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Sometimes Vanya misses her pills.

It’s awful, but they dimmed the world down to a series of manageable, predictable tasks: wake up now, eat now, read now, clean now, practice now, teach now, sleep now. Feelings were things that happened often to other people and to her only in the window between one dose wearing off and the next one kicking in. Every day between eleven and eleven-thirty in the morning, and again between six-thirty and seven at night, she would look at her life, built around music yet comprehensively silent, and wonder how she’d ended up not only ordinary but boring. Then she would take another pill and the brief knot this question tied in her chest would fade away. It took her years and the actual end of the world to see that this knot was rage.

Seventeen years of being an outsider among her own family, followed by thirteen years of being an outsider among strangers and a handful of months (or maybe a lifetime) of being an outsider even to herself. The urge to participate died eventually.  The pills dulled its sharp edges, and hers.

And now, voila: no pills. No tatty cheap apartment she never bothered to fill because she didn’t know how to want to take up space. No quiet routine. Very little quiet. And all the participation she could want.

Quite a bit more than she wants, sometimes. A single meal can be such an ordeal in this family.

“I just think we might want to consider a softer approach,” Klaus says. He scrapes a mess of soggy bread from a frying pan onto a plate.

“That’s kind of a low bar to clear,” Allison mutters, eyeing the bread thing. Pudding. Casserole? What has Klaus cooked? Why has Klaus cooked? “Considering you and Diego were just recommending we kidnap one of them and get them drunk enough to spill the details of their lives when you beat it out of them.”

“In our home,” Klaus whines, stomping a foot. “We have a right to know, don’t we? It doesn’t have to be all rubber hoses and bright lights.”

“Look me in the face and tell me you honestly think of that place as home, Klaus, go on.”

“Seriously, what the hell even was that cube thing,” Diego mumbles around a mouthful of eggs.

“Right? Like was it a person, or a robot nanny, or a sex toy?”

Sex toy.” Luther looks up from the heap of food he’s working through with a bewildered frown. “Klaus, shut up.”

“Maybe dear old papa found better motivators this time around. I think I’d have responded more positively to a fleshlight than a night locked in a tomb full of corpses. You know we all could have used a little more carrot and a little less stick, big guy. Then again, the right stick…”

“No really, shut up,” Diego echoes, looking vaguely ill.

“Where’s Five,” Luther says in a blatant bid to change the subject. Allison flaps a hand.

“Around,” she says vaguely. “You know Five, he probably drank a pot of coffee at four in the morning and is writing on a wall somewhere now.”

This is probably true: Five doesn’t seem to have any idea what to do with downtime. Or with them, though Vanya thinks he’s been trying. He doesn’t blink away every time he’s in a room with them, and he sits through the occasional dinner, though he’s gotten pretty monosyllabic for a guy who usually takes every opportunity to remind people how smart he is.

“Tiny assassin is probably out killing people again,” Diego mutters. Allison throws a grape at him with some force.

“Did Dad really lock you in a tomb?” Vanya asks, and feels the sudden silence settle on her shoulders. She hunches them. This is what happens when she decides to change the subject.

Klaus fake-laughs and sits, hiding behind his ridiculous hair. “Only every Thursday for three years.” He skitters a glance at her, and then peels one of the soggy bread slices off the pile bare-handed, because apparently silverware is pedestrian. “I mean, we’re all sorry you were left out—that we left you out, I know I know, don’t blow up the moon or anything—but I’m not sorry you were left out of some of it, you know?”

Klaus is serious so rarely that the sight dries up Vanya’s voice for a minute. Or maybe what does that is imagining him young and bony and quiet, curled into stone walls with his hands over his ears waiting for a door to open.

“Dad wasn’t—” Luther chokes himself off. “Shit,” he sighs. “He was an asshole,” he says, looking at Klaus, who blinks and pushes some of the hair out of his face. Diego claps Luther on the shoulder.

Vanya sips her coffee, steels herself, and reaches for the soggy bread as the only peace offering she can think of right now. “I guess I’m not sorry either,” she says. “Not about everything.”

It’s true: she is many things, and they all tie knots in her chest and sometimes wake her vibrating the glass of the window by her bed, but. She is not sorry to have missed out on everything.

Probably not.

God, what does it say that their father could do that to Klaus, who was forever the lookout because he hated violence? Or whatever it is that he did to Diego, who, she knows after almost a week in this cabin, still has nightmares about it? Or to Allison, who carries a whole suitcase of guilt with her everywhere? Or to Luther, poor Luther, who really doesn’t know who he is without an order to follow. To Five, who never talked about it but used to blink into her room afterward and ask her to play for him. Or to Ben…

Ben, who didn’t survive it.

All of them were so powerful, but Dad pushed them in terrible ways. And yet he thought the best option for Number Seven was dosing a toddler with antipsychotics and locking her in a vault.

A pill would be nice right now. A pill would be perfect. Vanya shovels the entire slice of bread-thing into her mouth and tries to chew.

“Fuck him,” she says around the starch. Diego chokes on his eggs.

Yes,” Allison laughs.

Klaus raises both hands in a victory wave, then grimaces and spits the bread into his cupped palm.

 

~~

 

Klaus’s cabin—apparently it is Klaus’s, through some sort of estate, which is both bizarre and somehow utterly unsurprising—has a pond. Not much of one, not like the farm in Dallas. It looks like it was made. It’s still nice: the sounds of the city are muffled by trees and bushes, and the air smells like water and dirt and growing things. Vanya bends to trail her fingers through the water. Dallas is a knot in her stomach, a memory of Sissy’s hands sliding up her shoulders, into her hair. Curls of cigarette smoke rising in the barn.

So many years of not feeling, and then an abundance of that, too. She never had the chance to find out until now that loneliness is the ghost of love.

Vanya shuts her eyes, breathes, reaches for the pure certainty she’d felt at that other, long-ago-yet-last-week lake. The resonance of voices and car engines and dishes clinking in the cabin and leaves fluttering gets louder, vibrating in her chest. Louder. Her heartbeat is timpani. Staccato. Her nerves are strings stretched taut over the fingerboard of her body. She draws a note across them.

It hurts: it’s wonderful. It’s the polar opposite of boring.

The pond is curling silently upward when she opens her eyes.

“What the shit,” Diego says from behind her. Vanya startles and loses the note. The water comes down with a smacking roar they must be able to hear half a mile away. She turns, shivering and soaked, to glare at Diego.

“Maybe you shouldn’t surprise me,” she says, annoyed, and then has to bend and brace her hands on her knees. “Ugh.”

