A lot of time had passed since October 1st, 1989. 22 years, to be precise. Reginald Hargreeves had seen the seven children that he had seemingly carelessly adopted from around the world grow up. First into snotty-nosed and in some cases bratty children, then into hormone-driven and in some cases rebellious teenagers and, finally, in some cases into adults. He had lost two of his children along the way. The first of two he had lost to the boy’s own arrogance which had ultimately led Reginald to realize that he should not have fed into that boy’s ego as much as he probably had while raising him. The second one … Well, that had been more tragic than it had needed to be. These words might sound cruel to others but Reginald, during his long life, had learned that sometimes a more rational or clinical approach to the happenings around him was more beneficial to everyone than a purely emotional response to the world.
His children, of course, had never understood that. And how could they? Their lives, compared to his own, were mere seconds during the eternity of the universe. They were mere specks of dust, fleeting moments, fimble dreams - in many cases just as fragile as the web of a spider in the early morning hours of a hot summer’s day.
Number Four was the best example of that, in his eyes. Number Four, his most troublesome child, was more fragile than a china cup and always had been. He had never understood what Reginald tried to achieve in pushing and pushing and pushing him past his limits. He had never understood that fear and the experience of fear was a good thing and nothing to run from. Instead, his boy had started poisoning himself, and Reginald, to his dismay, had largely been unable to do anything about it. If he had tried locking him up to get him off his drugs, Number Four would have only rebelled harder against him and gotten himself into only greater trouble even earlier in his young life.
Seeing Klaus waste his potential, filled him with righteous anger but, unlike Number Four would expect, that was not all he felt when watching the child, that insolent little brat, spiraling out of control. And it was not at all what he felt now, standing in the hallway of that hospital with nurses and doctors idly running around and patients wailing in pain behind closed doors.
From the moment he had taken Number Four into his care, he had never seen anything other than the newborn child on the kitchen floor that he had first seen on the photographs that had been taken on that fateful day. To Reginald Hargreeves, he would never be anything but that baby, covered in the blood of his mother, his skin blue, the umbilical cord still wrapped around his neck like a noose - dead and yet living and breathing to this day.
Of all the forty-three children that had been born on October 1st, 1989 but particularly of the seven he had managed to adopt, Number Four’s survival seemed the most miraculous. Not only had he started breathing again after someone had cut the cord around his neck and freed him despite being dead for minutes at that point, Number Four had also been the very first of the seven to express supernatural powers.
The boy didn't know that, of course.
"There is not much we can do, Mr. Hargreeves." The young doctor that dared to speak to him, was barely older than his children and yet spoke to him with all the authority of a man thrice his age and rich with experience. "His condition is critical. He will most likely not survive this night. If we are going to do the surgery, he will most certainly bleed out on the table. Either way, there is nothing we can do. I would advise you to bid him farewell."
Reginald had allowed him to speak until now and gave a small nod as a sign that he had heard him. He had heard and acknowledged his opinion even though his professional opinion was wrong. There was always something that could be done. The truth was, more likely, that the hospital staff in charge of Klaus right now was not willing to perform any surgery on a burned-out junkie. Their desire rested in harvesting anything that could still be of any kind of use from his son and leaving him to die instead of wasting resources and energy on a person who was clearly so desperate to throw away his life.
Number One, Luther, who stood at his side like a rock in a stormy sea, gave a choked sound, almost like a sob. The boy had never cried since he outgrew his diapers and he would certainly not start crying now. Reginald harbored no illusions about the fact that Luther would cry in solitude behind a closed door if his brother happened to succumb to his injuries. Never in front of his father or siblings, though.
They had gotten the call in the early hours of Monday night after a storm front had hit the city with newfound vigor. Down the street, a lamppost had been hit by a lightning bolt and fell onto a parked car. Grace had accepted the call, the only one of them who had still been up and running. Immediately, she had alerted Reginald of the news that her son, as she had stated it, had been delivered to the hospital. Now, he could see Klaus only through a narrow window in a white standard-issue hospital door. There was not much to see of him anyway after the paramedics that had brought him here during the storm had hastily patched him back together.
They had found Klaus in a ditch at the side of a road leading out of town. Almost naked except for those ridiculous leather pants he had bought when he had turned eighteen and which seemed to have survived until now by some miracle. Well, now they were thoroughly dead after the hospital staff had needed to cut them off of him. No signs or indications of a sexual assault, at the very least. His son, however, had been badly beaten - to the point where his face had apparently been almost unrecognizable and nearly every bone in his body been broken. According to the paramedics, it had appeared as if Klaus had been thrown out of a driving vehicle. Deposited at the side of the road like garbage.
