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Off Equilibrium

Chapter Text

It was a gamble, sure, but Five knew the risks. Most likely, he’d end up in his younger body. That would be inconvenient but not necessarily a big hindrance for him. Hell, it might make his siblings more inclined to work together to stop the cause of the Apocalypse, whatever that may be, because they’d feel guilty or something about seeing his younger self.

 

Of course, they could also not take anything he said seriously. Or they could kill him! That was totally a possibility.

 

Five listened to the voices on the radio, looked over the shrub. He looked back down at his book.

 

Vanya’s book, originally, but Five was pretty sure that at that point he had written more in it than Vanya had.

 

Five took a deep breath, dropped the gun, and made the portal.




He landed on hard asphalt which was not the fucking plan, but whatever. When he unsteadily stood, he noticed that he was in his younger body. Great.

 

Five’s limbs felt shaky, and weak, like they could snap under any pressure. He was practically swimming in his old suit. The jacket itself was almost long enough to be a dress on him (albeit a short one, but it covered everything it needed to).

 

Five looked around. He was in a big city. Not Toronto, but maybe New York City. It looked weird, though, there were tall skyscrapers and giant billboards that illuminated the dark night sky.

 

It was kind of cold. Not Canada cold, but still.

 

Five still had his book, thankfully, but it was a little bit of a struggle to hold both his book and his pants up. First things first, he needed new clothes. He’d take anything, even his old uniform (maybe especially his old uniform). Then he’d try to find his siblings.

 

How hard could it be? Allison was famous, according to Vanya’s book. He was in a big city, famous people liked big cities.

 

It wasn’t much of a plan.

 

It was barely a plan.

 

It was all he had.

 

Five steeled himself and started looking for a church, or something. Anywhere that would have clothes, somewhere slightly safe where he could cut out the tracker, and somewhere that he could pass out for, oh, hopefully twelve hours.

 

He had never been so exhausted in his life.




The next morning, after getting clothes from a church drive and passing out in the darkened, grimy, steeple, Five went looking for any signs of his siblings.

 

Something felt different in the air, and Five wondered if it was just being in a different city and different time after so long. The pit in his stomach made him think it was more than that.

 

He needed to find out when and where he was. He could do that. He needed a library.

 

The street was busy in the afternoon light, and dirty. Buildings pressed together almost frantically, with thin alleyways between them. It was a maze, he realized, and one he wasn’t used to. Five didn’t like cities. They were a hazard, what with all the people so close together. Too much collateral.

 

Five didn’t really like people, either. People were terrible. His siblings were no exception except he needed them to stop the Apocalypse, that was it.

 

The sky above him burst open with light and noise and Five staggered back. No, not already, how could the Apocalypse have come already?

 

He was frozen, book clutched against the oversized sweatshirt he was wearing. His breathing was getting faster and faster and—

 

“Hey!”

 

A hand on his shoulder.

 

Five whirled around, ready to smack the interrupter with his book, ready to strike them down, kill them, they had to be Commision and so they had to die

 

“Kid, tourist, whatever, you speak English? We gotta get inside, it’s another goddamn attack.”

 

The stranger was a college aged man, tall, light skinned, dark haired, strong build, big hands. His face was annoyed but softened at whatever he saw on Five’s face.

 

He would start with the knees.

 

“What?” Five finally asked, and it came out way more strangled than he would have liked.

 

The man pointed to an already full looking cafe behind them, where some people stood at the windows looking up at the— attack? Most of the people, however, were just going about their business, ignoring the commotion. How could they? How can you just ignore the Apocalypse?

 

“You’re freaking out, c’mon, kid, we need to be inside so the Avengers can deal with this without casualties.” He put a big hand on Five’s shoulder and started guiding him, quickly, to the cafe.

 

Five let himself be pushed. He looked up, to the sky, and saw a woman with long brown hair and a long green dress throwing blasts of earth toned light.

 

The cafe door opened, and a cheerful bell rang out. Five shrugged the man’s hand off his shoulder, but followed behind him, as he went up to the counter and placed his order.

 

The man looked down at Five, almost surprised, but shrugged. “Hey, add a water to that, will you? And a muffin.”

 

Five was confused as to why he was doing what he was doing (both of them), but kept following. When the man got his coffee, he also got a little plastic glass of water and a bagged muffin, both of which he handed to Five.

 

“Thank you,” Five said, cautiously. Was this a kidnapping or something? “What’s going on?” he asked, and looked again to the outside widow. There were more people in the sky, but he couldn’t see enough to tell what they looked like.  

