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Try Again

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Allison is not a bad person.

She has been told that, over and over again, in the past year. It’s usually followed by a resounding but.

But she’s damaged. But she’s traumatized. But she made mistakes. But she’s not fit to be around her daughter.

That’s fair.

It’s true.

She ran away from home, helter-skelter, at the age of seventeen, buried her entire life up until that point under make-up and designer clothes and never spoke of it again. Until her therapist told her, she didn’t know that sending your children to bed without dinner, locking them up for days, or slapping them when they mouthed off, is considered abuse.

Sure, she knew that you don’t beat your kids, but when Father slapped them, they deserved it. She knew that neglect is a bad thing, but they were clothed and fed and healthy, right?

Sir Reginald isolated his children almost perfectly. How the hell was Allison supposed to know that the way she grew up was wrong? Not normal, yes, that she knew, but wrong?

Recently, she learned these things. They usually come to light in ‘not a bad person’ conversations.

She hates those.

But to see Claire again, she submits to them, willingly. Because unlike her own father, she would do anything for her daughter.

She’s not a bad person, but she’s trying to be better.

There. That’s a sentence she can get behind.

Before she flew out for the funeral, she had one last session with her therapist. She asked her how she felt about confronting her siblings for the first time in over a decade. She told her that she wasn’t worried.

“Because I know I screwed up and I know I made mistakes, but I’ve still done better than them.”

Because Luther never even left the Academy. Because Diego and Vanya are ordinary and boring with small, ordinary lives. Because no matter how bad Allison’s life might get, she’s not selling her mouth for a hit, the way her brother has been doing since they were teenagers.

She thought her therapist would approve. She’s looking on the bright side. A sort of ‘could be worse’ scenario. She’s counting her blessings.

Instead, the woman gave her a tight, disapproving frown, brows drawn down.

“I’m being optimistic,” Allison defended.

“Optimistic would be thinking about how lucky you are that your own situation isn’t worse,” she was told. “You are happy that other people’s situation is worse. That isn’t optimism, that is schadenfreude, Allison.”

Six hours after that conversation, she’s standing in the foyer of a place that was never a home, feeling understandably annoyed as she waits for the rest of her siblings to arrive. Luther has been here for days. The other three are almost twenty minutes late.

Behind her, Mom is assuring everyone for the third time that, yes, she called them. Yes, they know the time. They will be here.

On the street, a beat-up muscle car rolls up and coasts to a stop. Allison recognizes Diego only by his nose and the wry twists of his lips as climbs out of the driver’s seat, dressed in casual dark clothes, his hair shorn short. He leans back to open the rear door of his junker and the source of his smile becomes obvious as Vanya comes tumbling out, nodding eagerly, tripping on the curb. He catches her.

The passenger door opens and out comes the last of their siblings, dressed in a black leather skirt and purple shirt, combat boots and enough make-up to be visible across the street. He always did have the most amazing eyes. Klaus.

Longer, ganglier, his hair shorter than Allison remembers, but there is only one person in the world who could dress like this and actually pull it off.

Vanya, still tiny, still short, still mousy in slacks, collared shirt and waistcoat, flanks their addict brother on one side, hooking her arm through his. Diego takes the other and Klaus immediately, automatically, reaches for his hand.

Klaus always did that when they were kids, always reached out for whoever was closest and he never outgrew it. One by one, they all had to tell him to stop it, had to pull their hands away, had to yell at him that he was childish before he finally kept his limbs to himself.

He cried, said he needed it to be sure they were real, but they all got tired of his excuses. His childishness.

Even Ben didn’t tolerate it beyond a certain age. But now here Klaus is, twenty-nine years old, holding hands with his brother like it’s an everyday thing. Diego doesn’t pull away.

Maybe, Allison muses as they cross the street together, they’re just trying to keep a handle on Klaus. Which probably means he’s high.

The way he sways slightly as he moves confirms that theory.

God. Not even for dad’s funeral could he be bothered to keep clean.

She opens the door with her lips pursed, ready to comment, when Klaus strips the others off and throws himself forward to hug her. “Sis! You look fab! Love the hair!”

He beams at her, open and wide and ridiculous. Behind him, Diego snorts and Vanya giggles, both of them leaning comfortably into each other and Allison realizes for the first time that they came together.

All three of them and they don’t look awkward about it. Don’t look like they’re unused to it. Oh, well. They’re the ones who stayed in the city. It makes sense that they’d see each other occasionally.

She has vague memories of the rest of them sometimes pairing off, forming little groups. Ben and Klaus were close and sometimes, Vanya was with them. Even Diego occasionally got caught up in them, she thinks. She never really paid attention. Luther and being the Rumor kept her busy.

Klaus lets go a beat too late, as always, and the other two move in for brief, less exuberant hugs.

“You’re late,” Luther finally announces himself, closing in.

Klaus cringes. “Can you keep the bellowing down, please? Some of us have a teeny-tiny hangover this morning. Also, hi, Luther, I’m fine, how are you?”

He beams, bats his lashes. Not high then. Coming down.

Luther snorts at their wiliest brother and turns to Diego. “Couldn’t you have dragged him out of whatever alley you found him in early enough to sober him up?”

There is a pause.

A moment where everyone in the room goes completely, expectantly, still. Because, if Allison’s honest, they’ve all known this would devolve into a fight. The only question was who and how fast.

(Luther and Diego. Within five minutes. She would have bet on it.)