"The surgery will be done." Reginald addressed the man before him. It was an order not a request and he was a man in the unique position of giving orders to nearly anyone. "And it will be performed in the private wing of the hospital - the one I have bought many years ago - with the personal staff I am paying every month in case of emergencies like this. I demand to know why my son is resting in such unaccepting accommodations, to begin with. The moment you understood who he was, you should have delivered him to the private wing immediately."
"Sir- I just thought-"
"Go to work." He knew what this child had thought. He had seen Number Four, had realized who he was, had seen the signs of the abuse that Klaus was delivering to his own body for years now, and had decided that a junkie was not worth the effort. "I assume, however, that this will be the last task you will be performing at this hospital."
The boy had survived. The medical staff called it a miracle. Sir Reginald Hargreeves, on the other hand, knew better. He had waited at the hospital in the private lounge that was reserved just for him and his family whenever any of them was in need of medical assistance or had to wait for long stretches of time at the hospital. Until now they had only rarely made use of those accommodations in the past. His son Luther had spent most of the long hours that they had been waiting pacing back and forth as if this way he would help his brother in any way.
It was half-past two in the morning when the news came that the surgery had been a success and it was three in the morning when Reginald was first allowed to see his son once more. There was less blood on him this time around. He watched how Luther was walking to the glass cubicle that was holding his brother. Behind the thick glass, Number Four lay connected to seemingly countless machines and wires. A machine had taken over the breathing for him and was steadily filling and emptying his lungs. Not an inch of his body was not covered in thick bandages and if Reginald wouldn't know that it was, in fact, his son lying there, the staff could have put someone else in all these bandages and he would be none the wiser.
There seemed not a single bone in that lanky body that had not been broken, not an inch of his skin that was not covered in bruises or cuts. It was, to this point, unclear what had happened to Number Four. By all means, he looked as if he had been thrown to the wolves and the wolves had ripped him to shreds. The amounts of drugs he had had in his blood had spoken volumes. The most probable explanation was that he had been with the wrong crowd and this time he had not been as lucky as he had been before. This time his comrades had not stopped beating him or kicking him when he was on the ground.
"We don’t know if he’ll pull through." The new doctor informed him. "It is likely that he will fall into a comatose state and if that happens, he is not likely to ever wake up. It is possible that he will live out the rest of his days in this bed, Sir."
"If that happens, we could still switch off life support." Reginald decided and he noticed the sharp glare Number One shot him over his shoulder. As he walked over to the cubicle in place of his adult son he saw the baby boy with the blue skin and the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.
Number Four remained in a comatose state for two months after that fateful night while his physical injuries healed slowly. After one month, his doctors agreed that there would be no harm in transporting him into his home. Grace was taking excellent care of Number Four since then. They had set up a room on the ground floor for him and everyday Reginald had to remind Number One that he still had actual work to do and could not spend every hour with his brother.
Despite Numbers One and Four never being close while growing up, Luther seemed oddly attached to his brother now that he was in such a helpless state. He had grown outright protective over him, demanding to be there every time a stranger would come to have a look at him.
"Shouldn't we inform the others?" Luther once asked at the beginning of this.
"They have left the academy." He had chosen to answer, both referring to the house itself and the organization behind it. His children had left him and the academy and their purpose behind and now they were not privy to such information anymore. At Luther's distraught look, however, Reginald had explained further:
"Number Two is focussing his energy on becoming a police officer and although I believe that this endeavor is pointless and a waste of his potential, I do believe that we should not burden him with news like this. You know how he gets when it's about Number Four. He has always been protective of him. Number Three has a thriving career in Hollywood and we should not interfere with that. And as for Number Seven, she is honing her limited skills and tries to pave a way for herself. It would be of no benefit to any of your siblings to hear of the latest developments and they would not be able to do anything about it either."
Number One had not been happy about this explanation but he had accepted it anyway and what other choices would he have had? Number One was not a prisoner in this house. He was free to go wherever he wanted and yet Reginald knew that Luther would never just leave the house to go looking for one of his other siblings. The outside world seemed to scare Number One. They should explore this at some point.
When Number Four finally woke up after two and a half months, his doctors were calling it a miracle once again. Number Four had suffered memory loss and his speech was impaired but he was just as insufferable and rebellious as he had always been. He couldn't recall how he had gotten himself in so much trouble or what had been done to him but he could still look at his father with defiance.
That, of course, came as no surprise. What did surprise him, however, was the resistance that Number One was starting to show. While Number Four slowly started his recovery process, Luther proved to be a lot more protective of his brother than Reginald had ever assumed him to be. Where Reginald wanted Klaus to work on himself quicker, Luther was there to remind his own father that Klaus needed time and care. It was interesting, this new development. Despite his role as the leader of the group, Luther had never exhibited great leadership potential. Unlike Number Two, who, despite his hotheadedness, had always shown much more promise for a leadership position.