 

“No problem,” The man said, and shrugged. “You’re a tourist?”

 

“Yeah,” Five said. He supposed he was.

 

“And you’ve never heard of the Avengers?” The man asked, and now he was looking suspicious. Five ate some of his muffin, which only made him realize how hungry he was, and, in turn, make him hungrier.

 

“I’m homeschooled,” Five said. “I don’t get out much.”

 

Wasn’t even a lie. Well, it was, but if it was coming from his thirteen year old self, than it wouldn’t be.

 

The man rolled his eyes. “Well, this sure is an introduction to the real world, than. That lady,” he pointed out the window, to the woman in the dress who was cackling loud enough to hear it from inside, “is kind of a regular at this point. You’d think that somehow she’d stay in prison, but nah.”

 

“What’s her name again?” The barista asked. She looked to be in her mid forties, dark skin, short dark hair, big eyes, gauged ears, slim shoulders but muscular arms…

 

Five stopped himself. It wasn’t like he wa going to need to fight her, and if he did , they were in a cafe, for Christ’s sake, that was practically his element. So many sharp things plus the knife he already had. He would win.

 

Her name tag said Lexi. She seemed familiar with the man, Five noticed. Maybe he was a regular, or maybe they were friends.

 

He didn’t know. He hated not knowing.

 

“Earth Day?” The man tried, and laughed when the barista— Lexi— chuckled. “Sorry, my buddy said that and now I can’t remember. Don’t worry,” he added, to both her and Five, “she’s going to shout it real soon, just wait.”

 

Five turned back to the window and could just barely see the form of a flying man— no, two flying men— over a building. One was red and gold, and shining, and the other looked like just a man swinging around a hammer.

 

“Don’t get too close, kid,” The college aged man said suddenly, when Five leaned in slightly. He bristled at being called a kid and thought soothing thoughts about taking out that guy’s kneecaps. “Earth Day up there has this beam or something that f- that gives you wings. Makes you grow them.”

 

“That sounds cool,” Five said. He could have sworn he saw the red and gold man looking straight at him, but then Earth Day (or whoever she was) shouted something indistinguishable through the glass of the window and he turned his attention back to the fight.

 

Lexi winced a little and rolled her shoulders. Five wasn’t sure she even knew she was doing it.

 

“Not quite,” she said, while she made another cup of coffee. No new patrons had come in, and the streets were pretty much bare. “I got hit with it and it sucked . People aren’t meant to have wings, it makes you off balance and pulls at your back, and then it hurts to have to give them up because wings, duh. I got ravens wings,” Lexi added, a little wistfully.

 

“Oh,” Five said. This Earth Day woman sounded kind of like some of the Umbrella Academy’s bad guys. “How’d it go away?”

 

“I went to the Avengers tower, they fixed me right up,” she shrugged and took a sip of the cappuccino she had made. “Wasn’t the only one hit, they got some other people from near here. Some lawyer, he was cool, and Spidey.”

 

“No way,” The man said. Five wished he could call him something other than ‘the man’ or ‘soon (but now less soon) to not have kneecaps’. “I didn’t know that! Did you see his face?”

 

“‘Course not, they kept him away from the rest of us.”

 

“Who’s Spidey?” Five asked. This was all way too confusing. The fight in the air above and the way these guys were talking made it sound like superheroes doing super things was just a regular occurrence. For something like that to happen, he figured they’d have to have been doing their thing for a while, but Five had never heard anything about it. Nothing from the Commission, nothing from Vanya’s book.

 

“Spider-Man,” Lexi said, and smiled. “Real hometown hero, he keeps Queens safe. The news calls him a vigilante, but he’s not violent like the others.”

 

“Others?” Five asked. How many super people could be running around one city.

 

His confusion must have shown on his face, because the man laughed, and said, “Okay, that’s fair, they don’t get the coverage that the Avengers do. All you have to know is that there’s a bunch of super powered people running around the city, and some of them are working to make it a better place.”

 

Before he could ask any other questions, there was an explosion from above. Louder than before. The large glass window shattered and sprayed shards across the floor.

 

There were a few screams, but Five was more surprised by the fact that most of the people sitting near the window just groaned and stood, shaking themselves off.

 

Lexi rolled her eyes before cupping her hands around her mouth. “Everyone follow me to the back! Get away from the glass and follow me!”

 

Five trailed behind her and the man who he still didn’t know the name of (but now figured it was too late to ask) and the rest of the customers and other people who had taken refuge off the street to the kitchen area. They all sat on the floor, and Five looked around. One door. Knife jar. Bagel blades. Heavy fridge.

