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One is the Sickliest Number

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Two through Seven stood in a line in the doorway to the infirmary. For once, they were all silent, staring at the operating table where Number One, finally asleep, lay shivering violently under a thin sheet.

“Is he gonna be okay?” Vanya was the first to speak up. Klaus reached through the space where Ben was standing to put a gentle hand on her shoulder when he heard the break in her voice.

“Fever’s on the way down!” Grace was at the sink washing the thermometer. She turned around and flashed Vanya a sympathetic smile. “It should break within the next two hours. He’s also got a bit of sinus infection, but it doesn’t sound as bad as last time, and we caught it early. He’ll be just fine.”

Ben walked through Klaus’ outstretched ard past the series of monitors Luther was hooked up to. As he reached out to “hold” Luther’s hand, Grace turned the sink off and stripped off her rubber gloves. She walked over to Vanya and putting a cold, yet still somehow warm hand on her face, then turned to face the rest of them.

“Your brother needs his rest. Why don’t you kids all go into the living room and I’ll make you some lunch?”

None of her “kids” made any effort to move. They stared silently again at their sick brother for a good thirty seconds before Diego finally spoke up.

“Klaus, you should really go.” He glanced up at the screen displaying Luther’s body temperature, which read 105.9 degrees, down from the 106.3 that had sent him rushing out of Luther’s room and calling for Mom just ten minutes ago. He looked back at his frail brother, who was shooting him a pleading look. “We can’t have you catching this.”

“It’s not contagious anymore.” Grace assured as she glided across the room to adjust Luther’s sheets. “He’s been sick for three days.”

“Wait, you said he was only sick for one day!” Diego hissed at Five.

“That’s what he said!”

“And you believed him?”

“Boys, that’s enough,” Grace used her stern tone, then quickly softened again as she pulled the sheet up to Luther’s chin. “You need to let your brother rest.”

“Thanks, Mom.” Klaus shot her a genuinely grateful look, then looked up at the monitor himself, which beeped as Luther’s fever dropped to 105.8. “Are you sure there won’t be any permanent side effects? Ben says that’s a really high fever.”

“It shouldn’t stay up long enough for that.” Grace insisted. She tucked the sheets up to Luther’s chin and turned around to smile at Klaus. “Tell Ben I said hello!”

“Ben?” Luther called out from the operating table. Before anyone could respond, Luther was screaming bloody murder. Pale blue eyes flashed wide open as he clutched his arms to his chest, knocking over the table to his side in the process. “Oh my god.” He stared down at the empty space in his arms and started shaking his hands up and down violently, as if he was holding something. “Get some help!”

An uncomfortable silence fell upon the room as Luther continued to thrash about and Klaus, Allison and Diego looked at one with a tension so thick it could be cut with a cheese knife. Even Grace seemed to key into the painful, communal understanding.

Vanya and Five apparently didn’t get the memo.

“You’re okay, Spacey,” Five soothed, and blinked over to his brother to touch his arm, which did nothing to stop Luther from curling in on himself further. Vanya crossed over to his other side.

“Shhh, you’re just having a nightmare, it’s not real,” she soothed, gently touching his other arm. “Should we wake him up?”

“It’s not just a nightmare, Van.” Klaus swallowed a lump in his throat. “That’s what he said when… when Ben-”

“Holy shit.” Five blinked back to the doorway and Vanya followed suit, though she had to physically back up to her place. Neither of them had been present during Ben’s death, the one being off in the apocalypse, and the other being excluded from missions.

“I’m so sorry, we didn’t–”

“Wait, guys,” Allison cut Vanya off, “why are his eyes open?”

“He might be having some hallucinations.” Grace’s tone was still calm and sweet. “It’s not uncommon with a fever this high.” She gently touched Luther’s arm; it didn’t go unnoticed when he flinched away from her and put his hands over his eyes. “Best you leave me alone with him. You kids shouldn’t have to see him like this.”

Once again, they all ignored her instructions, and stood watching as Luther whispered to the empty space he held cradled in his arms.

“Shh, it’s okay. It’s okay, Ben, I’ve got you.”

Allison turned to Five, and pointed a finger at him, eyes narrowed into slits.

“You should have called us!” she hissed.

