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Wish Upon A Star

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May 1st, 2019.

Vanya sighed as she looked at the newspaper in the box. She had to remember to do something for Five to celebrate. She had no idea how much he’d care, but she had a feeling it might help to remind him of the milestones that he’d achieved. First a new month that wasn’t meant to be. Next a year that was never meant to be, eventually. Birthdays they hadn’t gotten to – even though it wasn’t going to be Five’s birthday anymore.

Helen startled her out of that thought before it could get painful, clearing her throat.

Vanya raised her brow. Helen was holding one coffee in her hand. “You know, I kind of assumed you’d get two coffees,” she said, trying not to laugh.

“Shit,” Helen hissed. “I meant to!”

Vanya snorted. “It’s fine, I know you’re not a morning person.”

Helen pushed her coffee into Vanya’s hand. “Just wait one second, I’ll get another for myself.”

She dashed back inside, leaving Vanya to laugh to herself over her newly acquired coffee.

Helen wasn’t, per se, a good girlfriend in the normal sense. She was cutting, selfish and impatient. She put her foot in her mouth on the regular, she sulked over the slightest disagreements, and she was constantly sarcastic. She was also easily the best partner Vanya had ever had. She was funny, patient, apologized easily and often, and gave Vanya every bit of space or help she needed, even if sometimes Vanya had to remind her what those things were.

Vanya turned to watch her through the window of the café, yawning as she waited for the second order.

They’d been taking it slow. Granted, it had only been a month, but Vanya had been sleeping on the couch, the majority of their intimacy conserved to their date nights, twice a week. If Leonard had taught Vanya anything, it was that she couldn’t dive headfirst into a relationship when it was very possible it was just a desperate escape from loneliness by any means necessary.

 But Helen had been around for 3 years, had gone through thorough vetting by her family (the other version of them, but still) and had taken all this memory swapping well, and it was hard to take it slow with her.

And as hard as Helen was trying to be kind about all this, she didn’t have the tact to pretend she wasn’t waiting for Vanya to finally give them the all clear in trying to be a couple like they had been. She’d been so carefully avoiding topics like her parents, Vanya’s family and… well, sex… that it was almost more forceful than if she’d just brought them up.

Vanya sighed, sipping at the coffee and watching the slowly waking street. How fast was too fast when you were one foot out of an 8 day relationship with a serial killer that had tortured your brother within an inch of his life and had instead woken up with a steady girlfriend you didn’t remember who was charmingly imperfect in all the right ways?

“Hargreeves family bullshit as usual,” she muttered to herself.

 “Okay,” Helen said, returning with a sigh. “Two coffees.” She kissed Vanya’s cheek in a quiet apology. “Ready for rehearsal?”

“Uh,” Vanya said. “Yeah. Sure.”

Helen frowned at her. “What?”

Vanya glanced at her as they started walking. “Nothing.” Helen looked unimpressed. “Just thinking about you.”

“That does not make me feel better, you know,” Helen said. “You look like something died in front of you.”

Vanya rolled her eyes. “No, not like… I just… was feeling guilty.”

“God, again?” Helen said. “Don’t you get tired?” When Vanya gave her a look, she held up her hands. “Joke. I’m joking. I wish you wouldn’t feel bad, but I’m not actually mad at you for it. Don’t feel guilt about your guilt, I may roll my eyes out of my head and then I’d feel bad for being insensitive.”

 “Sure,” Vanya said, nudging Helen’s shoulder with her own as they walked. “Asshole.”

“Yeah,” Helen said. “I am. It’s why I fit right in with the Hargreeves family.”

“See, that’s what I was thinking about,” Vanya said. “It feels stupid to rush in and introduce you to my family after a month, but it also feels stupid not to when you’ve already sort of met them.”

“I sure did. You would not believe the speech Allison gave me about what would happen if I hurt you,” Helen said. “My life flashed before my eyes. And Diego? I like him, but I’m seriously not sure anyone told the poor man about lesbians before he met me.”

“Yeah, well, it’s not like we got outside much,” Vanya muttered. When would be the best time to introduce her again? Right now, family time was mostly geared towards making a space for her, rekindling whatever team spirit they’d had as a family, and worrying intensely about Five, who spent most of his time looking like he’d run twelve marathons while being told his pet had died. She groaned. “Anyway, I’m just… sorry.”

Helen gave her an exhausted look that Vanya was starting to think was teasing. “Again?”

“Oh shut up. I’m sorry that we were serious and now I’m dragging my feet about you meeting my family – again – and… you know…” She sighed.

“Your family is a mess, I can live without for a few more months,” Helen said, mouth quirking up. “Besides, I’m not ready to meet your elusive favorite sibling anyway. He’ll probably hate me.”

“Five will not hate you,” Vanya said. “You’re great.” That, and despite being grouchy as usual, Five seemed too tired for things like outright hate at the moment.

“You literally just called me an asshole.”

“Oh, he wrote the book on being an asshole.”

“I thought that was a team effort?”

Vanya shoved her, getting a laugh out of Helen that she couldn’t help but mirror.

“Look, you can introduce me to your family whenever you want,” Helen said. “You’ve stuck around, that’s enough. I mean, sure, I miss the way things used to be, but I’m happy just having you.” She smirked at Vanya. “And you know I wouldn’t just say that to make you feel better.”

“Yes, I do,” Vanya said, stopping as they reached the music school. “But I’m…” She sighed. “With everything going on with the end of the world and Five, you’ve really been there for me, and I’m… I’m scared about going too fast, but I really want to do something… serious with you.”

Helen stopped, looking uncharacteristically touched. “Well,” she said, wrapping her arms around Vanya’s shoulders. “What about a weekend trip? Get out of town for a little, and maybe…” She stopped, giving the same look she’d given Vanya when she’d sent her out for batteries for her vibrator. Vanya didn’t have the heart to point out that she wasn’t being subtle.

“Well, my last weekend trip with a partner nearly killed my sister,” Vanya said, though that memory seemed to be in the distant past. She and Allison had been spending a lot of time together, especially since Allison had decided to catch Vanya up on the martial arts training the rest of the family had gotten. It was surprising how fun it was.

“Oh my god,” Helen whined. “Really? I promise not to let you go mad with power.”

“I’m mostly kidding,” Vanya said, trying to hide her smile. “You’re right. A weekend trip isn’t that crazy after a month. Where do you want to go?”

“They’re opening up this abandoned amusement park about an hour from here, and I really want to see it,” Helen blurted.

“What?” Vanya managed, trying not to laugh. “I didn’t peg you for an amusement park enthusiast.”

“Well, you’re not pegging me in general, so…” Vanya punched her lightly on the shoulder, and Helen shoved her back. “What! There’s only so much I can’t say!”

“Asshole,” Vanya whispered, chuckling softly.

“As though any reasonable person could refrain from such an obvious joke. Anyway, I love amusement parks,” Helen said. “I worked at one in high school and they’re great. Especially ones with weird stories attached, which this one has a lot of. Honestly, the weirder, the better.”

Vanya peered at her over her coffee. “Answer me honestly… are you just dating me for the ambiance of my family?”

“Oh, come on, Vanya,” Helen said, hiding a smile. “That’s only a small part of it.”

“Oh? What’s the main part?” Vanya teased.

“You were so oblivious I had to have you out of sheer spite, of course.”

Vanya burst out laughing. “Wow, thanks. You really know how to make a girl feel special.” She brushed her hair behind her ear. “But okay, sure. Weekend trip it is, you weirdo.”

“Great,” Helen said, smiling and grabbing Vanya’s shoulders to march her inside. “Now shut up and walk, we’re going to be late.”

**

Ben sighed, leaning on the doorframe. “I hope you know what an eerie picture you paint right now.”

Five looked up at him blearily. He had dark circles under his eyes, hair ever so slightly in disarray, legs sprawled out in front of him as he sat against the bed. That alone wasn’t that concerning – it meant Five still hadn’t learned how regular sleep worked, probably, but after only a month that wasn’t surprising.

The part that made it especially weird was the several dozen synchronized watches spread out around him like some kind of ritualistic arrangement.

“I’m trying to find hobbies,” he said, hands frozen in the watch he was currently repairing.

Ben sighed. Granted, Five finding a hobby would be a good thing, but at the moment it looked more like he was exhaustedly and obsessively timing and repairing every watch and clock he could get his hands on. “It’s May,” he said.

“Is it?” Five said, leaning in to squint at one of his watches while he finished winding up the one in his hand. “That’s nice.”

“Thought you might want to celebrate the unencumbered passage of time,” Ben said. He pulled out the box Vanya had dropped off in the morning, lovingly wrapped in today’s newspaper. “So did Vanya, though she said she’s booked back to back in lessons today. But she got you marshmallow chocolates.”

“She shouldn’t have. The apocalypse won’t become any more over because of certain calendar events,” Five murmured, placing the latest watch into the spread, grasping for his box of unwound watches blindly.

“Think of it like a sobriety chip,” Ben said with a shrug, setting the gift on Five’s nightstand. “Not like I got to see many of those living with Klaus.”

“Oh, good, he’s passed on the idea that I’m addicted to the apocalypse,” Five drawled, digging through his box.

Ben snatched the box out of his hand. Five let out an indignant squawk. “You’re literally sitting surrounded by clocks. This room is an actual mausoleum of time. Come outside with me and celebrate the fact that we’ve made it to May.”

“I suppose I could go for a coffee,” Five muttered.

“No,” Ben said. “It’s 4pm.”

“Is it?” Five said, looking at the absurd array of clocks. “Oh. I guess it is.” He looked back at Ben. “I don’t see what that has to do with anything.”

“No caffeine after 4pm,” Ben said. “It’ll keep you up all night.”

“Cutting down on coffee won’t help me sleep,” Five said, narrowing his eyes, the sharp furrow of his brow getting even deeper than usual. “It’ll just give me a headache.”

“I’ve spent 13 years personally haunting someone addicted to pretty much every kind of drug out there,” Ben said, kneeling down slightly to look Five in the eyes. “Do you really think I care about that kind of excuse anymore?”

Five glared at him.

“When was the last time you slept?”

Five shrugged. “Don’t know.”

“When was the last time you ate?”

“We have a family meal every day,” Five bit back. “You’ve seen me eat.”

“Okay, when was the last time you ate more than one meal a day?”

“45 to 14 years ago,” Five said, with the sort of carelessness he’d settled into lately and that was probably going to give Allison heart palpitations in under a year if he kept it up. “Your point?”

Ben rolled his eyes. “Come on, think of something you’d be willing to eat, I’m buying you food.” He held out his hand to help Five up.

Unsurprisingly, Five’s face twisted into some inexplicable emotion, and he instead used the bed to lever himself to his feet. He rubbed his face as he got up. He was probably stiff from sleeplessness, but Ben didn’t mention it. Instead he withdrew his hand, letting Five hobble out the door on his own.

“So, what do you want to eat?” Ben asked, trotting down the stairs with Five.

“God, I don’t know,” Five said, rubbing at his eyes. “As long as it’s not roaches.”

Ben sighed, taking pity on him. “You know what sounds good? Deli sandwiches.”

“If you say so.”

“I do.” Ben took the rest of the stairs two at a time. It was always exciting to go places without having to haggle Klaus into it. Klaus was still his favorite brother, sure – how could he not be, after all this time – but it was a relief to be free from him. Klaus probably wouldn’t mind the thought anyway. At the moment he was probably dead asleep until it was time for him to get up and join Diego for work. He’d still been struggling to adjust to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep in the night, meaning that if he wasn’t actively doing something, he was probably sleeping.

“So I have a question about math,” Ben said, opening the door for Five.

“Fine,” Five muttered.

Math was an easy subject to get Five invested in.

“So I was looking at that problem you gave me, and I’m not getting how a charge wouldn’t have infinite mass with the equations you gave me,” Ben said. This was blatantly false, but if the past month had taught Ben anything, it was that they’d definitely have food before Five realized this.

“Ben,” Five snapped. Baiting him was like taking candy from a baby. “I’ve already told you this. The integral of the Dirac delta distribution is not infinity.”

“But it’s an infinite function.”

“It’s not a function, because it’s infinite at zero.”

“But you said it wasn’t infinite.”

“No, I said the integral isn’t infinity,” Five hissed.

Ben put his hands in his pockets with an absent nod. This was too easy. “But an integral is the sum of all values of a function under the curve, which includes infinity, so the sum of whatever plus infinity is infinity.”

“No! The Dirac delta is not a function, it’s a limit of the Gaussian distributions which is infinity at zero, but which has an infinitesimally small width.”

“So it’s zero.”

“No.”

Ben tried not to grin. He couldn’t wait to tell Klaus about this later.

It was probably mean to pick on Five – he’d actually been doing a surprisingly good job of dissecting quantum mechanics to Ben’s level. Given how arrogant he’d always been about his math skills, Ben had expected him to launch into it a mile a minute, but after a few days of adjusting to Ben’s speed he’d laid out a lesson plan that had gotten Ben feeling confident about the basics in under two weeks.

Still, ranting about math seemed to be good for Five. He looked a lot more alive babbling about Dirac distributions than he had in the past few days, especially today. It had probably been a while since he’d slept, but with a bone to pick he was back to being himself.

The deli was about ten minutes’ walk away, and Five was currently ranting about normalization when Ben ordered for him. Asking what he wanted was a fool’s errand, so Ben got him something light and digestible. Given that his body was the original 13 year old Five, he probably had just as much of a stomach for food, but Five himself had an odd relationship with eating.

As far as Ben could tell, in one lifetime he’d spent most of his time eating canned food and bugs, while in the other he’d at least had the benefit of a community garden and the occasional lost deer, but the burden of having to share and keep everyone else fed before allowing himself to eat.

He set down the sandwiches in front of Five, who was still babbling about how, “the Dirac comb is a sloppy model for periodicity, but—“

“You know I’m messing with you, right?” Ben said.

Five stopped short. His face clearly said that no, he had not known. After a moment, though, he scowled. “Fuck you, Ben.”

“Hey,” Ben said, grinning. “At least it kicked you back into gear.”

Five rolled his eyes, frowning down at his food. “And already we’re back to this. Go back to spouting bullshit about quantum physics again instead.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Ben said. “But now that we’re here, you look really tired.”

“Of course I’m tired,” Five muttered, tearing the crusts off of his sandwich. “Name one thing that’s happened to me in my sum total of 72 years of life that wouldn’t make me tired.”

“Klaus tells me sleep helps with that sort of thing,” Ben remarked.

Five rolled his eyes. “If you’d seen the things I’ve seen you wouldn’t sleep either.”

Ben took a bite of his sandwich and sighed. “Which of us do you think has killed more people?” He wondered, sometimes, if his siblings really remembered that Ben’s job had generally been to lock himself into a room and tear everyone in it to shreds.

Five paused, eyes flickering guiltily over Ben, before he sighed. “You know, my work in the Commission is surprisingly low on the list of things I have nightmares about.” He snorted bitterly. “I think maybe after 45 years alone, people stopped seeming as… real. They were just numbers, in a way. A couple hundred dead, but billions saved.”

Ben hummed. It was depressing to hear Five talk about it that way, but Ben knew how he felt. When you had little choice but to kill, it stopped mattering. It was just the way things had to be to go on.

Five let out a tired breath and nibbled at his food. “May 2019,” he said, slowly, looking out the window at passersby. “I guess you’re right. It’s a milestone of sorts.”

“Not a small one,” Ben said. “Think about how much you’ve survived to get this far.”

Five scoffed. “I’d rather not.” After a moment, he looked at Ben with a reluctant scowl. “I owe you a talk.”

“I wasn’t keeping score,” Ben said. “And I did vote to traumatize the hell out of you, so…”

“What was the score of that?” Five asked, mouth quirking up slightly, recognizing the absurdity of putting something like that up to a vote.

“Four to two.”

Five looked him up and down. “Vanya, I’m guessing,” he said, thoughtfully. “And… Allison?”

“Luther.”

“Huh,” Five said, surprised. “He’s come a long way, hasn’t he?”

Ben laughed. “Yeah, he’s been trying really hard.”

Five sighed. “Well, whatever. New milestone, new attempt at being… open, or whatever.” He sat back, not looking at Ben. “Pogo was still in the house,” he said. “In timeline 2.0.”

The look on Five’s face made it hard to respond to that right away. Instead, Ben decided to give him a moment to stabilize before getting into just how fucked up their lives could get. “2.0? Really?”

“It’s apt.”

“So what are we? 2.1?”

“If the shoe fits.”

Ben swallowed the bite he was on, giving Five his full attention. “Alright. Go on.”

Five chewed over his words, tearing his sandwich to bits without looking at Ben. “If it had been anyone else, I might have put it together. But Pogo looked the same. So I thought I could get through to him.”

Ben stayed quiet. Five tended to retreat if people showed actual concern for him, and this was the first time he’d actually opened up since his crash right after arriving in this future. For the most part, he’d just spent most of his time in his room or lingering in the background like he was the ghost now.

Five chuckled, but it wasn’t out of any sense of humor, then another bite of sandwich into his mouth. “I don’t think I realized it was me or him until I was already soaked in blood. Mostly his, but he took off a nice chunk of my side, too.” He looked out the window. “Kind of glad everyone else has been avoiding him, so it’s no big deal that I am too.”

Ben made a face. “That’s shit.”

“It is,” Five said, looking back at Ben. He stuffed a piece of sandwich in his mouth and chewed it up before continuing. “You know, you were the only one I never saw in timeline one. Vanya’s picture was on her book, but you just stayed a kid in my mind. Now sometimes I forget your face. Instead I see…” His breath shook.

“Maggots?” Ben offered.

Five laughed despite himself. He looked like he had when he’d laughed as a 13 year old, but there was something different about it. It had been a long time since Ben had seen a genuine laugh from Five. “You spend too much time with Klaus.”

“I know.” He reached for Five’s hand, but Five snatched it away like he was burnt. Ben held up his hands to show he wouldn’t try again, but that only seemed to darken the cloud that had fallen over Five’s face. “If you ever need to know I’m not dead, just ask. Vanya and Diego have both called me at 3am five times already.”

“Yeah,” Five muttered. He pulled his plate closer to slowly pick away at his food. He fell quiet again. Ben let him, finishing his own food slowly to leave Five time to eat, one small bite at a time.

“Want anything to drink?” Ben asked.

Five nodded. “Water is fine.”

“Alright,” Ben murmured, getting up to get Five a bottle of water from the counter. By the time he’d gotten back, Five had leaned his chin on his hand and was all but nodding off as he ate. He handed him the water, watching as Five hurried to open up the bottle and drink, like it was going to run out if he didn’t take his chance.

Ben leaned back in his chair.

Another thing to add to the list of things to worry about when it came to Five, he supposed.

“You know I’m trying, right?” Five said softly. “I’m exhausted, but I’m trying.”

“Of course I know that,” Ben assured him. “We all do.”

“Next time I think I’ll get soup,” Five muttered, finishing off the last of his sandwich reluctantly. He blinked at the menu above the counter slowly. “Lemon chicken rice soup. Sounds kind of good.”

Ben smiled.

After all, progress was progress.

Chapter Text

“Klaus,” Dave chided, leading to Klaus banging his head on the top of Dave’s oven in a doomed effort to hide his crimes.

“Oh, hey Dave,” Klaus said, as innocently as he could manage with his head smarting.

Dave leaned against the kitchen door. “What did we talk about?”

“Well,” Klaus started, turning puppy eyes on Dave with all his might, “we talk about a lot of things. I tell you everything.”

Dave raised a brow, doing a terrible job of refraining from grinning. “Don’t even try it, kid.”

“What, this?” Klaus said, pointing at the oven. “This isn’t a favor, cleaning ovens is actually one of my favorite activities. Can’t get enough of it.”

“Is that so,” Dave said, very seriously.

“Yeah,” Klaus said. “I was overjoyed to find that your oven was a mess. This morning I woke up thinking, boy, I sure hope Dave has a dirty oven I can clean, because I just… really wanted to clean an oven today.”

Dave sighed, drawing up a chair to sit down in. “Klaus, I already agreed to be with you, you don’t have to do nice things for me to earn it.”

“I’m not!” Klaus said. That wasn’t a lie, exactly. So he had a little bit of a vested interest in making Dave want to keep him around, but he’d convinced himself Dave wasn’t going to kick him to the curb unexpectedly decades ago in Vietnam. “I like doing stuff for you!” He pouted at Dave. “Come on, just let me do things for you, please?”

“If you play dirty like that, I’m going to start getting you back,” Dave warned.

Klaus gasped. “Me? Dirty? How dare you.”

Dave sat back with an unimpressed look and patted his lap.

“Oh, you are playing dirty,” Klaus said. As though he could pass up any opportunity to sit in Dave’s lap.

“You know you want to,” Dave replied, eyes twinkling.

To say Klaus leaped into his lap might have been an exaggeration, but not by much. He wrapped his arms around Dave’s shoulders and put his back into pouting. This was war now. “I wanna do you favors,” he said. “It feels nice.”

“We were both in the war, Klaus,” Dave said. “And survivor’s guilt is a bitch.”

“This is not survivor’s guilt,” Klaus protested. “I mean yes, the fact that you’re alive again is just so much and yes, sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve it, but generally when I feel like I don’t deserve it, what I want to do is stay in bed and get high, and that’s why I have a big pink note on my ceiling with your number on it to remind me to not do that.”

“That’s very emotionally mature of you,” Dave said patiently.

“Right? Thank you for giving me credit for that.” He wriggled so he was sitting more comfortably. “Doing nice things for you is just… because I appreciate that I can. And if you’d never died and we would have gone home together in the 1970s, I would have totally done the same!”

“Uh-huh,” Dave said, sounding thoroughly unconvinced.

“Hey, if you’re down and it helps make you feel more like this is a mutually beneficial relationship, I have some roleplay ideas,” Klaus said, swinging his leg over so he was straddling Dave’s lap. “I’d be really into you giving me things to do and you can treat me like a naughty boy if I’m taking too long.”

“No,” Dave said, laughing. “Absolutely not. You’re a wonderful person and I don’t want to act otherwise.”

“You heard how I said naughty, right?” Klaus said, leaning back to give Dave a look. “This is… this is a sex thing. I’m into this.”

“So you’re saying you wouldn’t be more into praise?”

Klaus stared at him. One would think he’d be used to his brain fizzing out, given how much he’d shoved into it, but it took him several minutes to interpret the words and respond. “What kind of praise?” he asked. He didn’t exactly mean for his voice to drop an octave with need, but it was accurate.

Dave pulled him in close, his hand on Klaus’s waist. “I guess you’ll just have to find out after you’re done cleaning the oven, huh?”

“Wait,” Klaus managed, gawking at Dave. “I get to clean your oven and you’ll praise me? Really?”

Dave chuckled. “You’re one of a kind, Klaus.” He kissed Klaus on the cheek. “And yes, go ahead and clean my oven, as long as you’re aware I’m not keeping you around for chores.”

“I wouldn’t even care,” Klaus said.

“I know. And that’s why I’m reminding you.”

“Dammit,” Klaus whispered against his lips. “You’ve successfully distracted me from cleaning your oven.”

“Thought I might,” Dave said, bringing his hand up to run his hand through Klaus’ hair as he pulled him into a kiss.

**

“You haven’t been making yourself coffee lately,” Ben remarked.

Five stared at him. “What exactly do you think I’m drinking right now, tar?”

“Coffee that Luther made,” Ben replied.

“You people worry about the weirdest bullshit,” Five muttered, turning away.

Ben narrowed his eyes. He knew something was going on, he just wasn’t sure what. Since he’d seen Five guzzle that bottle of water, he’d been watching him closely – he hadn’t seen Five drink a single thing they hadn’t given him, nor had he seen him take a shower at any point.

Klaus skidded into the room, looking absolutely giddy. He winked at Ben. Ben grinned and held out an arm for an awkward, lopsided hug that was made only slightly dangerous by Klaus wrestling off his socks as he returned it. As much as Ben liked freedom, it was always nice to have Klaus back, especially when Klaus seemed to be doing well lately. “I like your skirt,” Ben said. “Especially the part where I didn’t watch you dig it out of the trash or steal it.”

“Thanks!” Klaus said, shoving his hands into the pockets of his glaringly red skirt. “It has pockets!” He looked at Five. “Speaking of things that look like they were dragged out of a dumpster, though…”

Five flipped him off.

“I’m saying it out of concern,” Klaus gasped, radiating faux innocence that not a single living soul would buy.

“Klaus has a point,” Diego said. “I’ve honestly been waiting for you to keel over for the past week and I feel like we’re really getting there.”

“I’m not going to keel over,” Five said, squinting with his characteristic disgusted rage.

“I’ll put money on that if there are any takers,” Allison said from where she had been talking with Luther, raising her hand. Luther gave her a scandalized look, but she ignored him.

“No,” Klaus blurted. “Are you insane? Look at him!”

“I’ll bet he makes it longer than two weeks before collapsing,” Vanya said good naturedly.

Ben nearly spat out his orange juice.

“One week,” Allison said.

“No,” Five snapped. “We are not starting a betting pool on my chances of collapsing.”

“Right, right. I’ll get a chalkboard so we can organize this betting pool we’re totally not starting,” Klaus said, hurtling out of the room at full speed.

“I’m with Allison,” Ben offered, watching Five closely so he could smile at him when he got the incensed look of betrayal he’d gotten used to lately.

“Okay, okay,” Luther said, waving them down. Five looked at him warily, as though he knew that it was too much to hope that Luther would shut the rest of them down. “It’s been a month, I’m betting he can manage another three weeks.”

“Your loss,” Diego said.

Five sighed, slumping down in his chair as he rolled his eyes. “I despise all of you.”

“Alright, stop, I have something else to talk about,” Vanya said, holding out her hand to interject.

“Thank god,” Five murmured. “This is why I like Vanya best.”

“This is pointless until Klaus gets a chalkboard anyway,” she continued.

“Annnd I’m rescinding that statement already,” Five said. “You’re really fitting in with the family, Vanya.”

“Thanks, I’m doing my best,” she said, a shy laugh escaping her.

“Wait, if Vanya’s not your favorite, who is?” Diego asked.

“Mom,” Five replied seamlessly.

Diego shrugged, accepting that as reasonable.

“Anyway,” Vanya interjected. “Helen and I are going out of town for the weekend.”

“When? Where?” Luther asked, a little too urgently.

She rolled her eyes. “Come on, Luther, seriously?”

“What, I’m concerned!”

“Helen has promised to stop me before I slit any throats—“

“Okay, come on, you know that’s not what I meant,” Luther complained. “Things have been so crazy lately, I’m just worried about you going off on your own, and this is unexpected, that’s all!”

 “Oh, drama,” Klaus chirped as he returned with a whiteboard, balancing it on his knee to write on it. “Seriously, I can’t leave you people alone for five minutes.”

“It’s a few miles out of town, down 135,” Vanya said. “I just wanted to do something serious with her, and I’m not sure I’m ready to reintroduce her to the family just yet.”

“Okay,” Luther said, sitting back with a frown. “That’s all I wanted to know, jeez.”

She sighed, as though admitting she’d overreacted. She was still getting used to her newfound, now fully functional temper. “I’ll call in the evenings if it makes you feel better.”

Luther sighed. “Yes, it would, thank you.”

 “I don’t see why you don’t want to introduce her yet. We’re super nice people,” Klaus said, before turning the chalkboard around to show it to them. “Okay, Ben, Allison, how much are you betting that our deeply traumatized brother has a mental and/or physical collapse in the next week?”

“20 bucks,” Ben said.

“Oh, I’ll go as far as 30,” Allison said, taking a sip of her juice.

“I should have appreciated the apocalypse more,” Five muttered into his coffee.

“Aw, come on, Five, it’s all in good fun,” Klaus said, scribbling the numbers down.

“You’re all bad people,” Five said, taking a sip.

“Besides, we’ll move on soon,” Klaus said, vaulting over the table to sit on it in front of Five. “Because Diego…” He leaned in to whisper something into Five’s ear.

Five choked, putting his hand over his face to catch the coffee dripping down it and, Ben suspected, cover up his smile. Klaus leaned back, deeply pleased with himself, waggling his brows at Ben.

Diego narrowed his eyes. “What about me?”

“What? Nothing,” Klaus said, shrugging.

“What the hell would you bet on about me?”

Five rubbed his hand over his chin, definitely trying to hide a smile.

“Shh, no, don’t worry, it’s not important,” Klaus said, waiting until Five had wiped his face off and nearly composed himself before catching his eye and winking. “Eudora and I have the utmost confidence in you.”

“Klaus!”

Five pitched forward with an odd wheezing sound.

“Ah!” Klaus said, pointing. “That’s a laugh! I made Five laugh! I’m officially the best brother.”

Five took a deep breath, but the small smile still on his face was unmistakable. “You’re an okay brother,” he managed, still breathy.

“Aw, come on,” Klaus pouted. “You haven’t actually laughed for a long time, I really accomplished something today.” Five gave him a halfhearted glare, and Klaus dropped his voice so it was just a teasing whisper between the two of them. “Let me have this.”

“No,” Five whispered, though he hadn’t managed to stop smiling yet.

“What the hell did you say to him?” Diego snapped.

“Oh my god, Diego, this is not about you,” Klaus said. “After all Five’s been through, I can’t believe you would try to steal my attention away from him when we’re having a moment.”

Five tried to hide his soft laughter, but it wasn’t going to get past Ben. Ben tried to hide his grin. Klaus was really starting to have a way with Five. Diego seemed to realize it too, but he still rolled up a napkin and chucked it at Klaus’ head, and the stealthy smile on Five’s face widened. He turned away from the rest of them who were all trying to hide their joy at seeing him laugh.

“You guys are all terrible,” Five said, shaking his head. “I don’t like any of you.”

“Yeah,” Vanya said, sitting up on the counter and swinging her legs. “Put 10 bucks on two weeks, by the way.”

“Oh, playing it safe, huh?” Klaus said, bounding to get his chalkboard.

Five put his hand in his heads, but didn’t complain again as they returned to their loud betting.

**

“So,” Allison said. “A weekend trip.”

Vanya rolled her eyes. “How old are you, 16?” She kicked at Allison’s side.

“Turn your hips with the kick,” Allison said batting her leg away. “It’ll put more momentum into the movement while helping you keep your balance.” She lifted her fists back to her face. “And come on. You can’t expect me not to gossip. She’s a very pretty woman.”

“Honestly, I’m starting to think you mistrusted Leonard mostly because he was a man,” Vanya said, going for a punch this time.

Allison caught her hand just before it landed. “Was I wrong?”

“Women can be serial killers too, you know,” Vanya said.

“Statistically, it’s less likely.”

Vanya sighed, trying to bring up her knee to kick Allison while she was still focused on Vanya’s arm, but she promptly found herself on her back, Allison squatting over her. She groaned. “This is impossible.”

“You’re doing good,” Allison said. “It’s all there in muscle memory, you’ve just got to stop overthinking.”

Vanya sighed.

“If you want an ego boost, ask Ben or Klaus to spar with you,” Allison said. “They tend to be slower.” She smiled softly. “Plus they’re nicer people than me. I’m not used to going easy on people.”

“You’re the worst.”

“I know,” Allison said, helping Vanya up. “Let’s call it a night. I’ll get you a cab.”

Vanya followed her as they made their way back to the phone, watching as Allison placed the call. “Okay, honest opinion.”

“Excuse you, I’m always honest,” Allison said.

“I know you’re trying, but come on,” Vanya replied without hesitation.

Allison laughed despite herself. “Ouch. Fine. What do you want to know?”

“Should I be stressing so much about when to have sex with Helen?” Vanya asked. “I don’t want to rush into this, but… I mean, you’ve seen her, right? And it’s not like I’m… I don’t know. Proposing?”

“Klaus waited, like, a week to start having sex with a man twice his age who he apparently served with in Vietnam in another timeline, so I feel like by our family’s standards, you’re good,” Allison said.

“Okay, so far our serious relationships have included a mannequin, pseudo-incest, a serial killer and, apparently, an old man,” Vanya said. “I’m not really trying to go at this relationship with Hargreeves family standards.” She paused. “Hang on, is Diego seriously the best at relationships of all of us?”

“God, what?” Allison said. “How?” She hummed to herself thoughtfully as they wandered outside. “Though to be fair, he did ditch the spandex.”

“I just don’t want to fuck this up,” Vanya said. “I mean, she’s… not a perfect girlfriend, but I like her. She’s there for me, and honest, and… beautiful. And I don’t want to make a disaster of it.”

“To be fair, your last relationship was a disaster because it was with a lying psychopath who tortured your brother within an inch of his life,” Allison pointed out. “Look, I know you’re being careful, and that’s going to be good in the long run, but you can’t overthink it either.” She sighed. “Besides, sex is not the end-all-be-all of relationships. You’re already living together, right? What’s the big difference if you go for it?”

“Yeah,” Vanya said, scuffing her shoe against the sidewalk. “I just… I should have listened to you, about Harold.”

Allison put an arm around her. “It’s okay. I know why you didn’t. It’s not your fault. And what you have with Helen, it’s not just an escape. It’s real, even if you don’t remember it. And if it doesn’t work out, we’re actually here for you now.” She smirked to herself. “Or at least, we’re trying.”

Vanya managed a smile. “Yeah, okay.”

“But it’s going to work out. She stayed around through all the apocalypse bullshit, she’s not giving up easy.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Vanya said. She took a deep breath of cool evening air. “You really think Klaus is having sex with Dave? I felt like they’re going at this in a more… unconventional way.”

“I think Klaus has a very broad definition of sex.”

“Oh, god, why would you say that,” Vanya said, shooing away all kinds of dirty thoughts. “I didn’t want to think about that.”

 “You asked!”

“Gross.”

Allison laughed as a star streaked across the sky. “Look,” she said. “Make a wish.”

Vanya closed her eyes and tried to think of something else she wanted. Maybe what she wished for was just to be able to keep what life had somehow handed her on a silver platter. “What’d you wish for?” she asked.

“For Five to finally get some fucking sleep,” Allison replied.

“That’s a good one,” Vanya replied, as the cab pulled up. “Goodnight, Allison. See you tomorrow.”

Allison pulled her into a hug. “Goodnight.” She winked. “Have fun.”

“Eww,” Vanya said, getting into the cab, but she kept smiling even as Allison closed the door and waved at her with a suggestive grin. She rolled her eyes and looked away, even though she felt giddy at having her sister to talk to about these things.

**

Luther was not used to deciding by himself what to do with his day. It was odd, and made it way too obvious how long Luther had gone without making his own decisions. Diego had been right, Luther had let this go on for way too long. For now, he was trying to put his back into things he knew he could still do, like tearing up the house to look for any leftover secrets Reginald had hidden away from them.

He was trying to spend time with Vanya, too, but she was more comfortable around Allison anyway, and Ben and Klaus were getting very good at handling Five.

So far, he’d uncovered thirteen new hiding spots. Not many of them had yielded anything useful, nor anything that gave any clues as to what the lady in the sunglasses had mentioned. Reginald Hargreeves was just the first… That was an odd thing to say, and there had to be something somewhere that explained what she’d meant.

But nothing he’d found so far. So far he’d just found more evidence of how their father – or their keeper – had thought of them all as nothing but science experiments.

He sighed as he trotted down the stairs, hoping Allison was out of the shower. Five was in the living room, looking vaguely lost, like someone might if they stepped into a room and found they had forgotten why they had come there. “Five?” he called.

No response.

He stepped closer. “Five.”

He sighed. Allison had mentioned that she’d noticed Five zoning out. It was unsurprising, given that none of them had seen Five sleep more than an hour at once since he’d been back. “Five,” he said, softly, putting his hand on Five’s shoulder.

Five startled, looking up at him, then slapping his hand away almost painfully.

Luther backed up. “Sorry,” he said, noting Five’s quick breathing. “My bad, I know you’re not great with touch these days, I should have…”

“No,” Five growled. “God, why don’t you people ever shut up?”

“I didn’t mean to—“

“It’s not you!”Five snarled. “I can’t…” He let out a frustrated noise, slapping a small glass figure on the nearest shelf to the wall, watching it shatter with tightly clenched fists. His breathing was loud and uneven, his body shivering slightly. “Dammit.”

“Hey,” Luther said, holding his hands up. “Five, it’s okay. I—“

But Five was gone. Luther sighed. He wasn’t sure whether to push it or let him be, but he went with his gut and trudged up the stairs to Five’s room. The door was closed, which tended to happen when Five was in the room, so he knocked.

Silence.

“Look, I don’t know if you’re in there,” Luther murmured. “I might just be talking to thin air, but I didn’t want to just… brush you off or anything.”

He paused. There was nothing good to say to Five, about any of the many things that could be bothering him. “Look, none of us think any less of you because you have bad moments. If you want to slap me every time I screw up and touch you even though I know you don’t like it, that’s fine. I get it. And it’s okay, if you don’t want to be touched. None of us take it personally. It’s been a while, and we know that.”

There was still no answer, but he was pretty sure he could see light under Five’s door. “Okay, well, look,” he said. “I’m not gonna push it, but I’m going to stay here unless you tell me to go. I know if your door is shut, you probably want some space, but I’m just going to sit outside and maybe you can have that space without being totally alone, alright?”

Five said nothing, but he also didn’t tell Luther to go away, so Luther lowered himself down to the ground and sat against the wall.

It took at least twenty minutes, but after a while, Five’s door opened just a crack, in silence, Five’s reading lamp stretching out into the hallway.

Luther took a deep breath, pulling a knee up to rest his chin on it. He wanted to ask Five if he needed anything else, but the list was probably too long for Five to even put into words. Besides, this was kind of nice. After being alone for only a fraction of what Five had gone through, this sort of silent companionship, not even looking at each other, felt peaceful and comforting. Luther could only hope it was the same for Five.

He listened to the quiet turning of the pages of Five’s book.

After what seemed like forever, he heard creaking as Five stepped up to the door. “Could you get me a glass of water?” he asked.

“Sure,” Luther said. “You alright?”

Five was already gone from the doorway.

Well, Luther thought, we’re not in any rush.

A glass of water, at least, was doable.

Chapter Text

One thing Allison was not expecting when going downstairs to make some tea was to find a gun pointed at her.

“Jesus,” she said. “What the hell are you doing?”

Five awkwardly lowered the gun, rubbing at his eyes. “It’s not loaded.”

“Doesn’t answer my question,” she said, lowering her hands, trying to convince herself to be patient instead of slapping him upside the head for scaring her.

“I thought it might help,” he muttered.

She paused. “With sleeping?”

He gave her a tired look, then nodded.

She didn’t like the idea of him sleeping with a gun, loaded or unloaded, but at least he’d be sleeping. God knew he needed it. “I guess if it helps,” she muttered.

“It doesn’t,” he said. “Just makes me more tense.” He set the gun down by the armchair he was curled up in with a weary sigh. “When I was alone, it helped. I was a kid surrounded by corpses, and the wind would make noises at night… having a way to defend myself just in case… it made me feel safer. But I’m starting to realize that these days my nightmares aren’t the kind of things I can shoot.”

Allison hugged herself, at a loss. “Want to talk about them?” she asked.

“No,” he replied. He frowned, in the way that made him look far too adult for it to not hurt. “Why are you up, anyway?”

“I have nightmares too,” she said. “I was going to make some tea.”

He took a long breath. “I’ll go with you, I guess.”

“Okay,” she murmured, letting him walk ahead of her to the kitchen. He took a seat in one of the chairs and watched her as she rounded the table and found the kettle. He looked even paler than usual in the light of the kitchen, in the middle of the night. She put the kettle on to boil and turned to look at him. “You know, I used to get really nightmares after Claire was born. I mean, I was famous for two reasons. A criminal we fought could have broken in and gotten her, or a stalker could have hurt her, or… you know, sometimes babies just. Die. For no reason. I was freaked out.”

Five cocked his head as he leaned his cheek onto his hand in obvious exhaustion, quietly allowing her to continue.

“After she got a little older, though, they went away,” she continued, fiddling with her nails. “Then when I started getting close to all of you again, they came back with a vengeance. Especially with how crazy everything has been.”

“You know, I think if anyone breaks in here, they’ve pretty much drawn the short end of the stick,” Five said wryly.

Allison laughed bitterly. “Hazel and Cha-Cha nearly killed Luther and Vanya, and they took Klaus.”

“Well, now I’m here,” Five said. “And the Commission isn’t interested anymore.”

“No offense, but you look like a gust of wind could blow you over,” she retorted.

“Well, as you can see, I can still hold a gun,” he bit back.

She sighed. “Whatever. That’s not what I dream about.”

He furrowed his brow in question, watching her attentively.

“Not all of them, but a lot of them are about you. You’ve been through so much,” Allison said, taking a deep breath. “I’ve put you through so much. And I know you’ve said…” She shook her head, looking at her feet. “But I just have these awful dreams where it’s just too much for you and I… I find you… dead, or in the middle of it, and I can’t stop you. I don’t have a voice, or it’s too late, or…”

“I’m not suicidal, Allison,” Five said softly. “I thought about it, maybe, a couple decades into the apocalypse, but even then it was a thought that I let go of pretty quickly. If that wasn’t enough to kill me, it’s not going to happen now I’m finally back.”

“I know that,” she breathed, trying to wipe away her tears before they counted as a scene. “But I… what I did to you back there…”

“Saving my life?”

She looked at him, blinking away tears. “You know what I mean.”

His eyes flickered over her, his mouth twitching as he tried to pick his words carefully. “I know,” he murmured.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to hurt anyone I cared about with my powers ever again, and then… I did the worst thing I could have possibly done to you.”

“I can think of worse,” he said, leaning his arm over the back of his chair.

She snorted. “Like what?”

“Like telling Harold that you’d realized I was the cause of the apocalypse and that you’d done the math and realized I wasn’t worth my hubris. That you weren’t coming for me because you’d never cared that much about me, then letting him cut off my fingers and…” He thought about it like it was nothing more than a math problem. “Well, he probably would have sent you some tapes of him torturing me before he would have been convinced, and then he might have given up. Then you could have killed him while he contemplated his failure, but the question of how much of your ruse you meant would have stayed with me forever.”

“Holy fuck,” she said. “You had that way too prepared.”

He shrugged, seeming unruffled, but his face showed all too well how long it had been since he’d gotten more sleep than just a nap here and there.

She narrowed her eyes. “Do you have nightmares that we don’t care about you?”

“I have nightmares your undead corpses don’t care about me,” he said, smiling sourly. “Among plenty of other things.”

“God,” she whispered. “That’s not…”

“I know,” he murmured, sitting back. “But I’m not blind. I know every second you don’t have to worry about your own lives just to stay afloat, you worry about me. I know Ben spends all his time trying to keep me mostly alive and coherent. I see how Klaus nearly shits himself over making me barely laugh one time because it’s been a month and I haven’t done anything but become this house’s resident ghost. Who could blame any of you if you just… got tired? It’s not like any of you have it easy either.”

“Five, one month after a sum total of sixty years of being constantly in survival mode is nothing,” Allison said. “Literally, it’s nothing. And even if it was, we’re not getting tired any time soon, if ever.” She hesitated. They’d agreed not to mention the letter, but… “Besides, caring about you and your pet apocalypses has brought us closer together. We need you.”

He snorted. “I know that too. I just don’t like it.”

She sat down across from him. “Five. We’re here for you. Our lives are better because of you. It’s okay if you’re having troubles.”

“I can’t even touch any of you,” Five murmured, eyes fixed on her. The way he said it made her suspect he’d been thinking about it for a while. “The only thing I have to do is to just be home and be with all of you and I can’t stand touching any of you. It’s like needles under my skin.”

“You’ll get used to it,” she said. At least, she hoped he would. “Just give it time.”

He frowned at her in thought. How such a young face could look so severe was beyond her comprehension, but he managed it somehow. “You know, I think I know something that might be good for both of us. A helpful rumor, if you will.”

She barked out a hollow laugh. “I’ve been down that road a thousand times. I want to help you any way I can, I really do, but trying to fix things with rumors is a band-aid on a pothole.” She sniffled slightly. She hadn’t noticed she was tearing up. “Besides, this isn’t about me.”

“Hear me out,” he muttered. He took a deep breath, thinking as he spoke. “When I have flashbacks, or nightmares, or… whatever… they sort of… well… Actually it’s a pretty fascinating combination of quantum mechanics and philosophy, but… simply put, they oscillate between timelines, or become some kind of disorienting, awful composite of the two. But when it comes to touch, it’s always timeline one that determines it. 45 years alone, and it feels like a firehose to the face after decades of dying of thirst.”

She nodded, not sure where he was going with this.

 “It’s unbearable. I can’t breathe it’s so much. But I…” He made a face like he’d started to smile and then had gotten stabbed in the chest midway. “I used to dream about it, in timeline one. I know I’ve never been a tactile person, but… the longer you’re alone, the more you realize how much you did touch people. Klaus was always leaning on me when I stood near him, there were claps on the back and hugs and sitting close together with shoulders touching, and I wanted those back. I wanted it all the time, until I had to shut it out because there was no way to live with how much I wanted it.”

She swallowed hard. She couldn’t imagine that kind of loneliness. She wasn’t sure she would have survived it. “I don’t know how you managed.”

Five shrugged. “Anyway, in timeline two, I missed it from all of you, sure, but there were still people. People who were looking for comfort, who had all lost people. Touching… happened. It ached, because I missed you all, but it was doable.” He settled back, pulling his foot into his lap. “And I already know that when I was still closely entangled with my 13 year old self, touch was just… normal. So if you can just…” He paused, as if double checking his phrasing. “Just make this one part of me default to timeline two instead of timeline one. Its just a small change that would make a world of difference.”

She sucked in a breath through her teeth. She tried to think through the possible consequences. After everything Five had been through, tinkering with his brain was not something she could take lightly. But after a moment, she nodded. “Okay.” She breathed slowly to steady herself, then met his eyes. She had to be precise in her wording to keep from stumbling into something that would hurt him. “I heard a rumor that when you’re touched, it’s not the part of you that’s been alone without a single human touch for 45 years that determines your physiological response, it’s the part of you that was gone only 14 years without us.”

She watched his eyes glaze over, then blink rapidly.

She held out her hand. “Want to test it?”

He swallowed, then took her hand. All his breath left him at once, and his eyes fluttered shut, head bowed.

“Is that… good?” she asked, leaning down to study his face.

“Really, really good,” he murmured. “Still a little… pins and needles but also… everything I’ve wanted for so long.” He took a shuddering breath and pulled his hands away, quickly scrubbing his hand over his face.

She stood and reached over to ruffle his hair, and he took a sharp breath, not looking up at her. She smiled slightly, then looked away, letting him compose himself in peace.

“Want some tea?” she asked.

He nodded.

“Anything else I can do?” she asked, getting two mugs.

He took a few deep breaths, then shook his head. “I think I’m just going to try to get sleep. Again.”

She smiled at him softly. “Good luck. Some sleep would do you good.”

Five rolled his eyes. “You don’t have to tell me that.”

She laughed and stood to get him some tea.

**

Diego cracked his neck, frowning at the hall. He hated getting here before everyone was fully awake, but he’d been dropping Eudora off at the library anyway, so there was no reason not to come home in the same trip.

This house had been Reginald’s for so long, it was hard to stop thinking about it as such, even though these days it was where two thirds of his family and his mother lived, their father long gone. But when they were nowhere to be seen, it was just a cesspool of awful memories.

He started up the stairs. He’d just find Grace. Hopefully she wasn’t charging right now.

A scream put that plan right out of mind in less than a second. He dashed up the rest of the stairs, reaching for a knife as he went. That was Five, he determined, kicking in the door, knife pressed against his fingertips and ready to fly the moment he figured out what had made his brother scream like that.

However, the scene that greeted him was just Five, sweaty and wide-eyed, alone.

“What the hell happened?” Diego asked, moving closer without touching him. “Are you okay?”

Five flinched away, and Diego froze. “It’s just me, old man,” he said, slowly. Then, because the look Five was giving him was painfully familiar, he added, “Alive. It’s just me, alive.”

Five blinked at him several times, then grabbed his arm, small fingers digging into his flesh like claws, and pulled him in to hug him.

“Uh,” Diego managed, but Five was clinging to him like a baby and shaking, so he couldn’t exactly protest. He left his hands in the air, just in case. “What’s happening?”

“Nightmare,” Five muttered. “Just shut up.”

“Okay,” Diego mumbled back, looking around desperately for guidance. Ben, Allison, Luther and Grace all looked back at him from the door, but he waved them away quickly. He looked down at Five, then cautiously put his hand on his head. “You uh… You gonna hurt me for touching you?”

“No,” Five said, sullen. “Allison and I fixed that last night.”

“Oh,” Diego said. He had no clue what that meant, but he was more concerned with making sure Five stopped shaking. “Okay then.”

Five pulled away, rubbing his hands over his face.

“At least you got some sleep, huh?” Diego tried.

Five looked at the clock on his nightstand. “Three hours,” he croaked. “At most. I feel worse than if I’d just stayed awake.”

Diego cleared his throat. He’d been spending most of his nights thinking about how to protect Five like he’d mentioned in his letter without bringing up the fact that they’d read it, but he’d been coming up blank. Life with Sir Reginald didn’t really prepare a person to deal with the fragmented remains of their long-lost brother. “Breakfast?” he asked helplessly.

Five looked up at him, pressing his thumb to the corner of his eye. “Sure,” he muttered. He stepped out of bed, stumbling slightly. Diego reached over to help him with an arm around his shoulders. “Looks like you’re really going to rake in those winnings.”

“Nah,” Diego said, leading him to the stairs. “You’re fine. Come on, how about some orange juice?”

Five sighed. “Yeah. Orange juice is good.”

Diego nodded, mostly just relieved that Five was talking and letting Diego help. “Yeah, it is.” He walked Five to the kitchen and helped him get a chair.

The others stared at Five, subtle as a car alarm.

“You okay?” Ben asked, finally.

Five nodded. “Just a nightmare.” He wove his fingers into his hair and rested his forehead on his palms. “And a headache.”

Diego grabbed a glass and filled it up. “Here, sugar’ll help with the second part.”

Five dragged his head up, standing as he jumped away from his chair, reappearing on the other side of the table, at which point he promptly collapsed in a heap.

“Shit,” Diego said, quickly setting down the glass to try to evaluate the damage. Five blinked at him, grunting as Diego sat him up. He looked lucid, which was good, but he also looked pale and sallow, which was bad. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Five said. “Just dizzy.”

“Five, you just collapsed,” Allison said, leaning over him. “That’s not just anything.”

“Oh, boy, this looks fun,” Klaus said, as he entered the kitchen. “Are we counting our earnings tonight, or…”

“I just jumped a little too rashly,” Five muttered. “It’s okay, I’m fine.”

Klaus leapt over the table. “Yeah, or massively dehydrated.”

“Klaus,” Ben chided. “We agreed we’d wait with that.”

“He just passed out, I don’t think it can wait much longer.”

Ben sighed.

Diego squinted at Klaus and Ben. “What are you talking about? Don’t you mean sleep deprived?”

“Well, that too,” Klaus said, sitting on the table. “But Ben and I have been fielding a theory for a few days now.” He looked at Five, who was avoiding his gaze furiously. “What’s wrong with our sinks, kiddo?”

“Nothing,” Five hissed under his breath.

“Funny, because you’ve been avoiding them,” Ben said, crossing his arms as he joined Klaus.

“Oh boy,” Vanya said, as she entered the room. “We’re already starting this early, huh?”

“We’re finishing this early,” Five growled, using the nearest chair to heave himself up and storm away.

“Good job, guys,” Allison sighed.

Klaus and Ben exchanged looks. “Time to corner him?” Klaus asked.

“Yep,” Ben said.

Vanya sighed, setting down her bag. “Should I try mitigate this disaster?” she asked, pointing at Klaus and Ben.

Allison groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Yeah, you three handle this, let’s not swamp Five entirely.”

Vanya sighed, trailing after Ben and Klaus.

“Are you sure?” Luther asked. “If he’s sick—“

She shook her head. “They can handle it. If they need our help, they can tell us.”

Diego raised a brow. “Okay. Well, this has been a rousing start to the day,” he said.

“We were having too many normal meals,” Luther said. “It was starting to get worrisome.”

Diego snorted. “Nice to know you can actually be funny now Dad’s dead.”

Luther smiled slightly. “Thanks, I’m working on it.”

Diego rolled his eyes and went to get an apple. Just another day in the Hargreeves household.

**

Five had spent years in charge of the vestiges of civilization. He had killed hundreds. He had sort of saved the world.

And yet here he was, glaring at a faucet, trying to will himself to turn it on. Just to prove to himself – and Ben and Klaus and, hell, probably the rest of them – that he still could. If he really needed to.

There was soft knock at the door.

He groaned. “What?”

Klaus carefully pushed the door open. “It’s just three of us.”

“The better half of the family,” Ben added.

Vanya put her hands up. “I’m only here to minimize the damage.”

“Are you going to ask if I want to talk about it?” Five bit back.

“God no,” Klaus said. “I can already picture your face if I did. Besides, as we saw in the kitchen, I’m a genius and I already figured it out.”

Ben punched him in the shoulder.

“Sorry,” Klaus amended. “Ben and I are geniuses.”

Five snorted despite himself. “Right.”

“Hey, genius comes in many flavors,” Klaus said. “And you’re currently glaring at a sink, so…”

“Fuck you,” Five said, sitting on the side of the tub.

“That’s fair,” Klaus said, looking at the ceiling as he leaned on the door. “Anyway, Ben says you haven’t been drinking things unless they’re handed to you by someone else, and a few days ago, I helped Mom with some laundry and I noticed a lot of hand towels.”

“Do you have a point to get to?” Five asked, leaning his head on the cold porcelain.

“It’s running water, right?” Ben offered. “You can’t get used to it.”

Five looked up at him and Klaus. Klaus was getting more annoyingly on the ball every day. It was somehow worse than when he’d been too high to function. Ben, on the other hand, had always been smart. He’d probably just run out of patience while being intangible for years.

“Look, if you didn’t want to tell us, I get it,” Klaus said. “We’re all assholes. I mean, obviously. We have a betting pool out on your health.”

“But why not get Mom to buy a big case of bottled water and hide it under your bed?” Vanya interjected. Klaus pointed at her and nodded.

“Because I didn’t think it would be this hard to stop being scared of a fucking sink,” Five spat. He was shaking again, annoyingly.

Klaus sighed, sliding down until he was almost level with Five. “Come on, Five, we both know it’s not about sinks. I mean, unless it is about sinks, in which case, what’s that about?”

Five grimaced. It was impossible to see all that water flowing down the drain and not feel like it was going to run out. It had run out so many times, leaving Five to scramble to find water before he passed out. He rubbed a hand over his face, sitting onto the floor next to the tub.

“I was managing, alright?” he muttered. “I started taking leftover glasses of water everyone else forgot, and when I was really thirsty I’d just make myself. But then I got distracted by the damn sleeping thing, and I didn’t…” He trailed off, frustration choking him, stinging at his eyes. “I used to do all of this and more,” he hissed. “I used to find myself food when there wasn’t any fucking food, and water, and shelter, and I did it all while doing math you couldn’t even imagine comprehending.”

“And now you’re fucking exhausted,” Klaus said, a laugh caught in the back of his throat that wasn’t unkind. He looked at Five with so much empathy, Five worried he might crumble under that look. Ben and Vanya looked sympathetic, but Klaus just radiated it. “I mean, all that time taking care of yourself when most people would have died… that alone would be enough to knock you on your ass, but then you spent those years killing people, and no matter how much you like being good at things, I know that was hard on you. Then coming back and—“

“He knows,” Vanya murmured.

“Yeah, he does,” Klaus sighed, joining Five on the floor. “All I’m saying is that the fact that you’re talking and walking instead of being a… a gibbering mess of jelly is impressive as hell.”

Five blinked at him. It wasn’t like he hadn’t been praised plenty as a kid. Not so much in the apocalypse – Delores was good for many things, but flattery wasn’t one of them – but in the Commission it had been non-stop. And yet, this felt so deeply different. It felt terrifying and irresistible.

“So what if you need to rely on us for a while?” Ben  asked. “I know, it’s hard for you. But think of it this way: you literally gave us all better lives on a silver platter. And in return we kind of put you through living hell. So… we owe you.”

Klaus grinned. “And even we can handle getting you a glass of water every so often.”

“I hate how you sound convincing increasingly often,” Five muttered.

“I know,” Klaus said. “If it makes you feel any better I’m stealing a lot of these ideas from Ben.”

“He has been for years,” Ben offered.

“It helps a little,” Five admitted.

“If you want we can always take a walk down to the river and look at how much water there is in the world,” Vanya suggested.

“It’s not running out any time soon because you have a bath here and there instead of using a wet towel to wash off,” Ben added.

Five sighed. “So I’m that transparent.”

“No,” Klaus said. “Ben and I have literally spent weeks gossiping like chickens figuring this out.”

“Like hens,” Ben corrected.

“Whatever.” Klaus looked back at Five. “So, what do you say? We’ll get you something to drink and next time we go to the store we’ll get you a big box of bottled water and Gatorade.”

Five sighed, looking at him for a moment before dropping his forehead to Klaus’ shoulder. The feeling was not so much pins and needles as being punched in the gut and then choked. He breathed through his nose, trying not to cry, especially when Klaus made a soft, choked noise at the gesture. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Klaus said, trying very hard to reign in his obvious excitement at Five touching him. “Come on, orange juice and eggs. Ben has been trying to get me to eat that shit for breakfast for years, it’ll break his heart if you avoid it.”

“I’m already coming,” Five mumbled as Klaus helped him up.

“We’re all really proud of you,” Ben said.

Vanya ruffled his hair. “Yeah, we are.”

“God, stop talking, please,” Five pleaded. “Just take the win without making it an ordeal.”

Vanya snorted. “You haven’t changed a bit.”

“And neither have we,” Klaus said. “If it’s not an ordeal, has it even happened in this family?”

Chapter Text

“Look man, I want to believe you,” Klaus said, swinging his feet and yawning. “But you have to see how this sounds ridiculous, right?”

“Don’t know what to tell you, kid, it’s the truth,” said Dr. Charles Harrison, a man who currently had a bullet in his brain a few feet away.

Klaus looked at his watch, then took a sip from the can of soda Eudora had given him when he showed up to work. “Look, man, you killed like… ten people,” Klaus said. All of whom Klaus had had to talk to at length, which was not fun. “And you don’t remember any of it?”

“Not a second,” Dr. Harrison replied.

“Okay, what about shooting yourself in the face? Ring a bell?”

“Again: No.”

Klaus sighed. “Don’t get sassy with me, Doctor, I’m just doing my job here.” He slumped against the wall. He was running out of questions to ask. “So. Did you like your coworkers at all?”

“I hated them,” Dr. Harrison said.

“Enough to kill them?”

Dr. Harrison shrugged. “Not necessarily, but I could have been convinced.”

“Hate to say it, but maybe you just lost it, man,” Klaus suggested.

“Maybe. But as I’ve told you, I don’t remember.”

Klaus sighed. Finally, the blessed knock on the door came. His time was up, and thank god. “Alright, well, time for me to go. This has been terrible, Doctor, rest in… peace, I guess?”

The doctor made a face at him as he scampered out the door, shivering slightly as he went. “Well, that sucked,” he said.

“Anything?” Eudora asked, sounding slightly desperate.

“Well, that depends. Is murder a symptom of Alzheimer’s?”

“No,” Eudora replied.

“Didn’t think so,” Klaus sighed. “The victims say he was acting really weird, sort of dopey, the doctor says he doesn’t remember shit.”

“Could he be lying?” Diego asked.

“Well, it’s not like he’s got jail time to avoid,” Klaus replied.

“Well, respected professor at a university…” Eudora muttered. “He does have a reputation to uphold.”

“Yeah, pretty sure if he cared about that, he would have come up with something better than ‘oh, sorry, I don’t remember my blatant murder-suicide rampage,’” Klaus pointed out.

Eudora sighed. “I guess we’ll check his prescriptions, see if he was taking anything that could cause a bad reaction,” she muttered. “This case is annoying the hell out of me.”

“I did my best,” Klaus said. He wasn’t really committed to following the case itself. Talking to a bunch of victims was enough, he didn’t care to know all the gritty details about their jobs and families that would just make this even more of a bummer.

“Yeah, you did,” she said. She smiled at him. “Anyway, what do you want for dinner? It’s on me.”

“You never buy me dinner,” Diego complained.

“Hey, he hates the morgue, this is his reward,” she retorted.

“This is his job,” Diego pointed out.

She snorted. “Okay, fine, Mr. Competitive. I will also buy you dinner. But Klaus still gets to pick, because he spent his whole night talking to dead people.”

“One of them had no nose!” Klaus said cheerfully.

“Show off,” Diego said, though he couldn’t hide that he was relieved to see Klaus use his talents for something instead of getting high. He put his arm around Eudora and clapped Klaus on the back as they walked to the car. “Okay, what’ll it be, mouthy-ass Ouija board?”

“You need to work on your nicknames,” Klaus said. “But how about waffles?”

“Again?”

“I like waffles!”

“Get in the car.” He shoved Klaus into the backseat. Eudora smirked at Diego as she got into the passenger seat.

He rolled his eyes. Klaus grinned. He was pretty sure Diego thought his girlfriend liked Klaus more than Diego, but she was clearly pleased with him too. Klaus was, if anything, like her adopted puppy.

“Waffles it is, then,” Diego sighed. “At least then we can go to a diner and I can get some real food.”

“Waffles are food,” Klaus said. “Hey, Eudora, did I ever tell you about the time we snuck out to get donuts and Five threw up on Diego? Oh man I don’t know who was more upset.”

She laughed. “No, but go for it.”

“Lean back while I’m driving,” Diego said, pulling out of the parking lot and letting them talk and laugh. A smile toyed with his lips. Klaus was very proud of that smile – these group moments were probably a lot better for Diego than prowling the streets alone like an even sadder Batman.

The diner was all too familiar – every time Klaus finished a late night case, they ended up here, since it was open 24/7. It had started feeling homey.

“What would you like to eat?” Eudora asked Diego, kissing his cheek.

“I’ll get a BLT,” Diego said.

“Why would you get anything with lettuce in it at a diner?” Klaus asked.

“Because I don’t want to die of a heart attack when I’m 50,” Diego said.

Klaus rolled his eyes. “Okay, if you start lecturing me about food too I’m going to have to hurt you. I haven’t touched a single drop of alcohol in the past month, much less anything harder.”

“Boys,” Eudora said. “Behave. We’re in public.”

“Yes ma’am,” Klaus said, saluting her.

Diego held the door for her instead, watching Klaus trot after Eudora as she went to find them a table and order. He smiled and stopped to grab a paper, opening it up as he joined them.

“Are you checking the weather again?” Eudora asked.

“Yeah,” Diego said. “It’s supposed to be rainy next week.”

Klaus brandished an accusatory finger at him. “Diego!” he whispered, like a parent scolding a child. “We agreed we wouldn’t let him know we read the letter yet!”

“I’m not going to tell him!” Diego protested.

“If you lurk around every windy night, he’s going to notice!” Klaus said. Eudora nodded to back him up.

“I think the fact that I found him screaming his head off a few days ago would give me a pretty good excuse to hover,” Diego said.

“Just give him some time to settle, Diego,” Eudora said. This time, Klaus nodded to back her up. “He doesn’t like the attention anyway.”

“You two are always ganging up on me, you know that?” he asked.

Eudora rubbed his thigh softly. “It’s because we love you.”

“Uh-huh,” he said, leaning in to kiss her nose. “Sure.” He shifted.

“You guys are gross,” Klaus said, sliding down in his seat. “And I touched a human liver today.”

Diego snorted, then turned back to the paper. “You know, after saving the world, the news seems kind of ridiculous,” he said. “Some cat got appointed as a librarian… Oh, there’s been a bunch of UFO sightings recently.”

 “You know, Five needs a new crazy old hobo hobby,” Klaus remarked. “To occupy his… you know, crazy old hobo brain. Maybe we can get him hooked on UFOs.”

“And I’m the bad brother for wanting to casually drop by on a stormy night to make sure he’s okay,” Diego said.

Klaus shrugged. “I’m just saying. He’d really rock the tinfoil hat life.”

“Klaus,” Eudora scolded. “No.” She nudged Diego with her shoulder. “And Diego, you are a very good brother.”

“I agree. Can you buy me another plate of these to prove it?” Klaus said, turning puppy dog eyes on him.

Diego groaned. “Fine, you weirdo.”

**

Luther woke to someone frantically shaking him. He blinked away the sleep, sitting up quickly. It was pitch black, but by the size of the hands it was easy to tell who it was. “Five?” he rubbed his eyes, squinting to let them adjust. “What’s going on?”

“I need someone stronger than me,” Five whispered. “Come on.”

Luther frowned, but Five never asked for help unless he really needed it, so he swung himself out of bed. “Why? What’s wrong?”

“There’s something downstairs,” Five said, tiptoeing down the stairs slowly, like he was waiting for Luther so he didn’t have to get too far from him at any point.

“What?” Luther whispered, heart skipping a beat. “What is it?”

“Don’t know, didn’t get a good look at it.” His voice was shaking slightly, like it was hard to breathe.

Luther took a closer look at Five. He was holding his side awkwardly. “Shit, are you hurt?”

“It’s fine,” Five said.

“Doesn’t sound fine,” Luther muttered, though he followed Five quietly, making sure to stay close enough that he could push Five behind his back quickly if something happened. Trying to convince Five to go back to his room and let Luther deal with whatever was going on alone would be nearly impossible, but dragging him out of the way of trouble would be simple, given Five’s size. “Five, if you’re hurt and there’s someone in the house—“

“It’s fine,” Five murmured. “Just… it’s right down here.”

Luther crouched down and leaned around the banister. “I don’t see anything.”

“Shit,” Five hissed. “Then it could be anywhere.”

“Five, what happened? You need to give me more details. I didn’t even hear anything.”

“Are you shitting me?” Five whispered. “The hallway is wrecked, I don’t know how it didn’t wake you up.”

Luther blinked at him, leaning around the banister again. Granted, it was dark, but there didn’t appear to be a hair out of place. “No it’s n—“ he started, before he realized.

Five was still looking at the hallway, slightly behind Luther. If he was seeing something that Luther wasn’t…

Shit.

“Five, how old are you?”

“What’s that got to do with anything?” Five asked. “There’s a monster in our house.”

Luther sighed. “Just… humor me?”

Five gave him a scalding look. “Thir—” he began, but cut off quickly. He stared out into the darkness, far too quiet. Luther sat down on the stairs. He didn’t know what to do, so he was left with the vague hope that Five wouldn’t book it the second he processed the situation. “Oh.”

“Are you actually hurt?” Luther asked. There wasn’t anything in the house, but that didn’t mean Five hadn’t fallen or done something else dangerous to trigger this.

Five took several moments to look at him. “No,” he said, voice all but disappearing into the night.

Luther let out a slow breath. He felt like he should wake Allison or Ben, but he didn’t think Five would appreciate more attention being drawn to this. “Uh,” he said. “Look…”

“Don’t tell the others,” Five breathed, face drawn.

Luther hesitated. Five needed a support system. Allison had said it a dozen times when they’d talked about this in private. But he also needed to be able to trust them, and Luther was working on being more of a friend to his siblings instead of a leader. Like Five had told him to be. “Sure,” he said, eventually. It seemed to be the right move, because Five didn’t jump away. “You wanna… uh… turn some lights on?”

“Sure,” Five echoed.

Luther stood up and walked to the living room, turning on a small lamp and waiting for Five to follow. He looked impossibly tired, enough so that Luther wasn’t sure how he was still standing. He was wearing Klaus’ sweater, which was far too big on him, fists curled around the bunched up sleeves. He shuffled over to the armchair and sat down, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I must have dozed off without noticing,” he murmured.

“Well, that’s progress,” Luther said. “Right?”

Five scoffed. “You get what just happened, right? Tonight?”

“Well, yeah,” Luther replied. “But I mean… this isn’t your first flashback since you’ve been back.”

“But usually I snap out of it when I realize you’re alive,” Five muttered. His mouth twisted as he laced his hands together and leaned his elbows on his lap, thumbs digging into the corners of his eyes. “I’m getting worse at this.”

“Well, it’s late. And you’ve been up for days,” Luther said. “Maybe you were still dreaming, or—“

“Luther, I’m not saying this to be mean,” Five said, sounding every bit like the tired old man he at least partly was, “but I really don’t need your brand of denial right now.”

Luther sat down on the couch, wringing his hands awkwardly. “No, I know what you mean.” He sighed. “But, you know…” He thought about it, trying to find a way to relate to Five that wouldn’t feel dismissive. It was hard – he hadn’t even realized he could be dismissive in his efforts to relate until Vanya had told him a few weeks ago. “Sometimes when Dad gave me a really rough workout, I’d feel fine during. And then I’d… wake up the next morning and I couldn’t even get out of bed I hurt so much everywhere, but then the next time I had a workout like that, it’d be easier.”

Five wasn’t looking at him, and there was no telling if he was even listening.

“Just… sometimes you get worse before you get better, is all I’m saying,” Luther finished lamely. Five still didn’t look at him, his hair falling into his eyes and obscuring his look. “It’s pretty normal. I mean, we all kind of figured it was gonna happen,” he tried. “Or… you know. It’s not that… We do worry about you, but that’s because we know how much you’ve gone through all by yourself. More than any of us.”

Five nodded absently, like he wanted Luther to stop talking more than he actually agreed.

“But that doesn’t mean I’ll tell them,” Luther said. “Not if you don’t want me to.”

“Thanks,” Five said, finally. The circles under his eyes were bad enough, but there was a flatness to his eyes that scared Luther.

He cleared his throat. “You want me to stay up with you? We can watch some of Allison’s movies, maybe?”

“Really, Luther?” Five asked, looking at him with that bone deep weariness Luther was trying not to let himself get used to. They couldn’t allow themselves to get used to Five being this exhausted all the time, like they’d gotten used to Vanya being alone or Klaus being high. “Using my flashbacks as an excuse to look at your girlfriend some more?”

“Uh… no,” Luther said. “No, I didn’t mean…”

The corner of Five’s lip curled up, shoulders shaking slightly with a tired, reserved laugh.

Luther rolled his eyes, but he leaned back to look at Five in relief. “You’re fucking with me,” he said. Five smiled, looking away. “Okay. Fine. Good to see you laughing. I missed it.”

Five shrugged. “Me too. I haven’t felt much like laughing and actually meaning it for a long time.”

That hurt to hear, somehow. Five had always had a temper and a stormy face when he was facing a challenge, but most of the time he was playful, excited. He laughed often and smiled all the time, even if it was a smug little smile. Some of that was still true, but… “Yeah,” he said softly. “I know. It’s okay.”

Five rubbed his eyes, then looked up at Luther. “I guess I could take you up on a movie. I was going to sleep downstairs after this anyway.”

Luther nodded. He reached to pat Five’s shoulder, and Five made an odd face. “Shit,” Luther said. “Sorry, I forgot aga—” He moved to pull his hand away, but Five grabbed his wrist with an alarming grip.

“Don’t,” Five demanded.

“Okay,” Luther said, carefully reaching forward and rubbing Five’s back. Five relaxed again. “I’ll get a couple movies and then you can… lean on me while we watch, how’s that?”

Five hesitated, but slowly nodded.

Luther ruffled his hair and raced up the stairs for his tapes.

**

“Allison,” Ben whispered. “Wake up.”

She started awake, sitting up in alarm. “What’s wrong?”

“Luther is a wizard,” Ben replied, with a wry smile.

“What?” she asked. She wasn’t quite as awake as she thought, it seemed.

“C’mon, come look,” Ben said, waving the camera in his face. “Be quiet, though, or you’ll miss it.”

She frowned, but stumbled out of bed after him, tiptoeing down the stairs at his request. “Ben, what—“

He shushed her quietly, pointing.

“Oh my god,” she whispered.

Luther was asleep on the couch, slumped down enough that he could rest his head while sitting, but that wasn’t the magical part. The magical part was Five draped over his lap, drooling onto Luther’s pants and snoring softly, dead asleep. Luther’s large hand was on his head, absently thumbing at his hair even in his sleep whenever Five made a noise or shifted, and Five was covered up in Luther’s robe like a blanket.

Ben took a picture quickly, almost as though he needed proof this was happening.

“How?” she whispered.

Ben dragged her over and pointed at the TV, which was still playing one of Allison’s movies.

“Oh,” she said softly. “Oh, no.”

“What?”

“It’s just a theory,” she whispered, “but after everything he’s been through, it seems likely.”

Ben raised an eyebrow.

“He can’t sleep alone.”

Ben struggled to hide a laugh. “Oh, god, one of us is going to have to try to convince him to sleep next to us from here on.”

“Not it,” she blurted.

“That’s not fair, there’s only two of us,” Ben said.

“I still said it, you can take it up with the others,” she whispered, racing away to the kitchen before he could argue.

She got nearly all the way through making breakfast before she heard crashing and yelling, and sighed, returning to find Five and Luther blinking owlishly, Five on top of the highest cabinet in the room, and Klaus with his hands over his mouth, looking guilty and wildly entertained at once.

“Good morning everyone,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“Oh my god, how long were you sleeping?” Klaus asked. “I didn’t think you’d be sleeping!”

“What?” Five asked, gripping the edge of the cabinet and peering down at them, as though his brain was still busy assessing the threat level of the situation at hand.

“At least seven hours,” Luther said, yawning. “We watched about three movies, but Mom must have put in a fourth while we were both sleeping.”

“What time is it?” Five asked, looking around sluggishly.

“11am,” Klaus replied.

Five finally slid his legs over the edge of the cabinet to sit and yawn. “I feel like I got run over.” He rubbed at his eyes. “When did I fall asleep?”

“I think during the heist movie,” Luther said. “You said, ‘that’s not what a silencer sounds like’ and then you were out cold.”

“Aw, such an adorable little psychopath,” Klaus said, sighing theatrically.

“Shut up,” Five said, curling up on top of the cabinet and closing his eyes. “I feel like crap, I’m going back to sleep.”

“Not up there!” Allison said. “You’ll fall off!”

“No I won’t,” Five said. “I’ve slept up here plenty of times.”

“When?” Klaus asked.

“In timeline two,” Five replied. “It’s a good vantage point, plus we had some issues boarding up those windows.” He waved at the windows in question absently. “So I stayed here for my napping.”

“Okay, as happy as I am to see you sleeping, you’re probably still dehydrated and you should eat and drink before going back to sleep,” Allison said. “Come on, get down from there.”

Five grumbled, but reappeared beside her. “Fine.”

“Aww, that’s my sweater,” Klaus cooed.

“I said shut up,” Five snapped.

“How the hell did you get him to sleep?” Klaus remarked, turning on Luther instead. “Did you choke him out?”

“What? No!” Luther said. “Of course not! I just stayed with him.”

“Huh,” Klaus said, mulling that over. He lit up, and Allison quickly gestured at him not to say anything. He blinked at her, seeming alarmingly thoughtful, but then he simply hugged Five to his side. “Well, hey, at least you got some sleep, huh?”

Five sighed. “Yes, I got sleep. Hooray. I assume we’ll be talking about nothing else for the next month.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t bet on it,” Klaus said.

Five squinted at him. “Why?”

“I just think we’ll have more exciting things to talk about soon,” Klaus replied.

Allison glared at him.

“Like what?”

“Like…” Klaus said, realizing he’d talked himself into a corner. The door closed behind them, and Klaus’ head snapped around. “Like Vanya! How’s it going?”

Vanya sighed at him. “No,” she said.

“What no?” Klaus asked. “I didn’t say anything.”

“You had a tone,” she replied. “And I’m not talking to you about my sex life.”

“I would never invade your privacy like that,” Klaus said. “I am very good with boundaries.”

Five gave him a look from where Klaus had trapped him under his arm to awkwardly pat his face. “Good at breaking them, maybe,” he muttered.

“Ssssh, no, you need human contact, it’s good for you,” Klaus whispered, squeezing him closer. Five flailed, shoving his way out of Klaus’ arms while Klaus wrestled him back, until he finally escaped and vanished.

“Sorry about that,” Klaus said. “But I had to pull evasive maneuvers so we don’t all die.”

“Why are we all going to die this time?” Vanya asked.

“Five obviously can’t sleep alone and someone has to tell him,” Allison said. “But I already said not it, so…”

“What? You can’t say not it before we’re here,” Klaus protested.

“I can and I did,” she said smugly. He looked at her in betrayal, clutching his hand to the wrong side of his chest to be his heart.

“Also not it,” Vanya said. “We’re heading out around noon today and I won’t be back until Tuesday.”

“You traitor,” Klaus gasped.

She raised a brow.

He smiled at her brightly. “Said with love.”

“I guess I can forgive you,” Vanya said. “Since you have a one in four chance of being stabbed soon.”

Allison snorted

“Five would never hurt me, I’m his favorite sibling,” Klaus said.

“Uh, no,” Vanya laughed. “I’m his favorite sibling.”

“Favorite brother.”

“Ben,” Allison interjected.

“Alright, fine, but I am Ben’s favorite,” Klaus said, brandishing a warning finger at her.

“Fair enough,” Vanya said, making her way into the kitchen. She ruffled Five’s hair as she sat down.

Diego sighed as he entered through the back door, yawning.

Ben and Klaus met each other’s eyes, and at once, blurted, “Not it!”

“What?” Five and Diego said, while Luther frowned at them in confusion.

Klaus pumped his fist, and Vanya leaned past him to look at Allison, as if to say, Wow, all our brothers are stupid.

Allison sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Guys, that doesn’t work if you’ve excluded everyone who doesn’t know,” she said.

“Why not? You said not it before we were even here,” Klaus pointed out.

“Yeah, but they can’t tell him if they don’t know,” she said. “And since you didn’t do it in private, now it’s a thing.”

“I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m just going to go ahead and say not it anyway,” Diego said.

“I don’t care what’s going on, and I’m not saying it,” Five muttered.

“What is going on?” Luther said.

Allison looked at Ben, Klaus and Vanya, who somehow managed to exchange looks with each other and chime, “Not it!” at once before she could realize.

“Oh, you little bastards,” she said, making Klaus spit his food back onto his plate, wheezing desperately. She pulled up a chair beside Five and sighed. “Five, we think you would sleep better if one of us stayed with you at night from here on.”

Diego made a face as though he was contemplating whether or not to duck. Everyone else held their breaths. Five stared at Allison. It was really incredible how sharply his eyes could focus.

“No,” he said, finally.

“Look, I know you like being independent, but…”

“I have been trying very hard to be cooperative,” Five said, sitting up and leaning in almost threateningly. “But I’m not four years old. I don’t need people to put me to bed and sing me to sleep.”

“I mean, you did actually fall asleep last night when I…” Luther started, before trailing off at Five’s murderous look. “Nevermind.”

“Okay, I still don’t know what’s going on,” Diego said. “But if it might help you sleep, you could at least give it a try, right?” He shifted closer, leaning on the table. “I mean, I know you don’t need it, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want someone to protect you at night, right?”

Allison tried not to flinch. That was way too on the dot, but maybe they could just play it off. Klaus, on the other hand, seemed to think it was close enough that it was time to do or die, because in a confusing maneuver that happened too quickly for Allison to even interpret, the tablecloth was suddenly on fire.

Luther dived to put it out, and Klaus cleared his throat, while Ben stared at him in disbelief. “Whew, that was weird,” Klaus managed. “Anyway, I think we should all give Five some time to think this—“

Five slammed his cup down so hard it was a miracle it didn’t crack. “You read my letter and didn’t tell me?”

Chapter Text

“You sure it’s okay if I head out?” Vanya asked.

Ben sighed, knocking on Five’s door again. “Is it okay if Vanya heads out?”

 Something heavy hit the door. “FUCK OFF, YOU INSUFFERABLE ASSHOLES.”

Ben held up his hand as if to say, See?

“Have a good weekend,” Allison said. “Call us when you get there.”

“Yeah, okay,” Vanya said. “Call me if he ever leaves his room.” She knocked on the door herself. “I’m heading out, Five, but I’ve left the number for our hotel on the kitchen table if you wanna talk or anything.”

“GO AWAY.”

“And he says he’s not a teenager,” Ben said.

“I HEARD THAT, YOU DICK.”

Ben rolled his eyes. “That was intentional!” Something else hit the door, and Ben sighed.

“He’s fine,” Allison said. “Trust me on this, if we had a real problem, he’d be quiet about it. He’s just embarrassed.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Vanya said.

“Try to enjoy yourself?” Allison said, starting down the stairs with her.

Ben sighed. “Alright, well, he’s not coming out any time soon, so I’m going to go read something, have fun.”

“I feel bad,” Diego muttered.

“Well, we had to tell him sometime,” Luther sighed. He looked at Klaus. “You think he’s really okay?”

“Sure!” Klaus said. “He’s just embarrassed, like Allison said. In fact, go on, live your lives, I’ll stay here with him.”

Luther and Diego exchanged looks. “You sure?”

“Yeah,” Klaus said, shrugging. “We’re kind of swamping him anyway, he’ll feel better one-on-one. I’d bet on it.”

Diego sighed loudly. “I guess so. I’ll be at the station if anyone needs me.”

Luther made a face. “I’ll be downstairs. Yell if you need anything.”

Klaus watched them go, counted to twenty, then leaned over so he could be heard through the door easier. “Hey, it’s just me now,” he said. He got nothing but silence as a response, which wasn’t surprising. It was better than the yelling. “Your letter was really nice. It uh… actually has been really helpful in getting my life together since we’ve been back.”

“Go away, Klaus,” Five said. Again, it wasn’t yelling.

“Okay, okay, you don’t want to talk about it. That’s cool. Just thought you’d like to know it really meant a lot to all of us. Really got us all teary eyed and all.”

He watched his feet as he tapped them together, then yawned. “The case I’m on is wild,” he remarked. “Some professor of astronomy or whatever went nuts and shot his coworkers and then himself, and now he says he doesn’t remember shit. Eudora says they’re sending his brain to a special lab.”

There was nothing from Five’s room, which felt like acceptance.

“I think it’s been driving Diego a little crazy. He’s used to flying in the window and beating people up, but now Eudora’s making him do the real work. I don’t know if wanting to be there for you or wanting to avoid paperwork is the bigger reason for him lurking around in the night whenever he thinks we’re not looking. Anyway, they’ve been keeping me up all night, trying to get to the bottom of it. The dead being more talkative in the night and all.”

He yawned. “Man, it’s crazy, now that I can sleep, I feel like I need sleep all the time. You feel like that? Like you could just sleep all day sometimes?”

Silence.

“Are you asleep right now?”

Silence.

Klaus chuckled to himself. “Thought so.” He crossed his arms and leaned back. “Not a bad idea. Maybe I’ll join you.”

He closed his eyes, listening to the birds chirping outside and the small patting of rain just starting to fall. It was peaceful and calm. Klaus wondered if these small quiet moments had already been happening before, and he’d just missed them, or if the world had gotten a tiny bit softer from his family being a real family.

Either way, the quiet was nice, lingering around him like a blanket.

Right up until he fell asleep, at which point everything was mostly screaming. He sighed, rubbing his hands over his face. “Okay enough,” he said, waving his hands until the screaming died down. “I know you’re all dead, and that sucks, but I need sleep! You guys scream at me all the time, and I’m tired!” He sighed. “I’m taking this nap, and anyone with anything important to say can line up in an orderly fashion and tell me when I’ve woken up, got it?”

The dead were not used to having rules. It was hard to count how many of them there were, but there was a general aura of decay and sheepishness around him. “Got it?” he asked again.

There was a bit of a murmur as he put his hands on his hips and gazed out into the myriad of souls, but after a while they seemed to recede, more like a tide than a crowd. He sighed in relief. He hadn’t really expected this to work, but it seemed staying sober and getting enough sleep regularly had really helped his powers be useful. “Thank you.”

He closed his eyes, rubbing his hands over his face. He was dreaming now, he could tell, but he still felt perfectly awake. To be honest, he was getting used to lucid dreaming. It happened to him more often than not, but at least he woke up feeling more rested than before.

When he opened his eyes, however, the sight that beheld him was not something he was used to.

Everything was on fire. Quite literally everything.

“Uh,” he said, to no one. The wind whipped around him, leaving an eerie trail in the silence. The only noises were the occasional falling of rubble. “What the fuck.”

He took a step, nearly falling on his face when his foot hit ground far sooner than he’d intended, the world whirling around him to become an entirely different world. He looked up, and the world was ash. As he turned his head, however, it grew dark, the walls reappearing and solidifying.

It was like a hologram – one imagine from one angle, another from a different angle. A hologram surrounding him and determining where he could step. He went slowly, carefully, feeling his way to Five’s door.

The knob was bloody. A trail of bloody footprints extended down the hall that couldn’t decide if it existed or not. “Oh,” Klaus realized. He knocked on the door, which sadly didn’t give way under his hands. “Five?”

He leaned close to the door. He heard voices. He tried the door, but it was locked. He tried knocking again, but to no avail. “Uh,” he said. “Okay.” He had to be more creative about this, clearly. He held on to the wall and shuffled down the hall to get something to jostle the lock with. After some searching, he managed to find a card, and started on the difficult journey back.

His head ached with the constantly changing reality, but he shook it and focused on sliding the card up to get the latch open so he could pull the door open.

Given his assumptions, it wasn’t surprising to see what the door hid.

He sighed with a grimace. He was used to the whispering of the dead, and it was eerie to see how closely Five’s nightmares had captured it. The way corpses stood, silent in a way the brain could only pick up on in its most primal, automatic corners, making one’s hair stand up. The way their eyes didn’t see, but still knew where to look. The way their decaying faces made their speech feel so wrong.

Klaus had never seen himself dead, though, which made this as bizarre as it was awful. Snatches of arrogant, weak, your fault, you’re always like this echoed through the room, snapping Klaus back into action.

“Okay,” he said firmly. The bodies of his dead family turned to look at him, which was not fun. “That’s enough. Go on, get.”

They didn’t move, and he stepped closer, making shooing motions. “Go. Get out. You’re not welcome here.”

And they were gone like they’d never been.

He inched closer to the desk they’d been surrounding carefully. The world seemed more stable the closer he got to Five, who was curled up under the desk, eyes squeezed shut and hands clamped over his ears, rocking ever so slightly onto his feet.

“Hey,” Klaus said. “Five. Hey.”

“You’re not real, you’re not real,” Five whispered into his knees.

Klaus cautiously took his wrist and tugged at it, just enough to make a point, squeezing it quietly. “Five. It’s me. I’m alive.”

Five sniffled, but he looked at Klaus cautiously.

“Hey,” Klaus said, giving him as much of a smile as he could manage.

Five sobbed, crawling forward to wrap his arms around Klaus’ neck.

“Hey, buddy,” Klaus said lamely, patting his back. “Hi. It’s okay, those assholes are gone. You know we would never say shit like that, right?”

Five held onto him tighter and cried into his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he whimpered. “I’m sorry I left and I’m sorry I couldn’t say any of the things in the letter out loud and I’m sorry—”

“Hey, no no,” Klaus said, shifting him closer. “It’s okay. We’re not mad, none of us are mad. It’s not your fault.”

Klaus could barely remember his brother seeming so much like an actual child. Not even when he’d re-arrived in the future. Then, crying or no crying, he’d just seemed stunned and worn out. Now he sounded like a scared toddler, sniffling and getting sobs caught in the back of his throat. He hadn’t seen Five cry like this since they were… hell, six years old?

“Okay,” Klaus said, hugging him. “Okay, it’s okay now. It’s just a dream.” He rubbed Five’s back. He didn’t know what else he could do in such a situation. When Five had cried like this as a six year old, Klaus had tried hugging him, and Five had bitten him and vanished to go hide in a closet for three hours, then had morosely handed Klaus a band-aid for the bite when he’d reemerged.

But Five didn’t bite him now, and Klaus kept up a steady stream of comforting nothings – or at least, things that didn’t mean anything said in a comforting tone – until Five finally calmed down, gulping down breaths to stop himself from crying. Klaus’ shoulder was covered in snot and tears, but since this was a dream, he couldn’t really complain. “You good?” he tried.

Five nodded, wiping his nose with his sleeve. “Yeah. You can go now.”

“Uh,” Klaus said. “About that.” He had no idea how he’d gotten here, much less how to get back.

“Nightmare’s over,” Five said, pushing himself up off the floor. He sounded more like himself, tear streaked face notwithstanding. “Don’t need you anymore.”

“Yeah but…” Klaus tried. Surely he had to tell Five that he was real somehow. You couldn’t just barge into someone’s head and not tell them. At least, so Klaus assumed. He didn’t really have any previous experiences to go on here.

“Seriously?” said a voice Klaus didn’t recognize. “How are you like this?”

He turned to look. A woman was sitting in Five’s armchair, sighing. She had red hair and a stiff face, but she was a real woman. Klaus tried to look for her legs. She looked like she probably had legs, but seeing them proved a challenge in ways Klaus couldn’t explain.

“Don’t even start,” Five snapped, stumbling to his feet. “He’s a dream. It’s not going to hurt his feelings.”

“Well,” Klaus tried, but the woman Klaus could only assume was Five’s way of picturing Delores was already retorting.

“This isn’t about him, it’s about you,” she replied. “You know they’re right about sleeping alone. You dozed off in your room alone and seconds later you’ve dreamed up your brother to protect you from the ghosts.”

Klaus tried to make any noise at all to get their attention, but it was useless. Five clearly didn’t care what a dream version of his brother might have to say.

“So?” Five said. “He deals with dead people, it’s his thing. Why wouldn’t I think of him in the face of living corpses?”

“Or maybe because you fell asleep reassuring yourself by remembering he  was right outside the door?”

“Oh, so you’re taking their side on this,” Five scoffed. “Just because it helped to have Luther there one time doesn’t mean I need to be coddled!”

“Oh, right, sorry, I forgot that there’s never anything you could do better,” Delores replied. “The great Number Five, who never has to second guess his own brilliant mind.”

“Why do you have to be like that?” Five snapped. “I’m trying. You of all people should know that.”

“And now you’re undoing all of your work and locking yourself in your room because they read a letter you wrote to them. Bravo. Really smart, Five.”

“Oh, don’t give me that,” he snarled. “They knew it wasn’t meant for them, that’s why they didn’t tell me about it! I think I’m well within my rights to want them to leave me alone while I yet again come to terms with what assholes they are.”

Klaus nodded to himself. That was fair. Also, he was going to get a real talking to whenever he finally managed to tell Five the truth about what was happening right now. “Actually, on that note—“

“Come on, Five, that’s a flimsy excuse, even for you,” Delores drawled. As important as she was to Five, Klaus wasn’t at all sure he liked her very much. “You’re hiding away in your room because you’re scared they’re actually going to see you for once, but it’s not going to work. You’re just going to end in you being alone and miserable like always. You can’t have people be there for you without being known, Five.”

“I know that,” Five retorted. “That doesn’t mean I can’t set boundaries!”

“You’re not setting boundaries, you’re running away.”

Five’s face twisted like she’d said something insurmountably horrible. “I am not running away.”

“Really? Then what do you call hiding away in your room, waiting for your dream brother to save you from actual nightmares of your siblings telling you you’re not enough? Huh? Because you didn’t look too brave until he showed up.” She pointed at Klaus.

“Yeah, look,” Klaus tried again.

“I’m not running away just because I wanted to be alone for a while,” Five hissed.

Klaus resisted the urge to lay down the floor and cry about how awkward all this was going to be if Five ever slowed down enough to listen.

“You don’t want to be alone, Five!” Delores snapped. “We both know you don’t! If you weren’t scared, you’d spend every second of your time with them! You’d kill to have them stay with you at night. You have killed!”

“You know what? I don’t have to listen to this,” Five said, starting towards the door.

“Oh, fine! Storm off and get drunk, like always,” Delores yelled after him.

“I do not always do that!” Five said, turning back around to yell at her properly. “You’re exaggerating and you know it!”

