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Hiding the bodies

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Five feels his breathing come in short bursts, frozen in place as he stares around himself.

He just skipped time and everything was fine and people wandering around. So, he skipped some more and again everything was fine. So, he skipped some more.

And now, everything around him is rubble.

Torn-up streets, destroyed buildings, fires burning, ash drifting with the wind.

Five can feel his heart hammer in his chest.

What is this? What happened here? Why is the world in ruins? His thoughts are too erratic for him to try and truly work out any likely scenarios, just running in an endless wheel of whathappenedherewhathappenedherewhathappenedhere.

There is not a single building left standing and the air is hot and full of smoke and not a single person to be seen, the world around him abandoned.

His eyes widen.

Oh god. What about the others? What about my family?

He turns abruptly, sprinting back the way he came, along the rubble-lined street, vaulting over anything in his way, skidding to a stop in front of his home. At least where his home is supposed to be.

It’s just entirely gone, destroyed. Only the gate in front of where the door used to be, making Five entirely certain that this is his home. The home he left barely a minute, but also a lifetime ago.

Everything is just gone.

He yells for his siblings, for his father. No one answers. There is no one.

Five is alone.

Panicked, he tries to gather his powers into another burst to let him skip planes, skip to another time, any other time. He chokes when he realizes that his powers won't work. He tries again and again and again, his chest getting tighter with every failed try.

He is stuck.

Five sinks to his knees, staring up at the destroyed building that used to be his home. He is alone. And there is no way to go back.

+++

It takes him a while to bring himself out of the shock, to get back to his feet, to force his brain into working again.

Okay, let's think about this rationally.

Just because his home is destroyed doesn’t mean that his siblings are dead as well, right? Five skipped forwards several times, so his siblings could have been literally anywhere else when the world was burned to ashes, right? He’ll just have to leave this place behind him, go somewhere in the world that hasn’t been destroyed and look for his siblings along the way.

He’ll find them, wherever they may be.

But first things first. He doesn’t know how soon he’ll get to a generally inhabitable area again, so pillaging for some survival gear is first on his list.

So, he focuses on that, focuses on the thoughts on how to improve his chances for survival, making a list of things he needs to survive in his head and forcefully pushes anything else - thoughts of his family maybe having died in whatever happened here - aside.

Five nods decisively to himself, turning to look around himself and then he starts sifting through the rubble, gathering anything that might be useful for survival.

A cart is quickly found and he starts piling his various finds on it.

And that’s when he sees them. 

It’s the bloody eye that catches his attention first. A bloody eye held up in a hand, as though specifically presented to Five.

He automatically reaches for it, takes the eye and wipes the blood off it with his thumb. The blood which isn't even entirely dry yet. Meaning that whatever happened here, couldn't have happened all that long ago. Maybe minutes ago, hours at most, barely any time at all before Five got here.

How is that even possible?

And then it suddenly occurs to him that there is a fully intact hand right there in front of him. All other bodies he has seen so far were burned to a crisp.

He scrambles to his feet, hoping against hope that the person attached to that hand might still be alive. They are not. And Five stares at the face in the rubble. Blonde hair, strong features and somehow eerily familiar.

He chokes, averting his gaze from the face of someone who looks so familiar but was much younger the last time Five saw them. Only for his eyes to fall on yet another body.

He stumbles over, hopinghopinghoping. Something is lodged in his throat as he desperately shakes the shoulder of yet another body with a too familiar face. There is a woman lying in the rubble just a few feet over, buried almost entirely, only her face visible. The features fit.

No.

Five refuses to believe it. These people could be complete strangers for all he knows. Just because they died right in front of where their home used to be, together, eerily resembling his siblings, doesn’t mean these are Numer One, Number Two and Number Three. It doesn't.

He stumbles on, around another pile of rubble, finding yet another body.

And Five doesn't even have the strength anymore to really let himself feel hope that this person might still be alive in contrast to the others. Still, he stumbles closer.

And then, his breath leaves him. He feels like something punched him in the chest.

This person's arm is uncovered and on that arm is a far too familiar tattoo, a tattoo that perfectly matches the one on Five's own arm, a tattoo that only he and five of his siblings bear.

Five feels his chest tighten, his heart thudding in pain, unable to rip his eyes away from that arm that apparently belongs to his brother. His dead brother.

And Five only left their home a little while ago, he just had an argument with his father, he just left the dinner table where all of his siblings had been gathered. And now his siblings are dead. That tattoo proves it.

He feels something hot lodging in his throat, making it almost impossible to breathe. He stares at the tattoo on that arm, even as he blinks rapidly, trying to fight back the hot, desperate, helpless tears gathering in his eyes.

Five is alone in a destroyed world and his siblings are dead. What is he supposed to do now?

And then there is a cough. And the arm twitches.

