Allison hated this. She didn’t remember waking up. She remembered a bright light and then nothing. The next thing she knew, she was sitting up and staring at rubble, and then she stood up and she was staring at her own dead body. She glanced around and saw Diego and then Luther and then Klaus, all silent and still. At first, she thought she was alone, but then she saw Klaus appear. She was so relieved that she ran over and hugged him. He seemed startled before relaxing and hugging her back.
“What the fuck is going on?” she asked when she pulled back.
“I, I think we might be ghosts,” Klaus said.
Allison nodded, trying to process the information. “Great. That’s great.”
She looked around, wondering if anyone else would show up when something behind Klaus caught her eye. Or rather someone. She stared for a moment before launching herself at the figure.
“Ben,” she cried out, crushing him to her. God, she hadn’t seen him in so long. “I missed you so much.”
He hugged her back just as fiercely and said, “I missed you, too.”
A few minutes later, Diego and Luther appeared. They greeted each other, relieved that they weren’t the only ones stuck here. They also hugged Ben, told him how much they missed him. And Allison didn’t miss how amazed Ben looked at being hugged.
“It’s nice to have other people besides Klaus to talk to,” he said.
“Rude,” Klaus said.
“There’s only so many times I can sit there and listen to you talk about what a reverse centaur would be,” he said.
“That was a delightful and interesting discussion.”
“Was it, though?”
“Hey, Ben. Drop dead,” Klaus said while flipping him off.
Luther looked ready to snap at Klaus when Ben laughed and said, “Low blow.” A moment later, he snorted and said, “Now, I can make inappropriate death jokes about you.”
“Oh, fuck yeah. Don’t hold back,” Klaus said. It was clear that this was not a first time discussion for them.
“Wait,” she said. “Have you been able to see Ben this entire time?”
“Uh, yeah, pretty much,” he said.
“And we… didn’t believe you,” Allison said before wincing. “Klaus, I’m so sorry. We should have listened to you when you tried to tell us.”
Klaus shrugged and looked uncomfortable. “It’s okay. I was pretty high, and I’m not sure I would have believed me, either.”
“No, it’s not okay. It was shitty of us. And I’m sorry. We, we should have been better. We all should have been better about a lot of things. I just, I’m sorry,” she said.
Klaus shrugged. “It’s not as if I ever helped you guys with any of your issues, either. None of us were ever really good at that,” he said with a small laugh.
Allison was about to respond when someone else blinked into view. Allison turned and saw Vanya, standing there in her black suit, a confused look on her face before her eyes widened in horror as she took in her surroundings.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Diego snapped. Vanya whipped around and saw the five of them standing there.
“I, I,” she stammered, clearly not knowing what to say. Her face crumpled and she collapsed. “I, I’m sorry. I don’t, I didn’t. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-“
“What? You didn’t mean to kill us. You didn’t mean to end the world. Because guess what, Vanya, you did,” Diego snapped.
“Diego,” Allison scolded.
“What? You can’t actually be defending her, Allison. She killed you. She killed your daughter,” he snapped, and Allison flinched back. She, she had been trying not to think about that.
“You don’t know that. LA is a long ways from here,” she said quietly.
“Don’t be naive. Look around. She did this. She brought about the end of the world, and no one was spared from it,” Diego said.
Allison pursed her lips and wondered if she could just blink over to LA. She closed her eyes and thought about the city, about her house she hadn’t seen in months. When she opened her eyes, she was there in the living room. Or what used to be the living room. It wasn’t as destroyed as home had been, but it was partially collapsed. She wandered and found a hand sticking out of the rubble. Patrick. Her breath hitched and she ran upstairs, and stopped short when Claire’s room was completely gone. She would have been in here, likely getting ready for bed, when this had happened. Allison had failed her little girl, had failed her in so many ways. She had so desperately wanted to fix things, to be the kind of mother Claire deserved, and now she would never get her chance. Allison sank to her knees and just stared out at the ash falling down into the house. She closed her eyes, thinking about Claire, her laughter and joy, the way she would get excited about her shows and books and friends and life, the serious way she would introduce new toys to Allison. She opened her eyes, hoping that she would have gone to wherever Claire was, but she looked out at the ashen sky, nothing changing.