“I do not know it! You’ve settled every single one of our arguments with a bottle of vodka since we met!” Delores shouted. “Then you stumble back in here, slur your way through some surly, sloppy apology, and continue ignoring me, because all you know how to do is act like you’re better than everyone else and run!”

“At least I apologize!” Five yelled. “When was the last time you said sorry to me?”

“When was the last time I ignored you?!”

“I do not ignore you!”

“Yes, you do! I told you not to eat that twinkie, and you did. I told you the Handler was bad news, and you still went with her. I told you the equations were wrong, and you didn’t listen. And now you’re going to go drink and not even look at your brother, because even in a dream, you’re too scared to be close to anyone, even though it’s the only thing in this world you actually want!”

“Shut up!”

“Make me!” she snapped. “I’m a figment of your imagination, Five, if you really think I don’t have a point, make me stop!”

Klaus put his hands over his mouth to stop the horrified laugh that threatened to break out of him. He really needed to interrupt and tell Five exactly who was seeing all this, but there was no good way to say it by now. “Uh, Five—“

“We agreed not to talk about that!” Five snarled, eyes wide and almost terrified. “You promised!”

“That was before you let me go,” Delores said. “You and I parted ways because you don’t need me anymore, Five. You’re not alone, and the only reason you’re seeing me now is because you are hiding.”

“I am not.”

“You are,” she said, sounding softer. “Your family is out there. They know exactly what they mean to you and they want to help. Let them. Let them know you and be there for you. You’re not stuck with just me anymore.”

Five’s face fell, and Delores was gone, like she’d never been.

“I’m not a dream,” Klaus blurted, before he could be interrupted again.

Five stared at him, brain clearly grinding through the gearshift between being devastated by his imaginary friend and dealing with his brother being in his brain. There was no way to make the switch lightly, and Klaus was impressed by how quickly the process played out on Five’s face. “Come again?”

“I’m not… uh…” Klaus said. He’d really screwed up the timing. “I was trying to say something earlier, but I’m actually… uh… me.”

Five stared harder. “Bullshit.”

“No, not bullshit,” Klaus said. “Come on! Why do none of you ever believe me about my powers? I’m in your dream, for real. But it was an accident, I swear, it wasn’t… I really did mean to say something, but then… Delores, and… uh…”

Five, somehow, stared even harder.

“I’m sort of relieved you see her as an actual woman,” Klaus said. “And not a dismembered—“

“You’re actually Klaus,” Five cut in.

Klaus looked up at him, wincing. “Yeah. I’m really really really sorry.” He got to his feet. “I’d leave, but I don’t… actually… know how.”

“No, it’s fine,” Five said, voice dripping with sarcasm. “There’s absolutely no reason I wouldn’t want you in my head.” He rubbed his hands over his face. “Nothing at all in my life I’d rather not tell my brother.”

The scene around them shifted nauseatingly.

“What the—“ Klaus said, squinting. It was now nighttime, and they were outside. Klaus recognized this view. “Is this the mausoleum?”

Five leaped forward to grab Klaus’ arm and drag him through a jump into the living room.

“Wait, did you just think of a secret you’ve been keeping from me specifically?” Klaus asked. He should not be giddy with this realization, but Five had always been so stuck up as a kid, and for a moment, Klaus felt like the child who had always kind of wanted vengeance for all those not that you would understand, Klaus’.

“Yes,” Five said, sitting down on the floor, breathing hard. “And I’d prefer if you didn’t pry.”

Klaus weighed his options. “That’s fair,” he said. “And I should respect your boundaries.” Five looked at him suspiciously, which was also fair, because a moment later, Klaus blurted, “But-you-still-owe-me-twenty-bucks-and-I-really-wanna-know,” and booked it back to the mausoleum.

He skidded to a stop. He could just make out Five, presumably a dream-Five, sneaking across the lawn to the mausoleum, listening in on the door. Klaus could vaguely hear himself inside there, and could see Five prepare to jump before a hand landed on his neck, gripping hard and yanking him away.

The specter of Reginald Hargreeves loomed over Five as only a nightmare could. He looked a lot more menacing than Klaus had ever seen him, which said one very obvious and very sobering thing – Five was more scared of their father than Klaus was. Klaus watched in horror. Could he step in to interrupt a dream? Would it matter?

Someone tackled him from behind, sending both of them rolling through the grass. “What. Is. Wrong with you?!” Five shouted, forcibly wrenching Klaus so he couldn’t watch the action unfold.

“Get off me, I want to see!” Klaus yelled, kicking back.

Five gripped him, trying to get him into a headlock. “No! This isn’t for you!”

“This is about me!” He wrestled with Five, but between Klaus’ height and Five’s skill, it was more of a directionless roll through the grass.

“It’s my memory and I don’t want you to see it!”

“What did he do to you?!”

“It! Doesn’t! Matter!”

“Yes it does! You were trying to help me and something happened and I deserve to know what!”

He wasn’t sure what either of their limbs were doing, but he was pretty sure there was an elbow in his face that was starting to hurt.

“Why?! So you can feel bad about how life was hell for you?!”

“Because now I know I wasn’t alone and I want to be there for you the same way!”

“Then respect my goddamn privacy!”

“No! Tell me what the old bastard did!”

“No!”

“Number Four!” a voice snapped, making them both freeze, Klaus with his hand smashed into Five’s face while Five pinned him to the ground.

 “Uh, Klaus?” Five said slowly, staring hard. “Does Dad look really…” He hesitated, stumbling over the specific wording. “…dead to you right now?”

Klaus turned. Indeed, the dream image of Reginald had taken on a ghostly hue. He squinted at it. “Dad?”

“Oh, great,” Five muttered, rolling off Klaus to sit miserably in the grass. “Why don’t you see if you can invite more people into my head? Get the whole family together, while you’re at it. Oh, Harold’s dead, why don’t you call him up too?”

“Number Four,” Reginald said. “Finally. What on Earth took you so long?”

“I’m here too,” Five snapped.

“Yes, congratulations, after 17 years, you’ve managed a single jump backwards in time,” Reginald said.

“You shut the fuck up,” Klaus snapped before Five could retort. “Don’t talk to him like that.”

“He is irrelevant,” Reginald said sharply, and Five’s mouth closed with a snap, his jaw working with anger. “This is about you. You have been avoiding your responsibilities.”

Klaus sighed. “Yeah, yeah, I banished you last time we talked and then got a little carried away saving the world from your mistakes,” he said. “But in my defense, no one wants to know what you have to say.”

“I d—“ Five started furiously, but Klaus waved him down.

“Don’t be dramatic,” Reginald snapped. “I may have made some difficult choices in my life but—“

“Bad,” Klaus said. “The world you’re looking for is bad choices.” He sighed. “Anyway, shoo, I’m tired of your face.”

“I have questions!” Five hissed.

“Great, we’ll read his notes,” Klaus replied.

“The fate of the world is at stake, Number Four,” Reginald said.

“We did that already,” Klaus said. “No exploding moon, no zombie monsters, it’s May…”

“What on Earth are you talking about?”

Klaus laughed as it clicked. “Oh, you’re talking about the new thing,” he said. “That the creepy lady told us about. What’s that about, huh?”

“Number Four, this is not a joke.”

“For once, I agree with the old man,” Five muttered. “We need to know.”

Klaus thought about that for a moment, brushing off his pants, then looked back up at Reginald. “Quick question, yes or no: is the end of the world happening in a week?”

“No, of course not,” Reginald said. “As though I would waste 30 years of preparation by giving you only a week’s preparation. Especially given how you all abandoned your training for other trivial pursuits.”

“We talking months, years?”

Five glared at him in disbelief. “What are you doing?”

Klaus waved him down again.

Reginald puffed himself up in offense. “In a matter of months, you will—“

“Oh, well. Months,” Klaus said. “In that case, my name is Klaus, you made every possible mistake you could training all of us, and I’m not talking to you until you ask nicely.”

“This is a matter of grave importance!”

“Learn fast then, Reggie!” Klaus said cheerfully, waving as his father vanished. “Wow. Banishing the dead. That’s so nice.”

Five stared at him with the most intense look of betrayal a child’s face could muster. “What is wrong with you? He had answers!”

“And if he can’t do so much as remember my very short name in the next few months, then he’s not going to give us any,” Klaus replied. “It’s one syllable, Five!” Five’s eyes burned into him, unrelenting. “Come on, you know the deal. He’ll just give a big lecture about taking responsibility and being a team, which we already are – no thanks to him – and he won’t say anything we can actually use. Forcing him to get off his damn high horse is the only way we’re going to find out anything real.”

Five ran his hands through his hair, tension radiating from him.

Klaus sighed, sitting down next to him. “Look, Five…”

Something very loud cracked through the air, and Klaus was suddenly wide awake.

“Shit,” he said, scrambling to his feet. Thankfully, nothing was on fire. It seemed to be storming outside, and the thunder had probably woken him. He knocked on Five’s door, which swung open immediately.

“Was all of that real?” Five asked.

“Yeah,” Klaus breathed.

“In that case, you’re a colossal dick,” Five snapped. “What were you thinking? Dad’s not going to apologize for anything he did to us as kids.”

“I didn’t ask him to apologize,” Klaus said. “I’m setting the bar so low it’s in the floor. I literally could not set it lower. And trust me on this, if he can’t clear that, he is no help to us. We’re going to figure it out faster without him.”

“But this time he’s actually on our side,” Five said. “He wants to save the world as much as we do.”

“He always has,” Klaus said. “If not more. But he can’t, because he can’t see past his own ego. Even if he answers our questions, it’s just going to be bullshit.”

“What bullshit could he possibly say to a question like, say, How long do we have?”

“Does it matter, Number Five?” Klaus said, making his voice as pompous as he could. “Time and efficiency are of the essence regardless of when it happens.”

“Fine,” Five hissed. “What about, How do you know the world is going to end?”

“You’re wasting time questioning my methods when your tasks are ahead of you?” Klaus replied.

“Okay, fine, how about…”

Klaus took his brother’s shoulders in his hands, shaking him ever so slightly. “Five. I am keeping an ear out for him, I promise. I’m not treating this like a joke. I’m serious. If he can’t manage a single please, Klaus, he will not be of any help to us. Okay?”

Five’s face crumpled. He looked up at Klaus with an uncharacteristically childish gaze. “I don’t know if I can do this again,” he murmured, so quiet Klaus nearly didn’t hear him.

“I know,” Klaus murmured. “But this time we’re all starting on the same page. We’re together, and we’ve got this. Diego’s monitoring every police channel, I’ve been talking to dead people as much as I can handle without wanting to bury myself in pills, and we’re all trying to help you get better so you’ll be able to manage when the shit hits the fan, okay? We’ve got this.”

Five frowned at him, his face still surprisingly vulnerable. He wavered over his words for a moment, then nodded. “Okay.”

“Trust me, I’m not going to be dumb about this. I’m trying really really hard at this whole adulting thing lately!” Klaus said. “I’ve been sober, and sleeping, and doing my job, and I went to therapy like twice now…”

“Therapy?” Five snorted. “What do you tell them, that you talk to dead people?”

“Yeah,” Klaus said. “There’s a book about us. It’s not like they think I’m a lunatic. Well, maybe not for that reason.” He shrugged. “The time travel threw her for a loop, but she adjusted.” He looked Five up and down. “You could try it too, you know.”

Five scoffed, pulling away from Klaus. “Where would they even start?” he asked. “It’s not as though there’s any precedent for what’s going on in my life. Or my brain.”

“Okay, but…” Klaus started, taking a deep breath and trying to remember what Dave had told him. “PTSD is PTSD. There are techniques and processes they can teach you.”

Five sat down on the bed, sighing. “I guess.”

Klaus joined him, putting an arm around his shoulders. “I could go with you. Introduce you to her, see where it goes? Or I can just give you her number. Her name is Sasha Reed.”

Five barked out a laugh.

“What?” Klaus asked.

“I know her,” Five said. “Well, knew. I think she’s been trying to be my therapist for 14 years.”

Klaus chuckled. “Well, maybe it’s time.”

Five looked up at him. “Maybe later. I just don’t think I’m ready for that.”

“Okay,” Klaus said, ruffling Five’s hair, getting an irritated look in response. “Well, believe me, I know how frustrating it is to constantly be told to get help or stop doing shit, so I’m not going to push you, but I do need you to promise me one thing.”

Five raised a brow indulgently, though the beginnings of a scowl were returning to his face.

“No matter how bad or weird shit gets, I need you to try your hardest to remember I’m always here for you and you can always come to me. You know where I live, right?”

Five frowned at him. “Yes.”

“Okay. Then… you know. Whatever happens, I’ll listen and I won’t bombard you with demands to get help until you’re ready.”

Five’s brow furrowed. “You’re a fucking saint, Klaus,” he said. “I hate it.”

“I love you too,” Klaus said, catching Five when he jumped at the thunder. He laughed despite himself, pulling Five in for a hug. “I’ll bet you it’ll take Diego less than ten minutes to get here and pretend he’s not here to try to protect you from windy nights.”

Five smiled at that. “No bet, he’s definitely on his way right now.” He snorted. “You know, I’m not sure I mind.” After a beat, he added, “But if you repeat that to anyone, I will stab you. You only need one kidney to live.”

Klaus patted his head. “I know, Five, I know.”

Chapter Text

“Good of you to finally return,” Reginald said.

Five blinked at him. He didn’t know how he’d gotten where he was, nor was he entirely sure where he was. Sometimes it felt like Reginald’s office, sometimes he wasn’t so sure. “Well, like you said,” he said, smiling sourly. “Time travel is a toss of the dice.”

“Well, your absence was no great loss to us,” Reginald said, not looking up from his notes.

Five hated the way that send a sharp squeeze of pain through his heart. “I see you’re still an awful bastard,” he muttered. Where was Klaus? It had been easier seeing Reginald with Klaus around. Klaus had…

A shiver rand down Five’s spine. Klaus had tried to stand up for him. Nothing good ever came of standing up to Reginald Hargreeves for each other in their family. They were a team, yes, but it was Reginald’s team. Maybe it was better that Klaus wasn’t here, wherever he’d run off to.

Reginald looked up. “Number Five. Just because you’ve been gone doesn’t mean you’re now exempt from behaving. Have some respect.”

Five gritted his teeth. “Respect for what?” he hissed. “Klaus was…” He stopped. No, he couldn’t place the blame on Klaus or anyone else, even if Klaus had been right. Five had always been the best at bearing the weight of Reginald’s lessons. He was stronger and smarter than the rest of them, and that came with certain responsibilities. “You don’t know shit about what you’re doing. Every decision you’ve made has been wrong.”

Reginald sighed, standing and stepping closer so he could put his hand on Five’s shoulder. “It’s all a matter of perspective, my boy,” he said.

“What perspective is that, exactly?” Five said, mouth twisting into a smile. “The world ended because of you, old man. Twice.”

“And who’s to say that wasn’t the goal?” Reginald replied.

Five heart skipped a beat. “What?”

“Your job is to save the world, Number Five,” Reginald said. “But for who?”

Five opened his mouth, mind racing with the implications. “What are you talking about? Everyone died. Who could that be for? The end of everything?”

“Not everything,” Reginald said. “Merely… something.”

Five tried to pull back, but Reginald’s grip tightened on his shoulder.

“Now have a seat,” Reginald said. “I can’t have you interfering again.”

He pushed Five down, and panic gripped Five. He knew the chair he was sitting in. He knew the room he was in. “No,” he croaked as the restraints clicked shut. “No, Dad!”

Reginald brushed his fingers over Five’s cheek like he sometimes had when Five had been very young. He’d thought it was love, at first, but then he’d realized it was admiration – admiration for his powers, for the possessions Reginald had collected.

“Dad!” Five pleaded. “Let me go!”

“I’m afraid not, Number Five,” Reginald said, turning to go. “You’re much too troublesome. You won’t be leaving this room again.”

“Dad!” Five screamed, but the door swung shut behind his father, leaving Five alone in the dark. “DAD!”

Fear hit him like a wave of cold water. If he was locked up down here, were the others…?

“Vanya!” he shouted, the memory of all those dark doors haunting him. The heartless steel, the small windows, enough for the others to see each other. No, Vanya wouldn’t be able to hear him. He couldn’t get close enough to look through the window and look at what would be Ben’s room. Could Ben see him, if he was in there, he wondered? “BEN!”

Nothing. No one could hear him. He had no idea if they were even down here. Did they even know he was here?

“KLAUS!” he tried.

Silence.

“LUTHER!”

He could hear his heart beating through his throat and in his ears.

“DIEGO!”

He struggled to get out of the restraints, but he knew it was no use.

“ALLISON!”

He couldn’t control his breathing. Tears threatened to strangle him.

“ANYONE! PLEASE!”

There was no answer. He screamed helplessly. He couldn’t stay down here, he couldn’t, he couldn’t, he couldn’t…

“FIVE!”

His eyes snapped open, chest heaving as he looked up at Diego.

“Jesus, Five, tell me you’re actually awake,” Diego said. “You nearly broke my nose.”

Five pedaled away from him, trying to sit up and remember where he was. “What’s… Where…” he managed, trying to catch his breath.

“It’s okay,” Diego muttered. “You’re in your room. It was just a nightmare.”

He put a hand on Five’s back, making Five jump. Diego caught him with another hand on his shoulder, thumb rubbing comforting circles into his arm.

“You okay there?” Diego asked.

Five swallowed, then nodded. Just a nightmare. It was just a nightmare. He could almost feel the ache of the metal digging into his wrists still.

“Where are the others?” Five asked. It was unlike them not to get nosy about what he could only assume was a lot of screaming.

“Allison and Luther are discussing visitation schedules with her lawyer and Klaus went home to get some real sleep,” Diego said. “I think Ben’s downstairs.” He smiled a little. “So only I heard you screaming everyone’s name, don’t worry.”

Five scowled at him. He looked smug, the dickhead. “What time is it?”

“Nearly noon,” Diego said. “You’ve been sleeping for a while, for a change.”

Five rubbed his eyes. “Oh.” When had he last gotten a real night’s sleep? He couldn’t remember. His eyes were sticky and he felt shaky.

Diego moved to sit beside him, putting an arm around him. “How come you sleep like an angel for Luther and keep screaming like a baby when I’m around, huh?” he joked.

“Maybe because you ask shitty questions like that,” Five muttered. In reality, he was pretty sure it was mostly the fact that Luther had kept his hand on Five’s head, the touch continually reminding him he wasn’t alone, while Diego had let Five curl up in bed alone and had taken up a silent vigil in Five’s armchair. Still, Five didn’t have to admit that.

“Thanks, you little dickhead,” Diego said. “Speaking of which, I’m still offended I’m the only one you called an asshole in the letter.”

“Would you have believed it was me if I didn’t?” Five muttered, smiling despite himself.

“Hell no,” Diego replied, returning the smile.

“Well, there you go,” Five said.

Diego made a disgusted noise and shoved him over, and a laugh bubbled up in Five’s chest, much to his surprise. Diego tried to hide his obvious joy at seeing Five laugh easily. He reached over to ruffle Five’s hair until Five managed to bat him away.

“I’m sorry we read it,” Diego said, after a moment.

Five shook his head. Delores had been right. He’d panicked at the thought of them reading it, but it was theirs. “Probably for the best,” Five said. “I wrote it in the hopes it’d make you less of an asshole, after all.”

“Hey,” Diego said, as sharply as he could with the grin threatening to spread over his face. “Don’t try to play this off. That letter was sappy as fuck, bro.”

“Oh, fuck off.”

Diego laughed and wrapped his arms around Five, shifting his stance so Five couldn’t buck him off easily. “You love us,” he teased, while Five flailed, trying to shove him off. Diego rocked him in a playful imitation of babying. “You love us so much and you want me to protect you.”

“Get off me, asshole!”

Diego kissed his head with all the flair of a second grader trying to threaten someone with cooties. Five growled at him in disgust.

Several of Five’s watches dinged with the arrival of noon, and Diego sighed, reluctantly releasing Five from his torment. “Probably time for me to get to work,” he said. “You gonna be okay?”

Five wanted to make a jab about Diego’s teasing, but instead he nodded, looking out the window at the rain. “Yeah, I’m good. You’ve successfully protected me from last night’s thunderstorm.”

“Dick,” Diego muttered, grabbing his jacket. He tousled Five’s hair. “Call me if you need me, even if it’s for something stupid, ‘kay?”

“Fine.” Five watched him go, groaning before Diego could leave the room. “Diego,” he said, despite his desire to do literally anything else.

Diego turned to look at him expectantly.

“Thanks for coming over,” Five said. “I wouldn’t have been able to sleep if you hadn’t.”

Diego shuffled in the doorway, clearly unsure of what to do with that kind of validation. “Yeah,” he said.

Silence stretched between them.

Klaus leapt onto Diego’s back, disrupting the awkward silence with a loud whoop.

“Good morning, Klaus,” Five snorted, while Diego tried to keep his balance desperately.

“Hey!” Klaus replied. “You look almost human!”

Five rolled his eyes. “I slept.”

“Ooh, hey,” Klaus said, having mercy and hopping off Diego’s back. “Since everyone’s busy today, Ben and I thought we’d go out to eat, maybe hang out. What do you say?”

Five shrugged. “Sure.”

“I’m going to work,” Diego said, waving at Five and escaping before Klaus could swamp him again.

“Sweet!” Klaus crowed, ignoring Diego. “Oh, hey, want me to draw you a bath before we go?”

Five took a deep breath. It wasn’t going to be running water, but it was still a lot of it. He chewed at the inside of his lip, trying to calm himself. He nodded. “I’ll try it.”

“Proud of you,” Klaus said with a wink. “Oh, hey, and… I know we’re gonna wait for Vanya to tell everyone about… y’know, Dad, but can we tell Ben? I can’t keep things from Ben.”

“Sure,” Five said. “Why not.” This wasn’t a secret. Mostly, he just didn’t want to risk leaving Vanya out of a family meeting. Again.

“Thank god,” Klaus wheezed. “Okay, bathtime!”

He scampered away, leaving Five a moment to collect himself.

It had been a while since he’d actually gotten sleep in his old bedroom, in his actual bed, without having passed out from blood loss. It was a weird feeling, like it was just now registering that this had been his room.

“Fuck,” he whispered. He wondered how many times it would hit him that he was really back, or if it would ever get easier to wrap his head around.

“Bath is ready for you!” Klaus called, before Five heard him thundering down the stairs, probably to tell Ben everything.

Five took a deep breath. He could take a bath. He could.

He made his slow way to the bathroom, making sure nothing was still dripping before closing the door and undressing. He folded Klaus’ sweater – so much more comfortable than his uniformed pajamas – with the utmost care and set it on the bathroom cabinet where it wouldn’t get wet. He wanted the sweater to last as long as possible.

Then, he sat down in front of the tub and stared.

He let out a slow breath.

This was ridiculous.

The water was already in the bathtub. There was only one way to waste it, which was by refusing to take this bath. He dipped his fingers, shuddering. It was lukewarm by now, but that was alright. The heat probably would have reminded him of the fire he was used to. He watched his hands shaking as he swept his fingers back and forth through the water.

He huffed, standing up and putting one foot into the water, then levering himself over the side of the bathtub to get the other in and sit on the edge of the tub.

Water wasn’t as much of a rarity in timeline two, but there had always been a need to conserve it. They needed it to drink, to cook, to garden, to tend to wounds, to power Mom. There had been the river, not far away, but that had been out in the open. Any trips there were about getting water and running back before anything noticed them. And they definitely didn’t have a good way to heat up water.

It had been a long time since he’d been able to let his feet soak. Long enough that the sensation was downright bizarre.

Did he even remember how to swim?

Slowly, he forced himself into the water. The shaking wouldn’t ease, but the water felt good. He curled up, hugging his knees to his chest until the shaking finally gave way to a gentle tremor.

The soap in the water smelled like lavender. The water was a comfortable temperature, and it lapped at his skin easily. He carefully spread the soap over his skin. He felt cleaner than he had in decades.

Gripping the edges of the tub, he carefully lowered himself into the water, taking a deep breath and ducking under the surface so he could just take a moment to feel it.

It was overwhelming before he could really enjoy it, and he had to sit up quickly, gasping for breath, letting the water fall over his face from his hair. “Fuck,” he whispered into the silence, leaning against the back of the tub, sinking down so the water came up to his shoulders. In this respect, being small again was nice.

 He closed his eyes, taking deep breaths.

Last night had been a lot to take in, even by normal Hargreeves family standards. First of all, sharing a dream with Klaus… he shuddered to think that Klaus had seen all their corpses. That wasn’t a horror he wanted to share with anyone else. Then again, it wasn’t much of a novelty for Klaus, was it?

But now Klaus knew how Five felt about their father, and suspected some of the reasons why. It was an inch into territory Five had kept to himself for a long time, and Klaus was perfectly capable of taking a mile.

He rubbed water over his face.

That, and the idea of another apocalypse to avert. Maybe it wouldn’t be the end of all life this time, but it was danger, and Five…

Allison – and everyone else who looked at him twice – was right. It would take absolutely nothing to topple Five right now. Everything he’d been through thus far, all the things he done and learned meant nothing. He was well aware that the second he saw any of his siblings in danger, he would lose it. He couldn’t look at running water without shaking. Last night had been the most amount of sleep he’d gotten in years, and yet he felt like he’d been chewed up and spit back out. He’d nearly cried over the sight of Diego sitting in the window, silhouetted by lightning, watching out for Five.

“Fuck,” he said again.

The water was getting cold.

He dragged himself out and reached for a towel, drying himself carefully before picking up his uniform to get dressed. Allison had offered to get him new clothes, but somehow the uniform was comforting. A reminder of where he was and where he belonged.

He just had to breathe. The Handler had already told them something was coming – fuck, she’d been in his house, with his family – and he’d been ready for things to go south since. That was why he was trying to take care of himself. To recover. To be strong enough to do something when he needed to. Together his siblings would manage until he pulled himself together.

He had to keep telling himself that.

He got dressed, fumbling slightly with the buttons until his hands settled. He hoped this constant shivering wasn’t a symptom of time travel. It would be annoying if it kept happening.

He jumped downstairs, where Ben and Klaus were on the couch waiting for him.

“Ready to go?” Klaus asked. “I’m starving.”

“You’re always starving,” Ben snorted.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Five said, pushing his hands into his pockets. For now, the most useful thing he could do was have a good day with Ben and Klaus.

**

Ben stared at Klaus.

“That’s a problem,” he said finally.

“I hate to say it, but Klaus is right. It’s not much more than what we learned from the Handler,” Five said, sipping at a spoonful of soup.

“No, I mean Klaus entering other people’s dreams,” Ben said. He looked at Klaus. “We’ve spent a lot of time together, and I have some weird dreams about you.”

“What, like… sex dreams?” Klaus said, predictably.

“Gross. No. Sex dreams that turn into nightmares, maybe,” Ben replied. “But mostly I meant dreams in which I murder you.”

“That’s fair. Also, what’s a sex dream that turns into a nightmare? Like. you’re having sex with someone attractive and then I run in and start doing weird shit and everything turns to nonsense?” Klaus asked.

“That’s alarmingly accurate. You’re sure you didn’t have this power before?”

“No, I’m just guessing from your face.”

“This conversation is horrifying on multiple levels,” Five muttered to himself before picking up his cup of soup and drinking down the broth.

 “Soup’s good?” Ben asked.

Five nodded. “Easier to eat.”

“God, you’re so old,” Klaus laughed.

Ben smiled, then frowned. “So. What did Dad do to you?” he asked.

Five stopped eating, giving Ben a cross look. “Does it matter? He made life hell for all of us.”

“Yeah, but…” Klaus whined.

“Just drop it,” Five sighed, returning to his food.

“But—“

 “I don’t want to talk about Dad,” Five snapped. “We have enough to worry about without him.”

“That’s true,” Ben said. “But like you said, what are we going to do until something starts being… weird? Right?”

Five snorted. “Something other than Klaus?”

“Oh, you’re one to talk,” Klaus said.

Five shrugged, sipping at his soup again until it was gone. “Okay, don’t shit yourselves,” he said carefully. “But I think I want another soup.”

“Fuck yes!” Klaus said, clattering away, nearly knocking his chair over in his eagerness.

“What did I just say?” Five muttered, to the empty seat he’d left behind. “It’s not that big a deal.”

“It’s the first time you’ve asked for seconds since you’ve been back,” Ben said. “Let him have this.”

“Bite me,” Five said, scraping the last of his soup out of the container with his spoon.

Ben laughed, and they quietly watched Klaus talk to the woman at the counter excitedly.

“He’s been happy,” Five remarked.

“Yeah,” Ben said. “He’s got a good little corner for himself at his apartment and Dave… and the consultant job, though I think that’s kind of a neutral point for him personally. But it makes Diego proud, and I think he likes that.”

“Not sure what I think about something who’d be willing to date someone half their age,” Five said.

“Dave’s a good guy, trust me,” Ben said.

“Maybe 50 years ago,” Five replied. “But time changes people.”

“Five,” Ben said. “Trust me, Klaus tells me way too much about their relationship. He’s fine. You don’t have to be worried about Dave, of all things.”

Five huffed.

“What are you going to do when you look old enough to date, anyway?” Ben asked.

“I’m deeply uninterested in dating,” Five said. “Maybe it’s the trauma, but I didn’t date or have sex in timeline two either, so maybe it’s just not for me.”

“That’s fine,” Ben said. “I’m not chomping at the bit either, but eventually. Maybe once I’m used to not being… y’know dead.”

Five hummed. “If I ever develop an interest in someone who’s not the first sufficiently human looking mannequin I’ve seen in years, I’ll let you know.”

“So you really did know that—“

“I really don’t want to talk about it,” Five interrupted. “Yes, I’ve always known. I appreciate that none of you said anything, and I’d prefer if you could keep it up.”

Ben thought about it for a moment. “Was it a decent break up, at least?”

“It was pretty mutual, yeah,” Five replied, as Klaus returned with bottled water and another cup of soup.

“What are we talking about?” Klaus asked.

“If you ever introduce Dave to Five, you should prepare him for a thorough grilling,” Ben said.

“I’m just saying…”

“Oh, that’s old news,” Klaus said, waving his hand. “I know Five’s going to be a nightmare whenever I do bring Dave by.”

“Alright, that’s just exaggerating,” Five muttered.

“It’s okay, I take it as a sign of love,” Klaus said. “Besides, I’d have questions for Delores too if I could talk to her again.”

Five all but blushed. “She’s not usually that mean. She’s only like that when she… When I need her to be.”

“Uh-huh,” Klaus said. “Hey, can I ask you one thing about… you two meeting? I promise I’ll drop it after.”

Five rolled his eyes. “One question. Just one.”

“Why Delores?” Klaus asked. “I mean, as a name.”

Five blanched in a way that made Ben want nothing more than to hear what he had to say.

“Never repeat this to me or anyone else,” Five said, voice threatening.

Klaus nodded solemnly. “Okay.”

“Ever,” Five pressed.

“We promise,” Ben said.

Five dropped his eyes, not looking at them as he said, “The most common nickname for Delores is Dolly.”

Klaus made a small noise.

“Don’t,” Five warned, not looking up as he brandished a finger at Klaus.

Klaus shoved his fist in his mouth to avoid making more noises. Ben felt like he might explode if he didn’t say something, so he changed the topic. “Anyway, since Vanya’s off with her girlfriend having a nice vacation, I figure we should do stuff too. Klaus owes me like… a thousand trips to the movies that we ignored because he was dumpster diving for drugs. What do you say?”

“Sure,” Klaus said. “Not like I have anything better to do. Five?”

Five shrugged. “Why not.”

Klaus pumped his fists. “Yes! Oooh, let’s get popcorn and soda! This is fun! Family bonding!”

Ben and Five exchanged looks, and Five gave a small half smile.

**

“It’s going to be raining all weekend,” Vanya said, flipping through channels as Helen unpacked her things onto the bed.

“It’s fine,” Helen said. “Adds to the atmosphere.”

Vanya laughed. “Okay, Dracula.”

Helen rolled her eyes. “What? It’s an abandoned amusement park. Atmosphere matters!”

“Sure, sure,” Vanya said.

“Anyway, I’m going to shower,” Helen said. “And then we can look for food.”

“I picked up some of the brochures from the lobby,” Vanya said. “I think at least one is a list of restaurants.”

“Great,” Helen said, taking a change of clothes and her straightening iron into the bathroom and closing the door.

After a moment, however, the latch clicked, and the door opened just a crack.

Vanya groaned, cursing shitty hotel room door knobs.

The crack was tiny, but that only made it all the more difficult not to peek.

“Fuck,” Vanya said, reaching for her violin case. The violin always helped to calm her, and she really needed to calm down right now. She pulled the violin out, settling it beneath her chin as she breathed, then closed her eyes and started to play.

The curtains rustled with her powers – music with too many feelings always made them crop up, but every day she felt more at ease with them. She was starting to enjoy the feeling of the light breeze around her as she played, the gentle glow of her violin resonating with energy. It felt less like something happening around her and more like a part of her, humming through her.

“Someone’s antsy,” Helen remarked, starting Vanya. The painting beside her clattered as she reigned in the remaining power.

“Jesus,” Vanya said. “Don’t sneak up on me.”

“Sorry,” Helen said. Her blouse slid down on one shoulder, tucked into her skirt which was just short enough to draw Vanya’s eye to the inside of her knee. “I thought you heard me.”

“No,” Vanya muttered, trying to clear her throat without looking too flustered.

“So,” Helen said. “Where are we going to eat?”

“Hm,” Vanya said, looking out the window absently. She frowned, stepping closer. “Helen, come here.”

Helen blinked, then joined Vanya.

There was a figure standing in the dark parking lot, studying the windows.

“Is it just me or is that guy…” she murmured.

“Glowing?” Helen whispered.

The figure turned, and they both ducked down instinctively. The figure emitted a faint green glow, and from what Vanya could tell, it was also a lot taller than the average person. They watched it wander the parking lot, then make its way down the street.

“Well,” Helen said. “Maybe we should just stay in and order takeout.”

Chapter Text

“So you saw a giant glowing man,” Diego repeated.

“Yep,” Vanya said.

Diego pinched the bridge of his nose. “Okay,” he said. “I mean, why not?”

“Look, we haven’t seen anything since, so I’m not worried, I just felt like…” She sighed.

“Yeah,” Diego said, rubbing his jaw. “Communication.”

“Yeah.”

Awkward silence overtook the line.

“So,” Diego said. “You want me to come over to… check up on… stuff?”

“No,” Vanya said, too quickly. “I mean. Uh. I’m. We’re going to be busy.”

Diego cleared his throat awkwardly. Theoretically he had no problem with his sister having sex with a woman. In practice, it was very weird to think about his sister having sex with anyone. But at least it wasn’t Harold Jenkins.

And now he was thinking about his sister having sex with Harold Jenkins. He groaned, running his hands through his hair. “Okay, fine, sure. I mean… We’re… With your powers and all, you’ll be fine. Just don’t lose it or anything.” He grimaced. “That didn’t come out right.”

“I’ll do my best to avoid murder sprees,” Vanya said dryly.

“Uh… yeah. Feel free to call if you need anything else,” Diego said. “Sorry I wasn’t… you know. I… Just have fun.”

“Okay,” Vanya replied. “Thanks.”

Silence, again.

“Bye,” Diego said.

“Bye,” she replied, and Diego gingerly hung up.

Eudora raised her brow at him. “That was awful to watch,” she said cheerfully.

“Shut up,” Diego said. “She… Look, I’m not used to chatting with Vanya! She was always sort of… weird.”

“Oh, weird,” Eudora said, nodding solemnly. “Unlike the rest of your family.”

“I felt like she could help out if she really wanted to,” Diego corrected. “And instead she never had to train, never had to go on missions, and then she wrote a book calling all of us narcissistic losers for the entire world to see. So yeah, I feel weird about Vanya.”

“Mhmm,” Eudora said. “I get it.”

“You’re judging me,” Diego muttered.

She smiled softly. “A little, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand.”

“Was I any better with her in the old… you know. The old me?” Diego said.

“You swung wildly between overprotective and combative with her,” Eudora said. “Like you do with the rest of your siblings. They get it.”

Diego shifted in his chair. “The thing is, I don’t know if Vanya does. I mean, I’ve genuinely resented her for so long, I don’t think she knows that I mean well now. Or at least… I’m trying to mean well.”

“So you’re not gonna be her favorite sibling anytime soon,” Eudora said, shrugging. “You’ll both live. You didn’t have a perfect relationship… you know, before, either.” She grinned. “When you met Helen, you said, and I quote, ‘So, you’re Vanya’s… lesbians.’ It was objectively hilarious, but you and Vanya got into a huge fight about it and then didn’t talk for two weeks.”

“Thanks for that,” Diego muttered. “Look, I just wanna be there for her. I mean, she is still my sister.”

“Okay,” Eudora said. “Just keep telling her, she’ll get it eventually.”

Diego sighed, frowning at her.

“Now can we get back to work, or are you going to waste my time brooding all day?”

He leaned back in his chair. “Yeah, yeah. Work.”

“Don’t make that face,” she laughed. “This one’s a weird one, you’ll like it.” He cocked his eyebrow at her. “Rich guy’s staff calls the police saying they’re hearing screaming and crashing from the guy’s bedroom, think he’s in danger.”

“Promising start.”

“That’s nothing. Officers arrive on the scene and nothing looks off, guy says it must have been his movie… except Johnson finds broken and bloody glass under the bed and when he asks about it, the guy offers him, get this, three thousand dollars to walk away.”

“And he didn’t take it?” Diego asked. “Remind me to buy Johnson a beer. Or five.”

She grinned. “Anyway, his assistant is positive the screaming she heard was him, but he clearly doesn’t want anyone looking into this. So, we’re going to do a more thorough sweep of the place and talk to the rest of the staff.”

He shrugged. “Alright, fair enough,” he said. “That does sound kinda interesting. Can I be bad cop?”

“Can you be anything else?”

“I’m remembering you said that tonight.”

She grinned, picking up her jacket. “Keep it in your pants, cowboy.”

**

“He’s such a dick,” Vanya muttered. “Don’t lose it? What does that even have to do with anything?”

“He’s an idiot,” Helen said. “Forget about it, he’ll wobble his way back into doing better if you just don’t think about him. He’s like a boiling pot. If you watch him, he’ll never… un-idiot himself, or whatever. It’s probably a stress reaction, like dogs peeing on your stuff.”

Vanya sighed. “Okay, okay, you’re right.”

“He means well,” Helen murmured, tucking Vanya’s hair behind her ear. “I know he does. And I’m saying that partly because I believe it and partly because my hobby is bullying him whenever he’s near me and I feel like at this point if I don’t give him a fair chance when he’s not around, Eudora will find a reason to arrest me.”

Vanya laughed despite herself. “Don’t bully him,” she said.

“But it’s so much fun,” Helen whined, pulling Vanya in for a kiss.

Last night had been a somber realization that Vanya didn’t know how sex between girls worked. It wasn’t that complicated, really, but Vanya was so used to disappointing sex with the bare minimum of foreplay that she’d ended up feeling a lot like last night hadn’t escalated beyond making out and that it had been the best sex she’d ever had, two thoughts that didn’t make sense together and had somehow swirled into a confusing anxiety.

And it made Helen touching her in public deeply flustering. “Yeah,” Vanya said. “Yeah. Yes.”

“Forget about your siblings for a while,” Helen said. “You promised me a weekend, and I’m all out of patience to stop reminding you about that.”

Vanya nodded. “You’re right,” she sighed.

“I know I am,” Helen said. “And I also know I want to make out in a derelict funhouse.”

“You have such a fetish. What’s more attractive to you, me or my powers?” Vanya asked.

“Serious question, or can I joke?” Helen asked.

Vanya shrugged.

“Oh, okay, so it’s a surprise minefield,” Helen said, putting her arms around Vanya. “You’re a tiny, morose butch asshole, and I find that very attractive, but yes, the fact that you could literally blow up the moon is sexy. I’m only human.”

Vanya smiled. “I’ll allow it.”

“Are you going to come make out with me or not?”

Vanya looked over her shoulder at the funhouse. It looked like it was straight from a horror movie. “Yeah, that giant crumbling clown face is really doing it for me.”

“Right?” Helen said, leaning in.

Vanya tried not to laugh. “Okay, come on, you weird sex maniac.”

Helen preened and pulled her along inside, finding a quiet corner to pull Vanya into. Vanya had to admit, there was a certain ambiance to the place that seemed to fit Helen awfully well. It brought out the sort of enjoyably venomous side of Helen that Vanya was honestly starting to like. After a lifetime of numbness and being ordinary, it was nice to have something so obviously sharp and bizarre that was all hers.

She’d liked Leonard because she’d felt like they were alike, but she’d never been ordinary. And Leonard had known that. Helen did too, but she made it clear in ways that not even finding out about her powers and reuniting with her family couldn’t.

That, and she was very attractive, the curve of her hips perfect under Vanya’s hands as she slid her hands up Helen’s shirt.

Echoing voices interrupted her before she could seriously consider how much they could get away with in a place filled with broken glass.

She cleared her throat, helping Helen adjust her shirt. “Lunch?” she croaked.

Helen nodded. “Sure. Then we can poke around the rollercoaster where someone allegedly got their head chopped off.”

“Do I just have a thing for psychopaths?” Vanya muttered to herself.

“Well yes, probably,” Helen said. “But it’s just an urban legend. People will start rumors about anything. I would not be nearly as excited by someone actually getting their head lobbed off by a rollercoaster.”

Vanya snorted. “Sure, you say that now…”

Helen rolled her eyes. “You’re one to talk. I think I’ve literally seen you plot a murder.”

“I don’t see how plotting is any worse than enjoying the rumor of a murder,” Vanya said, peering at Helen through her lashes.

“There you go,” Helen said. “Maybe I have a thing for psychopaths.”

“Uh, no, you definitely do.”

Helen laughed.

“I think I’m getting how you work,” Vanya said. “Let me guess, you like ghost hunting shows purely to try to guess if their terror is staged or not.”

“I do,” Helen said, grinning as Vanya opened up their umbrella. “Also, there’s this Thai place just down the road if you’re up for a walk in the rain.”

“Sure,” Vanya said, linking her arm in Helen’s to keep the umbrella over both of them. “I like sharing an umbrella with you.”

“Oh, do you?” Helen said, preening at Vanya.

“Shut up, all you think about is sex,” Vanya said.

“I wasn’t thinking about sex,” Helen said. “All you think about is sex.”

“You made a face!”

“I did not.”

“You did!”

Helen smirked at her.

Vanya rolled her eyes.

Up ahead, a police car and a crowd surrounded a fallen tree in the road. “What happened here?” Vanya murmured, frowning.

“Lightning took out the tree last night,” a nearby lady said. “Traffic’s a mess.”

“Can we go around?” Helen asked.

“Wait a second for them to get the next batch of cars through,” the lady replied.

“I heard it wasn’t lightning,” someone else said.

Helen’s face lit up. “Oh?”

“Gerry Cormick said he saw a glowing light hit the woods last night,” the man said, shuffling awkwardly.

“Sounds like lightning,” Helen said.

“Yeah, but this was green light,” the man replied in a hushed tone. “He said there was something unnatural about it.”

“Green lightning is actually quite common,” Helen said. “It’s just usually hidden by clouds.”

Vanya elbowed her. Vanya had never thought she’d find someone more condescending than Five on his worst days, but Helen made a condescension a sport.

“I’m just saying,” the man said. “There’s something odd happening in those woods. Plenty of people have seen things these past few days.”

Helen nodded seriously, but thankfully the crossing opened up before she could torment the poor man more.

“You are so mean,” Vanya chided.

“I’m just teasing,” Helen said. “I personally wouldn’t find it surprising if our green lightning had something to do with our glowing green man.”

“Oh, shut up,” Vanya sighed.

Helen looked at her with playful eyes. “I’m serious.”

“Aliens?” Vanya asked. “Really? There’s a limit to how weird life can get, even for us.”

“And the limit is… aliens?” Helen asked slowly.

“Yes!”

“Why?”

“I don’t know!”

“You were conceived and born to a virgin the same day!”

“Okay, but…”

“Aliens, Vanya!”

“Oh my god, shut up,” Vanya snapped, though she couldn’t wipe the smile off her face. “Even if there’s aliens, which there aren’t, my priorities right now are you, and Five, and my family…”

“I think fighting aliens would be a great bonding experience…”

“Helen!”

“Okay, okay,” Helen said. “If it means we keep making out, I will stop talking about aliens. Even though I’m right and we totally saw an alien last night.”

“You’re the worst,” Vanya said.

Helen smiled at her widely. “You love it.”

Vanya sighed. Frankly, Helen was right. She did love it.

**

“Welcome back, Vanya, congratulations,” Klaus said.

“Again, we’re not talking about my sex life.”

Klaus batted his lashes at her. “I said nothing! I’m just happy for you.”

She shook her head indulgently. “Great, thanks. Now stop.”

“Alright alright,” Klaus said. “Jeez, touchy. Anyway, I have news.”

“So do we,” Diego interjected.

“Me too,” Allison said.

Klaus sighed. “I’ll get the chalkboard again.” He pulled it out from beside the fridge and put it in his lap, writing 1. Dad’s a dick, but also maybe apocalypse 2.1?

“What?” Luther blurted.

“It’s not as bad as it sounds,” Klaus said.

“It’s true, it’s really not,” Five sighed.

“You knew?” Allison asked.

Five rolled his eyes. “It’s complicated. We were waiting for Vanya.”

“Diego, what’s your thing?” Klaus asked, chalk lingering over the board.

“Aliens,” Vanya said.

“What?” Diego blurted. “I thought it was just a glowing man!”

“Just?” Allison said.

Five blinked. “What?”

“I’m kidding, Helen… thought it was funny. It’s not aliens.”

“Right,” Klaus said, completely unperturbed, writing 2. Glowing alien man on the chalkboard. “Allison?”

“Well, it’s pretty boring after those, but mine’s about Claire,” she said, massaging her temple.

Klaus nodded solemnly and added 3. Allison’s very normal daughter.

“So,” Klaus said. “Firstly. It turns out I can enter other people’s dreams.”

Chaos exploded around the room as everyone’s questions, comments and concerns emerged at once, not a single word of it intelligible. Klaus waved them down furiously. “I don’t know how to do it or stop doing it, so I’m just going to… not sleep near any of you, I guess?”

“Jesus Christ,” Diego said, rubbing his hands over his face. “You enter my dreams, I’m gonna glue your mouth shut.”

“I’m with Diego there,” Vanya said.

“I’ll hold him down, you glue,” Diego replied.

“Deal.”

 “I’m not going to!” Klaus protested. “God, if Five could peacefully manage to have me in his head without losing his mind, you all can too!”

“Good point,” Diego said. “Now that you mention it, how’d you survive?”

“By being respectful and kind,” Klaus said.

“No,” Five said. “Also, I’m not going to kill any of you. You realize this, right? It’s extremely obvious and extremely important to me to know that you’re not all quite as stupid as you could be.”

“There are six of us,” Diego said. “You could get rid of one of us to teach the rest a lesson.”

“Come on Diego,” Vanya chided. “He doesn’t want to talk about this.”

“I think it’s pretty obvious that losing any of you is literally  my worst fear.”

“Ha!” Diego said, extending his hand to Vanya. “Pay up, I told you he’d admit it.”

“Dammit,” Vanya sighed, searching for her wallet.

“On second thought…” Five muttered.

“Anyway,” Klaus interjected loudly, “it also appears I can summon dead people into other people’s dreams—“

“—of course you can—“

“—so long story short Five’s dream thoughts about Dad summoned Dad’s actual ghost, and we talked to him, and he was very ominous, yada-yada.”

Allison frowned. “Well, what did have to say? Did he know what the glasses lady—“

“—the Handler—“

“—was talking about?”

“I don’t know,” Klaus said. “I told him to learn my name and the word please and then banished him.”

There was a single moment of blissful silence, then unintelligible chaos once again.

“Okay!” Five shouted, loud enough to get them to shut up. “Look, I was pissed too, but Klaus made a good point.”

“Look, I’m all for making Dad jump hoops,” Diego said. “But shouldn’t we figure out what he knows first?”

“He’s not going to tell us!” Klaus groaned. “He’s just going to avoid it and deride us until we figure it out ourselves, unless we put our foot down and make him see us as actual people.”

“He can answer basic questions!” Luther protested. “Like… when’s it supposed to happen?”

“In a matter of months,” Klaus said. “And honestly, if you want to know more, ask Pogo! He’ll tell you before Dad will!”

Vanya sighed, sitting back. “Klaus…”

“I’m serious, guys, trust me on this,” Klaus said. “Dad’s either going to learn his lesson, or he’s just going to make things more complicated, because that’s what he does. When was the last time he gave any of you a straight answer about anything? Any information that was actually useful?”

They sat in silence for a long stretch.

“So, what?” Allison said. ‘We’re just going to pretend this isn’t happening and hope Dad has even a single shred of human decency somewhere in there?”

“No, we’re going to stick together and keep an eye out for weird shit without Dad’s so-called help,” Klaus said. “Which, by the way, is a very good segue to point two. What is this glowing alien man you speak of?” He looked at Vanya expectantly.

“Helen and I saw a very tall, glowing man wandering around our hotel,” Vanya said. “He seemed like he was looking for something, then he left and we didn’t see him again, but apparently there were a lot of alleged UFO sightings around the area that night. I figure with how weird our lives are, it might have something to do with… something relevant to us.”

“It wasn’t just word of mouth, either,” Diego said. “A lot of people reported weird lights and sounds in the sky, people with no history of UFO sighting calls. I don’t know if it’s relevant, but… why not, I guess.”

Luther sighed. “Okay, I know no one wants to hear about the moon anymore,” he said, leaning onto the table. “But I would just like to know whether or not I was up there all alone for any reason or not. Just a definitive yes or no answer.” He glared at Klaus. “Which is what I mean when I say we could have gotten at least a few answers out of Dad.”

“I already asked him about the moon thing,” Klaus said. “All he had to say about it is that he should have burned your samples so you didn’t find them.” He hummed to himself. “Though he did ask if you were okay. But then again, he also changed the subject when I asked if he actually cared. So all around, it was a pretty depressing talk with no answers.”

“Wait, you asked him about the moon mission?” Luther asked.

“Yeah,” Klaus said. “Back in timeline one. You were having a meltdown, so I chewed him out.”

Luther sat back, blinking. “Oh,” he said. “Well, thanks.”

“Sure,” Klaus said. He didn’t see what the big deal was. “I didn’t know about Vanya yet, or I would have chewed him out about that, too. And also Five’s torture chair, I wanna yell at him about that. Actually, maybe I should summon him just to yell at him about things.” He squinted at Ben, who raised a brow. “Though… nah. That would just be miserable.”

Awkward silence descended over them.

“So, Claire,” Klaus said.

“Yeah,” Allison said, taking a moment to remember she’d had her own announcement. “She’s going to visit for a few days this week. I figure with everything going on, I doubt anyone’s ready for childcare, so for the most part I’ll be showing her the museums around here, and people can come with us if they want, but… I would like to do one big family dinner. With Eudora, Helen and Dave, if that’s okay?”

“I can invite Dave over?!” Klaus blurted. “I’m in!”

“It sounds nice, but it might be… a lot for me,” Five muttered.

“No one will blame you if you go hide away in your room to read if you’re overwhelmed,” Allison said. “But I want you to meet Claire, and I want to meet everyone’s significant others properly.”

Five nodded. “Sure. I’ll live.”

She pulled him closer to kiss his head, and he cleared his throat, trying to pretend it hadn’t gotten him flustered. “Thanks.”

“Whatever,” he mumbled.

“Okay,” Klaus said. “Very successful meeting. We accomplished…” He looked at the list. “Well, not very much, but we’re all on the same page! Yay!”

Five sighed. “This family is a fucking nightmare.”

“Don’t make us read the letter out loud,” Klaus threatened, wagging his finger.

Five threw a napkin at his face.

Chapter Text

“Sooo, this is my rooooooom,” Klaus said, holding out his hand to show it off. He wasn’t sure what kind of reaction he wanted from Dave, only that he was jittery at the mere thought of not getting a good one. “It’s… uh…”

“It’s very you,” Dave said good-naturedly, as if trying to ease Klaus’ boundless fountain of nervous energy.

“Yeah,” Klaus said, sidling closer. “Oooh, if my Dad knew I had a boy up here…”

Dave rolled his eyes. “Is this another fantasy of yours?”

“When in doubt, just assume it’s a kink of mine,” Klaus said, flopping back into his bed. “C’mon, you’re not even a little into the whole vibe? My childhood room…”

“I’m already concerned about how young you are, why would I be into you being even younger?” Dave laughed. “Not to mention, you bringing up your daddy issues…”

“Nooo,” Klaus whined. “Come on, that’s not it. This place was mine. As much mine as anything was in this house, anyway. And you’re mine, too, and it’s… safe, I guess.” Dave sat down on the bed, and Klaus rocked up to join him. “It’s nice. I like it. And thanks to your tiredless work, being happy and safe is kind of becoming a massive turn on for me.”

“Well played, Klaus, well played,” Dave laughed.

“Thank  you,” Klaus said, low and sultry.

Five cleared his throat, hands in his pockets as he stood in Klaus’ door. “You’re early,” he said, eyes boring into Dave.

“You must be Five,” Dave said.

Five’s eyes remained on his, filled with a quiet, suspicious anger, like he was just waiting for Dave to say something revealing he was a dastardly predator.

“Klaus wanted to show me around,” Dave said, unperturbed. Klaus had warned Dave, because he’d known Five was going to be a brat, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want to shove Five’s head into a toilet right now.

“Yep, and we’re having adult time now,” Klaus said, leaping to his feet to drag Five out of his room. “So Five will be leaving until it’s time for dinner.”

“You’re going to have sex with a man twice your age in your childhood bedroom?” Five snapped. “Really, Klaus?”

“Maybe. Maybe we’ll just make out. Either way, it’s none of your business, Five.”

“You’re my brother, of course it’s my business.”

“Well, you’re not the boss of me,” Klaus said, then closed the door in his face, turning around with a sigh. “Anyway.”

“You realize I’m not going to have sex with you to mess with your brother, right?” Dave said, picking up some papers from Klaus’ desk to inspect them.

“Obviously,” Klaus muttered. “I just said that because he’s being a dick.”

“I’m glad you have people who are willing to look out for you,” Dave murmured, pulling Klaus in for a soft kiss on the cheek. “I really am.”

“Well, fine, but he’s still being a dick,” Klaus protested.

Dave put his arm around Klaus to pull him closer. “Or maybe you’re just nervous.”

Klaus blew a raspberry. “No, he’s being a dick. But… I will admit that maybe I don’t want you to have a crisis of conscience.”

“Klaus,” Dave said, tilting his chin up. “I want the best for you, whatever that might be. If I was worried about you because of our relationship, I would discuss it with you first and foremost. I’m not going to try to protect you by breaking your heart.”

“You’re not going to White Fang me?” Klaus said.

“That better not be a type of sex,” Dave said, laughing.

“What? No. Come on, not everything I say is a sex thing.”

“You just said when in doubt…”

“Dave, I think you should know by now that I just say things sometimes. Anyway, I mean like, kick me out for my own good? Like in White Fang? I don’t know, I didn’t actually read it.”

Dave laughed. “That book is about a dog. You’re not a dog.”

“It’s a metaphor,” Klaus whined.

“You can’t calmly discuss things with a dog.”

“Okay, okay, jeez,” Klaus muttered. “Fine.”

“Klaus,” Dave said. “Regardless of how this night goes, I promise I’m not going anywhere.” He pulled Klaus down to kiss his head.

Klaus nestled against him. There really was something incredible about hearing something like that in his childhood bedroom. “Well if you’re going to sweet talk me like that, you’re just stuck with me forever.”

**

“Helen, you know… well, almost everyone,” Vanya said. “Everyone, this is Helen.”

“Nice to meet you,” Diego said, extending a hand.

She smiled at him sharply as she took his hand. “Wow, did you practice that?”

Diego made a face, but he bit back his retort.

“Helen,” Eudora said, trying not to smile. “Don’t spend all night bullying him. We talked about this.”

“I’m not bullying him,” Helen said. “It was a compliment. He’s really improved.”

Eudora raised a brow. “Helen.”

“It was better than last time, is all I’m saying.”

“Okay, leave him alone,” Vanya said, looping her arm around Helen’s to steer her away from Diego, who was miraculously not losing his temper, to Five. “This is Five.”

“Ah,” Helen said, looking down at him with a sour look. “The elusive favorite.”

“So I’ve been told,” Five said, taking his hands out of his pockets to offer her his hand. She took it gingerly.

“Well, go on,” Helen said. “Everyone else has given me the big speech about what will happen to me if I hurt their sister, I’m sure you have something prepared.”

Five smiled slightly at that. “Thanks, but I’ve been trying to quit murder lately,” he said, returning his hands to his pockets. “Besides, I’m sure you’ve already heard all about how I’m a traumatized ex-assassin who is immune to locked doors. I’m sure you can take it from there. You look like a smart woman.”

“Fair enough,” she said, smiling. It was pinched, but she and Five seemed to have come to a silent agreement.

“Besides, the last time she found out a partner had wronged her, Vanya murdered him herself, so really, I don’t think I’ll be needed,” Five said.

Helen snorted. “That is very true.”

“I honestly can’t tell if you two are hitting it off,” Vanya whispered.

“I think we’ll get used to each other,” Helen said, tossing her hair out of her shoulder with a stiff smile.

Five shrugged, returning the same smile. “Probably.”

“I’m going to go get something to drink,” Helen said. She leaned in close to Vanya. “Want anything?”

“Some scotch, yeah,” Vanya said.

Helen nodded, turning on her heel to go.

“I don’t think she likes me,” Diego murmured.

“She likes you fine,” Eudora said. “She’s just a bit of a bitch.” She gave Vanya a small smile. “No offense.”

Vanya shrugged. “No, it’s true. But I like that about her.”

Diego huffed. Eudora rubbed his arm. “It’s okay,” she said. “I honestly think you’re her favorite of Vanya’s siblings.”

“Really?” Diego said, squinting at her.

“She did stick up for you when I was annoy with you after we talked,” Vanya admitted, turning around to check where Helen was. “Don’t tell her I said that, her pride would be devastated.”

Diego grinned. “I’ll do my best.”

“God, you’re an ass,” Vanya muttered.

“I don’t mind her,” Five said. “She’s interesting.”

“She’s sure something,” Ben said. “Seeing you two interact was like trying to introduce cats to each other.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll get used to her,” Five said, leaning against the wall and narrowing his eyes at Dave, who Klaus was showing around the house excitedly. “I still don’t know what to think of Dave, though.”

“Oh, boy, this. God, I need a drink too,” Eudora said, rolling her eyes.

“I’ll come with you,” Diego said. Ben didn’t know if it was because of the chance that Helen might return before his human shield did, but he couldn’t help but wonder.

Klaus finally tugged Dave over. “This is Vanya,” Klaus said. “You know Ben, of course, and you’ve already seen Five,” he glared at Five threateningly, “who is going to behave now.”

“I have,” Dave said. “But it’s good to meet you both officially.”

“I’m sure it is,” Five muttered, not making eye contact.

Klaus smacked him on the shoulder. “So, Dave, do you want anything to eat? Drink?”

“Klaus,” Dave said softly, gripping his shoulder. “Just sit down, you’re going to vibrate out of your skin.”

“Ha,” Klaus said desperately. “That is, in fact, exactly how I feel.”

Dave raised his brows. “Klaus.” His voice was soft, but demanding, and while it was probably exactly what Klaus needed right now, Ben could already tell how Five was going to take it.

“So, what’s it like dating someone less than half your age?” Five said, head snapping up with a venomous smile.

Dave didn’t seem flustered, which Ben wasn’t surprised by. It was obvious that Five was dangerous, but it was also obvious he was as much a teenager as he was an old man and that he was only worried for his brother. “It’s strange, to say the least.” He smiled. “But as long as Klaus is happy…”

Five’s eyes only narrowed further. “Pretty altruistic of you to care so much about the happiness of a man you only met a month ago.”

“Oh, fuck,” Klaus muttered, sighing to himself. He looked at Ben helplessly. Ben shrugged. This exchange was inevitable.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed this,” Dave said. “But your brother is very good with people. It’s not hard to see that he’s a very kind soul, and that’s the sort of thing the world needs more of. I’m just doing my best to help him be that person.”

Klaus went red.

“Oh, and I’m sure he’s very eager to please,” Five hissed, not to be deterred by logic.

Klaus put his hands over his face and screamed quietly into them, as though he thought they couldn’t hear him.

“He’s been trying very hard to do all my chores and then some, yes,” Dave said. “And I’ve been trying to do my best to train him out of that habit.”

Five grit his teeth. “He’s not a dog.”

“Strangely enough, I just told him that too.”

Klaus’ head snapped up before Five could take that the wrong way too. “Five, can I talk to you? Privately?”

“Why?” Five said, refusing to break eye contact with Dave. “I’m just having a casual chat with your boyfriend.”

Klaus grabbed him by the shoulders and dragged him away, not far enough to be out of earshot.

Ben and Vanya stared at Dave, unsure what to do.

“Why don’t I introduce you to Mom?” Vanya interjected.

Dave turned to look at Klaus and Five, who looked about ready to strangle each other. “That sounds lovely,” he said, letting her lead him away.

“What the fuck, Five?” Klaus hissed.

Ben leaned in to listen. Nothing else going on in the house was going to be this interesting.

“What?” Five said. “He’s twice your age and you want me to not be concerned?!”

“We’re both adults, and we’ve discussed it at length,” Klaus said. “I don’t see why you have anything to do with that!”

“Sorry for watching your dumb ass,” Five snapped.

“Oh, come on,” Klaus replied. “You’re not looking out for me, you’re just being paranoid!”

“Please,” Five said. “I saw the look on your face. He could ask you to jump and you’d ask how high.”

“Yeah, because I like him, and he makes me unbelievably happy and I want to return the favor!”

“And he knows that!”

“He’s not using me!”

“How do you know?!”

“Because I’m actually good with people!”

“You also have an addiction problem and a complicated relationship with your father,” Five spat. “So forgive me for being suspicious of you being wrapped around an old man’s finger!”

“Okay, fine!” Klaus retorted. “You want to talk about relationships? Delores, newsflash, is kind of a jerk.”

“Oh, fuck off, Klaus!” Five shouted. “You know exactly why she was being like that!”

Helen sat down on the couch beside Ben, sipping at her wine and handing him a drink. “Who’s Delores again?”

“His girlfriend who was actually a mannequin,” Ben whispered. “Sort of. They broke up after the apocalypse didn’t happen.”

“Like, a normal mannequin?”

“Yeah, but we don’t really talk about it. She’s real to him.”

“That’s super depressing, but this is the best thing I’ve seen in this house since I first came here,” she said, taking a long sip while she peered over the top of her glass.

“You’re kind of a bad person,” Ben replied.

Helen shrugged. “Just a little.” She looked at him. “What? You’re watching too.”

Ben considered that with a tilt of his head. “Fair enough.”

 “Yeah, well, I’m just saying,” Klaus said, shrugging. Soon, Ben was going to have to interfere, but for now this was still fascinating to watch. “At least Dave doesn’t go out of his way to hurt my feelings.”

Five bit his tongue, raising a threatening finger. “You leave her out of this.”

“You started it!”

“For your own good!”

“Oh, bullshit!”

Ben sighed. “I should stop them.”

“Do we have to?” Helen asked.

Ben looked at them. Punches were going to get thrown soon, Ben was sure of it. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure.”

“Uncle Klaus!” a small green blur shrieked, slicing through the tension to wrap herself around Klaus’ waist.

Klaus and Five blinked at Claire. Her hair was up in two buns and she had the widest grin on her small face. Her dress was a bright shade of green, like she’d been dressed so no one could lose sight of her. Klaus recovered quickly, crouching down to pick her up. “Hey! Claire!”

“Mom said you don’t remember me, but that’s okay,” Claire said. “I remember you.”

“Well good,” Klaus said, smiling. “Because I’d be very sad if you didn’t remember your favorite uncle. I am your favorite, right?”

Claire grinned and nodded.

“Claire, I told you not to run off like that,” Allison said, racing after her, already looking tired.

“But I couldn’t wait!”

“I know, sweetie,” Allison said, patting her hair. “But you can’t just run across the street alone.”

“I looked both ways!”

Allison sighed. “Claire. Please.”

“Your mom is right,” Five said, circling Claire and Klaus like he was trying to figure out how to pet a porcupine. “Grownups can tell when cars are coming better, because their eyes have had longer to…” He paused, like he’d only just realized he didn’t know how to explain peripheral vision to a five year old, “…grow.”

She blinked down at him. “Are you my Uncle Five?!”

“Yeah,” he said, like he wasn’t sure if he wanted to run to or from her.

She wriggled her way out of Klaus’ grasp. “Mom says you’re an old man inside,” she said, inspecting him closely.

Five shifted under her sharp gaze. “Yes, sort of. Time travel makes things a little weird, I know.”

“I can tell,” Claire said, nodding sagely. “You look like your back hurts.”

Five blinked at her for a moment, then laughed to himself slightly. “My back is fine. I’ve just been alone for a really long time now, and I’m kind of tired.”

She nodded as though she understood. “Then maybe it’s a good thing you look like a kid,” she informed him. “People take better care of kids.”

“That’s… that’s true,” Five said, tension fading slightly with every sentence he exchanged with her without a catastrophe occurring. “Your mom has been taking really good care of me. That’s part of the reason she hasn’t been home much.”

“That’s okay,” Claire replied. “Dad let me take the phone into my spaceship, so I can pretend Mom is mission control.”

“That’s a very creative solution,” Five said. “You have quite an active imagination.”

Claire giggled. “You are old.” She crossed her arms. “That’s what old people say about make believe games.”

“I guess it is,” Five said, a smile crossing his face that Ben hadn’t seen for a long time. “But I think it’s really nice that you can make something fun out of a bad situation. That’s a really helpful skill to have.”

She grinned. “Did you ever play make believe games?”

Five smiled ruefully. “You know, I don’t think I ever did,” he said. “As a kid I was always taking care of your uncles and as a grown-up I had to take care of myself. I did have an imaginary friend for a while, though. She helped me a lot.”

“I think,” Claire said, “that since you look like a kid you should use it to catch up on make-believe games.”

Five narrowed his eyes, hiding a smile. “And I think you’re kind of lonely being the only kid around here.”

Claire looked at him innocently, hands behind her back. “Maybe.”

“You’re a lot like your mom,” Five replied, a mischievous look in his eyes.

She smiled brightly. “Please play with me?”

Five snorted. “Okay. Sure, why not?”

“Do you like Disney movies?”

“I don’t know,” Five said. “But I think I’m going to find out, aren’t I?”

She nodded ecstatically, holding out her hand for him.

He raised a brow at Allison, but took it nonetheless, letting her lead him away.

“I think your daughter just kidnapped our brother,” Luther said.

 “I guess so,” Allison laughed. “Alright, Klaus, where’s this elusive Dave?”

Klaus pointed at him. “Don’t be mean. Five already gave him all the stink-eye he needs, so…”

“Yeah, well, he’s not getting off scot-free from me because of that,” Allison said.

“Oh, Christ,” Klaus sighed.

Allison strode over to Dave. “So. You’re our brother’s much older boyfriend.”

“I’m so sorry about all of them,” Klaus whispered. “Five means well, he really does.”

“It’s alright,” Dave said, stepping closer to Klaus and rubbing his back. “In their place I’d be just as worried.” He reached out his arm to take Allison’s hand. “Yes, I am the much, much older boyfriend.”

“I’m glad you’re making Klaus happy,” she said. “But you understand that if you hurt our brother, you’re dead?”

“Jesus, Allison,” Luther muttered while Klaus hid his face in Dave’s back. “Come on.”

“I understand,” Dave said. “Trust me, I’m not planning to.”

“Good,” she said. “Then we’re on the same page.”

“She really will kill you,” Helen added. “Trust me, I made the mistake of asking her about how she’d do it, it’s harrowing.”

“I’m sure it is,” Dave said. “But I honestly I really am glad Klaus has people looking out for him.”

“This is the worst experience of my life,” Klaus muttered, rubbing his hands over his face.

“Alright, don’t be a baby, I’m done,” Allison said. “Dave seems like a nice guy. Anyway, where did you two meet?”

“Oh, we served in Vietnam together,” Klaus said. “Well, I did, Dave… It’s complicated.”

She stared at him. Ben quietly handed her his drink, which she took a long sip of. “You what?”

**

Diego yawned as he entered the kitchen. “Okay, Vanya and Helen are safe at home,” he said. “How’s it going with my two favorite ladies?”

“We’re almost done with dishes,” Eudora said, smiling at Grace.

Grace returned the smile. “Eudora has been a great help.”

Diego beamed at both of them. “Great.”

 “Okay, I should find Claire,” Allison said, stretching herself moderately awake. She’d probably had a little bit too much to drink. “Is she still with Five?”

“I think so. Haven’t seen either of them for most of the night,” Luther said.

She sighed. “He better not have let her roam the house alone.”

She marched up the stairs, checking Five’s room first. “Five?” No sign. “Claire?” She went back down to the living room. “Has anyone seen Five or Claire?”

“Uh…” Ben said. “No. Should we help you look?”

“Yeah,” Allison said. She was probably being paranoid, but she didn’t particularly like the idea of not knowing where either of them were.

“Alright, let’s go,” Diego said. “House-wide search.” He looked at Eudora. “We’re getting pretty used to them.”

“Can’t keep track of your brother, huh?” she retorted.

“He teleports!”

Allison made her way across the room to check the balconies from the window, then continued on to the upstairs, growing more nervous with every empty room. “Claire?”

“Psst,” Klaus whispered, waving at her. Dave stood back and let him point wildly for her alone. “I found them.”

“Oh thank god,” she said, racing to catch up with him.

“Sssh.” He waved her over, leading her to the library. There, underneath one of the desks, was a well constructed blanket fort, a flashlight lighting it up.

She stepped close enough to hear them whispering.

“I don’t like him,” Claire said. “He’s mean and scary, so I always make him funny colors.”

“Well, then I guess we’re just going to have to make him look really stupid, huh?” Five whispered back. “How about a big red clown nose?”

“And big ears!”

“Obviously.”

Claire squealed with laughter.

Allison smiled, crouching down beside the fort. “Knock knock,” she whispered.

Five pushed aside the blanket to peer at Allison.

“What’s going on here?” she asked.

“Uncle Five is teaching me to color outside the lines!” Claire replied happily.

Five closed the coloring book in his hands. “The pillowfort is for kids only,” he declared.

“Oh, so you’re a kid now, huh?” she said, raising her brows and grinning.

He shrugged. “I don’t make the rules. Claire does.”

Allison rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well, from out here in the grownup world: It’s getting late, Claire,” she said. “Bedtime.”

“But Mooooooom,” Claire whined. “I’m not tired!”

Allison thought about it a moment, then made the executive decision to throw Five under the bus. “Not just for you, sweetie. It’s also bedtime for your Uncle Five.”

Five gave her a dirty look, but he didn’t argue.

“He’s a grownup,” Claire said, wrinkling her nose. “He doesn’t have a bedtime.”

“I thought he was a kid?” Allison said, teasing.

“He’s booooth,” Claire complained. Always with the loopholes. She was going to drive Allison up a wall, and Allison wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Grownups have bedtimes too,” Five said, pulling one of her buns gently. He looked about as relaxed as Allison had seen him in… a while. “They just set them for themselves. And I’m a very tired grownup, remember?”

“Why don’t we go read to Uncle Five so he can sleep better?” Allison suggested, shooting Five a mouthed please over Claire’s shoulder.

He rolled his eyes.

“Okay,” Claire huffed. “I guess.”

“Alright,” Allison said, relieved. She held her arms out for Claire. “Come on, sweetheart.”

She picked her up, carrying her to the bathroom while Five picked up the coloring books they’d been pouring over with the box of crayons in his other hand. She smiled to herself and resolved not to say anything. She didn’t want Five to stop having fun with Claire because of her teasing.

He yawned as he trailed after them.

“Okay, bath and then we’re going to stay with Five until he falls asleep, okay?” she said.

Claire nodded.

Allison smiled and let Claire start the shower for herself.

“So, she’s already charmed you, huh?” Allison said.

“She’s very calming,” Five said. “But also a lot like you at her age.”

“I don’t think I was calming.”

“Hence the ‘but.’”

She shoved him. “I’m glad you get along.”

Five yawned again. “Me too. I wasn’t aware I knew how to deal with children.” He gave her a sidelong look. “Where are you guys going tomorrow?”

“Children’s museum,” Allison said, hiding a grin.

Five eyed her suspiciously.

“Luther, Klaus and Ben are coming, and Vanya said she might stop by after lessons.”

“Alright, I’ll come,” he said. “I want to spend time with Claire while she’s here anyway.”

“Great,” Allison said with a grin. “Go change into your pajamas, or Claire’ll refuse to go to bed.”

Five rolled his eyes. “You owe me.”

“Sure, sure, just go.”

Five jumped away, and she went to get Claire’s pajamas from her bag.

She returned to find Claire and Five already in his bed, sorting through books. “This one!” she was saying.

“You sure that’s not too dense for you?” Five asked.

“We’re reading to you,” she replied, matter-of-fact.

“Well, I think we can pick something we’ll both enjoy a little,” Five said.

She hummed, then handed him another book.

“Have we come to a decision?” Allison asked.

“Yes,” Five replied. “We’re reading the Chronicles of Narnia.”

She raised her eyebrows, but said nothing. She’d fully expected Five to let Claire pick or to punish Allison by making her read something convoluted and adult. A compromise was unexpected.

“Okay,” she said, sitting on the bed. “Narnia it is.”

Claire nestled up to her side, patting Allison’s lap. “You can put your head there,” she declared. “It’s very comfy.”

Five hesitated, then sighed and said, “Okay, I’ll give it a try.” He gave Allison a furtive look, as if to say, This is your fault. Allison smiled back, feeling absolutely no remorse.

He curled around her leg and settled his head on her hip, letting out a tired breath.

“Read, Mommy,” Claire demanded, patting Allison’s thigh.

“Alright, alright,” Allison laughed, opening the book. “The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis.”

Claire was asleep after the first five pages. Five fell asleep after ten, but Allison read for another hour, listening to them both breathing softly.

Chapter Text

“Nice place you got here,” Diego said, putting his hands in his pockets.

John Perseus, CEO of the Perseus Company, smiled at him politely. “Thank you.”

Diego had a bad feeling about the guy. What it was that put him off he couldn’t quite put his finger on, but something was off about him. Something beyond the fact that he was a rich asshole who’d inherited a company his dad had named after himself. Sure, Diego’s father was richer, but it wasn’t like he’d ever seen a penny of it.

“Must have cost a fortune,” Diego said.

“Yes,” Perseus said. “It did.”

“Mm-hmm,” Diego murmured. “Six figures?”

Perseus smiled at him like he’d like to hit Diego with a car.

“Sorry about that,” Eudora said, returning. “Just had to take a call over the radio.”

“Nothing urgent, I presume,” Perseus said sharply.

“I’m afraid not,” Eudora said with a polite smile. Diego could tell she didn’t like the guy any less. “But don’t worry, we only have a few questions.”

“This is ridiculous,” Perseus sighed. “Do we really have to go through this? My assistant called because he was worried for my safety, which, as you can see, is not in question.”

“You offered to pay off a cop,” Diego said. “We could investigate you on that alone. Bribery can be a pretty hefty obstruction of justice charge if you’ve got anything to hide.”

“What my partner means to say is that it raises some questions,” Eudora said. “Why did you try to pay officer Johnson?”

“In my line of work, publicity is everything,” Perseus replied. “And I don’t need police crawling in and out of my apartment because I happened to cut myself and my assistant misheard something.”

“Of course,” Eudora said. “So the blood on the glass, that was yours?”

While she talked, Diego quietly leaned around the door to the kitchen and shone his black light over the tiles. He resisted the urge to whistle, putting his light away and catching Eudora’s eyes. She returned the look quickly and then smiled at Perseus. “Well, that’s all for now,” she said. “The blood is still at the lab, but you can be sure that we’ll handle this case as discreetly as possible.”

“Fine,” Perseus said, terse as he showed them the door.

Diego called the elevator for them, holding the door for Eudora. They waited for the doors to close before turning to look at each other.

“The radio call was from the lab,” she said. “The blood is his.”

“No way,” Diego said. “His kitchen lit up like a Christmas tree. If it was all his blood, he’d be dead.”

“So what?” she said. “You think he cleaned up the blood before police got there, then left one piece of glass with his own blood to throw us off?”

“I don’t know, maybe?” Diego muttered. “But I know he’s not telling the truth.”

“Yeah, so do I,” she said. “Something is off about him.”

“Right?”

The elevator dinged to a halt. Diego gestured to Eudora to let her ahead, following after her.

“Ah, Detective Patch, Detective Hargreeves,” the assistant, Fred Masters said. He was a friendly guy – Diego got the feeling it was a bit of a front, but he felt infinitely more trustworthy than Perseus did. “How did it go?”

“Well, he’s not happy with us,” Eudora said. “But I think we got all the answers we need from him right now.”

“Thank you for being so thorough with this investigation,” Masters replied, taking her hand. “I know you’re only going off my tip, but I’m only making sure John is alright.”

Eudora smiled, looking slightly confused, but she nodded. “Of course. Just doing our jobs.”

He smiled at her and nodded, then bustled off.

Diego gave her a questioning look, but she acted as though she didn’t see it until they were outside and in their car, at which point she handed Diego a piece of paper.

Gritty’s donuts, 7pm, it read.

“What the fuck,” Diego said.

Eudora shrugged. “It’s a lead, I guess.”

**

The sound of children laughing was not one Five was prepared for.

Their free time had been scarce, their lives had been difficult, but they’d found ways to play. They’d found the fun even in Reginald’s drills. There had always been at least a little laughter floating around the Hargreeves household when he’d been a child.

And then there had been silence. So, so much silence in the apocalypse. For a while, he’d sometimes allowed himself to imagine the laughter of his siblings around him. And then it had started happening when he didn’t mean for it to happen, hearing their laughter. Before Delores, there had been a few times he thought he might go mad from that phantom laughter, and he’d banned himself from thinking of it again from that point on.

It was hard to stop yourself from thinking of things that were actually happening outside your own delirious mind, though. He felt plunged back into the ash, the emptiness, the moment when he realized the laughter wasn’t real – except it was, he wasn’t back there, he hadn’t imagined it – and the silence took over, worse than before.

“Five,” someone said, and he startled when a hand landed on his shoulder, looking up into Allison’s worried face. She looked like she’d said his name a few times already. He hated that look.

Right. The museum. They were at the children’s museum. Of course there were children laughing.

The bustling noises of everything else happening flooded back in. This was the real world, with real people and real children and real laughter.

“You okay?” Allison asked.

Five nodded slowly. Was he ever?

“You don’t have to come along,” she said. “You can always hang out at Vanya’s place instead if you don’t want to be alone. Ben and Klaus would be happy to walk you over, I’m sure.”

“No, I’m fine,” he said, swallowing down the taste of panic. “As I ever am, anyway.” He took a deep breath. “I’ll be okay. Besides, I need to get out more.” He hadn’t left the house for anything but a quick lunch just down the street with Ben since he’d been back, he realized.

“Well, you don’t have to start big,” she said.

He gave her a weak smile. “I want to spend time with Claire.” Something about Claire was bizarrely soothing. She was a balm he desperately needed. She didn’t come with baggage and apocalypses, she was just a child. A child who gave him an excuse to make up for his own lost childhood in small, unobtrusive ways.

“The feeling is mutual,” Allison said, looking at Claire, who was currently running back to them with the tickets Luther had just bought.

“Uncle Five!” Claire shrieked, and Five composed himself. He didn’t want her to worry about him. She was too young to have to worry about the things the rest of them worried about. “Where do you want to start? Have you ever been to this museum? Do you like trains? No one is ever small enough to go into the train tunnel with me!”

Five laughed to himself. Claire had enough energy to power a train. “We can start wherever you want to go,” he said. “And no, I haven’t been here before.” As though Reginald would ever let them waste time at a children’s museum. “But I do like trains.”

“Yay!” she squealed. “There’s a place downstairs with all kinds of model trains and you can crawl under them and watch them go by the little houses.”

“Okay,” he said. “Sounds like that’s where you want to start.”

She grinned, nodding feverishly and taking his hand.

He breathed out tension he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. Her small hand in his was a firm reminder that he wasn’t alone. That he was okay, and any crises that were to come were not around just yet. He smiled and let her drag him along.

**

“Alright,” Eudora said, sitting down across from Masters. Diego pulled up a chair to join her. “Why the secrecy?”

“It’s about John,” Masters said. “Something’s very wrong with him.”

“And you told us that in secret because…?” Diego said.

“He’s got cameras all over his building,” Masters said. “And lately, he’s been paranoid.”

“Maybe because he’s got a police investigation going on in his apartment,” Eudora said.

“It’s not just that,” Masters said. “Though he has been weirdly resistant about the investigation. But he’s also just been acting… odd.”

“Odd?” Diego said, raising a brow.

“John acts different in public and in private,” Masters said. “In public he’s always been his father’s son, but in private he’s a good man. We’re friends, we talk about things. Lately, he’s been forgetful, distant… it’s like he’s trying to uphold his public persona even in private. And he’s just been… sort of threatening about it.”

“Do you think Mr. Perseus is a threat to your safety?” Eudora asked.

“Normally, I’d say never,” Masters said. “But as you can see… for some reason, at the moment, I’m not so sure.”

She frowned. “That night, what exactly did you hear?”

“I heard him yelling. And there was a crashing noise. I tried the door, but it was locked, so I called the police.”

“Do you think it could have really been a movie like he said?” Diego asked.

“No,” Masters said firmly. “It was his voice. I thought he was in trouble, but… now I’m not so sure. Maybe he did something. But if he did, there has to be something behind it.”

Eudora nodded. “Alright,” she said. “We’ll keep looking into it.”

“And… uh,” Masters said. “If you could not mention it was me or anyone on the staff who said something more? We’re all getting kind of concerned. He’s threatened to fire people who have been working for him or his father for over twenty years, something he never would have done before.”

She nodded. “Of course,” she said.

Masters gave a furtive look around, then took off, lowering his face into his jacket.

Diego switched to the seat across from her. “Sounds fishy,” he said.

Eudora sighed. “I think it’s time to ask Klaus.”

Diego made a face. It would be a hassle to get Klaus into Perseus’ apartment without raising questions, but she was right. “Yeah. Once we’ve seen Claire off, I’ll get him on this case, see if he can contact any ghosts that might have died in that apartment.”

She sighed. “Weird shit just follows you around, Diego.”

He grunted in agreement.

**

“Allison, Allison,” Klaus hissed, nearly crashing into her as he went. “You will not believe this, come on.”

“Oh, god, what?” she asked, but he was already shoving her forward with a frantic energy. “Klaus, what?” She’d left them alone with Claire for twenty minutes to find a payphone and tell Vanya where they were planning to have dinner so she could join in if she wanted to, and her mind was already going wild with all the ways they could have gotten her daughter into trouble.

It didn’t help that Claire had insisted on spending most of the day alone with Five. He’d been enjoying it, and Allison was glad, and she knew that Five would die before he’d let anything happen to Claire. But he’d also started the day by zoning out into what could only be a flashback, and Allison had no idea how she could explain PTSD to her daughter if he did anything more apparent.

Well, sweetie, sometimes your Uncle Five just forgets he’s not trapped in an endless nightmare of death and destruction because all the horrible things he’s seen have just carved themselves into his brain and I don’t know if he’ll ever be entirely okay again.

“Come on come on come on,” Klaus hissed, wrenching her into the space exhibits too quickly for her to wallow.

“What on Earth are you…” She trailed off, her panicked thoughts vanishing when she saw the scene before her. “Tell me you took pictures.”

“Oh, yeah, we’ve run out of film like… six times already and Ben’s still going,” Klaus said.

“Oh my god.”

“Yeah!”

“Oh my god.”

“Yeah!”

“Oh, god, poor little guy,” she said, pressing the heel of her hand to her nose in the hopes of stopping her laughter, even if Five couldn’t hear her. “Oh no.”

“He’s gonna be so mad,” Klaus giggled.

She returned the giggle helplessly. “Oh my god they’re so cute.”

Standing in front of a large mural of inventions in space travel, Luther held Claire’s hand in one of his while she chattered away, occasionally nodding along with her happily. His other hand was on Five’s back while Five was fast asleep on his shoulder. Occasionally, he would shift his grip on Five so it was more comfortable, but he made it seem so easy to hold him that Five looked even smaller than usual.

“Oh my god,” she said, once again, because it was the best she could manage.

She joined them, careful not to wake Five up. “Should we head out?” she asked.

“Moooom,” Claire whined. “We haven’t even seen the top floor yet!”

“Claire, I’m sure Luther is—“ she tried.

“It’s fine,” Luther said softly. “He really doesn’t weigh much, and I think Claire talking is helping him sleep.”

She sighed, casting him a betrayed look. Claire had him wrapped around her finger, but that had been Allison’s privilege before. “Okay, okay, we can stay,” she said. “But only until Luther or Uncle Five say they want to go, and then no arguments, okay?” She looked at Luther’s sincere eyes and the fact that Five was snoring softly and realized this was not her finest play.

“I know,” Claire said. “Uncle Five said it’s been a really long time since he was around so many people, so I know he’s really really tired.”

Allison nodded. “That’s right. As long as he’s okay sleeping, we can stay, but if he wants to go home, it’s time to go. Sound fair?”

Claire nodded.

“You’re not going to argue?” Allison said.

“Noooo,” Claire said. Allison didn’t believe her at all, and she sighed, resigning herself to having an argument with Claire once a cranky Five was awake. It was going to be a mess, but she wasn’t going to wake Five up yelling at Claire. Frankly, she didn’t want to yell at Claire at all.

What was the middle ground between mind controlling your child and yelling at them to get things done, she wondered?

“Pinkie promise?” Klaus said, crouching down to her level.

She huffed at him. “I said I would!”

“Well, then a pinkie promise shouldn’t matter, right?” Klaus said, grinning.

Claire narrowed her eyes at him. Finally, a formidable match for her. “Fine,” she mumbled, hooking her small finger around his. “I promise we’ll go if Luther or Uncle Five want to go home.”

“Good girl,” Klaus said, ruffling her hair and letting her take Luther’s hand again.

“What’s that?!” she asked, pointing.

“That’s a copy of the Apollo command and service module,” Luther said without skipping a beat, letting Claire drag him over for a closer look.

Allison put her hands together and looked at Klaus. “I owe you my life,” she said.

“I know,” he said, grinning. “I’m going to abuse it.”

“Not as badly as she would,” Allison replied. “Thank you thank you thank you.” She gave him a desperate look. “I’m so happy to have her here but I have no idea what I’m doing.”

“Alright, Allison,” Klaus said. “She’s fine, she’s enjoying herself. Take deep breaths and come on, let’s find Ben and take some more compromising pictures of our smallest brother.”

**

Vanya sighed as she swung her feet, checking her watch again.

Allison had said they were heading out nearly 40 minutes ago. Then again, she did have a child to talk into leaving a children’s museum, and Allison had warned her that they might be a little held up.

Something caught her eye from just out of her vision, and she hopped to her feet to follow it. It might have been a trick of the light, but she could have sworn…

The parking lot’s surface finally crunched with the sound of tires, drawing her attention back. It was their car, and Vanya sighed in relief. She sidled up to them as Allison got out.

“Did Claire not want to go?” Vanya asked, smiling.

“No, for once, Claire behaved herself,” Allison said. “Apparently the way to rein her in is through pinkie promises.”

Vanya snorted. “Then what?”

Allison looked at Luther as he got out of the car, sighing heavily. “Five fell asleep and Luther didn’t want to wake him up.”

“That’s sweet,” Vanya said.

“It would be, if he hadn’t spent twenty minutes lowering Five into the backseat and stopping every time he so much as twitched.”

Vanya laughed despite herself as Ben joined them. “I have so many pictures, I could probably make a stop motion movie out of them. Or a flipbook. It was great.”

“Where’s Klaus?” Vanya asked.

“He went to Dave’s,” Ben said, turning around to look at the car. “There’s no way Luther can get Five out of the car without waking him up.”

“Is he still trying?! I’m hungry,” Allison whined. She looked at Vanya. “I think I’m a bad mom.”

“You’re just tired,” Vanya said. “You slept sitting up last night.”

“Well, at least they both slept through the night,” Allison sighed.

There was a sharp bang and then Five appeared behind them, eyes wide and wild. “Where are we?” he managed.

“The restaurant,” Allison said. “You fell asleep at the museum.”

“What?” Five said, rubbing his eyes. “When did we get here?”

“Just now,” Ben said. “You’ve been asleep for like… three hours. Luther’s been carrying you around since you dozed off. It was adorable.”

“Fu—“ Five started, furious, before noticing Claire standing with Luther, who was rubbing the back of his head. He glared at Ben, like it was Ben’s fault that Five couldn’t curse in front of Luther. He leaned in and hissed, “Fuck off, Ben,” so that it was too quiet for Claire to hear. Ben just grinned at him.

“Sorry we made you wait,” Luther murmured to Vanya. “He was sleeping so softly, I couldn’t wake him.”

She rolled her eyes. “It’s fine. It’s a nice night,” she said. “Though I did think…” She looked back towards the bushes where she’d thought she’d seen that green glow from the parking lot with Helen. There was not a leaf out of place. “Nothing. It’s nothing.”

“You sure?” Luther asked.

“Yeah,” Vanya said. “Let’s eat, I’m sure you’re hungry after carrying Five around all day.”

“Actually, it wasn’t that bad. He is quite small,” Luther replied.

Five looked back at them, the venom in his eyes suggesting that the moment Claire wasn’t holding his hand, he was going to use it to hit them.

Vanya just grinned at him in response, moving closer to them so Claire could tell her all about the museum and all she’d seen.

Chapter Text

Klaus frowned as he unlocked the door to his apartment, sliding it open quietly.

Something was off, he just wasn’t sure what. Since Claire had gone back to LA, things had been extraordinarily quiet, and Klaus had been having a steadily increasing feeling that something was right around the corner. It was either instinct – which he was starting to realize he had a lot of – or Five’s personality was contagious.

His apartment wasn’t empty, he was sure of it. Granted, since only his bedroom was ghost proof, his apartment was often not empty, but this was different somehow. Lately he’d noticed that he could sense the presence of a ghost even when he didn’t see them directly, but this felt more like his brain picking up on some small sound or detail that wasn’t obvious enough to see entirely.

The only people with keys to his apartment were Diego, who was at work, and Ben, who usually called ahead. He put his keys between his knuckles and clenched his fist, ready to strike if necessary, walking slowly.

He listened intently, peeking into the dark hall, trying to find movement.

Someone was crying.

He lowered his hand and rounded the counter to look into the kitchen, heart skipping a beat when he saw the familiar blazer. For a moment, he felt frozen in place, wondering how it might have happened before his brain caught up and he realized that he could hear Five’s small, hiccupping breaths as he cried.

“Hey,” he said softly, swallowing down the sudden panic. He put a hand to his chest, trying to will his heart into slowing down a little. “Five.”

He wasn’t expecting the strangled scream and crashing as Five darted away from him, back thudding against the counter hard enough to knock several cups over. So soon after his own panic, Klaus couldn’t help but let out a small shriek.

“St—“ Five choked out. “Stay away from me, you’re not real, you’re not real.”

“What?” Klaus managed, taking deep breaths. “Oh. Hey, hey no.” He switched on the lights. Five flinched. He looked disoriented, all but hungover. “I am real. I’m here. I’m…” He gestured at himself. “I’m alive. I’m alive, Five, it’s me.”

He tried to step closer, but Five recoiled with a strangled sound. His tear stroked face was pale and his eyes were wide with abject terror.

Klaus paused, lowering himself to eye level, hands out where Five could see them.

Five stared at him, shaking like a leaf.

