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Vicious Cycle

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“Good fucking riddance you old bastard,” Diego said.

“Diego,” Luther hissed. “Come on.”

“Oh, don’t worry, Luther, he’s not around,” Klaus said cheerfully. “Blissful silence.”

“Still,” Luther said. “I mean, I know what he was like, but… but he’s dead. We should at least be a little respectful, right?”

“No,” Vanya said, nursing a scotch. “He deserves every word.”

“Well, yeah, but…” Luther said, shuffling awkwardly.

“Relax, Luther,” Allison said. “The old man can’t do shit to us anymore.”

“What are we gonna do with his ashes?” Ben said.

They stared somberly at the urn, no one sure what exactly to reply.

“Maybe we could dump them in his favorite spot,” Luther said.

“He had a favorite spot?” Allison asked.

“Yeah, out in the courtyard,” Luther said. “We used to…” He made a face. “Nevermind.”

“I vote we chuck the whole urn into the sea,” Diego said. “He doesn’t deserve a damn ceremony.”

“What, and let him choke some poor turtle?” Klaus whispered. “Hasn’t he done enough?”

“I don’t mean a ceremony,” Luther said. “I just feel like… once we put him where he belongs, it’s really over, you know?”

Diego sighed, shrugging. “Whatever. I don’t really care where he is, as long as he stays dead.”

“Easy for you to say,” Klaus replied. “I’m just waiting for the old bugger to show up to scold me about something.” He made a face, then looked at Vanya. “You have any more of that stuff?”

“I just raided Dad’s liquor cabinet,” she muttered. “Door’s broken, you can have at it.”

“Sweet,” Klaus said, rounding the cabinet, bottles clinking until he returned with a gasp. “Oh, wine!”

“Don’t get too sloshed,” Diego said. “We still have work after this.”

“You’re a real buzzkill, Diego, you know that?” Klaus said, uncorking the wine and pouring a glass. “Allison, you want any?”

“Yeah,” she replied.

Somewhere, something crashed, throwing an eerie blue light across the room. The urn slid down the table, and Diego hissed as his knives jumped out of his pockets and into the nearest wall.

“Shit,” Allison whispered. “What is that?”

“I don’t know,” Luther murmured, grabbing his coat. “Come on.”

They followed him, racing out into the courtyard, where the wind had become a roar, blue light flickering across the sky like a cloud.

“Stay behind us!” Vanya said, joining Luther in front of the others. Allison backed up a step, but she took Luther’s hand nonetheless.

“Should we throw something at it?” Klaus yelled.

“Why?” Diego asked.

“I don’t know, see what happens?!”

Ben smacked him on the back of the head.

With a thud, the storm was gone, and a small body hit the ground.

They inched closer together.

“Oh, shit,” Klaus whispered. “Tell me someone else sees him.”

“Five?” Vanya asked.

The boy pushed himself up with shaking arms, staggering to his feet. “Holy shit,” he whispered. “It worked.”

“Why are you tiny?” Klaus asked. “Didn’t you say you’d been gone… a while?”

Five blinked at him, staggering slightly, then looked down at himself. “Shit,” he muttered. “I thought this might happen, but…” He looked back up at them. “But you’re all… real?”

“Yeah,” Luther breathed, then, “Fuck,” as he seemingly remembered something, diving forward to slide his arms under Five’s and pick him up, squeezing him tight.

“Oh,” Five whispered, throwing his arms around Luther and hugging him back. “Shit.”

Luther gave him a final squeeze and set him down, letting Five frantically attempt to wipe away tears.

“So… why are you a… a kid?” Allison asked.

Five sniffled, reaching for her, squeezing her wrist as if to assure himself she was really there. “It’s complicated. Time travel comes with… certain side effects. I had to pull off some complicated math to get back, but I didn’t want to waste time hashing out the—“

“—time dilation,” Ben interjected, eyes lighting up.

“Yeah,” Five said, a breath of relief escaping him. “Yeah, the time dilation.” He looked around at them, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. “Oh, shit, it’s all… you’re all here.” He staggered forward to hug Ben. “Thanks for the book.”

“Thanks for the letter,” Vanya said.

“Oh, god, Vanya,” Five said, grabbing her hand and pulling up her sleeve. The tattoo was there, a little off color and off center, but there. “Did Dad…?”

“Of course not,” she scoffed. “The guys pitched in for our birthday after we moved out.”

“You have powers,” Five muttered, looking at her, holding her wrist tightly, eyes bright as he looked up at her. “What are they? Why’d Dad hide them from us?”

“Resonance,” Vanya said. “I turn sound into power. A lot of power.”

“Shit,” Five murmured. “That’s amazing.”

“Wait, if you don’t know what Vanya’s powers are, how did you write that letter?” Allison asked.

“That wasn’t me,” Five said. “At least, not this version of me. I must have changed time by sending it to you, for me as well as all of you.”

“What the fuck,” Klaus murmured. “So there’s like… an alternate timeline out there in which we never found out about Vanya? Was it shit?”

