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Heartache To Sing

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CH 1. KLAUS

You could say the apocalypse was the most terrible thing they’ve faced. It wasn’t easy, by any means, to sidestep. They’d all come back with thorns in their backs. Or lack thereof.

Luther, with his newfound discoveries of the unopened reports he’d sent. Every single one was gathering dust, delicate and untouched by the one person he seeked approval from. The demented man who’d stolen four years of his life the same way an overeager bully would someone’s lunch money.

Diego, watching the police station from his place in his new car. New, so they wouldn’t know it was him. He couldn’t step foot in the building or else they’d arrest him on sight. They would arrest him for the murder of the only friend and confidant he’d ever had outside the academy. The only solace in his life, Eudora Patch and the police academy, taken from him within a week.

Allison, desperately holding back from Rumoring the entire court just for one more chance to see her daughter again. Since Claire had been revoked from her, and Patrick filed for divorce, she’d sworn Reginald had sneered at her in the mirror. And you will raise your children how I raise you, with diligence and watchful eyes.

Klaus, buried under the blankets of his bed, sweating out the remnants of every tool he’d poisoned his body with. Did he regret it? Yes. The wailing in his ears never seemed to cease, and it brought him back to the constant sleepless nights from before he turned thirteen- before he even knew what a joint was. He couldn’t stop now, not with Ben as admant as he was. Not without one last goodbye from Dave.

Five was feebly cleaning the equations from his wall, at a loss for what to do now that his purpose- reigning inside him for over forty years, was gone. The world was saved. He wasn’t, though. Five was right back where he begun- alone, shivering, and wanting to just leave.

Ben sat in the dark of Klaus’ room, knowing how Klaus hated to have the lights off. It made the ghosts bolder, it was basically a call saying please come shout at me for another eight hours. But all the better than having the sunlight pull sensitive and irritated groans from his brother. Ben watched because right now, it was all he could do.

And Vanya. She was utterly hollow. An entirely different breed of hollow compared to what she’d once felt. Faraway pleads from each of her siblings echoed in her ears. Luther’s arms still ghosted around her neck, squeezing and stone cold. Unforgiving. Diego’s wide eyes staring through the window to the room she was locked in. He looked caged between opening the door and standing against it so she couldn’t escape. The worst part was, she couldn’t blame him. Not after what she’d done to Allison. The gauze around her neck and the silence of her voice was almost ironic- a symbol screaming powerless. They functioned the same way as Vanya’s pills and violin- keeping her away from the very purpose she was supposed to be serving. She’d taken Allison’s power just as Allison had worked to hide Vanya’s. There was something sickening about the moment when everything changed- the moment that blood had begun to seep from Allison’s neck. The vivid terror on her sister’s face- something Vanya had never seen aimed at her. Vanya hadn’t seen Allison stare at her so intently once in her whole damned life. And there was something so satisfying about that- having the power to grasp people on the edge. That’s what scared Vanya the most. The power that she’d yearned for so strongly for every second of her life was finally here, and all she wanted to do was swallow down every pill she’d forgotten to take before.

 

But no, the apocalypse wasn’t the worst thing that had happened to them.

It was the aftermath that broke the already thinning wills of the academy alumni- the reckoning that passed through them and left them drenched in emotions they weren’t raised to understand.

 

So that’s what they decided to zero in on, when no other distractions came to mind.

“We talk about it,” come the words that none of them wanted to face, from Five’s mouth. The witty little bastard had taken over the house since the aftermath of the apocalypse had died down. Luther and Diego were broken shells, neither up to take the responsibilities of leadership like they were as children.

“We curse the old man and everything he did to us until we feel better,” says Five.

Ever the comic relief, Klaus snorts. “Aren’t you the old man now?”

“Okay, we’ll start with you.” Five turns harshly on his heels, leaving the other siblings gathered in the common room to watch as he stalks up to Klaus, shoes making clipped and speedy sounds on the tile.

From his place draped over the couch like the Cheshire cat, Klaus smiles. It’s a tortured smile. The withdrawal sweat is how they can tell. Klaus’s one escape had been abandoned. There wasn’t a single drug in the house. They’d all made sure. Every indication of brightness their brother gives is empty. It always has been.

Only when Five gets close and sticks a finger out, lifting Klaus’ chin to his eye level, does the faux smile drop from his face, leaving haunted eyes.

Five scoots onto the arm of the couch. Klaus shifts away and hides himself in Allison’s pink feather boa. Five stares ahead, eyes forcefully drawn blank, as he speaks again.

 

“First, you hide your PTSD terribly.” And Klaus looks visibly stricken- more so than he’s ever let anybody see. His mouth drops and his eyebrows raise in a show of betrayal. Nobody misses the way that his arm darts to wrap around the dog tags dangling from his neck.

Five matches the intensity of his gaze and suddenly, it all comes together.

 

Diego. “Ho- How?” He turns on the other side of the couch, assaulting Klaus’ other side with a glare of his own. “What the hell, Klaus? You didn’t think to tell us anything?”

 

Klaus sinks into himself. “You never told me shit, so don’t get started with that.”

 

Five flicks the back of his head. Klaus bounces. Diego slouches back expectantly.

 

From their places, Luther and Vanya lean in just a little. Allison puts her chin in her hands.

Ben is the only one who doesn’t move, having endured several nights of Klaus noisily weeping into his pillow and bursting from his sleep, Dave’s name on his lips and army protocols stuck in his limbs. But he’d like to hear how Klaus, the same man who’d never outwardly dealt with anything seriously in his life, would respond to this.

Five raises his eyebrows and sweeps an arm through the air. Klaus sighs.

 

“Okay. The attack on the house? Hazel and Cha-cha? While you all were fighting,” Klaus throws an arm out, punching empty space. “You know, being all heroic. They kidnapped me-”

“-Whoa whoa whoa, how’d you get yourself kidnapped? We didn’t even see you,” says Luther.

“You weren’t looking for me,” Klaus deadpans.

 

Luther stiffens and leans back, gesturing for him to continue.

 

“Tied my hands behind my back and duck-taped my mouth, all that razzle dazzle.” Klaus swallows back the arsenal of kinky jokes he’s saved for this occasion, and tries to be serious. “They tortured me for hours. Waterboarding, physical force, tempting me with drugs, all of it!” He begins to laugh, which isn’t unusual. Nobody interrupts. “And,” He laughs even more, hardly breathing. “And the best part, I didn’t even know jackshit about what they were asking me!”

 

His head is between his knees and they all watch as his shoulders shake. The laughs even out into gasps, and they slowly turn into what Vanya thinks are quiet sobs.

“Klaus?”

 

He lifts his GOODBYE hand, censoring half of it with his other hand. GOOD.

 

Five reaches down to rub his back, a rare display of affection. Diego leans closer. They all gravitate towards Klaus, not daring to disturb the only moment of vulnerability he’s given them since they were kids.

 

“I don’t understand,” Diego says. “That doesn’t explain the dog tags.”

 

Klaus slowly straightens, smiling at them. This smile is different. Lighter. His eyeliner, which was already days old and smudged, was running in lines down his face.

“I was getting there.”

 

Allison and Vanya meet eyes, and they reach for each other’s hands. As much as they’re suffering, they recognize that perhaps Klaus, despite his carefree demeanor, was suffering too.

 

“Patch, Diego’s friend, untied me. Cha-Cha killed her because of it. And I,” he gathers himself and swallows a sob. A tear runs down the divet above his lips and he wipes it away. “I got away. I stole their briefcase.”

At this moment, Five stiffens. He seems to have heard this before, because the way his hands tighten and his eyes look anywhere but Klaus, he knows that the story is about to decline.

“I thought there was money in it. Or diamonds. I don’t know, something I could sell and…” He trails off and shrugs. They all know what Klaus would have done with the money he didn’t find.

“But no. Those assholes left me a time-traveling machine! No labels, no DO NOT TOUCH stickers, nothing! I opened it, and next thing I know is that I’m in Vietnam and it’s 1968!”

“Christ,” Diego says through the fist in his mouth. “You seriously didn’t tell us you served in Vietnam? For fuck’s sake, Klaus.”

 

The latter wasn’t crying anymore. He looked deflated. His shoulders slumped and his clothing- signature laced leggings and a black crop top with the feather boa, didn’t fit his puffy eyes and bitter twist of his lips.

This wasn’t the Klaus they knew.

But the Klaus they were familiar with turned to Diego with a small smirk, and pinched his arm.

“Incase you weren’t listening, I just did.”

 

Then, he turns to Five.

Five had pulled his knees to his chin. His eyes were big and in that moment, he actually did look like the child he constantly insisted that he wasn’t.

 

Klaus lets himself rest back into the couch. Nobody had noticed just how stiff he was as he recounted his story.

“Am I done?”

Five nods.

 

Then, time stops. They all stare at Klaus until Diego yanks him into a tight hug. Klaus makes a noise they all collectively never want to hear again and buries his head into Diego’s shoulder. Hesitantly, Five makes his way over a pillow to throw his arms around Klaus’ back. He whispers in Klaus’ ear, over the barely perceptible sobs and tears escaping him again.

“Thank you.”

Klaus nods and allows Five to slouch onto him.

 

Allison is next. She crawls from her place on the floor, below Vanya, and dips her head into the space between Klaus and Diego, murmuring quiet things along the lines of so brave and it’s all okay now.

Vanya too, who clambers in the small space between Five and the arm of the couch, where he had been sitting moments before. She wraps her arms around Five, fingertips reaching Klaus’ unkempt hair. Never has she gotten to experience family, and certainly has she never felt the soft presence of Luther’s left arm as it comes to rest on her back and his right as it rests on Diego’s.

Luther towers above them, standing behind the couch and leaning over to try to hold all of them close at once. He gives Vanya a small squeeze that communicates all she needs to know. I’m sorry. She nudges her arm into his. It’s okay.

Klaus peeks through all the arms, sees Ben looking at him between Diego’s shoulder and neck. Ben offers a thumbs up and though his arms pass right through them, joins their huddle.

 

They stay like that. All existing in the silence between each other’s sobs. And they think that maybe, this is what being a real family feels like.

 

After a while, Klaus shifts, prompting all of them to move. They do, and look to him. He gives the smile they’re all used to- only less hazy and drug-induced. A strong, almost violent, wave of relief overcomes all of them.

Vanya laughs, even, a sound she herself is unfamiliar with.

Klaus laughs too, and it’s not hysterics, it’s him laughing at how ironic this all is.

 

They’re finally a family, and all it took was the death of Reginald Hargreeves and the near ending of the world.

 

“I guess I should tell you that I also met the love of my life there.”

 

Chaos unfolds. Even Luther, who’s laughing and asking questions as he races back to his chair next to Vanya’s, who is digging her fingers into Klaus’ shoulders, asking about the so-called ‘love of his life.’

Five and Diego are smiling, watching Klaus relish in every surprised squeal and query.

 

“... But that’s a story for another day.”

 

Allison gasps. “You have to tell us now!”

“According to little Five, all I had to do was talk and curse our father, which reminds me…” Klaus jumps from the couch, walks over to an old photo of their father, and knocks it off the shelf.

“Fuck you, Reginald Hargreeves!”

They all clap, save for Luther, who looks ahead with confusion laced between the wrinkles in his forehead.

Five notes this, and chooses Luther for tomorrow’s meeting. There’s a disconnect in how Luther fails to recognize their father’s flaws and he’s determined to fix it.

 

They all leave after some time. Klaus, Allison, and Vanya retreat to Allison’s room, which was the most homey of the three’s rooms. Klaus’ was still ridden with the residue of nightmares and Vanya’s was devoid of any personality. Reginald had made sure to drill in how ordinary Vanya supposedly was by giving her the dullest room decor he could find. Even Five’s room, abandoned for the better part of twenty years, was more lively.

Five knew Klaus must be disclosing the details of his love life, due to the occasional loud squeal and following laughter.

He thinks of Delores, and how they’d share moments like that. To him, the last fifty-eight years felt hazy. Maybe it was the fog of his brain from all the time-travel lately, but his memory was beginning to ebb away. Now that he thought about it, he couldn’t conjure up a perfect image of Delores’ face anymore.

 

To the sounds of knives being thrown upstairs, Five decides that it’s about time he move on.

He takes the stairs instead of spacial jumping to his room. He walks slower when he passes the door of Allison's room- left slightly ajar and letting lamplight stream through, and hears Klaus speaking. God, he wants to join them. Sit down, listen, and make up for all the fucking time they’ve lost.

“You guys would be weak in the knees, I swear. He had the nicest hair, and god his eyes were…”

“Like the sky?” Allison supplies.

“Or the ocean?” Vanya.

“No,” Klaus fakes gagging noises. Five stifles a small laugh. His dramatics, as annoying as they could get, were relieving. They helped reassure Five that at least some things hadn’t changed during his absence.

“That’s so clich é, I can’t believe you guys!”

He can just barely see Allison throw a pillow at Klaus, who ducks and lets it land in Vanya’s arm. She hugs it to her chest, smiling contentedly.

Allison raises an eyebrow. “Klaus, everything else you’ve said so far is clich é!”

A pause.

Then comes Klaus’ voice with laughter bubbling behind every word. “What the absolute hell do you find clich é about time-traveling to the mid-Vietnam war fresh out of a kidnapping, and meeting your own personal disney prince?”

“It’s our fucked-up little version of clich é,” Vanya says.. “If we even get a clich é.”

Five can practically hear Allison roll her eyes. He knew he would.

“If you got yours, I hope I get mine. I hope we all do.” Allison’s voice had gone soft- it was similar to the way she’d speak after uttering a rumor she’d come to regret. It happened often when they were younger. For instance, pouty seven-year old Allison pointing at Diego, who’d eaten the last cookie, and then rumoring that he’d had a bad day. Diego would mope around for hours, and slump dramatically in training, which Allison had berated herself for when Reginald increased his hours. Once, she’d even rumored Five into fainting when he’d cornered her in group training. He remembered it vividly.

Allison frowns, frizzy dark hair coated in sweat like her forehead. She was backed into one of the faux walls Reginald had put up for them to work their way around. Five was throwing punches- not his strongest, but he truly didn’t want to hurt her- at her ribs.

When he met her eyes, progressively growing tired of not being actively fought back against, she had glared at him and tried to shoulder past him. He took the force she gave him and knocked her back harsher than he intended to. He turned back for a moment, desperate for Reginald to acknowledge how he was winning, only to see their father’s head buried into a notebook, scribbling down what was probably their daily evaluations. He could be determining who would get more ‘private training.’ Five inwardly shivered, growing nauseous at the mere thought of more personal training. In a fit of panic, he pivots back to Allison. He’s considering landing a light hit to her head, not tough enough to do any real damage, but maybe just enough to get Reginald’s attention on him.

But she’s already fixed on him and opening her mouth.

Five scrambles to cover his ears, but the words have left her mouth before his fists leave his sides.

“I heard a rumor that you fainted!”

His head went light and the ground rotated under his feet. Five felt his eyelids grow heavy and struggled to stumble over to his sister. Before he could do anything, he’d lost his balance.

As he lost consciousness, he registered Allison’s arms trying to support him as he fell.

 

What a dysfunctional group of idiots! They were like Reginald’s personal race horses or bull-fighters, all pitted against each other.

Five shakes his head, doing his best to shove down the ever-present resentment for his father-figure slash probable abuser. He focuses into Klaus’ reply.

“I wish I’d gotten to finish mine.”

He hears the sound of them embracing.

