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Fifty-one years (and one day) later

Chapter Text

He stood outside the building, looking at those stupid umbrella patterns on the glass-panelled doors, starting to get cold feet. He clutched the briefcase tightly in one hand, an object that had haunted him for the past fifty years, a reminder of who he’d been, where he’d come from. He never told Dave the truth, there was never any need, though he had always suspected that there was something strange about Klaus – the things he knew, the way he spoke, the secrets he kept. 1968 had been a fresh start, no strings attached, all the hardships and shortcomings of the past left behind. Now here he was, staring the truth in the face. He had to say goodbye, one last time, even though he suspected that his siblings wouldn’t have noticed if he’d just disappeared without an explanation. He’d lived a good life – not that they’d care – but it was over now. Dave had passed some time at the beginning of the year, and Klaus’ reason to go on had passed with him. This was all that was left now. One last loose end to tie off. He shut his eyes and pushed through the nerves. Walking up the front steps on old, stiff legs, he entered the academy.

“So the apocalypse is in three days, the only chance we have to save our world is – well – us.”

“The umbrella academy,” Luther offered, helpful as always.

“Yeah, but with me, obviously. So if you all don’t get your side-show acts together and get over yourselves –” Five looked at them, one, two, three – of course, he thought. “Have any of you seen Klaus?” Five thought that getting himself back here was supposed to be the difficult part, but now Klaus had apparently gone wandering off. They needed every single one of them here, working together, just to stand a chance against whatever was coming. He didn’t have time for Klaus’ antics, not when they only had three days left.

“No,” Allison sighed, “I haven’t seen him since the other day, the family meeting before those psychos showed up.”

“Damn it” Five cursed, setting down what had been Allison’s take away coffee cup. “we need everyone.”

“Relax, he’s probably just off getting high somewhere ,” Diego offered, unbearably calm given the urgency of the situation. “Those psychos had him hostage but he was already gone when I found... when I got to the motel.” None of them understood what was really at stake here, they all still saw him as the kid he’d been, raving about the end of the world as if it were a game.

“You know what Diego, no, I won’t just relax, or maybe you don’t care what happens to the world and everyone in it.”

“Well, I sure don’t.” A haggard voice sounded from outside, in the entrance hall. An old man came hobbling in, hunched over and white-haired. He had a more… colourful way of dressing than your average member of the elderly. He certainly had a dramatic way of butting in on a private conversation.

“Who the hell is this guy?” Allison asked, looking toward Luther for some sort of explanation.

“Hey old timer,” Diego drawled, looking on with bemused disbelief, “this is private property.” Five, however, noticed a familiar-looking briefcase that the man was clutching in his white-knuckled hand.

“You know, I’m surprised you even noticed I was gone, so I suppose you get points for that,” the man continued, walking towards the four of them and their confused expressions. “Good luck with the whole end of the world thing,” he smirked, “I just came to deliver something.”

“What the hell is going on - Five?” Luther asked, but Five was too busy trying to piece all of this together. Of course, the situation all made perfect logical sense – it was the emotional hurdle that he found it more difficult to surpass – because this couldn’t be happening.

He sighed. “It’s a 90 year old man wearing eyeliner, Luther. Who do you think it is.”

The man gave a bemused chuckle. “Well excuse me, young man, I am eighty-one, and quite frankly offended.” The sarcasm, the way he brought humour into the most inappropriate of situations…There was something about the way he moved that was painfully familiar to all of them - then he waved, both hands, tattoos sagging and deformed on worn, wrinkled palms. Hello. Goodbye. Klaus.

“What the fuck?” Diego gasped, staring as the old man, who none of them could bring themselves to think of as Klaus, smiled broadly.

Five smirked, impatient, and – as unwilling as he was to admit it – sad. “Klaus,” he said, a statement rather than a question. Klaus nodded. Looking closer, he could make out his brother’s features under those sagging jowls, that wrinkled skin. Heavy lids sunk over green eyes, a long face topped with whitened curls.

“What, no,” Allison said, still staring, “that’s not - Klaus?” Klaus winked and waved at her. She looked as if she was about to throw up.

