t you talk to us?”

Five eye twitches. “Because it doesn’t matter,” he says, and Luther shakes his head.

“Of course it matters Five,” he says, “You’re mental health is just as important as your physical health.” Five stares. It’s almost funny, trying to see Luther act all calm, trying to understand what’s going on in his head. His brother has no idea what he would be getting into if Five actually opened up to him.

“How about,” Vanya says, “You start by telling us why you can’t trust us.” He opens his mouth and – “There is a reason Five. Don’t say it’s not important. It is.”

And suddenly, Five is angry. So angry. How dare they? How dare they? With the way they’ve been acting – Fine, if they want him to talk, he will. “Maybe because last week I told you I killed people and you haven’t been able to look me in the eye since?” His voice comes out sarcastic, but it’s rising to anger. “Maybe because I spent forty years BY MYSELF with no one but Dolores, and don’t think I missed the judging eyes when I came back. Maybe because I spent five years as an assassin, came back to my time and killed more people and you DIDN’T notice! Maybe because I stabbed myself in the arm and the only person to see it was Vanya.” He’s yelling now, and he knows he shouldn’t be. He’s fifty-eight. Compared to him they are just children, but he doesn’t care about any of that anymore. “MAYBE, because even before I left we were an emotionally stunted group of children who didn’t trust each other. What forty-five years of not knowing you at all was supposed to make me trust you more? And now, you’re all hiding up here in the attic talking about me because you just don’t understand how I don’t trust you. You don’t know a single thing about me.”

He whips around to glare at Luther who flinches back and good, he needs to UNDERSTAND. They all do. “I have killed more people than you have ever said hello to on the street. All of you combined. Not just murderers or robbers, innocents. I killed a ten year old girl and her baby brother.” He turns to look Allison in the eye because she is a mother, and she needs to understand that HE HAS HURT CHILDREN. “The girl stood in front of her brother to protect him, so I shot her, and then I shot him.” To Vanya, “I killed a seventeen year old girl coming home from her first violin lesson,” to Klaus “and an idiot junkie in a back alley,” to Luther, “A gardener who’d probably never done anything wrong in his life,“ and to Diego, “A cop. Not your cop, but still. You name it, I’ve killed it. That’s who I am.” There’s horror on all of their faces and it’s just so ridiculous he wants to laugh. “You wanted to know,” he snaps, “and now you do. Trust you?” The laugh breaks free, but it’s bitter and cold. “No one in their right mind would stay anywhere near me. That’s all I can trust.”

When Five leaves, his siblings stay frozen in their seats.

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ONE

Luther isn’t stupid. He knows what his siblings think of him. He knows that they think that his world comes through in black and white with no greys. They think that he had decided Five was right to do what he did, which is why Luther could forgive him.

They’re wrong. About all of it.

Two months ago, they might have been right. Two months ago, Dad was right and loved him and therefore, everyone else was wrong. Two months ago, Allison loved him – even if she was married now – and always would. Now Allison can barely look at him because of what happened with Vanya.

Now he found out that there had been no purpose to his life. His Dad, the man he had always trusted had lied. Luther’s life was, therefore, a lie. If that was the case, why shouldn’t his whole life philosophy be wrong?

Luther had put Vanya in a cage. All of his siblings said that was wrong. But was it? Vanya could have hurt people. That was a good reason to trap her. The fact that Allison had been all that was on Luther’s mind at the time greatly weakened that argument. He knew that what he had done had been revenge – at least partially – but does that make a correct action wrong?

Do intentions matter?

It takes him a long time to decide, and the answer he comes to is, in his opinion, kind of sad. There isn’t, Luther thinks, a right and a wrong. There never has been. His actions with Vanya can be seen as both in different lights. Five’s actions can be seen as the same. None of that changes the fact that he is whatever kind of guilty Five is, no matter how he feels.

He goes to find Five.

 

FOUR

Klaus has never heard his house so quiet, not even during one of Reginald’s stupid dinners. Ever since Five’s blowout silence seems to have enveloped the building. None of them are even able to look one another in the face.

Klaus knows what is supposed to happen next. They are supposed to go to Five and tell him that everything is going to be OK. They are supposed to say that he is loved, that they have all done terrible things. Klaus knows that he should understand most of all.