Even the thought of a hug had him on his toes, missing the contact from decades of having nobody but himself and Delores, who was more of a talker than anything. But he’d die before admitting that. Besides, Five was sure the feeling would dissipate eventually.

 

He tiptoes to his room, pretending to ignore how the insistent knife-throwing sounds from Diego’s room hadn’t stopped.

Sleep, for once, comes easier. Perhaps this family-therapy thing he’d halfheartedly suggested would actually help.

 

Chapter Text

CH 2. LUTHER

Five wakes soundly. He still isn’t used to hearing birdsong yet, having spent many years waking up to the scent of smoke or the smell of something gone bad. It was nice.

He gets out of bed, noting how he’d forgotten to change out of the school-boy clothes to proper sleepwear. Five was really beginning to hate the stupid get-up. If anything, it was about time he’d found new clothes. A pair of jeans and a hoodie sounded like Heaven.

Well, he wouldn’t need to bother re-dressing, then.

 

Luther is already awake, picking at pancakes that aren’t as good as Grace’s used to be. He hears Five’s footsteps.

“Morning,” is all Luther has to say.

Five returns the sentiment and goes to work on making himself cereal, finding Klaus and Allison’s hidden stash of junk food in one of the bottom cupboards. He stole the sugary cereal shamelessly. He was the one going through puberty again, so Five figured he laid claim to the contents of the stash- chocolate bars, popcorn, and all.

Once he settles down at the table, he coaxes Luther into conversation. He thinks he’ll do a little delving into Luther’s state of mind before nosing him to disclose it to the rest of the family later that day.

But small-talk after the apocalypse’s close call was hard.

Luther has the same idea. They open their mouths at the same time, but Five is quick to let Luther speak first.

“What you did last night was interesting.”

“Thanks, Luther. I have no idea what you mean by that.” The sarcasm leaves his mouth so quickly that Five doesn’t even comprehend why the words turned Luther’s eyebrows against each other.

“I think it’s helping. Klaus came down earlier to grab a morning snack, and he seemed,” Luther pauses thoughtfully. “Different.”

Five eases. He’d like to see that for himself. He shovels the cereal into his mouth as Luther keeps talking.

“I thought he never took anything seriously since we were kids and he either didn’t show up to training or he showed up high. I guess I just wasn’t paying attention.”

Damn. That’s the most sincere he’s ever heard Luther. Is Five dreaming?

“Well, I’m glad you think so, because you’re right. You weren’t. And I think I know the reason why.”

He takes in Luther’s perplexed expression before dropping the question.

“What do you think of Reginald Hargreeves?”

“Dad’s dead.”

Five gestures plainly, asking for more.

“Oh, I, uh… He was okay. He could have treated everyone better, but we could have had worse.”

Ah. So Five was right. The old man manipulated him- stuck Luther’s head so far up his ass that he actually thought Reginald had benefited them all.

He hears the trying-to-be-silent steps of Vanya entering, so he leans to Luther.

“It’s your turn today, to talk.”

Luther’s face is priceless. Five actually laughs.

Vanya takes a seat, looking ravaged. Her hair is tucked into a bun, but still gathers on top of her head in thin knots. Small purple half-circles lay residence under her eyes. After Luther, Five decides, Vanya.

 

They acknowledge each other without words as they all used to do as children. Then Klaus and Diego enter, disturbing the peace with obnoxious banter.

“No, no, just no, Diego! I can’t make anyone corporeal! It works with Ben because I have like,, an emotional attachment to him? I don’t think I’ve ever really met Patch!”

“Klaus, she’s arrested you at least twice! Dark hair, big eyes, a mouth like a sailor? C’mon, try! Please.”

“I’ll think about it,” Klaus huffs, dropping into a chair and taking an apple from the fruit bowl.

Five latches on, not needing too much subtext. “Klaus, I think you should try working on your powers. If you can manifest the ghosts physically, maybe it’ll come of use someday.”

“Someday?” Klaus asks loudly. “Why would we need undead people when you guys exist?”

“We won’t always be here,” Luther says.

“Ben says thanks for ruining the moment.”

Diego rolls his eyes, returning to the table with a reeking self-made smoothie. “This isn’t over,” He says. “You’ll conjure her or I’ll make you.”

“You know what, I don’t even want to know what Diego’s talking about.” Allison sits beside Vanya and steals a pancake from Luther’s plate.

“I like that attitude, Alli.” Klaus elbows her and sneers at Diego.

 

Five bruises himself in finishing his breakfast while the rest of them bicker halfheartedly. It’s nice to see that there isn’t any real heat behind their words, but worrying to see how far they’d rather run their mouths than admit how much they’re hurting.

Five included.

 

“Well, we evaded the end of the fucking world… so more training?” Diego shrugs.

“Psch, you sound like Dad,” Klaus laughs. He mocks Reginald’s high-and-mighty stare. “More training for you! And you, and you, and you, and yo-”

A knife embeds itself on the table beside his feet, because when were Klaus’ feet actually on the ground? He flinches and meets Diego’s gaze. Seething.

“Take that back.”

 

And they have now demonstrated once again that none of them have any clue how to act like a functional family.

“Diego…” Allison warns.

The mentioned man turns sharply. “I don’t want his name said in here anymore. The house belongs to us. He’s dead.”

Luther scoffs. “Don’t you think you’re overreacting?”

Diego rears onto Luther’s already increasing urge to fight. “Oh! Overreacting? How many days have gone by since you talked about wasting your entire life on the moon ?”

“You wouldn’t even last a day,” Luther says.

Christ, there’s really no stopping them once they get started, huh?

 

“Guys!”

It’s Ben, standing at the head of the table with his arms outreached. Trying to grab onto some semblance of peace, Five hopes. Klaus has taken to manifesting Ben at moments like this over the past week, and is always effective in drawing all the attention away from the issue.

“Luther, you and Diego both need to grow up. You’ve been awake for, what, twenty minutes? How about offering a ‘good morning’ or, or a high five? You said it yourself, Dad’s dead and there’s no reason to fight each other anymore. We don’t need a leader. We need each other.”

All is silent. The room stares at Ben, all equally defaced.

Klaus was grinning and offering an applause, but his hands don’t touch in fear of breaking the silence. Five gapes openly. Vanya has a hand cupped over her mouth and Allison’s hands were frozen in their spot on Vanya’s back, her eyes were wide.

Diego was looking at Ben, face full of love and something else childish. He was grappling to process the words, from the looks of it. And Luther was stone-faced, but his fists gripped the counter with white-knuckles.

 

Shit. “I’m going to shower, and when I’m back, we’re having a family meeting.” Five dismisses himself before anyone can object.

 

Everything’s a little better after standing in warm water for a while and tucking yourself into sweatpants and a soft shirt. Five spacial jumps into the living room, appearing centimeters away from Vanya’s lap.

They exchange sheepish smiles.

He takes in the room- Vanya, himself, and Ben on the couch. Five involuntarily does a double take, never used to the sight of his brother when it wasn’t an old photo. Ben just smiles.

Klaus was a raised head away from completely melting into one of the side-chairs, and Luther occupied the other one. Diego was on the corner of the table, braiding Allison’s hair.

“Luther. Your turn. Talk until you feel better.”

“I don’t think that’s gonna-”

Ben puts on the old puppy eyed face he used to pull. “Please? For us?”

Luther crosses his arms.

“I don’t know what to talk about,” he states plainly.

“Oh, I wonder,” Allison begins. “How about the one thing you don’t stop talking about?”

“I don’t want to talk about that.”

“Well, I didn’t want to die,” Ben says. “But I did. Five is having us do this for our own good, so do it. Nobody here will actually judge you. We’ll just bother you about it.”

Luther squares his already-squared shoulders. “Okay. Um. I’m angry that four years of my life are gone. I’m angry that Alison isn’t allowed to see her daughter. I’m angry that Dad’s dead-”

“I’m going to stop you there, Luther.”

All eyes turn to Five.

 

“Everyone in this room and every single one of Klaus’ ghosts know that Dad brainwashed you. He isn’t a good man, you know that, right?”

Luther inhales. “I don’t. Dad told us we could have been raised by wolves, what’s so bad about some extra training now and then? I don’t…”

“Because we shouldn’t have had to endure all the training and all the stupid rules,” Vanya says softly, shy eyes boring into his.

“Dad shoved your brain down the gutter, buddy. He made you think you lucked out in the daddy department, and you didn’t. Fuck’s sake, he kept you in this house until he literally died.” Klaus sat up as he spoke, growing more and more incredulous every passing second.

“Luther, understand we love you, but you have to listen to us about Dad.” Allison’s eyes are big, perhaps a bit wet.

The man in the chair shifts, staring pointedly at the wooden table.

“I thought he treated me that way because I was Number One.”

“And I thought he treated me the way he did because I was Seven, but look at me now, Luther,” Vanya says, casually lifting the vase on the table into the air. She lets it hover, then gently puts it down. She looks at Luther and gestures to the vase meaningfully.

Five fights a surge of fraternal proudness. Vanya’s training really has been helping, then.

“Yeah, but…” Luther is wordless. “He didn’t even need to give me that much extra training.”

“Extra training was a punishment. You didn’t need it because he mind-fucked you into believing every word he said,” Diego says gruffly. The subject of personal training was sensitive to all of them, but now that it had come up, every member of the family looked a little more feeble.

Five doesn’t want to ask.

Thankfully, Klaus answers his question.

“Dude, remember when Dad would take me and I’d vanish for a couple days?”

Luther nods, already looking worried.

“He locked me in the mausoleum near our house- a few bottles of water, one stale piece of bread, and a shit-ton of deafening ghosts that don’t have vocal chords to lose. Goodbye Klaus! See you in four days!” Their brother looks shaken merely telling them about it- skin growing an ashen shade and black-painted fingernails picking at his face. Klaus tries at a smile. “That’s not how you care for your household Séance. Yet, he did.”

They want to comfort Klaus, but they know that Luther is the more pressing problem of tonight. Five knows Klaus said it now instead of last night because the attention wasn’t fully cast on him. That clever shit.

“He did that to you?” Luther’s voice cracks as he mentally connect the pieces. They all do- recalling Klaus screaming into his pillow for nights on end.

“Dad made me rumor random people into doing.. really bad things. I made a guy call off his wedding once.” Allison was playing with her braid, not meeting anyone’s eyes.

Five gets a burst of confidence. “I’d be forced to do jumps until I threw up or passed out. He made me jump off the roof sometimes- for the adrenaline factor. I’d have to jump through space mid-air.”

A few audible gasps. Vanya touches his knee, looks at him with sadness in her eyes. He shakes his head, pretending he didn’t remember it. He did, he very much did.

Ben and Diego don’t offer their own stories, but Five knows they have them.

 

By now, Luther had put his head in the crook of his arm. He takes a while to finally meet their waiting gazes.

“I can’t believe he did that to you guys. If I’d known, I,”

“That’s why he didn’t tell you. He was afraid of what you would do,” Ben says. He looks proud of Luther’s openness and stern towards him at the same time when he talks. “He made you think lowly of all of us when we were acting normal and you were Dad’s watchdog.”

“I think I can see it now. Seriously, he’d talk about everything you guys did wrong during training and he told me to fix it. He’d hit me whenever I didn’t get first place in group training… I thought it was for my own good.”

Nobody stirs. Luther is actually becoming Luther- shedding the snakeskin Reginald manually glued onto him from their first day of training. It’s a miracle if Five ever saw one.

“Why was it me?”

“You look like a leader, you’re strong and watchful and determined,” Diego says softly. He turns and faces Luther. Then shrugs. “Even if you’re stubborn as an ass.”

Luther swallows around the tears building in his throat. “You too.”

 

He settles back. “It almost feels like everything’s okay now.”

Five offers a small smile. “That’s what talking does, dimwit.”

 

“Okay, I have an idea,” Klaus peeps after a while. “No, Ben, It’s perfect. Watch.” Klaus had tired of making him corporeal, so Ben had vanished before all of their eyes save for his.

Diego kicks him. Say it.

 

“Luther, have you ever said anything bad about our dear father?”

Five stiffens. Oh no. Oh shit.

But Luther’s, smiling? It’s a sly smile that Five’s only ever seen on Klaus, Diego, or Allison. Never Luther.

“I guess I should at this point, right?”

They all nod. Eagerly. This is gonna be good.

 

Luther rises from where he was sitting. Immediately, Diego and Allison bolt for the seat. Diego crashes headfirst into the cushions with a proud yip. They laugh. Allison makes an irritated noise and climbs onto one of the arms.

“If you didn’t braid my hair earlier I would have already rumored you, you know.”

Diego barks a laugh.

 

Luther has approached Reginald’s office. He walked in and gently shut the door behind him. While he was gone, they all exchanged frenzied looks. Klaus was on the edge of his seat, laughing silently and tapping his fingers on the chair with anticipation. Five had an arm passively thrown over his mouth. Underneath the skin, he was masking a smile. Allison, Diego, and Vanya were communicating through the ascent of eyebrows and fleshed out sign language.

He was in there for an increasingly long time.

 

“Is he going to come back?”

Klaus nods at Vanya. “He knows we want to see what he’s doing, right?”

 

They stand at the same time, ready to storm through the office doors like they had wanted to since they were children. As soon as they move a few footsteps, Luther exits. In his arms is a white package. It’s unfamiliar to Five, so he waits for Luther to explain.

He doesn’t. Luther just stands there, holding the package and grinning at them. He’s rocking on the balls of his heels.

 

Five crosses and uncrosses his arms. “Say something.”

 

“What do I say?” Luther whispers back. He’s a kid again, jittering with the excitement of doing something wrong- a teenager getting off on their first act of rebellion.

 

“Say fuck.” Klaus.

“Call Dad a lair!” Diego.

Luther looks hesitant at first. Then he smiles at them and Five can see the unfamiliar and new feeling of resentment for their father wash over him. It shows in how he grips the package tighter and glares at it.

“Fucking liar,” he grunts, and tears the package apart, making a mess.

 

Cheers follow. Klaus manages to get a hold of Ben again, too.

Ben runs up to Luther and puts his hands on his shoulders, although Ben was on his tippy-toes, Luther was in awe.

“That’s the truth, Luther. We’re proud of you.” Then Ben was gone again.

 

Vanya and Allison run up to him and throw their arms around him,  giving high-pitched whoo hoo’s!

 

Klaus joins Luther in jumping on the pile of cardboard and paper and other mundane shit.

 

Five does some cheering himself, more interested in watching this group of adults parade around like the children they never got to be. He should join them.

And so he does, running over and kicking a large shred of styrofoam into Diego’s calf.

Diego’s answering look sends an unexpected rush of glee through Five’s head.

 

Five takes off, sprinting through the halls with the stampede of his siblings behind him- shouting obscenities that are just as funny as they are absurd.

 

Luther catches him first, probably because the others allowed him to, and grabs him. It’s not a hug- more so Five being crowded against the layered sweaters that Luther has on, but it’s rewarding enough. Especially when Luther thanks him, then runs away laughing with a shout.

“Tag! You’re it!”

Chapter Text

CH 3. VANYA

Their game of tag last night brought about a decision none of them wanted to make. Since they were all in one piece and begrudgingly living together for the time being, they might as well keep in touch with their powers. And, upon Five’s flippant warning that it wouldn’t be long before the Commission sent for him again, it would be useful.

Tri-weekly group training it was, then.

 

Five ducks under one of Diego’s fists and takes Diego’s outstretched wrist in his hand. Five bends, bends, and there. Diego winces and jumps back with a middle finger in his direction.