“You okay?”

“Yeah. Just—I dunno. Winded, or something?”

“Here.” Diego approaches. His hand on her shoulder: touch is still kind of odd since she got her memory back. She was untouchable for such a long time. “Breathe with me. In, then hold it, then out, then hold it.”

A fleeting memory of therapy sessions makes her cough wet laughter. Diego just waits her out, unusually patient. Vanya wonders how long this phase will last before he needs to assert himself in some ridiculously macho way.

Just be grateful, she decides, and tries to loosen the knot as she tries to follow his exaggerated breathing. It does sort of help.

“Better?”

“Yeah,” she murmurs, and risks straightening. It’s too soon: a wave of dizziness makes her stagger, and Diego is the only thing that stops her from landing on her face in the very wet grass. “Shit.”

“You overdid it.” Diego eases her down and sits next to her. “Just take it easy, it’ll pass. We’ve all been there.”

Vanya rubs her forehead. “This makes no sense. How can I blow up the moon and be okay but move some water around and be exhausted?”

“Mmn.” Diego leans his elbows on his knees, squints out at the pond, which is still sloshing a little. A family of ducks have retreated to the shore opposite, quacking frantically. He grins at the noise. “You had some build-up to that, and you were pretty pissed off,” he says casually. It is amazing how casually. She almost killed him, and he’s lounging next to her reminiscing like it was just a hilariously bad family reunion.

Then again, this family. It’s probably just how they do reunions: fall apart while trying to get it together, and then end the world while trying to save it.  

“I don’t know how to figure this out,” Vanya sighs. “It’s better, since Dallas: I had to learn, and it was…”

“Easier without the rest of us around to mess it up for you?”

That. Yes. That. She curls down into herself a little.

“Hey,” Diego says, and nudges her shoulder with his. “I got an idea, and it’s a good one, so you’re gonna have to just roll with it.”

“What’s that?”

He slaps her shoulder and stands. “Come on, sister, I’m gonna teach you how to throw a punch.”

~

“Ow,” Vanya moans.

“Oh kid, you got a lot more of that in your future if you want to keep going with this.”

Ow,” Vanya says again. Her hands feel like they’ve been run over. “How the hell do you keep punching when you’re numb from the elbows down, I don’t understand.”

“You get used to it. Eventually.”

“I’m not sure I want to, honestly. I mean thanks, but—look at me, Diego. I’m never going to be in your weight class.”

“A fair point.” Diego stares down at her, thinking. Vanya shakes out her aching fingers.

“You could ask Five,” he says. Vanya aims a narrow look at him, but he doesn’t appear to be making fun of her, for once.

“Are you serious?”

Diego shrugs. “He got the same training I did, at least until he left. And then he got some none of us did when he joined the Commission. And he’s about your size for now. You should learn how to take down a grown-ass man, don’t get me wrong: but it’s true that’s not necessarily where you ought to start.” He rubs the back of his neck. “And to be perfectly honest, you’re still pissed at me because I am admittedly a huge dick on occasion, and I’m still pissed at you about your fucking book and also almost killing me, and serious as I am about you learning to control your body as well as your powers, I suppose maybe hitting each other isn’t the healthiest way to sort that out.”

Vanya stares at him. She bites the smile back as long as she can, but eventually she can’t, and Diego scowls at her. “That’s disturbingly mature of you.”

“Fuck you too, Vanya.” Diego sits right there in the dirt, bends into a dramatic stretch. He seems more at home in his skin right now than can remember seeing before, though that doesn’t mean he’s not showing off. He absolutely is. Nobody should be able to bend like that. “I get why you wrote it,” he says, contorting his spine in a way that looks violently uncomfortable. “There was a lot we—okay, a lot I—didn’t see happening. I always thought you had it made because Dad wasn’t on your ass every second, comparing you to everyone else and pushing you to see what would break. I didn’t know what he did to you, or what he said to you.”

Vanya stares down at him. “I don’t think we’re ready for this conversation,” she says carefully.

Diego smirks up at her. “Now who’s all mature and shit.”

“Funny.” It’s a bad idea, but she sits anyway. “I get why you hate it,” she says to her sore knuckles. “I didn’t know how angry I was when I wrote it, because I hadn’t really felt anything in years. And there was a lot I didn’t see either. I would have given anything to have been one of you guys, but I didn’t know what he was doing to you, not really. And,” she adds, determined to be honest, even if the truth is horrible: “I didn’t try very hard to find out. Or to help you. I wish I had.”

Diego grunts and picks at a knuckle, then stretches some more, clearly very aware of how he looks doing so. God, what a pain in the ass he’d be as a date, preening like a cat one second and bellowing for attention the next. He is still so desperate to prove himself. But he is trying. They all are, Vanya supposes.

If only she had any idea what that means.

“Anyway, go on, ask Five to show you the ropes,” Diego says, twisting into a ridiculous pose. “He’d go easy on you, I think: he always liked you better than the rest of us.”

“I’m not sure Five actually likes any of us, Diego,” Vanya says, and eases carefully onto her back. She is going to hurt for days. “He just loves us, and if growing up in this hot mess of a family taught me anything, it’s that the two don’t have to go together.”

“This is true. Stretch your hands, by the way: you don’t want those muscles to stiffen up. I don’t know shit about music, but I bet you need your hands pretty loose for the violin.”

Vanya sits up. It feels like there is a knot tying itself into every vertebra in her spine. She wiggles her fingers and tries to breathe evenly. “I—no—I’m not sure I should play again. No. I mean. No. I shouldn’t.”

Her brother pauses in the middle of folding himself into a pretzel. “Bullshit,” he says seriously.

“It’s not like there are instruments laying around here anyway, so—”

Bullshit.” Diego unfolds quickly, somehow catches a foot on an elbow and falls sideways, then rights himself to put a finger in her face. “Total bullshit. You listen to me. Having powers is a crapshoot, okay, and sure, maybe yours are more of a crap cannon, but Vanya. In that theater.” He laughs a little. “I was getting ready to take you down and you were getting ready to take us all out, and I was terrified because I knew you could, but all I could think for a minute was how damn beautiful the music was. I wish I’d gone to see you play before. Don’t stop now that I’m finally pulling my head out of my ass.”

Oh.

“Oh,” Vanya says, like a dumbass. Diego frowns at her, then his face softens. He makes an awkward gesture toward her head. “What.”

“Just this,” Diego says, and brushes her face, which is wet.

“Oh shit, sorry.” She wipes her face. “I keep crying. It’s really annoying.”