Chapter Text

Five is frozen in place, staring at that arm, at the tattoo, not quite daring to move. Too afraid that if he does, if he moves, that the illusion will shatter, that he'll realize that neither the cough nor the twitch were real, that it was just his mind playing tricks on him.

So, he holds perfectly still, staring, desperately hoping for another twitch, for another sign of life.

Then, the body in front of him twitches, a full-body shiver, and then his brother is suddenly dragging in deep breaths, trying to make up for the lack of oxygen, his eyes snapping open wide, promptly starting to cough at all the dust and ash hanging in the air.

He is alive.

Five feels his own breath rush out.

He can't help but twitch a small step forward, relief washing through him.

And with Five's movement, most-likely-Number-Four's eyes immediately focus on him. A brief pause. Then his eyebrows rise on his forehead. Possibly at the sight of Five looking the exact age as the moment he vanished but less than an hour but several years ago.

His brother leans up slightly, getting his elbows under him, probably about to say something, but then he seems to also notice his surroundings. He stares around himself, stares at the destruction and the still burning rubble and the ash drifting in the wind.

Five's brain is still running on a loop. His brother is alive.

Finally, Number Four focuses back on Five, gives him another once-over. And then huffs out a breath, before letting himself drop back down to lie in the rubble, closing his eyes as though ready to go back to sleep.

"Oh, hey, Five, fancy seeing you here," he greets sardonically. "And may I just say, what the fuck?" A pause. Then a groan. "And also, fucking ouch."

His brother is alive. Five isn't alone after all.

+++

So, it turns out his brother apparently can’t die. Or at the very least he doesn’t stay dead.

And when they finally finish digging Klaus - which is apparently Number Four's name now - out of the rubble he is halfway buried under, Five promptly proceeds to laugh for several minutes straight at the revelation that Klaus gets kicked out of god’s domain every time he goes for a visit. Because she apparently doesn’t like his face or something along those lines.

It’s hilarious, positively comical, that the only reason Five still has one of his siblings with him at all is because Klaus can annoy even a higher being beyond their capacity.

His brother just watches him laugh with a slight sardonic grin of his own, shrugging humorously at him.

And then Klaus unceremoniously reaches out to pull Five in for a hug.

Which definitely has nothing at all to do with the fact that Five’s laughter might have started to sound a little desperate, a little painful in his relief at the fact that he isn’t entirely alone in this world.

+++

They go foraging, trying to find food and water and clothes and other supplies.

Klaus keeps complaining about what the apocalypse did to his clothes and about the fact that all his other clothes are buried under the rubble and it takes Five all of fifteen minutes to get past his relief at not being alone and start getting annoyed at the thought how useless Klaus is going to be in his quest of making sure they'll survive this post-apocalyptic world.

Although, it turns out, he is pretty wrong about that assumption.

As much as Klaus might be babbling and complaining about the dust and whining about wanting a shower, it doesn't take Five all that long to realize that as carefree as Klaus is pretending to be, his brother has a weirdly good understanding of just what one needs to survive.

Turns out Klaus apparently used to live on the streets for a while and thus he is the exact opposite of useless in determining just the true essentials for surviving without running water, medical supplies or central heating.

It's a pleasant surprise.

So, they forage. The piles on their two carts growing, more and more things being added, other things being replaced whenever they find something better. Five makes absolutely sure not to drift too far away from his brother, the memory of those first few minutes after getting here, of thinking he was entirely, utterly alone still too fresh.

At least Klaus is making it rather easy for Five to always know where he is at, talking animatedly to himself, or rather having spirited discussions with someone invisible right at his side.

And Klaus is so eccentric, so weird and loud and different, that Five doesn't even feel remotely embarrassed or self-conscious about adding the upper half of the mannequin in a white blouse with black polka dots to his cart. It's another face in a world that is promising to be rather lacking in that aspect.

And Klaus' only comment when he sees the new addition to Five's cart is to complain about the shoulder width of the blouse and how it would sadly never fit him.

Interesting priorities, but okay.

+++

That evening after they've eaten cans of soup, warmed over one of the still burning fires all around the city, Klaus catches him up on things that happened in the world since Five's disappearance, just a few hours but also almost two decades ago.

And may he just say, there is a whole lot of stuff to catch up on.

From Ben's death only a few years after Five's disappearance to Allison becoming a movie star to Luther living on the moon for several years for some inexplicable reason. Vanya writing a book about all of them and their powers and their childhood, revealing not only their identities but also personal, intimate details about them, secrets that were very much supposed to stay just between those they considered family.

She certainly got her revenge for being excluded from their superhero club as a child.

And then the apocalypse. Which was apparently caused by Vanya. Who it turns out had powers after all. Who knew?

Well, apparently their father did but because he failed in training her, he chose to medically suppress her powers instead.

Their father had also apparently killed himself just to get all of them to come back home and Five wants to shake his head. How is that the most reasonable way of making them all return home?

