Vanya wakes up in her cramped little bedroom with her family crowded around her. Allison gets top billing, as always, with Vanya's head in her lap where she's resting against the headboard. Vanya can feel a heavy weight on her thigh, and by pushing her chin to her chest and blinking in the dim morning light, she can just make out a mess of wild curls. Klaus is fast asleep, curled up against her knees. There's a couple of huge, shadowy lumps braced against the side of her bed too; Luther is gripping her hand between both of his from where he's fallen asleep leaning against her mattress. Diego is sprawled out next to him, his snores shaking the mattress just a little on each exhale. Vanya stifles a laugh.
"You should be asleep," says a soft, slightly annoyed voice. Vanya cranes her neck again and catches sight of Five- Five! -sitting on her windowsill. The sun isn't up just yet, but the first rays are turning the sky behind his head pink and orange, lighting his hair on fire. The city glints in the distance, already awake.
"So should you." Vanya whispers. "I don't know what time travel and switching back to your young body does to a person but it's probably not good. Just saying."
"I've got coffee," Five replies dryly, which is not an answer or a solution and how did he even know where to get coffee, she threw all hers out after she and Klaus detoxed-
"So are you."
"That's fair," Vanya concedes sensibly. She shifts to get a better look at him, trying to see if there's anything she should worry about- why is he up, is he hurt and not saying anything, did those sedatives do something to him she didn't notice before -but stops when Allison huffs and Klaus mumbles something into her sheets and Diego's hand curls gently around her ankle. She's gonna be lucky if her bed frame doesn't break before they all wake up.
"Go back to sleep," Five insists, turning back to look out the window. He's balanced his coffee mug on one knee. His other foot kicks the wall gently, a thumping rhythm that soothes some of Vanya's nerves. "I'll keep watch."
Vanya means to ask exactly what he's watching out for, but she falls asleep before she can.
I bet you didn't see this letter coming, huh?
It's strange, but nowadays people know who Vanya is and she's getting sort of used to it. She still doesn't get stopped on the street very often, thank God, but that's mostly due to Cate's people always hanging around. The power of homelessness really puts most on-lookers off from associating. It's a sad truth when Vanya realizes it, and she forces more warm drinks and clothing onto her kids as a result. Lee takes a while to come around, but in the end he and Zoey seem to enjoy it. Vanya's started knitting recently-it helps with anxiety and keeps her hands busy when she isn't playing the violin and it reminds her of Mom in a sweet way that hurts, just a little bit- and Lee was really excited when she was finally able to make him a pair of dark blue gloves with stars spangling his palms. She gets a hug for that one.
The next time Vanya throws herself into a stranger's life in a totally not heroic way, it's a return to the basics. There's an accident. It's a motorcycle this time.
"Ow ow ow," She hisses. The metal isn't on fire like the car was, but she'd seen the man go skidding when he took the turn too sharp, and there'd been more than a few sparks. She adjusts her grip, hears bystanders calling the cops, and the sound of yelling. She drowns it all out, sweat stinging her eyes and she pulls ineffectually. Her mind had gone a strange, familiar blank when she'd seen it happen and she's not thinking too clearly. The man underneath the bike groans and curses. Vanya shares his sentiment.
"Listen, you look like you do push-ups," she huffs at him, "so get your hands under this thing and when I pull you push-yeah just like that, super good job-"
The veil of fog drops over her vision then, and with his help, she pulls the twisted skeleton of his once probably pretty glorious bike off of him. He rolls over and vomits into the gravel as soon as his chest is done being compressed.
"Oh that's-that's normal, that's probably fine." Vanya crouches down and pats his back gently, ears twitching at the sound of sirens. "You're fine. You're gonna be okay."
He winces under her fingertips, but catches her hand in his, squeezing when she draws away in concern. She smiles weakly and squeezes back. "You're gonna be okay."