“You’ve got some lost time to make up for, I guess. Don’t worry about it, you big baby.”

“Go to hell, Diego.”

“Ladies first.” He slings an arm over her shoulder. He smells like a barn and he hugs like a bouncer ushering her out of a club before she causes a scene, but it’s sort of nice. “Just promise me you won’t stop, okay?” he says. “You can figure it out. And ask Five about training. It’ll be worth it. The physical stuff is a discipline you can fall back on. It helps with the rest of it. And it’ll be nice to know you can handle yourself when leveling the block isn’t your best option.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not looking forward to it, but okay.” Vanya pulls away a little to look at him. “Why are you pushing me at Five, though?” Diego’s gaze slides sideways. “Diego, if you didn’t want to—”

“No! Shit. No, that’s not it. I meant it about you being similar sizes and maybe having a little less baggage between you. But maybe…” He shakes his head. “Maybe I’m feeling a little guilty. I said some shit to him back in ’63. I meant it: he’s an arrogant little prick, he stranded us all in time and then when he showed up he left me in an insane asylum because we had different priorities, so I was pretty pissed off.”

And he wants her to fix it. Of course. “What did you say?”

Diego hunches. “We were arguing about Dad and Kennedy, and that tiny psycho was defending Dad. I may have implied that he’d had it easier because he’d…skipped out on the bad years.”

Her brother is such a hothead, god. He’s made a career out of speaking first and thinking afterward. “Ouch. But I’ll be honest, I don’t think that’s even close to the worst thing you’ve said to him,” Vanya murmurs. “Though it’s probably worth apologizing for.”

“Nah, you didn’t see his face.” Diego hunches a little more. “I didn’t even know I could get under his skin. I mean, he’s always pissed off, but it’s Five. I think half the time he thinks of us as a daycare he’s gotten stuck managing.”

This is accurate enough to make her snort.

“Right? And yeah, I’ll say I’m sorry, but I kind of doubt the little shit would hear it as anything but an insult. I just think, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, that maybe he could use somebody to talk to, and if it’s any of us, it’s gonna be you. You have perspective the rest of us don’t.”

“Such as?”

Diego looks at her for a long time. It takes some effort to hold his gaze. “Your book aside, and Five’s… everything aside, I think you two were the only ones who never stopped believing that we’re a family,” he says finally. “And neither of you was alone by choice. Oh shit, Vanya, don’t cry again.”

“You’re really bad at this,” Vanya says. It comes out a little strangled.

Diego heaves a sigh and pats at her head, then heaves a bigger one and wraps his arms all the way around her. “I’m learning,” he says. “Cut me some slack.”

“Whatever,” Vanya mumbles into his sweaty shirt. “I don’t think I’m a good go-between here, though.”

“No? Aren’t you the only one of us who did therapy voluntarily?”

Right. With a therapist who kept writing the prescription for her pills and never mentioned that the dose was way off. Vanya has spent the last week trying not to wonder if Dad was getting reports on her mental state the entire time and—no. No. She will definitely blow something up if she thinks about this.

“I’m also the one who hurt him the most,” she says quietly.

Diego pulls back, then they both do. He swipes quickly at his eyes: she pretends she doesn’t notice. Christ, but this family is hopeless. “I don’t get it.”

Vanya stares out at the pond. The ripples move outward in circles. Diego sits without speaking, waiting. It’s one more thing that’s changed in him: this kind of patience was never his strong suit. “I caused the apocalypse he got stuck in. How long was he there?”

She can see the thought making its way through him. His face goes still first, then the rest of him, and then it rolls back up to put a few extra lines beside his mouth. He stares down at the dirt.

“Forty-five years alone,” Diego murmurs. “That’s what he said. Okay, I see your point.”

“Do you?” Diego scowls at her. Vanya scowls back. “I almost did it twice, Diego.”

Diego puffs out his cheeks in a prolonged exhale. “You didn’t do it on purpose. And it took all of us to end the world, Vanya. I know you know it. I mean, Dad gets the big share of the blame here, but. The rest of us made it worse. Me no less than anybody else.” He shakes himself a little and meets her eyes. His are clear. “And I am sorry for my part. Okay? I should have said it a long time ago. I’m sorry, Vee.”

God. Nobody’s called her that since she was six years old.

“I forgive you,” Vanya rasps. “And I’m sorry too. You didn’t deserve it.” She feels like a kid: her lip is wobbling enough to mangle the words. Diego’s smile is gloriously surprised and just as wobbly.

“I forgive you too,” he says, like it is just that easy. “But don’t do it again.”

“Trying my best.”

“Aren’t we all.” He leans against her and blows a raspberry at the lake, or the situation they’re in, or their messed-up lives. “So your apology’s gonna have to be better than mine, I think.”

Vanya utters a hiccupping laugh and scrubs at her face. “I guess I’d better find some really amazing coffee.”

 

~~

 

“Oh hey,” Klaus says when she is slipping back inside, soft-footing it like she’s eleven and sneaking in after a run to Griddy’s for a sugar hit, for no particular reason except that the habit of silence around her siblings is a difficult one to break.

Vanya turns and there he is, silly Jesus hair and a silky robe that looks like it was meant for a bordello, tight jeans, eyeliner, orange bunny slippers.

“The lady who left this place for you to use knew you pretty well,” she observes.

Klaus makes a what face, then looks down at himself and does a little arm-waving twirl.

“Tilly was a planner,” he says. “One ramble about time travel to 2019 and she was on the phone with an estate lawyer setting up a trust, or something. Seriously, now that her old firm knows we’re here, we can even get groceries delivered. What a gal. But enough about me, this is about you. About me, helping you.”

This declaration comes with a hand over his heart. Vanya takes a wary step back. “I’m not sure I need any help, but thanks?”

“No, no no no, Vanya, you totally do.” Klaus shakes his head. “I can tell.”

He falls silent, staring off at nothing. Half a minute passes. Maybe that was the end of it.

Klaus takes a breath. “Anyway,” he says. “The guy that brought our food brought this, because, as I said, Tilly was a planner. And such a dom. Also a big ol’ pothead. And you know, I could, and man do I want to, but I stayed clean the whole three years and now—well. Now I don’t have Benny looking over my shoulder, so I have to be a little more vigilant.” He steps closer and holds out his hand. Vanya takes it, because this is probably the fastest way to make him get to the point. And also because hearing Ben’s name is a bit of a gut punch, and Klaus looks like it was one for him to say it.

Klaus slips a little plastic bag to her.

