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The Four Horsemen

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They’d done it. Somehow his idiot siblings had managed to come together and prevent the Apocalypse.

He’d managed to jump them back 18 years, depositing his siblings’ consciousness into their 13-year-old bodies. They’d convinced Allison to rumor their Father and Pogo into giving them space, because none of them had the patience to deal with Reginald Hargreeves shit parenting again. Several emotional sibling meetings later (Five counts his blessings he was blissfully passed out for the majority of these, having exhausted himself from the jump) they become semi-functional human beings. They spend a few weeks this way: training Vanya, slowly mending their relationships, and inevitably goofing off because honestly his siblings have such short attention spans it’s incredible. He spends the majority of his time going over his equations – because Ben is alive here and dammit Five is saving all his siblings.

Eventually he’s ready once more, having redone his equations and restored his strength. It’s going to hurt. He knows this. Even just taking his siblings’ consciousness with him had been painful and this time he needs to take Ben’s corporeal form too. It’s going to be bad. Much much worse this time around but they don’t know that because he hasn’t told them and he isn’t planning to.

So when the day comes, they all join hands once more. He brushes of their last minute concern, tells them confidently that it’s all going to be fine, steels himself, and jumps.

It nearly kills him.

He’s out for over a week. But he wakes up on April 5th, 2019 to a beautiful day which shouldn’t exist.

He wakes up to his siblings, crowded around his bed and sound asleep. To Ben, alive and snoring softly, fingers intertwined with his.

Five figures it was worth it.


 

Sometimes however, Five thinks maybe it was not in fact worth it after all.

Because he would do anything for his siblings. He has given everything for his siblings. He would willingly die for his siblings. He’d let the entire goddamn world burn for his siblings. But sometimes being in the same room as his siblings for more than ten seconds…well it can be a little more than he can handle.

Particularly now, with the scars from the near apocalypse so fresh that his siblings insist on being close and checking in and knowing exactly where he is at all times and not giving him a single second of peace….

And its great. Five knows that it’s a good thing. Because his siblings, who had all gone their separate ways and had been at each others throats (days? Weeks? Months? ago – it doesn’t really matter. Time is an illusion anyway) are now trying their best to come together and be a real family. And he wants to be a real family too. Has wanted it for as long as he can remember.

But the thing is they’re smothering him. And Five has never really been the best with people even prior to years of isolation. Any form of physical comfort and affection he'd allowed himself to feel had ultimately been used against him. And now as much as the isolation makes him crave the contact, it also makes his skin crawl in discomfort, and more often than not he can’t handle this much of it.

He’d tried his best to stay amicable and upbeat, but eventually they’d worn him down and he’d started to snap at them again. Little comments here and there, just to push them back - just an inch, so that he could breath. When they got too close or were being particularly difficult he’d jump away for a moment of respite.

Needless to say, they were all resoundingly unhappy with his behavior of late.

Five can tell they’re running out of patience with him too. An inevitability honestly. The result of being together for far too long. As the one with the shortest tolerance, he’d cracked first and as a result, he’d been blamed for derailing Sibling Happy Family Fun Times.

When Luther had come after him, all high and mighty and talking about the importance of family. Luther who had literally locked Vanya in a soundproof cage like an animal. Coming to tell him how to treat his family. How he needed to put family first. Weeeeell, things may have escalated.

A shouting match and the threat of death to anyone that dared approach him later and eventually they’d decided to just let him be.

God he knows a couple of days away from his siblings shouldn’t feel as therapeutic as it did but man did he need the break. Too cool down, to attempt to settle into the idea of this new reality, and to crave their company again.

So now feeling rejuvenated and capable of withstanding vast amounts of idiocy without having to resort to fratricide or sororicide, he seeks out his siblings.

He finds them lounging around the living room laughing and talking, an empty bottle of one of their father’s expensive liquors between them.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t everyone favorite little psychopath back from his latest meltdown,” Klaus crows from where he’s sprawled across the couch, head on Ben’s lap and legs resting on Diego.

Five tenses at the term and veers from his current trajectory to the couch towards the bar. Just in case.

“Are you done being a dick?” Diego questions sarcastically. “Got it all out of your system now?”

Patience.

“I don’t know Diego, are you done being an idiot? Have you got that out of your system?”

So close.

Klaus barks out a startled laugh while Diego goes red in the face, pulling out a blade from his holster and looking every bit like he’s about to chuck it at Five.

“Enough,” Allison groans with the air of exasperation that can only come from dealing with naughty children (and doesn’t Five just hate that). “Can’t we just have a nice civilized conversation for once?”

Diego huffs, grumbling something under his breath.

“What were you talking about then?” Five tries ignoring Diego entirely.

“Oh you know, reliving fond memories of dear Daddy-o. May he rest in eternal suffering,” Klaus singsongs, wiping a fake tear from his eye and blowing a kiss towards the floor at Hargreeves in hell.

With a roll of his eyes directed towards Klaus, Ben turns to Five. “Mostly talking about the horrible shit dad put as through as kids. It was weird being in our 13 year old bodies you know? Brought up a lot of stuff I guess I just repressed. We’re just trying to process it all.”

Five scoffs at that. Does he know? As the only one still currently stuck in his child body, he’s painstakingly familiar.

Ben seems to realize this as well and backtracks with a sheepish sorry.

“It’s been such a healing space truly,” Klaus mocks. “Sharing our fun experiences and then cursing out the old bastard for his years of abuse is therapeutic”.

Five snorts despite himself. “I’ll drink to that,” he says intending to turn and prepare himself a cocktail when Diego interrupts him.

“Ya what would you know about that?” Diego remarks with flippant wave of his hand and a scowl still firmly plastered to his face.

“Pardon?” Five questions calmly, arching an eyebrow at his brother.

“You’ve always had control over your power. Your personal training was easy - I never saw you have a hard time. Bet dad never locked you in the mausoleum. Never forced you to kill to train.”

No his training hadn’t been like Klaus or Ben’s.

He’d been forced to jump until he’d thrown up or collapsed unable to move any further. He’d been tied down and left in the dark to escape his bonds. He’d been made to jump to avoid electrocution, bullets, or knives. Knives Diego had thrown. Knives Diego had intentionally tried to hit Five with, to earn a smidgen of their father’s praise despite the fact Five had been soaked in sweat, feverish, and exhausted from the strain of chain jumping. Not that Diego had even noticed at the time.

He hadn’t been forced to kill for the sake of training until the Commission. But those had been people. Terrified, sobbing human beings, not small animals like those Ben had been forced to kill.

“No, I suppose I didn’t,” Five answers finally through his clenched teeth. Diego is still upset, a little tipsy, and he’s lashing out. Five should know - he does the same thing. It doesn’t mean anything. He doesn’t mean it.

“You always had it easier than the rest of us. Always so perfect, one of his favorites.”

“Be more like Five. Five adapted!” he continues mockingly in the world’s worst imitation of Reginald Hargreeves.

One of his favorites. Five almost laughs in his face. His father had in no means favored him. Had respected his intellect, perhaps. But favored him in any way, certainly not. Reginald demanded the upmost respect and complete and total obedience. Traits Five sorely lacked.

Their father had hated him for his quick wit and fast temper. While his siblings cowed behind his harsh glare and harsher words, Five rebelled. For the sake of rebelling or for his sibling’s sake (because the more their father focused on him the less he’d focus on the others). Punishing him for every act of subordination in his personal training. Trying to beat the stubbornness out of him and only growing more upset when Five only grinned and bore it all.

“And you didn’t have to deal with this shit for nearly as long,” Diego continues snapping Five from his thoughts.

“Excuse me,” Five practically growled and he can feel his temper rising. Diego tiptoeing towards a dangerous line.

Patience.

“Well he does have a point,” Klaus added slowly. “You got out. Didn’t have to deal with five more years of dear ol Dad’s torture – oh excuse me, training.”

“I would’ve killed for that kind of freedom,” Diego adds under his breath.

“Yea exactly!”

Allison lets out a sigh, “Alright that’s enough, you know he wasn’t exactly… you know.”

“What? So he ended up in the Apocalypse – not ideal I’ll admit, but honestly there were some nights I’d take the end of all life as we know it over another day with Reggie am I right.” Klaus complains popping up to stand and hands sweeping around at his general surroundings, spinning to look at each of his siblings in turn and daring any of them to disagree.

Not ideal. Klaus has always made light of dark circumstances if the amount of dead jokes he made at Ben's expense was anything to go by. But to have his experience reduced to not ideal.

“Klaus shut up,” Ben hisses eyes darting worriedly towards Five before shifting back to his brother.

“Ben staying in this house literally killed you!” Diego exclaimed, “you don’t get to argue otherwise.”

“Yea!” Klaus rallied behind Diego’s agreement, “I mean come on!”.

Allison chewed on her bottom lip before hesitantly adding, “It did get worse after Five left.”

“Right!”

“Plus,” Klaus said pointing back at Five, “he’s the one who decided to run away. It’s not like it wasn’t his choice.”

Guys” it’s Vanya this time.

“Whaaat!” Diego whines whirling to face her. “It’s not like Five cares what we think anyways. That would require him to ACTUALLY care about us and we all know that Five isn’t capable of caring about anything”.

And Five likes to believe that for the most part he has a strong handle on his emotions. He was trained to repress, to conceal. But something about the callous way they’ve just dismissed him. His suffering and the years he spent desperately wanting to escape. When the only thing that kept him alive had been the hope of escape. Something about the way Diego says it and the way none of his siblings seem particularly inclined to argue – how they won’t meet his eyes. It snaps something in him and his carefully constructed composure comes crumbling down.

“You think I wanted to leave,” Five seethes and he must look downright murderous because Klaus takes a step back away from him and Luther is standing now.

“Ok Five,” Luther says and his hands are raised in an appeasing motion, “let’s all just calm down now.”

“NO!” Five spits and he’s shaking. He’s literally shaking, that’s how angry he is.

“You think I WANTED to get stuck in the fucking Apocalypse! You think I WANTED to work for the Commission! You think I had a fucking CHOICE in any of this!” he screeches.

“I found your dead bodies, YOU ASSHOLE!” he screams jabbing his finger at Klaus. “I buried you, I buried all of you - it took me days! And I couldn’t even find Ben or Vanya. I was all alone. There was nothing left, it was literally hell and you think I was happier there! That I wanted this!”

“You think I don’t CARE about you, you imbeciles! You think I didn’t try everything I could to get back here. To get back to you. You think I didn’t try every day to get home. That I didn’t nearly kill myself trying!”

They flinch back from him then, a choked gasp escaping Allison as she covers her mouth with her hand and her eyes water. Ben is standing now, approaching slowly with eyes so full of sorrow and hurt it almost makes Five regret saying anything at all. But he’s already started and suddenly he can’t stop.

“I lost everything. EVERYTHING! You have no idea what I had to go through! What I had to do to survive! They turned me into a killer! They made me a MURDERER! A MONSTER!”

His siblings recoil as if struck.

“I lost her!” he shouts and then suddenly all his rage has left him and he feels hollow and empty. “I watched them die. And I stayed. I stayed when I could’ve tried to run. I stayed with the Commission for years just to try to get back to you. To save you.”

His eyes on his fists clenched tightly at his side he barely breathes, “I lost her because I couldn’t leave you here to die…and you think I don’t even care”.

He lifts his head up to meet his sibling’s eyes but they’re all frozen. Eyes wide and mouths dropped open in shock. He’s never yelled at them. Not like this he realizes in detachment. And then he feels liquid on his hand. He raises his hand to his cheek, drawing his gaze away from his siblings to stare at nothing instead, and feels the dampness there.

Oh.

He hadn’t noticed.

He’s never cried in front of them either. He wonders at what point he’d started.

He’s not sure how long he stands there, frozen in what must be the quietest a room full of all seven Hargreeves siblings has ever been, when Klaus clearing this throat breaks him out of his trance.

“Five I’m…”

But Five doesn’t stick around to hear what he has to say, vanishing in a swirl of blue instead.


 

She appears sometime in the second year. He thinks she’s a hallucination at first. It’s been days since he’s found a decent meal and he’s starving. The world around him fading in and out in random lapses of consciousness.

She tells him he’ll die here. In three days’ time. He’ll die alone and lost and no one will ever mourn him. She tells him he’ll never see his family again. That they’ll die too.

And then she gives him a way out. She makes him an offer. A deal with the devil in exchange for his life – for the possibility of seeing his siblings again and maybe, just maybe, a deep part of him hopes to believe – for the chance to stop this from ever happening. To save them.

He knows he can’t trust her. He can see it in her eyes. In her predatory smile. In the simple fact that he’d stumbled into the apocalypse alone two years ago and she’d waited until now to come to him.

But he’s so tired. So hurt and so scared and so lonely and she’s the only living thing he’s seen in years. He can’t imagine his life getting any worse.

So he takes the Handler’s hand and he goes with her.

He quickly learns that it can get so much worse.

Chapter Text

 

 Diego Hargreeves: We just wanna protect you.

Number Five: Protect me. I don't need your protection, Diego. Do you have any idea how many people I've killed? No. I'm the Four frickin' Horsemen. The apocalypse is coming.

The Umbrella Academy – Season 1 Episode 4: ‘Man on the Moon’ (1×04)


 

The tears in his brother’s eyes sober Diego up immediately. His eldest little brother is an asshole, but fuck he hadn’t meant to do that.

Hadn’t ever wanted to see that look in his brother’s eyes. Never wanted to hear his voice break like that.

Dammit Diego was the asshole now.

“Fuck,” Klaus breathes out on an exhale, slumping down to a seat on the couch moments after Five jumped from the room.

“I’m…I’m going to go find him,” Allison says dazedly already turning to run out of the room.

“He won’t be in the house,” Ben calls after her knowingly.

Allison goes anyway, taking the stairs two at a time. Luther wanders off across the first floor in search as well. The rest of them don’t bother getting up – knowing Five well enough even after all this time, to know Ben’s words are true.

“Fuck,” Klaus repeats again before slamming his hands down on the couch beside him. “Fuck we fucked up! Why…” he stops, angrily pulling at his hair, “why did I say that? FUCK!”

“I’ve never seen him like that,” Vanya breathes, barely a whisper and he wondered if she’d even meant to say it out loud. Wrapping her arms around herself in a semblance of a hug, she peers back up at them with glistening eyes, “he looked so sad”.

“He’s gone,” Allison announces helplessly as she reenters the room, Luther hot on her heels.

“We won’t find him until he wants to be found,” Ben replies from his new spot next to Vanya. He’s rubbing comforting circles on her back and she offers him a small smile in return.

“Well nice going you two, really good job,” Luther jabs sarcastically, glaring at Klaus who flinches back. Deigo’s hackles raise, taking in Klaus’ already downcast expression.

“Hey! Don’t yell at him like that! He feels bad enough as it is.”

Luther’s attention snaps to him. “Good he should feel bad. This is partially his fault.”

“Really! You wanna throw blame around? You?

Diego thinks one of his sibling’s might have been about to interrupt before Luther’s booming voice cuts in.

“THIS ISN’T ABOUT ME! But for once in your life you’re right there’s no reason to focus on Klaus when this is really all YOUR fault!”

“Five was being an ass too!” Diego shouts back but the defense feels weak even to him. “It wasn’t supposed to escalate like that,” he finishes lamely.

“And you just couldn’t keep your damn mouth shut! If you hadn’t started it, we wouldn’t be in this situation!” Luther bellows. “You always think you know better than everyon-”

“Would you both just SHUT UP!” Ben yells.

Luther’s jaw clicked shut and he took a step back from where they’d been practically chest to chest screaming at each other, eyes wide as he turned to Ben. Diego understands the feeling – Ben never yelled.

Ben let out a long suffering exhale before seeming to gather himself again, standing from his seat beside Vanya, who is looking at him equally startled. “This isn’t helping. Yelling at each other isn’t going to fix anything.”

“Diego you were a dick,” Ben states meeting his gaze evenly and Luther is practically preening at the implication he’s correct. Diego is about to shut that shit right down on principle alone when Ben beats him to it. “Luther you didn’t do anything to stop it, so you’re just as at fault as the rest of us”.

Diego resists the urge to stick his tongue out at Luther because that would be childish - he flips him off instead.

“Klaus just because you cope with your own trauma by making jokes about it doesn’t mean you can do it to other people.”

Klaus nods easily, looking small and appropriately chastised.

“I know Five has been difficult lately,” Ben continued. “It’s been hard on all of us. All of this crap. We’ve all been lashing out lately. But he didn’t deserve that. Nobody deserves that.”

A chorus of agreement rings out and Ben looks pleased at his minor breakthrough.

“Ok good,” and sensing the solemn atmosphere that’s settled around the room he adds, “Sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves isn’t going to do anything either. So stop acting like kicked puppies.”

“Yes sir,” Klaus salutes, not quite his usual carefree smile but a small smile on his face nonetheless. Ben rolls his eyes, exasperated but fond as he sits back down.

“Well, how are we going to fix this?” Vanya asks gently and Diego draws a blank.

“We need to get Five to talk to us. Actually talk to us. To tell us what’s going on with him. There’s a huge lack of communication.” Diego briefly wonders which one of her many parenting books this particular speech is coming from, before focusing back in on Allison’s words. “I mean we barely know anything about him! About the last forty so years of his life. Hell we don’t even know what his life was like while he was living with us in this house!”

Diego nods thoughtfully before adding, “That would be helpful. I would have never said that stuff if I had known…,” he trails off at Allison’s pointed look.

Reaaally?” Allison questions an eyebrow raised in his direction. “Right, because you never say purposefully hurtful things.”

Welp, she’s got him there. Can’t even argue that one.

“Okay, but to be fair we all say purposefully hurtful things. That’s what makes us a family,” Klaus finishes with a flourish, eyes closed and hand on his heart.

“It is kind of concerning how little we actually know about him,” Vanya cautiously adds drawing the room into contemplative silence.

“What do you think he meant?” Ben asks suddenly, “He said he lost her. Who do you think he meant?”

“Dolores?” Vanya shrugs but the look on her face says it should be obvious. That’s what he’d figured as well honestly.

“The mannequin?” Luther asks and there’s a hint to his tone that’s just slightly incredulous. Disbelieving still of the mannequin’s value, despite how obviously important it had been to Five.

And isn’t that something. He’s gone from barely resisting the urge to throw a knife at Five, to causing him to burst into tears, and now he’s ready to punch Luther in his dumb face for using a tone when discussing Five’s imaginary friend in front of him. All within the same twenty-minute time window. Brothers through and through.

Though maybe this is more about how ready he is to fight Luther at any given time than how protective he feels about Five. He should probably work on that.

“Well he didn’t lose her. He put her back in that department store. She’s still there now,” Allison reminds them.

“He also said them. ‘I watched them die.’” Ben adds. Huh, he missed that. Having someone who actually listens around here comes in handy it turns out.

“Someone he met after?” Klaus suggests in a questioning tone. “He brought it up while talking about the Commission, maybe it was someone he knew from working there?”

“I didn’t think Five had any good memories from his time in the Commission. Plus, he worked alone didn’t he?” Vanya asks, looking around at the rest of them to confirm or deny.

“We don’t really know anything about his time in the Commission. Other than the whole assassin thing,” Luther says looking deeply uncomfortable.

Klaus clears his throat loudly and obnoxiously until he’s sure he has everyone’s attention.

“Yes Klaus?” Diego finally grits out with false sweetness, “Anything to add?”

“Why yes Diego thank you for asking!” Klaus exclaims and at his unimpressed look gets to the point. “See I was thinking there is someone else we could try, someone who, I don’t know, used to work for the Commission and might have some insider knowledge as to what went on there.”

“You’re kidding right!?” Diego barks incredulous, “You want to invite the man who kidnapped and tortured you over for what? Tea? Cookies?”

“Well like you said, he did torture me for two days, I kind of figure he owes me?” Klaus finished with a flourish, HELLO GOODBYE flashing through the air as he gesticulates.

“You want to go behind Five’s back on this?” Vanya asks looking thoroughly scandalized.

“Well the way I see it,” Klaus begins, “there are two options here. We either wait for Five to spill his heart out to us, which spoiler alert - will never happen. So really, we all get to keep walking on egg shells until one of us inevitably says the wrong thing at the wrong time and we find ourselves right back here.”

A pause for dramatic effect.

“Oooooor we call our good friend Hazel, get him to tell us what he knows, and maybe, just maybe, it’ll be enough to pry the rest of the story out of Five. We can have a whole sibling bonding talk. Laugh and cry and group hug and all learn to love ourselves again!”

No one says anything for a moment as they all think it over. Despite the ridiculous ending, Klaus is undoubtedly right and they all know it – Five isn’t going to divulge anything on his own and they can’t keep going like this.

“Five is going to hate this,” Ben finally mutters breaking the silence. “But on the other hand, I’m really worried about him. I haven’t seen him process any of this and it’s not sustainable. He’s going to crash and I want to be able to be there for him when he does.”

Another bout of contemplative silence before Allison declares, “Right. We put it to a vote then”.

With a 4-2 majority, the vote sways in favor of contacting Hazel, though Diego notes that no one seems particularly happy about it. Which is fair. This is one vote he wouldn’t have minded loosing.

“Five is really, really going to hate this,” Ben whispers under his breath looking distressed. Diego can understand his displeasure. Ben and Five had always been particularly close and despite voting against contacting Hazel, he’s ultimately a part of this betrayal of Five’s privacy. When Five finds out, they are all either going to get disowned or murdered and Diego honestly doesn’t know which one Ben would consider to be worse.

“Well too late now!” Klaus chirps, jumping up off the coach, and disappearing down the hall to go contact Hazel.

He’s still not sure exactly how Five had done it, but in their second go of the timeline, he’d disappeared to go contact Hazel and Cha Cha before they’d been scheduled to make an appearance. He must’ve provided them with some evidence of the old timeline or warned them of the Handler’s displeasure at their past (and future?) failure (because apparently the Commission operated outside the timeline because fucking of course). Either way they’d abandoned their joint pursuit of killing them all.

Hazel had chosen to retire again with the donut shop owner, leaving behind a contact number where he could always be reached in case of emergency, in gratitude.

Diego isn’t sure this counts as an emergency but as Klaus said, he kind of does owe them even if technically, it wasn't this version of Hazel who'd hurt them. Diego is of the opinion that time travelers should be held accountable for all past, present, and future bullshit.

Klaus skips back in, assuring them that he'd managed to contact Hazel and that he is on his way.

They pass the next couple of hours awkwardly. No one really having anything to say or do here, but at the same time not wanting to stray too far in case of Hazel’s arrival. Five doesn’t make a reappearance.

Eventually they’re saved from a particularly awful game of charades, by the door bell ringing.

“Hey buddy, how’s retirement treating you?” Klaus greets cheerfully, after swinging the door open with reckless abandon, almost taking Luther out in the process.

Diego muffles his laughter behind his hand at Luther's glare.

Hazel stands at the door in a shirt and kakis. Cheap sunglasses on his face and color on his cheeks that speak of time in the sun. He's tanner now too and all around brighter. Retirement suits him better than the life of an assassin it seems.

“The house is not on fire,” he announces.

Luther actually has to turn around and check behind him to confirm that no, the house they were all standing in is not on fire, before turning back to Hazel. “No…?” he replies but there is still a question in his voice.

“He said there was an emergency,” Hazel declares pointing at Klaus. “That the house was on fire. Everyone was dying and the fate of the world was hanging in the balance.”

Diego cocks an eyebrow at Klaus who rocks back and forth on his toes. Out of his peripheral vision, he can see the rest of them turn towards him.

“Yeeees, about that…tea? Cookies?”


After the initial annoyance at being dragged out for what did not end up being an actual emergency, it turned out that Hazel did in fact want tea and cookies. Though he does also bring up the fact that he would’ve preferred donuts.

Hazel currently sits at the head of the table, the rest of them all bunched around on the other side, much like that first night Five came back.

“So what exactly is it you needed me here for?” he finally prompts, while starting on his third cookie.

After exchanging awkward glances and pointed looks, Allison has mercy on them all and takes the lead.

“We were hoping you could tell us a little bit about the Commission? About Five’s time there?”

“Why don’t you just ask him yourself?” Hazel asks between bites.

Allison pauses looking back at them for assistance. Diego shoots her his patented don’t look at me look and clearly so does everyone else because she huffs and turns back towards Hazel.

“We would but Five isn’t really the most forthcoming about these kinds of things,” Allison tries going for subtlety.

He chews thoughtfully, “Elaborate?”.

“Five won’t tell us shit,” Klaus says from his perch on the table, “and we really reeeeeally want to know!” Well so much for subtlety. Diego whacks him on the back of the head for good measure.

Hazel looks uncomfortable as he answers, “I don’t know – if he hasn’t told you... I think you best just talk to him. Doesn’t seem like its my place to say…”

Not uncomfortable enough to refrain from taking another cookie however. 

“Oh come on man yes, you do!” Klaus interrupts bouncing up and down in place. “Just a few questions. For your dear old friends, who might I add, helped give you your happy ending with sweet, lovely Agnes”.

“That was mostly Five…”

“Please,” Vanya begs, “we’re worried about him.”

Hazel must see something in her expression because he deflates.

“Fine,” he sighs, rubbing a tired hand over his face. Suddenly the trace of brightness from retirement is gone. “But only the very basics and you all have to make sure he doesn’t kill me for telling you.”

At their fervent nods he continues.

“What do you want to know? Can’t say I’ll have all the answers, but I have seen part of his file. I’ll do my best.”

“Do you know if Five ever worked with anyone while at the Commission? A partner maybe?” Ben asks leaning forward in his seat.

“Yes, of course,” Hazel replied easily.

Diego does his best to swallow down his surprise but he’s sure it shows on his face if his siblings are anything to go by. Well, there goes everything they thought they knew about their brother.

At their shocked expressions, Hazel raises his brow. “He never told you?”

Diego resists the urge to snap, “obviously not”. As is, Luther’s curious “Told us what?” overlaps with Vanya’s confused, “He said he worked alone”.

Hazel choses to address Vanya’s comment, “He did but, not at first.”

They all stare in rapt attention and when it becomes obvious that Hazel won’t be providing anything else without prompting, Klaus parrots back an “elaborate”.

Hazel finishes the cookie he’s on and takes a sip from his cup of tea.

“It was the four of them. She snatched them up when they were just kids. Wanted to train them young. Form some kind of elite unit. A corrections team that would never fail. One she could send out after our own rouge agents. They were legends at the Commission. Everyone knew about them. About what they could do. But everything else was kept quiet – even their real names.”

“Not sure where the code name came from. After meeting him years later, I figured it was a jab at Five. A reminder of where she found him. Of where she could send him back to if she wanted. Of the goal he wanted so badly to reach. The Handler was always trying to get a rise out of him…but anyways, I’m digressing."

“Code name?” Diego questions. He can feel that they are on to something. Close to some important truth.

“Mhm, like I said it was all pretty classified. In public, the Handler only ever allowed them to be referred to by code name.”

As an afterthought.

“They were known as the Four Horsemen.”

Diego jolts in recognition. He feels more than sees Luther do the same.

He’s heard that before.

I'm the Four frickin' Horsemen. The apocalypse is coming.’ 


The Handler doesn’t speak as she marches him through hallway after hallway in the Commission’s headquarters. She’s taking him to the infirmary. The scientists need to perform some tests. She doesn’t explain any further despite his questions, and Five can feel the unease thrumming through his body like a palpable, living thing.

Unease or not, it doesn’t matter either way. He doesn’t really have a choice in the matter. He's under no such delusions. So he follows her, albeit reluctantly.

When they finally reach their destination, Five feels justified in his unease. The infirmary turns out to be the stuff of science fiction nightmares, straight from one of Ben’s novels. The room is blindingly white. Overhead fluorescents bathing everything in harsh light. There are instruments all along the walls and shelves, pointed and piercing. None of which, Five recognizes and none of which, should ever go near a human person.

There are large, glass, boxed partitions throughout the room. Four of them in total. One is fitted as what appears to be, a surgical suite. The others don’t look to have a specific purpose. However, with a chill, Five notes that the beds, tables, and chairs within are all equipped with restraints. The kind even Luther wouldn’t stand a chance of breaking out of.

The majority of the glass partitions are empty except for one. There’s a girl, around his same age with tan skin, dark brown hair, and lovely almond eyes. She’s sitting on an examination table, a man in a mask with a doctor’s coat holding a vial of what looks to be blood at her side.

The Handler leads him that way, taps on the glass to get their attention, and then ushers Five in through the door. While the inside of the room was completely visible from the outside, once within, he can’t see back out. He squashes down the feeling of claustrophobia that gives him.

The girl sits a little straighter when the Handler walks in. Eyes roving over Five curiously before snapping towards the Handler as she speaks.

“I trust everything is going well,” she says to the doctor.

“Yes of course mam,” he replies. Five thinks his gaze has flicked to him by the way his hair stands on end, but it’s hard to tell with the mask. “We will be ready for him in a moment. I apologize for the wait, one of the other boys was rather feral.”

The Handler hums in thought and waves off his concern.

“There’s no rush. I thought the kids might as well introduce themselves,” she says before placing her hand on Five’s shoulder and tugging him close. Speaking down to him she adds, “after all, you two will be working together from now on,” before turning her gaze up to the girl on the table.

He tries to shake her off, the touch raising goose bumps on his arms and somehow incredibly violating, but her grip only tightens. Nails digging painfully deeper into soft flesh, until he stops squirming and stills under her hold.

Something flashes in her eyes at his submission, but it’s gone before he can properly decipher what it was.

“Go on then,” the Handler says faux smile still plastered on her face as she finally releases him, pushing Five forward and towards the girl. “Don’t be rude. Introduce yourselves”.

“Five,” he offers with a nod.

She cocks her head to the side quizzically. If she thinks it’s an unusual name, she doesn’t say so. Instead she grants him a gentle smile before offering her hand to shake.

“Nice to meet you Five. I’m Dolores.”

Chapter Text

Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

Revelation 6:1-2 New American Standard Bible


 

“Wait, wait, wait,” Klaus sputtered out with a jolt, leaning forward so far he was practically laying down on the table. “I thought Five spent years alone in the apocalypse. Like literal decades there.”

Hazel nods thoughtfully. “That’s probably accurate.”

“But, you just said they were kids?” Luther questioned, confusion thick in his tone. For a moment he thought perhaps he had missed something, but based on his siblings’ expressions they were all just as confused.

“Yes, that is correct.”

Klaus tossed his head back and groaned. “Dude! Can you try to be a little less super unhelpful maybe?”

Hazel, for his part, looks entirely unperturbed by their impatience. A man who does things on his own terms, in his own time. Luther can respect that. However, at this moment, Klaus is surprisingly right. It’s very annoying.

“It wasn’t all at once,” Hazel finally allows eyes flickering between each of them, searching for something.

“Five went back to the apocalypse more than once!?” Luther blurts out before he can stop himself. It’s quite surprising. With the loathing Five used to describe his apocalyptic living situation, he can’t imagine that his brother would’ve returned once he left.

Hazel shoots him a strange look. “He didn’t go back willingly…” he begins, the same tone Five used to take when pointing out the faults in his mission plans, as though explaining something to a particularly dull child.

Luther bristles but then Hazel is rising, pushing his chair back as he goes.

“I’m sorry, I’m not sure I feel very comfortable talking about this. If Five hasn’t told you…”

The sweep of collective panic from his siblings is instantaneous. Hazel is their only source of information and they’ve barely learned anything. If he leaves, they’ll have intentionally gone behind Five’s back and gained nothing but a few vague facts and more questions then before.

Allison’s mouth is desperately parted, seeking the words to convince him to stay without the use of a rumor, but she seems at a loss. It’s hard to justify prying into their brother’s private life to a past coworker. Nevertheless, Luther racks his brain for something to say. He needs to salvage the situation, but he’s never really been good with his words…

In the end it doesn’t matter, Klaus beats him to it.

“You know what else didn’t make me feel very comfortable Hazel – being tied to a chair and tortured for two days. That didn’t make me feel very comfortable at all and yet I had to go through that.”

A second of tense silence. Another.

And Hazel slumps back down into his seat, glaring weakly at Klaus. Luther feels the relief in his bones.

“I did see them once,” Hazel finally grants them after a brief period of silence.

“Wait you knew Five before all this shit?” Diego asks incredulous. “And we are just learning this now?”

“Didn’t say I knew him,” Hazel corrects quickly. “Just saw him. The Handler loved showing off her possessions.”

Something inside him tenses at Five so casually being described as a possession. By Diego’s sudden white knuckle grip on his mug and Ben’s subtle shift to cross his arms over his chest, his brothers (and by extension, the interdimensional monsters residing inside said brothers) don’t like it very much either.

“It was when I first started at the Commission. The Handler showed up to recruit me with Cha Cha. Paired us together right off the bat. Explained the basics and gave us a job to complete. Said we should consider it a trial period. If we completed the assignment and managed to work well enough together, we’d get the gig.”

Hazel sighs heavily, a tiredness in his eyes Luther has also seen in Five.

“We finished the job - nothing too difficult for our skillset. Neither of us were of the disposition where killing was particularly aversive. So they brought us in to finalize our contracts...”


The Handlers heels clicked as she sauntered down the hall of the Commission headquarters.

“This is a nice place. Will we be spending time here often?” Hazel asks, eyes scanning the lavish furnishings and high arched ceilings of the lobby.

The Handler pauses, turning with a bright smile that doesn’t quite seem to reach her eyes. “Oh no, no, no. Most of the floors in this building are reserved for the higher ups. I’m afraid you simply don’t have the clearance. All the things you’ll need are on the lower levels of course – training rooms, supplies, infirmary. But I doubt you’ll be here much at all actually. We’ll keep you quite busy out in the field.”

“Of course,” Cha Cha nods with a quick glance at Hazel, as if to dare him to protest and the words die in his throat. One job together was enough to know this wasn’t worth the fight.

Didn’t mean he couldn’t be upset about it. Of course, all this luxury, but they’ll be accommodated in hostels and paid, what Hazel now realizes, far too little given the organization’s wealth. Bureaucracy at its finest.

The Handler watches the quick exchange with hawk like attention. “Problem?” she intones, one carefully plucked brow raised in question. When they hurriedly assure her there is none (though Hazel figures there is one) she nods, before suddenly turning on her heel once more with a quick, “Right this way then” thrown over her shoulder as she goes.

She stops at the end of the hall in front of an old caged elevator with bars of gold trim. Sliding the grate open she walks in, Cha Cha following and Hazel shutting the grate once more behind himself. Hazel gapes for a moment at the number of floors – there had to be at least one hundred, in what looked to be, at most, a three story building from the outside. The Handler punches the button for the proper floor and the elevator lurches to life.

In the small space, Hazel shifts uncomfortably, searching for something to focus on as the elevator descends deeper and deeper. He can feel the Handler's eyes on him and it’s almost like she's enjoying his discomfort. He could be mistaken, ut either way, she’s standing far closer than she needs to.

Blessedly, the elevator comes to a stop and the three step out. The Handler keeps a brisk pace, navigating them through a maze of halls and pointing out places of interest along the way. She never bothers explaining the contents of the locked rooms they pass or any other floors and they don't bother asking.

After the quick tour, she allows them to ask any lingering questions and then apparently satisfied with them, leads them back to the elevator with the promise of dropping them off in the proper office to finalize paperwork. 

Hazel can't help but notice that instead of pressing the button for one of the upper floors, where he knows the offices are located, she touches her finger to a keypad and selects one of the lower sub-basements.

He exchanges a quick, discrete glance with Cha Cha. The Handler catches it all the same.

“There’s just one last stop we need to make and then you’ll be on your way.”

The elevator stutters to a stop once more.

The difference between this level and the ones they've seen is stark. The hallways are clinically white and devoid of any hints of life. They don't come across anyone here. Every door is shut and Hazel doesn't hear a single sound aside from their echoing footsteps. There are surveillance cameras monitoring every inch of space.

Finally, the Handler pauses in front of a door. She scans her finger on the keypad and ushers them in when the door opens with a click. 

The room is a viewing area. It's a long, thin space, with windows all along the front side opening up into a training arena down below. The Handler forgoes the seating and walks right up to the window, peering down.

