“Alright, I’ve gotta head.”
Claire jumped from where she was sitting on Luther’s lap to grab at the hem of Diego’s shirt. “We can change games if you’re not having fun!”
“No, it’s not that...”
“Is it because you keep losing?” Klaus said, waggling the game console controller in a taunting gesture.
Diego narrowed his eyes at him, before his expression softened as he turned back to Claire, ruffling her hair as he crouched down to her level.
“Sorry kiddo. I have a meeting I gotta get to. But I’ll make it up, promise.”
“What kind of meeting?” Allison asked, raising her brow.
Diego pursed his lips, eyes widening as he hesitated for a second too long.
“I...have a job interview,” he said slowly, as if saying those words for the first time ever, giving Claire another pat on the head, “I’ll be a few hours. Hell, I’ll buy dinner on the way back, my treat. Everyone good for, uh, that Indian place on Auburn?”
His siblings all agreed, knowing the restaurant had their usual order written down with how often they went there.
Claire still looked up at him, eyes wide, but he didn’t crack.
“Sorry, I really have to go. I’ll see you later.”
Diego threw a wave over his shoulder as he sauntered out of the living room. They waited until they heard the front door click shut before continuing with what they were doing.
“...so, very suspicious or extremely suspicious?” Ben asked.
“The most suspicious,” Vanya said, picking up Diego’s discarded controller and selecting a new stage in the game, “He never mentioned a job interview before.”
“I thought he still worked at the gym,” Klaus said, “Never have I met a man so content to sweep floors.”
“Who’s turn is it to tail again?” Allison asked with an exhausted sigh, patting the gap on the couch for Claire to come sit down again, “Luther?”
“Nuh-uh,” he said, grinning as Claire once more chose to sit in his lap, wrapping his arms around to hold the controller for her to play too, “I only tail when you, Vanya or Klaus go AWOL. You need someone smaller and quicker for sneaking on Diego.”
They all went a bit quiet, before turning their heads to Five, draped over an armchair with his nose deep in a book on quantum physics. He visibly paused, aware of the stares as he lowered the tome, his eyes narrowed.
“Why me?” he groaned, slumping down his seat.
“You’re a lil’ sneaky man,” Klaus said, hissing as his character was knocked off the stage, “You’re way better at following people. That was like, your job, right?”
“What if he is just going to a job interview?”
“Well you won’t know until you try!” Ben said, clapping his hands together, “C’mon, admit it, he was being a little weird, right?”
Five glared at the ceiling, before giving a thumbs up with a strained sigh.
“Fine. Suppose it is strange this is the first we’ve heard of any kind of interview.”
Five flitted out onto the street, glancing around. Diego’s car was still parked opposite the academy, so wherever he went was within walking distance, and he couldn’t have gotten that far.
Five decided to walk towards the shopping district. Maybe his angriest brother (after himself) decided to get a job in customer service. He smirked a little picturing Diego in a barista’s uniform or stacking shelves at a convenience store.
He made the right choice, spotting Diego just ahead at a crosswalk. For once, Five blessed having his teen body, as he managed to blend in with group after group with ease, if anything because he was shorter.
Christ did Diego stand out. Even dressed in a normal black shirt and maroon bomber jacket, he just did not look right. A comic book vigilante in the real world.
Of course, that vigilantism came with a sharp eye, thrown over his shoulder ever so often with a furrowed brow.
Luckily, Five was quicker and far better trained at following marks. He did understand why Diego might have gotten scouted by the Commission, admittedly. He probably would have been very good at it all too.
There was a long period where Diego didn’t move, leaving Five to crouch with his back flat against a car. That got him a few strange looks, but he was used to that nonsense by now.
Finally, Diego let out a heavy sigh, walking through the gates of the local park. Five scowled, waiting a few seconds before teleporting behind a tree there. Where the hell was this job interview being held? Unless his brother was planning to become a groundskeeper.
Eventually Diego stopped at a bench near the children’s play park, rocking on his feet as he looked around. He seemed...tense, flexing his fingers or adjusting a loose strand of hair.
