In another life, it takes six months for Vanya to wake up. In the end it's as understated as most things are with her. She just blinks those big brown eyes open, stares at the white ceiling above her, and thinks for a minute. She goes back to sleep before anyone even notices.

The second time she wakes up, Vanya can feel a heavy weight on her left thigh, and one on the opposite shoulder. Tilting her head to the side, she receives a face full of curls and a nose full of perfume. Allison is curled gently around her, hand clutching the blankets at chest level and head on Vanya's shoulder. Turning the other way reveals the weight on her thigh is actually Klaus's head. He's drooling on her sheets.

The world outside the window which Vanya can just barely catch over her sister's shoulder is dark. There's a figure slumped in a chair a few feet from the foot of her bed, blocking the doorway. She'd recognize the determined set of Diego's shoulders anywhere. His head is down but she can't see too clearly in the pre-dawn gloom- he my be sleeping.

Vanya shrugs her free shoulder, and goes back to sleep.

The shock wears off the third time she wakes. Sunlight is streaming through the blinds, turning her room golden yellow. She admires the reflections from Allison's compact mirror dancing on the ceiling until her sister snaps it shut.

Then, hearing someone shuffle to her left, Vanya turns and locks eyes with her oldest, smallest brother.

Five doesn't even react for a split second; they simply stare at each other. She can see his fists clenching on the upholstery of the cheap hospital furniture he's perched on. He looks like hell, all dark bruises under his eyes and pallid skin stretched taut over fragile bone. Vanya knows she can't look much better.

Then Five's eyes pop wide open and he's throwing himself to her bedside. Vanya can hear Allison's exclamation in the background, but Five is already swearing loud enough to burst her eardrums and he's shaking her shoulder too roughly and Vanya realizes with a jolt that- she is awake.

She's awake.

She's not, for all her efforts, dead.

"Holy shit," Five is babbling. And then, when she flinches, "Vanya. Vanya."

"Oh my God," Allison echoes, catching on. Her hand is squeezing Vanya's fingers too tightly. Vanya wiggles hers in response and she hears Allison let out something suspiciously close to a sob. "Oh, thank God."

"You're awake," Five tells her like Vanya hasn't figured that out yet.

"The others," Allison jerks to her feet. "I have to get the others. Luther's getting breakfast-"

"Go," Five says. He hasn't looked away from Vanya's face and his fingers haven't relaxed from where they are clawing into her skin. It's strangely comforting; this place seems floaty and dreamy and too surreal for her to get a grip on. His bruising grip is grounding in contrast.

Allison has a bit of trouble releasing her grip on Vanya's hand, but at last she turns and whirls out into the hall, almost colliding with the door jamb on her way out.

The quiet sets in again and it's so comforting after the concert; for months Vanya has been dreaming of little else. Silence is a welcome reprieve from the haunting melody that has played on repeat in her brain all this time. She's been slowly drowning and oh, how she wants to rest.

But she can't yet- there's something she needs to know first.

When Vanya speaks her mouth feels cottony and strange, as if it is not her own. Her throat tastes vile and wrong and she can feel a scar where stitches used to be three months ago stretch across her tendons. The skin there is thick and ropy, she can feel that. But she has to speak. She has to know.

"…work?" Vanya rasps, almost choking on the words. Five's face does something complicated, landing somewhere between a horrified snarl and blanching. He scrambles for a moment and then an ice chip is pressing insistently at her lips. But Vanya pushes him away weakly, more pawing at his wrist than anything else. He backs off, hovering close by and wielding the ice cup like a weapon to be used with deadly accuracy.

"Did……Five?" She doesn't blink, her eyes boring into his. Five does her the courtesy of not looking away. ""

"Yes," Five breathes. Vanya can feel a knot that had sat at the pit of her stomach for six months unravel. "Yes, the world is safe. You saved us."

Vanya sighs in relief and sags back against her pillows. Before she succumbs to unconsciousness once more, she squeezes her brother's fingers. He squeezes back. This time when Vanya closes her eyes she knows she's going to wake up again.

She sleeps with a smile on her face.

In another life, Vanya's ghost takes two days to find Klaus. It's easier than it can be for most spirits, what with her brother screaming her name into the void. She follows the sound of his grief stricken voice and simply pops into existence at the foot of his bed one evening. She doesn't even really mean to do it, it's just that- well. He sounded so sad.

"Oh," Vanya says into the dead silence. She suddenly feels very self-conscious of the bloodstains on her perfectly white suit. "Uh. Hello."

" Vanya. "

Klaus is gaping at her in the dark of his old bedroom. A few candles flicker around the room and she wonders if he was trying to create an actual, authentic seance, just for her. It's oddly touching.

"Klaus," Vanya starts but then she stops. She doesn't rightly know what she wants to say to him. What does one say to the brother who held your hand as you died from self-inflicted wounds in an attempt to save both him and the world? "So…The world is saved?"

He flinches and she winces too. That was not the right conversation starter.

"Why did you do this, Vanya?" Klaus sounds wreaked, voice cracking. His eyes are wide and leaking. He looks fairly unhinged, hair wild from his hands running through it and nails bitten down to nubs. His clothes are disheveled and it looks like he hasn't slept in a week. "Why would you do this to yourself?"

"I had to," Vanya answers. She doesn't expect his sob. She throws up her palms, motioning as if to hold his hands in hers but only succeeds in passing their fingers through each other. "I'm so sorry, Klaus, but I had to."

"No, no, no you didn't." He's getting louder and Vanya draws back. But her brother darts forward, his hands glowing an unearthly blue, and suddenly he's clasping her by the upper arms. He doesn't even blink at her surprised squeak. "Oh Vanya, no. No ."