Klaus laughs at them from his place, engaging in a battle of arms against Vanya, who had been quietly withholding her powers from their practices.

“You’re so strong,” Klaus says through gritted teeth.

Vanya blows out a puff of air. “You try playing violin for your whole life.”

She uses her words as a distraction while she kicks his shins and sends him falling to the ground.

Klaus sputters as Diego, on the run from Five, who was jumping around the room after him, speaks.

“You’re out!” He points at Klaus, giving him an absolutely shit-eating grin.

 

Allison beckons to him. She’s seated beside Luther on the piles of ‘training equipment’ that Reginald never bothered to organize- ropes, fake weapons (and some real ones), parts and pieces of half-built structures for them to climb, and buried under all that, a few metal benches.

“At least you lasted longer than two minutes,” Allison says pointedly at Luther.

Luther gives a good-natured smile. Yes, this was the Luther who didn’t win to survive. “Not my fault you rumored me as soon as we started.”

Klaus flops unceremoniously across their laps. “How do you feel now that I’ve beat you, dear brother?”

“Pretty good considering it’ll never happen again.”

Klaus gasps dramatically. “Never say never.”

 

Diego had charged at Vanya, a plastic knife in his hand. She turned to him, actual worry in her features. She’d never been charged at before.

Five watches. He wanted to see how she’d react. Perhaps she’d stare Diego down and turn the sounds around him against him? Yell and force him to freeze in place?

Anything but what she actually did.

Vanya let him charge at her, which was her mistake. Once Diego had ran, obviously expecting for Vanya to move or put up a fight, he couldn’t stop himself from propelling straight into her.

They hit the ground with a frenzy of Diego’s shitshitshit’s and a sharp thud.

 

When Vanya sits up, hands on her face, struck by a puzzling mixture of disbelief and the traces of regret, Five jumps over to them. He sees her flinch at the flash of movement. Diego rolls onto his back, eyes cast upwards at the plastic knife embedded in the wall.

“Why didn’t you use your powers?” Five kneels down beside them. He looks at Vanya, knowing there isn’t so much as a hint of his usual disdain in his face.

“I…”

She doesn’t follow up, instead feigning a “We’re out. You win. Can we go again?”

She’s hiding something, and she’s doing it terribly. Five doesn’t get the chance to pry further, interrupted by Luther’s faraway agreement.

“Yeah, let’s. I can use a go again.”

 

Okay, that’s how it’s gonna be. Five gets to his feet and dusts off his uniform. He’s the only one wearing it save for Diego- who was probably only wearing it because he thought it gave him more purpose.

Luther wore his usual heap of sweaters, and Allison leggings and a purple short-sleeve. Vanya was in her usual getup, sweatpants and a scrappy oversized shirt, leaving Klaus in his army vest and what was the same pair of leggings Allison had. He’d stolen it from her closet, of course. Five expected nothing less.

They all start in different areas of the room- even numbers facing the odd. Diego and Klaus had gotten Vanya, though, to set them equal without Ben. Five took a moment to look over at Luther and Allison.

“Allison!”

She turns.

“You go for Diego. Luther, you get Klaus.” He’s assigning them because he knows that if Luther and Diego go for each other, they’ll be here for hours. Luther to Klaus, because he wants to see if a more intimidating opponent will get Klaus to focus. Five’s going to spar Vanya. He’d like to see if she’s holding back on purpose, and why.

 

“On your mark,” Luther begins. Five rolls his shoulders back, attempting to rid himself of the phantom pains he thought would leave when he came back home. “Ready.” He watches as Klaus holds his hands in front of his chest, the HELLO and GOODBYE texts tilting upwards. Is he summoning ghosts? “Get set.” Diego arms himself with knives, real ones this time. Five wants to advise him against it, but there’s a consuming look about Diego that he doesn’t want to tamper with. “Go!”

Five jumps. He anticipated appearing ahead of Vanya, but to his surprise, Klaus is there. He’s waving at Five with the HELLO hand and Five tries to pull Klaus towards him and bump their heads together, but Klaus trips him.

When did Klaus ever learn to be so cunning?

Ah, right. The Vietnam war.

 

Five can meet those demands. He got himself through the damn after-apocalypse. Five charges at him, watching Klaus mirror the movement. Yes! He fell for it.

Five stops suddenly, watching the realization of the trap dawn on Klaus’ face before he’s gone.

 

He materalizes again to the sound of Klaus falling. This time, Vanya and Allison grapple in front of him. Allison was attempting to reach Diego, but was being held back by Vanya.

She ducks. Vanya shoves. Then she takes the shove and uses it to throw Vanya against Five, sending them both toppling backwards. He takes the moment to grab her and pull her into a headlock. Over Vanya’s hair, he observes Klaus climbing over Luther like he’s a monkey bar, and Allison holding both of Diego’s knives. She moves, challenging him.

“What are you gonna do now?”

Diego barrels at her, reaching for her hands. Allison throws them behind her and lands a fist on Diego’s gut.

Vanya starts to fist at Five’s arms.

He applies pressure lightly- not enough to hurt her, but enough to maintain his advantage.

 

But she’s struggling now, and he’s about to let her go out of concern when the shrieking starts.

Across the room, with Luther’s hands around his throat, Klaus was levitating. Actually levitating- with his toes a few feet off the ground. Five squints. There was a strange formation of shadows streaming from his brother, and they looked like silhouettes.

The screaming grows louder- deafening cries and moans and chants, all bombarding their ears and overrunning their train of thought.

“Klaus, stop,” someone says. Five can’t tell. He could hardly hear a damn thing. Was this the ruckus that sent his brother into an addiction? If so, Five can’t really blame him anymore.

Luther lets go of Klaus, but he doesn’t fall. He hovers, messy curls waving in the breeze that’s begun to whisk around the room.

Vanya. The breeze is Vanya.

 

Five peers around his arms and sees her eyes. They’re menacing white that Five doesn’t have time to react to because he’s being thrown onto the ground. His head collides with something metal and cold.

 

He tries to move, but his body is busy absorbing the shock.

Thanks, slow-processing teenage body. You’ve chosen an optimal time to stop working.

Five scrapes the floor with the butt of his hands and works on keeping his head lifted so he can see what’s going on. His neck howls in the form of white-hot pain.

Vanya was hovering too, fixed on Klaus and the several vaguely humanoid figures spiraling around him. Allison was on the ground, hands clenched around her ears and silent tears falling from her chin. Five could distantly hear her lips forming unfinished rumors.

I heard you calmed down. I heard that Klaus sent the ghosts away. I heard

Diego and Luther stood alert, rigid and looking between their two presumably most fragile siblings.

 

And the screams. They grew more piercing until Five’s ears stopped registering the degree of unbridled agony being projected and bounced off of the four walls. He forces himself to sit, one foot at his side and one wobbly knee with his arms wrapped around it.

 

Vanya was fashioning some sort of tornado off of every object surrounding them. Five wanted to urge her to stop, but the pleas of the spirits and their volume only aided her with more potential power.

 

“Vanya, Vanya, please-” Diego was saying, before a balance beam knocked him into the floor with a stangled shout. Allison wails.

Luther panics when Diego’s eyes flutter shut. With two of them in mid-air, reigning chaos, and the other three rendered ineffective, he was on his own.

 

But what could a strong man do against powers that weren’t brute force?

 

Five gives a grunt, that, truthfully, was a better part fear than frustration, and doesn’t think before jumping. He makes an effort to cut off his spatial navigation while he’s still above the ground, and latches on to a floating weight.

It’s almost mechanical how he’s rotating around their sister. He wonders how the powers would adjust when humans were tossed into the ratio of objects.

No, no. Not the time.

 

Five lunges for Vanya. The second his hand touches her shoulder, everything drops. He frantically reaches for a bundle of yoga mats and clings onto them as he hits the ground.

Luther caught a few of the weights and threw them aside in favor of running to Vanya’s side. She was splayed on the floor, eyes squeezed shut and knees against her chest.

The screaming hadn’t stopped through.

 

Klaus remained in the air, plagued by shadows and ghouls and things Five would have seen under the bed or in the closet as a child.

“Klaus, Klaus.”

 

Ben.

Their other, more dead brother, was jumping and reaching for the Séance’s ankles.

“It’s okay. It’s okay. Please listen to me, I know you can hear me. You need to come back to us.”

 

Klaus crumples. Ben vanishes.

 

Allison runs over to him. She slaps at his face with her palm.

“Wake up, wake up!”

Klaus shoots up abruptly, under eyes bruised with darkness that wasn’t solely eyeliner. He was breathing heavily, raggedly, shallowly- Five didn’t like how little his chest rose and fell.

A theory that he doesn’t want to entertain beings to circulate in his mind.

“Did I do this?” Klaus asks, petrified.

“No,” Five answers. “But you helped Vanya do it.”

He blanches. “Oh god- Vanya!”

 

Five and Allison flank him as he races to Vanya. Luther was keeping an eye on her- looking sick and disturbed at seeing not one, but two of his siblings in a destructive trance at the same time.

Five feels the same. He coaxes his face into its usual neutrality incase it had fallen.

 

Vanya was conscious for sure, but unresponsive. She had her chin tucked between her chest and her knees, and was weeping. Allison reaches out a hand. Vanya, quick as a snake, takes it and holds it tightly enough for Allison to grimace.

Five looks up at her. She nods. Luther turns and stares at Diego.

 

Diego was unconscious. Luther pushes the weight off of him, and takes the limp body into his arms.

“I’m gonna take him to the couch. We’ll discuss this when I’m back.”

 

Luther leaves. Vanya uncurls.

 

Or, comes undone.

She brings herself to sit, but her face is a disarray of tears, wrinkles, sweat, and hair sticking around. Vanya looks at them like a feral animal- eyes roaming wildly between Five, Allison, and Klaus. A hand slaps over her mouth. High-pitched whines manually shatter every heart in the room.

Five cough-sobs around the lump in his throat. Allison echoes her sound and opens her arms. As Vanya crawls in, Klaus breaks into tears.

 

“I did this?”

Allison nods. Vanya shakes her head.

“I’m so sorry, I don’t remember, I hope I didn’t mean it,” Vanya blubbers.

Allison wipes the hair off her face.

“We know you didn’t.”

 

Five chokes. This was his fault. He was the one who was with her when she did this.

Oh my god

“Vanya, it was me. I wanted to see if you were trying not to use your powers, but I didn’t mean for this to happen and-”

Vanya breaks Allison’s hold.

“You ASSHOLE,” She hisses. “You could have made me kill someone !”

 

She advances on Five. He doesn’t move. He’s burning with shame and the tears that have fallen from his eyes. He’ll bet he looks more like a teenager now than he ever has.

“When will you learn that it isn’t your job to access us just like Dad did?”

 

Five moves backwards. “Vanya, I’m sorry. Please calm down.”

 

Luther returns. Vanya recoils with fearful eyes.

“We’re having a family meeting. Now.”

 

Five is the one to shut the door to the room they all reserved for their worst memories. It was unwise of him to assume such a place would encourage new beginnings.

He enters, takes a seat on the floor, fully dedicated to embracing his physical self with a teenage wallowing-in-self-pity episode. Unfortunately, Luther’s leg nudges him. Of course he’s assigned the Hargreeves Crisis Manager.

Before he opens his mouth, he watches Diego’s slow and steady inhales and exhales. Good. He’s okay.

“This was the first training exercise we’ve had altogether in years. I predicted it would go awry, but not to this level. I think the most affected one here, besides Diego, is Vanya. I’m giving her the chance to talk now, like Luther and Klaus did. Vanya?”

 

The girl in the chair looks about as small as a cub. She has been cleaned up by Allison, who insisted on ‘giving her a second,’ which meant about ten minutes for Allison to usher her into the shower, brush her hair, and then wrap her into the softest clothes she could find.

Vanya was under a fuzzy blue blanket, one of his that he’d dug up and left out for her. A silent apology. She takes his initiative and swallows before she speaks.

“Five, I know you think this is your fault. I did too. I think I freaked out- I never got to train or regulate these,” she waves her hands around. “Powers. And when Klaus did that, I couldn’t hear anything and I guess that was my response.”

She shifts, notably uncomfortable with all the attention on her.

“I’m sorry guys,” Klaus says miserably. He was resting next to Diego with a pillow on his lap and his elbows stabbing into it.

On Diego’s other side, Allison was nursing a cup of coffee. Five would have acquired one too- but his taste buds were apparently underdeveloped and tremendously resistant to caffeine.

“There’s no apologizing to do. We let this get out of hand together. We need to keep trying. Vanya, we love you and your powers can’t change that. Klaus, I don’t know what that was you did in there, but you need to harness it. Today went south but we have tonight to work it out and tomorrow to do better, okay?”

No wonder she has a kid. They all nod, feeling as though they’ve gotten a stern talking-through from the mother figure that most kids had. Grace wasn’t programmed to punish them- only to cook and offer comfort while Reginald took over with the worse stuff.

Vanya smiles. It’s weak, a slight turn of her lips at best, but it’s enough.

 

“Do we have dinner?” She asks.

“I’ll order a pizza,” says Klaus, getting up from the couch. He had been on edge, distraught by his own loss of control. It would do good for him to have a distraction.

 

Diego hums, coming into consciousness. His eyes flicker open, and then widen, and then shut again as he sits up.

“So I had this really bad dream,” he says, genuinely hoping the past few hours were a figment of his imagination.

“You okay?” Allison asks softly.

“Fine. I took painkillers before you all got in here. Then I uh, cried.”

Luther’s brows furrow with concern. “Cried?”

Diego shrugs brokenly. “I was scared.”

 

Vanya bats at a tear on her cheek. “I’m so sorry.”

Diego crosses the room on quaking legs and settles next to her. He didn’t have to squeeze in beside her, she’d been taking up as little of the space as possible. Vanya blinks at him with reddened eyes. “Are you okay?”

“Nothing rest won’t fix,” Diego replies. He hesitantly puts an arm around her. Vanya all but collapses into the contact.

 

The pizza comes. They turn on the radio and sit, together in their own isolated symphonies. None of them touch the pizza until well after it’s cold. But then they devour it as it sinks in that they haven’t eaten since breakfast.

Vanya later dismisses herself to go to bed. They all hear distant violin coming from her room. It goes through the night, and only stops when they’re all tucked into their beds, wondering if this was any easier than the first time they all fell apart.

Five stares at the window, reminding himself that he’s seen the world at its worst. Somehow, this manages to make him hurt more.

 

Chapter Text

CH.4 BEN

None of them slept well last night. From their rooms, in numerical order, Five can hear Klaus tossing and turning. He uses it as an anchor- telling the time by Klaus’ sleep-heavy grumbles of c’mon leave me alone, it’s three thirty fucking am. The windows would help too, but he’s in a shut out the outside world type of mood. 

Or, just trouble forgetting how the welcome the world when he’d spent so long running from it.

At this point, Five couldn’t fucking tell.

And from Ben's room, it's radio silence.

After what has to be a few more hours, he gives up on trying to sleep. His head aches and so do his arms and legs, from their training and its sour end.

Five slides off of the bed. He doesn’t bother to move for a solid minute when he’s fallen. At least he’s in his night clothes this time- a blue shirt and matching pants. He leaves his room, standing in the hall and overlooking the living room from the banister.

It’s unmoving and lonesome as it always was. The house didn’t change, and when Five ponders it, the people didn’t change much either. They’re all the same fractured kids from before- only older and filled with the imminent fear of the world they’re living in rather than the father who set them up against it.

