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Ice, blowpops, and tabloids

Chapter Text


After special training, certain things ache. 

Pulled muscles, bruises, the thought that next week, there will be more of this. 

It settles into Luther’s bones, heavy and sharp and scary, and part of him thinks it is deadly, too.


He loves his father. Loves the praise and the snippets of knowledge he gives him, but Luther knows that none of them can take this much more. 

He knows how every other week Diego’s right shoulder dislocates from throwing so much and Mom has to push it back into place. (He can hear it from his room, loud pained cries, the crack and pop of a bone, and then muffled wails and curses.) 

He knows how Dad brings in people off the street for Allison to rumor, again, again, and again until her voice is raw and scraped and raspy and how she cries after and tells Luther how much she wants to rumor Dad to love them back. (Luther always is it’s that he does, he does, but it’s in a different way. He never quite has convinced himself.)

He knows that Dad leaves klaus somewhere terrible, and he knows how Klaus doesn’t speak for days after and doesn’t eat and cries himself to sleep. (He can hear that from his room, too. Everyone can. Luther doesn’t know if anyone has gone to comfort him.)

He knows that Five is gone and it was Dad who pushed him out and at this point, everyone thinks he’s dead anyway. (Klaus insists he can’t see his ghost. No one is convinced.)

Luther knows that Ben hurts and that Dad makes him summon Them over and over until Ben can barely reel Them back in. He knows how if they stay here, the monsters will eat Ben from the inside out, and he knows that that will be the end of the umbrella academy. 

He knows that Vanya is sad and Lonely, and she wants to be apart of them and the barrier in the way of that is their father.

Luther knows that his father pushes him too far and Luther always obeys, seeking praise, acknowledgement. 


Luther loves his father, but no matter how many times he whispers it feverishly to Allison, or screams it at Diego, he knows that Reginald Hargreeves can not possibly love them back.


And so Luther, aching, throbbing, wakes his siblings one by one on August 2nd, 2004, moonlight spilling into each of their rooms and tells them that they are going to leave and never come back. 

No one protests, refuses , or looks behind them.

They steal a safe full of cash and their birth certificates, a fountain pen and a gold watch. (Not before Klaus insists on ripping up the wallpaper in the study and stabbing Their fathers portrait above the mantle with a letter opener.) 

They unplug their mother from the charging station and urge her along. She does not protest either. Just insists on bringing a painting and her charger and a pair of her best dinner gloves. Luther is glad she is coming with them. He doesn’t know if he could keep them all in line without each of them going insane.

They do not bother to lock the door behind him or be quiet. Once they get out of the gates they run, giddy, loud, laughing. They are free from their father. Finally. 

They settle down at a motel room that is far less fancy than they are used to, but even so, when Luther wakes up the next morning he cannot help but notice how he doesn’t ache anymore. 

Chapter Text

Colleen Worth has worked at the starlight motel for 30 years ever since her parents kicked her out for getting knocked up at 17, but this family, by far, is the most interesting customers she’s ever had. 

They come at some ungodly hour in the night, six kids and their mom, pay for a month in 3 of the nicest rooms in cash, and stay there for weeks. 

Colleen won’t deny it. Starlight motel is seedy. It’s main customers are druggies, murderers, and prostitutes, and the longest anyone has stayed there is 2 nights. But this all American mom, hair pinned into that 60’s housewife get up, brings her 6 adopted children from god knows where, and makes it their home. The kids become a permanent feature, just like the mysterious stain in room 210, the leaky faucet in the back room, or the creaking of every chair in the entire place.

Colleen see the kids everywhere, and for the first couple of days it’s weird, but eventually, she gets used to them. They never ended up introducing themselves, so Colleen takes it up to name them herself, usually by the way they look. The buff blond kid can usually be found out back by the pool, doing push-ups. Separated from the rest. Sometimes the dramatic one or the scarred one can be found with him, but when the scarred one, hands covered in cuts or bandages, comes by, it’s usually for a fight. He’s usually by the ice machine, filling up plastic bags and icing his shoulder with them, water soaking through each of his shirts. The loud one and the sad one join him more often than not, and that usually ends in doors to other rooms being picked open, tables being broken from people sitting on them and utter trouble. Marcella, the cleaning lady has seemed to adopt the scarred one under her wing. Sometimes Marcella, when it’s early morning but still dark outside, tells Colleen about him. How she’s teaching him Spanish and how he’s really, such a sweet boy, amable, and she reminds him of her son who is long grown by now. 