Klaus shuffled closer, wobbling slightly as he tried to stay at eye level. He took Five’s face in his hands slowly. He could feel Five’s breath, his heartbeat under his hands, and he couldn’t deny that it made him feel better to be sure that Five wasn’t in his apartment because he’d unexpectedly died while Klaus was out. “Hey. Look at me. It’s really me, and I’m alive.”

Five’s body heaved with his efforts to breathe, but he didn’t try to escape again, which seemed like a step in the right direction.

“What are you doing here?” Klaus asked, finally. “Not that you’re not welcome, but… This is your first time here, and all.”

Five gave a hiccupping laugh. “No,” he choked out. “I’ve been here dozens of times.” He pointed clumsily at the family picture. “I saw the picture and… and I thought…”

“Okay, well, the first time you’ve been here in this timeline,” Klaus said, cautiously sitting beside him. He didn’t wait for Five to finish his sentence. Klaus already knew what he meant. “Were you just visiting, or did something happen?”

“You made me promise,” Five muttered. He still didn’t sound entirely aware of what was happening or where he was.

Klaus nodded. That still wasn’t an answer. “That’s true, I did. But what’s going on, kiddo?”

Five blinked at him, throat working furiously, his crying only getting fiercer as he looked at Klaus. “I think I’m losing my mind,” he said, voice cracking in a way that sounded so ridiculously young.

“Hey, whoa, buddy,” Klaus said, carefully putting an arm around Five. Five slumped over into Klaus’ lap, bursting into helpless tears. “You’re not… Come on. What happened? Can you tell me about it?”

“I… I went out for a walk, because I realized I’d been cooped up in the house since Claire left,” Five sobbed. “And I was going to go to the park and then suddenly I was… I was downtown. I can’t remember where I went or why or anything. I just… I lost six hours and I don’t know… I don’t know where I was or… or anything.”

“Oh,” Klaus said. “Okay. Um. Look.”

“Don’t leave me alone,” Five pleaded, gripping his arm tightly.

“Of course I won’t,” Klaus promised. “Why would I leave you alone?”

“B-Because,” Five choked out, curling up around Klaus’ leg. “Because that’s what we did to you when you went crazy with the drugs and everything and—“

“Okay, no,” Klaus said. “First of all, you’re not going crazy. Second of all…” Would it help to point out that Five hadn’t even been in the world when Klaus had really plunged downhill at full speed? Probably not.

“—I never even gave you those 20 bucks even though you got all the information out of the eyeball guy and…” The next few words were incomprehensible. Klaus wasn’t sure they were even trying to be words or if they were just garbled expressions of distressed panic with nowhere to go. Five took a shuddering breath and continued with impressive force given how hard he was breathing. “It was the first time in so long that I actually felt relief and I felt like I wasn’t alone for a split second and it was euphoric and then the eye wasn’t made yet and I remembered how bad it all was and that you were all going to die and I think I just panicked and then you wanted drugs and I just got mad and gave up on you and I ran away and I always run away and—“

“Okay, whoa, whoa,” Klaus said, dragging Five out of his lap so he could take him by the shoulders and look him in the eyes. Five wheezed, wiping his nose on his sleeve. His hands were covered in something dark. For a moment Klaus worried it might be blood, but it seemed to be a dark blue. That was a question for later, it seemed. “Five, I don’t care about that anymore. It’s good to hear I really did make you feel better for at least a little while, but the money? I would have blown it on ecstasy or some shit anyway.”

“But that’s not the point,” Five said, in what Klaus could only classify as a warble. “You helped me and I was a jerk to you and now I’m losing it and… and like you said after everything the most likely thing is that I’ll just… just collapse into a pile of gibbering jelly when it all catches up for real and—“

“That’s… that’s so not what I meant.”

“—and you have no reason to spend your life trying to tend to your crazy brother who wouldn’t even give you 20 bucks for the first shred of hope I’d seen in decades and I don’t even expect you to, but I don’t wanna be alone and… and…”

“Five,” Klaus said, tilting his head to try to look Five in the eyes. “Five, you are having a massive panic attack. I am not going anywhere, I am not mad at you, it’s fine.” He pulled Five into his lap and sat back against the fridge. “Everything is fine, okay? You probably got worn out by all that time out and about with Claire and now your brain is a little pooped out, that’s all. You’re going to be okay.” He tried not to look too concerned, but he didn’t think it was working.

Five bawled loudly into his shirt, trying and failing to formulate a response.

“Maybe it was just too early for you to be on your own,” Klaus offered desperately. “Maybe you should take a smaller step next time. I’m sure Ben would love to take walks with you. He was always whining about the things he wanted  to go look at. Baby steps up to walks alone, huh?”

“Okay,” Five managed, sniffling loudly.

“What the hell is on your hands, though?” Klaus asked.

“I don’t know,” Five sobbed, sounding more distressed again.

“Whoa, whoa, it’s okay, it’s okay, no big deal.” He picked Five’s hands up and inspected them. “It’s just some ink or something. I’m sure it’s fine.”

“Okay,” Five whimpered.

“Okay,” Klaus echoed, holding Five’s head to his shoulder for lack of anything better to do. “Okay, you’re okay.”

“My head really hurts,” Five mumbled, shaking hands coming up to rub at his temples clumsily. “Like a nail in my forehead.”

“Uh,” Klaus said. “Probably… Um… You should drink some water.” He moved to remove Five from his lap to get him a glass, but Five made a desperate noise and grabbed him tighter, almost enough to crack Klaus’ neck. “Ow. Five. Let go. I’m not going to leave your sight, I’m just getting you some water.”

Five didn’t answer, nails digging welts into Klaus’ neck.

“Five. Deep breaths, okay? Deep breaths. You’re okay.”

Five took a shuddering breath, then another, slowly peeling his fingers off of Klaus.

“Okay,” Klaus murmured, again, backing up towards the sink, carefully getting a glass of water without moving too far from Five, then handed it to him. “There. I’m still here.”

Five chugged down the water, sniffling loudly. He looked as exhausted as he had before he’d learned to sleep. He handed back the glass and stared at him like he was expecting Klaus to have answers, which was a terrifying indication that the world had turned upside down and inside out at some point while Klaus wasn’t watching.

“Come on, let’s go to my bedroom,” Klaus muttered. “It’s cozier than sitting on my kitchen floor, I promise.”

Five nodded weakly and let Klaus help him up and walk him into the bedroom, where Klaus flicked on the lights. When he looked back at Five, he had crawled onto the mattress Klaus used as a bed and had his entire face in Klaus’ blankets.

He’d done this before, Klaus realized. He’d done this before, 13 years old and all alone, after having found all their corpses in an abandoned office building. He’d found the picture on the fridge and had sobbed on the floor of Klaus’ kitchen for god knew how long, and then he’d probably stumbled into the bedroom and cried there too before, at some point grabbing Klaus’ clothes and keeping them.

Klaus wondered if he’d recognized their faces from the picture right away, or if the mail Klaus left in a disorganized pile on his counter was the giveaway first. He imagined his brother, still grieving, finding letter after letter with the name Klaus Hargreeves on it, then frantically searching for anything to remind himself of the family, to keep close when he couldn’t have them close.

“Was this the first place you found?” he asked.

Five looked up, as though he’d just noticed he’d been trying to inhale Klaus’ blanket. After a moment, he nodded.

Klaus sighed, sitting down beside Five. “Jesus.” He got some clothes out of his drawer and handed them to Five. “Go on, change into something more comfortable, and we’ll just hang out in bed together for now, sound good?”

Five nodded, wiping his nose. Klaus helped him struggle out of his blazer, then turned around to let him change, only looking back when Five tugged on his arm.

Klaus pulled him close and wrapped his arms around him, squeezing him tightly. “Fuck, man,” he said. Five held onto him the same way, letting Klaus drag them back against the wall. “This is a mess.”

“Sorry,” Five muttered. “You made me promise.”

“No no, not you. I mean, yes, you, but just…” Klaus sighed, hugging him tightly and absently kissing his head. “I’m glad you’re here, alright? I wish you weren’t falling apart, but I’m really glad you came to me for help, kiddo.”

Five buried his face in Klaus’ chest. “Shit,” he murmured, squirming slightly in an effort to compose himself. He snorted, and Klaus relaxed slightly at the fact that he sounded more like himself. “I can’t believe I lost it like that.”

“I can,” Klaus said softly. “I mean, how long have you been keeping it together? That’s like sixty years of freakout all saved up for today.”

Five looked up at him, and much to Klaus’ horror, burst into tears again.

**

“What do you mean raincheck? This is literally your job.”

“I know, Diego, but something really, really important came up. I swear to god I mean that in like a… an actually serious way,” Klaus said. “I’ll tell you later, I promise, it’s just… it’s not my story to tell, is all.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Look, please? Just cover for me, okay? I promise I’m not just blowing you off for stupid shit or drugs or anything you’re probably suspecting…”

“That’s not what I…” Diego groaned. Klaus had earned the benefit of the doubt – and then some – lately, but that didn’t mean Diego didn’t worry. “You promise you’re okay?”

“I am. I’m fine, seriously.”

“Okay,” Diego muttered tersely. “Okay, sure. I’ll cover for you.”

Thank you.” He paused for a moment. “Anyway, I’ll call you later. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Diego hung up and rubbed his hands over his face. “Klaus says something came up. Something really important, but he won’t tell me what,” Diego said.

Eudora looked up from the file she’d been reading. “You think he’s okay?”

“I guess,” Diego said. It wasn’t like Klaus hadn’t lied to him  “I don’t know. He said it’s not his story to tell. At least not for now.”

“Huh,” Eudora muttered, frowning. “Maybe you should check on him later if he doesn’t explain.”

“Yeah, I will,” Diego said. He nodded at the file. “Whatcha got there? Anything new on Perseus?”

“Maybe,” Eudora said, tossing a file on Diego’s desk. “New case, but I have a hunch. It’s just as weird. I’ve questioned everyone on the scene and I’m just stumped on what’s going on here.”

“Yeah, well, we can’t ask Klaus,” Diego muttered.

“Yeah, I know, stupid, I want your input,” Eudora said, sitting on his desk. “Are you seriously jealous of your brother? I promise I don’t have a thing for your brother.”

Diego shifted awkwardly.

She nudged him with her foot. “You have such an inferiority complex,” she said, laughing softly. “I like you. We live together. I’m not going to sleep with your brother who I once saw put a bagel in a slushie and then nearly choke himself to death trying to drink it.”

Diego snorted. “I’m not worried you’ll sleep with him,” he said. “Besides, I didn’t say anything!”

“You didn’t have to,” she teased. “Anyway, take a look at that file. I’m losing my mind here.”

He took it and flipped it open, reading it. “What’s the situation now?”

“Bank robbery. The only thing taken was a single lock box. There was no signs of forced entry, guards saw no one, no camera footage picked anything up, no one went in or out of the vault. They have one camera that shifts between two positions every ten seconds. Lock box is there, camera pans back ten seconds later, and it’s gone.”

“Huh,” Diego muttered. “Couldn’t have been the guards?”

“Guards don’t patrol inside of the vault and no one opened the door at any point,” she said. “Camera footage showed them.”

“Could the footage have been tampered with?” Diego asked.

“Maybe, but the door records the number of times its been opened and there’s no discrepancies.”

“Uh,” Diego said, frowning. “Well, okay, that’s… weird. Who owned the box?”

“Anonymous client,” Eudora said. “Even the bank doesn’t know. They have a number to reach the guy by, but he’s not answering.”

“Who uses a bank anonymously?” Diego asked. “How does anyone even allow that?”

“They were apparently paid a lot to be discreet about this,” Eudora said. “Like, half a million dollars kind of a lot.”

Diego whistled. “You think it might have been Perseus.”

“Yeah, I do. And clearly, it was worth a lot to him,” Eudora said. “But we don’t know what’s in it, so we can’t ask fences about it.”

“Okay, uh…” Diego said.

Eudora raised her brows.

“You think this is something superhuman, don’t you?” Diego asked.

She nodded.

“Aliens?” Diego asked.

“God, at this point, if it starts answering some questions, I’ll take it,” Eudora said.

The phone rang, and Diego answered quickly. “Detective Hargreeves, how can I help you?”

“You’re finally getting good at that,” Luther said. “Proud of you.”

Diego rolled his eyes. “What do you need, Luther?”

“Have you heard from Five? We haven’t seen him all day.”

Diego paused, looking back at the file. In and out without opening the door or being seen. “Uh,” he said. There was no way, but… He looked at Eudora, who frowned at him, picking up on his epiphany even if she didn’t know what was being said. “Good question.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Suddenly, it clicked. Klaus. He’d said it wasn’t his story to tell.

“It means he’s off on his own doing weird shit again,” Diego said. He pinched the bridge of his nose.

“What are you talking about?”

“Look, let me look into it,” Diego said. “I have a hunch, but I don’t know anything yet. I’ll get back to you as soon as I do.”

“… I guess. You sure you don’t need help?”

“I’ll let you know.”

“Alright, fine. Let us know.”

Diego took a deep breath, hanging up and calling Klaus next. Klaus picked up far too quickly. “Yello?” he said, breathless.

“Is Five there?”

Klaus was silent for a moment. “Whyyyyyyy are you asking like that?” he asked slowly.

“Because, Klaus, I don’t care if it’s not your story to tell, if our brother is breaking the law, you have to tell me!” Diego snapped, as quietly as he could. “Because I’m the one who can actually protect him!”

Silence. “Come again?”

“Don’t bullshit me, Klaus,” Diego said. “I’ve got a bank robbery right here in front of me that’s so far up Five’s alley it’s got no way back out.”

An even longer silence. “Is this, by any chance, one of those banks that sprays ink on your hands when you take something?” Klaus asked, finally.

“Son of a bitch,” Diego said. So it was what he suspected. Fucker. “Is he there with you?”

“Well, uh, yes, but—”

“Stay where you are, I’m coming over.”

“Wait, Diego—“

Diego hung up. “I’m about to kill two of my brothers,” he said, grabbing his jacket.

Eudora sighed, waving him away. “Have fun.”

**

Klaus chewed at his thumb as he waited in his front door, listening for signs that Five had woken up or that Diego was here and on his way to strangle Five. He was too sober for this.

He finally heard the thundering of footsteps, diving out to catch Diego before he could storm inside and wake Five up. “Okay, just hear me out,” he said, pushing Diego seething into the wall beside his door.

“No, no hearing out,” Diego snapped. “He cannot keep doing shit like this. He doesn’t live outside of time anymore!”

“Keep it down, man,” Klaus hissed. “Now will you just listen to me—“

“He is going to get in trouble, or get hurt. He needs to at least tell us when some shit is going on instead of just going off and doing—“

“Diego!” Klaus shouted. “Stop it! This is important!”

“What?!”

“Remember the professor guy?”

Diego blinked. “What?”

“The guy! With the murder-suicide thing!”

“What the hell does that have to do with this?” Diego snapped.

“Remember how he didn’t?  You know, remember anything?” Klaus said.

Diego squinted at him. “Yeah, I remember the case. What does it have to do with our brother robbing a goddamn bank?”

“He doesn’t remember anything either,” Klaus said. “He came to me freaked out because he just found himself downtown somewhere with no memory of the whole day. He has no idea about this, and I need you to calm down, because I just got him to sleep. And when I mean freaked out, I mean in the fetal position, weeping into my lap, capital F-O Freaked Out, okay?”

Diego stared at him. “He doesn’t remember anything?”

“No,” Klaus said. “Nothing. Seriously, he told me he went on a walk, then he was somewhere else a couple hours later.”

“What the hell,” Diego muttered. “Is he okay? Is he hurt?”

“He’s not hurt,” Klaus said. “That I could tell. Said he had a headache, but with how he was crying, anyone would.”

“Shit,” Diego said, bending over slightly to catch his breath.

“Now I’ve gotta go back inside,” Klaus said. “I don’t know how he can even tell in his sleep but I swear the little bastard gets antsy if I leave the room for too long. It’s like babysitting a proximity alarm but backwards.” He glared at Diego. “Are you going to be cool about this?”

Diego nodded.

“Okay,” Klaus said, opening the door warily. He could hear Five from his bedroom, making small noises of complaint in his sleep, but as Klaus returned to sit beside him, he stopped, relaxing under Klaus’ hand.

Diego sat beside Klaus helplessly, then reached out to brush Five’s hair out of his eyes. He frowned when his fingers brushed over Five’s face. “Someone grabbed him,” he whispered, pointing it out to Klaus. “Look. Those are fingerprints.”

“What the fuck,” Klaus whispered. They were barely visible, but there were bruises on Five’s face. Four of them, small circles. Finger-sized.

“They must have covered his mouth so he didn’t call for help,” Diego said, stomach turning. “Why didn’t he jump away?” He moved carefully, checking for more injuries as well as he could without waking Five. He found a small red patch on his arm.

“Is that a burn?” Klaus asked.

Diego nodded. “Some kind of taser?” he murmured.

Klaus shrugged helplessly.

“You’re right. Someone did this to him,” Diego said, looking at Five. His eyes swept over the obvious tear tracks on Five’s face, the way his brows furrowed in his sleep whenever they went quiet. He put a hand on Five’s elbow. “I’m gonna kill ‘em.”

Klaus wasn’t a violent person, generally, but at the moment, he had to agree.

Chapter Text

Five cracked his eyes open with some difficulty.

Klaus’ apartment. That was right. Last night was still all fuzzy, which he didn’t like. His memory was usually impeccable, whether he liked it or not. But at least it wasn’t blank like the hours beforehand. He remembered dozing off to Klaus holding him tight and a lot of feverish dreams that had, for a change, dipped out of nightmares and into confusing nonsense.

Someone was touching his elbow, but the hand was heavier than Klaus’. He shrugged it off, rolling over to look.

 “Diego?” he croaked, confused.

“Hey,” Diego said, too softly for his usual demeanor. “You’re awake. Was starting to worry you’d fallen into a coma or something.”

“For fuck’s sake,” Five muttered. Things didn’t seem as dire as they had last night. Mostly, Five just felt sick. “Klaus called you?” Given how Five had collapsed into a quivering mess last night, it wasn’t surprising, but it made Five feel ridiculous.

“Not exactly,” Diego mumbled. “Uh… you still don’t remember anything from yesterday?”

The way he asked made Five’s heart skip a beat. “No,” he said. “Why? Is everyone okay?” He moved to sit up, but the headache from last night was back with a vengeance, like an ice pick through his skull. He fell back with a choked cry, clutching his head in his hand.

“Shit,” Diego hissed, moving to lean over him. “What’s the matter? What happened?”

“My head,” Five managed, in more of a whimper than he would have liked. His head had hurt yesterday, but this was new. He could barely breathe through the pain.

“I’ll get you painkillers,” Diego said, though Five was in too much agony to watch him go. Suddenly he was back with a cool cloth, a bottle of pills and a glass of water. He pressed the cloth to Five’s head, which was surprisingly soothing, then helped him with the pills and the glass.

Diego closed the blinds and pressed him back down to the mattress, putting a gentle pressure onto the cloth. “Just breathe, okay?”

Five did so – at the moment it was all he could do.

After a few moments, the pain died down again. but Diego’s hand stayed, firm and soothing. “Why are you here?” Five croaked. Something had to be wrong. If Klaus hadn’t called him…

Diego sighed. “Yesterday, there was a bank robbery around 9th,” he said. “It was an in and out job, no cameras picked up anything, no one went in or out.”

“What?” Five murmured. “What are you talking about?”

“Klaus and I think maybe, somehow, someone made you do it.”

“But I—“

“I know you don’t remember anything,” Diego said. “But you’ve got ink on your hands and the robbery happened the same time your memory cut out. Eudora’s combing security camera footage in the park by our house to see if we catch a glimpse at who did this.”

Five swallowed. It did sound, if not reasonable, then plausible. Still, he wanted to protest. The idea of being made to do something and having no memory of it sent adrenaline surging through Five’s veins. “Where’s Klaus?”

“I made him take a shower,” Diego said. “He’ll be right back.”

The phone rang from somewhere in the apartment. “I got it!” Klaus yelled, with a skidding sound and a small crash. The ringing stopped. “Hey!”

Five listened for something to tell him what was going on.

After a moment, Klaus poked his head into the room, shirtless and still dripping. “Oh, good, you’re awake. We got something. Eudora asks if you’re up for coming in to the station to take a look.”

“If I can stand,” Five said, trying to sit up again. His head pounded with pain, but it didn’t feel so much like being hit in the face with a sledgehammer. He nodded cautiously. “Yeah, I can manage it.”

“We’ll be there,” Klaus relayed to the phone.

**

“Okay,” Eudora said. “Here we go.” She looked at Diego. “You want some privacy?”

Diego nodded. “Yeah. Thanks.”

She nodded, closing the door behind herself.

“So apparently a camera overlooking a pawn shop caught this,” Diego said as he pushed play. “It’s a bad angle, but it’s something.”

He pointed at the screen as Five walked by, blurry and barely visible. Behind him, someone with their face obscured strode up close. The actual grab was hard to follow on the choppy footage, but Klaus watched as the person picked Five up, holding him tight. He could see his feet, a foot off the ground, kick and struggle. Someone else seemed to be moving behind the person holding him, but they were entirely invisible from the angle of the camera.

The kicking stopped, and Five was put back down on the ground, then led out of frame.

 Five squinted at it.

“Anything?” Diego asked.

He shook his head. “No. Nothing.”

Diego sighed. “There’s nothing IDing either guy. No witnesses, nothing. This is our only footage.”

“Whose box did he steal?” Klaus asked, resisting the urge to hug Five when he rewound the footage and watched it again, confusion set deeply in his face.

“Don’t know. They paid off the bank really well to keep it secret, and they’re not picking up the phone. We think it might be our guy,” Diego said, looking at Klaus. “The one who I wanted you to check out. Perseus. He’s shady enough to avoid a call like that.”

“Or maybe they’re dead,” Five muttered.

Klaus looked up suddenly. “Holy fuck,” he said.

They looked at him, but he was already racing out the door to find Eudora.

“I know I’m not technically a cop, but can I use your interrogation room anyway?” Klaus asked. “Because I really don’t want the whole station to see me yelling at thin air.”

She frowned at him.

“Anonymous rich person, possibly dead?” Klaus said. “Ring a bell?”

“Shit,” she whispered. “You think…?”

“Yeah, I do, and I’m really fucking tired of this shit,” Klaus hissed. “And I’m going to chew him the fuck out.”

“Come with me,” she said, leading him to the back hall. Klaus raced after her, vibrating with the things he wanted to say.

Diego and Five intercepted him at the door. “Klaus, what are you doing?” Five asked.

Klaus sighed. “I don’t suppose you’ll let me do this alone?”

“No!” Diego said. “What is going on with you, you’re looking…” He gestured at Klaus vaguely. “Like Five usually does.”

“I got hijacked over this, I’m not going anywhere,” Five said. “Especially not with you acting so weird.”

“I’m out,” Eudora said, unlocking the room and showing them inside. “There’s a limit to how much Hargreeves family I can take.” She closed the door behind her, wasting no time in taking off.

Klaus groaned. “Fine. Okay. But I’m… Fuck. Okay. Just don’t fucking interrupt me, I have a momentum I don’t want to lose.” Most things were better done after cooling down instead of in a fit of rage, but this was not one of them. This he had to finish before he lost the sense of outrage that seeing Five sobbing on his floor, terrified that he was losing his mind had given him. “Dad! Get your ass up here now.”

Five and Diego exchanged confused looks.

“Now, Dad!” Klaus shouted.

“Ah, Number Four,” Reginald said, prim as ever. “I see you’ve decided to return to your responsibilities.”

“My responsibilities?” Klaus said. “Are you serious right now? Your secrets just got this family hurt, again.”

“Perhaps if you would have listened when I asked you to, this wouldn’t be a problem, Number Four.”

Without putting much thought into the how, Klaus grabbed his father’s shoulder and threw him into the interrogation chair with enough force to rock the table beside them.

Though they probably couldn’t see the exact look on Reginald’s face – and what a shame, because the shock was so very sweet – Five and Diego flinched away when the lights in the room flickered with the force of the push. Klaus rounded the table to lean on it as threateningly as he could.

“Alright, listen up, Reggie,” he said. “I have had it up to here cleaning up after your mistakes while you blame us. You locked Vanya up – she blew up the moon, by the way, so great job there,  you built death missiles that literally killed most of the population because you left the blueprints for your last sociopathic containment box in the reach of a psychotic time-assassin, who, by the way, you pissed off, personally. You sent Luther to the moon for no fucking reason, and that’s… Jesus, that’s not even scraping the surface the casual, constant abuse you subjected all of us to for our entire lives.”

Reginald opened his mouth to say something, but Klaus cut him off with a threatening finger. “Don’t you dare,” he hissed. “Today, Five was grabbed and god knows what outside a pawn shop and then sent to rob a bank without his knowledge, and I got to pick up the pieces when that convinced him he was losing his mind from all the shit you’ve put him through by being bad at every fucking thing you’ve ever done—“

“Your brother made his own choices,” Reginald snapped. “I explicitly told him not to—“

“Well maybe if you’d been an actual father to us, we would have fucking listened instead of being scared and angry all the time, you sadistic moron,” Klaus snapped. “So no, this shit is not happening because I wanted to have a name, like a human being!”

“You—“ Reginald started, but Klaus cut him off with a loud hit to the table.

“Here’s what’s going to happen Reggie,” Klaus said. “You’re going to tell me three things. Three things, no more, no less. What’s in the box, who did this, and why. If anything else comes out of your mouth, I swear to god – who I’ve met, by the way – that…” He stopped, laughing with a horrible giddiness. “You know what, actually, I don’t even have to threaten you. Because without me, you don’t exist anymore, you evil son of a bitch. Do I make myself clear?”

Reginald puffed himself up, but he bit his tongue. “Yes, I believe you have made yourself abundantly clear.”

“Good. Answers. Now. Chop-chop.”

“The men who abducted your brother were two members from the crew of the Oblivion, an interplanetary exploratory vessel that scouts out planets that qualify as candidates for colonization, as they did to my planet.”

Klaus stared at him. Then, though it was deeply unfunny, he laughed, sitting as he did. “Wow,” he managed. “All this time I thought you were some crazy guy who knew things that you used to justify your shitty actions, but you don’t know shit. You’re just a raving lunatic. Great.”

“Klaus,” Reginald said, and Klaus stopped short at that. As angry as he was, as much as he wanted to tell his father to go back to hell, there was something deeply, painfully satisfying about hearing his actual name come out of the man’s mouth for the first time, and Klaus was only human. “You have powers beyond any measure of human comprehension. Is it so hard to believe that there is life outside the world you know?”

Klaus laughed again. “Yes. I mean, this is well beyond…” He gestured at Reginald.

“You are capable of much more than simply talking to the dead,” Reginald said. “For once in your life, listen to me.”

“For once in my life,” Klaus echoed with a tired giggle. “We’ve done nothing but follow along with your bullshit, and it ruined our goddamn lives.”

Reginald sighed. “The Oblivion is part of a coalition of conqueror scavengers. They came to my planet and enslaved it for generations, until they drained it dry of resources. They left the planet to die, and the few survivors who they left behind moved on to new planets. I came here, past the edges of their scope at the time, in order to find a place that could finally put an end to their pillaging.”

“You came here,” Klaus repeated. “You’re saying you’re…” He couldn’t even say it, it sounded so ridiculous.

“Yes. Now, I understand that you feel frustrated, Klaus, but if the Oblivion has gotten scouts to the planet, it’s only a matter of time, months at best, before the vessel will arrive to make way for the rest of the fleet. If they get a signal out to the fleet, humanity will be enslaved as my people were as well. They will devour the entire planet like locusts in mere decades.”

Klaus tried to think of something sensible to say to that. “What was in the box?” he asked, at a loss for anything else to say.

“Nothing,” Reginald replied.

Klaus stared at him, ears crackling with rage. He pointed at Five. “You’re telling me—“

“Despite what you may think, I’m not unsympathetic to the things your brother has been through. However, that is unimportant at the moment. The box was a decoy. They will try again.”

“Why?”

“They will be looking for my monocle,” Reginald said. “Which, coincidentally is proof of what I’ve told you today. It has the capability to show intersections of space time – the history and future of the things it sees. Grace will be able to tell you where to find it, and when you do, please find the star chart located beneath my desk. The monocle will show you where my home once was.”

“Okay,” Klaus said. “Sure, I’ll humor you, even though you’ve done nothing right in your entire life.”

“I brought the seven of you together, didn’t I?”

“Ha,” Klaus managed. “Fuck you, Dad.”

“I do apologize for the mistakes I’ve made along the way,” Reginald said. “But it was not easy to prepare you for what was to come.”

“Apology denied,” Klaus hissed. “Now go away.”

And with that, Reginald was gone.

Klaus turned around to look at his extremely shell-shocked brothers.

“What the fuck was that?” Five asked, eyes wide, arms crossed tightly over his chest. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah,” Klaus said. To be honest, he felt rather dizzy. Apparently manhandling a ghost was not, per se, a good idea.

“You just… Y-You just pushed Dad!” Diego hissed under his breath.

Klaus leaned in. “Diego. He’s dead, he can’t hear you or hurt you.”

“I feel like watching that should have been satisfying and yet it was just bizarrely terrifying,” Five muttered, staring into nothing.

Klaus rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, whatever, Anyway, Dad says he’s an alien so we’ve got to go home and deal with that,” he informed them. He was shaking all over and drenched in cold sweat, and he really just wanted to get this over with.

“Okay, sure, but what are you,” Diego whispered.

**

“What?” Allison blurted.

“Look, I’m really not going to repeat all that,” Klaus said, hands over his face. He looked exhausted.

“I just. I mean… existentially,” Allison managed.

“Five?” Vanya asked, for lack of a better response. He was pale, legs drawn up onto the couch. Klaus had skirted around how he’d gotten to his apartment and what had happened there, which meant the fallout had probably been bad. “You okay?”

“I don’t know,” Five murmured.

“Do you need anything?” Luther asked.

“No,” Five said.

“Do you need to talk?” Vanya asked. Her gut was telling her not to leave him alone right now, if only because he looked so small. Now that the initial shock had worn off, she could usually tell how much older he was than when he’d left, no matter what he looked like, but right now he just seemed exactly like the kid that had stormed out all those years ago.

“I’m not going to have the answers you all want,” he mumbled. “So forget about it.”

“Five,” she said again. “Talk to us.”

He glowered at her. “Fine,” he said. “If you insist.” He sat up straight, holding out his hands. They were shaking badly. “This has been going on for a while. I thought it might be a side effect of time travel that was being exacerbated by stress, and I’ve been waiting to see if it goes away, but today it’s been awful, and my head’s been hurting like it’s being split open. I’m trying to think through it, but I can’t.”

“Can’t?” she asked.

“I can’t,” he said. “I can’t remember either apocalypse.”

“What?” Allison blurted. “What are you talking about?”

“I mean, I know there are two other versions of me in my head,” Five said. “Normally, they… mix. They oscillate in a way that they’re all but indistinguishable from each other. But it’s like today I’ve been dropped into some kind of… potential box, and now I can’t oscillate to those other states. I’m stuck in the 13 year old version of me.”

“So you’re… you’re actually 13 right now?” Klaus asked.

“Yes,” Five muttered. When they all moved to fret like they might over a child, he added a hurried, “Technically. My point is, this hasn’t happened before. And because I can’t remember yesterday, I can’t help but wonder if I time travelled yesterday, and if so, how much. But I don’t know those things, and there’s a whole multitude of other variables I only learned to account for when I was older, and I can’t remember those either.”

“So?” Ben asked, leaning in.

“So, I’m trying to do the math here,” Five said. “But I don’t have enough information.”

“Math about what?” Vanya pressed.

“About whether or not my own powers are killing me or not.”

Silence fell over the room.

“You’re saying you might be dying?” Allison managed.

Vanya blinked. As much as she wanted to panic, she still had a hunch. She moved closer, taking Five’s wrist into her hands and pressing her fingers to his pulse. It was racing wildly, and his skin was clammy.

“I don’t know,” Five said. “I’m still trying to figure it out.”

“Wait, hang on,” Klaus said. “Last night you remembered everything.”

“Yes, well,” Five said. “If it’s degenerative, that’s an even worse sign.”

Everyone started talking at once, the clamor kicking up a storm under her skin. “Quiet!” she snapped. They listened, amazingly, and she turned back to Five. “Are you feeling anxious at all?”

He laughed. “No,” he murmured. “I probably should, but I’m just… trying to calculate my chances here.”

“You’re not dying,” she said, sitting back. “You’re having a panic attack.”

Five snorted. “I’m not lying to you, Vanya, I’m really not scared. I’m—“

“Detached?” she said. “Being convinced you’re dying, high pulse, shaking, sweat… that’s five common panic attack symptoms, and generally it’s considered a panic attack after four.”

Five stared at her, getting the same look in his eyes as he had when she’d suggested the apocalypse was in his head.

“I’m not trying to be dismissive, Five,” she said. “But I just think a panic attack is a lot more likely. I mean, why would they have you time travel to steal a box?”

“And you haven’t been itchy, right?” Klaus said. “Or jetlagged, like you said.”

“I’m not panicking,” Five snapped. “I’m not scared!”

I heard a rumor that if you are having a panic attack, it’s fading away now,” Allison said.

The shaking stopped.

Five stared at his hands. “Oh.”

Vanya nodded. “Yeah. I’ve talked to several therapists. Sometimes I know what I’m talking about.”

“Oh, fuck,” Klaus said, recognition sparking in his face. “It’s because I yelled at Dad, isn’t it? Your memories were fine until I did, right?”

“No,” Five muttered, pulling his knees back up. “They’re back now anyway, so we have to deal with the question of whether or not Dad’s actually an alien.”

“What?” Diego said. “No. You literally reverted to a 13 year old because Klaus yelled at Dad? No way we’re dropping that. What did he do to you?”

“Oh, come on,” Five said. “I’m not scared of Dad!”

“Uh, we’re all scared of Dad,” Luther said. “Even I’m scared of Dad, and Dad actually kind of liked me.” He looked at the rest of them awkwardly. “That… wasn’t a brag, I’m just saying.”

Five glared at him. “Well then. There you go. We’re all scared of Dad, he was shitty to all of us. Case closed. Now can we get back to the important things?”

“No we cannot,” Allison said severely. “Five.”

 “I can tell you some of my punishments first if it’ll help,” Luther offered. He glanced at the rest of them, looking absurdly out of his element. “Just so… you know. You don’t feel on the spot? Or not, whatever helps.”

“Unlike the rest of you, I can actually pay attention to more than one thing at a time,” Five snapped. “I know what he did to all of you.”

“Then why don’t we know what he did to you?” Ben asked.

Five groaned. “Fine.” He put his feet down on the floor, haughty. “If it helps us get back on track, I’ll tell you. When I was still young enough, he’d hit me. I was the only one he actually hit to hurt, so it was easy enough to realize it was because he wanted me to learn to jump out of danger before I got hurt. So I did.”

“Jesus,” Allison muttered.

 Vanya crossed her arms, staying quiet.

“And once I could jump faster than he could hit me, he told me how he planned his training schedules,” Five said. “They were split into two parts. Numbers One through Three, and Numbers Four through Six.”

He gave Vanya an apologetic look, and she shrugged him away. For once, she didn’t want this to be about her.

“Within those blocks, he distributed the amount of time we all spent in our respective training by behavior, results, and circumstances. Meaning that if I kept his attention, good or bad, then did as I was told during training, I could train two or three times as much as Ben or Klaus.”

“What the fuck,” Ben said. “Training was hell for all of us. Why would you do that?”

“Because I actually wanted to get ahead,” Five bit back. “You and Klaus didn’t like your powers, I did. It made sense.”

“What about the mausoleum?” Klaus asked. “What’d he do to you after that?”

“Mausoleum?” Luther asked.

“Dad used to lock me in the mausoleum at night to make me be less scared of dead people,” Klaus said casually.

“How is that supposed to work?” Vanya asked.

“The guy intentionally made your life miserable because you were too powerful. How’s anything he does supposed to work?” he said, cheerful as ever.

“Okay I…” Luther put up a hand to gesture helplessly. “Okay, so we’re devoting a whole other day to Klaus’… everything, but… for now… what’s he talking about, Five?”

Five sighed. “When I found out that’s where he was sending Klaus, I decided to sneak in, stay with him until Dad came to let him out, so he would be less scared.” He rolled his eyes. “Except of course, Dad knew I’d do that, and he caught me before I could.”

“Oh, of course,” Klaus laughed. “It was so obvious you’d risk your ass to make me feel better, I definitely knew about it.”

“And?” Diego hedged.

“I’m already getting to it, you don’t have to be annoying about it,” Five hissed. “After that, Dad said since I clearly didn’t understand the severity and importance of our training, it was time to step mine up. At the time I was jumping away from bullets, and we were using paint pellets to do it. The more paint I had on me, the worse the punishment.”

“Great,” Ben muttered. “That’s healthy.”

“Anyway, after the mausoleum incident, we switched to body armor and real bullets.”

“What?” Allison blurted.

“That alone would have been fine,” Five said, like he actually thought so. “I was good at it by then. But I was pissed about Klaus, and when I talked back to Dad, he threatened to give Ben my punishment instead, so I was even more pissed, and finally I told him I wasn’t scared, because he was too much of a coward to kill me anyway.”

They stared at him. Vanya could imagine Five saying something like that all too well. It hadn’t seemed quite so dangerous when he’d done it as a kid.

“So he showed me exactly how effective body armor is at point blank range,” Five said, shrugging. “Several times.”

“Jesus,” Diego said. “When you were twelve? That’s enough to break—“

“—most of my ribs? Yes. And of course, I still had to do the training or yield my time to Ben and Klaus, so I broke a few more during.”

“Of course,” Ben breathed, incredulous.

“Jesus Christ,” Klaus said. “Because you tried to help me?”

“Because Dad’s an ass,” Five said. “See? This is exactly why I didn’t tell you.”

“You should have told us!” Luther snapped. “Five, tell me you didn’t come out on missions with broken ribs without telling any of us! That could have been dangerous for all of us, especially you!”

“No,” Five scoffed. “I got into an argument with Diego the next day, and he pushed me, so my lung collapsed and I had to jump over to Mom and convince her to tell all of you I was sick.”

“Y-Your what did what,” Diego managed.

“Five, that’s not… What the fuck,” Allison said.

Vanya realized her mouth was open and closed it quickly.

“Oh, come on,” Five snapped. “How many bones have all of you broken? It’s not like I was the only one.”

“We all knew when someone else broke a bone!” Ben shouted. “And we didn’t get them from Dad because we were standing up for each other! And we didn’t take so many literal bullets for each other that we’d meltdown at the thought of one of our siblings standing up to him for us for a change!”

“I didn’t meltdown!” Five shouted back. “And besides! Someone had to stand up for all of you! Without me, Allison and Luther would have never had time together after missions. And you would have all had to stand in for target practice for Diego way more, and Dad would have found out every time he missed by a few millimeters—“

“You lied about that?” Diego asked, horrified. “I was hitting you?”

“You barely nicked me,” Five said dismissively. “And of course I lied. Why would I tell Dad anything like that? I lied to him all the time for you guys. Whenever I ignored Luther’s orders and the mission went better, or vice versa. Or when I was late to training because I was talking to Vanya, which by the way, none of you did after I was gone.”

“You told me you didn’t have anything else to do!” Vanya blurted. “Five, I wouldn’t have wanted you to get punished over me!”

“Which is why I didn’t tell you!” He crossed his arms, shoving himself back into the couch petulantly. “Besides, it’s not like this was all out of altruism. I was smarter than all of you, including Dad, and faster, and more resilient, so yeah. I stuck up for all of you. Because someone had to, and I thought I was better than all of you.”

They all looked at each other, but it was Vanya who finally managed to voice their thoughts. “Maybe you were right.”

Five looked dumbstruck for a split second before looking away, seeming annoyed. “Fine, whatever. I’m better than all of you, glad we agree. Now can we finally find that stupid monocle and get on with our lives?”

After a long time, Vanya managed a small, “Sure, Five. If that’s what you want.”

Chapter Text

“Jesus,” Luther said. “I can’t believe I looked through this office a hundred times and never noticed this thing.”

“So there is a latch there?” Diego said.

“Yeah, it’s back behind the panel, I can’t reach it,” Luther said.

Five sighed and pushed past him, crawling under the desk. There was some fumbling, then Five reappeared beside them with the monocle. He handed it to Luther, pressing the heel of his hand to his head and hissing.

“You okay?” Vanya asked.

Five nodded with a grimace that didn’t do much to prove his point. “Just the headache from before,” he said. “Jumping didn’t help.”

“Maybe you should sit down,” she offered.

He shook his head. “It’s fine,” he said. “It’s getting better. It’ll probably be gone after I get some sleep, but first…” He looked at Luther, who was peering through the monocle. “Well?”

“I don’t see anything,” Luther said.

“Give me,” Diego snapped, snatching it out of his hands. He squinted through it. “Yeah, nothing.”

“Okay, so Dad’s a crazy person,” Klaus said, sitting onto the desk. “I mean… we probably should have realized that sooner, right?”

“Look, something is going on,” Diego said, letting Allison take the monocle out of his hands to inspect it. “I mean, Vanya’s glowing man, Five getting practically abducted…”

“Shit,” Vanya hissed. “I thought I saw the guy outside the restaurant when we met after Claire’s museum visit, but then I convinced myself I was imagining it. That must have been when they noticed Five’s jumping.” She looked at Five apologetically.

Five shrugged. “If they were following  you, they would have seen it eventually,” he said. “But Diego is right, there’s too much going on to dismiss all of Dad’s theories.”

“Aliens is as good an explanation as any,” Luther muttered. “I mean, after everything else we’ve seen, it’s not that weird, right?”

“I’m fine with aliens,” Klaus said. “It’s Dad being an alien that I can’t get behind. I mean, maybe it’s time to face the facts – Dad was just a sad old man who kind of lost it.”

“But he knew things about the people who did this,” Diego said, gesturing at Five.

“Did he?” Klaus asked. “I mean, the only proof he has that he’s not a raving lunatic didn’t pan out, so how do we know anything he says is true?”

“I know we’re all mad at Dad right now,” Ben said. “But he must have got all this Oblivion bullshit from somewhere, right?”

“I hate to say it, but yeah. Ben’s right,” Luther said. “I mean, even if he’s kind of nuts, maybe there’s some fragments of truth in what he’s saying.”

“He is our only lead right now,” Diego said.

“That’s easy for you guys to say,” Klaus replied. “None of you have to talk to him! I’m the one who has to ask all your questions, and I say he’s a raving lunatic that shot a 12 year old for caring about his brother.”

“I was wearing—“

“Five, I love you dearly, but this whole mausoleum thing is kind of a bombshell for me and my entire life, and if you don’t shut the fuck up, I’m going to lose my mind,” Klaus replied, gripping Five’s shoulder and shaking him gently.

Five closed his mouth with a sullen look.

“Thank you,” Klaus said. “Look, I’m not trying to be a stick in the mud here, but I just don’t know if I can look Dad in his cold, dead eyes and ask him about aliens after finding out even more of the shit he’s done, knowing that he’s not even—“

Allison cut him off with a small shriek, fumbling to catch the monocle she’d dropped before it hit the ground. They all stared at her. “It has a latch,” she managed.

“Are you okay?” Luther asked.

“Yeah,” she breathed. “I just… Jesus. Klaus.”

“What?” Klaus asked, bewildered.

Ben frowned at her, then snatched the monocle from her hands, squinting at Klaus. “Oh, man. It’s like the hotel room all over again.”

“It’s always like this?” Allison hissed.

“What are you guys talking about?” Klaus asked.

“You are surrounded by dead people,” Allison said.

“Yeah, I know,” Klaus said. “I mean I’m not really seeing any now, but they’re kind of…” He waved his hand aimlessly in the air. “Wait, does it really work?” He leaped off the desk to make grabby hands at her.

“It works,” Ben said, grinning.

“Let me see,” Five said, reaching for it.

Ben pulled out of his reach and looked at him. “Oh my god, there’s three of you.”

“I know,” Five hissed. “Let me see.”

Allison looked over Ben’s shoulder, squinting. “Oh my god.”

“Old you looks like a crazy hobo,” Ben said.

“I lived in the apocalypse under a tarp, why are you surprised?”

Klaus dashed forward to grab the monocle. “You can see old him? Let me look!” He held it up between his fingers and peered through it.

Streaks of blue surrounded Five, glowing bright. Small swirls of light surrounded his hands, flickering from his fingers to various points around the room like a swarm of lightning bugs. Between the flickers, however, Five’s body had three blue afterimages that became more apparent whenever he moved.

They all seemed to mirror Five’s motions and expressions, like ghosts with no agency of their own, but there was a slightly different air to each of them, and they flickered and strengthened as Five’s expression changed, like his emotions and thoughts were – as he’d said – oscillating between the three so quickly it couldn’t be traced.

The 58 year old version looked like it had just wandered out of a junk yard with a shopping cart full of cans and a THE END IS NIGH cardboard sign, which was unsurprising. The 27 year old version, however, was more familiar. It still looked like Five, clean-shaven and still young looking, but Klaus’ heart squeezed as he realized this Five was almost the same age as them. He was still slightly shorter than Klaus, still had the sharp brows and sleek hair that fell in his eyes, about as messy as it could get.

There were a lot of things Klaus felt at the moment, about how Five looked even more tired as an adult, about how unfair it was that Five hadn’t grown up with them, about how bizarre it had to be for Five to have two lifetimes crammed into his head with a 13 year old shadow just to throw him off. Instead, he just said, “Damn, 27 year old you could get it.”

“Gross,” Five said, and snatched the monocle from his hand.

“I’m just saying. You really got a lot of mileage out of your whole grumpy baby face thing,” Klaus said. “It’s pretty sexy on an adult face.”

“Please shut up.”

“How are you still a virgin?”

“I’m begging you to stop talking.”

“No way there weren’t a ton of people into you in timeline two,” Klaus continued, just to annoy Five. “I bet you had a fanclub. The hot, genius guy with superpowers…”

“You’re disgusting,” Five said, then grinned almost despite himself as he looked at Ben. “Shit.”

“What?” Klaus said. “Let me see!”

“You just had it!”

“Hey, I haven’t gotten to look at all,” Diego said, grappling with Five as Five elbowed back, the two of them griping at each other until Diego finally managed to wrestle the monocle away and look around. “Ohoho, man, look at Vanya! You’re a fucking furnace, sis.” He shoved the monocle at Luther. “Look!”

Luther looked at her, whistling, then at Five. “Oh, wow, Five,” he said. “You’re all grown up.”

“So I keep telling all of you,” Five said, huffing and crossing his arms.

“I know, but seeing it is…” He took a deep breath and handed the monocle to Vanya, who laughed and put a hand over her mouth at the sight of Five.

“Can’t believe you actually had a point about the monocle,” Diego said.

“Me neither,” Luther said. “Shit, do you think the moon mission really did have a point?”

“No,” Vanya said. “Probably not. I mean, he already knew aliens were coming, right, he didn’t need you there to tell him, did he?”

He winced. “Yeah. It was Dad,” he admitted, glancing at Five.

“Wow, Ben,” Vanya said, distracted. “Oh, god, and Klaus.” She grimaced, pulling the monocle away from her eye. “Oh, ew, that’s a lot of gore.”

“I know,” Klaus said cheerfully, grabbing the monocle before anyone else could and whirling around to look at Ben. “Cool.”

“What?” Ben asked.

His torso glowed blue in a pattern that could only be described as a portal. If Klaus stood just right, he could look inside and see glimpses of the tentacles, swirling in a space far bigger than Ben. “You’re a portal, man.”

“What?” Allison said. “Let me see!”

“Wait, no, I have to look at Vanya!” Klaus said, whirling around. Vanya did glow through her entire body, the light ebbing and flowing in time with her heartbeat. “You’re a star.”

She smiled slightly at that. “Don’t start talking about how sexy I am,” she warned. “I’ll hurt you.”

“Well, don’t worry, once he grows up again, Five is going to be the sexiest of all of us,” Klaus said.

“I wish you were mute,” Five sighed.

“Except for me, of course,” Klaus said. “Obviously, I’m taking myself out of consideration to be fair to the rest of you.”

“Excuse you, I’m clearly the prettiest in the family,” Allison said. “I was in People magazine. Now give me that, I want to look at Ben.” She snatched the monocle out of Klaus’ hands.

“How dare you,” Klaus said, playfully elbowing her while she tried to look.

The bickering over the monocle continued until everyone had gotten a very good look at everyone else. Klaus didn’t mind the fact that he couldn’t see his own power – it was just dead people, which he saw all the time anyway – but the rest were fascinating.

Luther’s muscles glowed with every movement. Diego had thousands of phantom trajectories extending from his fingers that looked almost as much like tentacles as Ben’s actual tentacles. Allison’s throat and mouth glowed, distorting reality around her when she spoke. Vanya glowed even fiercer whenever anyone whistled, Klaus had almost caught a glimpse of something more inside Ben, and Five had confiscated the monocle from him permanently when he’d started noticing that their bickering and wrestling over the monocle made his 13 year old afterimage the strongest.

“Oh, god,” Klaus said, finally. “Dad’s really an alien.”

The rest of them stared at him, the excitement of the monocle dying down and making them realize that it had been a long day.

“Shit,” Diego said. “Dad’s an alien.”

“You know, when you think about it,” Vanya said slowly, staring at the wall across from her. “It kind of makes our miserable lives pretty funny.”

“What?” Allison said, making a face. “How?”

Vanya looked her dead in the eyes. “I’m emotionally closed off because when I was a kid, an alien told me I’m not special.”

Allison’s face twisted as she tried not to laugh. “Okay, when you say it like that it’s kind of funny, I guess, but…”

“I got addicted to drugs because an alien locked me in a mausoleum,” Klaus said.

Allison bit her lip, and Five hid a grin behind his fist.

“I’m insecure because an alien said my brother was better than me,” Diego said.

“Oh, come on, that’s not…” Luther said softly, but Ben snorted loudly, and he clearly couldn’t help smiling when even Diego laughed.

“We have zero human parents,” Ben whispered. “We were raised by an alien, a robot, and a chimpanzee.”

“Oh, oh, picture this,“ Klaus said excitedly. “Tabloid headline. I died in a furry-filled nightclub and the afterlife was just an alien in a barbershop.”

Five choked and curled in on himself with uncontrollable, quiet laughter, and that was the last straw for all of them.

“I got turned into a gorilla by an alien,” Luther wheezed, unable to keep his voice above a desperate squeak through the laughter.

“I was selfish and attention seeking because I couldn’t gain the love of an alien,” Allison blurted, letting out a snort of laughter that had Klaus on the floor, struggling to breathe.

Five gasped for air between bouts of laughter. “My head hurts so bad I’m going to puke if I keep laughing,” he managed.

“Well, you were abducted by aliens yesterday,” Ben said, before dissolving into giggles. “So that makes sense.”

“Got caught up in an alien t-turf war,” Diego managed.

Five slumped onto the floor, holding his ribs as he laughed.

“Oh my god,” Allison said, wiping away tears. “Okay.” She tried and failed to swallow down giggles. “Alright. We need to… to…” She snorted even louder this time in an attempt to stop laughing.

Five let out a strangled noise, clumsily rolling to the nearest wastebasket to dry heave into it, wiping away tears of laughter.

“Alright,” Luther said, taking deep breaths to calm himself. “Alright, it’s bedtime for the little guy.”

Five flipped him off. “I’m okay,” he said weakly, laughter fading with some difficulty. “I’m not going to puke, I just haven’t laughed this hard in decades.”

Luther hummed indulgently, sweeping Five into his arms.

“I can walk,” Five protested.

“I know,” Luther said, positioning him comfortably against his shoulder. “Who’s staying with him tonight?”

“This is ridiculous,” Five muttered, coughing with the remnants of laughter.

“I will,” Ben said.

“I’m fine!”

“Tough, buddy,” Diego said. “How’s your head?”

“Like someone drove a railway spike into it,” Five muttered.

“I’ll bring some water and food up for you.”

“I’m fine.”

“Hey, our brother was abducted by aliens,” Klaus said. “Cut us some slack.”

“God, fine,” Five said, undercutting his point with a yawn. “If it’s what you assholes need.”

“Yep.” Vanya said. “We’re in desperate need to coddle you.”

“You use the word coddle anywhere near me again and I’m going to sneak into your apartment every night to get all your violins hopelessly out of tune.”

“Wow,” she said dryly. “I feel really threatened right now.”

He mumbled at her indistinctly, already half asleep.

**

Klaus yawned as he trudged up the stairs to go knock on Five’s door. It was already open and he could hear Ben and Five talking quietly. Five still looked half asleep, which was probably the only reason he was still sprawled halfway on top of Ben while they talked.

“I think when you really need to, you’ll manage,” Ben said. “You’re still you, you know?”

“I know,” Five murmured. “But it feels like every bit of progress is like pulling teeth, and I’m not going to be able to pull myself together until something goes horribly wrong and my favorite half of the family dies, or something.”

“You have a favorite half?”

“You, Vanya and Klaus, obviously,” Five said.

“What, no Luther to carry you around when you’re tired?”

“You have to make tough choices for favoritism sometimes,” Five said, both of them laughing softly.

They looked up when Klaus knocked. “Good morning. What were you guys talking about?”

“Various apocalypses,” Ben said. “And the like.”

“How’s your head?” Klaus asked Five.

Five sat up, yawning. “Fine,” he said. “Hand me a water bottle, though.”

Klaus ducked to get some of the water under Five’s bed and toss him one of the bottles. “I’m heading out to work,” he said. “Diego wants me to check out some guy’s apartment.” He tweaked Five’s cheek. “You going to be okay?”

Five nodded. “Ben and I are going to see if we can use the monocle to find anything else in Dad’s notes about this whole alien thing.”

“You sure you’re up for more saving the world shenanigans?” Klaus asked.

Five shrugged. “Ben will be there to pick up the pieces if I…” He cleared his throat, communicating with his eyes that he was thinking of how panicked he’d been in Klaus’ apartment. “You know.”

“Okay,” Klaus said. “Ben’s a pretty good breakdown companion, so I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

Five rolled his eyes. “Just go to work.”

“Love you, bro,” Klaus said, scampering out of the room as he blew a kiss at Ben.

Ben waved at him, smiling, and Five waved his hand in his general direction like he was an annoying fly, but Klaus didn’t miss the endeared look on his face.

He hurried down the stairs to catch Diego, leaping into the back seat.

“Did you sleep here?” Diego asked.

“Yeah, in the basement,” Klaus said. “I put up some Christmas lights and it’s honestly not that bad for a horrible containment unit.”

“God, your lives are so fucked up,” Eudora said. “Please don’t tell me any more details.”

“Our Dad’s an alien,” Diego said, a smile teasing at his lips.

“Yeah, so you’ve said,” she sighed. “Like, fifteen times.”

“I can’t get over it.”

“Honestly, I’m not even surprised.”

“I’m not either,” Klaus said.

Diego scoffed as he started the car. “Yesterday you were calling him a lunatic.”

“He is a lunatic!” Klaus protested. “But I slept on it, and I’m not seeing red anymore, and honestly… It explains why he was so confused that we were, like, human children. Maybe alien kids don’t have feelings.”

“Nah,” Diego said. “I’m guessing he’s a dick even among aliens.”

Klaus shrugged. “Well, whatever. What’s up with this Perseus man?”

Eudora chuckled to herself. “He’s a CEO. We got a call about suspicious noises and found some bloody glass in his apartment. The blood on the glass is his, but Diego says the kitchen lights up under a blacklight, so something happened there.”

“Maybe he had an orgy,” Klaus said.

“Klaus,” Diego said, sighing softly. “Shut up.”

“I don’t think it was an orgy,” Eudora said. “Anyway, the staff says he’s been acting weird and he offered to pay off a cop to get them to stop poking around the place. So it doesn’t look good.”

“Yeah, that would be a weird reaction to an orgy,” Klaus said, nodding sagely. He sat back, yawning. The basement was not nearly as comfortable as his own apartment, but he hadn’t wanted to leave Five or deal with dead people and dream walking.

It was oddly uplifting, though, to be so used to pleasant sleep that he could feel disappointed about a bad mattress. What a life.

Diego pulled up in front of the building, leading Klaus inside.

“This is Fred Masters,” he said. “He’s Perseus’ assistant.”

“Hello,” Masters said. “You’re…?”

“A consultant,” Klaus said. “I’m just here to look around.”

“Right,” Masters said, looking at the nearest security camera nervously. “Right this way.”

Klaus sighed, inspecting the gleaming elevator while Diego and Eudora talked to Masters about something in hushed tones.

They finally joined him, continuing to whisper. Klaus wondered what Ben and Five were doing. They were probably having more fun than he was. Unless Five was melting down, in which case Klaus wanted to be there to help.

Masters let them into the apartment, then hurried off with a terse smile.

Eudora and Diego started on checking the kitchen, while Klaus wandered around. The apartment was hideous, but hideous in the way that probably cost a lot of money, all sharp grey angles and weird art.

Klaus pushed in the door to the bedroom, startling when someone was standing in the window, staring out at the city.

“Oh,” he said, clearing his throat. “You must be Mr. Perseus.”

The man turned to look at him, looking confused. “Yes, I am. And you are?”

“Uh, I’m… My name is Klaus Hargreeves. I’m the consultant Detective Patch mentioned? Sorry, I didn’t mean to poke around.”

“No, by all means,” Perseus said, face hard to read. “This is a police investigation, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Klaus said. “Sort of. More of an inquiry. Don’t worry about it.”

He’d been instructed to tell Perseus that they were just trying to find out who might be sending phony tips, rather than give away that they were looking for the ghost of a possible murder victim.

“I see,” Perseus said. “I was under the impression that it was coming to a close.”

“Well yes,” Klaus said awkwardly. “But, you know, I have a knack for things, and…” He trailed off, not sure what to say. He looked around for Diego and Eudora. Weren’t they going to tell Perseus they were here.

Diego rounded the corner, pinching his shoulder lightly. “Hey, Masters just called up, Perseus is on his way up.”

Klaus opened his mouth, then closed it. He looked at Perseus, then back at Diego, who wasn’t looking into the room at Perseus, then, slowly, opened his mouth again. “Ex-squeeze me?” he managed.

Chapter Text

Diego looked at Klaus, who was chewing at his thumb whenever he thought Perseus wasn’t looking, glancing at Diego awkwardly whenever he could, as though waiting for an opening.

Eudora had noticed too, and she led Perseus into the kitchen.

Klaus lurched close to Diego. “We gotta get out of –“ He turned to the side to hiss at something – or someone – invisible, “Oh my god, shut up, I’m working on it – out of here. Like, yesterday.”

“What?” Diego asked. “Why?”

Klaus bounced beside him anxiously. “Nowww,” he hissed.

Diego groaned. “Okay, okay, fine.” He leaned into the kitchen. “Hey, Eudora, the uh… station called. We gotta go.”

“Okay,” she said, hiding her bewilderment well. “Well, at any rate, I think we’ve got what we need. We’ll try to find out who’s been sending these tips about you and why, Mr. Perseus.”

“Right,” Perseus said, gesturing towards the door for them to leave.

Klaus all but dashed out the door the moment Diego opened it.

“What is going—“ Diego started once they were safely in the elevator, but Klaus shushed him desperately.

Eudora and Diego exchanged looks, but they stayed quiet, waiting until they were in the car.

“Okay, now will you tell us what that was about?” Diego asked.

Klaus pointed at the other half of the back seat, a glowing figure suddenly bursting to life where he pointed. Diego and Eudora startled back, then leaned closer. “Diego, Eudora,” Klaus said. “This is actually John Perseus.”

“Hello,” Perseus’ ghost said, looking as confused as Diego felt.

“Shit,” Eudora managed. “Then who…”

“My guess? An alien wearing a man’s skin like a suit,” Klaus said. “Or something. It was dark when John here died so we don’t really know. Anyway, listen, I can’t do this forever, you’re going invisible again, buddy.”

Perseus tried to say something, but he was gone before he got it out, Klaus sitting back with a tired exhale. “Yeah, I know, man,” he said to the empty seat. “But you’re dead, so suck it up.”

“Uh,” Eudora said. “So what… uh… what do we…?” She looked at Diego, who was just as lost.

“Well, first, I assume you’ll want to talk to our friend John here,” Klaus said. “Which I’m not doing until I’ve gotten a clean change of clothes and brushed my teeth, because yesterday I really wore myself out punching Dad and then I slept in a containment bunker.”

“You said it wasn’t that bad!” Diego protested.

“I have very low standards!” Klaus replied. “Come on, Diego, just drop me off, I’ll meet you at home.”

“At home?” Diego asked, frowning.

“Yeah,” Klaus said. “He’s a dead guy who was murdered by a doppelganger, that feels like a Hargreeves family thing.”

Eudora groaned. “Klaus…”

“I’m just saying,” Klaus said. “If you draw the jurisdiction lines by how weird shit gets…”

“There are no jurisdiction lines!” Eudora protested. “You don’t have jurisdiction!”

“Eudora,” Diego said. “Come on, this is… I mean, I don’t think we have a form for prosecuting doppelgangers.”

She leaned over the dashboard, screaming into her hands. “Okay,” she said. “God, fine. You can question him, but you tell me everything and you’re doing the paperwork. And you’re doing it right, not half-assing it, got it?”

“Yes,” Diego said good-naturedly. He would ask Beaman to help him figure out the details later.

“Good,” she said. “Then drop me off at the station, I’m going to get some work done on something less… nuts.”

“Okay,” Diego said. “Sounds like a plan.”

**

“Hey, family meeting,” Diego said, rapping on Luther’s door.

Luther looked up from his book. “What, now?”

“Yeah,” Diego said. “We’ve got new alien funny business and Vanya’s already on her way over.”

Luther groaned, heaving himself out of bed. “Okay, coming.”

Diego thundered back down the stairs, and Luther sighed, pulling on his jacket and heading after him.

He wandered down, finding Five and Ben already sitting at the table. “How’s the search going?” he asked.

“We haven’t found much,” Five said. “Ben’s university might be able to get some information about what our murder suicide group was working on, but no such luck with Dad’s notes. But we did determine that I am definitely better at quantum physics than him. His predictions about how my time travelling works were way off.”

“Great,” Luther said, drawing up a chair. “That’s a start. Good job.”

Allison joined them next, yawning and checking her watch until Vanya came in the door. “Okay, what’s happening?” she asked.

Diego looked around. “Where the hell is Klaus?” he muttered, looking out the windows. He sighed when he came up with nothing. “Well, whatever, I’ll catch you up to speed until he gets here.”

Vanya sat down next to Allison, putting her violin down as she looked at Diego questioningly.

“Okay, so, Eudora and I have been investigating a guy named John Perseus. Something suspicious happened, his staff called the police, he said nothing was wrong, etc, etc, we called Klaus in to check it out, and turns out,” Diego said, turning a chair around so he could sit on it backwards, “the guy we were talking to? Not John Perseus.”

“Then who was he?” Luther asked.

“Well, that’s a good question,” Diego said. “But John Perseus is definitely dead. Klaus talked to him, didn’t even realize until not-Perseus walked in.”

“Yeah, that’s Klaus alright,” Ben muttered.

“We’re thinking the doppelganger might be one of Dad’s buddies,” Diego said, pointing upwards.

“Where is Klaus?” Five asked.

“He went home to change and brush his teeth,” Diego said. “Said he’d meet us here.”

“What, alone?” Five blurted. “They’ve been following us, what if they recognized him?”

“If they saw you at the restaurant, they wouldn’t have,” Vanya interjected. “Klaus was at Dave’s, and Diego was at work.”

Pogo cleared his throat behind them, making them all turn.

“I don’t mean to interrupt,” Pogo said. It was awkward at best to have him staying in the house without any of them knowing what to say to him about Reginald and related disasters, but he’d been giving them all a wide berth lately. It was getting harder and harder to stay mad at him as a result. He looked so much older than Luther remembered. “But I noticed that you’ve been using the monocle.”

“Dad told us to,” Vanya snapped.

“I suspected as much,” Pogo said. “There were some things he only wanted to tell you after he’d seen it.”

“Great, more secrets Pogo kept for Dad,” Diego muttered. “Hey, maybe just give us a list before they come back to bite us in the ass one by one, huh?”

Pogo cleared his throat severely. “One of them,” he said with a pointed glare, “being your so-called doppelganger. While it’s true that he may not have recognized Master Klaus by his appearance, your father suggested that the person – or entity – capable of such a trick would have considerable technology for genetic recognition.”

“What does that matter?” Five asked. “We’re not related.”

“That is true of all of you but you and Master Klaus, Master Five,” Pogo said. “You two were born to the same mother. If you already had an encounter with these individuals, it’s quite possible they know who Master Klaus is, and possibly even what his powers are.”

“Shit,” Diego said, knocking over his chair in his hurry to run while Five jumped to the nearest phone.

“He’s not picking up,” Five called while Luther hurried to join Diego. “Does anyone know Dave’s number?”

Ben rushed to help him while Diego took off towards the front door. Luther tried to stop him to tell him they needed to get organized, but a quick look at how far he’d already made it told him that wasn’t going to happen. He groaned and ran after him, joining him as he made his way through the front door and down the stairs.

“I’m going to drive down to his place, see if we can catch him on the way home,” Diego said.

“He would have taken the bus,” Luther said, pushing the gate open.

“Yeah, well, if he’s in danger it’ll put us closer to him.”

With a ripple of light, Five joined them. “Dave hasn’t seen or heard from him.”

“He said he’d be right after us,” Diego said. “So either he’s already on his way, or—“He stopped.

Just down the road, past his car, a crowd was forming in the street, a car standing diagonally in the center. Luther met Diego’s eyes, confirming that he and Diego had just had the same bad feeling.

“Stay,” Diego commanded Five, then took off running.

“What?” Five said, moving to follow, but Luther caught him. Five shot him a bewildered look, but Luther was busy watching as Diego pushed his way through the crowd. From here, with Luther’s height, he could see when Diego stopped short. He looked back at Luther, eyes saying everything he needed to know, eyes flickering towards Five for a moment before he looked back at the center of the crowd. “Luther, what’s going on?”

“Go back inside,” Luther said, turning him around as well as he could with his eyes fixed on Diego’s back. Five didn’t need to see this. Not again.

“What are you talking about?” Five said, a small sliver of panic creeping into his tone.

Luther watched Diego’s head drop beneath the rest of the crowd.

“Five, just go back inside, alright?” Luther said, leaning down to Five’s height. “I’m going to be there in a second, just… go back inside.”

Ben ran down the steps. “What’s happening?”

“Take him back inside,” Luther said, pushing Five at him. He had to be with Diego.

“Luther?” Ben asked, staring at Luther as he took Five’s arm and pulling him aside. “What’s happening?”

“I… I don’t know yet,” Luther said. He kicked himself. That was a lie. “But just…” He looked at Five helplessly.

“Luther,” Ben whispered, the realization crawling over his face like some kind of awful creature with far too many teeth. Luther didn’t dare look at him too long. Last time it had been Ben. Last time, for better or worse, Reginald had been there to take over when the realization hit. Last time, Luther had been able to tell himself he’d just been following orders.

“No,” Five said, weakly trying to shake Ben off.  “Let me… I have to…”

“Five,” Luther said. This wasn’t last time. This time he had to be in charge, in the real way that meant knowing what you were doing. The way that he’d never actually been in charge. “You don’t want to see this, just…” He looked at Ben, shaking his head and starting to back up to join Diego. “Just go back inside this time, okay? Just… trust me.”

Ben and Five stared at him, but Luther ignored their devastated looks, running after Diego, pushing aside the crowd to find him.

Diego was crouched beside the car, hand over his face. He looked up at Luther when Luther joined him, neither of them knowing what to say.

He came out of nowhere, I didn’t see him… someone was saying. I don’t know how it happened.

There was blood everywhere.

“Shit,” Luther breathed. “Shit.”

He stumbled to his knees beside Diego.

“I shouldn’t have left him alone,” Diego croaked.

Luther wanted to tell him it wasn’t his fault, but he couldn’t muster words when he was looking at Klaus’ dead body, his blood seeping into the pavement, eyes still open and unseeing.

“I heard a rumor everyone outside this family lost interest in seeing this,” Allison said quietly, Vanya beside her. She looked at the driver, face stony. “You too.”

“Shit,” Luther said again as the crowd dispersed.

Diego collapsed into sitting, staring at Klaus.

“Is Five…?” Luther managed.

“He’s inside with Ben,” Vanya whispered, hugging herself and staying close to Allison.

“Good,” Luther said. “That’s good. He doesn’t… he doesn’t need to see this again.”

“What do we do?” Diego asked, of the general world. “We have to… what do we do?”

Luther stared at Klaus. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I have no idea.”

**

Diego put down his gloves gingerly. “So I’m going to wash off, eat something,” he said, slowly. “Then I’ll head over to the morgue.”

“They took him to the morgue?” Ben croaked, looking up. He felt strangely numb. There was just no way to wrap his head around him being alive and Klaus being… not. “Alone? You can’t let him wake up in the morgue alone, you know he hates it.”

“Ben,” Diego said cautiously. “It’s been hours.”

“So?” Ben said. Last time Klaus had been dead, Ben had all but felt himself fade. He hadn’t felt the same thing, which meant…

Well, it meant nothing. He wasn’t Klaus’ ghost anymore.

“So, I think maybe we need to consider that he’s not coming back,” Diego said, not unkindly. “Last time you said it took minutes, and it’s been…” He shook his head.

The concept of time passing without Klaus being alive was absurd. It could have been hours. It could have been days. It didn’t matter.

“I’m going to go to the morgue as soon as I can,” Diego said. “You can come with, if you want.”

“He shouldn’t be there alone,” Ben repeated. “He hates it.”

“I know,” Diego said. “But there’s only so much I can do. Eudora and I already had to pull all the strings we could to delay an autopsy.”

“You can’t cut him up,” Ben said. “What if he comes back?” He felt like a broken record, but there was just no way to make sense of Klaus being dead forever.

“Ben,” Diego said, but it seemed he’d run out of things to say. “Ten minutes, then I’ll drive you over there and we can wait and see, alright?”

It was not alright. Nothing was alright. Ben didn’t answer. He didn’t have an answer.

Vanya leaned over to take Five’s arm into her hand. He’d been staring at the floor for… well, however long it had been. It had been dark out for a while now, but that was about as much as Ben could determine. “You okay?” she asked softly.

Five looked up slowly, like it took him a moment to put together the fact that she was there.

“No,” he said. “I’m going to be in Klaus’ room for a while.”

He vanished.

Ben wished he could vanish. If he’d still been Klaus’ ghost, he would have vanished.

“Jesus,” Vanya said. Then, because there wasn’t anything good to say, she said, again, “Jesus.”

“You think he’s really gone?” Luther murmured. He looked as stunned as Ben wished he felt. Instead he just felt nothing.

No one answered.

“How am I going to tell Claire?” Allison asked, finally.

Ben leapt to his feet. He couldn’t hear this anymore. He trudged up the stairs, finding himself in front of Klaus’ room.

Five sat cross-legged on his bed, reading the scribbles on Klaus’ walls.

Ben joined him quietly.

How many hours had he spent in here while dead?

Did Klaus get a ghost?

Would he just linger around without any of them able to see him?

Was he trapped with the dead?

What even happened to Klaus and his ghosts when he died?

“Has anyone told Dave yet?” Five croaked.

Ben stared at the floor. Tell him what? That Klaus was dead? First they’d have to tell themselves that.

“Someone should tell Dave,” Five said.

Ben didn’t answer. He wasn’t sure he knew how.

“I think he’s actually gone,” Five continued. “We need to tell Dave.”

Ben swallowed. “I’ll tell Dave,” he said. “In a second.”

 “I bet he still has some weed in here,” Five said, trying for a smile and missing it by a longshot. “It’s tempting.”

“Yeah,” Ben said. He’d never understood Klaus’ insistence on hiding from the dead with drugs as much as he did right now. “I guess it is.”

Still, neither of them moved. Instead, they sat together in silence, Klaus’ room staring back at them, horrendously empty.

**

Klaus sat up, groaning.

Being dead was too similar to being alive, he decided blearily. It was too hard to notice that he must be dead. Granted, the car crashing into him at a million miles per hour had been a pretty good clue, but he didn’t feel very dead now.

It took several seconds of staring out into the colorless world – no trees this time, it was all beach – before he really put two and two together.

He was dead, which was really kind of a bummer.

He sighed, slowly climbing to his feet. The sound of the waves was all off, more like ringing in his ears than actual sound. It was, he decided, pretty unpleasant to be dead.

It could be worse, he supposed. Given how the dead yelled at him, he probably would have guessed it was a lot worse. Maybe being dead was a pleasant surprise, he’d just failed to notice.

Still, he didn’t like it much. There was sand everywhere, and the sun didn’t really exist enough right now to justify all this sand. The beach was best for the good sun, anyway.

He watched a beach ball roll by quietly.

In the distance, he could see a figure standing in the waves.

That was probably god.

She didn’t seem to be joining him this time, so he sighed and trudged after her.

“Hey,” he said. “Hi. I seem to be dead again.”

“You do that a lot,” she said. “I’d really prefer it if you didn’t.”

“You and me both,” he said, before laughing to himself. “Oh, that’s new.” He looked back at her “Hey, why didn’t I ever come back in the apocalypses? Would have been nice to be there for Five.”

“Well, the first time around you were too high,” she said.

“We call it timeline one,” he said. She looked at him like she expected him to have known long ago that she didn’t care what they called it. He sighed. “Okay, fine, that’s fair. What about timeline two?”

“You were shot a lot of times,” she said. “There’s only so much you and I can do.”

“Huh,” Klaus said. “Could have gone back as a ghost, though, right?”

She shrugged. “Why do you think he found your apartment first?”

“Aw, I was haunting him?” Klaus said, putting his hand to his heart. “That’s really sweet.”

She stared at him blankly.

“Speaking of,” he said, looking around. “Can I go back again? We’re kind of working on being better people and more of a family, so I think my brothers and sisters will actually miss me this time.”

“Not yet,” she said.

“What do you mean, not yet?” Klaus said. “Is there like… a schedule for when I can go back? No resurrections on Tuesdays?”

She pointed out at the ocean. A door sat in the waves, removed from anything that would justify a door being there. “Well, that feels bad,” Klaus said. He wasn’t sure what exactly made it feel so bad, but there was something about seeing an inexplicable door in a colorless ocean in the afterlife that felt foreboding.

The waves crashed against it, and it slowly swung open. Klaus couldn’t make out what was behind it, but he didn’t like it one bit, whatever it was.

“There’s something you have to see first,” she said, still pointing.

“Ah,” Klaus said. Slowly, he bent down to take off his shoes so he could wade into the water. “Right.” He looked back at her. “I don’t like you very much.”

She shrugged.

He sighed, and made his way through the door to wherever the hell it was going.

Chapter Text

Klaus gasped violently, lungs protesting at the thought of working again after so much disuse.

His heart was beating ferociously, and it made his chest ache to have his heart speed from zero to well past where it was supposed to be.

“Shit,” he breathed, squeezing his eyes closed to try to block out the memories of the last… god, how long had it been? Did time matter when someone was dead?

He tried to sit up, knocking his head on something.

He blinked, eyes adjusting to the dark.

Nope. No, no, no. There was no way…

He looked to the side. A dead body lay next to him in the dark, naked on a cold metal slab, much like Klaus. “Oh, fuck, fuck fuck,” he whispered, trying not to cry. He just had to get someone’s attention. That was all.

He turned around so he had the leverage to kick at the door of the locker he was in, yelling indistinguishable nonsense in the hopes that someone might hear him. “Hey!” he yelled. “HEY!”

Nothing.

“Fuck,” he whispered, trying to calm his breathing. A dozen images of the mausoleum danced in front of his eyes, and he rubbed at them, trying to clear them.

He rolled over to look at the body. “Hey,” he croaked. “Hey, you, wake up.”

Silence.

Klaus cursed and wriggled until he was turned around, reaching for the tag on the man’s toe. “Fuck,” he whispered, blinking away tears to read it. “Hey. Jacob. Jake? Listen up, man.” He took a deep breath. “I just really need you to fucking listen to me.”

“What?” the man said, ghost rising out of the body to look at Klaus crankily.

“Hey,” Klaus said. “Hi. I need you to help me get this fucking door open.” He patted it.

“I’m dead,” formerly-Jacob informed him.

“I realize that,” Klaus said. “I’m going to make you solid for a couple seconds if you just… go out there and open the goddamn door for me.”

Jacob shrugged, drifting through the doors.

Klaus watched as his fingers drifted through the door.

“Yeah, it’s not working,” Jacob said.

“I’m… I’m fucking working on it,” Klaus said. He needed to breathe and concentrate.

Jacob tried again to no avail. “You sure you can do this?”

Yes,” Klaus hissed. “I’m just freaking out a little, okay? Just get off my back.”

Concentrate. He’d made people solid before. He’d done it plenty of times, he just needed to think. Not about the mausoleum, not about how cold it was and how he was trapped in here alone with a bunch of corpses, not about horrible things lurking behind mysterious doors in the afterlife, just about…

“Fuck,” he whimpered, gasping for air and wiping away tears. “Fuck, shit, Jesus.”

“You okay there?”

“No I am not okay, Jacob,” Klaus snapped. “Just give me a second, I’m having a really rough day, alright?”

Where the fuck was his family?

Now was not the time to think about that. He just had to focus on this random ghost and the door, and making them interact for long enough that he could get out of this damn freezing locker.

“Okay,” he said, gulping down breaths. “Okay, try again.”

The door clicked open.

“Oh thank god,” Klaus whispered into his hands. “Oh, fuck.” He scrambled out of the locker and into the cold room. The lights were off. Not a soul was around. “They fucking left me,” he muttered. He looked at Jacob. “Back me up, here, man, if your family knows you’re scared of morgues and that you can come back from the dead, are they assholes for leaving you alone in one?”

Jacob shrugged. “Sounds pretty shitty to me.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Klaus said. He looked around. They hadn’t even left him clothes. They couldn’t even be assed to leave him clothes, the dysfunctional bastards. “Jesus shit.”

He fumbled his way to the wall where there were several lab coats hanging, grabbing one long enough and wrapping it around himself to try to get some warmth back into his body.

“If I were you, I’d probably give them a piece of my mind,” Jacob said, sitting on the counter.

“You know what, Jacob?” Klaus said, the realization sinking in slowly. He’d sort of been planning on stumbling back to his apartment, but actually, now that Jacob had brought it up, he was starting to see the appeal. They hadn’t even left him fucking clothes just in case. “I think you’re fucking right.”

**

Luther cleared his throat. He wasn’t sure whether it was better to talk or to not talk. The silence felt oppressive, but blundering through something stupid would probably be worse. There was really nothing genuinely comforting to say.

At least Five was back with them instead of cooped up alone. Granted, he had been staring at the kitchen table blankly while curled up in Klaus’ sweater for longer than an hour, but Luther was glad he wasn’t alone. Ben didn’t look much better, slumped in his chair with a bottle of whiskey, but he hadn’t drunk much of it, so Luther didn’t think it was time to take it from him.

Allison had started making food, then stopped at some point to stand quietly over the stove. Vanya had gone to her lessons earlier, then had come right back. Diego had spent the day in the morgue, but he’d wandered back too. Luther didn’t blame him. Every passing hour made it more clear that they were going to have to accept the truth.

At least, he thought to himself, it was sort of encouraging that they were all more upset about Klaus dying than Reginald dying. That made some things feel right in the world.

The phone rang, and no one moved to get it.

Luther cleared his throat again.

The phone continued to ring.

“Jesus, someone get that,” Ben said.

“I’ll get it,” Allison murmured, though she walked slowly to get it, the melancholy air in the room slowing her down as much as the rest of them.

The ringing finally stopped, leaving them in silence again.

Five reached for the bottle of whiskey, and Ben handed it to him. He stared at it blankly, then handed it back without drinking.

Luther had to say something. Anything comforting. Just anything. Right now it felt like they were all alone, even sitting right next to each other, and he had to do something about it. They had to talk about Klaus, or about their feelings, or something.

“Shit,” Allison said, running back in to grab her jacket. “Shit, shit, shit, we fucked up.”

“What?” Diego asked, watching her pull on her jacket, pulling her hair aside. “What happened?”

“He’s gone,” she said. “The… His body. It’s gone.”

“What the fuck?” Vanya managed. “What do you mean, he’s gone?”

“Eudora went out for coffee, and while she was out, he must have come back,” Allison said, fumbling through everything on the counter. “Where the fuck are the keys?”

“He woke up alone?” Ben hissed. “I told you we should have stayed!”

“It’s been two days!” Diego said. “What were we supposed to think?”

“I fucking told you!”

“He’s back?” Five said, like he’d just woken up.

“She double checked the security footage,” Allison said. “He must have gotten a ghost to let him out, because he walked out on his own.”

“He’s…” Five managed. “You’re sure?”

“Yes.”

“Where would he have gone?” Vanya asked. “I mean he… If he woke up alone…”

“Shit, I shouldn’t have left,” Diego breathed, joining Allison in her frantic search for the keys.

“You’re absolutely sure it was him?” Five asked again, voice cracking.

“Yes,” Allison said. “Shit.”

“Of course he came back in the two seconds Eudora went out for coffee, the idiot,” Diego said, patting down his pockets for his keys. “Shit, I left his clothes with her.”

Luther also checked his pockets. “He probably went home, then, we should try to find him th—“

The door blew open, and they all froze.

Klaus stared back at them, eyes red rimmed, wrapped in a lab coat.

There was still no goddamn good thing to say.

“Jesus, Klaus,” Luther managed.

“Yeah,” Klaus said, his voice lower and more lifeless than Luther had ever heard it. “Klaus.”

No one dared move. Something about Klaus’ face made it clear that he needed to be the one to make the first move, if only so they’d know just how bad a shitstorm they were dealing with. Klaus slammed the door shut behind him hard enough to make Five flinch.

“You fucking assholes,” Klaus said, finally.

No one spoke. Allison carefully put down the cup she’d been checking for the keys to straighten up and look at Klaus. Diego did the same.

“I’m going to go get some clothes, because you fucks didn’t think to, I don’t know,” he giggled hysterically, “leave some clothes with me in the morgue, where you left me alone.”

“I left them with…” Diego tried, before trailing off. “Klaus, it’s been two days.”

“Oh, two days,” Klaus said darkly. “Well, god, no wonder you got bored.”

“That’s not what I…”

“Klaus, how were we supposed to know you were still going to come back after days?” Vanya asked, arms crossed tight over her chest, moving closer to Diego, checking his face.

“Bold words from the girl who murdered all of us for not knowing that Dad hid your powers from all of us,” Klaus said, rounding on her. “I mean, jeez, you think you’re the forgotten kid? Everyone knew I had powers, and people still didn’t believe me about them, and I never threw a fit about it. So you know what? Up yours, Vanya.”

Her jaw worked in anger, but it was obvious that something was very wrong, and she was trying to resist getting into an argument. “Don’t be an asshole,” she murmured.

“Who, me?” Klaus said. “What, everyone else gets to, but I’ve got to take the high road?”

“Klaus. I’m sorry you woke up alone,” Diego said, softly, holding up his hands in a peace offering, “but we thought—“

Klaus scoffed and started up the stairs. “Fuck you, Diego, I don’t care what you thought, I’m getting clothes.”

The silence he left behind was suffocating.

“It’s been two days,” Diego whispered. “I mean, we all… We…” He trailed off helplessly.

“He’s just upset,” Allison murmured. “Which is fair.”

They waited in silence until Klaus returned, fully dressed, and headed towards the door.

“Where are you going?” Ben asked.

“Uh, to get wildly and stupidly high,” Klaus said, turning around so he was walking backwards. “Obviously.”

“Like hell you are,” Diego snapped.

“Oh, fuck off, Diego,” Klaus spat. “I don’t need your bullshit about how you’re better than me because you can eat an egg. You’re just as damaged as me, you just pretend your daddy issue vigilante garbage is actually good for anything but getting the people you love killed.”

Diego went quiet.

“We just thought we lost you, Klaus,” Luther interjected. Klaus clearly had a lot to get off his chest, but Luther knew he’d regret hurting the others once he’d calmed down. At least if Klaus lashed out at him, Luther could honestly tell him he didn’t mind. “I know it must have been a lot waking up in the morgue, but you can’t just skip out on us now.”

“Oh, right, I forgot, I’m only a part of this family when I’m sober!” Klaus said cheerfully, though there was something unfamiliar and deadly in his eyes.

“Okay, I should have worded that better,” Luther said, taking a deep breath and trying to choose his words carefully. “But that’s not what I meant, I just meant…”

“Luther,” Klaus said, arms dangling at his sides petulantly, “I don’t care what you meant. It’s just a fact. I was just a nuisance to all of you until I got sober, and now everyone’s happy to come to me for my help. And what do I get for it? Oh, we’re proud of you Klaus, you pulled yourself out of the gutter alone because we all kind of thought you were addicted to drugs for attention. You know, since I’m so carefree otherwise.”

“I…” Luther stared, but the words hit like a knife. He remembered saying that, though the rest of the day after it was fuzzy. It had been a stupid thing to say, and Klaus bringing it up now just drove home how little Luther knew how to handle Klaus, especially when something was very, very wrong. “I shouldn’t have said, that, but…”

“Klaus,” Ben started.

“No, you know what, Ben?” Klaus said, rounding on him. “You don’t get to act like you get me better than everyone else just because you literally had no choice but to make your lukewarm attempts to push me into getting my shit together. You know what the real torture is, Klaus? Yeah, I do!”

Ben swallowed, mouth snapping closed.

“I mean, seriously,” Klaus said, laughing in a way that left an ache in Luther’s chest. “None of you have the faintest concept of what it’s like to be me. I don’t just see dead people like some kind of cute little Polaroid, okay? I see their faces, and hear their voices, and I feel them there, I feel their horror and fear. They’re dead, and I see it. It’s like watching a movie of someone’s life and death tied up in one neat little bow, and then watching it over and over and over again until it’s fucking everywhere. Death, dying, all the time, everywhere.” He snorted. “You think I don’t know what it’s like being dead, Ben? It’s all I see, all the time. Forever. You think being dead for twelve years is bad? This is my life.

Ben bit his lip, but he didn’t reply. Luther couldn’t imagine what response would work here.

“But no, none of you gave a shit about that,” Klaus said. “Oh, there goes Klaus, snorting his brains out, I bet it’s just because he’s an idiot. Maybe if I just tell him he’s running his life into the ground, he’ll stop, because there’s no way he’s thought of that.” He shook his head. “I mean, Jesus, the only one who even came close to understanding what it’s like to be me is Five, and he’s so bad with people that we genuinely didn’t know he cared about us for 29 years.”

“Stop,” Five gritted out.

“What, you scared to hear the truth?” Klaus taunted.

Five crossed his arms. “I know what you’re doing. You saw something, didn’t you?”

“Oh, I saw the future,” Klaus whispered, stepping closer. Describing Klaus as menacing felt fundamentally wrong, but there was no other way to describe it. “It’s shit, by the way.”

“You can’t just push us away,” Five snapped. “Trust me, I know. Tell us what you saw so we can help.”

“I saw everything,” Klaus said, looming over Five. “And I’m giving up. I’m going to get wasted and wait for the end, and you should too.”

“You’re not going to scare me away, Klaus,” Five declared.

“No?” Klaus said. “Then how’s this? You can try to stick with this all you want, but all that’s going to come of it is that you’re going to watch all of us die again, except it’s not going to be quick and easy like last time. It’s just like the Handler said. Our dear ol’ Reggie was just the first, and he was a walk in the park compared to these guys. When they get their hands on us, it’s going to be slow and cruel, and you, little Number Five, are not going to be able to stop them.”

The way he said it sent shivers down Luther’s spine, and even Five took a half a step back.

“It’s going to be just like Dad, but worse. And you’re not going to be able to save us, just like you couldn’t save us from Harold, or Vanya, or Dad. You’ve never been able to save us, and you know it. You’ve always known it, from the second you decided to run away.”

Five’s back hit the wall. His lashes fluttered and he swallowed. “I didn’t mean to go alone,” he croaked. “You of all people should kn—“ His voice broke. “You know that.”

“Yeah,” Klaus said, dripping with a bittersweet victory. “That’s what I thought. Give up, Five, and hope to god there’s still enough of you left to run away, because it’s the only thing you’ve ever really been good at.”

He turned to go. Luther moved to stop him, ready to get a verbal attack as he did. Still, whatever Klaus said to him, he couldn’t let it get in the way of keeping Klaus safe, but Ben caught him, shaking his head.

“Let him go,” Ben murmured, as Klaus wrenched the door open and took off.

“We can’t just…” Luther started, a lump rising in his throat.

“I’m going to call Dave,” Ben said. “I know all the places he might go, Dave can find him. I just… I think he needs someone who’s not us right now.”

Luther dropped his arm in defeat. “Okay,” he murmured. Ben probably knew best, but that didn’t mean it didn’t feel like giving up on Klaus entirely. He watched Ben head to the phone even after he’d rounded the corner, feeling fundamentally drained.

A small whimper interrupted his thoughts, his head swiveling around as Five slid down the wall, hands over his face as he shook with quiet sobs.

“Shit,” Luther said, diving to pick Five up. “It’s okay, he didn’t mean it.”

“I was going to take all of you with me,” Five said. “I swear I was going to come back.”

Luther pulled him close. “We know, Five, we all know. Klaus knows too, he’s just… scared.” Five had clearly hit the mark. Klaus had seen something, and it had scared him enough that he’d been willing to go through Five to get away from it. It didn’t seem right to let Klaus be alone now, but whoever had killed him probably already thought he was dead, and there was no way he wanted to talk to them again.

He had to listen to Ben. He couldn’t force Klaus to stay if Klaus didn’t want to. That was basically what he’d done with Vanya, and it had ended up bad.

For now, he had to hope Dave could talk Klaus down and deal with Five.

He put his hand on the back of Five’s head and rubbed his back. He squeezed Five closer, listening to the whispers of Ben explaining everything to Dave while Five cried into his shoulder.

“It’s going to be okay,” he murmured, to all of them. “I promise.”

Chapter Text

Allison rubbed her hands over her face. All of this was so fucked up. Every second of it was just…

“Anything?” Vanya asked as Ben returned to the kitchen.

“Dave’s looking for him,” Ben said. “He says he’ll check back in an hour or two.”

“You sure we shouldn’t go after him?” Diego asked. “I mean, come on, he said those things because he thought we d-didn’t…”

Ben shook his head. “No, he didn’t,” he said. “Did you see how he went after Five? For the rest of us it was stuff he was actually mad about, but with Five…”

Diego looked over at Five, who had mostly stopped crying, slumped against Luther while Luther rubbed his shoulder comfortingly.

“You think Five got it right,” Diego said. “He saw something.”

“Yeah,” Ben said. “Waking up alone was probably just the straw that broke the camel’s back, but something else is going on. And he doesn’t want to talk about it with us. I think if he can just have a moment to calm down with Dave, though, he’ll be alright. He’s tougher than he acts.”

“Unless he relapses first,” Allison said. “I mean, he hasn’t even had a drink since we got to this timeline, if he tries to shoot up like he used to now…” She stopped. This felt like emotional ping-pong. First, thinking Klaus was in danger, then trying to come to terms with his death, then having to veer back into thinking he was in danger again.

“Yeah, well,” Ben said, pacing with his arms crossed. “I know. I’m worried about him too, but if we push him, it’s just going to get worse. Dave will find him as fast as we could.”

“There’s more of us,” Diego said.

“We only have two cars, and one of us looks like a minor,” Ben said. “How well do you think we’ll do scouring the clubs Klaus would go to?”

 “I can stay home with Five,” Luther murmured.

“I’m not an invalid,” Five said. “I don’t need a babysitter.” He promptly undercut himself with a sniffle.

“I don’t think you want to be alone right now,” Luther murmured. “Am I wrong?”