She wasn’t sure how long she sat there before she eventually got up and blinked home. Luther, Diego, and Vanya were all yelling at each other, while Klaus just shared an exasperated look with Ben. They stopped when they saw her come back.
“Allison, where did you go? You just disappeared,” Luther said, his shoulder relaxing marginally.
“I,” she cleared her throat, trying to get rid of the lump there. “I needed to go check on Claire. I, I just had to see if, if…”
“Is she…” Luther started before trailing off, clearly reading her expression.
Allison shook her head, unable to say anything more.
“Allison, I’m so sorry,” Luther said, grief clear in his voice. He hadn’t met Claire, but she knew that he loved her daughter regardless. God, she wished she had been less of a coward and had introduced them to her.
“Allison,” a timid voice said. Allison looked over a Vanya. “I, I don’t even know how to… I’m sorry.”
Allison stared at her blankly. “I can’t forgive what you did to Claire, but I want to forgive everything else. I want to move past it.”
“Seriously, Allison? What the fuck?” Diego snapped. “This is her fault. How can you want to forgive her or move past this?”
“We played our part, too, Diego. None of us are innocent. Because guess what, it was a fucking group effort. All of us fucked up. With each other, with our lives. We brought the end of the world, as a family. Probably the only thing we’ve ever done as a family,” she laughed bitterly. “We should have been better. All of us.”
He grumbled but didn’t say anything.
“Look, we’re stuck here, for whatever reason, we’re all here. I don’t know why, but maybe this could be a second chance,” she said.
“A second chance for what, Allison?” Diego asked condescendingly.
“To be a family. We failed at that spectacularly, but we could be better.”
“Why? We’re all dead,” he said.
“So, what? We’re just supposed to wander around the city, avoiding each other. If that’s what you want to do, then fine. But I’ve been given a lot of perspective on family recently, and I’m not going to waste another opportunity to reconcile with mine,” she said.
After a few moments, he deflated. He groaned and said, “Okay. Okay. What do you propose we do?”
“We should talk. About the stuff we missed. About the things we’ve done to hurt each other. About owning up to our mistakes. About the good things that have happened to us. I want to know everything. And we have to be willing to apologize and accept when someone said you hurt them. We can’t dismiss each other’s pain and struggles. We have to listen, alright?” she said.
After a few moments, the others nodded and they all sat down on the steps of the Academy. And they talked for hours. More often than not, it dissolved into arguments, but after awhile, they did start making some progress. They all apologized to Vanya for leaving her out, for not doing more to stop Dad’s exclusion of her. She apologized for airing all their dirty laundry in her book and for not recognizing that Dad was hurting them, too. They apologized to Klaus for not helping him with his addiction. To Diego for not helping him deal with his anger and bitterness. To Luther for leaving him at Dad’s mercy and not realizing how much Dad was hurting him. To Allison for not being there for her for any of her early accomplishments when she had still been inviting them, and as a result her not feeling like she could turn to them when she felt like she was drowning in her fame, in her marriage, in her unexpected motherhood. It barely covered anything, but it was a start.
They were laughing about the time Klaus had taken all of Five’s science and math books and replaced them with printed out fanfiction about them. God, Five had almost killed him, he’d been so mad.
“I wonder where Five is?” Vanya asked after they stopped laughing. “I hope he’s okay wherever he is.”
“I always figured the little bastard went back in time and decided to just live in the Bahamas,” Diego said. “That used to make me mad, but now, I’m happy for the little shit if he did have the balls to leave Dad like that.”
“No way did Five run away,” Ben said. “He’s way too loyal for that.”
They all gave him a weird look except for Vanya, but even she looked skeptical.
Ben rolled his eyes. “You guys were so oblivious. Five was loyal to a fault and that loyalty was never to Dad. It was to us. I’m pretty sure if we had asked him, he would have burned the world down for us,” he said, his voice becoming quiet as he glanced away, turning to the world burning around them.
Allison glanced at the others. She certainly hadn’t noticed. She had always thought Five was an arrogant asshole with a god complex. She had loved him. He was her brother, but she hadn’t been particularly close to him.
“Wow, we’re the worst,” Klaus said.