How ironic. Trained to protect the world and we can’t even protect each other.

 

Five takes the stairs and finds himself in the training room again. The discomposure of the room is something Reginald probably would have been sick staring at. On the mats, various props for physical exertion are strewn messily about the space. He sees some weights, and a few yoga mats from the one time Grace and Pogo had tried to calm them down after a particularly severe mission.

 

“Okay, everyone go to your mats. Pogo and I have arranged seven of them. That means you too, Vanya dear.” Freshly debriefed from their father, they all drowsily fall onto their respective mats. While Grace continues, Five traces the 5 etched onto his mat by his feet. Tracing lines and following patterns relaxed him- that’s why he enjoyed math so much.

“We know how difficult today was, and we’re sure that you’re all spent.” Grace eyes them all with those adoring doe eyes she never lost. They would almost look real if there was authentic emotion behind them, not clever programming. “Yoga is a perfect activity for tonight. You get to wind down while also making yourselves stronger! I have also cooked a dinner that we can all dig into after we’re done here.” Five shivers. They hadn’t gotten an opportunity to eat breakfast before their mission, nor lunch, so dinner served as a perfect motivation to get through whatever this was going to end up being.

“Everyone, lean forward and touch your toes. Keep your knees straight and breathe with me,” Grace says. Five complies, and he stares at his bruised legs as his chin brushes up against them. The more he leans forward, the harsher the yoga mat digs into his legs. “Inhale.” Five does. “Exhale.”

 

The breathing continues, low enough to lull them all into a half-asleep state.

 

“Now we’re moving on. Child’s pose.”

They follow her explanations and bend into the floor. Five struggles to stay awake. There’s a small buzz left in his limbs, and a slight burn with every breath, but he’s almost laying down, and he knows he could fall asleep right here if he let himself.

He turns his head, giving a futile attempt to rouse himself. It’s Klaus that keeps him awake, by occasionally poking his sides when Five’s eyes start to close.

 

After the sixth time, he shoots up and imprisons Klaus’ wrist between his hands.

“Why are you doing that?”

He smiles goofily. Oh god, he was definitely high. How did Klaus even have time to get drugs between the mission prep, the mission itself, and Reginald’s tedious after-routine?

Lookout duty. Klaus was always the lookout- having no real use for his powers on the battlefield and not the greatest talent for fighting with weapons or bare hands. Of course he’d snuck away while the rest were in the fire.

The mission was a case of arson, and far off from any fire stations, so the Hargreeves set themselves upon containing it and the guilty parties for the time being until a fire truck arrived. Five had been assigned to attack the guys who had set it- a group of four- three men and one woman, alongside Luther. They had been 13. Allison, Diego, and Ben were racing back and forth with extinguishers and water buckets, while Klaus stood at the edge of the road waiting for the firetruck.

“Lookout duty isn’t enough to tire me out. I figured you would knock me out if I bothered you enough,” Klaus says. “So what are you gonna do about it, Five? Hit me?”

No. Hell no. He’s not about to give Klaus what he wants.

 

As a biting reply works itself into words in Five’s brain, Ben looks over.

His timid voice and ash-covered hands urge the two to stop their conversation before it gets serious.

“Please don’t. Let’s just do this and then eat and go to bed,” Ben says tiredly.

Five remembers with harrowing disappointment how they hadn’t gotten to rest that night at all, because Reginald saw it fit to analyze each and every aspect of the mission. He’d picked it apart until even Luther was looking frustrated.

“Number Five, before you charge at someone, you’d better see what they’re going to do first. If you’d done that, you may not have broken a rib. Report to Grace when we’ve finished.”

 

“Five?” Diego and Vanya rouse him from re-living the old memory. They’re behind him, arms around each other and appearing like two unlucky sides of the same coin.

He turns away from the doorway to face them.

“Remember when we all did yoga? After the arson mission?”

“I still have a some of the burn scars,” Diego says. “Why?”

Five gestures to the yoga mats.

 

Diego’s lips form an understanding O and Vanya softens.

“I remember seeing you all come home. You were covered in ashes and dirt and Luther had those burns all over his arms. Ben wouldn’t talk for a week after he lost control when one of the goons tried to kill Five.”

Five remembers that too, when a crowbar crashed against his torso once, twice and then Ben’s tentacles were latching onto the offender.

When did they stop being so cohesive?

 

Probably when he left.

 

They fall into a subdued exchange of old memories and sorrowful movements between the words. About an hour later, they’re on the floor in the training room. Vanya is curled around a volleyball, and Diego is slouching against the balance beam that crushed him earlier. Five stays between them, head on Vanya’s shoulder and ankles on Diego’s protruding leg.

It isn’t long until Klaus joins them. He sags on Vanya’s other side, resting his head in her lap. “Did you know ghosts don’t take kindly to being summoned? Which is surprising since their,” He shifts, wiggling for a moment as if to rid himself of said ghosts. “... whole shtick is being deprived of human attention and the world they miss so much .”

He sees Diego open his mouth- most likely to make way for a remark that would end the early morning peacefulness.

“No- Ben, I didn’t mean you. You’re not deprived of human attention, you have me.”

Ben has likely said something offensive, as Klaus gapes at the area above Diego.

“Oh, you guys wanna see him?” Their brother waits for no reply before Ben is suddenly visible. He was sitting on the balance beam, feet close to Diego’s shoulders. Ben waves and purses his lips.

His studious eyes sweep over them all until they reach Vanya. Ben’s face veers into something tender and he makes his way over to her. Vanya looks at Klaus with caution, and when Klaus switches places with him, she leans into Ben’s side.

“I miss you.”

Ben smiles. “Yeah, I miss you too.”

“Do you see everything?”

“I saw you last night.”

Vanya startles and he gingerly raises a hand. “No no, I think what you did was phenomenal. We all made mistakes at first. Diego and Five are fine and nobody got seriously hurt. You’ll learn from this, Van. We all will.”

Vanya does the most un-Vanya thing she’s ever done- boldly grabs Ben and pulls him into a bone-crushing hug. The two speak in tones none of the others can hear.

After a second, Ben pulls back, looking awkward. He focuses on Vanya and what she says. Klaus sits up, interest peaked.

“Ben wants us to have another one of those talks, so… family meeting?”

“Aww, goodie!” Klaus claps his hands, then as Ben stands, pulls on his hoodie. “Talk shit on me and you’re gone, you hear me? Gone as in only I can see you!”

Five snorts. “What have you done that would surprise us?”

Ben laughs in a debauched sort of manner. “A lot, actually.”

A chagrined gasp, and they’re all rushing to the living room.

 

“Luther and Allison?

“Here,” Luther waves his hands in front of Diego from the staircase. “I heard your footsteps.”

“Glad to know that despite stealth lessons, we’re still loud enough to wake you,” Diego says. Luther sticks his tongue out and trods the rest of the way down the stairs. Allison emerges from the bathroom a moment later, towel wrapped around her hair and headphones snug around her ears.

Klaus roars. “Those are mine!”

Allison puts a hand on her hip. “My pink boa, three pairs of leggings, my fur coat, my gold crop top, my black one, twelve eyeliner pencils and counting, my lipgloss-”

“Point taken.”

 

Ben laughs, arm still slung around Vanya and one on the spine of the couch above Five.

“I know I started this, but it’s six in the morning.” Five tentatively rests his weight- letting his shoulders and neck drop. Ben doesn’t seem to care. Ben’s probably been missing this too- being on the outside for so many years.

Allison nudges Klaus into sharing one of the chairs with her. Luther takes the other one. Diego lays on the back of the couch, head on Ben’s arm.

“This isn’t a sad one, guys. I just miss you.”

Five listens to the coos emit around him and feels like a hot knife is cutting through him. He’s all mushy thanks to the comment that didn’t have to be so heartwarming.

Ben continues. “I spent the last, I dunno, ten or so years watching you all. I could never talk to you and most of you didn’t believe him when he talked about me, so I feel like I have a lot to compensate for.”

“I get the feeling,” Five adds, trying to maintain his stoic demeanor as he says something personal.

A large intake of breath. Ben stands. “Here’s everything I never got to say.”

He first walks up to Luther.

“You were a thick-skulled, close-minded dick when we were kids. But you lead us well. I’m glad you didn’t die that one time Dad turned you into a gorilla, and I’m glad you’re here and that you’re better,” Ben says. “Not to like, offend you or anything. They’ll all agree with me. But you’re cool now- all supportive and listening to us.”

Luther went from wounded to accepting quicker than Five assumed he would. Improvement, Five notes with satisfaction.

Diego was next, staring up at Ben, amused.

“Impulsive asshole. You lead us well too, but just,” Ben scrambles for words. “Calm down a bit! Jeez, sometimes you look uptight enough to burst. It makes me nervous. Also, I think you should go back to the police academy, you have real potential with crime scenes and I bet they’ll be willing to take you if you’d be upfront with them. Klaus and I checked the station the other day and Cha-cha was proven guilty for the murder of Patch. Nothing is stopping you now.”

Diego’s face contorts from annoyance, to surprise, to sadness at the mention of Eudora Patch, but then deadpan. “Um, embarrassment? My colleagues from police academy have arrested me multiple times .”

“You don’t know how much second-hand embarrassment I’ve suffered over the years. Go back, for me,” Ben says. His tone was final in a way that if Diego disagreed, he’d get budged off the couch.

Allison.

Ben kneels by the chair, taking her hands. “Congrats on your daughter, you’d better let us meet her as soon as you get the chance. I’m happy you can talk again, because I want to catch up. Also, recount, Klaus stole four pairs of your leggings. I made him put one of them back.”

“Where have those leggings been?” Allison turns sharply, pointing an accusatory finger at Klaus.

“Uhh, rehab?”

“Oh, okay,” Allison says, squeezing him. “Rehab is good.” She gives him a toothy smile and then points her attention at Ben.

“You. I missed you like crazy. You can’t do that again. I’ll rumor you to do something stupid if you leave again.” Her threats were childish, but their subtext was real. Real agonizing over losing their brother and then finally having him back. Five realizes he inflicted a similar pain from them. He tries to push that thought away- that they had to lose a brother twice.

Ben has skipped directly to him. His kind eyes bore into Five’s, and Five can tell from the way Ben’s face blurs in front of him that he’s trying to avoid the gaze. It was too much, how Ben saw right through him.

“You stubborn little shit.” Five rears in surprise. I deserve that. Well said, Ben. “You were the only other one in this house that studied with me. You know how hard it is to read when the only way to get the pages turnt is to shout at your high-as-a-kite brother? I’ve missed you so much, smartass. Also, no, it hasn’t been said enough. You make a funky thirteen year old.”

“I’m fifty-eight,” Five says through gritted teeth, but he’s smiling. Then Ben ruffles his hair, and he slaps away the hand before it can mess up the bed head he’d tried to soothe down.

And Vanya. She is slumped over the couch, smiling with a simmering enthusiasm in her face. For all of them, it’s good to see Vanya this way after yesterday. The rainbow and radiant sun after the rainstorm.

“Vanya. Klaus and I read your book. First, low-blow. All of it. Second, you’re eloquent. And may I say, you deserved that seat in first-chair more than anyone else. I’m so happy you got it. Your playing is beautiful. I had a feeling there was a power in you, to be honest. You can’t be ordinary if you lived through all of this shit. Get a grasp on your powers, you’re extraordinary and I’m so proud of you.”

For the second time this morning, Vanya pulls him into a hug.

 

They laugh, and Ben surfaces with tears in his eyes.

“I’m always going to be bitter that I died, but being able to talk to you guys makes it so much easier.”

“Klaus, I’m talking to you too.”

 

Klaus gives a teary hmph and grips Ben’s shoulder.

Diego is the next to make a noise. Then Allison. Five smiles and simultaneously, they all explode into cry-laughter. Living was an unbearable bitch but moments like this made every single second of forsaken buildup all worth it.

Five wipes at his eyes and then throws his head back to cackle when Ben yanks the towel from Allison’s hair and throws it at Klaus.

“You don’t know how long I’ve wanted to do that!”

Klaus takes the towel and throws the wet and heavy lump at Five. The latter snickers.

“You have three seconds to run.”

“Okay, toddler,” Diego says. If anything, he lounges into the couch more.

“Did you mean highly-trained assassin?”

“I meant ‘little brother.’”

Together, Five, Ben, and Vanya push him from the couch.

 

Laughter ensues, only laughter. This is how their days should start. Not with the heart-stopping alarms or cruel yells of Reginald. No more end of the world. Fuck that noise, this was a beginning and Five was dead-set on getting it right this time.

Chapter Text

CH.5 DIEGO

Five was brought into consciousness by obnoxious chatter through his wall. He vetoed his automatic instinct to jump into Klaus’ room with a shrill if I hear another word then I’ll throw you out the window, and simply flopped over to the cold side of the pillow.

And just as the world had reduced itself to honeyed static, a few faint knocks sounded from his door, shattering the tranquility Five had begun to relish in. He momentarily neglected the person at the door to wonder when he’d stopped checking his surroundings after waking up, as he’d done when he still possessed the form of an adult man in the dregs of the apocalypse.

They come again, snapping Five out of his leisure.

“Come in.” Five says, running a hand through his hair and dusting the sleep from his eyes.

Of all people, Five didn’t expect Diego.

Not that they weren’t close- he, Diego, and Klaus had sort of been the trio of trouble as kids, but him and Diego never spent time alone together. There were some times when they were assigned partners for something during missions or training, but that was pretty much all.

So with Diego at his door, wearing something that wasn’t his questionable day outfit with all the straps and knives, Five waves a hand. “If you knocked just to stand outside my door, then we can do that later. What do you want?”

He doesn’t mean to sound snarky. Five guesses it was all the years ready with a retort from when Handler was always getting a rise out of him.

Diego laughs. He enters and takes a seat at Five’s desk, twirling a pen between his fingers. “I, uh, I was wondering if I could talk today.”

Five fixes him with a staggered look. “You’re asking me?” He assumed that once Diego was ready, he would call a family meeting- impromptu and without Five’s approval. Much to Five’s surprise, Diego exhales. Shakily.

“The week you came back was great- don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t be more elated that you’re here. But uh-”

“Save it,” Five says. “For the talk.”

Diego beams. “Thank you!”

 

And Five doesn’t know quite how to react. He jumps to the kitchen instead. Diego’s petulant whine makes him laugh, though.

“We were in the middle of something !”

Five decides to give coffee another try- missing the prudence and clarity the caffeine would give him. And damn if it wasn’t addicting.

Vanya was already there, sipping from her own mug- with the Umbrella Academy symbol plastered across the bulk. He could smell the coffee reeking from it. Vanya raises the mug to her lips again. Five swiftly takes it from her hands and takes a sip himself.

“This is my third cup- I haven’t been sleeping well,” she was saying as the acrid taste overwhelmed his thirteen-year old mouth. Five, without further preamble, spits the liquid into the sink. He ignores Vanya’s indigent gasp and jumps to the dining room- even though it was only some feet away.

Diego was sitting there. “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should, you know.”

Five shrugs plainly. He waits for the sound of Vanya refilling her coffee to speak. “I’ll tell you that next time when I hear the sound of knives hitting every surface in the house.”

“Well, at least I’m not rude.

“Wait,” Luther says, walking in, fresh from a morning jog from the looks of it. His hair was slick with sweat and what looked like a slight drizzle outside. He was breathing roughly. “Did Diego just say he wasn’t rude ?” He pulls a chair and poorly masks how he collapses onto it. “Or did I hear that wrong?”

