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april showers bring may flowers (but who ever said the rain would stop?)

Chapter Text

One-two-three-four-five-six-seven.

 

Five’s room is 14.618 steps by 9.04 steps. The angle of the room’s corners is 92 degrees. One of his chair’s legs are 2.27 cm shorter than the others. His bed is 4.5 cm away from the wall.

 

He breathes in for three seconds, breathes out for four, tries not to panic when he recalculates the dimensions of his room per steps and finds that the room seems to be just a little smaller than it used to be, as if the walls are closing in on him, inch by inch.

 

That’s not it, he tells himself, breathes in and holds it for five seconds (FivefivefivefivefivenumberFive). He’s grown taller, his feet have grown bigger. That’s all.

 

When he wasn’t looking, someone must’ve replaced his old, rickety chair for a sleek, shiny new one, with wheels for him to roll about in it as if he’s a child or a particularly sleazy salesman. This new one is completely different; it’s plastic and the darkest shade of green he’s ever seen. My favourite color, he thinks, and then adds was in front of my. It’s hard to have a favourite color in the Apocalypse, when the only colors that’re available are grey and black and redredredredred, red everywhere, red painting the land in ugly, bloody swathes of crimson and death, red in the ashes, red in the air.

 

He inhales sharply at the mess that is his thoughts and blanches when it’s only two and a half seconds—he inhales again and ignores the way his lungs are burning, holds it for six seconds before exhaling for seven.

 

Worst of all, this chair’s legs are perfectly proportionate to one another, balancing easily, mocking him with how pretty picture-perfect it is, untouched, unclaimed by the horrors of the end of the world. 

 

(He throws it out, hunts everywhere for his old chair, teleports to dumpsters and into moving garbage trucks to find his missing piece when he realises two things: that his missing piece has been gone for a very long time, and that it isn’t his chair.

 

He still cries, though.

 

And drinks himself stupid.)

Chapter Text

“Five?”

 

The hand on his shoulder is what jars him awake, not the voice; either way, he throws himself into a jump and ends up stumbling into the kitchen, for some reason his sleep-deprived, addled brain can’t explain to him.

 

He takes a step back and hits the table; inane, animalistic panic swallows him as he turns sharply, smoothly pulls out a gun he’d tucked into the waistband of his Academy shorts and aims it at the offending piece of furniture, clicking the safety off with practised ease.

 

Calm down , Five hisses at himself; he’s trembling, from shock or fear he doesn’t know, but his hands are steady with the type of confidence only a killer has. Why is the table 1.73—no, 1.74—inches more to the right? Why, why, why?

 

Why is he panicking?

 

“Five!” The voice calls again, the boy in question swiftly training his gun at the new source of sound as his brain works feverishly to catch up. Subdue, subdue, subdue , his mind chants, and for once his body seems to agree with him as he steps through a jump and appears above the mark, dropping down onto the target’s shoulders with feline grace while twisting his hips sharply, throwing his weight behind the action; they both go down, the mark letting out a startled, panicked noise when Five hooks an arm around their throat and presses his gun’s muzzle to their temple.

 

“Don’t move.” He orders, voice emotionless and cold; his finger tightens on the trigger. Just another one , his mind coos, sounding suspiciously like the Handler, the unspoken promise ( threat ) a caress. You’re doing this for your family. Kill the mark, do your job, and you can go home when the time is right. When your contract is up.

 

The gun is wrenched out of his hand just as he pulls the trigger; there’s radio silence in his mind, nothing but quiet static as his hands move to his torso automatically, pressing against the bullet wound. The bullet hasn’t gone straight through; pain erupts in his head like a symphony thrown into uncontrolled chaos, but he locks it away. He needs to find something to stop the bleeding; it isn’t the bullet that kills people, it’s the blood loss. Vaguely, Five can hear screaming—right, the mark’s still alive. He should probably jump away before he gets caught; getting tortured isn’t particularly high on his bucket list today.

 

Energy crackles in the space between dimensions; he reaches for the void, the ominous black hole so eager to snuff him out, and pulls. Something that sounds like a whip cracks in his head and he’s in a medical bay, sterilised white walls taunting him with their cleanliness. He staggers to his feet, grits his teeth against the pain as sweat ( tears ) drips into his eyes and blurs his vision. First things first; he forces his exhausted body up and towards the first aid kit sitting tantalisingly behind a glass cabinet. He can’t open it, not with his blood-caked fingers—unsheathing the combat knife that’s strapped to his thigh, he uses the blunt handle to smash the glass, fumbling with the first aid kit as dark spots dance in the corners of his vision.

 

Clean medical supplies sit inside, a rare smile flitting briefly across the boy’s face as he tugs his ruined shirt off and discards his tie, pressing the clean cloth to his gunshot wound. His side pangs with agony and he feels like he’s going to pass out at any given moment, but he forces himself to stay awake. He just needs to patch himself up and then he can retreat to one of his several hideouts.

 

Five swears openly when he sees the lack of a disinfectant; he’s come all this way. If he’s defeated by an infected bullet wound, he’ll never forgive himself. The glint of a bottle peeks teasingly from behind an IV stand—Five’s never been this glad that one of his siblings is a recovering alcoholic. It’s obviously one of Klaus’ old stashes from when he needed a quick hit.

 

He lifts his palm up and concentrates; the bloody cloth shudders, and then his hand is clutching a bottle of alcohol. He doesn’t know whether it’s vodka or whisky or wine, but whatever it is, it’s gone as he soaks his side in it. There’s absolutely nothing for a few moments, and then intense, burning white-hot pain consumes him, consumes everything as a choked scream rips itself free from the confines of his throat. Ragged sobs shake his whole frame as he whines, yanking on fistfuls of his own hair to try and balance the pain—this is one of those things no one can get used to. He can’t count on his hands and feet the amount of times he’s had to patch up his own wounds, and usually with old-fashioned medical items from the 40s or even older, but the agony is just as painful and by God Five is going to murder someone if this doesn’t subside.

 

It dies down after a few moments; Five realises he’d been curled up into a ball on the floor, rocking himself while he gasped for breath. With a tired groan, he reaches for the tweezers, bracing himself as he clutches a gurney with his free hand. He can hear footsteps thundering up the stairs; he has, at best, a minute or two before the targets find him. He’s had worse odds. It’d be nice if he had time to sew up his wound, but beggars can’t be choosers, he supposes.

 

He digs into the entry wound with a quiet whimper, harsh tears demanding to fall as he fishes the bullet out, fresh blood staining his hands ( murderer, traitor, monster ). After what feels like an eternity, the bullet clinks to the ground, sitting innocently on a white tile. He breathes out a sigh of relief he hadn’t realised he was holding before startling when the door slams open. Two targets hurtle towards him; someone’s yelling for them to stop and they hesitate, but Five has never been one for hesitation ( look where that got you) . Brandishing his knife, he tears open a jump and plunges the dagger into the first goon’s upper thigh; there’s a shocked cry of pain and Five seizes the chance, jumping again and sliding between the second mark’s legs, grabbing the target’s ankle and yanking hard. The person flails as they go down with a crash, Five ignoring the throbbing, nagging pain in his side and getting to his feet as he lifts a foot in preparation to slam it down on the stranger’s face, hoping for a broken nose, at least—his foot comes down and then-

 

I HEARD A RUMOR YOU SLEPT FOR A DAY !”

 

The last thing he sees is Luther and Diego, sprawled out on the floor, unconscious.

 

I am my father’s creation.

 

Chapter Text

Five shifts, groans as he wakes; god, why does he ache so much?

 

His hand drifts to his pillow on autopilot, his morning routine set in stone. Instead of his fingertips meeting the silent comfort of cold metal, there’s nothing. His eyes shoot open as he lurches upwards—or, rather, tries to lurch upwards. Something constricting his wrist forces him back, Five staring dumbly at the handcuff that’s trapping him to the bed. He’s been handcuffed to the hospital bed?

