Five decided for the rest of them that they were not ready to deal with the 'Sparrow Academy'. He blinked them all outside as a group, landing them gracelessly in the alley behind the house. For a moment everyone lay on their backs on the concrete, the only sounds being their collective breathing and the sounds of cars on the distant street. At least they all landed together this time.
Klaus sat up first, taking in the sight of the others for a minute before speaking. "So, Sparrow Academy, huh?"
"Why'd you take us out of there?" Diego complained. "We need to figure out who those clowns are."
"They're this timelines' version of us," Five croaked from where he still lay. "Probably." He was taking his sweet time to recover, barely bothering to move even as everyone else started sitting up and taking in the alley. "There's nothing we can do about them right now, and I don't want to screw things up even more by starting a fight."
Luther huffed and sat up, staring straight at their smallest brother. "Screw things up more?" He asked, incredulous.
His tone made Five look at him. "Yes, you idiot. Obviously things aren't the way they're supposed to be."
"Obviously," Diego spat.
"What about my daughter?" Allison asked, an edge of despair in her voice.
"We'll fix this," Five sat up to tell her immediately. There was real sympathy in his face when he assured her, and it would have been touching anytime else.
"How are we gonna do that?" Luther asked impatiently.
They expected Five to give an answer but when he didn't say anything, Diego took over. "Okay, first things first, we gotta figure out who's alive and who isn't. What if another doomsday is coming? I don't want another Harold Jenkins happening."
Vanya looked vaguely concerned by that.
"No, we need to talk to Dad." Luther's suggestion was met with a collective sigh. "He would know how exactly the timeline got messed up. Diego is right, you shouldn't have taken us out of there."
Diego snorted derisively. "I said nothing about talking to that jackass."
Klaus could feel an argument brewing between them, like monsoon clouds gathering on the horizon. Five had rested his head in his hands but looked up when Luther addressed him. "I just saved your ass from a better version of us," Five snapped.
"Better version of us?" Diego shot back. "And how do you know that?"
"Because they're not sitting on their asses in a city alley arguing with each other," Five hissed at the two men. He had something else rude and smartassed to say but Luther's bellow cut him off.
"And who's fault is that?" Luther angrily climbed to his feet, towering over all of them, glaring down at Five. There was a collective eye roll from everyone that wasn't Five and Luther. "No," the biggest brother said, his voice never losing its volume. "We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you. We would be at home, Mom and Pogo would be alive-"
Diego made a noise like he wanted to argue, but whatever he said was not important, and it got lost in the background.
"The apocalypse would have happened if it wasn't for me. What part of 'total annihilation of the human race' are you having an issue with? They died, alongside everyone else." Five had scrambled up to his feet, too, and was trying his best to meet Luther's physical threat. It only served to make him look small. "I have been trying-"
"Everything went to shit when you showed up. You brought the apocalypse."
"I saved you-"
"We didn't need saving, we were just fine."
Five jabbed a finger hard into Luther's chest. "Three times! I watched you morons die three. Fucking. Times!" He emphasized each word with a harsh poke at Luther.
"Well, maybe that's supposed to be a sign." It was a stupid thing to say, and they all knew it. Even Luther knew it, realizing it the moment it left his mouth and he couldn't take it back.
"Shut up, Luther." Diego snapped.
"That's not fair," Vanya cried, indignant.
Allison just shook her head, Klaus looked on numbly. He didn't have Ben with him to suggest smart things to add, and he couldn't find the energy in himself to come up with something they would all take seriously.
Five scoffed, looking for all the world like he had another diatribe saved up but just realized he was wasting his breath. His jaw clenched and he shook his head, refusing to look at any of them as he stalked a few paces down the alley.
"Five, wait!" Diego called after their smallest brother, breaking from his place in the circle to go after him. He got a few paces from their teleporter before he blipped away somewhere else.
Diego raised his arms in defeat, turning back to glare at Luther. "Good job, you just chased off the guy with the briefcase."