“You’re so on edge it’s making me edgy, sis,” he says. “And I can’t have it sitting around, you know, or eventually…”

Is this marijuana? Vanya crinkles the bag to feel the bumpy twists of handrolled joints, and sniffs: it definitely is. “Uh. Klaus, I don’t really know if that’s a great idea.”

“Oh it is. It is. And don’t even tell me you’ve never hit the wacky tobacky before, because there’s no way you haven’t, you just have the vibe.” He rubs his face. “Just…take it, okay. Throw it away if you don’t want it. I need it gone, and you, sister dear, need to peace out a little. Stop feeling so rrrgh, you know?”

Vanya isn’t aware of feeling particularly rrrgh, but maybe she’s not the only one waking up when dreaming rattles her window at night.

Maybe they’re all just waiting for her to do it again.

Klaus bats his eyes at her and smiles his most charming smile. Under the smudged eyeliner his eyes look bruised. It’s disorienting to mourn someone twice. But she saw Ben for all of a few minutes and lost him again, and that’s enough to crush the breath out of her sometimes. It must be so much harder to lose him having had him there all along.

She bites her lip, slips the baggie into her pocket. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. I’m going to go hot yoga it up now and I’m all out of hot yoga pants, so don’t come in the living room unless you want an eyeful, mkay? You’ve been warned. Good talk.”

He wanders off, scratching at his beard.

“What the fuck,” Vanya murmurs, and staggers upstairs to take a hot bath and an aspirin.

 

~~

 

She makes dinner. She suspects she is the only one of them who knows how to cook something other than pasta and eggs, though admittedly she doesn’t know much; she lived on takeout most of the time when she was teaching. Still, stir-fry is not complicated, and it makes for a nice change, not having to smell burning spaghetti. Chopping peppers and broccoli is the sort of mindless task that lets her zone out a little, sink into the sounds of this place: knives thunking into wood in the basement, Luther and Allison murmuring outside, new-age-y music coming from the living room. Chalk scratching on drywall upstairs.

This is the sort of thing she’d pictured, when she wasn’t picturing herself in the uniform and domino beside them: comfortable silences, weird hobbies, in-jokes, and dinner without Dad presiding over it like the owner of a bunch of unruly show dogs still learning to sit and stay.

It leaves a hollow feeling in Vanya’s chest, like a fermata with nothing after it.

She can’t tell if it’s because she’s not all the way back from ‘63 yet, or because this kind of dynamic could never live up to her dream of it, or if she is just afraid of herself. They have been here eight days, she has slept more in this time than she did in the month previous and had more awkwardly honest conversations than in the decade previous, and it’s what she wanted most, but she keeps waiting for the next note in the line.

The rice boils over. “Shit,” Vanya sighs, and scrambles to pull the pot off the burner.

“Let me get that,” Luther says, reaching around her. Vanya presses her palms against the counter to keep from pulling notes out of the air and breaking the flatware. Luther leans to put the rice in the sink and bends to hunt for something in one of the cupboards. Tries to lean, anyway: he knocks the dishrack with a bicep, straightens and bangs an elbow into the faucet, backs into the fridge. “Sorry,” he mutters, though Vanya can’t tell if he means her or the kitchen in general. “Shit.”

It’s odd, to remember him squeezing her unconscious and still pity him, but Vanya does. Dad might have done the most harm to Luther. At least he’d mostly left her alone when he’d finished stripping her memories and her emotions away, making her into an obedient little dog to sit home and guard the house.

“Uh,” Luther says. “Vanya?”

The knife is caught in her fist. The glasses in the dishrack are singing.

“Sorry,” Vanya breathes, and pulls it back. “Sorry, sorry.”

“No, I shouldn’t have—I’m sorry. Crap. I surprised you, and now I’m taking up half the kitchen.”

Damn it, he looks so crestfallen. She can handle her anger: most of it isn’t even for him anymore. She hadn’t understood his apology at the time, but she runs her fingers over the memory of it pretty often. “Sit over there,” Vanya says, drawing a deep breath. “You can just—maybe fluff up the rice with a fork? I’ll get this stuff into the frying pan.”

Luther nods. The chair creaks under his weight. He shifts, trying to find room for himself. What a pair they make: she can’t figure out how to claim space for herself and he would probably give a great deal to stop taking up so much.

“Dad really messed us up, didn’t he,” Vanya blurts, and immediately wishes she could take it back. She turns while the surprise is still making its way over his face and shovels the mess of vegetables into the hot frying pan. Oil pops and sizzles.

“Um,” Luther says behind her. “Yeah. He did.” There is a scraping noise: he’s digging at the rice like there is gold under it. That’s okay, she can just fry it with the rest of the mess. She dumps in too much soy sauce and hunts for sriracha in the fridge.

“Do you think he loved us?” she says to the milk, and the fork stops scraping the bowl.

“I don’t think it matters,” Luther says quietly. “Even if this was him, if he knew us, I don’t think it would matter. I think it might be worse if he had.”

Vanya stares at the condiment shelf on the door for a while before she realizes she’s holding the bottle she’s looking for. “Maybe,” she says.

She thinks it might, though. Shitty childhood conditioning, this is. But also: they love each other, the six of them, and they’ve done some pretty awful things to each other. It matters to her. It’s what’s keeping her here. “Here, give me the bowl, I’ll just dump it in and we’ll call it stir-fried rice.”

“Want me to bring plates into the living room?”

“Yeah. Oh wait, no: Klaus is doing some kind of naked yoga in there.”

“He—what? Never mind, it’s Klaus, why wouldn’t he.”

Luther brings the pot of rice over, hovering at a safe distance. “Just dump it,” Vanya says, and he sidles around her delicately, and still manages to bump both her and the fan unit over the stove.

“Sorry,” he says again, scraping rice into the pan with ludicrously intense focus. “Again.”

Vanya stirs, thinking: sets the spatula down, turns off the burner, and curls her arms around—well, his arm, which is all she can actually get her arms around. It’s like hugging an oak tree. Luther freezes.

She can fee his breath rattling in his huge chest. Luther sets one hand on her head very, very gently. They’re probably remembering the same moment right now, and it still makes her nerves tighten and hum, but Vanya is tired of having this sit between them. She’s changed: so has he. They fought together. They saved the world together. It might not have turned out the way they wanted, and they might have a long way to go to fix things, but somebody’s got to start moving forward, and it’s probably going to have to be her, because she never had the idea of a team to hold on to, or to hold her back.

“I love you,” she says.

Luther takes a breath. “Huh. I love you too, Vanya.”

“Good.” She lets go, ruffles her hair, smiles awkwardly. “I think that’s enough, don’t you?”