“I wouldn’t be alone,” Five muttered. “Mom’s here. And… and Pogo…”

Ben made a strange face. “Five,” he said. “You shouldn’t be alone right now.”

Five huffed at him, but he didn’t protest. Luther drew him a little closer, tucking his head under his chin.

“I could stay,” Vanya murmured. “Pretty sure a club would be way too loud for me right now. Last thing we need is for me to lose control of my powers today.”

“Look, give it an hour or two,” Ben said. “After Dave checks in, we’ll keep looking in any of the bars Dave hasn’t been to yet.”

Luther nodded. “I think we should listen to Ben on this,” he said. “I mean it’s not like any of the rest of us has spent very much time with Klaus before this past month.”

Allison sank back into her chair. She hadn’t spent much time with any of them. She’d only been interested in Vanya because her book had driven home how Allison had barely noticed she existed. She was aware she wasn’t a good sister, but she’d thought she was getting better. Now she just felt stupid for thinking she’d done enough just by giving Vanya attention.

“Is everyone else okay?” Luther asked quietly, arms still wrapped around Five. “I know we’re all clear on the fact that Klaus said those things because he was scared and upset, but they were pretty harsh.”

Everyone stayed quiet. Allison felt quite a bit of relief that she’d hung back. There were dozens of things Klaus could have thrown in her face that would have hurt like hell.

“Vanya?” Luther asked.

She shrugged. “I kind of want to… I don’t know, hit him, but he had a point.”

“I’ll be fine,” Diego said. “He was being a dick, but I’ll walk it off.”

Vanya nodded, as if to say, me too.

“Ben?” Luther asked.

Ben shrugged. “I mean…” He made a face. “I’ve said some pretty shitty things to Klaus over the years. You get frustrated as a ghost. I’m surprised it took this long for him to get this mad at me.”

“Are you okay, though?” Luther asked.

Ben sighed. “This sucks,” he said. “But I’ll just talk it over with Klaus when he gets back. I know he probably regretted everything he said the second he walked out the door.”

Luther nodded carefully, meeting Allison’s eyes. She nodded back. They were still too quiet, and probably not as okay as they said they were, but for now it would have to do.

“What do you think he saw?” Vanya asked.

“He told us to give up,” Five murmured. “Probably saw something he was convinced we can’t defeat.”

“Like what?” Diego said. “I mean, Dad trained us for this, right?”

“Dad’s kind of an idiot,” Five replied. “Plus, if this has been Dad’s plan for a while, maybe he was expecting for there to be 43 of us.”

“Jesus, can you even imagine?” Vanya murmured. “Seven was bad enough.”

Five snorted. “Can you imagine being called Number 38? That’s a terrible name.”

“I’d probably be Number 43,” Vanya replied, suppressing a smile. “That’s even worse.”

Five chuckled slightly, trying to wipe away the tears still drying on his face.

“Klaus’ first move is to hide from things and he’s willing to do a lot to make a break for it when things get dire,” Ben murmured, mostly to himself. “But I’ve never seen him like this. He was calculated. There must have been something specific that scared him.”

“Well, they did kill him,” Diego said. “And, again, we accidentally left him alone in a c-corpse freezer.”

“Fuck,” Allison murmured, running her hands through her hair. She looked at Luther, who had turned his attention mostly to Five, occasionally glancing around as if to make sure everyone was in one piece. “We should have brought him home. He was right outside our front door, why didn’t we just…” She shrugged helplessly.

“There was more blood outside of him than inside,” Ben murmured. “I mean, I know I said we shouldn’t leave him alone, but I didn’t actually…” He shook his head. “I thought I was fooling myself.”

Five shuddered. “Can we not talk about Klaus being dead?” he said. “I’m…” He swallowed hard, trying to keep from crying again. “I’m going to start thinking I just imagined him coming back.”

“Yeah,” Ben said softly, brows furrowed as he looked at Five.

“Sorry,” Allison murmured.

Ben rubbed his hands over his face. “I’m still buzzed,” he said. “I’m making coffee. Five, you want any?”

Five laughed bitterly. “Do I look like I can handle caffeine right now?”

“Do you ever?” Vanya said.

“Yeah, well, no,” Five said, sniffling. “But no, I don’t want coffee, I’m already about to vibrate out of my skin.”

“I’m honestly relieved to hear you say that,” Allison said. “I mean, not about the vibrating out of your skin, but about the fact that you’re not trying to fix it with even more caffeine.”

“Ha-fucking-ha.” Five sniffled again, then froze, looking up at the ceiling. “Speaking of anxiety, does anyone else hear that or am I imagining things?”

“What?” Allison asked, following his gaze.

“Footsteps upstairs,” he said, shrugging Luther off and getting to his feet.

“It’s probably Mom,” Diego murmured.

Vanya stepped a little closer, cocking her head. “No, Five’s right, they’re too heavy.”

Diego stood up. “Where are they coming from?”

Vanya squinted. “I think… the study?”

“Shit,” Five said, head snapping around to look at Ben. “We left the monocle up there.”

“Shit,” Ben breathed.

Five held his hand out. “Diego, give me a knife.”

“What?” Diego said. “No way, you’re just going to jump up there.”

“Exactly,” Five hissed.

“You’re not going up against these guys alone,” Diego snapped. “They got you last time and they killed Klaus.”

“Well this time, I’m expecting them, and I’ll be armed, so give me a knife,” Five retorted. “I’ve got the element of surprise now, and…”

“Luther!” Vanya screamed.

Allison was surprised that a single shout was enough to communicate everything to Luther, because in a single second, Luther threw himself forward, putting himself over Five as the ceiling exploded over them.

“Shit,” Allison said, waving away dust as she ran around the pile of rubble. “Luther! Five!”

Luther groaned, shifting slightly before the rubble slid dangerously, threatening to crush him further. “Shit,” he choked out, fumbling for Five, who was slowly picking his head up. If not for Luther, he’d be crushed. As it was, Allison could only see his head.

“Shit,” she hissed, moving to help him.

“No no!” Luther said. “Don’t move! We’re on the second floor, we don’t know if the rubble took out any of the support below us.” She skidded to a stop, barely daring to breath. Luther shook Five, who was face down, sheltered only by Luther’s shoulder. “Five, you awake?”

“Yeah,” Five managed weakly.

There were figures moving upstairs around the hole that had formed in the ceiling, and Diego quickly reached for a knife. Ben and Vanya eased themselves carefully around the rubble to get a better look at the shadowy figures.

“Shit,” Vanya murmured. “There’s got to be at least ten of them, maybe more.”

“Five,” Luther said, urgent. “Hey.”

Five lifted his head slowly, looking at Luther. His eyes went wide at the blood dripping down the side of Luther’s face.

“Hey,” Luther said, trying to seem calm. It wasn’t as convincing as he probably wanted it to be. “It’s fine, I’m fine. But you’ve got to jump out from under here, okay?”

“No,” Five said, voice slipping into something panicked. “No, no no, I can’t… I can’t leave you, not again, I can’t.”

“Five, I’m alive, I’m going to be fine,” Luther said sharply. “But I can’t get out from under here and keep you safe too, so you have to help me by jumping out of here, alright?”

Five’s breath was coming too fast. He shook his head with a strangled noise. “Don’t make me, not again.”

Luther looked at Allison desperately.

“Shit,” she whispered. He wasn’t going to be able to do it, she realized. She was going to have to make him. God, what the hell could she even say? There was too much going on to really think through the implications of all the wording she could choose, but…

Five,” Luther tried again. The rubble shifted, the floorboards creaking.

Five whimpered.

“Shit,” Allison hissed. The figures were getting close to the edge, staring down at them, a faint glow emanating from several of them. “I heard—“

Something hit her in the mouth with enough force to knock her over, white hot and heavy. She reached to try to pull it away – some kind of metal clamp that had fastened itself to her face, stopping any words from forming.

“FIVE!” Luther shouted, and by some miracle, Allison saw the signature flash of blue before Five stumbled back towards Vanya, just as she saw another flash of green.

“Shit!” Vanya cried, throwing herself over Five and letting a wave of rippling air explode around them, knocking Allison over.

The floorboards creaked and split, then crunched under the weight of the rubble. Luther tried to push himself out before it fell, but it was too late. Allison screamed wordlessly through the gag, uselessly reaching for him as the floor crumbled and fell out from beneath them, along with Luther.

“Stay down!” Ben shouted as she struggled to scramble back to solid ground before the rubble dragged her down too. She couldn’t see Luther from here, just the rising dust from below.

Diego ducked behind a couch while Vanya held Five tightly where she had thrown them both to the floor. Five’s face screamed with a mute terror and he stayed motionless where Vanya held him, quivering. Allison wasn’t sure he even knew where he was or what he was looking at.

Ben’s tentacles swept through the room, plucking the figures from the upper floor, slamming them against the walls. They crackled with electricity when they struck the walls, slumping over like broken robots. Five jerked slightly to cover his face at the crashes, but he still looked far too frozen to do anything.

Diego’s knives flew out from his hiding spot, peeking out occasionally to find new targets. For now, Allison made sure to stay down and give Ben room, but she kept her eyes on Five, trying to plot out a route to get to him and then get him out of the house.

A much taller figure than the rest flew down from the upper floor, landing with a thud, It gleamed, metal coating every part of its body. Ben’s tentacle swiped at it, reverberating with a clanking sound.

Allison looked back at Five, still quivering like a scared rabbit. They had to get him out of here. He was having a flashback, at best, and until they could get him out of harm’s way, none of them would be able to fight back with all they had. She met Vanya’s eyes and Vanya nodded, clearly understanding what Allison was thinking.

Ben withdrew his tentacles to duck out of the way of the tall figure as it prowled after him, letting Allison hurry over to Vanya.

“Are you okay?” Vanya said.

Allison tugged at the clamp again, but it was useless. She nodded instead. At the moment, she was a little bit relieved. It meant she wasn’t going to have to rumor Five into leaving them behind, something that could easily break him if she chose the wrong words to say.

“Okay,” Vanya whispered, turning back to Five, gripping his arm. “Five. Five, do you know where you are?”

“L…” Five managed, shivering. “Luther?” He looked back towards the hole in the floor, but Allison caught him quickly. She didn’t know how visible the situation was below them, but – she shoved aside the raw pain that rose in her chest at the thought – if Five caught sight of any carnage, he was going to get even less responsive, something they really couldn’t afford right now.

She eyed Diego, then tapped Vanya on the shoulder, both of them dragging Five along to Diego. He was closest to any windows, and whatever happened, if Diego got a hold of Five, he could drag him through the nearest one.

Diego threw a knife at another one of the figures – without Ben’s tentacles having free range, they were starting to flood downstairs. Diego took one look at Five and held out his hand.

“You have to get him out of here,” Vanya whispered, ducking as a glowing body flew over them, flung by Ben’s tentacles.

“Yeah,” Diego breathed, eying the nearest window. “Five, come on, bro, we gotta go.”

“But Luther…” Five managed, leaning back as though trying to stumble back towards the hole in the floor without being sure how his legs worked.

“Luther’s fine,” Diego said. Allison’s heart clenched. He was not fine. Without the serum, he was probably… No. She didn’t dare finish that thought, not yet. Not until everyone else was safe. “He’s fine, come on. Come on, kiddo, it’s time to go.”

It got no response. Five’s brain didn’t seem to be remotely in the same vicinity as them right now.

Something crashed behind them. Allison and Vanya whirled around. “Ben!” Vanya yelled.

Ben stumbled out of the broken sofa where he’d been thrown, clutching his chest. He made to run to them, but the tall figure swerved between them and Ben. A light like green electricity shot from its hand and hit him, sending him tumbling to the ground.

Allison yelped as much as she could behind the gag and moved to help him, but Vanya’s hand swept out, shoving her and Five back hard before another blast from the metal figure’s hand could hit them. This one had been brighter, and it had torn through the nearest armchair like a flamethrower though paper, right where Allison had been standing.

“Diego!” Vanya yelled. “Get Five out of here!”

Allison tried to stagger to her feet, but being thrown so hard was disorienting, and she ended up right back on the floor. Vanya shoved her hands forward, the large metal figure flying across the room with the force of the glow emanating from her.

“Shit,” Diego said, grabbing Five. “Five, come on, you gotta get out of here.” He put his hands on Five’s face and shook him slightly, but Five’s eyes were blank. “Five, you gotta remember where you are and make a run for it, okay? We’re gonna be fine, but you’ve got to get out.”

Five didn’t so much as move a muscle, eyes flickering with unshed tears.

“Diego, take him out of here!” Vanya shouted, the noise ghosting down from her throat to her fingertips as she blasted away three more of the shadowy figures. “He can’t go on his own, you have to—”

“I’m not leaving you!” Diego roared, shaking Five. “Five. Come on, buddy, snap out of it, I know you can snap out of it…”

“Diego!”

She blew away another one of the figures, then moved to get Five out of harm’s way herself. As she turned, the tall metal figure stood back up from where she’d thrown it.

Allison tried to scream past her gag, but it was too late. A blast shot from its arm and hit Vanya in the back, sparks crawling up her back. She hit the ground with a gasp, motionless, and the figure rounded on Diego and Five.

“Shit,” Diego whispered, pushing Five behind him and searching for a knife. The figure stepped forward, raising its hand, and light flooded the room, forcing Allison to squeeze her eyes shut.

She opened them once the glow had died down, staggering to her feet.

The tall figure was nowhere to be seen.

However, the same was true of Diego, Five and Vanya. She staggered across the room, grabbing onto the furniture to stay upright as she did. She was too damn dizzy for this, but…

Ben was gone too. They were all gone without a trace.

She struggled to remove her gag so she could call for Grace or Pogo. Or Luther. Oh, god, she didn’t even dare look for Luther. The gag, however, refused to budge, humming like a bad radio before snapping back to her face.

Shit, she didn’t feel good. The world was spinning. She must have hit her head at some point, and now was not a good time to have a concussion…

Fuck.

Fuck, she had to find Luther, and Klaus, and figure out… figure out…

She hit the floor, the world blurring out, then going black.

Chapter Text

It was raining.

Of course it was raining.

Today was so goddamn miserable, why wouldn’t it be raining?

Klaus pulled his knees up to his chest, flicking away a useless cigarette. It wouldn’t be hard to get out of the rain, of course, but what was the point? At least with the rain soaking through his clothes, he didn’t have to rub his eyes dry to wipe away his tears.

“Hey there,” said a familiar voice.

Klaus sniffled. “Go away,” he mumbled, though it was the last thing he wanted to say. “I’m busy being miserable and you’re not a part of that.”

Dave sighed, standing over him with his umbrella. “Is that supposed to convince me?”

“No,” Klaus said, sullen. “Did Ben tell you where to find me?” Of course Dave wasn’t going anywhere. Right now, that felt like a reward Klaus hadn’t earned.

“Yeah,” Dave said. After a long pause, he added, “Are you high? It’s okay if you are, I just want to know.”

“No,” Klaus said. “I got wasted, then realized I can’t hold my liquor anymore and gave myself a shitty headache. Then I kind of collapsed here to cry instead of trying to find some pills like I was going to. Got some weed, but then it was fucking raining, so…”

“Well, good,” Dave said. “That’s a relief.”

“Was Ben mad?” Klaus asked, daring to look up at him. He didn’t seem upset with Klaus.

“Just worried,” Dave murmured. “I imagine you’ve had a rough couple of days.”

Klaus laughed without any humor. “Yeah, you could say that.”

“We all thought you were dead,” Dave said. “Scared the hell out of me.”

“Well, I’m not very good at dying,” Klaus said. “God doesn’t like me.” He pinched the bridge of his nose, breathing through the tears. “I said horrible things to my family.” He dropped his face into his hands. “Especially Five. God, how could I say those things to Five?” And Ben, but at least Ben probably knew where he was coming from. With Five he’d said it all just to hurt him.

“Klaus,” Dave said softly. “Once you sober up, you can apologize. I know they’ll accept it. They’re scared as hell for you.”

Klaus sobbed. “I didn’t mean to,” he said. “I just… I don’t know. I saw things I wasn’t… That no one should have to see, and I came back, and they’d just left me there, and…”

“I know,” Dave said. “Ben told me everything.”

Klaus laughed even as he cried. “I really got to be Five today,” he managed. “Turns out I’m not good at it at all.”

“Sounds to me like you were a little too good at it,” Dave said. “Spun through the playbook a little too fast and too hard.”

Klaus giggled helplessly. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“Come on. Come home with me. Take a hot shower and a nap, and you can apologize to your family after.”

He held out his hand for Klaus, and Klaus took it.

“It’s been nearly two months since I had a drink,” Klaus muttered. “And I don’t think this body ever drank that much. I feel like I was kicked in the face by a rhino.”

“I’ll make sure you drink a pitcher of water when we get home,” Dave said.

“Ugh,” Klaus mumbled.

“It’ll save you from having a hangover tomorrow,” Dave replied. “Hold this.”

He handed Klaus his umbrella so he could put his arm around Klaus’ waist, helping him walk steady as they made their way back to Dave’s house. Dave was warm and tender at his side, and Klaus felt like he could breathe a little lighter with him there.

Dave’s house was a sight for sore eyes. Klaus hadn’t realized just how sore he was until the thought of laying down in a warm bed was right in front of him. It made sense, he supposed, that being hit by a car would make him sore.

He folded the umbrella while he waited for Dave to unlock the door, setting it in the corner by the shoe shelf to dry.

“Alright, get undressed, I’ll put your clothes in the drier,” Dave said.

Klaus giggled tiredly. “What, here?”

“I thought you might want a hot shower,” Dave said, smiling.

“I will,” Klaus said, stepping closer. “But maybe I want to get undressed here first.”

“You’re drunk,” Dave said softly. “I don’t think we should try anything new when you’re drunk.”

“Come on,” Klaus murmured. “Five’s not here to scold you for taking advantage. We both know I’m not the reason we haven’t… you know… done it yet.”

“I know,” Dave murmured, hand sliding through Klaus’ sopping wet curls. “And we will talk this over when you’re sober, I promise.”

Klaus sighed. “Okay,” he said reluctantly. “Okay, you’re right, I should be…” He rolled his eyes. “… responsible, and all.”

“Let’s compromise,” Dave said, pulling him a little closer. “Get undressed here, if you want, and then you can shower and I can put your clothes in the drier. And we’ll talk about sex some more after you’ve sobered up and talked to your family and don’t feel like crap, huh?”

Klaus smiled despite himself. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, alright, that sounds pretty good.”

He kissed Dave, hands working on his shirt as he did, pulling away only to get it over his head and let it fall to the floor before diving back in. He cupped Dave’s face in his hands and surged closer, now that he wasn’t entirely soaked. Dave’s hand coasted up his back, sending shivers down his spine.

“You’re still all bruised,” Dave murmured, pulling away.

“Yeah,” Klaus whispered. “I got hit by a car.”

To Klaus’ surprise, Dave reached up to grab his hair, tugging just enough that Klaus’ breath hitched, but not enough to hurt. “Don’t even think about dying when I just got you,” Dave murmured.

“Yeah, god told me I should stop,” Klaus laughed. “So I’ll do my best.”

“I’m serious,” Dave said, tugging Klaus down so their foreheads were touching. “I don’t know how I managed to get someone like you to show up on my doorstep all but begging to be with me, but you’re special, Klaus, and I don’t intend to lose you just as soon.”

Klaus nodded helplessly. “I’m sorry.”

Dave shook his head. “No, that’s not…” He sighed. “Just take care of yourself, alright?”

Klaus nodded. “I’m trying.”

Dave kissed him again, and Klaus let it happen for a while before he remembered he’d been working on getting his drenched clothes off. He wished he’d worn a skirt – because it would have been easier to shrug off, for one, but also because Dave seemed alright with putting his hand up Klaus’ skirts, and Klaus really wanted that calloused hand everywhere.

He danced, trying to get his shoes and socks off without tearing himself away, then fumbled with the buttons on his pants, wrestling them off.

He was okay with no sex for now, he realized. After all, he’d had so many first times he could barely remember and so many first times while in a drugged stupor – hell, he had been drunk the first time he’d been with Dave. They’d both been drunk, but it had been war and they had both been younger and dumber.

And now Dave was the same, except older and calmer, and he was right. Klaus wanted this first time to be clear as day. He wanted to remember every second of it like it was his first ever.

But that didn’t mean he didn’t want to be touched all over, the two of them stumbling until they were on the couch, Klaus straddling Dave’s lap, trying to carve the taste of him into his memory forever. He shuddered, trying to lean into Dave’s warmth as the cold air hit his bruised back.

Dave tugged him away gently. “Take a shower,” he murmured. “And you can sleep in my bed tonight, go deal with your family tomorrow. How’s that sound?”

“Good,” Klaus said, though it involved the unfortunate step of leaving Dave’s lap. “Yes.” He peeled his hands away reluctantly. “I’ll go shower.”

Dave pushed them both off the sofa, leaning down to get Klaus’ clothes while Klaus made his way to the bathroom, trying hard to catch his breath.

“Shit,” he murmured, rubbing hands over his face. His headache was making itself known again, and as the closed the door and let the quiet take over, he couldn’t stop thinking about all the things he’d said to his family.

Well, he did mean what he’d said to Vanya, he thought to himself as he started the shower. At least, a little part of it. The rest of them all got to spew bullshit all the time, and Klaus had been holding himself to a higher standard lately. Maybe because he wanted to be the kind of person Dave deserved, or maybe because they’d all been trying so hard, and Five had actually started confiding in him like he knew what he was doing…

Jesus, Five.

Klaus hadn’t meant a word of what he’d said to Five. He was going to owe him an apology and a half.

You decided to run away, he’d said. It had been a wild guess, really, but Klaus had always wondered if Five’s angry insistence on time travel was to give himself a longer rope. Now he knew – except now he also knew that Five had cared enough that if he’d really run away from Reginald, on his own terms, he would have taken them with him.

It was ridiculous to tell him that all he was good at was running away. Five only ever ran away so he could fight harder – anyone could see that.

But that hadn’t been what he’d seen on Five’s face when he’d said those things.

“Fuck,” he murmured, letting the hot water beat down on him, stinging at the leftover wounds that dying had left. Of course Five wouldn’t do anything to retaliate – he’d said himself that something happening to one of them was his worst fear – but what if he stopped trusting Klaus as much?

He shut off the water, swallowing hard.

Dave had left him clean clothes and a towel on the counter while he’d been showering. Klaus hadn’t even heard him, but that wasn’t too surprising. He’d been chewing himself out instead.

He pulled on Dave’s shirt and his boxers and left it at that – Dave had left him sweatpants, too, but Klaus didn’t care for them.

He stumbled out of the bathroom, trying to bite back tears.

Dave was in the kitchen, and when he saw Klaus he handed him a bowl of – presumably canned – pea soup and a glass of water.

“What if Five doesn’t come to me for help anymore?” Klaus croaked.

“Drink,” Dave said warningly.

“I said so many things to him, what if he doesn’t trust me anymore? I like being able to help him. I like being useful, and… and listening, empathizing, it’s what I’m good at.”

“Klaus.”

Klaus pouted at him, but chugged the glass of water.

“Good boy,” Dave murmured, picking up the towel Klaus had thrown over his shoulder to patiently massage Klaus’ hair dry. Klaus wished that didn’t feel as good as it did. “Five knows you’re good at it, and he’s a pragmatist. You’ve said it a dozen times.”

“I just… Before he got involved, I could blame it all on them leaving me alone,” Klaus said. “But then he said I was scared, and I realized he was right, because these… these aliens? They’re capable of awful things. I mean when Reginald Hargreeves is the good guy, then…”

“Do you think Five understood why you said the things you said?” Dave offered.

“Okay, yes,” Klaus said. “I see what you’re doing and I…”

Dave smiled at him.

Klaus scowled back. “Fine.”

“Eat up,” Dave said. “And I’ll tuck you in.” He winked.

Klaus blew a raspberry at him, but he started eating, feeling a little less like the world was ending.

**

Klaus cracked his eyes open sluggishly.

It was morning, and he regretted it. Sunshine streamed in the windows, mocking his aching head. He wanted to scream, but instead he just pulled the blankets over his head.

He moved to roll out of his mattress, yelping when he realized this mattress had a frame and he plummeted to the floor.

“Good morning,” Dave said.

“Oh yeah,” Klaus murmured. “I stayed here last night.”

“You did. Did you know you talk in your sleep?”

“Yeah, Ben mentioned it all the time,” Klaus croaked. “It’s all the, you know,” he gestured vaguely, “dead people talking at me.”

“Well, maybe you and I can figure out how to dead-person proof this room too, so you have a place to sleep here,” Dave said.

Klaus smiled at him weakly.

“And I made you a nice, greasy egg and ham sandwich for that hangover.”

Klaus squinted at him, reaching for the sandwich. “Ugh,” he said. “Ugh, I made so many mistakes last night.”

“Yeah,” Dave said, smiling slightly. “You going to live?”

“Yeah,” Klaus sighed. “Unfortunately.” He bit into the sandwich, groaning. “What am I even going to say to them?”

“You’re going to explain why you were upset,” Dave said. “And tell them you didn’t mean to hurt them, and they’re going to accept it because they already know.”

“That’s pretty reasonable,” Klaus said. “I hate it.”

“Mm-hmm,” Dave replied. “Up and at ‘em, soldier, you won’t feel better until you talk to them.”

“Are you cursing me right now?” Klaus said, nibbling at the sandwich.

“No, Klaus, I just know you,” Dave said. “And I know you regretted everything you said the second you stepped out that door, and you’re going to feel awful about it until you see that your family is okay.”

Klaus whined at him forcefully, finishing off his sandwich.

Dave had dried his clothes, too, and paid his bus fair, leaving Klaus feeling like he probably shouldn’t be as miserable as he was right now. But Dave was right – he’d regretted everything he’d said the moment he’d left the house and his stomach was sick at the thought of all of them being upset. Diego, and his tendency to implode instead of emote. Vanya, who had just had her whole life turned upside down. Five, who had already been through so much.

Ben, who had always been by his side, even if he could have just wandered around as a ghost elsewhere. Who’d always tried to help, even though Klaus had been frustrating at best.

“Fuuuuuuck,” he whispered to himself as the bus stopped near their house. He trudged down the street, looking both ways several times this time – being hit by a car was not fun and he did not need a repeat event.

What was he even going to say? He tried running possibilities through his head. Sorry I was an asshole? Sorry I knowingly went after all your insecurities to make it hurt as much as possible? Sorry I panicked and tried to verbally gut all of you?

He closed his eyes, groaning as he finally got up to the Academy doorstep.

The Academy, which currently had several big, big holes in it.

His heart dropped. “Oh, shit, shit shit,” he managed, running up the stairs. “Shit, Ben?” Silence. “Oh, fuck, oh fuck,” Klaus whispered. “Five?! Luther!”

The living room was filled with rubble and crushed bodies, and he searched through them desperately. Please don’t be any of them, please don’t be any of them…

He finally saw Allison, and raced to feel for her pulse. It was still there. “Shit,” he mumbled. “Allison? Allison!” Half her face was covered by a large metal contraption. He tried to pull it off, but it was useless.

She groaned, waking up slowly and blinking at him. Her eyes widened and she made a desperate sound.

“Oh, thank god,” Klaus breathed. “Where are the others?”

She made a noise, pointing at the hole in the floor. She continued making noises until they sounded suspiciously like Luther.

“Oh, fuck,” Klaus said, helping her to her feet. The back of her head was bloody, and she was unsteady as he helped her down the stairs to the pile of rubble. “Shit.”

Luther was buried among the pipes and bits of ceiling, trying to get a large piece of concrete off of himself.

“Shit,” Klaus said. “Oh, shit, Luther, are you…?”

“I’ll live,” Luther said with a concerning wheeze. “But I can’t get this off.”

“I’ll get Mom,” Klaus said, racing away. After some scrambling around, he found her in the laundry room. He still hadn’t seen the others, which was terrifying, but for now he knew Luther needed help. “Mom. Come on, Luther needs help.”

“What happened?” she asked, but he just took her hand and raced downstairs to find Luther again.

Allison was slumped against the wall, eyes closed.

“Get her awake!” Luther barked as Grace joined him in levering off the large slab of ceiling.

Klaus shook Allison gently, getting her to blink awake.

“No sleeping just yet, okay?” he breathed.

She nodded blearily, stumbling to look at Luther as he and Grace finally moved aside the piece pinning him enough that Luther could crawl out from under it. Blood soaked through his shirt and he was limping, but he did seem in one piece.

“What happened?” he managed, clutching his chest. “Where’s everyone else?”

Allison made a loud noise, pointing at her face.

“Fuck,” Luther said, hurrying to pry it off her. It sparked, and she yelped and pulled away from it, holding her cheek. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Yeah, I think so. Mostly. I must have hit my head.”

“Where are the others?” Klaus asked, heart in his chest.

“Gone,” Allison said. “There was this flash of light and then…”

“Wait,” Klaus said, feeling like he was going to throw up his own heartbeat. “They took them? The aliens?”

Allison nodded. “I think so.”

“Oh, fuck, fuck fuck,” Klaus cried, panic hitting him like a truck. “Oh, fuck. I didn’t think they’d come here, I thought if we stayed away it’d…” Oh, what a dumb thing to think.

“Wait, they’re… they’re still alive,” Luther said. “Right? They were still alive?”

“I think so,” Allison said. “At least… They didn’t seem… I don’t know.”

“So we can get them back,” Luther said. “It’s fine, we just have to stay calm.” He let Grace pull him aside and check his bloody side. Allison carefully rested her head on his less bloody shoulder, breathing deeply as she held his sleeve to reassure herself. Luther put a hand on her back.

Klaus stumbled against the nearest wall and slid down. “Oh, shit, oh shit.”

“What?” Allison asked.

“I was on their ship,” Klaus managed. “The Oblivion. I saw it, while I was dead.”

“And?” Luther prompted. “What did you see, Klaus?”

“They’re scavengers, Luther,” Klaus said. “Dad said they sucked planets dry of their resources, but he didn’t clarify what he meant by resources.”

Allison winced, touching her forehead with a grimace. “What does that mean?”

“It means,” Klaus said, trying to keep some semblance of calm, “look who they took. A portal, an infinite source of energy, a guy who can determine the trajectory of anything he touches, and a walking hyperdrive!”

“Klaus!” Luther snapped. Allison hissed, and he touched her elbow in apology. “What are you talking about?”

“They’re scrap,” Klaus said, trying not to give in to hysterics. “The ship is a fucking graveyard. It’s not even… It’s worse than a graveyard, it’s like so many souls compacted into one that they’re not even ghosts anymore, they’re just something… something horrible and dead and alive and…” He rubbed his hands over his face. “And Jesus, they’re next. They’re fucking scrap.”

“You mean they’re…” Allison said slowly.

“Yeah,” Klaus whispered. “If we don’t get them back now, they’re going to be torn apart and built into the ship like spare parts.”

Chapter Text

Ben groaned, vision swimming back into focus. He ached all over, head spinning like a top, and all he could make out was a bunch of glowing green around him. He sat up carefully, hissing as his chest twinged. He’d been hit by something – not an object, but an energy not unlike what he imagined a taser to feel like, then nothing.

The growing green lights were bars around him like some kind of neon cage. Outside of the cage, it was mostly dark, though he could make out a few panels that looked like they’d been ripped off a sci-fi show.

There was indistinct screaming floating around him, and he staggered to his feet to follow the noise.

Across from him, there were two other cages like his, one for Vanya and one for Diego, who were, unsurprisingly, both yelling at each other.

“Guys,” Ben croaked. They didn’t hear him. “Guys!”

He looked around. He didn’t see Luther, Allison or Five. Luther… Ben’s stomach twisted. He’d seen the floor cave in, and he didn’t want to admit to himself that he didn’t have high hopes for how that had turned out. Allison… god, her too. She’d been gagged, and the last Ben saw, she’d been focused on Five instead of herself.

Five.

Five had been with Diego.

“Guys!” he yelled again. “Where’s Five?” They didn’t seem to notice him. Some part of him balked at that. Was he dead again? The thought didn’t concern him as much as it probably should have. “HEY!”

“What?!” Vanya snapped.

Ben felt his shoulders slump with relief. He wasn’t invisible. Okay. “Where’s Five?”

“We don’t fucking know,” she said. “Because Diego—“

“This is not my fault!” Diego snapped.

“I told you to get him out of there!”

“I wasn’t going to fucking leave you alone!”

“I can handle myself, Diego!” Vanya yelled. “Five couldn’t, and I fucking told you—“

“So I was supposed to just let you fend for yourself?!”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Diego, but I can do a hell of a lot more than you can!”

“Oh, fuck off, Vanya!”

“GUYS!” Ben yelled. “Was Five with you when…” He gestured vaguely around them. He had no idea where they were or how they’d gotten here.

“Yes,” Diego muttered.

“Then where is he?”

“I don’t know!”

“Fuck,” Ben whispered, putting his hands against the bars. The space between them rippled, refusing to let his hands through. “Have you tried breaking these?”

“Yes,” Vanya said, not taking her eyes off Diego. They seemed to be in some kind of angry staring contest. “They’re solid.”

Ben backed away from the bars to give himself room to unleash his monster. He let it unfurl, yelling as it snapped out, slamming against the bars. The bars lit up, reverberating through the tentacles and slamming Ben into the wall.

“Fuck,” he hissed, the aching in his whole body throbbing to the beat of his heart. “Okay, so that’s not going to work.”

Diego groaned, throwing his hands up and starting to pace back and forth, radiating tension. “Fuck.”

“He’s probably dead,” Vanya murmured, sitting down in the middle of her cell.

“Don’t fucking say that!” Diego snarled, rounding on her.

“He was catatonic,” Vanya said, sounding tired. “They killed Luther and probably Allison, too. I’m just being realistic.”

“You’re fucking giving up! Like usual.”

“We’re in cages,” Vanya said. “On a spaceship, probably, and half our family is likely dead. What exactly do you want me to do?”

“I don’t know, but we’re not just deciding that Five’s dead!”

“Jesus Christ,” Ben muttered, sitting back against the bars. “I miss Klaus.” Klaus, for the most part, didn’t bicker.

“Yeah, well, according to Vanya, he’s probably dead too. Overdosed or some shit,” Diego muttered.

“Well, where do you think he is?” Vanya snapped.

An echoing noise snapped them out of it, and Ben leaped to his feet, ready for anything.

A large door opened in the wall like a spiral, and one of the robotic things that had attacked them at home strode inside. Ben tensed, ready for a fight, but his attention was quickly drawn to the small body the robotic man was dragging behind itself.

“Shit,” he whispered, trying to get a better look. “Five.”

Five was limp, eyes closed and face bloody as the alien dragged him along, throwing him in front of Ben’s cage. Ben surged closer, trying to check for breathing. It was too dark in here to tell, and Ben’s heart was in his ears.

The alien turned around, hitting something on the wall, and bars flickered to life around Five too.

That was a good sign. They wouldn’t lock up a corpse, would they?

The alien pressed a button in the panels to open the door, then left. Ben dropped to his knees to peer through the bars at Five. “Five,” he hissed. “Five!”

“Is he alive?” Diego asked. There was a gap between their cages and Ben and Five’s, meaning they could probably see even less than Ben.

“I don’t know,” Ben said. “I can’t tell if he’s breathing.”

“Jesus,” Vanya whispered, crawling closer.

“He’s fine,” Diego declared. “They locked him up, he’s got to be alive.”

“He is not fine,” Vanya snapped. “Look at him!”

“Fuck off, Vanya, he’s alive.”

“Alive isn’t fine!”

“Yeah, well, you’re the one who wanted to give up on hoping he was alive at all!”

“Jesus, Diego, you’re such an ass!”

“Oh, I’m an ass? You—“

Ben tuned them out, eyes focused on Five. “Five,” he tried again. “Five! Come on, Five, wake up, give me a sign you’re okay.”

Five’s brow furrowed, a small moan escaping as he cracked his eyes open. They flickered lazily towards Vanya and Diego, still yelling at each other. “Guess I’m not dead,” he muttered.

“Jesus,” Ben managed, sliding to the ground in relief. “Are you okay? What happened to you?”

“I’m fine,” Five said, slowly rolling over so he could curl up on himself a little. There was blood all over his face. “Just froze up when my family needed me most, no big deal.”

“You’re bleeding,” Ben said. It looked like a hell of a nosebleed, down Five’s chin and over his lips.

“Whatever,” Five muttered, closing his eyes and nestling his head into his shoulder so he could sleep. “Doesn’t matter. This is all my fault anyway.”

Everything went quiet.

“Five,” Vanya said, hushed.

“That’s not…” Diego murmured softly.

“Shut the fuck up, Five,” Ben said before they could get into it.

Five opened his eyes to looked at him, bewildered. “What?”

“You froze because someone dropped a ceiling on you,” Ben snapped. “You could have just as easily been injured or killed, and we were fucking losing anyway. But we dropped everything to protect you, because we fucking care about you, and we still do. What we need is to know if you’re okay or not, so suck it up and tell us.”

Five sat up, wincing as he did, frowning at Ben. “I’m fine,” he muttered, looking horribly affronted. “It’s just a nosebleed.”

“What did they do to you?” Ben asked.

Five shrugged. “I think they were just running tests or something,” he said. “They had me jump. A lot.”

“Like, they made you?” Diego asked. “Like with the bank?”

Five shook his head. “No, this was more like…” He made a face. “They put me in some kind of box and used some kind of current. Like Dad’s chair.”

“Fuck,” Vanya said. “They electrocuted you?”

“It didn’t really hurt until I couldn’t jump anymore,” Five said. “But I passed out after that, so…” He glanced at Ben, as if daring him to bite back at that.

Ben swallowed. “Okay,” he murmured. It wasn’t good, but at least Five seemed to be in one piece, and Ben’s heart was climbing back down his throat.

“What do they want?” Diego asked. “What are they testing?”

“Isn’t that just how alien abductions work?” Vanya said dryly. “They’re studying us.”

“Klaus said they’d be like Dad, but worse,” Five murmured. “So they must want us for something.”

“Yeah, but what?” Diego said.

“I mean, we do know they can brainwash us,” Ben said. “At least to some extent.”

“Then why haven’t they?” Vanya asked.

“I don’t know,” Ben murmured.

They were silent for a while.

“Hey Five,” Ben started, looking over at Five. His brother was already fast asleep even while sitting, and Ben sighed. “Okay, maybe later.”

**

 Diego groaned, twisting his neck in a desperate attempt to pop his spine. His neck hurt from sitting against the glowing bars and on the hard floor. Even his bed in the boiler room was more comfortable than this. "Fuck," he murmured.

"You can say that again," Ben muttered.

Five made a small noise, twitching himself awake, swiping his hands over his face in an effort to be more coherent than he probably was. "Anything new?" he asked.

"No," Vanya said. “It’s been silent since you feel asleep.”

"Great," he said. "I'm starving." He made a face. “Possibly literally.”

"Your powers need energy, don't they?" Ben said. "How long can you manage without food?"

"If they keep making me jump like they did?" he asked, frowning. "Not long. A few days at best."

"Shit," Diego muttered. They had to do something. He had to do something, he realized with a jolt. Luther was probably dead right now, and that meant Diego was "Number One" now. He'd always wanted to be, but never like this. "Okay, try not to waste energy while you can."

"Oh, really, Diego?" Five asked, folding his hands in his lap. "What a genius suggestion. And here I was, contemplating whether or not to run laps in this energy cell I'm stuck in!"

"Look, I'm just trying to figure out what to do here," Diego snapped. "I'm trying to protect you."

"I don't know if you've noticed, Diego, but we're both in cages," Five drawled. "Kind of hard to protect me."

"If you wanted to protect him you should have left when I told you to," Vanya muttered.

"Oh, fuck off, Vanya," Diego said. "Yeah, maybe I should have taken him out of the house, but it's not like you couldn't have left him to me and gone to help Ben."

"Don't drag me into this," Ben said.

"Well, maybe I just didn't trust you to make the smart decision. And I was right, because you didn't.”

"If there’s a hell, it looks like this," Five muttered.

"Yeah, well, you know what? Luther's probably dead, which means I'm Number One now," Diego said. "And I've got to make the tough decisions now."

"Oh come on," Vanya snapped. "Not even Luther believes in that Number One bullshit anymore."

"Didn't," Diego said. "Past tense, because these guys have already killed three of us. So now is not the time for bickering."

"By which you mean questioning you?"

Five ran his hands over his face with a sigh.

"If the shoe fits," Diego said. "It doesn't matter what happened down there, we were all captured, including Five, who's probably going to starve to death if we don't do something."

"Starting to sound pretty good," Five muttered.

"I miss Klaus," Ben said under his breath, laying back onto the floor.

"Okay, come on," Diego snapped. “We need a plan.” He grit his teeth. “I need to think of a plan.”

"Falling in line is not going to help our problems, Diego," Vanya said. "Maybe you should listen to us."

"Yeah? What's your idea?"

She sighed, but she stayed silent.

"That's what I thought," Diego said.

"Sssh," Ben whispered. "Footsteps."

Five sat up straight, and Diego crouched in anticipation, even though there was no place to hide in these cells.

A large figure came through the door. Diego couldn't tell if they were robots or if it was just armor, but their bodies were made of a sleek metal, the cracks in their joints and their hands glowing an eerie green. 

They stepped up to the bars around Ben and Five, and Diego surged forward on instinct. There was no way to protect them, but hell if he didn't want to try anyway.

The alien, however, simply set down a small box before each of them. Its hands passed through the cells with no trouble.

Five carefully pulled the box closer, sniffing it. "I think it's food," he whispered.

The alien rounded their cells and approached Diego's setting another box in front of him. It was a weird powdery block, but Five was right - it smelled like oatmeal of some kind. He stood back, watching the alien closely as it strode to Vanya's cell. Instead of handing her a box too, however, it passed through the bars entirely.

Quickly, she tried to summon her powers, but the alien moved faster, grabbing her arm.

"No!" Five shouted, pressing as close to his bars as he could. "Hey! Asshole! Get off her!"

"Five, shut up," Ben hissed.

A green glow crackled down Vanya's arm, and the glow around her cut off. "Shit," she whispered, as the alien dragged her along. She tried to fight her arm away, but it was clear that the alien's grip was unnaturally strong.

"Hey!" Five tried again. "She's not a threat to you, but I am! You want someone to test? I can do unimaginable things, I'm a better test subject than any of these idiots!"

"Five," Ben hissed.

Vanya threw her weight back to keep the alien from dragging her, but it picked her up easily, leaving through the door with her.

"Shit," Five said, trying to jump after them. The bars hummed, and he was right back on his ass, only a few feet from where he'd started. He tried again, and Diego turned away.

Fuck, he thought. Fuck, what was he even supposed to do?

He threw himself at the bars, but they only snapped back with a sharp twang. He checked the corners, but there was no crack, no weak spots.

"Okay," he said, trying to keep his breathing slow. "Okay, look, I know this is scary, but they brought Five back in one piece, they'll bring her back too."

"Shut the fuck up, Diego!" Five snapped, before trying another jump and failing yet again.

"Five, stop that," Diego said.

"He's right," Ben said. “You’re not going anywhere.”

Five snarled at them and jumped against the bars again, landing on his back with a pained groan.

"Five!" Diego yelled. "Stop!"

"Make me!" Five shouted, and jumped again.

"What the hell are you even trying to do?" Ben asked.

"You got a better idea?"

"Yeah, sit down and fucking eat!"

Five hissed at him and tried again.

Diego groaned and turned around to pace. 

Eventually, Five's limit took over for them, and he ended up on the floor, panting heavily as he tried and failed to jump again, space whirring weakly around him. He was drenched in sweat and the circles under his eyes were concerning to say the least.

"Five," Ben said. "You look like you just crawled out of a grave. Trust me, I would know."

"Fuck you, Ben," Five wheezed.

"No, he's right, you look like something from The Shining," Diego said.

Five hiccuped like he'd narrowly avoided puking. "Fuck." He looked at the mystery box with a groan.

"Do you think it's drugged?" Diego murmured. "Or poisoned?"

"No sense in poisoning us," Five sighed, nearly falling over with the effort of crawling over to the food. "And even if it is drugged, I won't stay conscious for much longer if I don't eat." He made a face and pulled the box closer, taking a bite. 

"How's it taste?" Ben asked.

"Am I really the person you want to ask about how things taste?" Five asked. "It's slightly better than roaches."

"Great," Diego said, looking at his own ration.

"Don't," Five warned. "If I get through the next few hours without getting sick, eat, but you can last a lot longer than me without food."

Diego made a face. "So you're our lab rat too, now?"

Five shrugged. "So it goes," he said, finishing off his food and scooting closer to Ben's cell. Ben mirror the move so they were all but pressed against each other through the wall. 

Five curled up in the corner, swallowing hard. He was probably freezing, Diego realized. This place wasn't warm to start with, but between all the sweat and the shorts, Five was probably cold as hell. Diego wished he could give him his jacket. But that wasn't an option. Instead, Diego sat down so he could watch Five closely, and settled in for the longhaul.

**

"You think Klaus is okay?" Five croaked.

Ben snorted. "I'd have thought you'd be pissed at him."

"I am," Five said. It was a little bit of a lie. He was hurt, mostly, by the things Klaus had said. He didn't particularly blame him. "So what? All I do is worry about you guys while being pissed at all of you for some shit."

Ben laughed, but he grew quiet quickly. "I hope he's okay."

"Are you pissed?" Five asked.

"Nah," Ben said. "Haunt someone for long enough, you kinda get used to any shit they might pull and vice versa."

Five snorted.

The door opened, and Ben waved at Five to stay put. Five, for once, decided to listen, instead watching their captors for anything that might come in handy. They had what looked like laser-based guns, but they were attached to their arms seamlessly. That would make them hard to steal, even if Five could get to them.

They had Vanya over their shoulder. She seemed to be conscious, occasionally kicking at them like she'd realized it wasn't going to do much but not wanting to give up on it entirely.

All three of them surged closer.

"You okay?" Diego asked.

She staggered to her feet. "What?!" she asked, far too loud.

"Are you okay?" Diego yelled.

"Yeah!" she replied. "I can barely hear you!"

"I can tell!"

"What'd they do?" Ben shouted.

She grimaced at him, rubbing at her ears. "They had this awful high pitched noise playing around me the whole time!"

"So they're testing us all one at a time," Five muttered. He swallowed. At least the others' powers didn't take as much out of them as Five's, but he couldn't help but wonder what happened after they went through a rotation. "Get some rest!" he shouted to Vanya. "I think the food is okay, too!"

Diego pushed his block through the bars to Vanya. 

"The food passes through the bars," Ben muttered. "Maybe you could throw it?"

Diego snorted. "Maybe as a distraction," he said. "They're too light to do much damage."

Ben nodded his head at the panels. "Maybe hit a button?"

"Too light for that too," Five muttered. "Probably."

"Someone's going to go hungry if we want to test it," Diego said.

"What?!" Vanya asked.

"We're going to try to throw the food!" he yelled, pantomiming.

"Here," Ben said, chucking his block at Diego. "I'm good for a while."

Diego backed up, the others watching him with baited breath as he chucked the block at the panel. It bounced off the buttons with no effect.

"Fuck," Five hissed, craning his head to look. "I think they're set into the panel. You'd need something thinner. And heavier."

"Uh-huh," Diego said, sitting down with a weary sigh. "Let me know if you come across any knives."

"Dickhead," Five muttered.

Diego flipped him off.

**

Vanya winced. Her ears weren't ringing quite as badly as before, but they were still in pain.

"Having powers sucks, huh?" Diego said.

"Fuck off, Diego," Vanya muttered. She appreciated that he'd given her his food, but she was tired and frustrated too, and Diego was a pain in the ass and then some.

"Hey, I'm just saying," Diego said. "You're included. Congratulations."

"We're all fucking tired," she said. "Don't be a dick."

Diego shrugged. "Hell, I don't know what else to talk about with you. All I can think about is your stupid book."

"You know, I would have thought you of all people would have been on board with telling the world who Reginald Hargreeves was," she bit back.

He shrugged. "Yeah. And if you'd have called, I'd have run to help. But you didn't. You just threw us under the bus to get back at him. You think he even cared that you helped him ruin our lives a little bit more?"

"Is now really the time to bring this back up?" she asked. She had her regrets, but she wasn't in the mood to be bullied into an apology. 

"Might not get another chance," Diego said. "Fuck knows how long we have left. What better time to tell you I think you were an asshole?"

"You want an apology?" she asked. "Would you stop being a dick about things if I apologized?"

Diego snorted. "I don't know what I want. I just know our plan to get all chummy and talk everything out like good siblings doesn’t work on a timer, so I’m bumping things up."

"Great," she said. "Noted."

He laughed, biting his tongue in anger, but he said nothing else.

The door opened, and they all tensed, Five shaking himself out of sleep, looking poised to try to get their attention again.

 "Don't even think about it," Ben hissed at him.

The guard slid new rations through the cell walls, then moved towards Diego. He took a deep breath. "Alright, alright," he said, putting his hands up as they wrenched him out.

"Fuck," Vanya whispered.

Now she wished she'd apologized.

Five kicked his cell wall, hissing when it reverberated into his leg, then started to pace.

"They only let down the walls after they've made sure we can't use our powers," Five said. "So what if..." He groaned, running his hands through his hair. "Fuck."

"If we could figure out a way to kill them without our powers..." Ben murmured.

"They're made of metal," Five said. "And we don't have weapons. I’m pretty good at improvising, but even I’m coming up short."

Vanya brought her knees up and leaned her head onto them.

The room went silent. Far too silent. Her ears hurt like hell.

Time passed all too slowly. She felt like she was back in that room, alone, and occasionally looking up at Five and Ben barely helped.

She missed Allison.

She had no idea if Allison was even alive. 

What seemed like an eternity later, Diego was dragged back in. Just like before, they all surged as close as they could get and yelled for Diego until he woke up, wheezing.

"What'd the do to you?" Ben asked.

"Kept me underwater, most of the time," Diego muttered, wheezing. "Cold water."

"To what end?" Five asked.

"Fuck if I know," Diego said. "There were these weird patterns, too. Like, glowing swirly things."

"In the water?" Vanya asked.

"Yeah, in the water," Diego snapped.

"Warmer at the top?" Five asked.

"Uh..." Diego asked. "Yeah, I guess."

"Sounds like a diffusion cloud chamber," he said. Vanya raised a brow, and he sighed, looking extremely harangued. "It's a way to see the paths of particles."

"Why?" Ben asked.

Five shrugged. "I don't know. I assume Diego's knife throwing has something to do with trajectories, but without seeing the patterns, I don't think I could tell you exactly what they were interested in. Particle physics isn't my forte."

"Great, well," Diego muttered, "I'll try to think of how scientifically fascinating I am when I'm dying of pneumonia."

"Wow, I'm sorry that while my ears were bleeding out you had to be cold," Vanya said. She regretted it the moment it was out of her mouth, but her ears hurt like needles had been shoved into them and she hadn't slept in god knew how long because of it.

"The bottom plate of a diffusion cloud chamber is probably around minus 20 degrees Celsius. So..." Five mulled it over. "About 10 to 15 below freezing.  I wouldn't be surprised if you have some frostbite."

"Also, I didn't breathe for several hours, but sure, Vanya, let's make this a competition!"

"You're the one who's always making everything into a competition," she muttered.

He huffed, throwing himself back against the wall and crossing is arms. "Whatever."

Vanya mirrored the move. She was so damn tired. "Whatever whatever."

"So that leaves Ben," Five said. "Then hopefully they'll start the rotation again."

"Hopefully?" Ben asked.

"I'd rather be tortured than wait to see how the rest of you are going to be tortured," Five said, analyzing the ceiling. "Fuck, these things are sturdy."

"You know none of us want to see you tortured, right?" Ben asked.

"Tough shit," Five growled. “I can handle it.”

“God, you’re so stupid.”

Vanya rolled over and hoped she'd somehow be able to get to sleep.

**

Five cracked his eyes open to hear bickering, as usual.

He groaned.

"Maybe if you—?"

"What? Tried harder? My ears are fucking bleeding, Diego!"

"Well, sorry, do you have any better idea?"

"Maybe you could try something for a change?"

"There's nothing to throw, Vanya!"

Five sighed. He looked at Ben, who had been back for a few hours after they’d taken him, clutching his chest in pain. There was no way he was going to be able to walk even if Five could think of a way to get out of here, which he couldn't.

"Will you two shut up?!" he snapped. They looked at him, looking ready to continue their yelling, at him this time. "Luther's dead. Allison probably is too, and we have no idea what the fuck is happening with Klaus. We're trapped here, and I don't know which of us is going to be next, and yet somehow, I'm keeping it together," he swallowed tears, "so you two have to too, got it?"

They stayed quiet, which was probably as good as he was going to get.

The door opened, and he held his breath. Come for me you bastards, he thought as the guard circled around them, giving them food, then stopping before his cell. 

They slipped through the bars and reached for him. He jumped out of their reach and onto their back, fingers searching for any weak points on their armor, any place where he could get his hands in and break something.

The alien reached back to grab his leg, and before he could jump away, he was on his back, twitching with the remnants of an electric shock. He was wrenched to his feet, head still spinning, and dragged off.

By the time his vision had cleared, he was being shoved into a chair and strapped down. He swallowed down bile. This part was too familiar for comfort, but at least he was pretty sure that if he could get his hands on an alien's neck one more time, he might be able to hurt them. He just needed some kind of weapon. At this point, anything would do.

These restraints were different from Harold's chair. They enclosed his hands, but weren't as tight around the wrists. He tested them, trying to pull one hand out. The chafing on his wrists was one thing, but when he pulled too hard, they lit up with electricity that hurt like hell, and the alien nearest to him moved to stop him. He released his hand. Later, maybe, when they weren't watching, he could test them again.

He heard a door open.

Almost instantly, he felt as though the temperature in the room dropped several degrees.

A new figure stood before him, looming over him. This alien didn't look like the other robotic figures. It was wearing a large, yellowed suit, a large mask over its face that hide everything but two beady eyes. 

It pushed his head back, gripping his hair so he couldn't move. It had an awful smell to it that he couldn't place, but it made something primal in his mind scream to run away. Tried jumping, almost out of blind instinct, but it was like Reginald's chair - he felt himself jump, and then felt it wrench him back. He was going nowhere.

It held his head firmly, lifting something like a flashlight before his eyes. Blinding light screamed through his head. Closing his eyes did little to help, and the hand in his hair kept him steady until the light finally ceased.

He couldn't see a damn thing.

"He's not powerful enough to move the whole ship," someone was saying, in a garbled, electronic voice.

"It's a work in progress to be sure," someone else said. "He has an impressive mind, but it’s nowhere near our computers, and the instinct for self preservation is our first obstacle. Start with the prefrontal lobe and go from there."

Five's blood ran cold, panic only mounting when the chair he was sitting in was suddenly folded back into what was without a doubt a surgical table.

It didn't take a large leap of logic to realize what it was for. If Reginald Hargreeves had taught him anything, it was what it looked like when someone would do anything to wring any amount of use out of people, no matter what it did to them.

He was first, and then it would be the rest of them if he didn’t get out of this now.

He blinked away the afterimages of the sharp light. Someone was putting a mask over his face, and with only a moment to think, he took a deep breath and held it as it was fastened over his face.

This was it. Do or die.

The figures around him all turned away as the hissing of the gas started. He concentrated on pulling his hand through the restraints until his thumb popped. The pain, coupled with the electric shock of the restraint, nearly made him take a sharp breath in, but somehow he avoided it, fixing his eyes on the laser that was threatening to cut into his brain soon if he didn’t keep it together.

The harder he pulled, the more intense the crackle of electricity in the restraints got. A breath escaped through his clenched teeth, and he focused on resisting the urge to suck it back in as a whimper. The screaming of his lungs was nothing compared to the steadily mounting pain in his hand as he pulled it as hard as he could from this angle.

Finally, with a pop, it slid free. He pulled the gas tube away from his face, gulping down air as he rolled over, out of the way of the laser, to quickly find the release button for the other restraints. His hand hurt all the way up to the elbow, but the adrenaline coursing through his veins kept it slightly numb.

The aliens had started yelling, and he fumbled to find the release button before they could grab and stun him again.

His finger – and Jesus Christ, did that finger hurt – found the button, and the restraint clicked open, letting him jump out of the way and behind the table. He picked up a scalpel, the blade a glowing line, and slashed at the nearest figure’s throat. If the blood spray was anything to go by, these things didn’t have a jugular, but the cut was deep enough that it stunned them, giving Five time to dig the scalpel into the cracks in their armor and push until the alien dropped.

He grabbed the alien’s arm and pointed its laser at the others, blowing a hole in one’s head before it died down.

“Shit,” he hissed. It seemed the lasers only worked while the alien was alive.

He ducked under the table to avoid a blast, then jumped behind the alien that had fired at him, grabbing its blaster to take out the rest of them while it flailed, trying to get him off its back. It threw itself back, and Five cried out as the motion drove him back onto something sharp and painful.

Still, after all this, he refused to let go of the alien’s arm, and with a quick motion, he pulled its hand up and fired into its head. The smoking corpse fell to the ground, leaving Five to stumble off the spike he’d found himself on. It seemed to be there for hanging things on, but it had sunk in a decent amount into his side – enough that he was bleeding.

With the blood loss and the pain from his mangled hand, he wasn’t going to make it far, and that was not a mistake he would make again. He fumbled for the alien’s blaster, still scorching hot at the tip, and sucked in a sharp breath. “Fuck,” he muttered, pulling his shirt up and pressing the smoldering blaster to his side.

The pain laced through him, his vision going black for a moment, but the bleeding seemed to be stopped for now.

He swallowed down the nausea and pulled himself to his feet, keeping his mangled hand close to his chest. For a terrifying moment, he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to walk, but he took one step, then another, then made it to the door without falling flat on his face.

He used the wall for support, but stumbled down the corridor. He had to get the others, then… Then something. He was in too much pain to think of much of a plan. Get the others. Then he’d start on step 2. Or was it step 3? He would laugh, but that was a slippery slope to breaking out into hysterics.

Step 1: Kill anything that moved before it killed him.

Step 2: Get the others.

Step 3: ???

He tried to heave himself into walking faster, at which point he realized what step 3 should have been. Step 3, he realized latently, was “Don’t pass out,” and, he thought as the floor swung up to meet him, he was failing at it.

Chapter Text

 "Five's right, we've been assholes," Diego said. He’d spent the last several minutes in silence with increasingly horrible thoughts about what Five might be going through at this very moment, and he couldn’t take it anymore.

Vanya snorted. "No shit."

"Hey," he snapped. "Come on. Five said it. With everything going on right now, if he can even stay standing, much less calm, we can stop being dicks to each other. Right?"

“Fucking finally,” Ben whispered to himself.

She sighed, then nodded. "Yes," she muttered. "Sorry for griping at you."

Diego rubbed a hand over his face. "And you're right that I should have gotten Five out of the house and left it to you. I know what you're capable of, and I should have trusted you."

She smiled slightly. "We still don't have any plan, though, unless you want to keep chucking food at the control panel."

"I think it's anything alien-made," Ben said. "They can also walk right through, so..."

"The floor," Diego breathed.

"What?" Vanya asked.

"The floor," he said louder, pointing. "If we can shred it enough for a knife, I can throw that."

"How are we supposed to do that?"

He pointed at her.

"What?" she blurted. "Diego, I can barely hear anything, I can't break a metal floor!"

"You blew up the moon with a violin!" he protested. "Come on."

Ben groaned. "I can make noise for you. The walls tend to hum when they're hit and I'm guessing if I hit them enough, it'll make quite a racket."

She sighed, but stood up. "Can you handle that?"

"No," Ben said, wedging him into the corner. "But what the hell."

She groaned, but put her hands forward, nodding at Ben. He nodded back, and unleashed the monster. Between the yelling and humming of the walls, there was certainly no shortage of noise. Vanya took a deep breath and pushed down. 

The floor curled up, creaking, and Diego jumped forward to grab at some of the slivers of metal. They were hot and sharp, but they also budged when he pulled.

"Don't fuck up your hands too much to throw something!" Vanya yelled.

Diego hissed, hands aching. "We can't keep making noise like this forever without being noticed, so just keep pushing!"

He pulled at the bending metal until his fingernails were torn and his hands were scorched, but a small spike of melted metal finally came free of the floor.

Vanya collapsed to the ground, followed shortly by Ben.

Diego didn't dare look at his hands. They were probably fucked up as all hell, and once the adrenaline wore off, he would not be touching anything for a while. But for now, denial was working just fine as he lined up one of the important looking panels and threw the knife at the buttons.

Ben's cell went dead.

"Shit," Ben wheezed. "Okay."

"Up and at 'em," Diego said. "Come on, Ben. We're not doing this again."

Ben groaned, crawling to the panel and hoisting himself up with a hiss. "Okay, uh..." He pushed buttons randomly until Vanya's cell shut off, then Diego's.

"Okay," Diego said, feeling a little bit of hope streaming back. "Now we just have to find Five."

"Fuck," Vanya said, joining Diego in stumbling over to Ben, each of them putting one of his arms over their shoulders. "Okay, uh... They took me that way."

"Right," Diego said. "Me too, I think. Uh..." He looked at Ben. They really did not have enough manpower to leave Ben and go after Five in two parts. "Then I guess we're going that way."

"Great," Ben said. "We've got at least a single percent of a plan."

"Shut up, Ben," Diego and Vanya said at once.

The doors, at least, appeared to be motion activated, letting them start down the halls. Unfortunately, the halls all looked essentially the same, and they could only guess roughly by direction where to go.

It was already a bad enough plan before they heard footsteps around the corner. From the sound of it, several.

"Shit," Diego hissed. "Vanya, you ready?  Because you're the last line of defense, sis."

She grimaced. "Not like I have much choice."

They eased Ben to the ground.

"Look, I'm going to try to back you up, but you're the only one here with any chance of dropping these guys," Diego said. "No pressure."

"Right," she said, taking deep breaths. "Yeah, no problem."

He patted her shoulder, keeping close so he could jump to defend her if necessary.

She rounded the corner just enough to throw one of the aliens against the wall, but even that was enough for a second to charge at her and throw her against a wall, raising the hand with the blaster at her. Diego kicked their hand out of the way, the blast firing into the air above Vanya’s head. In response, the alien elbowed him off his feet, rounding on him while he wheezed and tried to get up.

In a flash of blue, Five was on the thing's back, pressing something through the panels on its neck and grabbing its arm to use the blaster to take out the rest of the aliens. One dodged, but before it could hit Five, he was gone, instead barreling into it from the side, toppling it so he could reach the neck, shoving whatever weapon he'd found into the neck until it stopped moving.

He staggered to his feet, turning to look at them with a crazy look in his eyes. He was covered in what appeared to be blood, some of it red and some of it greenish.

 “Diego?” he managed, swaying only slightly as he limped towards them.

“Jesus,” Diego said, trying to catch his breath. “You look like shit.”

Five squinted at him, blood dripping from his nose and down his chin. He looked like a rabid animal stumbling out of the woods. “The hell are you doing here?”

“We decided to cooperate,” Vanya said.

“You were right,” Diego said. His hands ached like hell, but he was sort of proud of what they’d managed. “We were being assholes.”

“They worked together,” Ben said, hauling himself around the corner with some difficulty. “I’d say it was impressive but it was really the bare minimum.”

“Fuck off, Ben,” Vanya said. “We were coming to rescue you.”

“Oh, well, thanks for nothing,” Five snapped. “As you can see, I did that myself.”

“Hey, we were on our way,” Diego replied, taking note of Five’s hand, held close to his chest. It looked worse than Diego’s, fingers scorched and bloody and at all the wrong angles. “The hell happened to your hand?”

Five shrugged with a sharp, vicious inhale. “It was my hand or my brain,” he said. “Not a hard choice.”

“What does that mean?” Vanya asked.

“Oh, was I not clear enough?” Five hissed. “If I wouldn’t have forced my way out of my restraints and waited for you assholes to get your shit together, I would have been lobotomized, and now, on top of that, I’m going to have to get your dysfunctional asses out of here!”

Diego blinked at him. He was in too much pain and all this was too weird to deal with all that. “At least it’s only your left,” he managed awkwardly.

Five glared at him. “I’m left-handed,” he spat, “you absolute, waste of breath, dumb, fucking moron!” He stumbled back to lean on the nearest wall, blinking hard. “I think I’m having a panic attack.”

“Yeah, no shit,” Ben muttered. “So what’s your plan for getting out of here?”

“Currently my plan is to kill anything that moves and try not to pass out,” Five said. “Again. Yours?”

“We have no idea,” Ben said. “We figured after finding you we’d try to make it back to the room where they brought us in and hope for the best.”

Five wiped his nose with his sleeve. “Okay,” he said. “Sure.” He looked around, then looked at Diego. “Where is it?”

“Uh,” Diego said. He’d been a little more concerned with Five being practically catatonic and Vanya and Ben being unconscious than where they were going. “That way. Ish.”

“Ish,” Five echoed. “Great.”

"It's all we got, kiddo," Diego said. "Can you walk?"

"I'm currently walking, aren't I?" Five said. "So come on."

"I mean... debatable," Diego muttered, but he joined Vanya in picking up Ben instead of arguing.

Five leaned down to wrestle a sliver of armor off the nearest corpse with his good hand and his knee, handing it to Diego, then hobbled on, occasionally leaning on the wall for support.

It was slow going, but it was another ten minutes at least before they heard footsteps.

"Stay," Five said, gone before Diego could finish protesting.

"Shit," Diego said, listening to the sounds of blasting. He ducked out from under Ben's arm, helping Vanya sit him down. "Keep him safe, okay?"

She squinted at him, but Ben tugged on her pants and she seemed to understand. 

Diego rushed forward, finding a good spot behind the corner to hide.

Six aliens were already sprawled on the ground, Five firmly on one alien's back while kicking another until it fell. Diego hissed, trying to balance the knife in his abused fingers. He had to make sure he didn't hit Five instead of the alien. At least it appeared to be the last one standing.

The alien wrenched Five off its back and threw him against the wall. Five let out a gutwrenching cry, stumbling in an attempt to stand again. Diego raised the knife, fingers shaking, but as the alien picked Five up, slamming him against the wall again with a crushing grip, something else blew it away, leaving a hole in its side.

A new figure towered over them, lowering its blaster slowly, stepping towards Five.

Five, panting, tried to jump, but his powers seemed to fizzle out when he tried, because he ended up back on the ground, a sudden terror crossing his face.

That look sent a spike of something slicing through his heart. Diego took a deep breath and threw the knife, letting it land with a thud in the alien's thigh while he rushed to throw himself in front of Five.

“Ow,” the alien said, in a very familiar voice. “Diego!”

Diego squinted, stumbling with the sudden realization. “Luther?”

Luther pulled the knife out – and thank god for Diego’s horribly injured hands, because he’d been aiming to kill – and eyed the wound. It didn’t look deep. He pulled off the helmet of the alien suit he was wearing and gave Diego a betrayed look. Diego shrugged helplessly, trying to convey a general sense of, how was I supposed to know?

He had never been so glad to see Luther. He swallowed hard – the last thing he needed was to start crying in the middle of enemy territory about Luther, of all things – but hell. He’d really thought Luther was dead.

“Oh, fuck me sideways,” Five breathed, clutching his chest and gasping for breath. “I’m dying in a fucking drug coma as we speak, aren’t I? Or… don’t speak…?”

Before Diego could start to address that or do anything about the tears choking him, Eudora rounded the corner, gun held tightly at her side. “We’re good,” she said, before seeing Diego. “Oh, thank god.”

Diego’s heartbeat spiked out his ears. Crying was no longer a problem, thank god, because Diego was going to kill Luther himself. “What the hell is she doing here?” he snarled.

“Huh,” Five said, mostly to himself. “Or not. Wouldn’t have thought of Detective Patch.”

“My boyfriend got abducted by aliens and you expected me to sit around on my ass?” she asked.

“No!” Diego shouted, before pointing at Luther accusingly. “Which is why Luther shouldn’t have even told you!”

“We were a little short staffed!” Luther protested, holding his hands up in aggravation.

“Allison?” Vanya asked, worry strangling her tone.

Diego turned around to glare at her. "I told you to stay!" She didn't answer, so he repeated it louder. "I! Told! You! To! Stay!" It was like herding cats, dealing with these people.

She flipped him off, then turned back to Luther with a concerned look.

“She’s fine,” Luther said while she squinted, trying to read his lips. “Concussed, but she’ll pull through. Also apparently this ship is practically made of dead people, which is living hell for Klaus, so he sat this one out, but…”

“But he’s okay?” Ben said, dragging himself around the corner and sliding down the wall.

“Yeah,” Luther breathed. “He’s fine. Unlike you guys. Jesus.” He shook his head as if to remind himself to focus. “Okay, just… give me a rundown on where you all are in order of most to least injured. We can deal with the details when we’re all safe at home.”

“Five, me, Diego and Vanya,” Ben said. “But Five’s replaced all his blood with adrenaline, so I think he’s fine for now.”

Five nodded, looking more than a little green around the edges.

“I can barely—!” Vanya started before they all shushed her desperately. She scowled at them and aggressively mouthed, I can barely hear anything, pointing at her ears.

“Okay,” Luther said, mostly to himself, rubbing his hands over his face. “Okay.”

“You should carry Ben,” Five said. “As long as someone gets me upright, I can still walk.”

“Uh,” Luther said, looking at Five like he didn’t really believe it. Now that Diego was looking at him in earnest, he had to agree. In addition to his hand, Five also had a singed, bloody spot on his side and he’d hit the wall hard. “Sure.”

Eudora leaned down to help Five up, getting his arm around her shoulders. Diego moved to help. Five’s body was trembling, his jaw working with shivers.

“Okay, so there’s a… sort of transporter room a few halls down,” Luther said. “We stole the control bands from the corpses the aliens left, so it should take us right back home, but first we’ve got to get back there.”

“Wait wait wait,” Five managed, stopping short so quickly that Eudora had to swing around to keep him standing. “Just the one room?”

“As far as we know,” Luther said. “Why?”

“We need to blow it up,” Five declared.

Diego twisted his head to stare at him. “What?”

“We know there’s already a few of these assholes on the planet,” Five said. “But as long as they can’t come and go, they can’t jump in and grab us again. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I don’t think we can handle a repeat performance.”

“Okay, yeah,” Diego admitted. “But how the hell do we blow it up?”

“I don’t know,” Five replied.

Diego grit his teeth. “Oh, great plan, Five.”

“I’ve hit my limit several times in the past few days,” Five hissed. “I’m so low on energy, I can barely generate body heat, and yet I’ve still come up with more than you, so give me a break.”

“Oh, yeah, you want to do this?” Diego snapped. "Right now?"

“Diego,” Eudora said sharply. “Five has a point.”

“A point is not a plan, Eudora!”

“This family is a nightmare,” Ben muttered. “How’s Klaus? Does he miss me, because I really—“

“Fuck off, Ben!” Diego and Five said, before returning to glaring at each other.

“Okay, now is not the time to be bickering!” Luther whispered, stepping between them. “What is wrong with all of you?”

“I thought you were done with this leader bullshit,” Diego snapped.

“I don’t have to be the leader to be right!” Luther retorted. "I know you're all exhausted and in pain, but fighting is not going to help shit."

“Whatever,” Diego muttered. He hated it when Luther made sense. “We still don’t know how to blow this shit up.”

“Well then get ready to be attacked again when you can barely pick up a knife,” Five snapped, wheezing slightly. “Because that’s what’s going to happen if we don’t cut them off!”

“Well if you’re such a genius, why don’t you think of something?!”

“Because I’m currently bleeding out, dickhead! I can’t fucking feel my hand!”

“I wish I was dead again,” Ben said under his breath.

“Look me in the eyes and tell me you want to see what happens when the very thin thread I’m holding on by breaks, Ben,” Five hissed, head snapping around with wild eyes.

Ben rolled his eyes. “Fine, no more mentions of my untimely death, I guess.” He looked at Vanya, who looked confused as she tried to follow. “You’ve got all the luck.”

“What?!”

“Nevermind!”

“Okay, wait, wait,” Eudora said, holding her hands out to placate them. “Jesus, you guys are all children.” She looked at Five. “You’re the physics genius. If you knew what this thing ran on, could you think up something to… I don’t know, explode?”

“First of all,” Five said, swaying slightly as he glared at her, “my specialty is theoretical physics. Second of all, I’m currently bleeding out, freezing to death and starving to death. How well do you think my brain is working right now?”

“Okay, fair enough,” she said. “Um.”

“We can always ask Dad,” Luther said.

“What?!” Diego and Five said at once.

“No way,” Diego said. “You can’t make Klaus—“

“How do you think we got up here?” Luther interrupted. “Besides, Klaus is fine, he’s been entertaining himself by throwing darts through Dad’s head between questions. It's actually pretty funny to...” He stopped. "Nevermind. Point is, Klaus is on board for asking Dad stuff, trust me."

Five nodded quietly to himself in surrender.

“Okay, fine,” Diego muttered. “We ask Dad.”

“Just stay hidden,” Luther said. “It’ll take a minute or two to get a hold of them.”

He shuffled away, leaving them all to try to stay awake until he got back. Diego’s much needed denial about how much his hands – and hell, the rest of him – hurt was wearing off.

“So?” Five asked the moment Luther returned, switching off his radio.

Diego sat up straight. “Do we have a plan?”

“Do instructions on how to MacGyver a fuel line in an alien space ship into a bomb from your dead father relayed by Klaus over a 15 year old radio count as a plan?” Luther sighed.

“No,” Five grit out, coughing.

“Are we really going to get anything better?” Ben muttered.

“Hell, I’ll take it,” Diego sighed.

“What?” Vanya almost managed to whisper to Ben.

“We’re blowing up the transporter room,” Ben told her. “Or ourselves, who knows.”

“Right,” she said, sighing. “Whatever.”

“Great,” Five said, holding his arm out. “Get me up, let’s do this.”

“You sure you don’t want me to carry you?” Luther asked.

Five nodded, swaying worryingly.

"Okay," Luther muttered, stooping down to get Ben. "What happened to you?"

"Overused my powers," Ben said. "By a lot. Glad you're still alive, by the way."

"Yeah," Luther said. "I broke a lot of ribs, though."

"Good to know," Diego muttered.

"I am also just a little bit high on painkillers," he continued.

"Oh good," Ben said. "You sure you can carry me?"

"None of you weigh anything to me," Luther replied. "You guys know that, right? I'd carry you and Five but I don't have enough arms."

"I'm fine, if I stop moving I'm going to pass out," Five muttered. "Again."

“How many times have you passed out?” Eudora asked.

“Like three times since I escaped,” Five said. “Without any help from this lot, by the way.”

“Oh,” she said. “That’s… You know what, nevermind, just… try to stay awake.”

“I’m doing my best.”

They finally made it to the room Diego remembered arriving in.

Eudora helped Five up onto a round platform, and Luther sat Ben down on it.

"You got this?" Diego asked Luther.

Luther nodded, ripping the exterior off one of the panels. "I did plenty of repairs on the moon, I can deal with this." He snorted to himself. "Actually, this stuff looks a lot more like Dad's tech than I thought. It'll only take me a minute or so."

Diego looked at Eudora. "Did you bring me any knives?"

She nodded, pulling three of them out of her jacket. "Happy birthday."

"What, nothing for the rest of us?" Ben griped. "If it's his birthday it's our birthday too."

She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, I'm saving your ass."

Ben shrugged in acceptance, poking Five to keep him awake.

Diego hissed as he worked the knife out of the scabbard, elbowing Vanya to get her attention. "If you've got any juice, aim it at the door!"

She nodded, eyes intent on the door until Luther hissed, clicking something into place and dashing to join them. "Okay, hold on!" he shouted, grabbing Vanya to steady her.

Diego squeezed his eyes shut and let the light wash over them

**

"Should they be back by now?" Klaus asked.

Allison looked up at him, rubbing her temples. "I don't know."

"I don't want to ask Dad," Klaus said. "I'm so fucking tired of Dad. Not even the darts are helping."

"Klaus, I don't know how to say this nicely, but you're giving me a migraine," Allison said wearily.

"You're useless," Klaus sighed, slumping across a chair.

Light flooded to the room and Klaus was on his feet before he could even see. He hurried to blink away the afterimages and did a quick count of heads. That, at least, checked out.

Still, his family had seen better days, that was for sure. "Okay, show of hands, who's still alive?" he asked, queasy.

Everyone raised their hands but Vanya, and Klaus felt nausea rise before Diego reached over to slap her hand up. She gave him an affronted look while he curled up, cursing and clutching his bloody hands to his chest. Allison raced over to hug Vanya tightly, and Vanya returned it after a moment of clearly struggling to keep up with events in real time.

Klaus let out the breath he'd been holding.

He looked at Five, who had the most amount of blood and other questionable stains all over him. "Jesus Christ, Five," he managed, in lieu of anything good to say. Five had a wild look in his eyes and Klaus had no idea what Five felt about him right now. "You look positively feral."

"You fucking asshole," Five managed, then collapsed in a heap. Klaus flinched, latently reaching out to catch him, then putting his hands over his mouth when he realized it was not going to happen.

"Shit," Luther hissed, bending down to check Five’s pulse. "Okay, he's..." He looked down at Five. Okay didn't really seem honest, but everyone relaxed anyway. Luther scooped him up. "I'm taking him to Mom. Can the rest of you handle it alone?"

Ben nodded from where he was sitting on the floor.

Klaus looked at the others warily. "Hey guys," he said, as light as he could. "I am. So. Sorry."

"Oh yeah," Diego said, still keeping his hands close to his chest, stooped slightly. "That. I kinda forgot about that shit."

"Really?" Klaus said. He'd expected Diego to still be pissed.

"Well, yeah, I've been locked in a cell for days and my hands look like hamburger meat," he said, holding them up. Klaus hissed in sympathy. "So... yeah, you know... we're good, I have worse shit to be pissed about."

"Well, that's something," Klaus said. “Vanya?”

“WHAT?”

“She can’t hear anything,” Diego said. “Seriously, like… nothing.”

“I AM SORRY,” Klaus yelled at her.

She shrugged, looking mostly like she was too tired to even try to respond.

"Okay, I'm seriously realizing how much this hurts," Diego muttered.

Eudora sighed and dragged him away.

“You too sis,” Allison said. She pointed at her own ears. “Let’s get those ears checked out.”

"WE CAN TALK LATER," Vanya yelled as she and Allison left.

Klaus gave her a weak thumbs up, then turned his attention to Ben. "We good?" he asked nervously. Of all of them, Ben not forgiving him would be the worst.

"Of course we are," Ben said, reaching his arms out for Klaus to help him up. Klaus obliged easily, supporting some of Ben's weight while Ben wrapped his arms around Klaus and squeezed. 

"I didn't mean it," Klaus said, returning the hug with a sniffle.

"Yeah you did," Ben said. "Not that I'll tell the others that."

"Well, okay, but I didn't mean it mean it," Klaus said. "I shouldn't have said it. Or, you know, I shouldn’t have said it the way I did."

"Klaus, we've been joined at the hip for 12 years, I'm amazed you didn't dig your teeth in sooner," Ben said. "Also, for the record, I spent those 12 years stuck with you, and as much as you drove me up a wall, I just wanted you to get better. I was stuck with the others for like... 3 days and I'd sell any one of them for a dime."

Klaus burst out laughing despite himself, burying his face in Ben’s shoulder. "Let me guess, Vanya and Diego bickered like old ladies the whole time and Five..."

"Brained himself on an energy cell he clearly couldn't jump out of like... a million times? Literally said he hoped they’d torture him next so it wasn’t us? Yeah. It was a nightmare."

"Oh, trust me, it was no better down here," Klaus said, squeezing Ben hard as he dared before letting go enough that he could slowly start walking him to the infirmary. "Luther and Allison were trying really hard, but between her concussion and him on painkillers, they were... well, Allison was keeping up, she was just crabby as all hell, and Luther... well, Luther was trying so hard, it was really, truly heartbreaking. And then I also had to ask Dad for information..."

"Oh, that sounds fun," Ben said. "Especially after you yelled at him."

"I genuinely think the man is allergic to being helpful and clear," Klaus said, nearly falling over as he tried to help Ben around a corner. They both tried not to giggle about it. "Like I honestly think it causes him physical pain. Anyway it was basically me and Mom trying to corral a bunch of toddlers ranging from a little behind to downright belligerent. But Luther was the one who suggested calling in Eudora, so... points for him there."

"I really missed you," Ben said. “Like seriously, I spent the whole time up there wishing I could just give you a look about all of the others.”

Klaus swallowed hard. "Yeah, me too. God, sometimes I swear I turned to give you a look and forgot you weren’t there and it sucked.”

"Same here. Also, I'm in a lot of pain," Ben said. "So for a change I think I'm going to be the high one."

"Holy shit," Klaus said, stopping short to look at Ben. "Ben. I'm going to be the only sober person in this family."

Ben stared at him for a while, then burst into helpless giggles.

Chapter Text

Klaus stretched his arms, yawning. They'd agreed no one was to leave the house alone for a while, which meant Klaus was sleeping in the basement. Of course, by now he'd dragged down Dad's mattress (the most comfortable in the house, of course) and Christmas lights, and several pieces of furniture from around the house, so it wasn't so bad, but it wasn't the height of comfort either.

And even though it had been mostly him and Luther who had decided it, with some hazy input from Diego and Ben and some confused attempts at participation from Vanya, Klaus still felt like being stuck in here, even just for safety in numbers, was a bit like house arrest. The part of the house that was still very much Reginald’s loomed.

He'd invited Dave over later in the day, though, which was fun. It made the house seem a lot less like Reginald’s.

He tiptoed past the hall, where a very livid Helen was currently screaming, "The next time my girlfriend gets abducted by aliens, you tell me IMMEDIATELY!" while Luther tried very hard to look unthreatening as he stammered his way through, "Well, we were kind of busy... uh... getting her back..."

Poor Luther didn't deserve to be chewed out at the moment, Klaus knew, but Helen was on a warpath, and Klaus had slept in a windowless, harrowing bunker. He was not going to take Luther's place, no matter how much sympathy he felt for the man.

He cleared the stairs without either of them noticing, then made his way up to the infirmary. Diego and Vanya were still sleeping, and Allison had her feet up and her arm over her face. Klaus gave Ben a quiet thumbs up and then left him to his book while Klaus sat down beside Five. He wanted to be there whenever Five woke up so he could shower him with comfort and a dozen apologies.

Five had curled up under a thick blanket like a small animal, but at least his lingering shivering seemed to have stopped. He'd been stabbed by something from behind, though thankfully it had missed any vital organs. He'd cracked his ribs, dislocated his thumb and given himself second degree burns down his entire left hand, as well as small burns all over from, presumably, trying to fight a bunch of robot aliens with his bare hands.

But at least he was in one piece.

Klaus sighed and brushed Five’s hair out of his eyes with the tips of his fingers, trying not to wake him.

It didn't work. Five's eyes fluttered open and very slowly focused a glassy stare on Klaus.

"Hey," Klaus said softly, scooting closer. "How are you feeling?"

"My brain feels sticky," Five slurred, awkwardly trying to take in his surroundings with all the grace of a fish out of water.

Klaus resisted laughing. "Yeah I bet," he said. Exhaustion aside, Five was also on a lot of painkillers right now. He couldn’t possibly be very coherent.

Five tried to rub at his eyes, frowning in confusion when his bandaged hand didn't cooperate and the other hand was slowed by the IV dragging over the bed. "Is it all still there?" he asked, looking back at Klaus.

"Uh..." Klaus said. "Your... brain?"

Five nodded with an all too real look of fear. It wasn't hard to connect the dots.

Klaus pulled his chair closer and lifted Five's head into his hand. "Let me check," he said, combing his hands through Five's hair as though checking for any scars. His heart clenched a little at how obvious Five’s craving for touch was like this, but he kept it to himself. He rapped his knuckles gently on Five's forehead like he was testing a watermelon. "Yep, all there."

"Okay," Five said, before his brow furrowed and he squirmed in protest of, Klaus assumed, the general situation around him. "You were a jerk."

Klaus sighed. "Yeah, I was." He let Five lay back, helping him pull the blankets back up to his chin when Five struggled to keep track of his hands. "And I'm so, so sorry.” He rested his hand on Five’s through the blanket. “I sort of... What I said to the others, I was actually mad, but with you, I just said what I knew you wouldn't want to hear. It wasn’t… I didn't mean..."

Five sniffled, and Klaus stopped short.

"Oh, nono," he managed, waving his hands desperately. Tears were filling Five's eyes. "No, don't cry, please don't cry!"

"I can't remember if dogs can eat peanut butter or not," Five said, voice breaking.

"Oh, wow, you are so high," Klaus said, rubbing his shoulder. "I'm... Okay, I'm going to apologize later. But on the bright side, dogs can absolutely eat peanut butter."

"Yeah?" Five said, turning hopeful and teary eyes onto Klaus. "And also peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches?"

"Yes," Klaus said, though he was not as sure about that. He helped Five brush away tears from his eyes with his thumb, careful not to startle him. "Definitely."

"I'm really hungry," Five said, lip wobbling.

Fuck, he was so small. 

"I can make you a sandwich," Klaus said hurriedly.

"I want ten," Five demanded. "No... fifty."

"Sure," Klaus said. He was going to make five, and Five wasn't going to notice because Klaus knew from experience that the second he had enough food, he was going to forget he'd asked for fifty. "Fifty fluffernutter sandwiches, coming right up. Want me to cut off the crusts?"

"Yeah," Five sniffled, pressing his balled up fist to his eyes, looking like the epitome of an overtired kid. He hiccuped quietly.

"Okay," Klaus said, ruffling his hair. "Be right back. Meanwhile, you can talk to Ben if you feel alone, okay?"

"Ben?" Five asked hopefully. “Ben’s here?”

Klaus propped him up with an extra pillow and pointed Ben out. “Right there, see?”

"Ben!" Five said, brightening immediately. "Hi."

"Hi," Ben said, grinning. He wasn't quite as loopy as Five, but he was out of it too, and there was only so much he could hide his amusement at how lost Five was.

Klaus patted Five's head. Five looked at him with wide eyes. "Be right back, I promise," he said, and headed to the kitchen.

He started on the sandwiches, humming to himself.

Luther poked his head into the kitchen. "Oh, there you are," he said. "I was looking for you."

"What now?" Klaus asked. “I swear if there’s any other disasters going on, I’m gonna lose it.”

"Uh, nothing, exactly. Definitely no disasters for now," Luther said, awkwardly shuffling into the kitchen. He took the bread and joined Klaus in his sandwich making. "How many are you making?" he asked.

"Well Five asked for fifty," Klaus said. "So as the veteran high idiot around here – ha, get it, veteran – I've made the executive decision to give him five sandwiches cut up into bite-sized pieces."

Luther nodded, getting an extra knife for peanut butter. "I owe you an apology," he said. “Now that things are a little calmer.”

Klaus blinked at him. "You owe me an apology?"

"Yeah," Luther said. "I get why you want to apologize to the others, and they probably need it. Five, definitely. But what you said to me, you... you were right. When I said you were carefree…” He shook his head. “Well, I've been pretty stupid for a long time."

Klaus hummed somberly. He’d never really disliked Luther at any point, even though sometimes he’d been a real pain in the ass. But as many dumb decisions as Luther made, he’d always been so earnest, and that had always felt good in their family of cutting, belligerent assholes. "Is it that stupid to want to believe your father cares about you?"

Luther sighed. "Yeah, kind of. I don’t know. He was... He was not a good person. And he wasn't good to me, but he was... decent to me. I guess." He mulled it over. "Well, decent enough that I could still fool myself."

"Yeah," Klaus murmured. "I know."

"Look, I should have realized years ago that he wasn't a good man," Luther said. "Hell, I even knew he wasn't a good man, I just thought he had his reasons. And that they were good reasons."

"You know, I always wished I could believe that," Klaus said. "I really wanted to think maybe deep down he actually loved us. Sometimes I almost did.” He laughed to himself. Oh, those had been bittersweet times. “Then he'd do something awful and I'd remember why it was so hard to tell myself that."

"Yeah," Luther sighed. "Well. I didn't... I didn't realize that. And then with the whole moon situation... it finally clicked." He shook his head, placing a hand over his sandwich to cut the crusts off like Klaus had been. "But even knowing for sure that he never..." He laughed to himself. "I still can barely say he never loved us, how fucked up is that?"

"No, I get it," Klaus murmured. "Trust me, I really do. When I first talked to him in the afterlife, he asked if you were okay, and I asked if he cared. And I wanted him to say yes. God, did I want him to say yes. I wanted so bad to believe he loved any one of us, even if it was just you. I don't know why, but god I would have been thrilled to hear him say yes."

They both took a deep breath, the silence between them heavy.

"It's a really steep learning curve," Luther admitted. "I don't know how much I dug my own grave and how much was Dad, but... It doesn't matter. I haven't been keeping up with... you know, what you need.”

“Well there are a lot of us,” Klaus said. “And one of us is Five, who is… well.” He gave Luther a small smile. “And I’m okay, lately, seriously. Like, actually okay, not… playing it off as a joke okay. There’s Dave, and sleep – god I love sleep – and everyone’s treating me like a real grown up and…” He shrugged. “It’s good.”

“Five was right, though,” Luther murmured. “I want to be a good brother. I like being a good brother. So... You know, I'm sorry. I should have had a real talk with you earlier. Checked in. I keep meaning to and then there’s always something."

Klaus shrugged again. "It's fine," he said. “I mean between Five and the aliens, I don’t blame you.” He hummed to himself. “That would be a good band name, huh? Five and the Aliens.”

"It's not fine," Luther said. "You've been working really hard to keep it together and I'm honestly proud of you, Klaus. I should have said so before."

Klaus smiled weakly. He wasn't sure what to do with that, but it felt good. And Klaus had never been very good at denying things that felt good. He had also never been good at accepting them gracefully. “You know Dave has been making it very clear to me that I have the world’s biggest praise kink.”

Luther gave him a look that was equal parts panic, brotherly exhaustion, and a solid attempt to let Klaus be Klaus in peace.

“Sorry,” Klaus said. “Uh… Thanks. In a not weird way.”

Luther put down the butter knife and looked at Klaus very seriously. "Thing is, Dad put a lot of pressure on me. Which is fine, I liked it, but..."

"It wasn't fine," Klaus said, pushing the plates away to look at Luther. "It was bullshit, he just... convinced you it was a reward."

"My point is," Luther said, waving him away gently, "you always joked around and you never took anything seriously. And I just assumed it was because... you know, because you didn't have to. You're right, I never realized that you had your own shit going on, or what Dad... What Reginald was doing to you. And then you started getting into drugs and I just... I resented you, for not having to care about things, I guess."

"You’re right, though, I didn't take things seriously," Klaus offered. “Including my own health and wellbeing, I suppose, but…”

"I should have put more thought into why you did it," Luther said. "Why you would want to run away from life so bad. I'm sorry I didn't."

"Well, I did lie to, manipulate and steal from you guys to fund my drug habit," Klaus said, grinning. "For several years!"

"Yeah, well..." Luther said, shrugging. "We all did shit."

Klaus chewed at his lip. "I get flashbacks, you know," he said. "Not as bad as... you know, Five." He laughed to himself without much humor. "But especially during withdrawal I used to just... close my eyes and be back in that mausoleum. I hated it." He snorted. “Kind of cheated the system by uh… not having withdrawal anymore, so it’s been better, but… yeah.”

"Yeah, well," Luther said. "You’re not alone. It's not flashbacks, but I have nightmares about waking up... you know. In a body that's not mine. A monster." He frowned at himself. "I mean, it's not locked in a mausoleum level but—"

"No, it's pretty fucked up," Klaus said. "Dad... Reggie fucked us all up."

"Yeah," Luther breathed. He looked at Klaus with earnest eyes. "You know, I don't know if you want to talk about stuff with me, but if you do, I want to listen. I'm trying to... you know. Listen."

Klaus blinked away tears and nodded desperately. "Yeah. I'll try."