It was true. Throughout all of that, Five had kept his grip on the briefcase, keeping it stubbornly at his side.
"Screw him," Luther said, but didn't have the same fire as a minute ago. "We were all doing fine until Five showed up."
"Were we though?" Klaus challenged, finding himself starting to side with Five. "I mean, you were a pit fighter, Diego was in an insane asylum, I was being chased by my cult. The only ones doing fine were Allison and her civil rights movement, and Vanya and her farm frau."
"I mean before he stranded us."
"Oh yeah, we were all doing great. Having not spoken to each other for ten years." Allison snapped at him, making Luther lose whatever was left of the anger he was holding on to.
They didn't get a chance to finish before Five popped back into the alley, stumbling from a rip in space and colliding roughly with Klaus. "We gotta go, no time." This close to him, Klaus could see the sweat sheen across his face and the dark circles bagged heavy beneath his eyes. Five heaved for air, leaned against Klaus a little too hard for him not to notice.
A window above them opened and a battle cry echoed down into the alley way. The siblings didn't say anything, didn't complain or argue. They huddled up close to their smallest member and let him whisk them all away somewhere else.
Their third group transit of the day was the roughest yet. Five dropped them, literally, a few streets over. His rip appeared several feet off the ground and had them all laying in a heap this time fighting off their collective nausea.
"How do you get used to the churning," Diego moaned softly from his place.
"We need-" Five grunted, climbing unsteadily to his feet and stumbling down to the street entrance. He stood there for a moment, looking both ways down the street, his back turned to them. One hand steadied himself on a building, the other was using a handkerchief to mop the sweat from his face. "We need to find shelter."
Klaus thought that was a weird way to say it. Shelter was such a survivalist word; it made him think of pitched tents and campfires.
Five turned back to them after a minute. "Hurry up, we don't have time to lay here. They're already looking for us."
There was a collective groan from the group, but no one had any more complaints to make.
"Where are we going?" Diego asked, being the first to recover. He started pulling Vanya to her feet, helping to keep her steady as a wave of post-transit dizziness hit her.
"There's a motel nearby. We'll get a room."
"We have no money," Luther pointed out.
Five shot him a look meant to make them all feel small. "We are a group of super-powered individuals, one of whom can brainwash people."
"Is that really safe? Being this close to the academy?" Diego asked, ignoring Allison indignant noise.
"We shouldn't stray too far, and we're not staying long. We just need a place to regroup. And rest." He said the last part with the barest of hesitations, a note of exhaustion that reminded them that yes, they were in fact all very tired.
"Rest sounds wonderful." Klaus agreed, pulling himself off the ground using one of Luther's limp arms like a rope.
"Why do I have to do it?" Allison asked, failing to hide the complaint in her tone.
"You got any better ideas?" Five was clearly starting to lose his patience. He scoffed at them and turned his back again to regard the street. He wiped his face with the handkerchief, shaking his head.
No one did, of course. They picked themselves up, brushed the dirt from their clothes, and followed their smallest member out into the street of a familiarly strange city.
The motel Five took them to wasn't the best. The buildings had chipped and faded paint, rotted gutters, and cracked walls. The manager's office smelled like catpiss, popcorn, and unwashed bodies.
Allison was the only one sent inside, despite Luther's complaints about that. Five made it clear he didn't trust their Number One not to mess things up, which just served to rile Luther up even more. He pouted angrily by the door upon Allison's request only, Klaus and Vanya shared a nearby bench. Five had said he was going to check the perimeter and the moment he said it Diego agreed to also check the grounds for danger.
"I only got two connected rooms," Klaus could hear the clerk inform Allison. What their sister said to him next was lost, but Klaus could make an educated guess.
"It's crazy how much we've been through," Vanya said quietly. She was looking down at her hands, looking small and lost.
