This was not how he had imagined the end of the world would come to be.
How had everything gone so wrong? Hindsight was a real bitch.
Five watched in horror at the harrowing, escalated scene before him, struggling to see straight through the pain and the otherworldly force currently in control of his body. Luther, Klaus, and Diego were somewhere nearby in his peripheral, presumably in hopelessly similar conditions, dangling twenty feet above the ground and squirming in pain from the assault of energy and pressure being exerted onto their bodies. He couldn’t breathe, he realized with a surprisingly mild panic - that was hardly the main concern right now.
The world was ending, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Everyone was about to be gone, him and his entire family, one way or another. Either Vanya would finish them off here and now, or the world would go up in flames and they would burn with the rest of the human race.
On the stage of the Icarus stood Vanya, clothed in a stark white suit, cold eyes shifting between the four men, but not really seeing them at all. No recognition in her pale face. If someone had told him seven days ago that sweet, quiet Vanya, his childhood best friend, the girl who held onto a desperate hope that Five would one day return to them, was the cause of the end of the world…
Then what? He would have stopped her then?
Yes. Probably. Maybe?
The thought was chilling, too dark even for his twisted mind. He didn’t have time to mull over it any further, however, because whatever he would have done if given the opportunity was a mute point. It was no longer up to him. He realized with both hope and dread that there was a familiar figure creeping up behind Vanya’s erratic form. Their fates rested on the burdened shoulders of Allison at the moment, who stood behind Vanya, tears streaming down the actress's once perfectly made up face as she shakily held the gun to the back of Vanya’s head. Five did not envy her at the moment. Sure, his hands were already covered in blood from his years of service at the commission, but...he didn’t wish that burden and weight of guilt on anyone.
But for the greater good, for the fate of all mankind, here they were. All six of the siblings would be held reliable for failing Vanya, he knew. Their family would never be whole again - just like when Five disappeared, and just like when Ben had died. It was something the rest of them would have to live with. Five, especially. He should have seen the signs. He should have been able to figure this out. He should have been there for her for the last seventeen years. If he had never have left, then maybe things would have been different. It could have been anyone but her . As hard as it was to admit, the fault always traced back to him.
Vanya’s unrecognizable eyes landed on him at last, holding his gaze tightly, no emotion or regret evident whatsoever. Where were the dark pools of brown that used to send unspoken messages across the silent dinner table? He swallowed hard, her name a choked breath of air unable to leave his lips. Allison shifted behind her, Vanya still completely unaware of her impending doom. The young assassin waited for the inevitable with a pounding heart, wanting to look away from the horrific scene that was about to take place, but he was unwillingly firmly frozen in place, green eyes locked onto her unfamiliar form.
This was all his fault.
Just as his vision was starting to wane, the sound of the gunshot reverberated through the hall with an air of authority, projecting loud and clear across the vast theatre. All at once, the chaos from Vanya’s out of control state ceased, and the four brothers were disconnected from the strands of energy that held them. They dropped like dead weight to the ground, landing in crumpled piles in front of the stage with undignified grunts. Glass rained down above them from the ceiling, shards further shattering around them in the suddenly quiet theatre. Five gulped in air like he hadn’t taken a breath in years, gasping and choking as he pushed himself to his hands and knees against the cool floor, not paying any mind to the glass cutting into his palms.
Without another second of hesitation, he was on his feet again, rushing with the others to where both of their sisters had collapsed to the stage floor. His knees skid against the ground with a stinging heat in his haste. His eyes darted around quickly as he assessed the situation, confused for a brief moment. There was no blood, no wounds, not a single mark or blemish on Vanya’s still unnaturally pale skin. He vaguely heard one of the others ask if she was alive, and Allison nodded frantically, tears still pouring from her dark eyes.
Vanya was alive. He let out a relieved sigh, one he didn’t realize he had been holding in. She was alive, and they had stopped it. Of course, it wasn’t that simple. The next few moments were another whirlwind from hell as Klaus pointed their attention towards the night sky. The siblings quickly realized that they hadn’t stopped jack squat. All their work, blood, sweat, and tears. All of the lost lives this week. All for nothing.
“I’ll take us all back,” he suggested wildly, frantically. He was desperate, so fucking desperate , to ensure his family’s survival. There had to be a way. Even if it killed him, he had to try. There was no point to any of this if he didn’t at least try . Decades of lonely starvation, surviving on insects, lungs full of ash, skin burnt and bruised in the heat and rubble of the apocalyptic wasteland he had endured. Four plus years of murdering mostly innocent strangers in an effort to bide time and make his way back home, his fate being determined by immortal employers with no remorse or respect for human life.
The Handler had managed to pull him away from his family once again mere moments before, and had ensured Five that it was too late to change anything, that he had only two choices now - die with his family in vain, or escape alone like a coward. But he had found a third option. He couldn’t leave his family again. No, he refused to give up and abandon them all again. He refused to find their lifeless forms scattered in the rubble again. With hands linked, the group stood in a makeshift circle, Five’s powers surging wildly above them as he struggled once again to hold it all together, to keep from collapsing from the drain on his energy. It was working. He could feel it already. Just a little more, and they could go back and do things differently. They could fight off The Commission together. They could save Ben, and Vanya. The familiar compression and tugging sensation overtook him. The smell of sulfur, of burning electricity crackling around him, the feeling of his organs twisting around wildly.
It was working.
But his energy was slipping and growing thin, he realized in a sudden panic, clinging desperately to the siblings on each side of him, feeling them inching away. “No, no, no!” he growled frantically, nails digging into their palms, unable to see what was going on around him. Despite his efforts, his hands were suddenly very empty. Without thought of consequences, he urgently stopped the flow of his powers as best he could, throwing up his arms to rip back open an exit portal. With any luck, they would all exit the time-space flow together, right where he had abruptly stopped it. It was too soon, he knew - he had been aiming for much farther back, but had not anticipated how difficult it would be to hold onto one another. Travelling with this many people was too much of a strain on his body. The vortex fought against him as he worked to pry it open, his limits completely reached at this point, but eventually he won.
