When He broke the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come.” And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.
Revelation 6: 3-4 New American Standard Bible
Their dad was fucking shit. Reginald Hargreeves sets a low bar when it comes to caring for children. Possibly, the lowest bar. A bar soooo low, Klaus wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same one his father is currently using to dance the Limbo with Hitler in Hell.
But Christ, even Reginald Hargreeves had never felt the need to shoot at them.
What bothers Klaus the most, he decides, is the implications of his new found knowledge. Because as Hazel tells it, it was just another ordinary day. Typical training, and his baby brother had been SHOT.
Had been shot and not immediately rushed to receive medical attention. Because apparently that was just a thing that happens sometimes. A fucking minor training injury.
Christ on a cracker.
How many times had his brother been shot like that before? How many times after?
He recalls with sudden clarity that Five had been injured in the week leading up the Apocalypse too. A shrapnel wound in his chest. That he’d gone about his day without saying anything. That he’d continued going until the blood loss, not the pain, but the blood loss had become too much and he’d passed out in front of Diego and Allison.
He recalls how confused Five had been when they’d been understandably upset by his silence. When they’d made a big deal about the fact that HE’D BEEN BLEEDING OUT ALL DAY and Five hadn’t understood why they were raising such a fuss.
It hadn’t occurred to Klaus that is wasn’t a big deal because it was commonplace. Because he was used to it.
The thought makes his chest constrict and his stomach twist in a queasy kind of way. It makes his skin itch and GOD he’s too sober for this.
Ben is a statue beside him. Face drawn, arms tight across his chest, nails digging into the meat of his arms.
He wonders what part of that fucked up little story he was currently reflecting on. Whether it was just the horror of realizing that at the age they’d given up on Five coming home, that when they’d been making jokes about Five living his best life somewhere lounging out on the beach and too selfish to come back and take them with him, he’d been trapped somewhere horrible.
Or if perhaps the boy with monsters under his skin could relate to the boy who took the shape of monsters.
Unwilling to stand the silence any longer because he doesn’t like the directions his thoughts are going with the time to wander, Klaus restarts the conversation.
“So the other Horsemen… they were like us?”
Hazel nods. “The Handler said it was the result of a time anomaly. A group of random births.”
Shit three others like them. Ten out of the forty three now accounted for.
“What happened to them?” Vanya questions, voice barely above a whisper.
“I don’t know,” Hazel replies and then a beat later, with a touch of sadness in his tone, “But they’re gone now.”
Klaus’ heart drops at that.
“What do you mean you don’t know?” Diego growls combative. He’s upset and responding in one of the only ways he knows how – anger.
“I mean I don’t know,” Hazel says firmly. “What part of that story makes you think I wanted to stick around and find out more? No way. I avoided HQ at all costs after that. I heard rumors…whispers, but nothing concrete.”
“Could you find out?” Ben asks before Diego can retort something mulish and unnecessary.
Hazel eyes Ben carefully before he acquiesces, “I can try. I still know some people at the Commission who owe me a few favors. Like I said, the Horsemen are all gone now, so some of the documents on them may have been declassified. Lower level stuff at least.”
“Could you please?” Allison responds, a small grateful smile on her face.
Hazel agrees to get in contact with his ‘Commission friends’. He doesn’t guarantee he’ll be able to get them what they’re asking for, or even that any documentation even existed in the first place, but he promises, in all sincerity, to try his best. Either way, thanks to time travel shenanigans, they’ll have their answer by tomorrow morning. For better or for worse.
With that Hazel gathers himself to leave, taking the rest of the cookies with him for the road. As he’s about to go, he turns one last time to face them.
“I really hope you know what your doing.”
Ya Klaus really hopes they do too.
Then the door clicks shut and Hazel is gone.
When he finally manages to taper down his anger to an acceptable level, Five finds himself where he always goes.
Dolores is a spitfire. Always had been. Sparking quickly in response to his anger. Fiercely loyal and fiercely protective of her friends.
But what he needs now is her calm. Her wisdom - not her righteous anger.
So with a level head he finally approaches her, hours later after the department store has closed and security has finished their last rounds. She listens carefully, as she always does, before commenting.
She immediately calls him out on the things he omitted while presenting his case.
‘You’ve been avoiding them haven’t you? You’re pushing them away again.’
When he begrudgingly acquiesces, she calls him an idiot.
Dolores thinks they’re idiots too though, so that helps.
She’s angry. Furious that they’d belittled his efforts. Not when she’d sat and watched him working late into the nights. When she’d seen the years of effort, the hell he’d had to live through. Not when she lived the same.
Once her anger abates however, she thinks perhaps, he should tell them. That it might help him to talk about it to someone. That he shouldn’t hide it all away in his head.
He tries to dissuade her, but she stands firm on this point.