Klaus knew she missed Sissy, like he missed Dave. Lovers lost to time, and that was the bitch of it. There was no comfort he could give her that he didn't sorely need himself. Especially now with their Ben gone... He reached across the space between them and took her hands in his. "We'll always love them and they'll always love us, no matter when or where we end up."
Vanya looked surprised, blinking away sneaky tears that brimmed in her eyes. "Klaus…"
He found himself smiling at her, even as a lump in his throat threatened to choke him. "We just have to stick together." He meant that, now more than ever before. He had never been totally alone, and he was not about to start now.
Vanya rewarded him with a sweet smile that eased the ache in his chest the tiniest bit. She scooted next to him on the bench, resting her head on his shoulder. Klaus wrapped one arm around her, sighing heavily as she relaxed into his side. They had to stick together now, no matter what, no matter how irritated they got at each other.
Five flopped heavily down onto the bench on the other side of Vanya. He quickly wiped his face again and shoved the cloth back into his pocket. "You guys alright?" he asked tersely.
The way he said it seemed a little odd to them, somewhere between irritated and genuinely concerned. Klaus and Vanya both looked over at him, touched if not surprised. Five was asking after their well being and that brought some comfort to Klaus. He didn't have the words for him yet so he smiled at the boy, trying to put as much warmth and sappiness as he could muster into the expression.
He wasn't sure what Five was expecting, but to be looked at with that sort of affection was probably not it. His expression fluttered across a quick range of things, all so fleeting that Klaus had no chance of getting a read on him.
"We're okay, just sticking together," Vanya assured him.
"Good," Five said, his voice gentle and approving. "That's what we need right now." He sat against the bench further, letting the tension in his back go. He brought the briefcase up to sit on his lap, wrapping both arms protectively around it.
A moment later, Allison emerged from the manager's office, holding two room keys. "Okay, good news, I got two connected rooms."
"Excellent, good job." Five cheered from his place on the bench. It was a bit uncharacteristic of him to say without an ounce of his usual sarcasm, so everyone looked at him and forgot to ask Allison what the bad news was.
To their credit, they found out shortly after.
"It only has three beds," Diego had joined them in the room. They all stood around looking sadly at their pathetic new digs.
"We'll just have to share," Vanya encouraged. "Not like we've never shared beds before."
"As children," Allison reminded her.
"I'm not sharing with Luther." Diego announced.
"I call dibs on Vanya." Allison said a beat later. Vanya smiled.
"Then I'll take Klaus," Diego sidled up closer to him. "You sleep like a corpse anyway, aside from the talking."
"Aww, Diego, that's one of the nicest things you've ever said to me," Klaus cooed, wrapping his brother in a hug. Diego accepted it without complaint, but made a point of not reacting to it.
Five had ducked into the room and was sitting on his legs between the window and the bed. The briefcase had vanished, Klaus said nothing, knowing it was probably in the vent. This room was not unlike the one Hazel and Cha Cha had tortured him in. The memory slid off him, one of many horrible situations he had found himself in.
Five didn't stand when he was finished, Klaus watched with minor interest. Five sat back on his knees, wiped his face with the handkerchief again. Klaus caught a glimpse of it before he could shove it in his pocket, spied the dark stains that looked a little too fresh to not be suspicious.
"So no one wants to share with me?" Luther sounded so dejected it distracted Klaus from Five. Their biggest brother was looking between him and Allison as if those were his two choices and if Klaus wasn't so tired, he would have found that a bit flattering.
"Share with Five," Diego said, a laugh in his voice.
"Absolutely not," Five snapped from his place on the floor.
The girls shared a giggle. Vanya pointed into the other room. "It's a king size, so there's room." She said with a goading smile that only seemed to deflate Luther further.
Five didn't say anything right away, using the bed to push himself to his feet. It took him a worrying amount of effort, and Klaus suddenly knew that if Ben were there, he would be demanding Klaus say something. Klaus had heard about the shrapnel incident and recognized the fact that Five was probably trying to hide something from them.