“Well you should have been there!” Five defended, pointing his finger at Allison. “He didn’t want me to call you because it would ruin your precious night out.”

“And you listened to him, knowing the shit he pulled last time,” Diego barked. He’d unconsciously put a hand on Luther’s arm when he’d tensed away from Grace, which had settled his brother down a little bit.

“I had it under control!”

“This is your definition of under control?” Klaus cried, gesticulating wildly towards Luther. “You should have at least told Mom when his fever spiked!”

“It didn’t spike, it was only 102!"

“That’s still a fever!”

“He was probably drunk.” Vanya put a hand on Five’s shoulder. “He wasn’t in the right frame of mind, right Five?”

“That’s no excuse!” Diego cut in. “Klaus is drunk all the time. Hell, we’re all hungover right now. Yet I had the common sense to call Mom when-”

“Guys, stop!” Everyone whipped their heads over to the operating table where Ben stood, glowing in blue light emanating from Klaus’ fists. He pointed down at Luther. “Look at him!”

Luther had his hands over his ears. He was curled up on his side, silently sobbing, as shivers wracked his body. Diego retracted his hand from his arm and slinked away to the doorway.

“I’m sorry,” Luther mumbled. “Please stop yelling at me.”

Two through Five let out the tension in their chests in a collective sigh. Seven, who was already calm, crossed back over to One.

“We’re not yelling at you, Luther,” Vanya reached out her hand to gently wipe the tears away from his clammy, burning cheek. Luther’s eyes shot open at her cold touch.

“Vanya,” He seemed shocked to see her, almost scared. “I’m so sorry, I never should have–”

“Hey hey hey, that’s in the past, okay? We’ve been over this, all is forgiven.”

“Luther, look who’s here to cheer you up!” Klaus brought his hands together once again in a burst of blue light, and Ben appeared at his brother’s bedside.

“Hey buddy. Not feeling too good, huh?”

“Ben,” Luther’s eyes flashed wide, and he let out a sigh of relief, sinking back onto the operating table as all the tension in his body seemed to dissipate. “Oh my god, I thought we lost you!”

“Can’t get rid of me that easy, Big Guy.” Ben smiled down at Luther, and ruffled his brother’s hair. “Someone’s gotta be here to annoy you!”

“Hey, that’s my job!” Klaus bent over to wrap himself around Luther’s waist. Allison followed, coming around from the other side and holding gently onto her sick brother’s hand. Diego stood watching

“Kids!” They all turned to Grace, who was speaking in her serious voice now. But the smile quickly returned to her face. “I understand that you’re all concerned for your brother, but he needs to sleep now, or his fever might spike again.”

That was enough to send Five blinking out of the room. Vanya kissed her brother’s clammy forehead once (and wiped the sweat off her lips) before leaving too. Klaus squeezed Luther’s hand and similarly wiped his hand on his pants before leaving, Ben following after him like always.

Diego still lingered silently in the doorway, watching as Allison whispered something in Luther’s ear. Was she rumoring him? He tensed as he watched. That didn’t seem to be the case though, as Luther didn’t seem to move or react at all. That is, until she tried to leave, in response to which he abruptly grabbed her by the wrist, much to Diego’s surprise.

“Luther, what’s wrong?” She tried to break free of his grasp but it was impossible, his strength was unmatched even in his weakened state. In response to which, he tightened his grip. Allison looked up at the monitors, but she couldn’t decipher anything except the fact that his fever now sat at 105.5. She turned to Grace, who gently put her hand on Luther’s other arm to soothe him. Allison noticed how he tensed away from her touch a second time. “Mom, I think something’s wrong. Can you-”

“Don’t leave me,” Luther pleaded, shooting her a pitiful look. Allison’s own expression softened and she stopped struggling in his grasp, instead bending over to kiss his forehead.

“Luther you have to rest so your fever can go down,” Allison whispered against his clammy skin. “Mom’s gonna stay with you, okay?”

“Please don’t leave me alone with her,” Luther whispered, loud enough only for Allison to hear.

“Oh.” Allison turned back to look at Grace, who was still smiling at her. And then it clicked. “Oh.” Luther had mentioned to her in passing that Grace had been in the infirmary with him when Reginald administered the serum. She cleared her throat.