The problem is he’s not sure he can tell them. Even if he wanted to, he’s not sure he could find the words. He’s never spoken them out loud and the thought of it…the thought of it quite frankly terrifies him.
Fear is not an emotion he often feels. Not anymore. He’d grown used to the reality of living in constant fear. Now he recognizes the signs belatedly, in the shaking of his hands and shortness of his breath. He knows what it’s supposed to feel like but he can’t feel it. At least not for himself. After all, what could Death possibly have to fear?
He’s told his siblings that he’s a killer. They all know he was an assassin once. He’s said it again and again because he never wanted to deceive them, to play wolf in sheep’s clothes.
Yet knowing that truth and hearing the gory details of it are two very different things. He’s afraid of what it will mean – to reveal the whole truth of what he is.
A tiny, hopeful part of him wants to believe it won’t change anything. That they love him as he loves them. That that love is unconditional.
But the realist in him knows it will change everything. His siblings are young and innocent. They are hopeful and naïve and their world is one of stark contrast. Of light and dark. Of black and white. Of good and evil. And Five is a monster. A creature of the shadows – painted in darkness but guided by the light. A red ledger, dripping with blood.
What will he be then, when they learn the truth?
If the most important people in his life, the only people in his life, choose to send him away. When his tenuous hold on himself, on his very soul, rests on the belief that his end, that saving them, justified any mean to achieve.
What if they disagree?
He’s not sure he can bare to see the look on their faces when they finally see him for what he is. When they look at him the way he looks at himself in the mirror.
That is what Death fears.
Dolores catches him before he can spiral further. Pulls him out of his own head and back to the present.
‘Not all at once then,’ she urges. ‘One piece at a time.’
He resolves to talk to them. Not his past, not yet. But maybe someday, he offers to appease her.
Now he needs to apologize for his behavior as of late. Because while they’re in the wrong, so is he and as he keeps reminding everyone, he’s the adult here. The older adult here.
But for the time being, he allows himself this comfort and settles down at her side. Content for the moment, to sit in the company of the memory of one of his oldest and closest friends.
He wishes for the millionth time that he could have the real thing.
Five jumps back, taking a moment to catch his breath. Opposite him, Dolores’ cheeks are flushed with exertion, slightly breathless as well.
Despite this, they continue to circle each other, neither willing to back down. They’ve been at this for hours now. No powers, hand to hand combat. First one to pin the other down and get them to yield wins.
He’s gotten nowhere close to accomplishing this feat so far, but in his defense neither has she. They’re both starting to slow down now.
“You’re not getting tired are you,” he teases.
“I was about to ask you the same thing,” she quips back.
In honestly, training with Dolores is more of a dance then a fight. Their combat skills are rather evenly matched, both relying on speed and flexibility. On creative solutions to problems.
The current problem however, is that they know each other too well. He can read her next movements before she makes them by the way she holds herself, can tell a feint from a true swing, can call every bluff. Annoyingly, this translates into her being able to do the same for him.
Which leads every fight, to the same inevitable outcome: a long drawn out event which can go either way. Determined by a second of distraction or a moment of hesitation. Both of them far too stubborn to ever stop and settle for a tie before that point.
Dolores suddenly shifts her weight slightly. He gets only this second of warning before she’s leapt forward and is on him again. Lucky for him, that second is all he needs and he dodges with practiced ease.
Dolores groans in frustration and he laughs despite himself. She doesn’t let up, relentless as always and they’re locked in the dance once more. Striking and feinting. Spinning in and out of reach while dodging blows.
Feeling the exhaustion start to nip at his bones and knowing that this won’t be the last intensive training exercise of the day, Five decides the time has come to use a more underhanded approach.
He lets her clip him with her next hit, stumbling slightly as he lands. He intentionally slows his movements, waiting until the last second to dodge and forcing himself to falter. Noticeable but not too noticeable. Now for the hardest part.
He sets her up, morphing his face into one of surprise as he allows her to land a blow. It’s definitely going to leave a mark, but it has the intended affect. She springs forward confidently again, to finish it. Lulled by the illusion he’s weaved - wounded prey cornered by a predator.
The second she’s close enough, he drops. Her momentum propels her forward and in a burst of speed, he knocks her feet out from under her.
She lands on her butt with a thud. Five doesn’t give her time to recover, pushing her the rest of the way down and pinning her with his weight. Her wrists trapped in his hands.
“Yield,” he demands panting through the exertion.
Dolores looks up at him with wide disbelieving eyes, her hair splayed out on the floor in a halo around her.
Despite years of this hell, Dolores is radiant. She was always beautiful; from the first day he’d met her. But at 19, she’s grown in to herself – skinny, mousy frame becoming lithe and toned from the constant training. Exuding a confidence now she hadn't known then.