 

When other patrons got a little too close, he just repeated the list to himself and clutched Vanya’s book.

 

The man, who seemed to have decided that he needed to watch over Five, sat next to him, and with an exaggerated scoff, he said, “So, tourist child, this pretty much happens on the regular. Inconvenient, I know. If this is going to take forever, than you should know that my name’s Bran. Do you need to use my phone to call your parents, or something..?”

 

Shit. Bran (was that even a name?) was now being kind , or whatever, behaving exactly the way that Allison or Ben or Klaus would have behaved in this situation. Now that was great. He ignored the sticking, sinking, feeling in his stomach, and tried to think of what to say.

 

Bran was waiting for a name and an answer, and now Lexi was looking at him too.

 

“Ben,” He said, because it was on the tip of his tongue. “My names Ben. And, uh, sure, I’ll try calling.”

 

Bran handed over his phone, opened to a digital keypad, and Five stared at it for a moment before typing in the number of the home phone back at the mansion. He didn’t know why he knew it. He didn’t know why he remembered.

 

Five held the phone up to his ear and waited with almost bated breath.

 

After a pause, the phone cheerfully informed Five that it wasn’t a real number.

 

He put the phone down and locked it accidentally. Floating in white above a picture of Bran, a girl, and a dog, was the date and time.

 

Wednesday, September 6, 2019.

 

No.

 

That was impossible.

 

That was—

 

His siblings couldn’t have stopped the Apocalypse without him, they were too separated, too fighty, too flighty.

 

Something was wrong. Something was deeply wrong.

 

“Ben?” Bran asked, a little hesitantly. “You okay?”

 

“Fine,” Five said, a little faintly. “The line was busy, that’s all.”

 

“Wanna try again?”

 

“No, I’ll just,” he pressed his book— Vanya’s book— tighter against his chest with his knees and handed Bran his phone back. Five cradled his muffin. “I’ll just eat this. And wait.”

 

“Alright, kid.”

 

God fucking damn it.

 

He needed a new plan.

 

 

“Alright, everyone,” Lexi called out after around an hour of waiting in the crowded back room. People were on their phones, or their laptops, or reading books, but all Five could do was sit and think. “We’ve been given the go ahead to go back out!”

 

A halfhearted cheer rose up.

 

Five needed to get tracker out, that was a priority even if he didn’t know what was going on.

 

He needed to find out what was really going on. That was going to be hard.

 

He needed to pass out for another twelve hours. Five needed to find a new safe place. He didn’t think he should go back to the church, in case somehow how the Commission found him there and killed some of the church goers or good doers or whatever the people who gave him clothes called themselves.

 

He also didn’t think he could come back to Lexi’s cafe. That was a disappointment. She made (or bought, Five supposed) really good muffins.

 

Lexi, who had sat herself by the door, stood and opened it. She was the first one out, and Five saw her scanning the cafe for damage. There was nothing much besides the broken window, except that one of the tables and everything on it had either been covered by, or had turned into, a pile of dirt.

 

“Damn it,” she swore softly. She wrapped her hand in her apron and poked at the pile, revealing that yeah, it was dirt through and through. “What’re they calling that clown again?”

 

A girl (Asian, short hair, durable looking purse, medium build—) looked at her phone and scoffed, before announcing, “Gaia. News says Avengers took her into custody; and that there are no casualties or transmogrifications this time,” a sarcastic cheer went up from the other patrons, “also says to call their number for compensation if necessary.”

 

“Thank god,” Lexi said. She went back behind the counter and pulled a bottle of lemonade from the fridge.  Wiping at her brow and taking a sip, she turned to where Bran and Five were standing, and said, “last time that window broke someone tried to sell me bulletproof magic proof glass, and I said no. Now look at this mess!”

 

Wind had pushed the dirt around, covering everything in a thin layer of grime. Five watched people pick up bags or coats that they had left behind, and wipe them on their shirts or with napkins from the tables. How often did something like this even happen?

 

“Magic proof’s a scam,” Bran said wisely. He went behind the counter to grab a broom, but Lexi shook her head and stopped him.

 

“Need to take pictures of the damage first, so no cleaning yet. If I’m lucky they’ll do that for me!” She laughed. “God, I’m glad I left SHIELD when I did, but those years gave me a mind for this.”

 

“You were in SHIELD?” Another patron asked (male, light hair, tan skin, weak build, tall—) “I didn’t know that. When did you leave?”