Although, the most notable piece of information isn't that Vanya was absolutely livid when she found out about their father's decision to turn her ordinary, but that she apparently turned up with some guy Klaus had never seen before only a few days after their dad’s funeral.

And somehow that guy – Klaus can’t recall what his name was, continuing to refer to him as the chubby, rat-faced piece of shit – had somehow found out about her powers, managed to weasel himself into her life while setting himself up as her only ally and then when Vanya brought him over to meet her siblings, somehow managed to draw those powers out of Vanya, seemed to know exactly which buttons to push to get her really fucking angry, angry enough to make her lose control of herself, of her powers.

And she had been so angry at them for excluding her as a kid, so angry at their dad for lying to her, for making her ordinary, just so so angry.

But Klaus is also absolutely, immovably certain that she in no way intended to cause any one of them actual harm, much less intended to end the world. She had lost control. Rat-face had made her lose control.

It had become clear that rat-face was actually out for revenge against them - Klaus doesn't even recall ever meeting him, so he has no clue what sort of slight he had been getting revenge for - and that he was using Vanya as a mere tool. Once that had become clear, Luther had pretty much broken the piece of shit in half and ripped out his eye in retaliation. But it had still been too late.

Vanya simply had no way of controlling her fully released powers. But as her last act - even with the apocalypse well on its way already - had been to shield her siblings from the fire that was swallowing the world around them, her powers forming a large, glowing dome around the six of them.

Which also finally explains why his siblings were the only, actually still intact bodies they have found in the rubble so far. Every other formerly living being having been burned to a crisp.

Vanya really had tried to save those most important to her.

+++

Klaus is somehow exactly like the brother he remembers – just as playful, just as soft and warm and kind – but also completely different – bright and loud and colorful and his eyes haunted, ghosts flitting through them.

Figuratively and also literally. Because Klaus apparently talks to ghosts now.

All. The. Time.

And specifically to their brother Ben.

Who has apparently been haunting Klaus ever since his death and seems to have a rather cutting sense of humor if Klaus' translations of Ben's comments are to be believed.

Because as soon as Five indicates that he sees no reason not to believe Klaus's offhand claims regarding their other brother's presence, Klaus pretends like there is nothing standing in the way of Ben and Five interacting with each other normally.

Like, oh, maybe Five not actually being able to see or hear Ben.

Five doesn't get why Klaus seems so happy about Five believing him. Klaus talks to the dead. That's a well-established fact. Why wouldn't Five believe him about talking to their dead brother?

+++

They slowly make their way out of the city.

It's Canada in spring, so the weather is decent but the nights are still cold. They agree to make their way towards the areas of this continent with slightly more agreeable weather.

And if they are both also silently hoping that maybe the rest of the world might not be quite as bad off as their home town - seeing as this is also where it started, so maybe this 'apocalypse' didn't actually cover the entire world - neither of them mentions it out loud.

So they forage and slowly make their way out of the city towards the south.

+++

It takes Five a while to realize just what it is that has Klaus so very, constantly jittery, always twitching and fiddling.

Klaus is a junkie. In withdrawal.

And he has been stretching his supply of pills that he had been carrying around with him at the time of the apocalypse, a small supply but enough to keep himself just at the edge of withdrawal for a while.

Five notices that during their continuous foraging, Klaus collects every drop of booze they come across, pills, anything really.

And he would be absolutely disgusted by his brother's weakness - he is for a while - but then there comes the point in time where Klaus truly runs out of hard drugs. And Five gets to watch Klaus detox. Which isn't fun at all.

Not only because Five has to watch his brother shake himself through it, but also because it turns out that Klaus had apparently been taking every drug known to man for a reason.

Because being high is the only way Klaus knows to keep his powers at bay, and once Klaus is truly clean, his powers apparently become stronger. So, so much stronger.

And Five gets to watch as his brother is overwhelmed by the countless ghosts wandering the earth, according to Klaus now even worse what with so many lives having been ripped so abruptly from this earth during the apocalypse.

And ghosts apparently aren't necessarily friendly, especially if they are so abruptly ripped from their life without warning. They haunt Klaus, wailing and screeching at him so loudly that Five sometimes has to yell to make himself heard over the level of noise they are making.

They start avoiding the larger cities, because it's so so much worse in those places, so many more ghosts added to the already incomprehensible number of spirits that have collected in urban areas over time.

Some of the ghosts however realize that Klaus can't avoid them and they actually start following his brother around, keeping him awake at night with their wailing. And without drugs Klaus has no real way of shielding himself against their presence.

Which leads to Klaus often forgetting that it’s really just him and Five here, losing his grip on what is real and what shouldn't be. Sometimes, when it gets particularly bad, Five gets to watch as Klaus curls in on himself, whimpering, begging almost silently for them to goawaygowaygowaypleasegoaway.