 

“What am I, on suicide-watch?” He says outloud, disgruntled by the fact that anything that even remotely resembles something sharp is five feet away from him. His torso is wrapped with thick gauze, obviously done by experienced hands. Five hates that he doesn’t know what’s happening—the last thing he remembers is the reassuring weight of a gun in his hands, which would suggest a mission, but…this is the Academy’s medical bay. Did Cha-Cha break in again?

 

Well, if that’s true, there’s no way he can stay here. Five narrows his eyes at the door, willing the fabric of spacetime to bend around him. He’s had experience with using spatial jumps to get out of restraints; dear old Dad had loved to chain him down and tell him to jump to the living room again and again until his wrists and ankles were rubbed raw, using food as motivation, and his time with the Commission has taught him how to teleport while being strapped to a chair and tortured. This is nothing.

 

The jump sends him to his room; he doesn’t reach under his pillow, knowing that it’s probably been taken already. Cha-Cha is nothing if not meticulous. Instead, he slams his fist against a part of the slanted ceiling, ignoring the nagging throbbing in his side; the camoflauged latch flicks open and he pulls out his extra gun, checking it for ammo before jumping again to the living room.

 

“This is our brother . You’re fucking crazy if you think we’re gonna ship him to some...some a-asylum.” Diego’s voice sounds out, making Five pause, his gun now loosely held at his side. His siblings sound fine—angry, sure, but fine.

 

“Are you kidding? He stabbed me and tried to break your nose. And-and he could have hurt Allison!”

 

“Guys…” Klaus sounds vaguely tense; he peeks around the corner and sees Number Four curled up at the end of the couch, hugging his knees with a pinched look on his face. “Ben says-“

 

There’s a rustling noise and some whispering before Allison’s voice rings out, a note of unease in her tone that wasn’t present before. “Five? Are you here?”

 

Five is briefly considering not answering and just jumping back to his room now that there’s clearly no threat when Klaus speaks up tentatively, hands fidgety and fluttering at his sides like tethered doves. “Ben wants to see if you’re okay.”

 

Dammit. They’re all weak to the Ben card. Five sighs as he tucks the gun back into his waistband and pulls another jump towards him; a wave of nausea rolls over him and he grits his teeth against the dizziness, appearing next to Klaus, who looses a yelp and nearly falls off the sofa. He’s been jumping too often lately; his power does have its limits, no matter how much Five would like to deny it.

 

Luther stands—Five eyes the bandages around his thigh with guilt—and makes his way over to him, holding his hand out. “Gun. Now.”

 

Five blinks, then squints at all his siblings like they’ve personally offended him. Diego in particular is avoiding his gaze, Ben offers a sheepish look, and Klaus gives an unhelpful shrug of apology. Even Vanya meekly refuses to look up at him. “What makes you think I have one? You took mine after Allison rumored me, remember?”

 

Luther sighs, hand still insistently demanding. “We’re not stupid, Five,” Five wants to laugh . “we know you have more stashed around the house.”

 

With a scowl, he jumps again and nearly pukes, landing just under the portrait of himself. God, he really needs to take that down sometime soon. “Diego has knives literally strapped to his body . Ben can summon interdimensional horrors. Luther, your whole body is a weapon. Klaus can make ghosts solid, meaning he practically has an army, and Allison’s voice can make people kill themselves. God, Vanya can use the sound of her heartbeat to destroy a room. Why can’t I have a gun?”

 

“Because none of them have used it to hurt any of us—“

 

Five barks a sardonic laugh, eyes mocking as his mouth smiles, all white teeth and dark eyes. “Oh, yeah? Diego tried to skewer you just a week before. Allison rumored me off a twenty-storey ledge when we were kids because I beat her in training. Vanya caused the Apocalypse , and you strangled Klaus. Klaus and Ben are the only two that haven’t used their powers to hurt us, and that’s because one did everything he could to self-destruct and the other would die before he’d hurt any of us.”

 

Klaus winces at the apt description, gaze locking on someone who isn’t there as Vanya curls in on herself at the barbed reminder of the previous timeline and Ben winces, giving him one of his reprimanding Looks. Five’s heart twinges at the sight—for a moment, his mouth isn’t smiling either, but he regains his balance. Luther sputters indignantly, eyes flickering between Five and Allison. “That’s—It’s not the same and you know that.”

 

“Oh? Isn’t it?”

 

“Yes!” His brother flushes. “I know my limits, okay?”

 

“I didn’t know that choking someone so hard you lift them off their feet—not to mention the fact that said someone has superstrength—counts as ‘doing things in moderation ’, but whatever you say, Number One.” The latter takes threatening steps towards him; a pang of fear hits him, but he stands his ground, meeting Luther’s gaze squarely, the same smug smirk on his face.

 

“At least I was aware of what I was doing. You were drifting in and out of reality, you were mumbling things and trying to kill us—Who’s the Handler?”

 

Five goes white, his self-satisfied grin melting away; he can hear Allison demanding for Luther to stop, but everything sounds blurred, distorted and warped, as if he’s in a fishbowl and the others are outside, looking in as he drowns. Someone grabs his arm and he glances up automatically, one hand drifting up to shield his healing injury. “No, I want to know! If this Handler is a threat, we need to prepare. You know Five is hiding things from us, he—“

 

Don’t— don’t touch me,” He chokes out, tugging his arm back, but Luther’s grip is punishing, quickly-purpling bruises blooming in pretty handprints. God, Five is going insane, isn’t he? “Let go!”

 

“Not until you tell us what’s going on.” Five rapidly pales—the area that Luther is holding feels like it’s on fire, itchy and leaving second-degree burns. Ben is yelling something, furious and concerned; the sensation is beginning to spread up his arm, the boy shoving Luther away from him hard and jumping to the bathroom. His head is swimming; he staggers to the toilet after fumbling with the bathroom lock and drops to his knees, strands of hair sticking to his sweaty forehead in an uncouth fashion as he throws up. His head’s on the seat, but he’s in too much pain to care about how disgusting and unhygenic it is. He’s only dry-heaving after a while—he’s panting so hard he feels like he’s just run a marathon, but his head hurts , everything hurts

 

A choked whimper escapes him as he curls up into a ball on the floor, struggling to breathe. Every inhalation makes him feel like his lungs have been set alight, Five sucking in air desperately. The first tear runs down his face, and then he’s crying, heart-wrenching, hiccupping sobs bullying him endlessly—god, he’s so weak , but he can’t help it; why does his chest hurt so much? His hands move to his wound, flinching slightly when they come away stained with blood. He must’ve torn his stitches...

 

He cries until his tears have long dried out, until he can only cough his throat raw. In the Apocalypse, he’d never cried after the first few days he’d spent burying his siblings, grime and dirt coating his fingers, arms shaking from the physical exertion as he dug their final resting places with his bare, bloody hands; the bodies had started to rot by the time he was done, the stench of burnt flesh and rotting corpses so prevalent that he’d vomited and vomited and vomited until his stomach was emptied of everything he had consumed in the past three days—which wasn’t much, really. After that, he couldn’t cry even if he wanted to; he had been too dehydrated to cry.

 

Well, he thinks dourly with a touch of sick amusement, he can never sink lower than the time he’d eaten live maggots that had been infesting Pogo’s body. Or the time he’d shot a gardener’s four year-old daughter in the head because she would grow up to be the greatest pilot who had ever lived. Or the time he’d travelled to the same decade he’d ran away to carry out a hit, seen Vanya, and turned away to carry out his mission without interacting with his poor, lost sister who still dutifully set out peanut-butter and marshmallow sandwiches every single night, hoping against hope he would come home to them. At least he never turned to cannibalism, right?

 

It’s not funny.