Klaus has killed. A lot actually. Being in the Vietnam war for ten months wasn’t a joke. He couldn’t count the number of people he had mowed down. That should be enough. Except, he had never killed innocents. He had made sure of it. Made certain. Every time he had killed, it had been one of his men or one of theirs.

"I killed a ten year old girl and her baby brother. The girl stood in front of her brother to protect him, so I shot her, and then I shot him. I killed a seventeen year old girl coming home from her first violin lesson and an idiot junkie in a back alley, a gardener who’d probably never done anything wrong in his life and a cop. Not your cop, but still. You name it, I’ve killed it. That’s who I am."

A child. A child who had been trying to DEFEND her brother.

Klaus knows what is supposed to happen next. He is supposed to forgive his brother.

He can’t.

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SEVEN

Vanya is used to the silence. She lived alone for so long, and even before that she was isolated from her siblings. What she is not used to is Five and LUTHER being anywhere near each other. Strangely, it makes her angry. What right does Five have to be happy, when the rest of them are miserable.

It’s a rainy, wet day – typical – when Vanya goes out to the courtyard to get away from her brothers. Luther had just made his typical morning joke and Five had actually laughed.

Vanya is livid. She stomps around the courtyard, jumping in puddles just to ruin the clear image of the water – of her face. – Why can Five be happy? Why can Five laugh? He had done so much wrong and all she has done is right-

Vanya freezes. Quietly, she turns to the looming stone in the middle of the large empty space. It’s a gravestone, but not for Ben. – They’d taken it down when Klaus had been able to make him corporeal long enough for him to admit he hated it. – The gravestone is for Pogo. Vanya can’t breathe.

Pogo is dead. Pogo is dead because of her. Five had killed out of cold calculation. He had killed to save the world. His end goal was to help people. Vanya had killed out of anger, out of vengeance, and Pogo wasn’t the only person she had killed. Compared to Vanya, she realizes, Five has every right to be happy.

A tiny hand lands on Vanya’s shoulder and she jumps out of her skin. She is crying. She wipes the tears from her face and turns to see her smallest and largest brothers standing behind her. Neither is laughing now.

“I killed them,” she says. “Not for a reason. I killed them for me.”

“We know,” Luther says.

Then Vanya is shouting because, “Then WHY aren’t you angry? I’ve been selfish and horrid and I killed people. I’m not like Five. I didn’t have a REASON. I don’t deserve-“ and then Luther is hugging her – A real hug this time. “I can’t forgive myself,” Vanya whispers.

“You think I can forgive myself?” Five asks and Vanya’s eyes widen. “You hurt Pogo because he was complicit to your abuse. Maybe you were yourself maybe you weren’t. Someday you may forgive yourself but listen Vanya, after the situation is over, no excuse will ever sound good enough to your ears. We are here, the two of us, because we know that.” There’s a long silence and then-

“Do you want it to be the three of us?” Luther asks.

This time when Vanya cries it is into both her brothers’ arms.

 

TWO

Diego has spent his whole life living in a world of black and white. Robbers are bad, victims are good. Save the victims, kill the robbers (or, later in life, turn them over to the cops). That was the point of being a vigilante. He never once doubted whether what he did was right. He never once thought about the motives of either group, the robbers or the victims.

Until now.

Diego has been sitting in the library reading for the past five days. He’s pretty sure Mom is bringing him food. It shows up by him, so he eats it. The plate disappears and is replaced and he eats again. He is surrounded by Psychology textbooks.

Does one’s intention matter when doing something morally wrong? Logically, Diego knows he isn’t going to be able to figure out such a large moral question in a few days. He’s still trying. The books around him are filled with opinions - is that all this is about? – and Diego has managed to gain some semblance of knowledge. And a headache. That one has been there for several hours.

Logically, Diego knows, he should pull his nose out of his books and focus on his own opinions. He’s known it for the last two days, but he’s scared. What if he finds that he disagrees with Five? What if he finds that he can’t forgive him? At least surrounded by variables he won’t ever have to come to a conclusion.