“Fuck Dad,” Luther says somberly, and Vanya barks a laugh and picks up the spatula. “I’ll get some plates.”

“Are you two idiots done bonding in here, because I’m hungry and that smells amazing,” Allison says, leaning in the doorway, where she’s apparently been watching them.

“Allison. Can you bring some silverware into the living room for us? We’ll get the rest of it.” Luther reaches up to a cupboard. He gives Vanya a look when she opens her mouth, passes Allison a handful of forks and knives.

Allison spins on a heel. They both watch her go. Luther purses his lips and holds up a finger.

“Wha—aagh! KLAUS. My EYES. Oh my god, why are you NAKED.”

“Heeeyyyyy, this is me time! Shut the door!”

“What is wrong with you, you have a bedroom!”

The door shuts hard enough to shake the walls. Allison reappears and slams the handful of forks down on the counter, glares at Luther, who is laughing silently, a hand over his face. “Set your own damn table, assholes,” she says, and stalks off. Luther sniffs, scrubs a smile off his face with his sleeve, and collects the forks.

“Dining room?” he says.

“Dining room,” Vanya agrees.

~

“It’s good,” Diego says. He shovels another massive forkful into his face and huffs.

“Yeah, thanks, guys. Vanya and Luther, chefs extraordinaire. Maybe you can open a restaurant.”

Allison glowers at Klaus and picks at her plate.

“Vanya did the hard work. I was just the fluffer,” Luther mumbles around his mouthful.

Silence. Klaus’s head-turn is like watching a car accident happen in slow motion. Vanya stares at the opposite wall, holding her breath. She leans to slap Diego on the back before he chokes to death.

Allison slides her plate away and puts her head in her hands.

“He did great,” Vanya says to her fork, which is all it takes to send Allison into a fit of wheezing giggles. She slaps the table with a palm. Klaus and Diego are right behind her.

“Hargreaves kitchen porn,” Klaus moans. “Oh, I like it, it’s perfect.”

Rice fluffer! I fluffed up the rice! God, get your minds out of the gutter.”

“Stop saying fluffer,” Diego gasps.

Vanya swallows laughter, meets Luther’s eye: he shakes his head at Klaus, then winks at her. Good; she doesn’t really want to laugh at him, but there is no not laughing right now. She covers her eyes and slumps in her chair. 

“This family.” Allison coughs. “Jesus christ.”

 

~~

 

Five’s spine is stiffer when he’s tense.

Vanya contemplates it from her vantage by the big flowery bush, which doesn’t smell nearly as nice as it looks, but that’s pretty much how her life has worked. She sticks her nose into a ball of tiny white flowers anyway.

Nope: cheap hand soap.

“Are you going to lurk over there all evening?” Five says, not even bothering to turn. Of course he knew she was there: he probably knows what she had for breakfast, how many bruises she acquired trying to learn to punch properly, and what she’s carrying right now without having to look. How frustrating must it be, to have to lug all of that hard-won experience around in a kid’s body.

“You just know where everything is at all times, don’t you,” Vanya says, and Five rolls his head against the chair back to hit her with a sardonic look.

“Assassin, if you recall.”

“Starting to,” Vanya mutters, and the line of Five’s spine under the jacket adjusts, readjusts. She picks her way over the rock path to join him and sits, wishing for sunglasses. “It sounds exhausting. Do you ever just relax, old man?”

“What does it look like I’m doing now?”

Vanya squints at him. “Honestly, it looks kind of like you’re trying to glare that tree to death.”

“The tree had it coming.” He sips at something. It looks like lemonade. “I’m thinking.”

“Well, think and eat. I brought you stir-fry. You missed dinner.”

“Impossible to miss dinner when I could hear dinner,” Five says irritably, but he takes the bowl she hands him and pokes the fork into it. “I assume you cooked this, since it’s not spaghetti or scrambled eggs.”

Vanya peels the plastic off a stick of beef jerky and nibbles at one end. “Luther helped.”

“I don’t think that’s quite the right word,” Five murmurs. She looks back at the dining room, where the windows are open. He must have ears like a bat. The idea of him sitting out here alone, listening to them rag on each other and laugh, is like the feeling of wandering the mansion alone when they were on missions. She stuffs the rest of the jerky stick into her mouth to keep herself from saying something to piss him off. Five takes an insultingly cautious bite, makes a dubious face and then takes another. His hand is shaking just a little. He probably hasn’t eaten since last night: he forgets, and then makes up for it with spoonsful of peanut butter and gallons of coffee.

He eats like he’s still thirteen. But: cockroaches and canned food, he’d said, three weeks and a lifetime ago, and in some ways, Vanya thinks, he still moves through the world like he’s just snatching whatever he can on the way to something more important. Five is a mission on legs.

“Thanks for making dinner,” Five says.

“It was my turn. And I like cooking, actually. I used to make you sandwiches,” she remembers, speaking around the jerky. “I mean, after you left. I’d leave them out around the house.” She picks a shred of meat out of her teeth. “Mom was always trying to figure out why we were out of marshmallow.”

Five chews, swallows, looks at her out of the corner of his eye. “Can we not,” he says.

Right. She thinks about leaving. But she doesn’t: instead, she just looks at him. “Sure,” she says. “We can not.”

Five sighs and puts the bowl down on the ground. “Sorry,” he mutters. “Not good company.”

“Can I help?”

It’s actually possible to see him swallowing some snarky comment about her intellect vs. his: whatever it is, it looks like it tastes bad. “It’s probability calculations. I’ll get there. I just need to stare at it until it makes sense.”

He’s about to leave. He’s been doing this since the night he got a little drunk with them. Vanya catches his arm, feels the flicker-flinch of him nearly hitting her and restraining himself in the same instant. The look he gives her has considerably less patience in it this time.

“You need to take a break,” she says firmly. “Five, you’ve been at it for days, and you’re getting punchy. Please. At least finish the damn food.”

Maybe it’s the please that makes him settle back in the chair, or maybe he’s tired. Or maybe Diego was seeing something real after all: Vanya can’t tell. Five was a lot easier to read when he was actually thirteen.  “I don’t want to talk,” he says, or sighs.

“That’s fine,” she replies. “I’m a little talked out, to be honest. You’re the only brother I haven’t had an unplanned yet exhausting heart-to-heart with today.”

He picks up the bowl, eyeing her sidelong like a suspicious cat while he eats. “What happened to your hand.”

“Diego happened.” A slightly more direct look. Vanya smiles and rubs at a bruise coming up on her knuckles. “He has this idea that learning to punch people will keep me from blowing shit up.”