 

He breathes in and holds it until his lungs are begging for air and his head is pounding a steady, dizzying rhythm, doesn’t let go even then.

 

He’s tired of breathing.

Chapter Text

It’s what seems like hours before he can bring himself to move. Diego had knocked on the bathroom door a few times, voice unnaturally soft as he attempted to coax Five to leave the confines of the bathroom, as if he was attempting to tame a skittish, abused animal. Klaus had sat outside the door and jabbered on and on about the latest fashion—specifically, the spring Alexander Wang line of ‘18—for at least an hour. Even Ben had came with a quiet promise not to judge Five if he ever came to the former for help. The rest of them had seemingly decided to leave him alone—Five isn’t sure if that’s a good thing or not.

 

He forces himself to stand on unsteady legs, stripping efficiently and taking a quick shower. In the Commission, when he was on a mission, he’d learnt how to shower swiftly so as to not waste time; every second counted. Grimacing at his hair and the way it’s matted with sweat and disgusting dollops of vomit, he washes it thoroughly before towelling himself dry and wrapping said towel around his waist, taking care not to aggravate his sore side. His head still aches, but he can’t afford to rest; he needs to focus on his calculations.

 

Jumping to his room, he startles at the sight of Klaus on his bed. Unease hits him like a truck—just the fact that someone has entered his territory without permission or his knowledge is putting him on edge. “ Klaus! Get out of my room!” Five hisses irritably as he pulls on clothes—the Apocalypse has ruined any last bit of self-consciousness he has. It isn’t as if Klaus hasn’t seen him in the nude before.

 

“Sure I will, if you rest. Hyperfixation is one of the symptoms of addiction and PTSD, y’know.” His brother’s eyes dart around the room, obviously seeing things, people Five can’t—anxiety coils around his heart and squeezes at the disturbing thought that no matter how well he shields his siblings from physical threats, there’s nothing he can do about their personal demons. Disregarding how antsy he feels, Five snarls viciously as he stalks towards the other male, lip curled as Klaus finally meets his gaze. A little bit of doubt surfaces in his mind; his brother looks just as bad as Five feels, dark circles even more prominent than the winged eyeliner Klaus has on, his hands unable to keep still and drumming out a swift beat against the headboard of his bed, posture—or lack of one—hunched-over and tense.

 

“You would know.” Five snarks back, taking vile pleasure in seeing the way his brother weakly flinches at the reminder. “I’m not a child, Klaus, so fuck off.” 

 

And people say I’m the childish one.” Klaus hums cheerily instead of retaliating, eyes too knowing for Five’s liking as Number Four kicks his feet up on the desk, scattering papers. Anger swells up, a volcano threatening, just begging to erupt, but he forces himself to remain calm, trembling in place at the sheer effort it takes to stop himself from putting a knife to his sibling’s throat. “Honestly, what do you have to do that’s so serious? The Apocalypse is over, y’know?”

 

“I have work to do. Don’t you have something to keep yourself busy? Drugs, for example?” He deadpans bluntly and watches as Klaus’ face crumples momentarily at the mention before a feigned, mirthful mask is thrown up so fast Five almost thinks he imagined the previous disappointment and vulnerability.

 

“Oh, no no no, brother mine. I’ve been sober for...how long...a week and five days!” His brother counts on his fingers, his peppy grin widening. “Daddy dearest must be rolling over in his grave right about now to see me finally going cold turkey, huh? Bet the old prick didn’t expect that from the family disappointment!”

 

Five can’t stop himself from softening ever so slightly—memories of the old days are still fresh in his mind, of Four-Five-Six breaking off from the rest of the pack to explore the mansion’s gardens, playing hide-and-seek within the towering hedge maze and sitting on the roof to point out constellations and confess desperate dreams of things they wanted to do, wanted to become. ‘I wanna become someone im-important!’ Klaus would smile, giddy with careless youth and animated joy as he kicked his shoes off the edge of the roof and pirouetted clumsily along the uneven tiles to the sounds of pumping, heart-racing rave music coming from the seedy nightclub a few streets down.

 

Five never had a chance to tell his brother that he was already important to them. To him.

 

“I’m proud of you,” He says honestly, Klaus’ eyes widening slightly at the display of emotion. “don’t think I’m not. I...I am. Really. I...do.” He cringes at how badly it comes out, Five wincing at his own social ineptitude and hoping that his brother hadn’t taken it the wrong way when Klaus reaches over and takes his hands without warning, eyes shiny with something they’re both not familiar with, but it still makes warmth spread throughout his body.

 

“Aw, Five has feelings! I’m so glad.” Number Four teases happily as Five shakes his head and smiles a secret smile to himself. His palms are itching at the sensation of skin-on-skin contact, but he pushes through the uncomfortableness of it all, if only to keep the smile on Klaus’ face. The other male beams at him, something unspoken hanging in the balance between them as Klaus’ grin turns into something soft and gentle. “Just in case you were wondering, Five-y. I’ve always given a shit about you—about all of you. I know I’m bad at showing it, but…” His brother shrugs silently, casting his eyes down at the floor.

 

Oh, he knows . He knows better than anyone. Still, the reassurance warms his heart; Klaus is the most genuine person he’s ever met when it comes to feelings. One thing the Hargreeves siblings have in common is their terrible social skills, some more so than others, but Klaus has always worn his heart on his sleeve. However, there was never any place for someone as loyal as Luther or as trusting as Diego or as outspoken as Allison or as kindhearted as Klaus or as gentle as Ben or as ordinary as Vanya in the household they grew up in. Five scuffs the floor with his sock, lets go of Klaus’ hands as he meets the other’s gaze squarely, his hands curling into fists. “I know. That’s why Dad had so much fun breaking you.”

 

Klaus laughs and the tension is broken as the former blows Five a kiss with a saucy wink. This is why he likes Klaus—his brother knows how to alleviate the tension, knows not to look at Five with pity or anything of the sort, doesn’t treat him as if he’s an invalid or a mental patient. “Come downstairs later, ‘kay? I booby-trapped the sofa, it’ll be a blast . Ciao!”

 

Five wonders whether he should be worried about the obvious emphasis placed on blast , but judging by Klaus’ maniac grin, the answer is yes. Yes, he should definitely be worried.

 

He still goes downstairs, though, if only for his own amusement of seeing Luther sit down on the couch and jump up mere seconds later with a shocked yell as firecrackers of all kinds are set off, Catherine wheels and Judas’ belts illuminating the living room in fiery shades of orangey-red.

 

He pretends it’s not to see Klaus’ relieved, grateful look as his brother plops down in the seat next to him and leans subtly towards him, the taller wrapping an arm around his shoulders with a pleased smile. He tolerates touch on a neutral day, despises it on a bad one, but today he falls asleep to the sound of Luther and Diego locked in a fistfight, the sounds of breaking glass ringing clearly in his ears as Vanya composes a new violin piece with Allison as her encouraging audience and Klaus and Ben banter over something passionately in relaxed, playful tones.

 

It’s the best sleep he’s had in 45 years.

Chapter Text

Naturally, when he wakes up, it all goes to shit.

 

The first strike is when he wakes up to deafening silence. He’s on the couch, his head pillowed on a gaudy feather boa that undoubtedly belonged to Allison before Klaus stole it, a thick, woolly blanket wrapped around him like a cocoon. He yawns, blinks and sits up before stiffening at the total lack of sound. There’s never been total silence in the Academy before. When Luther’s not playing his throwback records, Diego’s singing terribly off-key. When it’s not Diego, it’s Allison reading her movie scripts out loud, or Klaus yammering endlessly to whoever would listen to him. If, somehow, Klaus happened to be mercifully silent, then it’s Ben, reading eloquently in soft, calming tones in the relaxing stillness of the library, or Vanya with her violin. If the Hargreeves siblings aren’t at home for some reason, then they return to Grace’s cheery voice informing them that dinner is nearly ready and Pogo’s reminders to clean up nicely.