His hands suddenly shot forward through the static-charged warp in the fabric of time, and he found himself falling yet again, landing roughly on already bruised knees with a grunt of pain. The world spun for a moment, and he felt too sick to open his eyes. The earthy smell of dirt, the rough stone pressed against his cheek, and a crackle of thunder brought him back to his senses. Five weakly pushed himself up, palms brushing against crunchy leaves and jagged pebbles on the cobblestone ground. Dark lashes blinking hard, his pupils dilated, adjusting slowly to being... outdoors? Brick walls with ivy creeping up them, an untended garden, the sound of the city faintly seeping into the scenic space.
Was he...was he home? There was no doubt, he was in the courtyard. At the academy. Which seemed to all be in one piece, still standing.
Klaus’s voice interrupted his confusion, making him jump ungracefully. “Does anyone else see Number Five, or is that just me?” With a start, he realized that five pairs of eyes were glued to him. “That is Five, right?” Klaus continued. And for the most brief of moments, a wave of relief washed over him. They were alive - most of them anyways, noting the absence of Ben. Even Five’s powers had their limits.
“Vanya,” he murmured upon drinking in the sight of her, completely and breathtakingly normal again with her brown hair and brown eyes, very much not an unstoppable force of nature. They had done it. They had all made it, and she was still alright. Five was overcome with the closest thing he had felt to happy in decades - and he appeared to be celebrating it alone, judging by the perplexed eyes still glued to him. He took a step forward hesitantly, eager to be close to them all, to have tangible proof of their success. To celebrate their victory, their survival, to let them know that it was all over now.
But no, the group of super-powered adults stared back, unmoving and unbelieving. Something was wrong, and it was more than the fact that he was finding himself pushing the sleeves up on his suddenly slightly too large jacket. Five’s gaze darted down in confusion at the inconvenience, and he noticed for the first time that he was dressed in a very familiar suit. The same suit he’d been wearing when he abandoned the commission for the first time, when he fled the Kennedy assassination, when he’d finally found a way back to his family. A horrible feeling of dread surfaced inside his chest, along with an overwhelming sense of dejavu, making his blood turn to ice.
“What the hell?” he mouthed quietly, taking in the courtyard once again with a new perspective on the situation. Cloudy skies gave the cool air an ominous tone, and his quickening breaths came out like puffs of smoke. “What day is it?” He blurted out to any of his siblings that would answer, eyes wide and fearful. Vanya stepped forward slightly, shell-shocked as the rest of them, one hand reaching out hesitantly towards where he stood like a cornered animal. “Five, is that really you?”
“What goddamn day is it? I need the date,” Five insisted in an impatient frenzy, causing everyone to flinch back as if his harsh question could physically hurt them. The words echoed in his ears with a sick sense of familiarity.
“The 24th,” Vanya peeped out, having stopped in her tracks. “March 24th.”
It couldn’t be. He couldn’t have imagined it all. Five’s hands were suddenly groping around his body, checking for anything out of the ordinary, for any sign or scrap of proof. Bile rose to the back of his throat as he felt a familiar weight in his pocket - one small, glass sphere - the prosthetic eyeball. The one that would one day belong to Harold Jenkins. The one he had shattered against the wall in a fit of rage not twenty-four hours ago. Mysteriously whole again, and back in his possession. The eye was heavy as he pulled it out to inspect it, hands shaking, an accusatory expression plastered across his face as he confirmed the serial number was the same.
“Is that...is that an eyeball?” Klaus squirmed uncomfortably where he stood several feet away, but still leaned forward to get a closer look.
This couldn’t possibly be happening again. The boy temporarily ignored the group of adults gaping his way in lue of swallowing down the panic that was forming inside. How the fuck did he get back here? He ripped his jacket off and pulled the remaining dress shirt down over his left shoulder. Several buttons snapped off and went shooting through the air as he did so, his eyes flying to the skin below his shoulder. There were no sloppy, self-administered stitches from his first run in with Hazel and Cha-Cha. He continued on, lifting the hem of his shirt up roughly, inspecting his abdomen for any sign of the healing shrapnel wound from his escape from The Handler at Commission headquarters. A shaky laugh left him, disbelief spreading like a cold chill through his veins. There was nothing but unblemished skin. Every single trace of the last week was gone.
“Five...what’s going on? It’s been seventeen years,” Luther spoke up, ever the leader, eager to take charge of this new-to-them development. Nothing new there.
“It's been a lot longer than that,” Five spat out, almost slapping himself for repeating the same line as he had before. “Please tell me that any of you remember the last week. The Commission, Vanya’s concert, anything at all?”
“My concert?” Vanya questioned, taken off guard by being a part of the conversation, no doubt. Always the wallflower of the family. “The concert isn’t for another week, Five. How did you even know-”
“What does a damn concert have to do with anything? What the hell is ‘the commission’?” Diego demanded, stepping in front of Vanya in a show of bravado. Seven shrunk back easily, not putting up a fight for attention against the much more brash Diego.
Luther stepped forward further now too, likely to reinstate that he was in charge, not Diego. He was attempting to rest what surely was meant to be a reassuring hand on Five’s shoulder. “Where have you been, Five? Are you...are you alright?” He was clearly already of the opinion that Five had lost his mind. Maybe he had. Was he going crazy? Truly crazy? The dark haired teen scowled and warped out of Luther’s grasp, reappearing behind the group with a ‘pop’.
“I haven’t missed that,” Luther mumbled to no one in particular, irritated at being ignored and dismissed.
“Where’d you go?” Allison questioned, whipping around to face her shorter sibling. “Where have you been this whole time? We thought you died , Five.”