Now, Luther showed a whole new facette of his admittedly very bland personality.
"Number One." He addressed his second in command as Luther entered the office this morning. The sky was overcast and he had little hope that the sun might come out to play anytime soon. Number Four was currently preoccupied with his physiotherapy.
After his long coma, Klaus was reliant on a wheelchair for now which made maneuvering the academy on his own almost impossible. His physiotherapist came by every day to work with him until he would be able to walk on his own again. The progress he made was slow and exhausting to everyone around. Klaus was moody and angry to be back home. He would hardly speak to Reginald and often forgo meals if it meant he would have to consume them in his presence.
Reginald always made sure to keep an eye on Klaus through the security cameras. His children might impute negligence to him but although Reginald had not always been physically present around them to allow them to grow on their own terms - albeit under strict rules - he had always kept an eye on them through the cameras.
"I implore you to allow Grace to take care of your brother. You have neglected your training schedule far too much already."
"But he needs me."
"He needs a trained medical professional and you are not that, Luther. You might assist your brother when he needs help to get upstairs but otherwise, you are not to interfere. Grace can handle him just fine. Your training and your mission are more important."
"It's really no big deal for me, Father. I like to help him."
"I know and this is very amicable of you, Number One." He never failed to notice how Luther’s eyes would light up at the smallest hint of praise. "I appreciate the help you grant your brother but it is not necessary. Additionally, I don't want Klaus to think that he will be allowed to be a lazy bum in this house. As long as he will stay under this roof, he is expected to work hard on himself, his addiction, his physical recovery, and his powers. No longer will I tolerate his lazy attitude towards life and the duty he has."
"Father … I don't think that he’s ready to work on his powers yet. I mean … He just came out of a coma. He can’t even leave his bed on his own. Give him more time, he is going through a lot."
"You are coddling him, Luther, and I fail to understand why that might be the case. Your brother has brought this upon himself and I expect of him only that he works hard to get his life back under control now. Fate has granted him a second chance at life and I expect him to put it to better use than the first." As he looked up from his notebook he could see that Luther was not on board with all of this but Luther would never outright disagree with him now. "Please do tell your brother that he is expected to be open for his training tonight."
"It's too early-"
" Tonight ."
Maybe it was indeed too early, Reginald later noted briefly as he stood before Number Four that night. He had banished Luther from the living room while he was going about Number Four’s training with him. The boy was sitting on the armchair that Reginald himself usually occupied after his brother had helped him out of the wheelchair and into the chair near the fireplace. He was weak and frail but he had always been like this. Number Four had always had this aura about him, this weird feeling he would deliver whenever he would enter a room - as if death itself was following him wherever he went like a plague or a shadow.
It had taken Reginald admittedly a while to realize that this was exactly it. His boy stood with one foot in the grave and with the other in the world of the living. Half alive and half dead - able to tear the shroud between both worlds to shreds if he desired. Surely, Klaus was not even aware of the might he had - of the full potential of his powers if he would ever unleash them upon the world. Reality itself might tear and bend under his will and he would shatter the belief and fears of all human life on earth. He was dangerous but he had never understood this. Perhaps he was even more dangerous than any of his siblings. It was his personality, however, that would always keep this dangerous side in check.
He did not quite know yet if he wanted to see this as a flaw or a benefit. Klaus could be a world destroyer if he wanted. Perhaps he should see it as a benefit that his general personality was one of kindness. Otherwise, he could have another situation like Number Seven at hand. Under her medication, she was docile and manageable, a good student, and a dutiful helper. Without it, there was no way to tell what she might have become. A goddess, perhaps or the end of the world.
Vanya, much like Klaus, seemed to have walked on a tightrope, one foot in the realm of insanity and the other in the world of the mundane. He had chosen for her to be ordinary to protect her and the rest of the world. Her potential for evil had seemed too big after she had killed three of her nannies and would have killed Grace too as well if Grace hadn't been a robot.
"We will start with something easy, Number Four." He addressed the boy on the armchair. Luther had put a soft blanket around his shoulders, ever mindful of his brother’s needs. Klaus had always been cold - He had pages and pages of temperature reads on this kid and how his presence lowered the temperature in every room he stepped into. The boy sitting in that chair, however, seemed only a husk of his former self. He had always been deadly thin and appeared weak but now there was no denying of that anymore. There were barely any signs left of the injuries he had sustained to his face by now but there was some scarring here and there. The scars would fade over time. "You will tell me how many ghosts are in this room right now."
"No." Defiance had to have been expected. Much like Number Two, Klaus had always been rebellious to a fault. "I’m not playing your games, Daddy-o."