Vanya is what shakes Diego out of his trance. She has joined Five in the living room and they are laughing about something. He hears Luther’s voice join them. Diego doesn’t understand that. How is it that Luther of all people, is able to forgive their brother and sister? He is the most black and white of them all.

But that’s the answer of course, because Luther has decided that Five did something RIGHT. If it’s right, then it isn’t wrong, and it’s off Luther’s conscience. How Diego wants to have that mindset now, but he can’t, because Five is the robber – murderer – and those children, junkies, cops, innocents, were the victims, so how can Five have been right?

Chapter Text

SIX

Ben watches Klaus make his decision. He watches his brother throw things at the wall and curse and swear in Vietnamese and doesn’t know what to do. Unlike when his brother was drunk or high there was nothing to stop. There weren’t even any ghosts or nightmares to distract his brother from. This was a battle Klaus was having with himself, and Ben can’t tell who’s winning.

Mostly because he doesn’t have an opinion himself.

He knows he’s avoiding the subject. He wonders if, when Klaus finally makes a decision, that will cement his own. He’s so used to disagreeing with his brother. Maybe whatever decision Klaus makes, he can take the other side. That would make everything easier.

And then Klaus makes a decision, but he doesn’t tell Ben what it is.

“I can’t,” he says simply. “It’s yours Ben, your decision. I’d recommend you don’t follow me.” And then he leaves and Ben is left in still silence with only his own thoughts for company.

Ben is not like Klaus or Vanya, Diego or Luther, even Five. All have killed, whether to protect or avenge. Ben isn’t like that. The death he has caused has always been unintentional. Either the beast had ripped out of him, to tear at others, or his father and siblings had pushed him to finish missions. Either way, the beast had wanted it, and he would have it.

The one time Ben had tried to stop him-

So no, Ben had no choice in the matter. As he sits there, he realizes how hard THAT must be. The ability to decide. In Five’s place, Ben thinks, the beast might have killed those people, or he might not have. Who knows? And Ben would have swayed to the beast, followed its decisions instead of making his own – just like now and with Klaus – but Five, he had to make that decision on his own. He had to aim the gun, pull the trigger, end someone’s life on his own. Every. Single. Time.

Ben had killed unwillingly, but Five had willingly sold his soul to the devil for others. Ben was willing to bet that there had been no hesitation whatsoever.

It turns out ghosts can cry.

When he reaches the downstairs landing it becomes clear to him what Klaus has decided – he won’t look at their little brother. – It turns out Ben and Klaus have ended up disagreeing. (But at least Ben made his own decision.)

THREE

Allison wants to forgive Five. Everything in her breaks when she sees her brother with Vanya and Luther. Klaus says Ben is there too. She wants everything to be better between them, but every time she tries to approach her brother, she thinks of Claire, and she just, she just CAN’T.

Allison knows that the rest of her siblings have made their decisions. Luther, Vanya and Ben for Five, Diego and Klaus against him. She is the only one left. The only one confused – or is she? Is she confused? Is she allowed to be?

Allison has spent so long estranged from her siblings. She honestly doesn’t want to be. She doesn’t want to have to pick a side. She doesn’t want there to BE sides. But there are. What is she supposed to do?

She thinks for hours. She runs scenarios over and over in her mind. Every time it comes back to one thing, one person. Claire. Her daughter. The concept that Five would kill a child any child –

But that’s not true, Allison realizes. This isn’t about ANY child, it’s about Claire. If she didn’t have Claire, would she still be confused? She would care, she knows she would care, but if Allison had no emotional attachment to a child, would she agree with Five?

It’s taken her a while, but Allison’s pretty sure this isn’t about right and wrong.

When Allison walks into the kitchen, it falls silent. Vanya is sitting while Five races around making peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches. Luther is leaning against the counter and, occasionally, intentionally getting in the way of Five’s movements, just because he can.

Allison thinks about the choice she would make, if it was a few people or the world. She’s pretty sure of what it would be.

“I don’t think I ever tried peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches,” she says. “Do you think I could have one?”

Vanya lights up. Luther smiles. Five slumps, all the tension flooding from his body.

“You have to make your own,” he says, “I only make Vanya sandwiches. I owe her.”

“It’s true,” Luther grumbles.“He won’t make me one either." Five offers Allison the peanut butter. She grins.