“Excellent they’re just starting! Let’s watch for a moment why don’t we.”

“Starting what?” Hazel questions as he approaches with Cha Cha.

There are armed guards in heavy tactical gear all along the sides of arena. Guns held at the ready.

In the center of the room, there are six people. Four of them, he realizes, are children. Or perhaps more accurately, teenagers, 16 years old at most. Three stand facing the left, shoulder to shoulder in a lineup – hands at their sides and chins raised. Two boys and a girl in the middle. On the other side and separate from the rest, the fourth teenager is fiddling with his hands in agitation, pacing back and forth like an animal trapped in a cage. Looking directly at the viewing room and in the middle of the two groups, stands a big, burly military man in uniform. When he catches the Handler's gaze her nods.

On the floor between them all, is a women. She's in her late twenties and she's sobbing desperately. Pleading in a language Hazel doesn’t know. 

“Desensitization,” the Handler replies, eyes never leaving the scene, “It seems the Trainer is focusing on Conquest honing his power today. What a rare treat”.

“I did this yesterday,” the boy standing alone snarls suddenly, whirling to face the Trainer.

This must be Conquest, Hazel supposes. A strange name, so he guesses it must be a code. Not unheard of in this line of work.

“And you’ll do it again everyday until you stop hesitating and again whenever I ask after that,” the Trainer announces with an air of impatience. “Now, kill her.”

Hazel stiffens, a sinking feeling settling into the pit of his stomach.

“Fine,” Conquest declares, gutting his chin out and pulling a gun fluidly from its place at his hip, pointing it at the women on the floor who shrieks louder at the sight. The air of confidence he’s attempting to exude is shattered by the way the weapon shakes in his hold.

Before he can fire, the Trainer throws up a hand to stop him.

“Not like that.”

Conquest visibly pales.

“Why not?” he finally grits out, anger replacing fear as he gesticulates with the weapon. “Why does it matter how I do it?”

“It matters because you’ll do as I say,” the Handler replies, voice sharp as steal. “Drop the gun.”

The boy complies. Dropping the weapon and kicking it away and behind him.

“Now kill her. I won’t ask you again.”

But Conquest doesn’t move and Hazel can almost feel the Trainer’s annoyance.

“Very well, how about some motivation?”

The Trainer pulls a gun from its holster at his side. For a moment, as he releases the safety, Hazel thinks he’ll shoot the woman in front of him himself. Instead, he turns suddenly and fires without warning, shooting the boy beside him in the leg.

The boy gives a startled shout. The shock and pain too much to keep him standing, he drops to the ground with a cry.

“Five!” the girl yells, rushing forward as if to check on him. The other two boys tense like they’re going to move as well, but before any of them have taken more than a single step, every gun in the room cocks and aims towards the center.

“In this room he is only Death. You’d do best to remember that War,” the Trainer growls at the frozen girl before making his way towards the wounded boy (Five? Death?).

The Trainer grabs the child, dragging him out of the lineup and back to his original position in the center. A scream rips from the boy’s throat as he’s manhandled into a kneeling position, putting pressure on and exacerbating the injury. Throwing an arm around his throat to keep him still, the Trainer pushes the barrel of the gun into the back of the Death’s head.

At the threat to the fourth’s life, the other three teenagers pale.

“I don’t recall giving either of you permission to move,” the Trainer growls eyes flicking to his left. With a nudge from the boy still standing, the girl stumbles up and resumes her stance, though her eyes keep glancing frantically at the boy on his knees. At the end of the lineup, the boy who had nudged her, has his hands clenched in tight fists at his side, his jaw working back and forth as he grinds his teeth.

“Now,” the Trainer begins, voice calm as he turns his attention back on Conquest, “will you be requiring further motivation Conquest, or can we continue with this simple exercise?”

Conquest is trembling, eyes wide with horror as he takes in the bleeding boy.

"Pl-please," Conquest begs, "please don't make me do it again..."

“It’s o-okay,” and it takes Hazel a second to realize it’s Death whose speaking, voice shaking and tight with pain, but gazing directly at Conquest. “It’s okay... if y-ou ca-n’t Chase…” the boy cuts off as the Trainer shakes him in warning. With a pause to take in a stuttering breath and a pained grimace, the boy clears his throat and continues defiantly, “You don’t have to d-do it. I can take it.”

The Trainer abruptly releases his grip, only to pistol whip the teen in the back of the head with such force that the boy is violently thrown back down to the floor. The weapon never wavering from where it's pointed at his head, the Trainer kicks out vindictively. He forces the boy on his side before stepping down on his leg, grinding his heel down viciously on the gunshot wound.

Death screams in agony and Conquest roars.

Hazel has never heard anything like it in his life. The sound makes his hair stand on end. The boy looks furious and Hazel swears his eyes are glowing. A moment later, he throws himself forward and suddenly Hazel is not looking at a boy at all.

Where Conquest had leapt, a Bengal tiger now stood. The poor woman screams louder, terrified as the tiger pounces, lunging for her throat.

Cha Cha tenses beside him, looking every bit as shocked as he feels.

“Who the hell are these people?” she questions.

“Aren’t they something," the Handler says proudly. "These are my Horsemen. We are so very fortunate to have acquired them. They’re gifted. Every one. The result of a strange anomaly in time.”

“Again.” the Trainer announces. “Kill him.”

Below, the women's body has been dragged away. A bloody smear painting the direction she'd been taken. A man now sits before them bound and gagged, body trembling as he watches the tiger silently.

The tiger however, makes no move to action, lowering its head and baring his teeth at the Trainer instead. If the Trainer is concerned by the sign of aggression, he doesn’t show it. Instead, he slowly shifts his body weight, steadily pressing down on the gunshot wound his foot had been resting on with increasingly greater force. Beneath him, Death whimpers weakly. A pained, broken sound.

With a snarl, the Bengal tiger becomes a timber wolf and strikes.

The body is dragged out. A new victim is brought in.

“Again.” A grizzly bear roars.

“Shouldn’t he be taken for medical attention?” Cha Cha asks and Hazel is relieved to see hints of hesitation on her face.

“Oh, he’ll be fine,” the Handler waves off nonchalantly. “Our doctors are the best after all. As long as he’s not dead, they can heal any minor training injury like this just fine.”

A gunshot wound to the knee doesn’t seem like a minor training injury to him but Hazel keeps his mouth shut.

“Again,” the Trainer bites out.

A horse trumpets, a loud war call and Hazel looks over just in time to watch a great white stallion rear before slamming its hooves back down on the man underneath it. Blood has splattered onto the three other children. Hazel’s stomach rolls with nausea and he turns away, unable to bear watching the stallion continue to stomp the man to death.

The Handler however looks giddy. It’s the first genuine smile he’s seen on her face since arriving, Hazel realizes with a start. She’s deriving pleasure from watching this. From forcing terrified children to murder. Because they are children and given the way the girl is trembling from head to toe, they are clearly terrified.

"Why are we here?" Hazel forces himself to ask at last.

“I do love watching them train,” the Handler states, “But more importantly, I think it's necessary that our new hires see this. I think it makes a lasting impression.”

She tears her eyes away from the scene below to look at them, all traces of fake kindness gone from her face.

“If you ever think to try and leave us. Break contract or anything of the like. This is what will become of you," she gestures below where a reticulated python is strangling its victim to death.

"They're still training now. They don't like the killing, not yet, but they are exceptional at it. One day I'm sure, they'll come to enjoy their work, it does take some getting used to. In the meantime however, they'll need the practice. Then in a couple years time, they’ll be the ones coming after you in the field if you try to run. And I can assure you, they'll be infallible."

Hazel's blood turns to ice in his veins.

Those couldn't all be past Commission workers...could they?

“Just something to consider," the Handler finishes, faux smile returning to her face. "The Commission is not an organization to betray lightly. You will not escape with your life.”

The beat of silence that follows is stifling.  

“Well, let’s move along then,” the Handler says turning away and gesturing towards the door they entered through. "You've got contracts to sign!"

Conquest must’ve killed the man again, because as they go, the command rings out once more.

“Again!”

He spares the children one last glance before he’s out the door and decides right then and there never to return. That despite the appeal of the luxury within the Commission’s headquarters, he’d rather avoid the place at all costs.


Hazel's hands are cupped around the mug when he finishes, eyes downcast.

Luther’s mouth feels dry.

He tries to imagine it. Being forced to kill like that – at 16 years old.

Christ.

He closes his eyes. Takes a moment to ground himself but his mind suddenly conjures the image.

Five bleeding out on the floor, looking so, so young. Vulnerable and afraid and alone.

He snaps his eyes back open before his thoughts can spiral further.

“Fuck,” Diego breathes, eyes glazed and lost.

For once, Luther can't help but agree.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

 

 

When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.

Revelation 6: 3-4 New American Standard Bible


 

Their dad was fucking shit. Reginald Hargreeves sets a low bar when it comes to caring for children. Possibly, the lowest bar. A bar soooo low, Klaus wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same one his father is currently using to dance the Limbo with Hitler in Hell.

But Christ, even Reginald Hargreeves had never felt the need to shoot at them.

What bothers Klaus the most, he decides, is the implications of his new found knowledge. Because as Hazel tells it, it was just another ordinary day. Typical training, and his baby brother had been SHOT.

Had been shot and not immediately rushed to receive medical attention. Because apparently that was just a thing that happens sometimes. A fucking minor training injury.

Christ on a cracker.

How many times had his brother been shot like that before? How many times after?

He recalls with sudden clarity that Five had been injured in the week leading up the Apocalypse too. A shrapnel wound in his chest. That he’d gone about his day without saying anything. That he’d continued going until the blood loss, not the pain, but the blood loss had become too much and he’d passed out in front of Diego and Allison.

He recalls how confused Five had been when they’d been understandably upset by his silence. When they’d made a big deal about the fact that HE’D BEEN BLEEDING OUT ALL DAY and Five hadn’t understood why they were raising such a fuss.

It hadn’t occurred to Klaus that is wasn’t a big deal because it was commonplace. Because he was used to it.

The thought makes his chest constrict and his stomach twist in a queasy kind of way. It makes his skin itch and GOD he’s too sober for this.

Ben is a statue beside him. Face drawn, arms tight across his chest, nails digging into the meat of his arms.

He wonders what part of that fucked up little story he was currently reflecting on. Whether it was just the horror of realizing that at the age they’d given up on Five coming home, that when they’d been making jokes about Five living his best life somewhere lounging out on the beach and too selfish to come back and take them with him, he’d been trapped somewhere horrible.

Or if perhaps the boy with monsters under his skin could relate to the boy who took the shape of monsters.

Unwilling to stand the silence any longer because he doesn’t like the directions his thoughts are going with the time to wander, Klaus restarts the conversation.

“So the other Horsemen… they were like us?”

Hazel nods. “The Handler said it was the result of a time anomaly. A group of random births.”

Shit three others like them. Ten out of the forty three now accounted for.

“What happened to them?” Vanya questions, voice barely above a whisper.

“I don’t know,” Hazel replies and then a beat later, with a touch of sadness in his tone, “But they’re gone now.”

Klaus’ heart drops at that.

“What do you mean you don’t know?” Diego growls combative. He’s upset and responding in one of the only ways he knows how – anger.

“I mean I don’t know,” Hazel says firmly. “What part of that story makes you think I wanted to stick around and find out more? No way. I avoided HQ at all costs after that. I heard rumors…whispers, but nothing concrete.”

“Could you find out?” Ben asks before Diego can retort something mulish and unnecessary.

Hazel eyes Ben carefully before he acquiesces, “I can try. I still know some people at the Commission who owe me a few favors. Like I said, the Horsemen are all gone now, so some of the documents on them may have been declassified. Lower level stuff at least.”

“Could you please?” Allison responds, a small grateful smile on her face.

Hazel agrees to get in contact with his ‘Commission friends’. He doesn’t guarantee he’ll be able to get them what they’re asking for, or even that any documentation even existed in the first place, but he promises, in all sincerity, to try his best. Either way, thanks to time travel shenanigans, they’ll have their answer by tomorrow morning. For better or for worse.

With that Hazel gathers himself to leave, taking the rest of the cookies with him for the road. As he’s about to go, he turns one last time to face them.

“I really hope you know what your doing.”

Ya Klaus really hopes they do too.

Then the door clicks shut and Hazel is gone.


 

When he finally manages to taper down his anger to an acceptable level, Five finds himself where he always goes.

Dolores is a spitfire. Always had been. Sparking quickly in response to his anger. Fiercely loyal and fiercely protective of her friends.

But what he needs now is her calm. Her wisdom - not her righteous anger.

So with a level head he finally approaches her, hours later after the department store has closed and security has finished their last rounds. She listens carefully, as she always does, before commenting.

She immediately calls him out on the things he omitted while presenting his case.

You’ve been avoiding them haven’t you? You’re pushing them away again.’

When he begrudgingly acquiesces, she calls him an idiot.

Dolores thinks they’re idiots too though, so that helps.

She’s angry. Furious that they’d belittled his efforts. Not when she’d sat and watched him working late into the nights. When she’d seen the years of effort, the hell he’d had to live through. Not when she lived the same.

Once her anger abates however, she thinks perhaps, he should tell them. That it might help him to talk about it to someone. That he shouldn’t hide it all away in his head.

He tries to dissuade her, but she stands firm on this point.

The problem is he’s not sure he can tell them. Even if he wanted to, he’s not sure he could find the words. He’s never spoken them out loud and the thought of it…the thought of it quite frankly terrifies him.

Fear is not an emotion he often feels. Not anymore. He’d grown used to the reality of living in constant fear. Now he recognizes the signs belatedly, in the shaking of his hands and shortness of his breath. He knows what it’s supposed to feel like but he can’t feel it. At least not for himself. After all, what could Death possibly have to fear?

He’s told his siblings that he’s a killer. They all know he was an assassin once. He’s said it again and again because he never wanted to deceive them, to play wolf in sheep’s clothes.

Yet knowing that truth and hearing the gory details of it are two very different things. He’s afraid of what it will mean – to reveal the whole truth of what he is.

A tiny, hopeful part of him wants to believe it won’t change anything. That they love him as he loves them. That that love is unconditional.

But the realist in him knows it will change everything. His siblings are young and innocent. They are hopeful and naïve and their world is one of stark contrast. Of light and dark. Of black and white. Of good and evil. And Five is a monster. A creature of the shadows – painted in darkness but guided by the light. A red ledger, dripping with blood.

What will he be then, when they learn the truth?

If the most important people in his life, the only people in his life, choose to send him away. When his tenuous hold on himself, on his very soul, rests on the belief that his end, that saving them, justified any mean to achieve.

What if they disagree?

He’s not sure he can bare to see the look on their faces when they finally see him for what he is. When they look at him the way he looks at himself in the mirror.

That is what Death fears.

Dolores catches him before he can spiral further. Pulls him out of his own head and back to the present.

Not all at once then,’ she urges. ‘One piece at a time.’

He resolves to talk to them. Not his past, not yet. But maybe someday, he offers to appease her.

Now he needs to apologize for his behavior as of late. Because while they’re in the wrong, so is he and as he keeps reminding everyone, he’s the adult here. The older adult here.

But for the time being, he allows himself this comfort and settles down at her side. Content for the moment, to sit in the company of the memory of one of his oldest and closest friends.

He wishes for the millionth time that he could have the real thing.


 

Five jumps back, taking a moment to catch his breath. Opposite him, Dolores’ cheeks are flushed with exertion, slightly breathless as well.

Despite this, they continue to circle each other, neither willing to back down. They’ve been at this for hours now. No powers, hand to hand combat. First one to pin the other down and get them to yield wins.

He’s gotten nowhere close to accomplishing this feat so far, but in his defense neither has she. They’re both starting to slow down now.

“You’re not getting tired are you,” he teases.

“I was about to ask you the same thing,” she quips back.

In honestly, training with Dolores is more of a dance then a fight. Their combat skills are rather evenly matched, both relying on speed and flexibility. On creative solutions to problems.

The current problem however, is that they know each other too well. He can read her next movements before she makes them by the way she holds herself, can tell a feint from a true swing, can call every bluff. Annoyingly, this translates into her being able to do the same for him.

Which leads every fight, to the same inevitable outcome: a long drawn out event which can go either way. Determined by a second of distraction or a moment of hesitation. Both of them far too stubborn to ever stop and settle for a tie before that point.

Dolores suddenly shifts her weight slightly. He gets only this second of warning before she’s leapt forward and is on him again. Lucky for him, that second is all he needs and he dodges with practiced ease.

Dolores groans in frustration and he laughs despite himself. She doesn’t let up, relentless as always and they’re locked in the dance once more. Striking and feinting. Spinning in and out of reach while dodging blows.

Feeling the exhaustion start to nip at his bones and knowing that this won’t be the last intensive training exercise of the day, Five decides the time has come to use a more underhanded approach.

He lets her clip him with her next hit, stumbling slightly as he lands. He intentionally slows his movements, waiting until the last second to dodge and forcing himself to falter. Noticeable but not too noticeable. Now for the hardest part.

He sets her up, morphing his face into one of surprise as he allows her to land a blow. It’s definitely going to leave a mark, but it has the intended affect. She springs forward confidently again, to finish it. Lulled by the illusion he’s weaved - wounded prey cornered by a predator.

The second she’s close enough, he drops. Her momentum propels her forward and in a burst of speed, he knocks her feet out from under her.

She lands on her butt with a thud. Five doesn’t give her time to recover, pushing her the rest of the way down and pinning her with his weight. Her wrists trapped in his hands.

“Yield,” he demands panting through the exertion.

Dolores looks up at him with wide disbelieving eyes, her hair splayed out on the floor in a halo around her.

Despite years of this hell, Dolores is radiant. She was always beautiful; from the first day he’d met her. But at 19, she’s grown in to herself – skinny, mousy frame becoming lithe and toned from the constant training. Exuding a confidence now she hadn't known then.

Dolores doesn’t answer, expression changing, the initial surprise melting away to something else. He’s suddenly struck by how incredibly close they are to one another. He can feel the warmth of her skin, the puff of her breath. She leans up and towards him as much as his hold on her allows, until their foreheads are practically touching.

She closes the gap between them with a kiss.

His eyes flutter closed without his permission, skin tingling, and static clouding his thoughts. Five feels himself relax, the tension draining out of his body...

He’s not quite sure exactly how it happens. Only that one second he’s pinning her to the ground, the soft touch of her lips on his, and the next he’s been flipped, the breath knocked out of him.

Dolores is suddenly straddling his waist, pinning his wrists to his side, a triumphant smile on her face.

His mind splutters to a halt and it takes a moment to catch back up with him.

He’s been played.

Fuck.

“Yield.”

Well that won’t do.

With his own wicked grin, he calls upon his powers. It’s technically cheating, but that was a damn dirty trick, he's embarrassed, and he’s not one to be outdone.

He opens the rift beneath him. Dolores yelps as they begin to fall, moving as if to dart away. However, her surprise makes her release him and before she can escape, he grabs her and pulls her through the jump with him.

They land only a few feet away. The momentum causing them to roll across the floor in a tangle of limbs until they crash into a rack of training equipment, sending its contents flying (to the other side thankfully) and the whole thing toppling to the ground.

Five uses the distraction to gain the upper hand. He pins her beneath him again and on a second, more cautious thought, leans back and away from her to prevent the same tactic from being used twice.

Because he absolutely would fall for it again.

Dolores catches the move and laughs, genuine and happy. A rare sound. Five preens at having caused it.

“Do you yield?”

“Fine, I yield,” she answers once she’s caught her breath.

He slides off her, standing with ease and offering his hand to pull her up.

“But you cheated,” she declares once she’s up, brushing herself off before shooting him a look, “so it doesn’t count. I get a rematch tomorrow.”

“Fair enough,” he concedes.

She nods appeased. “Aaaand,” she begins clasping her hands in front of her, mischievous smile on her face as she not so subtly walks backwards towards the exit…

“YouHaveToCleanAllThisUp!” She yells in one breath, turning and running out the door, knowing he could jump and catch her if he wanted.

Five chuckles and lets her go. His jump had caused the mess after all. He pulls the shelf back up and vertical, reaching for a pair of throwing stars (this really could’ve gone badly if it had tipped backwards onto them) when he hears a dull thunk from behind him.

He tenses, grip tightening on the weapon. In a second, he calculates where exactly the noise came from and where the best place to jump is. A slight creak and he’s gone, disappearing in blue light. He lands in position, ready to throw the blade, when his eyes land on the culprit.

“Dammit Chase!”

A silver fox pops his head up from on top of what had once been a pile of neatly folded towels on the third level of their supply cabinet. One door remains closed, the other hit the wall when Chase pawed it open, the cause of the noise.

“Have you been in here this whole time?” Five asks incredulous.

'I waaaas taking a lovely cat nap,' Chase’s voice responds in his head. Looking down at himself, Chase gives what Five assumes is the fox equivalent to a shrug, 'Well close enough, before you two SO rudely interrupted me…'

Five rolls his eyes and goes back to cleaning up the scattered items rearranging them back on the rack in their appropriate places.

“You didn’t think to say anything.”

Five hears the dull thud of the animal landing on the floor, followed by the click of claws.

'Well…I didn’t want to interrupt your flirting.' Chase tilts his head to the side, tail flicking behind him. 'It’s very cute that you have a crush on her.'

“I don’t have a crush on her.”

'No of course not,' he replies easily enough and Five figures that will be the end of that.

'You’re in love with her.'

Five trips on air. He flails pathetically for a moment before righting himself, thankfully managing not to drop any of the items in his arms.

Chase, the bastard that he is, snickers knowingly behind him.

Not turning to face the fox, because he knows that he’s blushing and he doesn’t want to give Chase anymore ammunition, he calls over his shoulder, “I’m not in love with her”.

'Oooh goody,' comes the sarcastic reply, the fox leaping up and onto the balance beam beside him for height. 'Because if you were…well, that would be an incredibly STUPID idea.'

“Well it’s a good thing it won’t be a problem, like I said,” Five bites back, bristling at Chase’s insistence, before turning to face him evenly.

The fox watches him with careful eyes before sighing, sympathetic as he adds, 'The Handler already has so many ways to hurt us. So much leverage. Don’t let her use this against you too.'

And there’s nothing but concern there. No malice or judgment whatsoever. Chase is only trying to look out for him. For both of them.

Five deflates. “I’ll keep it in mind.”

'Good.'

Five finishes his task in silence, Chase a silent companion behind him.

“Are you coming?” he offers, the invitation an olive branch. Proof he’s not actually upset.

The fox becomes an ermine and jumps, landing deftly on his shoulder. It settles there, a warm, comforting presence. He offers his hand and the animal leans his head into it, soft fur running through Five’s fingers as Chase lets out a content hum.

With the other boy so happily accepting the contact, Five can’t help but think of how far they’ve come.

Of the early days when Chase was terrified of his power. When a shift meant a complete loss of control and he’d refuse to come anywhere near them. How the tears would well up in his eyes as he apologized again and again, either for accidentally hurting one of them or incurring some punishment on them all for refusing to follow orders.

Their captors had been incredibly displeased with this behavior – having a shape shifter with them wasn’t useful if he couldn’t tell friend and foe apart. Five can’t help the sudden surge of anger that comes with remembering how the Trainer had thought to best handle the situation.

Chase had been missing for a couple of days. Five hadn't known him well, hadn't known any of them well, but it was enough that he was concerned. He'd gone investigating, jumping from room to room until he found him.

The mountain lion was locked in a cage, chained and terrified, feral from the isolation. To get over the fear of his power they said later, the same bullshit excuse Reginald had used with Klaus. Five had been absolutely livid.

It had taken hours to coax Chase down, to finally get close enough to remove the collar preventing him from shifting back, though that goal hadn’t been achieved without sustaining several injuries himself.

When Chase turned back and realized what he’d done, the boy had been hysterical. Five jumped them both back to his room and comforted him as best he could, promising that he wasn’t upset and that I hadn’t been Chase’s fault. That he knew Chase hadn’t meant to hurt him. He’d stayed up with him most of the night, until they’d both succumbed to exhaustion, Chase clutching at him desperately even in sleep.

The next day the Trainer had been furious. He decided that Five should get to face the consequences of interrupting valuable training. He forced Chase to shift, probably intending him to lose control and maul Five. To his great surprise, the wolf took one look at Five before trotting to his side, standing protectively between him and Trainer. Growling and snapping his sharp teeth at the other man whenever he tried to get too close.

Chase had confided in him later that it was his smell of all things that he’d recognized. The night spent pressed against Five’s side, in Five’s room, amongst Five’s things had imprinted his scent. A scent his animal side associated with safety, with home. It marked Five as a friend, as someone he should protect. Pack.

That realization resulted in a drastic change. Whereas before Chase would hide away from them, he now sought them out. He liked to be close to them.

Any annoyance they might’ve felt at the invasion of personal space was quelled by the fact that he did it to make sure he never hurt them. By the admission that whenever he was afraid or anxious, being around them, around pack, was grounding. No one could deny him that.

If Five is being honest, it’s one of the main reasons they’re all as close to one another as they are now. They’d been scared kids who didn’t know how to act around one another. They were kind to each other sure, but they’d been distant. Unaware of how to deal with their own trauma, much less each others'.

Chase broke all those boundaries. He initiated casual contact, reminded them of how comforting touch and proximity could be.

Soon whenever any of them were sad or hurt or scared they’d all come together. Five would pop in and out with blankets and pillows and snacks if he could manage to steal some without getting caught. Malakai would read or tell stories in a gentle, soothing voice. Dolores might sing, and run her fingers through their hair like Five remembers Mom used to. Chase would turn into a dog or a cat or some other big fuzzy animal and let them curl into him and clutch him tight like a giant teddy bear. The groups resident emotional support animal.

They’d fall asleep like that. One big dogpile (sometimes quite literally) in someone’s room. Those were the best nights of sleep Five ever got. The nightmares from training and the Apocalypse not quite able to reach him surrounded by warmth and the sounds of breathing and beating hearts.

Chase loves his power now; the freedom it gives him. He can easily interact with them in any form – the animal side of him having accepted them all as pack long ago. He can retain his form for far longer, where once a few hours would make him feral. He’d even learned to communicate with them in animal form (the first time Chase’s voice had sounded in his mind Five had almost had a stroke to the field mouse's great amusement). They’d all unanimously decided to keep the telepathy a secret from the Commission.

All in all, he’s a menace now really. Most recently he’s taken to hopping into their jacket pockets to take naps or perching on their shoulders for rides when he’s feeling too lazy to walk somewhere himself, as he is now. He’s chatting his ear off merrily, on about something Malakai did on their last mission.

The thought of them. Of the three of them fills him with warmth.

Chase was right.

He loves Dolores. He loves Chase and Malakai too.

Somewhere along the line they’d become his best friends.

Chase and Malakai have become his brothers. He loves them like he loves his siblings.

And Dolores...Dolores was something else. A different kind of love, but one he can’t dwell on now.

Because they’re not safe here. They will never be safe here and he wants to protect them.

He wants to run away from this place like he’d planned running away from the Umbrella Academy with his siblings all those years ago. He couldn’t save his siblings then from their father and that house, but he will save them from the Apocalypse. If it’s the last thing he does, he’ll save them.

He vows then and there to save the Horsemen too.

Chapter Text

When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come.” I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; but do not damage the oil and the wine."

Revelation 6:5-6 New American Standard Bible


 

March 25th, 1911 New York City

Five dodges impatiently past the people on the busy New York sidewalk, Dolores and Malakai keeping pace silently behind him. 

He stops when the entrance to the Asch Building comes into sight and checks his watch. 

4:34 P.M.

He ducks into an alleyway. Once they join him, he grabs them and jumps into the Asch building, to the 8th floor of the Washington Place stairwell. It's empty as they were told it would be. Giving them a moment to adjust and straightening himself out, he walks through the door and into the main floor room. Dolores follows a second later.

Their entrance goes completely unnoticed. The room is abuzz with noise, hundreds of workers operating sewing machines and snipping at fabrics. Dressed in the same uniform as the others, they blend in easily.

Once they’re both in the main room, Malakai shuts the door, remaining in the stairwell. Over all the machines it’s almost impossible to pick up, but Five hears the soft groan of the metal as Malakai effectively renders the door useless. He’ll do the same to the door on the ninth floor.

Five turns his attention back to Dolores. They’ve only got a few minutes left to finish the job on schedule but her attention is elsewhere. Her eyes are locked on two young girls, no more than fifteen years old. They race up the Greene street stairs towards the ninth floor.

Up the staircase which will catch fire in the next few minutes.

“Dolores,” he whispers, concern bleeding into his tone.

She practically jumps as his voice snaps her out of the momentary lapse. “Its fine,” she replies, shaking her head as if to clear it. “Let’s just get this over with.” She starts across the room and to the other staircase, Five following after her.

As they walk, a single flame flickers to life at Dolores’ fingertips. 

The moment they pass the cutters table at the northeast corner, closest to the stairwell, it jumps discretely from her hand to the scrap bin underneath. 

Five moves to the stairwell and slides open the window, to generate the updraft which will propel the flames to the higher floors. Once Dolores joins him, he pulls her up and out of sight before jumping them back to the alleyway.

Dolores leans back against the alley wall for a moment, and Five checks his watch once more.

4:40 P.M. Right on time.

They settle in to wait. Within a few minutes, the smell of smoke fills the air, the cacophony of fire trucks and panicked people accompanying it soon after.

With a resolute sigh Dolores makes to head back into the street.

“Hey!” He catches her wrist before she can exit, before the building comes back into view. “We can just wait for Kai here.”

They’re supposed to go out and watch. To make sure it goes off without a hitch and they both know it. But Malakai is still out there and he trusts that he’ll get the job done.

Dolores shakes her head and manages a weak smile entirely for his benefit. “I did this...I have to face it.”

He knows better than to argue so reluctantly he follows her out.

On the street, chaos has descended. They slip in with the group of onlookers who have gathered. The police have set up a perimeter around the building, firemen desperately trying to combat the flames. The 8th, 9th, and 10th floors are completely ablaze.

For a brief second, he's back in the Apocalypse. The heat of the flames and the scent of burning flesh throwing him headfirst into a flashback. 

As if sensing it, Dolores grabs his hand, squeezing gently until he's back to himself before stepping away again.

She's always had an uncanny ability to tell when his grip on reality is slipping, even when he shows no outward signs. Unfortunately, Five figures, it makes sense. If anyone would know, it's her. In the early days when he was just starting to deal with his trauma from his stint in the Apocalypse, her fire would trigger massive panic attacks. That is, until the trainer decided immersion therapy was the best way to overcome that fear.

People have started frantically jumping from the windows of the building in panic, the fire department's nets not strong enough to catch them. It’s an absolutely horrific sight.

Five feels the familiar thrum of self hatred, but it's not like they had much of a choice.

On the one hand, he’s glad Chase isn’t here. Makes a mental note to shower and change before seeing the other boy, unwilling to subject him to the scent of burning flesh that will surely linger on his clothes and person. On the other, he knows the Handler only kept him behind to keep the rest of them in check. Insurance as she says. Five isn't willing to risk what will happen to him if they step out of line. It's selfish, but he's always been willing to put the lives of the people he loves above everyone and everything else. This is no exception.

Malakai appears a few minutes later looking solemn and a little sick, having remained to remove any evidence of external tampering. His eyes land on Dolores and he shoots Five a worried glance. He nods in acknowledgement. It’s going to be a bad night. Several bad nights. This sight will linger to haunt them.

With Malakai back, Five reaches forward and grabs Dolores’ wrist, tugging her gently towards him and away from the view as three more people jump, flames licking at their bodies as they go. She comes without resistance, eyes unseeing as tears slip down her face. Malakai moves beside her, arm wrapped around her shoulder to offer guidance. They walk away, weaving through the spectators. People are openly sobbing, some hiding their faces away from the sight.

Behind them, metal groans as the exterior fire escape collapses from the heat, sending the people attempting to escape on it plummeting.

Five pushes Dolores to walk faster, the sound of screaming and bodies hitting the ground echoing behind them.


The next morning arrives much too soon for Vanya’s taste. She had decided to spend the night in the Academy with the rest of her siblings, wanting to be nearby in case Five returned. He never did. As a result, she spent a mostly sleepless night tossing and turning in worry.

By the look of her siblings when she finally stumbled downstairs for breakfast, they’d all had similar nights. She mumbles a greeting before heading to the coffee machine and pouring herself a cup.

“Anything?” she asks once she’s had enough coffee to feel like an actual human being again.

Allison shakes her head. “Not yet.”

Ben sighs, deep and long from where he’s perched on the counter. “Maybe it’s for the best.”

“Nuh uh! No way Benny boy,” Klaus waggles his finger at Ben. “We agreed. No getting out of this.”

The two fall into a hushed argument and despite everything Vanya finds herself smiling, she hadn’t quite realized how much she’d missed Ben and Klaus’ constant bickering. By the look of fondness on Allison’s face, she's not alone. Eventually, they quiet down and everyone is left to stew in silence, palpable anxious energy surrounding them.

“Diego dear?” Mom’s voice abruptly calls from the hallway, breaking the spell. “Could this be what you’re looking for?” She appears holding a black cardboard box the size of a briefcase, sealed together with twine.

Diego jumps up to grab it from her, thanking her before setting the box down in the middle of the table. Mom smiles gently, cheerfully wishes them all a good day, and then excuses herself to go do laundry.

They’ve all settled around the table now. Leaning forward expectantly to stare at the package but no one quite willing to be the first to open it.

Diego breaks the tension, pulling a knife from his side and slicing through the twine. “Here goes nothing,” and he pulls the lid from the box to reveal its contents.

There’s a single piece of paper at the top, which Diego grabs first. He scans it quickly and then holds it thoughtfully, Allison craning her head to read it from over his shoulder. Beneath, Vanya can make out folders, sealed manila envelopes, and what she thinks might be cassette tapes tucked in a corner.

In the meantime, Klaus snatches the rest of the box towards himself, riffling through it. He carelessly tosses most of the documents aside towards Ben.

Ben takes to them instantly. He starts flipping through the files quickly, scanning as if looking for something before moving on to the next when he can’t quite seem to find it. Never spending too long on any particular thing. Vanya can’t think of what he could possibly be looking for.

“Ooo videos!” Klaus exclaims pulling out a small stack of VHS tapes from from the box. “Let’s do that. No point reading the book when you could watch the movie am I right?” and he swats the folder from Ben’s hands.

Ben shoots him a glare, plucking the folder back off the table angrily. The action doesn’t seem to perturb Klaus who only turns to Luther and flutters his lashes to ask that his ‘big, strong brother’ go grab the old television set. Luther rolls his eyes but complies.

“Shit…”

Vanya turns to glance at Ben, who has obviously found whatever he was looking for. At her questioning look, he offers her the page of the file he’s holding. “I had a hunch but…I was hoping it was wrong.”

The majority of the page has been redacted which makes it easy for Vanya to quickly find what he’d stumbled upon.

“Dolores,” Vanya gasps eyes darting up to meet Ben’s resigned face and then back down to the page to make sure she's reading it right.

The name immediately draws the rest of her sibling’s eyes towards her, including Luther who’d just returned and was helping Klaus set up the monitor.

“What about Dolores?”

Numbly, she hands the page back to Ben who addresses the group. “She was one of the Horseman – War. When Hazel mentioned a girl I guessed it might be…,” he trails off and then points to another file. “The other boy, Famine, was named Malakai.”

“Shit. She was real,” someone mumbles but the sound doesn’t quite reach as well as Five’s words from the other day which are now ringing in her ears.

I lost her because I couldn’t leave you here to die…and you think I don’t even care

They’d all been treating Dolores like an imaginary friend, dismissive over Five’s attachment. But if she’d been real…

Clearing herself from rather painful thoughts, she gestures to the page Diego is still holding. “What’s that?”

He blinks owlishly at her for a moment before responding. “It’s a letter from Hazel,” and then begins to read it out loud.

This is everything I could find on the Horsemen; it looks like a lot of it has been destroyed or redacted. I owe you, so I did you this favor but, there are some things that are better left unknown.