“The future,” Five mumbled offhand, racking his brain for an explanation. An unsteady hand made its way through his hair, a nervous habit he’d never been able to shake. He needed a pen, he mused while chewing on his bottom lip in frustration. There had to be a reason for the error, a way to fix it without too much damage or attention from whatever was left of The Commission. With any luck, he had some time to sort this out. Maybe he had miscalculated with the number of bodies he was trying to drag with him through time. Maybe if he just--
“The future, you say?” Klaus perked up, interrupting Five’s thoughts.
“Don’t get too excited. It’s shit.”
“Called it,” the lanky man responded in a sing-song voice, pulling his fur lined coat tighter around his thin frame as a cold gust blew through the yard. Five found himself suppressing a shiver himself. Now that he was without the suit jacket, and his shirt was half torn, the weather was starting to have an affect on him. Without so much as an explanation, he turned towards the door, eager to find some warmth, and perhaps something to write on. He needed to figure out what went wrong, and to see what the damage was to the timeline. Something like this wouldn’t go unnoticed for long.
“Wait, so how did you get back?” Vanya raced to catch up to him, the others right on her tail.
“I had to project my consciousness forward into a suspended quantum state version of myself that exists across every possible instance of time,” Five explained dutifully for the second time in a week, the simpled down phrase coming easily to him again, word for word. He spent decades figuring out how to come back, after all. As expected, even the dumbed down version of his life’s work caused some confusion. Again.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Diego predictably retorted, on his tail with the rest of the crew.
“It would if you were smarter.” Five couldn’t help himself. He was so incredibly frustrated. A loud smack indicated that Luther had once again stopped Diego in his tracks, preventing the leather-clad man from picking a fight with their newly returned brother. Five paid them no mind, eagerly slipping through the doorway and into the warm air of the Hargreeves mansion.
A low growl from his stomach made him pause. He was famished from using entirely too much energy, pressing himself far beyond the usual limitations of his abilities. Changing course without delay, he headed towards the kitchen. As if he were providing some kind of dinner theatre, the entire family followed him in, gathering around the opposite end of the table as Five collected ingredients to make his signature sandwich. He managed to avoid the mistake of looking up Klaus’s skirt this time around as his drugged up brother sat criss-crossed on the table, and considered that a positive for the day, if nothing else.
“How long were you there?” Vanya inquired meekly, watching Five as he reached into the bag of miniature marshmallows. The fistful of sugary morsels were dropped haphazardly onto the freshly spread peanut butter, several spilling out onto the cutting board in his haste. The sandwich was tasty, sure, but more importantly it was a quick and simple solution of protein and carbohydrates, supplying the much needed energy his body craved after the effort it took to jump.
“Forty five years,” Five snapped with an irritated sigh. He didn’t want to play twenty questions with them for the second time, he wanted to be alone and figure this shit out. One glance up at Vanya’s overly concerned expression was enough to make him feel slightly guilty for the attitude, though. She had always been concerned and anxious over his well being, and had pleaded with him to not pursue his desire to time travel when they were children, terrified that something would go wrong. And go wrong it did. The worry written across her face now was more than evident - she wanted to know that he was safe, and had been safe all these years. He forced his tone to soften a bit towards her. Not quite an apology, but she would hopefully recognize the change. “Give or take.”
“Wait so what are you saying, that you’re-”
“I’m saying that my consciousness is fifty-eight,” Five interrupted Number One, abandoning his more sensitive side immediately towards his brother. “My body is apparently thirteen again.” For the third time, he realized painfully.
“Uhh, Thirteen?” Klaus raised his brows with a snort, exchanging looks with the others. “Hey hermano, you might want to check again on tha-”
“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” Five interrupted, not paying a lick of attention to them at this point. He took a large bite of his concoction, stopping to grab the nearby newspaper off the counter. Maybe it could confirm if anything had changed in this new timeline. His father’s unfamiliar face frowned at him from the cover, as if to mock and judge him after all of these years for being such a rebellious little brat at thirteen. If he hadn’t been so smug, so confident, so determined to prove Reginald wrong. He tucked the paper under his arm. “I have shit to do.”
“That’s it? That’s all you have to say?” Allison called after him, clearly frustrated with his lack of enthusiasm at the reunion. Five didn’t bother responding, too eager to get out of his over-sized clothes and have a moment to himself to plan. There was no time to waste. He climbed both flights of stairs two at a time, not wanting to waste more precious energy on blinking up to his room. He may need to attempt another time jump soon, and wanted to have plenty of energy reserved if so.
He didn’t stop as he threw open his bedroom door, not bothering to feel as nostalgic as he did the first time he had returned to the past. A uniform was chosen at random, and Five quickly stripped down to change into something that fit properly. To his surprise, though...his shorts seemed far too small. He cursed under his breath as he ripped them back down, throwing the hanger and clothes that remained on it to the floor in annoyance. “Mom must have stored my old uniforms in here, too,” he reasoned quietly to himself, recalling the other siblings being concerned about her hardware malfunctions at one point in the last week. Something he hadn’t cared an awful lot about at the time, but it was proving to be mildly inconvenient. He quickly turned back to his wardrobe and pulled out another uniform, inspecting it carefully. It seemed to be the right size. Alas, upon trying to dress, he found that this one was also significantly too small.
“What the hell?” he muttered, adding the set of clothing to the floor with its counterpart. Something was wrong, Five realized, flipping through the remaining outfits in his closet, verifying that they were all the size they were supposed to be. If it wasn’t the uniform, though....A quick stride into the nearest bathroom later, he stood speechless in front of a mirror. “What the hell?” he repeated to himself again, slowly this time. One hand reached up to brush his own cheek, disbelieving what he was witnessing. The stubble of facial hair was further proof that the mirror wasn’t lying.
No longer did the face of his tiny thirteen year old self stare back at him, nor was it his true fifty-eight year old self. Instead, he appeared to be in his late twenties, if he had to guess. The apocalypse hadn’t exactly provided many opportunities to track his growth and appearance with the luxury of any unshattered mirrors, and to be honest, his appearance was the last thing on is mind when surviving that wasteland. Who cared about looks and propriety when you were the only human alive?
