The Umbrella Academy were in deep shit; maybe not apocalypse-causing depths of shit (this time), but deep enough. Deep, like, swimming pool deep.
Diego hadn’t been to a swimming pool in years, and did not think it likely that after this particular night he would be going to one again anytime soon.
Despite travelling back to the past to stop the apocalypse, years before the year that they had left behind in the future, they still weren’t safe from being targeted. Why did their most relentless and dangerous enemy have to be one that could time travel too? It just seemed unfair. And highly exasperating.
Number Five and Klaus were being highly exasperating too.
“And why a pool,” Number Five was saying, or rather slurring, unimpressed, “Really? I mean really. It is really quite cliché.”
“I don’t know,” Klaus replied conversationally, “Maybe because it’ll be easier to clean the blood off the tiles and hide the evidence?”
“Well, I’m sorry, Luther! But this situation isn’t the most pleasurable, is it? I’m just preparing myself for the worst case scenario, here.”
The situation was that The Umbrella Academy were currently tied up and left to sit or lie on the tiles beside an indoor swimming pool in the middle of the night. Standard villain setting, really. Five was kind of right; it was pretty cliché. Not that Diego was going to admit that Five was right. No thanks.
Because it was Number Five’s pleasant ex-colleague time travelling agents from the Temps Commission that were behind all of this. They had caught up with them and caught them all, one by one; taken them by surprise and captured them. They had drugged Vanya and Number Five so that they were too out-of-it to be able to use their powers; gagged Allison even though she hadn’t been able to properly use her powers since Vanya had slashed her throat; and clapped Luther in metal cuffs and chains so strong and numerous that even he couldn’t break through them. They had known that the drugs wouldn't effect Klaus as much, so had warned Klaus that if he unleashed Ben and Ben’s powers that they would kill one of the others as punishment.
And Diego? Well, all they had had to do with Diego was restrain him, same as any other man, and wasn’t that a kick in the teeth? Worse still, he had been deemed the most dispensable and so was being used by the agents as the incentive, the hostage, the one at gunpoint to keep everyone else in line. And wasn’t that fucking humiliating.
Diego had the most human powers, so they treated him like the weak one. Dicks. Absolute dicks, the lot of them. Goddamn Temps Commission. They would learn though. Diego had a trick left up his sleeve – or pant leg – in the form of the small blade secreted away in the lining of the ankle of his left pant leg. It was the only one left unfound of the many, many weapons that the bastards had taken from his person when they had caught him. He just needed their captors to be distracted long enough to allow him to work his hands out of the bonds – where they were tied behind his back – and then get the blade in hand, cut the rest of his bonds, kill the Temps Commission agents, and then help his siblings escape. Easy. The drugs had knocked Vanya mostly unconscious but the rest were awake, and Luther could carry her like she weighed no more than a doll. So it would be easy, really. He just needed a distraction.
Number Five and Klaus were being plenty distracting already, but not in the way that Diego needed. It was more in the way that seemed to be winding their captors up and making them increasingly irritated and impatient. Number Five and Klaus had been trading comments and barbs back and forth and at the agents for the best part of the captor-threats stages.
“Look, I don’t even see why you’re bothering waiting,” Five said; his expression was slack and his pupils blown out from whatever they had given him to stop him using his powers. It was making him say stupid things too, apparently. “Are you waiting for the gun squad to show up? Back in my day we did all the dirty work ourselves…”
“Back in my day,” Klaus scoffed, and then; “Hey! Five! Don’t tell them to hurry up! That’s a terrible idea!”
“Would you two,” Diego demanded through gritted teeth, rolling his eyes viciously, “Just shut up.”
“You should listen to your brother,” one of the Temp Commission agents warned, “He’s the one that’s going to suffer for it if you don’t.”
And ugh, how embarrassing. Diego couldn’t even look Luther in the eye. He knew his brother wouldn’t really be amused at Diego’s predicament, due entirely to Diego really being the most ‘human’ of them and therefore genuinely in danger, but Number 2’s competitive inner child was still in there and Diego was too damn prideful to even look at the Number 1 he had once wished that he could be.