I don't really know what to say to you. I guess if there's something I've never been very good at it's knowing the right thing to say at the right time. You probably tried to teach me that but I can't remember. You tried to teach us all a lot of things, didn't you? I guess we never said thank you, either, so I'll start there. Thank you, Pogo, for doing what you could for us. It wasn't enough, but it was all you could give. I understand that now.
The apartment Allison brings them to weeks later is decidedly out of Vanya's budget. When Vanya opens her mouth to point this out, Allison exclaims loudly about the tiling in the kitchen and drowns her out. Somehow, she never quite manages to see the sales price.
"You know I can't afford a balcony," she mutters when they're watching Klaus throw open the French doors and lean far too far out over the railing to yell at people on the street. Diego's hand hovers in the air behind him, ready for a fall. "I know this neighborhood, Allison. Just looking at the balcony costs more than my entire life's savings."
"Don't worry about it."
"That is absolutely the worst thing you could've said besides maybe 'calm down.'" Vanya points out. Behind them, Five is checking the locks on the front door. Luther is explaining to Ben, who Klaus is manifesting, where exactly he'd like to put some planters outside. He's excited about tomato season coming up.
"I already put you in a cage once." Allison drops her voice, so low Vanya has to lean in to hear it. "Let me make it up to you, okay?"
Her heart twists in her chest and Vanya nods, but something shrewd makes her eye her sister carefully. "There's more to it, isn't there?"
Allison's mouth twists. Her eyes get a little big and something sad and guilty tinges her expression. She reaches out and Vanya reluctantly lets her take her hand, twine their fingers.
"I like to take care of you guys," Allison says. "It's all I have without…"
"Without Claire?" Vanya prods gently. "What happened, Allison?"
"Her father-I rumored him. To, you know. Love me. And now I-I just don't know if I can go back because…"
Vanya waits her out. Allison looks out over the rooftops and breathes shallowly. "Because everything here, with us, is real. And the only thing real out there is Claire. I want her with me, of course, but I think maybe he knows something about what I did and I just can't face that."
" Allison ."
Her sister takes a breath sharply, and nods once. "I know. I have to own up to it eventually. It's just. Hard. You know."
"Yeah," Vanya says. She squeezes her sister's hand. "I can guess. It'd be cool to meet my niece, though."
I hope you and Mom are alright. I won't ask you to write back, but I also won't refuse a letter if you send one, if you catch my drift. But maybe don't call just yet. I doubt either of us can handle that right now, and besides, there's no telling what Dad will do if he catches you talking to me. It wouldn't be good, I can guess that much. You and I both know how well you can keep a secret, though, so I'm not too worried about you. (Sorry, that was mean, wasn't it? I'm working on it. Give me time.)
Leonard looks smaller now. He's hunched in on himself, hair dirty and hanging around his ears, fingernails bitten to the quick. The fluorescent lights do nothing for his complexion, make him look sallow and frightened. He's a wild animal ready to bite.
Vanya shivers behind the glass of the one-way mirror and the officer behind her offers her a cup of coffee. She refuses and keeps her eyes locked on the back of Diego's head. She's not entirely sure about police procedure, but she's almost positive he's not a high enough rank to be doing this interrogation. Vanya herself certainly should not be here.
She's here anyway. Being a "superhero" has its perks, she guesses.
Detective Patch drums her fingers on her forearm where she stands at Vanya's side. She for one does not seem impressed with Vanya's presence; it's actually weirdly reassuring. At least someone is acting normally.
It barely takes Diego saying more than "why'd you do it?" to get him talking.
"You all thought you were so special, just because you had powers," Leonard raves. His eyes are wide. His teeth are sharp. Vanya holds herself around the middle. "I'm extraordinary too. We share the same birthday, you know."
"Answer the question," her brother grits. She does not like him being in the same room as Leonard, even though she could probably bring the roof down on his head before he even touched Diego.
"I am special. I am special."