 

His hands shake as he jumps to Klaus’ room, slamming his fist against the door as he tries not to let his voice break. “Klaus! Get out of there!”

 

There’s no response, the boy going pale as he throws the door open; the room is clearly empty, untouched in days. Balking at the sight, he whirls around and runs towards Ben’s room. “Ben? Ben, are you—“

 

The room is empty.

 

Fear chills him to the bone, freezes him in place, steals his breath as he jumps into Allison’s room, into Diego’s, into Luther’s, hell, into Reginald’s room. Nausea swallows him, but he keeps jumping, the taste of bile bitter on his tongue. He has to check if they’re okay, they have to be okay because if they’re not he doesn’t know what he’ll do—

 

They’re all empty.

 

He’s alone.

 

He screams soundlessly, tugging at his hair so hard he nearly yanks the roots out as fresh tears drip down his face. He hasn’t cried this much since—well, forever. Five has never been one for crying; not even when he was a child. He wasn’t like Klaus, who could cry so openly without fear of being judged, wasn’t like Vanya, who could grieve and then laugh moments later.

 

It’s honestly pathetic. Five can’t go one fucking day without bursting into tears, and no matter how many times he berates himself to shut up , to stop showing weakness , he can’t help it and it drives him mad with how much everything hurts, how overwhelming  everything feels. Holding back his emotions is a skill he’s carefully cultivated—in the Apocalypse, crying was pointless and lamenting over past lives was a waste of time. Despair and sorrow were his main emotions for nearly two decades, the ghosts of the past haunting him, nipping at his ankles like particularly annoying piranhas. But once he’d gotten too tired for useless emotions, anger had come in torrents, threatening to spill over, poisoning his mind and his thoughts and the ground he walked on. Random flashes of rage winding him with its ferocity, anger directed towards his siblings, towards the world, but mostly, towards himself.

 

“ALLISON! KLAUS! Anyone—please—” He croaks out, huddling into a small ball and rocking himself as he slams his palms over his ears in a vain attempt to block out the sounds of the Apocalypse—or rather, the lack of sound. “ please, don’t leave me alone again…

 

He’s clawing at himself viciously trying desperately to get the physical pain to overshadow the emotional one; tears falling fast and unceasing—He can’t do this again. He won’t do this again.

 

He can’t keep himself upright any longer, the boy allowing himself to go limp; charred ash fills his lungs and he’s back in the Apocalypse again , stumbling down dirt roads using heavy limbs that weigh him down while uncontrollable, untamable fires rage around him, swallowing blackened trees and buildings alike, curling wisps of black smog coating the very air he breathes, constricting his lungs and clogging his throat and blocking his nose and he’s going to die all alone here in this wasteland and no one is here to mourn him because they’re all dead and he just wants to go home, please let me go home i didn’t mean to leave please please please-

 

“Five!”

 

Five sobs with the effort of keeping himself sane—god, his whole body aches and he’s come down with the flu, but there’s no medicine in the Apocalypse so he pushes through, ignoring the way his sore throat flares up every once in a while; Dolores is murmuring pretty French words in an attempt to soothe him, but he forces himself to block her words out, eyes burning from both unshed tears and the almost-acidic smoke that he can’t help but accidentally inhale. He chokes down a scream; he’s too dehydrated to cry, anymore.

 

Five!

 

Hands, impossibly gentle, take his—he realises he had been digging his nails into his palms, crimson half-moons quickly purpling as blood wells up.

 

“Get away from me,” He snarls roughly, slapping the person’s hands away. “Get away, I can’t do this again, I can’t, go away!” He’s crying again, he recognises with an unsurprised jolt.

 

“Five, open your eyes. It’s us, liebling, it’s us, we’re here…” Five whimpers, jerks away from the hands invading his privacy as he jumps unconsciously, appearing in a huddled ball at the end of the corridor.

 

“L-listen to my voice, Five. Hear that?” The voice has a distinct cadency, the stutter painfully familiar as Five lurches forward blindly, almost toppling over if not for hands cautiously stabilising him, carefully avoiding making skin-on-skin contact. “It’s D-Diego. I’m here, ‘kay? Breathe. Take your time.”

 

“Fuck off! Stop—stop pretending, stop it , you’re not my brother you’re not Diego Diego is dead so FUCK OFF !” He’s panting, chest heaving from the strain as he lashes out physically—he’s so tired of being lied to. Hallucinations aren’t alien to him; after days without water, sometimes his only companions were phantoms, ghosts that stole his loved ones’ names, always accusing Five of abandoning them, of leaving them when they’d needed him most. “I don’t want to hear it, just leave me alone! Stop— please stop…”

 

“Hey, hey, no Five no I’m alive, w-we’re all alive,” A hand flattens out over where Five’s heart used to be, warm comforting and there as Five goes still. “see? The Apocalypse is o-over, we stopped it, you’re s-safe.”

 

He hesitates, biting the inside of his cheek as the taste of warm copper fills his mouth. Admittedly, this is the first time one of his imagined siblings have been able to touch him… “D-Diego?” The question comes out soft, pleading as he clutches his brother’s sleeve in an iron grip, Five opening his eyes and meeting said sibling’s concerned gaze.

 

Diego smiles warmly and it’s the best thing Five has seen in his life. “Yeah, it’s me. We’re all here, kid.” The natural protest of ‘don’t call me kid’ dies on his tongue as he sweeps his siblings’ faces, all worried and uncertain and so very alive, and Five changes his mind because this is the best thing he’s seen in his life.

 

Relief strikes, and just as fast as relief had come, fury follows right on its heels. He jumps away from them before doubling over and puking his guts up, staggering against the wall for balance. “Where—where were you?” He demands once he’s gotten his breath back, accusing eyes tracing his family’s faces as they all exchange looks.

 

“Allison, Klaus and I were shopping,” Ben offers quietly. “Diego and Luther came outside to help us bring the groceries in, and Vanya was in the kitchen.”

 

“But why was Klaus...Klaus’ room had dust over everything.” Klaus eyes him emphatically, sympathetically, and an irrational part of Five wants to slap that look off his brother’s face.

 

“I’ve been sleeping in Ben’s room, Five. Nightmares, you know the drill.” Five tries for an excuse, but words fail him, curl up and die in his throat as he chokes up, unable to say anything that mattered.

 

“Why—why did you leave me alone ?” He hates how child-like he sounds, but he can’t help it. They all look stunned at his obvious vulnerability, not knowing how to respond to him—the silence is physically uncomfortable, Five taking controlled breaths in a vain attempt to stop himself from snapping at them.

 

The scent of lavender wraps around him like a shroud as Allison’s arms come around him slowly, giving him time to move away if he wants to; he locks up and shifts slightly so she can’t come too close, but allows it as her hair tickles his face when she leans in to whisper in his ear. “I’m sorry, Five. We didn’t mean to. We would never do this to you on purpose.” Her voice both pacifies and puts him on edge—he’s always been wary of her ability to warp people’s minds, but today he lets her hold him, content to stay there for a while more. Eventually it gets too much for him, Five jumping out of her arms and landing next to Klaus, who grins at him cheekily.

 

“Are you sick of them? ‘cause I am~!” He sing-songs, Five letting out a huffed breath of laughter as Number Four leans closer in a conspiratorial manner. “C’mon, let’s get outta here. I love them, but there’s really only so much of them that I can take. Unless you want to get mollycoddled more by Mommy over there?”

 

Five grimaces at his brother. “Jesus Klaus, don’t even joke about Allison being my mother.” His sibling gives him a devilish grin, clapping his hands together imperiously.

