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Cherry Bomb

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“Well, that was a fucking disaster.”

Diego shuffled up against the window, immediately slamming his head down on the table. Vanya slid up next to him in the booth, patting his back, followed by Luther who, even pressed up hip to hip with Vanya, still jutted out over the edge of the seat awkwardly.

Klaus took the opposite side, pulling his feet up and hugging his knees. Allison shot a glance at Five, still clutching the Commission briefcase to his chest, and beckoned him to sit down in the middle.

“Come rest tall child,” Klaus called, leaning his head against the window with a dramatic sigh, “Crisis averted.”

“For now,” Diego added, slightly muffled as he turned his face outwards, cheek pressed against the table, “Can we just order and talk through what comes next?”

It had been a few hours since the six Hargreeves siblings landed back in 2019, discovered their father never adopted them before having his shiny new Sparrow Academy kick them out onto the street.

Oh, and Ben was alive here. Not their Ben, this Ben was...different. Too different.

After wandering around town aimlessly, none of them really wanting to face the reality quite yet, they convened at an all-night diner, empty apart from the one waitress and some old guy passed out in the corner next to his half-eaten plate of food. As fun as drowning their sorrows in nothing but donuts sounded, Griddy’s was too close to what was once their home.

Luther reached over to grab a menu, setting it between him and Vanya, his leg anxiously bouncing up and down. He wasn’t fully over seeing their father alive again, and it had taken a lot to not flip out like last time.

“Did you all see that cube?” Klaus asked, rummaging through his deep pockets to dump three vastly different wallets on the table.

It hadn’t felt good, but they needed money, at least for the next few days. They’d barely been on the street for thirty minutes before Klaus had swiped the first one. Diego grabbed the second and Vanya of all people managed to get the third. Not ideal, but they had a few hundred dollars now. They wouldn’t risk using any of the cards though, the last thing they needed was someone tracking them down for this.

“That...was pretty weird,” Vanya said, furrowing her brow, “Just a floating cube.”

“Knowing Dad, that was probably one of the other kids once upon a time,” Luther muttered, pushing up the sleeve of his jacket to scratch his hairy arm.

“I’m just not over Ben,” Allison said softly, reading over another menu and trying to nudge Five into showing any interest, “He was so…”

She couldn’t find the right words. The others got it, letting out a hum of understanding...except Five.

“Are you okay?”

Diego finally sat up properly again, cocking a brow at their youngest-oldest brother.

Five twitched, glancing down at the briefcase once more, before setting it under the table.

“I’m just tired,” he said quietly, the voice cracks of his thirteen-year-old body betraying him, “I’ll have a coffee and some toast.”

The others waited on something else, holding their breaths that this might be some big breakout moment, but instead Five folded his arms on the table and rested his head there.

Ah shit, they all thought at once. This was going to be a proper discussion at a later point. A lot of things were.

“I’ll have hash browns, onion rings and uhhh…” Klaus narrowed his eyes at the menu for a second, before giving it a tap. “What they call an ‘ultimate chocolate dream’ milkshake.”

“Okay, is anyone going to order an actual meal?” Allison asked with a slight sigh.

Sheepishly, Luther raised his hand. “I’d like hotdogs. And I’ll also have a milkshake, just a strawberry one though.”

“No such thing as an actual meal at dives like this,” Diego said, glancing over the menu and shrugging, “I dunno...cheese omelette? Maybe just get a pot of coffee for the table too. We might be here a while.”

Allison nodded, the list building in her head. She wasn’t sure why she’d been designated as the one to order but…

“Vanya?”

“Club sandwich.” She gave a certain nod, sliding the menu back to its spot. “Some fries too.”

“Great. And I’ll have a burger.”

As Allison left to go order, Diego drummed his fingers against the table. “Anyone know any good motels around here? Or like…an abandoned building we can squat at?”

“If it even exists in this timeline,” Luther said with a slight huff, still vaguely aware of his knee bouncing.

“There was a place I managed to crash a few times,” Klaus said, waving his hand about, “We could walk it, it’s not too far, plus we need to save our money. It was clean, pretty cheap and only three of the rooms were occupied by people rolling joints with the Gideon’s Bible.”

His siblings hid their tutting, but in a way, it was nice to have Klaus willing to joke like nothing had happened. Something comforting in this new world. He still seemed a tad distracted, glancing to his side every so often before his face fell. Remembering their Ben was no longer at his side snarking to him.

Allison came back, sharing out six mugs and a pot of coffee in the middle before going back to the counter quickly. Five immediately went for it, filling his mug to the top and knocking it back.

“And your milkshakes,” Allison said upon her return, only giving Five a quickly concerned glance as he kept chugging.