"If you don't comply, I'm going to have to-"
"You couldn't get away from your father, but I did," Leonard snarls. "I got away when you all couldn't. I did what had to be done and when he tried to touch me that last time I showed him what I was capable of. I'm better than you were because I got away. I'm special too. I didn't even need powers. I am extraordinary."
Oh. Oh .
Unexpected pity floods Vanya. She can't forgive Leonard for what he's done; her skin still crawls with the feeling of his hands in her hair, but something clicks in her head. He's like her, in a twisted, disgusting way. He's what she could've become if she didn't have powers, if she didn't have family, if all she was was what Sir Reginald Hargreeves made her into-a jealous, envious skeleton of a person, wasting away to nothingness. Leonard is nothing more than a scared little boy, a husk of a man, a monster convinced he is right. That could've been her. That could still be her, if she's not very careful.
Vanya turns and leaves and doesn't need to see any more. She wonders later, when she lies awake at night sometimes, if anyone ever visits Leonard. If she were a braver woman, she may have tried.
I don't really feel right about how things ended, especially between us. And with Mom, too. I wish-well. Sometimes I wish you could have come with us. If I'm being honest, sometimes I never want to see your face ever again. I know it's harsh, but I never want to lie to you, Pogo. It's important to me now that we don't lie to each other, even if the truth hurts. You can humor me on this, can't you? After all, you're the one who broke the news about me being a child murderer, which, ouch. Thanks for that. (I knew I needed therapy but my God. Whoever I start seeing is going to need an immediate raise.)
Vanya loves her siblings and she loves playing the violin and she loves her students and she loves helping people and she loves the new apartment and she loves the kids on the street she can call hers now. But sometimes love and a good life are not enough.
Vanya can't sleep. It happens. She deals. Tea is a new addiction. It's herbal, she tells Luther and Diego when they fret. No caffeine. Stop worrying.
She stays up sometimes, slips from her bedroom-she has her own bedroom now, they all do, this apartment is fucking gigantic and she never ever wants to know what the security deposit cost Allison-and pads to the living room. Thankfully they agreed with Klaus and got a comfy couch instead of Allison's modernist choice. The cushions nearly swallow each of them, barring Luther, when they sit down. Sometimes Vanya reads, but more often than not she drinks rooibos and knits and tries not to let her heart beat out of her chest. Sometimes she has to open all the windows and the doors to the balcony to remind herself she isn't trapped. Those are the bad nights.
Vanya is having a bad night. Her hands shake on her knitting needles and she has to put them down. She's been thinking of starting needlepoint or cross stitching next. A wind blows gently on the back of her neck, where her hair is up. There's a sudden, muted crack and she doesn't react. Her head is all jumbled tonight.
"Why did you go back?"
Vanya looks up. Five is sitting on the kitchen counter, watching her with those strange, old eyes. They make her insides shiver sometimes; his eyes shouldn't look like that. "Sorry, what?"
"Don't apologize," Five snaps, but he subsides quickly. "You went back to the house, knowing what he did to you. Allison told me. So why did you go back?"
"Why did you come back from the future?"
He startles. It should be an accomplishment, but Vanya doesn't have the energy to do more than twitch the corners of her mouth. "Because the future sucked."
"It wouldn't have anymore, if what you told us was accurate. The world didn't end."
"Yeah and we were never sure why that happened," Five points out. "I for one would still like an explanation."
"And people say you're the genius of the operation," Vanya scoffs fondly. "Don't you get it, Five? I was the apocalypse."
It takes less than a second for her brother to pop into being by her side. His hands grip her fingers too tightly but Vanya doesn't pull away. This is important to him. "What do you mean, Vanya?"
"Dad built that bunker for me when I was, what? Seven? Nine, maybe? He might have been kinda batshit crazy, but Reginald always had a reason for the things he did. He knew a threat when he saw one, and he saw one in me."
"You're not what he thought you'd become," Five says. He's the only one she told about the conversations with Dad and Pogo. But she didn't tell him everything.