It doesn't take Five long to realize that for Klaus the drugs aren't only a means of making life easier for himself, aren't only about the high - although, that's certainly also a factor - but also a thing of necessity if Klaus wants to have a chance at actually sleeping for any extended amount of time, if he wants to have any sort of rest or even a normal conversation without having to yell over the voices of the spirits lamenting their fates around him.

Dealing with his own powers seem like a cakewalk in comparison, accidental skip to the post-apocalypse or not.

So, Five starts helping Klaus with collecting pills and booze as much as he can. It's not often that they come across anything of the sort and not once do they find actual hard drugs, but sometimes they come across a bottle of liquor or a medicine cabinet with sleeping pills.

And the relief in Klaus' eyes whenever Five hands him something that will serve to numb his senses for a little while at least, at the promise of getting an undisturbed night of sleep due to popping a couple of pills, remind Five to never comment on his brother's cravings in any manner.

Thankfully, with time things also get better.

Klaus' powers only continue to grow, but he also learns to control them more in a way.

When he focuses, he can't really shield himself against any ghosts but he can bring forth the friendlier kind of ghosts and let himself be crowded by those instead of the screeching phantoms that haunt him otherwise.

So now, Five doesn't have to listen to his brother whimper at wailing wraiths any longer.

Instead he gets to listen to Klaus having entire, rather spirited discussions with people Five can’t see. Although, it’s an entertainment all on its own to try and figure out what Klaus’ conversation partners might be saying just based on his brother’s responses.

Hey, there isn’t much entertainment to be had otherwise. Five will take what he can get.

And another few months later, they realize that Klaus’ powers apparently reach much further than that, much further than either of them had thought.

To the surprise of all three of them.

The first time they realize there might be an additional element to Klaus' powers, is when his brother stumbles – always stumbling and flailing his 'older' sibling – and trips sideways. Right into Ben. Who prevents him from knocking his head into a brick wall by holding him up.

They stare.

Apparently, Klaus' powers allow him to turn Ben corporeal, to let him manifest in a way.

It’s quite the revelation.

And bringing the spirits of the dead back into the world of the living apparently extends to all other ghosts as well. Which means that they suddenly have rather regular if ever-changing company of various deceased spirits who are aimlessly wandering this world.

The post-apocalyptic world is definitely far less lonely than Five would ever have thought it would turn out to be and also far less quiet than he would honestly prefer on most days.

Klaus of course becomes entirely obsessed with developing the aspect of his powers that lets him bring Ben into the physical world. And suddenly, Five has not only the company of his thirty year old, childish-minded, eccentric brother Klaus but also the company of his dead, pretty mature and impressively sarcastic brother Ben.

Having Ben in the physical world from time to time doesn't seem to be enough for Klaus however, who focuses on developing his powers even further and by the second year in this burned-out, post-apocalyptic world, Ben is a constant, visible presence at their sides, rarely even so much as flickering.

Klaus just never really lets him fade anymore.

Admittedly, Five might also simply be entirely losing it and all of this is some very odd, incredibly detailed hallucination.

Actually, there is a good to fair chance that Klaus died along with their siblings and Five just imagined him waking up in the rubble to make it easier on his psyche.

Or maybe Klaus did in fact wake up, but even then there is a pretty good chance that at least Ben isn’t actually here and instead Klaus’ constant waffling on about their brother somehow convinced Five’s brain of his presence as well.

Not to even mention the seemingly countless ghosts that visit Klaus on a day to day basis and keep them company.

Yeah, there truly is a good chance that Five is simply going insane.

But, thank god, at least he still has Dolores. The one calm, sane voice in all of this madness.

Chapter Text

The first two years stuck in this post-apocalyptic, desolate world are the hardest.

Everything has burned down. Plants, animals, people, cities, everything just gone.

Getting used to going hungry sometimes, to never getting to take a shower, to the freezing cold in winter and the inescapable heat in summer. The fact that having drinking water has suddenly become something to work for.

In the first year they even still come across some wildlife from time to time - some animals probably having survived by being holed up in a cave or something during the apocalypse - but with all plants having been burned away from the surface of the earth, the wildlife doesn't make it too long, and by the time the plants start growing again several years later, there are simply no animals left.

At least that's how it is where they are at, in North America. Which is also where the apocalypse originated.

Which is the main reason why Five is determined to continue making their way towards the south, to check other parts of the world for potential survivors or better living conditions, hoping that the world might have fared a little better somewhere else.

So, they travel. One year passes surprisingly quickly - most of their time spent trying to find food and water, just plain surviving - as does the second year. Everywhere they've seen so far is the same. Burned down, destroyed cities, not a single living soul in sight.

They move on.

Although, in the winter of the third year, Klaus apparently has enough of constantly moving around and makes them settle down in the southern US - most likely somewhere in or around Florida - for a bit. Five isn't necessarily happy about it, but then again they have been more or less constantly moving for more than two years at that point, so in the end he agrees to hunker down for the winter.