Diego raises a knife from nowhere, and upon realizing that proved Five’s point, lowers it. “You’re funny, monkey-man. Real funny.”

Vanya snickers. She brings the coffee to her mouth again and downs it.

Five recounts the number of cups- that’s four now. “Vanya, that’s enough.”

“Says you, thief.” She puts down the mug anyway.

“I pride myself on my thievery.”

Luther punches him lightly on the bicep. Luther’s definition of lightly, not Five’s. Five cradles the affronted arm, all the while reassuring himself that he doesn’t need to be on guard anymore. It was a hard habit to shake- letting yourself feel safe again.

Five glares without actual heat behind it. Luther hums.

“You shouldn’t be proud of stealing. That’s against the law.”

“Oh,” Five scoffs. “Grow up.”

 

“Baby-man is saying grow up? What’d I miss?” Klaus saunters down the stairs, barefoot and tucked into the thrift-store camouflage jacket he’d purchased for the nostalgia. His leggings were replaced by strange high-waisted grey trousers. Five personally wouldn’t wear the trousers for any given amount of money. But Klaus somehow made the clashing outfit look natural.

“Anyway, Vanya, I need to talk to you.”

Vanya, still new to being acknowledged by the family, raises her hands. “Why me?”

“Because you have common sense, please. It’s urgent. Ben’s yelling at me.”

Klaus had something urgent? Five prided himself on common sense too. “I’m smart and I’m coming.”

His brother shrugs. “Okay. Follow me.”

 

Diego and Luther exchange blank stares as the three walk away.

 

Five watches as Klaus paces the gallery he’d lead them too- Grace’s old makeshift ‘bedroom.’ Vanya offers a frazzled look. They’d never seen their usually unaffected sibling so wound up.

“What’s wrong? Is this really necessary?” Five asks.

Without a word, Klaus flicks his HELLO hand and Ben is standing in front of them, backed by several Monet pieces.

Ben crosses his arms. “I’m not explaining it to you.”

Their angry and defaced sibling throws a hard look at Ben, who theatrically gestures to Five and Vanya.

Klaus plants himself into the floor. “Fine.”

 

A name leaves his mouth. “It’s Dave.”

 

The two reactions he get are opposite- both divergent and out of character.

Vanya squeals, slapping her hands over her mouth as her face moves in a ballet of bewilderment and buoyancy.

Five remains monotonous, only recognizing the name as one Klaus would sometimes shout in his sleep or mutter under his breath. Five thought nothing of it, guessing that maybe it was a persistent ghost.

 

“Five doesn’t know who Dave is,” Ben points out.

Klaus bounces. “Dave, my dear brother, is the love of my life. The man, the legend, the heart of gold to my damsel in distress, the yin to my yang, the-”

Ben cuts him off with a hand. “You get the point. Explain, Klaus.”

 

Five waits expectantly for the situation to come to light. Vanya is practically vibrating next to him. This Dave guy must be something to have gauged such animated reactions from three of his siblings- Allison, too, from the other night. Where was Allison? He hadn’t seen her today.

“Where’s Allison?” He interrupts Klaus’ spiel with the question.

Klaus recovers quickly. “Went to visit her asshole ex-husband to gain custody over Claire.”

“Good for her!” Vanya shouts, still hung up on Klaus’ mention of Dave.

 

“Okay. You listening, Five?”

Five rolls his eyes. Yes.

 

“So Ben here, came up with an idea,” Klaus begins, tramping around the room like he had fire beneath his feet. “Since I’ve been sober for oh… I dunno, a month and a half now, to augment my power, to develop it so I can do something useful. And now that I can, you know, make Ben tangible, we think I can make other ghosts like that too.” He winks at Vanya.

She gasps, energy swelling from her so strongly that Five was beginning to feel hectic. Was Klaus gonna summon Dave?

“I originally- beside the point that the kidnapping forced me to be sober, got sober for Dave. I’ve been sober for Dave.”

One of them must have given him a look, because Klaus stops.

“I love you guys to, it’s just, Dave can do some things that you guys can’t do.” He gives them a nuancing look as he gyrates his hips frivolously.

Five wrinkles his nose and Vanya jokingly covers his eyes.

“We understand. Move on.”

Klaus chortles. “You guys are going to function as my common sense.” He sits on one of the benches, belt clacking noisily against the wood. “Should I summon my dead boyfriend, yes or no?”

Vanya hops, arms on her face. “Yes!”

“I’d like to meet the guy who decided that dating you was a good idea,” Five jibes, sending Klaus a contradicting look that communicated the actual support he felt. “So, yes.”

 

“But-”

Ben waves a hand again. Klaus goes silent.

Damn, what a power. Five would trade.

 

Ben puts his hands in his hoodie pockets. Five wonders how he looks so alive. He sure hadn’t looked this way when he died. Could ghosts tamper and manipulate their appearance in the afterlife? He made a mental note to ask Ben later.

“Klaus is scared to. I don’t know why. He irrationally thinks either Dave won’t show or that he won’t remember him. Or that he’s angry. I’ve heard tons of crap excuses since I gave him the idea,” Ben says.

Vanya shakes her head. “If he’s anything like what you told us, he won’t be any of those things. Did he know?” About your powers.

“No.” Klaus laughs. “I didn’t tell him anything about the future. It was hard enough to withhold the information that his side- our side lost the war.”

“Well, time to surprise him,” Five says.

 

Klaus hums, drops into a criss-cross applesauce, and opens his palms on the tops of his knees.

HELLO. GOODBYE.

Five, Vanya, and Ben observe. Their brother looked so cosmopolitan amongst the aged art in the room. Heavy coal eyes shut and their brother’s stance tightens, pulls taut with the concentration Klaus is dedicating.

 

Ben’s form flickers in and out of existence. Ben lollygags around excitedly. It was pleasant to see their deceased brother look so full of life. One last look is visible to Five and Vanya before Number Six is gone- eyes crinkled and lips upturned in an enormous smile with his jaw slack at his chin- the picture of blatant beatitude for Klaus’ efforts.

 

A deafening minute passes with no stirring from their unresponsive brother and no movement around them. Five prepares to council Klaus after this doesn’t work. Vanya senses his doubt, and elbows him in the ribs. He snarls and is manually turned by Vanya towards Klaus again.

A bluish hue was generating around Klaus and lighting up the room. As soon as they saw it, the color was gone in favor of something else.

 

Against the wall appeared a disoriented and badly bloodied man. His blond and ruffled hair was in shambles around his face, and his sun-kissed skin was smeared with either blood or dirt. Fish bowl blue eyes open and take in the space with an expression of pure turmoil. The man- Dave, hopefully, drags himself up the wall and onto his feet, panicking.

Klaus lets himself slump, unaware that Dave was standing two feet from where he sat.

Five and Vanya refrain from saying a word until Dave’s wide eyes drift down to Klaus.

A full body chill runs through Dave. He subconsciously shakes his head, but he’s shining with emotions so powerful Five can feel them across the room.

One hand near his lips, another outstretched to the séance.

“... Klaus?”

 

Skinny shoulders go stiff. Klaus raises his head- agonizingly slow to Five and Vanya, who are both trembling with anticipation. Klaus is overtook by an inhuman cry when he sees Dave, and automatically stumbles backwards, on the edge of falling- or passing out. Five takes a step to catch him, but Vanya grabs his arm.

They see Dave grab one of Klaus’ hands before the latter can fall.

Klaus sobs.

They hug- bodies pushing so close together so quickly that it echoes. Each of them give their hearts and their arms, and the other retaliates with fervor. Two magnets come together from a large distance.

Dave talks softly into Klaus’ shoulder.

“I can’t believe it’s actually you, ohmygod I missed you so much I couldn’t imagine dying without you- westillneedtogetmarried and I still don’t care that it has to be secret. Klaus you’re here- I love you so much.”

Klaus has said nothing, occupied with holding Dave as if he’s about to die a second time and blubbering into his shoulder.

 

Five and Vanya smile. They leave the two alone.



Everything would have been perfect if only two things were changed.

One, Allison were here.

Two, Diego wasn’t frothing and seething over the couple on the couch.

 

Klaus had dragged Dave to one of their bathrooms after their hour-long reunion. Needless to say, Five thought a whole lot better of Dave when he could actually see him without seeing his insides, too.

The man was currently holding Klaus’ hips, half in his lap, and listening intently to the man tell the story of how they’d planned getting married in delicious secret and sin, as said by Klaus. Dave’s golden hair was curly, and he had a the expected frame for military work- broad shoulders and a towering stature. Five would have been intimidated if not for the profusely kind face and personality he had. No fucking wonder Klaus was rolling head over heels for Dave. The charisma he carried was enough to get Klaus’ family to swoon over him too.

That didn’t stop all of them from giving chaste I’ll kill you if you hurt my brother talks. Five didn’t know what the others did, but he enjoyed his turn. After mentioning his status as highly-trained assassin who can kill you in at least fifty different ways with or without a weapon, he showcased one of the most disheartening grins he could muster.

It seemed to work better than the others, because Dave would warily agree with everything Five had to say after he said it.

“Don’t be scared of my little-brother. He can be a little much, but Five’s just a wittle softie!” Klaus nestles further into Dave’s chest at Five’s growl.

Five resists a scathing response.

“I’m not scared. From how you said they treated you, I’m touched by how quick they were to threaten me if I hurt you.”

Klaus gasps. “You did that?”

They all nod. Even Vanya.

“All of you?”

Dave puts his head in the divot between Klaus’ shoulder and neck. “I’m happy to finally meet you all, by the way. And I’m happy it’s 2019 and me and your brother don’t need to hide anymore.”

“Not that we hid very well during the war either,” Klaus remarks.

The two dissolve into sweet laughter.

 

Five risks a look at Diego, who is not to blame, but seconds away from combusting out of feelings Five can’t comprehend yet.

Diego offers a pleading look. Five looks around- notes the open atmosphere of the room, and nods.

“Diego’s talking today.”

 

Five is greeted with a rush of warmth when all of his siblings plus Dave adjust themselves to listen. Dave and Klaus straightened and gave soft smiles. Vanya, peaceful on the floor with an abundance of pillows, props herself up on her elbows. Luther, standing above where Five sat in the chair next to Diego’s, moves his eyes to their aggravated brother.

“Aside from all the bullcrap we dealt with when we were kids, I wanted to-” He swallows, looking away from Dave and Klaus. “Talk about Eudora Patch. She was the cop who saved Klaus when he got kidnapped.” Dave’s eyes widen comically and they don’t miss the way he holds tighter onto Klaus. “She was my friend. And more, but more importantly, she was my friend. I met her at the police academy. She was the first person to talk to me.”

Diego stares at the silver knife in his hands, avoiding their eyes.

“She was the kindest, most badass woman I’ve ever met. She and I argued non-stop but it was because we were both stubborn. But man, we made a killer team.”

He’s grinning now. Reliving.

“We were the best duo. She’d ask the questions and go all bad cop with her badge and I’d throw knives sometimes, but trust me, she was scarier. We excelled, man.” He’s gathered the courage to look up at them now. “And when I got kicked out, she and I would meet in the mornings for coffee at Griddy’s. She’d tell me everything and we would still solve shit together.”

“When I tried to get back in- she got mad at me because I almost got her kicked out, too. That’s when we stopped talking.”

“She died a few weeks later- like Ben said last night. Cha-cha killed her,” Diego says gruffly.

His reminiscing collapses along with his facade.

 

Diego’s shoulders shake and tears fall from his eyes and dribble to his chin, they fall onto his hands, which he keeps still in his lap as he resumes talking, knife forgotten and stored away in a pocket. “The only friend I ever knew outside of the academy was just- gone. I was in love with her too, a bit. She didn’t deserve to die. She had so much going for her. And I wanted to-” He gestures blankly between his chest and the open air, flicking his hands. “Fix things.”

His voice cracks on “but I never got the chance.”

 

The lament concludes only when Klaus agrees to summon Eudora sometime.

 

Diego grabs at him and Dave helps maneuver Klaus into the hug. It’s clumsy, but they all laugh, more or less. Diego was jaded at the edges, like the rest of them, and he was going to get better. Five had enough faith to say that much.

 

Diego was going to get the same closure as Klaus and Dave had gotten, and Klaus would be getting stronger through it. Allison would return with a daughter they could all meet. Ben would convene with them more and more often. Luther would leave the house more. Vanya would gain control and peace and insight and persevere with her violin career. Five planned this in his head to the tutting of the people around him who he’d grown to respect even in the time he’d been apart from them. He would learn to live normally, too. He even had a surprise up his sleeve, a solved equation and an idea he wanted to try.

Chapter Text

CH.6 ALLISON

They kept Grace’s leftover and mangled parts in one of the storage closets- when she’d died in the fire in the house- a result of locking Vanya up. Five recalls the night after they’d talked her down during the concert.

Five had his arms around Vanya, who was shaking so violently her head was vibrating against his chin. Five and Vanya had always been close, and he’d used that for what it was worth in terms of comforting her after they’d escorted her home.

Around them, Klaus and Allison worked by putting out the fires while Diego was out purchasing wood to fix what had been broken. Luther was burying Pogo and putting Grace’s incinerated parts away.

It was tragic- all of it, but Five found a resting point in holding Vanya together.

Yes, their world had quite literally fallen down around them, but it hadn’t ended.

Five really had stopped the apocalypse.

Vanya’s sobbing didn’t cease until late in the morning. It was about four in the morning when she’d slumped against him, lulled to an unrestful sleep after her overwrought stupor.

When she begins to snore, Five gathered the resolve to look at his siblings.

In the half-destroyed, half-untouched living room, they were all considerably awake. Luther was on the ground, bloodshot eyes staring at nothing. Luther was always the strongest of them all, but this morning he appeared as fragile as a crumpled ball of paper, all ripped in pieces that ordered him to lead while the rest wanted to surrender.

Diego was the only noise in the room, hammering makeshift wooden walls and shivering in the breeze that rocked the remnants of the house and came through the open spaces. Five could hear his teeth chatter whenever he wasn’t constructing the distraction. He also heard choked sobs, but didn’t comment. They all feel more alone with every new wall coming up. He doesn’t stop until the hammer falls. He fell with it. Eventually, Luther would take his place and lift up the crushing mounds of cement and insulation that swallowed the ground.

Allison was leant on one of his arms, head angled to the ceiling. Her cheeks were divided by several incomplete and uneven trails- teartrails. The bandages on her neck reminded all of them just how close she had come to death. How close they all did, basically. Once in a while, she’d open her mouth- probably to tell them something, but nothing would come out. When Five averted his gaze, he saw Allison’s eyes shift to Vanya in his peripheral vision.

Klaus would come close to dozing off, and then he’d jerk up, fighting for breath, before the cycle repeated. He was curled on one of the chairs, pillows surrounding him. Always hiding, yet so openly torn. The only thing that brought him back to resting was to clasp the dog tags from his neck, that only Five knew about, and to survey the bodies in the room. When there was seven- counting himself and Ben, he saw Klaus bury his head in one of the pillows. Five would count down until Klaus popped up again, closer and closer to crying with each do-over.

Five held tighter to Vanya when she begun to lash around in her sleep. Even tighter when she cried out. He only let go again when she sunk into a state that to him, looked almost like a coma. She looked too frigid. He found her pulse whenever his own heart would begin to race at the thought of seeing her dead, too. Five was tired of all the dead bodies.

He didn’t know about Ben. Most likely he was weary and tending the Horrors that he’d saved them all with. Five wanted to see him again. Ben had an aura around him- a succinct optimism that kept them together.