Calling Five out in front of everyone was not going to accomplish anything, especially not after the argument him and Luther had had in the alley way. If he said anything now, Five would throw up his walls and do his expert deflection routine that Klaus was beginning to recognize for the coping mechanism that it was. His trauma was at least good for something, Klaus thought bitterly to himself.
"I guess someone is going to be sleeping on the floor," Five said with a dry smile, giving Luther a pointed look.
"What?" Luther cried, looking even more betrayed. "How is that even fair? You have the youngest body, if anyone should be sleeping on the floor, it should be you."
It was sound logic, but Klaus liked the idea of messing with Luther more. "The floor's not so bad, big guy," he teased. "I sleep on it all the time."
Luther shot him an exasperated look but didn't say anything.
"I'm not sure I would want to share with the murder gremlin anyway," Diego tossed out, walking past Luther to get into the bathroom. He paused to pat him on the shoulder. "And I wouldn't deny him the bed, either."
"Murder gremlin?" Vanya asked with a laugh barely contained by her hand.
Diego flashed her a smile from where he had paused beside Luther. "He's a gremlin, and he murders things."
"Not anymore," Five countered, his voice a little louder than necessary. "I told you, I was done with that."
"Yeah, right." Diego snorted, pointing an accusatory finger at Five. "You said you were done before you took out the Board." His voice was light, but it didn't seem to upset Five any less.
He teleported across the room before Diego could retreat into the bathroom, cutting him off by bowling into him. Diego caught his arms, steadied him, surprised by the teleport and the fury in his eyes.
Five pointed a finger in Diego's face, but leaned heavily into his brother without meaning to. He wavered on his feet, but still managed to look menacing. "I had good reasons for that," he hissed, voice low and dangerous. "I mean it this time. No more killing."
"Okay, alright, I was just joking. I believe you." Diego placated him. "I believe you." He adjusted the grip he had on his smaller brother, concern flickering across his face. "Are you okay?"
Five shoved him away hard, standing on his own and straightening his jacket. "I'm fine. I'm taking a shower. Someone should order food." He turned sharply and disappeared into the bathroom without another word. The door shut between them with finality and left a silence in its wake.
Luther cleared his throat, trying to catch Diego's eye for an explanation. Diego, to his credit, looked distinctly ashamed, regarding the closed door with a sort of miffed concern.
"Wait, so who did Five kill?" Vanya asked, managing to make the question seem both loaded and innocent at the same time.
"Just more time traveling assholes," Diego answered after a lengthy pause. "Honestly," he said this part louder in an obvious attempt to be heard through the bathroom door. "It turned out to be a good thing or they'd still be trying to kill us."
"Shut up, Diego!" Five called through the door, in the same I'm-tolerating-you-but-I'll-still-kill-you tone he used on them often.
Klaus knew he should do something. Something was up with Five, but the others were beginning to disperse. It hadn't escaped him the way Diego practically caught him out of a teleport, and it hadn't gone unnoticed by Diego either. He lingered outside the bathroom, lost in thought.
Klaus sidled up to him as Luther lumbered off to find the take out menus. Allison disappeared into the other room, and Vanya went to help Luther. Klaus stood beside Diego for a long minute before he said, very quietly so that only Diego would hear him, "I think he's hiding something."
Diego flashed him a side-long glance. "When isn't he?" He turned and walked away, snatching the menu from Luther's hands and starting a lighthearted argument with him.
Klaus frowned and automatically looked for Ben, only for the reality to punch him in the face again. He missed his brother's constant presence and devoted compassion to his family. Ben paid attention to everything, to everyone. Ben would have encouraged him to do what he needed to do next, even as Klaus hesitated.
Five wouldn't be happy, but Klaus needed to know he was okay. He took a steadying breath, steeled himself for what was likely to be his death, and gave the door a single three-tap knock before barging in. Five had tried to lock the door, but it was flimsy and snapped open easily with very little effort from Klaus.