Part of him wanted to relish in the fact that he was no longer physically a child, but the question remained...how had this happened? It was far to suspicious for him to be at ease. The Commission, perhaps? It was another mystery without answers. The sooner he found some answers, the better. Gritting his teeth, he stormed back to his room, on the verge of a migraine. The ill fitted suit was haphazardly thrown back on before he forced himself back downstairs. First things first. He needed acceptable clothing. Then he could get to work and start figuring out this ridiculous mess he found himself in. Grace would be able to find something that fit, he was sure. The man wandered through the second story and through their robotic mother’s recharging room, taking in the familiar paintings and running a hand along the well polished banister as he whipped around the staircase to reach the ground floor.
“Hey,” Vanya’s timid voice rang out from the bottom of the stairs. Five stopped in his tracks. Vanya was alone, and he found it more than a little difficult to look her in the eyes right now. That unfamiliar sensation of guilt filled his senses again, making his chest feel heavy. It was something he admittedly hadn’t experienced much since the first few months with The Commission. Being a trained assassin tends to dull that sensation. “I know everyone is already asking you a million questions but I have to ask...are you okay?” she closed the distance between them as she pressed on, stopping a couple of steps below where he stood. He towered over her at his current age. “You seem really... shaken up. You’ve been gone for so long.” It wasn’t a question, but he could hear her asking all the same. She was bolder now that they were away from the rest of the siblings, just the two of them. Just the way it had always been when they were children, he realized. There was a fondness Vanya reserved just for him, and vice versa. He almost smiled at the thought. Almost.
Five swallowed hard, forcing himself to maintain proper eye contact for her sake. Hours ago, he had every intention of taking down Vanya to stop the apocalypse. And yet somehow, she was standing a few steps away with her big brown eyes full of concern and questions and acceptance, completely unaware of the death and destruction she would cause in eight short days. Unaware that she would create the very hell he spent decades alone in.
“I’m fine,” he choked out at last, not trusting himself to say more. The dark haired boy pushed back his over-sized sleeves again, biting his tongue. There was a deep, dark, lingering feeling of betrayal that Vanya hadn’t believed him when he told her about the apocalypse the first time he appeared in 2019. She thought he had lost his mind when he returned the last time, seemingly accepting his delusions about his age, but not his agenda with stopping the end of the world. Was there any point in confiding in her a second time? Of trying to convince her that not only was he here to stop the destruction of the world, but that she was the reason it would happen? Or would that just set things into motion even faster?
“Okay,” the woman in question accepted, but did not take her scrutinizing eyes away from him for even a second. She knew better than to assume he was fine, but wasn’t pushing the matter. For that, he was grateful. “Listen, Mom is supposed to be finding you something to wear for the funeral. Luther wants to have it in the courtyard, and to try to beat the rain.”
“He’s not going to beat the rain.” Five rolled his eyes, not needing to look out the window to know that they would all be needing to grab umbrellas to attend the pitiful little ceremony. “And I really don’t have time to deal with Luther or anyone else right now.”
“Just humor him?” the mousy-haired girl pleaded, ignoring his dismissiveness. “He’s pretty upset already. It would mean a lot to everyone if you were there.” Five scoffed and crossed his arms, taking on his usual stance of bravado. He softened at the chastising look Vanya sent his way. “Oh fine,” he groaned, giving in at last. “But know I’m only in this for the clothes, since I’m apparently not fifty-eight or thirteen.” He gestured frustratingly towards himself.
Vanya gave him a concerned look. “Is that...bad?”
“I don’t know yet, honestly,” Five shrugged.
Several minutes and a few exchanges later, Five was wearing one of his father’s suits. It would be a bit backwards to any other family, he supposed, wearing your dead father’s clothing to his own funeral. But this family had never been normal, and their father definitely wasn’t like a normal father. Five didn’t particularly care what he wore, or who it came from. Clothes were clothes, and he was quite used to adorning a suit as it was. Reginald most definitely wouldn’t be missing it.
The young man walked out of his childhood room to join Vanya in the hallway. She gave him a weird expression, looking him up and down, looking far too serious. “What?” he demanded grumpily, sure that a comment about Reginald was forthcoming. She brushed a lock of loose hair out of her face and shook her head gently at him. “No, it’s nothing,” she assured him. “I just...I can’t believe you’re back. You look so different. But the same, too? After all this time, it just feels like a dream and that I could wake up any second.” She crossed her arms, retreating back into herself with her overshared feelings. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to get all...well, you know. It’s just really good to have you back.”
Five starred with his mouth agape, and could swear there were tears behind her lowered lids. She hadn’t acted this way last time, had she? Last time he’d complimented her book and they had kept to themselves, avoiding the whole sentimental ‘I missed you’ conversation. All this, just because of one tiny change in conversation? Or could it be due to his age being off again? Time was fickle. Duly noted. He was having trouble finding words to respond, but was saved by Allison reappearing in the stairway.
“We’re ready to start downstairs,” Allison urged them, making to retreat towards the stairway. “I’d suggest grabbing an umbrella on your way out. It’s starting to rain.” Vanya couldn’t help but shoot a curious sideways glance up at Five, who was doing nothing to hold back a wide smirk that screamed ‘I told you so’ in big bold letters. She shook her head and turned to follow the same path Allison had taken, with Five close behind, silently gloating.
“Did something happen?” Grace piped up, as if suddenly noticing her children gathered outside in a somber circle. Five shoved his hands deeper into his pockets, his umbrella propped up in the crook of his elbow. It was colder now than it was earlier, the rain bringing adding in an unpleasant dampness to the air, covering everything heavily like a wet blanket.
“Dad died,” Allison reminded her gently, but shocked at needing to supply a reminder at all. How had they not noticed Grace’s malfunctioning hardware sooner than now, he didn’t know. “Remember?”
“Oh. Yes, of course.”
