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Not a Pawn

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“What are you doing? Luther, stop!” Vanya struggles to breathe in her brother’s crushing grip, but he wouldn’t let her go. 

The world seems to sway to the side as anger and panic build up side by side in her chest. It sways to the other side. Then back. Then back. And suddenly, Vanya’s gasping and staggering, free but unstable. The swaying continues and Vanya coughs as she breathes in dust. Then she falls backwards into darkness.

 

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May 2001

 

Vanya woke standing up, facing an ornate desk in a dimly lit room. Woke up being a relative term. Vanya did not feel like she had just woken up, did not feel groggy, could not remember opening her eyes. But the last thing she could remember was falling asleep.

Behind the desk sat a woman. Her blond hair was cut short, her black dress vaguely old-fashioned. The woman tilted her head at Vanya, studying the young girl. Then she stood and angled her gaze behind Vanya.

“So, this is her? The infamous Number Seven? Are you quite sure?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said a soft yet masculine voice from behind her.

At the same time, Vanya said, “I’m not famous. You must have me confused with my siblings.”

“No dear, you aren’t famous,” the woman agreed. “But you are infamous , at least around here. You see, you have the power to end the world.” Vanya laughed aloud at that. 

“Really, I think you’re confused. I’m just ordinary.” 

“We both know that’s not true. I want to show you what you’re capable of. I want what’s best for you.” The woman reached out to pat Vanya’s cheek, but she wouldn’t let her.

“No, you don’t. You’re lying!” Vanya yelled, and jerked away hard enough to wake herself for real.

 

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Once again, the woman in black is there when Vanya wakes. The room is different, though. Even darker than the one from before and bisected by a heavy door, this room is vaguely familiar. The woman stands between Vanya and the door, a triumphant smile on her face.

“You knew,” Vanya says. “How?”     “I know all,” she replies cryptically.

“I should have believed you.”

“Yes. You should have. It would have saved us a whole lot of trouble.” Vanya nods. She still doesn’t quite know who this woman is or what she wants with her, but she wishes more than anything that she had listened to her all those years ago. If only she had let this woman help her, she wouldn’t have had to live the last eighteen years of her life isolated as the odd one out.

 

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March 2006

 

Vanya hated to see how the drugs affected Klaus. She hated to watch her brother deteriorate in front of her eyes, his behavior becoming erratic, his expressions becoming vacant. She hated the way he wasn’t quite there, wasn’t quite himself and the way he’d always leave, sneaking out with no way for them to know when or if he would return. She was scared of losing him and she hated the drugs for everything they did.

She didn’t want the same fate for herself, so she swore off any and all drugs - including her pills.

For weeks she didn’t take them and things were fine. She was amazed at how easy it was to get away with, but perhaps being overlooked had some sort of upside. 

Strange things started to happen during that time. It rained a lot more than it should have and objects would randomly fall of her shelves whenever she was angry. On one occasion, a staircase collapsed in an unused wing of the house. Vanya thought nothing of it until the day of the visit.

Her siblings were out on a mission when the doorbell rang. With nothing better to do, Vanya answered it and on the doorstep stood the blonde woman from her dream. She looked exactly like Vanya remembered her, down to the same black dress and the same calculating expression.

“Hello Number Seven,” she greeted Vanya. “I hear you’ve discovered your powers.”

“Who are you?”

“Come with me. I can help you.” Vanya shook her head.

“Not unless you give me some answers.”

“Suit yourself, then.” The woman gave Vanya a fake looking smile, opened her briefcase, and disappeared.

That night Vanya told Luther that a woman from a dream had come to visit her. He’d just laughed and told her she was hallucinating. She started taking her pills again that night, hoping that they would stop her from hallucinating more and going crazy. The strange occurrences stopped.

 

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Movement on the other side of the door catches Vanya’s attention. A figure stands up in the other part of the room and soon Vanya can see Luther’s face in the window.

Her rage returns.

“You!” she screams, pointing angrily at Luther. “This is all your fault! You wouldn’t listen to me, you made me think I was crazy!” Luther mouths something at her, but she can’t hear through the door. She continues to rage at him, letting out all her memories of all the things he’d done over the years. 

When she’d announced her dream about the woman and how real it had felt, he had told her that she could know it wasn’t real because she didn’t really have powers. When the woman showed up in real life, he’d said she was imagining things. And everywhere in between there were little slights and insults. Leading the others in excluding her, asking their father why he let her help with their training, rolling his eyes at her dream of becoming a violinist. 

As Vanya rants, Luther begins to wince and shift uncomfortably. He clenches and unclenches his fists. His face twists into a snarl and he twitches forward. It just serves to anger Vanya more, coming across as reluctance to hear the truth. She doesn’t stop her tirade until he collapses. 

Vanya pauses and takes a deep breath. Her heart beat slows and the ground steadies beneath her feet.

“Very good, Number Seven,” the woman says, and something in her tone reminds Vanya of her father in a way that she does not like. “Would you like to see how you’ve done?” She gestures at the door and Vanya approaches it. On the other side, Luther lies crumbled against the wall, wires sticking out of his back.

“I did that?” Vanya asks shakily. The room begins to sway again.

“Yes. How does it feel to be the strong one for once? Wouldn’t you like to keep going? You have so much to catch up on, so much to learn about your power.” 

“I… I’m not sure. I never meant to hurt him.”

“From the sound of it, he hurt you first.”

Vanya can’t argue with that, and a new surge of rage flies from her to the wires that she now sees are threaded underneath the door. Luther convulses, then curls in on himself, unable to stand but not quite unconscious. Vanya can’t take it anymore. 

“No,” she says, searching for her own end of the wire. She finds it sticking out of her side and rips it out, not even flinching at the sting. “No, whatever this is, I don’t want to do it. I want what I’ve always wanted from you - answers.” She advances on the woman, who steps back nervously. “Why didn’t you just give me a straight answer from the beginning? Why not just tell me what my power was, how you knew I had it?” The stale air whips up into a wind and the woman’s perfectly styled hair blows into her face. “You couldn’t even tell me who you are,” Vanya continues. “I think I was right to not trust you.”

“Now, Number Seven, of course you can trust me. All I’ve wanted since the day we met was to help you achieve your full potential. Isn’t that what you want, too?”

Vanya almost nods, almost calls off the forces of anger and confusion that by now are shaking the entire room. But then she remembers something the woman said the first time they met, in the dream that was not a dream. You have the power to end the world. If that was the full potential this woman wants from her, Vanya wants no part of it.

“You want me to start the apocalypse! You want to use me!” With one final, wordless scream of rage, Vanya throws the woman against the wall. She doesn’t get back up, and Vanya doesn’t care. 

The room continues to shake and Vanya can’t pull back on her powers. So she fights down the fear of using them wrong and directs them to the door. It crashes towards her, falling off its hinges and collapsing with a thud that only makes the shaking worse. Vanya’s breathing in dust once again, but she can’t think about that now, she has to get herself and Luther out of there before the building crushes them.

She steps into the smaller room, where Luther is starting to try to stand up again. “Vanya?” he asks groggily, and she doesn’t know how to feel. 

“We’ll talk about it later,” she says, trying to infuse her voice with all the anger she wants to feel towards him. She doesn’t want to forgive him. She doesn't want to pity him. She wants to hate him. But he's not the one who tricked her, who gave her false hope, who tried to use her to end the world, who manipulated her into hurting her own sibling. “Let’s just go.” She extends her hand. She can't just leave him.

He takes her hand and together they run from the collapsing room.