Vanya sighs and carefully extracts herself from her brother's arms. She reaches out and cups his cheek. Tries to give him a smile that feels more like a grimace. "Yes, I did, Klaus. I was too dangerous; I was going to end the world. You know that."

"No," he denies again but it's weaker now. "No, there had to be another way."

"Maybe. Maybe not." Vanya shrugs. "But this was the one we got. I'm sorry, Klaus. It was for the greater good."

Her brother looks so grieved, so hurt and beaten down and despairing that for a moment Vanya wishes she could take it all back. She'd go back to the start, endure all of the ridicule and drugs that Sir Reginald could throw at her, if only to wipe that look off Klaus's face. But then she pulls herself together because the only one who can rewind time is Five and the rest of them are damned to the consequences.

"It's alright now Klaus."

"No, it's not." He sniffles, wipes his eyes with the back of his hand and meets her gaze with his own red one. She wonders if he's slept at all. "It's really, really not."

"No, I guess not. But it will be."

She stays until he cries himself to sleep and then disappears with naught more than a whisper of the wind.

In another life, Vanya gasps awake in her old childhood bedroom mere seconds after her body cooled in her siblings' arms. The feeling of her heart thumping against her ribs is disorienting. She has to take a second to get used to her lungs filling and emptying themselves again.

She's also approximately thirteen years old. Her bangs brush at her lashes; it's time for Mom to trim them again.

Just as Vanya puts one foot out of bed (the floor is cold and shocking to her bare skin) the door to her bedroom slams open. Diego's young, round face stares wildly at her.

"What the absolute fuck were you thinking?" He cries, not bothering to be mindful of the fact that it is definitely the dead of the night outside her window. She can see the lights from her brothers' and sister's rooms flickering on in the hall.

Before she can even open her mouth Diego bounds across the space separating them and flings his arms around her shoulders. She doesn't ever remember hugging her brother and the physical contact is jarring, especially after dying under his shaking hands only minutes ago. Vanya gasps, clings to the back of his striped pajamas, and starts shaking. She can't seem to stop.

"Th-the world," she finally gets out, teeth chattering. Out in the hallway there's a commotion; running feet coming towards her room and Mom's curious voice asking what's going on, the familiar thunk of Pogo's cane (oh, God, she'd killed Pogo) and somewhere beneath it all the start of an irritated, reedy complaint courtesy of her roused father. "I-I had to save the w-world."

"You idiot," he's saying too loudly into her ear. But for the life of her Vanya cannot let him go and the way his hands tighten when she shifts as if to pull away assures her he feels the same. "You goddamn idiot."

"What happened?" She muffles out against his shoulder. Diego huffs and his warm breath stirs her hair. It tickles. Vanya hadn't thought anything would tickle ever again.

"Five took us back- saved your ass. You're alive now and we're gonna make sure it stays that way," he explains shortly and after that Vanya is content to settle in his arms and let the storm rage outside.

In another life, Vanya raises the bow to her throat and smiles at her sister one last time. Her power is receding already, letting her brothers fall from their place hanging in the air, but Vanya cannot take any chances with the atomic bomb she's made herself into. She has to end this.

Luther tackles her to the floor and her violin and bow go flying off into the darkness backstage. She lets out something of a cross between a sob and a screech and claws at his back as his arms close around her. She has not forgotten the cage.

"Vanya, Vanya wake up," Luther is repeating over and over again. He keeps her pinned against him and her power flickers hot and angry, licking at her insides. Vanya wants to throw him off, tell him to get out, get their family out, before she destroys them. But her brother hugs her to him, more gently than he ever has, and chants her name.

"Vanya," Luther's voice sounds so far away, as if she is hearing him from underwater. "Vanya, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

The fire inside winks out in a second flat. The next moment the white covering her eyesight clears and-

Vanya very calmly proceeds to bawl her eyes out.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." She wants to tell him to shut up, to leave her alone, to let her go. She wants to tell him he has to kill her before she kills the world.

But Luther just presses one big hand to the back of her head and rocks her like a child. Vanya can feel the others gathering. There's a hand holding hers, fingers long and smooth just like Allison's always were. Someone lays their head on her shoulder- Diego, maybe, she thinks she remembers the smell of his deodorant- and another arm wraps around her back. Someone else is holding onto her feet, for some reason.

There are words murmured into her ears, reassurances Vanya doesn't deserve. There are hands holding her up, patting her down, making sure she's uninjured. There are tears in her hair and on her cheeks.

The world keeps turning and Vanya huddles in her family's embrace and turns with it.

But in this life, there is no happy ending.

Klaus and Allison do, in the end, come to the concert hall. Klaus screams and cries and begs for his sister to appear. Allison shouts her name loud enough to shake the glass ceiling, spins rumor after rumor to coerce the dead back into being.

It takes them days to give up and sit in silent vigil, as if waiting would work where pleas and demands for her return wouldn't.

And Ben watches, quiet and steady, as their heartbreak does not mend but merely deepens. He wonders if the cracks in their foundation are too deep to fix. Not a one of them would have thought their seventh pillar would be the one to cause a collapse. But here they are, imploding.

This has been a long time in coming, he reflects. It makes the Horror writhe in his chest.

They leave. They go back home, pick up the pieces, try again in another day, another week, then a month, then three months. No one ever comes back to them. It's not the same, it's not better. But they do live. The world lives. Life goes on, at least for most.

And their sister keeps smiling, smiling, smiling from beyond the grave.