From what I’ve seen, this is pretty heavy stuff. Especially the tapes. They’re hard to watch. Be warned.

Make sure this is what you really want to do. That there is no other way.

I really think you ought to just talk to him.

-Hazel

Soooo tapes first right?”

As one, they all shoot Klaus an incredulous look.

“WHAT! He said especially the tapes! They must have the most important stuff. No use beating around the bush at this point.” Before anyone can respond, he grabs one of the tapes and pops it in. Vanya just barely makes out that it’s labeled Assembly before he does so.

The screen comes to life, but Ben grabs the remote off the table and pauses before the recording can begin. He moves to eject the tape but stops in his tracks as he catches sight of the monitor.

Vanya moves forward curiously to get a better look.

The video is shot from above, a surveillance camera most likely. It's an auditorium or a stage. She can just make out a few rows of an audience in the bottom part of the screen.The stage takes up most of the view and it is lined by armed guards which form a wall in the background. There are four other people present on the stage in their early to mid twenties. A boy and a girl stand off to the side, further back. Not just any girl, Vanya is suddenly reminded, Dolores. She drinks in as much detail as she can on the small screen.

“Oh my god,” Allison breathes, voice soft as she traces a figure on the monitor. Vanya doesn’t know when it happened, but all her siblings are now surrounding the screen, looking at it intently.

Her eyes follow where Allison points, heart swelling at the sight. Five is unmistakable, despite the fact he’s older than she’s ever seen him before. She feels a twing of pride seeing him all grown up. He’s quite handsome now - taller and muscled, the same messy hair and sharp intelligent eyes. She’s struck by the urge to hear his voice. To know if the cadence has changed with age.

She’d been so engrossed in studying her brother’s features, that it takes her a moment to recognize the fwump of Five’s powers. By then, it's already too late.

“What are you doing?” and at the sight of all the scattered documents on the table, “What the hell is all this stuff?”

Vanya jumps at his voice, spinning around to face her brother. With all of them standing surrounding the monitor on this side of the table, Five has unimpeded access to the box and scattered documents. She opens her mouth to answer but no words come out.

Five eyes them all suspiciously when no one responds, and then grabs one of the folders off the table.

Diego makes an aborted move to lunge forward but it's already too late. With a sinking feeling in her gut, she watches Five’s confusion morph into recognition which morphs into indignant anger a second later.

“What is this?!" he asks through gritted teeth. "Where did you get this?!”

They can only stare back. Deer caught in the headlights.

“WHERE DID YOU GET THIS!” Five yells slamming his hands and the folder down on the table and breathing hard like he’s just run a marathon.

Allison takes a step forward, hands up in surrender. “We got it from Hazel. Five, just let us explain…”

“YOU WENT BEHIND MY BACK!”
 
Luther moves forward as well, stepping in front of Allison protectively, as is Five is an unstable animal about to jump across the table and attack her. He ignores the outraged look Allison shoots him. “Yes, we did. Five, you never would have told us otherwise!”
 
“NO OF COURSE I WOULDN’T HAVE! THAT’S THE POINT!”
 
“Five please,” its Ben this time, eyes shining with apology as he approaches. “We were all just worried about you. Let’s talk about this.”
 
“NO!” Five snaps, violently collecting all the documents scattered around the table and dumping them into the box in which they came from. “You don’t get to see this! You have NO RIGHT!” 

With their brother about to disappear with all the information they’ve managed to obtain, Klaus choses that exact moment to grab the rest of the VHS tapes and impulsively shove them down his pants. The action brings Five’s attention straight to Klaus and then to the monitor beside him, black and white screen still displaying the auditorium.

The color drains from Five’s face instantly, and for a brief second Vanya is afraid he’ll pass out.

“Give me that tape! Give me those tapes RIGHT NOW Klaus so help me!”

With all the petulance of a child being threatened with having their favorite toy taken away, Klaus stomps his foot and refuses, hiding behind Diego at the murderous look Five sends his way.

Five disappears with a pop and returns a second later, their father’s mace held in a white knuckled grip. A rather drastic escalation but Five has always had a flare for the dramatic. Luther rushes forward with an outraged roar to intercept, but Five has disappeared again.

He reappears behind them, aiming not for his brothers (thank god) but for the television. But his jump is sloppy, uncoordinated in a way Vanya hasn’t seen since Five first started to develop his powers. As a result, he lands within Diego’s reach.

“Jesus,” Diego breaths catching Five’s wrist before he can successfully smash the monitor to pieces. He yanks him forcefully away from it, prying the weapon from his hands, and keeping a firm grip on his wrist to keep him trapped there. “What the HELL is wrong with you?!”
 
“No, no!" Five shouts struggling in Diego's grip. "You don’t get to watch that! You CAN'T watch that!”

“And we don’t have to,” Luther responds calmly, which Vanya considers quite a feat all things considered. With Five restrained by Diego, he seems to have settled. “Not if you sit down and talk to us.”

“I..I can’t,” Five’s chokes, eyes wild and afraid as he meets his brother's. Vanya can’t remember ever seeing that look on his face.
 
Either Luther doesn’t notice, or it doesn’t matter as much as getting answers because he forges onward undeterred. “Five we need to understand. This is non negotiable.”

“UNDERSTAND that this is the worst possible thing you could be doing! If you do this, it’s not for my benefit.” Five spits, vicious and angry like a corned animal.
 
“We can all watch it together right now.” Luther tries to negotiate. “Klaus play the-”

“NO!” Five lunges towards Klaus and the monitor in panic, only to get pulled back by Diego once more.

Diego looks incredibly conflicted as he stares down at Five. “Five, if it has you this freaked out we ought to know about it.”

Five turns to stare up at him, still tugging at his wrist weakly. “Please. Please don’t do this…” he begs desperately. Diego’s face drops in regret at the sight. They still haven't reconciled from their fight yesterday and with how upset Diego had been about the whole ordeal in the aftermath, she can only imagine that causing Five such distress so soon after is killing him.

When the grip on his wrist doesn't relent, Five turns to her in search of support. “Vanya?” he questions and she can hear the hope in his tone.

She's at a complete loss of what to do. “Five…” she trails off, unsure what to say to make this better. Hurt flashes in his eyes for a moment as the realization dawns on him that no one will be siding with him on this.

Just as quickly, he’s steeled himself again.

Five stomps down hard on Diego’s foot, jerking out of his grip in the distraction and jumping before Diego has the foresight to grab at him again.

He lands on the other side of the table again looking absolutely murderous. “Well FUCK YOU! Fuck all of you! Do whatever the FUCK you want, but I’m not staying here. I’m not watching THAT,” and he points and glares at the monitor like its poisonous. Five stumbles backwards, grabbing the box with the rest of the things Hazel had sent them, and disappears from the kitchen in a flash of blue.
 
A heavy silence descends in the kitchen, Vanya fidgeting with her fingers nervously.

“We can’t watch this,” Ben argues. “He completely freaked out!”

Luther scrubs a hand over his face in exhaustion before meeting Ben's gaze resolutely. “That’s exactly why we have to watch it.” 

Whatever argument is about to break out on the moral quandary of what to do when trying to help your brother ends up hurting them instead is interrupted by Klaus. 

“Whoops!” he yelps, flailing away from where he'd stumbled into the monitor. The general murmur of an audience fills the room as the video starts to play.

“Klaus!” Ben reprimands. 

“It was an accident!”

“Turn it off!”

“I’m tryiiiing!” He knocks his hand against the monitor several times, tries the buttons there, and then starts pressing the buttons on the remote in a panic.

“Are you serious it’s a VHS player not a rocket ship?!” Diego growls out, stalking over to the monitor.

“I’m pressing every button on this thing, nothing’s working!”

“Don’t hit it! Just press it gently.”

“I am pressing it gently!” Klaus hisses proceeding to slam another button in an act that is nowhere near gentle. “It's not working!”
 
Diego shoves Klaus to the side roughly, intending to fiddle with it himself but Klaus slaps his hand away before he manages to. Diego looks downright offended for all of two seconds before slapping back at Klaus. In seconds, they’ve dissolved into the equivalent of an elementary school cat fight.

“Are you kidding me,” Allison grounds out in exasperation, moving forward to physically pull their idiot siblings apart and deal with the situation herself.

“Silence!” A voice commands, comically freezing her brothers in their tracks mid motion. In the video, the room falls silent instantly.

In the time her brother’s were bickering, a woman with short white hair appeared in the center of the stage. She’s dressed as if she’s heading to a funeral, an air of superiority discernible even from the old recording. Despite looking largely unassuming, something insider her screams that this woman is dangerous.

“I’m sure you’re wondering why I’ve called you all here,” the woman begins, all attention on her. She stalks across the stage, the click of her heels a steady rhythm.

They should stop this. They should turn the video off now Vanya knows but she can't bring herself to move and nobody else does anything either.

“You recognize my Horsemen of course,” the woman states as she paused, hands sweeping to indicate the group behind her. 

She shoots the audience a deadly smile as she moves back the way she came towards the other side of the stage. “And of course, you’ve heard by now of their feats! After all they’ve never failed a mission!" She gives a theatrically disappointed sigh and stops.

"That is, until today...”

A shiver runs down Vanya’s spine.

“Surprising isn’t it?" Her voice is intoxicating, commanding the space in a way that makes it impossible to look away. A snake swaying to hypnotize its prey. "I found myself disappointed too. My infallible team is fallible after all. Just like all of you," she mutters the last part in barely concealed disgust.

"But then," she holds a pointer finger up in the mimicry of a sudden revelation, "I realized the problem…"

Discipline. You all need to be disciplined.”

The woman makes her way back to the center of the stage.

“So I thought it best to lead by example. And what better example than the very best,” another blinding smile arms out at her side in question. She takes a moment to gaze out at the audience. To ensure she has everyones full attention before launching into the story. 

“My Horseman were out on assignment. They were tasked with the neutralization of a target. However, they were unable to accomplish this simple goal, despite the training I soooo graciously provided.” Vanya clenches her fists in anger, the kitchen cabinets rattling in response.

“Do you know why?” the woman asks rhetorically, she's made her way to stand just before the two men in the center of the stage.

She turns and grabs the boy beside Five, pulling him forward a step and towards her. Beside him, Five tenses, hands becoming fists. Vanya comes to the horrible realization that Five and this boy’s wrists are shackled. 

“My black horse Famine,” the women’s voice is sickly sweet as she grips him hard by the chin, holding him still from behind and leaning her chin to rest on his shoulder, “underestimated his opponent. He thought to offer mercy and as a result, he was almost killed.”

She releases him roughly, shoving him backwards before starting towards Five.

“He would have been killed, had it not been for Death here.”

Vanya hates this. Sees the line of tension running through Five’s body as this woman leans in close to him, moving into his personal space and tugging at his hair roughly to accentuate her words.

“You see instead of accomplishing the mission objective, OUR ONE AND ONLY GOAL", here her voice booms in sharp anger. "Death decided he knew better. He decided to save Famine’s life." She has Five by the back of the neck now, nails sinking into his flesh and so sharp that Vanya can just make out beads of blood. "He allowed the target to escape, with the knowledge he was being targeted, all to save his partner’s life. “

She finally steps away from Five and back towards the front and center of the stage. 

“That..,” and she shakes her head back and forth as if the very situation is ludicrous, “that is unacceptable, ladies and gentlemen.”

“It won’t do. It simply won’t do at all,” she repeats again as an after thought.

Her heels click as she circles back. A predator eyeing her prey. She makes it behind them and shoves them both forward, from the middle, to the front of the stage. At the center of attention.

“And I plan to ensure it never happens again.”

Vanya realizes what’s about to happen a second before it actually does. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion. Her mouth opens against her will, heart speeding up, and she has the sudden urge to shout a warning – to do something.

But she’s powerless to stop what has already happened.

There’s nothing she can do but watch.

Vanya watches in horror as the Handler takes out a gun, presses the muzzle to the back of Famine’s skull, and pulls the trigger.

His body hits the ground with a dull thud.

Chapter Text

 

 

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.”

God no.

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.

Years.

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-

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.

Chapter Text

Klaus drops the rest of the VHS tapes on the table like they burn before turning and heading to the foyer to get himself a drink.

Ben should stop him. Unlike before, he actually can now, but no one else says anything and he just doesn’t have words. Can’t manage to form them. Instead, he finds himself trailing after his brother, the others follow a moment later.

Ghosts wandering the hall.

There’s a stifling silence permeating the house. Like they’re all caught in a daydream - a nightmare. Any sound will rouse them back to reality. To the consequences that come with it. The truths they’d rather not face.

Klaus comes to a sudden, screeching halt. Unprepared, Ben crashes into his back. He’s about to open his mouth and ask what’s wrong when his eyes follow Klaus’ gaze.

It’s raining. A dark depressing rain, despite the fact it was a sunny day previously and Ben was certain there was no rain in the forecast at all this week. Five’s sitting sprawled on the floor against the bar watching the weather blankly, an empty bottle of vodka on its side by his feet and a half full one in his hand. The bar stools have all been shoved out of the way. Some even appear to have been thrown.

Five turns to look at them, as they stand there stupidly. They’d all taken one step in, seen him and frozen.

His eyes, usually sparking with mischief or curiosity or something, are hauntingly dull.

Allison bursts into tears. The rain falls harder.

“You watched it didn’t you?” he questions but it’s not a question, voice even and emotionless. He takes a deep swing from the bottle.

Luther steps forward, shifting uncertainly on his feet. “Five… I–”

“Was it worth it?” Five interrupts in the same detached tone. Luther’s jaw clicks shut. “Did you find what you were looking for Number One?”

Luther flinches like he’s been struck at the venomous tilt in tone when addressing him by his number.

“I’m sufficiently drunk enough for this conversation now,” Five states, raising his half empty bottle in proof. “Enlighten me, what did you all want to know so badly?”

There’s no answer.

Ben feels like someone dropped a lead weight on his chest.

“No?” Five laughs, a dark twisted thing. His words start measured, sharp, but by the end they’re tinged with hysteria, slightly maniacal. “I thought you were all SO desperate to understand. I thought you ALL wanted answers. And now you’ve got nothing to SAY!”

Again he’s met with no response. He nods to himself, expecting their silence and brings the bottle up again, making to down the whole thing at once.

“Jesus,” Luther breathes. Ben can practically see him slipping on the mask of Number One and dammit if that isn’t the last thing they need right now. Before he can stop him, Luther steps forward, a man on a mission.

Ben’s honestly not sure how Luther thought this would go down. Perhaps he imagined he was approaching his brother in a sensible manner, like any concerned sibling would. But Five grew up in a world, Ben is just now starting to understand, that taught him to fear. That taught him to err on the side of cautious and assume a situation is dangerous, lest he be caught unaware. So instead of good intent, what very much comes across to their inebriated and deeply traumatized brother, is Luther’s massive form, tall and imposing, rushing across the room, cornering him while he’s too drunk to jump away.

Five responds instantaneously to the perceived threat. He throws himself up onto his feet defensively, tilting dangerously before using a hand to steady himself on the bar.

“Stay away from me!” he shouts at Luther, relaxed grip on the bottle turning white knuckled.

Betrayal and rage spark to life in his eyes and Ben can’t take it. Can’t take that look not with what he’s just seen. Not when what he wants more desperately than anything else in the world right now is to wrap Five in twenty blankets and hold him tight.

Luther dismisses the warning in the same infuriating way he always dismissed Klaus whenever he was drunk or high - as if his feelings weren’t valid unless sober. He doesn’t even break pace.

Five stumbles backwards, edging around the bar until he’s placed it between them. Puffing himself up and hissing like a cat.

“Don’t you fucking dare come near me! Don’t you dare!”

When Luther still doesn’t stop, he hurls the bottle at him. It just misses, veering to the right and shattering against the wall in a spray of vodka.

Someone shouts beside him and Luther lunges forward to close the distance between him and Five, trying to grab him. It’s become his signature move whenever Diego is acting crazy and while crude, even Ben has to admit that bear hugging through arguments is definitely a step in the right direction for those two, when the alternative is a full on brawl.

However, Five is not Diego and Five is definitely not all here right now because Ben sees the exact moment understanding fades and his eyes glaze in genuine terror.

Coincidentally, Diego sees it too. He’s across the room in seconds, shoving Luther bodily away and placing himself protectively between them. It might’ve effectively diffused the situation…had they not started arguing immediately after. Ben barely resists the urge to facepalm.

Five cowers away from them, scrambling backwards until his back hits the wall and he sinks to the ground.

Naturally, Allison joins the argument moments later. While going about it far too loudly, at least she is trying to get them both to back off. So that has to count for something? Klaus, sweet, well meaning Klaus, approaches Five from the other side, because he knows a flashback when he sees one. Unfortunately, as a whole, all they’ve managed to do is crowd Five. 

“Don’t touch me!” Five shouts when Klaus gets too close, pulling away until he’s wedged himself in the very corner. “Go away! Leave me alone!”

From where they each stand, Ben is sure it seems to his siblings like they’re helping. But from where Ben stands, a horrified spectator with a full view of the room, it’s a goddamn mess. Only his siblings are capable of spiraling a situation so quickly.

He wants desperately to get involved, to try and salvage the situation, when he suddenly remembers that he very much can. Dammit he's an idiot too.

Vanya chooses that moment to remember it too. Not that she’d ever been invisible like him, but she’s used to being unheard in a different way. Ignored and talked over until she stopped bothering to speak up at all.

Not this time.

“Stop!” Vanya’s voice is raised, but she’s not yelling. A flash of lightning carves across the sky followed by the boom of thunder to punctuate her words. Five flinches backwards.

It halts everyone else, and spurs Ben into action.

“Klaus.”

His brother returns to his side so quickly it might as well have been a spatial jump. Ben touches his shoulder briefly, trying for a comforting smile he’s not sure reaches his face. But he takes the moment nonetheless. Klaus was trying to help in his own way and Ben is proud of him for that. Crowding into Klaus’ personal space always helped him through his panic, blocked his view of the ghosts screaming at him. It just so happens to be the exact opposite of what Five needs.

Vanya, bless her, has managed to get Luther, Diego, and Allison to back away. When their eyes meet she nods, trusting him to handle this.

Let’s just hope he doesn’t fuck it up.

Ben approaches slowly. He makes sure to leave Five an out, won’t try to corner him like Luther had. Won’t force him to do anything. Not now when Five is already feeling vulnerable. There is no way he can jump in this state. Not like this – too drunk and emotionally exhausted.

“Five?” He keeps his tone even. He knows how Five hates being talked down to. How he used to mistake concern for pity and condescension as a child.

Thankfully, he sees recognition seep back into his brother’s eyes.

“B-ben?”

He fights the urge to rush in and grab his brother and never let go. Five looks so vulnerable, huddled on the ground with his arms wrapped around his legs. It’s inherently wrong. Five is confident and strong and self assured. Seeing him look defenseless like this is physically painful.

He crouches down to Five’s level, making sure to maintain distance between them, searching his mind desperately for the words to make this better. He's usually fairly eloquent, great at comforting others. But what the hell is he supposed to say to this? It’s okay. It’s very much not fucking okay.

God he hopes more than anything in the entire world that Five had not been close enough to hear. That the sound of the gun firing hadn’t filled the whole house like it had the kitchen.

He swallows past the lump in his throat. “I’m sorry. Five I’m-I’m so, so sorry…”

Five is trembling, in what Ben guesses is slowly becoming a full blow panic attack.

“Five please…”

He’s banking on not having completely broken Five’s trust with this single act. They’d always been incredibly close.

Ben wore the title of Five’s Favorite Brother with incredible pride, even as children. Five loved them all, that much had always been obvious to him, if not to the others. But there was something special about being singled out by Five of all people that always made his heart swell. Having someone who wasn’t obviously affectionate and only tolerated the presence of others for minimal amounts of time, decide that he was important enough to warrant an exception.

He thinks of those first few weeks after returning to life. How confusing and complicated everything felt. Ben had desperately wanted physical affection, had missed it for years, but it had quickly become overwhelming. His siblings were all over him constantly and it was slowly driving him crazy.

Five had taken one look at him and known, just like he’d always known. Whenever his other siblings came crowding around, the second he felt the first pang of discomfort, Five would snap at them to give him space. Something along the lines of “Ben are you still alive in there or have they smothered you to death” or “Hey morons he actually needs to breathe now you know”. Light enough that his siblings’ wouldn’t freak out and get over concerned, but enough of a nudge to get them to immediately stop. Damn did it help.

Five’s ability to tell when he was getting uncomfortable was uncanny, borderline supernatural. It took some time but eventually Ben figured it out. His knowledge came from practical experience. Five was struggling through the same thing. 

From the moment he realized, Ben became determined to help his brother too. To acclimate them both to casual contact again. He literally owed Five his life, it was the least he could do and it assuaged the guilt of not having noticed sooner. Five picked up on it immediately because obviously. He rolled his eyes and called Ben an idiot, but for all the show of annoyance, he always allowed it.

So began their rehabilitation to human contact. They helped each other, started to heal together. The ideal companions for one another. And they’d gotten far. Gone from arms barely brushing, to curled up reading together in the same armchair. He’d even woken up one morning cuddled into his brother’s side after staying up late into the night talking just like they did as children. When Five cautiously admitted it was the best night of sleep he’d had in years, Ben felt such an immense rush of affection for his brother that he couldn’t wipe the stupid smile off his face for the whole rest of the day. (Five threatened to kill him if he ever told anyone.)

He watched with immense pride as Five stopped swatting their siblings away when they tried to touch him, slowly leaning into contact and even initiating some of his own.

“Can I-please, can I hug you?”

The teenager says nothing, but his eyes start watering with unshed tears. The lack of rejection has Ben cautiously moving forward.

“I’m going to touch you now ok?” He whispers softly. He holds up his hands so Five can track his movements. Making slow, obvious motions before finally bridging the gap and setting a hand on Five’s bent knee.

“Five?”

Ben sees the exact moment when the carefully constructed wall Five has built around himself shatters. His brother suddenly launches himself at Ben, burying his face into Ben’s chest and clinging on like a lifeline. He’s frozen for a single moment of shock before hugging Five back just as fiercely.

Gut wrenching, wailing sobs erupt from the boy in his arms and Ben’s heart crumbles to a million pieces right then and there.

He’d thought it had been bad before. Watching his brother cry silently, not even realizing he’d been doing it. But this – this is so much worse.

He’d been there. He’d been there when they’d voted and when they’d spoken to Hazel and when they’d watched the video. He let this happen. He did this to his brother. Yet somehow, Five trusts him enough to let Ben hold him in this vulnerable state. Fuck he doesn’t deserve that trust.

Selfishly, he pulls his brother impossibly closer. His brother who feels so very small in his hold. Who was so unbearably young when the world decided to screw him over and apparently never quite stopped. Ben hates it. Hates the fact his brother had to suffer like this. That it had to be his family that got dealt the shittiest fucking cards in the whole world.

Five is bawling, nothing but fast, spasming breaths that must be leaving him light headed. Ben coaches him through it. Patiently takes long, exaggerated breaths for Five to mimic until finally, finally he’s calmed enough that Ben isn’t afraid he’ll pass out on the spot.

The wails dissolve into choked sobs, Five still clinging to him desperately. So Ben buries his face in his hair, whispering sweet nothings and rubbing circles down his back as his brother cries. Rocking them both back and forth soothingly. Carding his fingers through his hair.

Ben isn’t sure how long they stay like that. Time losing all meaning to him. He catches the looks on his siblings’ faces every once in a while and always forces himself to look away. They look fucking destroyed and he can’t handle that right now. One thing at a time.

But he understands. Beneath his concern for Five and his anger at all of them for allowing this to happen, he feels a tug of sympathy. He can’t even imagine what it must feel like to watch this. To force themselves to stay away because Five hadn’t wanted them anywhere near him.

Eventually his brother goes silent. Without jostling him, Ben pulls back to peak down at him.

Five has cried himself to sleep in his arms. Tear tracks mark trails down his cheeks from his wet lashes. His hands curled to fists around the front of Ben’s shirt.

Ben presses a gentle kiss to the crown of his brother’s head, holding him for just a second longer. Adjusting Five in his grip, he pulls himself up, Five safely cradled in his arms. It’s definitely an awkward position, but the thought of relinquishing his brother to anyone else has even the monsters in his chest bristling angrily. ‘Protect’ they thrum through their bond, remembering when Five had done the same for them.

Five, eleven years old and standing in front of him, arms outstretched, refusing to allow Reginald Hargreeves to come anywhere near Ben, stubbornly declaring that Ben’s private training was over. The absolutely livid look on their father's face, how he literally dragged Five from the room and it was days before Ben saw his brother again. Finding Five, littered in bruises and burns, exhausted to the point he couldn’t even get up off the floor. Wrists and ankles torn to shreds from the restraints. Freezing to the touch and half starved from the strain of overusing his powers. The look of utter triumph on his face when Ben reassured him that their father hadn’t tried to resume his training in Five’s absence.

Remembering how Five appeared the very next time their father was too rough on him and every time after that, just to do it all over again.

Protect’ they thrum and he echoes his agreement.

His siblings part to let them pass, at least a few of them trailing after given the footsteps on the stairs. He wants to take Five into his room, but knows Five would prefer his own space.

When the reach the correct flight of stairs, Klaus steps forward to open the door to Five’s room since Ben's hands are full. Allison sets to making the bed, taking extra care to fluff the pillows and arrange the blankets just so while Vanya lowers the curtains and dims the lights in preparation for the killer hangover Five is bound to have tomorrow morning.

Once they’re finished, Ben sets Five gently on the bed. Pulls off his shoes and changes him out of the stiff Academy uniform and into the oversized sweater and sweatpants Klaus offers him from his own closet. The sweater is Klaus’ favorite.

Diego and Luther appear at some point throughout all this. Diego has an entire armory of supplies, years of experience with Klaus. He places a bucket next to the bed and a glass of water, Gatorade, and Advil on Five’s bedside table. Luther solemnly drops the VHS tapes in the box thrown haphazardly in the corner. Ben wants to burn the goddamn tapes, the rest of the box too, but after tonight he’s certain if Five wakes up to find it gone he’d panic. He's not sure Five would even believe them if they said they destroyed it, and honestly they've given him every right to doubt them.

Ben fusses over the blankets too, carefully tucking Five in before perching himself on the side of the bed. With a sad sigh, he cups his hand over Five’s cheek, brushing away the tears with his thumb.

Five subconsciously leans into the touch.

Ben doesn’t want to leave him, but there’s a conversation that needs to be had.

“I’ll be right back,” he promises, brushing the hair from Five’s eyes, lingering for a second longer than necessary before ushering the rest of his siblings out.

He walks them all back down to the living room. Doesn’t want to have this conversation right outside Five’s door in case it rouses him. They follow without question, a silent procession.

“We’re done,” Ben announces once they get there. “We’re done watching tapes and we’re done asking Hazel and we’re done trying to pry shit out of Five. We are not doing that to him again.”

No one disagrees.

Diego clears his throat a moment later. “So-m… someone should stay with him. Just in case...” He inclines his head towards the bar. His subtle way of expressing concern over the fact Five is drunk off his ass and could very well choke on his own vomit in the middle of the night if left unattended.

“I will,” Ben responds easily.

They all nod but Ben’s focused on Klaus. His brother looks as though he’d expected as much, but Ben can see the thinly veiled panic concealed there. Klaus is still gripping his dog tags, hands shaking lightly. The tape hit a little too close to home.

His heart clenches. Klaus shouldn’t be alone tonight either.

The others disperse but Ben grabs Klaus before he goes with them. While Five would no doubt prefer to be alone right now if lucid enough to have the choice, he and Klaus are actually quite close. Ben is pretty sure Five won’t begrudge him this too badly, despite the role Klaus played in the whole debacle.

“Do you want to come too?” Klaus’ relief is palpable at the suggestion. He’s unusually quiet as they reenter and arrange themselves in the corner of Five’s room. Alarm bells ring in Ben's head but he waits for Klaus to make the first move.

He doesn’t wait very long.

“Fuck Ben...”

It’s barely a whisper. In the soft glow of the lamp, he can just make out the way Klaus’ eyes are watering, looking in Five’s direction but gaze faraway. Ben eases himself out of his chair quietly and settles on the floor next to Klaus, laying an arm around his shoulder and pulling him close. Klaus melts into the hold, sniffling softly.

They keep their silent vigil for the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

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!”

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.

Five sighs.

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.

“Five?”

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.

Chapter Text

In a surprising turn of events, things don’t immediately go to shit. No, it takes a few hours for that to happen.

After the riveting round of sibling apologies, Five heads straight back to his room. Burrowing himself under the sheets in his bed and curling up to ride out the rest of his hangover, which is currently manifesting in the form of a massive migraine.

He’s not sure how long he lays there, but eventually Ben appears with medicine and a soft smile to coax him out to lunch. Not one to deny Ben anything, he obediently follows, despite the fact that the very thought of food has his stomach threatening to rebel.

On the way, Five snatches Allison’s showy movie star sunglasses to block out the light which is suddenly blinding. If he growls at Diego and Klaus for laughing well, that’s neither here nor there.

He’s more than ready to crawl miserably back into bed after successfully managing to not hurl through lunch, but before he can make his escape, Vanya is suggesting family bonding time and looking at them all with bright hopeful eyes.

Five puts his foot down. He’s already been manipulated by one of his soft spoken siblings, he refuses to be sucked into loud, obnoxious hijinks when he still feels like shit.

So naturally, he finds himself in the living room surrounded by his siblings less than ten minutes later. He attributes his current malleability to an unwillingness to argue with the pounding in his head and the inability to jump without making everything worse.

The concession is made that the lights be kept dim and the noise at a minimum. He also gets an entire couch to himself which is now covered in blankets and pillows. His siblings journeyed across the house to collect them, offering them up like he was some sort of vengeful god who could only be appeased with the softest of materials. He’s warm and comfy and not about to complain.

His hoard also includes one of Klaus’ stuffed animals because he couldn’t well refuse that with how fucking pleased Klaus looked at offering it, now could he. It's a purple hippo. Diego got it for him.

They’re watching one of Allison’s movies. A surprisingly wholesome activity if not for the fact they’re watching it for the sole purpose of making fun of her. The film is one of her first, back when she still had no idea how to act and simply rumored her way into getting her parts. She mispronounces the town’s name every other line and the amount of plot holes is frankly astounding. She honest to god trips in one of the scenes and the poor rumored director didn't think to cut it from the film.

It’s a fucking masterpiece.

The teasing has Allison blushing and laughing in equal measure, so it’s all in good fun. One of his sibling’s better ideas truly. If the way Diego and Klaus keep not so covertly sending each other looks is any indication, it’s not the first time they’ve partaken in this particular pastime either.

He must doze at some point because the next thing he knows he’s startling awake, panic squeezing his chest tight. Five just barely manages to stop the small frightened sound from escaping, coherent enough to recognize Diego hovering over him.

“I’m fine,” he croaks before Diego can open his mouth and insinuate otherwise, mouth dry and rough. Diego shoots him a look and Five pulls himself into a sitting position to put some distance between them. “It’s nothing,” he emphasizes.

Diego sighs but says nothing and Five thinks they might actually brush it under the rug except-

“Ok no, I’m sorry I can’t ignore the elephant in the room any longer.” Five sends Klaus his most threatening stop-talking-right-now look, but it must be dulled by his rumpled appearance and clutching of a stuffed animal since he continues anyways. “What the hell are you so scared of us finding out?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Five bites out. He pushes the plush away.

“If it wasn’t already incredibly obvious, you were literally talking in your sleep just now short stack.”

He was talking in his sleep? Shit. What the hell did he say?

“The jig is up! J’accuse!”

Five levels Klaus with his best blank stare. His brother huffs and throws his arms out at his side.

“Oh come on! We are literally the world’s most dysfunctional family and biggest group of fuckups! Right guys?” Klaus gives a little bounce at the end, spinning around and looking for someone to high five him.

“No one is going to high five you for that,” Luther grumbles.

Klaus blows a raspberry at him. “Who asked you anyways Curious George!” Klaus barrels onwards before Luther can properly articulate his displeasure at the nickname. “Anyways, the point is no mistake is too grand for this family!”

This is very much not the conversation Five wants to be having right now. He can feel the throbbing behind his eyes increasing. “You can’t just say that. You don’t know what I did.”

“What could you have possibly done that would make us hate you? Vanya literally killed every single person on the planet. I think whatever you did probably pails in comparison.”

Dude!” Ben reprimands.

Because Ben is literally Klaus’ part time conscience, he quickly amends. “No offense Vanya!”

“None taken?” She responds, voice tilting in confusion like she hasn’t decided if she should be offended or not.

“Can we just drop it?” Five prays to whatever deity there is that Klaus will let it go.

“No, no we cannot.”

Of course. He sends a quick fuck you to the powers that be.

“Klaus, I’m serious.”

“So am I. So super serious!”

Five scrubs at his face in exhaustion. “I can’t…” He decides to try for honesty. For vulnerability. Klaus usually responds to that. “I don’t want to lose you,” he admits quietly.

Klaus bursts out a startled laugh. “That’s literally insane! More insane than your usual brand of insane in fact.” Five feels himself prickling with indignation and his brother must pick up on it because he pauses, voice softening as he tries for reassuring. “You’re not going to lose us.”

Ya no, he can’t do this.

Five stands up to head back to his room but between one blink and the next Klaus materializes in front of him. He’s not sure if Klaus was that fast or if he’s just that slow right now and it’s more than a little disconcerting. Either way, the act gives him a brief glimpse into a world in which Klaus was born with his powers instead and it’s terrifying, lawless world.

“What did you do? Did you kill Abraham Lincoln?”

The change in line of questioning is so fast, it almost gives him whiplash. “No,” he finally drags the word out. Technically true. He’d been there but Chase fired the shot.

“Beyoncé?”

“No.” His tired brain catches up a few seconds later. “She’s not even dead!”

Klaus throws himself bodily into a dramatic gasp. “Are you planning to kill Beyoncé?”

“No! Why would I—”

“Oh my god did you kill Princess Diana!?”

“What does that have to do with anythi—”

“Just tell me!” Klaus stomps his foot like a child throwing a tantrum. Five can feel the sound rattling through his bones.

“Klau—”

“I promise nothing will change! Just tell me!

He forces the palm of his hands against his temple. Colors exploding behind his closed eyelids.

“Five are you oka—”

“Tell me tell me tell me!”

The pressure is increasing higher and higher. Pain throbbing in tune with his heart beat.

“Klaus give it a rest you’re giving him a mig—”

“Tell me tell me!”

It’s too much. It’s all too much.

“TELL ME”

"TELL MEEEEEEEEE"

“DAMMIT KLAUS, I KILLED DAVE!”

Silence smothers the room and with it, the ability to think returns to him. The words he’s just shouted registering. Panic rushes through his body, the adrenaline pushing the pain to the foreground for the time being. The blood freezes in his veins, heart beat climbing faster and faster.

“What?” Klaus is looking at him with wide eyes. Five can’t remember a time he’s ever heard his loud eccentric brother sound so small.

He opens his mouth but no sound comes out.

“Five, what did you say? What did you JUST SAY?”

He flinches back at the shout, finally finding his voice. “I killed Dave, Klaus,” he replies because it’s too late. Because Klaus deserves to know. “It was me.”

Five doesn’t dare turn to look at the rest of his siblings.

In front of him, Klaus takes a half step back.

“No. No, no, no. You’re lying. You’re joking and it’s not a funny joke Five, so just stop it!”

“I’m telling you the truth.”

“No, no you didn’t.” Klaus is shaking his head back and forth as if he can physically force the thought from his mind. “You couldn’t have. That’s impossible.” There’s desperation in his voice. He’s begging Five to take it back.

Five wishes he could take it back.

“It’s not.” He schools the emotion from his tone. Needs Klaus to understand. “There was an anomaly... They didn’t know exactly what caused it, but they were able to calculate the death most likely to fix it and—”

“No! Shut up your lying!”

“I’m not.”

“SHUT UP! SHUT UP!”

Five doesn’t quite know what to do with himself.

One small hysterical part wants to laugh. To scream 'I told you so!' because he’d been right in the worst of ways.

