When the Lamb broke the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.
-Revelation 6:7-8 New American Standard Bible
April 12th, 1912 Somewhere in the Atlantic
Five sits on the edge of the ship’s deck, feet swinging precariously over the side from between the safety rails, gazing out at the stars. The sound of the waves breaking across the bow and the gentle rocking of the ship working to lull his mind into a state of calm.
In a couple of days, the chop will be much rougher. The seas will be anything but calm. But for now, he can enjoy it.
This late and with the night air so brisk and biting, there’s no one out on the deck. Well, almost no one.
He tenses instinctually, before recognizing the gait and relaxing. Malakai appears beside him a moment later. It’s embarrassing that he’d been so lost in thought, he hadn’t even realized he was shivering until Malakai drops a warm thick blanket around his shoulders. In his defense, he’d been layered appropriately for the chill when he’d first come out, though it's probably been several hours since then. He lost track of the time.
He tugs the warm material around him gratefully offering a smile when Malakai crouches to sit beside him. Five can feel the lingering warmth from inside radiating off the other boy and leans in. Malakai chuckles, shifting closer. He takes the end of the blanket Five offers and wraps it around them both, before pressing against his side to share his body heat. Five hums in response, leaning into him further and they fall into companionable silence.
“Stars look beautiful from out here,” Malakai says wistfully, eyes looking skyward. “It’s silly but I guess I just - never realized how many there are before? City lights were always so bright.”
Five nods his head and in the dull glow of the ship's lights sees Malakai turn his attention down to him.
“We only ever saw a few from the Academy and then in the Apocalypse…” There hadn’t ever been any stars in the Apocalypse. The sky a constant haze of suffocating ash and smoke. Death and ruin. Blood. So much blood. He can’t wash it off he can’t -
He’s pulled from the memory by Malakai’s gloved hand on his back, rubbing soothing circles to anchor him.
Five curses his own weakness. It’s been a little over two years since the Apocalypse. More time than what he’d spent trapped there in the first place. He should be over this by now. It’s weakness.
The tremor now shaking its way through his body has little to do with the cold.
If Malakai thinks it’s weakness he doesn’t say so. Only shifts to wrap his arm around Five, tugging him closer. With the steady rhythm of a heartbeat in his ear, he relaxes ever so slightly.
“When we finally make it out of here,” Malakai starts in distraction. “Run away from the Commission I mean. I think I’ll get a big old house out in the countryside. Maybe raise some animals, plant an orchard, tend crops.”
Five smiles. The cosmic irony is not lost on him. Famine retiring to a farm.
“You going to have any horses?”
Malakai snorts at that. “Maybe just a black one,” he plays along. “What about you?”
It’s just a fantasy. A children’s game. Would he rather live in a vacation house on a private island or a castle in the mountains? He could probably indulge in the sport of it, make up some whimsical tale about a future where they’re free and can do as they choose. But even then, he only has one thought in regards to his fate. What he’d do if he were afforded the freedom.
“I’m going to find my siblings and I’m going to save them. Stop the Apocalypse.”
A fond smile lights Malakai’s face. “Ya you will,” he responds simply, something like pride in his voice. As if Five has already accomplished the goal just be setting himself out to reach it.
It makes something warm bloom in his chest, but it also suddenly makes him feel small. Because Five’s been saying he’d stop the Apocalypse since the first day he’d stupidly landed himself there. He says it confidently and frequently, repeating it in his head like a mantra.
But the reality of it is he has no idea how to stop the Apocalypse. His only clue a glass eyeball.
Sometimes the crushing weight of the monumental task he’s set for himself gets to be too much. The very thought of what will happen if he fails…
“What makes you so sure?” Five asks weakly, dropping the pretense of confidence from his tone and feeling immensely vulnerable for revealing his doubt.
Malakai glances down at him, assessing something carefully.
He scoffs like its obvious, “Duh, I’ve met you.”
At Five’s confused look, he elaborates, “I know you well enough to know that neither heaven nor hell nor anything in between could keep you from something your determined to do.”
Oh. The warm feeling returns at the blatant declaration of faith.
“Also, you’re stubborn as shit.”
He lets out a startled laugh and Malakai joins in.
“You could come too you know,” Five offers when his laughter has subsided. “After the whole stopping the Apocalypse bit of course. Not as many stars, but the countryside seems kind of lonely…and we have plenty of room.”
He feels more than sees Malakai’s smile. “I’d like that. I’d want to meet them, your siblings.” As an after thought, “And you’d be more than welcome to come visit me when they’re driving you up the walls.”
There’s a weight to these words. An acknowledgement that even through the shit situation that brought them together, they’d still be welcome in the other’s life after. A promise that their relationship is more than just circumstance alone.
“They’d like you,” he responds gently and Malakai preens beside him as if gaining the approval of his idiot siblings is some great feat.
“I can’t wait to hear all their embarrassing stories about you.”