He swung the door in, slipped inside, and closed it behind him. He'd never tried a real one on one with Five before, so he didn't want the others interrupting him. "Hey, old man."
Five looked up when he entered, having already rid himself of his blazer and vest. He had been standing in front of the sink, but now he stood back, watching Klaus with thinly veiled irritation hiding beneath mild curiosity.
"Can I help you, Klaus?"
Klaus paused, cursing himself. He probably should have thought about what he wanted to say before barging in here. Five wasn't going to give him very long, so he needed to think fast. "Uh, actually I was just wondering…" he trailed off, wracking his brain. "If maybe, I could… help you?" He tried to smile convincingly, but knew it probably came off disingenuous.
Five scoffed at him, rolling his eyes. "I don't really have the energy for this." He sounded like he meant it, but still managed to make it sound rude. He leaned a hip against the sink, crossing his arms over his chest and giving Klaus an expectant look. "So cut to the chase or get out."
"I mean that," Klaus said, stepping closer. "You weren't looking so good out there."
Five's demeanor changed ever so slightly, his eyes squinting in sudden mistrust. Klaus could see the walls coming up. He took his weight off the sink. "It's been a rough week," he admitted quietly. "For all of us. You were pretty sick yesterday."
Had that only been yesterday? Ben possessed him, Five threw a tantrum about deadlines and hating his family, Luther was a giant kicked puppy. Klaus had been so angry at his deceased brother at the time. He would give anything for Ben to possess him again. This would have been so much easier with him there. Ben not being there felt like Klaus had lost his arms and legs. It was a body of pain and the prevailing feeling of having some important part of him missing.
"Klaus?" Five asked, much closer and gentler than before.
"Hmm?" He must have drifted off thinking about Ben again. Five had crossed the small bathroom to stand in front of him, looking up at him with some measure of calculated concern. Klaus was being assessed, observed, checked over.
"Did you want to talk about something? About Ben?" Five had adopted a gentleness that Klaus found deeply comforting. It shouldn't have come as a surprise to him, but it did; the fact that Five always seemed to pick up on what was going on with his siblings, even when he acted so aloof and detached.
Tears pricked his eyes and he really wanted a hug but knew that would probably be too much to ask for. After a minute he nodded, failing to keep a whimper from getting out, but it was better than the sob that was threatening.
Five nodded, his expression schooled carefully into something resembling patience and understanding. He gestured to the toilet. "Sit, talk. I need to wash." All business, but friendly business.
This was not Klaus's aim, but Five wasn't kicking him out, and he was being brotherly. Klaus was not planning to look this particular gift horse in the mouth. He perched himself on the toilet, curling his knees to his chest and resting his chin on them.
Five went back to the sink, next to the toilet, and gave his reflection an appraising look. Klaus did nothing for a minute, unsure what to say so he watched instead. Five glanced at him but didn't say anything either. The silence was uncomfortable.
"So," Klaus tried to break the ice but had nothing else behind it.
"Yes?" Five didn't meet his gaze, pulled a washcloth from the rack over Klaus's head and soaked it in the sink. He didn't pause to check on Klaus before he buried his face in the rough material and started scrubbing the dirt from his skin.
Five was hardly gentle with himself; one of the cuts over his temple started crying again. It was attached to a decent sized bruise that was becoming easier to spot now that the dirt was getting cleared away.
"Jesus, who did that?"
"Lila," Five answered easily. "I think it was a frying pan." He pursed his lips, one hand gently brushing the irritated skin before he moved on to his arms.
Klaus hissed. He'd never personally been hit in the head with a frying pan, but he could imagine it didn't feel great.
That wasn't the only injury, of course. They all had cuts and bruises, even Klaus, but Five's white shirt was covered in old blood stains and Klaus wasn't sure he was ready to ask what he knew he had to. Five had scrapes up his arms that smarted and bled new again as he roughly wiped the dirt from them.
"Why are you so rough?" Klaus opted for what he hoped would be an easier question.