A sick part of him wants this. Wants Klaus to get angry, to hate him. To hit him and yell and scream, because that’s what he deserves. The love and compassion had been too painful with the truth rattling around in his brain. The anger is easier, more familiar.

The rest of him just wants to cry. Because Klaus is crying, trembling as silent tears stream down his cheeks.

He’s not going to cry. He’s not! Crying will garner sympathy, especially in this pathetic excuse for a body. He refuses to guilt them into undeserved sympathy.

The one person I ever loved more than myself’, Klaus had said once. And Five fucking killed him.

Klaus turns and races from the room. Five doesn't even try to stop him. What the hell could he even say?

He can't even fully apologize. Did he regret that the chosen soldier was Dave? Yes, of course. Would he do it again knowing what he knows now? Yes. 

The ends justify the means.

Five makes the mistake of accidentally meeting Ben’s gaze. It’s like getting punched in the gut, leaves him breathless and sick. His brother says nothing, only follows after Klaus, feet pounding up the stairs a moment later.

“Fuck you didn’t.” His eyes track to Diego. “Jesus, please tell me you didn’t.”

He has nothing else to say. No comfort or justification to offer his sibling.

Christ.” It’s a whisper, murmured under his breath, and then he’s gone, following after Ben and Klaus.

Five is left with his other siblings. They know in practice, who Dave was to Klaus. But not in the same way as Ben and Diego, who’d both been there in the original timeline. Who’d seen the way his death affected Klaus first hand in the days immediately after. Who'd seen the way Five's actions had hurt Klaus in the days immediately after.

“I should go.” Five says after a beat. Klaus deserves to process this. “He won’t want me around. It’s for the best.”

He doesn’t have anywhere else to go, but he can’t stay here.

No one attempts to stop him. Despite having expected it, despite deserving it, hurt wells up all the same. He pushes it down stubbornly. He doesn’t get his family’s comfort after murdering his brother’s soul mate.

Just as he’s opening the door, someone rushes to catch up with him.

“Five!”

Vanya then.

He turns back to glance at her. “He just, he needs some time.” She tries weakly, but she looks unsure.

Five shakes his head. No. Klaus will never forgive him for this.


 

Vietnam 1968

The air is hot and humid as Five treks through the jungle. He wipes the sweat on his brow away for what must be the hundredth time. His boots sink into the muddy soils despite the fact they’re traveling light and he’s burdened only by the weight of the rifle on his back.

In front of him, Malakai has molded the gauntlet on his arm into a machete, utilizing it to cut through the thick underbrush.

“This is stupid. Why is the Handler making us do this anyways?”

There far enough from enemy territory that Five doesn’t reprimand him for speaking up. He only gives a tired sigh. Arguing about why they’re sent on an assignment is a waste of time, it’s not like they have any say regardless. “You heard what they said. There’s some unknown time anomaly. This will fix it.”

“Killing a soldier on the front line?” Kai pauses to look back at him. He’s panting and covered in sweat too. They’ve been walking for hours. “The whole company dies in less than a week. It’s pointless.”

Five doesn’t have a response to that, but he figures it’s about time to take a break. Malakai gives his approval and they continue onward until they come across a suitable place to rest. He warps the machete back to its original form, pulling the canteens out of his rucksack and tossing one to Five.

Five savors the coolness of the water and fights the urge to pour some over his head in an attempt to beat the heat. He can't waste what little they have. Curious now that Malakai has brought it up, he snatches their briefing from the pack, considering the details more carefully.

“Hey that’s weird.”

“What?”

“Well there’s 200 people enlisted in this company.”

“And? That’s pretty standard.” Kai looks thoroughly unimpressed, swatting impatiently at a pesky mosquito.

“According to this, 201 casualties were recorded in that ambush in a few days. That’s one extra man.”

Malakai perks at this, leaning towards him to get a better view of the file. “Typo?”

“No it can’t be, these briefings are never wrong. And look at this.” Five flips forward to the right page, turning to give Malakai a better view. “Once we correct the timeline by killing this guy uhhh David Katz, only 199 are killed. One is our guy but—"

"The extra soldier disappears.”

Five hums in confirmation.

Kai mulls it over, chewing on his bottom lip, before he finally shrugs, equally at a loss. “Huh. Guess that one lucky bastard gets to live.”

“Ya, I guess so,” Five echoes.

One lucky bastard indeed.

Chapter Text

Ben hums a tune as he brews a fresh pot of coffee. A familiar melody.

Five knows he knows the song, yet no matter how hard he tries, he can’t place it. It’s on the tip of his tongue, but frustratingly, it evades him all the same.

He accepts his offered cup with a grin. “Thanks Ben.”

Ben smiles back, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes. Some other conflicting emotion clouding them. Fair enough. The last couple of days have been an emotional rollercoaster. Five knows his brother wasn’t left unaffected.

They sit in silence.

His siblings are in a room nearby. He hasn’t seen them yet, but he knows it’s true.

When he finishes his first cup, Ben refills it, much to Five’s satisfaction. He’s usually subjected to some kind of lecture on the amount of caffeine intake acceptable for thirteen year olds, but it seems he’ll be spared from it today.

“I’ll be right back.” They’re the first words Ben has spoken to him all morning. They sound cheerful enough, if not slightly forced. But Ben ruffles his hair before he goes, and Five can’t help but lean happily into the touch, unusualness forgotten.

The house is quiet. Strange he hasn’t heard the rest of his siblings, they’re rarely ever silent.

It’s peaceful. Until it isn’t.

The hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, years of operating on instinct kicking in. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees her.

His chair screeches across the floor, thrown back as he jumps to his feet.

The world twists dizzyingly around him.

Wrong. Something is wrong with him.

He calls out for his powers. The familiar thrum of cosmic energy that lives in his veins, as integral to him as his very blood.

Nothing answers.

Wrong. Something is very wrong.

“What did you do to me?” he hisses, grip tight on the table to keep himself upright. He’s having trouble managing that simple task.

The Handler stands blocking the outside entrance, a smile playing on her lips. She’s dressed in all black, briefcase held loosely in her grip.

He's struck with the thought that Ben had just been in here. His family is nearby and they’re not safe. He needs to warn them.

“Ben! Vanya! Diego! Run! Get out of here!”

The Handler tuts disapprovingly. “They’re not coming.”

Dread douses him like a bucket of ice water.

“What did you do to them? If you’ve hurt them, I’ll kill you.”

“Hurt them?” She laughs cruelly. “Why ever would I do that? Who do you think drugged your coffee in the first place?”

Drugged. That would explain it.

His mind stalls before appreciating the full extent of her words. His coffee? No but Ben made his coffee. Five saw him make it with his own eyes. Ben made his coffee. He wouldn’t. Ben wouldn’t.

“No,” it’s getting harder to form words. “No, Ben wouldn’t do that.”

“But he did.” She smiles big and sinister. Her presence towering over him from one second to the next. She’s closer than she was before.

“They don’t want you anymore.”

No. No! That can’t be true.

“They’re giving you back to me.”

Why? Why would they do that?

“So I can take you back where you belong.”

He doesn’t want to go back. He can’t go back.

“Ben!” he shouts tinged with desperation. Klaus. Klaus must be angry. If Five can just convince him. “Klaus, please I’m sorry!”

He tries to back away from her. Towards where he knows his family must be.

He’s hit with a dizzy spell, the corners of his vision blacking out. Five’s on the floor a moment later.

The click of her heels echo across the room as the Handler moves towards him. A predator after wounded prey.

“No! No, please no! Klaus I’m sorry!”

Five covers his ears with his hands to try and block the sound, but it’s no use. It gets louder and louder.

The click of her heels and Malakai is dead.

The click of her heels and Chase is dead.

The click of her heels and Dolores is dead.

They’re suddenly there. His siblings. Watching him with passive gazes from the blown out wall between the main house and the kitchen.

His relief is just as sudden, and equally short lived. They shouldn’t be here. They’re not safe. The Handler could turn on them. The Handler could hurt them.

But then there are hands on his body, pulling him away, and he can’t even think through his terror.

“Help me please!”

No one does.

Dave stands beside Klaus. Blood blooms from his chest.

“Please, don’t let her take me! I don’t want to go! Please, I don’t want to go!”

There are hands on his arms and hands on his legs and hands on his chest and hands on his face. They pull at his hair and obscure his vision and cover his mouth. He can’t scream for help anymore. He can’t see and he can’t breathe and–

Five shoots out of bed with a startled cry. He’s covered in sweat and trembling uncontrollably, heart pounding rapid fire in his chest. The dingy motel’s sheets are tangled around his body, trapping his limbs. He kicks them off frantically, scurrying backwards until he’s sitting up against the headboard, knees drawn up to his chest.

With the flick of a switch, the room is filled with light.

It’s okay. He’s alone. There’s no one else here.

He repeats it again and again, trying to calm his nerves.

It’s okay. He’s alone. There’s no one else here.

Tears spill unwilling down his cheeks.

It’s not okay. He doesn’t want to be alone. But there’s no one else here. 


 

Ben rubs his eyes in exhaustion, shoulders slumped, as he brews a fresh pot of coffee.

He contemplates at which point in his life everything went to shit. Probably when he died horribly at a young age. Klaus would argue for sometime earlier than that. The moment of their birth perhaps.

Klaus. Fuck.

Everything is such a mess right now. Even by Hargreeves family standards.

When he started the week, Ben really didn’t think he’d have two brothers sobbing in his arms in as many days.

He wants to be angry, furious.

Klaus is his brother. The only person he had as company for years. He’d kill anyone who dared hurt his brother.

But what is he supposed to do when the person who hurt his brother, is his other brother?

Five who always tried to protect them. Who would stand up to their father. Who would get them out of trouble with his silver tongue. Five who devoted his entire life to saving them.

Five who suffered at the Commission’s hands for years. Who was a murderer, albeit unwillingly. 

Five who had been forced to unknowingly kill the love of Klaus’ life.

God how old had Five even been? The only images his mind can conjure of Five post his disappearance are the child from Hazel’s story, bleeding on the floor from the gunshot wound to his leg, and the 20 something year old, leaning into the barrel of a loaded gun after witnessing his friend’s murder. He hates those images.

He can’t even process it all properly over his ever mounting concern for both brothers.

He’s concerned for Klaus. More so than ever before. Klaus is devastated.

But Klaus is here. Ben can keep an eye on Klaus, can comfort Klaus.

For the first time in years, their siblings are here for him too. If there’s any silver lining to this terrible situation, it’s that. His siblings refused to let Klaus deal with it alone. Were supporting and comforting him like they all should’ve in the very beginning, when Klaus had first turned to drugs to escape his fears.

It led to Allison painting his nails in intricate designs, lending him her makeup, and having makeovers. It led to waffles and other junk food at all hours of the day from Mr. My-Body-is-a-Temple himself. It led to Klaus curled into Luther’s side on the coach, both dead asleep, because Luther is warm and apparently gives the best hugs. It led to walks in the park with Vanya and blasting music throughout the house. To playing stupid board games and a variety of other random activities to keep his mind off it.

And Klaus who locked himself in his room and refused to let anyone but Ben near him at first, was opening up again. Starting to smile and laugh again.

He still got angry. Would get this faraway look in his eyes. Was still mourning Dave.

But he was getting better.

Five on the other hand…

Five was gone.

He walked out and no one stopped him. It’s been days since any of them have seen or heard from him. They don’t talk about it often, not in front of Klaus, but with each passing day that their attempts to find him fail, the whispered conversations get more and more frantic.

Love isn’t unconditional.’ The words have been playing in Ben’s head a lot recently.

Five looked so sure when he said it.

Now he’s off alone somewhere, believing it to be true. God knows he doesn’t have the best coping mechanisms.

Ben just — he needs to know that Five’s okay.

He’s not sure how Klaus feels about it. He must have noticed Five’s absence by now, but no one has been brave enough to breech the subject. Afraid of what they might hear. Because if Klaus decides he never wants to see Five again…then what?

That's not going to happen. Klaus was always the most forgiving. The most understanding.

But then again, he hadn’t been there in Vietnam.

Ben takes a deep calming breathe, unwilling to let himself spiral. They’ll fix this. They have to.

He just got their little family back. He refuses to let it go so soon.

There’s nothing he can do about Five right now. He can be there for Klaus.

He’s on his way back to Klaus’ room, plus a cup of coffee with extra cream and a ridiculous amount of sugar because Klaus won’t take it any other way, when said brother marches upstairs.

Towards Five’s room.

That can’t be good.

“Klaus where are you going?”

He doesn’t answer so Ben has no choice but to chase after him. Well, Ben’s spent most of his life chasing after Klaus. He’s quite good at it.

There’s the bang of a door slam from upstairs. By the time Ben reaches the open threshold of Five’s room, which was closed - it’s been closed for days, Klaus is tossing things this way and that out of that god awful box.

Ben crosses the distance quickly, grabbing Klaus’ arm and trying to pull him away. “Klaus don’t do this.”

He’s shoved off and ignored.

“Klaus!”

“No!” Klaus whirls furious, batting away a further attempt to touch him. “Don’t you Klaus me! I deserve to see it.”

He should’ve seen this coming. “Do you really think it will be helpful?” he asks gently, hoping to dissuade Klaus despite the fact he already knows what his response will be. “Is it going to make you feel better?”

Klaus pauses in his search, drawing a deep shuttering breath. “I need to see it.” There’s determination in his eyes when he finally meets Ben’s gaze. “I have to know for sure.”

“Okay. But we touch nothing else.”

Klaus nods and returns to his digging while Ben busies himself with compiling the mess on the floor. There are papers and files strewn everywhere. He does his best not to look, but words filter across his brain either way.

London 1666. Bosnia 1914. Genetic Experimentation.

He swallows back bile. Genetic experimentation. What the fuck…

“It’s not here,” Klaus growls, tugging at his curls. “It has to be here.” He shoves the box away with a huff and Ben takes the opportunity to drop the files in his arms back in.

At Klaus' despondent look, Ben thinks back to when they were little. The places he knew where Five would hide his secret things. Under the floorboard was for his most valuable, treasured possessions, so that was out. The file would be too big for one of his hollowed books. That left the false drawer in his desk and the mattress, assuming he’d stuck to old habits and hadn’t used a new Commission learned spy trick.

Going with his gut, he lifts up Five’s mattress. Sure enough, there’s a file stashed underneath, Vietnam 1968 scrawled in elegant font across the top.

“This is it.” Klaus’ eyes shoot up to him and he holds out his hand impatiently.

“Are you sure about this Klaus?”

The outstretched hand does not move from its position.

Reluctantly Ben hands it over, coming to settle on the floor beside him. A mockery of the night they’d stayed up to watch over Five.

Klaus scans the file quickly. He must find what he’s looking for because he pushes it back into Ben’s hands.

“It’s true…” Klaus knocks his head against the wall, remaining there with his eyes closed and hands gripping his knees.

Knowing to give his brother a moment, Ben settles in, opening the file himself.

The first page gives information about the mark and the location. This is likely what Klaus was after. A final confirmation.

The next few pages detail information on the time period, customs and behaviors to adhere to based on the region. This is followed by the current progression of the timeline and the resulting changes to the timeline the alteration will bring.

That's when he sees it.

Ben reads it again and again. Checks and double checks to be sure.

Oh shit.

“Klaus.” Teary eyes focus up on him. “You have to see this.” 


 

Vietnam 1968

In the uniform the Commission provided, they blend in easily with the other soldiers. They’re to fight on the opposing side of the mark, to give the clearest view, for the most direct shot.

The hardest part is finding him amidst the sea of camouflage. He’s sheltered behind a trench, but it makes no difference.

There’s only one bullet in Five's rifle. The same bullet Malakai has kept in his pocket for the past two days. Kai’s run his fingers over it a thousand times. Knows each and every atom.

Despite the chaos around him, Five’s focus is absolute. He trusts Malakai to shield them from any stray bullets. He has only the task in front of him.

He calculates his shot, aims for the place the soldier’s heart should be. He gives Malakai a second of warning and fires. The bullet phases straight through the barrier and strikes true, by the minuscule jerk the man gives. Malakai confirms it.

Job done, he discards the gun.

Taking Malakai’s arm, they vanish in a swirl of blue, unnoticed amidst the flare of gunfire, the din of explosions, and a soldier’s desperate shout for a medic.

Chapter Text

“This fantasy of yours, stopping the Apocalypse and reuniting with your family. It needs to stop Five.”

He doesn’t deign the Handler with a response.

There’s no reason for this drawn out process. She just likes trapping him here with her. Likes to taunt him and watch him squirm.

Besides, it’s not a fantasy. Five will stop the Apocalypse and he will save his family.

He has to.

Her efforts to impede him are ultimately insignificant.

“I mean what’s the point?” she continues, gazing at him from across her desk. “Even if you did manage it, do you really think your little family would take you back? Could love you, with your…choice of employment?”

Five wants to spit in her face. Choice of employment. As if there had ever been a choice.

“Oh Five!” She sighs in mock pity, coming around her desk to sit on the side. “Unconditional love? It doesn’t exist. You of all people should know that.”

A displeased tut at his silence.

“You all loved your little friend Conquest, didn’t you?”

“Chase,” he snaps, bristling with anger. His nails digging angry crescents into his palms. “His name was Chase.”

She flicks her wrist dismissively. Voice saccharine sweet. “Look where that got you,” she presses. “Look where it got him.”

Dead. It got him dead. Because the Handler fucking killed him. Right here in this very office.

Blood still stains the floor.

“And Dolores…she’s changed hasn’t she.”

He jolts at the words, cursing himself for the reaction and praying she doesn’t notice.

But of course she notices. She’s looking precisely for these reactions. It’s her favorite little game.

So she prods again, taking it as an invitation to come closer. Gripping his chin in a bruising hold and leaning forward.

“Can you honestly say you still love her?”

He clenches his jaw and forces himself to remain still as her other hand trails playfully down the buttons on his shirt. It makes his skin crawl in revulsion.

She’s always touching him. Even as a fucking child.

And there’s nothing he can do to stop her.

The Handler loves that.

“Your siblings will look at you and see a monster,” she breathes into his ear, like a secret between friends. “See the very thing they were always taught to fight against.”

The Handler finally draws away, both hands coming up to cup his face. Her words are soft and venomous.

“How could they ever love something like that?”

Something. Not even someone. Just a thing.

Her thing to toy with as she pleases.

He knows he’s being manipulated. But despite that knowledge, a trickle of doubt creeps in, unbidden, as it always does.

Because what if she’s right?

Five fucking hates her. Knows she’s a raging, jealous bitch.

The Horseman were her proudest legacy and yet she always hated them. He suspected it was jealousy. She was angry because she wanted what they had. The bond and friendship they managed to form, that the Handler and the others never did.

“So enough of this foolishness.” She finally releases him, tapping him on the nose with a playful smile.

As if she hasn’t just finished tearing him down. Twisting the knife of grief in his chest and pawing at his insecurities.

The same poison she’s been spewing in his ears for years.

They’ll never love you.
You’re a killer.
You belong to me and you always will.
You don’t deserve to be loved.
They’ll never understand.
Your place is here.
They’ll never forgive you for what you’ve become.
You’re a monster.
You’re broken.
No one could ever love you.
Their love isn’t unconditional.

“You’re not a child anymore.” The Handler rakes her eyes over his body lewdly to make the point, before turning away. “I don’t want to hear of it again,” she finishes, waving the pages of his confiscated equations for emphasis.

They’re thrown in her garbage, a match following immediately after.

“I was never a child,” he corrects as he watches months’, maybe years’, worth of his work burn.

“No. I suppose you weren’t.”


 

Klaus has been having one hell of a goddamn week.

Seven days since his brother admitted to killing the love of his life. Seven days since he vanished without a trace.

He spent that first day sobbing. Crying like an actual child because he’d just been soooo confused. Because he loved Dave and he loved Five and just—

Why? Why was the universe like this? Why?!

He didn’t even know how to feel about Five.

Was he supposed to hate him? Klaus is pretty sure that would make things easier.

But he doesn’t.

Can’t truly hate the child who’d snuck into the Mausoleum to keep him company and distract him from the dead. The boy who watched his friend die right next to him and mourned over his corpse.

Klaus knows what that feels like.

But he knows what it's like because Five had made him feel that way because Five had shot Dave and—

Bicycle riding, little girl god is a bitch. He has a few choice words for her if they ever meet again.

After those first days when everyone treated him like he might just shatter if they breathed the wrong way (which fair, again he literally just sobbed all day asking whoever was unlucky enough to be there at the time to please explain why this was happening), things had gotten better.

His siblings went out of their way to make him laugh and spend time with him and chase away the flashbacks and the nightmares.

In the quiet time in between, he tried to figure out what it meant. What to do with the knowledge he’d pushed and pushed to receive and now wished he’d never gotten.

Would Five even have told him otherwise? a tiny voice whispered. Would he have lived blissfully unaware?

No. If Five really killed Dave he would have told Klaus at some point. 

And if Five killed Dave then it was under orders. It was unknowingly. It wasn’t his fault.

But he still shot Dave.

But it wasn’t his fault, not really.

If.

That was another thing. There was no 'if' and yet that’s how his mind always framed it.

He knew it was true. Five wouldn’t lie about something like that. Wouldn’t be so cruel.

But knowing something is true and believing that truth are two different things it turns out.

Which is what drove him to Five’s room. To that damn file because he needed proof. He needed certainty and then he could move on. He would gain some clarity.

Because he was trapped mourning the life that could have been and he had no idea what he’d say to Five the next time he saw him.

Except he didn’t receive clarity. At least not the kind he’d wanted to find.

Because as it turns out, there was never a chance for a happy life with Dave now was there.

According to Ben and that stupid Commission file, Dave was fated to die. Had he not died then, he would’ve died days later, Klaus along with him.

Dave dying had saved his life. Five had technically saved his life.

Did that change things?

Ben had been silent after dropping that particular revelation. Something about Klaus needing to decide for himself. That the way Ben, or any of the rest of them for that matter, felt shouldn’t influence Klaus’ own feelings.

As if Ben’s thoughts weren’t obvious. His growing worry was palpable, despite his attempts to veil it.

Klaus was worried too.

He was worried and he didn’t hate Five, not really, but he still had no idea what that meant. What he wanted to do.

It looks like he’s just going to wing it. Figure it out when he's face to face with Five.

That couldn't possibly backfire...

The file did at least help him figure out one thing.

There was a time before all this. Before they time traveled to the past, before Ben came back, and before they learned what family could really be.

There was a time when he might’ve preferred dying at Dave’s side.

Now however. Now, he knows he has something more to live for.

Exhibit A.

Ben is chuckling happily behind him, regaling Klaus with a dramatized version of the Uno game he was very much there for, that they very much just had. Apparently Ben is now known as the Undisputed Uno King and he is known by this title "throughout the land".

Klaus has no fucking idea what land this might be, but he finds it very interesting, because he doesn’t recall having the conversation that resulted in that decree. He’s also pretty sure shameless cheaters don’t get unanimously crowned king.

It’s incredible to him that their siblings still buy into Ben’s innocence. As if years with only Klaus to talk to wouldn’t have rubbed off on him. As if he wasn’t a massive cheat when they were kids too.

Ben shoves at him playfully when he mentions as much.

“I’m just curious as to how you managed to end up with all the Wild cards?”

“I’m just lucky like that!”

“Mhm. Seems very suspect Benny boy.”

That’s when his very important plans for an afternoon nap are interrupted.

Down the hall, bright blue light spills from behind Klaus’ cracked door, accompanied by the familiar fwump he hasn’t heard in over a week.

He sends a dumbstruck look at Ben who looks equally startled.

Then they're racing each other to his room, slamming into the door and pushing to get through the doorway.

It’s Five. He’s standing by Klaus’ bed, eyes wide at the commotion like a child being caught doing something naughty. Klaus’ jacket and sweatpants, the ones he lent his brother the night he’d passed out in Ben’s arms, are folded in a neat pile beside him on the bed.

It’s about the only thing put together about Five. His hair, normally combed neatly is disheveled. Bags beneath his eyes tell of restless sleep, if that at all. He’s back in Academy uniform. Well almost, the blazer and tie are both conspicuously absent.

He drops his gaze when he sees Klaus, posture slumping to make himself smaller.

It’s a stark change from the confidence he usually holds himself with.

“Sorry I didn’t mean to—” Five babbles, jumpy and nervous, which is so incredibly uncharacteristic it gives Klaus pause. “I just, I came to give this back to you.” He nods down at the pile. “I washed them and everything…”

Silence answers him, Klaus stewing over the drastic contrast in the Five he knows and the boy standing in front of him, as well as, how to go about saying all the things that have been on his mind for the past week.

Why did he think it would be a good idea to wing it again?

“I shouldn’t have come,” Five murmurs to himself. “I’ll just go…”

Shit.

Ben moves forward to say something but Klaus stills him with a hand on his shoulder.

This is his conversation to have.

“Five.” He freezes at Klaus’ voice, body coiling with tension. “Look at me.”

Five’s hands fidget at his side, but hesitant eyes dart up to him. Without further prompting, they flick back down to his feet a moment later.

It’s like Five doesn’t want to be seen. Doesn’t want to look at them. Frightened at what he might find.

Klaus knows that fear. Has felt its pain before.

After all, nothing hurts like having someone see you, only to watch them realize that there is nothing worth loving.

Maybe he’s just projecting, but it makes him sick all the same.

His brother should not feel that way. He should not have caused his brother to feel that way over something he ultimately had no control of.

The thought drives him to Five.

Five’s locked in place as he approaches, muscles strained like he’s fighting not to bolt, still refusing to meet his eyes.

When Klaus raises his arms, Five fucking full body flinches like he expects to be struck.

Dammit Klaus should’ve done this sooner.

“Can I touch you?” he asks carefully, since grabbing him without permission is clearly not an option.

With Five’s consent, Klaus wraps his arms around his brother and hugs him, resting his chin on Five’s head. The boy, a statue in his arms.

“I don’t understand.” Five sounds smaller than he’s ever heard, confusion thick in his voice.

Because he’d expected Klaus to just write him off.

Love isn’t unconditional. If I told you everything…

“I guess you were wrong about something after all.”

The tension bleeds from Five’s body with a stunned gasp. His arms coming around to return the embrace, hands fisting into the back of Klaus’ shirt.

From where his head is tucked, Klaus’ feels the warm puff of Five’s breath on his collarbone.

“I’m sorry.”

And Five is sorry. Klaus can tell that it’s not just a throw away apology. That he truly understands the profound loss.

Klaus is struck with the fierce and heartbreaking certainty that his brother has also held someone he loved in his arms as they died.

“I’m so sorry.”

He still hurts. His heart aches… but he wants to forgive. To do better because they’re becoming better, all of them together.

Things aren’t perfect.

But this. He’s confident that this is the right decision to make.

Dave would be proud.

“I know,” he says in response to the litany of apologies still spilling from Five’s lips. He tightens his grip on his brother. “I forgive you.”

Chapter Text

“Hurry up or I’m leaving without you,” Five shouts on his way out of the training room, shirt thrown over his shoulder.

Chase yells a response, but its meaning is lost within the clatter and subsequent boom of something crashing to the floor. Five barely resists rolling his eyes to the heavens.

The string of colorful expletives that follow does however, bring a smile to his face.

It’s a point of great amusement to them all that despite how downright graceful Chase can be when he wants to, he’s a complete clutz at all other times.

He claims it’s a result of his power. That it gets difficult to keep track of limbs and wings and fins and tails. That he’d overbalance compensating for the weight or structural stability that had been there in one form and was gone in the next.

As a result, Chase could go from pushing Five past his limit just to keep up in a spar, to tripping on air and face planting straight into the ground. Or in this case, crashing into god knows what.

It’s both a hilarious and deeply frustrating trait.

“I’m heading to the showers,” Five calls, not in the mood to be wrangled into a clean up effort and desperate to soothe his aching muscles. Plus, he’s sweaty and it’s not the Apocalypse which means he can actually do something about it. “Meet you later.”

“I’ll catch up in a second.”

Without Chase for company, he’d usually just jump straight there, but he’s actually quite tired and not willing to risk potentially losing his lunch over it. It’s not far anyways. Despite what the others tease, he is capable of walking places thank you very much.

He just about leaps out of his skin when he turns the corner, and hands grab his shoulders from behind. The fact that he didn’t instinctually jump away from the fright alone, is a testament to the intensity of their sparing.

He’s yanked backwards and into the Handler’s hold.

“Hello there Five. Where might you be off to?”

There’s no way in hell he’s going to tell her he was heading for the showers so he lies and claims to have been heading for his room. The lesser of two evils. There’s nowhere else he could believably be going without a shirt on and—

Oh god, he’s partially undressed.

If the Handler had any regard for personal space or appropriate behavior with a minor or his mental health in general, that would’ve been the end of the interaction.

Unfortunately for him, she cares little for any of those things, so she offers to walk him to his room instead.

It’s less an offer, more a command. As she pushes him forward, her fingers kneed into his shoulders, almost a massage if it wasn’t for the sharp sting of her nails digging into his skin.

They make some form of small talk on the walk, but Five can’t remember any of it. His mind hyper focused on the prickling of his skin where her hands touch, moving in random and unpredictable ways to keep him unsettled, and then further preoccupied with stomping down the instinctive panic that begins constricting his chest.

His attempts to put some space between them are rejected. Each time he tries to pull away, she simply yanks him back with a disapproving tsk like a misbehaving dog being pulled to heel.

Five hates how small she makes him feel. He’s not some silly child.

But he knows better than to fight her. There are consequences. While he prefers the pain to this other form of torment, she’s forced the other Horsemen to suffer his punishments with him in the past. He won’t risk his friends and she knows it.

One hand suddenly dips down, nails scratching a painful trail down his spine. When her thumb pulls tauntingly at the hem of his shorts at the hip, Five wrenches himself out of her grip.

His back slams against the wall in his haste to pull away, a gasp of panicked hyperventilation clawing its way out of his throat.

He needs to calm down. His hands are trembling and he needs to calm down.

The Handler laughs.

As pathetic as it is, Five knows it’s good news. She’s more amused than angry, which means he likely won’t be punished. His friends won’t be punished.

It also means she’s not done playing with him.

Despite his best effort, he can’t help the pitiful whimper of protest that escapes as she reaches for him again.

Then Chase is there.

He throws himself between them, protectively shielding Five from view despite the slight height Five gained on him in the past two years.

The Handler smiles sweetly, unperturbed. “Conquest, so good to see you.”

Chase intentionally isn’t touching him, but all the same, Five can feel the vibration of his anger. He’s literally growling at her, a low, deep rumbling sound.

Five lays a hand on Chase’s shoulder, hoping to settle him. His skin itches even with this contact, but at the moment he’s fairly certain it’s the only thing preventing Chase from actually lunging at her and making everything much worse.

“You too,” Chase forces through bared teeth, in a tone that makes it clear exactly how 'happy' he is to see her. “What are you doing here?”

“I thought I’d take a stroll.”

There’s no reason for her to stroll through this level, which means it’s likely she’d come down with the express purpose of running into him. Five has no idea what to do with that information.

“Well, we’d love to stay but we have to meet Dolores and Malakai for weapons practice. The Trainer insists.”

It’s a lie and worse, it contradicts what he’s just told her.

Dolores and Malakai are currently at private training. They won’t be back for at least a couple more hours, time which Chase and Five have been granted to do as they please. If the Handler had indeed come down to run into him, she already knows this.

The Hander eyes them critically and Five has to fight not to squirm under the scrutiny. Finally, she waves them off with a smile. “Off you go then. Best not keep them waiting.”

Chase nods in farewell and takes his wrist, quickly tugging him along. Five lets himself go willingly, mind still spinning from the encounter.

His skin burns where her hands lingered.

He realizes they’re in the showers, when Chase is shoving items into his arms, steam already rising to fog up the room.

“Shower.”

Five doesn't move and his tone softens. “I’ll be here,” he promises.

Chase has set the water to a reasonable temperature, so Five cranks it as close to boiling as he can get. His skin is red and raw by the time he’s done scrubbing at it, but he feels almost human again by the time he’s done.

If he notices, Chase doesn’t comment on it. He waits patiently while Five changes and then guides him back to his room.

Chase sits Five down on his bed, pulling a blanket out of his closet and draping it over Five’s shoulders. Five tugs it securely around him, content to have a protective layer between him and the world. He draws his knees up to his chest and sits back against the headboard.

Pleased with his care taking, Chase jumps to his feet, pacing before the bed like a lion in a cage. “Fuck! That fucking bitch!”

Just watching him is starting to give Five anxiety. “I’m fine. It’s nothing.”

He doesn’t even stop to snap back. “Don’t lie to me! I could smell your distress from down the hall.”

“Gross.” His attempt at defusing the tension with humor is met with a deeply unamused look. Oh how the tables have turned.

Sincerity then. “She didn’t really do anything. I’m not hurt.”

Chase stops.

“I don’t care!” He whirls on Five, brimming with righteous anger that’s not directed at him. “She shouldn’t be touching you at all!”

“Well there’s nothing you can do.” He was trying for reassuring, but Chase deflates so he must not get it right.

With an exhausted sigh, the other boy sits himself on the bed beside him, eyes serious and sad. “Are you okay?”

Five nods weakly. Craving reassurance or familiarity or he doesn’t even fucking know what, but he knows Chase will give it to him, he leans into his friend’s side. It has the added bonus of anchoring the shapeshifter in place, preventing him from wearing further holes in the flooring.

Chase is still sweaty, having elected to stand guard rather than take a shower himself, but Five finds he doesn’t really care.

He wraps an arm around Five carefully, startlingly gentle for someone who’d been fuming moments before.

They’re not touching, no skin to skin contact at least with the blanket acting as a barrier. Chase is warm, his arm a comforting weight and it’s so different from the Handler’s cold, sharp hands that Five feels himself start to relax easily. Can remind himself of where he is and with who.

“You don’t need to stay with me you know.”

“I don’t have anything else to do.” That’s bullshit and Five tells him as much. At the very least he still needs to go shower.

Chase hums in response. “I’ll wait until Kai and Dolores get back.”

I don’t want to leave you alone goes unspoken, but Five hears it all the same. Perhaps in the same way Chase heard his plea to stay within the permission to leave.

He’s wondered a thousand times since landing himself in the future, if his siblings managed to hear his unspoken words. He’d always been very articulate, capable of bending rules and twisting truths, but bad at voicing the things that really mattered.

“Thank you.”

“Anytime.”


 

Ben holds out for as long as possible, likely an attempt to give them some privacy, but it’s not long before he’s launching forward to engulf them both in a bear hug.

“Fuck, I was so worried about you Five!”

Five makes a tiny noise which sounds suspiciously like a choked sob and Klaus squeezes him tighter.

They stay like that, wrapped around each other on the floor of his bedroom until Five finally pulls away.

His eyes are dry but red when he meets Klaus’ gaze.

“I uh…actually have something else for you. It’s in my room. Wait right here.”

He blinks away in a flash of light.

For a brief moment, it’s like he was never there, and the fear he won’t return bubbles up in Klaus’ chest.

Five’s back before he can properly decipher the feeling of panic, an object held in his grasp but out of sight from his position.

“I was going to give it to you once I figured out how to tell you… and well…” It’s strange seeing this nervous energy in his normally stoic and controlled brother.

“Here!” Five yelps, shoving it unceremoniously into Klaus’ hands.

It’s Dave. A photograph of Dave.

He hadn’t even known he was capable of making the sound he makes.

It’s a photo of Dave. He doesn’t have any photos of Dave. There was that one in the veteran bar of them together, but after the first time, he’d been banned from going back. But now he’s holding a photograph of Dave.

His photo of Dave.

It’s a headshot, his army identification photo perhaps. Dave looks dashing as ever, smiling cheekily into the camera. The image is set in a black frame, simple but elegant and perfect.

“Where did you get this?” He breathes in awe. Fingers tracing the line of Dave’s jaw.

Five shuffles awkwardly at his side. “It was in the file.”

He doesn’t specify which file. They hadn’t tried to hide the evidence of their prying, so Five must’ve seen the mess, guessed what they’d searched for and read and why. It seems he doesn’t mind the transgression.