Klaus and Luther and Five’s protests took decidedly different directions in response to the agent's threat about making Diego suffer;
“No, no, no, no, don’t do that, that isn’t necessary…” Klaus sounded like he was genuinely panicking a little over Diego’s situation.
“Surely we can figure something out…” Luther was trying. Negotiation was not going to work here. Diego didn’t have to be Number 1 to know that.
“I think you are waiting for a reason,” Number Five called out their bluff, like a loud and obnoxious drunk. “I think if you were going to do something you would have done it by now.”
Five sounded so utterly confident that not one of them questioned it (though Allison was rolling her eyes fiercely, unable to say anything from behind the gag, and Vanya was currently out of consciousness again).
“Do you know what I think?” Number Five said, grinning large and lethargic like a Cheshire cat; if the drugs weren’t in his system he probably would have been spitting fierce, but as it was he was being idly cattish and more than a little too daring, in Diego’s opinion. “I think…”
“I think you should shut your mouth,” one of the agents said, hauling Diego up by the shoulder of his jacket and to the edge of the pool, pushing him until he teetered on the edge. “Or I’ll push your brother in.”
“Go on then,” Diego dared. The drop into the water would give him the time he needed to loosen his hand ties and get his hands on the blade. And then these fuckers would be dead meat.
“Please don’t do that,” Klaus advised, expression imploring, “He doesn’t mean that. Do you Diego? No, see? He doesn’t...”
“Yeah, I do,” Diego snarled, getting up into the face of the agent holding him.
The agent shrugged. “If you insist.”
Diego had been expecting them to shove him in. He had not been expecting one of the agents to produce a lead fucking weight. “Uh, no, actually,” Diego said, changing tact pretty damn fast, “I think I’m alright.”
“Thought that might change your mind, now that you know we are being deadly serious,” the agent said, as others held him to stop him struggling and another actually did kneel down and tie the weight to Diego’s already bound ankles. “Let’s see if your siblings get that, too.”
“They get that,” he turned to glance at the others, and they were all staring at either him or the weight attached to his legs. “You guys get that, right?”
“Yeah, we get it,” Luther spoke for them, and then to the agents, “We get that you are being serious, ok? Just, let him go.”
“Let him go?” the agent asked, tone lightly mocking, and that was when Diego knew that he was in deep, deep shit. Or, well, deep, deep water.
“Phrasing is literally everything to these guys,” Five warned almost immediately, as exactly the same time the agent declared; “Wrong choice of phrase.”
One second Diego was thinking Oh, for fuck’s sake, Luther, and the next he was seeing the horrified expressions of his siblings, and the next he was hitting chlorine water. He could hear muffled shrieks and shouts through the water as the weight immediately took charge and pulled him down from the surface.
He was pulled down deep enough that by the time the weight hit the bottom, he couldn’t hear anything at all, just the underwater silence; usually serene and peaceful, now rather terrifying.
Though Diego did not yet consider himself defeated. He wasn’t dead yet. He had always prided himself on being resourceful, even if it didn’t always pay off for him. He’d somehow managed to take a big gulp of air before his head went under, and he still had the blade in his left pant leg. He just had to stop himself from panicking and free himself before he could drown.
Ignoring the fact that the task was impossible (because Diego was nothing if not furiously stubborn), he refocused on trying to ease his hands out of the rope tied behind his back. Once he had done that, he could get the blade, and then cut the rope tying him down to the weight. The chlorine was stinging his eyes, and he just kept holding his breath and hoping. He played some songs through in his head – some of the ones Klaus had recently been playing relentlessly – to keep himself distracted from any panic while working his hands out of their bonds. The songs helped him not to think too much about how his time surely was about to run out; he kept expecting the water to start flooding his nose and mouth and then his lungs and then drown him. He had heard drowning people often felt happy right at the last moment. He didn’t want to stick around long enough to find out.
He only just refrained from shouting in triumph the moment that his hands were freed; that would have been a very, very stupid thing to do. With his hands finally freed, Diego started yanking at the seam of his pants to get to the blade, and once the blade was in his hands he started hacking at the rope keeping him weighted down.
The anticipation that his lungs would start burning any time now remained, but it just didn’t start happening. It was a little concerning but hey, maybe Diego was fitter than he thought.