“I don’t know,” Five said. “It was a different lifetime for me, and I have no way of remembering it. Though it sounds like some things didn’t change.” He shook his head. “That’s a long story, and I’m starving.” He lit up. “Do we have peanut butter? Holy shit, peanut butter is still a thing!”

“Uh,” Diego said. “Yeah. It’s still a thing. Did they outlaw peanuts in the future?”

Five snorted. “It’s weirder than that. Come on, I haven’t had a peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich in years.”

**

“So how old are you really?” Ben asked. “Your consciousness must be older, right?”

“Yeah,” Five said. “27, to be exact.” He watched hungrily as Allison made him a sandwich.

“So you’re actually younger than us?” Diego said.

“Our baby brother,” Klaus cooed. “Oh, that’s so sweet!” He blinked. “Wait, is that my sweater?”

“Yeah,” Five said. “Nice dress, by the way.”

“Oh, danke,” Klaus said, showing off the skirt. “I felt like I should dress up for the occasion a little.”

“But wait,” Luther said, holding up a hand. “How’d you get a hold of Klaus’ sweater? Your letter said that you hadn’t seen any of us in years.”

Five sucked in a sharp breath. “Yeah. I haven’t seen any of you in 14 years, no. What’s the date?”

“March 24th, 2019,” Vanya said.

“Fuck,” Five whispered. “I meant to go earlier.” He sighed, pushing a hand through his hair. “When I ran out, I jumped forward in time. I landed about… 16 days from today. Give or take.”

“16 days,” Diego breathed. “Then why didn’t you come get us?”

“Because you were all dead,” Five replied. He dropped his eyes, swallowing hard. “I… found all of you. Your…” He grimaced. “Your bodies.”

Dead silence filled the room.

“Exqueeze me?” Klaus said, finally.

“We die in the next 16 days?” Allison asked, hands frozen around the sandwich she’d just finished.

“The next eight,” Five corrected. “Along with quite a bit of the rest of the world.”

“Wait, what about…”

“I don’t know about Claire,” Five replied. “Phones were down, and it would have been too dangerous to get to LA. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t risk it, not if I wanted to get back.”

Allison sat down hard.

“What about Eudora?” Diego blurted.

“Helen?” Vanya added.

“I don’t know,” Five said. “If they survived, I didn’t find them. But it doesn’t matter.”

“Doesn’t matter?” Diego growled. “It damn well matters to me!”

“We need to stop it all from happening!” Five yelled. “We need to make sure all of you stay alive and whatever happened doesn’t. That’s why I came back!”

Diego paced back and forth a few times before taking a deep breath. “Okay, fine. What did happen?”

“I don’t have an exact idea,” Five said. “People said there was some kind of explosion in the distance, then a mist rolled in, and people started… turning into monsters.”

“What, like zombies?” Klaus asked.

“They’re not zombies if they’re not dead!” Five snapped.

“Jeez, what got your panties in a twist?” Klaus muttered.

Five sighed. “The others voted to call them zom-beasts,” he said. “Which is a stupid name to start with, but even worse for people you care about that have turned into—” He cut himself off with a hiss. “Nevermind. The point is, something did that to them.”

“Dad’s arsenal,” Vanya said.

“Okay, we don’t know if Dad had an arsenal,” Luther said. “We just wondered if he might.”

“You got any better ideas?” Diego asked.

Luther grimaced. “No. I’m just saying, we can’t bet everything on wild guesses.”

“Dad was making weapons?” Five asked.

“Maybe,” Allison said. “We don’t know.”

“He kind of lost it after you left,” Klaus said. “Like, more so than before. Wait, were we zom-beasts when you found us?”

“No,” Five said, making a face. “And please, call them literally anything else.”

“Okay, okay,” Klaus muttered. “Jeez, touchy.”

“I found all of you shot,” Five said. “And I have reason to believe it was Harold Jenkins who did it.”

“The guy you warned us about,” Vanya said, sitting up. “Who is he?”

“I don’t know,” Five muttered. “But I know he can time travel. And I know he intends to kill all of you.”

“So what do we do?” Luther asked, crossing his arms.

Five hesitated. “I think we need to find out who he is, first. See if maybe we can… figure out what his plan is.”

“Shouldn’t we just find him?” Diego asked. “Shut him down before he can—“

“No!” Five barked. He sat back quickly, hiding his shaking hands. “He killed all of you, and I’m not losing you again. No one goes near Harold Jenkins but me. Got it?”

“Five,” Vanya tried.

“Promise me,” he pleaded. “Don’t try to go after him. He can and he will kill you. Just help me figure this out, and I’ll take care of it.”

They exchanged looks.

“Okay,” Vanya said reluctantly. “We’ll keep our distance.”

“Thank you,” he whispered.

Allison frowned, sliding the plate over. “Go ahead, eat. We’ll figure out what to do after you’ve gotten some rest.”

He nodded quietly, taking a bite and looking at all of them. “Holy shit,” he murmured, again. “You’re really all here. Wow.”

Allison smiled, ruffling his hair. “Yeah, we’re all here.”