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Settle Our Bones Like Wood

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It’s early winter when Magnus gets the phone call.

He’s there less than 45 seconds later. The pitiable woman on the other end of the line is cut off when he steps through the portal, and he pockets his phone without another thought.

Snow is drifting onto the street; great fluffy flakes obscure the gradually increasing morning light. It must be just after dawn. Magnus is still holding his morning coffee. He downs it in three scalding gulps, then chucks the cup into the snow.

It’s no matter. No one is paying him any attention, and those that are won’t remember him later.

Besides, he’s looking at a certifiable goddamn disaster.

Magnus pulls himself up short-- mentally, but also literally, mid-step-- before he gets too close, and takes a second to recenter. It’s so much like that day that he knows that he might get lost in it. As it stands, reality gets hazy around the edges for a moment before he can remind himself that he’s not, in fact, ten years old anymore and that he can breath without choking on ash.

Breathe, he thinks. It’s okay. It’s not then. You’re okay.

And then, oh god, poor girl.

The portal landed him just across the street from what was, at one point, the main entrance to a sprawling estate academy, and is now a pile of dust.

As is the rest of the building. The entire, multi-thousand square foot, city block of a building.

Cops, firefighters, and the occasional EMT are scattered throughout the rubble, talking animatedly at each other or dejectedly poking at bits of what was once likely furniture. A few solitary pillars and individual walls remain standing, the only indication of the layout-- or even existence-- of what had towered over the street mere minutes ago. Everything else is particles. It’s as if someone has literally melted the place down with a precisely targeted earthquake. Or a divine cheese-grater.

Or magic.

Another breath, Magnus. You’re not there. That time is over.

Besides, Magnus knows who created this particular disaster, and it wasn’t him.

The women who had called him-- a frazzled, dismissive individual who called herself Detective Mage, ironically-- was pretty clear about who these children were and exactly why they were so important, in fairly excruciating detail. Magnus knew about the so called Umbrella Academy, in passing at least. The building is adjacent to his ward as High Warlock, and beyond that, they’re famous enough that anyone who regularly watches the news recognizes the name.

Vanya Hargreeves.

The other children and their father refer to her exclusively as Number Seven. But there was an interview a few months ago in which one of her siblings-- Number Two, maybe, Magnus can never keep them straight-- let the name slip, and the media was on it like a swarm of excited wasps. It’s unclear whether or not Vanya is in fact her name, or what she likes to be called, but Magnus can’t bring himself to call her Number Seven, not even in his own mind. The numbers are so impersonal. It sits uneasily with him, as the whole Academy has since he first caught wind of it. For the time being, however, he resolves to keep an open mind.

He has a job to do.

One more deep breath. He’ll have time to decompress afterwards. To remind himself of what’s real, alone and in the safety and privacy of his loft. Perhaps with a stiff drink. He simply needs to take care of this first.

He finds her immediately. Even from across the street, he knows the posture of someone who’s just brought the whole world down around them.

The girl sits encased in her own arms, head between her knees. A tiny waif of a thing, certainly no older than 10 years old, with long brown hair that’s miraculously intact, hanging straight and neat down the back of her dirty uniform. She’s rocking herself with a sort of frantic urgency, and as Magnus steps closer, he can hear her mumbling.


A quick snap of his fingers creates a shield around his body, invisible but nearly impenetrable. His magic reaches out before him, a thin, weaving line that snakes toward the destruction, sensing for energy or magic or power. Danger.

It finds none.

Whatever Vanya’s done, she’s utterly deflated.

Her head snaps up as he approaches. Wary, piercing brown eyes meet his own. She looks right through him.

“Are you here for me?” she asks. Her voice is remarkably neutral, almost cold.

Something lurches in his chest. He’s not sure what to tell her. He remembers what it was like, to want someone to stop you so badly that it hurts.

So he tells her the truth. “Yes,” says. He sinks himself into a crouch and she flinches backward. “It’s okay, you can’t hurt anyone anymore.”

She stares at him. He flashes his eyes at her. She doesn’t flinch this time.

He makes his magic visible; a bubble of purple expands to surround them both with a thin veil. It’s not a force field, not exactly, but to her young eyes it must look like one. She glances at it, sitting up slowly to take stock, and then blinks back at him. She promptly bursts into tears.

“Thank you,” she whispers.

Then she passes out.



He finds the other children afterward, hidden in a dumpster a few blocks from the accident zone and being monitored by a stern-looking Scandinavian firefighter who clearly didn’t sign up for this.

She tells him as much as he approaches, apparently unconcerned with the fact that he’s a complete and total stranger and also carrying the body of a small unconscious child in his arms. As soon as he peeks inside the dumpster and sees the six of them there, huddled and shaking-- and immediately has no fewer than three separate knives at his throat-- she exits stage left with a scoff and a head shake.

He’s still shielded by his magic, and anyways, the knives are attached to very tiny arms, so Magnus isn’t worried. Not for himself, at least. The snow is really coming down hard now, in large, looping flakes that obscure even his vision, and Vanya is beginning to shiver. He’d magicked her a coat as soon as she’d passed out, but it can’t help much. She’s drained in a way that has little to do with the weather.

The other siblings can’t be very warm in the dumpster, though.

Besides, the cops from the scene have started to trail toward him now, clearly understanding that he’s done with the whole saving-their-asses-in-a-way-they-aren’t-allowed-to-ask-about part and wanting to officialize the process again. There will be calls to make, reports to fill out, questions to answer, and people to placate. There always are, but especially so with children. He has to imagine that superhuman children rank even higher on the list of concern. Mundanes have no protocols in place for something like this.

It’s not going to be easy. Still, as Magnus stares into a dozen rageful, suspicious, and fearful eyes, he feels one undeniable truth settle itself firmly-- if a little reluctantly-- into his heart.

He will be taking this strange, vulnerable, spiky bunch of misfit children home with him.