It seemed like a lifetime; the urgent desperation to cut through the last piece of fucking rope building and building because Diego would absolutely loathe being taken down at the last hurdle.
Perseverance finally won out, and with a moment of hysteric disbelief the rope finally cut, and Diego frantically swam to the surface, which seemed like a goddamn kilometer away. Had the time travelling bastards somehow brought them to the deepest fucking pool in the whole goddamn world?!
But finally, finally, thank the fucking lord, Diego broke the surface and slammed one hand over onto the side.
Although his ears were waterlogged and muffled, he thought he heard Klaus whine loudly, tearfully; “Oh no, no, no, no! Diego’s ghost has already come to haunt me. Just like he always threatened he would!”
Honestly. Diego had been struggling under there and Klaus thought it was a funny time to crack a joke? Typical.
Diego managed to swing his other hand over the side and after steeling himself, hauled himself tiredly up and over the side, flopping down onto the tiles, his face pressed to the cool, bumpy surface, his legs still in the water, as he gasped for breath.
“Fucking shit,” Diego declared.
“Yeah, Klaus,” Diego replied resignedly to his brother’s dramatic tone of voice, “What is it?”
But Klaus did not reply to him. He seemed to talk to the rest of them instead; “Wait. Wait, are you…you’re all seeing him too aren’t you?” He sounded alarmed, “I’m not the only one seeing him?!”
“Diego,” Luther’s voice was tight, like he was emotional. Weird. He didn’t think Luther was capable of much of that. “How are you still alive?”
Well, that was fucking rude. It wasn’t like it was hard to remember to hold your breath underwater.
“I held my breath?” Diego responded drily, rolling his eyes and then regretting it because the chlorine stung. He managed to haul his legs out of the water fully and then collapsed onto his back, panting up at the ceiling.
“That’s impossible,” Five said; not dismissive but…fascinated?
“It was only a few minutes,” Diego grumbled tiredly. He wasn’t sure what the big deal was. He had just rescued himself because the rest of them were useless. It was no big deal. The one with the most-human powers his ass. He was the one doing all the saving again. “I’m pretty sure the record is over twenty minutes.”
“Diego,” Luther said slowly, still sounding way too emotional for a giant hunk of emotionally-stunted man-ape. “You weren’t under for twenty minutes.” There was a long, weirdly tense pause. “It’s been nearly two hours.”
Diego scoffed and managed to push himself up to sitting. “What?”
“You were under for like two hours,” Klaus choked, and as Diego finally looked at him properly, it looked like Klaus had been crying. In fact, it looked like they all had been. Even Luther and Five looked like they had been. Diego hadn’t seen his siblings all look like that since Allison nearly died, and before that…well, not since Ben. And since Five had been gone when Ben had died, he couldn’t even remember the last time he had seen Five look like that. “We thought you were dead.”
Diego’s breath caught in his chest. He turned wildly to the big clock on the swimming pool wall, and found himself choking and spluttering. “What the…” he gasped, clutching at his chest. “What the hell?”
He looked imploringly to his siblings, who were all still staring at him like he was a ghost.
“What the hell?!” he demanded again. He turned wild eyes to Klaus, because seeking out Klaus had become more of a comfort to him than he’d care to admit. “What the hell?!”
“I don’t know…” Klaus whispered back, eye liner-streaked tear stains reflected on his cheeks by the harsh lights of the pool. “But you’re alright. You’re alright.”
“B-b-but how?” Diego asked as he finally, finally started to panic.
Allison was still gagged, and the cloth was wet with tears. Jesus, they had all been grieving for him for two hours…
“Breathe, Diego,” Vanya - who was awake again but looked utterly drained – tried to encourage him; trying to calm him, he knew, trying to keep them all calm. She knew better than all of them what it was like to lose control. “Just breathe.”
“That must be it,” Five said suddenly, tilting his head curiously. His voice was even again, but he looked paler than usual, and his hair was messy, like he’d been tugging at it in distress. He definitely looked like he had sobered up a little from whatever he’d been drugged with. “He must be able to hold his breath.”