“Hey, Mom?”

“Yes, dear?”

“Why don’t you go rest and I’ll look after Luther.”

“Allison, you know I don’t need to rest! I’ll stay here with–”

“I want to stay here with him,” Allison said decisively.

It took a few moments for Grace to register that, her expression blank as she blinked multiple times. But then she looked at the monitor, which now read 105.3, and turned back with a thousand-watt little smile finally crossed her face.

“Okay! I’m hooked up to the monitors in case anything goes wrong. Let me know if he needs anything else!”

And then she left the room. Diego slid away from the door so she wouldn’t see him, and waited for the sound of her heels clicking down the hallway to fade away before he peeked into the room again.

Chapter Text

When Diego looked into the infirmary again, he was relieved to see that Luther had released Allison’s wrist and was once again relaxed on the table. And instead of leaving like she’d originally planned, Allison had stayed, and she was squeezing Luther’s hand gently.

“Th-hih! Thanks, Alliso-heh… Oh no.” Luther brought a gloveless hand up to his face and turned away from Allison as his breath hitched wildly. “Huh….huh…hihhih! Hihhuhh’NGKTchuh-hih! Hihhih’hnkgt-gnkt-ih-NGKT'chuh! Ow.” He winced and brought his hands up to his temples.

“Bless you! And how many times do I have to tell you to stop holding them in like that? You just make it hurt more.” Allison clicked her tongue, and Luther just shrugged his shoulders.

“Hurts anyway,” he rasped, and Allison winced; the congestion in his voice was much thicker than it had been mere moments ago.

“Oof. I think Mom was right, sounds like you might be getting another sinus infection. Holding back isn’t gonna do you any good, Lu.”

Luther just grumbled in response, and turned away from her to curl into the fetal position, but quickly returned to his original position when he found there wasn’t enough room on the operating table for him to do that.

“I hate the infirmary. I want my bed.”

“Here,” Allison ducked into the supply closet and pulled out two extra pillows, then gently lifted his head to slide them behind him. He shifted to get more comfortable and gave her a little half smile. “Isn’t that better?”

“Mmm,” Luther hummed in agreement, closing his eyes and finally appearing somewhat at peace. After a few seconds, though, his face crumbled, eyebrows raising and chest rising as his breath hitched wildly. “Huh….Hih? Hihhhih! HAH!….uhh.” his chest deflated with the false start, only to immediately rise again with a hitchy breath. “Hihhih’nGKT-ih’KGT-hhn’KGTchiew!” he jolted upright with each explosion. Afterwards he fell back onto the pillows with a sigh.

“Bless you, here.” Allison handed Luther some tissues, which he immediately brought up to his face with another hitching breath.

“Th-hih!” He finally opened his eyes and shot Allison a pitiful look. “Ugh, not agai-hihheh! Huh…hih!….uhhh…hihhihhih! Hh’nGXt!-ow. Hih! HhrESCHhh’TSCHiew! Hah! Hhhr’ENGTSHIEW! Hihh!…. Ihhhh? Uhh.” He slumped back onto the pillows and scrubbed at his nose with the tissues, face still contorted in pain. “I told you it was still gonna hurt.” Allison brought a hand to Luther’s face and pinched the tissues over his nose for him.

“Blow, you need it.” Luther dropped his hands to his sides with a groan but didn’t protest. Diego, still standing in the doorway, had to hold his breath to keep from laughing. But the laugh died down anyway when he heard how unproductive the nose-blow was, barely any sound coming out. Luther shook his head with a little whimper and turned his head to the side as Allison went full Mom-mode and inspected the contents of his used tissues.

“Yup. Someone’s got a sinus infection.”

“Again? Ugh.”

“Well if you didn’t stifle your sneezes into oblivion maybe you wouldn’t get them so often.” Luther just huffed in response and shut his eyes as a violent shiver coursed its way through his body. Allison looked up at the monitor, which read 105.1. “I can’t believe you’ve been sick for three days and didn’t say anything. And look where we are now. Luther, you need to tell us these things. You could have really hurt yourself.”

“Well Mom says I’m not contagious anymore, so you can all stop freaking out.”

“How can you expect us not to freak out when you’re this sick?”