They find a decent spot to settle in - the remainders of a building which miraculously survived the apocalypse - and  even set up something resembling an actual camp.

Turns out that Klaus was right and it’s actually not that bad to stay in a place for a bit, especially because it lets them avoid the worst of the winter months. Not that Five is ever going to admit the fact that Klaus might have been on to something out loud. His brother is already insufferable enough without being able to hold an admission like that over Five’s head.

So, they stay in Florida for almost four months and eat a whole fucking lot of fish while there. Apparently, the oceans weren't nearly as badly affected as the mainland and thus managed to recover relatively quickly from the apocalypse.

But by late spring, Five finally has enough of sitting still in one place and they are off once more, continuing on their track further towards the south.

This time it's Klaus who isn't necessarily happy about moving on again, but seeing as he did get his way before and they actually rested for a few months, he concedes this time around.

And that's how they find their pattern. Their stay in Florida has taught them to stick close to the ocean - because it makes finding food so much easier - and thus they just continue south along the Atlantic coast. They travel for a couple of months - follow Five's need to constantly keep moving - and once Klaus has enough of traveling they settle somewhere - usually during the harsher months of winter - to rest for a bit, before they are off again.

And Five knows that one of the reasons why Klaus likes to stay in one place for as long as he possibly can is that staying stationary seems to help him with his powers somehow, that it's easier for his brother to force the ghosts around them to do his bidding if he is familiar with the place and the particular spirits roaming the area.

Which is honestly the only reason Five agrees to these months-long stops at all, because after several months of traveling he can see the wear and tear on Klaus every time, the lines in his brother's face giving away his exhaustion, the increasingly dark circles under Klaus’ eyes always a good indicator of whenever he reaches that point where he stops sleeping altogether, his shields simply too worn to keep the ghosts at bay any longer.

So, Five agrees to the stops to make it easier on Klaus, in the same way as Klaus agrees to move on after a while, probably well-aware that Five’s constant urge to keep moving is more than simply wanting to check on the rest of the continent but an actual need, that to Five it feels like ants crawling under his skin whenever he gets stuck, unmoving, unchanging in one place for too long. Five has no idea whether the need to constantly change his location has anything to do with his powers or not.

Point is, they find a medium that works for both of them, several months in one place and then traveling for a while until they find a good place to stay for a while where Klaus can recover, until Five's restlessness drives them on again. It's not perfect, but it works.

By the time they make it to South America, they have simply gotten used to it being just the four of them and the biggest problem aside from staying warm in winter and having water in summer turns out to be the insects which happily flourish without anything to kill them off.

Protecting your food from six-legged creepy crawlies the size of your entire hand isn’t fun at all.

And the effect their regular stops have on Klaus' powers is more than obvious.

It's in year five during one of those longer stays in one place - Five thinks they are somewhere in the general area of Venezuela at this point - where Klaus learns of his ability to float.

Klaus had been arguing rather spiritedly with Ben and at least one ghost Five can't actually see, and in his agitation, he suddenly just starts floating in the middle of the discussion.

They stare, all of them taken rather by surprise.

No one more than Klaus, who is so startled that he promptly starts flailing, loses his balance and drops down to the floor again and promptly knocks himself out by hitting his head against an inconveniently located piece of brick wall.

Of course, as soon as he wakes Five laughs at him and does so every time Klaus tries to float only to crash rather painfully back to the floor within moments. Hey, it's really rather entertaining to watch Klaus painstakingly make himself float, lose his concentration, wobble a bit and crash down again, only to then pout at his own failure like a toddler.

However, in the end, it takes his brother barely six months to learn how to reliably keep himself in the air. And then it’s Klaus’ turn to laugh at Five who still has to conquer the rather cumbersome terrain on foot or by bike while Klaus just floats along. Five huffs in annoyance at being mocked, but then again, fair is fair.

By the tenth year, they have simply gotten used to life in an abandoned, post-apocalyptic world with only each other for company.

And Five doesn’t even want to consider what an odd picture they must make. Five on his bike with the attached cart that is Dolores' domain, framed by his two floating brothers, Klaus usually chattering at the empty air around him and as always accompanied by the blue-glowing form of Ben, who apparently sees no reason to pretend to have to actually walk anywhere when he can spare himself the trouble by simply floating along as well.

Klaus doesn't always turn the ghosts - the mass of countless spirits surrounding them, following him around - visible, simply because of the strain it has on him. Only sometimes does he bring a particularly interesting ghost into the physical world - as a distraction or even just to include Five in the discussion - but more often than not, doing so for an extended amount of time results in Klaus being so drained that he can't keep up Ben's form for several days afterwards, which he seems to find entirely inacceptable.

Thus, Five learns to communicate with the dead while not actually being able to see them, relying on Klaus or Ben’s translation of what is being said - or just going by their reactions to the invisible spirits around them - the same way he translates whatever Dolores might want to contribute to any given discussion in turn.