“Oh shit, I am gonna be up all night with this,” Klaus muttered, eyes quickly widening at the mountain of cream and chocolate in his glass.

They were quiet for a little while, each nursing their drinks. That was until Vanya let out a small giggle into her palm.

“What’s so funny?” Diego asked, scoffing dismissively as his fingers kept tapping.

“This will be our first meal together as a family in...how long?” Vanya shrugged, laughing again. “I don’t know. Just feels weird that it’s in a place like this.”

“Not exactly the homecoming feast you were anticipating?” Five said, seeming a little more himself now he had a mug of coffee in his hands, “Something grander than this health code violation?”

“I was picturing a lot of pizza and beer, personally,” Luther said, taking a loud slurp of his milkshake before quietly adding, “And a blanket fort.”

“Oh, that sounds great,” Vanya said, pawing at his arm, “Us all in our pyjamas like it’s a sleepover!”

“I call painting Diego’s nails!” Klaus cried, throwing his arms in the air, “Really, I thought the first thing we’d do was finally get Five into some clean clothes.”

“I wouldn’t mind finding something new,” Five said with a shrug, pulling at his uniform’s collar, “I think I managed to change once in our original timeline.”

They all fell quiet again at the mention of that. Their ideal situation of arriving back home...would never happen.

Allison was the first to start crying. Then Klaus, Vanya, Luther, Diego...and finally Five, arms crossed as he let tears flow freely down his cheeks.

“I just wanted to see Claire again,” Allison sobbed, burying her face into her hands, “I-I didn’t even get to say goodbye to her properly last time.”

“We might be living completely different lives here,” Diego said, blankly staring at the saltshaker as he rubbed his eyes.

“Or we’re dead,” Luther said, already starting to hiccup as he hugged himself, “Who knows what Dad did to us. He hated us so much he never even adopted us. Or maybe he did and…”

“He was a bastard, but I don’t think he’d sink that low,” Klaus said, trying to make light but his voice was shaky, gripping on to the rim of the damn cowboy hat he was still wearing.

“We...just have each other,” Vanya said, clenching her hands into fists.

The lights overhead flickered for a moment, until Diego returned her earlier comforting gesture by squeezing her shoulder.

“Vanya’s right,” Five said, grabbing a napkin to dry his cheeks, sniffling loudly, “We have each other. What we did at the farm, that’s the best we’ve ever worked as a team. As a family. We can get through this.”

He sucked in through his teeth, before adding in a reluctant tone, “Team Zero…”

As if on reflex of hearing the name, Luther and Diego high fived above Vanya’s head, despite still crying. Well, Diego did a high five, Luther went for a fist bump again.

Klaus was the first to laugh at the dumb expressions they pulled, an infectious sound that got the others to join in, through loud sniffs and red eyes.

“Team fucking Zero,” Diego muttered, running his fingers through his hair, “Better name than anything.”

“That felt good to be honest,” Klaus said, grabbing the napkin holder and handing some around to each of his siblings before patting his cheeks dry, “I forgot how cathartic a good cry could be.”

“Oh, god yeah,” Allison said, picking up her coffee and trying to focus once more, reluctantly putting Claire at the back of her mind, “I totally botched an audition once, cried for a good twenty minutes and felt so much better, I didn’t even care.”

Luther blew his nose loudly, scrunching the tissue up into his pocket before getting to his feet.

“I need a pee,” he said, shuffling off towards the restrooms.

“Uh…so! Back to figuring out a plan?” Diego asked, blinking after the sudden noise, “We all okay for staying in a motel?”

“It’s better than nothing,” Vanya said, tracing a finger around the rim of her mug. She bit her lip for a second, glancing away. “If we…”

She shook her head. “No, never mind.”

“Vanya, talk,” Five said firmly, head tilted, “What’s your idea?”

“Just...if we could get a violin for me, I could get us some money teaching again. Or even busking, I’m not opposed to that.”

Vanya sighed, taking a sip of coffee. “I know it’s not too likely, even second-hand they can be expensive but...it’s an idea.”

“No, no, it’s a great idea,” Diego said, snapping his fingers, “Shit, I think I could still remember guitar, I could help.”

“Didn’t you play bass?” Klaus asked, raising a brow.

“Dad made me learn classical guitar before that.”

“Sorry, are we starting a band now?” Allison laughed, “It is a good idea, but Vanya’s right, instruments are expensive.”

“You could rumour them to us.”

Five finished off their pot of coffee, shrugging as he did. “You could rumour us a lot of things, actually.”

“That’s abusing my power-“

“One of us might as well,” Diego said, “Or you just wanna make me punch myself in the face again?”