The dramatic one is usually gone out shopping, sitting next to her other sister in the parking lot, or reading celebrity magazines that Colleen is almost certain she swiped from her own tabloid collection. 

The loud one smells like weed and smoke and trouble, but Colleen can’t help but notice how he avoids room 210 like the plague and how his hands shake and how his eyes are skittish and wary. 

The sad one is usually with the loud one, or reading, or sleeping. She has found him multiple times in the parking lot, clutching his stomach like it hurts and crying softly. She always brings him in for cocoa and he always refuses, flinching away from her and returning to his room as soon as possible. 

And the last one is Vanya who is sweet and shy and kind and looks up at Colleen with some sort of dull, subdued hope in her eyes.  

She learns their names the longer they stay. Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus, Ben and Vanya. One through six.

She overheard them talking about their seventh, and no matter how much trouble they get into, Colleen can’t help but feel her gut tighten at that.

 Each of them seem to be hurt in their own ways.

(She once found them when she was clocking out, in the parking lot by the vending machines laughing to loud and too flatly to be normal, passing around a couple bags of M&Ms and a joint.) (They’re 15 she reminds herself. They are supposed to be doing this kind of thing. And it’s not like she hasn’t seen worse anyway.)

They’ve been there for a week when Vanya, the dull one with the big eyes comes by the front office. She rings the bell on the desk and waits for Colleen to emerge from the back room. She looks nervous, fiddling with the sleeves of her new cardigan. She looks lost and scared of Colleen and so she tries to soften her age hardened features and fixes a smile on her face.

“Hey there. How can I help you?” 

“Hey, sorry. I didn’t bring any books with me when we left and so I was um, I was wondering if you had any?” 

Colleen doesn’t. She hasn’t ever been a very avid reader, even back when she was living with her parents and she could afford tons of them. 

Colleen shakes her head. 

“No, sorry.”

Vanya looks so crestfallen that something in Colleen twinges, something that shouldn’t.

“I do have 30 years worth of tabloids, though. I know they aren't books, but does that work?”

Vanya smiles, toothy and giddy and youthful, and Colleen leads her to the back room, lets her borrow the 3 oldest magazines, and throws a blowpop in as well. 

And that's how every other day, Colleen finds Vanya in the back room of the starlight motel, blow pop in between her lips, digging through stacks of 30 year old tabloids. They talk about the latest gossip and who did what, what Vanya and her siblings have been up to, their favorite candies. Colleen even ends up letting Vanya borrow a couple bottles of nail polish for her to paint her nails with. 

Colleen likes Vanya. She likes her quiet poise and her grin and how she is so much more alive than she was when they met. She likes how she consumes just as many blow pops as she does, and how she loves to read anything, even tabloids. She likes how she gets angry sometimes, and her eyes blaze and she tends to destroy things, but it reminds Colleen that there are still people in the world who feel things vividly. 

Vanya makes Colleen wish she had never given the baby up. Wish she had kept it and seen it turn human. Wish she hadn’t given it up to some random people in a house surrounded by a picket fence, wish she could have raised that baby girl into someone good, kind and smart. 

But she was only 17, and Colleen knows somewhere that if she kept that baby they both would have died. 

She remembers when she was 17 and pregnant and homeless and miserable and how much she wanted to jump into the street and get hit by a car. She remembers she wanted the baby out and gone and wanted her parents to love her and miss her and call her back. She wanted to go to school. She wanted to do something with her life other than rot in the streets with something growing inside of her. She wanted to be alive.

Vanya makes Colleen wish she kept that baby and raised her, but Colleen knows that if she kept that baby she would have killed it and then herself. 

She is 47, and it is too late and too cold to be reminiscing about the past. 

Colleen lights a cigarette after her shift ends and sighs.

She's too old to be wishing for things, too. 

Chapter Text

She’s reading an article on the Umbrella Kids when she connects the dots.

And it makes sense. Too much sense, but too little at the same time.

She scans the article feverishly, looks up the kids on the desktop computer, fingers sweating, head aching, trying to connect it all, to get it to make sense.

The article in the tabloids screams news of the Umbrella Academy being missing. That they’ve showed up to none of their usual gigs (bank heists, robberies, gang related activity) in exactly a month. That all 6 are missing and Reginald Hargreeves has not spoken with the press about it. She examines the photo that’s on the front cover. There is Luther's shock of blond hair, a kid with knives that can only be Diego, a girl with Allisons carefully practiced smile, one with Klaus’s smirk, one with Ben’s sad, drawn mouth. The only thing missing is Vanya and in her place is a boy with a cocky grin.

Their seventh. The dead one.