And, yes, quite likely they are all less than sane at this point, but it's not like there is anyone around to judge, now is there?

All in all, it's so much more company than Five had ever thought he'd have after the end of the world and sometimes he even wistfully thinks of getting a little bit more peace and quiet every once in a while.

Honestly, on most days with only each other as company, the four of them are simply too different to just get along, what with Five enjoying silence more than he enjoys company - sometimes not deigning to talk to any of his three constant companions for several days in a row - but Klaus, of course, being the exact opposite, barely ever willing to shut up and Ben more often than not quite happy to indulge him.

Which doesn't even take their odd dynamic into account, with Klaus being almost twice Five's age but his 'older' brother also generally behaving so erratically, so childishly that most days Five feels like he is babysitting a damn toddler. Not to even mention the fact that Ben is actually dead - something that Five and Klaus tend to just kind of forget on most days - or the fact that only Five can actually communicate directly with Dolores at all.

But still, somehow they make it work.

Thankfully, once Klaus finally gets the hang of purposely summoning the friendlier kind of ghost, his brother has so many conversation partners to choose from that Five’s silence doesn’t really bother him anymore.

Which, hallelujah.

And with Klaus taken care of, for Ben it just kind of depends on the day, sometimes enjoying just being quiet with Five, sometimes listening to Klaus chatter to the other ghosts and sometimes joining in on the lively conversations their brother is clearly having.

So, as much as Five might wish for some peace and quiet from time to time, in the end Klaus' presence at least ensures that Five never knows a single moment of boredom while they are stuck alone in this desolate, abandoned world.

Truly, it could have been worse.

 


 

About twelve years into their life as the oddest quartet – well, ‘quartet’ if one ignores the ever-changing number of ghosts seeking them out - to ever roam the earth, the Commission sends two of their underlings to check them out for the first time.

And neither Five nor Klaus would have even noticed their presence at all, if it weren’t for the fact that those underlings also apparently work as assassins and are thus followed around by a truly impressive number of ghosts. Ghosts who never got so much as a chance at revenge for their deaths, ghosts who are all still rather pissed off and absolutely delight in telling Klaus everything he wants to know, including all of the underlings’ as well as all of the Commission's secrets.

By the third time the Commission sends someone to spy on them, Five and Klaus have long since figured out exactly what the Commission is, what they do, who works for them and they have accumulated a truly impressive amount of blackmail material for each of the underlings who came close enough for Klaus to have a chat with the ghosts following them around.

But point is, by the time the Handler herself finally makes an appearance, they are more than prepared to take her on, to turn her little game of manipulation right around on her.

And Five doesn't know how his conversation with the Handler would have gone if he hadn't known about the Commission already at that point, doesn't even know whether she maybe just intended to poke and prod at him a little this time around to figure out what makes him tick and then just turn back time to before their meeting, so Five wouldn't remember ever meeting her until she deemed him ready for her schemes.

He is definitely getting a feeling that his obvious knowledge of not only who she is but also who she works for, throws her at least a little.

Especially, when at her offer to take him on as an assassin, Five doesn't even bother to ask what that would entail but instead just starts haggling over conditions. Conditions like Klaus and Dolores being able to come along, like Klaus being made his partner - since based on what the ghosts have told them, temporal assassins apparently work in pairs anyway – and so on.

Klaus only throws in some rather unhelpful commentary from time to time, happy to assume the role of the useless, annoying and easily dismissed one between the two of them. It's always good to have an ace up your sleeve, which in their case will be Klaus making himself out as the helpless, useless, deadweight brother. It's a role he plays a little too well on most days.

Because of course, neither of them mentions that letting Klaus come along will inevitably also include the unending number of ghosts that won't leave Klaus alone. Even if the Commission knows something about Klaus’ powers, they can’t possibly know the true extent of them, seeing as Klaus developed most of them while stuck in this abandoned, post-apocalyptic world.

The Handler is clearly skeptical but in the end she agrees to Five's conditions. And that's how they end up becoming temporal assassins with their own nifty little time machine that also lets them skip to any place in the world. It's quite the resource.

Because then - by entirely unspoken agreement - the moment they are taken from the rather desolate world of the post-apocalypse, they immediately proceed to use any and all resources they can get their hands on to work towards getting themselves back to their own timeline, back to before the apocalypse, back to when their siblings are still alive.

Because it's not even a question to them whether they'll do anything in their power to change history, to save the world, Commission's orders to the opposite effect or no.

The four of them are going to find a way to go back to before the end of the world, they'll prevent the apocalypse and - most importantly - they'll save their siblings.

See if they don't.

Chapter Text

The thing about Klaus’ abilities is that there are truly no secrets anyone can keep from Five’s brother.

