Delores nocks another arrow with practiced ease. With a nod from Malakai, she lets it loose. It sails through the air towards the target by his side and just as it’s about to strike the bullseye, the arrow phases straight through.
She repeats the process again and again, to the same result.
Training is going well. Too well.
She narrows her eyes suspiciously at Malakai, who seems relatively at ease. It’s not a particularly grueling task, but she knows from experience that it requires intense concentration and thus should be exhausting. Kai usually requires contact to activate his abilities, but at the Handler’s insistence, was being trained to use them without touch. That, coupled with the small, moving object, should make it quite difficult.
To test her theory, she aims for the stand, missing on purpose. Instead of phasing through like it should, the arrow embeds itself in the wood with a thud.
“I knew it! Kai your supposed to be phasing the arrow not the target!”
He at least has the good grace to look abashed.
“Have you been doing that this whole time?!”
“No! No, of course not.”
She shoots him her patented ‘look’. The one Chase swears is a secondary power.
“Maybe…” Delores can feel her right eye twitching in annoyance. “Ok yes, definitely yes.”
She’s going to kill him.
She takes a long, deep breath.
Alright. Time to readjust her strategy. Delores nocks another arrow and aims directly at Malakai, whose eyes widen in sudden panic.
“Woah, woah, woah, let's not be hasty here.” His arms are raised in a halting gesture.
She looses the arrow.
Malakai yelps, backpedaling before falling flat on his ass, the arrow whizzing over his head.
He turns incredulous to see where the arrow imbedded itself, the wall where he’d just been standing, before whirling back on her. “Delores what the hell!”
She’s already nocking the next arrow as she responds. “This way I can make sure you’re actually phasing the arrow like your supposed to.”
“What! No, I promise I won’t slack off. I’ll phase the arrow!”
Delores pauses in contemplation, lowering the bow. The blood drains from his face at the devilish smile she sends him.
“Oh Kai, I know you will.”
There’s not enough time for Malakai to scurry out of the way, so this time he does phase the arrow. Satisfied, they continue in this way. She fires back to back arrows, while Kai cycles through dodging, throwing things back at her, and very very occasionally phasing the arrow.
And whining. Let’s not forget whining.
“Oh quit complaining! I’m not aiming to kill. Your fineee.”
Whatever he was going to grouse back is interrupted by Five’s entrance.
“What the hell?” He’s leaning against the doorway, hands in his pockets, Chase bouncing on the balls of his feet behind him. Despite the fact he has no idea what’s going on, Chase is already grinning from ear to ear at the situation.
“Oh, thank god,” Malakai murmurs with a huff, bending over with his hands on his knees to catch his breath.
She sends another arrow his way.
“Help! Make her stop!”
Chase bursts out laughing.
“He taking shortcuts again?” Five asks, perceptive as always. At her nod, he tsks disapprovingly.
“Do something!” Malakai begs, looking imploringly at the two new arrivals.
“Oof I don’t know…” Chase trails theatrically brushing past Five to enter the room, “that’s a tough one.” He hops up onto the back of a bench swinging his legs back and forth and stroking his chin in thought, “On the one hand you seem like you could really use the assist, but on the other I do find this deeply amusing.”
Chase gives a bright mischievous smile before turning to his companion. “Thoughts Five-y?”
Five seems to consider it and Malakai, the pure trusting person he is, deludes himself with the belief Five will put a stop to this. It’s a fair thought. Five is pretty pragmatic and very aversive to the rest of them doing things that could get them punished, which this definitely is. However, Delores knows better. Five assessed the situation the moment he entered the room and realized, just as she had, that Malakai’s complaints were mostly for show. He’s playing just as she is. That, coupled with the fact Chase looks significantly uplifted compared to his earlier gloom, means Five will likely play along, if only for Chase’s benefit.
If she’s learned anything in her time here, it’s that Five and Chase, when feeling mischievous, are a dangerous combination.
They’re also both little shits.
True to character, Five gives what would be an apologetic shrug were he not so obviously smiling, before responding. “Seems like it’s out of our hands.”
“Should’ve known better buddy,” Chase chirps in agreement.
Malakai looks utterly betrayed.
What can be considered actual training, if any of it can be called that, definitely ends after the arrival of the final Horsemen. Chase makes himself helpful by throwing any object he can manage to get a hold of at Kai, Five joining in shortly after, laughing impishly. Unwilling to accidentally knick him with the added distractions, Delores drops the bow and settles for pegging him with rubber balls instead. Malakai retaliates fiercely, his powers providing the advantage he needs to hold his ground against the rest of them.
That’s how they dissolve into just throwing shit across the room at one another like children. If anyone walks by, they’ll all be in for it, but she can’t find it in her to ask them to stop. Moments of happiness like this are so few and far between. Delores is willing to risk it to watch them smile and laugh.
Honestly, her boys are going to be the death of her.