“But Klaus is okay.” He said it earnestly and not with a hint of sarcasm. Allison heaved a sigh and touched his face, only pulling back when he winced a bit.

“Don’t let Diego get to you.”

The sibling in question, who was still watching from the doorway, quirked up a brow at the mention of his name.

“But he’s right. I always get Klaus sick.”

“He’s gotten you sick too.”

“So what?”

“Luther, your health is important to us, too.” Luther just shrugged.

“Not to Diego.”

Allison wasn’t really sure how to comfort him. Because, he was right. Diego was borderline obsessive over Klaus’ health, having seen him at death’s door on multiple occasions over the years when everyone else had forgotten about him. anything that posed a harm to Klaus, Diego treated like a threat. But given his longstanding issues with Luther, he was exceptionally harsh, and at times just downright mean. He’d yell at him for putting Klaus at risk, and even accused him at times of trying to get Klaus sick. Allison couldn’t count on one hand the amount of times Diego had literally made Luther cry; granted, that wasn’t hard when he was sick. Luther became very emotional when he had a fever, and unfortunately, he was prone to pretty high fevers given his condition.

“Luther,” she started, not really knowing how she’d finish her sentence, “that’s not true. Diego is just overprotective of Klaus, and I think he kinda gets tunnel vision when Klaus is in danger. I think he might have seen him go through some pretty rough stuff. I don’t know, he doesn’t talk about it. But it’s kinda like how I am with Claire,” Allison explained. “It’s like that one person is the only one who matters–”

“Allison, stop,” Luther cut in, tone agitated. “Stop trying to make it better. Diego hates me and my stupid immune system is no exception. He thinks it’s funny, I mean I can’t even sneeze without him laughing about it. He doesn’t care when I get sick, because he doesn’t care about me.”

“Luther, that’s not–”

“No, it is true, stop trying to deny it. And I’m not mad about it, it’s just a fact, he’s always hated me. How does he act when Claire gets sick? Or literally anyone else.”

Allison was silent. It was true, Diego was much kinder to the rest of the siblings when they were sick, even though they rarely got as sick as Luther and Klaus did frequently.

“See, you know I’m right. He doesn’t give a shit about me,” his voice was starting to crack. “Whatever, I don’t need him anyway.” Luther finished his sentence and immediately broke into a harsh (and very productive) coughing fit.

“I’m putting you on vocal rest, okay?” Allison said more to end the conversation than anything else, and rubbed his arm. Luther nodded his head in reluctant agreement, afraid of making even the smallest noncommittal noise. He looked utterly exhausted. “And some actual rest would do you good, too.”

He closed his eyes, and she bent down to kiss his forehead.

“I know you guys have fought a lot, Luther,” Allison whispered. “But I really don’t think this is about you. It’s just, him and Klaus have been through a lot…. But he’s getting better. Just give him some time.”

She sat back down at his side, and after a few moments, the sound of his congested snores filled the room.

Allison checked her watch, looked down at Luther one last time, and then quietly left the room. She held her phone up to her ear, and she was so focused on calling Claire that she didn’t notice Diego in the doorway, looking like he’d suddenly peaked inside Klaus’ brain and had, literally, just seen a ghost.

What Luther and Allison didn’t know was that his aggression towards Luther didn’t just stem from his over-protectiveness for Klaus. It was true that Diego and Luther never really got along, but Diego had, in fact, never stopped loving his brother, and he didn’t care more about Klaus. It was just easier for him to show that he cared for Klaus. He’d always seen him (affectionately) as the weak link, in need of protection. Luther had never seemed to need any help with anything growing up and Diego had honestly resented him for it.

But things had changed. And when Luther started to get sick more often, if he was honest, Diego had called it bad karma and laughed it off. But as the siblings became closer, and Luther in particular opened up more to Diego about certain things only the two of them could really understand, Diego had grown to appreciate his brother. In truth, he’d always cared about Luther deep down, but he was only just now starting to allow those feelings of affection to surface. And after watching him push through months on end of high fevers and sinus infections, he was just as worried and overprotective of him as he was for Klaus.