“Wait, wait a second,” Luther announced, playing the leader as always, trying to maintain order as they all fell apart. “Five, what’s going on?”

Five ignored him. “What happened to the briefcase?” He asked.

“Oh, that,” Klaus waved him away, “it’s right here, I came to return it.” He jiggled the case in his hand, offering it to him.

Five shook his head. Klaus was unbelievably stupid – of course, so were the others, but this was a whole new level. “Why didn’t you just use it, it would have taken straight back here.”

Klaus rolled his eyes, lifting up one hand to inspect his nails absent-mindedly. As if his sibling’s horror didn’t mean a thing to him. “Yeah, well, I didn’t want to come back here as a matter of fact. You know,” he sighed, looking off into the distance, and into another time, “I had a great life – and apparently now the world is ending in three days so I’m extra glad I stayed away from all that. Good luck though.” He flashed a smile and turned to leave, dumping the briefcase down at his feet unceremoniously.

“W-wait a second,” Five stammered, glaring after him, “you’re just leaving?” He couldn’t believe it, everything was going wrong. They needed Klaus, as strange as it felt to admit, and the Klaus they’d known was as good as gone.

“Well why not little bro, I’ll just go sit by the grave of the love of my life and watch to world burn - that is, unless you all manage to stop it, which will be a spectacle in itself.”

“You get it off Hazel and Cha-cha?” Five asked, remembering what Diego had said about them taking him hostage. Those two were brutal, and it was a miracle that Klaus had managed to get away at all. He wondered what they’d done to him, something so horrible that he’d felt the need to run away from everything else? Or had Klaus been looking for an escape like this his whole life – from his siblings and his father’s legacy, and his shame at the gutter or addiction and squalor he’d burrowed himself into.

“Yeah,” he chuckled, “I thought it’d be full of cash but I got one better, a way out of this dump,” he sighed, “you know, it seems like it all happened just yesterday – oh wait – it did!” He laughed, high-pitched and sarcastic in the way he did at self-deprecating jokes that were more sad than funny. None of the others laughed.

“1968?” Five asked, based on the age that Klaus had given. Klaus nodded. “Nice,” he smirked.

“So, what,” Allison puzzled, “that thing’s a time machine?”

“You got it sis,” he gave her double finger guns, winking. Five still couldn’t get over uncanny feeling of looking at an eighty-year old man with black nail polish. “You know, I was all up in that original hippie business, let me tell you, they don’t make drugs like those anymore, and the clothes... incredible.” He smiled, whimsical. “Anyway, just came to say goodbye, good luck, see you again never - oh, and don’t bother coming to the funeral.” He flashed them all a devilish smile, and waved an appropriately-tattooed hand as he turned to leave.

Luther called after him. “You can’t just abandon this family Klaus!”

“Yeah, he’s actually right on that one, we need everyone here to stop this thing!” Five added. Klaus gave them all a middle-fingered salute over his shoulder as he walked out, fishing a cigarette out of his pocket.

The four remaining Hargreeves turned to each other, all of them lost for words. “Well,” Five shrugged, “that certainly makes things more difficult.”

Diego was staring at the spot where Klaus had been standing moments earlier. He looked close to tears. “This can’t be happening,” he muttered, straightening up and making for the exit.

“Diego, wait!” Allison called after him, but he paid no attention. Moments later, the doors slammed, and the three of them were left in yet another uncomfortable silence.

Chapter Text

“Klaus!” He heard Diego calling after him, but he kept his eyes on the pavement in front, taking a long drag from his cigarette. He was sober the vast majority of the time, thank-you-very-much, but times like these, he needed something to take his mind off things. A knife sailed past his ear, whistling as the blade loped off a lock of hair.

He dropped his cigarette in shock, bringing his hand up to his ear. “What the fuck, Diego!”

“You d–d–don’t get to fucking walk away from this!” He turned to see his brother storming down the street, still sporting that ridiculous black leather vigilante get-up. His voice was cracked with threatening sobs as he carved a path through the crowd. People were staring, but he didn’t seem to care.