"Then you are free to leave this house and find your luck elsewhere." He kept his voice calm. His children gladly said that he didn't know anything about them but Reginald knew exactly which button to press.
He had studied those kids their entire life and especially Number Four was like an open book to him. If the situation would be any different, Klaus would try his luck in the outside world without a second thought. He was hurt now, though. Badly so. He wouldn't survive on his own out there and although he might not possess much of a self-preservation instinct, at least he was not suicidal. This was only one aspect of it, though. The fear that his son was experiencing right now was bigger. Not the fear of ghosts for once. The fear of the outside world and of the people who had almost killed him. The fear of being helpless and at someone’s mercy.
"Six." Klaus finally caved in with a soft roll of his eyes. "Excuse me, Benji. Seven." He then corrected himself.
Reginald noted the number in his notebook before scribbling the name Ben next to it.
Klaus had talked in the past about Ben a lot after Number Six had found his gruesome early death. Of course, his siblings had not believed Number Four but Reginald had never been sure whether he was bullshitting or not. It had become evident that under the influence of drugs he was not able to see the dead. It was not impossible, however, that it was different with Number Six. He liked to explore this possibility further but for that, he would need to introduce his son back to drugs and that risk he would rather not take now that he was clean for the moment. His claim to see Ben definitely had more weight to it now that he was sober, though.
"You mentioned Ben. Is he here now?"
"He’s always here." Klaus sighed. "Not here here. With me. He says hi. Well, actually he says fuck yourself, Reggie, but it seemed rude so I didn’t say that."
"I am glad to see that being beaten to an inch of your life has not caused you to lose your humor, Number Four." The possibility that Number Six was still around was exciting, to say the least, albeit not much of a surprise, really. "Now to our next exercise. I want you to make one of them visible."
"You know that I can’t do this! I never could!"
"You just need to focus, Number Four!" The raising of his voice came completely natural to Reginald. Yelling at Klaus had never served any purpose or benefitted him in the slightest. It seemed that this was still true now as Klaus, in response to his father’s raised voice, raised his own voice as well.
"I can't do this, Dad! I can just see them and that is it!"
"You are lying to yourself, Number Four! Your resistance is unacceptable!"
"Okay, that's enough now!" For once, Luther surprised him as he barged back into the room. He stepped between his brother and Reginald as if he thought it was necessary to serve as a barrier between them. "Enough, Dad. He’s not ready yet. You need to give him more time to heal, okay? You are pushing too hard."
"I have not even started to push," Reginald replied sharply. "Your brother has not even yet scratched the surface of what he is truly capable of and I refuse to allow him to throw away this potential once more. He can either work with me or seek his chances on the streets, Luther."
"I'm not saying he should not try to work on his powers at all! I’m just saying that he needs more time to recover first. You need to go slower on him!"
"I am already going much slower than I should be, Number One!" His son flinched back as if slapped by the sharpness of his father’s voice and choice of words. "He has wasted more than enough time already. His previous behavior is unacceptable and I will no longer stand by and watch and neither will you."
"You know I’m right here, right?" Klaus chimed in.
Luther whirled around as if he had, in fact, forgotten that his brother was right there with them. "Sorry." He mumbled sheepishly, his shoulders slumping ever so slightly in defeat. This was a battle Reginald had won and he had not expected the turnout to be different. At his core, Luther was someone who was desperate to please his father in any way possible. He was starved for attention and hungry for his father’s approval and any hint of pride. Taking this from him was cruel, yes, but it was also quite easy to manipulate him this way.
"I would like to sleep now. I am tired."
"This is not over yet, Number Four. I expect you to be more compliant next time." He ignored the dirty look Klaus gave him before he left the room to tend to his studies and his new notes about that insolent boy.
The next time he took Klaus aside for his training, he brought his old Ouija board to the boy and witnessed how Klaus faced him with a grimace in response. He had refused to touch the board since he had turned fourteen around the same time when he had started to sneak out at night under the belief that Reginald wouldn't know it. Shortly thereafter, he had stopped using his tarot cards as well. He had claimed that they wouldn't work for him and had hoped that his father would blame it one the drugs. Reginald, however, had always had the sneaking suspicion that both things, in fact, still worked or rather worked too well. Once more, Reginald had asked Luther to deliver his brother to the living room and help him into the same armchair he had occupied last time.
"Are you serious?" He scoffed and showed the palms of his hands to his father.
He had gotten them tattooed when he had been no older than seventeen, just two months before poor Number Six’s early death. That insolent child had snuck out one night and returned the next morning with those tattoos on his hands, knowing full well that Reginald would not allow him to do the second hand if he had only gone for one hand at first. Needless to say, he had not been able to use his hands for weeks and thus hindered the good wok of the academy.