And Vanya? Vanya was lost.

 

When Vanya woke up and Luther and Diego went to work, the rest faced the worst. Five, emptied of value and wondering how the hell it would get better from here, stuck by Vanya as she wondered the same thing. What if he had let the world end? At least he’d be dead and not carrying around the crippling torment of the family he loved. His own, too, in a fucking thirteen-year old’s body that really, really wasn’t built for that kind of strain.

Klaus departed to rid himself of addictions harder to shake than Five’s apocalypse. He shut out the events with thick and threadbare blankets. He shut his eyes and plugged his ears to wade away the screams that stalked him.

Allison clung to the phone like a lifeline, relying on the voices of her siblings to deliver messages about the whereabouts and conditions that her daughter was in. She deleted the messages of her agents, reminding them via notepad that she was done with living the prestigious movie-star predicament.

And until they figured out a plan, they were okay with that. Their sister’s career could get revamped later on, later when they’d moved out of the house they’d never really been able to leave. The house that was thoroughly trampled and a pain in the ass to put back together. The house that paid for itself with a dead man’s money. Until they stopped being the kids that paid their sanity for a dead man’s interest.

 

The closet was musty, but Five saw clearly the entanglements of the wires and how they were all still attached. Grace was made well, as her death hadn’t shut her down. All Five needed to do was screw the parts back together. And now that he had the time, he would.

Diego’s debauched expression at Five’s request was laughable. His eyes bulged out of his head a little as he pictured what was probably Five, in the form of a little boy, handling hammers and screwdrivers and sharp things.

“You sure you don’t want my help, bro? I mean, I-”

“I’ll call you if I need a band-aid, Diego. Don’t worry,” Five bites at him when he’s handed the toolbox. Heavy, no doubt, but easy for him to maneuver down the hall and into the closet. The dim lights certainly weren’t convenient, but he managed to craft a lighting system out of the flashlights in the box.

He sets himself to work, hearing over the whirring of the instruments what was his siblings having breakfast. He was pleased to know they were sitting in a safe home, not a decayed one. No more charred furniture in their future, he’d make sure of that.

Far away, Luther barks as the sound of a knife being hurled shakes the ground under Five. Vanya and Klaus laugh. Allison arrives home and Five can hear her being welcomed into the house.

 

He sees Grace blink, and vigorously awaits a larger gesture. Five dusts off her dress- soothing the creases in a way that was cathartic as Grace comes to.

“Five. Why are we in a closet?” Her voice is saccharine and soothing and he doesn’t realize just how much he missed it until now. God, mom was back.

Five helps her stand, and then brings her into a hug, pressing his face against the soft fabric of her dress. He hasn’t gotten this treatment since he was a kid, he thinks as Grace licks a finger and runs it through his hair.

They both pull back, and Grace is twinkling as usual- oblivious to the past events. He’s okay with that. Five wouldn’t want her to remember her own pseudo-death.

He takes her by the hand and leads her downstairs.

 

The sight that greets him is a marvel. It’s so astoundingly normal that it offsets Five a bit- but it’s delightful all the same.

 

Allison had brought Claire, who was a splitting image of her mother- with the ringleted hair and curious nature that Five remembered Allison having. Allison was watching as Claire peppered Luther with questions about the moon, to which he answered with fibs about aliens and whatnot, but it entertained Claire, so Allison was pleased.

Five creeps quietly down as Claire is holding her mother’s hands, grinning.

“I finally got to meet them! They’re the best Mama,” She’s saying.

Five would feel left out if it wasn’t for the slow turn of astonished faces in his and Grace’s direction. Klaus gawks, looking side to side from Five to Grace and then to Allison. The mother shrugs. Diego mouths a swift what the fuck when Claire isn’t looking. Diego rushed to Grace’s side, crushing her in a tight hug. While they’re embracing, Five looks at Claire, who meets him with bright eyes.

“Hi Claire, wanna meet your grandmother too?”

The little girl turns to him, an endearing and lighthearted sight in the dreary room. “Uncle Five!” She squeaks and bolts up the stairs, wrapping her arms around him. He’s only about a foot taller, he notices as she squeezes him tight enough to the point where he swallows back a puff of air.

Allison mouths thank you to Five over her daughter’s hair clouding his view. He shrugs, brings her closer. Then the inevitable question arrives.

“Why’re you so small?” The whimsical voice is hard to be mad about, so Five doesn’t get angry.

“Because I’m the best uncle,” Five reasons, enunciating for Claire and pointing at Luther, and Klaus. He nods at Diego, as well. “The reason they’re so tall is because they’re filled with stupidity. You don’t want that, do you?”

Diego pinches his arm. Five gives the best shit-eating grin he has.

He may have frightened her a bit, much to Allison’s rue.

 

But Claire laughs, which Five will never disclose, made him well up a little.
“But uncle Klaus made cookies!”

Klaus laughs loudly as Grace, Diego, Claire, and Five make their way down the stairs. “Yeah, uncle Klaus made cookies!” Five, with Claire's eyes averted, flips Klaus off.

 

They all laugh along, charmed by Allison's daughter that Allison tells them she finally won custody of.

"Is she gonna live here?" Luther takes one of Klaus' chocolate chip cookies from the plate.

Allison hums. "For now. She'll be here until I move out, but she's enrolled in a school here already, which she's going to go to tomorrow."

Five takes a cookie for himself, throwing a disdainful look at Klaus. “You made cookies?”

“Yeah, with Dave. We came down after you all went to bed,” Klaus says, and looks to Grace. “I followed your recipe, and I’m glad you’re back.” The two hug. Grace palms his cheek.

“Pardon me, but who is Dave?”

“My boyfriend.” Klaus looks to her, wondering if Reginald bothered to program homophobia into their mother.

Grace just smiles. “I’d love to meet your boyfriend, Klaus. That’s lovely.”

Oh thank god.

The cookies were fucking delectable. Five snacked on them as the family settled into a lunch routine. Grace whipped up sandwiches and appetizers. And with an actual child at the table, they felt like progress had been made.

Claire sips from a juicebox and throws her hands up, asking them all questions- Five and Luther, especially.

The girl tosses an apple slice into her mouth, and through the chewing, asks Five a question. “If you can time travel, can you see the dinosaurs?”

Five doesn’t know if he should correct her or play along, and he definitely doesn’t know what Allison’s hard eyes are telling him to do. Klaus crunches on a chip and then the stretching silence becomes awkward. Five panics.

“Yes.” It sounds more like a question.

 

Diego elbows him. “No good with kids are you?”

“You don’t know that I haven’t seen the dinosaurs,” Five mutters.

His brother smirks, and Five realizes that he’s just made a terrible mistake. Never argue with Diego. Shit.

To Five’s dismay, Diego waves his hands, gathering the attention of all of his siblings, Claire, and Grace sitting at the table. “So Five,” he says rowdily. “What do the dinosaurs look like?”

Two can play at that game.

Five straightens. “Well, they’re very aggressive. The uh, Tyrannosaurus,”

God why couldn’t he have had an average childhood? He could have actually known shit about the dinosaurs besides them being extinct. What the hell did they do? Roar and exist?

“They had really small arms. And the flying ones, they flew really fast. They’re like birds. Actually, birds and dinosaurs are very closely related.”

Claire laughs. Five crosses his arms. Is she laughing with him or at him?

Judging by the unimpressed expressions projected at him, Five guesses at him. He’s okay with that. He’s still the best uncle. He’s the uncle who saw the dinosaurs.

“Anyway,” Luther says. “We’re happy you’re here Claire. Do you want to come with Allison and I to pick out a room to stay in?”

Claire leaps from her seat. She grabs Allison’s hand eagerly. “Can I, mom? Can I?”

Allison stands. “Let’s go!” She’s chipper when she talks to Claire. The same voice Grace uses with them.

 

After they’ve left, Klaus throws his head in his hands and laughs. Vanya throws a cashew at him. They all look confused when he catches it without looking up.

“Five, what other dinosaurs exist besides the T-rex?” Vanya takes the cashew from him and eats it.

“Stegosaurus. Velociraptor.”

“Oh thank god,” says Klaus.

Diego wheezes. “I can’t believe you tried to convince our niece that you saw dinosaurs.”

“I can’t believe you made me!”

Diego shrugs. “It was so easy,” he says in a squeaky voice.

“So, you wanna explain how Mom’s alive?” Diego prompts.

“Rewired her. She was never dead to begin with, just burnt on the edges. I had to fix her parts and charge her, but she’s fine,” Five says.

Vanya sighs. “I’m glad she’s back. Me, Diego, and Klaus are the only people who can make food around here-”

“Hey I-”

“-Don’t talk, Five. Bugs and canned food don’t count.”

Five shrugs. “You wouldn’t survive a day in the apocalypse.”

“I’ll work on not causing it next time, then,” replies Vanya.

Klaus laughs, pure surprise. Ben came into view as well, laughing.

Ben holds out a hand and Vanya high-fives it.

 

Grace walks in and stops at the sight of Ben.

“Ben, may I ask how you’re here?” For a robot, the emotion of maternal worry was sublime.

Ben looks at Klaus meaningfully, who was gripping Vanya’s shoulder and laughing. He looks at Grace with the equilibrium of a soldier come home to his family before Grace prods over to him with her arms out. Ben dives in, getting the motherly hug he’d been deprived of since he died.

Neither let go until Luther returns.

Luther gives them a smile as he sits down to finish the food on his plate.

“Allison and Claire?” Vanya asks.

He nods. “Having a moment.”

 

Luther looks from Grace to Five. “How’d you do that?”

“I have a brain,” Five quips.

Luther shakes his head. “Your appearance keeps changing but you still don’t.”

Allison enters with Claire on her heels, holding a few ratty stuffed animals. Five recalls one of them- a purple horse that used to be Allison’s and a teddy bear that Klaus and Diego fought over as kids.

“Me and Vanya are going to pick out some stuff for Claire.”

Luther raises an eyebrow. “Didn’t you bring anything?”

Allison leans down and covers Claire’s ears. “My ex-husband was a dick and decided that since I got our daughter, I have to get her all new things.” Then she uncovers Claire’s ears, and leads Claire to the front door before any of them have a chance to respond.

Luther and Vanya follow her.

“You’re coming?” Vanya shrugs on a jacket from the coat-rack.

Luther nods. “She needs a father figure since her dad is out of the picture now,” he says.

 

“Hey!” Diego shoots up from the table. Klaus makes an offended noise while Ben crosses his arms haughtily and Five scoffs.

“You have sharp knives on your person at all times, you are a child, you’re dead, and you look like a child,” Luther deadpans.

“Fair point, but you’re not even a man,” Ben says. “You’re Pogo with less fur.”

Luther. “Don’t insult Pogo!”

“I’m older than all of you. I’m the prime father figure for her, duh.”

Klaus gives Five a once-over. “Alright, baby boss, when you’re tall enough to go on a roller coaster with me, we’ll talk about it.”

When all hell is about to break loose, Allison returns.

 

“Claire wants to stay with you, that cool?”

“You trust Claire with them?” Luther looks at Allison, bewildered.

“Well, yeah. Diego went to police academy, Klaus is sober, Five is older than all of us, and Ben’s responsible.”

They give Luther the same look, all of them- ha ha, you’re wrong.

Claire runs in. “Can I stay?”

“Yes you can, honey. Keep an eye on your uncles, they’re kids too.” Allison hugs Claire into her side, looking at the girl adoringly.

It’s so cute that they brush the comment aside.

Klaus inches forward, holding out his hands. “Want me to do your nails?”

Claire smiles. “You can do that?”

“Yeah, look.” Klaus turns his hands over, revealing the black nail polish.

“Do you have other colors?”

“I have a whole collection.”

Claire chirps. “Can you do my nails? Please? Pretty please?”

Klaus nods enthusiastically. He leads her into the living room and sits her down. “I’ll go grab my colors, stay here.”

Claire does.

Diego surges forward, nose to nose with Luther. “I’m going to get mine done too, because that’s what real men do, Luther.”

Luther dimisses the comment when he leaves, Allison following and Vanya too.

Ben had gone, and Klaus and Diego were busy, so…

 

Five hovers in the living room, going through a mental list of what he can do with the time being. That is, until Claire drags him onto the couch.

“What color are you getting?”

Oh okay. He’s doing this now.

Klaus runs down the stairs, changed into a flowy white dress with a contrasting blue apron. In his arms is a large white basket. It’s filled to the brim with polishes. Where did he get the money for those?

Ah. It’s Klaus. He stole them.

Diego eyes Klaus’ getup with a strange look on his face. “Hey, isn’t that the Dorothy costume from the Halloween store?”

“It could be.” Klaus sets down the basket and sits on the table across from Claire, who’s laughing.

She offers her hand, and Klaus takes it and gives her the basket. She plucks out a few different colors- a sparkly magenta and periwinkle. Five watches with amusement as she examines both keenly.

“You getting yours done, too?” Klaus asks him.

Five shrugs.

Diego scoots on Claire’s other side and eyes the basket that’s been put on Five’s lap. “You gonna choose a color or what?”

He sifts through the colors, set on finding something he can hide, until a cobalt blue falls into his hand. Five figures that no, he wouldn’t mind the color. It’s nice. He picks it up and gives the basket to Diego. His fingers circle the grooves in the glass container idly.

Claire holds both colors out to Klaus, who’s setting up the nail-doing equipment on the table. He turns and looks at them.

“I can’t choose which one! They’re both so pretty,” Claire says.

Klaus laughs. “You don’t have to choose. I’ll do both.”

Diego and Five exchange matching glances- they didn’t know how well Klaus got along with kids. Sensitivity seemed to be what made Klaus strong.

Diego picks out a glittery green, and Klaus kicks the basket under the table.

 

From somewhere, he also turns on music and goes to work at painting.

 

An hour passes, filled with more inquiries from Claire and the pungent smell of nail polish that only Klaus seems to not mind. Claire asks what it is.

“Magic,” is Klaus’ answer.

They’re fine with that.

When Klaus grabs Five’s hand, finished with the first-coat of Diego’s and Claire’s, Five flinches. His hand looked so feeble next to Klaus’. It was weird.

Klaus tries again. This time, Five let him.

The blue went on smoothly, and with the music making his brain fuzzy, it was all welcomed from that point on.

 

At intervals, Claire would say random things, but the most captivating was her regard of Klaus. She looked past her colorful fingers and to his dress.

"You look like a princess," She says.

Klaus laughs easily. "Why, thank you. You are a princess."

Claire shakes her head, momentarily startling them all. "Mom tells me I'm a queen, just like her."

Klaus agrees. They all do. The little queen complimented all of their nails and the compliments were taken by both Diego and Five with genuine gratitude.

Five unabashedly imagined them all, sticking to the usual family status quo- celebrating holidays like Halloween and Christmas and working actual jobs where the employees don't ask if they were a part of that umbrella thing .

 

By about six, Allison, Vanya, and Luther returned with the sound of engrossed chatter and the door creaking. They're laden with several bags that Luther wound up holding as Claire left to jump into Allison’s arms and wrap another arm around Vanya.

As Allison, Luther, and Claire fuss over the items in the bag, Vanya approaches them.

“Five let you do his nails?”

Klaus puffs. “I know. I didn’t see this coming either.”

“Hey,” Diego says, scornful. “What about me?”

Vanya doesn’t give a reply, instead pulling an array of objects from her purse. They’re keychains. On all of them, all six, there’s printed umbrellas and respective numbers. They look up at her, and Vanya is breathing stressfully through her nose.