“Hey, woah there, calm down,” Klaus said, holding his hands out in a stopping motion, “you’re making a scene.”

“Oh yeah, what about the scene you made b–back there, walking in here after w–what – fifty years!” He pushed Klaus’ hands aside.

Klaus chuckled, much to Diego’s despair. “That was pretty good though, you have to admit.” Diego snarled. “Oh ok, fine. But if you do come to my funeral, I want you and Luther to fight just like you did at Dad’s – and no holding back this time. I want blood!” Diego grabbed him by the shoulders. Klaus thought he heard his bones crack. “You wouldn’t choke-slam a poor, frail old man now would you?” He cried, feigning distress. He couldn’t stop laughing, and every bought made Diego all the more furious.

“Stop fucking laughing, you hear me! S–stop!” There were tears in his eyes. Klaus had done it again, he’d gone too far.

“Aww come on Diego, I’m sorry, hey –“ he gave his brother a pat on the shoulder as he crumbled, laying his head on Klaus’ shoulder. “Hey, stop crying bro.” People were definitely staring now. “Come on, let’s go somewhere a little more private,” he said, eyeing the onlookers. Diego nodded and straightened up, trying to hide his tears. Klaus led him away, back along the street to the alley that ran along the side of the academy building. “Hey,” he cried at the amassing crowd, “nothing to see here, move along.”

“You feeling better Diego,” Klaus asked, patting his brother on the back. They were leaning against the wall, far from prying eyes. Diego seemed to have gotten over the initial shock of it all, his breathing was deepening, tears drying. He was better, but far from okay. Klaus lit another cigarette, was wasn’t about to do this unaided.

“I should have looked for you, after I busted the motel, I should’ve helped you.”

“Wouldn’t have made any difference, I was long gone by then, there was nothing you could’ve done.”

“Well maybe we could’ve given you a reason to come back.” He looked at Klaus – down now, instead of up, he’d shrunken in on himself in his old age – searching for the remnants of the person he knew from just days prior. The image of the man he’d always seen as his little brother, the one he always had to protect and keep out of trouble, was fading fast. “Would it really have been as easy to come back as Five said?”

“Yeah,” Klaus sighed, not meeting his brother’s eyes, “yeah it would have.”

Diego scoffed, shaking his head. “Then why the hell didn’t you, man?”

“You really wanna know?” He asked, tilting his head up towards the blue strip of sky running above the alleyway. “Okay then,” he sighed, breathing out a puff of smoke. “I fell in love.” Diego chuckled to himself. “No, dude, I’m serious,” he insisted.

“And that was enough –“

“To stop me from coming back to this hell-hole? Sure it was. There was nothing here for me, Diego, I was a junkie, I’d been pouring my life down the gutter since I was thirteen, and I was running on empty.”

“And what about us?” What about me, his eyes said. “Five says the world is ending, do you even care?”

“Oh come on Diego,” he cried, throwing his hands up in exasperation, “you’ve really gotta make this hard for me don’t you. For your information, I didn’t know the world was ending for real, I thought Five was just trying to get me to pretend to be his dad–“

“You did what?”

Klaus shushed him and continued. “– I just came by to give Five his little time machine, maybe tell you what I’d been up to, then let you all get on with your lives in peace.”

“But now –“

“But now apparently the world is ending in three days, which is fine by me I’ve got nothing left to live for, but you…” he trailed off, looking at his brother with sorrow in his eyes.

“You know, to be fair, I don’t have a whole lot going for me either,” Diego shrugged.

“You’ve got a future. Allison’s got her daughter, Vanya has a regular life ahead of her, Luther’s got… well he’s got nothing but we love him anyway. Even Five has some sort of weird old-man-child life of crime on the horizon – and that’s forgetting everyone else on the planet.”

“But you’re not going to help,” Diego finished for him, looking defeated.

“Look, even if I wasn’t eighty and not able to walk ten yards without putting my back out, I’m still useless to you. My power’s only gotten weaker over the years – that’s years of unabided recreational drug use, mind – and even if they hadn’t, how could I possibly help avert some sort of world–crushing cataclysm anyway?”