It was the first time that Reginald Hargreeves had felt the desire to beat his son into submission. Until that point, he had never raised the hand against any of his children. The slap that had hit Klaus that morning at the breakfast table thusly had come as a shock to everyone. He remembered Number Two being so outraged that he had actually jumped up from his chair, his butterknife clutched tightly and ready for a deadly throw. Later, he had caught Two consoling Four in a darker corner of the house while simultaneously scolding him for getting those tattoos.
"I don't need this crap, Daddy. I am a human fucking Ouija board myself, thank you very much or do I have to tattoo the fucking alphabet on my chest for you to get the hint?"
"The Ouija board serves only to focus your powers." He replied as calmly as it was possible when talking to Klaus. That boy had always had a way of getting on his nerves. Even as a baby and floating above his crib that kid had had a talent of being a nuisance to anyone around him. "Your power is like the sun - wild and untamed - and this Ouija board is nothing more than a magnifying glass."
"How poetic, Daddy dearest. So do you want me to burn some ants now or..." Klaus huffed and glanced over to Luther whom Reginald had allowed to stay for this one. His Number One had taken a seat on one of the couches after pulling the curtains together to darken the room. Klaus had only shortly remarked on how that was completely unnecessary.
Of course, it was. Reginald was aware that darkness or light had no further effect on Klaus’ powers. And yet it seemed to help focus the boy. Klaus, of course, would beg to differ but that was only because that child had never gotten over his fear of the dark ever since he had been little and demanded to sleep with the lights on before hanging up fairy lights all over his room when he turned into a teenager. Thinking back, Reginald couldn't even remember if this child had ever slept with his door closed.
"Focus now, Klaus." Reginald turned towards his son again as he shoved the Ouija board closer to the boy. "I want you to make contact with one of the spirits around."
"I don't need-"
"Make them move the planchet. Give them the power they need for that task."
Klaus let out a sharp whistle through his teeth before he moved his broken body enough to reach the planchet and touch it with the tips of both his index fingers. "Okay, I’m not gonna ask if there are any spirits around because I can see you fuckers. Come on, you are always so eager to scream at me, right? That's your chance."
Nothing happened for five whole minutes before Klaus urged the ghosts, again and again, nothing happened.
"Focus, Number Four!" Reginald found himself barking.
"I am fucking trying, old Man!" Klaus shot back and above Reginald’s head, the chandelier was vibrating before Klaus’ eyes suddenly rolled back into his skull until only the white of his eyeballs was visible. As he opened his mouth again to speak the voice seemed otherworldly - indescribable as Lovecraft would say. It came from the back of Klaus’ throat, a guttural unnatural sound. "LEAVE HIM ALONE!" The voice choked out.
Luther almost jumped from his seat as the lights inside the room started to flicker. It was the first time something like this had ever happened when Klaus would use his Ouija board and before Reginald knew it, there was blood running from Klaus’ nose.
"Enough!" Luther chimed in again and this time he did jump off his seat. "Enough of this! It's hurting him!" And just like this, the spell was broken even before Reginald could intervene and ask whatever spirit was possessing Klaus to answer some questions. As quickly as it had started it was over again and Klaus slumped over in his seat - passed out from the exhaustion of the exercise.
"This is unacceptable Number One!" Luther seemed taken aback by the scolding. "We finally made some progress with your brother’s powers and you dared to intervene!"
"Are you kidding me?" Well, that was new. How interesting. "He was bleeding!"
"It was just a nosebleed."
"No, it was not!" Luther argued back as he pressed his fingers into Klaus’ neck to feel his pulse. Lately, Number One was always fretting over his brother. He enjoyed no longer being alone in this house with just his father, Pogo and Grace. He enjoyed being able to take care of one of his siblings again. "And you know that it was not just a minor nosebleed, Dad! You are pushing him too hard! This is not going to get you anywhere, can’t you see that?"
"It got us progress!"
"You are going to kill him if you keep going at that rate!"
"I would appreciate it, Number One, if you would see to his physical wellbeing and leave his mental development and the development of his powers to me."
Luther bit his bottom lip at that before he scooped up his brother and left Reginald to his notes. They had made progress today. Klaus had successfully allowed a ghost to possess him and although they couldn't be sure, Reginald had a good enough inkling who that ghost might have been. Ben had never been as vulgar, rude, or rebellious as his even-numbered brothers but he was aware of the schemes that Six and Four had come up with behind his back on a regular basis. Ben had often served as the voice of reason in the trio, the calming influence to the hurricane that was Klaus, and the firestorm that was Diego. With his death, Klaus had spiraled out of control and Diego had decided to focus his energy on another cause. At least in its core, it was the same as the academy’s cause.