 

“I’ll go grab Benny over there. No need to use your powers, kay? Big bro Klaus’ll take care of you.” Five rolls his eyes, but obeys, allowing his brother to snag his sleeve and tug him over to Ben. Minutes later, they’re sitting in Luther’s van, Klaus sticking his tongue out in concentration as he hotwires the vehicle. “This one’s tricky, but I do love a challenge...There!” He crows as the vehicle shudders to life, its engine sputtering weakly.

 

The adrenaline that had gotten him to agree to another one of Klaus’ insane schemes drains away, exhaustion suddenly overwhelming him as he nods tiredly. “Where are we going? And if you say a clothing store so I can grab the clothes and use a jump so you don’t have to pay for them, I’ll skin you.”

 

Unfazed by the very real threat, Klaus shrugs cheerfully. “Donuts always cheer me up, so I thought why not? Alcohol too, but— stop looking at me like that, Ben— maybe it’s not the best time for that.”

 

He’s too tired to maintain any sorts of suspicion; nodding, he lets his tense frame go slack, slumping against the car door as he peers out at the passers-by. There was a time in the Apocalypse when he’d hated humanity as a whole—angry at them for being weak enough to die, at leaving him all alone in this wasteland that stretched on for miles and miles. Dolores had smiled at him, then, sad and knowing as he raged about the fraility of humanity. “ Are you sure you’re angry at them for dying, Five? Or are you angry that you didn’t die along with them?”

 

It seems that he’s made up of misplaced anger and traumatic experiences. He sighs, feeling Ben’s eyes on him—it’s hard, being noticed by people. He went 45 years without a single person around besides Dolores, and his job at the Commission was to be a hidden blade in the shadows, to hunt unnoticed in crowds and go unseen wherever he went. Now that he’s back to civilisation, he still can’t get used to the feeling of people seeing him, really seeing him. It’s like a fairytale he doesn’t dare acknowledge for fear of it all having been a dream.

 

It takes time, but eventually he can suppress his natural need to be constantly alert around humans enough to start to lightly doze. Strangely enough, for whatever reason, he trusts Ben and Klaus. Vanya too, he supposes, despite his remaining bitterness towards her role as the starter of the Apocalypse. He knows better than to blame her, though—she was just the bullet. Jenkins pulled the trigger. He loves the rest of his siblings, sure, loves them with everything he has. But trust? That’s a long time coming, especially with someone as distrustful as himself.

 

He looks around at his brothers, sees Klaus cheerfully hum and bob along to a jaunty pop tune, sees Ben reading his favourite book from childhood avidly— Alice in Wonderland stands out in bold cursive on the front cover of said book—and smiles, warmth settling in his bones. Maybe he can get used to this.

Chapter Text

“We’re here.” Thankfully, Ben knows better than to touch him—Five snaps awake instantly when he hears his brother’s voice, fingers itching for a weapon before he realises they’re not at the Academy.

 

“We’re...where?” Ben grins, voice laced with amusement as he replies. Five can’t help but feel grateful that he isn’t being treated like a bomb waiting to go off; Ben has always known, somehow, what Five needs.

 

“Donuts, remember? Klaus ran ahead to order.”

 

Typical Klaus. Five nods, jumping out of the car and landing with a wobble next to Ben. His sibling tuts disapprovingly, but not condescendingly as they walk to the diner. “You don’t have to use your powers for everything, Five. You’re going to end up killing yourself at this rate.”

 

The boy shrugs in response, eyes sweeping the vicinity as they enter, a little bell chiming sweetly to announce their arrival. The sound of quiet chatter and the smoothie machine whirring is enough to set him at ease. This was their hideout, their place to go at night when Reginald was being particularly harsh and they needed somewhere to relax and recuperate. He couldn’t count the number of times they’d end up here at near-midnight, pooling the little money they had so they could buy medicine for Allison’s sore throat or comforting Klaus as he shook and trembled, terrified of the ghosts only he could see. Even Luther loosened up, finally ridding himself of the Number One title and joking and playing with the rest of them. It was the place Five went to first after all the time-travel shenanigans, after all. Not that he’d done that in the second timeline—Vanya had convinced him that it was Very Irresponsible of him for allowing a gunfight to go on while civilians were still there.

 

Klaus is already there, lips curled into a lazy grin as he chats the lady behind the counter up. “Stop disturbing Agnes, Klaus.” Ben chides without vitriol as he puts the book down on the counter and takes a seat next to Klaus.

 

Their brother mock-gasps, putting an offended hand to his heart as he swoons dramatically, making Ben catch him before he can slip off his stool from his reckless antics. “How dare you, Benny. This lovely lady simply adores my company.”

 

Agnes smiles at them, eyes crinkling in amusement. “He’s quite the charmer.”

 

“Hear that? She thinks I’m charming!” Klaus cries victoriously before nearly toppling off the barstool, Number Four righting himself with a grunt of effort and flailed hands. Five raises an eyebrow, nodding seriously.

 

“Very charming of you, Klaus. I’m beginning to recognise what she sees in you.”

 

“Ha- ha. Very funny.”

 

Agnes smiles conspiratorially at Five—a flash of recognition hits him and then slips away just as fast as it had come. “All three of you are assuming I was talking about Klaus when I called one of you a charmer.” There’s a muffled giggle, Ben failing to keep his laughter from being audible as he hides his grin behind his book.

 

Five’s mouth twitches slightly, lips curling upwards. “Who did you mean, then?”

 

“I’ve got to keep some secrets for myself, haven’t I?” Agnes disappears to the back with a wink, Klaus staring after her fondly.

 

“She reminds me of Mom.” Ben nods in agreement—it’s almost funny for Five to hear his fully-grown siblings still calling Grace Mom , after all these years. Mom will always be Mom, to them. To Five, Mom was the one person who would always stay, who would always be there for him when he needed her to be. She didn’t push when Five said he didn’t want to talk about something, didn’t demand answers or force him out of his comfort zone. She seemed impregnable, eternal—at least until the Apocalypse, when he’d found her smashed body buried under the charred rubble of the Academy, her circuits damaged beyond repair. That was when Mom became Grace.

 

“Here, have at it.” A voice says, setting the donuts and beverages down. He accepts the steaming cup of coffee with a muttered ‘thanks’ before jerking his head up, eyes wide.

 

“Hazel?”

 

The assassin is staring straight at him, a smile plastered on his face, expression poker-faced. “Number Five. Been a while, huh?” Unease fills Five; even after all this time, Hazel and Cha-Cha still put him on edge. The memories of a crying Diego kneeling over Detective Patch’s body while cradling her face lovingly and of them kidnapping and torturing Klaus for information on Five himself are still fresh in his mind—not that it had happened in this timeline. Memories that had been brought over from the previous timeline to this new one are warped, censored for his siblings, but Five remembers everything; after all, his DNA is practically constructed for time-travelling. Diego remembers being horribly distraught over Detective Patch, but not why. Klaus remembers being interrogated by two people for information, but not why or by whom. Time-travelling is a tricky business.

 

“Yeah.” He replies lightly instead, taking a gulp of his coffee; the heat sears his tongue, but he remains unfazed. “I see you’ve found your purpose.”

 

Hazel shrugs, hands perfectly still where they’re splayed on the countertop. Steady hands were essential for temporal assassins, after all. “It wasn’t all that far-off, really. Just needed to open my eyes up a little.” Five doesn’t like the way Hazel seems to be talking about him. When he’d been in the Commission and using every second of his spare time to calculate a way home, he’d been solely focused on stopping the Apocalypse, neglecting the real reason he wanted to get home; his family. “Who’re you with?”

 

He can see from Hazel’s eyes that the man knows exactly who Klaus is, and most likely has a very good idea of who Ben is, too. Still, he answers for the sake of decorum. “Klaus, Ben, meet Hazel.” He smiles thinly, lips pursed as he strokes the handle of his cup. “A man I used to work with. Get on the wrong side of him and you’ll wind up in a ditch.”

