It wasn’t the first time he heard the music, but the sound stopped him from racing after Ben or Klaus up the stairs when they returned to the Academy, or when they finished with their lessons. It was sudden, an odd feeling pulling him away from what he was doing and making him take a step back, to look for the sound.
“It’s just Vanya!” Ben said once when he was at the top of stairs, his eyes alight with excitement, but mostly to get to the point so they can resume what they were doing, which Five had forgotten when he heard the sound. Shaking off the music, he chased after Ben. Days later, he heard the sound again when he finished his lessons with his father, and sat down on the steps, listening to the music play before deciding he wanted to actually see her and went to the second floor, quietly walked along the walkway and leaned against the railing.
Vanya with her straight brown hair along her shoulders, her pressed clean uniform, and her soft eyelids closed shut as she played the violin. Even in the sunlight streaming through the window, it made the entire room bend around her, a flow that she couldn’t coax from the others, in this instance there was nothing shutting her out.
She was more alive in its awakening as she played the violin with absolute concentration. It was beautiful with no strain, it held a lot of patience in the way she played. There was no one to her knowledge, watching her, so there was no need to feel self-conscious about her efforts. And it was beautiful to witness, and Five couldn’t stop the smile on his face at the sight of her.
When she came to a finish, the music slowing down with each movement she gave, her chest expanding before pulling inward as she exhaled. He disappeared without her notice and the music stayed inside his head for the rest of the day. Whenever she was dismissed and ignored, he’d watch her leave the room with sadness paling upon her face, her shoulders slumping as everyone ignored her presence.
He couldn’t ignore her after what he heard, what he observed. He found himself staring at her for far too long. She even caught him a few times, and he had to look away, mentally berating himself. He knew what it was one night in his bedroom, staring at the ceiling with nothing else but her on his mind.
He liked her.
It seemed odd to like Vanya out of any girl he has even known, not like he has ever known any. He called her sister but she didn’t specifically feel like his sister. He cared about her, as much as he cared about his other siblings. Except they were all more like friends and he was okay with that. They all seemed to accept Luther and Allison, while their own father didn’t say anything about the relationships they would all inevitably have with other people. He only cared about was the productivity of their lessons, nothing more.
The thing he did consider odd was that everyone looked down on her. She was pushed to the side, ignored completely, and her dejected expression never faltered from her face even though she always tried her best to adhere to their father’s wishes. What he learned awhile ago was that she stood with their father while they were on missions, but she never participated because of her lack of abilities, during lessons, she was the same. Always off to the side, never truly important.
She felt important to him.
And that was another dynamic between them, was that he was a lot better than the rest while she wasn’t.
One afternoon, Five was hesitant at first, but he grasped the knob to the room and slowly opened the door. Peering inside, Vanya stopped playing and her eyes fell on him, a worried expression mixed with surprise at his sudden appearance.
“Hey, Vanya,” he said, walking into the room and closing the door behind him. He tucked his hands into his pockets and stepped more into the room as she watched him, going stiff where she stood. “I was wondering if I can watch you...play.”
Vanya arched her brows, her lips parted, thoughts seem to run rampant through her head before giving him a nod. “Okay.” She took a steady breath as Five sat down on the couch and watched as she concentrated and started to play. She was clear and confident with each note she played. The music swelled in the room, all around him, he breathed it in and fell more deeply attached to the sound.
None of his siblings bothered Vanya when she played either in the lounge or in her bedroom. She was invisible to them, and she placed a wall around her when she practiced the violin. It was enough for him to watch her without interruptions, enough for him to be in her presence and feel more deeply for her with each passing visit.
“I feel more when I play,” Vanya once told him when she took a break and they sat in the kitchen with a glass of juice their mother gave them. “I feel...special.”
Five nodded, taking a sip of his juice. He loved her smile when no one could see it, her passion that made her eyes light up. He agreed with her because if it made her feel special, then she should continue playing.
She made a sandwich for both of them—peanut butter with marshmallows. It was good, and he enjoyed it more than he thought he would. She said it was her favorite, and he couldn’t help but say it was his as well.
One afternoon when Vanya played in the lounge and he was on his way over to listen, his arm was grabbed and he glanced back to see Diego and Klaus. Wrenching his arm out of his grasp, he glared, confused by what was happening.
“Come play with us,” Diego insisted.
Klaus wrinkled his nose as he turned his body away from them and was more interested in something in his hand, while Ben showed up a few seconds after, looking between them before his gaze fell on Five.
“Let’s go outside,” Diego said, grabbing Five’s arm again and dragging him down the steps toward the front door.
Five glanced behind him at the lounge where Vanya was, and he let his brother drag him outside. It was nice out, warm with a soft breeze that pushed lightly against his dark hair. Diego let go of his arm again and they simply walked down the street, away from the academy.
“What are we doing?” Five asked, hoping his brothers would notice his lack of his interest.
“We’re going to test out our abilities,” Diego answered. He carried himself with confidence that the rest of them felt, while Five slowed his pace and thought the entire idea was absurd.
He went along with them anyway and in the following twenty minutes, Klaus managed to piss off a group of kids playing basketball, and he tripped trying to run. Diego backed him up right after, taking out a knife, while Ben was helping Klaus to his feet.
“Little school boys,” one kid said, a bit taller than the rest, thicker in the abdomen and arms area. His gaze on Five’s brothers were haughty as the rest of the boys behind him drew closer.
Five let out a sigh, he was standing in the distance, watching the entire events before deciding he needed to protect his useless brothers who thought this was a good idea. In a blink, he was gone from where he was standing, and appeared in the middle of them. A few noticed his sudden appearance and backed away, but Five had curled his fingers and punched one of them in the face, followed by another. Diego's knife was dripping with blood when two drew too close to him, Klaus and Ben.