Five’s scowl softened into a frown. How odd. Diego wasn’t often the type to seem so visibly anxious, so what had gotten him to feel such?
He got his answer quite quickly.
Diego’s tension melted, his face lighting up in a grin as he crouched a little, arms outstretched…
As a young boy, maybe a little younger than ten, ran into them for a hug.
Five’s jaw fell open. Daddy?!
He spotted another cluster of trees closer by, flitting over there to get a better look.
By now, the child, who was clinging to Diego’s side, was joined by a woman in sensible shoes and a sensible ponytail, who gave Diego a courteous smile.
He stared at her a little breathlessly, still smiling. “Hey, Eudora.”
Oh. Diego never mentioned she was alive here. Five supposed that would make sense, once they fixed their timeline, they’d arrived the day after their father’s funeral, as opposed to the day after the apocalypse.
Nobody died. That meant Diego’s ex-girlfriend. The good one, the one whose parents he hadn’t killed. He thinks.
The one with a child Diego had never mentioned.
A child that had called him daddy.
Diego ruffled the kid’s hair in the same fond way he ruffled Claire’s. “Hey champ, why don’t you go play for a bit. Me and your mom need a little chat, okay?”
The kid nodded, rushing into the park and going for the slide. Diego gestured at the bench, and both he and Patch sat down.
She gave him a look, scoffing slightly. “Damn, you’re really sticking with that long hair? I seriously thought it was a wig…”
“Hey, do I not look like Antonio Banderas?” Diego asked, giving a cocky grin, before his form tensed again, “So uh...what do you think of my proposition? Am I completely outta order or…?”
Patch considered for a while, before she smiled, patting his shoulder. “Not at all. I won’t pretend to know what happened to make you change your mind all of a sudden, why you’ve wanted to get more involved lately, but you’re Marcus’ father. If you think you’re ready...I’m more than happy to arrange something.”
Diego looked ready to cry.
Five had heard enough, feeling he’d long overstayed his tailing privileges as it was. He watched as Diego went over to the swings with the boy - his son. Five’s nephew.
Just when he thought this family couldn’t have any more secrets.
He teleported out of the park for the sake of sneaking, but Five walked the rest of the way home to truly process what he’d found out.
When he reached back to the academy living room, the scene had changed slightly. The TV was now playing cartoons that Ben pretended he wasn’t watching over his copy of The Great Gatsby. A soft snore from the couch told him Luther was napping, laid flat on his front with his face nuzzled against a pillow. Which left Claire seemingly playing makeover with Allison, Klaus and Vanya, their hair adorned with various butterfly shaped clips or tiny braids.
“Fivey! Come join!” Klaus cried, waving his arms in the air, “There’s an adorable little hairband that’ll suit you greatly.”
“Maybe another time,” Five said curtly, crossing his arms, “Uh...Claire?”
His niece’s head shot up, tilted to her shoulder.
“I need to have a grown-up talk with your mommy and aunt and uncles right now. Would you be okay with going to your room for a little?”
Claire seemed a little saddened by this, but Five quickly saved it.
“I’ll tell you a story about one of my time travelling adventures, and let you play with my hair.” He held up his pinkie finger with a grin. “I promise.”
“You better!” Claire cried, linking their fingers together before she rushed out.
He nodded, raising his hand to Allison before she could chastise him in any way. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell her about me killing anyone, I know what is and isn’t appropriate for a young child. Now, someone wake Luther, this is important.”
Once Luther had stopped grumbling about Klaus and Ben shoving him off the couch to stir him, the others all sat to listen. Five paced a little, clasping his hands together.
“Jeez, what the hell was Diego doing?” Allison asked, noticing the strange expression he was pulling.
“Bet it was a sex thing,” Klaus said with a snap of his fingers, which made Luther groan and cover his ears, “A weird kinky sex thing.”
“No, it wasn’t a sex thing,” Five sighed, before pausing, “Well, actually...I suppose sex was involved at some point but that’s neither here nor there-“
“What did you see Five?!” Luther asked, eager to change the subject.