His brother had years upon years in a desolate wasteland with nothing to entertain himself with than to practice using his powers, so by the time they join the Commission he cannot only levitate freely but more importantly can call ghosts at will, make them manifest if he so pleases, can talk to whomever he likes.

The dead are everywhere and see everything. And they have no use for secrets, always more than willing to tell Klaus everything he wants to know. Which, of course, also includes any questions Five might have.

So, the first order of business after joining the Commission is gathering blackmail and finding out how much their current employers actually know about them and their powers.

A few chats with the ghosts following the Handler around and they are fairly certain that the Commission actually knows surprisingly little about their powers, barely anything at all beyond what anyone in their own time could have told you based on the media coverage of their missions, namely that Klaus sees dead people and that Five can jump through space. Them knowing about the time-skipping thing is kind of a given at this point.

But that's also pretty much all they know.

Which is just so far from the reality of their powers - getting neither into exactly what Klaus' powers can do, nor anything about Five's powers that is actually relevant, like, oh, maybe their limits or something? - that Five promptly loses most of the tentative respect he had been holding for the Commission as a whole.

Admittedly, they are basing most of this information solely on what they can glean from the Handler's ghosts, seeing as they have yet to run into any of the real higher-ups at the Commission. So, there is still a slight chance that the people actually in charge might be a little better informed.

Although, Five isn't holding his breath.

And it's not like there would be much to find even if someone did try to look into their powers, seeing as Five tried time-jumping the first time right before ending up in the post-apocalypse and Klaus only started figuring out his own powers in that same desolate wasteland.

No one aside from them even knows the extent of their powers, and they certainly have no intention of cluing in other people to their own ignorance.

Being underestimated is definitely an advantage neither of them is willing to give up.

+++

All in all, being assassins is a little strange.

Strange, for no other reason than because making a living by killing people is turning out to be a far easier than it honestly should be.

Assassinations, planning murder, manipulating people into deadly situations to be exploited by them, even the final act of pulling the trigger, it all shouldn't be anywhere as easy as it is turning out to be.

At least, that's what Five thinks.

Sure, he and his brothers are used to going on missions, have been 'taking out' criminals and villains alike ever since their father deemed their training sufficient, since long before they even hit puberty.

But back then, they used to go after the bad guys.

Because, now? The people the Commission wants dead range from genocidal megalomaniacs threatening world order all the way to nice, old ladies feeding pigeons in the park. It's a rather odd mix of targets and it takes Five a couple of years - taking every kill order as it comes but noting everything down in detail - to work out a sort of pattern in the kills they are tasked with.

Not that it ultimately makes any sort of difference to them.

Cold-blooded murder or no, their goal is still the same.

The goal of going back in time, getting back to their siblings, and preventing the apocalypse, so they can all live happily ever after. Or what-the-fuck-else their siblings want to do with their lives.

Point is, they are going to go back to save their siblings. All of them.

And in order to do that, they need the Commission's resources.

So.

Killing a couple of people along the way in order to find a way back may be unfortunate but if nothing else, saving the world in the process should make up it in the long run, right?

Although, even if it doesn’t, it changes nothing.

They have their priorities. And that's, quite simply, that.

And after having quite literally lived through the apocalypse, Five can say with absolute certainty that this is truly not the worst life to live.  

+++

So, Klaus and Five travel the world, travel through time, gather information, gather blackmail and intel, as Ben and Dolores cheerfully tag along. All the while Five tries to refine his calculations on how to get them back to the exact point in time and the exact location they need to save their siblings, while also doing the Commission's bidding on the side.

Although, it's a simple, unspoken understanding between them that Five is the one who actually pulls the trigger every single time.

Because neither of them wants to find out what Klaus’ powers might do with the spirit of someone he himself killed in cold blood.

Yeah, no thanks.

Those first couple of years after the apocalypse before Klaus ever gained any sort of control over his powers – witnessing his brother’s endless struggles with the countless ghosts always surrounding him, the many ghosts, gentle spirits and wrathful wraiths brought back to the world of the living by his brother's powers – have seen to that.

Five can say from experience that vengeful spirits are already enough of a hassle to deal with when they just want Klaus' help in their quest to get revenge. He would honestly prefer not having to deal with any that might actively seek Klaus' demise in revenge for their own death.

Just the ghosts that must be surrounding Five at this point – and that Klaus takes absolute care to never bring into the visible spectrum for Five to see, much less into the physical world – are clearly enough of a drain on his brother.

Thus, Five takes absolute care to always be the one who actually pulls the trigger.

And he never asks what Klaus sees when he stares at the shadows behind Five, when his brother's hazy eyes - glowing just slightly with that otherworldly, bright blue light - glance at this or that spot just over Five's shoulder, when his eyes turn a little sadder with each new kill Five carries out.

Five never asks.

There is no need to. He already knows.

Point is, while Five does the actual assassin work, Klaus usually goes gallivanting off to ‘enjoy’ himself as he calls it.