“I take it back. You’re no longer invited.”
Malakai squawks in indignation and they fall into a familiar banter for a few beats before settling back down and admiring the stars once more.
He feels warm and he’s not trembling anymore.
They’ll have to head back in soon but for now, he’s content to sit in this moment for a little while longer. Stargazing, as the Titanic and everyone aboard it sails closer and closer to their inevitable doom.
Allison can’t breathe. She can’t breathe.
They just watched a public execution. The public execution of one of Five’s friends. The public execution of one of Five’s friends which took place as Five stood directly next to him.
Even with the video’s grainy quality Allison can see his expression of horror clear as day. There’s blood splattered on the side of his face as his knees buckle, falling beside Malakai’s body.
Dear god, they’d almost just watched this tape in front of Five.
Luther tried to force him to watch it with them.
And suddenly the adamancy he’d had against them watching it. The terror in his eyes and break in his voice shift into nauseating clarity and Allison is going to be sick.
She can’t breathe and she’s going to be sick and the video is still playing.
Why is the video still FUCKING PLAYING!
Dolores is screaming. Wrenching forward to run towards the front of the stage but Chase grabs her and holds her back, arms locking around her waist to pin her against his chest even as she kicks out. Along the back wall, the armed guards have raised their weapons, not yet aiming for them but Chase watches them warily all the same.
There are tears streaming down Five’s face but his movements are jolted, moving as though his limbs are heavy and the world around him is murky. He’s going into shock, if he’s not in shock already.
Five crawls his way to Malakai’s side, shaking him with trembling hands as if he’s simply asleep. Allison can’t hear exactly what he’s saying but his lips are moving, likely pleading with the boy beneath him to wake up. When it doesn’t work, Five clings frantically to him, slightly hysterical as he begins sobbing in earnest, curling himself instinctively around the body as if to protect him from further harm.
Her heart pulls with the knowledge this likely isn’t the first time her brother has done this.
There’s a click as the gun is reloaded.
Then that women, the Handler she presumes, is circling around again until she’s at Five’s other side. Her view of Malakai’s body shielded by her brother, but she can see the other two Horseman clearly. The audience’s view remains unimpeded, after all, the show is for them.
She stops and lowers herself, tilting Five’s chin up with the barrel of the loaded gun. Once he’s met her gaze, she moves the gun up to his temple, holding it there.
“NO! No, no! GOD PLEASE NO!” Dolores howls from the other side of the stage thrashing in Chase’s hold.
Allison’s heart is in her throat. She knows. She knows logically that Five doesn’t die here but the logic isn’t enough to quell the genuine fear.
She sobs out, heart shattering because Five leans into it. Pressing harder on the muzzle against his temple. And that-that is just… what the hell is she supposed to do with that?
Dolores gives a wordless cry, her legs giving out on her and pulling Chase down with her. She looks away, burying her face in Chase’s chest. Her muffled sobs the only sound in the otherwise silent room for several long moments.
Chase covers her ear with his hand as if it’ll be enough to block out the sound of a second bullet.
They stay like this for what feels like an eternity. Locked in limbo and Allison is positive her heart will beat right out of her chest if something doesn’t change soon.
“None of that now,” the Handler purrs, eyes firmly on Dolores' shaking form.
She finally lowers the gun, stroking the muzzle down the side of Five’s face in a mockery of a caress. Five doesn’t react to the motion at all, eyes staring forward blankly. Empty.
“I’m only doing what was necessary.”
She turns back towards the audience, voice booming to fill the space, “What we do here at the Commission. Famine was meant to die today.”
A Cheshire cat smile.
“I was only preserving the timeline.”
Deafening silence follows the announcement. Preserving the timeline.
Allison has never known hatred like this before. Can feel angry, helpless, frustrated tears well up in her eyes.
She tears her eyes away from the screen, sparing a look at her siblings. Luther’s eyes are wide, shoulders hunched as he wraps his arm around himself. Klaus’ hand is over his mouth, the other gripping his dog tags tightly, silent tears streaming down his face. Ben has a hand resting on Klaus’ arm, the other wrapped around Vanya’s shoulders as he tucks her gently to his side. Holding them together even now, while his eyes shine with unshed tears.
Diego is trembling in barely controlled rage.
“Let this be a lesson to all of you. The mission objective ALWAYS comes first. I trust we will not be having any further mistakes of this nature.”
Assent rings out from the crowd. A sharp and practiced “Yes mam”.
“Isn’t that right?” she asks again voice tilting maliciously as she turns back towards the remaining Horsemen. Five and Dolores are too far gone to hear her, but Chase glares at her from over Dolores’ head, teeth barred and eyes glowing unnaturally.
Whatever she finds there seems to please her because she responds with a chipper clap and dismisses those in attendance. The gathered need no further prompting, practically running from the room in their rush to leave.