It was later that same day, as the sun had already gone down and rain started to drum against the windows of the mansion, that Reginald caught another glimpse of his son through the cameras. Number Four was sitting in his bed in his old room arguing seemingly with thin air. He had asked to be put back into his old room to be surrounded by his old stuff and near his siblings’ empty rooms a week ago and after Luther had declared that it would be no hassle for him to carry Klaus up and down the stairs if necessary, Reginald had agreed.
Seeing Klaus argue with people that only he could see was not new or concerning in any way. Only when it had first started when he had been around four years old, it had freaked out his siblings a bit and had taken Reginald a while to understand that his little son was not actually crazy but could see the dead. However, as Klaus suddenly started clutching his head with both hands, Reginald switched on the sound as well.
"Luther!" The boy yelled. He sounded desperate for his brother’s help and the way he was swaying on his bed told Reginald clearly that Klaus was definitely not feeling well. In fact, he looked as if he was about to throw up. Luther did not barge into the room right away, though, no matter how loudly Klaus called for him. A glance on the other monitors showed Reginald that Luther was in the observatory on the roof. Number One had probably helped his brother to bed and thought that he could resign from his duties for the remainder of the night with his brother neatly tucked in. He considered using the intercom to alert Luther of his brother’s state but then he rose from his seat by his desk and hurried out of the room himself. The office wasn’t far from the bedrooms, after all.
Throughout all the years, his children, especially Klaus, had liked to call him hard-hearted and cold. They thought that he saw them only and exclusively as his experiments and although this might not be completely without truth, it was not the entire truth either. There had been a time in his life, so many centuries ago that he didn't dare name the time, when he had desired fatherhood with his beautiful wife but with her death, she had seemingly taken that desire with her and left him only with a burning curiosity for all things strange and otherworldly.
Seeing seven children grow up from the start, however, made it inevitable to not form a bond with them. They were his children, all seven of them and he had desired to keep them from the horrors of the world while simultaneously making them the protectors of this world. Seeing them struggle or, in Klaus’ case even hurt themselves, tore him apart even though he wouldn't let those emotions bubble to the surface. He could recognize his failures, especially as it came to Number Four. His descent into madness he should have seen coming much earlier than he subsequently had. He had feigned blindness to it though. Blaming his shortcomings on his inherent weakness had been easier to explore the reasons for his weakness and the horrors his son had been forced to live through every day since he was four years old.
As he reached Klaus’ old room, he found his boy trying to climb out of the bed, his face as white as his sheets. Quickly, he grabbed the bucket that Luther had deposited near the door. Number One had probably meant to put it next to the bed and had been distracted by something before forgetting about it altogether. Klaus did not argue with his father as Reginald held the bucket for him. Instead, he just leaned over it and threw up more violently as he had at age eight when he had been down with that nasty stomach bug that Diego had given to him by sharing a water bottle.
Fatherly instinct told him to stroke his tense back but he refrained from it. He had no trouble grabbing his son’s hair or face to help him shave or make Klaus look at him. Stroking his back while he was throwing up was a hint of intimacy, however, Reginald was simply not ready to share with his son.
For other fathers, it would be completely normal. He, however, felt a barrier between himself and any of his children. Perhaps it was good that this barrier was there. For the first time since he had adopted those seven, however, he wished it wouldn't be there. He wished he would be able to pat Number Four’s back and provide Klaus with a loving gesture. The boy seemed in dire need of it. His self-destructive tendencies said as much.
The truth was, Reginald hated it how Klaus would roam the city in search of new highs and how he would go with strangers to their apartments and motel rooms either because he was paid to do so or because he wanted to. It was frustrating for him to realize that Klaus held so little regard for himself. Perhaps that was indeed a fatherly feeling welling up inside of him. He liked to claim that it was disappointment. Disappointment in the way Klaus threw away that gift he had.
"Now what?" Klaus groaned as he finally slumped back in his bed again. "Are you going to analyze my vomit to see what I ate and put it into your notes?"
"That won’t be necessary, Son," Reginald replied. "I know what you ate and that it was too little as it is and was always too little since you hit puberty at the age of eleven and a half - which was, by the way, much sooner than any of your brothers."
"I remember." Klaus moaned and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. "I remember Diego giving me shit for it until he hit puberty too. I was the last whose voice broke though. That should have given those asshats the satisfaction they needed."
"You should have focused more on your training than unimportant things like these."
"Yeah, yeah same old same old. Focus more on your training, Number Four! You are my biggest disappointment, Number Four! You know what? It wouldn’t have hurt you to tell us something nice while growing up - once in a while. Fuck, I didn't even expect an ‘I love you’ - not since I turned six at least. You didn't even give us names, after all. It would have been nice if you just once or twice told any of us that you were proud of us or … I don't know … I don't know."