 

“A year or so before the collapse,” Lexi said, and everyone nodded wisely like that made sense to them.

 

God damn it. This was supposedly commonly known information. Five needed to find a library.

 

“Do you think I can interview you later?” The man asked, looking hopeful. “I’m in a journalism class and, if it’s not too much of a bother to you, I think it’d really help…” he trailed off.

 

Lexi shrugged magnanimously. “I’m not sure how many of your questions I could answer, legally, but we’ll see. Come back in a couple days when everything’s cleaned up and it’s not busy and I can see what I can do.”

 

Was SHIELD some form of secret government agency? Was it like the Commission? Was it the Commision? Did Five have to kill Lexi now?

 

He kind of liked her, he didn’t want to have to kill her.

 

“Everyone!” Lexi announced to the lingering patrons. “I’m closed now, see y’all in a couple days! I’ll post when we’re open again,” she added, looking pointedly at the group of teenagers (three girls, one white two black, short hair medium hair long hair bangs and braids and an afro— stop ) who were taking a selfie by the dirt pile.

 

Bran turned to Five as Lexi shooed them out. “Want to try calling your parents again? Lexi may seem mean,” she didn’t? “but she’ll let you stay a little longer if you need them to come and pick you up.”

 

“I’m good,” Five said. “I think I’ll just… walk back to our hotel, now, they’re probably worried about me.”

 

Bran pursed his lips. He looked down at his phone, checking something, before looking back at Five. Five saw the moment that Bran decided to wash his hands of the whole situation.

 

“Alright, Ben,” Bran said. It stung a little, hearing his dead siblings name (too late to save) but only a bit, so he was fine, really. “Be safe out here.”

 

“Alright,” Five said neutrally, and walked away.

Chapter Text

In the bathroom of the first public library he found Five took the only weapon he had with him (a knife from his suit) and cut out the tracker.

 

It was sort of a mistake, but he only realized it was when he had to stand there, pressing cheap toilet paper against his gushing, gaping, wound.

 

Huh, he thought. He was in a stall, leaning against the closed door, and he realized that he fucked up.

 

Still, the tracker was out. Five flushed it, along with the toilet paper that he had already bleed through. The cut was too big to pretend that he just happened to fall against something. No, he needed to be more convincing.

 

Crime would do it.

 

Five jumped out of the library to the alleyway immediately next to it. It was a little dark, but not enough. He needed somewhere grimier, somewhere that someone could totally, believably, be stabbed in. Mugged in, he guessed.

 

The sun was setting, even though Five assumedit could only be around six or so. September did that he supposed.

 

As he walked, looked for a suitable place for a supposed terrible crime to happen, he pressed his giant wad of toilet paper against the gash in his arm with the same hand holding Vanya’s book tight against his side. Not great for speed, and he was pretty sure that if anyone saw him then he’d have to hide.

 

Or maybe not, maybe that would help.

 

Five was peering down another dark alley when he heard a really fucking weird noise. Almost a thwip, maybe, and it was coming in from above.

 

Five looked up just in time to see something red and blue soaring in. The thing, whatever or whoever it was, was traveling by some kind of sticky, white, strings.

 

It landed a couple yards above from where Five was standing, and he saw that it was a man (short, slim shoulders, skinny waist, muscular) wearing a red and blue suit. The suit was patterned with black webbing over the torso, centered over a little, chunky, spider.

 

Spider-Man, then. All he knew about Spider-Man was what Lexi and Bran said about him. They said he was a hero, they said he was a vigilante, they said that at one point he had wings.

 

That wasn’t much. Shit.

 

“Hey there!” Spider-Man called. His voice was higher than Five would have expected. He spoke clearly, and sounded cheerful. “You okay?” He gestured to Five’s cut, where the blood was now soaking through the toilet paper.

 

Well, it wasn’t like Five could just say, oh, I’m fine, this is fine. He also couldn’t just say, hey, I’ve got no idea where the fuck I am, but no, you can’t just walk me home or anything.

 

“What does it look like?” Five snapped, which wasn’t what he really meant to say, but that was fine everything was fine he could work with that.

 

Spider-Man raised his hands defensively. “Alright, okay, hey,” he looked around a little, tilting his head just slightly, before he said, “do you want me to take you somewhere to fix that?”

 

“I…” Yes, that was the point, but if Spider-Man decided to hang around than it wasn’t like Five could just teleport out. That had kind of been his plan. Like dining and dashing, except with medical attention. “I don’t have health insurance.”

 

“I can take you to Stark Tower if you want,” Spider-Man said. “There’s doctors there that could help you for free. And you’ll get to see Stark Tower!”