Vanya was concerned as well, always sentimental when it came to Grace. Despite not being technically human, Grace had always shown a soft spot for the one child who was left out of most everything. “Is Mom okay?” she asked no one in particular.
“She just needs to rest,” Diego assured everyone, immediately defensive. “Ya know. Recharge.”
The conversation died down awkwardly, and Five couldn’t help but tap his foot impatiently, staring daggers towards Luther. Finally, Pogo perked up with some encouragement, “Whenever you’re ready, dear boy.” Five watched with a cringe for the second time as Luther pitifully dumped their father’s ashes into a sopping pile on the stone below, feeling a twinge of pity for his brother.
“Probably would have been better with some wind..."
Pogo saved them all from several more moments of awkwardness by asking if anyone wished to speak...which, of course, no one did. What was there to say about a man who treated you like a soldier in training? He was never quite a father to any of them, despite the imagery Luther liked to keep of Reginald Hargreeves. “Very well,” the humanoid primate confirmed at their silence. Pogo went on to say his bit, just as before, and Five wondered if things would play out exactly as they had before.
“He was a monster,” Diego blurted out in the middle of Pogo’s speech. “He was a bad person and a worse father. The world is better off without him.”
Apparently they would, yes. Five sighed, throwing his head back in annoyance to stare up at the slinky fabric of his umbrella. Raindrops flowed down steadily as the argument around him grew more heated with each of Diego’s heartfelt jabs towards their departed father figure.
“Would anyone like something to eat?” Grace piped up, once again clueless to the situation at hand.
“No,” Vanya interjected calmly, despite Diego’s rant continuing. “Its okay, Mom.”
“You should stop talking now,” Luther’s low grumble of a voice threatened darkly. He glowered down at Diego, just as pissed as he had been the first time. Five idly wondered if he should stop them before they managed to destroy Ben’s statue again.
Oh wait. Ben. Ben was here. Was there a chance that Ben would remember anything? Five wasn’t sure how spirits worked, travelling through the space-time continuum. They didn’t have a physical body. If not for his brother being gifted with the ability to see the dead, Five probably wouldn’t even believe in something as illogical as ghosts. It was a long shot, but worth exploring. He had no other leads.
“Klaus,” Five turned to his right, gaining Number Four’s attention suddenly. The too-skinny man had been thoroughly involved in the inevitable fight, huddled up tightly under his tiny pink umbrella. “Yes, brother dearest?” Klaus only spared him a quick glance, not willing to tear his eyes away from the bickering Number One and Number Two.
“Hey,” Five snapped at him, demanding his full attention. “Would you pay attention? Nothing important is happening. Those two idiots are just going to make a mess of the courtyard and break things as usual.” Sure enough, the punching had started, and Klaus was inching up and down on his toes. Five grabbed him by the collar, pulling him down a bit and demanding his attention. Klaus was surprisingly still slightly taller. An annoying realization.
“Hey! Cut it out!”
“Klaus ,” Five hissed, putting as much menace into his tone as he could. “Is Ben with you?”
That grabbed the man’s attention. Klaus’s eyes shot open and locked onto Five, shocked and clearly caught off guard. “Ben?” His hazel eyes darted to the left, to a spot of empty air, where Five assumed Ben must be at that moment. Five couldn’t help but glance over too, unsurprisingly seeing nothing.
“Yes. Ask him if he remembers this day happening already. Ask him about The Commission, or the apocalypse. Anything.” One suspiciously long stare later, Klaus pulled himself out of Five’s grip and brushed off his jacket defensively, seeming to also be listening to whatever Ben must be saying. Five’s green eyes darted back and forth from Klaus to the empty space he seemed to be conversing with.
“First of all, I’d like to point out that he’s dead, not deaf.” Klaus crossed his arms indignantly. “But no, he doesn’t seem to have any idea of what you’re talking about. Neither do I, for that matter. Are you high or something? And if so, then can you share with your favorite brother?”
“Shit.” Five brought a hand up, running it through his hair with some force. It had been a stretch, he knew, but having a single one of his siblings on his side would be such a blessing right now. He was alone in this. Alone as always. He mildly registered how much the nearby fight had escalated. Diego and Luther were throwing loud punches, drenched in rain and sweat, and due to take the fight one notch too far any second. “I don’t have time for this again. Tell Ben sorry about the statue for me.” He stepped away through a warp without waiting for a response.
“The statue?” Klaus echoed, not following. “Wait, how did you know about Ben being-”
But Five was gone. A loud clattering echoed through the yard as the metal figure fell forward, busting into pieces across the wet concrete. Klaus exchanged a look with the corporeal Ben, both surprised at the premonition from their smaller sibling.
Papers, books, and desk ornaments were haphazardly shoved around with no real concern for their whereabouts or potential fragility. Five had made a proper mess of his father’s office, the forbidden room once upon a time when they were all naive children many moons ago. How silly they had all been to stand at those doors for so many nights, practically begging on their knees for an ounce of attention from the man who used to sit here oblivious of the seven children in his care. Reginald would have a stroke if he saw the absolute disregard and lack of respect Five was displaying for his precious possessions now. The thought made him a teensy bit less miserable in his search. He groaned as another drawer was emptied with no luck.
One of the double doors creaked open nearby. Five glanced up briefly to see Klaus hesitantly entering the room, eyes narrowed his way with suspect. “Hey. We need to talk,” the scantily dressed man spoke up boldly, stopping next to the desk and perching halfway on a corner.
“Fine. Then talk,” Five remarked without interest, ducking under the desk to look for anything that might be hidden and tucked out of sight. Nothing.
“Well, I was just wondering,” Klaus continued, clapping his hands together with a false smile, “How the hell you knew about Ben? You’ve been gone for a couple of decades, and come back here with all these secrets and this weird attitude and apparently psychic abilities that I don’t remember you having when we were kids. Explain.”