"You did not give me much reason to be proud of you."
"You children like to blame everything on me."
"Well, you were a sadistic prick. Not to mention the world’s worst father." There was a sadness in Klaus’ voice that Reginald was no stranger to. The boy who seemed always connected to the dead had always had an aura of utter sadness about him. The drugs had tried to banish it from his eyes but it had always been lying underneath his dramatics.
"I just wanted you to live up to your potential. You especially. It is true, you are my greatest disappointment, Number Four. You only scratched the surface of what you are truly capable of. If only you’d focused! No, instead, you pump yourself full of poison because you're afraid. Afraid of what? The dark?"
"Woah … You know, I suggest you get down off your high horse there, dear Papa. You never had our best interest at heart! If that was the case you wouldn't have let me go out there and destroy myself."
"And what did you expect me to do? Lock you up in a hospital?"
"As if you would have troubles with locking me up." Klaus scoffed. "Might I remind you of how you locked me up in a mausoleum full of corpses since I was eight?"
"Would you have stayed? Would you have cooperated? Would you have gotten clean? You know as well as I do that this would have been futile. It would have been a waste of resources and money. You children like to claim that I don't know anything about you but let me tell you this one thing, Klaus, I know enough about you to have realized a long time ago that you cannot be forced to get clean."
His son’s eyes were full of sadness and pain as he looked at him. Not spite. Never spite with him. Even when he had had every right to be angry in the past, Klaus had never chosen anger. He remembered a child that was desperate to make those around him laugh and smile.
"It is a decision you have to make for yourself and I might not even see the day when you are ready to make this decision. I know, however, that you will eventually and I dread that it will be too late then and that it will cost you too much to get to that point. And if I have pushed you in the past, it was only to make you realize that you are more than what little you thought of yourself. You have much greater potential than most of your siblings but you never realized it."
"So why did you take me from the hospital then? If not to force me to get clean? And what do you mean I have greater potential than the rest?"
"The doctors at this hospital were highly inadequate. When you arrived in their care they had already made the decision to let you die and harvest whatever they could still use of you. they expected me to allow them to butcher you. I, however, knew that you are stronger than this. I only wanted to best care for you. You are my son, after all."
"Wow, don't get too emotional there, Pops." Klaus groaned and quickly glanced to the side. A sign of discomfort. Maybe he was looking at a ghost. "You are almost showing affection. You might want to see a doctor yourself."
Despite his quips and his sarcasm, Reginald could see well enough that his son was unsure how to feel about his words. He had learned a lifetime ago that Klaus was using humor and sarcasm to cope with and deflect from his emotions. Emotions that were always running wild inside of him and would take on a life of its own.
"When you first came into this house, you were the first of all of you children to show powers." It might not be wise to tell Klaus that. There was no telling what his son would do with this information. "In fact, I would say that you showed powers even before that."
"What do you mean?" He looked at him again, finally with an expression of slight curiosity in his eyes.
"When you were born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around your neck. Your mother was alone and bled out and there was no one to find you for half an hour. When you were found, you and your mother were pronounced dead but shortly after the cord was cut, you started breathing and screaming. You were blue by this point, dead and yet alive."
Klaus’ face had turned deadly pale. Until now, he had refrained from telling his children anything about their birth-mothers. It didn't seem important. Those poor women had been nothing more than vessels for something bigger, something Reginald had not yet figured out. Most of the seven women had not wanted to know anything about their children after he had taken them. Most of them had wanted to forget that this traumatic event had even taken place.
"It didn't take long for you to show powers beyond that. Your first nanny fled the house when you were barely six months old and floating above your crib. Two months later, you made your toys float. A month after that, your favorite stuffed animal was suddenly in your crib after your nanny left it on the ground and out of reach."
"What? I-I don't-"
"You stopped expressing those powers when you turned one and I could never explain why. Suddenly, your powers lay dormant and only started to seep back in long after your siblings had shown their own powers."
"What- Why didn't you tell me this?" Klaus mumbled quietly as he looked up at him now. "I mean … What are you telling me … That I have more powers than this?" He made a general gesture at his room as if Reginald would be able to see the ghosts that seemed to always linger around his son.
"At least you had more powers than just your connection to the world of the dead when you were a baby. It's highly unlikely that you don't have them now for some reason. It is far more likely that something is blocking them. Before, it was your drug habit now it might be the weakness from your injuries that are holding you back."
"And you really want to work with me on those powers? Not just scream at me and lock me up somewhere?"