“Idiot,” Five mumbles.

“You’ll love his next idea, then.”

“Don’t tell me.” He shovels the last of the rice into his mouth with a little mnh sound of satisfaction that makes Vanya think maybe she’s not such a terrible cook after all. “He thinks I should show you.”

“Got it in one, but I didn’t come here to ask you to do that. Just to bring you dinner.”

“And pester me about resting. Thanks, Mom, I’m fine.”

Vanya runs her tongue over her teeth, reaching for patience. If Diego can pull it off, she shouldn’t have any problem. And yet: it’s Five, who somehow manages to combine every cranky old man stereotype with every teenage boy stereotype with every genius stereotype. Diego nailed it. He’s like a research professor saddled with a kindergarten class. Or a hit man saddled with a therapy group. He’s going to work this until he drops, and then get up and do it again, and dodge them the entire time.

“Where does Allison go to sneak her cigarettes?”

Five blinks, tips his chin toward a little stone table under the eaves, because of course he knows. Vanya gets up to hunt around, finds a Bic in a potted plant. Five is still there when she gets back, so she figures she at least has his attention. She pulls out the little baggie that’s been stuck in her pocket all afternoon and slides a joint out. It smells fairly potent. It’s been a while. Oh well.

The first hit makes her cough a little. Five’s expression is priceless.

“Klaus,” she says, only a little choked.

“Shit.”

“Oh—no, he’s not. I guess the lady who set this place up for him left some specific instructions on what should be in a grocery delivery.”

Five reaches for his lemonade, frowning. “Are you sure?”

“I think so. He’s trying harder now that he doesn’t have Ben to keep him in line. He told me to throw it away or smoke it, as long as it wasn’t where he could get to it.”

Five is silent for a while, holding the glass halfway to his mouth like he’s forgotten it. Vanya takes another hit, holds it, breathes it out. It occurs to her, a little too late, that she woke up wishing for her meds and that maybe this wasn’t the best choice, but she finds she doesn’t really care. Weed never separated her from herself like her pills did, anyway.

Five sets the glass down and leans forward in his chair, hands clasped. It’s such an old man pose. “Klaus told me he was gone, and that he went saving you.”

The sun is starting to set: it’s nice. Her limbs are starting to sink into the chair: also nice. Maybe Klaus was right about the rrgh. There are knots in her muscles she didn’t even know were there, and they’re all unravelling. “Saving the world from me, actually. Again. But also saving me. The others couldn’t get to me, and Ben could. But between my powers and the drugs, and all the—the electricity—”

“Hold up. What?”

Oh. She tips her head, sees his scowl. “The FBI thought I was a Russian spy. The name, I guess. So they were doing this thing, where.” She stops, finding that this is a memory sharp enough to pierce the sweet grassy haze in her brain. “Well, a thing.”

“They were torturing you for information.”

“Well, yeah.” She takes a hit and tries to find her train of thought. “Anyway, Ben found me where I’d gone when it got—when—when —shit. He said some stuff I think I really needed to hear. But he couldn’t hold on. He said—said that he’d gotten seventeen years with Klaus after he died and they were all gravy. He seemed okay about it. I hope he was. I hope he wasn’t scared this time. And then he hugged me and he said he loved us and just—he just—scattered away in my arms—”

“Vanya. Hey. Breathe. Take a breath, Vanya.”

She might be crying again. She swipes at her face and it’s all snot and tears. She is really crying. She is very rrgh. She lost Sissy and Harlan. She almost killed everybody. She has lost the same brother twice and it turns out she never really got over it the first time.

“Shit,” Vanya mutters. “And you didn’t want to talk. Sorry.”

“Apparently you did,” Five says, gripping his chair arm hard enough to make it creak. He rubs his brow and sits back, gestures at the smoldering joint in her fingers. “Pass that over.”

“Oh. Okay. Um. Have you ever—”

“For god’s sake, Vanya, I’m fifty-eight.”

“Right.” She passes: he puffs like it’s a cigar, sucks in a huge breath, and coughs hard enough to fold himself over his own knees. Rookie. “Uh, Five, maybe… this body isn’t used to that?”

His sideways glare is kind of hilarious. “Here,” Vanya says, and takes the joint back before he can drop it. “Tiny sips, just until you can feel the heat. Hold it for a few seconds.”

“Christ,” Five wheezes. “I never really pictured you as a stoner, Vanya.”

“I didn’t do it often. Sometimes I just wanted a different flavor of numb, I guess.”

He does it again, coughs a little, then throws the stub into the dirt. “Enough of that. Toss the rest, will you? Like we aren’t all enough of a mess. Come on, Vanya, there are bugs out here.”

“Some survivalist you are,” Vanya grumbles, but she lets him pull her to her feet.

“There are no bugs in the apocalypse, pea-brain.”

She utters a hiccup of a laugh. “Put that on a tee shirt.” Five huffs, pushes her a little, stumbles.

“Shit,” he breathes.

“Stoner.”

“You are a child.” He shoves her through the door.

Vanya snickers. “What—how do you—you don’t even have facial hair yet, how can you say that with a straight face—"

“And yet, I’m still taller than you.”

“If being tall is the gold standard for adulthood, Five, I kind of doubt you ever made it past the gate. Old you looked kind of short to me.”

“Are they fighting?” Klaus says. The rest of their siblings are in the living room, sprawled on various pieces of furniture. “Vanya! You’re not a paranoid pothead, are you? You should have told me! I would have given it to Luther!”

“Woah, who’s a pothead now? Vanya?” Allison sits up. “Get in here, you two.”

“Ah christ,” Five says under his breath. Vanya gets a good grip on his arm and drags him into the room. He must be feeling it at least a little, because he doesn’t blink away. She is feeling it a lot now. It’s getting hard to track things.

“I gave her the shit Tilly’s grocery guy brought,” Klaus is saying. “I was good, don’t look at me like that! I have been strong!”

“I’m sure you have and we’re proud of you, but why’d you dope up the lady with the moon-exploding powers?” Diego says. “That was dumb.”

“Oh, Vanya’s an old hat with the mary jane, can’t you tell? Plus she’s been so rrgh, you know. I thought she needed to unwind a little.”

“Okay, that’s fair.”

“Have you all been worrying about me?” Vanya demands. It might be more emphatic if she didn’t also trip on the carpet, dragging Five with her. “Why?”

“Well, you did have to leave the love of your life in a different timeline,” Luther says.

Allison slumps back into her chair. “And you got arrested and tortured by feds.”