Well, Five knows it's just a front. Not hard to figure out seeing as whenever Klaus gets back from his supposedly fun trips, he always has some more useful information to share with Five.

On their third hit – this time somewhere in Russia – Klaus actually returns to their hotel room with the ghost of an absolutely insane, but also absolutely brilliant mathematician in tow who is more than happy to be brought into the physical world for a couple of hours in order to have a discussion about Five’s calculations.

 Which starts an entirely new trend, with Klaus skipping off to search for the various brilliant minds scattered around the world every time the Commission sends them somewhere new, more often than not returning with various sometimes-more-sometimes-less helpful geniuses for Five to bounce ideas around with or to argue over certain parts of his calculations.

And Five can admit that it probably would have taken him quite a while longer to figure out how to use his own powers to get them back to their own time if he had to rely entirely on himself for his calculations.

Good lord, does it help to have some decently smart people around to bounce ideas around with.

It’s also one of those ghosts who points a particular element in his formula to him, making him realize that no matter how he twists his numbers there are too many factors to take into account to truly know how the whole timetravel thing will work out in the end.

Which he tells his brothers. Tells them that there is no way of knowing whether Five will be able to actually take them along – has never tried traveling through time with a passenger in tow – and that the way his calculations are turning out, he has a suspicion there might be some sort of interference with their age, their presence, and their alter egos.

Because as far as Five can figure, by definition there can't be two of anyone anywhere at any time.

Which is also a weird conundrum because it poses a different problem with each of them.

Five isn’t even sure what exactly will happen to himself, but at least he doesn’t have an alter ego in the past whose presence might interfere with his time travel to right before the apocalypse.

Then there is Klaus whose alter ego will definitely be around which might make his timetravel entirely impossible. And who the fuck knows what the rules for ghosts traveling through time might be, whether Ben will even be affected by Five’s powers at all or even whether the no-two-versions-of-anyone rule even applies to him.

His brothers listen, a brief pause, and then Klaus just quips something about if things go wrong God will likely kick him out of the afterlife again anyway. And Ben just gives a what-can-you-do shrug in agreement.

And Five can’t help but agree.

Complications and immutable laws of the universe be damned, doesn't mean they won't still try.

+++

And finally Five thinks he got it. Thinks he finally got the formula right or at least as 'right' as he'll ever be able to make it, thinks this is as close as he'll ever get.

He tells Klaus and Ben as much.

Ben's eyes light up, while Klaus grins fiercely.

They don't ask questions, don't ask him whether he's sure.

Klaus just reaches out to grasp the hand Five is holding out to him, his other hand holding fast to Ben's.

+++

They jump.

+++

Blinding blue light, coiling around them, winding through them, crushing them, pulling them apart.

The pain of being ripped to pieces and being put back together at the same time, too much pressure, no gravity to hold them down.

Everything is everywhere.

The light coalesces, a distorted image in the winding light before them, almost like window to somewhere else. Some time else.

+++

Five lands outside.

It's cold, the ground is hard. And he knows this place, doesn't need to look up to know he is behind the house that used to be his home a couple of decades ago.

He gets up, has to blink a couple of times against the vertigo, regains his bearings, then frowns at how weird his own body feels.

He looks down at himself.

And realizes with a certain amount of horror that he doesn't look at all like himself anymore.

Instead, he seems to be a kid again. What the fuck?

Sure, his calculations told him that there might be some weird side-effects from him having left his time and now returning to a point in time where he should exist but doesn't. But still, he certainly hadn't expected time to just decide to restore him to the exact body he had when he left his own time. Seriously, what the fuck?

He wants to sigh.

Alas, nothing to be done about that now.

He glances up.

Only to find all of his siblings gathered in front of him, staring.

Well, except for Klaus, who is down on his knees coughing. A Klaus who looks about the same age as the one he first met right after the apocalypse.

It's weird seeing his brother look thirty again.

Finally, Klaus looks up as well, looks around himself and the siblings standing around them.

His eyes find Five’s.

“Well, damn, midget. You couldn’t have made that ride any bumpier, could you?”

Standing behind Klaus, Ben – his brilliantly blue-glowing form just in the process of reforming, gaining definition – snorts in amusement.

Which solves the question of whether his brothers would be able to travel back with him and how the paradox of two Klauses might be solved. Seems like his brothers might have just replaced their alter egos.

And Five does his best not to let his relief show that he was truly able to bring his two brothers along. Don’t get him wrong, he would have been fine without - he is always fine - but still.

Instead, Five just smirks – ignores how weird it feels not to be in his own body anymore – and scoffs in return, “I blame it on your flailing.”

Klaus just grins at him fiercely.

And their siblings look on, all of them entirely gobsmacked.

Five just raises his eyebrows at them, waits, and then decides that maybe he should give the poor, less-than-mentally-gifted a bit of time to catch up.

And in the meantime, where to find himself a decent cup of coffee?