"I do," Reginald replied calmly. If this was really how Klaus had seen his years and years of training under Reginald’s care then it might be best to truly seek a different approach to it. The tough way didn't seem to work on Klaus. He had always crumbled under anger and pressure. "But first I think your brother might be right. You need more time to heal first before we can try this again."
Klaus looked at him with wide eyes and in awe of this statement. Did he really think him so unreasonable? Well, perhaps he had never given his son much reason to believe that he was anything but unreasonable. It was true and Reginald would be willing to admit that he was impatient and demanding towards his children. Only because he had wanted the best for them, of course. There really was no other reason than that.
He had wanted them to surpass their limitations and grow into the best versions of themselves, into the heroes he knew they were all meant to be. Perhaps he had asked too much of them. Even Allison had fled the house despite him never feeling the need to push and push and push her. That Diego had left had seemed inevitable. He was too wild and untamed - much like Klaus but an entirely different flavor. Diego had a problem with authority and that was why he would never become a proper cop. Klaus, on the other hand, was chaos. Pure and utter chaos and finding a way to bring peace and order into that chaos would be the challenge Reginald would have to face from now on.
For the next weeks, he studied Klaus. Not through cameras but through actually being there with him in the same room. He watched how Luther was taking care of him. He watched him struggle as he was starting to learn how to walk again during his physiotherapy. He watched how he would get up again and again after he would have fallen. Klaus was tough. He was fragile and weak but he would not easily break. And, before long, they were sitting in the attic. Not in some dark cellar room with cold naked walls but under the open ceiling windows with warm sunlight filtering in and dust particles dancing in the air around them. Luther was there too, sitting on a pillow on the ground a little too the side while Klaus was sitting cross-legged on the floorboards. He was still not completely healed but he had made it up the stairs barely needing his brother’s help.
Reginald couldn't be prouder.
Klaus sat there with closed eyes, his hands resting on his knees, deeply engulfed in meditation. It was a new technique they had started practicing two weeks ago. It helped with the urges, Klaus claimed. The sensors on his forehead told Reginald the same thing. His brain waves were calm and steady, not the jumbled mess he was used to from Klaus’ reads. On the ground before him, his old Ouija board rested but Klaus didn't even touch the planchet as it started moving on its own. The sensors started picking up on the change though. If Klaus knew what was happening, he didn't show any signs of it on his relaxed face. The planchet moved over to the word HELLO in bold letters on the board.
"What's your name?" Reginald asked as the ghost sucked the energy out of Klaus. In fascination, he watched the planchette move across the board slowly again.
"B" Luther gasped from his spot. "E"
There was no need to spell out the rest of the name. Even if the ghost would have wanted to. Reginald had been so focused on the board, that he had not even noticed that not only had Klaus’ hands started to emanate a blue glow but that his son was also levitating a good five inches above the ground. Before he could even remark on either one of those things, however, the spirit he had been talking to took shape in the same bluish hue that emanated from Klaus.
Number Six was sitting cross-legged on the ground, his ghostly fingers on the planchet, his eyes on his brother. He didn't seem aware of the fact that both his father and Luther were able to see him until Luther addressed him in another gasp.
"Ben?" He asked, his blue eyes resting on his dead brother who looked up almost startled to look at Luther. "Is that really you?"
"Can you see me?" It was his voice. No ghostly little whisper like he would have expected. Number Six might as well be alive and sitting there right now. The more time was ticking by the more solid he seemed to become.
"Fascinating," Reginald muttered, thankful for the camera he had set up beforehand to make sure to capture every possible apparition. The moment was gone as quickly as it came, however.
Klaus landed with a heavy thud back on the ground, blood streaming from his nose, his hands shaking and his breath labored. Ben was gone but the laughter that was bubbling out of Klaus’ throat told Reginald that it wouldn't be the last time that he would have seen his dead son.
"I did it!" Klaus breathed as Luther came to his side to feel his forehead. "I did it."
There were more attempts after this one. More failures and struggles. They stumbled along the way, learning how to get the hang of it as a team. And while Klaus recovered from his injuries and while his body became stronger, so too did his mind and his powers.
A year later, Klaus was the same nuisance he had been as a baby again. A year later, he would float beneath the ceiling to scare Luther or startle Grace and Pogo just for shits and giggles. A year later, Reginald still saw that little blue baby with the umbilical cord wrapped around his thin neck when he was looking at his son. However, he also saw a young man who had been able to overcome his demons and who had managed to teach him one or two things about the world only he was able to see along the way. A man who would make his stoic brother laugh after a daunting mission. A man who would dance with his mother in the kitchen. A man who would talk his father’s ear off.
Finally, Reginald thought, he saw the man that had been buried underneath all the dramatics and the dirt. The man he had always known Klaus could be.