Looking down at the photo again, Klaus’ stomach twists for a second. If he’d stopped to think the other day, it would’ve been obvious. Of course there had to have been a photo.

This is the photo they’d used to identify Dave as their target.

This is the photo that got Dave killed.

But now this is Klaus’ photo. To be used to love and cherish and remember Dave.

“I thought the one at the veteran bar was the only one. I thought I’d never get to see his face again,” he admits softly. “Thank you. This is— thank you.”

Five looks deeply uncomfortable for the gratitude, but he nods anyways, offering Klaus a small smile in return.

And then Klaus puts one plus one together and gets two. Because if this was just in his Commission file, that meant that Five had gone out and gotten this framed for him.

His heart warms with a rush of affection.

Ben ruffles Five’s hair, a big dumb smile on his face which must mirror Klaus’ own. “We should go find the others. They’ve all been worried sick.”

Klaus might be imagining it, but he could’ve sworn Five flinched at the touch.

Then Ben is ushering them out and he discards the notion because A) it’s ridiculous and B) there’s something he wants to do first.

“Wait a second.”

They pause to watch as he skips to his closet, frame still clutched tight to his chest, because he won’t be putting it down any time soon.

He rummages around until he finds what he’s looking for and then tosses the sweater at Five who catches it and cocks his head confused.

“That uniform is still scratchy and uncomfortable and an eyesore in general,” he offers in explanation.

Really, that sweater is one of his coziest and Five looks like he could use it.

Really, it’s an olive branch.

Five clutches the material and pulls it up to his face.

Klaus realizes belatedly that it hasn’t been washed since the last time he wore it. It probably smells of cigarettes and his fruity shampoo and all the other things he reeks of. Klaus is about to offer the sweater Five just washed (the only washed sweater, scratch that – only washed article of clothes in this room), when his brother swaps out his academy sweater and pulls it on, apparently unconcerned.

It’s too big on Five, the sleeves completely engulfing his arms and the hem hanging low like a dress.

He’ll never be able to admit it out loud for fear of death, but Five looks unreasonably cute in it for a 58-year-old assassin.

He also looks happy and warm and Ben is absolutely beaming with pride at him so they must be doing something right here.

Satisfied, Klaus leads them off in search of their other siblings.

“I’m going to kill you!” Diego shouts when he spots them at the top of the stairs.

Klaus is jubilant to find that, for once, it’s not directed at him.

“Five what the hell! Do you have any idea how many times I drove around this entire city trying to find you?”

Why?” Five’s utter confusion would be funny if it wasn’t heartbreaking to realize that he genuinely thought they wouldn’t have bothered looking for him.

Well, their father never did…

The question only incenses Diego further. “Why!?! I don’t know… maybe because the city is dangerous and you look like a thirteen-year-old child and we’ve had to drag your drunk, incoherent ass home before! There are pedophiles, Five! PEDOPHILES!”

Five blinks dumbly down at Diego.

Klaus abandons his efforts to hold back his laughter, having been on the other side of Diego’s special brand of vigilante protectiveness many times before.

The commotion draws Vanya in from the kitchen. “Five’s back?” Her eyes follow Diego’s angry gaze to land on them and she breathes an audible sigh of relief before rushing up to wrap Five in a hug. “Oh thank god!”

Allison and Luther appear as they finally make it to the bottom of the stairs, having been so rudely accosted at every step.

Allison smiles gently down at Five before turning to check up on him. The question in her eyes is clear.

Are you okay?

Klaus takes a moment to consider it.

It's been one hell of a week and he's pretty sure he has emotional whiplash from it all. 

Spending time with his siblings over the past few days was great, but he hadn’t really realized how incomplete it felt without Five there too. Until now, gazing out at all of them together again.

At the strange version of good cop bad cop Luther and Diego are having with Five. Luther calmly trying to negotiate Five into leaving notes telling them where he’s going and when he’ll be back, while Diego straight up reams into him, pacing back and forth angrily. At Vanya whispering into Ben’s ear and the resulting laughter it causes. At Allie still waiting for his response, wanting assurance that he’s handling this well.

At Five who’s attention drifts from his lecturers to each of the others in turn, as if he can’t quite believe they’re all there.

Ya, he feels lighter than he has all week. Like a weight has been lifted.

Their little family is better with all its dysfunctional pieces.

“Is this?” Allison asks catching sight of the frame and Klaus relinquishes it to her. “Damn Klaus! He’s so handsome!”

Klaus giggles like a school girl.

“Dave?!” Vanya flits excitedly to Allison’s side at her nod. “Aww Klaus!”

“This picture doesn't even do him justice," he brags. "You have no idea, he was a catch! I just got lucky.”

“What do you think Diego?” He teases, waggling his eyebrows suggestively, feeling playful and giddy enough to take the heat off his littlest oldest sibling.

He expects their usual back and forth, because Diego flings comebacks almost as fast as he does knives. So he’s thrown, quite reasonably, off kilter when Diego’s protective anger melts into something fond and soft. “He was lucky to get you.”

Well damn.

“I’d love to hear more about him. If you’re up for it…” Luther chimes in.

Who the fuck are these people and what did they do with his siblings?

They’d steered clear of any talk of Dave after Five’s reveal, only Ben hearing his rambling in the dead of night. He talked about his time in Vietnam before this. He’d mentioned Dave in passing amidst one of their sibling honesty sessions while stuck in the past. But he’d never properly told the story.

He's been itching to talk about Dave for a while now.

“Ohoho you might regret that big man. I could talk about Dave for hours.”

“Then we should all get comfortable,” Allison notes handing the picture frame back to him. Vanya smiles gently beside her, nodding enthusiastically.

“I’ll grab snacks,” Ben chirps, encharging Five with the acquisition of blankets and Luther with rearranging the living room into something more conducive for story time.

“I’ll get mom. I’m sure she’d love to hear the story.” Diego calls before bounding off to find her.

It’s a flurry of activity for the next few minutes. Then they’re all in the living room. The most coveted and fuzziest blanket in the house and his stuffed hippo sit in the seat of honor. His siblings and mom all settled down and getting comfortable in a semicircle around him.

He pauses for a moment to take it all in. Wants to remember this.

He feels loved. Truly loved. 

Glancing down at Dave’s smiling face he launches into the story.

“I’ll start at the beginning I guess. We met at the disco…” He pauses for dramatic effect before correcting himself with a flourish. “Nah I’m just kidding! That would be waaaay too cliché.”

His cheeks hurt from how wide he’s smiling.

“We met when I appeared naked in the middle of the night on the floor beside his bed...”

 

 

And if the very next day, the photograph from the veteran bar appears in a matching frame at his doorway, well that’s Klaus’ little secret to keep.

 

Chapter Text

“Thank you mom.”

Grace smiles brightly down at Vanya as she sets down her breakfast. “You're welcome dear.”

She hands the last plate of smiley face pancakes to Allison.

Satisfied that everyone at the table had been served, Luther starts eating with them. He’d been waiting politely, unlike Ben and Diego, both of which had no such reservations. He shoots them both a disappointed look for good measure.

“Wha?” Diego sputters around a mouthful of food.

Beside her, Allison wrinkles her nose in disgust.

Ben pauses for a moment, spoonful halfway to his mouth, and expression deadpan. “I didn’t get to eat anything for the 14 years I was dead, so I’ll be eating whenever I please thank you very much.”

Can’t argue with that.

“Bonjour ma famille!”

“Good morning Klaus. I made waffles specially for you, just how you like them.”

Klaus dances over to Grace, taking the plate in one hand and pressing a kiss to her cheek. “You’re an angel mom, you really are.”

He plunks himself down in the seat next to Diego, fork darting out lightning fast to steal a raspberry eye.

“My smiley!”

Klaus attempts another theft, flailing his long arms to try and get around Diego’s defensive guard.

A flash of light signals Five’s arrival and it’s all the distraction Klaus needs to pilfer a blueberry.

“Boys,” Mom admonishes with a smile before turning to Five who has settled himself down in his usual seat. “Good morning sweetheart. I made you coffee.”

Despite multiple attempts to get Five to eat something substantial for breakfast, the teen insisted he only wanted and needed coffee. They eventually decided unanimously, that it simply wasn’t worth the fight.

Today however, instead of gulping it down in one go like she expects him to, Five just stares at the cup.

“It’s not going to bite you know,” Diego taunts.

Five glares over at him, but at the challenge, takes a hesitant sip and then quickly sets the cup back down. “Thank you,” he smiles at Mom, a little forced.

Strange.

A quick glance at Ben tells her she’s not the only one to find it unusual. Vanya files it away for later.

Content they’ve all been taken care of, Mom takes her leave.

As soon as she does, Five clears his throat, pushing the still full mug away from him.

“I’ve been thinking and well, the reason I didn’t want to tell you about my past…I was…”

“Nervous?”

“Ashamed?”

It’s barely there, but Five shrinks at that. Vanya has the urge to smack Luther for his carelessness.

“Scared?”

Five makes a face like he’s just swallowed a mouthful of raw sewage. “Yes,” he waves his hand through the air, “…those things.”

He takes a steadying breath, bringing his hands together in front of him and talking down at the table as he continues. “It’s just that…I um, well I just got you back...and—”

I don’t want to lose you, echoes in the back of her mind.

Her heart aches at the reminder.

“Five,” she waits until his attention is focused on her. “I don’t know much about what you went through but, it seems like you didn’t have much of a choice. You can’t blame yourself for things that were out of your control.”

Despite the fact he’s more somber now than his prior mirth, Klaus nods in agreement.

Five picks up on it, shoulders easing slightly in response.

For a moment she thinks they might be able to make some headway on the massive amounts of guilt Five seems inclined to constantly carry around with him. Most of which, Vanya suspect is misplaced and undeserved.

But then the moment is over and Five’s shaking his head stubbornly. “They’re still my actions,” he argues back, nails digging into the flesh of his clenched fists.

Vanya settles a hand over his own, running her thumb over his knuckles soothingly. “Well, we don’t blame you for them then.”

Five is usually fairly difficult to read, but his eyes shine with open relief and something that looks suspiciously like hope. “Thank you.” 

Vanya squeezes his hand.

“Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that If you still want to know... I’ll try my best.”

Ben nods beside her. “I’d like that. I think it could be good for all of us.”

“Yay more story time,” Klaus claps excitedly.


 

Once they’re all piled into the living room, Five’s regret is instantaneous.

“Ya no, I can’t do it.”

“What? What’s wrong?”

From his place at the focus of the semicircle of siblings, Five squirms self consciously. “I hate this. You’re all just starring at me. No, it’s not happening.”

“Okaay,” Luther tries appeasingly, “we can rearrange ourselves.” He nudges at Diego who grumbles but moves, helping him position the furniture into something more casual, despite the extra work caused by everyone lazily remaining in their seats.

Five takes the opportunity to dart out of the center armchair, Klaus practically leaping over Diego in his haste to claim and sprawl across it.

Five choses to sit on the floor against one of the couches. Ben sits closest to him, and if he wanted to, he could lean against his brother’s legs. While he usually prefers to sit higher, the floor keeps him from having to make eye contact with any of them.

Luther sits himself back down at Five’s confirmation that the rearrangement is acceptable.

Ok. He can do this. He’s going to tell his siblings. He’s just got to open his mouth and tell them…

“Wait, should I go get mom?” Diego is already making to stand and do so even as he asks.

It’s like a bucket of ice water has been dumped over him.

“No!” Five clears his throat and tries again, calmer because he just shouted like a crazy person. “No, we are not calling mom.”

“What why not?”

“I am not telling mom the story of how I became a mass murderer, you idiot,” he lowers his voice to a whisper at the end. Five’s fairly certain Grace is too far across the house to actually hear him, but this house always did have eyes and ears everywhere.

It’s bad enough he’s telling his siblings. His young, morally sound siblings.

But Grace? Grace doesn’t need to know. There's nothing good to be gained from it.

Diego doesn’t dispute it further for which, Five is immensely grateful.

It does however, lead him back to his original problem.

“Sorry, I’m not actually sure how to start. I’ve never told anyone about it,” he admits.

“No worries. Would it help if we asked you questions?” Vanya suggests.

At his noncommittal shrug, Luther takes charge.

“What powers did the other Horsemen have?”

He assumes it’s a joke. That this is Luther’s attempt at really easing him into the topic, but the expectant look they’re all giving him quells that. Five actually gawks at them. “Wait, are you serious?”

“Ya?”

“You don’t know? You had...you had all that information and you didn’t?”

He’d been so worried about what they might’ve managed to learn. About the conclusion they may have drawn with pieces of information and no background and all this time they hadn’t even…

God he loves his dumbass siblings.

He can't help the frantic laugh that bubbles up his throat. “Wow, you guys are terrible investigators.”

Just to be a shit and hoping to ease his nerves with familiarity, he turns to Diego and sneers, “I can see why you didn’t make detective.”

Diego bristles and snaps back, “I never tried to become a detective idiot.”

The smug look on his face at having throwing Five’s insult back at him (not that it was that impressive to begin with) disappears when Klaus pipes up. “Ya jokes on you! Diego flunked out of the police academy! He was never even an officer!”

“Thanks for that clarification Klaus.”

“I got you Di,” Klaus responds with a shit eating grin.

“My mistake,” Five taunts with a matching smile. Before the teasing can descend into something more severe, he replies to Luther’s original question. “Chase was a shapeshifter. He could turn into any animal. Malakai manipulated matter, both its shape and properties. And Dolores controlled fire.”

“We uh, we know what happened to Malakai.” He can’t actually see Allison from his current position, but the tone of her voice makes him think she’s fidgeting. Worrying her bottom lip between her teeth like she does when she's particularly anxious. “The others…Chase and Dolores?”

Five bows his head, closing his eyes for a moment to center himself against the onslaught of grief.

He hasn’t moved but Ben’s leg now brushes against him, a solid presence. “I’m sorry Five.”

“I tried to protect Malakai and he died for it,” Five forces out. “Chase and Dolores…they both died protecting me.”

They deserved so much better.

They deserved so much better than him.

He doesn’t say that part out loud.

“Hey, we don’t need to get into the heavy stuff right away.” Klaus is sitting upright in his seat now, arms wrapped around himself. “Not unless you want to I mean,” he backtracks when Five says nothing.

No, Five doesn’t particularly want to revisit those memories right now.

“What about your assignments?” Allison whispers a hushed scold at Luther, who wrings his hands when Five leans forwards to meet his gaze. “Well I mean, time traveling has to have been cool sometimes right? You must have seen some nice places at least…”

An assignment… It’s not a terrible idea. In the beginning they’d largely been sent after people who’d deserved it. The Handler had saved the more morally questionable cases for when they’d already been bloodied and desensitized.

“Sorry that was dumb.”

“No,” he corrects. “It’s a good idea. I just have to think of one.”

Many of his best memories occurred in the lulls during missions. In back alley streets and city parks around the world. Where they could breathe in fresh air and pilfer delicious food. Where they could pretend, at least for the moment, that they could one day be free. Where the Commission’s grip didn’t feel as tight, as suffocating.

“London, 1666.”

Five turns and raises an eyebrow at Ben who blushes fiercely.

“Benny,” Klaus chides grinning.

“I wasn’t looking, I swear! I just…happened to see the title.”

Five only chuckles before turning somber. “London 1666,” he ruminates the idea in his mind for a second. One of their less gruesome assignments, though it decidedly hadn’t gone very well for him. There were also fairly few casualties, all things considering. Good enough for his purposes.

“That was a goddamn fucking mess,” he settles on as an introduction.

“What happened?” Vanya questions, attentive.

“I got shot, grazed my heart. That and we may have accidentally burned the city down, just a smidge.”

Diego chokes to his left. “Excuse me!?"

“It was only one third of the city!”

“THAT’S NOT WHAT IM TAKING ISSUE WITH!” He’s eyeing Five critically, as if the wound might decide to spontaneously make a reappearance.

Five rolls his eyes at the melodramatics. It was years ago.

Klaus waves his hand in a dismissive motion, shushing Diego before turning back to Five, looking just as captivated as Vanya. “So, what happened?”

“We were sent out on a job. It was all four of us, which was unusual. The Handler liked to hold one of us back so we wouldn’t get any ideas. But we were after one of our own. He was a defector, one of the Commission’s best assassins at the time. Intel placed him in London, hiding out in a bakery of all places. He was a legend but it was supposed to be easy for us, a simple ambush.”

“Except it wasn’t,” Ben guesses.

Now that he’s started, it’s surprisingly easy to get lost in the memory.

“No. See what we didn’t know, is that he had a partner. And that’s when things got messy.” 


 

“Anything?”

Malakai jumps down from his lookout position, leaning back against the wall beside Dolores on the roof.

“No one’s been in or out.”

Dolores drums her fingers impatiently against her knee. Five frowns at the nervous tick. It's been a while since he's seen it.

“What’s wrong?”

The lampposts below provide only enough light to make out her silhouette even from so close. “I’m not sure,” she confesses, rubbing at her arms as if cold. “I just have a bad feeling about this.”

Five frowns. Something feels off to him too. An itchy, nauseating sort of feeling that’s been building all day. More than just anxiety or trepidation. Something more instinctual than that.

A snowy owl swoops overhead, silent and almost invisible against the backdrop of the night sky. It hoots once and then twists acrobatically through the air, flitting back the way it came.

Five curses the lack of time. “You gonna to be ok?” he asks her. "You can sit this one out."

Malakai moves to his other side, holding out a hand. Five grasps it.

In the darkness, Dolores nods, taking his other hand without hesitation. “No it's okay. Let’s just get this over with.”

Holding them tight, Five tugs at the power inside him, allowing it to roll forth and engulf them. He drops them all safely in an alleyway, giving them a moment to steady themselves. They brush off the dizziness quickly, having grown used to the physical effects that come with accompanying him through jumps.

“He’s alone,” Chase confirms, appearing from the shadows.

The shapeshifter takes the lead. Moving swiftly through side doors and down the stairs into the sublevel, pausing to wordlessly point out any creaky planks. 

Five spots the door easily, warm candlelight flicking out through the crevices.

They approach silently, Malakai slipping to the other side of the door, eyes trained on Five. Next to him, Chase shifts, the cheetah curling around his side, poised and ready to pounce. He keeps Dolores safely behind him. She huffs in annoyance, but allows it with little fuss.

It’s quiet.

The hair on the back of his neck stands on end.

He gives the signal and Kai takes the door down with a single hit, crumbling like it was nothing but dust.

Five gets a single instance to peer into the room.

Then all at once, dozens of rifles swing towards the doorway and open fire.

Chapter Text

“I thought you said he was alone!” Five shouts over the fanfare of gunfire, puffing slightly from the impromptu group jump.

'He was!'

“Really, because it doesn’t look like it to me!” He growls at the animal in his arms.

In the seconds before the guns started firing, Five grabbed Dolores and then the cheetah by the scruff.

Years of working together, or more accurately, years of pulling Chase out of the line of fire, made the maneuver second nature. As soon as he felt Five’s grip, he’d shifted to something small enough to carry and easier to jump with.

Five sneaks a peak around their temporary shelter, careful to keep Chase tucked safely to his chest. He just barely manages to duck back before the wood beside his head splinters and explodes.

Malakai is holding his own on the other side of the room, the only one of them largely impervious to bullets. He’s also sealed the entrance behind him.

Satisfied that there’s nothing to worry about on that front, he turns his attention to their assailants.

There are about twenty men. The weapons are definitely too advanced for the time period, but they’re dressed like lower class workers from the city. Likely hired guns, caught in something far beyond their pay grade.

“Go!” Dolores exclaims, fire already burning at her fingertips. “I’ll help Kai distract them, you two find the mark before he gets away.”

'Right.'

“Try not to kill them. They look like civilians,” Five warns.

At her nod, he gathers Chase up and jumps farther into the room.

Flames arc to life from where they’ve just come, spreading across the walls and locking the room in an inescapable ring of fire.

Five curses as they gain the attention of the nearest gunman. “Find him! I’ll cover you.”

Chase leaps from his arms, form rippling and changing as he darts between the armed guards.

No longer liable for anyone else, Five let’s himself fall into the familiar rhythm of the fight. It’s mindless work, trained into him from a young age. He jumps across the room, never staying anywhere for too long, drawing aim towards himself with careless taunts. He pulls guns out of hands and knocks people to the ground with well placed hits.

Every so often he checks on the others.

Out of his peripheral vision, a velociraptor races by, hot on the target’s heels before his men literally throw themselves in the way. Five feels a pang of pity when the raptor sends them ruthlessly to the ground.

Dolores is a whirlwind. Flames bursting from her fingertips, coiling around her like a great serpent.

The room is bathed in the glow. In rippling waves of sweltering heat.

The flames lick at him hungrily when a jump pulls him too close to the wall.

The feeling is back, a chill running down his spine.

There’s ash in his mouth and smoke in his lungs.

From one moment to the next, he doesn’t know where he is.

Then it all comes back to him. The ruins of the Academy not something he’ll ever be able to forget. Permanently imprinted onto his very soul.

His legs buckle beneath him, sending him pitching into the rubble. The fires devour everything in their path, columns of black smoke rising up into a hazy sky.

He’s alone. He’s all alone again and he doesn’t want to be alone.

He’s not alone.

Luther glares at him with cold dead eyes. He towers over Five on the ground, the glass eye in his hand dripping a steady trail of blood. “Why Five? Why did you leave us here to die?”

He chokes and it has nothing to do with the fire. “I didn’t! I didn’t mean to…I tried to come back.”

Allison stands beside him.

“But you didn’t come back.”

Klaus and Diego too.

“Why didn’t you save us?”

Ben and Vanya.

“We needed you. Where were you?”

They surround him, their clothes in tatters, bloody scars and scratches littering their bodies. Arms reaching towards him, hands sharp and clawed. Accusing him. Punishing him for his sins.

He deserves it. He knows he does but...

Wait.

Ben and Vanya?

He forces his gaze back to them. Takes in their appearance. The soot staining Vanya’s cheek. The dark bruises on Ben’s skin. The way his arm hangs at an awkward angle.

He’s never seen them like this. Never found their bodies in the Apocalypse he remembers.

This isn’t real.

The Apocalypse crumbles away with the realization, his surroundings filtering back in.

He’s on his hands and knees, trembling on the floor like a child.

Five curses his own weakness. Of all the times to get swept up like that…

He scrambles up to his knees. Assessing the situation from his position, he quickly locates each of the Horsemen in turn.

Dolores using flames to keep the others at bay.

Chase nipping at the target, barely dodging bullets.

Malakai passed out on the floor at a woman’s feet.

His heart comes to a shuddering stop, panic making him numb to anything else. But he can’t see any blood and the constant rise and fall of Kai’s chest calms him.

With the knowledge that his friend is still alive at least, he focuses on the threat. Five realizes with a jolt that he’s seen her before, exiting the Handler’s office. She’s a Commission worker. Not just any Commission worker, the Collector his mind supplies.

It doesn’t make sense. They’d been sent here by the Commission. Surely they would have been briefed if the Collector was to join them. And if she was responsible for hurting Malakai… was she betraying the Commission or were they being double crossed?

He’s pulled from his thoughts when the Collector draws a pistol from her side, pointing it across the room at— at Dolores.

Dolores whose back is turned. Who won’t see it coming.

He has to warn her. 

But the Collector's finger is already on the trigger.

Five forces himself up and forward, stumbling slightly even as he pulls at his powers desperately.

He’s not going to let Dolores get hurt for his weakness.

He jumps.

The bullet punches through his chest, stealing the breath from his lungs.


 

“It was going well and then…I got…distracted, the Collector pulled a gun on Dolores, and I jumped in the way.”

You got distracted?” Ben questions incredulous.

“Yes, that’s what I said,” Five snaps back, continuing hurriedly before anyone thinks to question the subject further. His siblings do not need to know the exact details. He agreed to tell them about his past not to tell them everything about his past. 

“I don’t know what happened immediately after or even how long I blacked out for. Just that when I came to, everything was on fire.”

“Dolores.”

“Dolores,” he echoes. “She lost control. Thought I was dead. Might’ve been for a little while there, at least I always suspected as much, but they refused to talk about it.”

“Speaking of,” he turns to Klaus to address him specifically. “You didn’t happen to see me at any point did you?”

The Séance’s mouth drops open in genuine shock. “Why would you ask me that deeply traumatizing question?!”

Five shrugs, nonplused. “Eh you probably wouldn’t have noticed. You always tried to ignore the ghosts and you might not have recognized me anyways.”

Klaus practically radiates stress back in response. “Wow, thank you. I hate it! Please go back in time and erase this conversation.”

Five merely rolls his eyes. “Anyways, she apparently took down the whole city block instantly. Her power was at least partially tied to her emotions, and when she couldn’t control her emotion-”

“She couldn’t control the fire,” Vanya mumbles forehead creased.

Five nods in agreement. If anyone understood the perils of loosing control of one’s emotions, it would be her.

“Wait hold up," Diego interrupts. "How come the rest of you didn’t die if she literally lit everything on fire?”

“The flames were hers. They burned whatever she wanted them to. I guess even then, she made sure not to hurt us...”

 


He can’t breathe. He can’t. No matter how hard he tries he can’t draw in a single breath, chest spasming with each failed attempt.

“—ive!”

Pain.

“Do so—thing!”

The darkness he’s trapped in hurts.

“I’m trying—”

It’s suffocating him.

“Shit!”

It’s so hot. It burns. His chest burns.

“Move!”

He’s cold. Freezing cold.

Air is forced into his lungs all at once, his body jolting with the movement. The unbearable pressure in his chest eases as the motion repeats again, air forced in and out, in and out.

“Come on Five…please wake up.”

He knows that voice. It sounds desperate, so he struggles to obey.

It’s bright. So blindly bright.

The darkness was better.

“Oh thank god!”

Chase. The voice was Chase.

His face hovers above Five, eyes still alight with lingering panic. He’s granted a watery smile all the same, Chase’s shoulders sagging in relief.

He’s lying in Chase’s lap.

There’s blood pooling down his side and he can taste it, hot and coppery on his tongue.

Five cries out when Malakai presses down forcefully on the wound. He’s distantly aware of Kai spewing apologies and Chase’s fingers running gently through his hair in a soothing gesture.

When the world comes back into focus, his gaze slides to Malakai. His friend is drenched in sweat, fingers shaking, and forehead creased in concentration as he tends to Five’s wound.

“I can’t keep this up forever,” he declares frantically, passing over Five to talk to Chase. “I barely have him stabilized and he needs to get to a doctor. We can’t wait for Dolores.”

Dolores.

Dolores.

Five looks around for her but she’s no where in sight.

They’re not in the basement anymore, back up on street level. In every direction, the world around them is on fire. The flames haloing so bright, it seems like dawn is breaking despite the fact it must still be the dead of night.

If the fire burns this strong, Dolores must still be building it up.

The briefcase lies on the floor at his side, and Five refuses to leave Dolores behind.

If they return without her, the Commission will assume it's treason.

If they return without her, Dolores is as good as dead.

He struggles weakly in Chase’s hold, drunkenly batting an arm at Malakai in disagreement.

“Five, she was completely out of it. There’s no time—”

He focuses all his energy in glaring stubbornly in response.

“She didn’t burn us the first time but there’s no way Chase will be able to reach her.”

Five opens his mouth to respond but all her manages is a weak gurgling cough.

“Hey, shhhh. Don’t try to talk.” Chase is using the same gentle tone of voice he always uses and the tension in Five’s body bleeds away out of habit.

Or perhaps it’s simply the blood loss.

“I’ll try to go find her,” Chase tells Malakai, already shifting his hold, but Five grips him as tight as his weak body can manage.

Kai is right. It would be too dangerous for Chase…

Kai catches on a moment later. “There’s a tear in your heart and you have a pneumothorax. My power is the only thing keeping you breathing and from losing blood faster than you already are. Do you understand what you are asking me to do?”

Yes! He tries to form the word and Chase berates him for disobeying his earlier command.

Malakai utters several curses but ultimately caves. He doesn’t want to leave her behind either, and this is the ease on his conscience he needed to take action.

Kai does his best to explain to Chase what he should do, but it’s lost to Five in the fiery, white hot pain of being readjusted so the shapeshifter will be more easily able to reach the wound.

“Six minutes,” he hears, when his sight returns and his faculties are restored enough to make sense of words. “The longest the brain can survive after the heart stops, without oxygen, is six minutes. If we are not back in six minutes’ time you take him and go.”

“You’ll be back before then,” Chase declares, but he nods his understanding all the same.

Kai sucks in a single deep breath, which mirrors Five’s own.

“You better not die or I’ll kill you,” he whispers, before pressing a kiss to Five’s forehead, and letting go.

 


 

“Again I don’t know what happened after that, it's all...a bit fuzzy. But I woke up in the Commission’s infirmary and they were all there, so I’m guessing Malakai brought Dolores back in time.”

His siblings are all silent so he continues.

“The Commission sent agents to try and stop the spread but by then it was too late. One third of the city burned down in what would later be known as the Great Fire of London. There were remarkably few fatalities, but it did send London into a bit of a frenzy. See there were suspicions that the fire wasn’t an accident. That it was an act of terrorism, because witness reports came in of foreign undercover agents casting fireballs into homes.”

Five shrugs. “They got it partially right.”

“And it was… okay that you burned down a city?” Luther asks, thoroughly scandalized.

Five laughs, a dark humorless thing. “God no. We were punished for it, but it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. We killed the mark. That was the job and we completed it. We also ousted the Collector as a traitor. She was pretty high up the Commission food chain and they had no idea she’d betrayed them. It’s probably what saved us in the end.”

At least, for the moment.

Chapter Text

The glow of several monitors illuminates the small surveillance room. Allison smiles fondly, the rare sound of her siblings’ laughter filtering in from the old recordings.

“Hey,” Luther greets, poking his head in from the hall. “What are you up to?”

He shuts the door behind him, coming to stand beside her.

“I don’t know, I just….” She pauses, considering how to best frame her feelings. “Things have been so heavy these past few days, I was hoping to find some good memories you know.”

Luther nods, peering curiously into the screens.

“How’s that going?”

“Much harder than it should be unfortunately.” She gestures towards the two tapes she’d already tried, stacked innocently on a corner of the desk. “Dad yelled at Ben and made him cry on the first one, and by the way Klaus was vomiting in the second, I’m pretty sure he had alcohol poisoning.”

Luther’s face contorts in a pained expression. Allison can practically hear him blaming himself. “This one’s been good so far,” she adds quickly, hoping to deter that direction of thought. “Look.”

Luther grants her a grateful smile before turning to watch, catching sight of a younger Diego and Five racing each other down the halls, then at their own younger selves looking through magazines on her bed.

“Oh god, we were so small!”

“I know,” Allison giggles. “I mean Five is still tiny, but he used to be taller than me!”

Luther chuckles, the sound of china smashing, cutting off the sound. 

Leaning in, Allison finds the source. 

Diego stands in the living room, Dad’s big, blue Ming dynasty vase smashed to pieces at his feet. His hands fist in his hair anxiously, as he backs away from the mess.

Five appears next to him in a flash of blue. He takes in the broken vase, the way Diego is panicking, and then steps between the two and towards Diego.

He takes Diego’s hands in his own, stopping his hair pulling. The other boy shakes his head frantically, mouth freezing up in the choppy way she has come to associate with his childhood stutter. He might be crying but it’s hard to tell. 

His words and Five subsequent response are lost, having both spoken in whispers the camera was unable to catch. But whatever Five says seems to calm him, the tension in the child’s body easing. 

Allison watches as Five steers Diego away from the mess and towards the door, glancing up towards the stairs warily every few seconds.

For good reason. 

Reginald Hargreeves stalks down the stairs on another monitor with booming, angry steps. He’d probably heard the noise from the open door of his study. To her memory, breaking any of their father’s expensive home decor was always met with a severe lecturing and some additional form of punishment.

Usually a loss of her already few privileges, in Allison's case.

Five guides their brother all the way to the kitchen to Mom, who takes one look at Diego’s state and pulls him into a warm hug. 

He hesitates a moment at the doorway, shifting restlessly from foot to foot. Ultimately, he makes his decision, and heads back to the living room. He practically drags his feet the whole way there, looking uncharacteristically small.

By the time their father enters the room however, Five’s poised himself again. Back straight. Chin up. Hands clasped behind his back. 

Their father says something, Five responds, and Allison chokes on a surprised gasp when Reginald slaps him across the face with enough force to knock his head to the side. 

Her hands shake as she scrambles to turn down the volume on the other monitors, hoping to better hear what they’re saying. Needing to know what Five could’ve possibly said to result in such a violent response. 

She misses the rest of the conversation, their brother blinking away.

Reginald pulls out his watch, impatiently timing his return. 

When he reappears, Five carries a broom and dustpan, as well as a large black trash bag.

Their father yanks the former from his hands, tossing it behind him. 

Allison catches his words this time. 

“You’ll clean your mess with your own two hands.”

Your mess? 

Five doesn’t correct him. Simply kneels to the ground, carefully picking up the shards and tossing them into the trash bag. 

Reginald’s cane slams down on the hardwood, loud enough to make Five flinch back. “Today Number Five!”

He hurries to comply, carelessly grabbing handfuls of the sharp ceramic.

Allison’s hands twinge in sympathy. There’s no way he hasn’t cut open his hands doing that.

The second he’s finished, Reginald grabs Five by the back of his jacket, pulling him to his feet and forcing him along, the child scrambling to keep up with their father’s longer strides.

But instead of taking him up the stairs towards his office as she expected, they make their way downstairs.

Allison stands from her seat, tracking their journey through the old monitors, stomach twisting in apprehension. 

On the basement camera’s screen, she watches Reginald wrench open the door and push Five down the small flight of stairs. 

He lands hard, bloody handprints marking the place he manages to catch himself, barely keeping from slamming head first on the ground, and confirming Allison’s prior suspicion. 

She hopes that she’s wrong. That what she thinks is about to happen doesn’t actually happen.

In her bedroom, the younger versions of Luther and Allison whisper and giggle on the bed. Vanya plays the violin a few doors down in her room, swaying to the rhythm, a gentle smile on her face. Diego prepares a batch of cookies with Grace’s help in the kitchen mood uplifted under the force of her affection, as Ben and Klaus hide out in the attic, playing with a deck of cards and betting contraband candies.

In the basement on the lower level, Five cowers before their father as he beats him with his cane.

Allison feels sick.

“No.” She’d been so engrossed, Luther’s voice startles her. “Dad wouldn’t...He never...”

Allison doesn’t bother to answer. There’s no point. The evidence is right in front of them.

It doesn’t last long. Their father strikes Five a handful of times. But Five must be all of ten years old and Reginald Hargreeves is a grown man.

Throughout it all, Five doesn’t cry. Doesn’t beg or plead with their father to stop. Entirely silent except for the choked noises of pain he can’t quite hold back. 

He doesn’t fight either. Simply curls in on himself, protecting his head like he’s done this before. 

Allison feels infinitely worse in light of it.

“Since you are so clearly in need of extra discipline,” their father sneers, “you are to return to your room and you are not to leave until I fetch you for private training tonight. Do you understand?”

Five swallows thickly before responding, voice brittle. “What about dinner? If we’ll be training I need to eat...”

“No. You won’t be having dinner tonight.”

“But—”

The cane slams against the floor in warning and Five’s jaw snaps shut, posture changing from the open defiance of looking up at their father’s face, to submissively gazing at his feet. 

Apparently satisfied, Reginald leaves his son on the floor without so much as a backwards glance. The door swinging shut behind him with a bang. 

The tension in the room could be cute with a knife. Luther is a statue beside her, as frozen as she is by the truth they’d unwillingly uncovered. 

Five is the one who ultimately breaks the silence. 

The child gasps out as he makes it to his knees on shaky arms, stopping there to control his erratic breathing. By the way Five holds his side, Allison guesses that at best he has a bruised rib, at worst a broken one.

Likely more than one. 

Having steeled himself, Five painfully pulls himself up the rest of the way to his feet. Leaning heavily against the walls, he begins the journey to his room.

It’s heartbreaking to watch.  

He looks pale and woozy by the time he makes it up the first flight of stairs, and he still has two more to go.

Allison prays for someone, anyone, to walk past him.