Then, suddenly, something bright blue surges forward and Luther is pinned up against the wall by –

“Ben?!”

Allison blinks in shock. Is that – it looks like –

“Dude,” Klaus calls, “go Ben!”

Diego is chuckling. Pogo seems frozen, much like Allison. Luther himself is staring helplessly down at their brother. Their dead brother. Who has him by the neck and is somehow managing to keep him pinned to the wall.

Vanya sighs. Allison is still trying to parse the image presented to her when the smallest of them steps forward, hands raised, palms apart, and makes a shoving motion. The blue shimmering version of Ben goes one way, Luther skids the other, moved as if by giant hands.

“No fighting, boys,” she chides. Her eyes have gone brilliantly, terrifyingly white.

Somewhere, Allison is vaguely aware of Pogo gasping in shock.

Luther, coughing and rubbing at this neck, stares between Ben’s specter and Vanya with wide eyes.

Vanya, for her part, only turns to Ben like this is an everyday occurrence. “Do you think this might be a bit of an overreaction?”

Klaus helpfully holds up thumb and forefinger, squinting though the gap between them, grinning.

Ben (Benbenbenbenben) folds his arms over his chest, pouting like he did when they were kids. When he was alive. When he was –

“He doesn’t get to judge Klaus. Not him.”

“Benny,” Klaus starts, only to be cut off by Diego, narrowing his eyes. His hands are behind his back, where he always keeps at least two knives. Kept. Still keeps?

“Explain.”

Ben snarls. “The first time Klaus ODed he didn’t have Van down as his emergency contact, yet, so the hospital called the house. Luther answered and told them, I quote, ‘not to call this number again because the junkie wasn’t part of the team anymore’. He doesn’t get to judge anything Klaus did or didn’t do after that.”

Klaus, for his part, just sort of wilts for a moment, before drawing their dead brother into a hug. Like he does this every day. Why is no-one surprised that Ben is here?

She might say that out loud, because they all turn to her. Klaus shrugs. “Well, from my perspective, he never left, so.”

Diego is still stuck on Luther, though. He turns to him. “You’re lucky Ben got to you first, asshole,” he tells Number One. Conversationally. All his teeth bared. “I would have slugged you.”

He looks like he still might. Luther bristles. “Dad said-“

Oh. Even Allison knows that’s the wrong thing to say.

“I want to,” Ben pipes up, petulantly. “Klaus isn’t letting me manifest far enough.”

Klaus beams at everyone.

Vanya rubs her temples. “Okay. Stop. Rewind. Klaus is hungover because we all got very drunk last night. My head hurts too, I’d appreciate less fighting. Yes, Ben’s here. He always has been. You guys just didn’t believe Klaus when he told you so. Klaus is sober and has been for years. It did wonders for the whole ghost thing. I have powers. I have always had them, Dad just drugged me too much to use them. Can we get this shit over with? I don’t want to be here.”

That… is more than Allison has ever heard Vanya say at one time before. Ever.

Diego steps up to their sister, throwing an arm around her. She leans into him for comfort. “What she said.”

“Oh, yeah,” Klaus announces. “Let’s just do it. My favorite sister-in-law promised me Chinese.”

“Why are you even here if you don’t want to be,” Luther grumps, but his shoulders are hunched. He looks as small as his giant frame can look and the way he’s eyeing the united front of their siblings tells Allison he feels the same way she does.

Blindsided. Surprised.

Because when there weren’t reporters around, the Umbrella Academy has never stood this close together, shoulder to shoulder. And now four of them do (Ben!) and they are not a part of it.

Hold on.

“Sister-in-law?”

Diego rolls his eyes, like this is all too much for him, and wiggles his left hand. Something glints there.

“Three years in June. I invited you, but Luther was on the moon and your invitation apparently didn’t make it through your fan mail filter. Whatever. Let’s go make sure the old man is really dead and then we can not see each other again for the next decade or so, deal?”

“Happy reunions,” Klaus mutters, “remember. Happy reunions. The cards said so.”

“You were shitfaced when you read that,” Diego counters, tugging both of his living siblings toward the sitting room where an urn is displayed on a cloth-covered table, candles lit on either side.

“I could read my cards asleep.”

“He has, actually,” Vanya offers. “It was hilarious. He predicted burnt muffins for breakfast and then the bakery burnt down two days later.”

“I loved that bakery,” Ben mourns as he trails after them, little wisps of blue light trailing in his wake.

Allison and Luther are left alone. He turns to her. “What just happened?”

Good question. “I think,” she starts, stops, starts again. “I think Klaus is sober, Ben is haunting him, Vanya has powers, Diego is married and somehow we missed all of it.”

She wonders if he really did send and invitation to his wedding. She didn’t send any of them one. And Klaus… Klaus is sober? Vanya has powers? And they didn’t –

Well, why would they have told her? How? It’s not like she left them with her number. Hell, her PA had strict orders to filter out anything pertaining to the Academy. They wouldn’t have gotten through to her even if they had tried.

Klaus is shaking the urn containing their father’s ashes, muttering to it. Vanya is watching him with a grin. Ben and Diego, meanwhile, have wandered off to inspect the bar.

Ben is here. He’s… not alive, but here. He looks good. Happy.

And Allison didn’t know.

She’s not a bad person, she thinks to herself, watching these strangers move with each other. She’s not a bad person. But she’s not a very good one, either.

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