Allison couldn’t help but snort. “God, we are. How did we not know that?”
“I mean, I knew he made time for me, but I guess, I always thought he was wrapped up in his own thing,” Vanya said with a frown.
“Well, I hope he lived his life out in the Bahamas, drinking coconut… juice or whatever and, like surfing,” Klaus said. Allison shared a look with Vanya before they both laughed at the idea of Five surfing and drinking out of coconut with a little umbrella.
Diego looked like he was about to say something when they all stopped. Something in the air shifted. Allison looked down the ruined street and saw movement. In a moment, a person came into view. Five came into view. He stopped when the Academy came into view.
“Oh, no,” Allison muttered, her smile falling away.
He looked exactly like he had the day he disappeared, and Allison had a horrible sinking feeling that was because this was where he had gone. He looked so young.
Five had always been larger than life in her mind, confident in a way that the rest of them weren’t. Now, staring up at the ruins of the Academy, he just looked young and scared, his eyes wide and his whole frame tense.
After just a second of staring, Five moved up to the steps, moving through Luther and Diego.
“Vanya,” he yelled. “Ben. Dad.” He paused to glance around as he stepped back down. “Anyone,” he screamed desperately.
“Five, we’re right here,” Vanya said quietly, completely unheard by him.
Five’s jaw clenched and balled his hands into fists. Blue energy wobbled around them. He grunted and tried again, still nothing happened. “Come on,” he muttered as he tried one more time. When it didn’t work, he mumbled, “Shit.”
Five looked back at the Academy, looked right through all of his siblings and collapsed on the sidewalk. He stayed kneeling there, simply watching what little was left of his home burn. Allison walked over to him and tried to touch him, and as expected her hand simply passed through his shoulder.
“Oh, Five,” she said sadly.
He sat there for a half an hour before he took a shuddering breath. After another moment, he stood up and determinedly walked away from the Academy. They all followed after him as he searched the city for hours, time and again finding no one. At one point finding a newspaper. He stared at it for a long moment before tucking it away.
“April 1st, 2019,” he muttered to himself a few times.
The most painful moment to watch was the first time Five found a body. It was a gory scene, the person must have been severely crushed by rubble before the rubble had fallen off of them.
Five had slowly approached it before gagging and turning around and puking. He breathed harshly before getting up and stumbling away from the scene. He threw up one more time before shaking his head.
Five tried again and again to time travel, the same blue energy warping around his hands with no success. After the twentieth time, Five sat down and rubbed his head.
“Shit. Shit,” he yelled. “Okay, okay. Stay calm. Just, just stay calm. So, I’m stuck here for a little bit. That’s okay. I just need to recharge for a little while, then I’ll have the energy to jump,” he muttered. “Yeah, yeah. I must not have enough energy. That’s it. It’s not like I’ve irrevocably fucked up and am going to die here.”
Five laughed with a tinge of hysteria before he shuddered and wrapped his arms around himself. He took a few shaky breaths. “Luther,” he called. “Diego. Allison. Klaus. Ben. Vanya. Please, just, just answer me. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I left for so long. I didn’t mean to. If, if you’re here, please come out. Please. Anyone. Would anyone please be here?” His voice shook dangerously.
Allison placed her hand over her mouth. “Five, we’re not angry at you. If we could be here with you right now, we would be,” she said to him.
“We love you, Five. And we’re here for you, even if you don’t know that,” Ben said.
Five clenched his jaw when he received no answer he could hear. “Supplies. I need supplies,” he told himself.
With that, he levered himself upwards and started walking around collecting things. Somehow, he managed to find a red wagon undamaged, and then he started loading it with whatever food and water he could find. After a few hours of that, he stumbled across some department store. Five pulled out whatever clothes were intact and put them in his wagon. He even managed to find a hat and goggles and a bandana.
He stopped for a moment and stared at something. Allison followed his gaze and saw a mannequin laying in the rubble. It was the only one even a little bit intact. The others had clearly been destroyed, pieces of them laying scattered around the ground. Five walked up to it and said softly, “I guess, you’re alone, too. I’m sorry about your friends. I, I can’t find my siblings…”
He trailed off, squeezing his eyes shut. He took a deep breath and continued, “Maybe, maybe we could be alone together. I, I think I’m gonna be here for awhile. And I’ve never been alone before. I’m, I’m kinda scared,” he admitted quietly before carefully going over and picking up the mannequin with such care it was like he was picking up a real person. He placed her in the wagon, making sure she was upright. “I guess, now, we’re less alone, so there’s less to be scared of. There’s power in numbers after all. Oh, by the way, my name is Five.”