Once the group of kids were separated, Five held a rather thick stick he found earlier on their way into the park, and kicked at the back of the leader’s leg, he fell with a hard grunt, and Five hit him in the back of the head. He fell while Five rushed over to his brother’s, grasping Diego's arm and Klaus’s, and sprinting away from the group that were returning for the one on the ground.
“Great idea, asshole,” Five said, glaring at Diego who gave him a splitting grin.
“Come on, that was fun, right?”
“Not really,” Klaus remarked, limping, his right knee was bleeding from his fall.
“Can we go home,” Ben said, sounding resigned.
It was the thing he wanted to hear the most the moment they left the house. Was Vanya still playing in the lounge? Father never bothered her either when she played, and sometimes their mother would call her name when dinner was ready. Even when she was excluded, she was always meant to be a part of them in some way or another.
“Yes,” Five said, dropping his hand from Diego and Klaus’s arm. “This was a bad idea, father doesn’t even like when we leave the house.”
“Not like it matters,” Diego said, sauntering ahead of them, “he never even notices when we sneak out for donuts, why should this be any different?”
True. All their father cares about was that they were at their lessons and spent hours perfecting their abilities. It hasn’t been going great for any of them, not even Klaus who didn’t look ready to go home. He had a sullen expression on his face about the entire conversation while Ben reprimanded him about his choices.
On their way back, Klaus let go of Ben and told them he’ll be back later on tonight. Diego didn’t seem to care and called out to him that he better return for dinner.
“Alright, momma’s boy!” Klaus waved his hand as he limped down the street.
“You know where he’s going, right?” Ben asked, watching their brother’s retreating form.
“Not our problem,” Diego answered.
Five didn’t say anything as they headed home. Once they entered the academy, Five’s heart raced at the lack of sound coming from the lounge. Maybe she did finish early. He hesitated when the door opened and was surprised to see their father stepping out. He caught sight of Vanya loosely holding her violin and bow in her hands, her head tilted downwards, and her dark hair hid whatever expression she wore from what their father had said to her.
He stopped once the door closed, and he looked at three of his sons, scrutinizing them before standing tall. “Where have you three been? It’s not the designated time to go outside and play.”
“We...went out for fresh air?” Ben said, shyly, hiding behind Diego.
“Open a window,” he told them, shaking his head and walking upstairs.
Five clenched his teeth as they watched their father disappear. Then he was nudged in the arm and glanced at a smirking Diego.
“Go on, we know where you usually disappear too,” he said, indicating the lounge where Vanya is. Diego and Ben headed upstairs, and once they were gone as well, Five moved toward the door to the lounge.
He heard the slightest sound of crying on the other side, and was a bit apprehensive of going in. He furrowed his brows, his gut twisting at whatever their father had said to her.
Taking in a breath, Five gathered his courage and touched the knob, but before he could walk in, he heard another sound, soft feet hitting the ground and then the door opened and he backed up.
Vanya went still in the doorway, between the light in the lounge, and the dark of the foyer, he can see the moderate redness around her eyes, and pink upon her puffy cheeks. Her entire body shuddered before her eyes became void of emotion, even the sadness seemed to sink away.
“I’m finished playing for today, Five,” she told him, closing the door behind her.
“Did something happen?” he asked.
“No,” Vanya answered in a rather monotonous voice. Her arms were slack at her sides, while her fingers curled around the handle of her violin case.
“Oh.” And he couldn’t will any other words to leave him before he let her walk by before she too vanished. He didn’t know what to do, their father’s words always were spiteful, tearing them down as if he was trying his hardest to mold them into something they couldn’t seem to form into. Chiseling away love and comfort until there was nothing more than emptiness in its place.
“Five?” he looked up and their mother appeared from the hallway, she smiled at him with her soft glowing face and red lips. “Is something wrong? Are you hungry?”
Five shook his head, unsure of how long he stood there, maybe a few minutes. “No.” He perked up, and said, “Can you make something for Vanya? She’s...upset, and might be hungry.”
“Okay.” Grace smiled, always speaking energetically, “do you know what she likes?” she asked while Five walked with her to the kitchen. “The both of you have been spending a lot of time together, I’m sure she’d enjoy something coming from you the most.”
Five furrowed his brows, “Really?”
“Of course, darling,” Grace said, a soft laugh leaving her lips, “Allison and Luther do the same thing, they spend time together, and know one another incredibly well, and in their appreciation for each other, they give each other gifts. Sometimes it can be as simple as Cola.”
“She likes sandwiches,” Five mused.
“Then let’s make her a sandwich.”
After he was finished and he thanked his mother, Five went upstairs and knocked on Vanya’s closed door. His nerves pulled taut again, and he waited until she carefully opened the door and peeked at him before glancing down at what was in his hands.
“You made sandwiches?”
“To make you feel better,” Five said, smiling.
Vanya returned the smile which felt like a huge relief as she let him inside her bedroom, the door left ajar as they sat on her bed.
“I’m going to ask dad about time travel,” Five said, the conversation was oddly out of place, but he wanted to tell her about it.
Vanya chewed on her food, nodding her head, and when she swallowed, she said, “today?”
Five nodded, he wanted to divert their father’s attention to him instead of her. And he didn’t want to ask why he got mad at her, her eyes were still wet and her lip red and bitten. “I think I’m getting better with my spatial jumps, so time travel shouldn’t be any different.”
Vanya smiled. “I wouldn’t want you getting stuck at any time, past or future.”
Five grinned, his chest swelling with excitement and pride. “I won’t get stuck. I’ll come back.”
“For the Academy,” she said, taking her last bite.
Five leaned forward and he kissed her, a chaste act of care that maybe one day they’ll both understand it more fully when they’re older. For now, this was for them, for their current understanding.
“For you, Vanya.”