Five rubbed the back of his neck. How best to lead into the important subject?
“Do you remember that cop friend Diego had who Hazel and ChaCha killed in our original timeline? She’s alive here.”
A murmur of surprise and relief settled over the others at this, especially Klaus. He sometimes still blamed himself for her death, not that he’d ever say that to Diego, not that he could really have done much.
“Well, that’s good right?” Vanya said slowly, “It sounds like he just met up with his ex-girlfriend.”
“And their son.”
Silence as they processed how frankly Five announced it, their faces gormless. Ben was the first to respond.
“What the fuck do you mean, his son?!”
“Hey, I’m still trying to process it myself,” Five cried, throwing his hands up defensively, “He went to the park where he met with Patch and there was a small boy calling him daddy.”
Luther involuntarily shuddered at that, remembering his day with a pair of paradox psychosis affected Fives. The others finally seemed to let the announcement settle in their heads.
“So...we have a nephew?” Klaus asked, his face lighting up as he clasped his cheeks, “A lil’ baby Twoey?”
“Well, he looked around eight or something but, yes, essentially. I overheard the name Marcus.”
“Eight?!” Allison held her head in her hands, shaking it slowly. “How the hell could he have gone eight years without mentioning he had a kid?”
“You know what he can be like,” Vanya said, patting her knee gently.
“Yeah, but there’s stoic and there’s keeping a whole ass kid from your family!” Ben cried.
“Your estranged family,” Luther said, hugging a pillow, “That’s a good enough reason to not tell us. Who the hell was he in contact with when he was...twenty-two?”
He blinked, his large hands kneading the pillow in thought. “Christ...you’d think he’d have mentioned it by now though.”
“Well, from what I can guess, he doesn’t have much custody,” Five said, deciding to sit cross legged on the nearest pouf, “Knowing him, that was his own choice too. Can’t exactly do the whole vigilante thing if you’re needed to look after a child regularly.”
“Do we...confront him about this?” Klaus asked slowly, looking at his other siblings, “Like, for one he’s gonna be pissed that we sent Five off to stalk him-“
“I wasn’t stalking, I was tailing. Big difference.”
“Sure, whatever helps you sleep at night Fivey. But also...does he want us to know?”
They all paused and considered this. There had to have been a great reason for Diego to not bring this up since fixing the timeline. They’d spent most of their time in those first few months back doing nothing but sharing, there were few aspects of each other’s pain and anxieties they didn’t know about.
But Diego omitted this one major detail.
“Let’s...let’s take it slowly,” Vanya said, rubbing her fingertips against her wrist, “Wait until Claire’s gone to bed and...somehow bring it up.”
The others nodded and voiced their agreement. This was too big a thing and it was only a matter of time before one of them cracked and asked about it in a manner that would set Diego off.
So for now, they carried on like nothing happened.
Five retrieved Claire from her room and let her mess up his hair as he recited a tale of landing in Japan in the late 1980s and witnessing an elaborate dance battle. It sounded like complete nonsense, but Five told it with such plainness and Claire was clearly enthralled.
A few hours later, they heard the front door open.
“Yo! Luther, come put those big ol’ arms of yours to good use and help me bring in these bags, huh?” Diego called from the hallway.
“Nobody mention anything until later,” Allison reminded, nudging Luther to move.
“Mention what?” Claire asked.
“Don’t worry sweetie. Grown up stuff.”
She huffed, having heard that excuse too many times, but went back to decorating Five’s hair, because Mommy knew best.
Dinner went by like normal. Occasionally Diego noticed one of his siblings glancing toward him, or exchanging some peculiar looks, but he was in too good a mood to dwell on it.
As Allison got Claire ready for bed, Klaus coming along to help, Vanya suggested they all have a beer to unwind after a long day of playing with their niece. Diego didn’t notice the slight hitch in her voice as she did, and went to grab a few from the fridge.