“What do you mean?” Luther asked, voice rough, glancing worriedly between Five and Diego’s wide, shocked eyes.
“Well, that’s the only explanation I can think of,” Five reasoned, “for the fact that our brother managed to stay alive under water for two hours. Diego, did you just take one breath and hold it all the time you were down there?”
Diego’s eyes widening in realisation seemed to be answer enough.
“I think Number 2 has been holding out on us,” Five said with almost childish excitement, and ok, maybe he was still a little under drug influence. “He has another power!”
“B-b-but,” Diego protested, teeth starting to chatter and his stammer making a cursed reappearance with the shock of it all. “I d-d-didn’t kn-n-ow I c-c-could.”
“Maybe because dad never tried to drown us?” Luther suggested, reasonably.
“Surprising, really,” Klaus commented, darkly deadpan. “He tried everything else.”
“Well,” Five said, forever practical even when high, “We can of course test this theory…”
“N-no!” Diego yelled, shaking his head furiously. “Nope. No. Not going b-back in water for a long, long t-time, thanks. In f-f-fact, I’m ready for us to get as f-f-far away from here as we c-can.” He felt exhausted, but the sudden urge to put distance between himself and the water had him taking up the blade that he had abandoned on the tiles next to him and dragging himself over to Klaus to start cutting his bonds.
“Diego…” Klaus spoke quietly, and his bottom lip was wobbling again. “We really thought…” and the second his hands were free, Klaus threw them around Diego, not caring that he got soaking wet. “Thank you,” Klaus murmured in his ear, clutching Diego to him and stroking his wet hair. “Thanks for not haunting me yet.”
“I’m not sure how Ben would feel hearing you call it a ‘haunting’,” Diego managed to crack a small smile as he pulled back.
Klaus glanced to the empty air beside them. “He says he doesn’t mind, but he said it in a tone of voice that means he will have a rant at me later.” Klaus paused to presumably listen to Ben again. “He’s just so glad you’re still alive.”
“Thanks Ben,” Diego said quietly, his smile turning wobbly, “Me too.”
It didn’t take long for Diego and Klaus to free the rest of their siblings, all of them gathering Diego up into hugs as soon as they were released. As soon as Allison had wrenched the gag from her face she was pressing a kiss to Diego’s cheek, fierce and frightened. Vanya’s tentative hug, pressing the side of her face to Diego’s chest, was heart breaking; even more so because it was possibly the first hug he had ever had with her. The moment Five finished his hug he reached up to grab Diego’s face in his hands to inspect him thoughtfully. Luther was the last freed, because he was in a large number of heavy iron chains that needed locks picking, but he nearly crushed Diego with the force and severity of his embrace. As potential drowning experiences went, Diego could not help but privately admit that this was actually quite a nice way to survive it. Not that he would ever tell the others that. Nope. Nada. This whole touchy-feeling hugging thing? Just a one off, because he was tired...and could have drowned...and had apparently discovered a power he had never known that he had.
The Temps Commission agents had decided to leave the siblings to wallow in their grief over Diego before coming back to punish them some more, so The Umbrella Academy had to make a hasty exit before the agents decided to return. They all had to help each other out of the building; Five and Vanya were still feeling the effects of the drugs used to dampen their powers. As Luther and Allison helped Five and Vanya out of the building, Diego was aided by Klaus, who fussed over him like a relentless mother hen.
They managed to find their van and all squashed into it, Klaus dragging Diego into the far back seats with him.
Klaus did not complain when Diego slumped into his side, still a little in shock. In fact, Klaus seemed equally as comforted by it; wrapping his arms around Diego without hesitation.
“My little merman,” Klaus cooed softly and proudly to him, stroking Diego’s hair again as Luther turned the van onto the road.
Diego was in shock and sleepy, but he wasn’t struck goddamn dumb: “I absolutely and totally resent that,” Diego made damn sure to inform him.
“My baby shark?”
“That’s worse and you know it.”
“My deadly little kraken?”
“Yeah, ok,” Diego allowed, resting his head tiredly on Klaus’ shoulder and taking a big, shuddering breath – something he could apparently hold for hours (or maybe indefinitely?) - “I guess I could live with that one.”