“And almost ended the world again,” Diego points out.

“And hey! You’re bi! I think? I mean, did you even know?”

“Shit, sort of,” Vanya sighs, and flops onto the couch. It is very soft. Five yanks his arm away and stumbles again, then sighs and sits next to her like a balloon deflating. His hair is a little mussed.

“I figured,” he says.

Of course he did.

Allison squints at them and shakes her head. “Oh my god, you’re both stoned. No wonder you got Five in here.”

“Is that how,” Vanya says, and slumps into the beautiful, beautiful couch.

“No,” Five says. “It’s just harder to blink when somebody’s grabbing me.”

This is some bullshit, because he’s been sitting outside listening to them like a kid looking into an arcade, probably for days, but she’s not going to point it out because she is very smart right now. Also a little sleepy.

“Thanks for worrying about me, guys,” she says to the ceiling. Klaus rubs her head as he walks behind the couch to get a drink. Diego pats her leg. Five just grunts. Diego looks at him, then at her, and gives her a thumbs-up.

Oh, right. That.

“Here,” Vanya says. She may in fact be a genius. She tips sideways against Five. Maybe a little too hard. He is already taller than her, but he’s all thin limbs and big joints. She wouldn’t relive the gawky stage of her teen years for anything: poor cranky old man Five. The weed is definitely hitting him too, because he tenses only a little, then tips sideways under her weight with a muttered dammit.

“What are you doing,” he says into the couch arm. 

“What are you doing,” says Allison. “Not that I want you to stop, this is hilarious, but. He might stab you with a fork, Vanya.”

“Oh my god, the tiny twins are adorable,” Klaus fake-whispers. “I am so glad I was strong enough to give that pot away. Go me!”

“Go you,” Luther says. “But they could have shared.”

There’s a heave against Vanya’s shoulder that might be Five coughing.

“I wouldn’t stab Vanya with a fork,” Five declares, a little muffled by the upholstery. “They always get stuck, and then you have to find something else to stab the next person with. Also there are no forks within easy reach.”

“Well, let’s all sit here and think about that response for a minute,” Diego mutters.

“In the kitchen,” Vanya tells Five. Her head is full of floaty little bees. “The forks. They’re in the kitchen if you need one.”

“Thanks, Vanya, that’s…oddly obliging of you.”

“I guess I wouldn’t mind maybe if it was in the leg or something.”

“You would,” Five assures her. “But thanks all the same. Very helpful.”

 Allison is laughing at her. So is Diego. That’s okay, it’s nice that they’re happy. Everything is pretty okay right now. She is helpful, and that is—that was the thing that she—wait.

“Yes,” Vanya says, remembering. “This. Helpful. Me. Five: I’m helping you.”

Five tips his head against the couch arm to peer at her with one bloodshot eye. His hair flops into his face. “I’m not following.”

“Wait.” She throws one arm around him. The other arm is harder, because she needs to be un—un—something. It would easier if he’d let her. She compromises by grabbing his jacket, though Five doesn’t seem to appreciate this concession very much. “Hold still, I’m helping you,” Vanya says, and Five heaves a sigh. Allison is cackling the way she does sometimes when something is very funny. Klaus is snickering. So is Luther. That’s fine. They will understand very soon, because this is the best idea.

“I am definitely not following,” Five says in a way that suggests Vanya may soon get a fork in the leg.

“Now you blink,” she explains, though it is obvious enough. “It’s hard to do if somebody has ahold of you, right? So you can practice on me, because I won’t stab you with things while you figure it out. Problem solved.”

Five coughs again. Or that might be him laughing. It’s never easy to tell: this brother is quiet about everything except angry things. “Brilliant,” he agrees dryly. “Except I might take you with me, and then you’d be sick.”

Diego grunts. “You totally would.”

“Also I think I may be stoned,” Five adds, and hmms to himself, ignoring Diego’s mocking hoot. “Destinations might get a little unpredictable. And I don’t really have the proper motivation at the moment.”

“Oh yeah baby,” Klaus sighs. “You’re definitely stoned. No motivation is kind of the defining element of the experience.”

“I meant that I’m usually trying to get away from someone who’s trying to kill me, but sure, whatever.”

“Eh. Potay-to potah-to.”

“Right.”

Vanya might hold on a little tighter. It’s not really a hug. Maybe Five won’t notice. She will not be able to try to kill her brother and therefore she can’t help him figure out this important thing. She can’t even remember fighting with Five when they were little, though—wait.

“No, but I can help,” she says with total confidence.

Five sighs and his arms tense. “Vanya, while I appreciate the—hey.”

“Motivation,” Vanya agrees, and pokes him in the side again.

“Bullshit. I’m fifty-eight years old, that’s—eurgh. Oh. Well, damn.

She is so smart. 

Though it’s much harder to help him when he’s thrashing around, snarling “Stupid body, fuck time travel, agh! Get off, Vanya!”

“Holy shit, I should have done this days ago,” Klaus says.

Five grabs for her hands, but he doesn’t have much leverage and he’s probably limited by the fact that he’s trying not to hurt her. Vanya finds the lowest rib on his right side, which used to be—yes, now he’s laughing. He sounds pretty surprised about it. “Shit,” he gasps, and then everything is blue and they’re lying on the patio. Five thrashes once more, tossing her off him. Her head bonks on the flagstones. Her stomach might still be on the couch. She raises her head to check, sees Klaus and Allison and Luther and Diego through the window, all of them with hilariously alarmed expressions.

“Ow,” Vanya says, laughing, and Five starts poking at her armpit. She squirms away and laughs harder, mostly at him. “Well that didn’t work, I guess? We can try again.”

“You are going to pay for this for years,” Five hisses.

“Sounds good to me,” Vanya says, because what wouldn’t she have given, twenty years ago. Or fifteen, or ten. Last year, even. She would have given so much.

She has been given so much.

Her brother sits up: he is flushed, frowning and smiling at the same time like he doesn’t want smile to but can’t stop and this pisses him off, as so many things do.  “Such a sap,” he mutters. “All of you, you’re all such goddamn saps.”

“I know you are but what am I.”

“I’m never doing drugs with you again.” Five makes a scowly face and flops backward to stare at the sky. “I should have let the Handler put us all out of my misery.”

Vanya smiles sleepily at the side of his head. Even his hair looks angry.

“I could murder a pizza right now,” she says thoughtfully, and Five huffs. “Wait. Five. Wait. Did—did you ever kill someone with a pizza.”

“Oh god.” He covers his face with his hands. “No,” he says through them. “Never with a pizza.”