“I don’t know man, Five seems to think we need everyone together to fight this thing.”

“Well, tell him I’m out. If we only have three days left, I’m going to get high at the graveyard and talk to him one last time.”

“Him?”

“Diego, Diego,” he sighed, “are you seriously that fucking clueless.”

“So you loved him then, for your whole life… I can’t even imagine.” He thought of Eudora, gone now, but never really his. She was right, they never would have lasted even if they had given things another shot.

“Yeah,” he sighed, and Diego watched as his old eyes looked back into his memories, happier days, simpler days. A deep, yearning nostalgia one could only acquire after living through the greatest experiences, and the worst hardships, that life had to offer. “It was wonderful. After the war I moved back to Kansas with him, old country house on a farm and everything. We went out to the city for a while once every year or two, experienced the high-life, but I liked the quiet… less ghosts lurking around.”

“Wait, the war?”

“Yeah, bro, Vietnam.”

He shook his head in disbelief. “That’s incredible, I guess all of dad’s combat training paid off after all.”

Klaus chuckled “yeah, and speaking of, back in ’71 I punched dad in the face so hard he blacked out right there on the street.”

“What, seriously?’ He said, incredulous.

Klaus nodded with pride, “Yeah, man. I just saw him one day walking around outside the academy – before it was even called an academy – and I just thought, you fucking bastard and then – wham!” Klaus mimed punching through the air.

“What did he say?”

“Ow,” he laughed, “he didn’t have time to say much else.”

“What if you’d, like, changed time or something, by punching him in the face?”

“You know, I did think about that after, like what if getting punched in the faced rocked his brains so bad he forgot about his need to purchase seven children and abuse them all their lives.”

“Or it rocked his brains so hard he decided he wanted to do that in the first place.”

“Eesh,” he cringed, "that’s a disturbing thought. My thinking was, he’d probably just lay awake at night wondering who that gangly hippie bastard was that absolutely pounded his ass.”

“Serves him right – god he was a piece of work.” And here they were, complaining about Dad as if they were fifteen again, smoking out the back of the house, finally coming to realise what an asshole Sir Reginald really was after years of dancing to his tune. They were laughing, as if this were just another ordinary day.

“Did you ever see us – as kids I mean?” Diego asked.

“Well, I was curious, it’s not exactly something you get to see everyday, but I tried my best to stay clear of this city. I wanted to leave that part of me behind for good.”

“Well I can understand that, wanting to forget everything and start fresh. I wanted to do that, back after Ben died and you left, but the past always catches up – and here I am.”

“I tried to run, my whole life I tried, but it all caught up to me too, and here I am,” he sighed, “same as you.” Klaus looked down at the floor. Ever since Dave had died, he’d had a lot of time to reflect, time to question his decision to leave his family behind. Just a few months ago, he wouldn’t have dreamed of coming back to this place, facing them all one last time, he thought maybe it would be better for them to think he’d just disappeared off the face of the earth. “Should I have come back at all?” He thought of Diego’s tears, his anger, Allison’s horrified disbelief, even Five had seemed upset - though for him or the fate of the world he wasn’t sure.

“What do you mean,” Diego replied, as if Klaus had just said something unbearably stupid. “Of course you did the right thing, it would have been torture, living every day not knowing if you were dead or in pain somewhere.”

“Well, it’s not like you seemed to care before.” He knew how immature he sounded, like some whiny kid instead of the wise old wizard vibe he was pulling off nowadays. “I didn’t see you for thirteen years before dad’s funereal, I didn’t see any of you, and when I came back you’d all moved on with your lives, but I was still the same stunted little asshole you all know and tolerate.”

“You don’t think I cared?” Diego levelled his gaze, looking at him with an earnest sort of sadness. Despite his tough-guy front, he was probably the best out of all of them at understanding how others were feeling. “I had that stupid police radio on all through my time at the academy and every day since, because I knew you were out there somewhere on the streets almost every night, about to OD on all that crap you were taking. If anything had ever happened to you I just know I would’ve blamed myself for not being there for you.” His sadness was building itself into rage again. He screwed up his face, turning away. “I was supposed to protect you.”