The beer helped the others relax. Soon they were all laughing at some always witty Klaus anecdote, or cheering Luther on as he crushed empty cans between his thumb and forefinger with no effort.
Ben was the first to crack, and he was stone cold sober, given the whole being dead thing.
“You’re a dad?!” he said, gesturing over at Diego, before immediately slapping his hands over his mouth.
Diego froze, his eyes going wide.
“Oh come on Ben!” Klaus said, rolling his eyes, “We were gonna lull him into far more of a false sense of security first!”
“How the hell…” Diego’s eyes narrowed, reminding them all that the term ‘glared daggers’ was truly invented for him. “Who followed me?”
Five raised his hand, sighing heavily. “Apologies, they forced me into doing it.”
“Uh, we did no such thing,” Allison said, “You’re a grown man, you can do whatever you want!”
“...how much did you see?”
Diego’s voice had gone quieter, as he sunk deeper into the beanbag they’d dragged up from the den. He tapped his fingers against his beer can rhythmically, staring at Five.
“Uh...I saw you and Patch meeting up with your son, and I overheard some of your conversation.”
“Has this always been a thing?” Klaus asked, before clarifying, “I mean...has this kid always existed? It isn’t some weird blip in the timeline from us changing it.”
“No, Marcus has always existed.” Diego sighed, wanting to be absorbed by the beanbag as he tried to lounge back in it more. “There...there isn’t much to say. Me and Patch messed around, she decided to keep him, and when I got kicked out of the police academy, I kept my distance. Still saw him every so often, supervised visits at the park and nothing else but…”
He finally decided to sit up, setting his beer down and looking at his siblings with every ounce of sincerity in his body. “I’m gonna try harder. I applied for more custody, I was gonna tell you guys, I swear. I just...needed time. Mainly to process about Patch being alive again.”
“A little sooner would have been nice,” Allison said with a small laugh, “You knew what I went through with Claire, I could have helped you figure stuff out.”
“That’s why I wanted to try.”
Diego clasped his hands together, taking a deep breath. “We’ve all accepted Dad fucked us up royally, right?”
This statement was followed by several murmurs of agreement.
“Well yeah-“ “-no shit-“ “I’m dead-“ “Literally a gorilla man-“ “We are the kings and queens of daddy issues-“ “-super fucked.”
Diego gave a wry grin, before continuing. “Well, I was scared I’d fuck up Marcus like Dad fucked us up. I tried that first year, before me and Patch broke up, and I just...felt I wasn’t good enough.”
Oh man this was way more vulnerable than he wanted to show. “But seeing Allison fight for Claire, I...I knew I had to give it a shot. I think I was always ready, just a lil’ too scared to try.”
“That was...an incredibly wholesome response,” Klaus said, clasping his hand to his chest.
“I did not know you could be so soft,” Luther mumbled in agreement, ducking as Diego threw an empty can in his direction, that veered off and smacked his head anyway, “Oww! I was gonna ask when can we meet him?”
Diego gave a shrug. “Been working stuff out, but hopefully in the next few weeks. Before the summer is over, I want him to meet Claire too before she goes back to LA.”
He smiled at them, shaking his head. “Can’t even be mad y’all made Five follow me. I hate that proper sit down shit that I would have had to done instead, so maybe this was the better way about it.”
“I bet I’m gonna be his favourite,” Ben said with a smug grin.
“No way, he’s gonna love me the most!” Klaus cried, arms behind his head, “Everyone does.”
“I’m Claire’s favourite, so it’s not fair if I’m Marcus’ too,” Luther said, smirking slightly.
Vanya gasped and gave his knee a light slap. “Shut up, you are not Claire’s favourite.”
“I’m pretty sure I am,” Five said under his breath, quickly being drawn into the argument despite clearly thinking he was above it.
Everyone turned to Allison, who flailed about slightly.
“I’m not telling you! You’re all her favourite!” she said, but waited until everyone looked away again to mouth at Luther, ‘It’s you.’
Diego could only grip his sides laughing. He couldn’t wait for his boy to meet his six bonkers aunts and uncles.