She gets her wish and almost wishes she hadn’t.

Her younger self is laughing, racing down the hall with Luther hot on her heels. With a glance backward to see how close he is to catching her, younger Allison darts down the stairs.

For a moment, she feels a flare of hope. Surely they’ll run into Five. Surely they’ll see him and help. 

Except she doesn’t remember this moment, and there’s no way she’d ever forget seeing Five hurt like this. 

Not Five, who was always so strong and invincible. 

Turns out, Allison doesn’t remember, because she never even got a good look at him. 

They meet halfway on the second staircase. Her younger self is in the middle of throwing a taunt over her shoulder at Luther, when she clips Five in the side sending him off balance.

“Watch where you’re going!” Young Luther growls, grabbing Five by the collar and shoving him against the wall and out of the way.

Definitely broken ribs.

Five stumbles once he’s released, just barely catching himself against the rail before he can tumble down the stairs, biting into his fist to keep from crying out and drawing their attention. 

It works. Their younger selves don’t even notice, disappearing down the next flight of stairs.

Tears slip down her cheeks.

She doesn’t know what happens next, because Luther lunges forward then, slamming the pause button on the VHS with such force the device splinters and cracks, static filling every screen.

The reprimand catches in her tight throat when she sees the tears welling in his eyes as well.

“I hurt him. God Allie, I hurt him.” Luther’s staring down at his own shaking hands, backing until he hits the wall and then sliding down it.

“You didn’t know,” she hurries to reassure, dropping down beside him.

“I was Number One! I was supposed to know. I was supposed to protect you all…”

Allison sighs. “Luther,” she lifts his chin so that he’ll meet her gaze. “You were a child. The fact that you were numbered first as a baby shouldn’t have made it your job to protect us. That should’ve been Dad’s job…”

Instead, their father constantly threw them into danger. Instead, their father had been the one hurting them.

“That’s—” Luther chokes, scrubbing a hand wearily over his face as he composes himself. “God…did dad ever hit you?”

Allison startles. “No, of course not! Did he—”

“No, no. Do you think...the others?” His voice quivers ever so slightly, and Allison wishes she could reassure him that of course not. Of course their father never abused any of their other siblings. That this time with Five was a one time thing.

But unfortunately, that’s just not the reality they live in.

“There’s only one way to find out.”

 


 

They find Ben and Vanya reading together in the living room, in companionable silence. Vanya is stretched out on one of the couches, while Ben is curled up in a recliner, snuggled into a thick blanket with a cup of hot chocolate.

“Did dad ever hit you?”

Allison knows Luther is anxious. That he’s been working himself up to be able to ask and that he can’t stand the not knowing for a single second longer. That these two things culminated in him just thoughtlessly blurting it out. Allison knows this. But that doesn't stop her from wanting to facepalm all the same.

A bit more tact would’ve been helpful.

Vanya doesn’t even glance up from her book, simply raising an eyebrow in disbelief. “Dad didn’t even look at me.”

While it’s a relief to hear, the blunt way Vanya points out her neglect as the only reason it hadn’t occurred isn’t very encouraging.

Ben shrugs, looking up from his reading and patting at his stomach absentmindedly. “Pretty sure the eldritch monsters would’ve eaten him if he tried.”

That’s…also not very reassuring.

“What’s this?!” Klaus exclaims, skipping into the room, Diego trailing behind him. “A family gathering and we weren’t invited. Can you believe this Di?”

“I can barely hold back my tears,” he gruffs, but his lips curl into a smirk at the other’s antics.

“You see!” Klaus strikes a dramatic pose and sprawls himself out across from Vanya, like a 19th century housewife on a fainting couch.

Despite everything, Allison finds herself smiling. Small and weak, but a smile nonetheless. 

“Have you guys seen Five?”

Klaus jumps back up at Luther’s question, brightening. “He’s out on a doughnut run! Well it was a coffee run but, as you all know, I am irresistible.”

“You’re something alright,” Ben mumbles.

Klaus sticks his tongue out at him, before turning his attention back to her and Luther, cocking his head curiously. “So, what's got you guys all riled up?”

Allison opens her mouth to respond, but Ben beats her to it.

“They were asking if Dad ever hit us.”

She has a tactless family.

“Oh fun! Casual family conversations.”

Luther wrings his hands. “So um, did he?”

Diego crosses his arms, eying Luther critically from where he leans against the side of the couch Klaus has claimed. Finding whatever he was looking for, he turns away, muttering defensively. “Ya, so what?”

“Awww,” Klaus whines beside him, “and here I thought I was special!”

The knot in her chest returns.

“What! He did?” The admittance is enough to draw Vanya’s attention, eyes widening. Clearly she hadn’t thought they were serious.

It’s depressing that somehow, Reginald’s cruelty continues to surprise them.

Diego shrugs self consciously at her ogling. “Ya. He’d knock me around whenever I did something he didn’t like. Used to slap me if I stuttered while answering him too.”

Klaus nods in agreement. “Even kicked me once,” he admits, “I was too old to be crying apparently. I’d like to see him get locked in a mausoleum for hours. Bet he’d cry too.”

Luther curses under his breath and Diego narrows his eyes at him. “Are you saying he never did anything like that to you?”

“No.”

Diego snorts. “Figures.”

“God,” Luther laments. “I can’t believe I had no idea he was hurting you three.”

He doesn’t bring up that the grief stems largely from his failure as Number One, which is probably for the best. She can’t imagine Number Two taking that very well.

Diego however, is focused on something else. “Three!?” He turns to Vanya and Ben, hands clenching into fists at his side. Klaus perks up beside him. “That bastard hurt one of you?”

“Five,” Allison clarifies softly.

Vanya’s surprise is palpable, but Ben simply sighs heavily, as if he already suspected as much to be true.

She’s about to ask him about it when Diego interrupts.

“Nah, he never laid a hand on Five.”

The words are confident. He’s completely self assured and Allison’s confused as to why. Particularly when she's seen with her own eyes that he's wrong.

“He did, Diego.” Luther confirms slowly.

“Did Five tell you that?”

“No but—”

Diego shakes his head. “No way. Old man loved him. Barely ever got into trouble and when he did Dad wouldn't even lecture him. Usually just gave him extra practice and Five liked training, so it was basically a reward. He told me so himself.” 

Allison closes her eyes, the final pieces of the puzzle settling into place.

“What do you mean?” She prods, just to be sure.

“He uh, he saw Dad him me this one time. I was helping Mom with the dishes and dropped one, damn bastard. Five jumped into my room that night and made me tell him everything. You know how he can get, so I told him. He looked pretty angry about it so I asked if Dad ever did anything like that to him and he said no. That Dad just gave him extra training and he was trying to get better with his powers anyway, so sometimes he'd even goaded Dad into it on purpose. Told me if I ever wanted him to take the blame for something like that, to let him know. That it would be better for both of us.” 

Fuck.

“Said the same thing to me,” Klaus recounts. “Confessed one time when Dad found a stash of my weed. Don’t know how he ever believed that, but hey! I wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth.”

Luther seems to put it together too, if the way he glances at her is anything to go by.

Unfortunately, it's not very inconspicuous and Diego catches it easily. “What! What’s that look for?” 

“We were just watching an old recording. And Dad…dad—”
 
“He hit Five?” The disbelief is clear on Diego’s face, like he couldn’t possible fathom such a thing.

“He...he beat him with his cane,” Luther corrects.

Vanya’s exclamation is lost in Diego’s angry bellow. “WITH HIS CANE?!” He’s absolutely livid, fists shaking at his sides. Klaus’ carefree mood is gone. His brow furrowed in thought, as he whispers quietly to himself.

“What the fuck! What the hell did he do to deserve that?”

Luther turns to her again, looking incredibly lost. Diego’s head swivels back and forth between them, like he’s watching a tennis match. When neither of them answer, he turns hard eyes to her.

“Allison!”

It’s a demand for the truth.

God she doesn’t want to give it to him.

“For breaking a vase,” she starts, dragging her words and trying to delay the inevitable. “The big blue one that used to be right there.” She points at the place.

Diego follows the motion, glaring at the place she points. It takes him a second, but she can tell the moment he connects the dots, because all at once, the color drains from his face.

Chapter Text

The first things he’s aware of is an incessant beeping.

The next, is the sluggish weight of his limbs. The drag on his body as he tries to will it to obey, like trying to move through molasses.

There’s a pressure on his hand.

He groans when he finally manages to open his eyes, the light sharp and piercing.

Once he’s adjusted, he takes in his surroundings. He’s laying on a hospital bed, in one of the disquieting glass rooms that makes up the Commission’s infirmary. Dolores sits next to him, having dragged a chair to his bedside. His hand is wrapped in both of hers, her forehead pressed against their joined hands as she dozes lightly.

“D—lores” he slurs on his fourth try, tongue heavy from the sedatives.

She jerks up at the sound of his voice, eyes red rimmed but dry.

“You’re an idiot you know that.” There’s a tremble to the words, but a ferocious fire burning in her eyes. “The biggest fucking idiot I’ve ever met.”

Attempting to answer sends him into a coughing fit.

There’s a glass of ice cold water at his lips by the time he’s collected himself.

“Do you remember what happened?”

Her hand is steady on his arm, both easing its shaking from the exertion of holding the glass up, and a reminder not to drink too fast, lest he make himself sick.

He thinks back as far as he can go, images shifting in and out of focus like they’re being displayed on an old projector.

The silence of the city at night. Light filtering underneath a door at the end of a dark hallway. The rapid beat of a small heart against his chest and the feel of Dolores’ pulse under his fingers. The retort of a gun, pain, and a fire. Chase begging him to stay awake for just a little bit longer. Tears splashing against his dusty cheeks.

Five nods and there’s something like relief in the way she sinks down into her seat, accepting the half empty cup back.

“How l-ng?” he scrapes out.

“A few days now. They had to put you under to keep you from moving while you were in critical condition. The bullet grazed your heart.” She pauses, then offers a saccharine smile. “Don’t worry, despite your best efforts, you’re going to be fine.”

His eyes rove over his companion, seeking any potential injuries. Other than clear exhaustion, she seems to be alright, but still. “Are you?”

Dolores scoffs, tossing her head back in something like a silent prayer for patience. “I’m not the one who thought it would be a good idea to jump in front of a bullet, so yes I’m fine.” There’s an angry bite to the words, which, fair enough. If she’d pulled the same stunt for him, Five would be pissed too.

With a sigh, her eyes soften. “So are Chase and Kai,” she offers, to ease any lingering panic.

It works. With the knowledge his friends are okay, his body immediately tries to drop back into dreamless oblivion.

He fights it stubbornly back.

“How long have you been here?”

Dolores spares a glance at the clock behind her. “Few hours. We’ve been taking shifts. Didn’t want to leave you alone—”

She cuts off as one of the scientists shuffles past, glaring daggers, daring him to come any closer.

The memory of what happened the last time he’d woken up here alone is too much to deal with at the moment, so he smothers it under the haze of drugs.

“What about the—” He loses his train of thought when he catches sight of himself. “The hell is this?”

His left arm is covered in ink doodles.

Dolores cracks a genuine, fond smile. “Chase,” she explains. “He got bored waiting for you to grace us with your consciousness.”

That explains the subject matter.

The majority of the scrawled drawings are little animals whimsically displayed. A monkey rides a giraffe into battle, wielding what appears to be a flaming sword. A whale with wings jumps out of a fishbowl. A horse with a top hat stands on its hind legs twirling a cane.

They’re… surprisingly well done.

All of them except—

“What’s that supposed to be?” He asks indicating a smudge with… five legs? Or maybe that’s supposed to be a tail? He’s not exactly sure what he’s looking at.

“It’s a cat!”

He can’t hold back a snort at that.

“Be nice,” she reprimands, “Malakai drew it.”

“Is that the butt?”

“That’s his face.”

“His face!”

“Those are the eyes.”

“Those are not eyes.”

Dolores bursts into helpless giggles.

God he loves that sound.

It’s also contagious, because he finds himself laughing with her.

“It’s so bad!”

“I know,” she finally concedes catching her breath. “But he tried so hard and Chase already made fun of him, so you be nice.”

“I’m the one who’s stuck with it,” he murmurs petulantly, “I should get to make fun of it too.”

He’s rewarded with a whack to his side from Dolores, and a sharp pain in his chest when he inhales too quickly for another bout of laughter. Dolores’ brow creases with worry, but he waves down her concern.

Wait a minute.

“There’s nothing on my face, is there?”

“No.”

He narrows his eyes suspiciously.

“I promise.” She raises one hand. “Scouts honor. Plus, I wouldn’t have been able to keep a straight face this long if there was.”

He eyes her a moment longer, before deciding she’s likely telling the truth.

Though it doesn’t mean Chase won’t remedy that if he’s left on bed rest much longer…

“You didn’t draw anything?”

Dolores freezes, pink dusting her cheeks, as she ducks her head away from him.

Since he first woke up, Dolores hasn’t released her hold on his right hand, but now she drums a finger along the back of it.

Curiously, Five disentangles their fingers, to get a look at his palm.

It’s more of a geometric design, than any one thing. It covers the entirety of his palm and crisscrosses up each finger, in repeated spiraling shapes. In some areas she’s followed the lines of his hand and in others she’s ignored them completely.

It’s chaotic but cohesive. Beautiful in its complexity.

In the middle of it all, from where all the other designs originate and branch out, there’s a little heart. Darker then the rest, as if she’d traced over it with the pen, again and again.

“Oh,” he manages intelligently. “It’s nice.”

When he looks up at her again, she’s even redder than she was before his inspection. But she clears her throat and composes herself quickly. “Alright that’s enough. You’re supposed to be resting.”

His declaration about not being tired would likely have been more believable if his traitorous body hadn’t yawned halfway through it.

“What about you?”

“I’ll go rest when your next babysitter gets here,” she mocks.

“Liar.”

The bags under her eyes are more than a few hours in the making, the supposed length of her shift watching him. Plus, Chase and Malakai have both been drawing on his left arm, but there are no such drawings on his right. Only what Dolores has drawn on his palm. So, Chase never got the chance to doodle on his right. That, coupled with the fact she’d practically been dead to the world when he first woke up, tell him she has not in fact been resting.

May not have even left his side.

His stomach does a funny little flip at the idea.

When she doesn’t refute him, Five knows he’s right.

It takes every bit of strength he has to scoot over and make room on the bed for her. Dolores fusses over him for his efforts, hissing that he shouldn’t be moving like that and that he’ll tear open his stitches.

Five yawns again, the simple act sapping so much of his waning energy. “Just get in. I’m tired,” he whines.

Dolores glares for a moment before relenting, crawling in under the covers beside him.

She’s incredibly gentle, cautious of all the tubes and wires sticking out of him, as well as his healing injuries. Finally, she settles, ducking under his arm to curl into his side, throwing an arm around him and resting her head on his chest, hair tickling his chin. Their legs tangle together under the sheets.

Where her fingers rest over his ribs, she rubs soothing circles in his skin.

Five hums contently, sleepily cuddling further into the embrace.

“I’m going to kick your ass for this once your better,” she murmurs into his chest after a beat.

“Fair enough.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“So you’ve said.”

Dolores takes a deep breath and the exhale tickles against his neck.

“Don’t you dare do that again.”

He doesn’t bother responding. Not about to make a promise he can’t keep.

That and perhaps more significantly, the drugs are dragging him under again, the warmth too comfortable to ignore any longer.

With the last vestiges of consciousness, he hears her whisper once more.

“Don’t you ever scare me like that again.”


  

Diego is vaguely aware that his siblings are having a conversation around him. But it’s like they’re underwater. Far away.

Yet he still catches some of it.

He hears Ben recounting how Five would step in to interrupt his training whenever their Father was too rough. How Five would disappear for hours, sometimes days after, only to return exhausted and covered in bruises. How Ben never really believed they were all from training.

He hears Klaus mumble about the mausoleum, their Father catching Five there keeping him company once. Hears his brother plead with the others, asking them desperately whether Five had been physically hurt each time Klaus had taken up his offer of help.

Diego’s hands are shaking.

Fuck!

How many times had Five covered for him? How many times had he appeared unasked, apparently willing to suffer if it meant Diego didn’t have to? How many times had Diego gone to Five and asked for his help, knowing their father was furious, that the punishment would be particularly severe and unwilling to face it himself?  

He finds himself trying to analyze every instance he can think of. 

Had Five ever hesitated? Had Diego ever seen fear in his eyes and chosen to ignore it?

God, he’d never even gone to check on him after! Not once. Dozens of times Five protected him and not a single fucking time had Diego even entertained the notion of visiting his brother in the aftermath.

His stupid, selfless, brilliant, martyr of a brother. 

Diego’s going to kill him. 

What’s the saying? 

Speak of the devil, and the devil shall appear. 

Well Five must be the devil, because he chooses that exact moment to saunter in.

Five’s juggling three boxes of doughnuts in his arms. Completely unaware of the mood in the room, he smiles, a rare, genuine thing, while announcing his entrance, dimples out on full display. 

It feels like getting punched in the fucking gut. 

He’s so small. Looks so unbearably young and fragile. 

And he was even smaller than this when he started taking Diego’s punishments for him.

When he gave himself up on a silver platter. A whipping boy for the rest of them. 

Diego’s fucking furious. 

“You little shit!” 

The smile drops from Five’s face, confusion masking his features. 

Someone scolds him, warns him to calm down. But he’s too angry to calm down. 

Diego wants to throttle their father. To put his first through the goddamn wall.

He’ll have to settle for yelling at his asshole little brother instead. 

“You lied to me!” 

Five looks at him, down to the doughnuts, and back up at him, trying to figure out what he’s done wrong. 

It’s almost comical. 

Almost. 

“Huh?!” 

“You said he didn’t hurt you!” 

Annoyance filters past the confusion. Five’s patience thinning at the lack of clear explanation and the aggression being directed at him. “Diego, what the hell, are you talking about?” 

“Dad,” he snarls. “You said he didn’t hurt you. That’s what you told me.” He jabs his finger out on the second ‘you’, pointing at Five accusingly. 

He catches the flash of shock in his brother’s eyes, before Five is able to hide it. Five drops the doughnuts on a side table and Diego can actually see him raise his defenses. He crosses his arms, face going carefully neutral, gaze roving over the others uncertainly before landing on Diego again. 

“What does it matter?” 

Diego fights not to yell. What comes out is just barely not that. Voice scathingly level through clenched teeth. “You got yourself hurt, for years, protecting me. That’s why it matters!” 

He can count on his hands the number of times he’s seen Five Hargreeves flustered. This is apparently one of those rare events. 

“That’s not— I wasn’t—” he cuts off, stumbling over his words and finally settles on, “I can take a beating, Diego!” 

It’s the wrong fucking thing to say. 

“You shouldn’t have had to!” Diego explodes.

“Ya, well I did have to!”

“No you didn't you stubborn asshole! You could’ve let me take my own damn punishments.” 

Five’s eyes darken dangerously. “No.”

Diego barks out a hysterical laugh. “No!? What I wasn’t strong enough to manage? You had to protect your weak, stuttering brother. Because god forbid you see us as equals.”

“Are you purposely being this dense?!” Five growls back. “It has nothing to do with that. I’ve never seen you as anything less than my equal.”

“Then why?!” 

“You didn’t deserve it!” 

And you did!” He screeches incredulously. 

“It was going to happen anyways.” There’s a slip in the armor, and for a second Diego can see his brother. The tired resignation on his face at a truth he’d discovered long ago. “I didn’t see a reason for any of you to have to go through it, if it could just be one.” Then the armor is back up and the steel returns to his eyes as he defends, “It was the logical choice.” 

Diego’s actually going to kill him. 

He’s going to grab Five and crush him to his chest, and wrap his arms as tight as he can around his tiny little body, and he’s not going to let go until one or both of them is dead.

“The logical choice…” Diego breathes into the silence, shaking his head in disbelief. “And I’m the dense one!” 

As expected, the taunt at Five’s intelligence is enough to send his brother into a frenzy again. 

“Fuck you,” he growls, teleporting to stand on the couch and gain height. “You’re making a big deal for no reason! Reginald knocking me around on occasion, that was nothing! You think the Commission didn’t do worse! You think I wasn’t trained to take it. That was my life!”   

Someone lets out a startled, “Excuse me, what?” at the later proclamation but Diego barrels right on through incensed by the first.

“No reason! I’m the one being unreasonable right now!” 

If their argument thus far could be considered civil, it dissolves into all out chaos after that. He doesn’t even know half the things he’s shouting in Five’s face, but it feels damn cathartic. Five is giving as good as he’s getting, not one to be outdone.

He’s been peripherally aware of their siblings this whole time, passively trying to rein them in with gentle words. Clearly their tolerance wanes, because they decide to go for a more active approach.

“Ok, that’s enough,” is all the warning Diego gets before Luther hefts him off his feet and away.

It does surprisingly little to dissuade them.

Allison snaps first. “Would you two stop yelling!" 

“No, I’m upset and I’m going to yell!” Diego yells back in response, elbowing Luther to be released, which he does albeit begrudgingly. 

“If he’s yelling, I’m yelling!” Is Five’s childish and incredibly immature response, made worse by the fact he’s still standing on the couch like a brat. 

“This is stupid you’re both acting like toddlers and I would know.” 

They react at the same time to that. Diego's “Excuse me!” overlapping with Five's "Don't lump me in with him!".

“Oh for god’s sake you really don’t get it do you?” At their blank stares, Ben sighs deeply before turning to each of them in turn. “Five, Diego’s mad you used to protect him, because he cares about you and can’t stand the idea you got hurt for him. Diego, Five just doesn’t want to admit he was protecting you, because he cares about you and doesn’t want you to feel bad, since there’s nothing you can do about it now. You’re both just showing that you love each other in really convoluted ways and for some reason also screaming angrily about it!” 

Fuck.

Diego takes a deep breath. Then another and another.

The very idea that Five had managed to trick him into letting him take his punishments... 

The realization that Diego had been that terrible of a brother.

“Alright nows the part where we hug and make nice like reasonable human people,” Klaus prompts expectantly, like an over enthused kindergarten teacher. 

“C’mere you fucking asshole.” He grabs Five’s wrist and yanks him off the sofa and into his arms. Five startles, surprised Diego decided to take Klaus’ advice most likely, but he doesn’t jump away and eventually he returns the embrace, so that has to be something.

“You shouldn’t have done that for me, and… I should’ve noticed. I should’ve been looking out for you too. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. As if you’d ever be perceptive enough to discover something I was actively trying to hide from you.” Diego chuckles despite himself, figuring that will be the extent of what he'll get from his brother. But then Five buries his face in Diego’s shoulder, the last part whispered for him alone. “And you have nothing to be sorry for. I made a choice, and I’d make it again. I don't regret any of it.”

He’s not sure how to respond to that. Not sure he could, even if he wanted to, with the way his throat is closing all of the sudden. He pulls Five in just a little tighter, and hopes that’ll be enough. 

Their other siblings remain silent. Allowing them the moment. 

“Now that we’re done yelling," Allison speaks up once he sets Five back down. "We can calmly talk about this.”

“No.”

Beside him, Five looks up curiously.

“Diego—”

“We are talking about this.” He affirms before Allison can continue. “We are definitely talking about this, but not right now. I can’t. If I have to hear any more about the things Dad did, in this house, right under my fucking nose.” Deep breaths Diego, deep breaths. “I’m going to lose my shit.”

Ben has the audacity to raise his brow. “And this was not you losing your shit?”

Klaus is right, death turned Ben into a cheeky little bastard.

“That’s fair. The talking about it later I mean.” Vanya supports and Diego sends her a small smile in thanks.

“Great we're tabling that talk,” Klaus claps. “Now that that’s settled, shall we go back and analyze the deeply disturbing Commission Thing Five just casually mentioned? Cause I think that’s exactly what we need to do.”

Every eye turns to Five, who shrinks under the entirety of their attention.

“Can’t we just have doughnuts instead?” he pouts.

Chapter Text

The unanimous decision is that they should, in fact, break for doughnuts.

So they sit around the dining room table and they eat their doughnuts. Klaus chatters brightly, engaging the others in conversation and generally raising spirits with the power of his personality alone.

However, the entire time Five can only really feel a growing sense of foreboding and a little bit of nausea.

Sighing softly, he pushes away his plate of half eaten doughnut mournfully.

There probably won’t even be any left by tomorrow if the way Luther has already tucked into fourteen is any indication. He watches as Diego takes one in each hand, alternating between them for mouthfuls.

Animals, the lot of them.

“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to you know.”

He levels Ben with an exasperated stare and only gets a patient smile in return. “Stop being so understanding,” he grumbles. “It makes it hard to be annoyed.”

Ben gives a little shrug, before plopping another piece of doughnut in his mouth.

“Ben’s right. We can talk about it later,” Allison soothes, settling her hand over his.

“No, we can’t,” Five groans, letting his head fall on the table dejectedly. “If we don’t do it now I’ll just chicken out. Just…just give me a minute.”

Allison pats his hand sympathetically before leaving him be. The other’s respect his wishes too, carrying on conversations which become an increasingly obvious attempt to stall for time as they run out of topics.

When the discussion steers towards whether Ben eating seafood could be considered cannibalism, Five figures it’s probably time to face the music. “Alright. What do you want to know?”

At the silence that follows, Klaus takes the lead. “Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I think the part I found most concerning was when you implied the Commission trained you to handle being beaten. Did that raise any red flags for you guys or was that just me? Anybody else?”

Luther tentatively raises his hand from across the table, hastily lowering it when he realizes the question was rhetorical.

“There we go! Luther too,” Klaus nods, good naturedly.

Five and his big mouth.

“We were trained to,” he fumbles, trying to figure out how to best phrase it in a way that would be least upsetting to his siblings, “...withstand?”

Close enough.

Expectant looks motion that he should continue.

“Poisons, drugs, pain. They wanted us immune to anything that could be used against us.” Well, that wasn’t entirely true either. “With the exception of the things they used against us,” he amends. 

“It was part of the Trainer’s regular regimen, along side exercise and control over our abilities. He started with the poisons and drugs. Gave us small doses, increasing them overtime until our bodies could handle them.” 

“He’d poison you?” Vanya looks horrified.

“It wasn’t as bad as it sounds,” he tries lamely.

He gets six glares in return and is cowed into silence.  

“And then what? He beat the shit out of you?”

Five eyes Diego carefully. He’s pissed, that much is clear, but Five can’t find any of the explosive anger that had caused their yelling match earlier. It’s too bad. He’d give anything for another round right about now. It’d be much better than this.

“Among other things,” he acquiesces. “It was meant to teach us to withstand torture in case we were ever captured.”

“The entire time you were at the Commission this was happening to you?”

“No. Not the entire time. It was mostly in the first couple of years we were there, while he was still training the… endurance into us. He only used it after as a punishment. But the punishments got more frequent over time and then…” Five glances down at his hands beneath the table, nervously twiddling them together. He’d known where this conversation would inevitably lead, but that didn’t make it any easier to swallow.

“Then Chase killed the Trainer.”

“And he died for it.”


 

Five yawns tiredly as he blinks his bleary eyes open. God he’s sore.

He had practice with the Trainer first thing this morning and the man had not been in a good mood. He’d run Five ragged. Vindictively lashing out even after he’d run out of energy to jump.

After being released, he'd managed to stay conscious long enough to take a quick shower, toss on some clothes, and then had apparently passed out on top of his bed, not even managing to make it under the covers.

Lifting his head, Five spares a quick glance at the clock.

He’s missed Chase then. The shapeshifter should be at his own training session now. Has been at it for about an hour, and isn’t due back for another two.

Five curses. He should’ve stayed awake to check on him.

Chase returned from a mission late last night, and while Five didn’t know the details, it must’ve been a bad one. He’d awoken to the sound of Chase crawling into bed beside him, oddly subdued and seeking closeness. They’d both been exhausted, so Five had simply curled around his friend and resolved to talk about it in the morning.

Despite his own plan, he’d been unwilling to disturb Chase from his much needed, peaceful slumber by the time he’d had to leave for training.

He hopes the Trainer’s not being too hard on him, but given the man's bad mood this morning and the harshness he seems to reserve specially for Chase, Five’s not really counting on it.

Their relationship with the Trainer is…fraught with difficulties.

A strict disciplinarian, the Trainer prides himself, above all else, on the obedience of the men under his command. Traits which the Horsemen, by nature, have never had.

(They are trapped here against their will, pardon them if pleasing the Commission wasn’t the highest priority item on any of their to do lists.)

As a result, they’re often a source of embarrassment whenever they fail to be the perfect little soldiers he envisions. Unfortunately, the man’s also prone to taking such failures as slights against him, allowing them to fester.

Given absolute authority over their regimen, he takes to disciplining them in the way he best saw fit.

Abuse under the thinly veiled guise of training and punishment.

Malakai and Dolores were both best at escaping his anger, something he and Chase were not as well versed in.

Five simply couldn’t stomach the thought of groveling for forgiveness or adorning him with false platitudes to gain favor. Unlike the rest of them, he’d grown up under the hand of a similar vindictive asshole. He hadn’t survived Reginald Hargreeves, just to bow to another man just like him.

Chase’s discretions weren’t even really his fault. The forms he took were ruled by their animal instincts. While he’d learned to curve them over time, he was still best at it when one of the Horsemen was around.

But the Trainer considered this dependence, no matter how slight, to be a weakness. In the habit of bending people to see how far he could push them, the Trainer was getting him placed, alone, on increasingly more stressful assignments. Only to then get upset when Chase was inevitably pushed too far and snapped out of line.

Literally poking the bear and whining when he got bit.

Despite all that, Chase hadn’t failed to complete a single assignment. While that bar was enough for the Handler, who cared little as long as the job got done and the timeline remained relatively intact (and haven't they really pushed the boundaries of 'relatively intact' over the years), the Trainer was far more difficult to please.

Groaning, Five pulls himself to his feet.

Dolores is still away on a solo mission, not due back for a few more days. He’s the only one around who can check on Chase.

While interrupting is sure to get him punished, if the Trainer’s bad mood has anything to do with Chase’s assignment…

Chase doesn’t deserve that and Five might be able to talk their way out of it or at the very least, shift focus onto himself.

He fucking hates himself for not checking sooner.

 

 

There’s no way to even pretend this is training.

Five finds them in the middle of one of the smaller exercise rooms.

Chase is in the form of a malinois. A thick collar keeps the dog trapped in place, a short length of chain anchoring it to the ground. He's cowering, pressed against the floor by the force of the restrictions placed upon him.

The Trainer stands above him, just out of the animal’s reach. There’s a table just beside him full of tools that he brings out to use whenever he grows bored of his usual forms of torment. This is one of those times it seems.

He’s red in the face, shouting nonsense about Chase needing to learn his place, being nothing more than a dirty animal, baring a whip down brutally to accentuate the words.

The dog whimpers and cries with each strike, heartbreaking, pain-filled sounds. Unlike the Trainer, Five can hear Chase’s voice alongside them.

“Stop! Please stop! I’m sorry! Please it hurts, stop!”

Five’s blood boils.

He forces himself through a jump he wasn't sure he'd have the energy to make to land just behind the Trainer.

He’s supposed to talk. Supposed to wheedle their way out with words, but Chase cries out again and all his logic is dropped in favor of stopping the thing hurting his friend right now.

Braced against the table, because he made the jump but it was not steady, he grabs the first thing his hand touches, which turns out to be a hunting knife, and drives it non-fatally into the Trainer’s side.

It has the intended affect.

The Trainer yells out. The whip falling from his hand in the shock, clearly not having heard him appear. Furious eyes turning to focus on him.

“You little brat!”

The weight of the world barrels down on him all at once. The Trainer’s fist colliding against his jaw with concussive force, sending him crashing to the floor.

The impact leaves him dazed and disoriented.

“Five!”

With the squelch of flesh, the Trainer pulls out the knife, tossing it to the ground carelessly.

“I never liked you Death,” he starts conversationally, walking calmly towards his table of tools and inspecting them, taking this all in turn easily enough. “From the first time I met you I knew you were too headstrong. That you wouldn’t mold to fit my vision.”

His back is turned. Five knows he needs to move now. Needs to grab Chase and jump them out and deal with the consequences later.

But the simple action of turning on his side, has him retching miserably.

“I told the Handler it should’ve been you. Back with Famine, I mean. She should’ve put the bullet in your head, saved us all the trouble.” He holds up a pair of plyers, considering them. Deciding against it, he drops them to resume his search. “But she’s a contrary bitch and now here we are.”

With a sound of approval, he plucks an item from his collection, turning to grin down at Five.

“No matter. I’m supposed to be working with Conquest, but if you’re so eager you can take his place. Clearly, you need to be reminded of your position. And if it gets a little too rough... well, perhaps it’s time to lose another.”

A kick to his side sends Five sprawling on his back. Before he can even think to right himself, the Trainer is on him, straddling his hips. Five feels the familiar trill of panic as his body stops responding, paralyzed in the gravity of the stronger man’s hold.

“Don’t touch him!”

The Trainer’s placing something around his neck.

A collar his mind is eventually able to supply against the ringing in his ears.

With a grin, the Trainer pulls it tight, blocking off his air supply. Five’s fingers clench uselessly beside him.

He finally releases the tension and buckles the collar. It’s still unbearably tight, a noose around his throat, but at least now Five can take in small panicked breaths. The black that had infiltrated the corners of his vision receding again.

The Trainer leans back smugly to admire his work.

“You should feel honored. You’ll be the first to try it out. It’s specialized, you know. Had the engineers make it just for me,” he says proudly, waving a small black remote. “Nothing else is as strong.”

A shock collar. It’s a shock collar.

He’s afforded a precious second to come to terms with this information before his world explodes in agony.

Five grits his teeth, his muscles seizing uncontrollably.

“Don’t be like that,” the Trainer chastises, voice drifting in and out of range dizzyingly. “I want to hear you.”

There’s a click and Five screams.

After an eternity, it stops. Over the sound of his own gasping, desperate breaths he makes out the sound of chains rattling. A dog barking.

Then it’s gone again. Washed away in the sound of his own screams.

“Stop it! Leave him alone!”

At some point, he blacks out. He knows because cold water jolts him awake, so the electricity can burn through him again.

And again.

And again.

And then it all just stops.

Pins and needles run the length of his body and with it, the realization that he can move again.

Shakily, a kick of adrenaline gives him the strength to push himself to one side, instincts spurring him to get off his back, out of such a vulnerable position. It leaves his chest heaving from the exertion.

Sound slowly filters back like the world has been unmuted and he hears it.

Gurgling.

The Trainer is on the ground, small black remote toppled just out of reach.

Blood gushes from where his throat has been torn open, his body twitching as he chokes on his own blood.

A wolf stumbles back, Chase falling on his butt a moment later. The collar around his neck is torn, barely clinging on. The length of chain still connected to it as well as the anchor point he’d ripped from concrete support.

His face is coated in blood, some of which still dribbles down his chin. His wide eyes are fixed on the man before him, hands trembling as if he’s just now realizing what he’s done.

The Trainer jerks one last time and then falls still.

Hysterically, Five realizes they’re well and truly fucked.

Chapter Text

“Is it crazy that a part of me is happy?”

Five turns from where he’s been watching the road, granting his attention to the boy beside him.

“Huh?”

Chase shifts in place. “With my life. Is it crazy that a part of me is happy with the way things are?”

Five’s distinctly at a loss.

He waits patiently, figuring he’ll get more of an explanation and that interrupting now might prevent Chase from getting what he needs to off his chest.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Chase clarifies hurriedly. “I’m well aware that our situation is kind of shit. Ideally, we wouldn’t be glorified attack dogs for a heartless secret organization. Ideally, we wouldn’t have to deal with the Handler and the Trainer and all their bullshit and we wouldn’t kill people for a living.”

“Ideally, ya,” Five snorts, curious as to where this is going.

“I know you all can’t wait to leave.” His voice turns somber for a moment, before he catches himself. “And I get it! I mean, you all have something out there waiting for you. A home. Your families...”

Chase sighs, wilting pitifully. There’s no disguising the longing in his eyes. The quiet sadness.

“But I’ve never really had anything like that. It was always just me, you know. I was always alone. And now I’m not and it’s…it’s so nice. I just can’t imagine going back to my old life.”