Five continued to rummage around, stopping for only a moment to shrug and acknowledge his sibling’s questioning. “It wasn’t hard to deduce,” he lied, maintaining a bluff with ease. “I assume your power hasn’t inexplicably changed, and that Ben is still in fact dead, therefore I assume you can see Ben. Similarly, it wasn’t hard to predict Luther and Diego being idiots.” Klaus opened his mouth to argue, but snapped it shut after a suspended moment of silence, unable to come up with a proper argument against Five’s sound logic.
“Well that-I mean I guess,” the Seance finally spoke up, standing to spin on his heel of his foot dramatically. “I guess nevermind then, know-it-all.” He shrugged, not willing to talk more in depth about their departed brother or his much loathed abilities to communicate with the dead. Five had already returned to the task at hand, dismissing all thoughts of Klaus, who was peering over his shoulder curiously. “So what are you doing in the old man’s office, exactly? Doesn’t seem very necessary for someone who’s all knowing like yourself,” he mocked a bit. It earned him a harsh glare from the smaller boy.
“Looking for something. Obviously.” Five crossed the room in a flash of blue energy, reappearing at one of the bookshelves behind Klaus. He pulled each one out before sloppily shoving it back in place, checking the covers with haste.
“Oh? Do tell,” Klaus’s interest was piqued, thinking he had missed something valuable in his earlier search of the room. His money was long gone from his earlier ransack, and it wasn’t likely that Pogo would allow him time to sneak off with anything else. But with Five, the teammate who could teleport directly in and out of rooms and buildings without a trace? The possibilities were endless. “I mean I already searched this room high and low for anything of...pre-inheritance value. But I’ve got time to kill. What are we looking for?” He joined Five at the expansive shelf, reaching up to pull a book from the top row.
“Dad’s journal,” Five muttered, not about to turn down any help. Even help from Klaus. “I doubt it’s on the shelves. He used to hide that thing away when it wasn’t on his person. But I’ve looked everywhere else, so…” he trailed off, and the sound of books shuffling around took over again.
“Oh.” Klaus had frozen. “Dad’s journal...Is that the one that’s uh...kind of antique looking?”
“Yes,” Five confirmed without pause. “Big. Leather. Gold lettering on the cover with his initials.”
“Yeeahhh,” Klaus drawled, his voice wavering. “I might have seen that around recently.”
“What?” the time traveller exclaimed, turning to face his brother with hope. “Thank God, where is it?” And here he was wasting time in this stuffy old office. Klaus fumbled around with the book still in his hands, a sheepish smile plastered across his face. Five’s excitement turned to a simmering rage, threatening to spill over at the slightest mishap. “Klaus,” he demanded slowly, “Where is the damn book?”
“Okay, okay, first of all, you’ve been gone a long time, and my life hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows since you-”
“Where is the book,” Five hissed, voice dripping with spite, hands closed into tight fists at his side.
“It might still be here!” the drug addicted man exclaimed, his voice rising nervously, hands going up defensively. “I needed money, and it was in this fancy gold box. I didn’t know the book mattered, I mean the old man is dead.”
“Where the hell did you put it?” Five growled, grabbing a fistfull of his shirt. Klaus pointed a thumb towards the window.
“Dumpster. They don’t take the trash everyday, so it’s probably still - Oof!” He fell forward suddenly as Five turned and disappeared with a small ‘pop’, catching himself sloppily on his tattooed hands. “Still a little jerk,” he muttered to himself.
Meanwhile, Five appeared downstairs, rushing to the door that exits to the alley with a newfound speed. Fucking Klaus. Leave it to him to start the damn apocalypse, giving Harold Jenkins everything he needed to turn this family into a more chaotic shit show than it already was. The man didn’t hesitate leaping over the lip of the foul smelling container, landing in a heap of trash bags. He started sifting through the mess, chucking out anything useless without care for whichever unfortunate sap had the job of picking it all up later. With any luck, maybe Jenkins hadn’t found the journal yet.
“Damn it.” He crawled out of the dumpster looking worse for wear and empty handed several minutes later. The contents of the metal bin were spread all about, no bag left unsearched, and the journal wasn’t here. The exchange must have already happened. Five suppressed the chills that threatened to run up his spine at the thought of that skeevy little man pouring over his family’s most intimate secrets. The images of his family's faces scratched off in the man’s attic-shrine were still fresh. They were all in danger. It was starting to get dark now, though, and he was out of luck. Giving up the futile task, he began formulating a new plan, pacing circled in the dark alleyway.
“Okay. Okay. So Jenkins probably has the journal already,” he murmured to himself. That was bad, but not the worst case scenario. Five had been to the creep’s house in the last timeline. This could be fixed with one quick, quiet kill - something he happened to be quite skilled at. No Jenkins manipulating Vanya, no emotionally unstable Vanya. A simple solution.
“Oh shit, Vanya,” his head snapped up. Had she already met Jenkins at this point? Were they already seeing each other? His nose crinkled at the thought, filling his stomach with a sour sensation. She could be in danger already. Making for the doorway again, he tore his way to the kitchen, where Allison and Klaus were having a conversation. They both startled at his sudden appearance, Klaus nearly tipping backwards in his half-leaned chair.
“Oh God,” Allison covered her nose in a show of disgust. “Five, what on Earth have you been doing?”
“Where’s Vanya?” he demanded, ignoring her judgmental expression.
“Oh, she left,” Klaus replied lazily, not interested in helping him any futher.
“Damn it,” his face scrunched in frustration. He swiped a set of keys from the counter, knowing exactly where they’d be from his last run through of this day. “I’m taking the car.”
“I thought you were thirteen, little bro?” Klaus laughed wildly.
“Do you even know how to drive?” Allison threw his way, perfectly shaped eyebrows raised and serious. It was clear she wasn’t teasing like Klaus - but concerned for his mental well being. She looked very motherly as she side stepped in front of him, blocking his way for the briefest of moments. It was an impressive staredown, he would admit, but Five wasn’t about to start taking orders from his sister. Or anyone else, for that matter.