 

Hazel chuckles at his words, as if they both don’t know it’s true. It’s an inside joke between them—well, not so much an inside joke as it is an agreement. “Ah, well, I do get a little cranky without my afternoon donut. Don’t know if I’d kill though. That was always more Cha-Cha’s thing.” Five hums non-committedly, hands tightening on his coffee. “Anyways, I gotta help Agnes out in the back. Nice seeing you again, Five.”

 

The moment he’s gone, Five lets himself go slack, not having realised how tense he had been while talking to the other assassin. “What was that all about?” Ben asks quietly, eyes searching Five as if he had answers branded into his skull.

 

“I told you. I used to work with him, that’s all.”

 

“Yeah, we know that . But you were joking about the whole killing thing, weren’t you?” Klaus presses, a surge of irritation coiling in Five’s bones.

 

“You know what I did when I was with the Commission. I was the best, but Hazel and Cha-Cha were close seconds. So no, I wasn’t kidding, not that it’s any of your business.” He snaps, struggling to keep his temper under control. A soft clearing of Ben’s throat gets his attention.

 

“Five, stop bullying the donut and remember we’re here for you. You don’t have to do everything alone anymore.” He glances down at his hands automatically, letting go of the crushed donut—jelly filling spills out of it, his hands smeared with azure icing and sugar crystals. Exhaling, he gets up without a word and washes his hands in the sink, a sinking feeling in his chest. His favourite donut flavor has always been the chocolate kit-kat ones.

 

“Kiddo! Come on, I’m sorry, okay? Jeez, no need to...blow up or anything…” Klaus mutters as he moves closer, Ben right on his heels. Five wrinkles his nose at his brother’s words—he loves Klaus, but God is he bad at trying to defuse situations.

 

“Shut up.” He says instead of the thousands of poisonous words that are just begging to roll off his tongue. There are so many things he could say; biting, scathing words designed to break Klaus down, to twist the knife further, so many vicious comments he could make about his brother that would leave him a shaking mess—out of all the Hargreeves siblings, Five has always been the smooth-talker, with a tongue like quicksilver and witty remarks and comebacks at the tip of his tongue at all times. Allison was the best at lying, of course, at bending reality to her will; she was the one to call when someone needed someone to be... convinced . But Five was the manipulator, the man who worked behind-the-scenes to orchestrate scenarios to fit his liking. He’d killed men, women and children alike to start wars or end them, much like a player allowing their pawn to be taken so they can execute a checkmate.

 

He could hurt Klaus so easily, he realises as he looks at his brother, eyes open and honest. Klaus has always been the emotional one, the one full of trust and love and hope; it would be so easy to betray that trust and replace that love with hatred and twist that hope into despair.

 

He can’t, though. Can’t hurt his brother, wouldn’t even if he could. He’s always been weak like that. “Just do the world a favor and shut up for once.” He mutters instead, sparks fizzling at his fingertips as he prepares a jump. Suddenly, he’s too tired to be angry. His emotions have been doing 180s for some reason—he’s always either furious or numb, empty or wrathful. He’d wanted to plant his fist in Klaus’ face just seconds ago, but now all he wants to do is curl up with Dolores and go to sleep. He’d went to visit her just one last time before letting her move on from their relationship; she’d smiled sadly at him and told him that she wanted nothing more than for him to be happy. He’d told her he didn’t know how to.

 

His hands are reddened from his scrubbing by now; the skin is beginning to peel off, Five stifling a scream at the crimson liquid that stains his hands. Klaus is saying something, but Five can’t hear him anymore, too obsessed with getting the blood off his hands when someone grabs his sleeve, the boy blinking and seeing nothing on his hands. What’s happening? Is he going insane?

 

Ignoring the abrupt tears that sting his eyes, he’s just about to step through the jump when Ben presses a box into his arms, eyes soft. “Have some rest, Five.”

 

He winces at the lack of judgement in Ben’s expression; for a second, he wants to apologise to Klaus, but before he can do so the void swallows him up and spits him out in his room. Chalk equations cover his room, wall-to-wall—Five looks at them and recognises the work of a feverish madman. Nothing he’s written made any sense; the variables are meaningless. His equations are meaningless. Everything is meaningless.

 

A laugh spills out as he presses his palms to his eyes, wiping away the tears that threaten to fall. Another choked, ridiculous giggle escapes and he finds himself on his knees, rocking himself and laughing till he cries. Fuck, everything about this is so fucked-up…

 

Is he really, truly the only one who sees the truth? All of his siblings are—well, not cured, Five’s sure that’ll never happen, but they’re getting better , they’re healing with each other’s help. Five is still stuck 45 years in the future, lost and alone. The equation is working fine without him; he’s the only variable that’s wrong. Taking himself out of the equation is the logical conclusion.

 

He can’t stop laughing ; it dissolves into absurd giggles after a few moments, his hands moving automatically to his hair and yanking, yanking so hard he rips them out by the roots. How do his siblings not see this, see that they’re trying their best to keep a cancerous disease like him from dying? That they’re keeping a monster alive? They’re so goddamned stupid , they can’t even see what needs to be done, they can’t even fucking see that he deserves to be gone. “Fuck this,” his words make him laugh even harder as he repeats his statement. “fuck this, they’re all i-insane, this world is fucking screwed . Fuck .” He wonders if he can grab one of Diego’s knives and stab himself to death right there and then.

 

The box Ben had given him falls off his bed, its cover flipping open; his gaze flickers over to it and his laughter dies down at the sight of donuts with a kit-kat on top, drizzled with chocolate syrup.

 

They remembered .

 

He swallows tightly, closing the box’s lid with a gentleness he’s not used to and holding it close to his chest, curling up in bed with it. Counting calories was something he’d gotten used to doing in the Apocalypse, always rationing food, never wasteful. The survivor shows that Diego loved to watch were all fucking lies —those shows assumed there would be animals left to snare and cook, that there would be some measure of flora and fauna left.

 

He opens the box and takes out one donut; ignoring his brain that screams for him to ration it, because what if his next meal is weeks later? He needs to ration, he needs to calculate the calories he needs he needs he needs—

 

He takes a bite and smiles at the taste of chocolate.

 

It’s progress.

Chapter Text

Five stands in the middle of a Walmart at eleven in the morning as his sister gushes about all the different shades on display and wonders how his life has come to this.

 

His nails hurt a little bit, admittedly—his childhood habit of biting his nails down to the quick has apparently resurfaced. To be fair, he has always been a little too pent-up and paranoid, even before the Apocalypse, but surely paranoia was justified if they really were out to get you?

 

-choose!” He startles imperceptibly at Allison’s berating voice, subconsciously taking a wary step back; maybe that’s why she softens her tone and splays her hands out, offering a silent olive branch. “Five, you’re the one who asked me to help you pick a color, so it’d be nice if you stopped spacing out.”

 

He can barely stop himself from rolling his eyes at her—contrary to what Allison seems to believe, he does know what he asked her to do, thanks very much. “I just wanted to get what I needed and leave. Why are we making this a shopping trip?”

 

His sibling scowls at him, no real malice in her eyes as she scoops up an ugly clay figurine of a rabbit and seems to genuinely toy with the idea of buying it. “Because, believe it or not, I like spending time with you. Shocking, right? Trust me, I was surprised too.”

 

He doesn’t rise to the obvious bait, simply turning away with a slightly exaggerated sigh before examining the shelves of paint critically. “...blue. There, done.”

 

His sister gives him a mischievous look and his metaphorical hackles rise automatically as she pulls back a curtain to reveal a color scheme painted onto the wall. “Which shade?”

 

Five is actually going to go mental if he stays here any longer; at eleven, the store isn’t that packed, but just the feeling of citizens brushing past him as they try to make their way to their respective destinations is enough to put him on edge.