“It makes you sad,” Vanya says. She didn’t know she knew this, but it seems obvious right now, a pile of little notes and pauses all coalescing into a score.

“Well, it’s the missed opportunities that haunt you.”

“I mean all the killing.”

“I know what you meant, Vanya.” Five lowers his hands, rolls on his side to see her. She tips her head to stare back. That bump in the bridge of his nose from when he broke it in training. The scowl. His old, old eyes in his young face. “It does and it doesn’t. I think maybe I just want it to.”

Vanya thinks about this. Thinking is getting a little easier. Talking is getting a little harder. Five doesn’t look away. He barely seems to be breathing. This matters to him.

“Okay,” she says.

Five’s face does a thing, very fast, before doing a frightening lot of nothing at all. She can see it in him: see him pulling a trigger without hesitating, without any motive but an order, see the years and strangeness that separate them from each other. It scares her. But then, she burned out the eyes of the FBI agents who tortured her and killed almost everyone in the building, and she was ready to kill those cops for Sissy and Harlan, and she killed hundreds of Commission assassins, and she killed Pogo and ended the world once, and Ben still held her hand and traded his afterlife for her life and said you’re my sister. That has to be worth something. She will make it worth something.

Behind the nothing in Five’s face is just Five, prickly and confident, who likes to be smarter than everyone and never did find a way to be patient with people and doesn’t know how to stop moving and eats peanut butter like it’s yogurt, and who somehow contains a love big enough to propel him through forty-five years of hell.

“We’re not normal,” Vanya says. “All the shit we grew up with, how could we be? And you…Five, what you lived through, what you had to do to survive, what it must have been like for you, I don’t know. I don’t think I can judge, or that I want to. So—I guess I just think that it’s okay, and I don’t know what that says about me, but I don’t care, Five. We’ve all killed. You’re my brother. I’m just glad you’re here.”

Five stares for another minute, not moving. Then he takes a deep breath and his eyes shut. “Yeah, all right,” he says raggedly. “Thanks, I guess.”

“Anytime.” Vanya elbows him. “You big sap.”

Five’s eyeroll is a full-head motion that flips him onto his back. He flings his arm over his forehead with an irritable growl. So dramatic. “Shut up.”

“Mmmm, nope.”

“Fine, I won’t kill anybody to get you pizza, then.”

“But would you kill someone with a pizza is the important question here,” Vanya deadpans. She can see Five’s grin out of the corner of her eye.

“I think that’s a tough sell, Vee. As potential weapons go, pizza’s pretty harmless.”

“Thin crust. Could be sharp.”

“Not that sharp, good god, where the hell have you been eating?”

“Or stale pizza. I choked on that once.”

“So now I’m, what, force-feeding my targets? Impractical.”

“Clogged arteries.” He utters an unimpressed hmph. “I mean yeah, it’s a long game, but you’re a professional.”

Five cracks up. He catches himself, then snorts, shakes his head, and cracks up again. “Deep-dish sausage and bacon with extra cheese,” he breathes.

“Now I’m hungry. See, it’ll work.”

When Five’s laughing like this it’s impossible not to laugh too, though there’s a tight knot of sorrow in Vanya’s chest. She lost this brother and she got him back, but she knows what Diego meant now: she is pretty sure Five doesn’t actually believe that he got them back. She thinks Five must feel that distance between them most of the time.

Crossing it is going to be hard, and often thankless, and probably will involve a lot of yelling. But, Vanya thinks: but. She’s not a kid anymore, and she’s not alone. Maybe they can save him, for a change. Maybe they can all save each other this time.

“Pizza assassin,” she says. “It’s got a nice ring to it.”

Five pants and curls onto his side. “Shit. You’re much more of an asshole than I remember, Vanya.”

There is a thought.

Maybe she was one all along: maybe the pills just flattened that down, too. The idea is bizarrely cheering. She might always have been on the team after all, because the essence of the Umbrella Academy is less heroism than it is weird superpowered dickishness.

“Guess I’d better get a tattoo on my arm now.”

“Oh yeah. You gotta do that before we can open our pizza parlor of death.”

“Jesus, you two are disturbing,” Diego says from the door, which Vanya didn’t even hear opening. “Get in here and sober up, you creeps.”

Five wipes at his eyes and tips his head to look up, smiling. “Give us a minute, Diego, we’re in the middle of an important discussion about the lethal properties of junk food.”

“I thought it was death by chocolate,” Luther shouts from the house.

“Pizza is the new chocolate,” Vanya yells back, and Five cracks up again, snuffling into his hands like they might not notice if he keeps it quiet.

Diego shakes his head. “Oh yeah, you’re both high as kites. What I wouldn’t give for a camera right now. Hey, I wonder if we have one in here.”

“Come on back, murder twins!” Klaus sings. “We’re drinking and making fun of you; you’re missing out.”

“It’s a trap,” Vanya whispers, and Five snorts, then braces himself on his elbows, weirdly graceful even when he’s high. “So hey, are you going to show me how to kick ass?”

Five pauses halfway up and frowns down at her. “Am I what now?”

“Teaching me,” she says, and waves her hand in his face. “Remember? Punching people instead of blowing shit up?” The hand in question is sad, puffy and a little purple. The sight derails Five’s inevitable tirade: he takes her hand in his and frowns at it, rubs his index finger over the bruise.

“What’d you do, fold your thumb in?”

“So I got that wrong then.” Or rather, Diego did.

“You got everything wrong, Vanya, jesus, look at this, it’s like that imbecille taught you everything you’re not supposed to do. Don’t risk your hands, you moron!”

Son of a bitch.

Vanya aims a glare at the door where Diego is still lurking. He gives her a smug wink.

She will need to think up something very special to get him back for this. Possibly with snakes. “I’m not sure I’ll play again,” she says, still staring fiery death at Diego. “Might as well use ‘em for something, right?”

“The hell you won’t play,” Five snaps. “You’ll play and like it. And you’ll get up at six tomorrow and start unlearning every stupid thing our idiot brother taught you. Shit, this fucking family,” he says, and staggers to his feet, then trips forward into a flash of blue. A door slams somewhere on the second floor of the cabin.

“And that,” Diego says, coming to stand over her, “is the other reason I think you should ask him.”

“You’re an asshole,” Vanya tells him. She puts a hand up, insistent. He helps her to her feet, careful to grip her above the wrist.

“Yeah, but you love me anyway.”

“Always did,” Vanya says. “But I’m still gonna get you back for this.”

Diego presses a kiss to her head. “Looking forward to it,” he says.