“It hasn’t even been twenty-four hours, and I’m pretty sure our brother’s already lost it,” Diego said.
“Oh come on, that’s not fair. It’s not like this is easy on him,” Vanya snapped.
“I didn’t say it was, but-“
“I’m gonna call you Delores. Do you like that name?” he said. He paused as if waiting for a response. He nodded and said, “Okay, good. Mom had me look through a bunch of baby name books when she was picking our names. I’m guessing she made the others look, too. I didn’t find anything that suited me, and as it was, our dad was a giant dickweed and told Mom to only name six of us, but there’s seven of us. For some stupid reason, Dad wanted to exclude Vanya again. It was stupid. Dad was stupid. Vanya didn’t have powers like the rest of us, but she was still one of us, you know?” Allison and the others glanced over at Vanya awkwardly because they hadn’t treated her like that. Five had really been the only one to do so. Vanya was simply staring at Five with furrowed brows. “So, I told Mom to just give Vanya my name,” Five continued, oblivious to his audience. “Besides, I like being Five. It’s my name. Even if the others wanted, like, actual names and not numbers, I still liked mine. Anyway, all that’s to say, I saw the name Delores in that book. It means sorrow.” Five stopped for a moment before quietly continuing, “Seems appropriate given the circumstances.”
“I, I had no idea that he did that,” Vanya muttered to herself, her eyes wide and her breathing labored. “How could I have not known that?”
No one had any answers for her.
Five continued to walk around. They followed behind him, a silent, invisible procession.
“He’s just a scared little kid,” Allison said after they followed him for a while. “Oh god, he’s a child. He’s a literal child. How, how is he supposed to survive here?”
“Are we just gonna be stuck like this, unable to help or do anything for him?” Luther asked, frustration worming its way into his voice.
“Pretty much. Even if he could hear and see us, there’s only so much a ghost can do for a living person,” Ben said.
Allison had stopped paying attention to where they were going, which proved to be a mistake. She jolted to a stop when she realized that she and the others had passed Five. She turned back and saw him looking at something quizzically. Allison realized where they were immediately and stared in horror as she watched Five slowly approach.
“Five,” she called out, catching the attention of the other. “Five, don’t go over there. Go back. Just go back. Don’t, don’t go over there,” her pleas falling on deaf ears.
He slowly walked up and grabbed the eye out of Luther’s hand. Or rather, his body’s hand.
“Ew, Five. You didn’t know that was fake,” Klaus muttered.
Five stared at it for a moment before slowly standing up and moving closer to see Luther’s face. His breath caught in his throat before he stumbled down and glanced around. He stumbled a little as he ran over to Diego’s body. Five stopped before kneeling down and shaking his shoulder. Diego walked over and knelt next to him. “F-five, come on. It’s okay. Everything will be f-fine,” he said gently, more gently than she had heard him speak in a long time.
“Wake up,” Five muttered. He shook his shoulder a little harder. “Wake up. Please.”
Five’s breathing was starting to speed up and his eyes were becoming increasingly filled with horror. He stood up and stumbled over to Allison’s body.
“Five, don’t look at that. I’m right here. Your big sister is right here,” she pleaded again, hoping against all odds that he would hear her.
He stepped away from her and went over to Klaus’ body. Five stared for a second before stumbling back until his back hit the wall behind him, and he slid down it. He pulled his knees up to his chest and stared at Klaus body before tears started streaming down his face silently. He buried his head in his arms and trembled. Every once in awhile, Allison heard him gasping for air. She sat down across from him. Ben and Vanya sat down on either side of him, while the others filled in around her, so they were sitting in a circle, just staring at their crying baby brother, unable to do anything other than stare and hope that against all odds, he knew that they were there.