 

The way he said it made Five pause, because he felt like something was off. But he didn’t have any options, and besides, if everyone wanted to see Stark Tower from the way that Spider-Man mentioned it, than it’d be suspicious to turn him down, right?

 

And it wasn’t like anything could stop him from teleporting out other than his own exhaustion, hunger, and blood loss!

 

“Alright,” Five said, after he thought it over.

 

“Great!” Spider-Man said. “I can web your cut if you want, to stop the bleeding.”

 

“Sure,” He said, and held out his arm.

 

The ‘web’ was what Spider-Man had dropped in with. It was white, and smelled sharply of chemicals, but it was cool when it sealed over the wad of paper on Five’s arm and it held everything in place, so he figured it was alright.

 

“I’m gonna have to carry you, alright?”

 

Five winced a little but nodded. Spider-Man carefully wrapped an arm around his waist with the air of someone who knew what they were doing, which was nice, because Five didn’t want to get dropped.

 

Unless that was the plan?

 

No, he took the tracker out, the Commission couldn’t have found him that easily.

 

Unless Spider-Man was— no, Lexi and Bran talked like they knew him, and that he was good. He wouldn’t be Commision. They weren’t capable of goodness.

 

“Alright,” Spider-Man said cheerfully, “were going up!”

 

Five had been up high before but this was nothing like that. They were soaring, flying, with only a thin string keeping them in the air. It was exhilarating and a little bit terrifying, and Five watched as the ground rose to him and fell away, as buildings got closer and further.

 

Some people looked up, saw Spider-Man, and waved. Others scoffed. Others didn’t even care, or maybe they just didn’t notice.

 

As they flew, Five noticed that they were getting closer to a tall building that looked futuristic, for lack of a better word. It was all glass and sleek steel.

 

Spider-Man sent out one final shoot of webbing before he landed on a flat area jutting out from near the top of the building.

 

He set Five down gently, and asked, “You doing okay?”

 

If anything, his legs felt more unsteady than before. “Perfect.”

 

Spider-Man looked to the door they were standing near, and hesitated for a second, before nodding seemingly to himself. “Mr. Stark’s going to meet us inside, okay?”

 

Five didn’t like something in Spider-Man’s voice, but he nodded and followed Spider-Man. He still had his book and he still had his knife, and that was all that mattered.

 

The doors to the Tower slide open, and they were greeted by a man (short for an adult, but taller than Five and Spider-Man (huh), white, dark hair, goatee—) with his arms spread in welcome.

 

“There you are!” Stark said. He smiled, and waved for the two of them to come in.

 

Five watched him cautiously, and trailed behind Spider-Man. As soon as he entered, he saw something that made him pause and draw his knife.

 

“The fuck is that?” He snapped, pointing towards a far wall in the lab that they had entered into.

 

It was covered with writing. His writing, clearly, starting from around the ground and then spreading to far further above, he must have had a ladder, but still clearly his work, his numbers .

 

Spider-Man pulled off his mask, revealing a white teen boy with messy brown hair. He looked guilty. He threw the mask onto a table nearby.

 

“Five,” He said, and hold the fucking phone.

 

Five turned the knife towards him. “Explain, or I’m going to gut you.”

 

“You’ve been here before,” Stark said. He didn’t look particularly bothered by the fact that Five was sort of holding someone ransom nearby.

 

That was fair. He wasn’t very close, but if they knew anything about him then he should have been a hell of a lot more concerned.

 

“I think I would remember that, wouldn’t I?”

 

“Yeah, you would think so,” Stark stepped closer. He put a hand on Spider-Man’s shoulder and pulled him slightly back as if it mattered. Four feet, eight, twenty, a mile, none of it mattered when Five could teleport and kill them all as easy as breathing.

 

His hand was trembling. He focused on Stark. “Explain.”

 

“Ever since, oh, 2012, you’ve been showing up here. Seven times, but I guess eight, now, sometimes with your siblings and sometimes not. And you never remember. You never remember.”

 

“What?” Five asked, nearly gasped. “No, that’s impossible.”

 

Stark shrugged. “And yet,” he gestured yo the air, and a video was projected onto a white wall.

 

In it, he was appearing in a giant cloud of sparking blue energy with his siblings, except they were children, and that wasn’t right, how could they be children?

 

Unless the distortion that had clearly got him took them too. That’d make sense.

 

Another clip, a different room, and he appeared again, holding tight onto his siblings hands.