They don’t talk about it much anymore but Five remembers where they all came from. The Trainer had found Chase living on the streets, surviving on stolen scraps. At eight years old, he’d been kicked out of the orphanage where he’d been abandoned as a baby. His powers were uncontrollable, triggering whenever he got emotional, whenever he was afraid, and the overworked staff had thought it best to just remove the liability.

“This isn’t a good life, but that’s ok. I mean, I’m happy. I’ll never have a family or a home to go back to, but… I think this is enough for me.”

Oh.

Absentmindedly, Five wonders how long this has been plaguing Chase.

The guilt of dreading what the rest of them dreamed of. The worry he’d be abandoned again at the first chance.

The niggling fear that perhaps he loved them more than they loved him.

Five should’ve seen it sooner.

“You’re happy because you have one now.”

“One what?”

Five rolls his eyes, a fond smile lighting his face. “A family idiot.” Turning serious, he holds Chase’s gaze steadily, determined that he understand. That he never question it again. “We’re family. All of us. No matter what happens, you’ll always have a home with us.”

Satisfied, he turns back around ignoring Chase’s stunned face. After all, they’ve got an Archduke to kill. But he does shift closer, allowing their shoulders to brush together.

He feels more than sees the giddy smile lighting his friends face. With a breathless laugh, Chase leans into him too.

“Oh.”

 


 

Neither of them move. Just stare at the body stupidly, in blank disbelief.

They can’t be here. They can’t be here because the Trainer is dead. Chase killed him. Because Five fucked up.

Now they’ll kill Chase. Five knows with absolute certainty that if they’re caught, they’ll kill Chase for this.

He has to get Chase out of here. He has to get Chase out of here now.

“Chase we have to—”

As he speaks, he feels the press of the collar still wrapped around his throat. Rational thought abandons him in a sudden wave of panic.

It’s still on him and he needs it off. He has to get it off.

Five tries to unlatch it, but his hands are trembling too badly and his shaky fingers can’t undo it. With every second he fumbles, unable to remove it, his chest tightens painfully. A fist around his heart, which is racing fast enough to burst from his chest.

He resorts to clawing at it desperately, small distressed sounds slipping past his lips when he tugs and it hurts and it doesn’t come off.

It’s enough to snap Chase back to the present. He wipes his face against his arm to clear some of the blood. With a single pull, he tears his own collar off, chain clattering to the ground behind him as he clumsily scrambles to Five’s side.

“Get it off! Please get it off!”

“Ok. You’re ok. Easy, easy.”

Chase’s fingers are deft, spurred by Five’s urgency. He unlatches the collar and gently tries to ease it off. Five whimpers when the blood and broken flesh catch, the skin underneath burned and mangled. The shapeshifter hisses in sympathy before finally managing to pry it off, tossing it away angrily and pulling Five into his arms.

Five all but collapses into the hold, a puppet with it’s strings cut. Chase coos gibberish at him, massaging along his body in an attempt to stop the involuntary jerking his tense, spasming muscles are producing as a result of the electrocution.

They don’t have time for his weakness. The Trainer is dead. His blood pooling scarlet on the floor and it means that—

Chase squeezes him tighter, coaxing him through the hyperventilation he’d unknowingly started by demonstrating slow deep breaths.

He calms in the protective hold. In the words Chase whispers into his hair. In the hands kneading at his muscles.

He wants to indulge in it. Because despite everything he feels safe.

He wants to cry. Because Chase must be terrified. Because this is all his fault and despite all that Chase is holding him like he’s more important. Like Five himself hadn’t just sentenced him to death.

But Five can do neither of these things. Any second now someone could come in and take Chase from him and—

He forces his palm against Chase’s chest and pushes him away.

“Five you’re shaking like a leaf,” the shapeshifter protests.

Five simply shakes his head forcefully, trying to stand while his legs do their best to sabotage his efforts. “We don’t have time. They’ll kill you for this. We have to get you out of here.”

Once he stops wobbling like a newborn foal, he offers a hand to Chase. He winces as he’s pulled to his feet and dammit Five is such a shit friend.

Chase was just fucking whipped and who knows what else and Five’s been too busy having a breakdown to think to check on him.

As gently as possible, Five lifts his shirt to examine his back. It’s a mess of mottled black and blues. A mosaic of pain written across his skin. But as painful as it must be, it’s not immediately life threatening. Only a few strikes broke the skin, and the cuts themselves are shallow.

It’s a small mercy that the Trainer hadn’t used his full strength. That it hadn't gone on longer or he'd be thinking about infection and blood loss and a host of other nasty things.

Satisfied that Chase is fine for now, he sets his sights on putting the half formed plan, the only fucking plan he has, into action.

They need to get to a suitcase, deactivate the tracker in it, and then preferably, destroy all the other suitcases to give Chase as much of a head start as possible.

It’s no where near perfect, but it’s all he’s got and Chase doesn't have anything better.

Racing through the halls of the Commission headquarters is by far the most stressful thing he’s ever done. Chase leads them by sound, giving them enough time to change directions or hide whenever someone happens their way. The entire time he keeps an iron grip on Chase’s wrist, lest his friend slip through his fingers and disappear forever.

Five makes a single jump on the journey. He’s gone for less then a minute but it feels eternal, in and out of the weapons room with a grenade and a hunting knife in tow.

They make it to the briefcase room, thankfully unguarded, because there’s never been a need to guard it, until now it seems. Chase makes quick work of the security camera and starts barricading the door, while Five pulls a briefcase off the shelves and starts his own task.

Hunting old Commission agents presented a unique opportunity, he's positive the Handler had failed to consider. Protocol dictates that upon a former agent’s correction, their briefcase should be destroyed in case of tampering. Which as far as Five is concerned, is basically permission to tamper with the time travel device himself.

Over the years and many failed trial and error experiments later, he learned how to disable the Commission’s tracker. The problem is that the tracker is tied to the device's navigation. Disable it and the Commission can’t find you, but there’s no way to control when and where the briefcase takes you and it’s a one-way trip.

Basically as much of a crapshoot as Five’s powers.

It was an out they unanimously decided never to use. Five was a poster child for the dangers of random time travel and the fear that retaliation would fall on their loves ones kept them in check.

Now, the knowledge is the Hail Mary he needs to hopefully get Chase out of this mess alive.

There’s a cold sweat breaking across his back and it’s a miracle he manages at all with the way his hands still won’t stop shaking, but with one last cut and a readjustment of wires it’s done.

He passes it off to Chase and checks inventory. Trying to calculate just how many briefcases are currently out in the field. How much of a head start he’s actually been given.

“Five, come with me.”

He stills for a heartbeat before shaking off the shock.

“I can’t.”

“They’ll kill you too! You can’t just stay here.”

“They won’t. I’ll be fine.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees the other gearing up to argue. “They won’t. The Handler wouldn’t let them.”

Chase’s nostrils flare. He’s always hated her attachment to Five but he can’t dispute the claim because Five is probably right. It’s a risk, but the odds are good.

The one time they can be grateful for her obsessive interest in him.

“We can’t just leave Dolores,” he continues as convincingly as possible. He can read the hesitation on the other’s face. “You know they’d take it out on her. And this is my best chance of figuring out what causes the Apocalypse.”

Most importantly, if Five stays behind he can serve as a distraction. Any time they spend on him, is time they can’t spend hunting Chase.

“Ya ok,” he finally agrees unhappily, to Five’s great relief.

“Will you say goodbye for me? To Dolores. Tell her that I’ll miss her.”

Five nods, swallowing painfully. Dolores and Chase had grown close in the years Five was gone. After Malakai. They’d only had each other.

They won’t even get to say goodbye.

“I’m so sorry,” Five grits out, the grief and guilt welling up to choke him now that the adrenaline is gone. Now that there’s nothing more to be done. “This is all my fault.”

Chase’s face twists in horror. “No! No, god no!” He bridges the gap between them to cup Five’s face, bringing his gaze back up from where he’d dropped it ashamed. “Look at me, Five. You’re my best friend, my brother.”

“We’re family,” he whispers, closing his eyes and pressing their foreheads together. “It’s not your fault. I mean it Five. It’s not your fault.”

Five can’t anymore. It’s too much. It’s all too much and it all happened so fast. They’d been fine just last night. Just a few hours ago. And now—

Five sobs, no longer able to keep the tears from falling. He throws himself at the other boy, wrapping his arms around him tight. Chase inhales like it’s painful and Five is about to pull away, afraid he’s being too hard on the shapeshifter’s injured back, when Chase grabs onto him just as tight.

Oh. Chase is crying too.

“I’m begging you. Please don’t let them catch you. Promise me you’ll stay safe.” He hiccups, fisting his hands in Chase’s shirt. “I can’t lose you too.”

Chase nuzzles into his hair and Five can feel where their tears mix together on his cheek. “Promise me you’ll take care of yourself," he answers. "That you’ll take care of her too.”

Movement outside makes them both tense, because it could be nothing but it could be everything.

They’re out of time.

“We’re family,” he reaffirms, pulling away and taking Chase’s hand in his own to squeeze it, "and I love you.”

He never got to tell his siblings before disappearing all those years ago. He never got to tell Malakai. But he’s sure as hell going to make sure Chase knows it. He won’t make the same mistake again.

“I love you too,” Chase echoes, tears streaming down his face despite Five’s best efforts to wipe them away.

But he smiles. A brilliant watery smile, because this is the last time they’ll ever see each other again.

Because when Malakai died their last memory of him became that stage, the Handler’s caress, and the splash of blood across Five’s cheek.

His last memory of Chase will be his smiling face.

So Five smiles too. Grants him the same gift.

He can hear them outside now. There’s no mistaking it. The banging as they try to force the door open. The frantic shouts.

It’s too late now.

With one final squeeze, he releases Chase’s hand and backs away.

With the click of a briefcase Chase is gone.

With a crash, the door comes off it’s hinges.

And with the pull of a pin, the briefcase room and everything in it, explodes all around him.

 

 

What Five wouldn’t give to just lie here and never get up.

He’d just barely managed to jump in time. Too tired to put any real distance into his jump, and knowing the futility of pretending he had nothing to do with it, he’d jumped right outside the room, heat and debris rolling over him like a wave as he hit the ground.

If only life was so simple.

He’s surrounded by a ring of armed soldiers, as he has been from the second he appeared here. They point their guns at him, but none of them bother to approach. It’s pretty clear he’s not going anywhere in a hurry. He also just blew up quite a few men.

“Oh Five, I truly expected more from you.”

His day just keeps getting better and better doesn’t it.

Wiping all lingering traces of emotion from his expression and steeling himself, he lifts his head to meet the Handler’s smiling face.

“It wasn’t his fault. Just look at the tapes.”

“I’ve seen the tapes,” she says, staring at the smoldering remains of the briefcase room. “You’ve made quite a mess here haven’t you. Well have to change the protocol.”

Ignoring the second part of her statement, he tries to appeal to her, in a tone that unfortunately comes dangerously close to begging. “Then you saw what the Trainer did! It was self defense. Please, just leave him alone.”

The Handler sighs from above him. “You know I can’t do that, Five. He killed a Commission member in cold blood. There are consequences.”

Despite having known this would be the outcome, his heart plummets all the same.

“Now, let’s not make things anymore difficult than they need to be. Where and when did he go Five?”

He hates her. He truly hates her.

He’d like to throw a grenade at her stupid face.

“I don’t know,” he bites, pulling his lips back into a feral grin that’s all teeth. “And even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.”

The Handler tsks, but it looks like she anticipated as much. “Always the hard way with you. Very well, if that’s what you want.”

She turns on her heel, the click clack of her shoes resonating through the silent room, broken only by the crackling of burning leather and flesh.

“Take him to the Inquisitor,” she commands casually over her shoulder. “See if that doesn’t change his mind.”

Chapter Text

“What are you doing? Why are you squirming like that?”

Five spares a glance at where Chase is currently starfished on his stomach across Dolores’ bed. She’d asked him politely to scoot over and make some room a few minutes ago, but he’d petulantly refused. Naturally, having grown up in a house with two older brothers, Dolores sat on him in retribution.

“You’re on top of me,” he whines.

“So?”

“Soooo you’re squishing me!”

From his spot leaning against the base of the bed, Malakai laughs softly.

“Are you kidding me right now? You’re such a hypocrite! You throw yourself on top of us constantly!”

Chase sputters, indignant. “A hypocrite! I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You made Kai carry you here not two hours ago,” Five adds helpfully, shooting Chase a shit eating smile.

The shapeshifter had thrown his arms around Malakai’s neck from behind after training, declared himself too tired to walk anymore, and promptly dropped to become dead weight. A being of infinite patience, Kai dragged Chase back without complain, the entire thing made more comical by the extra couple inches of height Chase had on him.

“Sorry not ringing any bells. And anyways your point is moot.”

“Oh?” Dolores asks, with the arch of an eyebrow, “and why is that?”

“Because I happen to be cute and cuddly…”

Oh boy.

“And you weeell… not so much.”

Oof.

Five almost feels bad for him. Almost. He did bring this upon himself. He can face the consequences.

“You know what I think? You need a taste of your own medicine.”

With a stretch and a playful grin, Malakai pulls himself to his feet and then flops down on Chase’s legs. Amused, Five jumps and joins them, sprawling across Chase’s upper back to complete the dogpile.

Dolores reaches over him to flick the back of Chase’s head.“Now suffer in silence.” 

Nooooo.”

“Are you going to scoot over?”

“No!”

“Then deal with it.”

Chase chooses to deal with it poorly.

The speed and efficiency with which Dolores covertly communicates her intention is a testament to how long they’ve been working together. All it takes is a shift in her posture.

His eyes catch Malakai’s to make sure their timing is synchronized.

Unable to see them, Chase remains oblivious until it’s too late.

As one, Five forces his weight down on Chase’s upper body, grabbing one arm and trapping it behind his back, while Malakai pins his legs, effectively immobilizing him. Once he’s restrained, Dolores straddles him properly.

“Hey! What the—”

Chase cuts off with a shriek as Dolores’ fingers dig into his sides, right below his ribs. He bucks and writhes, laughing helplessly as he tries futilely to dislodge them.

“Noooohoho stop!”

He attempts to get up, but he doesn’t have the necessary leverage with only one free arm and collapses back down when Five mercilessly attacks his neck.

“Dolores ple-hehe-ase! Make it stop! I’m gonna dieee-haha!”

She doesn’t even pause in her ministrations, sending Five a devious smile. “Hmm I don’t know. Kai, what do you think?”

Malakai takes it as the cue that it is, stilling one of Chase’s trashing legs to go in for the kill.

Chase screams bloody murder.

Malakai tickling the sole of his foot renders him incoherent. He babbles unintelligently at them in what Five assumes are desperate pleas for relief.

After only a couple of minutes, his struggles weaken, having completely exhausted himself attempting escape.

When Chase’s full body laughter subsides to breathless giggles that Five knows from experience are accompanied by tears, he gestures to Dolores who finally grants her mercy.

Chase slumps lifelessly beneath them with a sigh of relief and they slide off to settle at his side. “You guys are the worst,” he grumbles once he’s caught his breath.

“But you love us,” Five quips, running his fingers through Chase’s hair in apology.

Chase leans into it, flipping onto his back like a cat. He tugs Kai closer with his legs and curls around Dolores, silently offering more room.

“Nope! Not even a little.”


 

 “I’m sorry the what now?”

“For the third time,” Five grits, struggling to maintain composure, “the Inquisitor.”

“Right, yes… That sounds fucking horrifying. You realize that right?”

“Ya I’m gonna have to agree with Klaus on this one,” Diego says. “No one named the Inquisitor could possibly be good news.”

“You don’t invite the Inquisitor to your birthday party, that’s for sure!”

“Maybe he wasn't that bad," Vanya tries hopefully, but she obviously doesn't believe the words herself. Still, she practically pleads with her eyes that he refute them. "Are they right? Was he…”

It's so easy to forget how innocent his siblings really are, despite everything.

They claim to want the truth but how is Five not supposed to sugarcoat everything.

“He was in charge of interrogations. He questioned me. That's all.”

“But what could they want to ask you about?" Allison's brow is furrowed, the same expression she made as a child when trying to solve a difficult problem. "Weren’t there cameras? Wouldn’t they have seen what happened?”

Five shrugs. “They suspected I knew where Chase was and they wanted that information so I was… questioned.”

“But you didn’t know where he was," Luther states like that should've been the end of that. Five feels his lips tug up into a fond half smile.

“Yes well, they didn’t believe that.” 

“How long were you with him?”

An eternity seems like it would be the wrong answer to give so he settles for, “I’m not sure…several days probably?”

"Several days of talking to some asshole, repeating the same thing over and over again. Must've driven you crazy."

The sharp pinprick of pain from his nails cutting into the meat of his palm is the only thing that prevents him from giving a full body shudder. He schools any other wayward signs of reaction, burying them back down and pray that no one picks up on it.

Talking. As far as his siblings know, that’s what they were doing and he's going to keep it that way.

Ben cocks his head and Five's stomach drops in the fear he's about to be called out. When he's not, he deludes himself into thinking luck might be on his side for once. “How come you don’t know how long it was?”

“It was a long time ago.” A little brusque, but his voice keeps steady and that's a win.

Ben does not buy it. Naturally, an innocuous question would manage to be equally damning. “You always remember everything.” Thinly veiled concern shines in his eyes as their gazes meet, his brother searching for something. “Are you sure that’s all? That's the only thing that happened.”

Fuck.

He’d have to be more careful with Ben. Even as a child, Ben's quiet nature and sensitivity had made him good a reading people. His stint as a ghost and subsequent time spent with Klaus, arguably the most empathetic person he knew, only served to make him all the more observant.

“Yes Ben,” Five says, forcing nonchalance into his tone. Brush it off, make it seem believable. “That’s all.” 


 

With the foreboding creak of metal, the door opens. For a second, light filters in, painfully bright after so long in the dark, illuminating the bounds of his prison. Illuminating the silhouette of his captor.

Then the door clicks shut and it’s pitch black once more.

But now Five’s no longer alone.

Logically, he knows the effects of isolation. Of sensory deprivation. But that doesn’t make it any easier to handle.

He strains his senses. Trying to see is pointless, so he listens for the man’s movement. But it’s difficult above the deafening pounding of his heart, above the shuttering breaths he can’t control.

It feels like he’s surrounding. Like there’s a predator circling and he’s the prey, strung up and unable to escape.

His mind plays in the darkness, creating shadows he knows are not there. One moves across his peripheral and he startles all the same.

Fingers ghost across his skin and Five chokes on a cry when he can’t determine if they’re real or not.

Squeezing his eyes shut, he imagines Chase, happy and free and somewhere far, far away from here. He steels himself with the image, even as his body trembles, a learned fear response he cannot suppress.

The waiting is always the worst. He just wants it over with.

He almost preferred it before. When he’d not yet been subjected to the shadows. When the Inquisitor had needed the light to hit and cut, to draw as much pain as he could. To make him sensitive.

At least then he could see it coming. Even if it meant he’d had to look into sickly, unnatural violet eyes, which twinkled with sadistic glee at his every reaction. At every scream.

The Handler never physically hurt them. The Trainer had only done so out of adherence to some misplaced code of honor and discipline. He can understand them, even if he doesn’t agree with them.

But the Inquisitor...the Inquisitor enjoys it. Enjoys causing pain with a gusto that makes Five sick to his stomach. That raises his hackles and screams danger. Because a man so far gone to madness should never have been given the power and position he had. Perhaps the madness itself, was a result of those very things.

A breath brushes against his neck and Five holds his own in response, hair raising from the sensation of having his space encroached upon.

The Inquisitor laughs from behind him.

“Always so responsive for me. Such pretty little reactions. Did you miss me Death?”

Even if he wants to, he can’t answer. His voice taken from him long ago. Once he’d lost the ability to scream and the Inquisitor had tired of his broken rasping pleas.

“I missed playing with you,” the Inquisitor whispers, his voice moving directly in front of him.

The shackles clink as Five strains on his toes, trying to put any distance between them.

A finger taps playfully on the knife buried in his side, a mirror to the wound he’d inflicted on the Trainer. Five moans behind the gag when he slowly twists it, forcing it in deeper.

“Shall we continue where we left off?”

Fingers trail across the bare skin of his cheek in a mockery of comfort.

 

He’s not sure how long it lasts, but the pain makes fireworks explode across his vision. Whites everything out until blessedly, his body reaches its limit.

The darkness greets him like an old friend.

Chapter Text

Footsteps.

Five squeezes his eyes shut in the vain hope that failing to acknowledge them will make them go away.

He’s too weak to lift his head and look anyways.

He doesn’t want to look.

It’s not better. The lights are back on and he was foolish to think this was better while stuck in the dark. None of it is better.

The steps stop before him and his traitorous body trembles.

Five flinches instinctively, sensing the hand reaching out to him, a useless whine of protest muffled by the gag.

It’s too soon. Not again.

Not again.

“Oh god Five. What did he do to you?”

His heart shutters to a stop.

It can’t be.

It must be a trick. A hallucination.

Hands take his face with a gentleness he hasn’t known in so long.

His skin still twinges at the contact, an electric shock, but it’s not the bolt of all encompassing agony he’d expected.

“Five please,” the voice begs, fingers brushing his cheek, coaxing him to open his eyes.

Dolores?

Taking the risk, he blinks hazy eyes open.

There’s blood and dirt on her clothes, period wear from her last assignment. Her hair is thrown carelessly in a messy bun and there are dark bags under her eyes which tell of stressful sleepless nights.

But it’s her. It’s really her.

Five has never been so happy to see anyone in his life.

The relief is so immense it brings him to tears.

Dolores croons in sympathy, wiping at his wet cheeks and tugging the gag free from his mouth.

She looks around the small room and makes to walk away, turning back immediately at his scratchy protest, shushing him so as not to further agitate his raw throat.

“It’s okay, I promise I’m not going anywhere. It’s over. I just need to get you down. I’ll be right back.”

Dolores waits patiently for his approval and he gives it easily, despite the overwhelming fear the mere thought of her absence leaves him with.

What if she doesn't come back?

With a watery smile, she moves behind him, keeping her actions loud and speaking constantly. Following her warning, a wheel clanks and chains rattle as his bonds slacken, lowering him down.

His feet touch solid ground for the first time since waking up here. He tries to brace himself, but following the next bit of give his legs buckle, the strain of his own weight too much after the period of disuse. It sends him crashing down before the manacles catch him again.

Five cries out, his right arm jolting painfully.

Dolores curses behind him, though it’s no fault of her own.

The Inquisitor dislocated it days ago.

She lowers him until he can sit back on his heels. Reappearing before him, Dolores pulls a silver key from her coat pocket.

“This is going to hurt,” she cautions, pressing into his side to take his weight.

Starting with the dislocated arm, she unlocks the cuff and lowers the appendage slowly, pausing whenever Five whimpers to rub at the strained muscles.

Another sob breaks loose once he’s finally freed, chest constricting with emotions he can't even name. Dolores is gracious enough not to acknowledge Five’s pathetic display of weakness, allowing him a moment to collect himself in her embrace.

“I have to pop it back in,” she murmurs eventually, regretful. “Then you can rest.”

She makes it quick, the shoulder stiff and swollen and bound to be painful either way.

Satisfied with its placement after careful prodding, Dolores pulls off her coat, draping it over him and drags them back to lean against the wall. Arms wrap around him and he nestles into her warmth, too tired to do anything else.

Dolores tends to his mangled wrists and ankles, plying makeshift bandages from torn pieces of her clothes. Other than that, there’s not much else she can do for him now. His other wounds either superficial or already stitched up.

Five shivers as she checks the stab wound in his side for signs of infection.

He can feel the phantom pain of the needle breaking through flesh, the harsh tug of the thread on each pass. The Inquisitor’s fingers prodding back into the wound, wiggling under his skin, tearing the stitches out and ripping flesh, just to repeat the process again. And again. And again.

Dolores’ hold tightens in response.

Feeling returns slowly, in unbearable pins and needles. Every point of contact with his body burning. Muscles throbbing in time with his heartbeat.

Dolores rubs a hand up and down his limbs, trying to draw feeling back into them faster. Five buries his face into her neck in response, biting the inside of his cheek to keep silent.

It hurts,” he gasps when he can manage it no longer, tears dripping onto her skin.

“I know,” she breathes and it sounds like she truly does. Like she’s in pain too. “I’m sorry. It’ll pass. Just try to relax.”

She rests her cheek against the top of his head, humming a soft melody. Her other hand curls around his nape, thumb running circles on the skin there and then alternating to brush her fingers through his hair, tucking errant strands behind his ear.

He fixates on that. Focusing on the soothing repetitive motions and trying to ignore everything else.

It lulls him into a calm that has his eyelids drooping without his permission.

He shouldn’t. He really shouldn’t fall asleep here.

But he’s just so tired.

And Dolores is here. If Dolores is here, he’ll be safe.

He’ll be safe.

 

 

When he next wakes up he’s in a bed, bundled comfortably in a fuzzy blanket.

The back of a hand presses against his forehead as he blinks owlishly, assessing his surroundings.

The hand is Dolores’. He’s in her room, on her bed.

Practically laying on her lap.

“Hey,” she smiles down at him from where she rests against the headboard, “you with me?”

Where else would he be?

Dolores chuckles. Had he said that out loud?

“You caught a fever. It fried your brain for a bit, but looks like it’s gone now,” she explains. “Think you can manage sitting up?”

Five responds by attempting it and half manages, Dolores pulling him up the rest of the way until he’s settled flush against her side.

Testing his limbs, he’s pleased to find them both responsive and less painful, nothing but a dull tingling left in reminder. His wrists too, have been wrapped in actual sterile bandages.

He’s handed a glass of water and what’s likely a stolen painkiller once he’s steady and he drinks gratefully, watching Dolores curiously from his peripheral.

She’s fidgeting.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” It’s not the croak he’d been expecting and that at least is something though his throat is still sore.

Markedly more coherent, his mind spirals through worst case scenarios. Surely Chase can’t have been caught so soon? Dolores would be doing something about it if he was. She wouldn’t have let him lay in bed uselessly, if Chase needed help right?

She barks out a humorless laugh and he snaps to attention at once. “Really? You can’t think of a single thing that might be wrong right now.”

“Dolores,” he demands.

Eyes drift down and away from him.

“I have to leave soon. I’ve already stayed too long.”

Leave?

“What? Why? You can’t have another assignment already?”

She says nothing. The silence makes him uneasy. Dolores has never been one to hold her tongue, more likely to speak her mind, consequences be damned.

“Dolores?”

Her hands tighten to fists at her side. “I have to help them look for Chase.”

Five freezes. Certain he’s misunderstood. That he heard her wrong.

“What?”

“Five,” she turns, taking one of his hands in her own. She meets his gaze head on now, desperation shimmering in her eyes. “It was the only way. They weren’t going to let you go unless I made the deal and I couldn’t just leave you there.”

“You’re serious,” he mumbles dumbly.

“I didn’t have a choice.”

“Didn’t have a choice...of course you did! You do! Dolores, you can’t!” He must look just as desperate now too. “They’ll kill him. If you do this, he will die.”

“The Handler said she wouldn’t,” she protests with little conviction, because they both know that’s bullshit, even if she’s clinging to a false hope. “And if I do nothing, what will happen to you?”

“It was my fault,” he begs, searching for her concession and finding none.

Five rips his hand away, putting distance between them.

It feels like he can’t breathe.

“He trusted you! He trusted you and you’re going to betray him like this!”

“That’s not fair!” She shouts back, eyes watering. “I had to do something! He wouldn’t have wanted you to suffer like this!”

“But he wants this!? He wants to be hunted down like an animal for slaughter!”

“Five you were DYING!” Her voice cracks at the words, crying in earnest now.

He wants to say he’s surprised, but he’s really not.

He remembers begging to die. The Inquisitor had laughed at the request.

“You have no idea how difficult this is for me... How hard it is to make this decision.”

Wherever she is, the Handler must be enjoying herself. Watching Five’s pain and now forcing Dolores to suffer as well.

To save one friend at the cost of betraying the other.

He gets what a difficult position it is to be placed in. He really does, but he has no sympathy for it. As far as Five is concerned there’s only one acceptable outcome in this scenario.

The very idea of willingly giving himself over, of being in the same room with the Inquisitor again, terrifies him. But his own fear is inconsequential.

It hasn’t changed his mind.

“Then I’ll make the decision for you. If you do this Dolores, I will never forgive you.”

Tear filled eyes widen in shock. “What?”

Five forces himself to calm. It’s not her fault after all. This too is another byproduct of the Handler’s great fun, driving a wedge between them.

Breaking apart the last of the Horsemen, everything remotely good they built here, in one fell swoop.

He won’t have it.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. She needs to understand. “I just…I won’t be able to live with myself. It can’t be my fault too, not like—” He chokes, unable to say his name even after all this time.

Sorrow clouds her eyes. She opens her mouth to argue but Five cuts her off with a shake of his head, unwilling to have that conversation right now, on the precipice of another one of his failures. Despite whatever misplaced loyalty led her and Chase to constantly affirm that Malakai’s death hadn’t been his fault, the truth is unavoidable.

Five hadn’t been able to protect him and now Malakai is dead.

He can’t do it again. Can’t take the heartache of another loss. He’s simply not strong enough.

Even if it means forcing Dolores to shoulder it instead. He’s always been selfish like that.

Selfish and self centered his siblings had said. An insufferable know it all, capable of caring for no one but himself.

“Delores please. Don’t do this.”

“Okay.”

She’s upset but ultimately looks unsurprised.

Self sacrificing Malakai had said once, with a terrible martyr complex.

For all the good that had done him in the end.

“Promise?”

“Promise.

 

 

The fallout from their argument doesn’t last very long, in the way most fights with Dolores never do.

While she spits vitriol in the moment, ruthlessly exploiting their insecurities if it serves her point, she always apologizes profusely for it after. It’s something they’d just grown used to. Dolores’ temper as explosive as her ability at times.

She contacted the appropriate person, informing them that she’d no longer be aiding them in the search for Chase.

He curled back into her side shortly after, when she’d taken one look at him perched on the side of the bed and demanded that he, “Get back here before you fall out of bed. You’re heavy and I’m not picking you up off the floor.”

And that had been the end of that.

But that was yesterday. And since then, dread has steadily pooled in his chest.

There would be backlash for the disobedience, that much was a given. It was only a matter of when and it felt as if that time was ticking ever closer.

Dolores was meant to report in almost a half hour ago. The deadline hanging over their heads like a noose.

They're past due for company any moment now.

She half heartedly offered a game of cards for the wait, anything for a distraction from the palpable tension. He'd agreed for the sake of his own sanity.

A surprisingly inane and common activity to partake in while waiting for the Devil herself.

For all his anxiety, he still fails to detect her until she’s here. It’s frightening complacency. He’s grown so used to Chase serving as a forewarning, his enhanced senses able to detect threats long before any of them could, that he stopped watching his own back as carefully.

As a result, they both jump when the Handler appears in the doorway, a hard edge to her eyes and a false smile plastered to her face.

Dolores is on her feet and standing between them in an instance.

Part of him wants to stand with her, uneasy with the vulnerability inherent to sitting on the bed and uncomfortable leaving Dolores to face the Handler alone. But he’s still shaky on his feet and it’s more than likely he’ll need what little strength he has very soon. So begrudgingly, he remains where he is.

“War, you failed to meet the rest of the recovery team at the appointed time.”

“As I told your men, I’ve changed my mind. I’m not doing it.”

The Handler laughs darkly, shaking her head. “I can only imagine you have something to do with it,” she glowers, eyes trained on Five.

Dolores shifts uneasily.

With a sigh, the Handler runs a hand over her face. “I won’t lie, I’m disappointed War. Naturally, you can’t expect me to keep my end of the bargain if you’re backing out on your end so… I guess we’ll just have to see how long it takes to change your mind.”

Her attention switches back to him. “Will you at least be reasonable and come with me yourself Five or must I bring soldiers to drag you out?”

“He’s not going anywhere,” Dolores protests, gearing up for more.

“Enough!” the Handler snaps, tone sharp and brokering no argument. She so rarely raises her voice at them that it makes Dolores take a startled half step back.

Studying the Handler more carefully, Five notes the chips in her nail polish. The wrinkles in her clothes. Cracks in her usually impeccable appearance.

She’s stressed. They’ve actually managed to throw her off kilter.

It’s a good sign for Chase.

“Enough…I think it’s best you both take some time apart. I’ll be taking Death back to the Apocalypse. Give you both some time to think.”

The Apocalypse?

It’s probably the best case scenario given the situation, and hasn’t his life clearly hit a new low with that revelation.

Not that he has any idea how he’s supposed to survive in the Apocalypse now, when he feels like a strong breeze might knock him on his ass, but it’s not the Inquisitor and that’s good enough.

Dolores disagrees.

“No! You can’t!” She wavers for a moment and then her eyes harden dangerously, fire flickering to life at her fingertips. “I won’t let you.”

Five swallows at the similarity of the situation. Can imagine Chase standing beside her.

If Five was at his best, they might have a chance. Maybe they could even kill her. But as it stands now it’s too risky.

He can’t lose them both.

“I’ll go with you.”

He wobbles unsteadily onto his feet, casually leaning against Dolores to keep himself standing. An arm wraps around his waist to hold him there.

“No need to be so dramatic,” the Handler scoffs at them, with a roll of her eyes. “I’ll bring him back as soon as Conquest is returned to me. Simple as that.”

He fights back a growl, turning to Dolores instead.

“I’ll be ok,” he reassures, placing his back to their avid audience to block her view. Gingerly, he takes one of Dolores’ hands, tracing a heart on her palm with a finger.

I love you.

She smiles at the familiar gesture, a genuine one, though the worry doesn’t leave her eyes and repeats the motion.

I love you too.

He’ll survive until the Handler grows bored or until they can figure out another way to keep Chase safe. He’ll survive as long as it takes.

There’s no other option.

Simple as that.


  

“You’re not telling us something,” Ben accuses, eyes narrowed at Five. “It doesn’t make any sense. If you were really only being interrogated, then why would Dolores agree to something like that?”

The teen opens his mouth to respond when Klaus interrupts. Instead of the annoyance he usually radiates when someone interrupts him, Five seems almost…relieved.

Very suspicious.

“I’ll tell you what doesn’t make sense. If you were such an elite important super team to them, why were they so gung-ho about killing you all?”

Through sheer force of will, Ben doesn’t groan out loud. Dear god Klaus has no filter.

“The Handler didn’t care what happened to us.”

“Wow, seems like a shitty caretaker.”

Also the wrong thing to say.

“The Handler was never our caretaker,” Five snaps, all bristling anger. “We belonged to her. We were her possessions. Just weapons to add to her collection.”

His stomach ripples as the monsters’ squirm restlessly, snarling their displeasure at Five referring to himself as an object. At the woman who dared think she could own his brother.

Their siblings look equally distressed. A small crater in the armrest of Luther’s chair and a sudden crack in Vanya’s glass the most tangible signs of it.

But they’re derailing. Though Five’s revealed more than he intended to, it’s still a deflection. There’s something else.

“Even so, why risk it?” Ben prods carefully. “If you were part of her… arsenal, surely you must’ve been the most important part.”

Five shakes his head, glancing at his hands under the table. “We were replaceable. Just like everything else.”

“You were replaceable? Super powered kids are replaceable to the Commission?”

“Of course.”

“With what?!

Five sighs, resigned and its times like these when Ben really sees his fifty eight years of age.

“We weren’t the first,” he admits. “I don’t even know if we were the last...”

Diego leans forward, devouring the words. “Wait a minute, what the fuck do you mean you weren’t the first?”

It’s there. The pieces so close to clicking together.

The gaps in his stories, the answers are in the omissions.

But even prior to that. Something he’d seen with his own eyes and never understood.

A brief moment in the front of an ice cream truck. A blank in his memories. When he’d ceased to exist, yanked away from Klaus’ magnetic pull only to be dragged back to the very same second, like it had never happened at all. A change so imperceptible, there’d only been one other piece of evidence to prove that it occurred. That he hadn’t imagined the whole thing.