“What difference does it make, Diego, I lived a way better life than I ever could have back here. Isn’t that enough?”

“I suppose,” he seemed unconvinced, “but we were all meant to grow up together, we’ve been together since before we can remember, I guess I thought that meant something.”

Klaus didn’t know what to say, of course it meant something, but it was something that every single one of the Hargreeves children had been running from their whole lives. It had never occurred to Klaus that it could be something to be embraced. “This is really messing you up, huh?” This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Somehow Klaus had pictured the whole thing as more of a comedic affair. He’d walk in, old and decrepit, his sibling would be shocked and he’d laugh it off, and he would go back to living in his own little world of pretending not to care. He’d kept secrets for so long, from Dave - who’d ask about that briefcase he kept duct-taped shut and padlocked under the floorboards where no one could find it, who always asked about his past and was met only by vague answers and the occasional name. He’d also kept secrets from himself, as he’d spent so long trying to remember his siblings in a way that justified him leaving and never turning back – he didn’t regret his decision, but that didn’t stop the guilt he felt as he watched Diego now.

“Yeah,” was all he said. Klaus couldn’t stand much more of this.

“Well,” he clapped Diego on the shoulder, but he didn’t look up from the ground, staring intently at nothing. “Sounds like you have world to save, best of luck – and I’m being serious this time.”

“Thanks,” he replied, shoving Klaus’ hand away and straightening up. He still seemed angry, subdued. He narrowed his eyes. “I’ll see you again, brother,” his voice was stony. Klaus’ heart sank.

Klaus flashed him a sad smile, “I wouldn’t count on it.” Diego glared at him and turned away, walking but out onto the street.

When he was sure the he was gone, Klaus turned around to face the figure that had been standing behind him, watching, silent in contemplation. Ben. He would usually butt into Klaus’ conversations, a sarcastic comment or scolding remark. These past few minutes, however, he’d been silent. “I’m surprised, Ben, I would’ve thought you’d have something to say by now.”

“Oh, I have plenty to say, but it’s hard enough just getting close to you – what the hell did you do to yourself?” And there he was, back on his case even after all this time.

“In between the drugs and the debilitating old age, I’m not quite the seance that I used to be.”

“Clearly.”

Klaus scoffed, “rude.” He couldn’t tell how Ben was feeling, he was just standing there, hands in his pockets, staring. “You’re not angry?”

“I’m still trying to figure out what I’m feeling. You disappeared, Klaus, I spend a day in purgatory or wherever it is souls go when you aren’t around to host the party, and then suddenly I feel your presence again, faintly, and I find you like this, I mean, what the hell Klaus?”

“You know, I’m hearing just a teensie bit of angry,” he teased.

He rolled his eyes, “I can’t believe you.”

“You still going to hang around – it’s not like I have a whole lot of time left, and apparently the apocalypse is coming so there’s that too.”

“Well it’s either this or nothingness, so I think I’ll stick around your sorry ass a while longer.” He smiled, and Klaus returned the gesture. “And, Klaus,” he added, “I’m happy for you. All this time I was afraid you were never going to actually start living your life, but you actually got your shit together for once. I mean, who would’ve thought you’d make it past forty, let alone eighty.”

“Aww, Ben, you’re so supportive.” He was only a little sarcastic. He put out his cigarette, quenching the flame against the old brick of the academy, just like he used to as a kid. “Do you think you could help me out with something?” he asked as he walked out from between the two buildings, Ben stalking behind, a persistent shadow. “I need to contact someone I’ve lost.”

Five was waiting impatiently in the entrance hall when Diego finally let himself back into the academy. “Diego,” he said, “did you talk to him?”

He sighed, collecting his thoughts. “Yeah, yeah I did.”

“And?”

“And what? He won’t help us Five, what did you expect? Besides, I don’t know what sort of help we’d need from him anyway.” His lip was quivering, and he struggled to get the words out. “He’s j–just a stupid old man now anyway.”

“Did he tell you why he stayed?”