 

He inhales slowly, forcing his emotions back into submission. He can do this—he was driven a tad insane by the Apocalypse, killed innocents while working for the Commission and saved the world; twice . He can pick a fucking color for his bedroom walls, can’t he?

 

Just as he’s about to point at one labelled Maya Blue , the alarms go off; only decades of experience and quick-thinking saves him from the bullet that whistles past his cheek. He tears a jump open and seizes Allison’s arm, taking her to safety behind the ice-cream cooler. His sister is all steel now, her eyes determined as they share a silent look. Years of training together and fighting alongside one another have taught them how to work together with ease.

 

He can feel himself slipping into what Klaus calls his “scary Fivey” mode. First step is to headcount their opponents; the rift buzzes in his fingertips as he parts space-time itself—appearing on the rafters, it’s easy to slink throughout the store while shrouded in darkness and figure out how many of them there are. A quick twist of his hand tells Allison that there are five, the woman nodding decisively.

 

Five positions himself over one attacker as he and his sister lock gazes; without hesitation, he lets himself drop, ripping the assault rifle out of the man’s hands on the way down before executing a neat barrel roll and coming up with it aimed at its previous owner. Whipping it across the robber’s face puts him down swiftly; sparing a thought for Allison, he turns to see her clearly in her element—one dainty hand is clamped over the man’s mouth, the other hand used for a triangle choke as she whispers something to him.

 

On autopilot, they follow the affected man; he puts a bullet in his comrade’s head the moment he sees him, then turns and raises his gun. Five’s eyes go wide with confusion and alarm as the man’s finger tightens on the trigger—then Allison explodes into action, slamming him into the floor; his shoulder pops out of its socket but Five can’t think, not with the obnoxious ringing in his head from the gunshots. He sits up after a moment, mostly to brush himself off, confirm that their opponents are dead and take Number Three home when he sees that she isn’t moving.

 

She isn’t moving .

 

Panic blooms in his chest as he turns her over and pats her down. She’s clearly in shock, her eyes glassy as blood seeps from her side ominously. Fuck, fuck fuck fuck fuck—!

 

He scoops his sister up, hazy horror coiling around his heart as her blood stains his arms. She’s a little heavier than his thirteen-year old arms can handle, but he grits his teeth and pushes through the blinding pain so he can deposit her on one of the medical wing’s gurneys. He presses the blue button etched with an exclamation mark, the alert ringing throughout the Academy. It’s no little wonder when Grace appears in the doorway, the rest of his siblings trailing just behind her like lost puppies.

 

He’s taken her coat off already—the grey shirt she wears is soaked with blood. Five stumbles back when Grace kindly but firmly tells him to let her handle Allison; his back hits the glass cabinet and he sucks in a tiny gasp as the sharp edges dig into the small of his back, but his siblings don’t seem to care; if anything, they look angrier at the mild sound of pain he lets out.

 

Luther is first, obviously; Number One crowds him back against the cabinet, one large hand gripping his shoulder. It could be interpreted as a comforting, reassuring gesture, but his brother’s grip is crushing and Five squirms to get away from Luther, anxiety bullying him into submission. He’s horribly claustrophobic—spots dance in the corners of his vision as Luther yells at him, shaking him roughly.

 

“—she could have died , you nearly killed her, I can’t believe you Five you’re so selfish—“ Everything morphs into white noise; Five’s Academy uniform is ripped at the swathe of his shoulders so Luther is touching his bare skin. Self-hatred crawls just under his skin, worming its way throughout his body like something vile. The area Luther is in contact with is burning, it’s burning but Five deserves it so he switches off, tries his best to get as mentally far away as possible.

 

Static buzzes in his ears as he’s shoved back against the cabinet again; his head pounds as Luther’s spittle flecks his collar. “—this is one step too far, you hurt Allison! You wonder why people don’t put up with you, why they don’t like you, well here’s a prime example of why! You hurt everyone around you, Number Five, you’re fucking poison! Everyone who interacts with you gets burned!”

 

“Please, stop…” The whisper is soft, pleading; Five flinches, curling in on himself as Luther’s hands ball into fists and hover over him threateningly—his plea goes unheard as his brother laughs darkly, dropping him.

 

“It’s not even worth it to hit you, honestly. I thought that, of all the lines you’ve took it upon yourself to cross, hurting your family would never be one of them.” Five’s traitorous thoughts come to a dizzying halt. When he speaks, his voice is hoarse from dawning realisation.

 

“You...you think I did that to Allison? All of you?” His siblings don’t deny it—Klaus stares at him, eyes sad as Vanya wraps her arms around herself and purses her lips and Ben looks away silently, an answer in itself. Even Diego, perhaps the most likely to understand anger issues, toys with a knife instead of looking at him. Grace doesn’t look at any of them, too busy with Allison to say anything, but her silence speaks volumes.

 

Five wants to scream.

 

He laughs bitterly, rips himself away from Luther and slams a fist into the desk, savagely pleased when it sags under the effort of keeping upright, of keeping alive. Is he really comparing a table to himself? God, there really is something wrong with him.

 

“Well, first things first— fuck all of you. Fuck every single one of you. I’m your brother , sure I’m a little fucked-up, but which one of us isn’t? I’d think that I at least deserved the benefit of the fucking doubt, y’know, before you cast me as the villain in all your shitty plays. For fuck’s sake, you don’t know anything about me or anything about what I’ve went through. I’ve told you guys the bare-fucking-basics of it. You all still fucking hate me for not finding a way home earlier? Well, sorry .” Klaus looks hesitant, as if he wants to interrupt, but Five cuts him off, a maniacal laugh bubbling from his throat. Let his fucking sibling chew on this —he certainly doesn’t give a single shit.

 

“While all of you got the chance to grow up, to live and find happiness, I was stuck in the Apocalypse, digging your graves with my bare hands, mashing up cockroaches to eat as a once-every-two-weeks treat, always dehydrated, always starving and wishing I was with you every damn day. You condemn me for the things I did to get home, as if I don’t already fucking despise myself for doing them? You think I liked shooting a seven-year old girl in the head? You think I liked being passed around from mission to mission like the fucking kid in a divorce, never wanted, just needed? You think I liked it when the Handler would—the Handler would—“

 

His vision blurs and he realises he’s crying. Tears streak down his face and he crumples at his unintentional mention of his previous employer. It wasn’t a secret that Five had been extremely touch-starved after 45 years in the Apocalypse, not to mention the haphephobia he’d been born with. Apparently it was strange to have both conditions at once—the Handler had taken it upon herself to get him past those little barriers of his. A casual pat on the head here, a caress of the cheek there; he remembered the days he’d huddle in a bathroom stall to hyperventilate after her hand strayed too far or rested too long on exposed skin. That lasted for a long time, right up until she started coming into the male bathrooms to torment him a little longer.

 

He exhales slowly, realising with growing dread that Ben is coming closer. “Don’t—don’t come near me. Stay away , stay away or I’ll fucking kill you .” Number Six holds his hands up in surrender, opening his mouth to say something, but a look from Five quietens him. “You want to know what happened? Go look on the news, I’m sure they’ve already reported it. None of you better fucking try to talk to me, or I’ll blow my own fucking brains out. Try to test me, see if I’m kidding—not that any of you would care if I was or wasn’t.” He laughs again, a high, demented noise; his thoughts grow jagged edges, grow vicious thorns that rip and tear his mind to shreds—if this is what being alive is like, Five’s sure he doesn’t want to be anymore.