“I know how to do everything,” he confirmed without missing a beat, in far too much of a hurry to stay and argue about his age and adult skillset. He vanished from their sight with a quick step through space, appearing outside near their father’s vehicle.
A frenzied drive across the city later, Five flicked the headlights off and pulled into a parking lot a block away from Vanya’s apartment. It was a slow street, not much happening at this time of night. He could see from here that the lights were off in her upstairs apartment. Had she still not made it home? He could feel his mind begin to piece together impossible scenarios, all ending terribly, all involving Jenkins and his sick manipulation. Where the hell was she?
Five forced himself to stop his antics and breathe. Vanya was safe for now, he reminded himself. She was perfectly fine, doing whatever it was she had to do before returning home, even if it was with that monster of a man. Last time he had returned, he had waited for her in her apartment after he’d left Griddy’s.
“Oh fuck,” he realized suddenly, face paling, green eyes going wide. Griddy’s. The tracker. “Goddammit.” He ripped his right sleeve up and desperately pressed against the skin on his forearm. A small lump confirmed his fears. Even with his age change, the day had reset completely - meaning The Commission was still tracking him right now. The car door was open in a flash, and it took everything he had to not gawk around suspiciously at every passing car. They were here, somewhere. How had he not remembered the tracker, for the second time!? Stupid, stupid, stupid!
Okay. Think. They wouldn’t dare act in a public space. They would wait to get him alone if possible. Public casualties were sloppy - and witnesses weren’t an option. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he kept to the sidewalk, fully intent on walking straight past Vanya’s apartment. No sense in leading them up there. He needed to find a quiet alley, or an empty building. Somewhere to keep them occupied. But he could use a weapon...No matter. Fortunately, he had the slight benefit of knowing they were in the city tonight, looking for him. No major surprises this time. He could deal with those jokers and come back to check on Vanya later.
“Son of a bitch,” he cursed under his breath as Vanya herself stepped out of a cab and locked eyes with him. This was bad. They were bound to have eyes on him at this point.
“Five,” she greeted, looking up at him with a surprised smile. “How did you-”
“Go upstairs,” he urged her, trying to keep a poker face on. “Lock your doors,” he demanded. “And stay away from your windows. You really should have locks on your windows.” Stupid girl and her stupid sense of security on the second floor. How could she have such faith in people to be honest and good natured after such a shitty upbringing?
Vanya’s brows scrunched together in amusement. “My windows? I live on the second floor.”
“Vanya, please just listen to me. Go upstairs and keep the lights off. It’s not safe to be out here right now.” His voice was desperate now, pleading with his eyes for her to take him seriously. She looked around quickly at the empty streets surrounding them, and he stepped forward to stop her, taking her arm and guiding her towards the downstairs entryway. “What are you talking about? What’s going on? If it's not safe then come inside with me.” He gently took the keys from her hand and unlocked the door behind her, practically shoving her inside and ignoring any protests. “I’m not leaving you out here if-”
She stopped talking mid sentence, leaving him to glance down at her sudden silence. Her eyes were wild and full of fear, focussed on something behind him. He knew who it was before they spoke. “Number Five. Let’s all be professional about this and we won’t hurt the girl, yeah? Come with us. They want to talk.” A complete lie. They’d deal with Vanya the second his back was turned. She had already seen too much. Although perhaps not, since she was part of The Commission's plan. He wasn’t willing to risk it. He pulled Vanya’s keys out of the slightly open door and turned around slowly, keeping himself positioned in front of her smaller form. Six men with six guns were blocking their way. One man was standing ahead of the others, the one in charge. He definitely recognized him from before. This one was hesitant. He hoped Five was going to cooperate and make his job easy tonight. Unlikely.
“If you think I believe any of that, you’re insane,” he countered calmly. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“It doesn’t have to go this way,” the man replied, shifting the weight of the gun in his hands. He was getting impatient. He nodded his head towards Vanya, shielded protectively between Five and the doorway. “You think I want to shoot an innocent young woman? Go home with that on my conscience?”
“Fine. Let her leave first, then.” Five gently leaned back, nudging Vanya further in the door, not taking his eyes off the men on the sidewalk. “Five, no I can’t leave you with-” But he had already shoved her through and slammed the door shut again. “Five!” he heard her scream from the other side of the door, voice cracking in a panic. Behind his back, he twisted the knob with force, jamming the metal to be sure she wouldn’t interrupt and get herself caught in the crossfire.
“Good man. See? Nice and easy,” the dark skinned man encouraged him, taking a few steps back to allow Five room to step away from the door. “Let’s get this over with, and we can all go home safe and sound.”
Five almost felt bad. Almost. “Unfortunately, you won’t be going home.” Before the man could register his words, Five had teleported away and appeared behind him jamming Vanya’s keys into his neck with an incredible amount of force, aiming for the jugular, missing slightly but still doing plenty of damage. Warm blood coated his hand as he ripped the key back out. One down. The man fell forward, grasping at his neck, but Five had vanished again before he hit the ground. Shots rang out, flying past where he had been moments before. He appeared in the middle of the street, taking a moment to reassess while the five remaining men looked around confused. They obviously hadn’t been prepared for this. Again. The Commission was really slacking with their temps department.
“Hey assholes!” he shouted, gaining their attention and flashing them a cocky smirk. The group whipped around, guns blazing, wasting half of their ammunition on a parked car he had been standing next to. The car alarm blared, lights flashing brightly, on and off, lighting up the dark street every other second. By the time the group had stopped shooting, Five had appeared behind the one in the back, grabbing his gun from behind and shooting the nearest agent, who dropped quickly. Two down. He blinked away again as more shots rang out, taking care of the man who’s gun he had just ganked. Three down.
Number Five appeared on a third story fire escape across the street, taking a moment to catch his breath. The young assassin was panting and drenched in sweat, feeling chilled from the cool air on his damp skin and clothing. He could feel his energy fading fast. It hadn’t been so difficult to take care of these baboons last time. Then again, he hadn’t tried to teleport six other people through time that very same day the last time around. He needed to play smart, because his powers weren’t going to last. The keys in his hands were sticky and slick with blood. Not the most effective weapon against three gunned men while he was already so exhausted. Taking a page from his own book, he loosened his tie in preparation for his next victim. Why fix what wasn’t broken?