“They still sell these. They sell all of it. There were posters of you guys as kids and umbrellas with your numbers on it.”

Diego takes them in his hands, glaring at the objects as if they could take away their forced childhood fame. “Why’d you buy them? You’re giving the store money.”

“No she’s not,” Five says. “The money comes back to us.” He finds his number and hurls it at the wall, unblinking as the reminder breaks. Claire makes a noise and he has the grace to look contrite.

Shit. How can they do things properly express anger with a child on the premises?  

He smiles at her- big and phony. “Sorry Claire, I thought somebody would catch it.”

She believes him. “Okay Uncle Five!” Then twists back to Allison, who doesn’t look like she’s aware of what Vanya brought home. Luther, on the other hand, was pale.

Diego claps Five on the back, and drops the keychains like they’re burning his hands. “Why did you bring these into our home?”

Vanya looks cautious- face going slack and eyebrows scrunching. “I wanted to show you that it’s not over. To the world, you are all still the same Umbrella Academy troops you were as kids. We need to take these down-”

Allison, smart enough to know when to exit, takes Claire on a walk. Luther, gifted with the ability to read a room, follows. When they’ve left, Diego raises his hackles, knife in hand and impulsive anger in mind.

Before he can do anything, Klaus takes the knife and puts it on the table, softly enough so that it didn’t make a sound. “It’s not about the world, Vanya. It’s about us moving on. We’re done with saving the world because it’s not our job. It never should have been.” His tone is friendly, as it always is, but the underlying venom is unexpected by all parties.

The words are enough to render Five immensely guilty. He’d basically forced them all to help him save the world. But it’s not like he could have done it himself. Maybe if he’d went back further, could he have done it all alone?

Diego, after a deep breath, doesn’t burst back up with another surge of anger. He watches Klaus and nods shakily up at Vanya. “We don’t care. If we get the money, it’s our benefit anyway.” Then he stalks upstairs to be left with his own devices.

Klaus shrugs and runs after him.

 

Five busies himself with putting the leftover nail stuff into the boxes and baskets Klaus had arranged. Vanya takes a seat.

“Are they right?” She asks him with chlorine sourness in her voice.

Five finishes, letting the unsteady silence stretch for a while. Then, he answers.

“It depends. Luther wants to have a purpose, but he didn’t enjoy those missions any more than any of us did, despite being dad’s star. Diego found his purpose, and was kicked out from it because of the Umbrella Academy, so he most definitely wants to forget about it. And Allison’s dealt with it by trying to outrun the childhood fame that nearly outweighs her adult fame. Klaus has always hated it. I have too. Ben died for it. You were neglected because of it, the Academy.”

She sighs. Nods. Then takes the ammo that had fallen onto the floor.

Five stares ahead as he listens to her open the window, throw out the toys, and close it before sitting back next to him.

“How did you know all that?”

“Perks of being from the future.”

“There weren’t that many perks, were there?” Vanya asks precariously.

Five looks at her. “No dinosaurs, that’s for sure.”

But she doesn’t laugh.

“Five, you know you’re gonna have to talk about it sometime?”

What?

 

He has never been so thankful for Klaus racing back down the stairs, Diego tentatively behind him.

“Sorry, Vanya.” Diego says. “I hate remembering all that. It wasn’t you, promise.” It’s sincere, but hurried, Five notices. Diego turns to Klaus, fidgeting before Klaus waves his HELLO hand through the air.

At the top of the stairs is neither Ben nor Dave, but a women who Five doesn’t recognize. Based off of Diego’s sprint and her coy roll of her eyes as she lets him embrace her, he guesses that this is Eudora Patch.

Eudora trudges down, unphased by the fact that she’s in unfamiliar territory. “You tried to kill those guys for me?”

“Yeah,” Diego smiles.

She slaps him- full-on across the face. Diego sputters.

“You idiot! Can’t you keep your knives in your pants for once?”

“Eudora,” he begins, looking surprised when she doesn’t stop him there. “You died.”

“And they didn’t!” She whirls around, finger pointing in the middle of Klaus and Five.

Diego falters for a moment. “They could of saved themselves!”

 

“Aww, you mean that?” Klaus gushes.

Diego gives an irritated stare. “I won’t if you interrupt me.”

Klaus raises his hands in a show of surrender and lazes down next to Vanya.

 

Claire runs through the door. Klaus drops Eudora to Diego’s dismay. Five and Vanya sit up. The three entering all speak at the same time.

“You done with your quarrel?” Luther.

“Oh good, you’re done.” Allison.

And Claire. “Mama says I have to go to bed! Goodnight!”

 

Claire sprawls across Five, Vanya, and Klaus as she attempts to usher them all into a hug. Five’s head clanks with her shoulder as he, along with the other two occupants, hug her tight.

“Goodnight, sweetie,” Vanya says softly.

Klaus stands and droops into a dramatic bow. He takes one of her hands and kisses it noisily. Claire giggles. He ruffles her hair, almost getting his finger caught, but narrowly avoiding it. “Goodnight.”

Five waves. “We’ll see you in the morning.” He’s not entirely heartless.

 

Allison mouths thank you and leads her up the stairs, Luther dragging the bags after them.

Luther comes down first and takes a seat in one of the chairs. “Is everything okay?”

“It’s fine.” Diego dismisses the subject passively.

 

Allison falls into one of the chairs once she’s finished putting Claire to bed, hands on her face and posture tense.

“You okay?” Klaus was worrying his fingernails, her axnious energy spreading to him.

Allison laughs mirthlessly. “I forgot how hard raising a child is.”

“So did our father,” Klaus says, trying to coax out a laugh.

“I think that’s part of it. I don’t know how to raise a kid because we weren’t raised. We were managed, for fuck’s sake.”

Diego murmurs his agreement, prompting the rest of them to nod their heads.

Allison keeps talking.

“The custody-battle was terrible, but it was the easy part. I love her so much, but was Patrick right? Am I going to make a suitable mother after being the infamous number three?”

Ben, of course, materializes. He’s standing next to her. “From what I hear, Patrick is a convoluted asshole who doesn’t know shit about what you had to go through. You do, though, and you’re going to be the best mother, not because you know what to do with a kid, but because you know about a million things not to do.”

Allison wipes at her eyes. “I have no clue what to do. I don’t know how to be a mother.”

 

“I might.” Grace strolls into the room, carriying a tray full of their favorite drinks and dinner. They accept gratefully, digging in and leaving their ears open for Grace’s next words.

Grace puts a motherly hand on Ben’s shoulder, and her other on Allisons. “You will make a wonderful mother, my dear. If you love your girl enough, there is nothing you won’t do for her. Let your love lead you.”

“Damn,” Diego says. “That was beautiful, Mom.”

Grace smiles.

 

Allison nods, a single tear parading down her cheek. “Thank you.”

 

Allison’s edging on another point to make when Claire ambles down the stairs.

 

“What are you doing up?” Luther asks.

 

“I thought I heard crying,” Claire says, gripping tightly to the hem of her yellow pajama shirt.

A teary laugh comes from Allison. “C’mere.”

Claire does, and hugs her mother.

 

Allison sobs into her hand on Claire’s head. The smile on her face assures them that the moment is bittersweet- nothing that she couldn’t overcome.

 

Claire tugs Allison’s hand. “Will you walk me to bed?”

 

“We’ll all walk you,” Five says.

 

 

Chapter Text

CH.7 FIVE

Through Luther’s headlock (ironically enough. Vanya quite enjoyed seeing him attempting to escape Luther’s grip when he’d gotten himself stuck there), Five hears Allison call out. She’s come home from dropping Claire off at school.

They’d started their next day of group-training again in preparation for whatever the Commission was going to send. So far, Five wasn’t doing so well.

They tasked themselves with dueling whoever’s name was picked out of a hat, and Five, to his despair, had gotten Luther. But it also seemed that Luther had gotten Five. So, with an escape forming in his head, Five drops his weight, drawing out a grunt from Luther. He gathers his energy with Vanya kicking Diego in the chest in the background while Klaus sits out, having picked Allison for himself.

Five inhales through his nose, digging his fists underneath Luther’s elbows and skillfully flipping himself out of his brother’s grip. Luther stumbles back, shocked temporarily, but long enough for Five to make the most of the time and blink out of reach.

Klaus hums, interested in the turn of events.

Diego summons a knife and Vanya deftly removes it from his grip without laying a finger on it. Her attentive practice with her telekinesis had been helping. She was completely in control. Diego gets to his feet, tackling her. The two wrestle on the ground while Five, using an unadvised tactic that he’d learned at the Commision, travels so fast that for the time being, he’s invisible to the human eye.

The Handler, in all of her sadistic glory, had upped his training hours and modifications until he proved invincible. This trick was the one that set his opponents off.

However, the bastard of a technique was just as strenuous as it was successful. Usually, he’d be out of work for a few days recovering from the physical strain of moving faster than his body could adjust to.

Was this rash and impulsive? Yes. Was he going to risk it to beat Luther? Of course he was. He’d be fine. And if he wasn’t fine, he’d make damn well sure if he was in case he needed to be.

Luther, stumped and looking around the room, had walked right into the trap. Five appears and lands a punch on his jaw with the force of inhumane speed behind it. Luther croaks and comes crashing to the ground. A concerning amount of rapt joy rushes through Five’s veins. He crouches next to Luther, who was rubbing at the reddening mark across his jaw. The man’s head lolls to the side, angled up at Five.

“What the fuck is your problem?”

 

Five startles at the arsenic in Luther’s voice. He whirs around to see the room frozen. Diego had dropped his knife, and Vanya had rolled over to see the cause of their mightiest sibling being knocked out. Klaus had shot up from his seat, bombshelled by the disturbance. Allison was in the doorway, probably wishing she’d stayed with Claire a little longer.

Luther slaps him, roughly enough to show Five that he’d gone too far. “Why are you acting like this?”

“I wanted to win,” Five says. He doesn’t see why Luther’s acting so sore. Speaking of sore, his limbs are spasming in and out of numbness and severe pain. His stomach chases itself wearily. It was fine, he could stand this. He'd done it before.

Not in the form of a damn teenager.

“Well, you did. Are you happy?” Luther gets to his feet, evidently dizzy as he hobbles until he reaches the benches. Klaus makes room, urgently.

Unease twists itself into knots in Five’s gut. He wanted to be happy. For the first time, he’d bested Luther at physical force. But he wasn’t. Five refuses to reply, digging his heels into the ground.

Luther continues, resolved on going just as far as Five just had. “You’re already the smartest. Stick to that.”

“Being smart won’t stop the concussions you give me,” Five bristles. It was weak, but they all remember the instance he’s talking about.

They were newly eight years old, and as a birthday party, pitted against each other in an ‘every man for himself’ training. They’d always had teams. This was different, but Five accepted the different, knowing he would learn from this. Who relied on their teams the most? Who would lose first? Who would come away the winner? What would the winner do to win?

They formed a hexagon around the room. Reginald and Pogo occupied the sidelines, splitting the center between One and Six’s feet.

Reginald blows the whistle.

 

Three, who was at his right, saunters up to him, a rumor on her lips. Five slaps a hand over her mouth and pushes her aside so he can jump. Five can take down them all. The only threats of his are One and Two. He’s determined to win this. Maybe Reginald will offer a reward?

No. Reginald didn’t do reinforcements. Still, Five wanted to win. And it was so easy. All he had to do was let them fight each other until he was the last man standing. Or, another plan, that was greater part tempting fate and greater part fun. He was a kid, he’d have the rest of his life to spar his siblings, so he chose the latter.

Five is in front of Two now, taking one of the knives from his hands and knocking the hilt against his forehead. Two grumbles a high pitch, then his eyes roll back and he promptly collapses. A tinge of worry erupts under Five’s skin.

As he races to Four and Six, rustling around on the floor, he hurriedly reassures himself that Two is fine. With a carefully-aimed kick between Four’s ribs, he sends the boy giggling and clutching at his sides.

Six hops to his senses, his Horrors writhing under his shirt. Five calculates his options. He doesn’t want to release the Horrors, because that jeopardizes everything. But he does want to eliminate Six.

Five goes for the lowest blow in the book. He juts his knee against Six’s groin and watches with pinched empathy how Six goes to the floor with the air left from his lungs.

“... Sorry,” Five says quickly.

Next up: One.

 

One was lying in wait, just finished with knocking Three in the jaw, rendering her incapable of speech and of doing much more than cradling her chin and glaring fruitlessly.

They meet eyes across what now feels more like the Greek Colosseum , filled with awkward and neurotic combat.

One takes a step forward. Five does too. They close the gaps until Five reaches up to punch One in the nose. But One’s fist has clashed against his skull, and by the exuding throb and blur in Five’s vision, left a mark there.

 

The rest of their siblings follow. Five and Luther continue to bicker as they advance.

Five nearly tunes out Luther entirely, because he really isn’t having it with the annoying attitude of the brother who’d aided in the apocalypse that Five lost everything to stop.

It was immature to blame Luther, but Luther made it so easy to blame him for shit sometimes.

“You didn’t need to do that. You could have just punched me regularly.”

Five waves a hand. “You tell us to try harder, but when you throw a fit when you get hurt. What do you want Luther?”

Allison glares at each of them in turn. “Luther, don’t answer that.”

“No, I want to hear why he can’t take-”

“Five!” Diego crosses his arms. “I don’t know what the hell is with you today but Klaus and Allison still need their turn. You can go join them to blow off a little steam.”

He shakes his head. “I don’t need to blow off steam .”

“If you say so, little rascal,” Klaus says. He leans in to flick Five’s wrist and Five yanks Klaus’ wrist hard enough to center the man’s attention. For a moment, Klaus’ daunted and innocent expression- lips curled and face tight, delays Five’s stinging words, but he says them anyway.

“Is everything a joke to you? I’m not little and I could kill you if I wanted to,” Five says flatly, trying to conceal the unreasonable anger dripping off of his words.

Klaus looks around. Nobody comments. Klaus meets Five’s eyes and yanks his wrist away.

“Ah, right- going through puberty twice. I forgot about that,” The Séance says over his shoulder as he retreats over to Allison, waiting in the center of the room.

Five formulates a come-back but Vanya has already blown the whistle for Klaus and Allison.

Interest peaked, Five watches avidly.

 

Allison stalks around their scrawny brother, eyes tearing him apart. Klaus meets her gaze readily, and holds his arms out with a pristine expression on his face. Somehow it still looks mischievous to all of them. Klaus managed to interlace mischief into his features without even trying.

Allison crosses her arms, put off but not enough to falter. She walks forward nevertheless, and takes Klaus’ wrists in her hands. Five notes the small circle bruises on it and remembers that they’re from his fingers.

Was that a sitch of satisfaction or sorrow?

 

Klaus pulls her in, directly into the figure that has visualized in the middle of them- Ben. Ben gives an apologetic smile before ducking and wrapping his arms around Allison’s torso and taking her to the ground.

 

“No,” Diego scurries up to them. “No, no. Klaus, you have to learn to defend yourself. Ben can’t fight for you.”

Klaus sags like a weed. Then brightens- the sun returned to his reach. He smiles and then Dave is in Ben’s place, crouched above Allison- staring and bemused.

Dave looks up at Klaus and helps Allison up. “Allison, my pleasure to see you again,” Dave says righteously.

“You’re so golden!” Klaus exclaims at the same time Diego shakes his head.

“Dave can’t fight for you either.”