She tries to compare the superheroes in the interviews to the scared kids down the hall and finds too many similarities to be a coincidence. (Voices, smiles, laughs, hair. The way they walk and joke and talk to the reporters.)

They are them and Colleen knows, she can feel it in her gut.


It’s 1 in the morning when the front desk phone rings.

Colleen picks up, remove the blowpop from her mouth and drawls a tired “How can I help you.”

The person on the other lines voice is shaky and scared and sobbing.

“Colleen.” It says, and Colleen can feel her heart stop for a second.



She fixes her posture and throws the blow pop out and puts on her most assertive persona.

“What happened, Vanya.”

Vanya on the other end begins to sob a little harder, breath hitching and gasping and the sound makes Colleen want to join in.

“Honey, it’s okay.” She says, letting her concern and panic seep into her voice. She needs to know what happened.

“We need you to pick us up.”

This isn’t going anywhere.

“Who’s we, Vanya?”

“It’s Ben and Klaus and” Vanya stops and lets out a choked breathy sob that shakes Colleen's  bones. “And Diego.”

“What happened?” Colleen repeats. She grabs her car keys off the hook and flips the No Vacancy sign on, even though there is no lack of empty rooms .

Vanya’s voice is quiet and terrified and panicked.

“He beat him, Colleen.”



Colleen thinks back to the ramrod straight position of Reginald Hargreeves’ back, the metal tip of the cane. Thinks of Ben in the rain, flinching when she comes out to get him, the days when Klaus’ laugh sounds hollow, Diego’s scarred arms and busted shoulder, and Vanya’s sad, brown eyes. (How at first, Vanya was an emotionless shell, as if someone had told her her whole life that she was nothing, worthless, boring.)

She knows. She should have known sooner.

“Oh, baby.” Colleen’s chest aches. “Where are you? I’m coming as fast as I can.”

“Payphone.” Is all Vanya says for a bit. “Outside of the mansion.”

The line goes dead.

There is only one mansion that can be the mansion .

She breaks as many traffic laws as she possibly can, straining her eyes in the dark because she knows it’s around here somewhere.

She finds them right in front of the huge house, holding hands like it’s the only thing keeping them from unraveling.

None of them cannot stop crying.

Chapter Text

Diego cannot get the sound of his own skull cracking against the ground out of his head.

Fuck, it hurts. It hurts it hurts ithurtsithurtit hurts.

He’s only aware of the pain, the wheezing noise his breathing is making, and how Ben is shaking and can't stop.

Someone brought him out of the house and out on the curb with the rest of them, put his head in their lap, is clutching his hand like he’ll die if they don’t. He wants to thank them but his tongue is lead and cotton and he can’t get his mouth to move. He can’t remember how they got out here and he doesn’t remember when Dad stopped hitting him and he doesn’t remember when Vanya started to cry.

She’s on the phone with someone. Mom, maybe.

He now knows why Luther wants to go to space. The stars flickering in his vision are enough to make anyone want to.

Vanya hangs up and crouches above him.

“Hey.” She says. Her voice sounds far away, hazy and distorted, like she’s speaking through water. “Stay awake, Diego. Colleen’s coming to help us.”

He tries to sit up and moans when hands secure him back down.

“Hurts, v’nya.” He slurs out, tongue obeying finally.

Maybe she’s the one holding his hand. Or maybe it’s Klaus. He can’t see Ben.

“W-w-where's B’n?”

The wheezing noise is getting louder. He’s not sure if it’s him anymore or someone else.

“Right here. Your head is on my lap, Dee.”


Diego feels nauseous all of the sudden. The stars aren’t very pretty anymore and the edges of his vision are fading to black. Someone squeezes one of his hands. He can’t tell if it’s his right or his left.

“Think m gonna throw up.” He says. His voice sounds loud in his head. Grating against his skull.

He rolls over and his ribs scream but he makes it to a position where can throw up not on himself. (He might of thrown up a little on Ben. Ben doesn’t seem to mind.)

Fuck, it hurts.

He can feel his heart beating in his ears and it’s probably too fast.

Fuck, he might be dying.

Diego thinks he might be. Everything hurts. He can’t seem to get in a full breath and when he tries to everything starts to hurt even more.

He doesn’t know where Ben is.

“W-w-where's B’n?” Ah. Fuck his stutter. Fuck this. Fuck, it hurts.

He watches as Vanya’s eyebrows crease. She looks scared.

“You already asked that, Diego.”

“S’rry.” He can’t remember where Ben is and when he asked it before.

His ears are ringing.

He doesn’t know if they have been the whole time.