Luther reached over to pull him into a hug. "Also I'm very glad you're not dead."

"Yeah, me too," Klaus said, hugging him back for a long moment before he pulled away. "Anyway, I promised Five sandwiches, so unless he's fallen back asleep in the meantime..."

"Right," Luther said, returning to his task of cutting up the sandwiches.

**

"Is this okay for Five?" Luther whispered to Grace while she looked Five over.

She nodded. "He should be fine, just watch out for his IV."

Five was curled up around his leg, head on his thigh, snoring softly. Luther put an arm over his back, keeping him close. Allison slipped through the door and sat down on the bed beside him, putting her head on his shoulder. "How are Diego and Vanya?" he asked.

"Just fine," she said. They'd both gone back to their own rooms, which was better than being stuck here in the cold lighting of the infirmary. As soon as they didn’t need as much care from Grace, Luther was probably going to help Ben and Five back to their rooms too. "They're both sleeping like babies. Eudora and Helen are keeping an eye on them. We really should move Vanya into one of the bigger rooms, though."

Luther nodded. "As soon as she's awake, I'll let her pick one."

Allison nodded too, wrapping her arms around his right arm and letting out a long breath.

"How's your head?" Luther asked.

"Better," she said. "I think another day or two and I should be peachy."

"Good," he said, watching her quietly.

She lingered for another moment, then let go and reached over him to pet Five's head. "I'm really glad you're okay, by the way," she said. "I... didn't really let myself think about what I thought when the floor caved in, but I definitely..." She smiled ruefully. "You know."

"Well, I'm still in one piece," Luther said, smiling. "We all are."

"Yeah," Allison said. "Oh, and Vanya has stopped yelling. Mom said as long as we keep an eye on the infection that started in her right ear, she should bounce right back without any hearing loss."

Luther nodded. It seemed everyone would make a full recovery, which was nothing short of a miracle.

"Don't wake Five up," he heard Klaus say. "God knows how rude the tiny bastard will be hopped up on painkillers."

"Klaus," Dave chided. "Your brother doesn't have to like me, you know that."

Klaus muttered darkly under his breath.

"Hey Dave," Ben said, waving happily. Luther waved at Dave awkwardly. It was weird having visitors, much less three at the same time.

Klaus shushed Ben angrily, but Five was already stirring, lifting his head blearily. "What?" he mumbled.

Klaus groaned. "Dave's here to keep me company," Klaus said, scratching Five’s head tenderly. "Is that okay with you, or are you going to be a little bastard about it?"

Five rolled around with some difficulty. Luther tried to help, but he wasn't sure where to get his hands in amidst the flailing. Five gave Dave a long look that Luther presumed he intended to be withering. "I do not care for the fact that you're fucking my brother," he declared, very matter-of-fact.

Allison stifled a laugh into Luther's shoulder.

Klaus carefully pulled his shirt over his face in mortification, looking at Dave, who calmly pulled up a chair to talk to Five. "Good to know," Dave said, patient.

"I may not know things about sex," Five said, in what he probably thought was a subtle murmur between him and Dave. Luther wondered how he could extract himself from the situation without alarming Five. "But I know a lot of other things about... about other stuff."

"I've heard," Dave said. "And I don't doubt that if I crossed any lines, you would keep me in check. I do appreciate that."

Klaus slowly lowered himself under Ben's bed as though this situation would vanish if he couldn't see it. Ben squeaked with barely contained laughter.

"Yes, but," Five said, suddenly going a lot quieter, eyes wide, "I don't know. That's the problem. I don't anything about sex, and I don't know what's a problem, I just know you're older and that's generally considered bad, but I don't know when it's dangerous and I don't know what to do to protect my brother if it is."

"Oh," Klaus whispered from under the bed.

"Well, listen, I won't say your brother always makes the most sound decisions with his sex life," Dave said.

Ben giggled loudly. “He does NOT.”

Dave gave him a severe look while Klaus slowly pulled his arms over his head in his hiding place. Luther looked back and forth between him and Dave, not sure what he was supposed to be doing in all this.

"But," Dave said, letting Klaus scream softly into the floor in peace. "First of all, I have not yet had sex with your brother, exactly, because as far as I'm concerned, we've known each other for two months."

"Oh," Five said, looking almost embarrassed to have made a wrong assumption. "Well, good."

"Secondly, your brother has many times the… ah… appetite that I do. So for me, this is not about pleasing myself, it's just about keeping this strange, wonderful man who stumbled into my life happy. I intend to put as much work in as necessary to make sure he's alright. And if I ever feel there's a problem, I will encourage him to reach out to his family for support, so hopefully, you'll know, and can threaten me as you please."

Five shook his head sloppily. "You're too important to Klaus," he said. He straightened out his back and looked at Dave very seriously. "I'd die for you."

Dave finally seemed flabbergasted at that. "Well," he said. "Ah. I would prefer you did not. You're very important to Klaus too."

Five squinted at him. "Well one of us has to."

"What?" Klaus whispered to himself under the bed.

Dave paused. "Why?" he asked, carefully.

Five stared at him. "I don't know. Hypothetically."

"So hypothetically, if one of us had to die, it would have to be you?"

Five squinted at him. "Yes," he said, as though he thought this would be a trap.

"That's an awful idea," Dave said, trying not to laugh. "I don't really have family anymore, I'm retired. If I died, I'd just stay with Klaus, probably, whereas you have the rest of your family."

"Yes, but," Five said, seeming very put out by this logic. "But..." His eyes flickered back and forth as he tried to chase his own thoughts.

Allison hid a giggle into Luther's shoulder.

"I do appreciate the thought," Dave said, before Five could fry his brain trying to make sense of the situation. "Really."

"Well good," Five said. "It's very hard right now."

"Thinking?"

Five nodded.

"Well you're quite high," Dave said.

"I don't like it," Five said. Then, as though he’d entirely forgotten the previous conversation, he declared, "Did you know Klaus and I are twins?"

"Wait what?"  Klaus said, shooting out from under the bed. "As in, we had the same mom?"

"Oh, yeah, that," Ben said. "Pogo told us while you were dead."

"You people are certainly very nonchalant about death," Dave muttered.

"No, just me,” Ben said. “I was dead for 12 years, so it really stops meaning much.”

"Wait wait wait," Klaus said, waving him down before Five could catch on and start protesting. "So which of us was born first?"

They all stared at him.

"What?" Five said, finally.

"Well, we were all born at the same time, right?" Klaus said. "Except if we're twins, one of us had to be born first, meaning the other is – or was, we've both time traveled – the youngest of all of us. So which of us is the youngest?"

"Five," Luther, Ben and Allison said all at once.

"No!" Five shouted. "I am not the youngest!" He kicked his foot in a way that was not doing much for his point.

"Four of us say you are," Klaus said, leaning onto Dave while Dave looked between all of them, clearly riveted by their attempts at discussion. "So really the vote's already made."

"Nooooo!" Five whined. "I'm not the youngest!"

"He's Four, you're Five," Allison said.

"Just makes sense," Ben added.

"I'm not!" Five said, squirming until he was mostly sitting. "I'm not the little sibling!"

"Sorry, Five, you are," Luther said. "It's decided."

"My little brother," Klaus cooed pinching his cheeks.

"No!" Five yelled, batting at him. "No! I'm going to end you, Klaus! Klaus!"

Klaus planted a kiss on the top of his head, and Five went lax, immediately placated.

"You know why you being youngest is a good thing?” Luther said, catching Klaus’ eyes. For once, he was going to be the mischievous one, and Klaus could immediately tell, because he grinned in anticipation.

Five looked at him suspiciously. “Why?”

“Because now we can ground you,” Luther said. The others stared at him, confused.

"You... what?" Five said, blinking at him. "You can't ground me."

"Yes, we can," Luther said. "You're the youngest."

"I am not,"  Five said. "I'm at least, on average, 10 to 20 percent 58 years old."

Klaus held up a finger, tracing the words to try to make sense of them. "What?"

"Nope," Luther said. "You're the youngest, and you're grounded. Right guys?"

“Depends,” Klaus said, though he was obviously on board with wherever this was going, “what’s he grounded for?”

“For all the martyrdom he subjects himself to,” Luther said.

“Ohhh, that,” Klaus said. “Yeah, that makes sense. He’s super grounded.”

"He said he hoped he'd get tortured next so we don't have to," Ben volunteered, looking very proud of himself for ratting Five out.

"Snitch," Five hissed.

"Exactly,” Luther said, shifting Five in his arms so he could look him in the eyes. “So, Five, you’re grounded.”

Allison nodded. "Agreed."

"Absolutely," Ben said, clearly confused but ready to play along just to mess with Five.

"So grounded," Klaus said very seriously. Dave watched him as though trying to figure out just what was wrong with all of them, but he didn’t make any comments.

"Great," Luther said. "That's a winning vote. Five, you're banned from sacrificing yourself or getting yourself tortured, injured or captured for any of us."

Five stared at him, mouth dropped open. "But... no!"

"Hah!" Ben cried, pointing victoriously. “That's what you get!"

"I had to protect you!" Five said. "That's my job!"

"Sorry Five," Allison said, patting his leg. "We're all very appreciative of everything you've done for us, but you're still grounded."

"But what if someone else is being tortured?!" Five blurted.

"Nope," Luther said. "This is a very strict rule. You'll have to think of something else."

Five looked up at him, lip wobbling and tears budding in his eyes.

"Oh," Luther blurted. "Hey, come on. No, don't cry." He picked Five up a little more firmly and wiped away the tears.

"Well other people in this family that aren't me being tortured makes me cry!" Five protested, crossing his arms.

"I know, but we're still not letting you get tortured instead," Luther said.

Five stomped his foot. "But I want to! It's my job! You can't ban me!"

"We can and we did," Klaus said, booping his nose.

"No! You can't! You're not allowed!"

"We voted," Allison said. "I’m sure if Diego and Vanya were here they’d agree, so it’s pretty much unanimous against you."

"No! No, no NO!" Five shouted, kicking his feet. 

Luther stopped him gently. "Five, don't do that, you'll tear your stitches."

"Can I get tortured if everyone else is in danger?" Five asked eagerly.

"No, definitely not," Luther said.

"Then I'm not stopping!" Five said. "You're all ganging up on me for protecting you and that's not FAIR!"

Dave quietly pointed at the plate of leftover sandwiches on the bedside table, and Allison grabbed them and shoved them under Five's nose. "Here, Five, are you hungry?"

"Yes," Five said, almost immediately forgetting what he was doing to reach for the plate.

Klaus patted his head. "There you go. I bet you feel better already."

Five nodded. "I'm so sleepy.”

"I bet," Klaus said. "After eating, why don't you take a nap? We'll all be here while you do."

Five nodded, and Luther breathed a sigh of relief.

"Okay, well," Luther said, "since you guys seem to be managing Five—" 

He attempted to get up, only to get a loud, "Noooooo!" from Five as he dropped the plate and wrapped his arms around Luther's middle tightly. "Don't go!"

"I'm just going to help Vanya move rooms," Luther said softly. Five’s messy hair fell in his eyes in a way that was just begging to be brushed aside, and Luther did so. "Since we've agreed no one leaves the house alone until we're all healed and her room is, you know, a closet."

"But," Five said, with wide eyes, "when you leave I don't know if you're dead or not."

"Oh," Luther said, squeezing him as tightly as he dared with all of Five’s injuries. "Well, I'm not going to die from carrying a few beds up the stairs, so I think you can safely assume I am not dead until I get back."

"Promise?" Five said softly.

"I promise," Luther said. "No one is going to die."

"Ever?" Five asked.

"Well," Luther said. "Uh. I mean, eventually..." Klaus made a frantic cutting off gesture at him, and he quickly amended it to, "Not for the time being, no."

"Oh," Five said, as though that satisfied all his questions. "'Kay then." He let go of Luther and reached out his arms for Klaus instead. "Can you stay with me in my dreams? They're scary."

Klaus gaped at him. "I... can... try...?" he managed, looking at Luther for help. 

Luther shrugged at him, trying to impart the words I know you left me alone with Helen with his eyes, and all but bolted out the door.

Chapter Text

Vanya sighed, rubbing at her ears. They hurt and itched in places she couldn't get to, but at least her hearing was mostly back. She watched as Luther set down a second bed beside hers, pushing them together and putting a sheet across them both. "There," he said, glancing at Helen for approval. "That should be good for both of you."

"Hopefully," she said, arms crossed. She was significantly shorter than Luther, but by the way they both acted around each other, no one would have guessed it. "Thank you." She looked at Vanya. "I'm going to make us something to eat."

Vanya nodded at her, accepting a kiss as she left, then turned back to the room, crossing her arms. Things were slowly getting relaxed enough that Vanya had actually put some thought into the happenings of the last few days. Specifically, into how many siblings she had nearly lost. "I thought you were dead," she murmured.

"Uh," Luther said. "Yeah, apparently everyone... uh… kinda figured."

She sighed. "I... I know a lot has happened between us lately," she started lamely. “Or, well… lately as in before everything else happened. Lately.” As crazy as their lives had always been, the past few months had been even crazier.

Luther looked at her with earnest, guilty eyes as he put pillowcases on their pillows. "Yeah."

"I just..." She sighed. She couldn't say she wasn't mad. She was mad about a lot of things and it wasn’t so simple to just decide to not be mad about some of them. Maybe she could say she'd forgiven him, but they'd already gotten to that point. There was just something awkward that lingered between forgive and forget that she couldn't shake. "Whatever happens, I want you to know that... we're okay. You know?"

He nodded. "For what it's worth," he said, "and I know it's not worth much, trust me, I wasn't going to leave you down there forever. There was just... the apocalypse and Allison was still injured and... and I didn't know what to do. But I wouldn't have been able to leave you there forever, no matter how dangerous you were. You're my sister. I want you to know that too."

"Yeah, that is worth pretty little," Vanya said, smiling slightly. He shrugged in acceptance, seemingly more glad that she was smiling than worried about the jab. "But... yeah. I get it." She snorted. "You know, none of you actually told me about the apocalypse?" She hummed. That wasn’t exactly true. "Well. Five did. And I called him crazy, basically."

Luther caught himself before he could give her an accusatory look, which she appreciated. "Yeah, maybe... I could have told you more of what was happening instead of just deciding for you in silence, huh?"

"Yeah," she said. 

"I was being stupid," Luther said, sitting down on the bed. "Allison was hurt and it got to me."

"Family motto," Vanya said. "'I was being stupid,' that is."

"Yeah," Luther said, staring into nothing with a very specific exhaustion Vanya also felt. "Yeah it is."

She sighed and stepped closer to wrap her arms around his shoulders. "We're okay, though," she said. "It's... whatever, you know?" She wished there was a better way to say it, but the best she could do was nudge her head against his shoulder and hope he got the message. 

"I know," he said, wrapping an arm around her to return the hug.

"You know," Vanya said, pulling away, "I’m starting to get the feeling this family is just having the same conversation over and over lately. ‘Sorry I was stupid and didn't have a conversation with you when I should have.’"

"Well, we were all raised by the guy who couldn't say goodnight to us even once," Luther said. "So that makes sense."

She laughed, and he gave her a soft smile. It was extremely comforting to see that smile when there had been a brief moment not so long ago when she’d thought it was gone forever. She was tempted to hug him again, but she had something more important to do at the moment. "Yeah, point taken. Anyway, thanks for setting up the room, And… I need to talk to Diego."

"To tell him he was stupid and should have had a conversation with you, or to tell him you were stupid and should have had a conversation with him?" Luther asked with a lopsided smile.

"The second one," Vanya said. "For now. I'm sure he'll bring it back around."

Luther laughed. "No doubt. Good luck."

She nodded, waving at him awkwardly as she went back downstairs to knock on Diego's open door. He was busy rewrapping his bandages around his right hand with his already bandaged left. "What's up?" he asked, not looking at her.

"I came to say sorry," she said, quickly crouching down to help him before he hurt himself some more. "About the book. Among other things."

He stopped, not looking up, and let her.

"Everything was always about the Umbrella Academy," she said. "I just wanted to tell the world, 'I'm here too.' And I really didn't care what it meant for you guys."

Diego waited until she tucked the edge of the bandage away and then looked up at her. "Yeah, that much was obvious." He sighed. "Look, maybe I'm overestimating myself here, but I like to think I would have listened if you’d have just said something."

"Yeah," she said. "You probably would have."

"For the record," he said, "I didn't stay because I didn't think you could handle it."

"I know," she said. "It's who you are. I get it."

He chewed at his lip silently.

She moved to sit on his bed. "Well, anyway. I'm sorry."

"Whatever. I shouldn’t hold grudges," he said. "I’m trying not to hold…” He took a deep breath. “I'm sorry we weren't there for you. And for... you know. I didn't exactly react to your book in a mature way either."

She snorted. "Yeah, not really."\

They sat beside each other in awkward silence. Vanya could count the serious talks they’d had in their lives on one hand, and she couldn’t help but wonder just how much she didn’t know about her brother.

He threw an arm around her and ruffled her hair. "Next time maybe come to me before calling me a damaged asshole in front of the entire world?" he offered.

She leaned into it with a smile and leaned her head against his shoulder. "I'll do my best."

"While we're having an honest conversation, though," Diego said, his hand resting on her shoulder like he shared her sudden realization of how good it felt to hug each other. "Your girlfriend. Stares at me. Like a serial killer."

"I know," Vanya whispered, trying to hide a laugh. "I'm sorry, it's really bad, but it's... I think it's how she expresses affection?"

"If I am ritualistically murdered, it was her. I swear to god," Diego said, though he was laughing too, try as he did to hide it.

"She's not going to murder you."

"She's gonna do something."

"She's not."

"Want to bet?"

She smiled. "Yeah, let's bet."

**

Klaus sighed, pausing to rub his hands over his face. "Oh, good," he muttered to himself. "This is harrowing. Yet again."

It had taken him the better part of three hours to get to sleep and then make it here, but he was down in the basement. Except now there were no Christmas lights and stolen mattresses, just a general smell of decay and ash. He could hear voices echoing from the end of the hall, one familiar and the other, a woman's voice, not so much.

"Your greatest weakness has always been your childish attachment to your family."

"You could be so much more if we just... cut it right out of you."

"Stay still, it won't hurt for long..."

Klaus leaned against the doorframe. Somehow nightmares seemed a lot less scary when Klaus knew they weren’t his. "Okay, fuck off," he said. Five's eerie vision of Reginald and another lady that Klaus vaguely recognized as the Handler looked at him, bewildered by his appearance. Between them, Five was strapped down, trying and failing to stay calm. His eyes bore into Klaus the moment he put it all together, begging for help.

Klaus waved at them to go like he was the traffic conductor of the dream world. "Get out! This is not a nightmare anymore, goodbye."

He ignored them and instead strode across the room and knelt down before the chair holding Five captive. They quietly ceased to exist while he worked on getting the restraints open. Five sucked in desperate breaths, trying to control his sobbing while Klaus got him free.

"So, new nightmare," Klaus said, while Five rubbed his wrists and sucked his wobbling lip between his teeth, sniffling loudly. He reached up, helping Five wipe away tears and holding his head steady until his breathing evened out into distressed little hiccups. "Exactly what you needed, huh?"

"Old nightmares," Five managed, coughing around his tears. He rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand. "New tools. And I think the drugs make everything weirder and sharper." He swallowed hard, letting Klaus help him to his feet. "Thanks for coming."

"Of course," Klaus said. "Took me a tick to figure out how to get here, but I'm here now. So let's just go upstairs and I'll yell at any nightmares we see on the way. Sound good?"

Five nodded weakly, letting Klaus steer him out the door.

The doors along the hall had been closed when he'd come down it, but they were open now. On instinct, Klaus clapped a hand over Five's eyes, and it was a good thing he did, because each room had a corpse, flickering randomly between how Five had presumably found them in either apocalypse.

"What...?" Five managed, a shiver running down his spine that Klaus could feel along his arm.

"Sssh," Klaus murmured. "Don't look. It's okay, you don't have to look."

Five didn't argue, and Klaus kept his own eyes on the way out, carefully walking Five along. He was going to have to sleep down here for the foreseeable future, and he really didn't want to give his brain any imagery to start conjuring up while he was here.

"So about the stuff I said, earlier," Klaus said, once they were in the elevator. "It was bullshit. And really below the belt. And... you know, just...” He groaned. “I didn't mean any of it. I just wanted to hide from reality and you were in the way."

"Yeah," Five murmured, worryingly neutral. “I noticed.”

"I know I really betrayed your trust," Klaus said. "Throwing all that out there like I did. The way I did." He bit his lip. "I know it’s a lot to ask, but… I don't want you to... you know. Stop confiding in me, just because I... was a complete asshole who used all your deepest feelings and secrets against you out of sheer cowardice. And all."

That got a small snort out of Five. "I thought about it," he said. "Not opening up to you as much."

Klaus' heart plummeted, but he nodded. "That makes sense."

"But I'm so tired, Klaus," Five said, resting his head against Klaus' shoulder. "And you're really helpful, and I...” He made a sour face. “I need it. At the end of the day it matters more to me that you’re here than some bullshit you said while freaking out. So... Yeah, I forgive you." He looked up with a sullen look. "But not for free."

"That's ominous," Klaus said, though he couldn’t deny that he felt a weight lift from his shoulders.

The elevator rolled to a stop. Something in the dark house snarled, and Five's breath hitched. Klaus pulled him into his chest and squeezed. "Hey!" he yelled into the dark. "No! We're having a moment, come on!"

The noise died down. "Your nightmares are so rude," he told Five. He looked into the dark. “Oh, was that a zom-beast?”

“Don’t call him that,” Five murmured, extracting himself from Klaus without meeting his eyes.

Klaus looked at him, very quickly making a leap of logic from the look on his face. He decided not to mention it further. "Okay, so, what's your price?"

"For starters, I don't owe you twenty bucks anymore," Five said, letting Klaus turn him around and start to the living room.

"No you do not," Klaus remarked.

"Second, I want to know what you saw," Five said.

"Ah," Klaus said. "Two way street, huh?"

Five nodded, hand curling around the back of Klaus' shirt while they walked. 

"It's hard to explain," Klaus said. It had been a bit of a whirlwind of being dead and being in space and being surrounded by... well. Whatever it was. "I saw the ship, and I'd say it was full of ghosts, but uh... there wasn't really enough of them left to call them ghosts. It was more like the whole ship was screaming and there was just this... raw, palpable sense of horror from hundreds of devoured planets. It was... kind of a lot."

Five nodded. "And you figured if we went up against them..."

"Yeah," Klaus said. "I figured if Dad saw us as useful, then these guys would too."

Five took a shuddering breath. "You were right."

"I didn't think they'd come after us in our house," Klaus said. "So I guess in trying to keep us all away from their clutches, I almost..." His throat squeezed, and he pulled Five closer.

"Well," Five whispered. "Haven't we all?"

Klaus smiled ruefully, tucking Five's head under his chin. "Guess it’s a twin thing, huh, little brother?"

"I'm not the younger twin," Five said without hesitation. "And you can't ground me."

"You totally are, and we totally can."

"I'm not!"

Klaus hummed in deeply sarcastic agreement.

"I guess the bright side is you can't be gross and call me sexy anymore," Five said, sighing and jumping onto the couch.

"Uh, yes I can. I was not coming on to you before," Klaus said, shoving him aside until they could both curl up on the couch. "Obviously. You’ve always been my brother. I was just stating facts. You make a very attractive adult."

"No."

"And I'm positive there were a lot of survivors in Timeline 2 who were flirting with you, unless they were all blind."

"There were not."

"Really?" Klaus said. "Did anyone ever invite you to eat with them?"

"Yeah, we had communal dinners," Five said, matter of fact.

"But like... pointedly."

Five hesitated. "No," he said, sounding deeply unconvinced even by himself.

"They were flirting, Five," Klaus said. "Because you were hot."

"You're awful."

"Well don't worry, hermanito," Klaus said, patting the back of Five’s head. "I'm still sexier."

"Horrifying."

"As dashing as you may be, I will always be the pretty twin," Klaus said.

"I don't know why I talk to you," Five mumbled sleepily. He sighed. “But I guess you’re probably right. The Handler was definitely into me. It was… kind of uncomfortable, really.”

“Oh, okay, that’s not great,” Klaus whispered to himself.

Five didn’t answer, breaths growing slow.

"Are you about to fall asleep in a dream?" Klaus asked, peering down at him.

"Yes," Five croaked, shifting in an effort to stay slightly awake. "I'm really, really tired."

Klaus hummed. "That makes sense. You literally looked like something rabid wandering out of the bushes.” Five wasn’t paying attention anymore, that was clear, so Klaus just helped him get comfortable and laid his head back. “I'll be here."

Five nestled into his shoulder. "I know."

Klaus watched him drift off, the dream growing more dreamlike in ways Klaus couldn’t really put a finger on as he did, and smiled to himself. “Goodnight,” he whispered, and closed his own eyes.

**

Diego wrenched himself awake, breathing hard.

It had been a long time since he’d last slept in his childhood room. The feelings he had about his childhood lingered here, but Eudora’s sleeping bag on the floor offset them. She wasn’t here now, though. Diego checked the clock. Her shift didn’t end for another hour. He wanted to call her, but for once, his nightmares had had little to do with her and a lot to do with dark alien corridors and certain small brothers he’d seen living in abject terror one too many times.

He tiptoed out of his room – the house was too quiet. He couldn’t shake the feeling that if the aliens had made it inside once, they could do it again. He grabbed a belt of his knives and slung it over his shoulder – granted, with his bandaged hands he could barely throw them, and it dug into the small patches of frostbite lining his back, but it felt better than going without.

Still, it made him feel a little more at ease while he crept down the halls, peeking into rooms as he went. Just to be sure. He tiptoed up the stairs, checking the hallway around Five’s room before reaching for the door.

Something slammed into him, lifting him off his feet and against the wall, holding him tight. He made a grab for his knives, before he realized what was happening.

“Diego?” Luther asked, clearly realizing as well. “Jesus. What are you doing?”

“Ow,” Diego said crossly. “Could you put me down?”

Luther obliged. “Why are you creeping around the house like a burglar?” he hissed.

Diego pushed Five’s cracked door open. He’d been sleeping in his own bed for the past few days, sprawled on top of Klaus and Ben like they were both nothing but pillows. His limbs were all over the place. Ben was against the wall, back straight to leave room, arm thrown over Five to rest on Klaus’ elbow. Klaus was curled up in a small ball, twitchy even in his sleep, but neither Ben nor Five seemed to care.

Diego took a good look at Five’s sleeping face. He looked peaceful, out cold even when Klaus nearly smacked him in the face. “Just checking on Five,” Diego said. He narrowed his eyes at Luther. “That alright with you, or are you going to bodycheck me again?”

“I thought you were someone breaking in!” Luther protested. When Diego gave him an unimpressed look, Luther gestured to his still injured thigh. “You stabbed me, remember?!”

“That was different,” Diego muttered.

“How?”

Diego shrugged. “Whatever. I’m going back to bed.”

Luther snagged his arm as he went. “Hey. You okay?”

“Yeah,” Diego said. “I’m fine.”

Luther squinted at him. “Nightmares?”

Diego scowled. “Yeah. So?”

Luther sighed. He seemed to be going through several hurdles of thought at once before he finally arrived at, “Want to raid the old man’s liquor cabinet and talk about it?”

“Wow,” Diego said. “Never thought I’d hear you talk about raiding the old man’s anything.”

“Yeah, well…” Luther muttered. “Just…”

Diego rolled his eyes, jerking his arm away. “There’s nothing to talk about,” he said. “It’s just… you know. Shit’s been going on.”

“Come on, Diego,” Luther said, looking at Diego with earnest eyes. “One drink.”

Diego sighed. “Fine. One drink.”

Luther stood back in relief. “And give me those,” he said, taking the belt from Diego’s shoulder. “You’re going to rub your back raw.”

Diego gave him a reproachful glare, but he shrugged the belt off and let Luther carry it as he started down the stairs. Diego groaned inwardly and started after him, waiting impatiently as Luther  poured them both drinks. He took the offered glass and collapsed back onto the couch while Luther took the armchair, shifting until his back didn’t hurt.

“So,” Luther said. “What’d you dream about?”

Diego shrugged. “What do you think?”

Luther raised a brow, as if to say, We have more than enough things to worry about, smartass.

Diego grumbled quietly to himself, taking a long sip. “If it had been up to me alone, I would have been too late to save Five,” he murmured.

“Yeah,” Luther said softly. “But it’s not up to any of us alone.”

“Easy for you to say,” Diego said. “I can’t fucking st-stop thinking about…” About what he would have found if they’d gone after Five and Five hadn’t met them halfway, he wanted to say, but the imagery his brain had volunteered choked his words away. The thought of Five, clever Five, looking at them with dead eyes, bloody and worse than dead took away his breath and his words.

He pinched the bridge of his nose, trying not to think about it.

“It’s not,” Luther said. Diego looked up. He’d lost the train of thought and it took him a moment to catch up and realize what Luther was talking about. “It’s not easy for me to say. I have to remind myself all the time that the world doesn’t revolve around my choices alone. In a good way or a bad way. We’re all in this together.”

“Yeah, well, I still failed Five,” Diego said. “And I don’t know how to stop thinking about what would have happened to him if he hadn’t fought his way out of there by himself.” He sighed. “He’s done enough of that already.” There was something about finding out that not only had Five survived on scraps for decades, but that even before that he’d been fighting tooth and nail to protect them that just made Diego angry.

Angry at what, he wasn’t sure. Five, for not having said anything. At Luther, because it was supposed to be Luther’s job to look out for all of them like a good leader. At himself, because he shouldn’t have needed protecting at all.

At Reginald. Always at Reginald.

Luther nodded. “I don’t know how to help with that,” he admitted. “But it’s not on you. And at the end of the day, he did fight himself out of there, and so did you.”

Diego grimaced. “I should have stepped up earlier. I should have never let them take him at all.”

“Diego, everyone’s safe,” Luther murmured. “You had a hand in that, even though you were injured and exhausted. You have nothing more to prove.”

Diego laughed bitterly. “You have no idea, do you? How much Dad told me I’d never be you? How often he’d mention that you would have done it better or how often he said this was why you were Number One and I wasn’t.”

Annoyance flitted over Luther’s face, like he wanted to deny it, but he stopped himself. “I don’t,” he admitted.

“You know, maybe you can just up and decide that we don’t need a leader anymore,” Diego said, the anger he’d always felt towards Luther rising even though he didn’t particularly want it anymore, “but that’s only because you feel like that right is yours to give away.”

Luther stayed silent, thinking it over. “I don’t want to compete with you over this,” he said finally, voice quiet. “Dad was wrong. About what it means to be a leader, yeah, but also about you and me. And you knew he was wrong before I did, you know it’s bullshit.”

Diego bit his lip. “Your life wasn’t the only one that revolved around being the leader. I get a fucking say in whether it’s bullshit or not.”

Luther nodded. “Okay,” he said. “I see your point, and yeah, you do.”

The quiet admission had Diego deflating. It wasn’t exactly like he wanted to defend Reginald either. “I spent my whole life wanting to be you,” Diego muttered. “And then you just up and decide being you is bullshit. So what the hell does that mean for me?”

“I don’t know,” Luther said. “I wish I did, really, I do.”

Diego stayed silent. “We could have done so much more together,” he admitted. “Five shouldn’t have been taking care of all of us, it should have been you and me.”

Luther opened his mouth, then seemed to think better of it.

“No, go ahead,” Diego said, sitting back in defeat. “Whatever.”

“None of us should have been taking care of each other,” Luther said. “Not in the way we’re thinking of. That should have been Dad’s job.”

Diego dropped his head into a tired nod, laughing despite himself. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah. You’re right. I hate that you’re right, but you’re right.” Tears pricked at his eyes, and he tried to wipe them away subtly, but damn it, Luther was fucking right. There were so many things in their lives that should have never happened, that a real parent would have never allowed to happen. What had happened on the ship was just another instance in a very long line of Reginald’s wrongs.

Luther watched him silently, then slowly put down his glass and wrapped his arms around Diego. Diego swallowed hard. He didn’t want to cry in front of Luther. It wasn’t…

Hell, he didn’t know why not.

Fuck it.

He wrapped his arms around Luther, tears escaping despite his weakening efforts to refuse them. “I couldn’t protect him,” he choked out. “And I know he’s okay now but I didn’t…”

“I know,” Luther said, holding him tighter.

“I can’t stop fucking thinking about it.”

“Me neither,” Luther whispered.

“Fuck,” Diego said. He felt Luther’s breath hitch, and that was the last straw. “F-Fuck, I th-thought you were dead.”

“I’m not,” Luther said, and sniffled.

Diego squeezed him tighter, and Luther returned the gesture.

Diego couldn’t help but think how pissed Reggie would have been if he’d ever found Luther and Diego with a stolen bottle of Jack from his liquor closet, clinging to each other and crying. It was too bad – Diego would have liked to piss him off like that.

But on a much more real level, it was a relief. Reginald wasn’t here to judge anymore, and Diego was going to cry on his brother’s shoulder until he tired himself out doing it.

Chapter Text

Five shuffled down the stairs, uninjured hand clutching the railing as he went. He felt fuzzy and sore at the same time, which just felt like cheating on the part of the world at large, but at least he was walking by himself.

Everyone else was still asleep, but Five was, at this point, tired of sleeping. Curling up with Klaus and Ben was nice and all, but in the past few days he’d been sleeping most of the time – even inside his dreams – and he was beyond read to be well enough to start jumping again. He felt claustrophobic having to take it easy on his powers for so long.

He’d tried to jump yesterday – his balance had been off and it had ended up with him puking into the nearest toilet. Today was better, but it was likely if he tried jumping he’d either land face first on the nearest flat surface or he’d throw up again.

Neither sounded attractive.

On second thought, though, maybe he wasn’t the only one awake. He could hear voices from the living room, and he sidled over to see who it was.

“Remember that robbery where the guy tried to hit you with a crowbar?” Diego was whispering.

“Oh yeah,” Luther said, giggling. Neither of them sounded particularly sober. “But only after he tried to hit me with a chair. I don’t know why he thought the crowbar would work better.”

Diego laughed too. “His fucking face.”

Five tiptoed around to look at the empty bottle and the soon-to-be empty second bottle rolling on the floor. That explained the giggling, but not why it was Luther and Diego giggling together, nor how Diego had allowed Luther to sling his arm over his shoulders and actually keep it. They’d never done anything together but fight.

“Can’t believe it took our brother nearly getting his brain cut out for us to finally talk,” Diego said, shaking his head as he tried to stop laughing.

Five rolled his eyes. That was putting it lightly. “Now, sadly,” he said, “I’ll never know what it’s like to be you two.”

They both turned to look at him.

“Hey,” Luther said, holding up a threatening finger. “No. If you want to ruin the moment you have to join it.”

“Yeah!” Diego said. He had clearly tried a little too hard to keep up with Luther’s alcohol tolerance despite having less bodyweight and roughly the same amount of experience. “C’mere you little shit.”

“No,” Five said. If he sat down, he was probably going to fall asleep again.

Luther scooted over to leave a space between them, nudging Diego until he did so as well. “Yes. Come on, you started it, now you have to.”

“Yeah!” Diego said, raising his glass sloppily. “C’mon, suck it up, little bro!”

Five rolled his eyes, clambering over the couch to join them on the floor. He rested his head on Luther’s thigh and tucked his feet under Diego’s knees and closed his eyes. Unsurprisingly, he was sleepy again. “Fine,” he grumbled.

“Why do I get the feet?!” Diego protested. “You always lay on Luther!”

Five wriggled his toes. “Luther is softer and you’re warmer. Shut up and deal.”

Amazingly, Diego just blew a raspberry at him. “Prick.”

“Sssh,” Luther said, the palm of his large hand petting Five’s bangs without him even seeming to realize. Five would blame the drugs if asked, but he leaned into that warm, calloused hand without a second thought. “Don’t be mean, he’s the youngest.”

“I am not the youngest.”

“Nope, Vanya and I got clued in on this too. Vote’s unanimous, little bro.”

“It’s not unanimous without me.”

“Nope, this is an older-siblings-only vote.”

“I hate you all.”

“Uh-huh,” Luther said, patting his head indulgently.

Had either of them been any less comfortable to lay on or next to, Five would have probably tried jumping away. As it was, however, he just fell asleep before either of them could say more bullshit, waking only when Klaus burst in with a cry of, “Group hug!”

Five cracked his eyes open just in time to see Klaus crash into Diego, hugging him tightly while Diego yelled and try to free himself from Klaus’ flailing arms.

“Klaus! Klaus get off!” Diego shouted.

“No! I love you!” Klaus said, squeezing him.

“Ow!” Diego yelped. “Klaus, the frostbite.”

“Oh,” Klaus said, letting him go. “Oops.”

Luther snorted.

“Oh, hey, now that Five’s been mostly coherent for a jiff, it’s probably time for another family meeting,” Klaus said, resting his chin on the top of Diego’s head, more careful about where he put his arms.

Diego gave him a withering look, but allowed the hug to continue.

Luther sighed. “Yeah, probably.”

“God, I’m going to have to talk to Dad again,” Klaus whined, flopping over dramatically. “I don’t waaaaaaant toooo!”

“Well, could you make him corporeal? Ish?” Luther asked. “So I can talk to him instead?”

“No offense, Luther, but I don’t think you’re prepared to haggle real answers out of Dad,” Klaus said, putting his bare feet onto the couch and peering up at them. “He says these confusing half truths and you have to verbally wrestle him to get to the bottom of the situation.”

Luther hummed. “Well, what if we talked to him together? You don’t have to make him solid, just visible, right? You can manage that for a little while.”

“Yeah, probably,” Klaus said. “But come on, you really want to talk to him?”

“Do you?” Diego asked.

“Well no,” Klaus said. “But I’m not going to feel better if I drag someone else into it.”

Five put his hand up. Maybe that was the remnants of the drugs in his system too, but he felt the urge to play along with their dumb games today. “If I’m banned from martyrdom, so is he.”

“What? Come on, I have not come near the level of—“

“No, Five has a point,” Luther said. “You have to set an example for your little brother.”

Diego giggled, far too entertained by the fact that Luther was making actual jokes.

Five gave him a tired look. “Not what I was going for, but sure.”

Klaus groaned. “Okay, okay, fine, I’ll make him visible and you can come talk to him with me, Luther,” he conceded.

“Hey, if Luther’s coming, I’m coming,” Diego declared.

“Me too,” Five said. “I want to hear what the old man has to say.”

“Uh, no,” Klaus said. “I’ve seen what Dad looks like in your nightmares, my sweet, super traumatized little brother, ‘member?”

“You’re traumatized too,” Five countered, lazily lifting his feet into Diego’s lap to get more comfortable in Luther’s. Diego made a face at him and reached down to jab at the inside of his foot. “And besides, I’m not going to be any calmer twiddling my thumbs while you guys talk to him about the end of the world.”

Diego was still poking at his foot, and he made a motion threatening to kick Diego in the face, which sadly got him nothing but Diego pinning his legs with his elbows and a hissed, “Don’t make me tickle you.”

“You literally can’t twiddle your thumbs right now,” Klaus said.

“Metaphorically,” Five hissed, trying to wrestle his feet out of Diego’s grip while Diego tried to pin them and tickle them with his seriously bandaged fingers.

“Ugh, fine,” Klaus said. “I guess if all three of you are in I’m going to have to ask Allison, Vanya and Ben if they want to come along too.”

“Yeah, probably,” Diego said, hissing as Five actually did kick him, albeit lightly, in the nose. “Seems fair.”

Luther sighed, reaching over to hold Five’s knees down with one hand. Diego moved to make use of it, but Luther gave him a severe look, and he groaned instead, leaning back on the couch.

Klaus pushed himself to his feet. “You all suck.” He stomped away as dramatically as possible.

“I think we handled that pretty well,” Luther remarked.

“Yep,” Diego said. “High five.” He held a hand up. Though his fingers were no longer bandaged together, he still looked like he had a mummy’s hand.

“Diego,” Luther said softly. “Seriously?”

“Oh, right.”

“Idiots,” Five muttered, settling further into Luther’s lap and crossing his arms. “Wake me when it’s time to do things. Or if someone made food.”

**

“Are all of you sure you want to talk to Dad?” Klaus asked, yet again.

“I think if we do this we should all do it together,” Vanya murmured.

“Klaus,” Diego said. “Chill. We can always leave the room.”

“I feel responsible here!” Klaus protested. “I’m the one conjuring the bastard, what if he says something awful to one of you and opens up old wounds?”

“Then that’s on Dad,” Five said.

Klaus groaned, taking a seat on the table and tapping a fork against a glass he’d gotten from somewhere. “Okay, fine. Family meeting time, now with Dad.”

He held out his hand, and suddenly there he was, glowing behind Klaus. Allison sucked a breath in through her teeth. It had been so long since she’d seen him, and hell if it didn’t hurt.

“Take a seat, Reggie,” Klaus said, putting his hands on his hips. “I have some rules.”

“Klaus,” Reginald scolded.

“No, Dad, I’m serious,” Klaus said. “You’re here on my dime, and I have rules.” He held up one finger. “First off, you use real names for all of us.”

There was a long awkward silence before Diego sighed loudly, throwing himself back in his chair. “He doesn’t know them.”

Luther stared at Reginald with an open mouth, Vanya pursed her lips, and Five scoffed.

“This is going to go well,” Ben said, sliding down in his chair slightly.

Klaus rubbed his hands over his face. “Okay, listen up Dad, because I’m not saying it again,” he started.

“Is this really necessary? We have more important matters to—“

“We do, which is why I’m only going through this once,” Klaus said, snapping his fingers. “Alright? One time. Listen up. In order. Luther, Diego, Allison, you know me, not because you tried or anything… But hey, Five never wanted a real name, so you dodged a b…” He trailed off, taking a sharp breath. “Oh, that was a poor choice of words.”

Allison’s jaw clenched. She wanted to scream at Reginald until she was hoarse. How could you shoot a child? she wanted to ask. Especially someone like Five, who was already so focused on saving his family and the world, hell itself couldn’t stop him. What did you have to gain? What could have possibly been worth it?

“Now’s not the time,” Five murmured. “You can all fuss over me later.” Allison wished they’d done this standing instead of sitting around the table, because now there was no subtle way to put herself between him and Reginald.

She couldn’t stop thinking about Five, who had always stumbled after jumping when he was young enough, trying to do it fast enough to avoid a beating. Sure, Reginald had slapped her a few times too, but it had never done much but sting. She’d never walked away with bruises or broken ribs.

And anyway, she’d rumored him out of it pretty quickly.

She had, sadly, not been able to rumor herself out of flinching, though.

“Right,” Klaus croaked, clearly struggling not to go off the rails. Allison couldn’t help but wonder if it would be more useful to them if he did, but he already looked pale from manifesting Reginald, and she didn’t want to waste time. “Okay, so, Five, Ben, Vanya.”

Vanya smiled slightly at the way Klaus stressed her name.

“Second rule,” Klaus continued, putting up a second finger. “No nasty remarks about our failures in life. You start getting personal, you go silent and we have this discussion without you until I feel like the air has cooled. Got it?”

Reginald sighed. “Yes, if that’s what you need to get back to the point.”

“Good,” Klaus said. “That’s a start.” He laid back onto the table. “Take it from here, guys, I’m getting dizzy.”

“You sure you’re okay?” Luther asked, putting a hand on his elbow.

Klaus nodded. “I’ll let you know if I feel too sick to keep going.”

“A little before that,” Luther muttered. Allison couldn’t read the furtive glance he threw at Reginald as he said it. She wasn’t sure even he knew what worried him about this. “Okay?”

Klaus nodded again, smiling slightly, then threw his arm over his face.

“Very well, if we can finally get to the matter at hand, one question that must be answered is how they found you so quickly,” Reginald said. “When I first arrived here, I made sure to cover my tracks. Blend in.”

“You call making a world famous superhero team… blending in?” Diego asked, laughing despite himself.

“Heroes exist on every planet,” Reginald said. “But clearly they knew you were a product of my research, because they came here for the monocle. Which of course, you lost.”

“Thin fuckin’ ice, Dad,” Klaus said, brandishing a threatening finger.

Reginald let out a bereaved sigh. It was very satisfying to watch. “Very well. Which of you saw one of the scouts first?”

“Me,” Vanya said. “I think.”

Reginald frowned at her. “You?”

“Yeah, me,” Vanya said. “Why is that so surprising? We all know I’m not ordinary.”

“Ah,” Reginald said, grimacing. “You’ve been using your powers.”

“Yeah, for like… a while,” Diego said. “And she’s still fine, so… you know. Great job there, Dad.”

Vanya turned so she was a little closer to him, subtle enough that Allison wasn’t sure even Diego noticed.

“And I suppose you’re still using the violin I gave you?” Reginald asked.

Vanya frowned at him. “Yeah.”

“That explains it,” Reginald said. “That was my wife’s violin. With your resonance and an artifact from my home world, it would have been enough to get their attention.”

Vanya stared at him. “Your wife’s violin?”

“You had a wife?” Diego asked. He and Vanya exchanged looks.

“Yes,” Reginald said testily. “She wanted me to take it. She very much hoped I would find someone who enjoyed playing it as much as she did. I was happy that Number… that Vanya began to play it.”

They all gaped at him.

“Contrary to what you all think, I’m not completely heartless,” he snapped. “I’m aware you all think I was needlessly cruel, but I knew what was coming, the sort of things you’d have to be prepared for. Everything I did, it was to ensure you wouldn’t be at the mercy of the people who destroyed my home and took everything I loved from me.”

Allison glanced at Vanya, who sat back, blinking hard as she tried to absorb the information. Diego had deflated, Luther was checking their faces – probably trying to remind himself not to let sentiment cloud his judgment of Reginald – and Five had grown quiet and contemplative, brows furrowed.

She exchanged looks with Ben, who pursed his lips, like he wasn’t any more pleased with the way this conversation was headed, but wasn’t sure what to say, and blurted, “Fuck that, Dad.”

Reginald looked taken aback by the outburst, like he hadn’t actually realized how much anger Allison had been racking up against him over the years. That just made her all the more angry. She’d been filled with so much anger at him over the years it had nearly swallowed her alive, and he hadn’t even noticed?

“You don’t get to say that now, after everything,” she continued. “Five, how old were you when you realized that if you didn’t protect us from Dad, no one would?”

Five looked up, blinking a few times before frowning and murmuring, “Six. Diego was stuttering really badly that day and I knew Dad would be pissed, so I jumped into his room and broke his lap to distract him.”

“You…” Diego started, and didn’t finish. Five avoided his look.

“And Dad beat the shit out of you for it, didn’t he?” Allison said.

Reginald had the nerve to huff, as though she was somehow the bad guy here.

Five nodded, clearly itching with the urge to make himself small. Instead he squared his shoulders and kept his eyes on Allison. Almost, she realized, like he was worried for her.

“It doesn’t matter if you had a heart, because you didn’t use it,” Allison said. “And I even get it, okay? I made sure to get my way even though it wasn’t the best for my daughter for years. But when I got my wakeup call? When I realized I was hurting her? I turned around and I did everything I could to be a better mother. But you… you have gotten so many wakeup calls it’s ridiculous.”

She rubbed her hands over her face, trying not to laugh. “I mean, you gave up on training Vanya even though five of us, as kids, could train her behind your back, and now she’s one of our strongest members! You drove Five out. You drove all of us away and… Jesus, look at how much Klaus can do in a few months of being able to just take a fucking break and get love and support compared to how much your methods got out of him.”

Klaus fist pumped wearily, looking slightly green around the edges.

“And you still can’t apologize!” Allison said. “And now we’re supposed to care that you’re capable of having feelings? Fuck that.”

“I don’t see what you hope to achieve with an apology from me,” Reginald sighed.

She scoffed. “Unbelievable.”

“No, I think he’s right,” Luther said.

She gave him a look of betrayal.

“What he did to all of us is unforgiveable,” Luther said. “Apology or not, we can never forgive or forget.” She bit her lip at how much the realization clearly hurt him. He said it like it went against every fiber in his body – and it probably did. She reached under the table to squeeze his hand. “We need to solve this alien problem so we never have to so much as think about him again.”

 “Also I really am running out of steam, so if we could maybe move this along…” Klaus said, spinning his finger to mime a fast forward.

They all nodded slowly.

“Sorry Klaus,” Diego murmured. Ben squeezed his knee.

“How many of the scouts are already on the planet?” Five asked. “Without them being able to come and go, the ground team is going to be the immediate threat.”

“It’s impossible to say,” Reginald said, pulling himself to his full height as if to put himself beyond their previous conversation. “They would have sent an initial team of a few of their best. It is, however, possible that an observatory or satellite would have picked up on their landings, but you would have to find the right time and place to check.”

“Amnesiac professor!” Klaus interjected excitedly.

“They must have picked up on the first arrival,” Five said. “That’s why the scouts got rid of them. So if that data is still there anywhere, we might know how many of them are already here?”

“Yes, that seems likely,” Reginald said. “But the greater problem is still the ship. It will have a sizeable crew that they will use for targeted operations as necessary, and their transporter room won’t stay broken for long. And, of course, it’s also what they’ll use to signal the rest of the fleet if they decide the planet is worth… acquiring.”

“So first we have to take out the ship,” Five said, sitting back and pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Oh, yeah, no big deal,” Diego said. “We can’t wait for them to repair their platform to get up there unless we want them on us like flies again, so what? We’ll just hop on up into orbit and—“

“That will be the least of your problems,” Reginald said. “The vessel I arrived on is still on Earth. It will allow you to get sufficiently close to the ship.”

“Why would you keep that from us?!” Diego yelled. “We could have used that earlier!”

Reginald made a face at him, but he was interrupted before he could, inevitably, break Klaus’ rules.

“How do we board the Oblivion?” Ben asked. “We can get close, but unless there’s a space equivalent of a gangplank…”

Five groaned. “If I rest enough beforehand, I can get you guys in and out, I’ll just be useless in the meantime and… pretty much dead to the world for several days after.”

“Five,” Luther said warningly.

“I’d be fine,” Five snapped. “Maybe I’d get sick, at most.” He leaned in slightly to hiss,
“It doesn’t count!” so that Reginald couldn’t hear it.

“So we’d have to count Five out of the action,” Allison said, before Luther and Five could start bickering over whether or not Five’s “grounding” allowed this plan. “Which is bad, because currently he’s the only one who’s been effective against these guys.”

“Obviously,” Five muttered. “Then again, if no one’s injured, you’ll probably be fine.”

“And also at least one person to make sure he’s safe while we take out the ship,” Ben murmured. “And uh… you know, not argue about it this time.” He gave Vanya and Diego a pointed glare. They both ignored him.

“Take out the ship. Which… we do how?” Diego asked. “Crash it? Kill everyone on board one by one?”

“Their crew will be up in the thousands,” Reginald said.

“So no,” Diego said. “We’re not killing everyone on board.”

“I probably could blow it up, with a noise loud enough,” Vanya said.

Klaus sat up straight. “Oh, shit, I…” He trailed off, looking at Reginald. “Dad, goodbye, I’m tired,” he said, not bothering to let Reginald say anything before he banished him. “Sorry, I can’t think and do,” he gestured vaguely, “that at the same time.”

“I still had questions,” Five griped.

“I’m going to throw up on you,” Klaus warned. He did look pale, but Allison doubted he actually would throw up. “But on that note… Vanya… when you say loud enough… do you think the undying screams of thousands of dead and doomed souls would do it?”

“Uhhhh…” she said. “Probably?”

“Oh good,” Klaus said, frowning as he put his hand to his nose and pulled it away bloody. Allison handed him a napkin while Diego reached forward to tilt his head forward.

“Whoa, whoa,” Ben said. “Klaus, last time we checked you couldn’t even get on the ship, now you’re talking about conjuring…” He gestured vaguely as well.

 “The whole ship?” Luther blurted.

“Uh… yes,” Klaus said, trying to sit up before Diego cuffed him, taking over in holding the increasingly bloody napkin to his nose. “I mean, it’s not going to be fun, but it’s not going to kill me.”

“We can’t ask you to do that, Klaus,” Luther said.

“That’s very true, if it was your idea you’d be bad people,” Klaus said. He grinned. “But I’m volunteering, so it’s okay!”

Luther sighed, unimpressed.

“Can you actually do it?” Diego asked, getting another napkin. “This isn’t exactly confidence inspiring, no offense.”

“I think so. Pretty sure. Reasonably sure.” He made a face. “But even if I can only conjure a fraction of the noise on that ship, it’s going to be… well, more than enough noise.”

“Klaus,” Luther said. “I don’t like this.”

“You don’t have to like it, it’s my powers,” Klaus said, trying and failing to blow a raspberry around Diego’s ministrations.

“Jesus, you and Five really are twins,” Diego muttered.

Ben sighed loudly getting up to pace.

“Okay, listen, we can discuss this at length tomorrow,” Klaus said, batting Diego away. “For today I’m going to be busy crawling to the basement so I can sleep in peace.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Luther said, standing and moving over to pull him closer.

“Ex-squeeze me?” Klaus managed.

“You’re not crawling to the basement, I can carry you.”

Klaus squawked as Luther picked him up, flailing.

“Stop,” Luther said, trying to hold him in such a way that Klaus wouldn’t elbow him in the face. “I’m not going to drop you, just stop fidgeting.”

“This is very disconcerting, excuse you!” Klaus yelped.

Luther ducked out of the way of an errant knee. “Klaus!”

“I can’t help it! My feet aren’t touching the ground and it’s very disconcerting!”

Luther sighed and shifted his grip so that even Klaus’ squirming couldn’t unbalance him and started towards the basement. “Will you just relax?”

“No!”

“Fine, don’t then, I still won’t drop you.”

“Good!”

Allison watched them go, sinking back down into a chair.

Five had been quiet for too long now. Allison waved at the rest of them to give her a second alone with him. Diego nodded, holding an arm out for Vanya so they could leave together. Allison heard a small whisper of, “Bastard honestly thinks a violin makes up for everything he did to you, unbelievable,” and some chuckling. Ben slipped out of his chair to go after Klaus and Luther, leaving Allison to scoot closer to Five.

“I’m okay,” she said. “He can’t punish us anymore.”

“For once, not what I was thinking of,” Five murmured, worrying at the bandages around his left hand.

“Oh?” she asked, very gently stopping his hand.

“I guess I just… hearing Dad say he had a heart made me wonder just how alike we are,” Five said. “Him and me, I mean.”

She stared at him. “You’re not—“

“Obsessive, caustic and bad at expressing my feelings in a way that doesn’t sound like I just hate all of you?” Five interjected.

“You’ve never been cruel, Five,” Allison said. “No matter what a little asshole you are, you’ve never been cruel. He was.”

“If I’d have thought it was necessary, I would be,” Five said. “Just like him.”

“Yeah, well,” Allison said. “Don’t think I don’t see the similarities between how I tried to raise Claire and how he raised us. We’re not him, and that’s what matters. We chose not to be him. All of us.”

Five nodded.

“You sure you can go back to that ship?” she asked, putting her hand on his shoulder.

“Well, last time we all came back in one piece and I collected the most injuries,” Five said, showing off his bandaged hand with a wry smile. “So honestly that’s a win for me.”

“That’s not funny,” she said, trying not to smile.

He grinned, almost the same as she remembered from so long ago. “It’s a little funny.”

“I’m telling Luther,” she warned.

He made a noise that was like a slightly more dignified version of blowing a raspberry. “You always were such a tattle-tale.”

She scoffed at him, trying and failing not to laugh. “Oh, so that’s how it is?”

He laughed. “Yeah,” he said. “Am I wrong?”

“Are you okay?” she asked, suddenly, surprising even herself. It wasn’t so much that she felt like something was wrong as the opposite of it. She felt almost like the answer might have changed from the usual.

He stopped, mouth opening like he wanted to answer, then closing. “I don’t know,” he admitted, like he was as surprised as her that he didn’t know right away that the answer was no. “I think I was serious, actually. The odds were against us, and everyone made it out okay. It was…” He frowned, bewildered by himself, “sort of a relief.”

“You were nearly lobotomized,” Allison blurted.

Five shrugged.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” she said. “You are such a damaged little bastard.”

She hadn’t exactly meant to say it – the air felt light enough that for the first time in months she hadn’t even felt the need to choose her un-powered words wisely – but she had no time to regret it, because the moment it was out of her mouth, Five was laughing.

She grinned, pride flaring in her chest. “Sorry,” she said, though she wasn’t at all sorry about anything that made Five laugh.

“Fuck you,” Five said, grinning back before a contemplative look crossed his face. “You know, I think we’re actually going to win this.”

She looked at him seriously for several moments before nodding. “I think you might be right.”

Chapter Text

“You sure you’re up for this?” Ben asked, leaning against the door of Klaus’ makeshift bedroom. It was almost starting to yield to Klaus’ relentless assertion of his own atmosphere, but not quite. He glanced at the other doors along the hall and slipped inside, tilting the door almost closed, drawing the line between Klaus’ space and the rest of it.

Klaus looked up from where he was pulling his shirt on. “What, going out to find a spaceship? Yeah. Totally, sounds fun.”

“Klaus,” Ben chided. “I mean everything.”

“Whaaaat?” Klaus whined, sitting down on his stolen mattress. “Come on, I’m being helpful!”

“You’re also being you,” Ben replied, crossing his arms.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Klaus said, playing up his offense in a way that Ben was all too familiar with.

“You’re a supremely annoying idiot, is what it means,” Ben said, giving Klaus a look. “You know what I mean.”

Klaus looked at him with patented innocent eyes. “I have no idea what you mean.”

“You’re overdoing it, Klaus,” Ben said. “Like you always do.”

Klaus scoffed. “Ex-squeeze me? I don’t see why you’re insulting me. You always wanted me to get my shit together and be useful.”

“Klaus,” Ben snapped, 12 years of shadowing Klaus in his less than intelligent endeavors springing back to mind like it was yesterday. “You know very well I wanted you to get your shit together and take care of yourself. You don’t know much about your powers at all. You’re not Five, you don’t know your limits inside and out. You should be careful.” He rolled his eyes. “Not that Five is exactly the poster boy for not doing stupid stuff with his powers either.”

“I’m being…!” Klaus protested, trailing off into a very mature whine. “I’m fine! I slept off last night already.”

“You’re volunteering for a lot,” Ben said. “And I know sleep is a novelty for you, but it’s not a cure-all.”

“We’re kind of in a tight spot here!”

Ben raised his brows.

Klaus pouted at him while wrestling on his socks. “Whaaaaat?”

“I’m just saying,” Ben said. “Maybe being helpful is your new high.”

“Oh, bull,” Klaus snapped. “We’re trying to stop an alien invasion, and I’m doing whatever it takes to do that, and you’re… nagging me? Really? You are unbearable, you know that?”

Ben made a face at him, leaning against the wall and trying to get his point across with a look. “You know who you sound like right now?”

Klaus looked at him blankly for a moment before it dawned on him. “Oh no,” he whispered.

“Yeah,” Ben replied, not trying to hold back his smugness in the least.

“I’m being Five,” Klaus muttered, wrinkling his nose at Ben.

“Yup.”

“Okay, okay, you’re right, you fretful bastard.” He flopped back onto his back to groan in defeat. “I’ll try to pace myself.”

“Good,” Ben said, very much proud of himself.

“Drop dead,” Klaus retorted.

“Jesus,” Allison said, both of them turning to look at her. “What’s going on here?”

“Oh, we’re just like this,” Klaus said. “What’s up?”

“I made you breakfast,” Allison said. “You sure you’re okay to be going out? Things could get… messy.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Klaus said. “Ben has already given me a talk and forced me into some very sobering realizations, but I swear I’m fine. Not dizzy, no nausea, headache’s almost gone.”

“You want some aspirin?” she asked.

 “No, I know it’s harmless but I don’t want to let my brain start thinking of pills,” Klaus sighed. “Plus for now all I need to do is get directions from Dad, and… well, he’s his own headache but it’s not really exhausting physically for me to see him.”

“You also have to keep an eye on Five,” Allison said. “He’s not going to stay at home, I’m telling you that now.”

“Want us to try to convince him?” Klaus asked, waggling his eyebrows.

“You can try, but it might give him a stroke,” Allison sighed.

“Less chance he’ll sneak out if we take him with us,” Ben said. “He’s been jumping again, so I wouldn’t put it past him.”

“Yeah, tiny little dickhead would do it,” Klaus said. “He’s going stir-crazy, poor kid.”

“And it shouldn’t be too big a problem if we stick together.”

Allison shook her head with a sigh. “Luther’s going with you too. The rest of us will be waiting near the phone,” she said. “So let us know if anything goes wrong.”

“Yeah,” Klaus said. “We’ve got this.”

“I’m keeping an eye on you too,” Ben said, pointing at him threatening.

“Do you do anything else?” Klaus retorted.

Ben rolled his eyes. “Dumb junkie.”

“God, you guys are ruthless,” Allison said.

“Twelve years, Allison,” Klaus said. “Twelve years.”

“You guys literally reconciled days ago.”

Ben grinned. “And now we’re back to business as usual.”

“Unbelievable.”

Klaus laughed, nudging her playfully. “Come on, you think we’re adorable.”

“Ha. Eat up, Luther’s ready to go in a few minutes and there’s only so long he can hold Five back.”

Klaus hummed, racing up the stairs to eat. Allison had made French toast, complete with syrup and honey. Her cooking wasn’t as good as Grace’s, but it was a great deal better than anyone else in the family. Frankly, Ben was glad to eat.

Luther poked his head in. “You guys ready? We should go, Five’s…” He made a face.

“Very, very tired of bedrest?” Klaus said, shoving an entire piece of French toast into his mouth and leaping over the table.

“Yeah,” Luther said to the empty air in front of his face, looking a lot older for a moment. “Just hurry up.”

Ben put his plate in the sink and headed after Luther and Klaus. His heart skipped a beat as Five appeared in front of him. “Is it really necessary to jump everywhere?” he asked.

Five looked up at him with a disgruntled stare. “I couldn’t jump on the ship, I couldn’t jump while drugged, and after we find Dad’s stupid ship, I’ll have to take it easy so I can get you across to the Oblivion,” he said. “It’s too much being still. I’m getting cabin fever in my own skin.”

“Yeah, and it’s such a small body, too,” Klaus said, bumping his shoulder against Five’s good shoulder. “Anyone would feel claustrophobic in it.”

“Shut up, Klaus,” Five snapped.

“I’m sorry, but without the blazer you look even more like a baby,” Klaus said, pressing his hands to his own cheeks and cooing.

Five gave him a withering glare. “Fuck off. It’s hot and the blazer is hard to wear with this.” He showed them the sling holding his bandaged hand to his chest. He was still wearing his uniform, though, sweater vest and all, tie only slightly loosened. Klaus was right, it made him look more like a child than ever.

“We could get you some new clothes,” Luther offered, joining them with the keys. “Whatever you want.”

“Is that really what we want to waste our time with now?” Five asked.

“Just admit you don’t know what you want to wear,” Klaus said, yelping when Five kicked him in the shin.

“That’s not it,” Five muttered while Luther unlocked the car. He eyed the driver’s seat for a moment before Luther very pointedly got into it first.

“Oh?” Klaus purred, grinning widely, and Ben happily joined him in staring at Five. Harassing feelings out of Five was becoming Ben’s favorite hobby, and he could tell Klaus felt the same way.

Five sighed and jumped inside the car, ignoring them.

Klaus hurried after him, clambering into the back and leaning onto the front seat to continue pestering him. “Come on, what is it then?”

Luther rolled his eyes as he started the car.

“Other than the fact that we have until a bunch of murderous aliens fix their transport room to blow up their ship,” Five said. He rolled his eyes, begrudgingly adding, “It also feels like home.”

“Awww,” Klaus cooed, ruffling Five’s hair while Five tried to bat him away with his good hand. “So cuuuute.”

“Stop being such an idiot,” Five said tiredly. “It’s not that big a deal.”

“It’s kind of sweet,” Luther said. “But still. Might be nice to have clothes of your own, right?”

Five rolled his eyes. “I’ll think about it,” he said. “Once we maybe have some peace and quiet.”

“Hey, there’d be some advantages to looking less like a school boy,” Ben offered. “With how serious your face is, you might be able to pass for an older teen.”

“I don’t want to pass as an older teen,” Five muttered. “If I’m not going to look adult then there’s no point in trying to not be 13.”

Klaus pouted at him in sympathy.

“Jesus Christ,” Five said, rolling his eyes. “I’m fine. None of this is new. In fact, I’m not so sure it’s not the actual 13 year old in me that likes the uniform so much. I used to be pretty proud of it.”

“Yeah, I remember that,” Klaus said. “God, you were such a nerd sometimes.”

Five glared at him. “Shut up,” he said. “They made us look dignified.”

“They were stuffy and stupid,” Klaus said.

Five elbowed him back to his seat. “You’re stupid.”

Klaus blew a raspberry at him.

“Okay, okay,” Luther chided. “Keep an eye out. We don’t know if we’re being watched or not.”

“I’m already watching,” Five said grumpily. “I’m paranoid as hell.”

“That’s not a good thing,” Klaus reminded him. “Why are you proud of that?”

“It is when people are actually after you,” Five retorted.

“Oh, that’s a good excuse for now, but…”

Five leaned around the seat to glare Klaus. “Klaus? Shut up.”

Klaus flicked him on the ear.

“If my left hand worked, I’d smack you,” Five replied.

“A likely story,” Klaus replied indignantly.

“Guys,” Ben said, turning to look out the window. “Come on.”

They both sighed and went back to watching their surroundings.

-X-

“This is where Dad said?” Luther asked, looking at the small shed beside the river they’d arrived at. It didn’t look like much. “You’re sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Klaus said, scampering away.

Luther moved to protest, but Klaus was already several feet away, skidding in front of someone they couldn’t see.

“Hey, hi,” he said to the ghost. “We’re going to poke around here, do you think you could keep an eye out, warn me if anything weird happens out here?” Pause. “Well, what else do you have to do with your time? You’re dead.” Another pause. “Yeah, yeah, if you give me an address I’ll pass it on, of course.” Klaus sighed loudly. “No, obviously not. That’s just weird, man, pull yourself together.” Another long pause. “Was that so hard? Thank you.”

He jogged back to them. “Okay, so we have a lookout.”

“Great,” Five said. “Let’s go.”

Luther moved quickly to grab him before he vanished, but he was already gone, leaving Luther to sigh to himself. A moment later, the door to the shed swung open. “Guys, we need to be careful,” he said. “We have no idea what we’re up against.”

Five raised a brow at him. “I just opened the door,” he said. “Plus we were all watching while we drove here, it’s not like anything followed us.”

“You don’t know that,” Luther snapped.

“I’m pretty sure,” Five said. “Anyway, the shed seems empty.”

Klaus groaned. “Can we search without asking Dad? I’m so tired of Dad.”

“Uh,” Luther said, though he wasn’t sure exactly where to start. The shed looked like it was several centuries old and hadn’t been used in decades. Dusty fishing and boating supplies littered the shoddy shelves lining the walls. Nothing looked remotely like a spaceship. “Yeah, sure, we’ll manage.”

“Thank god,” Klaus said, following Ben inside to start searching the small shack. “Must be some kind of secret compartment, right? That’s how Dad does everything.”

“Yeah,” Luther muttered, pulling away any shelves along the walls.

Five sighed, pushing aside a few crates on the floor before giving his bad hand a glare. “This is unbearable.”

“At least it’s only your left,” Ben teased.

“Oh, fuck off, Ben,” Five replied.

Ben grinned, frowning when Klaus held onto him for balance as he kicked off his shoes. “What are you doing?”

“I don’t know, it just feels better barefoot,” Klaus said, pulling his socks off.

“You’re going to get tetanus,” Five replied.

“I am not going to get tetanus,” Klaus shot back.

“Do you have your shots?” Ben asked.

“I mean, probably. I have a job with health insurance, so…”

“Tetanus is from cattle,” Luther interjected. “It’s… pretty unlikely in cities.”

They all stared at him.

“Why would you know that?” Klaus asked finally.

“I just… did a lot of reading when I was in the house alone,” Luther mumbled. “It’s no big—“

The floorboards creaked for a split second before collapsing under Ben. Five jumped over to catch him, but accidentally reached with his left, still caught in the sling, and Luther was too far to catch him.

Klaus, on the other hand, grabbed him immediately, and in the moment when Ben started to fall, he also stopped.

In midair.

There was a moment of startled silence while Klaus threw his slightly glowing hands up in shock and stared at the rest of them. They stared back, too startled to do much of anything.

After a long moment, Luther finally leaned forward to pull Ben over, moving slowly and cautiously. It didn’t seem to be hard to move him – it was mostly like he weighed less, but once Luther planted his feet on the floor, the effect seemed to stop, the glow in Klaus’ tattooed palms fading.

“How many powers do you have?” Five managed finally.

“I don’t know!” Klaus cried in desperation. “I don’t even know if I did that!”

“I… I think you did,” Ben said.

“What does levitation even have to do with dead people?!” Klaus yelled.

“Okay uh…” Luther said, double checking that Ben remained firmly on the ground when he let him go. “Well. Add it to the list. Do we have a list?”

“What, of things to deal with when we’ve thwarted the impending alien invasion?” Ben asked, testing the floor beneath his feet.

“Uh… yes,” Luther managed.

“No,” Five said. “We do not have a list.”

“Great,” Luther said. “When we get back home, remind me to start a list.”

“We’re going to need more chalkboards,” Klaus muttered. “We’re all going to end up like Five, writing all over the walls…”

“It’s not like anyone cares where you write in the apocalypse…” Five protested.

Ben crept forward to peer into the hole in the floor, Luther grabbing his belt as he went. “Shit, guys,” he murmured, pointing. “That looks like a spaceship.”

“Five, no!” Luther yelled preemptively, dragging Ben with himself in his rush to pick Five up mid-jump. “We don’t know anything about this ship, don’t just leap at it!”

He leaned down to take a look. He could only just make out the hull in the dark crevice beneath the shed, gleaming slightly with the meager light that hit it. It was a color that once had probably been white, but now was a faded yellow at best, small windows dotting the sides.

“It’s Dad’s ship,” Five said, annoyed. “Put me down.”

“Yeah, and the first thing that comes to mind around Dad is safe,” Klaus said, sidling closer. Luther gave him a look which he hoped read, I only have two arms, I can’t catch you too. Klaus put his hands up in acceptance and leaned back to look at it from further away. “Let’s poke it with a stick.”

“We’re not poking it with a stick,” Five retorted. “Luther, put me down.”

Luther pulled Ben back and set Five down, then picked up a large can on the shelves, throwing it at the hull with a clanging noise. “Okay, so it doesn’t have much of a perimeter alarm or anything.”

“Yaaaay,” Klaus said, clapping quietly.

“Now can I go near it?” Five asked, glaring up at Luther.

“Don’t jump at it,” Luther said severely. “Come on, Five, I know you’re antsy, but you can manage a little patience.”

“Can he?” Klaus asked. “I mean, look at the poor kid.”

Five flipped him off. “Fine. You want to do the honors?”

“Sure,” Luther said, peeking into the hole. He lowered himself over the side of the broken floorboards and leaped down into the room below them, keeping far away from the ship, just in case. Five appeared at his elbow a moment later. Luther sighed, putting his hands up to help Ben and Klaus down.

Once all of them were inside, they tiptoed closer to the ship.

Nothing happened.

“Okay,” Klaus said. “So… we’re probably good.”

“Dad made his weird monkey virus so we’d be immune,” Ben said. “Maybe the ship’s defense system is the same.”

Klaus shrugged. “Or maybe it’s not secured in the first place?”

“You sure you’re not up for asking him?” Five asked.

“In a second,” Klaus murmured. He wandered around to find a door in the hull and knocked on it.

It opened.

“Oh,” he said. “Go figure.”

Luther peeked inside. It was dark and empty, save for what appeared to be necessary machinery and computers. He stepped inside, checking the doors and windows.

Five appeared inside what looked like the rocket’s control center, a round room with several monitors.

“Okay, this is pretty cool,” Luther said.

“Yeah, I bet, Spaceboy,” Klaus said, grinning as he clapped Luther on the back.

Luther smiled and joined Five, inspecting the computers until he figured out where to turn them on.

The lights flickered to life, slightly out of habit, and the screens turned back on all in a row.

Five pointed at one of them, which appeared to have a star chart. “That’s Dad’s home, right?”

Luther nodded. “I think so,” he said. He inspected the computers. “Okay, so, a lot of this stuff is familiar from what Dad gave me to work with on the moon, but Klaus, I think at some point you’re going to have to ask Dad to fill in the details.”

“Sure, sure, after my headache has gone away,” Klaus said, before whirling around. “Jesus!”

They all looked up at him.

“What?” Five asked, eyes wide.

Klaus shook his head, waving at them to calm down as he looked at something in the door. He was talking to someone again, Luther realized, and stood back to let him at it. After a while, he sighed, gesturing them closer. “Okay, so, don’t panic, but we may have company.”

Chapter Text

“Company?” Five asked. “Where? How many?”

Klaus looked at his ghost friend expectantly, then turned to relay, “They seem to be about a block down, watching the car.” He held up a finger before they could continue asking questions. “Two guys.”

“We could take them out,” Five said, glancing up at the others.

“Okay, no,” Luther said.

“We’d have that much less to deal with,” Five snapped.

“You only have one functional arm!” Luther said. “And you’re left handed!”

“I know that!” Five said. “So?”

“So?!”

“We should sneak out,” Ben said. “We have no idea what these guys are capable of. We’d be going in blind, short-staffed and injured.”

“Thank you,” Luther breathed. “At least someone is sensible.”

“I could take them out,” Five muttered under his breath.

“Ssh,” Klaus said, patting him on the head. “We know.”

Five slapped his hand away.

Luther shushed them gently. “Focus,” he murmured. “We need to get out of here, quietly.”

“What about the ship?” Five hissed.

Luther groaned. “Klaus… Sorry, but can you ask Dad if there’s any kind of defense system against anyone who’s not us?”

Klaus sighed. You owe me one, he mouthed, and Luther nodded in agreement, checking the walls for an exit.

“Dad, is there a defense system on your ship?” Klaus asked, while Luther picked up one of the broken floorboards and jammed it into the ceiling where he guessed the wall of the shed would be. Klaus paused, then turned back to Luther. “We’re good. They shouldn’t be able to use it or take it before we get back.”

Luther nodded, prying away dirt until there was a hole under the wall big enough for all of them to crawl through.

“They’ll still know it’s here,” Five said. “We’ll have to sneak past them to get back to it when we’re ready.”

“At least we’ll be prepared and we’ll all be together,” Luther said. “It’s our best option.” He paused. He was giving orders again. He hadn’t noticed how easy it was to slip back into it. “Uh… right?”

Ben and Klaus nodded.

“Okay,” Luther said, looking at Five. “Three against one. Fair enough?”

Five rolled his eyes. “Fine,” he muttered. “We’ll go.”

“You have like… no flight response whatsoever,” Klaus whispered. “What happened, did you kill it? Did you kill your own flight response?”

“Shut up, Klaus.”

Luther pulled out the section of wall and peered through. “The river’s right next to us, we can swim across and find a payphone there,” he said. “And Diego can… pick us up, I guess.”

“Or we can just steal a car,” Five said. “Go home right away.”

“We’re not stealing a car.”

“I wanna steal a car!” Klaus said excitedly.

“Yeah, I’m down,” Ben added. “Seems like a better choice than waiting around like sitting ducks anyway.”

“Three against one, Luther,” Five jeered, far too proud of himself.

“Okay, jeez,” Luther said. He hadn’t meant to make this a competition, but it seemed to have become one anyway. “Fine, we’ll steal a car.”

“I’ll jump across and find one,” Five said, and moved to go before Luther caught the back of his vest and pulled him back. “What?!”

“Stop running off on your own!” Luther hissed. “Five, you’re still injured! We go together.”

“I can barely use a sink to get a glass of water when I’m thirsty,” Five said, outraged at the suggestion. “You think I can swim across a river?”

“Uh,” Luther said, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand while he thought. “I could take you across?”

“Or I could blink across in a second,” Five said. “And we don’t have to worry about whether or not I’ll get a panic attack.”

“Okay, okay, fine, you can jump across, but stay hidden and be careful until we get there, got it?”

Five rolled his eyes. “Sure.”

“No, not ‘Sure’,” Luther snapped, tightening his grip on Five’s vest to get his point across. “I’m serious. Stay put.”

Five glared at him. “I will.”

Luther let go of his vest and patted him on the back, and he vanished with a huff. Luther stood up, leaning against the wall to provide a boost for the others. He lifted Klaus through and looked at Ben. Ben gave him a blank look, as though waiting for him to go through first. “Oh, right,” he said, after a moment. “Not dead.”

“Yeah, keep it that way,” Luther said, pushing him through before clambering after him and dragging a nearby rock over to hide the hole. He raced after Klaus and Ben, peeking back behind them as he went to make sure they weren’t followed.

He saw nothing, and returned to keeping his eye on Klaus and Ben while they slipped into the water.

The water was cold and he had to admit Five was probably right – this would be jarring at best to him, and Luther had his hands full making sure Ben was swimming right. Ben was 12 years out of practice too, Luther realized, and he had never cared for their swimming lessons in the first place.

By the time they were across, Luther was tugging a wheezing Ben out of the water like a wet kitten while Klaus shook himself dry like a wet dog. Luther looked around for Five, who was sitting on top of a nearby wall and sulking.

“You actually stayed put,” Luther said. “Good.”

“This is ridiculous, I could have easily had a car for us by now,” Five muttered.

“Maybe. But you’re still grounded,” Luther replied, “so no going off alone, got it?”

“I’m not grounded. You can’t ground me,” Five replied, vanishing and reappearing a few feet down beside a car. “This one’s dusty, no one will miss it.”

“You are grounded,” Luther argued, watching as Five jumped inside the car and started pulling out wires.

“Wow, he’s really good at that,” Klaus said. “Should we do something about how good a criminal our little brother is?”

“I’m fine with grounding him indefinitely,” Luther said.

Klaus nodded very seriously.

The car started, and Five leaned over to roll down the window. “You can’t ground me. Now get in.”

“You’re not driving,” Luther said. “Scoot.”

Five rolled his eyes and jumped to the front seat, buckling his seatbelt. “Asshole.”

“Thank you,” Luther said, rounding the car to get into the driver’s seat. He sighed, shaking his head. “Like herding cats.”

-X-

“So let me get this straight,” Diego said. “You found Dad’s working ship and then you let aliens take it?”

“Uh…” Luther said, shifting awkwardly. “Yes?”

“I knew I should have gone with you!”

“No, we’re not splitting up further than three people in a group,” Luther muttered. “We agreed on this.”

“Well, we should have all gone, then!”

“We don’t all fit in a car!”

“So?!”

“Besides, we needed someone to make sure the house is safe to come back to!”

That slowed Diego down slightly, but he wasn’t going to give up on this argument entirely. “Yeah, well…”

“See? I said we should have taken them out,” Five muttered.

“No, I’m not on your side either,” Diego snapped. “Trying to take them out with your encyclopedia of broken bones is dumb too. This is why you’re grounded.”

“I’m not grounded! I’m fifty-eight years old!”

“Are you though?”

“Shut up, Ben. And anyway, only my thumb is broken.”

Vanya squinted at him. “Do you ever listen to the things you say?”

“Well, what would you have done?” Luther asked, ignoring Five before he could protest again.

“I don’t know!” Diego said. “Not… be… followed?”

“Yeah, because you’re so subtle,” Allison said. “Mr. Leap-through-a-door-in-the-middle-of-the-suburbs?”

“That was one time!”

“Can we uh… focus?” Klaus asked, like he was as startled as the rest of them that he was the one to suggest it. “I’d like to get this whole thing over with. Rip the band-aid off, you know?”

Now that Diego looked at him closer, he seemed jittery. “You don’t look good, man. You sure about your big plan?” he asked. “Because now’s the time to back out if not.”

“Uh, yes,” Klaus said. “Yeah. Sure.”

“That’s not convincing,” Ben said. “You know that, right?”

“I know, I know it’s not, but I’m serious. I’m good to go, I’m just… I’m freaking out a little!” Klaus said. “And I’m… I need the inertia, you know?” He lobbed his arms vaguely. “So let’s plan.”

“They’re probably going to stay with the ship, meaning we have to get past them somehow,” Luther said. “Five, any chance you can…”

“Jump all of you with me three times in row?” Five asked, looking tired at the mere suggestion. “No. Absolutely no chance.”

“Okay,” Luther said. “What about a distraction?”

“More explosions?” Klaus asked.

“I feel like we should move away from explosions as our first idea for everything,” Luther said. “You know, if possible.”

Klaus shrugged.

“Diego and Eudora have been investigating Perseus for a while, if Eudora arrests him, it might draw their attention away,” Five murmured.

“Hey, how’s your hand? Because I’m about to break it again,” Diego snapped.

Five gave him a tired look. “She’d be at the station, not on her own.”

“Yeah, not happening,” Diego said. He could all but feel his blood pressure spike. “We’re not throwing my girlfriend under the bus for a distraction!”

“They don’t want to make a scene in public. Even with Klaus, they made it look like an accident. They’re not going to attack the station,” Allison pointed out.

Diego whirled around to yell at her. “Not! Happening! They could sneak up behind her, or pull some stunt, or make it look like an accident again…”

“She’s a lot better at handling this stuff than you think,” Klaus said, tapping his foot nervously.

“You shut up! The first time she died, it was saving your ass!”

“Yeah, because none of you noticed I’d been kidnapped!”

“Well, what if… what if one of us stays with her, would that make you feel better?” Vanya asked, before things could get messy between Diego and Klaus.

“We can’t spare anyone,” Luther said. “We’re already down by two because of Five, and you and Klaus should focus on the ship, which leaves three of us to deal with anyone coming at us. We bump that down to two…”

“We’re screwed,” Ben muttered.

“What if someone about as good as us could protect her?” Five asked.

“Uh,” Klaus said. “Do we even know anyone as crazy as us?”

“Yes,” Five said. “Sort of. We know him, he doesn’t know us.”

“Oh no,” Ben whispered. “Five…”

“Who?” Diego asked, already knowing he wasn’t going to like the answer.

Five sighed, looking at him like he was gauging if Diego was going to attack him for his suggestion. “Hazel.”

“What?!” Diego blurted. “That’s it, I’m breaking your nose, you—“

Luther stood up to catch Diego before he attempted murder while Five easily jumped onto the counter on the opposite side of the room.

“We know where he is, and I can convince him to help us,” Five said. “If he’s watching her back, she’ll be okay.”

Diego struggled against Luther for several moments, then went limp. “Your plan,” he said, finally, “in order to make me less worried about my girlfriend,” he put up his hands, not sure if he wanted to make another pass at Five the moment Luther let go or not, “is to enlist the assassin who killed her?”

“That was Cha-Cha,” Five said.

“I’m going to kill you,” Diego whispered.

“Diego,” Luther warned, “he’s already injured.”

“Just listen,” Five said.

“I’m going to listen to you dying while I strangle you.”

“The Commission is not involved anymore,” Five said. “Hazel retired, and he found his… donut lady or whatever, same as last time. He’s going to be invested in stopping the end of the world, same as last time. He has no reason to turn on Eudora.”

“No!” Diego yelled. “Luther, let me go, I need to kill the little psycho!”

“Hey, hey, no,” Luther said. “He’s already injured, no fighting.”

“I’m not gonna fight him, I’m gonna kill him!!” He pushed his entire weight against Luther’s arms, and Luther calmly picked him up off the floor in response.

“Five, are you sure Hazel will help? He doesn’t know you in this timeline.”

“No, but he knew Harold Jenkins,” Five said. “Who was exceedingly annoying. I can work with that.”

Diego kicked at Luther. “Just… let me… strangle him…”

“So we’re just going to pop in to visit him?” Klaus asked.

“Yeah,” Five said.

“Is that safe?” Allison asked.

“No,” Five said. “He’s definitely going to try to kill us when he sees us following him.”

“Not if I kill you first!”

“Okay,” Luther said with a sigh. “Great. Let’s go visit an assassin.”

-X-

“If anyone asks, you’re my parents,” Five muttered, flexing his fingers. They still ached with every movement, but at least Grace had allowed him to ditch the sling.

“Excuse me?” Diego said. “No. That’s worse than people thinking I’m with Klaus.”

Five looked up at him slowly. “You realize you don’t actually have to be with Luther, right? Just lie.”

Diego squinted at Luther. “I would never date you. Not even if we weren’t brothers.”

“Uh…” Luther said. “Okay. I wasn’t under the impression that you would.”

“Sometimes I wonder if Dad ordered us from least to most intelligent,” Five sighed.

“So Ben and Vanya are smarter than you, is what you’re saying,” Diego retorted.

Five went quiet. “Shut up and focus.” He looked at the desk of the receptionist at the bird sanctuary. He wasn’t happy about his current plan to deal with her, but hell if it wasn’t the best option he had. He sighed and went up to the desk. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he said.

The receptionist, an older woman with her hair in a bun, looked up at him. She immediately smiled in a way that made Five want to scream. He didn’t look that young. “Hello, young man.”

Five resisted the urge to fume at the young man. “I was wondering if you could help me find one of your volunteers?”

“One of our volunteers?” she asked, frowning.

“Yes,” Five replied. “A really big man, beard… his wife, I think, was an older lady, blonde. Hazel and Agnes, I think.”

“Oh, yes, I know them,” she said. “What is it you want to find them for?”

“Well,” Five said, “Hazel was a chaperone for one of my field trips to the bird sanctuary in Portland. I got really lost and Hazel found me and he gave me some really good advice about some stuff, and, well, I’m just passing through with my dads, and I was hoping to stop by and tell him how much of a difference he made in my life now that I’m starting high school.”

He gave her as sincere of a smile as he could manage.

“Oh, alright,” she said. “That Hazel is a sweet one, isn’t he?”

“Yes ma’am, he is.”

She put on her glasses, flipping through a notebook on her desk, then scrawled down an address. “Here you go. Tell him hi for me, will you?”

He smiled. “I will, ma’am, thank you.”

She nodded at him as he returned to Diego and Luther. “About two blocks down,” he said.

“Not bad,” Diego said. “You can act like a kid.”

“Klaus made me practice,” Five muttered, pocketing the piece of paper. Klaus and Ben had also come up with the lie, and that was exactly why Five had fought tooth and nail against them coming along to watch it happen. “Let’s go.”

They walked down the frankly comically idyllic streets to the address she’d given.

Diego stopped and stared at the small cottage in front of them as Five pointed it out. “He really lives here? The big guy?”

“Well, sometimes even assassins have a soft side,” Five said, the corner of his mouth twitching.

“Yeah yeah,” Diego said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I still don’t like this.”

“Good for you,” Five said. The curtains ruffled. “Shit, he saw us.” He looked back at Diego and Luther. With Luther’s stature and Diego’s burning glare, he could only imagine what conclusion Hazel had probably come to.

“What?” Diego asked. “How can you tell?”

“Curtain moved,” Five muttered. “Stay down, he’ll probably shoot at Luther first.” He took a deep breath. “Don’t suppose you’d let me go ahead?”

“Not a chance,” Diego said, ducking down.

“Hazel’s soft on kids and he doesn’t know I’m not one,” Five said. “So…”

“And when finds out you’re an adult Commission assassin inside, he’ll kill you,” Diego muttered.

“I think by the time I get around to explaining the effects on time dilation on a body making temporal jumps without a briefcase, he’s going to be a bit past trying to kill me,” Five hissed. “Shit, duck.”

They did, just as a bullet went through the spot where Luther’s head had been only moments before.

“Do you mind?” Five said, standing up and putting his hands up. He gave the curtain a pained smile.

After a moment, the curtain poked aside, and Hazel peeked out at him.

Five nodded his head at the bench in the garden.

After a moment, Hazel dropped the curtain, carefully coming out the door, checking his surroundings as he went. His gun was still in his hand, but it was carefully hidden under his jacket.

Five waved at Luther and Diego to stay, walking to the bench as Diego cursed at him.

“Your friends in the bushes,” Hazel said. “They going to stay there?”

“They’re just here to make sure I’m alright,” Five said. “They won’t try anything if you don’t.” He tried to repeat that message to Diego with his eyes.

“Alright, kid, what do you want?” Hazel said.

“It’s about the end of the world,” Five replied.

Hazel’s hand twitched in his jacket. “Is that so?”

“I’m not with the Commission,” Five said. “No point for them to get involved. The part of the timeline they gave a damn about was meant to end months ago.”

“That’s what concerns me,” Hazel replied. “How does someone your age know about the Commission anyway?”

“Well, my age is… complicated. It’s 58, 27 or 13,” Five said. “Depending on the… hm… femtosecond, roughly.”

“Oh,” Hazel said, with a startled chuckle. “You must be the famous Number Five.”

“I take it Jenkins mentioned me,” Five said.

Hazel laughed vaguely, finally releasing the gun and sitting down beside Five. “Yeah, a couple times,” he said. “Take it he didn’t manage to kill you.”

Five tried to keep his face neutral. “Not quite, no.”

“Hm,” Hazel said. “I assume you killed him. He wasn’t going to give up easy.”

“Yes,” Five said carefully. “And Cha-Cha too.” He swallowed. “I’m sorry.”

Hazel nodded. “Well, it’s a dangerous job. Can’t exactly blame you for defending yourself, now can I.” He looked at Five. “I’m retired. Got no interest in killing you, if that’s what this is about.”

“That’s not why I’m here.” Five took a deep breath. “I need your help.”

“Because of the end of the world?” Hazel asked. “Thought that was over.”

“Different end,” Five said. “It’s a long story. Apparently apocalypses are pretty damn frequent. But, in short, I need you to keep someone alive for me.”

“Keep someone alive,” Hazel repeated softly. “Well, that’s a new one.”

Five shrugged. “Well. Assassin’s skills are flexible.”

Hazel squinted at him in a silent question.

Five grinned. “In another life I was one of you for a few years,” he said. “A legend, even.”

Hazel’s brows furrowed, like he was trying to judge whether or not to believe Five.

Five sighed. “I was a severely abused kid who spent 45 years as the last person alive in a wasteland created by the end of the world,” he said. “Very much the Handler’s type, don’t you think?”

“Ah,” Hazel said. “Yeah, sounds like low hanging fruit.”

“You’d think.” He grinned. “But somehow I don’t think I was as obedient as she hoped I’d be.”

“Yeah,” Hazel murmured, looking him up and down. “Doesn’t surprise me. Let me guess, she offered you a really great benefits package when you’ve never even paid taxes.”

Five laughed. He liked Hazel, frankly. “Yeah, something like that.”

Hazel nodded. “Sounds like her.”

Five took a deep breath. “Anyway. Turns out my father is an alien, and his… buddies are going to take over the planet if we don’t stop them. We have a plan, but we need a distraction. So my brother’s girlfriend is going to arrest one of the aliens while we sneak past them to get to a spaceship, and we need someone who can go toe-to-toe with a bunch of aliens to watch her back.”

Hazel took a breath to reply, then didn’t.

Five jumped to the other side of the bench, startling Hazel. “I know it sounds crazy, but as you can see, crazy sort of follows us around.”

“Right,” Hazel said, looking lost. “Okay, so supposing I believe you… I still don’t see how it’s worth my while to leave my life and help you.”

“This is about the world,” Five said. “I assume you’d like some more time on Earth with your… wife? Agnes, was it?”

“How’d you know that?” Hazel asked.

“Well, the first time the world ended, I met her once trying to get a cup of coffee, then again when the Handler invited me to a hotel room, dangled over a giant, boiling tub of oil,” Five said.

Hazel stared at him. “What?”

“I didn’t get it either,” Five said. “I didn’t ask. Had a lot going on that week. But she seems nice. Probably has plans for her life, dreams and hopes and…”

“Alright, alright,” Hazel said, shifting uncomfortably. “No need to get personal. I’ll help.”