Dolores doesn’t answer, expression changing, the initial surprise melting away to something else. He’s suddenly struck by how incredibly close they are to one another. He can feel the warmth of her skin, the puff of her breath. She leans up and towards him as much as his hold on her allows, until their foreheads are practically touching.
She closes the gap between them with a kiss.
His eyes flutter closed without his permission, skin tingling, and static clouding his thoughts. Five feels himself relax, the tension draining out of his body...
He’s not quite sure exactly how it happens. Only that one second he’s pinning her to the ground, the soft touch of her lips on his, and the next he’s been flipped, the breath knocked out of him.
Dolores is suddenly straddling his waist, pinning his wrists to his side, a triumphant smile on her face.
His mind splutters to a halt and it takes a moment to catch back up with him.
He’s been played.
Well that won’t do.
With his own wicked grin, he calls upon his powers. It’s technically cheating, but that was a damn dirty trick, he's embarrassed, and he’s not one to be outdone.
He opens the rift beneath him. Dolores yelps as they begin to fall, moving as if to dart away. However, her surprise makes her release him and before she can escape, he grabs her and pulls her through the jump with him.
They land only a few feet away. The momentum causing them to roll across the floor in a tangle of limbs until they crash into a rack of training equipment, sending its contents flying (to the other side thankfully) and the whole thing toppling to the ground.
Five uses the distraction to gain the upper hand. He pins her beneath him again and on a second, more cautious thought, leans back and away from her to prevent the same tactic from being used twice.
Because he absolutely would fall for it again.
Dolores catches the move and laughs, genuine and happy. A rare sound. Five preens at having caused it.
“Do you yield?”
“Fine, I yield,” she answers once she’s caught her breath.
He slides off her, standing with ease and offering his hand to pull her up.
“But you cheated,” she declares once she’s up, brushing herself off before shooting him a look, “so it doesn’t count. I get a rematch tomorrow.”
“Fair enough,” he concedes.
She nods appeased. “Aaaand,” she begins clasping her hands in front of her, mischievous smile on her face as she not so subtly walks backwards towards the exit…
“YouHaveToCleanAllThisUp!” She yells in one breath, turning and running out the door, knowing he could jump and catch her if he wanted.
Five chuckles and lets her go. His jump had caused the mess after all. He pulls the shelf back up and vertical, reaching for a pair of throwing stars (this really could’ve gone badly if it had tipped backwards onto them) when he hears a dull thunk from behind him.
He tenses, grip tightening on the weapon. In a second, he calculates where exactly the noise came from and where the best place to jump is. A slight creak and he’s gone, disappearing in blue light. He lands in position, ready to throw the blade, when his eyes land on the culprit.
A silver fox pops his head up from on top of what had once been a pile of neatly folded towels on the third level of their supply cabinet. One door remains closed, the other hit the wall when Chase pawed it open, the cause of the noise.
“Have you been in here this whole time?” Five asks incredulous.
'I waaaas taking a lovely cat nap,' Chase’s voice responds in his head. Looking down at himself, Chase gives what Five assumes is the fox equivalent to a shrug, 'Well close enough, before you two SO rudely interrupted me…'
Five rolls his eyes and goes back to cleaning up the scattered items rearranging them back on the rack in their appropriate places.
“You didn’t think to say anything.”
Five hears the dull thud of the animal landing on the floor, followed by the click of claws.
'Well…I didn’t want to interrupt your flirting.' Chase tilts his head to the side, tail flicking behind him. 'It’s very cute that you have a crush on her.'
“I don’t have a crush on her.”
'No of course not,' he replies easily enough and Five figures that will be the end of that.
'You’re in love with her.'
Five trips on air. He flails pathetically for a moment before righting himself, thankfully managing not to drop any of the items in his arms.
Chase, the bastard that he is, snickers knowingly behind him.
Not turning to face the fox, because he knows that he’s blushing and he doesn’t want to give Chase anymore ammunition, he calls over his shoulder, “I’m not in love with her”.
'Oooh goody,' comes the sarcastic reply, the fox leaping up and onto the balance beam beside him for height. 'Because if you were…well, that would be an incredibly STUPID idea.'
“Well it’s a good thing it won’t be a problem, like I said,” Five bites back, bristling at Chase’s insistence, before turning to face him evenly.
The fox watches him with careful eyes before sighing, sympathetic as he adds, 'The Handler already has so many ways to hurt us. So much leverage. Don’t let her use this against you too.'
And there’s nothing but concern there. No malice or judgment whatsoever. Chase is only trying to look out for him. For both of them.
Five deflates. “I’ll keep it in mind.”
Five finishes his task in silence, Chase a silent companion behind him.
“Are you coming?” he offers, the invitation an olive branch. Proof he’s not actually upset.
The fox becomes an ermine and jumps, landing deftly on his shoulder. It settles there, a warm, comforting presence. He offers his hand and the animal leans his head into it, soft fur running through Five’s fingers as Chase lets out a content hum.