He cannot get the sound of his skull cracking against the floor out of his head or the way Ben was shaking.

Car headlights race by them then circle back. Someone gets out of the car and runs to them. They smell like artificial cherry and cheap perfume.

He knows their face but can’t remember their name.

Voices overlap and they hurt but they’re panicked and scared and teary and some part of him knows it’s about him. Someone is propping him up, shoving him into the car, crying softly. His chest hurts. His head hurts. His shoulder hurts.

He feels like he might never recover from this.

Diego’s breath is coming out in short, audible puffs, and it’s getting harder and harder to keep his eyes open.

“Diego?” Ben, he thinks. He sounds scared.

Please don’t be scared, Ben.

“Eyes open, buddy.” It’s Klaus this time. Fingers are in his hair. His eyes hurt and ache and so he doesn’t bother to try.

“Come on, buddy. Gotta stay awake.”

Diego groans as someone adjusts. He realises he's draped over all 3 of his siblings laps.

“Fuck.” He pries his eyes open. Well, one of them, he’s pretty sure the other one is already swelling shut.

He listens to the sound of the car's engine rattling and his breathing coming out in wheezing gasps and his siblings sobs and the ringing in his ears.

The world is getting consumed by black. Its fading into it, dissolving.

“S-s-sorry.” He whispers.


In the backseat of Colleen's Chevrolet Chevette, a bloody and beat Diego Hargreeves passes out. His siblings are crying and Colleen Worth, who’s worked at the starlight motel for the past 30 years of her life, swears to god that Reginald Hargreeves is dead.


Chapter Text

They wait in the waiting room.

Holding onto each other. (Klaus thinks they won’t survive this if they don’t)

Ben is shaking and Vanya can’t stop crying but they answer the police’s questions and call Mom.

Mom and Allison and Luther come in a flurry of fear and anger. Allison whispers again, again again,

“Fuck him. Fuck him.”

Klaus can’t help but agree.

When Vanya tells the story she starts to cry at the first word, so Klaus takes over for her.

He feels numb.

Like the tears on his face aren’t his, and neither is his broken, cracked, unraveling voice.

“We wanted to get Luther’s record player.” He starts. Laughs, short and pinched.

He knows he shouldn’t be laughing, but right now it feels so funny that this all happened because they just wanted some music.

“The rooms were too quiet, you know? And morale has been low and we’re living out of a seedy motel so we just figured, ‘hey, until we get a place for us all to live, why not make the rooms feel like home?’”. He sighs. He aches. That’s nothing new. Everything about Klaus always aches.

There are too many ghosts screaming his name in here, and so he fights for his voice to be louder than all of them.

“Dad caught us. And started to yell at us and so Diego yelled back maybe too much and so Dad”

He catches Colleens eye from where she stands. She smells like cigarettes. Must have left to smoke.

“Dad beat him up a lot and he kept saying these awful awful things about Diego and-”

“Dad grabbed him by his hair and bashed his head against the ground.” Ben says. Flat. Like these words shouldn’t hurt, like they’re everyday things, like they should be used to this.

“We heard it crack.”

Klaus wants Ben to stop because now he feels everything and can’t get Diego out of his mind. He wants to smoke. God fucking damn it, he wants weed.

Vanya is sobbing and so is he because he cannot get the sound of his brothers head hitting the floorboards or the sound of his wheezing out of his head.

Ben opens his mouth to continue but Klaus holds his hands out in front of him and presses them into Ben.

“Ben, stop.” His throat is dry and his voice sounds like a different person.

“Ben, please stop.” He says again and this time watching Allison’s and Luther.

It is quiet for a long time except for the sounds of Klaus and Vanya crying as well as Luther, who has joined them too. (Their relentless leader, their backbone, crying over his least favorite sibling and the father who beat him.)

“No.” Allison says. “I wanna hear it. I have to know.”

Klaus always thought Five was the strongest Hargreeves sibling, but tonight he assumes he was wrong.

Ben clears his throat.

“And Dad kicked him until Vanya threw a chair at him. And then we carried Diego outside and he kept saying it hurt to breathe and repeating things and he threw up all over me and kept asking us where I was. Then Colleen came cause Vanya called her and in the car he passed out and we thought he died and-”

Everything is ragged, and it’s silent but so, so loud and everything about this hurts. Klaus’ knuckles are white from how hard Vanya gripping his hand.

The ghosts have not stopped screaming and neither has his head and fuck, this sucks.

They wait in the waiting room, crumpled together like paper.

They don’t let go.

Chapter Text

The Hargreeves children grow up.