Five looked at him, confused. "What do you mean?"
Klaus gestured to all of him. "They wouldn't bleed if you didn't scrub so hard."
"We don't have any rubbing alcohol," Five replied as if that was supposed to answer his question.
Five paused to roll his eyes at Klaus. "I have to get the dirt out of the cuts. It's good they bleed," he replied nonchalantly.
"Why don't you just take a shower?"
The child-man tilted his head, irritation chasing his features before he managed to control himself. "Because you're here," he bit out. Klaus could feel the effort he was putting into being nice.
"Well, don't let me stop you."
Five dropped the washcloth in the sink with a wet slop, unable to hide the irritation anymore. "Why are you really here? If not to talk about Ben, or-" he gestured to the dogtags, "that?"
Klaus touched the stamped aluminum, running his fingers over the cool metal. "Oh, I'm just a little worried," Klaus replied absently, gazing past him to the tiled wall beyond.
"Why?" A loaded question, Klaus knew, but Five's tone was kept carefully conversational.
"You look like you're going to fall over."
Five scoffed, but discreetly stopped leaning on the sink again. "I'm fine, Klaus. Worry about yourself."
"There see," he pointed at Five. "You're leaning on things."
"I am not."
"You leaned on me, you leaned on Diego, and now you're trying not to lean on the sink." He reached out his hand for Five's and tried to not be hurt when the boy recoiled from him. He tried to convey himself with a look instead, the same affectionate look that had startled Five earlier. "I can help you."
"No," Five replied instantly, quiet and dangerous. An ocean of rage churned beneath the surface of his eyes and Klaus had the sudden distinct desire to flee.
Keep it together, Klaus. He hated when even his own thoughts managed to sound like Ben. Keep it together, for him.
"I'm really not here to piss you off," he said gently, hoping to abate the murderous intent in the other man's eyes.
"Well, you're not doing a very good job," Five hissed. He wavered suddenly, one hand shot out and steadied himself on the sink again. "Go." It still had all the quiet fury of a brewing hurricane, but Klaus could see the cracks in his demeanor starting to show. Five really was at the end of his rope. It had been a very long rope, but nonetheless finite.
"Not until you talk to me." He felt encouraged by the other's lapse in control. Five was usually so neat and tidy with his emotions, but it was obvious the vice like grip was not enough at the moment.
Five slammed his fist into the sink, the whole thing groaning under the pressure. He got up into his brother's face, leaning down over the sink to do so. "Klaus, I swear to god, if you don't leave, right now, I will find your personal hell, drop you in it, and swallow the key. Got it?"
Yeah, Klaus got it. But Klaus was already in his own personal hell. How much pain could little Number Five inflict that the loss of Ben hadn't already? Usually, he wouldn't want to challenge the teleporter because he simply did not want to test the lengths of his cruelty.
At this point, Klaus figured that the worst that could happen had already done so.
"Not. Until. You. Talk to me." Klaus stood up so that he towered instead of Five. He tried to match the glare with a stern look, and only hoped it had the power he needed without being condescending.
Five sucked in a sharp breath, let it out through his nose. He shook his head, taking a step back. His eyes darted across the bathroom, and Klaus was reminded of a wild animal looking for an escape.
Klaus knew Five's intention several seconds after it occurred to the teleporter. "No, no, wait-" Klaus reached out for him in vain, too slow.
Five was swallowed by a rip in the fabric of space, leaving Klaus behind in the bathroom alone.
afterword: Do I have a thing for characters with isolation trauma? Yes, I apparently do.
This is going to be long, meandery, whumpish bullshit about Five and isolation and how traumatized all these babs are bc that's all I'm capable of writing when I'm depressed, and I only write when I'm depressed sooooooo.
Here we are again yayyyy
It's been a bit since I wrote anything, I got really caught up in... Life. So I'm a bit rusty. But also this is purely self-indulgent and i just don't give a fuck. :)
P.S. This has been posted to AO3 as well.