Sweet, slim, delicate notes floated on the air, brushing against the walls, and gently rolling down stairs. They wrapped around banisters, and glided over countertops, spilling like clear, cool water around the household. They swung up high, wrapping around chandeliers hanging from vaulted ceilings, and made their way through hallways, twisting into rooms and over dully shining tiles.
Five leaned his head against the wall behind him, and closed his eyes. Finding the wood behind him cool, he rolled his face to the side, pressing his temple against the wall, and sighed softly in relief when he found that the cold surface slightly alleviated his throbbing headache. He shifted, stretching his legs out in front of him, pressing them close to the floor.
He was supposed to be studying, he knew. But he’d spent so much time staring at the geometric proofs lying on his desk in his room, he could swear the numbers and letters were now imprinted in his brain. The more he’d stared, the less sense they’d made, and the more insistent his headache had become. He knew it shouldn’t be bothering him this much, his father’s voice ringing out sharply in his head that it is simply pain, Number Five, temporary, something that can be worked through, and certainly not something that should be allowed to hinder your studies. He wasn’t supposed to let it bother him, he was supposed to work through it. According to Reginald, at least. Dear old dad, the cause of his headache in the first place. The cause of his very bones feeling like they were all about to snap and give out, of his sweat soaked uniform, of the bruises on his knees where he had landed when he just could not jump anymore.
He grit his teeth against all the aches in his body. He absolutely despised progress checks- that one damned week every few months where Reginald would spend hours or even sometimes full days with them individually, testing the new ranges of their abilities, watching them get stronger, and constantly demanding more, and more and more-
Eventually, of course, Five had collapsed, (he hadn’t thrown up this time, though, something he was sure Reginald had written down in that damned notebook of his) and his father had had no choice but to send him back to his room with directions to continue his studies and a vague promise that they’d pick up from here the next day. Then he’d left the room, (probably in search of another child to torment, but Five could not find it in himself to care) leaving Five to drag himself back to his room and collapse again- this time however on his decidedly softer bed, and lie there until he found the strength to peel himself out of his sweat soaked uniform and change into another, much drier, one. Then he’d dropped into the chair at his desk and after catching his head from falling forward and smacking against the table, he had, with a sigh so loud and dramatic it could rival one of Klaus’, pulled his geometry textbook towards him and flipped open his notebook.
And then the minutes had started ticking by, and the page had stayed clean of any writing, and the pain behind his eyes had grown, and grown and it was just when he’d been seriously considering knocking himself out when the clear, familiar notes had made their way into his room, breaking through his exhaustion induced haze.
So now he was sitting on the hallway floor, back against the wall, just outside Vanya’s room, letting her music wash over him. He leaned into the feeling of it trickling through his mind, pushing aside all the hurt, and pain, and he was just so tired-
He shifted again, brow creasing, and pushed himself up a bit, sitting a little straighter. The cold dusty floor in the narrow hallway wasn’t exactly comfortable, but this was the closest he could be to the music without feeling like an intruder. It’s not that Vanya would’ve considered him an intruder- on the contrary, he was pretty sure he was one of the only people his sister even liked in this household- but he knew the music wouldn’t be the same with him in the room. Contrary to his siblings’ belief, self consciousness wasn’t a novel concept to Five. Vanya was a shy kid, and he knew that with anyone added to the equation that was her and her violin, playing just wouldn’t be the same for her, she wouldn't be able to get lost in the music like Five knew she did. His sister truly loved playing, and the violin was probably the only thing she loved that Reginald actually encouraged. Five wouldn’t take that away from her.