 

Another clip. They were in some kind of living room. Diego and Luther were pacing, and Ben was looking contemplatively at his arms. Allison had Vanya’s sleeping head in her lap, and she was frowning. Five was on the ground next to her, passed out.

 

Another clip. Them appearing, again, hands held tightly, except they were in some kind of traffic intersection. Cars and busses slammed their brakes around them. Before Five could pull his siblings anywhere, a man in a metal suit appeared, arms spread. Stark.

 

Another clip, and another, and another. Sometimes he was alone, sometime with his siblings. In one, Five was attacking a large green monster, jumping up above its head and coming down, knife out. In another, he was watching an animated movie with his siblings. In another, Diego, Luther, and Allison stood over the passed out bodies of the rest of the them, stumbling slightly but in fighting positions.

 

There Five was, sitting with the boy, Spider-Man, both talking animatedly over a piece of paper that Five picked up and waved for emphasis. In another Five was attacking him. The image on that clip was darker, but something red came running in from a corner and started swinging at Five.

 

“Think you’ve seen enough to trust us?” Stark asked, but he looked to Five kindly.

 

“I think all I’ve seen is me beating your asses,” Five said mildly. He was shaking.

 

How could his numbers, his math, be so off every time? How could he be so wrong every time? How?

 

In response to his comment, the video changed to show Five and his siblings sitting around a long table, sharing a meal with Tony and some others. They were laughing, despite everything.

 

Five stared.

 

“I know that it’s weird,” Stark said. “Really, really, weird. But please. Trust us to help you try. We want you to succeed and save your family just as much as you do.”

 

They didn’t, they couldn’t, it was impossible—

 

Five bit his lip and looked down at Vanya’s book reflexively. He looked back to Spider-Man’s pleading face, to Stark, who looked both carefully neutral and extremely emphatic at the same time.  

 

He looked to the math, his math, scrawled on the wall, and to the frozen frame of the video, where Klaus was animatedly telling a story.

 

Five put his knife back into his pocket.

 

“Okay,” He said. “Okay.”

 

They could try. They could help him try.

 

What was the harm in that?

Chapter Text

Spider-Man, who’s real name was Peter , had convinced Tony (Stark to Five, Mr. Stark to Peter, and Tony to everyone else, but everyone else only seemed to be two or three people) to let him (Peter) take him (Five) for a walk. Peter had a sandwich shop all the way in Queens that he swore by, said they made the best food, and Five wanted to stretch his legs and see the dimension that he was stuck in.

 

At least for the moment. He was near a breakthrough, he felt it deep in his bones, and after that he’d be able to go home and save his family. He hoped it’d finally stick.

 

Five watched Peter carefully as they walked. Peter spoke animatedly of school and life and Spider-Man, but never outright, because he had a secret identity.  

 

Secret identities were important in this universe, it seemed. That was different. Nobody back home cared that they were ten when they were getting shot at, why would they care about an enhanced fifteen years old?

 

It was weird being young again when his body was so old. His body ached with old wounds that he didn’t even have, and Peter’s ached with ones that he did.

 

They walked through the city that Peter loved, old and new, born again and again, and Five held off his scathing remarks. It was just a city and yet there was so much emphasis on it. So many people held onto the city so tightly, even when crime was high and catastrophes were regular occurrences.

 

See, Five knew how to be mean. How to be cruel and sound so matter of fact that everyone would just take what he said. His tricks worked just as well as Allison’s at carving people out. But Five held off, said nothing, and watched Peter in his city.

 

The city made him. The city formed his bones, killed his family, pumped his blood full of chemicals and made him bleed it all over the city in defense of its own safety. The city demanded offerings and Peter obliged without question, fighting for it when no one but the city asked him too. The city bore him, and maybe it loved him based on all of the videos that Five had seen of him fighting. All the things Peter got away from with minimal harm. And despite everything, Peter loved the city back.

 

Strange.

 

See, Five wouldn’t. Five felt no connection to his hometown. The mansion was cold and unyielding and it would have killed them all eventually. The only physical place Five liked back in his dimension when he was young was the donut shop. He had fond memories of sneaking out with his siblings into the warm yellow light, being served by a nice waitress.

 

But beyond that? Nothing.

 

“So,” Peter said, looking to him eagerly over the table they sat at. They held identical sandwiches, the one Peter swore by, both “smushed flat”.

 

Peter was younger than him and older than him and had bleed so much, and Five wondered if his home dimension was really that much better than the one he was stuck in. This one had the same kind of fights. No Commision, but there was something making Peter twitchy. He had said that he felt something coming, something big and more Apocalyptic than anything they had had before.