No one said anything, just allowed the silence to permeate the air. Five eventually stood up and searched around a little bit more before sighing. He walked over to the area between where Luther’s body and hers and Diego’s bodies were before kneeling down and digging into the dirt with his bare hands.
“Five, what are you doing?” Ben asked.
He just continued to dig, sweat dripping down his face. It took Allison longer than she was proud of to work out what Five was doing. It wasn’t until he had the general shape done and was starting to dig for depth that she realized that he was digging their graves.
“Come on, bud,” Klaus said after Five had been doing this for a couple hours, nearly done with the first grave. “You need to eat and drink and sleep. I think I’ve seen you drink only a few times since you got here.”
Five stopped, and, for a second, Allison thought he heard Klaus. He did get up and go over to his wagon and drink from a water bottle before eating some crackers. He emptied out his wagon, making sure to place Delores somewhere comfortable and where she could stay upright. Five dragged the wagon over to Diego’s body before going over and pushing the rubble off and attempting to carry him. Eventually, Five managed to drag him over and set him in the wagon. Five panted as he pulled the wagon over to the first grave. He stopped and stared for a few seconds.
Allison was concerned about the blank look in his eyes. Five had grimaced, his breath hitching when he first touched Diego’s body, but now he seemed… empty. Like he wasn’t really here. Five dragged the body into the grave and arranged it so Diego’s arms were crossed and his eyes were closed. Five buried him. Afterwards, he searched around before finding a metal pole, a large rock, and a sharp rock. He went over and shoved the metal pole into the ground just above the grave. He sat down and started carving into the large rock. After about a half an hour, Five finished and set the rock down. On it, was Diego’s name, crudely carved out.
Then Five started the painstaking process over again. He dug two more graves, one for Allison and one for Klaus. He buried both of them, gave both of them metal poles and rocks with their names. Five went and tried to move the rubble off of Luther, but quickly gave up when there was an ominous groaning sound. He clenched his jaw and started stacking rubble on top of Luther. When he was done with that, he gave him the same markers.
Allison was relieved when he finished because he had sweat dripping down his pale face, and his hands had cuts littered all over them that were lazily bleeding. Except, he didn’t stop. He grabbed more rocks and stacked them into two more piles and gave them each a marker. One for Ben and one for Vanya.
Once he was done, he just collapsed on the ground, his arms and legs shaking. He sat up and breathed for awhile, taking small sips of water every once in a while.
Five sighed and said, “I guess I should say something. That’s what you’re supposed to do at funerals, right?” Nothing answered Five’s question. “I, uh, I don’t really know what to say. You guys are my siblings and the only family, the only people, I really ever had,” he started with a hollow voice. “But now, now you’re gone, and I’m alone. Maybe that serves me right. I’m sorry,” his voice broke and he grimaced. “I’m sorry for so much. I, I couldn’t protect you guys. I was supposed to be your protector. I’ve been your protector since we were five, and I realized that we didn’t have anyone. We just had each other, and someone had to step up to protect us, so I did. I know you probably only ever saw me as arrogant and competitive, but I hope you know how much I loved you. I would have done anything for you guys. I did everything in my power to keep you guys safe. I guess I failed. I failed spectacularly.” Tears had started to drip down his face during his speech before he stopped as his breathing hitched and he took shuddering breaths. He continued, voice choked with grief, “I’m sorry. I never should have time traveled. I should have stayed with you guys. I just,” he gasped a few times before speaking again, “I just thought that if I could learn to time travel, then I could get us away from Dad. I thought we could use my ability to run away somewhere Dad couldn’t find us because I did the math, and if we simply ran away, Dad would have found us eventually. I knew that if we time traveled, though, Dad wouldn’t be able to get us. Except, I fucked that up, and now you’re all dead—“
Five gasped for breath as little whimpers fell from his mouth before they became full blown cries of anguish. It was a kind of anguish Allison had never truly heard, the kind reserved only for a grief so deep it could consume and kill.
It took a moment for what Five said to catch up to her. “Wait, what?” she muttered.
Diego was staring at him with wide, horrified eyes. “He wanted to take us with him,” he muttered. “I, I resented him,” he laughed humorlessly. “I resented him for getting out of that damn house, thinking that he had just fucked off into oblivion and left us to our fates with Dad. But, he was here, and he did this for us. He got stuck here because of us.”