So Five stayed quiet, just listening. Vanya made a mistake, tripping over a few notes, and the music halted. She picked up a few measures back, slower this time, and the corner of Five’s mouth ticked up in the ghost of a smile when she managed to play it correctly. He wasn’t sure how long he sat there, but if he had to guess he’d say it couldn’t have been more than twenty minutes (he’d been sent back to his room around four thirty and had left around a quarter to five, meaning there was a little under an hour until he needed to be present for dinner-) when he felt the unmistakable vibrations of footsteps that could belong to nobody but Luther coming his way. While his body had automatically tensed up, his mind immediately jumped to trying to decide between stay here and be found by his siblings and somehow find the energy to stand up and leave, like a coward. He didn’t get to come to a decision, however, because Luther had already rounded the corner and-
Five sighed, shoulders slumping, and peeled his eyes open to find Luther- woah, how did he get so close so fast? Five must be more drained than he’d thought- standing uncomfortably close, towering over him, monocle glinting in the lamplight, expression stern and disappointed, mouth opening to issue another command and please he couldn’t-
He blinked, and the monocle was gone, replaced by Luther's young and confused (and bordering on angry, because when Luther didn’t understand something he got angry at it like the simple mind he was and okay, maybe that was a little mean, but Five was tired damn it) face, still pretty high above him and still too close for comfort.
“Five? What are you doing?” Luther asked again, because whoops, Five hadn’t answered him the first time. The violin music falters, and then cuts out, leaving behind a hard, tense silence.
“Weren’t you heading somewhere?” He snaps, and yes, he probably should've said that with a nicer tone, but as soon as Vanya had stopped playing his headache had slammed back into him full force, and god he just wanted it to stop-
“Uh, yeah, but-” Luther steps back a pace and Five breathes a tiny bit easier- “what are you doing?”
“Telling you to mind your own business, because apparently that’s needed.”
And there was Vanya. Damn it. Five glanced to his right to see her timidly poking her head out into the hall.
Five trained his eyes back onto Luther, who he noted with a scowl was taking in Five’s bruised knees and trembling fingers which he stubbornly clenched into fists, and the fact that Five hadn’t jumped away yet, as he was wont to do, and Five could practically hear the underused wheels in his head grinding while putting two and two together, and he was opening his damn mouth again, probably to ask another question that Five really did not want or have the energy to answer and-
“Luther, is that you? Luther come here you’ve gotta see this-” Allison's voice unexpectedly rang out from further down the hall and Luther looked up, visibly torn between the rarity that was a vulnerable Five and the need to come when called, and there was a moment where Five geared up, thinking he’d choose the former-
But it was over with a quick “Coming!” and the small stir of air as Luther stepped over and past him, heading down the hall and turning into Allison’s room, the soft click of the door shutting signalling his departure. Five blew out a breath and drew his knees back up to his chest, suddenly filled with waves of gratitude for Allison's inexplicable need to share everything she learns with Luther. He really did not understand what she saw in the guy.
After a few moments of silence, there was the soft rustling of fabric to his right and he opened his eyes- and wait, he had closed them? When had that happened?- to see Vanya kneeling down to sit cross legged beside him, half in and half out of her room. Because, right. She was still there.
“Five?” She starts tentatively, and oh her voice is so much quieter than Luther’s brusque demanding tone- “What… what were you doing?”
“It doesn’t mat-” He cut himself off when he saw her face begin to fall, Vanya was not Luther, he reminded himself. He pressed his hands against his eyes, biting back a sigh. “I was listening.”
Vanya's eyebrows lift. “To my playing?” She asks in surprise, and the slight disbelief he hears in her voice is pretty heartbreaking, and it just won’t do.
“Yeah, of course.” He glances over at her. “You’re pretty good.”
“Oh,” she breathes, and is silent for a moment. Then, “you wanna come in?”
And there it is. Oh no, I’d much rather just sit outside your room on the cold hard dusty floor and be gawked at by our siblings. He huffs a quiet laugh. He can’t exactly say that, now, can he. But he’s on the ground, which means he’ll have to stand up, and he doesn’t trust his legs to be able to get him vertical, forget walking. Thinking back, he has no idea how he was even able to get from his room to here in the first place. And now, he seems to have gotten exponentially more tired- something he knows from experience happens when he jumps so much that he’s left shaking and weak, but not enough that he passes out. And isn’t that all kinds of messed up. But no, he seriously doubts he’d be able to even get himself off the ground and if this were any one of his other siblings he’d simply scrounge up any last remaining dregs of strength and jump away to his room to pass out there, in private, thank you very much, no matter how dangerous jumping while in a state like this could potentially be.