“Thank you,” Five said. “Oh, yeah, last time around you killed her and my brother is still mad, so get ready.” He patted Hazel on the shoulder. “Oh, and you tortured my other brother for several days, so he’s probably going to be a bit peeved with you…”

“Great,” Hazel said weakly. “Glad to hear it. Got any brothers who don’t have a grudge against me?”

“The big guy might be okay,” Five said, jabbing a thumb at Luther.

“How many… brothers do you have… exactly?”

“Four,” Five said. “And two sisters. But you’ll be fine, I’m sure.” He handed Hazel a paper with their address. “If you want some time to explain everything to Agnes, feel free, but we’re kind of on a tight schedule here.”

“Right,” Hazel muttered. “I’ll be there.”

“Thanks,” Five said, then returned to where Luther and Diego were crouched behind the hedge. “He’s in.”

“Oh, bullshit,” Diego said. “How do we know he’s not going to turn on us?”

“To what end?”

“End of the world. Maybe they’re playing the long game, I don’t know!”

Five rolled his eyes. “He’s retired. I promise. The Commission doesn’t play long games, they like quick, efficient jobs. Kill the mark and get out.”

Diego sighed. “Fine. But if anything happens to her, and I mean anything, I’m gonna beat the shit out of you, you hear me?”

“Fair enough,” Five said. “But now we have a plan.” He smirked at them. “Let’s do this.”

Chapter Text

“So you’re going to radio the moment you get him and the moment you get back to the station,” Diego said, refusing to take his eyes off of Hazel.

“Diego,” Eudora sighed. “This is like the fifth time you’ve told me.”

“You can radio me once we’re up, but it’ll take a few minutes to get the signal into space and we’ll probably be—“

 “Diego!” Eudora snapped. “Stop it. I’m going to be fine.”

Diego finally tore his eyes away from Hazel to glower at her. “We are leaving you with who knows how many murderous aliens and an assassin who’s already killed you once. You can’t possibly know that.”

“I’ve talked to Hazel,” Eudora said. “He seems genuine about being retired. The man works at a bird sanctuary while helping his wife set up a vegan donut shop, for Christ’s sake.”

“Maybe you’re not hearing me,” Diego hissed, pointing at Hazel. “That man and his partner gunned you down and left you facedown in a pool of your own blood in a hotel room. They were trying to kill Five, they broke into the house and nearly killed Vanya, and they tortured Klaus!”

Eudora leaned over his shoulder to look at Klaus, who seemed to be taking great pleasure in babbling something at Hazel while Hazel looked deeply fretful and eyed possible escape routes, most of which Ben was very cheerfully keeping an eye on. “Klaus seems to be okay with him,” she said.

“Klaus is an idiot,” Diego said. He chewed at his lip, then shook his head. This was stupid. There was no way they should be trusting Hazel. “I should stay with you.”

“No,” Eudora said firmly. “Diego, your family needs you up there with them.”

“You need me,” Diego snapped, before catching himself. “I need you.”

She sighed, tilting her head sympathetically. “What I need is for you to trust me.”

“I do trust you,” he said automatically. He had no reason not to trust her. She was smart, capable. She was one of the most stable, reliable people he’d ever met.

“Do you?” she asked softly.

“I…” he managed, before his voice cut out. Part of him wanted to agree right away, but part of him knew what she meant, and he wasn’t sure he could tell her that.

“Hey,” Vanya said, awkwardly realizing what she’d interrupted a moment too late. “We’re ready.” She looked between them. “I can tell them to wait another second if you need to…”

“No, it’s fine,” Eudora said softly. “I think we’re done here.”

“Eudora…”

“We can talk more after you get back,” Eudora said, not unkindly. She crossed her arms, frowning at him in a way that made it all too clear that she understood what he was going through, but it wasn’t going to be a good enough excuse for him to pitch any more of a fit. “So stay in one piece, okay?”

Yeah,” he said, the words coming with some difficulty. “Be careful.”

“I will be,” she murmured. “You too, alright?”

He nodded, watching as she went to get Hazel and walked him to her car. He had to admit, Hazel didn’t seem to be watching her with any kind of murderous intent, but…

“Sorry about that,” Vanya said. “I didn’t realize I was…”

“It’s fine,” Diego muttered. “Not your fault.

“You going to be okay?” she asked, stepping a little closer.

“Yeah,” he murmured. “Sure. You coming in the car with me or with Luther?”

“I’ll stay with you,” she said softly. “She’s going to be okay, you know.”

“Yeah, I don’t want to talk about it,” Diego snapped. She raised a brow at him, and he sighed. “Sorry, I just…”

She nodded. “I know. It’s okay.”

“She had the same tone when she broke up with me the first time,” Diego mumbled as he unlocked his car door.

“You’ll figure it out after we get back, okay?” Vanya said, patting his shoulder. “I promise. Eudora cares about you a lot, no matter what happens.”

He nodded. “Yeah,” he said, taking a deep breath. “Anyway, this isn’t what I should be thinking about right now.”

Five joined them, clambering into the backseat and flexing his hand. It was still partly bandaged and partly raw looking, but he seemed to be relieve that he had both arms working properly. “Diego, I think you should be the one to stick with me,” he said. “You can attack at long range and you’re good enough at stealth that we can probably manage to hide out somewhere together.”

Diego nodded. He didn’t like the thought of being further from the action, but then again, Five wouldn’t either. “Yeah, I got you, bro.”

Five gave him a tired look and kicked the back of his seat. “If you baby me the whole time, I’m going to lose it. It’s bad enough I’ll be pretty much useless the whole time, I don’t need you acting like it.”

“Fine, whatever,” Diego growled. “Buckle your damn seatbelt, dickhead.”

Five glared at him, but he did.

“Alright,” Diego muttered to himself as he started the car. “Let’s do this.”

**

“Do you even see anyone?” Allison murmured.

Five crouched behind her, then pointed. Two figures lingered in a nearby alley that had a good view of the shed. They were all but invisible from here, but now that Five had pointed them out, Luther could see them occasionally peeking out, staring at the shed intently.

“We have Perseus,” Eudora said over the radio.

“Got it,” Diego replied, radiating nervous energy while he crouched behind Luther. Luther patted his back in what he hoped was a reasonably comforting gesture. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

“And there they go,” Five whispered as the figures started moving, hovering anxiously and then taking off. “They might have left backup, so try to be quiet and stay down while we go in.”

Luther nodded, slipping down to the riverbank and helping the others down after him one by one.

Five hesitated when it came to him.

“If you fall in the water I promise I’ll help you out,” Luther said.

“Yeah,” Five murmured, carefully easing himself down, occasionally glancing at the water. “Don’t even get what my problem is with the river. I thought this was about wasted water and I’m having problems with a river.”

“It’s fine,” Luther murmured, keeping an eye on the other and a hand on Five’s back while they crept down to the shed. Vanya blew a hole for them to climb through, and Luther sighed. “Vanya, pace yourself, you’re going to be blowing up a whole ship soon.”

“I’m fine,” she said with a petulant look.

Luther rolled his eyes. “Just… don’t be hasty,” he muttered as he helped Five through, relieved to see that Five seemed to be fine now that the water was out of sight.

Luther moved to the hole in the floor and laid down so he could help the others down without risking the integrity of the remaining floorboards.

This time, it was Diego who hesitated.

“Diego, come on,” Luther whispered.

“Not until Eudora says she made it to the station,” Diego hissed. “We can’t leave before that.”

“We won’t, but we need to get down there and be ready,” Luther said.

Diego gave him a helpless look. “What if there’s no signal?”

“It’s not that far down,” Luther murmured. “And I can always help you back up if necessary.”

Diego looked at him with pained eyes. “But I…”

“We’re not leaving until we know, but come on,” Luther murmured. “We have to be ready.”

Diego grimaced, but he took Luther’s hand and let Luther lower him down before Luther jumped after him.

Diego stopped right outside the door, turning the radio over in his hands as he waited. Luther peeked inside to make sure the others were doing alright preparing, and stayed with him. Diego’s nerves were contagious.

Finally, the radio crackled. “We made it to the station okay,” came Eudora’s voice. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah,” Diego breathed. “Yeah, we’re right outside the ship, ready to go.”

“Thank God,” she said. “Good luck.”

“You too,” Diego said. He paused, then added, “Love you.”

There was a small pause before Eudora answered, “Me too.”

Luther tried not to check Diego’s reaction to the pause. It seemed like drawing attention to it would make it worse than it really was. “Let’s go,” he murmured. “Come on.”

Diego took a deep breath, then nodded. “Yeah.”

They vaulted through the door, Diego finding a seat in the back while Luther joined Klaus in the front.

“Okay so um…” Klaus said. “There should be a pre-programmed launch sequence which… uh… Dad slow down, Jesus… The ceiling shouldn’t be problem, in short.”

Luther nodded. “Can you keep him here until we’re up?” he asked, looking over the controls.

Klaus laughed without any humor. “Keep him here? He won’t leave.”

“You sure you don’t need to… uh… rest?”

“It’s more work to banish him than to not,” Klaus muttered, glaring at the spot where Reginald must have been. “Gee, really constructive commentary there, Dad.”

Luther reached over to squeeze his arm in comfort. “Okay, just… keep relaying, then. I’ll buy you ice cream when we get back or something.”

“You know, that shouldn’t be as encouraging as it is, but apparently I’m a five year old,” Klaus said, laughing. He was starting to sound a little manic, and Luther wasn’t sure how to deal with that now. He put his hand on Klaus’ head and ruffled his hair, hoping it helped.

Klaus took a deep breath and let it out slowly through his mouth, which seemed a step in the right direction, so Luther buckled his belt and scrolled through the controls until he found something that looked like the launch sequence he’d used to get to the moon. “This?” he asked.

Klaus peeked at it, then at the air behind them, and nodded. “Yep, that one.”

“Okay,” Luther said. “Everyone ready?”

“Yes,” Allison said.

“Okay, here we go,” Luther muttered, booting up the program. “Lift off.”

The roar of the engines was familiar enough it was almost bizarre to feel Klaus grab his hand. To not be alone.

Luther squeezed Klaus’ hand as the feeling of gravity on them increased. He wasn’t sure which of them needed the reminded that they weren’t alone more at the moment, nor did he really care.

The ceiling above them unfolded, the smoke and flames around them obscuring the view outside the ship until it rose above the clouds, breaking through the blue of the sky and into the black of space. Luther watched as the Earth grew small, an odd wave of nostalgia and homesickness washing over him as it dropped out of view of the windows.

The sound of the engines fell away and left the silence of space instead.

Luther looked back at the others, trying to gauge how excited he could be to have them up here with them. Sure, things were still dire, but there was still something incredible about being out here all together.

“We’re in space,” Vanya breathed. “Holy shit.”

“How do we find the Oblivion from here?” Diego asked.

Klaus pointed vaguely. “That way.”

“How do you know?” Diego asked.

“Because I hear it,” Klaus said, looking queasy.

“There’s no sound in space,” Five interjected.

“Can we just trust that I can hear the giant ball of shrieking souls?” Klaus snapped. “It’s that way.”

Luther nodded, tapping the screen until he figured out how to set a direction in the navigational system.

“Somehow I doubt Klaus’ powers follow the laws of physics, Five,” Ben murmured, watching Klaus closely.

Five gave him a cross look, but didn’t add anything else.

Luther made sure the screens seemed to be reading the right things, then looked at Klaus. He seemed pale and his hands were shaking as he worried at his ears.

Luther moved to speak, but Klaus was already frantically unbuckling his belt and stumbling to the back of the ship.

Ben reached for his own belt, but Luther shook his head, already unbuckling his own. I’ve got this, he mouthed, and Ben paused, then nodded. Luther followed Klaus, staying quiet.

Klaus had found a small corner behind all the engines and panels to curl up in.

“Getting loud?” Luther asked.

Klaus jumped. “Oh, Jesus, I thought you were dead,” he managed.

Luther tried not to laugh. “Can’t believe we didn’t realize you were twins sooner,” he teased.

“Oh, shut up,” Klaus muttered. “Wait, fuck that’s… Godammit, now that it’s been pointed out to me I can’t stop doing it.”

Luther snorted, scooting closer. “You sure you want to do this?”

“We’re in space, Luther, it’s a little late to go back,” Klaus snorted.

“I… Well… I’ll come up with something,” Luther said. “You know. I’ll insist you can’t do it and you can pretend you’re still on board, and…”

“Seriously?” Klaus said, with a real smile. “You’re going to con our family into blaming you for me flaking?”

“Sure,” Luther said.

Klaus giggled. “Man, you can’t lie for shit, that’s not going to work.”

“Well…”

Klaus winced and rubbed at his ears again. His breathing was shaky and he had a look that Luther was starting to get familiar with from being around Five. He reached forward to touch his elbow, but Klaus jerked away.

“Hey,” Luther said. “It’s me. You know where you are?”

Klaus blinked at him, then nodded. “Yeah, sorry, I just keep…”

“No, no, it’s fine, just want to make sure you’re still here with me,” Luther said, reaching for Klaus’ shoulder again and squeezing. “Klaus, you can still back out of this.”

“No, I can’t.”

“You’re having flashbacks,” Luther said. “Pretty good excuse.” He sat down next to Klaus and pulled him close. “It’s okay, you know, to say you can’t. I’m not Dad. Never have been. I used to think that was a bad thing, but I’m starting to think maybe there’s some merit to taking care of each other even when it seems irresponsible.”

“This is different,” Klaus said. “I mean, we really don’t have a backup plan. Vanya needs noise, and somehow I don’t think seven of us yelling is going to cut it.”

“This isn’t the first time we thought our only option was to screw one of ourselves over.”

“Well, we have a 50-50 success rate on that,” Klaus said. “So, a toss-up, really.”

Luther rubbed Klaus’ shoulder. “Maybe,” he murmured. “But one failure was enough for me. It was my decision to lock Vanya up, and I… I was really, really wrong. I don’t want to do that again, not ever. If you don’t want this, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure you don’t have to.”

“I want to do this,” Klaus said, with a small sniffle. “It’s just so loud. And, like, generally horrifying in ways I can’t really describe. Also, I really want to get high, which sucks, because I was getting so good at not wanting to get high, too.”

“I know you can do it,” Luther said. “I just want you to know you don’t have to.”

“I know,” Klaus murmured. “But I do want to. Or, you know, I want to succeed at it, I don’t particularly care for the way we’re going to get from point A to point B.”

Luther sighed, nodding into Klaus’ hair. “If you’re sure, then I’m… we’re going to be with you the whole time. You’re not going to have to face this alone, not anymore, okay?”

Klaus wiped away an errant tear and nodded. “You’re a pretty good big brother, you know that?”

Luther laughed. “You have no idea how good it is to hear that,” he said.

“Must have gotten pretty lonely, huh?” Klaus asked.

“On the moon?”

“In the house with just Dad.”

Luther swallowed. “Yeah. Yeah it was.”

Klaus wiped his hands on his pants and sniffled loudly. “Okay, I’m good. I’ve got this.”

“Okay,” Luther said. “Come here, I’ll let you know when it’s go time.” He pulled Klaus in and put his hands over Klaus’ ears.

Klaus gave him an appreciative look and leaned against him, taking deep breaths.

“There it is!” Diego yelled, after a while. “Luther, Klaus, get up here.”

Luther sat up straight. “You got this?” he asked Klaus.

Klaus stuck his fingers in his ears, wincing before nodding. “I think so.”

Luther helped him up, steadying him when he wobbled slightly, and kept his arm around him as they went back to the control room.

It took Luther a moment to piece together what was happening – the view outside the windows was dark. It seemed just fine until Luther realized he couldn’t see any stars in any direction.

“Oh,” he mumbled, joining Five where he was perched next to a window and staring at the dark figure drifting in front of them.

Klaus peeked once and then sat down very suddenly, breathing hard. “Oh, that’s not fun,” he croaked. “That’s not fun at all.”

“How big is it?” Luther whispered. He couldn’t see any edges.

“Several hundred square meters, I’m guessing,” Five said, uncharacteristically quiet.

Luther looked at Diego, Ben and Vanya. “You four okay?”

“Yeah,” Diego said. “Maybe coming to terms with my own mortality more than I expected to today, but yeah.”

He wanted to say something along the lines of, The four of you are the most screwed if this goes wrong, but there was no way to ask if they were okay with that without reminding them why they had every reason to be exceedingly nervous. He hovered awkwardly, trying to figure out what to say, then decided against it. “How close do you need to be?” he asked Five instead.

“Um,” Five murmured, clearing his throat. “Anywhere less than 50 meters should be fine.”

“We’re coming up on that,” Allison said.

“Last chance to back out,” Luther told them.

“Do we have any backup plans?” Five asked sardonically.

“No,” Luther said. “But we can think of some if we need to, right?”

Vanya shook her head. “If Klaus is still okay, I’m okay.”

Five made a face, but cocked his head in agreement.

Klaus looked up from where he’d folded himself into a ball with only elbows and knees showing, hands clamped over his ears. “As you can see, I’m doing wonderfully,” he croaked. “Ready to go.”

Luther sighed. “Okay, I guess.”

Five held out his hands. “Hold on very tightly,” he said. “Also I don’t know where I’m going, so we might land in the middle of the ship.” He looked at Ben. “Be ready to be swamped.”

Ben nodded, hooking his arm into Klaus’ as Klaus unfolded himself and stood up, quivering only slightly. Luther did the same, taking one of Five’s hands. It was small and cold in his hand, and between Klaus taking deep, slow breaths on one side and Five’s small hand on the other, Luther almost wanted to refuse to do this himself.

But it was their decision, and Luther had to be along to take care of them. This was his new job, one that he’d given himself instead of accepting it from Reginald without question, and he was going to do it.

“Three,” Five said, taking a deep breath, “two, one… go.”

Everything flashed blue, and they were gone.

Chapter Text

“So,” Eudora said. “How are you holding up with the whole… parade of weird?”

“Fine,” Hazel said, nodding to himself. “You’re very casual for someone who knows I murdered you in an alternate timeline, you know that?”

“Have you seen the family I’ve gotten dragged into?” she said.

He hummed. “Yes, I most certainly have. Still, no hard feelings?”

“I mean if you pull any funny business, I will arrest you and shoot you if necessary,” she said. She looked back towards the door to the holding cells. They’d parked themselves outside the station, away from innocent bystanders, and Hazel was watching the road, hand on his gun in preparation. “But you helped me get Perseus here like you said, so…” She shrugged.

“Yeah,” he muttered. “It’s not going to be that easy. They’re going to come after us. I’m pretty sure we were followed.”

“I know,” she said.

“You’re not nervous?”

“A little,” she admitted. “But I couldn’t exactly tell Diego that, could I?”

Hazel snorted. “Suppose I see you point.”

“It’s a nice thing,” she admitted. “How protective he is. It’s just a sign of how much he cares, but… You know. You put someone who cares as much as him in the hands of some gnarled old bastard who believes in some outdated view of manliness… The result is really, really annoying sometimes.”

Hazel laughed softly. “I can imagine.”

“No offense, but you’re very calm for an assassin,” she said.

“Oh, I used to have more energy,” Hazel said. “Used to be downright giddy about all the killing and the time travel and the… whatever. But then they started docking pay and they started ordering more hits on kids – efficiency, they said – and constantly tightening regulations, and… I suppose I just got to thinking.”

“And that started wearing you down,” Eudora murmured.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Once it started feeling like a chore, the killings, then in the boredom you started thinking about their lives. What you might have cut short, you know?”

Eudora nodded. It would be fairly easy to condemn him on the basis of being gleeful about murder in the first place, but she was more curious than anything. How a manic assassin could become the lumbering, gentle man she saw before him.

“Well, anyway,” Hazel said. “We got stuck here for a while when the Handler was still hashing out details about Jenkins, and I started talking to Agnes. And Agnes, well… she’s something else. Just as kind as a woman could be.”

Eudora smiled. “She sounds lovely.”

“She is,” Hazel said, with a smile like he couldn’t believe his luck in finding someone like her. “And I started thinking… what if the Commission’s work wasn’t all that important? What if it doesn’t matter where the timeline goes? And then at the same time, we had Jenkins to deal with. Couldn’t stop raving about the mysteriously vanished boy who’d stolen his life… ‘Cept the more I read up on that family, the more I realized the grass wasn’t too much greener on the other side.”

“You can say that again,” Eudora said. “They’ve come a long way realizing how much their father messed them up, but I think they still don’t realize just how bad it was. Not even the smarter ones.”

“Well, point is,” Hazel said, “I started realizing that my partner and my trainee were an emotionless psychopath and an angry kid who decided to wallow in his misery instead of finding a way out. And… well, I still remember the times Cha-Cha and I had a lot of fun, but… I couldn’t take it anymore. I put in my request for retirement, let Jenkins take my job and settled down with Agnes for however long the world still had left.”

Eudora nodded.

“I suppose I just got tired,” he mused. “All that killing… once you lose sight of why you do it, it’s just a lot of blood and death. Doesn’t mean anything at all, and that’s no way to live.”

“Well, I’m glad you turned things around,” Eudora said.

“You don’t want to arrest me right now?” Hazel said, sounding amused.

“Oh, I do,” she said. “But I’ve already arrested a guy for his own murder, so I don’t really want to deal with the paperwork of throwing a time travelling assassin into jail with him unless you give me reason to think you’re still a danger to public safety.”

“Well, that’s not as confidence inspiring as you might think, Detective,” Hazel said, eyes focusing on something nearby. “Because if those aliens of yours are as weird as your in-laws, we might be putting some holes in this building.”

She reached for her gun, following his gaze.

“Behind the building there,” he murmured, pointing, pulling out his own gun.

She moved to get a better look, ducking behind the nearest car so she was still hidden as she did so.

Something moved in the corner of her eye. “On your left!” she cried.

Hazel moved quickly, kicking the incoming projectile away from them before it exploded in a pillar of green smoke. “Shit,” she said, pulling her shirt over her face.

Through the smoke, they didn’t see the second guy coming until he was already shoving past the car she was behind and charging at Hazel. The jostled car thudded against her hard enough that she dropped the gun, so she lowered herself more to stay unnoticed until she could grab it again.

Hazel fired at the figure coming at them, but it was a hulking thing that looked like it had been pulled out of the woods and then given upgrades by a confused robot. It roared, seemingly unperturbed by the shots, and slammed into Hazel.

“Shit,” she whispered, grabbing a rock and flinging it at the thing to get its attention before it snapped Hazel in two.

The smoke was messing with her eyes, and her aim was way off.

Still, it pinged right off the monster’s metallic shoulder, and it turned towards her.

She shot it in the face. When this didn’t do much but make it flinch, she fired at it some more, and Hazel stumbled to his feet and joined her in firing at its neck.

It raised a lumbering hand to try to swat the bullets away, but between the two of them, the thing seemed to be struggling. Slowly, swiping at them as it did, it fell over.

Hazel reloaded his gun and moved in closer to unload another clip into it.

“Shit,” she managed. “Is it dead?”

“Think so,” Hazel said, and both of them looked back at where the smoke bomb had come from. A second figure took off running.

Hazel fired at it, and it stumbled, but didn’t stop. He sighed. “Well, hopefully that’ll discourage him from doubling back around and trying again.”

She swallowed. “Yeah. Hopefully.” She looked at the massive creature in front of them. “What about this guy?”

Hazel scowled at his car. “I don’t think it’ll fit in my trunk unless I cut its legs off.”

“What?” Eudora said. “No way. We’re not dismembering an alien in the back alley of my police station. Where I work!”

“How are you going to explain that to your superiors?” Hazel asked, pointing at it. “I don’t even know how I’d tell the Commission, and we had time travel.”

“Oh, motherfucker,” she said, groaning. “Okay, let’s drag him behind the dumpster, and maybe people won’t notice.”

“Alright,” Hazel said indulgently, taking up one of the mottled arms. “By the way, you don’t have powers, right?”

“Nope,” she said, grabbing another arm. “Just an ordinary cop with bad taste in men.”

“Then what happened with that rock there?”

She sighed as they dragged the body behind the dumpster. “I don’t know. I couldn’t see well, I thought I missed, but the wind must have…”

“Wind was in the other direction,” Hazel said.

“Okay, fuck, we’re not talking about this now,” she said. “There’s a fucking machete in the evidence locker, will that do?”

Hazel looked at the body. “Probably, yeah.”

“Okay, good, stay,” she said, and ran back into the station.

She peeked down the hall. Perseus seemed to still be in his cell, but to be honest, she didn’t really care if he’d gotten free. As long as Diego had gotten into the air and she stayed alive, it was mission accomplished.

There was really no good way to prosecute someone for their own murder anyway.

She slipped into the evidence room and pulled out the proper case. It was a cold case from thirty years ago – and hopefully, it would stay that way, because there would be no good way to explain a bunch of alien blood and the fingerprints of a time traveling assassin on the murder weapon.

She groaned and returned to where Hazel was guarding the body, handing him the machete.

He sighed. “It’s rusty.”

“It’s from a cold case,” Eudora replied. “I’m not messing up an active investigation with alien guts.”

“Okay,” he said. “Fair enough.” He raised the machete.

“Wait, wait!” she said, holding her hands out. He looked at her patiently. “I just need a second to rearrange my morals a little before I allow myself to be an accessory to dismembering and hiding a corpse.”

“Well, if it helps, remember that they’re trying to mine the world dry and kill all of us,” Hazel said good-naturedly. “And he did start it.”

“I kind of like to do things by the book,” she said. “The book gets things done, sends the right people to jail, things like that.”

“Do you have a jail cell that would have held this guy?” Hazel said.

“No, but there should be a report, right? That we killed him?”

Hazel thought about it. “In an ideal world, I suppose, but in this world, you’re going to sound like a nutcase. The guy has a clock built into his side.”

She breathed out slowly. “Okay, okay,” she said. “You’re right, we’re doing the right thing here. Go ahead.”

He took pity on her and pulled his keys out of his pocket. “Bring my car over, I’ll load it up once he’s in enough pieces.”

“Oh, god,” Eudora said, but she took the keys, looking around her carefully as she jogged to his car, getting in and starting it up before backing up to where he was and popping the trunk. She groaned, letting her head thud against the steering wheel.

The car shook, and she got out to join Hazel where he was loading what was left of the body into the trunk.

“What about the blood?” she asked.

“It’s blue,” he said. “No one will think anything of it, and it’s supposed to rain soon anyway.”

“Jesus fucking Christ.”

“Hey,” Hazel said. “Don’t panic. We’ll take care of this guy, they’ll blow up the ship, and you can go back to being a really good cop.”

She nodded, rounding the car to get into the passenger seat. “I hope you’re right. Let’s get it over with.”

“That’s the spirit,” he said, getting into the driver’s seat.

“By the way, I murdered your partner too,” she muttered. It seemed wrong to keep it from him when he’d been nothing but honest with her.

He paused at that. “Well, she murdered you first, so that seems fair.”

“You don’t care at all?” she asked.

“Well. I miss her sometimes,” Hazel said, starting the car. “She was a good partner. She was also an evil bitch.” He shrugged. “I suppose she always knew eventually someone would kill her, so it’s just… you know, the life we led. I couldn’t imagine her growing old and retiring. I don’t think she ever meant to retire.”

Eudora sighed. “God, more people with weird-ass lives,” she said. “Just what we needed.”

He laughed. “Sorry,” he murmured. “But you know, you did curve that rock.”

“I did not,” she insisted.

“It was subtle, but it happened. And if I recall correctly, that’s your boyfriend’s superpower, isn’t it?”

She rolled her eyes. “It’s a superpower, not an STD.”

He paused, mulling over her words before it dawned on her. “Oh god, pull over! I need a phone booth.”

He blinked at her, but did so.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Eudora muttered, quickly dialing the number Allison had given her a lifetime ago.

“Hello?” came a small voice.

“Hi, Claire,” Eudora said. “It’s your aunt Eudora. Could you um… could you get your dad on the phone?”

“Okay,” Claire said. There was some rustling, and Eudora pressed her forehead against the cold glass of the booth, staring at Hazel as he sat on the hood of the car, waiting patiently.

“Hello?” Patrick asked. “Is everything alright? Allison…?”

“No, no, she’s fine,” Eudora said. Just in space. “I had a weird question, actually. When Allison was pregnant, did you notice anything weird about her powers? Was she maybe… more convincing, or…”

“She sure was,” Patrick said. “I accused her of rumoring me to get her midnight snacks a few times, but she insisted she didn’t. She seemed confused I’d even ask. She thought I was just being helpful for once, she said, and—“

“Okay, thanks, bye,” Eudora said, slamming down the phone and running back to the car. She sat down in the passenger seat and stared out at the road. “We need to make another stop.”

“Where, exactly?” Hazel asked.

“Grocery store?” Eudora asked. “Gas station, maybe? I don’t know, but I need a pregnancy test.”

“Now?” he asked.

“Yes, now,” she said. “Diego’s going to get back any second after a harrowing jaunt in space, and what am I supposed to tell him? Hey sweetie, while you were gone, I started thinking maybe I’m pregnant, but you know, then again, maybe not?”

“Well,” Hazel said. “Yes?”

“Listen to me,” Eudora hissed. “Diego is kind and smart and loyal as hell and I love him very much, but he’s also an overdramatic dumbass with every daddy issue in the book, and if I am about to tell him that I am pregnant with his child, I need to have all the facts. All of them. At the very least, I need to know what’s going on, because he’s going to freak the hell out.”

Hazel thought about it. “Alright, fair enough.”

“Thank you,” she said, buckling her seatbelt.

She chewed at her thumb as he drove them to the nearest grocery store. She got out of the car, and Hazel followed after. “Are you coming in with me?” she asked.

“Well, yes,” Hazel said. “You said it yourself, he’s very protective. Not like I can admit something happened to you because I left you alone to go buy pregnancy tests. Especially not if you actually are pregnant.”

“Point taken,” she said. “Alright, come on.”

He cleared his throat and followed her inside, staying quiet and watching for any errant aliens following them as she scooped up a pregnancy test.

The checkout was awkward to say the least – between Eudora’s nervous foot tapping and Hazel trying to hide any blood splatter on his shirt, Eudora could only imagine the picture they painted. She smiled awkwardly at the cashier and took the test. “Wait outside,” she muttered to Hazel as she hurried to the bathroom.

He nodded, standing by the wall to wait for her, alert and only slightly suspicious looking.

The next few minutes were a few of the longest in her life, waiting for the test to complete.

“Fuck,” she whispered, once it had.

She stumbled out of the bathroom. “Fuck,” she repeated.

“Positive?” Hazel asked.

“Yep,” she said. “I just threw a rock at a murderous alien while pregnant with Diego’s child.”

“Well, he doesn’t have to know about the rock,” Hazel offered.

“I am pregnant with his child,” she said. “Do you realize how high strung that man is? He nearly got kicked out of the police academy because he got angry at all of my sparring partners. Luther and Klaus had to practically kidnap him and talk him out of attacking every guy who hit me for training or otherwise.”

“I’m sure he’ll manage.”

“Oh, god, and this is timeline 1 Diego, who actually did get kicked out of the police academy!”

“He’s a grown man,” Hazel said. “I’m sure he can handle being told his girlfriend pregnant.”

“He’s going to lose his mind,” Eudora hissed. “He’s going to lose his goddamn mind.”

Hazel sighed. “Well. You don’t have to tell him just yet.”

“Oh my god,” she said. “How am I going to tell him?”

He cleared his throat, quietly letting her work through it.

“Okay, let’s just… dispose of an alien body, that sounds way easier than telling my boyfriend he’s going to be a father,” she said. “And I will just… pretend this isn’t happening until he gets back.”

“Alright,” Hazel said. “There we go. That’s a start.”

“Let’s go dump an alien body,” she said, starting to the car.

He sighed and trailed after her, driving them down to the river. “You gonna help toss him into the water? The metal should keep him down.”

She sighed and nodded as they pulled up on the river bank.

Hazel popped the trunk. “For the record,” he said, while she walked back, wrinkling her nose as she poked at an arm. “Your boyfriend seems like a good guy. Seems like he’ll really love that kid.”

“Oh, no doubt,” she said, helping him balance the body as he dragged it out of the trunk. “That’s what worries me.”

“So long as you love your kid, things work out,” Hazel said. “At least, that’s what I’ve seen.”

“Yeah, but first I have to tell him,” she said, groaning as they lifted the body over the railing over the rive and let it drop into the water. “And he’s going to panic. I mean, he’s never had any role models. He was raised by an alien, a chimpanzee, and a robot.”

Hazel thought about that for a good long while. “Well, still,” he said. “Good heart, dedication… it’s all you really need to be a parent.”

“I know. I trust him to be a dad.”

“Well, good,” Hazel said. “Just convince him of that.”

She sighed, giving him a tired look. “You’ve seen him,” she said. “How easy do you think that’s gonna be?”

He smiled. “Point taken,” he said. “But like I said. You don’t have to tell him right away.” He looked at the sky. “You can probably wait for the aftershocks to die down.”

“As though this family ever gets any less wild,” she muttered.

“It’s got to be better than this,” Hazel offered.

She sighed. “Barely.”

He laughed. “Well. Then you can just tell him when it’s barely calmer, I suppose.”

“Yeah,” she said. “But just to be clear, we’re telling him that I just dumped an alien corpse into the river while alone with you never.”

“Deal.”

Chapter Text

Travelling in space was a great deal more uncomfortable than travelling through time, Diego thought, which was funny, given how much Five did the former.

The world swirled, his brain trying to reorient itself like he’d been spinning in circle for a good minute. At least he didn’t seem to be the only one stumbling, as Vanya staggered against the nearest wall and Ben grabbed onto Luther for support.

Five dropped like a rock, groaning and panting, and Klaus went to his knees, clutching his ears.

“Oh, fuck, oh Jesus, oh fuck,” he wheezed, looking up for a moment before slumping to the side.

“Shit,” Luther said, staggering a little as he reached to sit Klaus up. “Klaus, are you okay?”

“No! Ask me again and I’m going to put my foot up your ass!” Klaus managed, whimpering a little.

Luther gave him a nervous look. “Can you… Are you going to be able to do this?”

“Yeah,” Klaus croaked. “Yeah, I’m fine. Do I not look fine?”

“You’re bleeding,” Allison murmured, putting her hand under his nose to wipe away the blood there.

“I’ve got this,” Klaus said.

“Klaus…” Vanya murmured.

“No!” Klaus said. “I am in a lot of pain and existential horror, and I need you guys to just shut up and trust me for once! I can do this, just… fucking believe me, okay?”

There was a moment of silence, and Diego took the awkward pause to check on Five. Five groaned when Diego shook him, rolling onto his back and coughing. He seemed to be awake, but Diego couldn’t tell how coherent he was.

“We believe you,” Ben said. “Let’s do this.”

“Wait, wait,” Klaus said, unsteadily clambering to his feet. “There’s a… a fuel… center… thing… I think? I don’t know, everything I’m getting from these guys is really abstract, but… I think what they’re trying to say is that if we blow that up, it’ll… sort of… take out the rest of the ship.”

“A chain reaction?” Five croaked.

“Um… yeah, sure, I guess,” Klaus said. “My point is, if we blow that up, we’ll have time to get back here and have Five jump us out.”

“Can you get us there?” Luther asked.

Klaus nodded. “The ship is… trying to help. I think the…” He dropped his voice, “parts kind of want to be free of this thing.” He sighed. “Don’t suppose you could help by BEING A BIT GODDAMN QUIETER?!!”

Everyone stared at him. “Did that… help?” Allison asked.

“No, of course not,” Klaus muttered. “But I think they’ll warn us if anyone’s coming.”

“Okay,” Ben said, nodding. “If I have a warning, I can take care of it.”

Allison took a deep breath. “Me too.”

Klaus looked around, glancing at Five as Five sat up with some difficulty. “Oh, fuck, okay… um… Hey, uh… ship? Oblivion?” He yelped, putting his hands over his eyes. “No no, don’t… don’t try to have a face, that’s so much worse… Jesus! I just need a place to hide my brother while we go.”

“I’m still here,” Five muttered.

Klaus stumbled down the hallway, peeking around the corner. “Okay, there’s… there’s apparently a bit of a… balcony thing, you know, where… It’s like… There’s a hidden corner under the railing, but it has a pretty good view of the hallways below, so you’ll know if there’s any commotion.”

“Okay,” Diego said slowly.

“Um… take a… uh…” Klaus made a confusing gesture with his hands.

“That’s your left,” Five muttered.

“Left,” Klaus said. “Yes. Yeah. Then a right, then you’ll see it.”

“Okay,” Diego said, pulling Five’s arm over his shoulders to get him to his feet properly.

“Be prepared for it to get really, really loud,” Klaus warned. “When you hear it, come back here.”

“Got it.”

“No, listen to me,” Klaus said, uncharacteristically serious. “It’s going to get really loud.”

Diego frowned at him, but nodded. “Yeah, okay. I’m ready.”

“The hell you are,” Klaus muttered, but returned to scoping out the hallways.

Diego sighed, nodding at the others. “Good luck.”

Luther nodded, looking worried at them. “You too. Be careful.” He put a hand on Klaus’ back and followed him as Klaus blearily started in the other direction, followed by the others.

“I can walk,” Five muttered, listing to the side as he said it, feet skidding as he tried to stabilize.

“Sure, buddy,” Diego replied. “Come on.” He readjusted his hold on Five so he was steady and started down the hallway.

“This sucks,” Five muttered. He was cold and quivering against Diego’s side.

“Yeah, I know,” Diego said. “But we’re just going to hide out and wait for shit to go down, and then you’re going to zap us out of here.”

“I feel useless,” Five muttered.

“You’re our escape route,” Diego said. “Not useless.”

“Whatever.”

“God, you’re such a teenager.”

“I am not a teenager.”

“You act like a teenager.”

“I do not.”

“You’re right, now you sound like a baby.”

“Fuck you.”

Diego stopped as they came to the railing Klaus had mentioned. There was a small crevice between the railing – which seemed to be an array of control panels more than a railing – and the wall, perfect for them to hide in. Diego helped Five crawl into the crevice before following him, both of them pulling their knees in so they could look over the platform below them.

“Real Death Star vibes here…” Diego muttered.

The platform was the most open part of the ship he’d seen so far, twice the size of the room they’d been held in. It seemed to be a bit of a junction, hallways extending out from it in all directions. The occasional group of aliens marched past below them, looking like regular patrol crews.

“I don’t like this,” Five muttered.

“No shit,” Diego replied. “But this is the plan and we’re sticking to it.”

“How do we know the ship isn’t lying?” Five asked. “I mean, the others could be walking into a trap right now.”

“It’s not the ship,” Diego said. “It’s the people that died to make it. I mean if I’d been built into this thing, I’d be pretty pissed.”

“Or lobotomized,” Five muttered.

“Five,” Diego said. “Have you tried to lie to Klaus while he’s sober lately? Because it doesn’t work.”

“He’s not okay,” Five hissed. “You saw him!”

“You’re not okay either, dumbass,” Diego replied. “You’re shaking.”

“That’s stress,” Five muttered. “Because we have to sit here while—“

“And exhaustion,” Diego said.

Five huffed, resting his chin on his knees.

“God knows this family struggles to come up with any good plans,” Diego said. “We’re not scrapping this one the second you get jitters.”

“I’m not getting jitters,” Five mumbled petulantly.

“If you look up jitters in the dictionary, there’s a picture of you, right now, in this moment.”

“Fuck you.”

“Dickhead.”

Five sighed and looked back over the platform. “Shit,” he hissed, lurching into a crouch. “That’s him!”

Diego followed his gaze. Below them, a man with a yellow, hazmat-like suit was conferring with a group of the robot soldiers. “That’s who?”

“The guy who nearly made Swiss cheese out of my brain!” Five gritted out between his teeth. “Shit. What if they know the others are on the ship?”

“Five, don’t even think about it,” Diego warned.

“He’s gathering people,” Five said, breathing harsh. “He’s going after them, we have to—“

“Out of the question!” Diego hissed at him. “Do you want us to be stuck here on an exploding space ship? You can’t waste energy on more jumping!”

“I don’t need to jump to take care of him!”

“Five, no,” Diego said.

“We at least need to distract him!” He tried to scurry past Diego, but Diego caught his collar and slammed him back down.

“I said no!” Diego whispered. “You’re going to sit here and let them deal with anything that happens instead of throwing the whole plan out of whack by doing something dumb and getting in trouble!”

“I’m not going to get in trouble!” Five protested. “I can take them!”

“Well, you’re not going to!” Diego said, tightening his grip on the back of Five’s neck to keep him sitting.

“You sound like Luther,” Five spat.

With some amount of absurd surprise, Diego realized that barb didn’t work half as well as it would have even two months ago. “You know what?” he replied. “Good! Because Luther has actually been keeping your dumb ass in line lately!”

Whatever childish discomfort still lingered in him at the thought of praising Luther was wiped away by the sheer disbelief that flitted over Five’s face at the thought that such a surefire provocation would go without any effect on Diego at all. “You’re dumb,” he mumbled.

“Not your best, bro,” Diego said, slowly letting go of his neck. He kept his eye on Five for a moment longer, then looked back down at the small collection of soldiers gathering there.

And, of course, the moment he did, Five leapt over his back and ran.

“Son of a…” Diego muttered, leaping to his feet and tackling Five into the nearest wall.

Five struggled against him, but he’d always been the worst of them at getting out of any kind of chokehold or special grip. He’d always been content to loosen their grip and then jump away.

“Hey!” Diego hissed, pinning him to the wall and shaking him. “Stop it!”

“You stop it!” Five snarled back. “They could be in danger!”

“You knew you’d have to sit this one out when you volunteered to jump us over, so fucking do it!”

“Get off me!”

“Hey!” Diego said, shaking him again, hand tight in his shirt. Five screwed up his face at the motion – the idiot probably had a migraine from exhaustion and possibly panic, too. Diego took a deep breath. “I know you’ve seen us dead or dying more times than anyone could bear, but right now you need to fucking trust us.”

“I trust you,” Five muttered.

Diego sighed. Eudora’s look before he’d left suddenly made a lot more sense. “You need to trust us to be okay,” he said. “Even if you’re not there to make sure of it.”

Five’s face fell, showing a kind of pain Diego hadn’t seen him show before. “You don’t understand,” he whispered.

“I know what it’s like to lose people,” Diego murmured. “And to feel like you should have been there, and that being there is the only way to keep it from happening again.”

“You were a half an hour late,” Five whispered. “I was gone for seventeen years. You don’t understand.”

Diego swallowed. “Five…”

Something whirred next to them, and they both looked up into a blaster. The man in the yellow suit was looming over them, flanked by three robots. Diego scrambled for a knife before they could fire.

However, as it turned out, Klaus was right.

He was not prepared for how loud it got, but neither was anyone else.

He stumbled as he tried to get to his feet and grabbed Five’s blazer. He wrenched him forward even as Five whimpered and tried to cover his ears. “Run!”

**

“Three o’clock,” Klaus muttered.

Allison poked her head around the corner. “I heard a rumor you each shot the guy on your left,” she said.

Ben peered around her shoulder as the alien patrol around the corner went down like a circle of dominos. “Not bad,” he said.

Allison made a face. She’d clearly shelved her reluctance to use her powers, but she didn’t look happy about it in the least.

“Probably better you take them out while we can,” he said softly. “I tend to make things kind of messy. And loud.”

“Yeah,” she said, not sounding any happier. “Exactly.”

“We’re going to need you up here, Ben,” Klaus murmured. Luther had switched to keeping him upright with an arm around his shoulders. “Uh… about ten guys in the room.” He made a face like he was struggling not to puke. “Take a right.”

Luther nodded, helping him as they did, keeping one hand vaguely ready to push Vanya behind him as well if need be.

Klaus stopped short, looking at Ben. A large door was in front of them, blinking lights all around it.

Ben sighed and pushed past them to fiddle with the buttons until it opened. “Stay back,” he said.

They nodded and pulled back, but they didn’t close the door.

That was both a relief and a terrifying reality, he thought as he took a studier stance and unleashed the monster.

He had some control over it, but there was always the worry that anyone caught in the middle of his tentacles would be torn to shreds, even if they were innocent. Even if they were his family.

He closed his eyes and focused everything away from the door and towards the shouting aliens around them. Screams filled the large room, dying off quickly and brutally.

He finally opened his eyes, withdrawing his tentacles. “Okay,” he muttered. “Let’s go.”

“It’s right up here,” Klaus murmured. “Through that door.”

Ben nodded, opening the door and peering inside. There were more overpasses here, and underneath a large, fluctuating, glowing green orb. It was easily more than a block wide, though he couldn’t see the entire thing from here.

“Okay,” Luther murmured. “Allison, Ben, guard the door. Klaus, Vanya, I’m staying with you guys.”

Vanya nodded, and Klaus let Luther lead him towards the orb until he reached the door. He shrugged Luther off and put a hand against the wall.

Vanya perched over the orb, hands out. “Back up, Luther,” she said. “I’m not sure how well I can aim.”

Luther made a face, but he backed up until he was behind Klaus.

“Ready?” Klaus asked.

She nodded.

“Cover your ears,” Klaus said.

“I need to hear it to use my powers,” Vanya said.

“God, you’ll hear it,” Klaus snapped. “Just… do it.”

She rolled her eyes, but put her hands over her ears. The rest of them followed suit.

Klaus sighed, pressing his hands against the wall. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he whispered, then pushed.

His hands lit up with a blue glow, and for a moment there was silence, the blue glow spreading through the walls.

Then, suddenly, the screaming started.

If there was a polar opposite of silence, this was it.

The noise was indescribable. It was screams overlayed with more screams, overlapping and amplifying each other. The glow, too, spread through the ship like a blanket, but sometimes, out of the corner of his eyes, Ben could see faces, hands… Being one of Klaus’ ghosts meant that he was familiar with the other ghosts, but this was new.

Vanya stumbled, clutching her ears, taking a few startled steps back before she tore her hands away from her head and instead fumbled to grab the railing to stay upright, stretching her other hand out towards the green glow.

She squeezed her eyes tight, her own glow joining Klaus’, growing brighter and brighter until Ben had to look away, the hum of her powers joining the chaos.

And then, suddenly, it was all over.

“Shit,” Luther said, bolting forward to grab Vanya as the floor under her crumbled. He tossed her into the crook of his arm, then grabbed Klaus, who had also keeled over, pulling him over his shoulder. “Let’s go!”

The green orb was quickly turning to an angry orange that was spreading through the walls, pushing chunks of metal out of the ceilings.

Ben stood aside to let them through first.

“Ben!” Luther yelled.

“Right, sorry,” he breathed, racing through the door. He bolted ahead of Allison so he could take out anyone coming at them, but the majority of voices and footsteps seemed to be concentrated behind them, running towards the source of the growing cracks in the walls.

They skidded to a stop in the meeting place.

Diego and Five were nowhere to be seen.

“Shit,” Allison breathed. “Do you think something happened to them?”

She started down the hall, but a moment later, Diego rounded it, dragging a dazed and annoyed Five after him by his arm. “Sorry, we uh… had a little fight,” he wheezed. “Ready?”

“We better be,” Luther said. “We’re not going to be able to stay here any longer.”

Five grabbed Ben’s hand. His was cold and clammy, and Ben could only hope he could actually make the jump. “Hold onto them tight, it’s going to be bumpier than last time!” he yelled at Luther, who nodded and readjusted his grip.

“Bumpier?!” Diego yelped, but they were already being torn through space.

They landed on the floor of their own ship in a large crash. The wind was knocked out of Ben’s lungs, his head spinning and ears ringing.

“Shit!” Luther yelled, grabbing Five as Five went limp and pulling him into his arms as well. It was all the warning Ben got to cover his head with his arms and brace himself as the Oblivion went supernova, buffeting their ship and throwing them against the walls.

Luther wedged his foot against the control panels, holding Vanya, Klaus and Five close while Diego and Allison hastily covered their necks and Ben slid against the wall, barely avoiding slamming his head right into it.

Light flooded through the ship, blinding, and Ben was certain if there was any real sound in space, it would be deafening.

This light died down slowly, the rocking of the ship easing.

Diego leaned over to puke into one of the compartments in the wall.

Allison and Ben sat up slowly, exchanging dazed looks, and Luther carefully lifted the three unconscious bodies in his arms into his laps.

“Are they okay?” Allison asked, quickly moving to check for a pulse in each of them. She breathed out a sigh of relief. “They’re all still breathing.”

“They’ll probably need rest,” Luther said. “Uh… someone take one of them, I only have so many arms.”

Allison eased Vanya out of his elbow and guided Vanya’s head into her lap. “So we actually… did it?” she asked, peering out the window. Debris floated around them, but the stars were visible again.

“I think so,” Luther said, carefully lifting Five and Klaus onto his shoulders, both of them limp as ragdolls. “Jesus fucking Christ.”

“We did it,” Ben croaked. “What the fuck.”

“That was… not fun,” Diego said, wiping his mouth. “Let’s go home.”

Ben slumped against the wall. “Yeah,” he said. “Let’s.”

Chapter Text

“I’m never going to space again,” Diego managed, knuckles white as he gripped his seat.

Luther snorted. “Probably for the best.”

Allison sloppily undid her belt. “Fuck,” she muttered, shoving the door open. “My balance is shot.”

“Mine too,” Diego muttered, squinting at the bright sunlight.

Luther undid his seatbelt and followed them.

Eudora and Hazel were waiting outside. Eudora waved at them awkwardly. “How was space?” she asked.

“We saw the damn thing explode from down here,” Hazel added. “It was really something.”

Diego raced out of the ship to hug Eudora while she did her best not to fall from the sudden onset of weight descending around her.

Luther nodded at them absently, looking back at the others. He wasn’t sure how to carry all three of them.

“Need some help there?” Hazel asked.

“Uh,” Luther said. He didn’t like the idea of handing off any of his siblings to someone outside their family, much less Hazel, but he still had a severe shortage in arms. “Sure…” He slid Five into his arms and handed him to Hazel, relaxing slightly when Hazel slipped his arms under Five’s back and knees and settled his head on his shoulder.

He glanced at Allison, who was already way ahead of him, following his every move with her eyes, staying close behind him as he walked to the car.

Luther cleared his throat and return to unbuckling Klaus.

“God, shut uuuuuup,” Klaus slurred, only halfway awake. “Why can’t the dead just take a goddamn hint?”

Luther looked up at him, heart clenching. The noise on that ship had been a nightmare. He didn’t know how much worse it was than the usual, but Klaus’ comments about the dead screaming at him took on a new severity after that. Nothing could have prepared Luther for that noise up there.

He stood up, clambering down to get Diego. “Hey, can you take Vanya? After everything that happened, I think Klaus… deserves… or… needs some uh… you know. Extra attention.”

Diego nodded. “Just a second.” He looked at Eudora. “You coming over after this?”

She hesitated. “Um… I kind of just arrested a guy for his own murder, so… I’m going to have a lot of paperwork to do, and… and after I just kind of want to sleep in my own bed.”

“But…” Diego started.

“Hazel’s staying until you’re all back on your feet,” Eudora said. “So I won’t be alone.”

“Hazel’s…” Diego managed, before trying to change tack. “Uh, okay. Well, look, I just wanted to… say I’m sorry. For freaking out before. You’re right, I should have trusted you to be okay.” He rolled his eyes. “Babysitting Five I… kind of realized how I sounded, and—“

“Yeah,” she interrupted, nodding hurriedly. “It’s fine. I’m not mad.”

“Okay,” Diego said, sounding unconvinced.

Frankly, the way Eudora seemed to be avoiding eye contact, Luther wasn’t convinced either.

“You should go help your sister,” she said. “We can… I’ll come over sometime, okay?”

“Sure,” Diego said, watching her go.

“I’m sure it’s fine,” Luther offered.

“Uh-huh,” Diego muttered, eyes still on her as she went to talk to Hazel. “Yeah, probably.”

They stood in awkward silence for a moment, before Diego headed back. Luther followed him, focusing on Klaus while Diego got Vanya over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry.

“I get you all to myself, huh?” Klaus slurred.

“Yeah,” Luther murmured, doing his best to gather all of Klaus’ limbs so he could hold him gently to his chest. It was a lot harder than doing the same for Five, but at least Klaus seemed too tired to fidget the whole time. “You did really good up there.”

“Told you I could do it,” Klaus mumbled.

Luther rubbed his back. “I knew you could,” he said. “Just sorry it sucked.”

Klaus shrugged as well as he could. “Just take me into the basement and let me sleep, I’ll be fine.”

“Okay,” Luther murmured. “What kind of ice cream do you want?”

“You were serious about that?”

“Well, no,” Luther admitted. “But then you actually seemed really happy about it, so… yes.”

“Shit, man,” Klaus said, sniffling. “Rocky road. And double fudge. And strawberry. And also…” He paused, and Luther slid him closer so he could get into the car. “How many flavors can I ask for?”

“As many as you want, I guess,” Luther said.

“Well fuck,” Klaus said. “Okay. Then also… Uhhhhhhh… Mint chocolate chip, and that weird blue shit and…”

Luther smiled, making sure Klaus was comfortable and sitting back to let Klaus ramble off ice cream flavors until he fell back asleep.

**

Vanya groaned as she cracked her eyes open.

Her head hurt and she felt queasy, but she was in the bed Luther had dragged up here for her, Helen sprawled out asleep beside her. Allison was in the nearest armchair, sitting up when she noticed Vanya stirring.

“Hey,” she whispered. “How are you feeling?”

“Miserable,” Vanya said, rubbing at her head. “Fuck. Did we do it?” She’d lost track of what was going on somewhere in the middle of it all. It was a little too much like the concert hall for comfort. “Is everyone okay?”

Allison nodded. “The ship blew up, alright. You should have seen it, it was really something. And everyone’s fine. For us, anyway. Klaus has been in and out of sleep, but judging by the sheer amount of ice cream he’s consumed lately, he’s alright, probably. Five’s out cold, and he’s been… like, literally cold, but Luther’s been sitting with him to try to warm him up. Mom says it’s just exhaustion.”

Vanya pulled herself up so she was sitting. “Eudora?”

“Also fine,” Allison said. “Apparently Hazel actually pulled through. He swung by to make sure we were okay getting home too, and… actually carried Five home, so… yeah. It was… weird.”

“Has she been over at all?” Vanya asked. “Because things seemed tense between her and Diego and I… I’m just a little worried he… That she… you know.”

“No,” Allison murmured. “She hasn’t really been over much. But between you and me, I think she had a bit more of an exciting time than she’s willing to tell Diego.” She made an awkward face. “So maybe she’s just waiting for things to calm down to talk it over. And you know how he gets, he’s been in an overprotective funk since we got back, just…” She made a gesture with her finger, tracing a loop between Vanya’s room, the basement and Five’s room.

“Yeah,” Vanya said, pushing a lock of hair behind her ear.

Allison helped her grab the glass of water on the nightstand. “It’s nice to see you and him getting along, though,” she murmured.

“Mhmm,” Vanya said, draining the glass. “Can I get some aspirin?”

“Yeah, one second,” Allison said, getting up and quietly padding out of the room. She was wearing one of Luther’s shirts, sweatpants and slippers. It made her look like a different person.

Vanya sighed, rubbing her hands over her face and sliding out of bed. Her hearing didn’t seem to be as affected as the last time she was on that ship, but they were still ringing and her balance seemed to be a little off from it. It wasn’t so bad, though, and this room was a lot closer to one of the phones in the house than the last one.

She dialed the station and waited for it to ring, swallowing hard.

“Detective Patch, how can I help you?” came the voice finally.

“Hey,” Vanya said. “It’s me. Vanya.”

“Vanya? Is everything okay?” Eudora asked, sounding worried.

“Um… yeah, yeah, we’re all fine.” Vanya took a deep breath. “Look, I’m just calling because earlier I kind of interrupted something and I didn’t say anything, and I just… I’m… I’m getting used to speaking up more, okay? I mean the lack of drugs makes it a lot easier, but it’s just… I don’t always feel like it’s my place, and maybe it’s not, but he’s my brother and—“

“Oh, no, Vanya, that’s not necessary, it’s—“

“He does trust you,” Vanya blurted. “I know he can be a lot sometimes, trust me, but I mean… you know how we grew up. None of us had any security in relationships or any… like… guidance about how to express ourselves or anything, and he especially had so much pressure on him to be a man, because… you know, he that stutter, and Dad just had this constant thing about pushing him and Luther into… whatever and…”

“Vanya, I’m not mad, really—“

“He’s trying. Really hard. And I know I can’t exactly ask you to stay with him if you don’t want to, but he really, really is improving and… and he’s a good guy.”

“I’m not planning on breaking up with your brother,” Eudora said, rushed. “Okay?”

“Then why haven’t you been over since we got back?” Vanya asked.

“There’s just… It’s been crazy around here,” Eudora said. “And yes, there is a conversation I have to have with him that I’m trying to postpone until he’s not on the verge of a stroke, but…”

“Eudora,” Vanya said. “I just… I know he’s really scared of losing you and I’m… I’m trying to look out for him.”

Eudora sighed. “At some point I’m going to have to tell him that I went to an undisclosed location with a time travelling assassin who has previously murdered me to dispose of the body of an alien that tried to kill us and… also I might have done it while… pregnant with his child.”

“You’re—?!”

“Sssh,” Eudora hissed. “I swear to god, with the way your family operates, if you say it out loud he will hear you.”

“Our house is a full square block,” Vanya said. “No one’s going overh—“

“Vanya?” Allison asked. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing!” Vanya blurted.

“If that’s Diego I swear to God…”

“It’s not,” Vanya said, heart racing. “It’s Allison, it’s fine.”

“Who are you calling?” Allison asked.

“Um,” Vanya said, then shoved the phone at Allison, who raised it to her ear in utter bewilderment.

“Hi,” Allison said warily. “What’s going on?” She frowned in confusion. “Uh, okay? … Are you alright?” She blinked and hung up the phone. “What was that about?”

“So I may have called her telling her not to break up with him,” Vanya said. “And… things… happened.”

Allison frowned at her. “Things?”

“Yes,” Vanya said, hugging herself while her body vibrated with nerves. “Is she coming over?”

“Yeah, and she said not to tell Diego about it,” Allison said. “So…?”

Vanya dragged her back to the room and started shaking Helen awake.

“God, what the fuck,” Helen muttered.

“Sssssh,” Vanya hissed. “Things are going on.”

“What things?” Helen said, sitting up quickly.

Vanya slammed the door shut. “Eudora might be pregnant.”

“What?!”Allison blurted.

“Ssssh!”

“This is the best thing that’s ever happened,” Helen whispered. “Does he know? If not, I want to watch when he finds out because he’s going to lose it.”

“Helen.”

“It’s going to be hilarious,” Helen said. “We all know it, I’m just saying…”

“Okay, just shut up, Eudora’s going to be over soon and… Fuck,” Vanya said. She took the bottle of aspirin from Allison’s hand and sat down on the bed to take two, then flopped over to wait for Eudora.

A small knock on the window had her starting out of a small nap. “Fuck,” she managed, hurrying to open the window.

Eudora swung her legs inside and straightened her shirt. “Okay. So--”

“Should you be scaling a building while pregnant?” Helen asked.

“I will arrest you,” Eudora said. “It’s right next to the fire escape.” She clambered inside.

Allison rubbed her hands over her face. “Okay, first of all, are you sure you’re pregnant?”

“No!” Eudora said. “It’s been like… two weeks at most since we could have… you know.”

Vanya thought about that. “Wait. Two weeks ago, we were still on lockdown.”

“You guys had sex in the house?” Allison hissed. “We have a teleporting child!”

“Okay, first of all, he’s not a child,” Eudora said, holding up a finger before Allison strangled her.

“He is when it comes to sex!” Allison said. “You should have heard him talking to Dave, he’s…”

“You and Luther live here,” Helen pointed out.

“Oh, ew,” Vanya said as Allison moved to protest.

Allison stopped what she was saying and looked at her in disbelief. “Ew?” she snapped. “I thought you were okay with it!”

“I am!” Vanya protested. “As long as I know as little as humanly possible about it!”

“I… We…! It’s not like that,” Allison said. “It’s… We haven’t had sex! In the house! Where our brother teleports into our rooms whenever he’s scared or tired or cold or…”

“Okay, okay, I get it!” Eudora snapped. “Keep your voice down! But come on! Diego had just been abducted by aliens!” She cleared her throat under their stared. “I… Things got heated, okay?”

“Told you we could have,” Helen muttered.

“Helen!” Vanya hissed.

“Wait, if you don’t have sex in the house, where do you have sex?” Helen asked Allison.

“Helen, please,” Vanya pleaded.

 “Okay, no, it’s not… it’s not like that. It’s just… We’re together, but it’s not…” Allison managed, before waving the question out of her mind frantically. “Nevermind. I cannot even begin to explain how much this is none of your business.” She turned back to Eudora. “So… you… Two weeks ago…”

“Like I said, things got heated, and I’d forgotten to grab my birth control from home, so…” She made a helpless gesture. “Both sides of my family have had troubles getting pregnant, so I didn’t think much of it, but…”

“We were immaculately conceived,” Vanya muttered.

Allison rubbed her hands over her face. “Yeah, Claire was definitely an accident. But what changed your mind?”

“Well…” Eudora hissed. “Well, okay, so… Someone… Something came by the station to spring Perseus, but we took care of it…”

“Oh my god,” Helen whispered, looking far too happy about all this. “He’s going to freak.”

“And I sort of threw a rock at it to distract it while Hazel took it out,” Eudora continued.

“Okay, do not tell him that,” Allison said, pacing back and forth.

“You think I was going to?!”

“What happened with the rock?” Vanya interrupted.

“It curved,” Eudora said. “Maybe. Kind of. I don’t know, Hazel might have imagined it, but I’ve been getting all kinds of cravings for weird food since and…”

“I had weird cravings too,” Allison murmured. “And I did have an easier time charming people while pregnant, but I figured that was because I was… you know, pregnant.”

“So there might be something weird with your powers, right?” Eudora said. “I called Patrick about it. And if I…”

“Did you take a test?” Vanya asked.

“Yeah, it was positive,” Eudora said. “But it’s still early, and…”

“That’s too many coincidences. You’re pregnant and you should tell him,” Helen determined. “Rip that band-aid right off.”

“Helen, shut up,” Eudora snapped.

“She might be right,” Allison said. “You can’t just avoid him. If Vanya thought you might be breaking up with him, he’s definitely thought it too.”

Eudora groaned, joining Allison in pacing back and forth.

A knock was all the warning they had before Diego was bursting into the room. “I heard yelling,” he said. He stopped when he saw Eudora. “What’s going on here?”

Vanya tried to shove Helen out of sight so her obvious delight wouldn’t make the situation worse.

“I thought you were too busy to come over,” he told Eudora, face going stony.

“I… was,” Eudora said. “Vanya… um… Vanya said it was important.”

“I’m not important?” he asked.

“I didn’t say that,” Eudora said quickly.

“I called her to ask her not to break up with you,” Vanya blurted.

He stared at her, then at Eudora. “You’re breaking up with me?!”

“What? No!”

“I made assumptions, that’s all,” Vanya said quickly. “She didn’t say anything about it, I just…”

“But somehow it was important enough for you to come over to talk about it with Vanya,” Diego said. “And not even tell me about it? How’d you even…” He looked at the window. “You climbed in the window?!”

“Uh…” Eudora managed, scratching at her nose. “Well.”

“Oh my god, you have to tell him,” Helen whispered.

Eudora elbowed her.

“You’re killing him,” Helen hissed.

“Tell me what?!”

“Nothing,” Eudora said, glaring at Helen. “She’s just saying that because she loves tormenting you.”

“Uh, no,” Helen said, putting her hands on her hips. “I’m saying it because I like him more than I like you or any of Vanya’s other siblings. Sorry, Allison.”

“I…” Allison started before sighing and giving up.

“Wait, really?” Diego blurted.

“Hey,” Helen said sharply. “Did I ask you to talk? No. Shut up.”

Diego blinked at her, not sure where to start with that.

“See?” Eudora hissed. “That’s…! Don’t talk to him like that!”

“You. Need. To. Tell. Him,” Helen hissed back.

Vanya sighed and sat down on the bed. She had a feeling this was going to take a while.

“Tell me what,” Diego insisted.

“Nothing!”

“Eudora!”

“Hey,” Luther said, leaning into the room while holding a sleeping Five with a blanket over his shoulders like a small child. “What is going here? You guys have been yelling all over the place.”

 “I’m pregnant,” Eudora blurted.

“You’re what?!” Diego shouted.

**

“You know what,” Klaus said. He’d been awake and outside of his small bubble of silence for approximately twenty minutes and he wasn’t sure his body had actually accepted the reality of the situation. “I think Five’s onto something here.”

“Don’t blame this on Five,” Ben said, leaning his cheek onto his fist to watch the scene in front of him unfold in horror.

“What? It’s the same basic concept.”

“That’s like saying the girl scouts are the same basic concept as the mafia,” Ben said. “You’ve made a monster out of it.”

“What?” Klaus said. “Peanut butter is gross, I know you agree.”

“You put sugar on Nutella,”  Ben said. “A whole layer of sugar. And then put marshmallows on that.”

“Yeah,” Klaus said. “I need energy, I’m fucking exhausted.”

“You’re just going to crash after the sugar high wears off.”

“Yeah well…”

“Tell him this is a problem,” Ben said, looking at Dave.

“You are going to crash after this,” Dave said amicably while he read his newspaper.

“Let’s be honest,” Klaus said, “I’m not going to be awake for longer than two hours anyway.”

“It’s just gross,” Ben said. “How can you put sugar on Nutella?”

“I can’t be a father! I’ve never even met a real father?!” came a shout from the living room.

Klaus froze, listening intently. “Oh, that sounds interesting,” he said, swinging his legs over the side of the table and stumbling towards the door.

“Sounds like a personal conversation,” Dave said, not looking up.

“Sssh,” Klaus said. “Ben, c’mon.”

Ben sighed and followed him reluctantly as Klaus tiptoed to the living room where Diego was, it seemed, currently having a mental breakdown.

“Look, we don’t have to have this kid,” Eudora said.

“What?!” Diego blurted. “No! How could you even suggest I’d want to get rid of it?!”

“Well you’ve been actively freaking out for like… five minutes now,” Eudora said, doing a good job of pretending she was even the least bit calmer than Diego himself. Klaus leaned against the doorframe and continued eating. “I just thought—”

“That doesn’t mean I don’t want it!” Diego shouted. “Of course I…!” His brain seemed to catch up with the conversation on a delayed schedule, hindered by Diego’s panic at the thought of his child going unwanted. “Unless… you don’t… I mean…” He seemed distressed at any outcome of this line of thought.

“I’m not saying that,” Eudora said hurriedly. “But I don’t want to have a kid unless we’re both on board.”

“I just want to take this moment to point out that I have never seen a fetus ghost,” Klaus said. “Have seen baby ghosts. Super depressing. Anyway, take that as you will.”

They both turned to look at him in disbelief.

“Klaus,” Diego whispered, like he was too shocked that Klaus would even try to butt into this conversation to be angry. “What about this conversation made you think it involves you?”

“Just trying to help,” Klaus said, taking a bite of his sandwich.

Ben hit him on the back of the head.

“Holy shit, babies die,” Diego whispered, already derailed from Klaus’ appearance by sheer terror.

“Um,” Eudora said. “Yes, occasionally, they do.”

“We’re going to have to babyproof our apartment,” Diego muttered, eyes wide. “How are we supposed to do that? Do you know how many knives I own?!”

“No,” Eudora said, sighing.

“Neither do I! Hell, anything’s a knife if you throw it hard enough. Everything is knives, Eudora.”

“Hey, we survived worse,” Klaus volunteered. “I mean Dad never babyproofed anything, and only one of us died before we hit 18!”

“Five went missing for 17 years, does that count?” Ben asked.

Diego looked at Eudora. “I have the same upbringing as these two, and you want to give me a baby?”

“Okay, wait,” Eudora said. “Do you want this baby or not?”

“Of course I want it!” Diego yelled. “But why am I allowed to have it? We just hand babies to anyone?!”

“Baby license,” Klaus murmured.

Eudora glared at him, then stormed to the stairs. “Luther, can you please remove your idiot brothers from this conversation that doesn’t involve them?!”

“Oh, don’t bother, I’m gonna get fucking rid of them,” Diego muttered, rolling up his sleeves.

Klaus and Ben exchanged looks, made a quick calculation, then bolted.

Chapter Text

Five wrenched his eyes open.

He regretted it immediately.

“Hey,” Luther murmured, over his shoulder.

Luther was always comfortable to lie on, but at the moment he felt like a warm bath that Five wanted to crawl into and never move again. He pulled his feet up, pressing closer to Luther so that his hands were pressed against the warmth which Luther’s body was producing, unlike Five’s.

“How are you?” Luther asked.

“Well, I’m glad you’re not Klaus,” Five muttered. “Because I would not be sure if I’d survived that last jump.”

“Was it that bad?”

“You could say that,” Five muttered. “Felt a little like being torn in two and then being shoved back together with thumbtacks.”

“Sounds pretty bad,” Luther muttered. “Do you need anything? Food? Water?”

Five tried to move, but everything ached. “Yes.”

“Okay,” Luther said, lifting him onto the bed and pulling the covers over him.

Five’s head throbbed, up through his nose and down his forehead like a brick on his face, and every breath felt like sandpaper down his throat. Without Luther there, the cold was gripping, limbs locking up in painful shivers. He tried to tangle himself into the blankets a little more, but even so he felt awful.

Luther returned with soup and a bottle of Gatorade, and Five nearly cried in relief at the thought that he wouldn’t have to chew anything. “Mom said you’ve been developing a bit of a cough,” Luther murmured. “She made you some soup, but I can get you a sandwich instead.”

Five shook his head. “Soup is good.”

Luther smiled in relief, setting down the bowl so he could sit Five up on the pillows.

Swallowing was painful, Five realized, much to his dismay.

He hadn’t been sick in years. He didn’t want to break that streak. Being sick was miserable and dangerous.

“How’s everyone else?”

“Safe and healthy,” Luther said. “But the usual amount of drama. You’re no longer the only one grounded.”

“Not grounded,” Five muttered, trying to pick up the spoon with unsteady hands.

Luther watched him quietly for a while, then quietly took the spoon and the bowl away from him and put a spoonful of soup to Five’s lips. Five glared at him, but he had to admit he was too hungry to spend more time fumbling with his own shaking fingers.

“You’re more grounded than ever,” Luther said. “We said no martyrdom, remember? You’ve been asleep and freezing for four days and you still can’t sit up.”

Five opened his mouth to argue, and Luther raised a brow.

“You just said it sucked,” he pointed out.

“Fuck off,” Five muttered.

“And Diego told on you too,” Luther said.

“This entire family is made of snitches,” Five said under his breath. “And idiots. It’s not easy to take care of myself and all of you too.”

Luther put down the spoon and ruffled his hair. “We care a lot about you, you know that?” he said. “It is actually very important to us to have you be safe and healthy.”

Five glared at him. “I know.” He tried to make his own case some more, but before he could, he was interrupted by a yawn.

“Good, because in this family it’s sometimes hard to tell,” Luther said, nudging Five when his eyelids drooped. “Try to stay awake until we get all this soup into you, okay?”

Five mumbled at him noncommittally and let Luther spoon feed him some more soup.

**

“Okay, good to see we’re all… vaguely conscious…” Klaus said, leaning over to get a better look at Five’s face. Five peered up at him from where he’d compressed himself into a ball on a chair in abject misery, wheezing quietly. “Okay, verdict’s still out on Five, but he is upright, so, good enough, I guess. Family meeting time!”

He jumped up onto the table with his chalkboard, which Luther promptly grabbed the chalkboard out of his hands, much to Klaus’ chagrin.

Luther scrawled a hurried Klaus onto the board, and Klaus’ offended look deepened. “What about me?”

“Okay, well, it’s a two parter,” Luther said. “First of all, when you say the dead scream at you when you try to sleep… Um… On a scale of all seven of us trying to talk over each other to…” He pointed awkwardly at the sky. “How bad is that actually?”

“Like, midway,” Klaus said. “Why?”

They all stared at him, and he looked around at them in confusion. “Why is even Five judging me? Come on, have you seen yourself?”

“Because it’s not good, Klaus,” Five croaked. “That noise was fucking horrifying. And I’m saying that.”

“Wh—“ Klaus said, then scoffed. “Look, I’m fine. I have a place to sleep now, and I’m in therapy, and I’m sober.”

“I honestly feel bad about pressuring you to be sober now,” Diego muttered. “Jesus, is parenting like this? You do the obvious right thing and later realize that you’ve entirely ignored your kid’s experience with life?”

“Okay,” Klaus said, “As much as I love the attention and the care and the love, this is just awkward. Diego, it’s a baby. You get it when its small and you’re an adult, instead of growing up at the same time and having your own childhood shit going on, okay? And I’m good, I’m enjoying being sober, we can move on.”

“I just… I feel like this should be addressed,” Luther said. “I mean we grew up next to you for 30 years and never realized how bad it was, and I just… I feel… like… we should… talk about these things.”

“I’m good,” Klaus whispered. “Seriously, we’ve talked out my major issues at this point, I’m pretty sure I don’t need any interventions, etcetera, etcetera.”

“But—“ Allison started.

“This what therapy is for, Allison!” Klaus whined. “Please can we move on?”

“Alright,” Luther said reluctantly. “I guess… Klaus is off the hook for now. Anyone else have some horrifying revelations about their childhood that none of us knew about despite living in the same house with the same parents?”

“Yeah,” Ben said. “All of us. Where have you been?”

“I don’t!” Luther said.

“Oh, Luther,” Klaus said, both sympathetically and patronizingly, “you’ll get there.”

Luther stared at him. “Should I be in therapy?”

“Yes,” Klaus replied. “We are literally all made of trauma, we should hire a therapist to live here, in our house, and do nothing else but give us therapy. And then they would probably die of exhaustion, and I would haunted by a therapist forever, which would—”

“Okay, okay,” Luther managed. “I get it.”

“Anyway,” Klaus said. “What’s the second part?”

“Well,” Luther said. “We… kind of need a way to figure out how many powers you have before you… uh…”

“Blow up the moon or something,” Vanya said.

Luther stared at both of them awkwardly. “Not what I would have said, but… yes. That’s the jist of it.”

“I have no suggestions for that,” Klaus said. “Though, since clearly I can levitate things—“

“Since when?” Diego asked.

“Oh, yeah, like… a couple days ago,” Klaus said. “I levitated Ben.”

“Why did no one tell me?” Diego asked.

“We got distracted by aliens,” Luther mumbled. “But yeah, he did appear to levitate Ben for a second.”

“I suggest that I leap off the second floor and try to levitate myself until it works,” Klaus said. “Luther, you can catch me, right?”

“Uh,” Luther said. “Please don’t—“

“Alternatively, I can just put down a mattress and aim for that.”

Luther stared at him. “If I don’t catch you are you going to break your neck?”

“Probably, but I won’t stay dead anyway,” Klaus said cheerfully.

Luther gave him a despondent look. “I’ll catch you.”

“We kind of lost Dad’s monocle,” Five mumbled. “So I think we’re just going to have to wing it with the new powers.”

“See, Five agrees with me!”

Five looked up blearily. “What were you saying? I wasn’t…” he wheezed, “listening.”

“Okay, Five might be dying,” Klaus said. “But still.”

Luther groaned, rubbing his hands over his face. “Alright, fine,” he said. “I guess we can move on.”

Five coughed weakly.

“You still with us?” Allison asked him.

Five looked up from where he was trying to stuff himself entirely into his sweater, which he must have stolen from Luther. He looked queasier with every moment and was still shivering, but he nodded. “Mostly.”

“Mostly?” Allison asked.

“I might be sick,” Five muttered, then sneezed. He glanced at Diego who had sprawled out over the table and was staring at a cup like he was hoping it would give him the answers to life’s big questions. “While we’re talking over things, what’s with him?”

“Eudora’s pregnant,” Vanya explained.

“Oh,” Five said. “Congratulations.”

“I don’t know how to be a dad,” Diego said, though Allison wasn’t sure if he said it in response to Five, or just in general.

“There’s parenting books, you know,” Five said.

Diego froze, looking at Five like he’d solved world hunger. “You’re right. I need to read all of them.”

“Well, that seems a little drastic,” Five murmured.

“Let’s hurry this up,” Diego said, sitting up. “I need to go to the library.”

“You’re aware that normal pregnancies take nine months, right?” Ben asked. “You have time.”

“Yeah, and in that time I have to learn everything,” Diego said. “I’m starting from scratch here, we had an alien for a dad, I don’t know shit.”

“We did have Mom,” Vanya pointed out. “Who you’re close with. You can follow her example. You know that, right?”

Diego stared at her like he hadn’t realized this at all and didn’t know what to do with it.

“Oh my god, he’s literally short-circuited,” Klaus whispered. “We did it, guys, we broke Diego.”

“Guys,” Luther said. “Leave him alone, he’s processing.”

“And! We have aliens to deal with,” Klaus said, taking back his chalkboard with a dramatic huff. “Now that the ship is down, we have to figure out how many of them are on the planet already, and take them out.”

“So we’re going to have to break into the office of Dr. Murder-suicide,” Five said, coughing.

Allison felt his head. He was running warm. “I think you’re still under bedrest, Five.”

“I actually don’t mind the sound of that,” Five muttered before sneezing again.

“Okay, so Five’s definitely dying,” Klaus said cheerfully. “But he’s right. And I should come along, obviously. Anyone else? Diego, would you care for a distraction from your impending fatherhood?”

“I just realized that if I die my kid’s going to grow up fatherless,” Diego muttered, staring into the distance.

“So no,” Klaus said. “Diego is staying here to have the world’s biggest existential crisis.”

“I’ll stay with Five,” Allison said. She looked at Diego, who was sliding down in his chair slowly, radiating abject horror. “And Diego.”

Five had buried his face back into his knees, but he mumbled noncommittally. Allison rubbed his back as he wheezed weakly.

“Cool,” Klaus said. “The rest of you?”

Vanya nodded. “Yeah, sure, I’m up for it. I could use some fresh air.” She yawned as Luther and Ben nodded as well.

“Do we have a plan?” Luther asked.

“I mean, I feel like the best plan we can come up with is just to go there and go with the flow,” Klaus said. “We’re all planned out, man.”

“We came up with one whole successful plan which worked, we can’t do that again this soon. Look at us,” Ben added.

“That’s…” Luther started, before presumably realizing he didn’t have anything better to add and Five and Diego, arguably their best or at the very least most committed planners, were not about to contribute. “Yeah, sure, I guess.”

“Uhhhh…” Klaus said. “Is that it? I feel like that’s it.”

“Feels like we didn’t cover a lot of ground,” Vanya muttered.

“Yeah…”

“Jesus, we’re so burned out,” Ben said. “Let’s just take out these aliens fast and sleep for a year.”

“I can’t sleep for a year, I’ll miss the birth of my child,” Diego muttered.

“Am I not already asleep?” Five mumbled. “Feels like I should already be asleep.”

“Do we have any Nyquil?” Allison asked.

“I’m having a child. Me. How is this not regulated? Like, my girlfriend’s just going to pop out a baby and they’re just going to give it to me. I don’t even have to take a course. I don’t even have to be pregnant! What the fuck.”

Allison sighed and pushed her chair back to look for any kind of cough syrup. It was going to be a long 9 months. “Luther, help me carry Five back to bed.”

**

“So we probably want to keep the fact that we’re here on the down-low, right?” Ben murmured.

Luther peeked around the corner. “Yeah. Klaus, where’s the office we’re looking for?”

“Wait just one second,” Klaus said, picking up a pebble and chucking it into thin air. “Hey!”

“Sssh,” Ben hissed.

“Sorry, this idiot dead guy won’t talk to me,” Klaus whispered, putting his hands up in a gesture of, what the fuck? “Yeah, asshole, we’ve met before, get your ass over here.” He hissed. “Get! Come on!”

Luther sighed, sliding down the wall to sit on the floor. This was going to take a while, clearly. “How are you feeling?” he asked Vanya.

Vanya shrugged. She still had a headache, but it was nothing to write home about. “Fine,” she said. “Good to stretch my legs a little.”

“How do we get into your office?” Klaus asked. “What? No. Come on, man, I’m… You’re dead, dude, just… Okay, god, fine, we just need whatever data you collected before you were murdered. Because you were murdered for it, stupid. Yeah, uh… aliens. No, I’m not joking. Oh my god.” He rubbed his hands over his face. “Yes, thank you, was that so hard?”

He waved at them frantically behind his back, nearly hitting Luther in the face. Luther grimaced at him. “Okay, okay, remember this. It’s office 23, the second computer from the left, password… uh… Jesus, man, just use your first pet or some shit… Okay, uh… d-k-capital-E-r-j-d-k-f-l-d-2-4-8-3-9-4. Did you guys get that?”

“Um… yeah, I think so,” Luther said.

“Because I don’t know if he’ll repeat it, he’s a real dickhead,” Klaus said. “You’re dead, you don’t have to worry about whatever-data security anymore! Yes, I know it’s your professional… oh my god, okay, fine, fine, don’t lecture me! The file name is s-c-1-9-4-2-8-1-3-6-7.”

“Got it,” Luther said.

“Okay,” Klaus muttered, turning back to them before looking back over his shoulder one last time. “Go! What else do you want?! Bye.”

He sighed and looked at them. “Jesus Christ he was annoying,” he said. “I try to be nice to the dead, since they’re, you know, dead, but Christ.”

“Was he a doctor of something?” Ben asked. “Only assholes get doctorates.”

“Yeah, case in point,” Klaus replied. “Anyway, uhhh… that building.” He pointed at the observatory. “C’mon, let’s go.”

Vanya sighed, pushing away from the wall to follow him.

They were nearly by the building before Klaus jumped nearly a foot in the air, almost crashing into Vanya. She put her hands up to stop him and grimaced. “Jesus fuck, man, I told you to go away!” He sighed, turning back to them. “Apparently due to the murder suicide parade, a bunch of kids were breaking in to look for ghosts and shit and vandalizing the place, so they’ve got campus security watching it.” He looked sourly at his invisible friend. “If only they knew.”

Vanya leaned around Luther to look. Indeed, two guards were in front of the building.

“Well, we can’t really explain what we’re doing here,” Luther muttered. “And Ben’s the only one who could remotely pass for a student.”

“Maybe if we wait until Five gets better, we can pretend we’re giving him a campus tour?” Vanya suggested.

“A campus tour for one middle schooler?” Ben asked. “No. Anyway, Luther can get the door open in a second, Vanya, you can easily blow out an alarm system. We just need a distraction.”

“Hm,” Klaus said. “Yeah, good point.” He patted Ben’s shoulder. “Speaking of, remember the time you Swayze-d me?”

“Yeah,” Ben said, “why?”

He looked at Klaus just in time for Klaus to punch him in the face.

Luther startled, reaching out a hand in preparation to stop them if they continued.

Ben stared at Klaus, holding his bruised nose. “Oh,” he said. “We can hit each other.”

“I know, I just realized,” Klaus said, grinning. “It’s gr—“

He couldn’t finish before Ben ran at him, immediately getting his hands around Klaus’ neck while they both yelled.

Luther hovered over them fretfully, trying to get in between them, but Vanya tugged him away, dragging them into hiding as the campus police ran to stop an increasingly loud Ben and Klaus. “Come on,” she hissed.

“Shouldn’t we… maybe…”

“Luther!”

“Okay, fine,” he muttered, letting her pull him to the observatory door. He elbowed it open like it was made of butter, and she hurried to crush the alarms before they could even let out a peep. “Okay,” she said. “23.” She looked at the stairs. “Probably on the second floor.”

Luther nodded, propping the door back up cautiously.

She hurried up the stairs, Luther tight on her heels, finding the right office. She stepped aside to let him push the door open, then slipped inside.

She found the right computer and booted it up.

“Uh…” she said. “Do you remember the password?”

Luther gave her a panicked look, leaning over her to start typing.

“Capital E,” she said.

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

He made a worried face, but did as she asked anyway.

The computer whirred to life and they both fumbled for the mouse. She slapped him away. “I’m sitting here, let me do it.”

“Fine,” he muttered, moving to watch the door instead.

She squinted at the screen and fiddled until she finally found what appeared to be files, opening the one Klaus had mentioned. “How do you print things?” she asked.

Luther sighed, gesturing for them to switch places. She sat next to the door, peering out into the dark observatory. She jumped when the printer started, but watched as Luther put his hands out to catch the papers as they fell.

“Okay,” he said. “Hand me the stapler?”

She grabbed it and tossed it, and he stapled the pages together.

“Great,” he murmured. “Let’s go.”

She nodded, and they both went downstairs, peeking outside before slipping out. The campus police were still far away, trying to stop Ben and Klaus from strangling each other.

Luther sighed and handed her the papers, marching up to Ben and Klaus. “Sorry, hi, sorry, those are my brothers, don’t mind me,” he said, smiling awkwardly as the campus police stepped back in relief. Luther carefully eased his hands between Ben and Klaus, avoiding flailing elbows, and pulled Ben under one arm and Klaus over the other.

They gave up for one small second before Klaus started trying to kick at Ben and Ben responded by trying to punch his knees.

“Guys, please stop,” Luther muttered as he gave the guards an apologetic look and walked back to Vanya.

“12 years, man!” Klaus said. “We’ve got… shit… to… work… out!”

“Exactly!” Ben yelled. “This is by mutual agreement, so let us have this!”

“You’re not kicking Ben, Klaus,” Luther said tiredly. “You’re kicking me.”

“I’ll get him eventually!”

“Do you know how many times he walked right through me?” Ben yelled, finally landing a loud smack on Klaus’ shin.

“Oh, yeah, and you were a goddamn buzzkill—“

“Ow!”

“Asshole!”

Luther sighed, looking down at Vanya with a tired look.

“I don’t think they’re going to stop any time soon,” Vanya said. “We’ll just have to wait for the novelty to wear off.”

 Luther made a face, adjusting his hold on both of them. “You’re probably right. Let’s just go home.”

She nodded, laughing as Ben did his best to bite Klaus’ flailing foot.

Chapter Text

Allison kicked the couch, shaking Diego.

He stared at her slowly. “What,” he said, “the fuck.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” she said.

“I’m having a moment,” he said.

“You’ve had plenty of moments, now come help me with Five,” she said.

“Pass,” he muttered.

“No,” Allison said severely. “It’s good practice.”

“You want me to get ready for how to take care of a goddamn baby by practicing on an adult man?” Diego asked.

“He’s sick as a dog, partly 13 and he actively surrendered his childhood to us when he was seven,” Allison said. “You’d be surprised how often toddler care is relevant.”

Diego groaned, glaring at her.

“Though,” she said, wincing. “I think your first lesson is going to be that sometimes what our kids need is not the same as what they want, because I kind of need you to help me get Five into a cold bath.”

Diego gave her a look. “Allison,” he said. “What the fuck.”

“Come on,” she groaned. “Are you really going to sit there and wallow for 9 months? Get your ass off that couch and help me.”

“I’m not taking parenting advice from someone who only has custody because of time travel,” Diego muttered, crossing his arms.

“Oh, that’s it, you asshole,” she said, throwing herself over him and using her entire body weight to pull him off the couch. “Come! And! Help! Me!”

“No!” he yelled.

“Our brother is delirious with fever and you need to get up off your ass!”

“Get off me!”

“Get off the damn couch!”

She yanked him to the floor with a painful thud.

He sighed and clambered to his feet. “You suck.”

“So do you,” she retorted.

“Fine, I’ll fucking help,” he muttered, stomping up the stairs while she followed after him, sulking.

Diego stormed into Five’s room, where Five had curled up in the corner of his bed, folded into Luther’s sweater like a hedgehog. Grace was patting his forehead with a cool towel.

“How’s he doing?” Diego asked her.

“He’s quite sick,” Grace said, with a soft, bittersweet smile. “But nothing a little rest and care can’t fix.”

“We’ve got it, Mom,” Allison said.

“I’ll go make some more soup,” Grace said, getting up.

Diego nodded, letting her go and sitting on Five’s bed.

“Alright, buddy, this is gonna suck but we’re just gonna get it over with,” Diego said, grabbing the back of the sweater and dragging him out.

Five whined, kicking weakly. “Get off,” he slurred as Allison sat down on the bed.

“Let me give him some more Nyquil first,” she said.

Diego sighed, pulling Five into a gentle but firm grip while he squirmed with little efficiency.

Allison poured a small cupful and lifted it to Five’s lips. “Open up.”

“Noooo,” Five whined. “Go ‘way, I wanna sleep.”

Diego sighed. “Just drink the damn stuff, will you?” Five was hot against his chest – worryingly so.

Five made a loud noise of protest, but drank the offered medicine. He shuddered.

“Seriously?” Diego asked. “You can eat roaches and take shrapnel to the chest without batting an eyelash, but you can’t drink cough syrup?”

“It’s grooooss,” Five mumbled.

Diego rolled his eyes.

“Ready?” Allison asked, taking Five’s knees.

“To get elbowed in the face?” Diego sighed. “Yeah, I’m ready.”

They lifted him, dragging him down the hall to the bathroom.

Diego grimaced, setting Five down so they could wrestle the sweater off of him.

“You’ll thank us later,” Allison said.

“Give it back!” Five slurred. “It’s mine now!”

“You’ll get it back in a second,” Diego said.

“Let’s get this over with,” Allison muttered. “He’s gonna hate it, but we need to get this damn fever down.”

Diego nodded, folding Five’s arms into a firm grip and lifting him. “Sorry, bro,” he muttered, as they hauled him into the water.

The reaction was immediate. Being dumped into cold water gave Five a terrifying bought of energy, and he was committed to using it to its fullest, kicking and screaming at them like they were torturing him. Allison pulled away, making a face as he kicked water into her face.

“Five,” Diego snapped, “stop it, we’re trying to help!”

Five ignored him, trying to jump and failing. Instead, he bit Diego’s arm, teeth sinking into Diego’s arm hard enough to break the skin.

“I thought you drew the line at biting, you little monster,” Diego said, hissing as Five’s teeth withdrew from his arm, leaving small imprints in their wake.

Five sniffled at him heartily. “Then stop trying to drown me,” he said.

“I am not…!” Diego started, before giving up. “If I wanted to drown you, you’d be under the water, stupid.”

“Well fine, maybe you’re just trying to freeze me…”

“The water is slightly under room temperature and it’s summer,” Diego sighed. “You’re not going to freeze to death, you’re only cold because you have a fever of a hundred-and-deadly. Why would I want to kill you anyway, huh?”

“For… To be even,” Five said, very matter-of-fact for someone who had just said something completely nonsensical. “And I never said you’d kill me.”

Diego groaned. He looked back at Allison. “Could you just give us a second?”

She rolled her eyes. “I’ll go see if Mom needs help with the soup.” She patted Diego’s shoulder and got up, the bathroom door clicking shut behind her.

“Okay,” Diego said, trying to remind himself that this was his very feverish, very small little brother and soften his voice. “What are you talking about?”

“On the ship,” Five said, sniffling and making an extremely affronted face when he reached up to wipe his nose and found that his hand was wet. “You got frostbite and everything.”

“I did,” Diego said. “And you think I’m going to take that out on you… why?”

“Because I froze,” Five said. “And I wasn’t there.”

“So?” Diego replied. “A lot was going on that day, remember?”

“For years,” Five whispered, seemingly forgetting that Diego was in this conversation at all.

Diego frowned. “Okay, so this isn’t about the ship anymore. What are you talking about now, huh?”

“I know you hated when Dad made you hold your breath underwater,” Five mumbled.

“Yeah, because he’d always make me stay under until I couldn’t and I panicked,” Diego said. “So?”

“So, when you were having a bad week or stuttering more than usual, I had a method, you know? I couldn’t take over your training, but…”

Diego stared at him. “But you could bait Dad into making you a human target in a knife shower? Seriously?”

“Yeah,” Five said, like it was the obvious and correct thing to do. “That was my job, because you all suck at everything and I was the only one smart to think of it, so…” He shrugged like he’d just made a spectacular point.

“You really straddle the line between loveable and infuriating, you know that?” Diego said.