Diego didn’t seem like he was really talking to anyone, just staring at Five with a lost look that Allison had never seen on his face.
“I didn’t know,” Klaus said. Allison looked over to him. “I had no idea he cared this much. I love him. He’s our brother, but, honestly, I thought he barely tolerated us.”
“I honestly thought the same. Except for Vanya and Ben. I barely tolerated him. It always felt like he was trying to one up me,” Allison said. “I think I was a little jealous. He was always so untouchable. Always so proud. He was never afraid. I think a part of me wished I was like that.”
“Maybe none of us really know Five,” Ben said. “I knew how loyal he was, but I also thought that his insistence on time travel was his ego talking. I was so angry at him for leaving. I missed him so much. And I didn’t realize until he was gone how much I needed him. And there was this ugly part of me that hated him for not listening, for not sitting back down and just doing what he was told for once. I don’t think I was as good of a brother as I thought I was.”
“C’mon, Ben, you’re a great brother,” Klaus said.
Ben scoffed. “Am I? I couldn’t help you. I can’t help Five. I can’t help anyone. I couldn’t even help myself,” he snapped.
“Ben, don’t beat yourself up over this. It’s not like any of us saw this either,” Allison said.
Ben huffed and got up. “Then maybe all of us were bad siblings,” he snapped as he paced back and forth behind where Five was huddled. “I mean, did any of us notice that Five considered himself our protector? Did any of you fucking notice the responsibility he was putting on himself? ‘Cause I sure as hell didn’t, and I was one of the people closest to him. Did you, Vanya? Did you ever fucking notice?”
Vanya flinched when Ben’s vitriol was directed at her.
“Ben, come on, that’s not fair,” Allison said.
Ben stared at her incredulously for a moment before laughing bitterly. “Fair? Fair. Are you fucking kidding me, Allison? Newsflash, none of this is fair. Do you know how long it’s been since I was able to touch someone? Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve been able to talk to someone besides Klaus? Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve been able to affect anything in the world?” he shouted before attempting to kick a rock on the ground, his foot passing through it harmlessly. Ben ran his hands through his hair and laughed again, his smile sharp and venomous. “No, none of this is fucking fair. I mean, look at him. Look at our thirteen-year-old brother.” Allison glanced back at Five. He was still curled up, his skin and hair and clothes dirty with ash. He was so small. “Tell me how our sister causing the very apocalypse our brother is trapped in is fair.”
Allison looked away, unable to answer.
“I, I didn’t mean for this to happen,” Vanya muttered.
“Yeah, well, it did. And now Five has to live with it, and the rest of us have to watch. Have to watch him suffer and mourn and die a slow, painful death. And let me tell you, it is maddening to watch someone you love hurt and never being able to do anything about it,” Ben said, his voice started out spitting acid before it quieted down to something softer, sadder.
“Why didn’t he tell us?” Vanya muttered, her gaze distant even as she stared at Five’s trembling form.
“What? Like this is his fault?” Ben snapped, clearly still agitated from his outburst.
“No, of course not,” Vanya said. “I, I just. Was I not a good enough sister for him to tell me his plan?”
Ben deflated at that. He sighed. “No. Vanya, you were a good sister to him. You know he always kept things close to the chest. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I, I just get so frustrated as a ghost. You’re just there, always watching and never able to act.”
“You were right, though,” she replied miserably. “I should have paid more attention. I think I got so caught up in my own misery I never bothered to look past it. I had so much anger and resentment and bitterness inside me, and I, I just took it out on you guys, and I took it on the world. And, and my actions have consequences,” she muttered as she moved over to sit next to Five.
“I think all of us are terrible at that. It took dying for me to look past my own… box of misery, or whatever. Even then, I don’t think I was very good at it,” Ben replied as he sat on the other side of Five.
They fell into an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes before Five lifted his head and wiped away his tears. He slowly stood up, his jaw and fists clenched. He stared at their graves solemnly before saying quietly, steel lining his voice, “I’m going to save you. I’ll save all of you. I’ll save everyone. I’ll figure out how to go back and I’ll stop whatever it is that caused this. I’ll save the world and, more importantly, I’ll save you guys. I promise.”