Allison flushed, hand tensing on the table. “I could make you do a lot worse than that. You like those pants? Because I heard a rumour you piss-“

She was cut off by Klaus leaning over and slapping his hand over her mouth.

“As hilarious as that would be,” he said slowly, stifling back a laugh, “These are the only clothes we have right now, I don’t wanna be seen with Number Two covered in his own number one…”

Diego turned an irritated shade of crimson, folding his arms. “I’m right though. Everything could be a lot easier if she used her power for something useful!”

Allison scowled, pulling off Klaus’ hand to snap back but...was cut off by a loud click and thunk from a few feet away.

They all glanced over to see Luther huddled by a dated looking jukebox, tapping his fingers on the glass. He looked over his shoulder, face lit up.

“Any requests?”

“Luther, please,” Five groaned, rubbing his temples, “It’s late, we’re tired-“

“Fine, I’ll choose then.”

He shoved his hands deep in his back pocket, finding enough random coins to pay for a song. Not long after, the sound of a heavy guitar intro played. Luther shimmied his shoulders in time with the beat, a grin growing on his face as Cherry Bomb by The Runaways started to play.

He turned on his feet, brows raised at his siblings. An old tactic he’d been doing since they were kids, throwing a record on to distract from any angst or anguish they were going through.

“He looks ridiculous,” Five muttered, watching as he wiggled about, getting into the music.

‘Hello daddy-‘ Luther punched one hand out.

Hello mom-‘ And then the other.

‘I’m your ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb!’ At this, Luther jumped up and kicked his legs out Van Halen style, landing with an inelegant heavy thud on the ground.

“Fuck this,” Diego said under his breath, nudging Vanya to move, but she got exactly what he meant and grabbed his hand, dragging him over to join Luther.

Diego raised his hands above his head, hips swaying side to side, whilst Vanya shuffled on the spot, eyes closed as she grooved.

Allison, all anger and sadness fading, rushed over too, twirling where she stood, followed quickly by Klaus who clambered over the back of the seat to avoid Five, still sat there scowling.

“You could have chosen something a bit peppier, Lulu!” Klaus cried, punching the air over and over as he bounced up and down.

“I needed something hard,” Luther replied breathlessly, snapping his hands together like crab claws, “You know how many of my favourite songs were out in 1963? None of them!”

They slowed down their moves for a moment as Five stomped over with the sourest expression they’d ever seen. He stood there a few seconds before his face softened and he spun on the spot, pointing one finger up in the air with his other hand on his hip.

“Oh, hell yeah Number Five!” Klaus said with a squeal, flapping about.

Vanya grinned at Five, taking his hands and jerking his arms back and forth. He rolled his eyes, but he was smiling, hopping from one foot to the other.

The song was drawing to a close, and they couldn’t help joining in with the repeated chant of ‘cherry bomb!’, laughing as Diego dived to his knees and slid a few inches.

The jukebox let out another click and thunk, and they all stood there catching their breath...until a slow clap started from behind the counter.

The waitress stood there a little stunned, but was grinning as she clapped.

“Y’all are funny,” she giggled, before turning and holding up a few plates of food, “Sorry it took so long. You ready to eat?”

The six siblings blushed at having been caught, shuffling back to their table followed by the waitress.

“Worth it,” Luther said, immediately stuffing his cheeks with one of the hotdogs, letting out a happy grunt.

“I haven’t danced in so long,” Five said, already reaching for the refilled coffee pot the waitress got for them, “Not like that anyway. I...I forgot how fun it was.”

“Stop the presses!” Klaus cried, drowning his hash browns in ketchup, “Old man Five had fun! This will be the cause of our, what, third apocalypse?”

“At least it’s not me this time,” Vanya said, cracking a smile.

“Five is definitely the most likely to cause one after you,” Diego said through a full mouth, giving her a playful nudge with his elbow.

“Well, hopefully no more apocalypses for us any time soon,” Allison sighed, hugging her mug of coffee to her chest and staring at her untouched plate of food.

She didn’t feel too hungry anymore.

 

***

 

Ben frowned, shifting back against the wall as he watched the six strangers who’d suddenly appeared in his home through a window.

He knew his father had said to not pursue it any further, to forget about them at least for now, but the way they’d stared at him...the one wearing the stupid hat especially.

Like they’d seen a ghost.

He watched them argue then dance about the cafe, and now joke around as they ate, like every previous interaction hadn’t just happened.

“...what a bunch of weirdos,” he muttered, deciding to slink back home.

Maybe Dad was right. Maybe he should just forget about them.

A shiver ran down his spine. He wasn’t sure if he could though.