Klaus pulls a demure face, fluttering his eyelashes and suddenly, Dave is gone with Eudora Patch in his place.

Diego tenses, then dwindles. He gently lays a hand on each of her shoulders. Eudora looks up, eyes steady and body still in contrast to Diego, who was arguably effervescent and volatile with Eudora this close and this real.

“You can’t fight for him either,” Diego murmurs.

Eudora traces the scar that simpered at the side of Diego’s temple. She smiles, wordless as she fades away into non existence for a while.

Klaus faces Diego and helps Allison up.

“You want us to really fight, so we will,” Klaus says. He pulls her up and knees her in the gut.

Allison cocks her head, a wicked smile coming to light. She takes his leg and pulls it until Klaus is on the ground, underneath her, with his arms held above his head.

He sighs wistfully. “I’ve been in this position before.”

Allison cringes. She gets to her feet and pulls Klaus up with her. Klaus kicks at her arms until he’s released and when he is, jumps to his feet. He pulls himself onto her shoulders and tries to tip them over. Allison doesn’t budge.

“Klaus, if you thought I was that weak, you must be high again.” She throws him off, but he doesn’t budge either.

Klaus Hargreeves, their wilted little Number Four, was very clearly levitating. He sat on thin air and stared down below his legs, which he’d brought into a criss-cross applesauce position.

“Woah! This is cool! And I’ll have you know that I’ve been sober for about a month now,” he says.

A measured reply streams from their sister.

“I heard a rumor you couldn’t levitate until tomorrow,” Allison says.

 

Diego and Five laugh, then look at each other, frown, and look away. Five languishes. Of course, they’re still mad at me. All I wanted to do was prove myself. I wasn’t flaunting my powers like those jackasses, I was trying to be serious and do what Dad wanted.

What Dad wanted? Fuck, that was messed up.

Five snaps out of himself, shaken at the drilled in thought of still obeying Dad. There wasn’t Dad. They didn’t have that. They had what Klaus referred to as Dictator Reginald. And he was dead now, so they had each other.

Five second guesses. Maybe not even that. He’s blatantly foiled their perceptions of him this morning.

Jesus, I really am going through puberty again. This fucking sucks.

 

Klaus had fallen, still folded and seated, but now he was twitching pathetically, trying to levitate again.

“Allison, you’re really mean. You know that? You’re like the unsexy villain of soap operas.”

Vanya giggles. Allison rolls her eyes and kicks him until he gets up.

Klaus gathers himself and swiftly pistols his arm back, hitting that vulnerable pocket of skin below her ribs and above her hips. Allison recoils and Klaus spins so that they’re parallel, staring each other down. He takes her hands and to their bystander’s puzzlement, urges her into a dancing position. In Klaus’ hold, Allison is bent into some sort of tengo, where he’s dipping her and marching her around like a puppet. He strikes conversation.

“Does Claire like her new school?”

If possible, Allison looks more nonplussed then she already was.

“Yes, she made some friends while I was talking to the school administrator?”

“Fabulous. What time do we need to pick her up?”

“We?”

“Yes, we. I figured we could take her to lunch after. Like hey Claire, your family is finally somewhat getting their shit together, so let’s celebrate. Also, I’ve been craving pasta.”

“Hmm,” Allison muses. “That sounds grea-”

Klaus, ever in his element of surprise, sweeps his ankle under her legs, sending her falling face first as he sidesteps, gleaming at those watching on the bench.

 

Luther starts the round of applause. Diego follows and Vanya joins in. Five remains rigid. Klaus gets victory and wins praise, and Five gets the same and earns indifference? He’d been gone for who knows how many hellacious years and this is the homecoming he’s received with? He burns with scorn, but finds it in the brotherly fraction of himself to partake in the applause.

Klaus and Allison shake hands and canter over to them.

 

“Claire gets off at three, we have a while,” she was saying to Klaus as they sit down. They take a swig of their water bottles and look at their siblings.

“Nice job, guys,” Luther says.

It almost feels pointed directly at Five. But does he say anything? Of course he doesn’t. He’d almost forgotten- he was the leader, but only when the rest of them weren’t smart enough to know what to do.

 

Diego had begun to say something, but his features froze. Five blinks slowly, thinking that maybe he’s just tired. Diego doesn’t move- mouth open and eyes unblinking and hands splayed out from his shoulders, not moving. Nothing.

Five swivels. The rest of them are in a similar dilemma. Luther had his arms crossed over his chest and his eyes fixed on Diego, listening intently. Allison too, side-eyeing Klaus who seemed to be frozen whilst nudging Vanya with a gloat on his face. Vanya had been blinking, but the lasting of her smile signifies she’d been amused by it.

The hush is short-lived and transient.

 

A squadron of masked and armed delinquents from the Commission spill from a briefcase that is sent to the floor once they’ve all filled the room. They semicircle around Five. He takes his time making eyes at all of them individually, then smiles brashly.

Five, despite feeling awfully sluggish from his earlier stunt, gets slowly to his feet. He straightens, pulling at the collar of his shirt and loosening the tie just a bit. Then cracks his knuckles.

By now, the better of the ten or so troops are antsy and scratching the back of their necks- evidently unprepared for an idle thirteen-year old to stare them down.

But Five looks sinister. And he knows it.

 

He pays no mind to the grappling fatigue around him and jumps to ambush them from behind. “Hey assholes,” He says, pulling a dagger (one from Diego’s utility belt, which he’d unwisely left in the open around Five’s kleptomaniac supervision) from his boots. He knocks the blade against the necks of three in a row, before being overwhelmed by another few. He’s taken on armies, but usually he’d had company- other men undercover, awaiting his action. This time he was alone.

And already, Five’s feeling rusty- in the wrong body for this- with its skinny, chicken-bone arms that had no muscle. But he can still be agile.

So he is. Five rolls onto the floor, cutting at their legs and whack-a-moling at their heels. Agonized screams come from above him, none of them knowing how to react. Five knows this wasn’t something covered in training. He’d been through the regimen.

One of the men, the leader, due to the hefty belt around his waist, containing all kinds of tortureful crap, drags Five out from his cover by his heels. The deft fingers press hard to his trachea once he’s out, being held above the man.

He feels himself get swung around like a piece of meat, airway spasming and heart rate accelerating. Five rests in the grip, having lived through both Reginald and the Handler’s brutal training. He can do just fine in this temperament.

Five sends his booted-foot straight into the man’s throat with all the force he can muster, then jumps to the slowly recovering group to inflict minor but seizing injuries to keep them controlled while he takes down the leader.

The man is waiting for him, a sort of gun in his hand that Five hasn’t seen before. He does see that it’s trained on him. So Five reacts expertly, jumping and turning the gun on its holder. The head is blown off, leaving a mess that used to send Five reeling into disgust. Now it just makes for extra clean-up.

Oh, how times have changed.

He inspects the scene- all of them either hunched or down, and the leader dead. The last three were bleeding out on the floor. If Five had any bloodlust, it would have been satiated. To the Handler’s resurging disappointment, blood merely displeases him.

Five slips the handle of the briefcase into his hands- slick with sweat, and sets on cleaning the evidence of a skirmish before sending them all back.

He piles the men, the jostling, lifeless limbs plunging him into coldwater flashbacks. Five holds his breath, shoving down the onslaught of his sibling’s dead bodies.

Then sweeps up the blood with his blazer. Black spots and room-circling bursts of color taunt his vision, but he keeps focused on the blood-bulking blazer in his hands. It soaked up the mess well.

He was finished in a matter of minutes.

 

Five opens the case, closing his eyes as it envelops the Commission's toys and itself, leaving nothing in his hands.

One last jump, and he’s back on the bench with his siblings. Although, maybe his clean-up hadn't been as well executed as he thought. A disquieting silence riveted through the room. Their eyes roam over to Five.

 

“You don’t look so good, Five-O,” Klaus says, hesitant. Distantly, the latter’s GOODBYE hand hovers in front of his face. He doesn’t shove it away.

“Where’s your blazer?” Allison.

Then the voices drop into the same octave- faraway and unimportant.

“There’s… some sort of stain over there.”

“I think it’s blood.”

“Five? Five. Stay with us.”

“Is he blacking out?”

“Go get Mom!”

Running. Something opaque hits the back of his head.

“Five!”

GOODBYE was right.

 

The linoleum lights flicker in and out of his view. Is the power acting out?

It occurs to Five that it’s only because his eyes keep slipping shut. The lights are as fluorescent as ever once he finally manages to seal his eyes open for more than a selective amount of seconds.

He’s in the infirmary. Grace stands at the foot of the bed he’s on. His white button-up is bloodstained. Dismayed faces occupy the chairs around the bed. Beeping serves as the ambience to their cacophonic worry and his own blithe unrest.

Shit. He hadn’t thought of cleaning himself after cleaning the room.

“Can you tell us what happened?” Luther.

“He just woke up.” Vanya.

A tray is placed on his lap. His favorite- peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches. There was also a glass of water. Without a word, Five shifts in order to eat.

Grace rubs his back, which wasn’t the best idea. That ignites a whole new area of hurt, specifically his stomach, and the stifling nausea eating at him.

Vanya thrusts a bucket into his lap, which makes it just in time for him to retch the minimal food that had made it into his mouth into the bucket. He dry-heaves for a moment after. Unpleasant, feverish warmth cascades through him.

This is not how he’d planned to spend his day. He checks the clock. It was only eleven in the morning.

 

“Five?” Allison prompts. Grace removes the bucket and leaves the room, giving him a motherly consoling smile. He swoons back into the pillows.

“What?” His voice is rough. Hardly there, actually.

 

“What the hell was that?” Diego’s never sounded so supple before. He was huddled in a chair next to Klaus’ and face slack. Klaus was pale, which was a statement, since he was usually downright ghastly. Today he looked like a cadaver.

That made two of them, counting Five, from what he saw in his reflection. Reginald had installed mirrors in the rooms, parallel to the beds, so they could, as kids, see themselves at their weakest so they could return to their strongest. Reginald was a potluck of corrupted and tragically flawed logic.

He was unkempt- in clothes that held blood of his enemies and some of his own, indicated by the blood training from his nose and mouth. His eyes were half-open at best- purple underneath. Tiny shivers provoked him, not as tiny as he presumed, as he could see himself jittering in the mirror.

Was it god, for an old person, he looked like a teenager or for a teenager, he sure looked old.

Five really couldn’t tell anymore.

 

But he has to offer an explanation. He does- more willing to than he let them see.

“Time stopped after Klaus won against Allison. Commission sent attackers. Stopped time. Killed them. I’m here now,” Five says. He pretends to ignore how weak his voice sounds.

Allison towers over the bed, looming over them, split between maternal monologuing and sisterly rage. “And you didn’t think to tell us? Five, I know you survived on your own before, but that’s because you have to. You don’t need to survive anymore. Let us in so we can help you. When you try to handle things all by yourself, you end up like this-”

“Actually-”

She stops him with a deadly look, making way for an equally fatal resonance and opposing words. “We love you. We still haven’t gotten to see our brother. And we miss him. You don’t have to be a…” Allion trails off, figuring out what to say.

“Apocalyptic martyr.” Klaus.

“Temple.” Diego.

“Soldier in charge of saving the world.” Vanya.

“Laborer.” Luther.

“Afraid.” Ben. Ben. Ben? Five stifles a cry.

 

Five opens his eyes, unaware they’d closed again. Ben was behind Klaus’ chair. Allison was still looming over him. She looked more angelic this time around- hair tossed back in the rush of the morning’s events and a face of candid attentiveness. She hadn't worn any make-up today. He isn’t sure he’d seen her like that in a while.

“You don’t have to be our vigilant watchman anymore. You can rest.”

 

And that was the bolt that broke Five- sent him into staggering sobs, darting for grabs in Allison’s arms. They wrap around him, as heavenly as a blanket. He pulls back, suddenly ready to stop being the Five that he’d become- ready to live instead of survive for once.

“I haven’t cried since my first day in the apocalypse,” Five says. He’s tense at the admission, but none of them seem to mind.

Through uneven, teary breath, Five actually laughs. Vanya holds up the bucket, caution clear in her face. Five dismisses it. He’s okay. This isn’t sickness. This is health.

“I’m talking now,” he says. Then repeats it again. Firmly.

They nod.

He stutters, not knowing 1) where to begin, or 2) how to begin.

Vanya reaches for his arm. “How do you feel right now?” Gentle, strong Vanya. Number Seven, the most bittersweet, beloved oxymoron. Five couldn’t explain exactly why those words had him in waves of gratefulness, but they did.

“I feel at home. There isn’t a world that’s gonna end right now. The world, the world is alright. We’re alright. We’ve come so far despite the shit we went through, and I have some…” What is with them faltering for words today?

“Trauma.” Klaus. Yeah, Klaus of all people understood. Five was okay with that.

“Trauma to sort out, but I’ve missed you guys.” His voice breaks- cracks, fractures, splinters badly as he’s spurred into an ugly sob. He’s missed them so much. So much.

“I’ve missed you guys for years and I think I still need to come to terms with the fact that I don’t have to worry about the world anymore. I mean, the world needs us, but it needs all of us. Not just me.”

Grace enters, patron of comfort and bringer of food for all of them. Five takes the chocolate muffin graciously, as do the others. He makes sure to squeeze Grace extra tight. He had the time to spare to start taking rather than giving.

Between bites. “I’m sorry I withheld information. I’m sorry about this morning. Luther, I’m sorry.”

Luther laughs, approaching his bedside. He gives Five his glass of water. “It’s okay. I’m sorry for giving you a hard time. In truth, I’m proud of you.”

Allison clears her throat. “We’re all proud of you.”

Five sniffs, already reinventing himself out of the frayed pieces he’d just shared with all of them. No, it didn’t touch on the lifetime of aching solitude or the unpacked trauma he’d accumulated, but it was enough.

He’d have time for more talking later.

Klaus was looking particularly inventive. There was a one-upping gleam in his eye that hinted he knew something Five didn’t. Five was glad that said information was about to come tumbling out of his mouth.

“We’re so proud of you, and that is why Ben-” Klaus gestures to Ben, who was beside Luther, one hand that Five just now noticed, placed on Five’s shoulder. “Came up with the idea-” Five’s gaze rockets back to Ben. Ben winks. “To pitch in, or steal, you’ll never know… for this!”

Klaus brings Delores out from under his chair.

Five fails to retain his composure, and gasps, arms reaching out.

Delores, fresh in silver sequins and blue eyeshadow, is passed down the line. She travels through Klaus, to Diego, to Vanya, to Allison, to Luther, and to Ben. Five places her next to him on the bed, takes one arm and wraps it around her shoulders, then barrels to Ben, hugging him with every lasting bit of might in his left arm.

Ben reposes with the same strength- all shy and hopeful like Ben was. Five missed him too.

He looks at Delores next. She looked stunning.

So did his siblings- rumpled under their conditioned stress and havoc, but they looked more like a family than they ever had before. And they were.

This was the start.

Luther, educated and confident to what he could do with his strength in the coming future.

Diego, pocketing his newest Police Academy application that Eudora had helped him fill out.

Allison, auditioning without rumors and starring on their television during movie nights.

Claire, astoundingly poised and enrolled in dance classes that they took turns accompanying her to.

Klaus, skirting past mania and bad habits to find solace in Dave.

Five, renewed.

Ben, present in their lives, reading and telling stories of his own sometimes.

Vanya, shining onstage weekly and working on a new book.

 

Five had came up with the opening line:

The ties that bind you together make you stronger than you are alone.