"Dad said I was the reason the world ended." Five's hands spasm atop hers but don't let go. "He didn't just think I was a monster, Five, he thought I would kill everyone. And I think he was right. No don't-don't say anything, just listen. I was in a bad way, after you left and Ben died. And I got out of the house just like everybody else but I was alone and I was scared and I'd never learned how to be okay with myself. And I was headed down the path of blaming it all on everyone else-all of you guys, even you, maybe especially you because you were my best friend and you left. I think if that were how I saw you when I found my powers, I don't think-I probably would have been resentful and distrusting and I wouldn't have listened to reason. I wouldn't have been able to control this power by myself but I wouldn't have let anyone help. Because I'd be special, when I never got to be and you always were."
"You're special, Vanya." Five says, and his voice is low and rough and so young and his eyes are so old and Vanya smiles because she wants to cry all the time. "You are . Don't look at me like that."
"Special is a relative term," Vanya replies, soft. "And I've done a lot of growing since then. But thank you Five. It means a lot, coming from you. But if you patronize me again, I'll have to blast your ass through a window."
Her brother's laugh is a surprise. They don't hear it often enough.
"So you went back because you thought you were a monster? I hadn't even told you about the apocalypse yet."
"No, of course not. I went back-" Vanya pauses and looks away. Her throat feels tight suddenly. She focuses on her knitting, a thick scarf of red and gold glittering yarn she hopes to gift Cate before the onset of spring rains. It's calming, the way the low kitchen lights catch on the threads. "I went back because even when I knew what happened with me and Allison-fuck, when I knew what happened to Klaus, even-he's our dad , you know? I guess somewhere deep down I thought that counted for something."
"It should." Five mutters. They don't say anything for a long time. Vanya sips her tea. "I have something to tell you. You're gonna think it's crazy."
She tilts her head and waits. She's always been good at waiting for Five.
He snorts and scrubs a hand over his face. He's probably as tired as Vanya feels. "When I was stuck in the future, I got out by working for an organization of time traveling assassins who called themselves the Commission and worked to bring about the end of the world."
Vanya blinks. Five gives her a minute. It is appreciated.
"They...wanted to make me blow up then? If Dad was right about me?"
"If Dad was right about you," Five agrees grimly. "Yeah. And I don't know what's happening with them now. I wasn't supposed to come back here so they'd be looking to stop me from stopping the apocalypse-you, I guess-normally, but since you stopped yourself they might have been thrown into chaos."
"I would think so," Vanya says, trying for reasonability in the face of utter insanity. "Nobody's ever heard of a bomb defusing itself."
That might have been a tad morbid, because Five looks at her askance. "Right," he says slowly. "So what I'm saying is, they still present the world a very real threat. And they'll be coming after us-you and me specifically, if I had to wager a guess."
"We'll be ready for them."
"How?" Five asks, and he looks so worn out. She reaches out and pushes his bangs off his forehead and laughs when he shakes her off with what is probably supposed to be a growl but ends up more of a whine.
"I'll make a pot of tea." Vanya offers. "We'll figure it out from there."
I'm sorry. And I forgive you. Or at least I will, when I stop being so angry. I hope that's soon; I hate feeling angry. I do remember that I love you though, and I have always loved you, which somehow makes handling the anger easier and harder at the same time. But I do love you Pogo, so-write soon. If you want to.
Vanya picks up her violin and lets her hands run over the worn wood. It is brown and smooth and warm and sends tingles through her fingertips. It is the first-and for a long time, only-thing she ever loved. It is not the last.
Her family's voices rise and fall in the other room. Their laughter makes the corners of her eyes crinkle when she smiles. The window is open but the sounds of the street traffic are faint to her ears. The air making the white, gauzy curtains billow around her is slightly wet with the promise of spring. The lamps behind her cast her sheet music in soft golden light. For some reason, Vanya's chest constricts gently around her heart before easing. She has a feeling she'll play for hours tonight.
It ends when Vanya closes her eyes, breathes, and touches bow to string.