“It was my job,” Five insisted. “And I didn’t do it, because I wasn’t there.”

“Okay, first of all,” Diego said, “by the time you disappeared, I could hold my breath for nearly 10 hours and I didn’t panic when I thought I couldn’t anymore, so I didn’t need your stupid plans to save my ass anyway.”

“They weren’t stupid,” Five sniffled. “As if you were ever smart enough to manipulate Dad into…”

“Into what? Torturing you for sport? That’s all he did!”

“Yeah but like… me specifically,” Five mumbled. “Instead of who he was planning to.”

Diego rolled his eyes. “Second of all,” he said firmly, “do you not see how fucked up it is that you appointed yourself a lightning rod for the sadism of our father? That’s not a job, that’s just… disturbing! It’s not your fault you weren’t there to do something you never should have had to do in the first place!”

“Look me in the eyes and tell me you were never mad at me for leaving,” Five replied, pompous for someone who probably would slide right into the water and drown if Diego wasn’t still holding him steady.

“Of course I was mad at you!” Diego snapped. “I was mad at everything all the time! How the hell else was I supposed to survive in this fucking house? I was pissed, because either you were dumb enough to get yourself killed somewhere, or you’d just fucked off to some better life and left us in the dust, but you know what? Neither of those was true. So… score settled, problem solved. I’m not mad at you for leaving anymore, because I’m not a fucking 13 year old.”

“You don’t get it,” Five protested. He tried to twist away from Diego, but because his movement threatened to land him face down in the water, Diego didn’t let him. He took a deep, shuddering breath of frustration instead. “You know, that creepy lady… the touchy… her, you know, whasshername…”

“The Handler?” Diego guessed.

“Yeah,” Five mumbled. “Her. She—“

“Wait wait wait,” Diego said. “How old are you right now?”

“It’s complicated,” Five said, far too huffy.

“Oh, god, you’re a baby,” Diego whispered. That changed a lot of things.

“I’m a teenager,” Five shot back immediately.

“Oh, well then,” Diego said, trying not to laugh.

“And it’s not that simple,” Five complained. “I remember about the apocalypses and all, it’s just hard to oscillate when I’ve overused my powers so much. But there’s… mixing… and stuff… Anyway, I’m… shut up.”

“Okay,” Diego said.

“Anyway, the Handler,” Five said. “Her.”

“Wait, what do you mean touchy?” Diego said, brain suddenly catching up to that part of the situation.

“I mean she was weird and kept touching and flirting and I didn’t like it, it was gross,” Five said. “But that’s not—“

“Yeah, a grown-ass woman touching someone who looks like you sure as hell is gross!”

“Diego, shut up, that’s not important right now,” Five said. “She said…” He laughed slightly. “She said she’d saved me from a lifetime of being alone.”

“Uh,” Diego said. He didn’t like the sound of this at all.

“She said I owed her.”

“The fuck you did!” Diego blurted. “Did she try to…?”

“She didn’t shoot me,” Five said. “I was too fast.”

“She a gun on you during this?!”

“She didn’t get it either, is my point,” Five mumbled. “I don’t owe her.”

“No, you don’t,” Diego said, wondering if it was too late to pay this lady a visit.

“I owe more than she could imagine,” Five said. “She doesn’t have any idea.”

Diego’s brain finally derailed from the thought of how he’d strangle the Handler for so much as thinking about his kid brother, even if Five had technically been an old man at the time. “What?” he asked. “What do you mean?”

“Seventeen years,” Five said. “And then I keep… screwing things up and being weak and it just keeps getting worse and worse and…”

“What?” Diego murmured. “Five, what are you talking about?”

“You had to rescue me from… from Jenkins, and then… I froze. And I can’t take care of myself anymore for stupid reasons, and… and…”

“Five, you don’t owe us,” Diego said. “And you definitely don’t need to add us taking care of you to some weird ledger. Not after everything you’ve been through.”

“But I wasn’t here,” Five protested.

“You did everything you could to get back,” Diego said.

“It wasn’t enough.”

“It was,” Diego said. “It was enough. You don’t owe us. And we’re not keeping track of any dumb score either. You’re our brother and we love you, no matter how annoying you get, and we want to take care of you.”

“But I wasn’t here,” Five said, sniffling in a different way now. “And I missed everything and I can never get it back. And it’s not fair.”

Diego heart clenched. “No, that’s true. It’s not fair.”

“And now you’re all old,” Five said, hiccupping slightly as tears welled in his eyes. “And tall.” His voice cracked on tall, but he was too close to sobbing for it to be as funny as Diego wanted it to be.

“Hey, don’t cry,” Diego muttered. “Come on, pull yourself together, man.”

“But I want to cry!” Five protested. “I’m cold and my head hurts and I keep coughing and everything sucks.”

Diego mulled that over. “Okay, cry then, I guess?”

“I will,” Five declared, tears rolling down his cheeks as he shuddered and sobbed.

Diego slowly shifted so he could wrap both arms around Five in a more gentle way, tucking Five’s head under his chin.

“What are you doing?” Five asked, snotty voice cracking all over the place.

“I’m holding you, stupid.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re crying.”

“Oh,” Five said weakly. “I guess.”

“Luther’s not the only one who can cuddle, you little jerk.”

“Okay, now I get it,” Five mumbled, and tucked his face into Diego’s shoulder to cry.

Diego patted his head awkwardly.

“Don’t tell Allison I’m younger today,” Five mumbled. “She uses her Claire voice and it just makes me feel really small and helpless.”

“Okay,” Diego said, not pointing out that Five was, in fact, small and helpless right now. “I won’t.”

“Thanks,” Five said weakly, returning to his task of wheezy sobbing into Diego’s chest.

**

“How’d it go?” Allison asked, sitting down on the side of the bed to set down a bowl of soup and a pitcher of warm tea. She felt Five’s forehead as he snored away on top of Diego, back in his stolen sweater.

“101.9,” Diego said. “When I dragged him out of the bath.”

Five coughed in his sleep, squirming slightly in Diego’s arms.

“Well, that’s better,” Allison said. “Hopefully the Nyquil will knock that fever out this time.”

“You were right about the toddler care.”

She snorted. “Told you.”

“Don’t remember him being such a baby,” Diego murmured.

“He’s sick, you asshole,” Allison laughed.

“He’s cute when he sleeps,” Diego murmured, watching Five’s lashes flutter. “I think I missed him more than I let myself realize.”

Allison nodded, thinking quietly for a moment. “You know, you’re gonna love your kid the second you see them,” she murmured. “You’ve got a love of love to give. And that’s already leagues better than Dad ever did.”

“Yeah, well,” Diego said, shifting Five on his shoulder a little while Five snored. He was definitely drooling on Diego. “Dad is a really, really, really, really low bar. I don’t want to wake up one day and realize I was a shitty father because I told myself at least I was better than Dad.”

Allison took a slow breath, nodding. “Point taken,” she said. “And I did that. It sucks.”

He swallowed, listening to Five’s rattling breaths.

“If I see you going down that road, I’ll kick your ass,” she said, grinning. “I promise.”

He smiled despite himself. “You can try.”

“Oh, really?” she said, laughing. “You think you can take me?”

“Yeah I do,” he said. “You think I can’t?”

“Fine, then I’ll get Luther to help me,” she said.

He scoffed. “Luther’s too soft.”

She snorted. “That’s true. But Vanya’s not. Us girls will kick your ass, just you watch.”

Diego grinned. “God, I hope it’s a girl,” he said. “I don’t know how I’d raise a son without handing down all of the bullshit Dad fed me and Luther about what it means to be a man.”

She nodded, smiling ruefully. “You’ll manage,” she said. “If you need to. But if it’s a girl, you’ll never want for baby clothes, I can promise that.”

Five whined in his sleep.

“Shit,” Diego muttered. “Where’s Klaus when you need him?”

“Just shush him,” Allison said. “Like a baby.”

Diego made a face at her.

“Come on, just do it, it’s—”

“If you say homework one more time…” Diego said warningly, but he hauled Five a little further into his shoulder and cleared his throat, awkwardly shushing him. “Hey, buddy, it’s okay. Everyone’s alive, everything’s cool…” He winced as he tried to get a good grip on him.

“It’s easier when they’re smaller,” Allison laughed.

He rolled his eyes. “What do you think he has nightmares about? Us dying, us being dead…?”

“I don’t know,” Allison murmured. “I thought I’d ask Klaus sometime, but it just seems like it isn’t my place.”

“Yeah,” Diego said, petting Five’s head and shushing him quietly until Five stopped squirming.

“But he did say some stuff about us… not caring about him,” Allison said.

“Being mad at him for leaving?” Diego mumbled, brushing Five’s hair out of his eyes. “He said today he feels like he owes us those 17 years back.”

She sighed, shaking her head. “He’s so goddamn stupid sometimes.”

“Yeah. Besides, I’ve been mad at all of you assholes,” Diego murmured. “It’s just how I do things.”

She snorted. “Yeah, we got that.”

“You guys gotta help me through this parenting thing,” he said. “I know we haven’t exactly been the most supportive family, and you raised Claire alone, but…”

“I’ve got your back, Diego,” Allison said. “But to be fair, I wouldn’t expect a lot from the rest of them. Luther might be good at babysitting and Ben… can be responsible if he wants to be.” She thought about it. “That’s pretty much it.”

“Okay, yeah, you personally have to help me with this kid,” Diego said, laughing in barely contained panic.

“I personally will,” Allison chuckled. “And Claire’s going to be thrilled about a little cousin, by the way.”

There was yelling from downstairs, and Diego sighed. “I should go check on that.” He tried to extract himself from Five, but Five grabbed him and squeezed with surprising strength.

“Don’t go,” he mumbled.

“I’ll be right back,” Diego whispered. “Jesus, since when is Five such a clinger? The way I remember, trying to hug him was like sticking your hand into an alligator’s mouth.”

“Years of isolation will do that to you,” Allison said. “Five, let go, I’ll stay with you, okay?”

Diego squirmed out of Five’s hold and surrendered him to Allison. Like a baby sloth, the moment Five had a new waist to cling to, he was appeased, dozing off again with a small cough.

Diego shook his head and made his way down the stairs to find Luther looking very tired with Ben in one hand and Klaus in the other, trying to keep them as far from each other as possible while they yelled and tried to hit each other.

“What happened?”

“They realized they can fight each other,” Luther said. “They’ve been at this for a while.” He brought his knee up to block a well aimed hit from Ben at Klaus, shifting his grip on Klaus.

The new angle made it possible for them to make eye contact, and the moment they could exchange a look, they both gave up fighting at the same time.

“Are you done?” Luther asked.

Diego doubted they were.

“Yes,” Klaus said, very solemnly.

“If I put you down, you’re not going to try to hit each other?”

“No,” Ben said.

Luther cautiously put them both down and backed away.

They both looked at each other. Nothing happened.

Luther put his hands down slowly.

“Did you get the files?” Diego asked.

“Yeah,” Luther said, slowly turning away from Klaus and Ben. “I’ll take a look at them, see what I can—“

The moment the coast was clear, Klaus and Ben seemed to make a silent decision to both lunge at each other simultaneously.

“Oh, come on!” Luther said. “Why even fight if you’re this coordinated?!”

“Because we,” Klaus started, fielding off an elbow to the face and bringing a knee up into Ben’s, “both agree we want to fight!”

“It’s been 12 fucking years!” Ben added. “We’ve earned this!”

“I’ve got Klaus, you grab Ben,” Diego said, navigating the field of flailing limbs to get a hold around Klaus’ waist. Luther did the same to Ben and they both pulled, dragging them away from each other.

“Okay, let’s take a walk,” Diego said, getting his arm firmly around Klaus. “Come on, walk it off, bro.”

“But I wanna punch him,” Klaus whined.

“I know,” Diego said, watching as Luther lifted Ben away. “But no.”

“Ugh,” Klaus muttered. “You’re already becoming a dad.”

“Uh-huh,” Diego said, leading him out of the room.

“Don’t trust dads…”

“That’s nice, Klaus.”

Klaus blew a raspberry at him as Diego wrenched him out of the room. “So…? How was babysitting Five?”

“Our brother is a wreck,” Diego said. “Did you know he feels like he owes us a debt because he was gone for so long?”

Klaus stopped at that. “He what?”

“Yeah,” Diego said. “He acted like we were making it worse by not… letting him die of a fever, I guess.”

Klaus sighed. “That tracks.”

“And apparently the Handler was…” Diego said, making a face.

“Touchy?” Klaus said. “Yeah, he mentioned that to me too, but… I don’t think anything happened and I don’t think he realizes how… wrong the implication was, so I’ve… decided not to make a big deal out of it.

“That tracks too,” Diego said.

“He’s so fucking dumb.”

Diego snorted. “You know what they say about glass houses?”

“I’m very smart, thank you very much,” Klaus said. “I just choose not to use my brain, because it’s full of dead people.”

“Right,” Diego laughed. He gave Klaus a look. “Are you going to be civilized if I let you go?”

“Yes,” Klaus said.

“Are you lying to me?”

“Probably.”

“Probably?”

“I don’t know, man! Why can’t Ben and I just live out our pent up aggression in peace?”

Diego crossed his arms. “I’ll get you more ice cream.”

Klaus squinted at him. “I’ll allow it.”

Diego rolled his eyes. “You’re a hassle, man. If my kid is anything like you I’m gonna fucking lose it.”

“Please,” Klaus said, grinning. “You’d love it. It would be adorable.

“Dickhead.”

Klaus’ grin only widened. “I want hot fudge with my ice cream.”

Chapter Text

“Good morning, you look lucid,” Klaus said.

Five blinked up at him, a cough rolling through his chest like a hedgehog on a warpath.

“Family meeting in ten,” Klaus continued. “In the living room, so Five can lay down.” He scampered away before Five could ask him for details.

“Son of a bitch,” Five mumbled, his voice coming out whispery and feeble.

Ben yawned, crossing his arms as he looked at Five. Five couldn’t remember when he’d switched out Allison on their so called “babysitting shifts.”

“’Time is it?” Five mumbled.

“About 2 pm,” Ben replied. “You look slightly better.”

Five coughed again, wincing, and tried to sniffle away the mounting pressure in his nose.

Ben handed him a box of tissues. “You sound worse.”

Five helplessly blew his nose. It didn’t help much. “I hate this.”

He glanced miserably at the door, weighing which would suck more – having to drag himself out the door, down the stairs and all the way to the kitchen, or trying to make the jump. He wasn’t sure if he’d even have the energy.

He rolled out of bed, padding to the stairs, then squeezed his eyes shut and jumped to the floor below them.

His direction was fine, but he felt breathless already. “Fuuuck,” he mumbled to himself, resisting the urge to throw a damn temper tantrum about being so sluggish and exhausted. Again.

He hobbled to the living room, finding Klaus and Vanya chatting on the couch.

“Oh, I’ll get up,” Klaus said upon seeing him, but Five was already on the couch, all but faceplanting into Klaus’ knee.

“Oh, come on, don’t shove your gross feet in my face,” Vanya said.’

“I’m sick and I want to lay here,” Five declared. “If you didn’t want me to lay on you, you should have chosen an armchair.”

“Why not put your feet on Klaus? He doesn’t have standards,” she said.

“It’s true, I don’t,” Klaus said cheerfully.

“You and Diego and your weird competitions,” Five muttered. “You’re the one who didn’t want special treatment, you’re available as a footrest like all the rest.”

She raised a brow. “Really? You just don’t want to move!”

“Yeah,” Five said. “Deal with it. I’m sick.”

She looked at Klaus, incredulous.

“Tickle him,” Klaus suggested.

“Is he ticklish?” she asked.

“No,” Five said.

“He is if I hold him down,” Klaus said, grabbing Five. “He’s too tired to escape!”

“No!” Five shouted, trying to wriggle out of their grasp as Vanya pinned his knees and tickled his foot.

Having six siblings had been quite the lesson in pretending not to be ticklish, but Klaus was right, he couldn’t untangle himself from this mess. He heard footsteps

“Luther!” he shouted, as his voice tried to betray him as well. “Make them stop!”

“Stop,” Luther said dutifully, clearly not paying attention.

Klaus and Vanya relented, and Five victoriously shoved his foot into Vanya’s face. She slapped it. It clearly ended up being louder than she meant for it to be, drawing Luther’s attention to them finally.

“Five started it,” she said hurriedly.

“Don’t slap our sick brother, please,” Luther said.

“Five did start it,” Klaus said. “He put his foot in Vanya’s face.”

“Stinky foot,” Vanya corrected.

“Stinky foot,” Klaus said solemnly.

Luther sighed. “Five, don’t put your feet in our sister’s face.”

“My feet don’t stink,” Five protested.

“They’re feet and you’ve been feverish for days,” Luther said. “I find that hard to believe.”

“They tickled me.”

Luther sighed. “Okay, I give up, do what you want.” He leaned against the bar, studying the pages in his hand.

Diego snorted loudly as he draped himself over the nearest armchair. “I never get tired of you saying shit Dad would have hated to hear from his Number One.”

“You’re welcome to try your hand at it,” Luther said. “They all want to hit each other, I guess.”

“Why are you guys hitting each other?” Diego asked.

“Five stuck his foot in my face,” Vanya said.

“They tickled me,” Five said.

“You’re ticklish?”

“No,” Five said.

“Yes,” Klaus amended.

“It’s about the principle,” Five said.

“He is absolutely ticklish.”

“How would you know?” Five asked.

“Because I’m ticklish,” Klaus said. “And you never let us pin you for long if you thought there would be tickling. Ergo…”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean he has to be ticklish,” Diego said. “I mean he’s also left handed.”

Five and Klaus both looked at him.

“What?” Diego asked.

“I am also left-handed,” Klaus said. “Remember?”

“Really?”

“Yes, really,” Klaus said. “Remember how we were both useless after getting our tattoos?”

“No,” Diego and Vanya said at once.

“We were,” Five said. “They hurt.”

“Oh, my god he branded us,” Luther blurted, head snapping up. “Oh, that’s not good. Why did I not realize that?”

“Conditioning,” Klaus said. “Probably, I don’t know. I tried to read some psychology textbooks, since clearly I’m an unrecognized genius in the human psyche, but apparently paying attention to what you’re reading instead of just trying to fake it so you don’t get punished for avoiding your homework is hard.”

“Okay, yeah, I’m starting to see how we all need therapy,”

“Just now?” Eudora asked, strolling into the room with Allison and Ben and a bowl of food that Five didn’t want to identify. “Better late than never, I guess.” She shoved Diego’s foot. “Scoot over, I’m going to sit next to you.”

Five coughed, rolling over so he could see everyone better. Vanya made a face and shoved his feet over. He put them back, and watched as she debated slapping them again.

“Just scoot to the side so you’re sitting under his knees, it’s more comfortable for both of you,” Diego said.

She huffed, but did as he was told.

“Okay, so can we get to the alien topic?” Luther asked.

There was a general murmur of agreement.

“So uh… we’re looking at about a dozen guys on the planet,” Luther said. “Give or take one or two.”

Five sniffled, and Ben handed him a box of tissues again, letting him blow his nose despondently.

“Great,” Diego muttered. “Any clues about where they are? What to expect?”

“No,” Luther said.

“We should try to get eyes on them,” Diego said. “Figure out what we’re actually dealing with.”

“What if we let Perseus loose?” Klaus asked. “See if he meets up with anyone? I can ask real-Perseus to shadow him.”

“Okay, wait, wait,” Eudora cut in. “Before we launch into this, what do we even do when we find these guys? Do we try to arrest them?”

They paused, unsure how to answer that question.

“I would just like to say,” Klaus volunteered, “that since I can now banish ghosts, my reasons to refrain from murder have been cut at least in half, and the guy that hijacked Five and made him cry is probably still out there. So…”

Five gave him a look. He wasn’t sure how to feel about Klaus, of all people, suggesting they kill someone, much less for him, but he did know that this cold was making him shaky and upset at just about anything that bothered him.

“You’re suggesting we should murder someone for making our brother cry?” Ben asked.

“It’s Five,” Klaus said, gesturing at him.

“Good point,” Ben replied.

“Yeah, I’m in,” Vanya said.

Five tried to imagine the three of them murdering someone, for him, and found that it raised an indeterminate amount of panic in him that shuddered through his body like static. “No,” Five said sharply, before he was cut off by a sneeze that turned into an accidental jump, leading to Five nearly headbutting the coffee table.

“Oooh, really shot yourself in the foot there with that sneeze,” Klaus teased while Ben hurried to help him back up. “We gotta protect our sick baby brother.”

“What do I have to do to make you shut up?” Five said, exhausted as he crawled back into Klaus’ lap, tucking his feet around Vanya to draw her closer as he curled up to sulk about the unfairness of sickness.

“I will never shut up,” Klaus said, giving him a quick peck on the forehead. “Prepare to suffer forever, because not even death can stop me.”

“Great,” Five muttered.

“Anyway, I’m not entirely serious,” Klaus said. “I’m more concerned about the fact that if he could make Five do things, he could break out of jail the same way. Ergo: murder.”

“Klaus.”

Eudora sighed, rubbing her forehead. “Klaus, shockingly, has a point.”

“I’m tired of murder,” Five muttered. With the Oblivion gone, Five was starting to feel like he had after every other seemingly avoided apocalypse – he didn’t particularly like killing people. He liked being good at it, but he liked being good at many things, most of which didn’t involve death.

“Is it possible you’re just tired in general?” Ben asked.

Five thought about it, blowing his nose. “Maybe. But if possible, I would prefer not to murder.”

“Yeah, that’s generally the way to do things,” Eudora said, sighing.

“If he doesn’t want to murder, don’t argue,” Allison said. “We don’t get on Klaus for not drinking, do we?”

“Are you suggesting I have a murder addiction?” Five asked.

“You know what I mean,” Allison said, rolling her eyes. “But if the shoe fits…”

“Okay, how about…” Luther said, grimacing. “We try to solve things without murder and then if we… can’t… we… murder?” He looked into the distance with a profound weariness, as though trying to decide what choices he could have made to avoid a situation in which he’d say a sentence like that.

“Can we call it anything other than murder, which is, I cannot stress this enough, illegal,” Eudora said. “What about assassination?”

“Wow, Hazel really grew on you, huh?” Diego snapped.

She smacked him.

“That’s worse,” Five said. “I wanna call it murder.”

“He’s the boss,” Klaus said, patting his head.

Five blew his nose loudly.

“They keep talking like this around our kid I’m gonna hurt ‘em,” Eudora said.

“Be my guest,” Diego replied. “Anyway, can we get back to business? Klaus’ Perseus plan isn’t bad.”

“It’s not great either,” Allison muttered. “We have one of them already, isn’t that a step in the right direction?”

“Plus we have no idea what he can do,” Five croaked. “He murdered real Perseus pretty easily, and we don’t know if he can change his face.”

Klaus groaned. “I’ll talk to Dad about it.” He poked at Five. “Get up.”

“Talk to him here,” Five muttered. He didn’t want to move.”

“I don’t want to!” Klaus whined. “Whenever you guys are around he just says mean stuff and it’s a bummer.”

“And he’s not mean to you?” Diego said.

“Well since I can literally silence him at any point, he keeps it lowkey. You know, the kind of meanness I’m used to from all of you.”

“That was blatant manipulation,” Ben said.

“Like doubt,” Klaus said dramatically, “from my own favorite brother.”

“Get fucked.”

“Uh, I intend to,” Klaus replied. “Why do you think I want us off house arrest ASAP?”

Five sat up sharply, nearly headbutting Klaus in the nose. “What?!” He knew it was childish to panic about his brother having sex, but that didn’t make him any more prepared for it. He’d planned on slowly easing himself into trusting Dave.

“Oh, come on!” Klaus whined. “What, you want me to have sex in the house like Diego?”

“No,” Five muttered under his breath.

“It’s not that bad!” Diego complained. “Five can learn to knock.”

“He cannot,” Vanya said.

Five glared at her. “I could! If I wanted to!”

Eudora sighed, covering her face.

 “Look, would it make you feel better to know I’m a switch?” Klaus asked, gently easing Five over into Vanya’s lap while he tried to subtly sneak away.

“I don’t know what that means,” Five replied.

“Well,” Klaus started, struggling not to laugh.

“No!” Allison yelled, quickly smashing a pillow into Klaus’ face while he screamed as though she was suffocating him.

“What does it mean?” Luther asked Diego. Diego leaned over to whisper it to him. “Oh. That’s not that bad.”

“I can handle talking about sex!” Five snapped. “Just because I’m a little nervous about Klaus having sex with a man over twice his age doesn’t mean…”

 “You can handle it when you don’t look petrified over the mere thought of Klaus having sex,” Allison said, Klaus’ limbs flailing around her.

“With a man over twice his age!” Five protested.

“You’re… killing… me…” Klaus gasped, far too dramatic to be in any kind of serious discomfort. She shoved the pillow back into his face.

“It means you like doing the fu—“ Vanya started, before very quickly doing some mental math about the danger inherent in the situation and amending it to, “the penetrating and the being penetrated.”

“Oh,” Five said, trying not to let his disgust at the concept leak into his face where his siblings could pick up on it and use it to tease him for all of eternity.

“Vanya!” Allison gritted out between her teeth, as Vanya leaped over the back of the couch to duck out of the way of the pillow being lobbed at her.

Ben gave Eudora a look. “And this is us after having worked through a whole banquet of communication issues.”

“I wonder if our baby will have two braincells to rub together,” Diego muttered, staring into the distance as Vanya lobbed the pillow back, accidentally hitting Klaus instead of Allison.

“It’s okay honey, if there is anything close to a god, they’ll take after me,” Eudora told him.

“I sure fucking hope so.”

“Should I… um…” Luther said, pointing awkwardly at the escalating situation surrounding the couch.

“I got it,” Diego said. “Hey! Assholes! Get it together, we have aliens to murder!”

“Okay, okay, I’ll talk to Dad,” Klaus said. “By the way, Five, Vanya is correct, but when you get into kink—“

“NO!” Allison yelled, racing after Klaus when he bolted, skittering across the floor. Something crashed as they veered out of sight.

Diego put his head in his hands and groaned.

That raised more questions than in answered, including the question of whether Five really wanted to know the answers. “Leaving me with half the idea is worse!” he yelled at them.

“He means power dynamics,” Eudora said.

“Wow, that was very fast for someone who’s boyfriend wore full body leather to a funeral,” Ben said.

And that answered that question: Five did not want to know. “Nope,” he said, and jumped back to bed before anyone could tell him anything else he didn’t want to know.

**

“Fuck,” Five hissed as he crashed into a bookshelf, vanishing with another tiny sneeze when Allison tried to make sure he was okay. There was another crash, with a very angry, “Ow.”

Allison tried to cover her face before she giggled at his abject misery. “You okay?”

“Slightly bruised,” Five croaked. “Very frustrated. But yes.”

Allison snorted, helping him up. “Try not to sneeze.”

“Oh, really?” Five asked. “You think?”

“Come on,” she said. “Once we’ve clarified what Dad said, I’ll make you some more tea.”

Five grumbled at her noncommittally, returning to the couch to lay face down on it like he was protesting the very notion of existence.

“So,” Klaus said, pausing when he realized the move from the kitchen had left him without an unconventional surface to perch on. “Now that we’ve blown up the ship, Dad’s less stressed about the whole situation, which, oddly, makes him more annoying and useless.”

 “What else is new?” Diego muttered. “Did you get anything from him at all?”

“Well, yeah, sort of,” Klaus said, eying the bar as though trying to gauge if he could get up onto it with one big step. “Apparently Perseus is more the brains of the operation than brawn, but he’s also probably capable of getting messages out to his people from jail, so we wouldn’t be losing much by letting him go.”

“Can he change his face again?” Luther asked, reaching out his hand to catch Klaus if he fell while trying to get his foot up onto the bar.

“Not without considerable effort,” Klaus said, clattering up onto the bar and folding his legs.

Luther sighed. “Okay. So… we let him go, dead Perseus trails him… and we’ll see if he meets up with his friends?”

Klaus glanced over his shoulder, then nodded. “Yeah, John’s in.”

“John?” Diego asked. “Are we on first name basis now?”

“It’s confusing to keep calling them Perseus and real Perseus.” Klaus paused. “John would like us to stop calling the pod person Perseus.” He put his hands on his hips. “John, you really want to derail this by trying to get them to agree on nomenclature? Yeah, I know it’s insensitive, but there’s only so much we can do.”

Eudora sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Okay, so we’re releasing him.”

“I’ll come with you,” Diego blurted.

“Yeah, I figured,” Eudora said. “Come on, stupid. Klaus, I assume you’re coming too.”

“Yep,” Klaus said, grabbing his jacket. “Let’s go.” He paused to rub Five’s back. “You just rest there, buddy.”

Five flipped him off.

Eudora grabbed her keys and nodded at them, letting them elbow their way past each other out the door. “See you guys soon,” she called, shutting the door behind her.

Chapter Text

“I’m so fucking bored,” Klaus said.

“Just watch Luther,” Ben suggested.

Klaus twisted to see that Five had fallen asleep in one of the armchairs, knees up to his chest and head on his fist. Luther currently had one arm under Five’s back and was trying to slide one arm under said knees.

“Five’s clearly dozing, so he’ll wake up for sure unless Luther moves very slowly,” Ben said.

Klaus continued to watch as Luther spent an unreasonably long time sliding his hand under Five’s legs, pausing for several beats as he contemplated how to pick Five up without waking him.

“This is mesmerizing,” Klaus whispered.

“He’s been at it for at least twenty minutes and I could watch for twenty more.”

“Ten bucks says he doesn’t make it up to Five’s bedroom without waking him up,” Klaus said.

“No bet, he’s fucked,” Ben replied.

They watched in silence as Luther picked Five up with glacial speed and started up the stairs, gruesomely slow as he tried to keep his movement smooth and quiet.

“JESUS!” Klaus yelled, all but rocketing off the couch.

Five startled awake, jumping out of Luther’s arms and onto the nearest bookshelf, wild-eyed as usual.

“What the hell, Klaus?” Luther called.

“He was so close too clearing the stairs too,” Ben said solemnly.

“Sorry, sorry, it’s just our friend John,” Klaus said. “Just… Just clear your throat or something, don’t… Yeah, okay, fine, fine, but… Yes, I did say… Why are you being mean about this? Would you be comfortable seeing ghosts? God, okay…”

“What were you doing?” Five asked Luther.

“You fell asleep so I thought I’d carry you to bed,” Luther said.

Five made a face at him, but he didn’t protest, too busy watching Klaus as Klaus paced, listening to whatever John was saying. “Well?”

“You would have made it,” Ben told Luther, though he didn’t believe it.

Luther sighed, crossing his arms and watching Klaus as he mumbled something that sounded like directions.

Finally, Klaus sighed. “Okay, someone get the others,” he said. “Family meeting again.”

“I’ve got it,” Luther said, trudging up the stairs.

Five jumped back onto the couch, folding himself into his sweater. He’d stopped coughing and sneezing, but he had yet to surrender Luther’s oversized sweater. He yawned, watching Klaus closely until the others arrived.

“So I have…” Klaus started, holding up his fingers as though to count on them, “bad news, good news and… uh… bad news.”

“What’s the bad news?” Diego asked. “The first one, I mean. Just go in order, man.”

“Well the bad news is that Perseus and, presumably, co are being very careful about being seen together. Perseus hasn’t been meeting with anyone John didn’t know for the most part.”

“Could they also be body snatchers?” Vanya asked.

“No,” Klaus said, then, “DAD. WHAT DID I SAY? GET OUT.” He pointed at the door. “GO!” He rubbed his hands over his face. “Okay, so short answer: no. Long answer, yes but they wouldn’t be very convincing, so anyone we see out in the daytime wandering around like human people in front of people who know them is not a bodysnatcher, Dad.” He paused. “I don’t know why I’m rubbing it in, he’s not actually here anymore.”

“So what, they’re laying low and not contacting each other? Or do they just have a secret channel for communicating?”

“John’s been trailing Perseus pretty much nonstop,” Klaus said. “Very good work, John, by the way, you’re a very helpful ghost. So unless telepathy is involved – I DIDN’T ASK, DAD – they don’t seem to be talking. Except, and this is the good news, last night, Perseus went to a nightclub, and he did talk to someone who John says looked…” He paused, looking at John, “like a magician. Like… in Harry Potter or… oh. Did he have a top hat? … Yeah, I feel like magicians have top hats.”

“Klaus,” Allison said sharply. “What’s the bad news?”

“It’s a nightclub,” Klaus said. “I mean we’ve all committed to this safety in numbers idea, and we have a recovering drug addict, a minor, and a very small lesbian.”

“I’ve been to clubs before,” Vanya said. “Multiple times.”

“You’ve become a lot more noticeable since then,” Klaus said.

“And men are garbage,” Allison said.

“They are,” Klaus agreed. “But more importantly, you also turn noise and emotions into deadly power, so…”

“Okay, point taken.”

“Like you said, I could pass for 16 or 17 with the right clothes,” Five said. “And I don’t have to get past any bouncers.”

“Okay, no,” Klaus said. “I mean, yes, you could absolutely blend in at a nightclub, but I’ve been to all these places when I was 16 or 17 and I…” He stopped short, clearly realizing that he didn’t know how to put this in a way that wasn’t going to piss Five off.

Five raised a brow. “You…?”

“I had a great time,” Klaus said, “as a pansexual, wildly promiscuous idiot junkie. Basically the antithesis of who you are as a person.”

“Klaus, was your first time in a nightclub while you were high?” Luther asked, with a profound exhaustion.

“So was yours!” Klaus protested.

“While I was an adult!” Luther said. “And also that was a very bad time in my life which I regret a lot. That was… that was a bad week for me.”

“It was not his finest moment,” Vanya said. Luther nodded fervently, pointing at her as evidence.

“Okay, fine, so it was maybe bad for me as well, in retrospect,” Klaus said defensively. “My point is, I don’t feel very good about letting loose my small, asexual little brother in a seedy nightclub looking…” He made a face and gritted out an uncomfortable, “young. Because, as Allison so elegantly put it, men are garbage.”

“I can take care of myself,” Five muttered.

“Really,” Diego said. “Because you said some concerning things about the Handler.”

“Yeah, to me too,” Klaus added.

“That was… There were politics involved,” Five spluttered. “I couldn’t exactly tell her to… That was just different.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Allison said. “What about the Handler?”

“She was creepy as hell,” Klaus said. “If only for the fact that Five looking 13 was not a deterrent to her.”

“Nothing happened,” Five said. “She was just weird.”

Vanya stared at him. “Jesus, Five, that’s…”

“This is different.”

“Five,” Klaus said, clapping his hands together in mock prayer. “Please trust me, as your honest to goodness brother who shared a womb with you for… several minutes at least. This is not your scene, and I… I don’t want to have test my sobriety just yet in an effort to keep you safe from people who would want to hurt you in any of the… like… two ways the world has not yet hurt you. Okay? Please?”

Five shuffled awkwardly, crossing his arms. “Fine,” he said, looking very much like Klaus had just cheated.

“Thank you. So,” Klaus said. “That’s already me, Five and Vanya out of the mix.”

“We probably want to avoid outright confrontation, then,” Luther muttered.

“How do we even know this guy is gonna go back to the scene of the crime?”  Diego said. “It’s been days and they had one meet up in a crowded club. They clearly don’t want to be seen, so…”

“Wait, okay,” Klaus said. “If we know what the guy looks like, we could see if we can catch him on camera footage, trace his steps.”

Diego hummed thoughtfully. “Yeah. We could try that.”

“Yes!” Klaus said, punching the air.

**

“Okay, we’ve gotten all the security camera footage from yesterday around the club,” Eudora said. “Many of them are stolen, and I know I’m not doing anything by pointing out that this is all so illegal, but I feel like if I don’t keep mentioning it, I will lose myself in all…” She gestured helplessly, “… this.”

Hazel helpfully deposited a duffel bag of tapes on the table.

Diego stared at her. “Is there a possibility that there’s something biologically wrong with us, and it is, in fact, contagious?”

“Okay, come on,” Eudora said. “I’ve spent the last many, many days arresting a man for his own murder, then releasing him, all while trying to cover for my boyfriend without going all in on the ‘abducted by aliens’ thing, and I’m so fucking tired, Diego, so tired. And yes, I also really, really want celery with jelly and pineapple and cream cheese sandwiches, which both are objectively disgusting but they sound so good and that is driving me crazy, but mostly… Good Lord, there are aliens, Diego.”

Diego cleared his throat, awkwardly shuffling and yielding to her point.

“Pineapple and cream cheese sandwiches actually sound tasty,” Klaus offered.

“No they do not, Klaus! They do not.”

“Do you want me to go get some?” Diego said.

“Yes!” she yelled. “I’m sorry, that was a lot, I’m very hungry.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Diego said. “I’ll get you food.”

“We’re going to be here a while,” Klaus said, sprawling over the couch while Hazel started the first tape. “So feel free to go shopping.”

“I’ll come with,” Luther said.

Diego nodded at him. “Anything else you want?”

“Eggs,” Eudora said miserably. “Constantly eggs.”

“Yeah,” Diego said. “No problem.”

Eudora sighed and sat down next to Five. “You are very small, you know that?” she sighed.

“So everyone keeps telling me,” Five said with a tense smile.

“Yeah,” she said. “I don’t know how this hormonal journey will end, but heads up right now.”

“I’ll allow it,” Five said. “You’ve got Diego to deal with already, that gives you a pass.”

“Thank you.”

“Oh, oh, pause there!” Klaus yelled, pointing, looking at the empty space that Allison assumed was Perseus. “Which guy?”

Five’s eyes narrowed, and Klaus’ eyes flickered towards him, catching it like a hawk.

“Five?” Klaus asked carefully. “Is that the guy who hijacked you?”

“No,” Five gritted out.

“You’re shaking,” Ben volunteered.

“Shut up, Ben,” Five hissed.

“Okay, so…” Klaus said, leaning closer to the TV and pointing at a tall man with obscured eyes. “That guy is the one we want to kill.”

“What happened?” Hazel asked.

“Oh, he mind controlled Five into robbing a bank and so Five lost a bunch of time during a time when he was having a lot of trouble readjusting to the world and the lack of an apocalypse to fuel him—“

“Klaus.”

 “—with the adrenaline that at this point constitutes most of his body, so he ended up in my apartment weeping into my lap about losing his mind,” Klaus said. “Also, he murdered me, but as you can see I’m fine so that’s not as important.”

“I can shoot him for you,” Hazel offered.

“Thank you,” Klaus said, grinning at Ben. “Told you he’s a good guy down there.”

“We’re not killing him until we run out of other options,” Vanya said. “It’s what Five wanted.”

Hazel nodded very seriously.

“Okay, so… let’s follow him,” Klaus said. “When does he leave?”

Hazel fast-forwarded the tape, pointing when the figure moved. “There he goes. Seems like he leaves to the left…” He switched the tapes and hit fast-forward again.

“Hang on, I’ll get a notepad,” Vanya said. “See if we can make a list of places he went.”

“Yeah,” Klaus mumbled absently. “Oh, hey, there we go, hit play.”

“Yep,” Hazel said, both of them leaning over the screen.

“How are you already friends with someone who tortured you?” Allison asked.

“It’s a talent,” Klaus replied. “Also, I have no sense of self-preservation.”

She sighed, throwing herself back against the couch. “Good to know.”

They continued the process, switching between tapes until Diego and Luther returned, made food, and Allison had dozed off.

“Ta-da!” Klaus yelled. “We have a hotel!”

She started awake. “What?”

“We found where he’s staying,” Klaus said. “Should we check it out?”

“Can’t you send a ghost to do it?” Luther asked.

“Weeeeell,” Klaus said. “It gets into kind of fuzzy territory if the ghost isn’t… you know. Connected to the person in question, and the only person we know who was killed by this guy is me, and I am… not dead. So. No?” He made a face to himself. “I don’t actually know anything about my own powers.”

“Okay, so… yeah, we should check it out,” Luther muttered. “Which means we should decide on cars.”

“Three cars, nine people, three people to a car,” Five said.

“I’ll get the marbles,” Allison said.

“To draw lots,” Eudora told Hazel.

“Is that really necessary?” Hazel asked.

“Trust me, you don’t want to give them any openings for arguments,” she said tiredly.

“Yep,” Allison said, grabbing the bag and counting out the right amount of marbles. She offered the bag to them, keeping an eye on Hazel. “Draw.”

He sighed and did as he was told

**

“Okay, Diego and I are going to talk to the receptionist as cops first,” Eudora said.

“We are?” Diego said.

“Yes, we are,” Eudora replied.

“Any chance you’d hang back instead?” Diego tried.

She gave him a tired look. “No.”

“Just… because… you’re pregnant with my child and to lose you now would completely destroy me as a person,” Diego said.

“I realize that, and I’m sorry, but I’m here now and I’m not going to sit in the car and wait for you,” she said. He nodded in acceptance, though it didn’t do much to ease his heartrate. “Anyway. Diego and I will go in first. In the meantime, please stay put. Got it?”

“No matter what you do there’s at most a 60 percent chance they got it,” Diego said.

She sighed. “Okay, well… whatever. Stay put.” She gave Five an extra look.

“What?” he said, affronted. “I don’t have any reason to go off on my own now, do I?”

She shook her head and gestured at Diego to go.

Diego followed her inside, smiling awkwardly at the receptionist, a middle-aged lady. She seemed perfectly normal, but something about her set Diego’s teeth on edge. Something vacant about her expression that just felt off. He exchanged looks with Eudora, who seemed to share the sentiment. “Uh, hi,” she said.

“Hi! How can I help you?” the woman asked.

“We have reason to believe a dangerous suspect might be staying in one of your rooms,” Eudora said.

“I’m afraid we don’t have any vacancies left,” the woman replied.

Diego and Eudora glanced at each other again. Diego leaned forward and waved his hand in front of the woman’s face. She didn’t react.

“Okay,” he said. “See you later!”

“Have a nice day!”

They both hurried out the door and back to the others. “So we’re definitely in the right place.”

“Why?” Five asked.

“That receptionist is very much…” Eudora started, trailing off and waving her hand in front of her face. “Brainwashed, I guess?”

“Oh, fun,” Klaus said cheerfully. “So. Three floors, three groups…” He looked at Luther and Allison. “Let’s go. I still say we should kill the guy.”

Luther sighed. “Klaus has a point. Not… about killing people, but about staying in groups of three.”

“You could crush him like a grape, it would be spectacular,” Klaus said.

“You’re concerning me,” Luther said.

“I’m kidding,” Klaus said. “Mostly. He made Five cry!”

Luther shook his head. “Klaus, Allison and I will take the first floor.”

“Second floor?” Diego asked Eudora and Vanya. They nodded. “Okay.” He glanced at Five and Ben. “You guys sure about him?” He nodded at Hazel.

Five looked up at Hazel. “Yeah. Hazel’s fine, aren’t you Hazel?”

“Don’t see how I have much choice,” Hazel said, looking at Ben. “What is it you do again?”

“I have a portal in my chest connected to an uncontrollable eldritch killing machine,” Ben said, smiling.

“Yeah, see, even if I wanted to hurt any of you, which I don’t, I wouldn’t risk that,” Hazel said.

“Few people would,” Ben said solemnly to Diego.

“Guys!” Klaus yelled, bouncing up and down in frustration. “Let’s! Go!”

Allison sighed, jogging over to catch up with him, followed by Luther.

“What are the chances Klaus is actually going to kill this guy?” Five asked.

“Uhh… I’d say about 50-50,” Ben said.

Diego rolled his eyes. “Alright, well. That’s… a problem for later. For now, stick together, come find us if anything goes wrong.”

Five and Ben nodded, and Diego waved for Eudora and Vanya to follow him up the stairs. “Déjà vu…” he muttered.

“Ha,” Vanya said. “Do you think Five’s learned his lesson after all this time?”

“Does anyone in this family ever learn from their mistakes?” Diego replied, pausing to take in the empty halls. It was far too silent. “Anyone else have a really, really bad feeling about this place?”

“Yeah,” Vanya murmured. “It’s too quiet.”

“The lady said no vacancies,” Eudora said. “You’d expect some movement in a place this size.”

“Ssh,” Vanya said, stopping short. “Let me listen.” She closed her eyes, and Diego tried to stay still. It was difficult to do so when the entire place set him on edge. “I think there’s people in the rooms, they’re just… being really quiet.”

Eudora frowned, getting close to one of the doors and checking under the doors. “Yeah, I think a TV is on in here.”

Diego leaned over and knocked softly on the door. Nothing. “Step back,” he muttered, relieved when Vanya automatically pushed Eudora behind her. He slid a knife into the groove between the door and the frame, quickly pushing in the latch and opening the door.

Vanya and Eudora were right. There were two people in the room, seemingly a couple, sitting on the bed and staring at the TV, which was showing static.

Diego cleared his throat. They didn’t react. “Okay, now I’m really freaked out,” he said.

Vanya carefully eased in past him and waved her hand in front of their faces. There was no reaction. “What the fuck,” she murmured.

He slipped inside to join her, putting his hands on his knees to take a better look. “Okay. So. Um.” He nodded to himself thoughtfully. “What now?”

Something moved in the closet with a small thud.

Eudora drew her gun immediately, and Diego nudged Vanya aside to creep closer to the closet, a finger on his lips.

He stood so that anyone or anything in the closet would have a tough time lashing out at him, knife at the ready, and opened the closet.

A flock of birds flooded out of the closet, and he threw his elbow over his face to shield it.

Quickly as they had come, the birds were gone again. He coughed, turning to look at Eudora and Vanya.

They were gone.

More specifically, Diego guessed, he was gone. The room door was closed instead of open, and a different man was sitting alone on the bed. This TV, too, was playing only static.

He groaned. “Oh, fuck.”

**

“This place giving either of you the heebie-jeebies?” Hazel muttered.

“I am the heebie-jeebies,” Ben said good-naturedly. “But yes. Something is really weird here.”

Hazel sighed. “I haven’t seen a single person.”

“Nor have we heard them,” Five said, listening in on a door. “Though…” He waved them closer. “Do you hear a TV?”

Ben put his ear against the door. “Static, maybe.”

“Yeah,” Five said.

The three of them exchanged looks.

“Should we knock?” Hazel asked.

“I guess so,” Five said, moving to do so.

Hazel caught his hand. “I understand you’re not a child, but you look like one and that’s going to factor into how your family reacts if anything happens to you, and I’m going to get blamed for it.”

“I will not back you up,” Ben declared.

“I didn’t think you would,” Hazel said. “So… just take a step back for me?”

Five sighed, but he stepped back, letting Hazel do the knocking. There was no response.

“I’m just going to jump inside and unlock the door,” Five said.

“Or I can break it down,” Hazel said.

“And draw attention to us?” Five said. “I’ve done this a million times, I’ll be half a second.”

“He has done this a million times,” Ben offered.

Hazel sighed. “I want it noted that I was against this,” he said.

“I’ll think about it,” Ben said.

Five rolled his eyes and jumped inside, one eye on the room as he unlocked the door. A woman was sitting on the bed, staring at the static on the TV. He kept his eyes on her as he unlocked the door, glancing out.

The hallway was empty.

“Shit,” he hissed, poking his head out.

No Ben or Hazel to be seen.

Something in his gut said he’d changed floors, too, meaning either something had interfered with his jump or the hotel itself didn’t operate like a normal space.

He looked back at the woman. Her face was blank, and Five didn’t know if that meant she was no threat or if she was very much a threat.

He couldn’t trust his jumping and he was alone. He needed to find a weapon and the others, not necessarily in that order.

With some debate, he chose the hallway, slipping outside and closing the door behind him. First, he had to figure out what floor he was on.

“Oh, it’s you again,” said a vaguely familiar voice. “I was hoping to see you again.”

Five whirled around to face the voice, but there was only empty hallway.

“The first time we met I didn’t know how ferocious you were. I’ve been getting a lot of complaints about how much havoc you wrought after I let you go, but can you blame me? You look like such a sweet boy.”

The voice was on the other side of the hallway now, and Five turned carefully, putting his back to the wall instead.

“Where are the others?” he asked. He wanted to keep it talking, and maybe he could find where it was from, but he also made sure to keep moving down the wall.

“Oh, around,” the voice said. “I’m going to separate them all from one another, and then… probably start picking them off one by one.”

“Good luck with that,” Five said, but he couldn’t help the terror that rose in his chest at the thought.

“You do a very good job at sounding confident when you’re scared,” the voice said. “But it worries you, doesn’t it?”

Five swallowed.

“I already killed your brother – you real brother, that is – once, I might as well start with him, see if he returns before or after the rest of them are gone.”

Five inched his way down the hall, back to the wall. The further he went, the harder it was to pinpoint the direction the voice was coming from. It was starting to feel like it was coming from every direction.

“I think… maybe I’ll kill the short mousy one after that. What’s her name? Vanya?”

Something was wrong. Panic was rising in his chest faster than it should, even when faced with the thought of losing his family. His breathing was slipping out of control. He swallowed and tried to regulate it.

“Both of the dangerous ones have to go quickly, really. Vanya and… Ben, was it?”

He was reaching a corner in the wall, and he craned his neck around. He could see stairs, with a small plate indicating room numbers. Second floor. He was on the second floor, which meant Vanya, Eudora and Diego had to be somewhere here.

Was it safe for either of them if he called out for them?

“The idiot with the knives is already split off the group,” the voice said. “It would be very easy to pick him off, but I do have a soft spot for babies, so maybe I’ll let the girlfriend live.”

In-two-three-four-out-two-three-four, he counted.

He tried to weigh his options, whether or not to pull his back away from the wall or to call out, but he was having trouble coming up with pros and cons.

“And then… hm. Well, that leave us with only two. Which of them would hate to see the other die more, do you think?”

He kept counting, sliding down the wall to the floor. He needed to breathe, he needed to—

No, he needed to think.

But to think, he needed to breathe, and to breathe he needed to count.

“Of course, none of that has to happen,” the voice said. It was starting to feel like it was coming from inside his head. “None of them have to get hurt.”

The pressure inside his chest released, and finally his breath came evenly. In-out-in-out in a steady rhythm.

If you cooperate, no one else has to get hurt, he thought. Or maybe that was the voice, it was hard to tell. His head felt fuzzy, like his mind had been replaced by cotton balls.

Someone was sliding their arm around him and picking him up off the floor, but he didn’t seem to care.

Let’s just have a small talk.

Chapter Text

Allison was not at all happy about this situation. She couldn’t tell what it was that was setting off every single alarm in her head, but this entire hotel was doing it.

“Shit,” Klaus said, and very quickly deposited himself on the floor.

“What?” Luther asked, immediately stooping over him. “Are you okay?”

“I just got really, really fucking dizzy,” Klaus said. “Oh, holy shit.”

“Do you need to go back to the car?” Luther asked, reaching for him.

“No no, hang on,” Klaus mumbled. “Not yet. Just… give me a second to breathe.”

“Klaus,” Allison said. “Don’t push it.”

“No, I feel like… I feel like something’s happening. It’s like… It’s like right on the tip of my tongue.” He sat up slowly, breathing deeply. Luther helped him with a small push. “I think… there’s… something here.”

“Something?” Luther asked.

“Yeah,” Klaus said. “I know it’s vague, but…” He took a deep breath. “It’s just… kind of this weird oppressive feeling, but it’s… like a… presence?” He groaned. “Christ, I sound like some kind of TV psychic. Gross.”

“So… a ghost but not an ordinary ghost?” Allison guessed.

“Um…” Klaus said. “Yeah. Last time I felt anything like this was on the Oblivion.”

“Could it… be the Oblivion?” Luther asked.

“What?” Klaus asked, then, “Huh. Actually, yeah. Felt like it kind of dispersed after the ship blew up, but… no reason it couldn’t come back, I guess?” He thought about it. “Check the rooms. I have a hunch.”

Luther nodded, standing up to get close to a door.

“Be careful,” Allison warned.

He nodded at her too, then broke the lock, pushing in the door.

Klaus clambered to his feet, using Allison as a support.

A man sat on the bed, staring at the TV blankly.

“Well, that’s haunting,” Klaus said. “Check the next room.”

Luther carefully backed away from the open door, breaking open the next one. “Same thing here.”

“Static is a good white noise for some kind of hypnosis,” Allison said. “They’re probably all in some kind of trance.”

“Oblivion 2.0,” Klaus murmured.

Allison frowned at him, then hissed. “They’re farming new building blocks.”

“The others,” Luther said immediately. “If they’re building a new ship, then the four of them are…”

“Oh, hell,” Klaus said. “Okay, so we need to find…” He leaned over to look at something down the hall. “Diego?”

“What the fuck,” Diego said. “Did you guys switch floors, or did I?”

“Where’s Vanya?” Allison asked.

“I don’t know,” Diego said. “I opened this closet, and there were a lot of birds, and then I was here. On the first floor, somehow. There’s something really weird going on here.”

“Okay, well, I don’t know what the birds are about, but we think this hotel might be Oblivion 2.0,” Klaus said.

“What?” Diego blurted.

“We need to find the others,” Luther said, racing towards the stairs.

“Hey! Don’t split up, that’s how I got lost!” Diego yelled after him, running to catch up.

Allison grabbed Klaus’ elbow and followed them.

It wasn’t long before they found the others, possibly because they were all yelling at each other.

“What’s going on here?” Luther asked.

“Oh, thank god, Diego,” Eudora said. “What the hell happened?”

“I don’t know!” Diego said.

“Where’s Five?” Klaus asked.

“We kind of lost him,” Ben said awkwardly.

“You lost our brother?!” Diego asked Hazel.

“I was very much against the idea!” Hazel defended.

Ben made a noise as though it was up for debate.

“No,” Hazel said, pointing at him accusatorily. “I said, very specifically, that—“

They erupted into incomprehensible yelling.

“WILL YOU ALL SHUT THE FUCK UP FOR ONCE IN YOUR GODDAMN LIVES!” Klaus shouted, before immediately regretting the outburst. “Sorry, sorry, I’m just… there’s the ghost of the ghost of a horror ship and… hotels… are just… so many dead people… and…” He waved vaguely, wiping a drop of blood from his nose. “That way, let’s… that way.”

He stumbled down the hallway, and they dashed after him.

He led them down to the parking lot, where Allison’s eyes immediately snapped to find Five. He seemed to be uninjured, which was a relief, but there was also a second figure, dressed in an odd black ensemble that really did seem like he’d wandered out of a magic show. He had an arm draped around Five, leading him forward while Five seemed worryingly non-resistant.

“Well,” the Magician said, turning around. Five had a blank look on his face that made Allison’s blood boil. “That was faster than I expected.” He looked at Klaus. “You’re a real problem.”

“And you’re a dead man,” Klaus said with a manic cheerfulness that did a surprisingly good job of being very threatening.

“Five,” Allison said carefully, trying to get Five to look at her.

“Ah ah,” the Magician said.

Allison hissed as Five procured a knife, blankly putting it to his own throat.

“Not a word out of you, missy,” the Magician said.

She shut her mouth and clenched her jaw, watching Five closely. His hand didn’t so much as tremble.

“And you two, back up,” the Magician continued, pointing at Ben and Vanya.

Vanya exchanged looks with Ben.

The knife slid up into Five’s jaw ever so slightly, drawing a drop of blood. Five’s lashes fluttered ever so slightly, but that was the only sign he even felt the pain.

Ben and Vanya backed up, the same deadly look on their faces as they did.

“And drop the guns and knives too,” the Magician said.

Diego put down the knife in his hand and procured approximately a dozen more from his jacket while Eudora and Hazel slowly put their guns down on the floor.

“Really is awfully annoying you managed to find me,” the Magician said, bringing his hand up into Five’s hair to draw him closer in a mockery of affection.

Klaus made a strangled noise through his gritted teeth.

“Shame, really, I worked so hard to collect all these people,” the Magician murmured, looking at the hotel. “But this one will have to do.”

“Five,” Luther said firmly. “Listen to me—“

Five’s eyes flickered towards him for a moment, before the Magician chuckled, whispering something into Five’s ear and they went glassy again. “I wanted to spare him the exhaustion, at the very least, but it looks like we’ll be jumping out of here after all,” the Magician said, clearly just to rub it in.

“Fucker,” Diego hissed.

Five’s hand jolted, leaving a line of red along his throat before he plunged the knife into the Magician’s hip.

The Magician cursed, and Five dropped the knife, clumsily jumping within arm’s reach of Luther. Luther grabbed him, pulling him close as Eudora, Diego and Hazel scrambled for their weapons.

The Magician staggered before suddenly smoke exploded around them. Allison coughed, trying to wave it away quickly enough to see.

“I see him!” Hazel shouted, taking off after him, Eudora close on his heels. Diego moved to follow, but he was distracted by a wheeze from Five.

“Can’t breathe,” Five managed, clutching at his throat as his knees gave out.

“Shit,” Luther hissed, easing him to the ground and scrambling to undo his tie.

Ben and Vanya raced over to look. “What’s wrong with him?” Vanya asked.

“Fuck, fuck,” Diego hissed, dropping down to check Five’s neck. It was bleeding, but it wasn’t gushing blood, and that meant no arteries were severed. Allison leaned in, trying to get a better look while Diego felt along the bloody line. “It’s just a cut, it’s a surface cut, I don’t think it punctured the windpipe or…”

“Then why can’t he breathe?” Klaus snapped, watching with wide eyes as Five fought for breath with increasingly painful sounds.

“I don’t know!” Diego yelled back.

“Shit, shit,” Luther said, checking Five’s throat. “I don’t know what’s…”

Five made an awful sound as he twisted, eyes rolling back in his head as he gasped for air to no avail.

“Back up!” Vanya said, all but kicking them away. “Everyone just give him some space!’

Everyone stumbled away as she squatted down beside Five, taking his hand. “Five, Five, listen to me, just take one deep breath, okay? Just one.”

Five wheezed loudly, but Vanya pressed his fingers against her pulse and took a deep breath. “I’m here, we’re all here, and we need you to breathe with me, okay?” His breath caught in his chest again, scraping against his throat without any results. She tried again, taking a theatrically large breath, and Five managed to suck in a deep gasp that escaped as a choked sob.

“That’s it, keep doing that,” she said, moving his hand to her chest and breathing with him until he finally relaxed, breathing harsh and fast but still there.

Ben crept closer. “Five, do you know where you are?” he asked.

Five shook his head, breath hitching again.

“He was just hypnotized,” Allison pointed out.

“Do you know when you are?” Klaus said, catching up quickly.

“Um,” Five managed, voice wobbly. “2019.”

“Yeah,” Ben said.

“July,” Five said slowly and weakly. “2019, July.”

“You see us?” Klaus asked. “Like… actually us?”

Five blinked at him, then carefully nodded.

“We’re not dead,” Klaus reminded him.

“Yeah,” Five mumbled. “Yeah, I… I remember.”

“Okay,” Vanya said, shifting aside to let Luther slide behind Five and sit him up. “Good.”

“Flashback?” Allison asked. Her heart was somewhere in her throat.

Five nodded. “Yeah. The smoke was a trigger… I think…”

He was trembling, and Luther pulled him closer, tucking his head under his chin. “You’re okay,” he murmured. “You’re fine, we’re fine…”

“What the hell happened back there?” Diego asked.

 “I’m not sure,” Five mumbled. “I… I remember jumping inside the room… then… the hallway was empty…?”

“Yeah, you scared the hell out of us,” Ben said.

“Sorry,” Five managed, sounding very small.

“It’s okay,” Luther said. “It’s fine, we’re just glad you’re okay.”

“He got away because of me,” Five croaked.

“No, it’s not your fault,” Klaus said. “This guy put a whole hotel into a trance, the odds were really stacked against you.”

“Speaking of, how’d you break out of it?” Diego said, eyes narrowed.

Five seemed to realize what he was thinking, freezing at the thought.

“Diego, are you serious?” Vanya hissed. “Look at him!”

“We didn’t hear what that guy whispered to him,” Diego said. “I’m just saying.”

“He’s right, we can’t be sure,” Five said, voice shaking. “I don’t remember anything.”

“You seemed to react when Luther talked to you,” Allison said. “You remember that?”

“Um,” Five managed. “No. Yes. Maybe.”

“You just gave every possible answer to that question,” Ben pointed out.

“I… I think… I had this… like… déjà vu, almost,” Five said slowly. “Um… Like… I just… remembered… that I was grounded, I think…”

“What?” Diego blurted. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“I think he… he told me if I cooperated I’d be the only one in danger,” Five managed. “And that sounded good until… until Luther reminded me…” He gave them a sheepish look, “I wasn’t allowed.”

“Oh my god,” Luther breathed. “I can’t believe you.”

“He must be using regular hypnosis,” Allison said. “He knew he had to get Five to cooperate without trying to make him do something he wouldn’t normally, so he set it up as a situation Five would be fine with.”

“God, you’re such a dumb little shit,” Vanya said, sitting back onto the ground, defeated.

“Shit,” Five said, voice cracking as he sniffled.

“Oh, no,” Vanya said, reaching for him. “No, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“That’s not it,” Five said, wiping at his eyes desperately. “I just realized you assholes are never going to let this go.”

Klaus burst out laughing.

“God, and now we’re back to square one,” Five said. “Fuck.”

“Not exactly,” Klaus said. “We know what they’re planning.”

“The hotel’s the new ship,” Diego explained. “Sort of.”

“Or it was,” Ben said. “I think our friend sort of jettisoned the second he realized we were onto him.”

“Huh,” Klaus said. “That’s… a bit of a problem…”

“We’re going to have to find him again,” Five muttered.

“Not exactly,” Eudora said, clearing her throat to draw their attention. “Come look.”

They slowly clambered to their feet, Five hissing. “Oh, I didn’t miss that headache…” he mumbled.

Luther wrapped an arm around him. “Can you walk?”

Five nodded, wincing and letting Luther guide him.

Eudora led them back to their cars, holding her hand out to show them Hazel as he finished wrapping the Magician’s hands in duct tape in the trunk of his car.

Klaus burst into hysterical laughter, all but falling over as he wheezed through it.

“Consider it an apology for kidnapping you,” Hazel said.

Klaus wiped away tears, striding over to kiss Hazel full on the mouth. He pulled away with a dramatic pop, leaving everyone startled, Hazel most of all. “Hazel, you magnificent bastard,” Klaus said. “Thank you.”

“Uh,” Hazel said, but Klaus had already moved on like it had never happened, instead looking at the trapped alien in the trunk.

“Well, okay,” Klaus said, sighing. “Seeing this guy in the situation I was in not so long ago has endowed me with a new perspective. I kind of feel bad for him.”

“Wait for it,” Ben whispered to Allison.

“Really?” Diego asked.

“No!” Klaus said. “I’m going to break this man!” He slammed the trunk closed. “Look what he did to Five!”

“Klaus, you really worry me,” Luther said.

“I know,” Klaus said. “I’m sorry. But…” He gestured at Five, who was leaning heavily against Luther and pinching the bridge of his nose.

Luther sighed. “You’re very scary sober and I feel like I should ask if you’re okay or something.”

“I’m fine,” Klaus said. “I have an insatiable craving for vengeance.”

“That was not comforting at all,” Luther said, but he sighed, looking down at Five. “Come on, Five, let’s get you home.”

“I think everyone’s waking up in the hotel,” Eudora said. “So Diego and I might stay and do some damage control.”

“Yeah,” Luther said. “Good luck. Be careful.”

Diego nodded. He looked at the closed truck with a frown. “You too.”

**

“So what the hell do we do with him?” Luther asked, slamming the Magician into a chair while Hazel tied a rope around his torso.

“Make him talk?” Vanya suggested. “I mean I’m sure he knows plenty about these guys.”

“Okay, I feel like since we agreed on no murder, that sort of… extends to no torture?” Luther said. “Right? Am I… reaching here?” He gave Hazel a nervous look.

“I’m just here to do what you ask me to do, I’m not taking any initiative,” Hazel said.

Luther looked at Klaus, who was a little too deep in thought for comfort. “Klaus? No torture?”

“Can’t make any promises,” Klaus muttered, not looking up.

“Please make some promises,” Luther said.

“Is it even safe to let him talk?” Allison asked. “We don’t know how his hypnosis works, every word could be an opening.”

 “That’s fine,” Klaus said, finally looking up.

“Klaus,” Luther said. “Don’t do anything… crazy.”

“Oh, Luther, but crazy is what I’m for,” Klaus said, pulling up a chair and sitting crosslegged in it across from the Magician.

“Klaus,” Ben said. “You’re getting a look.”

“Yeah I am. Anyway, our friend here doesn’t need to talk. I’m going to talk, and he can just… correct me if I’m wrong.”

They stared at him. “Klaus, what are you doing?” Five asked.

“Ssh,” Klaus replied, eyes fixed on the Magician. “Just let me get this straight. First, you’re sent to get the monocle, right? And your plan was great, really, it was. Hijacking Five to get it? Great idea. Except then you let him loose, because you didn’t think he’d be a problem after that. And then not only did you not get the monocle, the kid you let loose goes on to kill over a dozen of your guys and springs all the premium scrap your buddies who did get the monocle found for your ship.”

They watched him, looking at each other for an explanation for what the hell was going on here or if they were supposed to stop it.

“And then, after I realized who not-Perseus was, you were sent to kill me, weren’t you? Except, surprise, I’m not dead! And not only am I not dead, but I did a lot of the heavy lifting in the plan that ultimately blew up your ship. So, you’re in a lot of hot water, yeah? But at least you can gather new bodies for another ship, and you’ve even got a lingering connection to the convenient little walking hyperdrive that would get your new ship back home in a jiffy, right? What a miracle!”

He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the Magician’s thighs, leaning into his space enough to make the Magician shift back a little. “Except… you don’t have those things anymore, do you? You’re empty handed, and that was already your last chance. Which means even if you do manage to escape, your buddies? They’re gonna build you right into their little lifeboat.”

The Magician scoffed, but Luther was fairly sure he felt just how thick the air was around Klaus.

He moved closer, keeping his voice as gentle as he could. “Klaus, maybe you should… get some air or something.”

“No, I’m not finished,” Klaus said. “Because all I want to make clear is that this guy don’t have a way out of here. Do you, buddy?” He narrowed his eyes at the Magician, voice dropping slightly. “You’re screwed if you leave, so you’re stuck here, with me. And that brings me to a couple of facts about me.”

The lingering feeling that he was supposed to do something about this remained, but so did the lingering feeling that Klaus was very much not going to be stopped right now, and to get in his way was a bit like trying to put your hand in a Rottweiler’s mouth.

“First, I’m a very empathetic person. I get people, I feel for them, I like them, most of the time. I’m nice! But that means when I really have a reason to screw someone over, it’s so hard to go halfway. I just… I kind of have to switch off the part of my brain that feels bad, you know? Just… really… shut off all remorse. I used to do it for drugs, mostly, and usually just so I could lie better, but… My siblings will tell you, I can fake sincerity at the drop of a hat. Right guys?” He looked at them. They stared back with no idea how to respond. “Yeah. That’s some psychopath shit, right?”

He pointed at Five, who gave a startled glance at Luther, unsure what to do about any of this. Luther felt the same. “Now, my little brother here, he’s been through a lot. And the one thing, really, that he’s always had, is his mind. He’s a genius, he really is. Not in decision making, necessarily, but… still. And you… you, my friend, took that away from him. The one thing he still had, you screwed with. So that’s one hell of a reason for me to not feel bad for you. At all.

“And the other thing about that’s important me is that I grew up seeing dead people. Since I was… what… three? Four? Death and gore have been all around me, all the time since I can remember. People with their guts spilling out and their necks broken and their faces run over by cars, and that… that just does something to ya, it really does. And… you know, I can compartmentalize it pretty well, because… actually there’s a large demand for people with a torture kink that goes both ways, if you know what I mean,” he winked, “but… like I said before, I really have no reason to feel anything for you as a person.”

“Wait, what?” Luther managed.

Five seemed to be spiraling straight past all five stages of grief and into another plane of reality entirely.

“Don’t ask,” Ben said. “Seriously, do not ask.”

“Klaus are you actually serious?” Allison asked, as though she’d been holding on to the notion that this was a lie this whole time and was quickly losing her grip on it.

Klaus ignored them. “So the way I see it, is that you have two options: you go out there, and you get built into a ship, which I can tell you right now is no fun, or you stay in here with me, and you make a very confident bet that I just.. won’t act on any of the many, many ideas I have to dismantle you as a person the way you tried to with my. Fucking. Little. Brother. Or… Or you give me a very good reason to switch the part of my brain that feels things back on for you.”

The Magician looked at Luther.

“Klaus, you can’t…” Luther tried.

“Can’t what?” Klaus snapped. “How are you going to stop me, exactly, Luther?”

Luther gaped at him. He wasn’t sure, except for the fact that he had to believe that Klaus could be talked out of doing something so clearly reprehensible.

“Yeah, didn’t think so,” Klaus said, turning back to the Magician. “What do you say? Got some ideas about how to win back my fraught sense of morality?”

Silence fell over the room. You could hear a butterfly flap its wings.

Klaus had always been a very good liar, but Luther found that even with this knowledge, he really did believe that Klaus would make good on his threats. He wasn’t sure how to parse that information. Klaus had a penchant for lying and sticky fingers, but he’d never tried to hurt a fly. Luther hadn’t really thought him capable of it until very recently, and now he wasn’t sure how to deal with the concept that not only could Klaus decide, if he wanted to, to hurt a fly, but he might even be good at it.

“Don’t do something you’re going to regret, Klaus,” he said. “Please.”

“Oh, it’s up to him now,” Klaus said, smiling sweetly at the Magician.

The Magician took a look at their stunned faces, then nodded, slowly.

Klaus grinned and patted his cheek. “That’s what I thought.”

He stood up and gestured at them to join him in the hall. “Okay, so Dad says Ben’s containment room is best for him, so… Nevermind that I sleep across the hall from there…” He looked at their horrified faces. “What? It worked, didn’t it?”

Allison and Vanya exchanged looks, and Five watched them, arms crossed and drawn into himself. “What the fuck, Klaus,” Vanya said for all of them.

“That was really fucking dark, man,” Ben said.

Klaus shrugged. “Yeah, I know, but how else do you scare a guy who makes a person farm? Anyway, Luther, are you going to help me take him downstairs or what?”

“Yeah,” Luther said, noting that he’d probably have a long talk with Klaus in private after things were, for once, calmer. “Sure.”

“Thank you,” Klaus said, giving Luther a thumbs up as he jogged away. “See you down there, I’ve got to talk to Dad about what questions to ask.”

“He was less concerning on drugs,” Allison said.

Luther shrugged. “Well. Klaus is Klaus. Let’s… interrogate an alien.”

Chapter Text

“Alright, here’s the deal,” Klaus said, putting down a pen and paper in front of their alien friend. “I’m going to ask you questions, and you write your answers down here.” He checked the restraints on the man’s wrist, just long enough to reach the pad. “No talking for you.”

He glanced at Reginald, who insisted on looming over Klaus’ shoulder for this entire process. “Okay, first…”

“You’ll want to know which of the Oblivion’s crew were stationed here,” Reginald said.

“Yeah, no shit, Dad!” Klaus snapped. He rubbed his temples. “Anyway. Just… write down which of your friends are on the planet and what they’re capable of. And if you lie to me, I will know, bud.”

He sat back and let the alien scrawl down his replies.

The minutes crawled by, and by the time Klaus and Reginald had both run out of questions, Klaus felt like he’d probably been down here 50 years.

Klaus sighed, stretching his neck as he gathered up the pages, carefully removed the pen from the Magician’s hand, and fastened his slightly lose arm. “ We’ll be back for you sometime, I guess,”  he said, and backed out of the room, keeping his eye on the alien until the door was shut. He double checked it, just in case, and then let out a breath.

Their alien friend had been firmly secured, and Klaus currently had twelve densely written pages of information tucked under his arm. This was, he thought, maybe what success felt like.

“Klaus,” Reginald said.

Klaus groaned. “Dad, I just needed you to help me get all the information possible out of the guy, I don’t need you to stick around being—“

“I’d like to speak to your siblings,” Reginald said.

Klaus froze. “Why?” he asked, narrowing his eyes. They’d already had a day and a half, the last thing they needed was Reginald to say something terrible to them.

“I’d like to say goodbye.”

Klaus stared at him. It felt like something large had shifted in the world very quickly, and Klaus’ brain was struggling to keep up. “Ex-squeeze me?”

“With that document, you have all the information I could give you and more,” Reginald said. “And I do have every confidence that you’ll be able to use it to eliminate the threat the last few invaders pose. Today you’ve essentially guaranteed that the scourge that destroyed my planet is finally stopped.”

Klaus found himself laughing at the sheer nerve. “So what, it’s time for you to just fuck off to the great beyond?”

“Yes,” Reginald said. “Closure is all I can give you and your siblings as a thank you.”

“As a thank you?” Klaus said. He couldn’t exactly put his finger on why that was so outrageous, but it just was. “You want us to give us… essentially nothing as a thank you?”

“I can’t give you your childhoods back,” Reginald said. “But I can give you the promise that your lives are henceforth your own.”

“That’s not enough,” Klaus said. “They… Why weren’t they ours to start with, because you had a… a fucking plan to save the world? We were kids!”

“It’s all I can do,” Reginald replied firmly.

Klaus stared at him, stomach churning. “Okay,” he said, relenting, because what the hell else could he do? He wasn’t going to waste his time arguing with a man who would never budge. “Fine. I’ll gather them up, and you can… whatever.”

“Thank you.”

Klaus shook his head, turning around, breath heavy in his chest. He staggered out of basement, head spinning with thoughts and emotions he couldn’t place.

Five sat on the stairs, lifting his head when he heard Klaus.

They stared at each other, both at a loss for how to start this conversation.

“Would you really have hurt him?” Five asked. “For… Because of…”

“I mean… You killed a ton of people for us,” Klaus joked, then regretted.

“That’s…” Five managed, “I’m… You…” He trailed off, giving Klaus a helpless look as though pleading with Klaus to just understand what he meant without having to figure out what exactly he meant.

Klaus slowly sat down next to him. “Probably not,” he said. He wasn’t sure if it was true. He hadn’t actually decided if he was going to hurt the man or not – the key to an unbeatable lie was to not know the truth at all. “I was going to stick to mindgames as long as possible for sure.”

“Oh,” Five said, like he was about to vibrate right out of his skin with panic.

“I mean it’s not like this is new,” Klaus said. “I did a lot of shit to keep up my drug habit. Haven’t even scraped the surface of that with… you know. Things I’ve done to protect you.”

“That’s not helpful,” Five murmured.

“Yeah, I… I know,” Klaus said. “I… Just… I don’t know what to say.”

They sat in silence for a while.

“I guess I just… I spent so long avoiding my own brain with drugs, and… That was my choice, I know, but… Dad and… everything… It didn’t help. And… And lately, I’ve been realizing how much I lost doing that, and then… You know. In that parking lot, I saw you just… mindless. And I… I saw red.”

“Yeah,” Five murmured, silence falling between them again. “It was… I can’t really wrap my head around how much it scared me. It scared me in ways that I haven’t really… been scared before.”

Klaus slowly reached over, pulling him in for a hug. “Five… you’re not… you’re not alone, you know that, right?”

“Yeah, I think I’ve bounced back from that flashback already,” Five mumbled.

“That’s not… not what I mean,” Klaus said. “I mean…” Five was shaking under his arm, and Klaus had a feeling he should pick another time to try to specify what he meant in no uncertain terms. “You okay?”

“I don’t know,” Five said. “I just… Feel like there’s a lot of… Everything going on in my brain all at once and I don’t know what it all is or where it’s going. I feel like I’m about to crawl out of my skin.”

“Yeah,” Klaus said. “Yeah, same.”

“I want a drink.”

“I want some weed.”

“I guess we’re both genetically predisposed to addiction,” Five muttered.

Klaus laughed. “Yeah, you think?” He sighed. “God, I’m about to make all this bullshit worse, too.” He looked at the space where his father had last been. Maybe he should just ignore him. What the hell did the post-final wishes of a raging sadist mean anyway? And yet… it felt wrong to keep it entirely to himself.

“Why?” Five asked, alarmed.

“No, nothing… nothing world ending, don’t worry, just…” Klaus sighed. “Come on, I’m just going to drop this bomb on everyone at once.”

“Great,” Five said, clambering to his feet.

They both trudged up the stairs.

“Klaus? Our brother Klaus?” Diego was saying.

Klaus winced. He hadn’t exactly meant to scare his siblings as much as their alien friend, but then again, he had hedged his bets on the fact that they would react horrified enough to scare their alien friend for him.

“I’m sure he didn’t…” Eudora said, trailing off when Klaus entered the room.

“Uh, we’re going to need a family only meeting?” Klaus said, hugging himself. He didn’t want to do this. Why did he have to be the only one who could hear the dumb shit his father told him? “It’s… sort of personal.”

Eudora blinked. “Is everything okay?”

“Hm?” Klaus asked. “Oh. Oh, yeah. I’ve got all the juicy information we need right here.” He waved the pages, then set them down on the table. “It’s unrelated.”

Eudora frowned, but she nodded at his look. “Okay.”

 “I can take you home,” Hazel offered.

“Sorry,” Klaus said. “But. Yeah.”

She smiled awkwardly. “No worries. I’ll see you guys later.” She kissed Diego and followed Hazel outside.

“What’s up?” Diego asked, squinting at him in a way that was not subtle at all.

“Dad would like to… say goodbye,” Klaus said.

They stared at him in silence.

“What?” Allison said, finally.

“He feels that we can handle it from here,” Klaus said, “and would like to bequeath his eternal absence upon us.”

Silence, again.

“Okay,” Vanya said, finally. “Sure.”

“Wh…” Diego managed. “Seriously? You want to…?”

“The peace of mind would be nice,” she said. “I think.”

Luther rubbed his hands over his face. “We should vote. Who thinks we should talk to Dad?”

Vanya and Ben put their hands up. After a long moment, Five did as well. Allison sighed. “I… I just know he’s going to say something hurtful wrapped in a guise of closure,” she said.

“Yeah,” Klaus said. “But at least it’ll be the last time.”

“Screw it,” she said, and put her hand up.

Luther winced and put his hand up to. “I… sort of want to know what he has to say.”

Diego looked around at all of them. “Seriously? He’s not going to say anything worth hearing!”

“Yeah, but…” Ben said. “I don’t know, I just…”

“I wouldn’t mind the finality,” Five said. “Knowing he’s really, really gone.” He glanced at Klaus. “And not hounding Klaus.”

Diego made a face at that. “Okay, you’ve got a point there. Fine, show us Dad.”

They all found seats and stared at him.

Klaus shuffled as he cleared his throat. It took him a few times to summon Reginald, his thoughts scattered and bewildered. “Okay, Dad, here you go. Behave yourself now.”

Reginald nodded at him curtly, then turned to face the others. “I told you when this was over you would be able to move on with your lives without me. I intend to keep my word and I’d like to make it clear that I do not intend to return. You’ve all earned a peaceful life.”

“We didn’t have to earn it,” Ben said. “You took it from us.”

“Perhaps,” Reginald said. “But whatever the case, I have no more say in the matter.”

“So you’re really not going to say sorry?” Luther asked.

“I did what I believed was necessary,” Reginald said. “I realize it wasn’t always the best decision, nor was it kind or fair to any of you, but I did try to do what was right for the greater good.”

“The greater…? Jesus, Dad, you don’t even have to mean it,” Luther said. “Just… say it!”

Reginald sighed. “I’m sorry.” Silence stretched through the air. “Are you satisfied?”

Klaus winced and looked away from the pained look on Luther’s face.

“Fuck you, Dad,” Vanya said. “Just fuck you straight to hell.”

“I understand why you feel that way, Number… Vanya.” After a long moment, he said, “Is there anything else you’d like to say?”

“No,” Five said quietly. “Just go.”

Reginald sighed, and then he was gone without Klaus banishing him.

The silence was excruciating.

“We never uh… did anything with Dad’s ashes in this timeline, did we?” Luther said finally.

“You seriously want to give him a service after that?” Diego snapped.

“Leave him alone, Diego,” Vanya said, sounding exhausted.

Diego deflated. “I didn’t… It’s not Luther I’m mad at,” he mumbled under his breath.

“I just feel like maybe it’ll feel like closure on our terms,” Luther said. “I don’t know. Maybe I am just making excuses. Trying to… do what we’re supposed to in this situation or something.”

“Hell,” Diego said. “Why the fuck not.”

“Should we tell Pogo and Mom?” Vanya asked.

“What, so Pogo can tell us his sadistic shit was complicated and Mom can repeat the fawning script Dad shoved into her brain?” Diego asked. “No thanks.”

“Diego’s right, this is about us,” Allison murmured. “We should just get it over with.”

Ben sighed. “Yeah.”

“I’ll get the urn,” Luther muttered.

They shuffled around, finding their shoes and lining up outside, still at a loss for words.

Luther stared at the urn like he was starting to realize that he didn’t care for the choices that had led to this moment after all. “Should I just dump it like last time?” he asked.

“Throw it like a football,” Klaus joked, then regretted again.

Luther stared at him. “I would rather… not?” he tried.

“Yeah, no, it just sort of popped out and…” Klaus muttered, sighing and staring at his shoes.

“I really want you to,” Vanya mumbled.

“I would pay money to see you throw Dad’s urn like a football,” Diego said.

Ben nodded. “Yeah, we all kind of want you to.”

Luther hopped from foot to foot in discomfort for a moment, then relented. “Fine, but if I throw it, none of you are allowed to blame me for being upset. And sad. Even if… Even if we all know Dad doesn’t deserve it, I still feel things and you can’t be mad.”

“I mean when you put it like that we kind of shouldn’t be mad in the first place,” Diego said. “But… yeah, deal.”

Luther grimaced. “Okay, fine.”

He drew in a breath, lined it up, and threw the urn against the wall. It exploded in a cloud of ash.

Allison let out a startled, scandalized giggle, and Vanya tried to hide a smile. “Oh, god, I feel so bad we made you do that, but… holy shit,” Allison said.

“Definitely drives home the point that Dad is… just super dead,” Diego said.

“Wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” Luther said miserably.

“I think maybe getting Luther to throw Dad’s urn like a football was a bit too effective at driving home that Dad’s really gone,” Klaus remarked.

“Yeah, I don’t know how to feel right now,” Diego said.

Luther grimaced at them. “You guys are assholes,” he said, with too little bite for the misery in his tone. Klaus almost felt it would be better if he was angrier. “I’ll be in my room if anyone needs me. I could use a second alone.”

Allison uncrossed her arms with a sigh. “Yeah, me too.”

“Dad ruins everything,” Ben griped, following Klaus as he headed back. “That should have been hilarious.”

Vanya glanced at Five when he didn’t move at first. “You okay?” Klaus and Ben paused as well, watching both of them from the doorway.

Five looked up with a sharp breath. “Yeah,” he said, striding after them without another moment of hesitation. “Just realized how shockingly final this finality feels.”

“Try saying that five times fast,” Klaus said, then let his head fall against the nearest wall. “I’m sorry, I’m very tired.”

“Yeah,” Diego said, leaning on the door and ignoring Klaus. “Figures that Dad only really felt dead after he allowed it.”

Five smiled ruefully. “That’s him alright.”

“Stubborn old bastard,” Klaus remarked. He looked Five up and down. He wasn’t sure exactly what Five was thinking, only that Five looked very small and very pale. “You good? Wanna watch a movie or something? Cuddle? Kick things together?”

“No,” Five replied. “I think I’ll just take a page out of Luther’s book, take a moment to…” He paused, looking back at the yard. Klaus could understand his hesitation. Mourn seemed like the right word for the situation, and yet the wrong word for the reality. “Process, I guess.”

He disappeared.

Vanya exchanged a look with Ben.

“Yeah, I think… me too,” Ben muttered.

“Yeah…” Klaus muttered. “I’m going to take a nap.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. “In the… containment room next to the other containment room we’re using to keep a mass murdering alien captive. Fun.”

Ben gave him a sympathetic look.

Diego looked at Vanya. “Don’t suppose you want to do some sparring?”

She smiled despite herself. “Yeah, I could spare a second to kick your ass.”

“Ha fucking ha, very funny.”

Klaus snorted, heading downstairs.

**

He’d misplaced his tie, Five realized, running a finger over the bandage Allison had slapped over the cut on his neck. He couldn’t really remember if he’d gotten it back after his episode, nor did he have any clue who’d taken it off him.

He did know this wasn’t the first time it had happened. Last time, he’d wrenched it off while struggling for breath in the ash-filled apocalyptic hellscape that had once been his home, and had lost it somewhere in the rubble while stumbling around for any clue about what had happened.

There was something awful in his chest that whispered that Reginald would not be happy if he saw Five without a tie. He would say nothing, but he would give Five a look and his disappointment would be felt – Five would be restrained with tougher zipties the next time Reginald threw him in a trunk and made him jump back out without his hands, the training schedules would unexpectedly be shifted around, he’d suddenly have homework composed entirely of trick questions… The list was endless and unpredictable.

It wasn’t as though Five didn’t know there wasn’t any possibility of that happening now. He tried to remind himself that Reginald had never been more dead than in his moment, but it didn’t help. There was no use in remembering something he hadn’t forgotten – the fear had nothing to do with reality or knowledge and everything to do with some kind of Pavlovian response he didn’t know how to shed.

Shit.

The migraine from his last run in with that idiot magician was back with a vengeance. It was hard to think past it, hard to calm himself down from the encroaching panic that had been lapping at his heels since that flashback. Maybe before that – his usually perfect memory was frayed and that didn’t help either.

He was shaking again. He hadn’t even noticed that he’d been shaking less often lately until it was back, and that was a hell of a kick in the teeth.

He had to go talk to Klaus, he realized sluggishly.

Thinking about that set off a confusing loop in his brain – after all, growing up, Klaus had been the one who cried easily and lived in constant terror, and Five had been the one who had done what he could to keep him – and the rest of them – safe. But now what Klaus needed was trust, and if Five refused to go to him when he was panicking, that would be, at best, counterproductive.

That same Pavlovian part of his brain screamed against the thought, railed against the notion of leaning onto his siblings. He was the one that thought about them, that quietly watched and fixed all the problems they were too damn stupid and weak to fix. He was not the one that needed, that went crawling to them for help.

He was trying not to think about it like that since he’d been back. For one, it just plain hurt. He’d missed them more than he would have ever thought possible. Second, he’d promised in the letter he’d try to work with them. He’d promised.

He took steady breaths, jumping down to the living room. He looked around. Everything was silent.

He hated that silence.

He hated the steady ticking of the clocks around them.

He hated when there was no sign of life around him.

The pain in his head spiked, and he grabbed onto the nearest couch and tried to breathe through it.

His eyes landed on the painting of Reginald looming over the living room.

There was that look.

That quiet, insidious look that whispered pull yourself together in a way that crawled under your skin and stayed there for weeks, waiting for the whip to crack, to end up bruised and bloody after training, or worse – for Klaus to wander back to his room in the early hours of the morning crying or for Ben to get that funny look over dinner like he could eat without puking it all back up after at the thought of whatever he’d done at training.

That look that said he’d let his guard down after a rough week and now Diego was stuttering twice as much and shit, shit, shit, Five didn’t even know why because he’d gone too far disrupting his father’s walk through the halls before a mission so Allison could finish rinsing her favorite underwear in the sink so the blood didn’t stain before Grace washed them and he’d ended up training until he’d thrown up and couldn’t stand and now there was that stutter because fuck, Five had missed something, he’d made a mistake and he’d been too weak to keep up with the consequences and—

That look had to go.

With a quick jump, he perched on top of the antlers and gripped the bottom of the painting, pushing it up. He wouldn’t be able to lift it, but as long as it was off the damn wall and it wasn’t staring down at him with that awful, awful stare…

His foot slipped, and he dropped, the antler slicing through the back of his arm like a knife as he fell with a crash.

All the breath was knocked out of him, the world spinning as he tried to gather the correct order of things to think about right now. First of all, he had to made sure he hadn’t broken his spine, then that he hadn’t broken anything else…

He sat up slowly, careful about any twinges, but only his arm really hurt. It was definitely bleeding, but he wasn’t sure how badly.

“Master Five? Are you alright?” came a voice, and not a moment later, Five was plunged into misty darkness, the windows around him suddenly shattered, the sofas shredded, Grace sparking in the corner where wires at been tugged out of her chest with no mercy, the harsh breathing of a ghost lurking in the dark while Five tried to understand what was going on.

“Pogo?” Five called out, voice too quiet, too scared, too young, while his brain told him, clinically and with no doubt, It doesn’t matter why, look at his eyes. He’s going to kill you, you idiot, he’s already taken a chunk out of your side, you don’t have time to ask why.

The shadow lunged, and Five screamed, jumping away, hands scrabbling against the stairs as he stumbled to his feet and scrambled towards his room.

He hadn’t managed to leave all the ghosts behind in his jump, because there were more of them, of course, always too many of them.

They’re alive, part of him said. They’re not ghosts, they’re alive, just slow down and let them prove it. But that part of him wasn’t quite as loud as the part of him that was already running and didn’t know how to slow down.

He scrambled up the stairs and then jumped again, making it to the nearest toilet with just enough time to slam the door shut and lurch over it before he emptied his stomach into it.

The only problem was that this was not his bathroom, which meant no one was particularly careful about making absolutely sure the faucet wasn’t dripping, and there was water escaping down the drain, and he was shaking too hard to turn faucet off entirely, and Five very much wanted to sit down cry about it for an hour, and that would get the look too.

He could hear his siblings yelling outside the door. They sounded scared, and Five was all the way back at the beginning of the loop again. He hadn’t gotten rid of that goddamn look peering down at him from every corner, and the others were scared, and he’d missed something, something that was growing wider with every second because he couldn’t think and he couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t fucking breathe…

He hit the ground, the door shattered, and everything got very loud very quickly.

Chapter Text

“The main problem was probably the hyperventilation, dear,” Grace said, holding Five’s quivering arm steady while she fixed the bandages to the back of his arm.

Klaus looked at the bloody handprints all over the bathroom and swallowed his own racing heart back down.

Luther tried to lean in a little closer, grimacing when he had to shove aside a sliver of door to do so. He gave Vanya a look, though it was a look tempered by the knowledge that any one of them would have broken down the door just as fast if they could have.

“I heard him collapse,” she whispered defensively.

Luther sighed in quiet acceptance, looking back down at Five, who had pulled himself into a small ball and was presumably trying to blip out of existence so he didn’t have to deal with the ordeal of having his feelings laid out on display for all of them to see.

“Though I do think your blood pressure must have also dropped,” Grace said. “You should drink something.”

“I’ll get some juice,” Allison said, racing away.

“Sorry,” Five mumbled, not looking up at them.

The five of them exchanged looks, their eyes landing on Luther. He blanched under the look and shook his head fervently, nodding at Klaus. Klaus turned his eyes up to the sky in a silent whine, then stumbled over the smithereens left of the door to get to Five’s side. “Hey, you don’t have to be sorry, buddy,” he said. “But we kind of do need to know how you hurt yourself, at least.”

“I fell onto one of the antlers under Dad’s picture,” Five muttered.

“Yes we got that. From the bloody antlers, and all,” Klaus said. “But why.”

“Was trying to take down Dad’s painting,” Five mumbled under his breath.

“Uhhh,” Klaus said, entirely lost. Sure, they’d all been processing Reginald’s death, possibly for the first time, but he didn’t see why Five had been committed to taking down his picture right now, alone, perching on a pair of antlers. Sharp, unstable antlers.

“The one that’s like… twice your size?” Diego said. “How were you even planning to do that?”

“I don’t know!” Five snapped. “Okay?! I don’t know, it just had to come down, because he’s supposed to be gone and instead there he is, lurking around every corner, just… just watching.”

“He’s definitely not—“ Klaus tried.

“I know!” Five yelled, cutting him off. “I know that! And I know Pogo’s not trying to kill me and I know you’re all alive, I know! I’m not crazy! I know what’s real and what’s not, it just… It doesn’t help!”

Allison cleared her throat, returning with a glass of juice, reaching it over Klaus’ lap to give it to Five. “We know you’re not crazy, Five,” she murmured.