But he couldn’t show it in the same way. Diego’s love language with Klaus was definitely Acts of Service. He fell into the role of caretaker and protector easily with him. With Luther, his love language really should have been Words of Affirmation, but instead it was more Yelling and Insults. It was just the only way he knew how to communicate with him. And it was better to communicate with him than to ignore him, like they’d ignored each other for years.

But after hearing Luther open up to Allison, Diego knew it wasn’t good enough.

And he knew Luther probably couldn’t hear, but he had to be with him right now, even if it was for the purely selfish desire of getting this off his chest.

“Hey, Big Boy?” he asked loudly, testing the waters, before he stepped cautiously into the room. “Monkey Man? Luther?” He sat down in the chair beside the operating table and put a hand on Luther’s arm, where he’d unconsciously put it earlier when he saw him flinch away from Grace. “Brother?”

Luther “responded” with a particularly grumbly snore, and Diego couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Hey, don’t scare me like that again,” he whispered. And then, as if to spite him, the monitor beeped, and Diego’s head snapped up at the speed of light to read it: 105 even. Diego should have been relieved that it had dropped more, but instead, it just reminded him of how high it had been before, and how it was still so dangerously an hour later. When he’d walked into Luther’s room that morning to check on his “cold” (as Five had called it), he’d instantly known something was wrong. He’d rushed over to check his fever, and when the thermometer read 106.3, Diego felt like he himself might get sick. And then he’d run out the door, screaming so loud for Grace that he felt like his lungs might collapse, even with his breathing power.

And now, sitting here in the infirmary with Luther, Diego tried to use said power, but it was no use. No amount of holding back could stop his chest from heaving.

“Luther, I’m s-so sorry for the way I’ve treated you,” he whispered. “I know I don’t show it but I-I hate to see you so sick. It’s j-j-just wrong.” That was when the tears started to flood his eyes. He clenched his jaw to keep them at bay. “I-it makes sense that Klaus needs me to take care of him, h-he’s always the weak one.” An oversimplification, but Diego was too busy losing his battle against the tears that were now streaming down his face to correct himself. “A-and I’ve seen him so sick.” He shuddered at the memories, which only seemed to make him cry more. “B-but you were always so s-sss-strong, you were supposed to p-protect us. A-and I know that’s just what Dad w-wanted from you, but that’s how I always saw you. I-I never realized you m-m-might be hurting too.”

Diego didn’t realize, but at some point he’d put his hand on Luther’s arm, in the same spot where he’d held it earlier.

“A-and y-your shit immune system just makes me so fucking mad. W-with Klaus I can at least say it’s due in part to his decisions. But with you it if I acknowledge how sick you are I-I h-have to,” he took a deep breath to steady himself and wiped the tears from his eyes. “I have to a-acknowledge what Dad d-d-did to you… and how n-n-none of us were there all those y-years. And how I went so long w-w-wishing harm on y-you and I… I was wrong.”

Tentatively, Diego lifted his shaky hand from Luther’s arm and cupped it around his brother’s cheek.

“Y-you’re my brother, too, a-and I love you. If I could s-sw-switch places with you right now, I’d d-do it in a heartbeat.”

It took a few minutes, but Diego’s tears finally died down. He borrowed some of Luther’s tissues to clean himself up. When he had finally composed himself, he shook his Luther’ shoulder a bit to ensure he was still asleep, before bending down and pressing a quick kiss to his clammy forehead.

“I know it’s not an excuse, but I’m trying.”

He stayed in the infirmary for an hour, watching the monitors as Luther’s fever steadily dropped down to 103.4 in his sleep. That was the last thing Diego saw before he fell asleep too.

Shortly afterwards, Luther started to wake up. He blinked at his surroundings for a few moments, trying to remember the events of the morning, as well as the strange but comfortable weight on his right side. Finally, things came into focus, and he remembered all of it with a shudder. His siblings were never going to let him live this down. Especially not–

Luther zeroed in on the figure on his right, which he soon identified as Diego. Sitting in a chair pulled up to Luther’s side, snoring, body slumped over the operating table so he could use Luther’s arm as a pillow.

Despite how shitty he was still feeling, a tired little smile crossed Luther’s face.

“Thanks for staying,” he rasped, and lay back into his pillows again, closing his eyes. “Love you, too.”