 

“What do you think?”

 

“It’s good,” Five said. He put some begrudgment into his tone.

 

Peter laughed, and beamed, and Five had his fucking breakthrough.

 

Of course all their numbers were wrong. Of all seven or however many times he tried before, Five suddenly knew where he went wrong.

 

He had either done the math all of his home dimension’s, or all of Stark’s. Sure, he wrote all of them, but each equation he used was either rigidly his own or twisted messily into something it wasn’t.

 

There are no perfect translations. If you translate something word for word then it’s just words, the meaning isn’t there anymore. The meaning wasn’t conveyed.

 

Five wasn’t conveying his meaning, just the words, and without the essence of it everything was useless.

 

He grinned, suddenly, reflexively, and fumbled through his pockets for a pen and his book. He knew what he had to do.



When Five looked up from his work he saw Peter watching him, having finished his own sandwich and moved on to Five’s.

 

“Sorry,” He said, a little bashfully. “Hungry. You were busy,” he adds, grinning a little.

 

Five shrugged. “What I had was pretty good. Had an idea, though, check it out.”

 

Peter leaned forward to look at Five’s work. Five isn’t sure how much Peter understands of it. To be fair, he does go to a tech school and he does make his own web, but still. It’s complicated, layered, math. It’s a confusing translation and combination but to Five it looks like music. Five slid the papers across the tiled table to let Peter really look at it.

 

“Like it?”

 

Peter picked up one of the papers. One of his eyebrows raised slightly as he read through it.

 

“...have I done it before?”

 

Five really hoped he hadn’t. He really, really , hoped he hadn’t. He didn’t know how many more groundbreaking breakthroughs he had in him.

 

After all, it took fifty odd years before he could travel back in time in his own timeline. Hop dimensions? Please.

 

Peter looked back up to Five, caught his eye, and grinned. “You haven’t, don’t worry. We need to get this to Mr. Stark right now—” he stood, and his excitement carried Five to stand too. Peter pushed the papers back to Five, grabbed the trash off the table, and tossed it into the trash can on autopilot. He dragged Five outside, back into the cold sunlight, still grinning, and the sky burst into color above them.

 

Peter paused. Dropped Five’s hand. Looked up.

 

“Godamn it!”

 

Five followed his gaze, and saw Gaia. She was still a little ways out. Peter looked to Five apologetically.

 

“I really can’t let her do this,” he said, swinging his bag off his shoulder automatically before stopping and swearing again. He put a hand to his forehead and groaned. “I don’t have the suit with me.”

 

Almost in unison, they looked back to Gaia. She was cackling, and shooting lime green beams of light in random directions. This time she was wearing gleaming brown pants and a forest green top.

 

“Sometime she’ll bring water and we’ll be fucked,” Peter said, almost conversationally.

 

“How regular is this?”

 

Peter tipped his head a little to gesture ‘so-so’, his eyes still fixed firmly on Gaia. Unwavering, unrelenting.

 

“She popped up a couple months ago and they haven’t managed to keep her locked away just yet. Of course, some people want to just kill her and be done with it, but that can’t happen either, so we’re at least a little bit fucked either way. Gaia’s not so much with the casualties, either. She breaks into banks and museums and steals money and bones and shit, and sometimes she gives people animal parts, but other than that…” he trailed off, swore softly. “Can’t just let her stay here, though.”

 

Five looked to Gaia, then back to Peter. They needed to get his notes back to Stark so they could work on sending him home, but Five didn’t quite know the way back and he didn’t want to leave Peter standing there like an idiot either. He sighed.

 

“I’ll take care of it.”

 

Peter turned to Five, startled, then suspicious. “How?”

 

“I’ll just teleport up there,” Five pointed to where Gaia was floating, “and force her to land there,” he pointed to where a crowd of police vehicles were already assembled. “Easy.”

 

Peter tilted his head around a little more before nodding and wordlessly holding out his hand for Five’s notes. Five handed them over, looked to Gaia, and made the jump.

 

It was a little disconcerting, being up so high so suddenly, but it really wasn’t anything he wasn’t used too. The really weird bit was the landing.

 

Gaia’s shoulders were broad and strong, but she wasn’t expecting to have a ten year old land on them. She yelped when Five’s weight settled, and craned her neck.

 

“The fuck?” She said, trying to wiggle him off before stopping. Apparently, she didn’t want to kill him. Interesting.

 

“Oh,” she said, as Five pressed down on her shoulders, “have you heard of me, little boy? Do you want to be a birdie?”