Racing back to the car in the middle of that deserted road, Luther had sworn Five disappeared. That it was different. No whoosh of space-time fabric ripping or flash of light to signal it.

He’d been there and then gone, no time passing in between. Just like how Ben had been there and then gone.

Diego, Klaus, and he had been looking for Hazel and Cha Cha. For revenge. But Luther and Five, they’d been waiting for…

Click.

“The Handler,” he blurts, eyes widening because how had he not seen it sooner, “she’s—”

“One of us,” Five finishes. “Yes."

"The Handler, the Trainer, the Collector, and the Inquisitor. They were the first.”

Chapter Text

Holy shit. So what, the Commission has just been collecting the other kids like us, turning them into murderers?

Logically, Five knows the disgust in Diego’s voice is not directed at him, but in practice, it is difficult to separate the two. To really convince himself that’s the case.

“How many?” Diego prompts again when his first question is ignored.

“I don’t know. To my knowledge it was just the eight of us but it’s possible there were others kept separate from us. It’s possible they tried again after we failed or will try again.” 

Luther’s brows furrow in thought. “Are our past selves in danger? Could they come after us?”

“I can’t say for sure, but it’s unlikely. Hargreeves may have been the world’s worst father, but he did keep you safe from them and for that I was always grateful.”

“Kept us safe? How did dad ever keep us fucking safe?” Diego snarls.

It was a simple enough concept for his fifteen-year-old self to grasp, but Five graciously decides not to mention that.

“The Commission’s job first and foremost is the preservation of the timeline, which means they can only take people who won’t be missed. You were the Umbrella Academy. Dad made you famous and that made you important. Removing any of you would’ve been noticeable. It would’ve altered the timeline. And Vanya, as far as anyone knew, was just ordinary so there was no reason to take her.”

“You were missed,” Vanya argues softly, the first to break the silence after his explanation. His siblings parrot their agreement all around him. 

Something warm and strange flutters in his chest.

“I meant in the grand scheme of things but… thank you.”

“You were part of the Umbrella Academy though,” Luther reminds. “They still took you.”

“That was my own mistake. The folly of an arrogant child. When I time traveled and got stuck, I erased myself from this timeline. In doing so, I handed myself to them on a silver platter. I dug my own grave.” 

And all of yours his mind supplies darkly.

“The Inquisitor.” Ben’s eyes are sharp. He’d known that something wasn’t adding up and now that he’s zeroed in on it, he’s not about to let it go, despite this other information. “What was his power?” 

Five tries to think of a way around it. Even considers lying for a brief moment, but he’s supposed to be better. The spirit of more open communication and all that.

Doesn’t mean he has to be completely sober for it though. 

Five waves them into the living room with the promise of answers and they reluctantly follow, settling into their seats as he heads behind the bar. 

He rummages for the highest proof whiskey he can find and pours himself a liberal helping. “If we’re going to talk about this I get a drink.” 

One drink Allison,” he promises when it looks like she’s going to argue.

Five’s not foolish enough to get blackout drunk before another sibling talk with how disastrous the last one went anyways.

She purses her lips but says nothing. 

Drink in hand, he jumps into the closest arm chair. 

Glancing up at Ben reveals the same determination as before.

He takes a deep swig, relishing in the burn as it slides down his throat.

“Pain. His power causes pain with skin to skin contact.” 

As if invoked by the mere mention of it, goose bumps rise along his arms. He distances himself from the memory forcefully, focusing on a clinical description of the ability.

“It affects the pain receptors in the body. Normally an external stimulus causes them to activate, like a cut or a burn, causing the sensation of pain. The Inquisitor’s power acts as that stimulus, activating all the pain receptors in the body at once.”

“It wasn’t really an interrogation was it?” Ben swallows, looking vaguely sick.

“No,” Five admits in a whisper to his drink. “It… it’s agony. The pain is so intense, it’s enough to kill you. It can send you into circulatory shock, which causes fatal damage to the brain and organs.”

He doesn't mention the aftereffects. The way the very air against his skin burned once it was over, even that stimuli too much for his frayed nerves.

His hands are shaking so he takes another sip. 

“The Inquisitor usually kills his… subjects within a few minutes, but I guess,” he laughs, a dark humorless thing, “whatever we are, it’s not all human because it’s not enough to kill us.” 

He forgets himself for a moment. Sightless eyes staring into a dark room that isn’t really there.

“But you wish it was.” 

Diego lets loose a string of colorful curses. 

Allison’s eyes are wide and pained. “How could someone do something like that?”

“He was under orders but he was mad, unhinged. Even the Handler was wary of him. I think in the end, his own powers drove him crazy. To be touch deprived your entire life, denied any sort of physical contact, despite seeing it all around you.”

It’s tragic in a way and Five might’ve felt more pity had he himself not be subjected to it. Seen firsthand the sheer enjoyment the Inquisitor derived from causing pain.

Once, it may have been the simple relief of being allowed human contact, warped and twisted into sadism after years in the Commission.

His siblings are statues around him, ranging from horrified to nauseous from his words alone. From a watered down, sugarcoated version.

A part of him is morbidly curious to know what would’ve happened had they grabbed a different tape that first day. Would his screams have echoed loud enough to hear from any part of the house?

“The Handler can stop time,” he says to shake the intrusive thoughts and break the suffocating tension. “The Trainer manipulated gravity.”

“The Collector?” Klaus grips the change in topic like a lifeline.

“It’s hard to explain. She could make you see things. Like hallucinations or visions. Even nightmares.”

“So," Luther coughs to clear his throat, "did you ever find out what happened to Chase?” 

Five downs the rest of his drink.

“Yes. The Commission found him.”

 


 

Five isn’t given any time to adjust after being pulled out of the Apocalypse.

He’s dragged to the Handler’s office and dropped beside the corpse of his best friend.

Chase is older. Managed to evade the Commission for several years at least.

It’s enough for Five to hope he was able to make something of his own in that time. That he found happiness in his freedom, however brief.

Laughter lines mark his face. Despite the pallor of death, Five can imagine the once healthy glow to his tanned skin. A trail of sunspots flecked across his nose corroborating time spent basking in the sun.

There’s a bullet hole in his head and blood still dripping sluggishly on the floor.

The stench of sulfur and ash cling to his clothes.

“He had a daughter you know.” The Handler’s tone is light and conversational as she speaks the first words he’s heard in years. “She would have turned three years old in a few weeks.”

Five doesn’t cry. Too dehydrated and numb to manage it.

On the other side of the room, Dolores sobs.

 


 

Staring at his empty glass, Five really considers breaking his promise.

“His daughter.” Of course it’s Allison who asks. “Was she, I mean, did they—”

“She was killed with her mother,” he cuts through her shaky rambling, keeping his own voice level. “A gas explosion in their home.”

His siblings are silent but it’s only a matter of time.

The inevitable question is coming. The one that’s haunted him. That trickles into his mind every so often. Even now, all these years later.

“Dolores… did she—?”

It’s a small blessing Klaus doesn’t finish the thought out loud.

While the words have always been there, he’s never tasted them on his tongue. Never seen them spoken. Made a real, concrete thing.

“I don’t know,” he confesses. “I was too afraid to ask. She was all I had left and I… I was too afraid I wouldn’t be able to live with the answer.”

Careful to avoid eye contact with any of his siblings, he releases his white knuckled grip on the whiskey tumbler, standing and placing it on the bar behind him.

“I’m going to bed.”

“Are you—”

“I’m fine.”

Chapter Text

From where Five lies sprawled across his bed, the alarm clock mocks him.

7:43 PM it proclaims in angry blinking red.

Far too early to actually fall asleep, not that he’d be able to anyways in the company of his turbulent thoughts.

An unfortunate side effect of this arrangement with his siblings.

He learned early on that the easiest way to deal with painful memories was to lock them away. Bury them deep within himself until the pain was dull and manageable. Until he was numb to it.

Recalling the memories now, speaking them out loud and even worse, watching his siblings’ reactions was undoing all of that. Like cracking open a dam, allowing a flood of emotions pouring out.

Even after all this time, Five never learned how to keep from drowning in their depth.

A knock on his door pulls him from his reverie.

“Go away!”

The knocking persists, a familiar pattern he’d recognize anywhere.

“Ben, I mean it.”

A pause.

“Five come on. Open up.”

Resigning himself to the fact his brother is clearly not going away unless he’s physically directed to, Five slides off the bed. He takes the time to walk there, making sure his steps are heavy enough to convey his annoyance. With the click of the lock, he opens the door just a crack, bodily blocking his brother from entrance.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay.” Ben says easily, too nonchalant to be anything but suspicious.

Five raises a brow, his brother producing a book in response to the silent question. “I was just looking for a quiet place to read. Everyone else always interrupts. Do you mind keeping me company?”

42 bedrooms, 19 bathrooms, an entire square block of property and Ben can’t find a single quiet place to read.

Ya right.

As if sensing his unfavorable train of thought, Ben employs his secret weapon and dirtiest trick, jutting his bottom lip out in the puppy dog pout he perfected in his youth. It shouldn’t work now. Ben is a goddamn adult and he has no right to look so forlorn over being denied entrance to his room. Five knows, he knows it’s an act and yet—

Pleeeeease?

Manipulative bastard.

“Fine,” he grumbles, opening the door fully to allow his brother inside.

Ben brightens instantly, reaching out to ruffle his hair as he slips inside. Five almost kicks him right back out for it.

Ben makes himself right at home, hoping onto the bed to lean against the headboard. When he catches Five still standing at the door, he pats the spot next to him like Five’s seen kids in the park do to coax the more aloof strays closer.

He holds his place stubbornly until Ben snorts in amusement, abandoning his efforts. Then and only then, does Five crawl back onto the bed, spreading out on his stomach, head resting on an arm and tilted towards his brother.

They fall into a companionable silence, only broken by the flip of the pages and Ben’s breathing.

It’s nice. Calming he begrudgingly admits.

But its not long before the peace is eclipsed by his thoughts once more. The what ifs and could have beens. The creeping doubt and lingering sense of failure. The guilt and the self loathing and—

“Is it okay if I read out loud?”

He’s not an idiot. He’s aware of what Ben’s trying to do but he’s not some stupid child that needs to be read to and he hates being treated as one.

Five is perfectly capable of working through his demons on his own. After all, he’s been doing it for years now.

But… would it really be so terrible to allow himself the comfort Ben is offering to provide? Ben who never does anything with malicious intent and is trying his very best to be considerate and helpful, without overstepping boundaries.

“You know, you don’t always have to be the strong one,” he’d whispered to Five in the dead of night a lifetime ago, not knowing what was wrong but desperate to help. “You can come to us too.”

You can come to us too.

A terrifying concept at the time. What if he came to them and his siblings thought to do something about it? What if they stopped him from helping them, driven by some sort of misplaced guilt? What if they got hurt trying to protect him?

Or even worse, the terrible, selfish part of himself cried. What if they did nothing? What if they just dismissed him?

What if they’d known all along and never cared?

“Five?”

“Yes, it’s okay.”

It’s been a long time since Ben last read to him. Once it was a fairly common occurrence in the house.

Ben was always the best at telling stories. He didn’t just read books, he lived them. He lost himself amongst the pages, befriending characters, traveling to distant lands, and becoming a part of those other worlds.

Better worlds than the one they lived in.

It’s nostalgic, the hum of his brother’s voice.

It’s rainy days curled against the window in the attic’s alcove. It’s the quiet corner of the library after an exhausting day of training. It’s a flashlight and the sound of his siblings giggling, bundled in blankets or hiding under the sheets in the dead of night.

It’s everything he’d missed, sitting in the rubble of the Academy in a world of fire and ash. That and so much more.

Five hadn’t bothered to close the door after Ben came in, their rooms the only ones on this floor and side of the house. When Klaus pokes his head through the doorway, he realizes what a foolish mistake that had been.

“Ooo is it story time! Can we join?”

We?

Vanya appears beside him, smiling meekly. “Promise we’ll be quiet.”

He turns accusing eyes on Ben who shrugs innocently, pausing his reading. Up to you.

“Say a single word and I’m kicking you out. No additional commentary,” he directs at Klaus, remembering all too well his brother’s penchant for interrupting to crack jokes and to demand what happens next, too impatient to wait until the end.

Klaus mimes zipping his lips and throwing away the key before launching himself on the bed, forcing Five to roll onto his side towards Ben or be crushed.

Sending Klaus a dirty look over his shoulder, he asks Vanya to close the door behind her, unwilling to gain any more unexpected guests.

It’s a tight squeeze with the four of them. Vanya’s seat looks quite precarious despite Ben scooting in as much as possible. To the point where Five can feel Ben and Klaus on either side of him.

Even more so when Klaus throws an arm around him, hugging him to his chest loosely with the claim that he’ll fall off the bed without the additional stability.

Five briefly considers knocking him off but Klaus too has a fairly effective kicked puppy routine and he’s too tired to really protest.

It’s clear his siblings are adamant on doing…whatever this is. He finds he doesn’t really care as long as Ben keeps reading and that, he does.

The sob catches him entirely unaware. Ben is chapters deep when it rips from his chest, all painful jagged edges.

He squeezes his eyes shut, bracing for the bombardment of questions, unwilling to see the looks on their faces, and feels wetness trail down his cheeks.

But it never comes.

Ben's voice falters for a single moment before continuing, infinitely softer than before. Vanya shifts, the bed dipping with her movement, but she remains in place without a word.

Klaus too says nothing, only pulls him closer. 

Pressed against him like this, Five can feel each of his brother’s inhales, the steady beating of his heart against the backdrop of Ben's words.

All anchoring him to the present. 

They let him sniffle and cry. The tears he hadn't been able to shed for Chase then. The ones his friend always deserved to have fall in his honor.

They allow him the moment to breakdown, without letting him drift too far into his grief.

On the bed, Ben’s hand brushes again his own, tangling their fingers together.

With his hand otherwise occupied, Vanya takes over turning the pages.

 


 

Before he’s even opened his eyes, Five knows something is wrong. But he trained for this.

He forces his body to remain relaxed, measuring his breaths carefully, unwilling to give away his return to consciousness without some idea of the situation he’s found himself in. However, despite straining his senses for several minutes he can’t pick up on any sounds.

With no other choice, he opens his eyes.

A man in a mask wearing a white lab coat stands next to him. Far too close to not have been perceived. Syringe in one hand and reaching with the other for an instrument on the silver tray beside his bed.

Five jolts backwards, attempting to reach a sitting position but is promptly yanked back down into place.

Restraints. They bind him to the bed like the ones used in psychiatric hospitals.

Like the one’s Reginald used to train him to escape.

Reaching inside himself to tug at the familiar thrum of his power yields nothing. It’s present, but beyond reach and that disconnect steals any semblance of calm, his fight or flight response triggering, despite his inability to do either.

Five pulls at the restraints, struggling desperately to get free before the scientist can come any closer. The straps are tight but perhaps dislocating his thumbs will allow him to slip his hand out? He’ll have to be quick before the man calls for back up. Before he moves to inject him with the contents of the syringe or he’s sedated once more, except...

Except he’s not moving. Hasn’t moved at all this whole time his panicked mind slowly pieces together.

Nothing is moving. The world muted and so very wrong. Not a sound but Five’s own panting breaths.

On the wall, the clock’s hands never push past 8:41 PM.

“Oh good. You’re awake.”

He jumps at the statement, craning his next to try and visualize the speaker.

"I was wondering how long you were going to keep pretending to sleep."

The Handler sits on the other side of his bed, just behind him and out of his peripheral sight. She stands, dragging her chair noisily to sit beside his bed. Five flinches at the sound, the screeching against the floor amplified by the nothingness around them.

It’s when he attempts to demand an explanation that Five realizes the dryness in his mouth is not a result of the drugs alone.

“You were screaming too loud,” the Handler says, in regards to the gag. “It couldn’t be helped. Noise complaints and the like. There is important work to be done after all.”

Despite being muffled by the gag, it’s cathartic to curse her out.

Some basic tests she’d said. “It’s important to know what makes our new assets tick.”

Bullshit as usual. Basic tests don't usually involve being restrained and drugged, his powers striped from him. They don't usually cause you to scream even while unconscious.

“I thought this would be a good time for us to talk, just the two of us,” she says, tapping him on the nose. “Well I suppose I'll be doing most all of the talking. It’s just so difficult to separate the four of you these days.”

He stills at the subtle threat, listening attentively.

“I must admit, you fascinate me,” the Handler starts with a grin. “I was most adamant on acquiring you, for purely selfish reasons I'm afraid.”

“You see, we are just so alike you and I. Our abilities allow us both to alter time,” she gestures at the frozen bubble around them, 8:41 PM dragging endlessly, “and yet, it treats us so differently.”

Five’s mind whirs at the revelation she’s so casually dropped. Thoughts flying in a thousand different directions. Why reveal something like this to him? Why now? What could she possibly stand to gain?

Then the reality of the threat she poses hits him and everything else grinds to a halt.

It doesn’t matter whether they’re together or how well they watch one another’s backs, in an instant she could kill them all. At any time, in any place.

So difficult. It wouldn't be difficult at all.

He’s nauseous at the realization.

Five wants to panic and panic he will, but for now he needs to learn what he can.

This is a game of chess, a battle of wits. Luckily, he already has years of experience against Reginald Hargreeves. He’ll learn to win against the Handler too.

“When I hold Time it my hands like this, it constantly struggles to escape. It fights me. It hates being stopped.”

He can work with that. If Time fights against it too, if her hold is already tenuous, it shouldn’t take much. Just a push in the right direction.

“But you? Time embraces you, greets you like an old friend. It lends you its strength. Lets you bend it and play in its folds. And I just, I don’t understand why. Why are we different?”

He discards the majority of this as nonsense. Unclear from where she thinks she can draw claim to what his experience manipulating Time is like. Though it is interesting, he's only met the resistance she claims to constantly feel once. The only time it ever really mattered. 

There are several variables he'll need to consider. Most importantly, he needs to determine whether or not he can detect the use of her power while influenced by it and break himself out. Assuming of course, that should she try to murder his friends, she'd neutralize him too. Determining the range of her gift is also essential. But such a thing requires witnessing her power and testing his own against it, preferably without her realizing it. As much fun as her expression would be after escaping a bubble of time she intended to trap him in, it would also forfeit the element of surprise when he truly did need it.

“I mean, it’s a part of you. I can actually feel it in you,” the Handler laughs, reaching out to run her fingers along his skin, trailing the path of his veins down his arm. “Running through you like blood. Perhaps," she purrs, "it’s just as vital.”

He snaps from his plotting, goose bumps rising in her wake. Danger, something in him warns, this has become dangerous.

“I wonder what would happen… if I stopped it.”

From one heartbeat to the next, she’s grabbed him in a bruising grip that’s impossibly still tightening, practically grinding his bones together.

His pulse jumps at the sudden shift, heart rabbiting like an animal that’s been snared in a trap.

The smile is gone as she leans in, towering over him, so close he can feel each exhale on his face.

He’s never felt so small before her. He’s felt unease, discomfort, undermined, and objectified, but never the genuine fear he does now.

Locked in the Handler’s feral gaze, some instinctive part of him screams.

Five wonders if she’s right, if the feeling is Time itself crying out.

“What do you think? Would it be enough to kill you?”

 


 

3:07 AM.

That’s the fourth time tonight.

With a groan Ben pulls himself up, flicking on the lamp on Five’s bedside table.

“Shhh you’re okay Fivey,” Klaus murmurs sleepily, trying to calm their whimpering brother. “Shhhhhhh”

Ben sighs, heart heavy with things he can’t quite verbalize, but sees reflected in Klaus’ gaze.

After Five had fallen asleep, curled sweetly in Klaus’ arms, Vanya had taken her leave wishing them a good night and bidding that they look after the snoozing teen.

They’d stayed up a while longer, speaking in whispers until Klaus started yawning and it grew contagious. Calling it a night, he’d flicked off the light switch and cuddled up to them too, falling asleep almost instantly, warm and content in a way he hadn’t truly felt in years.

Only to wake a couple of hours later to the sound of Five crying out, in the midst of a nightmare. 

They’d stared at each other dumbly, wide eyed and confused because Ben can’t ever remember a time when Five had been prone to such things. Another soft keen snapped them out of it. Thankfully, or not so thankfully, Klaus has his fair share of experience with nightmares and the like to fall back on, and he’d been able to lull their smallest brother back into a more peaceful slumber with gentle hands and soothing words, which was an incredible relief.

But then it had happened again and again and again.

Now he wonders if this has been happening the entire time. If while they foolishly believed everything was fine, Five had been restlessly tossing and turning like this, trapped in the memories they’d been forcing him to relive.

Five jerks, a leg kicking out in his sleep and then he’s bolted upright.

Klaus freezes. Eyes wide and instantly awake, as if he just now realized exactly who he's been cuddled up against all night. Like a tiger and not a teenager had just woken up in his arms.

“You with us Fivey?” Ben asks because his eyes are darting around in panic.

“Five,” he calls again more firmly when he gets no response. This time when Five meets Ben’s eyes he can tell, he’s actually seeing him and not through him.

“Ben what—” he tenses halting his movement when the weight of Klaus’ arm makes itself known.

“It’s just Klaus.”

“Hey there kiddo.”

“M’not a kid,” Five grumbles but he relaxes after the confirmation, flopping back down on the bed at Klaus’ coaxing. Surprisingly docile or maybe just relieved.

They give him a few minutes to breathe. The last dredges of his panic subside, leaving sleepy confusion in its wake.

“What’s going on?”

“You were having a nightmare.”

“Oh.” Even in the low light, Ben can see his cheeks color in embarrassment. “Sorry for waking you.”

He’s about to reassure Five that there’s no need to apologize for such a thing when his brother seems to realize exactly where they are.

“What are you guys still doing in my room?”

“It’s a sleepover with your two favorite brothers of course,” Klaus chirps cheerfully.

“We don’t have sleepovers.”

“We do now!”

Five huffs but doesn’t kick them out or extricate himself from the tangle of lankly limbs that is Klaus, doing his best impression of a koala bear.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“...no.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” he tries.

Five sucks in a breath. His fingers fist in the sheets and when he speaks again it’s so quiet Ben has to lean in to hear. “Please…please don’t.”

Swallowing down his own sorrow, Ben forces a small smile. “Okay, sorry.”

“Well I don’t know about you guys," Klaus says breaking the tension. "But I could sure use some more shut eye. What do you say short stack, think you can go back to sleep or shall we take this party downstairs?”

A yawn is his only response and Ben’s heart warms to see Five still scrunches his nose like a kitten the same way he did when he was actually thirteen.

“Bedtime it is then,” Klaus declares and there’s a hint of relief there, even though Ben knows he’d willingly stay up the rest of the night if Five did without being asked.

With that decided, Ben makes to turn off the light again but a hand catches his wrist first.

“Wait!” Five releases his grip once he pauses, eyes looking anywhere but at him. “Are you, um, will you—”

“We’ll be here,” Ben promises and runs a hand through Five’s hair fondly.

At the show of affection, Klaus nuzzles against Five with a whine for attention. From the way Five presses his lips together, the beginning of a smile forming despite the pinched expression, Ben assumes Klaus is purposely tickling his neck with his facial hair.

For Five’s sake, Ben concedes, alternating between petting them both.

It’s after the lights come off and Ben is right on the precipice of sleep that he says it.

“Thank you.”

“Anytime,” Ben murmurs against Five's hair. Across from him, Klaus hums his agreement.

“Love you.”

Oh.

Well that’s… Ben can’t remember the last time Five said that to him. He’d always known. Of course he had, but hearing it out loud like that...

Klaus makes a choked little sound, seemingly as stunned as he is. “Love you too buddy,” he says and Ben feels him squeeze Five tight. “So much.

Ben nods in the darkness, throwing an arm around both his brothers. “Love you too,” he echoes and if his voice cracks with emotion a bit at the end, neither of them bring it up.

Chapter Text

Five still hasn’t come down for his morning coffee.

Not that Luther’s been keeping track of the time or that he’s worried or anything. It’s just ever since Five returned to the present in a blaze of warping, swirling blues, he’s always been the first one up. Always in the kitchen sipping his cup of coffee by the time Luther gets downstairs.

That’s the routine. Luther wakes up, gets dressed, then heads to the kitchen for breakfast where Five is already waiting with his mug and a snarky greeting and his morning paper. Every morning. For months now. They don’t deviate.

The only exception being the first round of Apocalypse week when Five was physically incapacitated.

So despite Vanya’s reassurance while rushing out the door for an early morning practice that everything is fine, it’s almost 10:30 AM and Five still hasn’t come down for his morning coffee and that is weird and—

Okay, fine.

Luther is worried. He worries about his siblings. That’s what he does.

And for good reason he might add.

Five said he was okay last night, but he practically ran from the room right after, and that doesn’t seem very okay to him.

He’s considering going to check for himself, having exhausted his attempts on the morning crossword without Five’s somewhat patronizing help, when said sibling materializes at the counter, already shuffling through the cabinets.

“Hey good morning!”

Five whirls around to face him, blinking in surprise like he hadn’t expected Luther to be there already, before returning the greeting. There’s a sluggishness to his movements as he brews his usually pot, a drowsiness still clinging to him that Luther’s never seen.

He looks like he just rolled out of bed, still in pajamas, unruly strands of hair jutting up this way and that.

He definitely just rolled out of bed.

10:30 AM Five is usually already showered and impeccably dressed and done writing a scathing report disproving some poor physicist’s life work.

“Are you doing okay?”

“I will be once I’ve had some coffee.” He raises his mug in a mock cheers and takes a satisfied sip.

“It’s just pretty late. You’re usually on your second pot by now.” It takes Luther a moment to actually register what he’s just said and then, “Not that I in any way condone that,” he hurriedly adds.

Eyes dart to the clock on the wall for what must be the first time this morning in genuine surprise. “Huh? Slept in I guess.”

“Oh… that’s great!” It’s a far to enthusiastic response because Five raises a brow at him. “I mean, sleep is important fo—”

“Finish that sentence with ‘for a growing boy’ and it’ll be the last thing you ever say.”

“Noted.”

 

Klaus saunters in a fifteen minutes later, stopping at the table to smack a big loud kiss on the crown of Five’s head.

The teenager shoos him off, Luther’s crossword once again forgotten in favor of analyzing Klaus critically as he shuffles about preparing his breakfast, whistling an up beat tune.

“You’re being weird.”

“I’m not,” Klaus singsongs.

It’s not necessarily weirder than any other day, but he does look particularly… smiley this morning. Lighter than usual.

It’s a good look for him Luther decides.

Ben enters at a more sedate pace dropping into a chair and nodding gratefully as Five slides him an empty mug, sugar, and the pot. “You are,” he intones with an amused look. “In no way can this be considered playing it cool.”

“I’m not!” Klaus stamps. “I’m just in a good mood is all! Can’t a man be happy in his own home? Is that such a crime?”

Five laughs into his drink at the theatrics and Klaus beams in response, sending Ben a smug look immediately after.

It leaves Luther with the distinct impression that he’s missed something, particularly with the fond way Ben is looking between the two, but he doesn’t get the chance to question it further.

“Oh good,” Allison announces rounding the corner, the only other person not in pajamas. “You’re all here.”

“Mm pretty sure it’s more than just us sister dear. Unless I’ve got my math wrong? Or they’re playing hide and seek and didn’t tell me.”

Allison sticks her tongue out at him, the move startling enough from their normal interactions that Klaus laughs.

“I already talked to Vanya about it a yesterday and she agreed. Diego spent the night in his bunker and hasn’t come around yet but I’m tired of waiting. I’ll call him after.”

“Agreed to what?” Luther asks leaning forward.

“Well,” Allison starts pulling out a chair and motioning for Klaus to take a seat and join the rest of them at the table. “I finish my court mandated therapy next week and I’ve been talking to Patrick and well… he agreed to let Claire come visit!”

“Allison that’s great!”

She smiles brightly, eyes lighting up in the way they always do when she talks about her daughter. “Claire would be arriving in about a month and she’d stay for a whole week as long as you’re all okay with it.”

He’s quick to confirm, echoed by Ben, and Klaus’ exclamation of, “It’s about time she met her soon to be favorite uncle!”

Which leaves only one. Allison’s brow furrows at Five’s silence.

“Five?”

“I’d very much like to meet her,” he reassures. “But, I’m not sure that I’d be the best with kids and, well I understand if you’d prefer I— if you thought it’d be best that I not…”

He cuts off when Allison takes his hand. “Five, of course I want her to meet you. You’re going to do fine and Claire’s going to love you,” she emphasizes with a squeeze before releasing him.

“Not as much as she’s gonna love her favorite uncle, obviously,” Klaus starts and Luther’s about to shush him when he sees the small upturn of Five’s lips, the way some of the tension seems to wash off his shoulders, “but you know, still up there.”

“You should pick out a room for Claire,” Ben adds, “We can set it up as her bedroom and decorate it for her.”

“Ooo Allie you have to let me decorate! As you know, I have impeccable taste.”

“Impeccable is a stretch.”

“A six year olds concept of good taste is pretty accurate though.”

“My own brothers,” Klaus laments with a hand over his heart. “I’m disowning you both. I only have four siblings now.”

“Meh,” Ben shrugs, not looking particularly put out by the turn of events.

In the spirit of restoring order, Allison agrees to allow Klaus some creative liberties, though she’s firm on the point that she’d have the final say, which is definitely in everyone’s best interest, though Luther knows better than to mention that.

“We’ll have to talk to Mom about finding somewhere to store all the weaponry. God there’s so much dangerous crap all over the place it’ll take forever.”

“Not to mention finding all the knives Diego’s probably hidden over the years,” Five says with a sip.

Allison’s face pales considerably. “Oh god.”

“There are probably knives inside the walls,” Klaus adds with faux severity. “The walls are probably made of knives!”

Ben flicks a sugar packet at him for the trouble and Luther decides it’s best to change the subject before Allison actually passes out.

“Hey there’s no need to worry. It’s a whole month away. The house will be completely Claire proof by then. We’ll all pitch in. It’ll be great.”

 


 

There are in fact several knives hidden in the walls. However, the most concerning one turns up inside one of the, thankfully, seldom used living room throw pillows.

Five is fairly certain Klaus has missed impalement by mere inches several times in the last week alone.

Naturally, the discovery does nothing to deter him from flopping gracelessly across the furniture.

 


 

Claire arrives with Allison from the airport a month later in a flash of rainbow light-up sneakers and the iridescent sparkle of a pink glitter backpack which has Klaus drooling jealousy.

She takes one look at them, assembled orderly at the bottom of the stairs, a byproduct of Luther’s sudden bout of anxiety upon the realization that he was in fact actually about to meet his one and only niece, and declares that she cannot believe they’ve never watched the Princess Diaries together.

Five has no idea what the Princess Diaries is but Claire is already ushering them forward with an astonishing level of authority and it looks like he’s about to find out whether he wants to or not.

 


  

Klaus finds them sitting on the floor in Five’s room, playing UNO.

Claire holds her cards defensively to her chest, sneaking quick peaks between them and the discard pile, wearing the same expression Allison does when deep in thought. Directly in front of her, Five sits cross-legged, a blanket draped over his shoulders like a cape, a small fond smile playing on his face as he watches her.

It’s objectively adorable and Klaus immediately wants in.

As he’s been doing with increasing familiarity, Klaus waltzes into Five’s room, dropping down next to his brother and leaning into his side with a happy hum.

“Klaus what are you doing?”

“Hanging out with my baby bro and favorite niece of course.”

The, “I’m older than you,” is to be expected but Claire surprises him by firing back, “I’m your only niece,” in the same deadpan tone.

He wavers, wondering if perhaps coming in was a mistake. Neither of them had even looked up when he entered.

Playing off the touch of hurt with a smile, Klaus shifts to stand. “Well I didn’t mean to interrupt. I can just go.”

“Why would you do that?”

Five looks genuinely confused.

“We’re about to finish this game. Don’t you want to stay and play the next round?”

“Yes!” he exclaims turning to watch Claire giggle at his enthusiasm, “that okay with you Claire bear?”

She pauses, holding up a hand, as she deliberates on a card and then sets it down, smiling beatifically, “Yup!”

“You have to be careful, Claire’s ruthless.”

“I play to win,” the little girl nods seriously.

It’s a struggle to keep his face schooled. “Understood. Now hurry up and kick his ass so I can play too!”

“And ass is….” Five prompts.

Klaus blanks before realizing he’s not the one being addressed.

“One of the words I don’t repeat to mommy or daddy.”

Klaus lets out a bark of laughter, dropping down to curl up and rest his head on Five’s lap. The end of his brother’s blanket cape is dutifully unraveled and Klaus finds himself covered in it a moment later.

He melts at the show of affection, always a little startled to receive any, despite the way Five has recently started to indulge him in more casual displays of affection.

While he patiently waits his turn, occasionally narrating moves in an obnoxious sports announcer voice, Five takes to resting a hand on his head between putting down cards. If Klaus had any shame, he’d be properly embarrassed by the way he practically purrs when Five transitions to running gentle fingers through his hair, but luckily for him he has not such reservations, more than happy to bask in his contentment.

Moreover, he’s not above taking immense pleasure from the way Five curses under his breath when Claire hits him with two consecutive draw fours.

 


 

“You’re covered in glitter,” Diego mocks when Five pops into the kitchen, taking a seat beside Allison.

“Very astute of you Diego. Once again your detective skills are unparalleled.” With a haughty look around and finally up, the little shit counters with a smirk, “Not only are you, the floor, the walls, the counter, and the cabinets covered in flour and batter, but in case you were unaware, the ceiling is also covered in it too.”

Allison snorts beside him, hastily covering her mouth with a hand.

“There’s a reason the ceiling is covered in flour,” Diego bites back, mentally cursing the quick retort upon the realization that he’s verbally backed himself into a corner.

“Might that reason be that you are in fact, not the brilliant chef you claimed to be to impress our niece and not even Grace’s considerable skill was able to salvage your barbaric attempts at ‘baking’.”

“Hey it was mostly Claire—”

“Don’t you dare try to blame this on my daughter!” Allison snaps.

Diego is gearing up for a comeback when Allison shoots him a look so searing his mouth clicks shut of its own accord.

“See if either of you get any of these cupcakes,” Diego huffs at them both.

“Are there any cupcakes left? I was under the impression they all exploded.”

“That was pre-baking,” Allison explains. “Mom says—”

“Do not!”

“—he used the actual blender, with no lid on, instead of a cake mixer.”

“Fuck you too Allison.”

“Sounds about right," Five nods. "Just to be clear, no one is getting any of those cupcakes. They are at minimum inedible and most likely a biohazard.”

Allison has the decency to at least look remorseful. “Sorry but Five’s right. Mom already planned to remake them tomorrow.”

Diego allows himself the moment. Takes a few deep, centering breaths.

Once the urge to scream has passed, he unceremoniously pushes everything still on the counter, cupcakes, tin and all, into the trash bag at his feet. Tossing the cleaning rag he'd been using to the side, he takes a seat, deciding his sanity needs a break before he resumes scrubbing the surprisingly thick and viscous material off of…everything.

“Claire had a lot of fun…”

“I don’t need your pity and your daughter had a lot of fun mostly laughing at me.” Diego snaps with no real heat, shifting focus to Five, “So are you going to tell us why you’re covered in glitter now asshole?”

“Hazard a guess.”

“It was either Klaus or Claire.”

“Both actually. I got roped into their afternoon activities.”

Allison laughs like she just can't keep it in any longer. “I’m sorry it’s just…there’s glitter inside your ears. How did that even happen?”

“You might want to reconsider how amusing you find this, after all, you have way more glitter to deal with than me.”

That stops her in her tracks, eyes narrowed suspiciously. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I didn’t even participate in the Glitter Princess Runway Glitter Fashion Show. All of this,” he motions, “is just from sitting in the audience. Not even a front row seat. Claire on the other hand…”

Allison is up and running towards the door a second later. Diego feels not a hint of remorse for the way he cackles after her retreating form. Must be the hours of cake sludge he still has to peel off the walls.

“Better hurry,” Five calls smugly just as she rounds the corner. “There’s a reason why glitter’s in the name twice!”