 

He had been getting better , damn it. He’d gone to Allison to pick out a color for his room walls, to cover up the equations that didn’t play a part in his life anymore. He’d eaten breakfast this morning, had finished his entire goddamn plate of toast. Had come out of his room voluntarily, and hadn’t had one fucking panic attack in the last two days. He even forced himself not to hoard food under the floorboards in his room, always afraid of starving. The bar had been set pretty low, but for once, he had been proud of himself, something he hadn’t even achieved before the Apocalypse, before everything had gone to shit. He was never going to be fixed , not after everything that’s happened, but he had been getting better and he’d hoped his siblings would be able to see it too, see his improvements. He feels like a child, desperate for attention and praise from his uncaring parents, but he’d gone an unknown amount of years without sincere commendation—he thinks he deserves a little praise.

 

“Every morning, I’d think about shooting myself with the gun I kept tucked under my pillow,” He says, voice empty, devoid of emotion. Someone swallows audibly, the sound filling the room. “I’d think about how miserable I was, about how easy it would be to end it—you know what kept me going? Not the thought of safety. Not the thought of a steady supply of food. Not even the thought of getting home to you guys.”

 

He turns away, his hand on the doorknob. His hands are stained red and it’s oddly fitting. “It was just the memories of all of you. I thought I would return to—well, not a happy family per se, but a family that stood together and tackled their problems side-by-side. The one thing I wanted for 45 years, and the years after that with the Commission; gone . Guess I should have put a bullet in my mouth, huh?”

 

He doesn’t even bother to see their reactions; he can hear Allison stirring in the room behind him, but steels his heart. It’s horrifically ironic that he’s walking forwards when all he wants to do is just end everything, but that’s life for—well, just for him, really. What other thirteen-year old can relate to his circumstances? Hell, what other person can relate?

 

He’s always going to be alone.

 

The words don’t hurt as much as how true they are.

Chapter Text

Does anybody have a map?

Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this?

I don’t know if you can tell

But this is me just pretending to know

 

So where’s the map?

I need a clue

‘Cause the scary thing is

I’m makin’ this up as I go’

 

Rain pelts the bench he’s sitting on with heavy raindrops, sharp staccato beats drumming on the rotting wood rhythmically; Five doesn’t exactly want to draw attention to himself, but the Academy umbrellas stand out due to the black-and-white logo. A jogger scowls at him as they go past, dark eyebrows knitting as he tries to figure out where he knows Five from—he ignores the man, simply turning the volume up.

 

He’d swiped Allison’s phone before he’d left—her phonecase is a garish shade of pink, but he doesn’t quite have the energy to care. It had been a simple matter to hack into her phone. There were several messages from her ex and a few from Luther, but he disregarded those too. The music app was honestly the only thing keeping him from…well, Five doesn’t really know, honestly.

 

Five doesn’t know much of anything anymore.

 

Allison’s taste in music is...strange, to say the least. The song that’s the most played is the Hargreeves’ siblings’ apology song—I Think We’re Alone Now. Whenever one of them inevitably messed up, whether it was Luther being too controlling or Diego pitching a hissy fit or Five himself being overly snappy and harsh, they would creep upstairs to the record player and put their designated apology song on. The speakers allowed it to reverberate throughout the entire mansion—Five doesn’t know how or why they unanimously picked that particular song without any discussion, but he has a sneaking suspicion it’s because of the extra pancakes Grace would make whenever she heard it. Even Reginald didn’t mind too much, since his study was soundproofed to prevent distractions.

 

The relative peace of the park is even more serene now that it’s raining, most dog owners clearing off and picnicking families evacuating to nearby shelters. He’s sure he looks psychotic, sitting on a park bench and listening to music with an umbrella propped up next to him to shield him from the raindrops that resembles hailstones more than anything, but the slight chill of the rain is comforting to him.

 

“Excuse me?” Five’s eyes shoot open and he jumps a little bit at the sight of a woman holding an umbrella in one hand and her daughter’s hand in the other, both if them rosy-cheeked and fair-skinned. They’re obviously not well-off, from the state of their clothes, but they look happy enough—ugly jealousy rears its head. “Hi! My daughter...she’s seven and she adores the comics. You know, the Umbrella Academy ones. Would you mind taking a photo with her?”

 

He feels compelled to bare his teeth and shoo them away when a small hand clutches at his sleeve tentatively, innocent green eyes blinking up at him. Her eyes are the color of glassy seafoam, he realises, captivated by the child—was this what they had looked like, when they were all kids? Had any one of them ever looked like this, curious, trusting, sheltered from the world’s horrors?

 

“My name’s Sierra! What’s yours?” The little girl peers up at him in interest. His answer comes automatically, too used to paparazzi hanging outside the mansion, desperate for a glimpse of one of the superpowered children.

 

“Five. Just Five.” She pouts a little bit, tilting her head to the side—it’s adorable and reminds him a little bit of a golden retriever. She seems a little shy now that she’s actually talking to him, but her overall confidence makes something in Five twinge as he compares her to little Allison, doing everything she could to fit in with her brothers, and little Vanya, so desperate to be loved, to be acknowledged by anyone.

 

“I thought Five disappeared.” A pang of loss and regret hits him as he crouches down to look her in the eyes—she stares back, not in a challenging way, but perhaps ensnared by his words. The two of them stay there in their own little world; Five forgets about his siblings, forgets about the child’s mother for a few precious moments as he reaches out to pat her on the head.

 

“He did. He’s still gone, actually—he’s trying to find himself, but that’s besides the point. You’re going to grow up to be brave and kind someday, okay? You don’t have to have superpowers to make a difference in the world. Sometimes, a little kindness goes a long way.” He smiles lopsidedly, tucking a stray lock of strawberry blonde hair behind her ear. “If you or your mother ever need anything, come to the Academy and I’m sure I—we—can help. You’re not alone, kid.”

 

A gasp makes him look up; Sierra’s mother looks vaguely misty-eyed at his promise, the woman clearly surprised by his behaviour. Sierra smiles at him, and somewhere in his mind he realises what an odd picture they make, a uniformed thirteen-year old and a seven-year old staring intently at each other as rain pitter-patters around them.

 

“Pinky swear?” Five snorts slightly, raising his hand to lock their pinkies together—she beams beatifically at him and he’s instantly reminded of the childhood he and his siblings could have had. On impulse, he offers her the umbrella as she grins hugely at the sight of the logo on the side. Sierra turns to address her mother, tiny hands clutching the umbrella in a death-grip. The umbrella dwarfs her entirely, but she doesn’t seem to mind. “I don’t want a photo anymore, Mommy.”

 

Her mother doesn’t question her, simply giving Five a sweet smile. “...Thank you.” The two words speak volumes as they walk away, the little girl skipping to a tune she’s humming off-key as her mother holds her hand to make sure she doesn’t slip and scrape her knee.

 

It’s still raining, and now he doesn’t have an umbrella, but the warmth spreading throughout his body is enough to content him. The rain is clearing up slightly, patches of light rays beaming through the dark mass of clouds.

 

His siblings are probably still looking for him—earlier, Diego had almost caught Five in the library, not to mention Klaus’ attempt to tackle him in the middle of a crowded shopping mall. Or maybe they’ve given up and can’t be bothered to try and find their worthless, selfish prick of a brother who’s always screwing everything up. Five can’t really blame them; he wouldn’t look for himself, either.

 

Calling him a prick is quite right, too. Five won’t deny it. People think he would be an eagle if he was an animal—proud, a loner, highly intelligent and liable to pierce your eyeball with a sharp talon if you pissed him off too much. Five thinks he’s a porcupine; always bristled, defensive and if anyone tried to interact with him, he’d get the first shot in. Better to hurt than to be hurt, right?

 

He’s not so sure anymore.

 

On the outside, always looking in

Will I ever be more than I've always been?

'Cause I'm tap, tap, tapping on the glass

 

I'm waving through a window

I try to speak, but nobody can hear

So I wait around for an answer to appear

 

While I'm watch, watch, watching people pass

I'm waving through a window, oh

Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?’

 

Slowly, the rain trickles to a stop.