With the other boy so happily accepting the contact, Five can’t help but think of how far they’ve come.
Of the early days when Chase was terrified of his power. When a shift meant a complete loss of control and he’d refuse to come anywhere near them. How the tears would well up in his eyes as he apologized again and again, either for accidentally hurting one of them or incurring some punishment on them all for refusing to follow orders.
Their captors had been incredibly displeased with this behavior – having a shape shifter with them wasn’t useful if he couldn’t tell friend and foe apart. Five can’t help the sudden surge of anger that comes with remembering how the Trainer had thought to best handle the situation.
Chase had been missing for a couple of days. Five hadn't known him well, hadn't known any of them well, but it was enough that he was concerned. He'd gone investigating, jumping from room to room until he found him.
The mountain lion was locked in a cage, chained and terrified, feral from the isolation. To get over the fear of his power they said later, the same bullshit excuse Reginald had used with Klaus. Five had been absolutely livid.
It had taken hours to coax Chase down, to finally get close enough to remove the collar preventing him from shifting back, though that goal hadn’t been achieved without sustaining several injuries himself.
When Chase turned back and realized what he’d done, the boy had been hysterical. Five jumped them both back to his room and comforted him as best he could, promising that he wasn’t upset and that I hadn’t been Chase’s fault. That he knew Chase hadn’t meant to hurt him. He’d stayed up with him most of the night, until they’d both succumbed to exhaustion, Chase clutching at him desperately even in sleep.
The next day the Trainer had been furious. He decided that Five should get to face the consequences of interrupting valuable training. He forced Chase to shift, probably intending him to lose control and maul Five. To his great surprise, the wolf took one look at Five before trotting to his side, standing protectively between him and Trainer. Growling and snapping his sharp teeth at the other man whenever he tried to get too close.
Chase had confided in him later that it was his smell of all things that he’d recognized. The night spent pressed against Five’s side, in Five’s room, amongst Five’s things had imprinted his scent. A scent his animal side associated with safety, with home. It marked Five as a friend, as someone he should protect. Pack.
That realization resulted in a drastic change. Whereas before Chase would hide away from them, he now sought them out. He liked to be close to them.
Any annoyance they might’ve felt at the invasion of personal space was quelled by the fact that he did it to make sure he never hurt them. By the admission that whenever he was afraid or anxious, being around them, around pack, was grounding. No one could deny him that.
If Five is being honest, it’s one of the main reasons they’re all as close to one another as they are now. They’d been scared kids who didn’t know how to act around one another. They were kind to each other sure, but they’d been distant. Unaware of how to deal with their own trauma, much less each others'.
Chase broke all those boundaries. He initiated casual contact, reminded them of how comforting touch and proximity could be.
Soon whenever any of them were sad or hurt or scared they’d all come together. Five would pop in and out with blankets and pillows and snacks if he could manage to steal some without getting caught. Malakai would read or tell stories in a gentle, soothing voice. Dolores might sing, and run her fingers through their hair like Five remembers Mom used to. Chase would turn into a dog or a cat or some other big fuzzy animal and let them curl into him and clutch him tight like a giant teddy bear. The groups resident emotional support animal.
They’d fall asleep like that. One big dogpile (sometimes quite literally) in someone’s room. Those were the best nights of sleep Five ever got. The nightmares from training and the Apocalypse not quite able to reach him surrounded by warmth and the sounds of breathing and beating hearts.
Chase loves his power now; the freedom it gives him. He can easily interact with them in any form – the animal side of him having accepted them all as pack long ago. He can retain his form for far longer, where once a few hours would make him feral. He’d even learned to communicate with them in animal form (the first time Chase’s voice had sounded in his mind Five had almost had a stroke to the field mouse's great amusement). They’d all unanimously decided to keep the telepathy a secret from the Commission.
All in all, he’s a menace now really. Most recently he’s taken to hopping into their jacket pockets to take naps or perching on their shoulders for rides when he’s feeling too lazy to walk somewhere himself, as he is now. He’s chatting his ear off merrily, on about something Malakai did on their last mission.
The thought of them. Of the three of them fills him with warmth.
Chase was right.
He loves Dolores. He loves Chase and Malakai too.
Somewhere along the line they’d become his best friends.
Chase and Malakai have become his brothers. He loves them like he loves his siblings.
And Dolores...Dolores was something else. A different kind of love, but one he can’t dwell on now.
Because they’re not safe here. They will never be safe here and he wants to protect them.
He wants to run away from this place like he’d planned running away from the Umbrella Academy with his siblings all those years ago. He couldn’t save his siblings then from their father and that house, but he will save them from the Apocalypse. If it’s the last thing he does, he’ll save them.
He vows then and there to save the Horsemen too.