The first thing Five is aware of is the killer headache. It feels like he got hit by a train. By multiple goddamn trains.
Last night returns to him in bits and pieces. He groans, cheeks tinged pink in embarrassment because he bawled like a child in front of all his siblings. He’s never going to live this down.
He has the vague recollection of having thrown up. Of a bucket being shoved into his arms and a hand on his back. Of soothing words and Advil and a cup of ice water. He also has the vague recollection of a fire. Of blood on his tongue and no air in his lungs. Of a knife imbedded in his chest and a rifle in his hands and the cacophony of gunfire in the sweltering heat. He’s pretty sure that part had been a flashback.
He can quickly confirm at least one piece of his memory is true. Ben and Klaus are fast asleep on the floor in the corner of his room.
Five wants to be angry. To kick them out. Wasn’t last night bad enough? But he just doesn’t have the energy. The anger, the sorrow, from last night is all gone. He’s exhausted and he’s not in the mood to deal with it right now.
He catches sight of that fucking box sitting innocently on the other side of the room. A physical record of some of the worst moments of his life. Undeniable proof he was nothing but a monster.
The horrible truth he’d discovered within it just last night. A truth he’d suspected for a while now, and one he’d drunk himself stupid to try to forget.
Fuck he can’t do this again right now.
First things first. He needs coffee.
Careful not to disturb his sleeping brothers, less out of curtesy and more out of an unwillingness to deal with them before his coffee, he pulls back the covers and gets clumsily to his feet. The clothes he’s wearing aren’t his own, he realizes once he’s up. They’re big on him, warm and soft to the touch, unlike the stiff, scratchy uniforms he usually wears.
While not as eclectic as the rest of his wardrobe, he recognizes them as Klaus’. They still smell like his brother, and Five finds himself reluctant to take them off. He tells himself it would be too much of a hassle to bother changing. They’ll do well enough for his trip to the kitchen for coffee anyways.
With that in mind, Five steels himself, calls upon his powers, and forces himself through a jump.
It goes both better and worse than he expected. Better because he honestly hadn’t been sure he was capable of jumping at this point and yet here he was. Worse because the jump was off, sent him crashing into the side of a table, and then wretching on the ground a moment later, dizzy and disoriented.
He groans miserably from the floor, pausing for a moment to collect himself. Once the world stops spinning wildly around him, he forces himself up and sets to cleaning his mess. After he’s finished, he drags himself the rest of the way to the kitchen.
Luckily for once, there’s no one downstairs. He brews a pot of coffee and pours himself a cup. Five jumps up onto the counter, cradling the mug and taking a deep sip, closing his eyes to savor the flavor. The thumping in his head abates ever so slightly and he allows himself to relax.
He's granted about a half hour of peace before it's interrupted by a stampede of footsteps racing down the stairs.
Fireworks explode in time with them inside his skull.
“How did you manage to lose our brother?!”
“I didn’t think he’d just up and leave! What were we supposed to do tie him to the bed?”
“He can’t have gotten far.”
“I’ll get the car drive around see if I can find him. You check his usually spots: the library, Griddy’s,…”
He considers blinking out instead of dealing with it, but figures he should at least let them know he’s ok before he does so. Also, he’ll definitely throw up again if he jumps. The thought alone makes bile rise in his throat.
Most importantly, the coffee pot is here.
The decision is ultimately made for him because at that moment, Klaus hurtles into the kitchen, stumbling over his own feet. Klaus flails to a stop when he spots him, eyes widening.
To Five’s absolute horror, his brother immediately bursts into tears.
“Five I’m so sorry,” he wails, dropping to the ground like a puppet with its strings cut. “I thought you were gone and we’d never see you again and it would be all our fault for driving you away and we never should have gone behind your back and I didn’t mean to make you cry and–”
Five blinks stupidly, mind slower than usual under the incessant pounding.
“Jesus Klaus, slow down.”
Number Four does no such thing, continuing to ramble. Out of the corner of his eye, Five makes out Diego and Ben rushing into the kitchen, perhaps some of the other’s behind them. His more immediate concern however, is his blubbering mess of a brother, mascara running in streams down his face.
Desperate to make Klaus stop, partially because his crying is doing nothing to help the killer hangover and partially because something in his gut twists uncomfortably at the sight of his sibling’s anguish, he hops off the counter and approaches.
“Please stop crying,” he begs. “My brain’s going to explode out of my skull if you don’t.”
Klaus stops his sniveling and graces him with a sheepish smile. “Sorry.” He tries again, more controlled. “We didn’t mean to– well I mean, ya we knew what we were doing, but we didn’t think it would–”
Ben saves them all from another endless rant. “We didn’t mean to hurt you,” he concludes, nothing but sincerity.
Five can remember Ben’s arms around him, the calming sound of his heartbeat, and the feeling of safety and love, no matter how brief it had been.