They move out of the 3 rooms in the starlight motel and into an apartment uptown precisely 32 blocks from the mansion.

They go to public school until they graduate, become regular people, go off to college.

But still, despite that, Vanya does not forget Colleen.

And that’s how every other weekend, Colleen find a now 20 something Vanya, crouched over stacks of 43 year old tabloids, blow pop in between her lips.

While Vanya’s eyes and cheeks and face has changed, this hasn’t.

Colleen is glad.

Things are still not perfect.

Sometimes Vanya comes wheeling into the Starlight’s parking lot in her car, angry and crying and screaming about her siblings. How they’re fucked up and mean and she doesn’t deserve how awful they treat her.

(Colleen tells her they love her. Over and over until the words stick and until Vanya isn’t screaming anymore.)

There are other times where she gets 1 a.m. phone calls where Vanya’s voice on the other line is shaky and scared and sobbing. (It still shakes Colleens bones, even after all these years.) These are the times where Vanya is crying and can’t stop and where her mind can’t stop playing images she wants to forget.

(Diego, bloody and bruised and beat, delirious, going limp in her arms.)

Marcella, who has long retired, tells Colleen about Diego and what he’s doing and if he’s alright.

(“ ¡ El está comprometido. se va a casar!” Marcella tells Colleen over the phone. “Married! Have you gotten your invitation yet?”)

Colleen never gets bloody and bruised and beat Diego out of her head either, no matter how hard she tries to replace it with the Diego she knows now.

(Vanya told her that he can’t fully remember that night. Just bits and pieces, laying out on the curb, the drive, his head hitting the floor. Colleen cannot imagine what it feels like to have that much missing, but that doesn’t keep her from agreeing that it is a blessing.)

Vanya tells her everything.

She knows about when Ben almost died and when Vanya and Luther got into college and when Allison got that acting role at the big theater downtown and met Patrick ,when exactly Eudora and Diego started dating (and how exactly, too), when Klaus OD’d.

Colleen has been invited over for every single holiday since the Hargreeves moved out.

She knows the kids. Loves them as if they were her own.

(She knows what Klaus’s nightmares are about and why sometimes Ben holds on to Diego and doesn’t let go and why Vanya avoids the rich part of town where the mansion is and why Diego is scared of having kids.)

It’s 1 a.m. and Colleen is lying awake in her (slightly) nicer apartment than the last. 43 years ago, she gave people their child and 12 years ago she met the baby she gave up.

(May Bernestine. She is 33 now and has a kid of her own named Flora and she is the prettiest thing Colleen has ever seen.)

Thinking about that doesn’t hurt as much.

She would like to say she's older and wiser but she’s not sure that’s true.

She’s different. Sure, she’s changed a little, but that is the way of the world.

The phone rings and Colleen picks up, and this time it is a whole new kind of Vanya. (This one reminds of the blank one she met 13 years ago. Numb and tired and sad and empty.)

“Fuck!” Someone calls on the other end of the line, faint.

“Vanya?” Colleen asks.

“Oh hey. Just wanted to call and apologize for not coming by today.”


Colleen had wondered.

“Dad is dead.”

Vanya’s voice is soft and dull and spaced out.

“We’re in the mansion. Klaus is stealing anything gold and destroying everything else.”

Colleen’s lips turn up in a smile. One too wide, too big, too young for her face but it doesn’t matter because Vanya isn’t here to see it.

She knows she should not feel this happy at death. She knows it is wrong. But this bastard hurt the Hargreeves for the first 15 years of their lives (some more than others), and even though it has been 13 years since they left, Colleen sees the residue of it all over them.

She pretends she doesn’t hear when they call each other numbers instead of names or when they talk about special training. It hurts too bad.

(“He told me I was worthless.” Vanya told Colleen some time ago. “He made Luther lift cars until his bones broke and locked Diego in a tank filled with water to see how long he could hold his breath and had Allison rumor people to do horrible things just to see the extent of her powers. He locked Klaus in a mausoleum with ghosts and made Five spatial jump until he passed out and pushed Ben too far. I used to want to be them because Dad cared about them, but now I realize that then, it was better to be worthless than something he was interested in.”)

“Okay.” Colleen says. “I’m coming.”

She hangs up and grabs tabloids and blowpops (enough for 7 people) and climbs into her age old Chevrolet Chevette and drives to the mansion. (A little slower than the last time.)

Colleen was 17 and all she wanted was her family back.

She was 47 when she got a new one.

No matter how fucked up, how tiring, how sad this new one is, Colleen realizes that this one is better than the first one, anyway.