 

“Fuck off,” Five said. He jumped up and dropped down, so that he clung around her waist instead. It was harder to leave her alive than kill her, he noticed, but he also promised that he wouldn’t. Ugh.

 

Well, he didn’t say he wouldn’t hurt her. With his free hand he slipped his knife from his pocket and stabbed Gaia’s shoulder.

 

She shrieked, and dropped nearly straight down before settling. She grabbed Five’s head, and screaming with wordless rage she twisted his face backwards before slapping him.

 

When Gaia’s hand struck him, he felt something sharp quake through his bones, and he nearly lost his grip.

 

“Clever boy,” she said, still steaming. “Getting me like that, well, you’ve won, haven’t you? Made a goddess bleed in exchange for wings, haven’t you?”

 

“What-” Five cut himself off as he felt another tremor race up and down his spine. Wings, shit. Well, he should have anticipated that. At least he’d have a good reason for going to Stark Tower. “Just get to the ground!”

 

“Do it yourself!” Gaia shouted, and pushed him off.

 

Five spiraled in free fall for a moment before remembering that he could fucking teleport, duh, but before he could jump back up to Gaia his back cut open, and ripping his sweatshirt in half, two things sprouted, catching him clumsily.

 

Wings, right.

 

They made him less dexterous, sure, but now that he was really focused it wasn’t that hard to teleport back up to Gaia.

 

Grab her shoulders. Grab her face. Hand over mouth and nose— shit, tiny hands— elbow over neck. Press.

 

Easy. As Gaia fell, Five messily spread his wings and lowered both of them down to where the police were standing.

 

People were staring. People were staring hard , and recording.

 

Five dropped Gaia and tried to look like a ten year old. The effect was hindered by the fact that all of them watched him choke out a grown ass woman midair.

 

“B.!”

 

Five looked up from where he had fallen. Peter was running over, eyes wide and arms waving wildly. He must have tucked the notes into his bag sometime during the fight.

 

Peter checked people out of the way, and came to a skittering stop besides Five. He helped him to his feet. Five allowed it.

 

“Kid,” one of the policeman said.

 

“This is my cousin,” Peter said pleadingly. “I intern at Stark Industries, please let me take him there, please. The wings thing happened to me too, I know how—”

 

The policeman waved them off, and let Peter pull Five away.

 

“They’re incompetent,” Five muttered, leaning into Peter’s side. He cast a look over his shoulder and saw that many people were still watching. “Where’d the ‘B’ come from?”

 

Peter laughed lightly, and steered them towards an alley that one could, theoretically, use as a shortcut to get to Stark Tower. “Some of them are useful, sometimes. Sometimes. And my middle name's Benjamin, so it was just kind of what I jumped too. I’m not good at improv.”

 

Ben. Of course.

 

Peter took his arm off of Five’s shoulder. “You think you can take us back to the Tower?”

 

“If no one can see us, then yeah.”

 

“Done,” Peter said, gesturing to their surroundings. “Hey, you’re a crow too,” he added, maybe a little smugly.



Almost two weeks later, they sent a wingless Five home.

 

“If you remember,” Tony (because now he was Tony) said, “don’t try coming back.”

 

Five scoffed. “What makes you think I will?”

 

Peter laughed. “Hey, maybe our messed up world will leak into your messed up world and you’ll know we’re in danger. So if it does, don’t.”

 

“If this works,” Five looked at the math. “Then I could visit as much as I want, right?”

 

“I mean, yeah,” Tony said. He shrugged. “Fine, when this works— meaning when you remember all of it— feel free to visit as much as you want.”

 

Five grinned. He took the paper that Tony handed him, and stood, looking it over one more time.

 

“Good luck,” Peter said.

 

“Thanks,” Five said. “I’ll need it.”

 

Then, just like that, he disappeared into a blue vortex of crackling energy.

 

When he landed on the wet ground, he smiled reflexively.

 

He heard his siblings, his adult siblings, gasp over him, but he could focus on that later. He just needed a second.

 

He didn’t remember any of the other times, but he remembered Tony and Peter and the two weeks. He did it.

 

Five made it.

 

He nearly cried from relief, but he couldn’t. No time. Five stumbled to his feet to face his siblings. He still had a lot of work to do, didn’t he? Still had to stop the Apocalypse.

 

Five looked at the confused faces of his siblings, and smiled again.

 

He made it. And knowing what he knew, knowing everything about their situation that Tony had told him, well, stopping the Apocalypse would be a breeze.

 

Five stumbled to his siblings and got to it.