But this isn’t any of his other siblings. This is someone who just asked him into their room, because she’d like his company. He’s pretty certain none of his other siblings would want him anywhere near their rooms, let alone invite him in. He’s an asshole, and contrary to popular belief he’s aware of the fact. And yet.
And yet this isn’t one of his other siblings.
This is Vanya.
So, ignoring all of his instincts screaming at him to jump away, he instead says-
Vanya smiles, and Five watches her get up, unmoving. He braces himself, and prepares for what promises to be an embarrassing spectacle- someone who can tear through space and, hypothetically, time and he can’t even find the strength to stand up properly- when a hand drops into his vision.
Not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, he latches on, and Vanya practically lifts his numb, useless, aching body up and hauls him the short distance to her bed.
And, well. He wouldn’t say he collapses onto the bed- his legs just suddenly refuse to hold him, knees buckling, and with a small noise of surprise he goes down. It’s really only thanks to a sharp push from Vanya that he even lands on the bed, momentum rolling him onto his side- but he does, land on the bed that is, and that’s what's important. His head hits the sheets- he thinks they might’ve been pink once, but they’ve been washed so many times that the pink is more of a white, now- and not the hardwood floor.
It’s the little things.
He feels the mattress dip behind him, and after a few moments he somehow corrals the strength to roll over and prop himself up on his elbow. Vanya’s looking at him, he knows, but he can’t find it in himself to meet her gaze, so instead he picks at a loose string coming out of the covers. The silence hangs, and he knows he’ll have to break it, because if he knows anything about Vanya it’s that she can be content to sit in silence for hours and it’s not that Five is a very talkative person himself, he simply...
It startles him, more than a bit, and he belatedly realizes that the word came out of his mouth. It’s mumbled, quiet, and to be honest a little pathetic, but he knows it’s enough when Vanya smiles and reaches behind him, drawing out a simple grey pillow, like they all have, from under the covers, and thumps it onto his stomach. Not looking to see what he does with it, she hops off the bed and after softly closing the door wordlessly goes to rummage through a drawer in her desk. Five feels his lips curl up slightly, the familiarity comforting him more than some violin music ever could, and, feeling a tad bit better, he kicks his shoes off, hearing them drop to the ground with two soft thunks, props the pillow up against the headboard and sags back against it.
He barely has time to process that Vanya has turned around and tossed something to him before it hits him in the chest and falls to his lap.
He looks up, feigning offense, because “Ow! Vanya, what-?”, but Vanya just laughs and bounces back over to the bed, sliding onto it motioning for him to look.
Five lifts up the little rectangular red package, turning it over. His eyes widen.
“Vanya, where’d you get this?” he says, voice hushed and scandalized. “If dad saw you with it he’d have a fit!”
She glances at the KitKat bar in Five’s hands, and grins. “Mom gave it to me. I don’t know where she got it from- but I mean do I care? And,” she rolls her eyes, and leans forward conspiratorially, “dad won’t see me with it.” She glances meaningfully at the closed door. When Five just gapes, she leans further with an exasperated sigh and snatches it from his fingers, tearing the wrapper open and giving it back to him. “Eat it.” She urges.
“What? No, come on, I can’t this is yours-” He’s cut off by her breaking off a piece and shoving it in his mouth, which- is so unfair, using his current weakened state to do a nice thing for him, and it’s also so like Vanya. He wisely shuts up and chews, but still determinedly snaps it in half, muttering about her “at least having some of it”.
They sit there on Vanya's bed, munching on forbidden chocolate, and Five realizes distantly that this is the best he’d felt all week. Sure, his head feels like it might explode at any loud noise, his bones seem to have turned into lead, his muscles have decided to stop working for the time being and he’d be lying if he said he didn’t feel like absolute shit- if it weren’t for Vanya's comfortable, light presence in the room, happily existing just across from him.
And then they’ve finished the KitKat bar, and Vanya had thrown the wrapper out the window, the wind carrying it away into the street to be muddied and run over and flattened into the pavement. And Five had kept waiting, and waiting, and dreading the moment when she’d ask what happened, but she doesn’t, and doesn’t. And after minutes of them talking, and Vanya telling him about the current piece she’s learning, Five finds himself relaxing minutely, little by little, until he’s probably the least wound up he’s been all day.