Diego chuckled to himself, “he fell in love, if you can believe it. Some guy he soldiered with in Vietnam. It’s crazy…”

“I see,” Five said, simply. He’d already stopped listening. He looked down towards the briefcase still lying on the floor where Klaus had left it. “Very disappointing,” he muttered to himself. He wasn’t proud of what he was thinking, but there was only one way to stop the apocalypse. They needed the full force of the academy, Klaus included, and there was only one reason he had abandoned them.

After all, what was one life against seven billion?

Chapter Text

He took one final look around at the main hall before he went – Luther, Diego, and Allison, mourning the loss of their bother as they’d known him, none of them focused on what was important. None of them ready to fight back the threat that was about to set the world afire.

“I can’t believe it was really him,” Allison was close to tears, and Luther had a clumsy, but well meaning, comically large hand on her shoulder in comfort. “Did he really think I wouldn’t care if he just disappeared?”

“It’s not your fault Allison,” he offered, “Klaus would take any chance to abandon this family, he was the first to leave when we were kids, remember? He was never cut out for this.” Five rolled his eyes, Luther always found a way to bring it back to dad and duty and who was cut out for being a hero. “Five,” he called, as Five tried to make his way covertly up the stairs, “what are you doing?”

“I’m going to fix this mess, that’s what,” he muttered, without looking back. He clutched his side, skin hot and throbbing around a piece of metal that had lodged itself into his side during the explosion at the commission. Now really wasn’t a good time.

Five took the case up to his old bedroom – chalk equations plastered all over the walls. His father’s rifle was still resting on the bed where Luther had set it down, and Delores was laying there beside it, smiling like always.

“Thank you,” he muttered, sarcastically, “I’m well aware that it’s all going to shit, but don’t worry,” he smiled, “I’m going to make it right.”

He looked into her eyes as he went to open the latch. “Geez you sound like Luther, of course it’s a bad thing to do, and I know it will hurt Klaus, but it’s the only way to prevent the apocalypse – remember? Everything we’ve done… I won’t let it be for nothing.” He shut his eyes, anticipating the journey, and felt that familiar blue light pull him under the fabric of the universe, taking him to where he needed to go.

He arrived ten months after he’d anticipated, the briefcase hadn’t been calibrated in over fifty years, so a little inaccuracy was to be expected. That was regrettable, since he couldn’t save Klaus the pain of losing someone he already loved. A pity, but the sooner he completed his task the better. He’d been in war zones before, a few days at a time at most, then a seemingly stray bullet would find its way into the heart of some poor, unsuspecting soldier on one side or the other, one who’s life would cause the timeline to deviate from the commission’s elusive vision. But Five didn’t work for them anymore, now he could shape the timeline to his own ends.

The briefcase dropped him right into the middle of the jungle, dark and wet and alive with the sounds of insects and trickling streams. Far off in the distance, bouts of laughter erupted from a tent, the orange glow from inside illuminating silhouetted faces against the canvas. He gripped his rifle in one hand, his brief case in the other, and made his way over. Just like old times. He hid behind cover of thick foliage, watching as a pair of soldiers darted out of the tent, laughing. There he was, Klaus, spinning on the spot and grinning ear to ear. It was the happiest Five had seen him since they were kids, and this was the middle of a war zone. He looked the part, oversized military garb hanging from his slight frame, dog tag swinging from around his neck, face covered in grime and - was that? Eyeliner. Klaus could find that stuff anywhere.

“Dave, I can’t believe you just said that right to his face!” He kept on giggling, and the other man - Dave - grinned along with him. So this was the man that Klaus had abandoned everything to stay with. This was the man that Five would have to kill. It shouldn’t be too hard, he thought, to turn off his emotions like he used to, to become the instrument that the universe needed him to be.

“Well he was making fun of you, I had to do something,” Dave replied, defensive. He probably shouldn’t listen to their conversation. It would only make things harder later on. Better not to consider whether Klaus would really be better off staying here and living out his life. There were more important things than happiness.