Another teleport down to the street, and he was choking the life out of the next unfortunate agent, blocking shots from the other two men with the fading life in front of him. Four down. Ditching his tie with the dead man, he zapped away again, reappearing between the two remaining temps. For the slightest moment, he panicked, his powers not immediately coming to life in his hands. He could hear the guns cock on either side of him as the men took notice of his appearance and took aim. By some miracle, he managed to escape, stepping through the tight embrace of his spatial jump just in time. Bullets whizzed by his head, missing him by a hair, and he collapsed against the apartment door just as the sound of two bodies hitting the pavement echoed through the streets. They had crossfired on each other, just as planned.
“And that’s six,” Five panted gratefully, sweat and other men’s blood dripping down his neck, staining the once pristine suit he had borrowed. Pounding on the door behind him alerted him to Vanya’s presence on the other side, begging hysterically for someone to open the door. Knees weak, Five stood up with some support from the building and yanked the door open again.
Vanya stepped back in surprise at first, but lunged forward as she recognized him, throwing her arms around him with such a remarkable force that she nearly knocked him over. “What the hell was that? You are such a stupid, reckless, idiotic jerk!” she cried hoarsely into his shoulder, anger and fear mixing up her tone of voice. Five stood idly for a moment, having been caught off guard. She pulled him away to take a good look up at him, her eyes red and puffy from crying. “Are you hurt?” He nodded dumbly, and she pulled him in for another hug, still trembling in worry.
He smiled slightly at her concerned affections - it had been a long time since anyone had hugged him - since he had allowed anyone to hug him. With the immediate danger passed, he let himself relax, bringing his arms up and around her small waist in a show of returned comfort. “I’m fine. I’ll explain later,” he promised as he rested his chin atop her head. “Everything is going to be fine.”
And it would have been, had Five counted properly. Unfortunately, he had been sloppy, and the hesitant temp agent in charge had managed to find some strength and make one final attempt to finish his job. A single shot rang out from behind the embraced couple, startling them both. Five shoved Vanya down and flinched at the sharp impact as the bullet dug into his chest from behind, face scrunched in painful shock. Time seemed to slow down. Vanya stood up slowly, realizing what had happened just in time for Five to collapse to the concrete.
He had been shot plenty of times at this point in his life, but never so directly, in such a vital spot. He watched almost calmly as the borrowed white button up started to soak up blood from the bullet wound on his chest, turning crimson in the blink of an eye. His lungs burned as he tried to take in a deep breath, sending him into a coughing fit. Coughing up blood was probably another bad sign, he noted slowly, head starting to spin.
“Five! No, no, no, shit!” Vanya leaned over him on her knees, eyes darting about, unsure what to do. Seeming to get it together for a moment, she pushed both hands against his chest where the blood was starting to pool. Five winced in pain at the contact. Sirens could be heard across town, racing towards what was no doubt dozens of emergency callers reporting an ungodly amount of gunfire in the middle of the street. “It’s okay,” Vanya promised, voice shaking. “It’s okay, someone will be here soon to help. It’s going to be okay.”
But it definitely wasn’t going to be okay. Five found himself struggling to keep his eyes on her, vision blackening around the edges. Had he really failed his family? Failed Vanya? Here he had been given a second chance with all the upper-hand knowledge in the world, and he was going to die on the road by the hands of a measly temp hire while Vanya watched helplessly. There was still so much to do. He still hadn’t dealt with Jenkins. Vanya didn’t know about her powers. Hazel and Cha-Cha were still out there. The Handler still had her sights set on Vanya to nuke the world. His family was still a chaotic mess, and had no idea any of it was coming.
More coughing brought on more blood, interrupting his pitiful inner monologue. “Vanya,” he struggled to get out. “You have to listen to me. You’re all...all in danger. The Commission.”
“Shh, Five it’s fine. It’s okay. The paramedics are right there.” She didn’t sound very confident, he noted. But sure enough, blue and red lights were suddenly lighting up the street. “You’re going to be fine.” Her tears were flowing freely, salty drops falling onto his already ruined shirt.
Another familiar voice stood out among the noise. “Vanya?... FIVE?! What the hell happened?” It was surely Diego, but Five couldn’t confirm it. Everything had started to go dark. Another pair of hands were on him, slapping his cheek roughly. “Five! Five, buddy, stay with me. We need medics over here, now!”
“Five? Please hang on. Please. I just got you back,” Vanya’s voice begged him.
Everything went dark.
The world felt like it was spinning so very fast.
And then it stopped, and he was landing on his hands and knees, stomach threatening to spill from vertigo. He pinched his eyes shut and clutched at his chest painfully - but the pain was fading, oddly enough. A big gasp of air into his lungs confirmed that something had changed. Blinking his eyes open slowly, he found himself looking at the familiar sight of fallen leaves strewn across a cobblestone ground. Pulling his hand away from his chest, he was surprised to see that there was no blood.
“Does anyone else see Number Five, or is that just me? That is Five, isn't it?”
With an overwhelming sense of dread, Five slowly stood, a slightly over-sized suit hanging past his hands. There in the courtyard stood his siblings, gawking at him for the third time in a week at his abrupt appearance in the courtyard. His eyes flicked immediately to Vanya, then Diego, who seemed to be none the wiser about events that had just transpired. He was...he was just bleeding out on the sidewalk in front of Vanya's apartment, right?
Had he just... died?
“What day is it?” he asked hesitantly, voice unusually somber. Everything felt wrong. Panic was starting to seep its way into his normally rational mind.
“It's the 24th,” Vanya replied with concern, clearly in shock with the rest of the family at his unexpected arrival. Five’s stomach flipped uncomfortably at the feared confirmation. “March 24th.”