Klaus nods so vigorously in response to Ben’s words, Five is surprised he hasn’t broken his neck. He’s looking up at Five with such open vulnerability it’s unbearable. Hands making aborted movements to reach out and touch him. Holding himself back every time because Five hasn’t given him permission to.
Five is reminded of blinking into the mausoleum when they were kids. Klaus tiny and terrified, sobbing in relief when he arrived with a flashlight and a deck of cards. Of Chase desperate for touch in the same, entirely different way. Of a throw away comment Klaus made in the week leading up to the Apocalypse, that sometimes he needs the contact just to remind himself Five is actually there and not a ghost.
He reaches out and drops his hand on Klaus’ head awkwardly, severely out of practice with comforting people. He’s pretty sure the action more closely resembles petting a dog than consoling a human being but, to be fair, one of his friends was a dog like 20% of the time. Chase never had any complaints and it’s clearly enough for Klaus too. He surges forward desperately at the invitation, crashing into Five with enough force that if it weren’t for the sudden additional weight of Klaus clinging to his front, he would’ve gone sprawling to the floor. As is, a good portion of his coffee tragically sloshes out of his mug. Five just barely avoids scalding either of them with it.
He feels the loss profoundly.
Cautiously, Five returns his brother’s embrace in a one armed hug.
Klaus exhales in relief like the weight of the whole entire world has just been lifted off his shoulders. The uncomfortable feeling in his chest settles.
Guilt bubbles up in its place.
“I think I also owe you uh, you know….an apology.” Diego scratches at the back of his neck nervously. “For, you know…” he waves his hand through the air as if to indicate everything.
Five quirks an eyebrow in response, thoroughly unimpressed by his brother’s terrible attempt at an apology.
“I’m sorry ok! I was an asshole and I shouldn’t have been. You– you’re my brother.” He says the last bit with finality, as if that’s the most important part. Then in an attempt to ease the tension, “You have permission to kick my ass if you so choose.”
Five snorts, accepting the transition to a more lighthearted atmosphere. “I don’t need your permission to kick your ass.”
Diego gives him a half smile but Five can still see the shadow of regret lingering there.
“It’s fine,” Five says because he just wants this to be over. It’s not fine, but when has anything in his life ever been fine. “You were drunk. Then I was drunk. Whatever I said I didn’t mean it.” He pauses for a moment and then amends, “Well, probably.” Considers once more, “Maybe I meant it…” He finally settles on, “50/50”.
Diego chuckles, shaking his head in exasperation and Five knows they’re as ok as they’re going to get again.
“We all owe you an apology,” Luther says stepping forward. Five is surprised to see that it’s not Number One taking responsibility for his team, but his brother addressing him as an equal. “It was an invasion of your privacy and we never should have done it. We should have come to talk to you in the first place.”
The guilt churns in his gut again. It feels wrong. They’re all apologizing to him when in reality, all he’s done is keep them from the truth. It had been an invasion of his privacy, that much is true. But the knowledge that if they’d discovered what he had last night, things would’ve gone very differently, makes him sick.
There would have been no apology.
He feigns nonchalance. “Ya well, you’re probably right. I never would’ve told you if you’d asked.”
“And now?” Vanya questions cautiously.
Five freezes. They still want to know. “I don’t see why it matters now? It’s in the past”.
“Why won’t you just talk to us?” Diego retorts exasperated. “What are you so scared of?”
“I’m not scared,” Five snaps like a liar. Because he’s a fucking liar.
Allison smacks Diego on the back of the head before turning to him. “Five, of course it matters. You’re our brother. We want to help. Whatever that means. If you want us to drop it right now,” she pauses to glare at them all, daring anyone to protest, “or if you want to talk about it… We’ll do whatever it takes to make it right.”
“We love you,” she finishes.
The statement surprises him. He can’t remember the last time someone told him that and meant it. He must not have schooled his expression fast enough, because of course, Vanya catches it.
“You do know that right? We love you. No matter what.”
Five pulls away at that, unwilling to face her. Klaus lets him go easily, but his eyes are big and sad, like a kicked puppy. He swallows around the lump in his throat and turns away to pour himself another cup of coffee.
It seems he won’t be getting away without giving an answer.
“It’s not that simple,” he finally responds. When it seems that explanation won’t be enough, he continues, the words tumbling out of his mouth before he can check them. “Love isn’t unconditional. That’s not how it works. If I told you everything…”
Five trails awkwardly when he realizes what he’s just said. He doesn’t even need to turn around to feel the way the room has shifted. The amount of concern radiating from his siblings has just quadrupled and Five curses his inability to think properly with the hangover.
“If you told us everything, nothing would change,” Ben says firmly, no room for argument in his tone.
And Ben is right about a lot of things, but not about this.
Everything would change. They’d hate him. They’d kick him out and he’d be all alone. Again.
And they’d have every right to do so.
He doesn't want to be alone again.
“That’s a nice thought,” he says instead, because it is.
If only it were true.