And then there’s the harsh grating ting of the dinner bell ringing, somehow reaching every room in the house, and they can hear Luther and Allison zip past Vanya’s room and down the stairs, and Five’s gaze resignedly zeroes in on the clock on Vanya’s wall, it’s arrows insistently pointing at the six and the twelve. Yet another silence falls over them, and unlike the others this one is anything but comfortable, because they both know they have to go. After a few seconds Vanya slowly stands from the chair she’d moved to when she’d started talking about her music, and holds out another hand to him.
Sighing, he takes it, and gingerly slides to his feet. Sugar always helps re-energize him after the crashes that come from overtaxing his abilities- a pretty common occurrence thanks to Reginald- and it seems like the single bar of chocolate and wafer has given him enough strength to stand and, fingers crossed, get downstairs to the dinner table. He’s not sure if Vanya knew this, but he’s guessing she didn’t, since he’d only shared the fact with one person (because admitting that something helps him means he needs help, which reveals that he has a weakness and yes, all his siblings know he has somewhat of a limit- they never fail to remind him of that, that he’s the only one of them with a finite power- but admitting it still doesn’t, and probably never will, sit right with him) and that person being Reginald there was very little chance that he went gossiping to his second daughter about Fives sweet tooth. Because that’s what his father had assured Five of- that this couldn’t be true and that Five was simply trying to get himself candies, like the ungrateful child he was.
Yeah, that conversation hadn’t gone over too well. Five suppresses a wince as he remembers it.
They’ve just stepped off the stairs and are just outside the room and Five’s close- so close- to his seat at the table where all he’ll be expected to do is sit and eat, when he’s stopped by a hand closing around his arm. Which, he realizes, yeah, if Vanya wants to say something she should do it now, before they’re in the strict no talking zone.
So he turns- decidedly not swaying dangerously, thank you very much- eyebrows raised in expectation. He hears feet tapping and hushed whispers behind him from the rest of his siblings as they await him and Vanya, and then their father. Vanya hesitates, and he bites back the sharp spit it out already, patiently waiting as she works up to whatever she wants to say.
“Five,” she starts, glancing behind him, probably checking to see if Reginald had arrived yet- “you know you can-” she pauses again. “You can come in next time. You don’t have to sit outside.”
Well that’s. Nice. He hates to think that there’ll be a next time, but of course there will be, there’ve been so many already, yet he forcibly derails that train of thought. Instead he smiles- though it feels so small he’s not even sure it’s visible- and nods in thanks. Vanya seems to slightly deflate in relief- had she really thought he’d turn the offer down?- and then reaches out a hand to steady him as he dips, his left knee deciding to take a quick break from holding him up. At the sharp sound of their father's approaching footsteps, both siblings frantically stumble into the dining room, taking their places behind their seats mere seconds before Reginald appears in the room.
Five notices Klaus closing his eyes in something that looks akin to relief when he sees Vanya get to her chair before their father enters the room, and he’s pleased that at least someone else at the table seemed to care.
At his father’s sharp “Sit.” he sinks down into his chair, and out of the corner of his eye sees Ben and Diego glancing at him and exchanging money through Klaus- they’d been betting on if he’d make it to the table in time, it seems like, and it also looked like Ben had won, Five noted, as he saw the five dollar bill slip under the table.
As the dull drone of the recording Reginald had chosen for this dinner sets into the background- something about rock layers, Five thinks- he rests his head in his hand, the ache behind his eyes returning once again, sparking with each clatter of silverware and scrape of a chair. Yeah, there’ll definitely be a next time, he thinks, returning to the thoughts he’d forced back a few minutes before. Hell, the next time will probably be tomorrow, if the way his father is eyeing him is anything to go by. But he smiles, and resolutely turns his head to the right, successfully replacing his side view of Reginald with that of Vanya. He smiles, thinking about what Vanya had just offered him.
He honestly doesn’t think she even realizes how much this meant to Five. What she’d given him.
But he smiles as he begins to eat, swallowing down cooked vegetables and rice, because now he knows that next time, he’ll have a place to go.
He smiles because next time, he won’t have to be alone.