“You know I don’t care about that, right?” Klaus danced up to him, faces inches apart. The way they looked at each other, Five had never seen his brother so content. He didn’t need to see this, he wanted to give his brother one final moment of peace and privacy with the one he loved. It would have to happen later, in the inevitable next round of combat, make it look like an enemy shot. Force Klaus to leave this new life behind and return to his family.

He retreated into the jungle, trying not to think about what he was about to do, waiting for the first signs of conflict to arise. Soon enough, explosions sounded off in the distance and flurries of bright gun fire flashed in the dark. He grasped the rifle and made his way towards it. The soldiers were ushered out of the tent, stern, nervous looks on their faces - well, most of them. Klaus was still grinning like an idiot, falling in step with Dave as they jogged out into the night.

He lurked around the edges of the battle, the men laying behind lines of sandbags, teeth gritted and eyes trained on the enemy. It didn’t take long for things to escalate, now it was just a matter of waiting for the right window to strike. He could see that familiar umbrella tattoo on his brother’s forearm as he reached up over the blockades, reloading his rifle, a concentrated grin on his face. Five took up arms as well. He walked to the edge of the foliage’s cover, as close as he dared to the clearing, and aimed the rifle at the man laying next to Klaus. He looked far more uncomfortable than Klaus did, because to him, this wasn’t just a fun little escape from the norm, this was his world, and he’d been forced into it. He aimed for the chest, just under the raised shoulder reaching up, exposing the heart. He’d make it clean, Dave deserved at least that much. Five held his breath as he tightened his finger against the trigger, mind and body still – this was for a greater cause.

While the shot pushed his shoulder back with bone-cracking force (the rifle was a little big for him now) the sound itself was buried in the din of hailing gunfire and screams that surrounded him. It took Klaus a few moments to even realise what had happened, but by then Five was already walking away, back into the dark. He didn’t want to stick around to see what came next. When you made your living doing such things, it was never worthwhile to dwell on the grief and destruction you left in your wake. It took a special kind of masochist to feel pride in causing pain to innocents. Five had only ever done what was necessary to save his family – and to save the world.

He picked up the briefcase from where it had been sitting at his feet and flicked the latch open for a final time. He’d set the coordinates, not to when he’d left, but to about a half-hour earlier for good measure, making up for the lost time that Klaus’ dramatic entrance had cost them.

As he surged through the cosmos, fifty years into the future, he felt a new string of memories pull against his old ones, something he’d been conditioned to resist back during his commission days. So Dave really had been the only thing keeping Klaus in the past… nothing major had corrected itself over the past two days because of it – except… there was an ice-cream truck? It was irrelevant. The only thing that mattered was that this time, Klaus should be back at the academy, only ten months older than he was the day before, and at least somewhat more willing to aid him in stopping the apocalypse.

“So the apocalypse is in three days, the only chance we have to save our world is – well – us.” He made a note of them this time. One, two, three, four. Klaus. He was himself again, and wearing a green military vest that was a few sizes too big for him. They must have been his – Dave’s. He watched the way his brother clutched those dog tags in his hand, drawing strength from a reminder of grief.

“The umbrella academy,” Luther offered.

“Yeah, but with me, obviously.” The landing had been rougher than expected – straight onto the bar, same as before – and he was still covered in ash from the explosion at the commission (and now dirt from Vietnam) not to mention the piece of shrapnel still buried in his side. He’d worry about that later. “So if you all don’t get your side-show acts together and get over yourselves we’re screwed!” He had their attention now, there was no time to dwell on grief, no matter how all-consuming it was. “Who cares if dad messed us up, are we gonna let that define us?” Klaus shook his head, wide-eyed. Everything about him was sunken and sallow, skin tanned from his time in the jungle, new tattoos etched across his skin to mark a chapter of his life now over for good. Five had only helped remind him of where he belonged, where they all belonged. Still, Five couldn’t help but noticed how broken he seemed. Broken from what Five had done to him.

He could never tell Klaus the truth, never. Let him believe it was just another uninteresting casualty of war. He could almost hear Delores’ lectures starting up already, but it wouldn’t be the first time he’d lied just to spare them all a little pain. They had no idea what was at stake, the kind of thing’s he’d seen. They never would, and they never could.