He took it carefully, hand shaking slightly, but he managed to drink it himself.

“Why don’t I make you some cookies?” Grace offered, kissing the top of his head and holding her hand out for the glass.

Five’s bottom lip quivered, but he managed to hand her the empty glass without bursting into tears.

She smiled and took it, swirling out of the room.

“Well,” Klaus said, “from what we’ve seen, you do have a tendency to crash after the all-consuming danger is removed. Maybe running on 95% adrenaline and 5% sheer grit isn’t such a great plan when you don’t have anything to channel it into.”

“The Oblivion’s been down for like a week,” Five mumbled.

“I meant Dad,” Klaus said softly. “That’s what this is about, right? It’s jarring for me too, being so sure he’s gone and realizing it still feels like his house.”

“Yeah,” Diego mumbled. “This might be the fourth or fifth time we’ve said goodbye, but this one is the first one that feels real.”

“Shit,” Five hissed, hands shaking again as he buried them in his hair. “We promised Luther time to mourn and instead…”

“Hey, hey, whoa,” Luther said, crouching down to put himself closer to eye-level. “No, don’t feel bad about that, at least. I did have a second to myself like I asked, but now you’re more important.”

Five managed to fold himself up into an even smaller ball, busying himself by inspecting how torn his blazer was. “You can go now, if you want,” he said. “I’m fine.”

Luther sighed. “Five, I know you feel like it’s your place to take care of us, and we appreciate it, really,” he said. “But you have no idea how much it’s helped me that I could just be your brother instead of… whatever I was trying to do before.”

Diego snorted, and Vanya kicked him in the shin.

“All I’m saying is, if you want to put us first, maybe… maybe you letting us help you, letting yourself be vulnerable around us… maybe that’s what’s best for us, not just you.”

Five frowned as he thought that over, then blanched. He swallowed hard, then vanished.

They all groaned.

“… What did I say wrong?” Luther asked. “I thought that was…” He glanced at Diego, who shrugged.

“I think he’s just wildly panicked,” Klaus said, putting his hands up. “And you just put vulnerability as his best bid to protect us while he’s sort of having some kind of PTSD attack about our father who notoriously tortured us for the slightest show of vulnerability, often by leveraging our wellbeing against him.”

“Oh,” Luther said. “Well shit. When you say it like that…”

“Hell of a Catch 22,” Diego muttered.

“Should we just give him some space, maybe?” Vanya said.

“No, I think we should find him,” Klaus muttered. “I think he’s in too much of a funk to fight his way out of it alone.”

“Find him how?” Allison asked. “He’s not easy to find when he’s not all over the place. Remember when we used to play hide-and-seek with him?”

Ben’s head snapped up. “Oh. I know where he is.”

**

“I can’t believe you still fit in there,” Ben said, peering into the small crack between the top of the pantry and the vents that housed a very small crevice. It was impossible to get into through any means other than teleporting, and the last time Ben had peered up into it, he’d been five years old.

“Can’t believe you remembered,” Five mumbled, folded into a ridiculous pretzel and breathing in a well-defined pattern.

“You think we didn’t check this place a dozen times when you disappeared?” Klaus said.

“We?” Ben said, giving him a look. “You were way too scared.”

“Yeah, because I thought maybe he’d crawled further into the vents somehow and died or something and his ghost was gonna…” He stopped quickly, clearing his throat. “Nevermind.”

Five sniffled loudly. “For the record, I never cheated at hide-and-seek.”

“Are you ever going to let go of the fact that we banned you?” Diego asked.

“No!” Five snapped. “You’re all assholes, and I didn’t cheat!”

Diego rolled his eyes. Five had, if memory served, packed up a bag containing a jar of peanut butter, a box of bandages and a kitchen knife, and had left a note telling them he’d run away due to their heinous crime of accusing him of cheating at hide-and-seek. After several hours of panic and threats from Reginald, they had eventually found him where he was now, crying his heart out.

It was one of the last times Diego had seen him cry until he’d returned to the future – or present. Looking back, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know why, but he should have asked.

“Get down from there,” he said. “We’re gonna take down Dad’s pictures. Luther’s already getting down the one in the living room.”

“You know he didn’t mean you have to—“ Klaus started.

“I know,” Five snapped again, hissing slightly as he wormed around, then jumped out of the crevice to stand next to them, rubbing at his eyes. “I already know I’m being childish and stupid, okay? I just… I just can’t stop shaking and breathing all wrong and… and crying…”

“It’s okay,” Klaus muttered, putting an arm around Five. “It’s not so much childish as the fact that you’ve spent nearly a century being steamrolled by life. Come on, we’re going to make even more of a mess out of this house. Eventually we’ll just have to rebuild the whole damn thing, and then it won’t feel like Reggie’s anymore.”

Five hiccupped despondently, letting Ben steer him towards the living room, just in time to hear a large crash as the painting came down, breaking three floorboards as it fell. Allison and Vanya, had curled up on top of Luther’s shoulders while he held the antlers in order to keep his arms steady.

“Oops,” Allison said.

“I really thought we could keep it steady together,” Vanya said, sliding down Luther’s back.

“Just take the damn antlers down too,” Allison said. “They’re creepy as hell.”

“Ooh, Diego, give me a boost,” Klaus said. “I’m taking Five’s picture down too.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s a gross reminder of my biggest mistake in life by my abusive father, probably with hidden intentions behind it?” Five muttered.

Diego nodded. He had to admit, that was a convincing argument. He bent down, lacing his fingers together so Klaus could step into his hands and perch on the mantle to take the picture down, letting it crash down to the floor too.

“There’s the one in Dad’s office, too,” Luther said. “And the one in the back hall, and… Jesus, why does one guy need so many pictures of himself?”

“Right?” Klaus hissed. “What a narcissist.”

“In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious he was always a bad guy,” Luther muttered. “I guess I just really didn’t want to see it.” He paused, as though mulling over his life choices. “Also, Five, I didn’t mean you have to open up to us, I just meant that if you need to, then it’s…”

Five waved him off. “I know what you meant.” He took a deep breath. “Let’s just get rid of these stupid paintings.”

Luther nodded. “Yeah. I’m uh… I’m with you there. I feel like I’ve never really looked at them. Do you think he meant to make them that creepy?”

“While we’re taking requests,” Vanya said. “We should probably also take down all the paintings I’m not in, right?”

They turned to stare at her.

“Oh yeah,” Five said. “Sort of haunting that he just redid them right after I disappeared, too.”

“And after Ben died, in the other timeline,” Diego said. “Jesus, he didn’t even replace it, he just… moved on.”

“Let’s just trash the whole house,” Klaus said. “Anarchy!”

Pogo cleared his throat quietly. They turned to look at him. “Don’t worry, I won’t stop you. I wanted to apologize for scaring Master Five,” he said, sighing. “And do mind the floors. Structural integrity is harder to fix.”

Five stared at him. “Thanks, Pogo,” he said finally, turning away quickly and avoiding eye contact.

Pogo sighed, nodding and hobbling away again.

“Should we maybe be less hard on him?” Klaus whispered. “I feel bad.”

“He supported Dad in torturing us,” Ben said. “At best he’s an enabler, at worst an accomplice.”

“Not in this timeline,” Vanya said. “In this timeline, he stood up for us enough that Dad sent him away.” She swallowed. “Also, I know we rebooted, but I kind of went overboard in retaliation and I feel like I don’t have much room to keep holding a grudge.”

“So he has his limits,” Diego said. “Is that all we expect of our parental figures? One containment chamber hidden away in the basement is acceptable, but seven is too much?”

She sighed. “Okay, that’s a good point.”

“I don’t think we have to jump straight to parental figure,” Allison offered. “We could settle for just talking to him occasionally? He doesn’t really have anyone outside of us.”

“Yeah, I guess I can get behind that much,” Diego said. “Anyway, whatever. Let’s get these paintings down, now that I’m aware of them, I hate them too.”

“Alright, alright, don’t get your panties in a twist…”

**

“Now what?” Vanya asked, staring at the giant pile of paintings.

“Can we burn it?” Klaus asked.

They all stared at him, then at Five. “Is it gonna trigger anything?” Diego asked finally.

Five scowled at them, but he clearly couldn’t deny that it was a valid question after the day’s events. “Probably not if I can prove to myself no one’s dead, you know.”

“YES!” Klaus cried. “I’m going to get some gasoline!”

He ran off, and Luther sighed. “Are we going to regret letting him do this?”

“Probably,” Ben said.

Luther nodded, defeated, and gathered up the paintings on a rug so he could drag it outside.

Klaus returned with a box of matches, a gasoline can and a pile of papers. He stumbled into the mass of paintings, arranging the papers as kindling and drenching it all in gasoline.

He tossed the can into the pile and hopped back to them. “Ready?” he asked.

Luther sighed. “Yeah, sure, we already threw Dad’s ashes against the wall, whatever.”

Klaus pumped his fist, lighting a match and tossing it into the pile. It went up in flames, and Klaus threw up his hands in glee. “This is so much better than drugs!” he yelled to the sky.

“You get arrested for arson, I’m not bailing you out,” Diego muttered.

Klaus laughed maniacally. “Take that Dad!” He stopped short. “Oh. I can’t actually rub it in his face without undoing the steps we’ve taken today. Fuck.”

“It’s okay, you can savor it with us,” Allison said, patting his back.

Klaus made a face at her. “Whatever.”

They watched the flames eat away at the paintings, the satisfaction escaping as the silence stretched out.

“So, now what?” Diego asked.

Five sighed and sat down on the ground. “I hate Dad,” he said. “He just… He just sucked.”

Diego snorted, sitting down next to him. “Yeah.”

Luther sat down on his other side, inspecting Five and his shivers before pulling him in quietly, tucking him between his arm and his lap.

Vanya joined them, and they formed a small circle. “I’m sad about him being dead,” she said. “Like, I don’t miss him, it just feels like we said goodbye to… what, our whole lives?”

“You hated that life so much, you blew up the moon,” Diego said.

She rolled her eyes. She was starting to realize when Diego was being an asshole just to be an asshole, and when he was just putting his foot in his mouth. This seemed more like the latter. “Yeah, I know. But it was still our entire lives.”

“Feels like you don’t know who you are without someone or something breathing down your neck,” Five muttered.

She sighed. “Yeah.”

“I used to feel that way about cocaine,” Klaus said, wiggling his toes. “Turns out only a very small fraction of my personality was crack.”

“You do a lot less lying to and stealing from your siblings,” Diego said. “And yet you’ve gotten so much scarier.”

Klaus laughed loudly.

“You’re still weird as ever,” Ben said.

“God,” Luther said. “After we solve our alien problem, I’m going to have to get used to no missions. Ever again. What the hell am I going to do with my life?”

“Get a job?” Diego asked. “You have the skills of an astronaut, man, you’re qualified for plenty of them.”

“Yeah, true,” Luther said, though he sounded unconvinced.

“You guys want to know something fucked up?” Vanya said. “Whenever you guys were on missions, Dad and I would watch from a distance, and I’d always ask why I couldn’t play with you guys.”

“What’d he say?” Klaus asked.

“That there just wasn’t anything special about me,” Vanya replied. “Every single time. I don’t know why I kept asking, I just… Wanted to hear him say something more meaningful, maybe?”

“God, Dad was such an insufferable dick,” Diego muttered.

Vanya snorted. She still felt a pang of hatred towards her siblings when she thought of all those missions without her, but for the first time it felt foreign, like an infection instead of like a locked away sliver of herself. “I don’t know why I thought it was playing,” she said. “You guys were getting shot at and hurt and I’d seen most of you crying after training.”

“We all thought about it like playtime,” Allison said. “I think Dad or Pogo would call it that and we just got used to it.”

“It was kind of fun, playing superheroes,” Five said. “I don’t think we realized what we were really doing.”

“Not me,” Ben said quietly.

They all turned to look at him, frowning in question.

“I never thought of it as playtime,” Ben croaked, looking at his hands. “My job was to get locked into rooms with people and tear them to shreds. It was awful, every single time. Nothing fun about it, not even in the in between times.” He swallowed hard.

“I’m so sorry,” Luther said, after a moment of trying to absorb that information. “I should have never pushed you into—“

“This isn’t about you,” Diego said sharply.

“I’m trying to apologize!” Luther snapped back.

Diego made a face. “No, that wasn’t… I mean, in a good way. We’re saying goodbye to Dad today, this is about the shitty things he did. And frankly, he did a lot of hiding behind you. The missions were Dad, you just got roped into being his mouthpiece. But you were a kid too.”

Luther grimaced. “I let him. I mean, I should have noticed what it was doing to—“

“No, Diego’s right,” Ben said, taking a deep breath. “You didn’t notice because Dad constantly made sure I was numb to it all.” He smiled ruefully. “I used to like rabbits, when I was little, remember?”

“Yeah, you used to draw them with these huge teeth,” Allison said, smiling before she realized the look on Ben’s face. “Oh.”

“Yeah,” Ben said. “I don’t like them anymore. That happens when you see something inside out too many times.”

“Jesus Christ,” Klaus said. “That actually explains a lot. I thought it was stray dogs. Still kind of scared of dogs because of it.” He looked at Ben, clearing his throat. “Sorry, shutting up.”

 Ben shrugged. “I don’t know. I just got used to it. What else was I supposed to do?”

“You could have talked to us,” Vanya murmured, though she knew what a ridiculous, empty statement it was the moment it was out of her mouth. Ben could have talked to them the same way she could have – there was nothing, technically, stopping them, but it simply couldn’t be done. Wasn’t done, for whatever reason.

“And you got mad at me for covering for you,” Five muttered.

“I would have asked you to stop,” Ben murmured. “I didn’t… Dad always made sure to pit me against whatever I loved to make sure… I don’t know. That I understood what I was for? So I didn’t care about hurting people I didn’t like at all? Anyway, I used to be absolutely terrified what happened when you got good enough that Dad decided you should test your jumping against my monster. I used to stay awake at night trying to figure out what I’d ask Klaus to tell you when the inevitable happened. Then you tell me you spent our whole childhoods intentionally working Dad up for my sake? I can’t think of anything scarier.”

Five stared at him. “I would have been fine,” he said.

“God,” Ben managed. “That arrogant bullshit was exactly why I was so scared. You wouldn’t have been fine. This thing inside of me… it’s… It’s not me. It’s just something I have access to.” He sighed. “None of you really get it. And I don’t expect you to, but… if you hadn’t disappeared I would have killed you, Five. I’m sure of it.”

Five blinked hard and fast.

“Sorry,” Ben said, rubbing his hand over his face. “I didn’t mean to… It’s not your fault. I mean, who goes to bed every night thinking about how they’ll apologize to their dead brother, and never once thinks about just… refusing to kill him in the first place, right?” He sighed. “Fact is, I was kind of a wimp before dying. And I never wanted to die, but when I realized it was already happening, I was just… relieved. I thought, you know, thank god I don’t have to do any of this anymore.”

“Fuck,” Klaus whispered. “I used to be terrified of seeing you, you know that? I thought you’d be mad at us. At me.”

“I was,” Ben said. “Just maybe not for letting me die.”

“Okay, maybe it’s not about me,” Luther said. “But I should have noticed some of this, right? If not Ben, at least… Something, right?”

“You did,” Allison blurted.

“What?” Luther asked, frowning at her.

“Dad would hit me, sometimes,” she said, wiping away tears before she continued, “not as bad as Five, from the sounds of it, but I got some hard slaps over the years. And one time, you saw. I think you wanted to tell someone, because Dad was pissed. And I…” She swallowed, desperately wiping away tears. “I was just so damn ashamed. I could get anything I wanted. I could have made him stop so easily, and I just… didn’t. I don’t know why. But… Dad said it would be better if you hadn’t seen anything. So… you didn’t.”

For a long time, the only thing to be heard was the fire in the background.

“You rumored me?” Luther blurted.

“I’ve rumored all of you before,” Allison said. “Usually it was just chores, sometimes it was favors…”

“Yeah, but this was about Dad hitting you!” Luther yelled, surging to his feet. “I could have called… I don’t know, the police or…”

“Do you really think Dad didn’t have a plan to deal with child protective services?” Five said.

“Well at least I would have known!” Luther shouted. “Maybe it would have been enough to shake me out of the stupid, naïve way I saw Dad growing up.”

“I’m sorry,” Allison said.  “I didn’t even think about the implications until later, I just… I didn’t want you to think less of me.”

“It’s not her fault,” Vanya murmured. “We’ve all made our mistakes. You know that.”

Luther paced back and forth a few times, hand worrying at his face. “You’re right. You’re right, I’m sorry I yelled.” He turned away, trying to breathe through the anger.

Allison sobbed, hiding her face behind her hand.

No one said anything, a few quiet sniffles all that broke the silence.

“Well, now I feel worse,” Five muttered, spreading his fingers to watch them shake. “Though I guess it’s less panic and more just… quiet, monotonous misery, so we’ve managed that.”

“I was so used to our family meetings actually being helpful, I forgot how much they can suck sometimes,” Diego said, flopping onto his back.

Luther sighed, crossing his arms. “Maybe we should just get some sleep. I mean, someone should stay with Five, obviously, but…”

“Would anyone like cookies?” Grace asked.

Vanya looked up at her, holding out a tray of cookies with small smiles and hearts on them in icing.

They all stared at her in silence.

There was something oddly sad about her smile at the moment, like she knew exactly what was happening here, and exactly how much cookies could feasibly help, but was nonetheless determined to do her best with the tools at her disposal.

Because Dad only loved himself, Diego had said, when Vanya had asked if Grace was anything but Reginald’s programming.

She hadn’t quite seen what he’d meant until now.

“Thanks, Mom,” she managed, and then they were all crying.

Diego got up to hug her and plant a kiss on her head. “We really could use some cookies, Mom, thank you. You want to sit with us?”

“Oh, no, you all seem to be in the middle of something, I couldn’t interrupt. But I thought the cookies might make you feel better.”

“Yeah, they do,” Diego said. “They really do. Thanks.”

“Of course, silly,” she said. “Any time.”

He took the tray from her, smiling sadly as she returned inside.

“Okay,” he said, pulling over a rock to use as a table for the tray. “Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re all going to take a cookie, and we’re going to sit here quietly until we think of something to make ourselves feel a little better so we don’t go to bed angry and sad.”

They all stared at the cookies in silence, then slowly took one each.

“I think we should give Dad’s old office to Mom,” Vanya said. “Five, you can move her charging station, right?”

“Probably,” Five said. “With Luther’s help, yeah.”

“We can put up her favorite paintings there too,” Diego said.

“You think she’d like some plants?” Luther asked. “Up on the moon, I had a plant, named Neil…”

“You named your houseplant on the moon Neil?” Klaus blurted.

“Yeah,” Luther said sheepishly. “It seemed… you know. Funny.”

“It’s adorable.”

“I’m sure she’d love houseplants,” Diego said. “Especially ones with names.”

Luther smiled. “Okay. Because there’s some good light in Dad’s room, if we switch out the curtains…”

“Really, we should redecorate it to something Mom would like,” Allison said, sniffling as she tried to compose herself again. “Hell, redecorate the whole house, we’ve already torn it apart.”

“We could put some couches in the office,” Ben said. “So we can hang out with her. I think she gets lonely.”

“Maybe one of those swing seats, you know?” Diego asked. “I think she’d like that.”

“A hydroponic garden,” Five said. “We were trying to make some of those in timeline 2 before I jumped back.”

“Oh, with goldfish?”

“Seven goldfish!” Klaus said. “And they should all look slightly different, and we’ll name them after us.”

They all laughed, and the ensuing silence shifted slightly as a result.

“I’m so sorry for everything I ever made you guys do,” Allison said. “Or… ways that I changed your lives for the worse. Honestly, the worst thing is I don’t even know how much damage I did.”

“It’s in the past,” Vanya said. “It sucks that you have the ability to do so much… you know, harm, I guess, with such little mistakes but… the last time I let myself get carried away blaming you for that discrepancy, I sort of ended the world by accident, so… You’re not alone.” She paused. “Also while we’re at it, I’m sorry for ending the world.”

“Eh,” Klaus said. “At this point world ending shit is kind of small potatoes.”

She laughed despite herself.

“I’m sorry if I ever made life scarier for you,” Five whispered. “Ben, I mean, but really… for any of you. I haven’t always been clear about why I wanted to protect you all, but I never wanted to do anything to hurt any of you.”

“I feel like we probably should have realized that when you got so upset we’d think you’d cheat at hide-and-seek you nearly died of thirst crying yourself to sleep in a vent,” Klaus teased.

“I didn’t cheat, I was just good at it!” Five protested. “I barely used my powers to get into special places, and you all used your powers too! Remember how Luther would lift whole couches to look under them? That’s using your powers!”

Vanya snorted. “God, that was before we really got into the powers thing. We never even thought twice about anyone else’s powers back then, I don’t know why we started accusing you of cheating.”

“Because he was an obnoxious son-of-a-bitch, that’s why!” Klaus said. “He kept winning and bragging about it!”

“You were all terrible at hide-and-seek!”

“And you were mean about it!” Klaus protested.

Five tried for a retort, but instead burst into tears.

“Oh no,” Klaus managed, laughing nervously as he stretched out a hand towards Five helplessly. “Not that mean!”

“No,” Five said. “It’s not that, I’m just tired and my head hurts and I just can’t stop.” He sobbed loudly before lifting his shirt over his face and angrily screaming into it.

Luther picked him up and squeezed him. “It’s okay. Cry it out.”

They all watched the flames die down to embers and then slowly go out, all of them trying to compose themselves with varying results.

“God, I hated Dad,” Diego said finally. “I think I took it out on you guys because… you know. It was just easier to be mad at you guys. But… I really, really just hated Dad.”

“I still don’t,” Luther said. “I don’t hate him.” He looked down at Five, who had stopped crying and seemed half asleep, and softened his voice. “I kind of feel robbed, you know? Is that… unfair? To feel cheated by the fact that Dad was nice enough to me that I don’t outright hate him?”

“Was he nice to you?” Diego said. “I mean, seriously, he set you up to take the blame for shit he did all the time. He isolated you, he used you… Maybe you feel cheated by that.”

Luther winced. “Okay, yeah. True.”

“Fact is, Dad didn’t love you more than he loved us,” Diego said. “He didn’t have it in him. You were just more useful to him.”

“That’s surprisingly insightful, Diego,” Allison said.

Diego snorted. “I guess I’ve been thinking about it a lot. What makes a good father, I mean. All the… many, many ways he fucked us up.”

“Yeah,” Klaus murmured. “But come on. You’re gonna do great, man.”

“Thanks, bro,” Diego murmured, glancing at Five. “Speaking of parenting skills, now that we’ve gotten a smile out of everyone, it’s definitely bedtime.”

“You read my mind,” Luther said, swinging Five into his arms. Five startled awake, blinking at them owlishly. “Who’s staying with him tonight?”

“I will,” everyone else said at once.

“Okay,” Luther said. “Uh… how about someone runs a nice bath for Five, who, by the way, smells like smoke and vomit at the moment—“

“Fuck you too,” Five mumbled.

“—and in the meantime I drag down all our mattresses and blankets, and we just—“

“SLEEPOVER!” Klaus blurted. “Oooh, we should watch a movie, too, I’ll make popcorn!”

“Klaus, we just watched you light a ten-foot bonfire while cackling like a madman,” Allison said. “I’ll make popcorn. You draw Five a bath, you know best what temperature he likes anyway.”

“I resent being talked over like I’m a three year old you’re all babysitting,” Five said. “Just so you all know.”

“We know,” Vanya said, patting his hand. “But it makes us very happy.”

He flipped her off, which made her smile. Granted, inclusion into the family circus didn’t look like she thought it would, but she did enjoy it anyway.

“And proud of ourselves,” Klaus said. “Come on, I’ll put bubbles in your bath and everything.”

**

Ben cleared his throat, crossing his arms as Five left the bathroom, shakily drying his hair. “Hey,” he said.

Five gave him a look teetering between tentative and terse. “Hey.”

“So I think I kind of dropped a bomb on you back there,” Ben said. “And the timing wasn’t… great. But once I started talking about it, it was hard to stop.”

Five chewed at the inside of his lip, glancing away from Ben. “It’s fine. We were all getting things off our chest. And I’m realizing now you really don’t do much of that, do you?”

Ben snorted. “No, not really,” he said. “Most of my issues are… not things I want to talk about. And I’m used to being dead, which is a really good excuse to bottle up your feelings.”

Five sighed. “Look, back then it was just about… ego, really. I had to take care of you because I was smarter and faster and stronger, etcetera. It’s not like I would have been heartbroken to know I hurt your feelings doing it.”

“We’re not back then anymore,” Ben murmured. “And I know it’s going to bother you now. So… I just wanted to say, it really wasn’t your fault.”

Five tossed the towel back into the bathroom, chewing at his lip. “Sure. But regardless of who is or isn’t to blame, I made life harder for you,” Five said, mostly to himself. “And you’re right, that does bother me now.”

“It’s okay,” Ben said. “I spent a lot of time feeling like a monster over being relieved that you were gone – because Dad couldn’t make me hurt you anymore. And… I think if we keep going over all the shit we’ve done to or thought about each other, we’ll never be able to stop.”

“You know, at the time, I don’t think I was really mature enough to consider sentimentality of any kind,” Five said. “Or… I don’t know, maybe it just didn’t feel safe to think of it like that. But you were the closest thing I had to a friend and it sucks that I didn’t… have the answers to all your problems, I guess.”

“What about Vanya?” Ben asked.

Five grimaced. “It’s complicated. You actually were more interesting to talk to. And uh… I really… I really missed you. And… I don’t know how to just brush off the fact that I might have made life worse for you somehow. Even if it was just by being brash while you were going through things.”

Ben nodded slowly. “I get that. I don’t know what to tell you.”

Five shrugged. “Maybe it’s just emotional fallout from… all the things, all at once. Always. I don’t know.” He slid down the wall. “I’d say I’m tired of being scared but I think I’ve lived my life in a state of constant panic.”

“You don’t say,” Ben said, joining him.

Five flipped him off. “I feel like total and absolute panic was my handrail in life and I keep letting go of it more and more and I’m just… skidding along the ice with no direction or balance.”

“But did you acorn?” Ben asked, trying not to grin.

Five snorted. “God, at this point? If someone told me I was an acorn, I’d believe them.”

Ben grinned. “Glad to hear it, because boy do I have news for you…”

Five shot an aggravated look into the distance. “You suck. And you’re so different from what I remember,” he said. “And it’s so fucking hard.” He sniffled, swallowing down tears.

Ben put an arm around him. “Yeah. I know what you mean. You have no idea how weird it is to see you looking like the day you left and just…” He looked Five up and down. “Well, you’re not that different, but… sometimes it just really hits me.”

“I’m so tired of crying,” Five gritted out as tears started to fall down his cheeks. “I never fucking cried like this.”

“That probably wasn’t a good thing,” Ben said. “It’s good for you. Getting it out of your system and all.”

“Easy for you to say, you haven’t been crying for the past… fuck knows how many hours!”

Ben laughed. “That’s true. But… it’ll pass. You’ll be okay.”

“I wouldn’t have let Dad make you kill me,” Five said. “I knew he’d make you kill shit and I wouldn’t have let him take that much away from you.”

“What would you have done?” Ben asked, a morbid curiosity running through him. He’d had so many sleepless nights fearing the worst. He’d padded down to Five’s room a few times, just to stare at him – back then he’d slept like a rock and it was easy enough.

In a scared, stumbling way, Five had been the closest thing Ben had had to a friend too. A friend who just happened to be better at almost everything, smug about it, and who Ben was almost certain was doomed to die by his hands at the behest of their father.

That had been so long ago. 12 years of death (and Klaus) had worn the meekness out of Ben and 60 years of hell had worn the unshakeable measuredness out of Five and somehow, in his efforts to keep Five afloat, Ben hadn’t really thought about whether that made them better or worse friends.

“I don’t know,” Five said. “Maybe I’m being stupid. Maybe I wouldn’t have been able to do anything.”

“Nah,” Ben said. “You would have thought of something.”

“Nice of you to say,” Five said, leaning against him. He took a large hiccupping breath. “I want to quit. With Dad gone and no ship, I feel like we have less to deal with than ever before and yet now is when it just… feels fucking impossible. We could have the most flawless plan in the world and I still would just feel… just so goddamn helpless and exhausted.”

“This is the last hurdle, Five,” Ben said. “And then we’re going to be free and you can teach me quantum mechanics and maybe get a whole lot of sleep. And remember that there are solid foods outside of peanut butter and marshmellow sandwiches.”

“What if I can’t do it?” Five said. “I mean, half of these apocalypses I’ve barely stumbled through, and clearly I didn’t even… manage to protect you from constant terror when we were kids, and… and just…”

His breathing was getting harsh again, and Ben squeezed his shoulder. “Five? Five. You’re… you’re still having a panic attack. You just need some sleep, okay? And then we’re going to make a plan, and… yeah, maybe you’ll have to stay at home with Mom and babysit our magic friend or something, but that doesn’t mean you’re useless or that you’ve ever been useless.”

“I didn’t say useless,” Five said.

“I was paraphrasing,” Ben replied. “And… look, when I was scared as a kid, I never knew you kept me out of training as much as you could, or that you were even thinking about it. I… I didn’t realize you even… really thought about us much. You always seemed to be thinking of some lofty big idea and I thought we never even registered as much of anything to you. You would have figured something out.”

“I mean I… I was sort of… a dick about it, but I’ve always cared,” Five mumbled. “You’ve always been my family.”

“I know,” Ben said. “And you know what? I was kind of a coward who let a lot of things slide. And I grew out of that, and… my opinion of you now means so much more than the opinion of a scared 12 year old who… frankly listened to Dad a lot more than I ever should have.”

“Which is?” Five said, wiping away his tears with a horribly childish look.

“That you have a huge brain and a huge heart and a huge weight on your back that you’re… somehow managing despite your inevitable floundering,” Ben said. “And anyone else would have been dead or worse long ago and yet you’re doing pretty damn good, and it’s okay if that damn good sometimes means you have to take a day to cry and hide in someone’s arms because you’ve been putting off any kind of easy way out for so fucking long it’s frankly sort of stupid.”

“Okay,” Five whimpered. “Okay, I can live with that.”

“Good,” Ben said, pulling him in further. “I’m glad. And I’m really, really glad I had you as a brother, okay? No one could have been a better brother than you.”

“Really?” Five said, with a painfully small voice.

“Really,” Ben said, narrowly avoiding adding, Cross my heart and hope to die.

“Okay,” Five said, like a little toddler who had just been assured he would get his favorite toy back after it went through the wash.

“Now come on, Klaus is probably gonna make us watch some really dumb movie,” Ben said.

“I could go for a really dumb movie right now,” Five said as Ben dragged him to his feet. “Maybe after this I’ll just watch all the movies I missed.”

“All of them?”

“Yeah.”

Ben grinned. “Okay. Maybe I’ll join you.”

Chapter Text

Allison woke from sleep with her eyes sticky and her neck aching from the way she’d ended up laying against the couch. She groaned, blinking as she looked around at the others.

Diego had fallen asleep draped over the armchair, one thumb resting against the hilt of a knife and the other hanging down near Klaus’ head. Klaus had managed to curl up on the floor with a blanket, one leg on the armchair, twitching spastically as he nestled against Five, who had sprawled onto Ben, who seemed to be dozing more than sleeping, occasionally swatting Klaus’ flailing hands out of his face. Vanya was the only one who had declared her own space with a smoothed out blanket, but even she had her head practically resting against Five’s knee.

“Morning,” Luther murmured, from the couch, having yielded Five to the others at some point during the night to sleep on the couch.

“Morning,” she said. She hadn’t been nervous to talk to Luther… ever, maybe.

“I’m sorry I yelled last night,” he said. “I shouldn’t have reacted like that.”

“I get it,” Allison replied. “I mean… what I did…”

“Look,” Luther said, furrowing his brow to try to phrase things carefully, “I think this whole… thing you’re doing, holding yourself accountable for your mistakes, it’s really good and I’m… you know, proud of you. But Diego’s right, we have to know when to blame Dad, too.”

“It’s not just that I hid what he was doing from you, though,” Allison said. “I took away your knowledge of red flags and then I just… left you here with him. I never even asked you to leave.”

Luther sighed. “I was an adult. I could have chosen to leave by myself.”

“Yeah, but as your friend,” Allison said, “I should have been there for you. Talked it out or something. Instead I just ran.”

“Allison,” Luther said, sitting up so he could put a hand on her head. “I know it’s important to you to be better than you were as a kid, or even after. I can’t tell you how much I respect that. But you have to forgive yourself too. And you have to understand – I’ve always know you were selfish and – sorry – manipulative, and I don’t think that takes away from how strong and smart and… you know, kind you are, at the end of the day.”

Allison took a deep breath, and nodded. It was what she wanted to hear, and that made it so much harder to hear it. She felt like she’d cheated somehow. “I’m still so, so sorry,” she murmured.

“I know,” Luther said. “And it’s okay. I wish you would have trusted me, but… it’s in the past.”

She nodded again. “Okay.”

He leaned down to kiss the top of her head, and she smiled.

Five let out a deeply displeased noise and sluggishly extracted himself from the dogpile. “I didn’t have nightmares,” he declared, looking fundamentally ruffled.

“Good,” Luther said. “Did you sleep okay, then?”

“Yes,” Five said. “And I still want to quit.”

Allison tried not to laugh. “What do you mean, quit?”

Five jumped to her other side to have enough space to sprawl out on his back. “Don’t be condescending,” he said. “That’s your Claire voice and I know it.”

Allison laughed. “I’m sorry.” She reached over to ruffle his hair. “It’s not my fault you’re small.”

Five glared at her halfheartedly. “I don’t wanna save the world anymore, I want to… do something else.”

“Like what?” Luther asked.

“I haven’t gotten that far yet.”

Allison snorted. “Well, maybe you should sit the rest of this out.”

“I can’t,” Five said miserably. “I’ll be scared something will happen to all of you the whole time.” He thought about it. “Maybe we could just hand off our findings to the army or something. Let them deal with it.”

“Huh,” Luther said. “That’s… certainly a point.”

Five sighed. “Maybe,” he said, sitting up slowly, “I will try to take a shower.”

“Good luck,” Allison said. “Yell if you need help, okay?”

“There’s no shame in it,” Luther offered.

Five rubbed his eyes. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll do my best.”

He vanished, and Allison sighed, leaning back against Luther’s leg. “I know what he means. Doesn’t seem fair that we still have clean up to do after blowing up that ship.”

“Maybe we really should hand it over to someone else,” Luther said.

“Dad would have hated that,” Allison murmured.

“Isn’t that a great argument for anything?” Ben asked, fending off a stray elbow as Klaus jolted awake. Diego did not have this luxury, and nearly stabbed Klaus in the ankle when Klaus kicked him in the face.

She sighed. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“What’s a good argument?” Vanya asked, yawning as Diego shoved Klaus’ foot out of his lap.

“Five suggested handing what we know over to the army or something,” Allison said. “Or the police? And just letting them deal with it.”

“Well,” Diego said. “I guess… Uh…”

“I mean… why not?” Vanya asked. “I don’t see why we have to do everything ourselves?”

“Is Five showering?” Klaus asked, listening to gurgling pipes. “Alone?”

“Yeah,” Allison said.

“Oh,” Klaus said. “Wow, I’m so proud of him.”

“We should give him a break, right?” Diego said. “And us, too, Jesus.”

They sat in silence and stared into the distance. Allison couldn’t put her finger on why she was still protesting this, or if that was a useful stance to be taking.

Five returned, stepping over the back of the couch to sit next to Luther with a sigh, hair slightly damp.

“You did it!” Klaus said.

“What are you wearing?” Diego asked.

“Is that my shirt?” Vanya asked.

“Those are my pants,” Ben said.

Five had stolen a pair of Ben’s black jeans, one of his own undershirts and one of Vanya’s larger blue button-ups over it. “I didn’t feel like wearing my uniform after last night,” Five said.

“We can get you your own clothes, you know,” Allison said.

“I don’t want my own clothes,” Five said. “In the apocalypse your clothes were some of the best ways to remind myself of what home used to be and I need that comfort.”

“I guess I’m never getting that shirt back,” Vanya muttered.

Five gave her a smug look. “Besides, they fit.” He held his hands up, checking how much his fingers were shaking. “But in other news, I took a shower and I’m only slightly amped out of my mind.”

“Woo!” Klaus said, holding up a tattooed hand for a high-five.

Five rolled his eyes and indulged him. “What’s for breakfast?”

They all looked at Allison, who sighed. “You’re all the same age as me,” she said. “How are you all fucking babies?”

“It’s just who we are as people,” Ben said. “Breakfast?”

“I’ll make pancakes,” she said, shaking her head. “You dumb little assholes.”

Klaus cracked up laughing while she made her way to the kitchen, all of them settling around the kitchen.

“I’ve never seen Five in anything but a suit,” Vanya remarked.

“You look like a baby,” Klaus said.

“You say that about everything I do,” Five sighed.

“Jeez, even my clothes are loose on you,” Vanya said, poking his arm. “Why are you so skinny?”

“My powers take a lot of calories,” Five protested. “It’s hard to eat enough to make up for them. I had to use them sparingly in the apocalypse.”

“We’re going to have to feed you more,” Luther said.

“I eat as much as I can already,” Five muttered. “And I can feed myself!”

“Sure, buddy,” Diego said, ruffling his hair.

“You all suck,” Five mumbled.

“You want chocolate chips in your pancakes?” Allison asked.

“Yeah,” Five said.

“Good.”

She made pancakes for all of them, slapping them away until she had a seven properly portioned plates.

Klaus hummed happily. “Your pancakes are so good Allison,” he said, drenching the pancakes in an ungodly amount of syrup.

“So,” Diego said, “are we really going to try to hand this problem off to… some authority?”

Five sighed, nibbling at his pancakes. “I’m tired,” he said. “And I’m not going to be able to function if any of us are fighting these people and I’m not there. So, logically…”

“So it’s all or nothing,” Ben murmured. “Either we drag Five through his fifties apocalypse escapade or we all stay home and let someone else deal with it.”

“After what you said last night, I don’t know that I feel good about asking you to do this stuff,” Luther said.

Ben shrugged. “Fair enough.”

“I feel weird about not handling this ourselves,” Vanya said.

“But is that Dad talking?” Klaus said.

“He didn’t push me to do this stuff,” she pointed out.

“Yeah, but you were here when he was constantly lecturing us about how it’s our duty to save the world and blah blah blah,” Klaus said.

She sighed. “Okay, yeah.”

“I mean… I’ve managed thus far,” Five said, “I can manage a few more… what… days?”

“While we hunt down and kill the rest of Dad’s buddies?” Klaus said. “As far as I can tell it’s our only option to make sure they don’t escape and run home.”

“What if we let them get off the planet?” Diego asked. “Let them tell the others that we’ll kick their ass if they try us.”

“If anything, the fact that we personally managed to wipe out their scouting ship is a reason for them to bear down on us with a whole armada to incorporate our strengths into their empire or whatever,” Klaus said. “Whereas if the scout ship were to go mysteriously missing in this general area, maybe it’s not worth the resources to follow up on.”

“Can’t we lock them away?” Allison asked. “Just… build prisons for them?”

“Will we ever be able to feel safe knowing they’re out there?” Five muttered.

“I thought you didn’t want to murder anymore,” Ben said.

“I don’t,” Five said. “I don’t want to do any of this anymore, but someone has to.”

“If we take this to someone else, first we have to explain it to them,” Diego said. “And make them believe us.”

“And if we waste time, we might get another Hotel Oblivion,” Five mumbled, burying his head in his arms. “Fuck.”

They all leaned back, immersed in thought, until, with a large clattering and the shattering of plates as Klaus jumped a foot in the air, plugging his ears and suddenly shouting gibberish.

“Klaus, what the fuck,” Diego managed.

Klaus stopped yelling, eyes wide. “Uh. We are not going to have time to call the army,” he said. “Get…” He stumbled, trying to keep up with his own brain. “Get Mom out of the house, someone tell Pogo and…”

Five bolted out of his chair, grabbed onto Grace and vanished, returning a few moment later without her. “Klaus, what the hell is going on?”

“I think, uh…” Klaus managed, before another voice stopped him.

“I think,” said John Perseus, or whatever was wearing him, “that it’s time to finish this.”

Chapter Text

Five was behind Perseus by the time Diego had a knife in his hand, and their two knives landed at once – Diego’s in between his ribs and Five’s into the crook of his shoulder as Perseus jerked and nearly bucked him off.

With a bit more time to take him in, Diego could tell he wasn’t alone – but he wasn’t sure exactly what it was that was behind Perseus. The closest approximation was a floating head, nearly the size of a small truck and with a massive, glowing mouth, sucking up anything near it, walls and all.

“What the fuck is that thing?” he shouted, as he reached for another knife and Five tried to keep on Perseus’ back to wrench his own back out.

Before he could throw the knife, Perseus was instead throwing Five at him, sending them both sprawling against the table. “This,” Perseus shouted, “is the Medusa. It won’t carry more than one person even with you and your family, but it doesn’t have to.”

Diego staggered, trying to get himself and Five back on their feet. Five stumbled, trying to shake off the impact.

“Christ,” Klaus wheezed, hands over his ears as the head-thing drew closer. “He used his own people, what the fu—“

He yelped when Perseus launched himself at Five and Diego, hand glowing a sickly green. Diego braced himself, pushing Five behind him as Perseus and the Medusa bore down on them.

“Get down!” Vanya shouted, throwing herself into Diego hard enough to urge him and Five into dropping to the floor.

Klaus and Ben ducked out of the room and Allison and Luther bolted under the table, and Vanya’s power erupted through the room, blowing Perseus and the Medusa through the nearest wall.

“Shit, shit, he’s getting back up already,” Allison warned, but Diego found his dazed attention wandering more towards the creaking walls and the bowing floorboards above them.

“Fuck, stay down!” he blurted, before the ceiling caved, the falling walls cracking and bringing more down like a set of horrifying, rubble ridden dominos.

Diego pulled Five and Vanya in, ready for the rubble to bury them, but it didn’t.

“Shit,” Luther said. “Go, go, out the door!”

Diego raised his head, blinking a few times before he understood.

The ceiling, halfway through falling, was glowing faintly. Klaus had darted back into the room, both hands up and radiating with blue light. Blood dripped from his nose at an alarming rate as he dropped to one knee.

Luther wrenched Diego up by the nape of his neck, dragging him through the door. “Come on, he can’t hold it forever!”

“Go! I’ll get Klaus out!” Five shouted, appearing behind Klaus.

Luther nodded, pulling a stunned Vanya to her feet and making sure Ben was also on his way before running.

Diego waited by the door, counting heads as they ran into the street. Luther was the last one out, the rubble falling fast on his heels. The kitchen collapsed, followed by the living room and several of the bedrooms. Diego couldn’t bring himself to care about the damage to the house, though, until he saw his brothers get out in one piece.

A moment later, in a cloud of dust and wheezing, Five and Klaus landed beside them.

“Shit, you okay?” Diego said, reaching for Klaus to help him up. Allison rushed over to pull Five to his feet as well, while Five panted in exhaustion.

They stumbled back, watching as the house crumbled. Five let out a small nose as a wall fell with a large noise, reaching for Ben to clutch at his shirt tightly as Ben skidded into them to check on Klaus.

The rubble exploded in a spray of rocks and wood.

The Medusa loomed over them, slowly gathering rubble into a large, glowing green whirlwind. Diego could feel his feet shift as the wind picked up around them, drawing everything near towards the Medusa’s gaping mouth. Luther threw himself between them and the remains of the house, hissing when Perseus took a glowing swing at his arm, leaving a burnt gash along it.

“Oh, fuck, fuck, Klaus,” Ben hissed, and Diego whipped his head around to look.

“Oh,” Klaus said, very calmly, inspecting the blood gushing from his nose and mouth onto his hands. “Oops.”

His legs gave out under him in a very ungraceful manner, and he fell to the ground.

Diego’s blood ran cold.

“Klaus?!” Five shouted, attention drawn away from the house and the horrors emerging from it. He and Ben lurched to their knees to look over Klaus, who had gone terrifyingly silent and still.

“He’s not breathing!” Ben yelled, at approximately the same time that Diego’s attention was snatched back to Luther behind punched into the nearest car with a sickening crunch.

“Shit,” Diego hissed, pulling out a knife and aiming for the silhouette of Perseus in the growing glow of the Medusa. The whirlwind easily swept up his knife, and the shadow of Perseus stared at him with a vicious speed. Diego bolted back, positioning himself at a safe distance but still between Ben and Five and their increasingly frantic efforts to get Klaus to breathe.

“I got it!” Vanya yelled, trying to clamber to her feet using Allison as a support, but she was clearly still reeling from the last burst of power and the house crashing down around them.

“I heard a rumor—“ Allison started, and Luther had pulled himself from the wreckage of the car and started back, but before she could think of something to say or Luther could get close, Perseus stopped short.

His hand hovered in front of Diego’s eyes, crackling with a deadly glow, like some kind of laser blade. He couldn’t move, rooted to the spot, waiting for what happened next.

“Huh,” Perseus said.

Something about the tone made it impossible to react. There was just no good way to understand what he was thinking or what to expect next.

Perseus turned around to stare at the Medusa. “I guess that’ll work,” he said, then, without any good explanation, leapt into the glowing whirlwind.

The Medusa absorbed him with a crunch, whirring desperately a few times before going dark, collapsing with a resounding thud into the rubble.

Klaus sat up. “Oh,” he said. “Ow. That did work, but Jesus.”

“What,” Diego said, “the fuck.”

Klaus keeled back over.

Ben lurched forward to feel his pulse. “He’s back, I guess,” he announced.

Five fell from his knees into an exhausted sit, putting his hand on his chest as though to calm his heart.

Another wall crumbled and crashed, and they all watched it with a strange numbness.

“I really need to go to therapy,” Five managed.

“I mean,” Luther said, wincing as a light fixture fell and shattered. “It’s definitely not Reggie’s house anymore.”

As dire as the situation was, it was the funniest thing Diego had ever heard Luther say, and for lack of anything better to do, Diego burst into uncontrollable laughter.

**

“So that’s it,” Eudora said.

“Uh, yeah,” Diego replied, watching the fire trucks as they rolled up their hoses.

“Seems a little too…” Eudora said, staring at the rubble of their house. There was no good way to put it, and yet they all knew what she meant.

“I don’t think we’ll know for sure until Klaus wakes up,” Ben said.

Klaus was currently out cold in Ben’s arms, Five holding his wrist in between his fingers as though to assure himself of his continual pulse. Grace was wiping the blood from his face, of which there was plenty, but he was breathing, and that was the important part.

“Right,” Eudora said.

“We’re going to have to find a place for everyone to stay while we… you know, figure out what to do,” Luther said, hissing as Allison smoothed a bandage over his burnt arm.

“Well, we have one couch…” Eudora said.

“So do we,” Vanya offered. “Allison can stay with us.”

“We’ll stay with Klaus,” Five said. “Ben and I.”

Luther gave Diego a tired, questioning look. Diego nodded with the same exhaustion.

“Then what?” Allison said. “I mean, I have some money, but…”

“If your father’s will survived in the wreckage—“ Pogo started, and Five hissed loudly.

Allison gave Luther’s hand a squeeze and stepped aside to speak with Pogo a bit further from Five. “Sorry, it’s just… He’s already scared and…” she said, rubbing her hand over her face. “What about the will?”

“It should be in a rather indestructible safe,” Pogo said. “And it should leave you – or more specifically Master Luther – more than enough resources to rebuild.”

“Luther’s the only one in the will? Seriously?” Allison said.

“Yes, well,” Pogo said, “your father was…” He took a look at her arched eyebrow, and lamely finished, “Well. He was what he was.”

She scoffed. It was ironic coming from Pogo, but it was a start towards something critical towards their father. “You can say that again.” She crossed her arms. “Well, thanks Pogo. We’ll take a look what survived after we’ve gotten Klaus home.”

“Of course, Miss Allison,” Pogo said.

“Where are you and Mom going to stay?” Diego asked, joining Allison. “I think Mom can stay with us since she doesn’t need a place to sleep, but…”

“I’ll call in a few favors with acquaintances of your father’s,” Pogo said. “I’ll be quite alright.”

Allison sighed. “Are you sure? I can get you a hotel room, or…”

“Take care of yourselves first,” Pogo said. “I’ve spent a long time making excuses that jeopardized your wellbeing. Since your father sent me away, I’ve found that it’s become more important to me than most things. I should have realized sooner.”

“Yeah, you should have,” Diego muttered.

“Well, you know how to reach us if you need anything, right?” Allison asked.

Pogo nodded. “With any luck, I’ll be here to oversee the repairs soon anyway. You just take care of your brothers.”

Allison sighed and nodded.

“Speaking of,” Diego said, rubbing a hand over his face, “I’m going to drive Klaus, Ben and Five to his place. Mom says he just needs a good few days of sleep, and his bedroom is the only place he can get that now.”

Allison nodded. “I think Vanya already called a cab,” she said. “We’ll call about when and where to meet up, okay?”

Diego nodded, pulling out his keys.

She watched as Luther moved to pick up Klaus, hissing at his injured arm. Diego elbowed him away, pulling Klaus firmly over his shoulders.

“You take care too, Pogo,” Allison said, returning to Eudora.

“Okay, where am I taking you first, the hospital?” Eudora asked Luther.

“I think I’m fine,” Luther said.

“Yes,” Allison interjected. “If you don’t mind.”

“I don’t. Come on, big guy, let’s go to the hospital,” she said. “And then we’ll see if you fit on our couch.”

She ushered Luther towards her car while Vanya wandered back.

“So,” Vanya said. “I guess it was inevitable that I bring house down, huh?”

Allison snorted. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“It’s uh… not a great feeling,” Vanya said quietly.

Allison blinked at her. She hadn’t realize it was bothering Vanya, but in retrospect. “It’s okay. You saved Diego and Five,” Allison said.

“Killed Klaus, though,” Vanya murmured.

“That wasn’t your fault. And, well, he’s Klaus,” Allison said. “He’ll be fine.” She squeezed Vanya’s shoulder. “You did good, Vanya.”

Vanya smiled at her weakly. “I know you’re right, it’s just… I think I just really need a bath and a nap. Or two.”

“God, me too,” Allison said. “You and Helen want to watch some garbage chick flicks and drink wine tonight?”

Vanya smiled a little stronger. “Yeah, that sounds pretty good.”

**

This was a nightmare, Five realized.

Somewhere, faintly, he realized this was progress – being able to tell at all – but it didn’t seem to help him get out of the restraints he was in. Or that he wasn’t in, to be precise.

It was the Handler that gave it away. Or, he had decided it was probably the Handler. It wasn’t actually very easy to tell if it was her or Reginald or any number of other people who had tortured him in the last few months.

“You can’t really think it’d be over so easily, can you?” she purred. “That you could really win without losing everything?”

The fact that he knew it was a nightmare did help with one thing. When she touched his cheek – or was it Reginald with his iron grip on Five’s shoulder, warning him of all the consequences he might face if he tried to escape it? – there was no more politics to worry about.

“Get off me!” he snarled. “Just leave me alone!”

There was a very different touch on his shoulder, shaking him, and suddenly he was awake.

Panic washed over him from all directions, and he sat up straight, heart in his throat.

Dave pulled away, holding his hands up.

“What’s wrong? Is he okay?” Five croaked.

“Nothing’s changed,” Dave said. “I just came out here for some water and I noticed you were sleeping out here. It’s not because of me, is it?”

Five cleared his throat, sitting up carefully. Dave was too polite to mention he’d probably noticed Five’s nightmare, but it was obvious enough. “I don’t want to risk dragging Klaus into my nightmares,” he said. “He needs rest.”

“Ah,” Dave said. “Should I at least get Ben for you? He’s asleep, but I don’t think he’ll—“

Five shook his head, rubbing his hands over his face.

It was now the second day that Klaus hadn’t woken up, nor had he talked in his sleep. Five couldn’t remember ever seeing Klaus as still as he’d been these few days, except for when…

He pushed that thought aside.

Still, Five couldn’t deny that it made his stomach churn, worrying that his brother might not wake up at all. Even if Grace had said he just needed rest, he’d died from his own powers. What if he hadn’t had the power to bring himself all the way back?

“No, I’m fine,” Five said.

Dave raised his eyebrows, then groaned as he lowered himself onto the couch, leaving a large space between the two of them. Five couldn’t help but feel he was being treated like a stray dog at the moment, but as much as he resented the implication, he did appreciate the space.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Dave said softly.

It occurred to Five that as good as Klaus was with people, he probably needed someone just as intuitive as him. Dave was probably leagues better at listening than most people Five had ever met. He took a deep breath, and tried to unclench his fists and place a little bit of trust in someone new.

“I usually talk to Klaus about things,” Five said. He snorted. “Well… usually. Since I’ve been back. I… I’ve been gone a lot longer than I haven’t been, so it’s… These past few months feel as much like ‘usually’ as anything I remember from when we were kids.”

Dave nodded. “Well, I realize that being your brother’s boyfriend doesn’t automatically make me your friend, but… I am happy to listen in his place until he wakes up.”

“I’m just exhausted,” Five muttered, “and exhausting. And being scared to sleep in the same room as my brother in case it hurts him makes that more obvious than usual.” He grimaced. “My family keeps telling me that being open with them is good for them, and maybe so far, it has been, but… I just… I want to stop being an endless source of misery in their lives, even if it gives them something to fix for the time being.”

“Being open doesn’t have to be only the bad things,” Dave murmured.

“I don’t have anything else,” Five said. “I don’t… Even my good times are depressing in retrospect, just…” He sighed, pulling his knees up to his forehead. “Just me making the best of what I was handed. I think this week was the first time in my life I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of foreboding and panic and it lasted about ten minutes before my brother died and my home crumbled to nothing for the third time.”

“Well, then… I suppose it’s time to make some good times,” Dave said. “You and Ben are learning math together, right? Maybe you should find a hobby to share with the rest of your siblings. Balance out the bad with something nice.”

Five snorted. “My whole life has revolved around my family in some way or other,” he remarked, “and yet I don’t know that I know any of their hobbies.”

Dave smiled, not unkindly. “Well, there you go. Something to do.”

Five wriggled his toes. “I guess.” He gave Dave a cautious look. He was aware how small his next thought would make him sound, and he still wasn’t sure what he felt about showing Dave such a vulnerability. “Do you think Klaus is going to be okay?”

“I do,” Dave said, with a relieving certainty. “He’s stronger than he looks.”

“I realize that,” Five snapped. He wasn’t sure why it annoyed him to have Dave point it out. Maybe he didn’t like the suggestion that he’d somehow managed to spend the last few months leaning on Klaus without realizing how strong he was as a result. Maybe he just didn’t like the suggestion that Dave knew Klaus better than Five. Maybe he was just still shaky from his nightmare. “I just feel like we can’t win without losing something just as big.”

Dave nodded. “I know the feeling,” he said. “When you’ve been through enough bad luck, good starts feeling like a trap.”

Five raised a brow. “You sound like you know from personal experience,” he said.

“I’m a Jewish gay man who survived Vietnam and the AIDs crisis,” Dave said, looking as soft as he did bitter. “I’ve had my bad days.”

“Oh,” Five said lamely. “I guess… yeah.”

“But good things happen, no matter how many bad things came before them,” Dave said. “And every time they do it’s going to get a little easier to trust them.”

“I’m told therapy helps,” Five mumbled.

“It does,” Dave said. “I’m glad you’re willing to try it.”

Five sighed. “I don’t think it’ll help.”

“Well, if it comes to that, you can think of something else to do,” Dave said. “You’re a survivor, that won’t change.”

Five let out a slow breath. “Sure.”

“Would you like me to stay out here with you?” Dave asked.

“You should be with Klaus,” Five muttered.

“Klaus is still sleeping,” Dave said. “And Ben’s with him. He won’t be needing me just yet.”

Five eyed him warily.

“I’m sure he’d appreciate that I made sure you were alright,” Dave said.

“Fine,” Five huffed, curling up on the couch again. “Stay if you want.”

Dave snorted. “Alright, I will.”

**

Klaus groaned.

He had, he guessed, been sleeping like a normal person for the first time in his life, until now. Now, yet again, he was sitting here, surrounded by carnage. The only new part of it all was that it wasn’t his carnage or Five’s.

Instead it was a lot of dismembered carnage in a room Klaus was only vaguely familiar with – he’d never been much of a combat heavy kid, and he’d been spared a lot of this specific hell growing up.

“Hey,” Klaus said, waving his hand to clear the mess without looking at it too closely. “Wanna talk about it?”

“Oh,” Ben said. “Sorry. I didn’t realize I’d drag you in here.”

Klaus shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. You dream of killing us often?”

Ben shrugged too. “Yeah.”

Klaus sighed. He suspected that no, Ben didn’t want to talk about it. “That’s unfortunate.”

Ben nodded, but he didn’t seem particularly ruffled. That was more worrisome than Klaus had really realized when Ben had mentioned being numb to things.

Klaus lowered himself down next to him, bumping their shoulders together. “How long have I been sleeping?”

“Couple days,” Ben said.

“Did I miss anything?” Klaus asked.

“Well Perseus killed himself,” Ben said. “Though I’m guessing you knew about that.”

Klaus laughed awkwardly. Frankly, the whole thing had been rather surreal and he wasn’t exactly sure what he’d done or how he could do it again. “Uh… yeah. That was sort of my doing.”

Ben gave him a look. “Most of the house came down,” he continued. “We’re in your place at the moment.”

“Oh, good,” Klaus said, for lack of anything better to say. “How’d Five handle it?”

“Pretty well, actually,” Ben said. “I think we were all distracted by you being dead. And then not dead. It all kind of happened too fast for strong emotions.”

“Yeah, god says I gotta stop dying, she’s tired of my face,” Klaus said.

“Right,” Ben said. “Of course.”

“God’s a rude little brat,” Klaus said. He yawned and rested his head on Ben’s shoulder. “Gonna sleep a little longer.”

“I kind of figured,” Ben sighed.

“Cool,” Klaus mumbled, and curled up next to him. “Try giving me a good shake in the morning when you wake up, I think it’ll work.”

“I’ll do my best,” Ben promised, and Klaus fell back into proper sleep.

Chapter Text

Ben started awake.

“Good morning,” Five said. “Dave’s making breakfast, you want any?”

“One sec,” Ben said. “Klaus said I should try to wake him up.”

“He dreamwalked?” Five asked, fixing a hopeful gaze on Ben.

“Unless I dreamed it,” Ben said.

“You can usually tell,” Five said. “I can’t explain how, but you just can.”

Ben nodded hesitantly. He really wasn't entirely sure that he hadn't dreamed up the whole thing last night.

He grabbed Klaus' shoulder and shook his arm. 

After a long moment of shaking. Klaus groaned. "Nooo," he moaned. "Oh, why did I tell you to do this, I feel awful."

"Morning," Ben said, letting out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.

"Is it? Unfortunate.” 

Five sat down sharply, letting out a sharp breath. “Oh, thank god.” He looked at Ben. “Can you tell Dave? I think I need to put my head between my knees for a second.” 

Ben snorted. “Yeah, I’ll go tell Dave.”

"I see none of you have any sympathy for me whatsoever," Klaus whined. “I’m sore all over.”

“Yeah, you died,” Five said, bending in two and taking deep breaths.

Ben grinned, patting Five on the back before getting up. He poked his head out of the room. "He's awake."

“Oh,” Dave said. “Good, I’m glad.” He switched off the stove and started towards the room.

Ben turned back just in time to see Five take a very deep breath and jump on top of Klaus, folding his limbs around Klaus’ body like a koala.

"You're an idiot," he croaked.

"Oh, wow, Five initiated a hug," Klaus said. "Are we sure I'm alive?"

Five kneed him in the side.

"Sorry, sorry,” Klaus laughed. “Let me guess, now that I’m awake, you don’t have anything to be scared about and naturally that means you're falling apart at the seams.”

"Maybe," Five replied, shivering.

"I know, you’ve had a rough week, buddy, I know," Klaus said, rubbing his back and giving Ben a look as if to say, Look at this poor baby.

"We'd all very much like you to stop dying," Dave said. 

"Yeah, you and god," Klaus said.

Dave snorted. "God. Of course." He lowered himself down to the floor with some difficulty. "Five, will I disturb you if I kiss your brother real quick?"

"No," Five mumbled into Klaus' shoulder.

Klaus grinned, shifting Five aside so Dave could lean in to give him a quick kiss.

"Alright, I want in this too," Ben said, stepping over Klaus and Five to elbow his way into the mix, pushing Five to one side while laying down on his other shoulder.

"Oh we were very worried," Klaus said indulgently, rubbing Ben's back as well. "Okay."

Ben buried his face in Klaus' shirt and took deep breaths, letting Klaus pat his back while he willed his heart to calm. "Please don't die ever again."

"Okay," Klaus said. "I'll do my best."

**

"Wow, okay, I really should never die again," Klaus wheezed, taking a deep, wheezing breath when Luther finally set him down on his feet again after a bone crushing few minutes of hug. Maybe it was overdoing it, but it was hard to let go with his heart thudding in his ears.

"You scared the shit out of us, man!" Diego said.

"Yeah I gathered that," Klaus said, stretching out his crushed limbs. "Sorry for saving the day, I guess." He pulled out his chair and sat down.

Luther made a face at him. It was all too easy to let Klaus spin the situation however he wanted, but given that he could still see Klaus’ face covered in blood every time he closed his eyes, he was not willing to just move on from this.

Still, he took a seat too.

For lack of a better place to meet, they'd ended up at a diner at a long table only slightly out of the way of the general public.

"Okay, just to be clear…" he said, pausing while the waitress delivered their meals. He watched her go, then turned back to Klaus. "Did you die, possess a man to kill himself, then come back after a minor coma?"

"Uh, yep," Klaus said, picking up his fork to poke at his food. 

Luther stared at him helplessly. "Okay. Well, I felt it should be addressed," he said. “And now it has been, so…” He looked at the rest of them for backup.

"Seriously?" Vanya said as Five leaned over the table to take a spoonful of her chili.

"Yes," Five said. He made a face. “It’s too spicy.”

She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I like spice. Why don’t you just get your own food?”

“I don’t know what I like,” Five said, eyes landing on Allison’s sandwich.

Allison sighed and lifted her plate within his reach so he could take it. “Just take a bite. There’s this wonderful deli in LA with the most amazing pastrami sandwiches and nothing really compares.”

“Guys,” Luther said, as Five nibbled at the sandwich before taking a bite large enough to choke on and handing the plate back.

"Right,” Allison said, picking up on Luther’s frustration. “Klaus, you really need to start figuring out how much you're capable of. Or not capable of."

"I will, I will," Klaus said, gathering a decent bite of waffles on his fork and passing it down to Five, who popped it in his mouth and then promptly spit it out onto a napkin with little grace.

“Too sweet,” Five mumbled. “In the apocalypse--”

“Yeah, yeah the Twinkie thing,” Diego said. “At least close the napkin.” He snatched his plate away from Five's roving hands. "No! You think I'm giving you food after that shit? You touch it I'm gonna slap you."

"You can't," Five declared. "I'm a child and we're in public."

Diego groaned. "You are the worst." He pushed his plate forward so Five could take some of his salad.

"Anyway," Klaus said. "Technically we got what we wanted. Perseus - sorry, NOT Perseus - wiped out his own people for us, including the Magician in the basement. We're… uh… we're good, for a change."

"Whoa whoa whoa wait. If he killed the Magician, how do we know you're not at risk of being hypnotized by a ghost?" Diego asked.

Klaus shook his head. "The Medusa sounded the same as the Oblivion. Whatever they used to make the Oblivion and the Medusa, it sort of eats a person whole and there’s just this big soul mash," Klaus said. "It's hard to explain, but there's not really any ghost left when they're done with the… you know, like...  meat."

"Okay, well, please never refer to living people as meat again," Allison said, "but… if we're really in the clear, we should think about rebuilding. The house and also in general."

"Oh, Perseus wants me to settle his business questions," Klaus said. "Real Perseus, that is. He says he'll do his best to ensure a nice paycheck which we could put into the house."

"Yeah, that won't be a problem," Allison said. "Pogo and I found Dad's will, and uh… we're billionaires." She rolled her eyes. "At least, Luther is."

"But we'll change the names on the accounts," Luther said hurriedly.

"You know I'm new to eating real food again too, right?" Ben asked as Five snuck a bite of seafood gumbo off his plate.

"But have you eaten roaches before? No," Five said, shoving the food in his mouth and then immediately spitting it out. “I don’t like it.”

“I didn’t think you would,” Ben said, looking extremely vindicated.

Five glared at him.

"Anyway, my point is money isn't an issue," Allison said. "For once, Dad actually delivered."

"I don't want it. Too much pressure and temptation," Klaus said. "Put it in your names, and if I need money I'll ask Diego."

"Why me?" Diego asked, indignant.

"Because I'm about to be your child's favorite uncle and they'd be heartbroken if you turned me away," Klaus said, batting his lashes at Diego.

"Okay, then the six of us will legally own the money," Luther said. "Or however it works. I've never actually dealt with money." He gave Five a baleful look while Five returned to steal a second bite of his mashed potatoes.

"Don't look at me, I've lived a grand total of 70 years without ever paying a single bill," Five said, now halfway on the table in order to continue stealing Luther's food.

Luther sighed, tilting the plate in a silent offer. "Do you want it?"

Five looked up at him with a look he probably didn’t realize was as adorable as it was, then nodded.

Luther sighed again and handed him the plate, enjoying the way Five pulled it into his lap and dug in.

"We adopted him from a really bad family situation," Klaus whispered to the waitress as she stopped by to fill their drinks. He patted Ben's hand. "We're still working on getting him to feel safe about his food."

Ben nodded solemnly to bac him up.

The waitress gave an uncomfortable but sympathetic look to Five, who smiled brightly at her.

“Could I have another one of those?” Luther asked, pointing at the stolen food.

“Sure,” she said, and made her escape. 

"So," Klaus drawled as the waitress walked away. "How's Diego's couch, Luther?"

Luther groaned. "Short."

Klaus giggled. "Poor you."

"Also Eudora keeps sending us on food runs at 3 am," Luther said. "Pretty sure everyone at the grocery store will want a picture of the baby that needed sardines and strawberry jam in the middle of the night."

"Hey, she's making an entire child," Diego said. "She can ask for food whenever she wants."

"Why do I have to come?"

"Because you're sleeping on our couch! Who raised you?"

"Dad, same as you!"

"See, if you'd listened to Mom more, you'd know when to shut your mouth and be grateful for our hospitality."

"Why not send Mom out for food?"

"Man, you know she's low on charge!"

Allison rolled her eyes. "Well, we might head back to LA for a week or two while the contractors start work, so you and Vanya would have your couches back, Diego.”

Diego shrugged. “He doesn’t bother us.” 

Luther gave him an exasperated look.

“You guys would have to do the furniture shopping, then,”  Allison said.

“Well, how hard can it be?” Klaus said.

Allison rolled her eyes. “Mom’s in charge of interior design questions,” she said. “And at least pretend to try to maintain a consistent aesthetic.”

“I have a consistent aesthetic,” Klaus said, gesturing at his glittering blouse.

“What, gay dumpster moron?” Five said, despite the fact that he had patched together an outfit from Vanya’s jeans, a t-shirt from Klaus and Ben’s hoodie. None of them matched, and even Luther could tell. 

“Pan dumpster moron, thank you very much,” Klaus said. “What’s yours, thieving ace bastard?”

Five crossed his arms. “I’m keeping this shirt.”

“Ben, please do not let him or Five make any decisions about this,” Allison pleaded. “Just look at them.”

Ben glanced at Five and Klaus. “Yeah. I’ll keep them out of it.”

She sighed. “Thank you.”

Klaus gave her a faux offended look. “Fine. Five, let’s hit up some thrift stores, we’re gonna have the coolest rooms.”

Five thought about it. “Sure, I guess.”

Allison rubbed her temples. “Okay. So I’ll call the contractors before finding a flight for us, and… I guess that’s it.” 

They sat in silence for a moment, eating slowly.

“Okay, it’s weird not to have anything big to worry about,” Luther said finally.

Five gestured at him vehemently as if to signal that it wasn’t just him. “Right?!” 

**

Allison sighed, putting her feet up on a chair and leaning back.

She missed the old couches. So far, they’d replaced the beds, tables and most of the chairs, but the couches were yet to be replaced, something that was deeply unfortunate after a day of lugging furniture and boxes up and down stairs.

She closed her eyes and rubbed her hands over her face.

A surprising amount of their things had survived the house falling on it. Many of their clothes and books had spent the past few months in Dave’s guest room, and Luther and Five had salvaged the bare bones of Grace’s charging station as well, but Allison found herself oddly choked up about everything they’d had to get rid of because it was too broken, torn or burnt.

She’d have to buy some couches next. Possibly a whole array of them, with a large TV for nights spent in a large blanket pile.

Five cleared his throat next to her.

She groaned, cracking an eye open. “You better not have an emergency,” she said.

Five looked at her sheepishly, though he was trying his best to appear unaffected. “I’ve been jumping furniture around all day,” he said. “I’m tired and shaky, and I was…” He trailed off, avoiding her eyes before forcing himself to continue. “I was wondering if you’d read to me. I want to lay down and I’d like to hear your voice.”

She stared at him, trying to swallow down her kneejerk reaction.

He rolled his eyes. “You get 15 seconds to react as though I was a child, and then you have to pull yourself together.”

She all but leaped to her feet, not willing to let that offer go easily. “Of course I can read to you, sweetie,” she cooed, kissing the top of his head and hugging him tightly.

“Your time is up,” he muttered, trying to appear dignified despite her treatment of him.

She grinned. “What did you want me to read?”

He shrugged. “I’ve always been curious about the Wizard of Oz,” he said. “I thought we might start there.”

“Did you get it from the library already?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said.

It was obvious that he knew this was enough to tell Allison that he’d been working his way up to this for a while, but she had the decency not to mention it.

“Okay. Your room or mine?”

“Mine,” Five said. “I want to get used to it.”

She nodded, smiling. “Okay. Let’s go.”

**

“I need to ask you about gender,” Diego said.

Klaus looked down at what he was wearing. “Never met her,” he said.

“No, I’m serious,” Diego said. “You’re the only one of us that escaped unscathed by Dad’s ideas about men.”

Klaus made an unconvinced noise. “Is this about your baby?”

“Yes,” Diego said, looking ever so slightly panicked. “First of all, it has a face and hands and shit and I’m freaking out, but more importantly… the doctor asked if I want to know the sex, and I said I need to think about it, and so now I have an envelope and it’s like ticking timebomb and I don’t know what to do.”

Klaus watched him carefully. He wasn’t sure exactly what the problem was here, but he did know that Diego and gender composed a bewildering minefield that Klaus, frankly, didn’t get. “Okay, so…” he started, before giving up. “You gotta give me more context, man.”

“Well, whatever this baby is,” Diego said, words failing him for a moment, “I’m gonna love it. Right? So I shouldn’t care what gender it is.”

Klaus found himself tempted to be pedantic about the definitions of sex and gender just to see if Diego’s brain exploded, but he managed to bite his tongue. “Yeah, sounds about right.”

“But if I have a son, I’m going to cry,” Diego said.

Klaus laughed despite himself. “Seriously? Why?”

“Because! I don’t have any fucking clue how to avoid passing down all the bullshit Dad gave me about this sort of thing! I don’t even know where to start avoiding that stuff.”

“Okay well first of all, if you have a son, that son is going to have two lesbian aunts, a human mother and whatever I am, none of which are advantages you had,” Klaus said. “So even if you impart a little bit of toxic masculinity, he’ll be okay, alright?”

Diego put his hands on his hips and took deep breaths, nodding.

“Second of all,” Klaus said. “You’re gonna find out at some point. Might as well give yourself a few months to prepare yourself emotionally for a baby boy, right?”

“Right,” Diego said. “Yeah, right, you’re right.” He dug the envelope out of his pocket, staring at it like it might catch fire at any moment. “Shit, no, I can’t look at it.”

Klaus snatched it out of his hand. “Here, let me,” he said.

“No!” Diego shouted. “Klaus!”

Klaus opened the envelope, and he froze, watching Klaus’ face for clues. “Well?”

“It’s a girl,” Klaus said. He resisted the urge to add, For now.

“Wait, for real?” Diego said, grabbing the paper out of his hand. “Oh, thank god. Oh, thank god.” He went pale. “I’m going to have to keep her safe from misogyny.”

Klaus groaned. “Diego, please please remember that you don’t have to dismantle the entire patriarchy to be a good father, okay? For me? Please.”

“Yeah, but…” Diego said, before Five interrupted them by appearing beside them with a loud giggle.

At their startled looks, he clapped his hand over his mouth. “You didn’t see me,” he said, and vanished.

Allison came thundering down the stairs after him. “Where is he?” she said.

They shrugged.

“I made him laugh fair and square and that little shit is going to give me what I earned,” she said.

“Remember, he is ticklish,” Klaus said.

“Oh, I remember,” she said, an evil glint in her eye. “And also I do a great Wicked Witch voice and he’s going to learn how well those two things fit together.”

“I’m having a baby girl,” Diego blurted.

“Congratulations,” she said. “You needed that win. Anyway, I’ve got to find out brother and torment him into laughter.”

“Good luck!” Klaus called after her as she raced after Five. “Your daughter is not going to be wanting for strong role models. Granted, not a lot of good ones, but…”

“Oh, god, what am I going to do when she’s old enough to date?”

Klaus stared at him. That had been quite the leap. “Okay, well, maybe wait for her to go through puberty before worrying about that,” he said.

“You’re right,” Diego said. “But also, I don’t trust men at all and I’m going to have a stroke whenever she does.”

“She could be a lesbian,” Klaus offered.

“Our lesbian sister dated Harold Jenkins,”   Diego said.

“Okay, good point, but at the very least wait until our brother goes through puberty.”

“Right, yeah, sure,” Diego said. “Oh, god, but there’s so many things to be scared about with a daughter.”

“Okay, why don’t you just sit down,” Klaus said. “And we can think of some baby names, huh? I personally have always liked Betty as a name.”

“Grace,” Diego said. “Eudora and I already talked about it. We’re gonna name her Grace Ann Hargreeves.”

Klaus blinked at him. “Aww,” he said. “We’re gonna have a little Gracie!”

Diego smiled. “Yeah, we are.”

“She’s gonna be the cutest little girl ever,” Klaus said. “I mean between you and Eudora, that kid is going to have a brutal pair of puppy dog eyes.” He giggled. “You’re gonna be so fucked, holy shit.”

Diego glared at him. “Don’t rub it in!”

**

“Hey, is Allison murdering Five or have we found new ways to be crazy people?” Ben asked.

Vanya blinked at him from where she’d been tearing the packaging off the mattresses they’d just hauled up. “What?”

Ben gestured at her to follow and they perched over the stairs, looking down at the new living room, where Allison had pinned Five with a very un-Allison-like cackle while he shrieked and tried to free himself.

“That’ll teach you to run when my voices make you laugh, you tiny bastard!” Allison shouted.

“They’re fine,” Vanya said.

“Oh good.”

Luther poked his head out of the room they’d planned for Grace. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, Allison’s just lost it,” Ben said. “Really, given the fact that she and I are the only sensible ones in this family, it was inevitable.”

Luther thought that over. “Are you suggesting you’re going to lose it sometime too?”

Ben grinned at him.

The shrieking died down, and Vanya took a peek. It seemed Allison and Five had transitioned to talking about something while Five wiped away tears from his giggling.

“Hey, can you guys give me a hand?” Luther said. “I’m hanging the last of the paintings and they’re kind of high up.”

“Sure,” Vanya said, joining him. Ben trailed after them.

“So, Ben,” Luther said, easily picking Vanya up to put her on his shoulders. “Did you put more thought about what you’re going to do with your time?”

“Yeah, I’m going to apply to some part time positions at the university,” Ben said. “Just to get out of the house some. Otherwise, I figure I’ll catch up on movies I missed and Five and I have some places we want to see around town that aren’t alleyways and nightclubs.”

“Oh,” Luther said, passing the paintings up to Vanya, “I have some museums I want to go to, if you guys wanna come.”

“Sounds great, actually,” Ben said. “A lot of our list is museums.”

Luther nodded, lifting Vanya back down to the ground. "Cool."

Something crashed downstairs. Luther sighed. "How long do you think this house will survive before we burn it down or something?"

"Oh!" Vanya exclaimed. "We need a new chalkboard for betting pools!"

Luther rolled his eyes. "We could check at the hardware store for blackboard paint."

"Ooh, I love going to the hardware store," Ben said. "All the light fixtures everywhere."

"I like the smell of lumber," Vanya said.

"You're such a lesbian."

"You said it first!"

Luther grabbed his keys. "Are we going or not?"

"Yeah, I'm coming," Vanya said.

"Can you lift us up to look at all the parts on the top shelves?" Ben asked.

Luther sighed. "Sure. Honestly you guys can ride my shoulders whenever, you really don't weigh anything."

"That's an awfully bold offer to make in a family of assholes," Vanya said.

"I'm sure you'll all find a way to abuse it," Luther said. "But I don't really mind."

"Well okay then," Ben said. "Pony up." He pushed a hand onto Luther's back and leapt.

Luther sighed and bent over to let Ben onto his shoulders, then stood back up, holding his legs firmly.

"This is so fun, Vanya, you should try it. It's like being tall."

She grinned. "At the store it's my turn."

Luther rolled his eyes. "This is my life now, isn't it?"

"You offered."

He shrugged carefully. "Well. It's not a bad life to have."

Chapter Text

“You ready to go yet?” Vanya asked.

Ben sighed, yawning slightly. He looked like he’d slept at most five hours. “I haven’t woken Five up yet.”

“Rough night?” she asked, toeing off her shoes as she stepped inside.

“Yeah, we were up until four,” Ben said. “Or, well, I was up until three, then traded out with Allison since she’d gone to sleep before he really started.”

“Oh, so a really rough night,” Vanya said.

Ben nodded. “Luther said he’d already had a panic attack before getting to sleep, and then around midnight he started screaming. Took us about an hour to get him fully awake, then another panic attack…”

“Should we just let him sleep?” Vanya murmured as they headed up the stairs. “I don’t want to wear him out.”

“Nah, he’s just going to feel miserable about ruining our plans,” Ben said. “And Allison said after they got him to sleep in the morning, he slept like a baby, so he’s gotten enough rest.”

Vanya shrugged, pushing in the door to Five’s room.

They’d switched out his bed for a king size during construction, given how often Five had visitors in his bed, which was the only reason why Five could sprawl out on top of Luther while Allison rested on Luther’s shoulder while buried in invoices for construction. “Hey guys,” Allison said. She looked as though she’d barely slept at all.

Luther didn’t look quite as frazzled, but Vanya doubted he’d gotten a wink of sleep, especially since he was still studiously rubbing Five’s back while he slept like he was petting a small, frightened stray. It was not that far off from the truth, Vanya thought.

“You look like shit,” Vanya said.

Allison rolled her eyes. “Yeah, we were talking him out of three different panic attacks at two in the morning, I think. One of them was almost certainly a panic attack set off by a different panic attack.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Luther said. “He just had a nightmare. We dealt with it.”

Allison gave him a tired glare. “Your positivity is exhausting.”

Luther smiled at her. “I think these nights are getting less frequent,” he said. “So that’s good.”

“Now you’re just messing with me.”

Ben slumped over her legs to poke Five in the face.

Five groaned. “What?” he mumbled, without opening his eyes.

“We’re gonna be late to the movies,” Ben said.

Five cracked an eye open. “‘Time izzit?”

“It’s five past noon,” Vanya said.

Five groaned again. “Fiiiine.”

He jumped to the dresser, stumbling his way through grabbing clothes, then vanished.

“Should we be gentle with him?” Vanya asked.

“Nah,” Luther said. “He was laughing before he fell asleep. I think he’s okay, given the circumstances.”

“The Wicked Witch voice always gets him,” Allison said, yawning as she leafed through the invoices.

“It’s good,” Luther said.

“Are we going?” Five said, as though they were the ones slowing everyone down. “C’mon, we’ve gotta pick up Klaus, too.”

He vanished again.

“Have fun,” Allison said, not looking up, as Ben and Vanya rushed after Five.

**

“Maybe I’ll just jump in and get him,” Five said.

“What if they’re having sex?” Ben asked.

“In the living room?” Five replied.

Vanya and Ben stared at him.

“They’re called bedroom activities,” Five said, though it was clearly dawning on him that he had made a mistake.

“Are you suggesting that people only ever have sex in the bedroom?” Vanya asked.

“No,” Five said immediately, like it was a ridiculous assumption. “Just… Whatever.” He rang the doorbell a few times instead of looking at them. 

Dave opened the door, giving them a very knowing look. “He’s almost ready to go,” he said. “Would you like anything to drink? I have some lemonade.”

Five gave him a suspicious look. “Sure,” he muttered.

Dave opened the door, letting them inside while he poured a glass for Five. Five took it with a look that said, very clearly, I hate that you make the world’s best lemonade.  

“Hey, where are my pants?” Klaus asked, poking his head out from the bedroom. “Oh, hi Five.”

Ben threw the pants that had been thrown onto the couch at his head while Five glowered at the whole situation.

Klaus took the pants and disappeared back into the room, returning after a few minutes, fully dressed. “Okay, we can go.”

Five drained his glass and handed it back to Dave, jumping outside to wait for them. Klaus sighed, rolling his eyes as he kissed Dave goodbye and followed him outside.

“Why were you the only one naked?” Five asked, once they were on the street.

“I don’t understand why you try to ask me about my sex life,” Klaus said. “You know very well you’re alarmed by anything beyond ;when two people love each other very much…’”

“Don’t be condescending. Just seems unfair.”

“Oh my god,” Klaus said, rubbing his hands over his face. “Sometimes ‘unfair,’” he made air quotes, “is very hot, and I’m not going beyond that because you’re just going to get that look.”

“What look?”

“The look,” Klaus said. “Like when I tried to explain biting to you.”

“You were bruised.”

“It’s hot.”

“I hate this topic,” Vanya said.

“Also, we’re going to miss the previews if we don’t hurry,” Ben said.

“Who cares about the previews?” Klaus said.

“I do,” Ben replied. “And you owe me so many movies, remember?”

Klaus sighed. “Fiiiiiiiine.”

**

"I didn't like the main character at all," Vanya said.

"What are you talking about, she was great!" Klaus protested.

"She was dumb."

"Oh, like you would have done any better."

"I wouldn't have and that's why I didn't like her."

“Jeez, Vanya, do we need to have a talk about this?" She rolled her eyes, moving to answer before he yelped, nearly startling Five off the sidewalk, hopping on one foot for a moment before they all calmed down and gave him a look. "Oh, come on."

"What?" Ben asked.

Klaus sighed and gestured at an empty spot of sidewalk. "Dog. Dead dog, apparently. Ran right at me, the ugly little bugger."

"Awww," Ben said. "That's depressing."

"What kind of dog?" Five asked.

In Ben's hoodie, with his hands shoved in his pockets, it was hilarious just how much he looked like a proper teenager.

"It's a pug," Klaus said, giving it a cranky look. “What are you trying to achieve here, huh? Don’t nip at me, you’re going straight through my leg.”

Five leaned closer, perked up at the mere idea of a dog. "Can I pet it?" 

Klaus made a face. "You wanna pet the ghost dog?"

Five nodded, all but radiating a sense of exuberance that Ben had only seen on his small face once or twice in a blue moon.

Klaus sighed, and suddenly there was a glowing, snorting dog yapping at them from ankle height. Five seemed all too pleased to squat down and pat its small, disfigured head. The dog nearly spun itself into the air with joy.

"You like pugs?" Vanya said. "They're kind of…" She paused, as though she might hurt the pug's feelings, "...the opposite of dignified."

"They're a horrifying result of man playing god with no regard to the safety and well-being of their creations," Five declared. "Morally I can't condone their existence, but I sympathize."

"Jesus," Vanya said. “Do we need to talk about that?”

"Lighten up a little, kiddo," Klaus said.

Five looked up at them like he thought they were overreacting. "Also, given that they already have the misfortune of existing, I think they're pretty cute. They're so hideous you can't help but love them."

"Now you're just bullying it," Ben said.

"She doesn't mind," Five said.

The dog yapped at him, and something in the nearby dumpster thudded.

While Ben, Klaus and Vanya turned to look, Five was already in the dumpster.

"Come on, you're wearing my clothes!" Ben protested.

"You're not getting those clothes back, you know that, right?" Klaus informed him.

"Just buy clothes he likes, wear it a few times so it smells like you, and hide it among the others. He likes blues and whites and slightly stiff cotton," Vanya said. “Something that doesn’t tear easily.”

Ben shrugged. "He can take them," he said. "I'm glad he's wearing real clothes."

Five popped back up holding what Ben would hesitate to describe as a puppy.

"Look!" Five announced. "Isn't he the cutest puppy you've ever seen?"

"Don't take this the wrong way," Ben said, "but it looks like an abnormally large rat got kicked in the face."

"I know," Five said, like Ben had agreed with him.

"I don't think living things should breath like that," Klaus said.

"They definitely shouldn't," Five said. "Have you ever seen a pug skull? It's gruesome. Sometimes their eyes will just pop out of their heads for no reason."

"That's awful," Vanya said.

"I'm gonna name him Mr. Pennycrumb," Five replied, scratching the dog's chin happily.

"Mr. What now?" Klaus said, delighted.

"Wait, shouldn't we ask the others about adopting a dog?" Vanya said.

"I dare you to try to take this puppy from me," Five challenged.

The three of them exchanged looks. "I guess we'll go to the vet."

Five practically preened, bundling Mr. Pennycrumb up into the neck of his sweater.

"If you get fleas from that thing, you'll have to take real baths daily," Ben said.

"So? He needs the love."

Vanya sighed. "Oh boy."

**

"Oh, you're back," Grace said.

"Yeah, today we learned pugs can scream and we're banned from two different vets offices," Ben told her.

"Also I've had to pet so many ghost pets today and I'm very tired and very sad," Klaus added.

"Where is everyone?" Vanya asked.

"They told me to tell you they're at the hospital," Grace said.

"What?" Five blurted.

"The baby is on its way," Grace told him.

"Shit," he said, lifting Mr. Pennycrumb at her. "Can you take care of him?"

She took the small dog in her hand. "Of course."

"I'll drive," Five said.

"Allison and Luther took the car," Grace said, petting Mr. Pennycrumb until he stopped yapping.

"You have to shower and change out of your dumpster clothes anyway," Ben said. "There's gonna be a baby."

"I'll call a cab," Vanya said.

Five huffed. "Fine!" 

He vanished.

"Holy shit a baby," Klaus said. "Oh no, oh wait, a hospital." He groaned loudly. "Why must babies be born where people die?!"

"Because people often die giving birth to those babies," Ben said.

"Get that out of your system now, Diego's gonna lose it," Vanya said.

"Yeah, are we sure we should let me near Diego right now?" Klaus said.

"He's going to be freaking out, he's not gonna realize," Vanya said.

"Yeah, that makes me feel a lot better," Klaus said.

Vanya paused. “Do you want to stay home? We’ll make excuses for you.”

“No,” Klaus said miserably. “Eudora’s having a baby, I wanna be there.”

Five reappeared, freshly washed and looking only slightly shaken. "Can we go now?"

Vanya nodded. "C'mon, let's go."

They started to leave, before Klaus stopped short. “Shit, Mom!”

Grace cocked her head at him.

“Come on, Diego’s about to have a baby, you gotta be there,” Klaus said.

“Oh,” Grace said. “Yes, that would be lovely.”

“Come on, grandma,” Ben said. “He’s going to be freaking out.”

**

"Fair warning, she's a little erratic," Allison said. "I don't remember if I cursed this much, but then again she's been in labor longer than I was already."

"Did you pass out?" Five said, leaning over Diego as he laid on the floor, feet halfway up the wall. He probably didn't sound too sympathetic, but to be fair, Diego's sulking on the floor was of anything, vastly entertaining.

"Yeah, and then she yelled at me for being too stressed and told me to walk it off," Diego replied.

"Do you really have to watch her being born?" Five asked. "Seems like she'll be born whether you witnessed it or not."

Diego crossed his arms. "Can't chicken out this soon," he muttered, seemingly entirely unaware of Klaus doing anxious jumping jacks and trying to plug up his ears in a distant corner.

"Can't throw up on your newborn daughter either," Ben offered.

"I'm not going to!" Diego snapped. "I'll just pass out again."

“You won’t pass out,” Grace said.

Diego shot up. “Mom! You’re here.”

“Of course I’m here, I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she said. “Now come on, I’ll hold your hand like when you were little.”

Diego leapt to his feet, taking her arm. “We’re naming her Grace,” he said. “After you.”

“Oh, that’s lovely, dear,” Grace said. “I’m honored. And I’m certain she’s going to be beautiful.”

“Yeah,” Diego said. “She is.”

“Now just try to breathe…”

Five watched them go, then turned back to Klaus. “You going to be okay?”

Klaus rubbed at his ears. “Yep, I’m just… Whooooooooo baby. Like, literally. Lot of babies and they’re all very upset.” He whirled around. “Hi, yes, yeah, can you all just… like… organize yourselves and make a list?” He looked at Five. “They all want to see their kids.”

“Oh good,” Ben said. “That’ll go over well.”

“To be fair, it might spare us another Harold Jenkins,” Vanya said.

“I’ll visit the kids but ladies, you cannot all talk at once, I cannot understand you and there are babies crying,” Klaus said. “This is a nightmare.”

Five patted him on the arm. “I don’t think Diego would mind if you went home.”

“Ugh, no, now I have to wait for these women to give me a list.”

Five snorted. “Okay.”

He sighed, sitting down against the wall and waiting.

Grace finally poked her head out. “Do you want to see the baby?”

“An alive baby!” Klaus said cheerfully. “Yes!”

Five jumped into the room, nearly skidding into Diego as he did.

“Hey,” Diego said, looking stunned. “I’m a dad.”

Five stood on his tiptoes to look at the bundle in his arms. “She looks like a raisin.”

“Shut up, she’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Diego said. “Look at her.”

“If you say so,” Five said.

“Awwwww,” Klaus said. “She is so small.”

“She’s tiny!” Diego said, voice cracking.

“Jesus Christ, Klaus, why are you here?” Eudora said.

“Wh… I’m being supportive!” Klaus said.

“No, she’s right, aren’t you surrounded by dead babies?” Diego asked, realization dawning on him.

“Well yes,” Klaus said. “But…”

“God, man, say hi to Grace Ann and go home,” Diego said. “Take a nice bath or something, that’s fucking bleak.”

“He’s right,” Eudora said. “Also, Diego, please give me the baby I just shoved out of my goddamn body or I will lose it.”

“Ugh, fine,” Klaus said, kissing little Grace on the head while Diego hurried to hand her over. “Congratulations.”

“I’ll come with,” Five said. “I don’t care for hospitals either.”

“What’s your excuse?”

“Used to have to raid them for supplies,” Five said. “I’d go into detail, but this is a happy occasion and I don’t want to sour it.”

Diego rolled his eyes. “Fine, but say hi to the baby you immediately insulted first.”

Five popped up next to Eudora. “Hi, baby, I’ll like you a lot more when you can open your eyes, probably.”

“Good enough,” Eudora sighed. “Take your brother home. More space for the rest of your million siblings.” She leaned around Five to glare at the mass of said siblings in the door.

Five grinned. “Well, congratulations. And welcome to the Hargreeves family, you’re pretty much stuck with us now.”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, good.”

“We’re not so bad.” He looked at the rest of them, Luther silently comparing the size of his hand to the size of the baby, Allison’s glint in her eye at the promise of a baby, Vanya and Ben both creeping along the side of the bed like big dogs trying to decide how to approach a small kitten without crushing it, and had to smile. “In fact, we’re almost nice to be around.”