The Handler turns and watches Five with predatory eyes. As if enraptured by his anguish. Finally satiated, she nods an armed guard forward.
“Toss him back where you found him.”
If the words register to Five he doesn’t acknowledge them. Chase however, looks horrified.
“No please don’t do that,” Chase begs. The Handler raises her hand and the guards who’d move forward pause. She turns her attention to the shape shifter.
“We’ve learned; we’ve learned our lesson I swear it! We won’t mess up again. You don’t have to do this.” His eyes move from the Handler to Five, whose returned to being a crumpled heap on the floor. He pauses conflicted and Allison thinks she knows why.
This will break Five. Allison knows it and clearly Chase does to. But to admit such a thing to the Handler would be to give her more power. It’s like their father always told them, any weakness can be used against you. He’s weighing the outcome – the harm of giving her this ammunition versus the potential benefit of saving Five from another stint in the Apocalypse. From dealing with the death of a friend alone. It seems he decides the benefit weighs out.
“Please, you can’t just leave him there all alone,” Chase pleads desperately, appealing to any last dredges of humanity.
The Handler pauses for a moment as if considering it, before sending Chase a condescending smile. “But a couple years to process this is exactly what Five needs,” she decides.
With a flick of her wrist the guards descend on Five. They grab him roughly, manhandling him away from Malakai. Five is having none of it. Even bound, he fights desperately against the arms trying to drag him away, kicking and screaming. Calling out for Malakai in a broken, raw voice.
The click of guns breaks through the chaos he's created. All the armed men training their weapons on Dolores and Chase as one. Chase pulls her impossibly closer, attempting to shield her with his body for what little good it will do.
The sound manages to snap Five out of it. His eyes locking on his two remaining friends. The decision process is instantaneous. He relents immediately, body going limp in the guards’ hold. They pull him off the stage and out of the view of the camera and then her brother is gone.
“Take him down to the lab,” the Handler commands, kicking at Malakai’s prone form on the floor. “See what they can learn of his powers from the body.”
Allison can feel bile rising in her throat.
Two guards comply, a pool of crimson marking the place where he had fallen.
The Handler makes her way to the last two Horsemen, using her height to look down on them from where they sit on the floor.
“I trust you two will be on your best behavior," she starts once Delores has turned to acknowledge her at Chase's prodding.
“Because if you don’t..." Her voice turns venomous, "I’ll make sure you never see little number Five again. I’ll leave him to rot there." It's not an idle threat, it's a promise.
"Do you understand?" They nod mutely and the Handler sends them off, before disappearing herself. The armed men slinking away after her.
Then the stage is empty and the recording is over and the kitchen is silent.
Allison feels numb.
“I’ll kill her. I’ll fucking kill that bitch I swear it!” Diego seethes. He’s beyond angry, the kind of stupid useless rage that had him punching holes in his bedroom walls as a kid.
No one responds to the declaration. It's pointless. There's nothing he can do. There's nothing any of them can do.
“I need a drink,” Klaus mutters turning to head up to the parlor. She opens her mouth to argue, Klaus has been sober now for a couple of months, but honestly that’s a good fucking idea. She needs a drink. Maybe twenty. She’s not about to deny him that same escape. They can deal with the consequences later.
After all, it’s what they always do isn’t it. Meddle and pry. Attack and hurt. Bulldoze right through one another.
They deal with the consequences later.
The armed men toss Five quite unceremoniously to the ground at the ruble of what once was the Umbrella Academy, before disappearing in a flash of blue, taking his cuffs with them.
Five doesn’t even bother getting up. Just slams his fists into the ground again and again. Until they come away bloody. Until he’s sure the bones are broken. Until he can’t see through the tears in his eyes and the ash and the dust. And then he screams. Screams until his throat is raw and he can’t scream anymore.
Because he did this. It's all his fault.
‘Instead of accomplishing the mission objective.’
He failed and now Malakai is-
‘He allowed the target to escape.’
If he’d just managed to kill the target. If he’d been just a few seconds faster. If he’d just done better.
There’s blood on his hands and it’s Malakai’s and he can’t get it off. He’s scratching at his skin but it won’t come off…
‘Allowed the target to escape.'
The retort of a gun.
He was supposed to protect them and he’d failed. Dolores and Chase must hate him. And Malakai is-
“I’m sorry.” Five finally wails, because the blood won’t come off and he failed and now Malakai is dead. “I’m sorry! I’m so so sorry!” He repeats it again and again. A broken mantra that’s never answered. He begs an empty world for forgiveness he doesn’t deserve to receive.
He cries until he’s too exhausted and too dehydrated to move. Until the sun has set and the stifling heat becomes a frigid cold that he can’t possibly protect himself against. Cries when no stars appear in the sky, because Malakai had always love watching the stars and it’s fitting he supposes, that Malakai should take the stars with him.
Unseen, Malakai’s ghost cries beside him.
The Handler leaves him there for four years.