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Ouroboros

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When the woman who called herself Elsa walked the wasteland she created exactly 20 years ago, it never occurred to her that she’d find anything new in her world.

And in every sense of the word, it was hers. Elsa remembered clearly how she did away with the old to make way for a better, peaceful one. And being the only one left alive meant that there was no one to say otherwise when she claimed a plot of land, a range of mountains or a whole swath of the sea for her own.

In another life, her past life, the life she hid away in the deepest recesses of her mind, such a scenario would have been akin to a nightmare. But Elsa was a different creature from that woman (a girl who never matured, really) whose desperation for a sense of belonging was so severe that she would have gladly burned just for a mere scrap of it.

She erased every memory that somehow still remained of that girl. The apartment she lived in, the basement that should have kept them entombed forever and any building Elsa thought could have housed copies of her book. Not even ruins remained of those.

It helped that Elsa’s own appearance altered, with her hair turned white as snow and her eyes a luminescent silver.

For twenty years, she’d traveled the planet that was now her domain simply because there was no one else to challenge her for it. Her powers made many things possible, though even she had to admit using it to sustain (her own) life presented her with more difficulties. It required a certain amount of precision and control to manipulate her abilities for what she intended.

She was loathe to admit it but ending the world took barely a thought. She honestly didn’t even have the intention to end the world in the first place. And yet, her careless actions affected the whole world.

But restarting a life took what seemed to be years of premeditation. And the power for rejuvenation and living only had relevance to her.

So at first, she had to scavenge from groceries and travel on foot. But after many, many attempts of what a previously existing general public would have called disastrous, she managed to grow her own food and power whatever means of transportation was available.

By the time she reached what used to be Europe, seeds could now simply be planted on the ground and grown overnight to present her with fruits and grains. Despite her animosity for the deceased demon in the guise of an old man, Elsa supposed she should be grateful. Her memories recalled many recordings on surviving the wilderness, scaling mountains and manning ships and planes.

Her past self thought she’d forgotten. But as it turned out, Elsa had not. Elsa remembered the lessons especially the ones her past self took great pains to eavesdrop in.

Through the years she marveled at how far she’s come from the woman who inadvertently destroyed all human life. With years of practice, nothing she did with her abilities could be said to be an accident anymore.

Elsa achieved what she wanted. To be the master of her powers instead of the other way around. She should be proud of herself. Her past self would have been green with envy with what she could do now.

Instead of rain, it now snowed whenever that melancholy feeling managed to sink into her heart again. She wished the ice cold temperature would freeze the sadness and crush it. But by now, every part of Elsa was impervious to the cold.

Elsa decided to turn back to North America. To the city she grew up in.

Despite telling herself that a life alone was the best for her (and why wouldn’t it be when everyone who ever claimed to care had literally and figuratively tried to stab her in the back?), Elsa could never rid herself of the weakness.

Leonard. Allison. Her brothers.

Elsa didn’t regret doing away with them. But it was a weakness to miss them. It didn’t make sense to miss the people who have manipulated and put her down. But Elsa (reluctantly) acknowledged that the human heart never took logic into account in any of its dealings.

So she found herself wandering the city of her childhood. It’s been exactly twenty years since the end. And by now, the only thing that still amazed her was that she still kept track of time.

Why was that?

But Elsa’s thoughts were interrupted by a sound. Was someone moaning? How can that be possible when there was no one else?

She followed the sound to find a man making swift and repeated jerking motions around his crotch. Elsa couldn’t see his face as his back was to her. But she knew what he was doing out in the open.

To be fair, Elsa left nothing including enclosed spaces intact. So he had no other choice but to be doing his private business to all and sundry (had there still been anyone other than Elsa to witness it).

And to her own pleasant surprise, the thought that there was at least one man left alive (after all this time) was not entirely unwelcome.

Here he was. Unkempt hair. Tattered clothes. A modern version of a malnourished caveman. A rifle leaning on the nearby wall. A cart containing all his worldly possessions including what appears to be a bald, upper half of a department store mannequin was not too far behind him.

With the way this man was going, Elsa was frankly surprised he didn’t use the mannequin. Maybe carved out a hole somewhere on its humanoid form and pretended the mannequin had a semblance of life as he penetrated it.

But that was just a stray thought. A failed attempt at distraction to what the sight of a man in the midst of masturbation was doing to her body.

Without her meaning to, she elicited a sound.

Elsa barely even registered the swift movement that allowed the man to reach for his firearm and point it directly at her.

She responded in kind. Her powers pinned him to the nearby wall, his rifle pointing up and away from her.

Elsa finally got a good look at the man. Full beard covering his jaw. Perhaps in his thirties or maybe younger. His fly was still open and Elsa was both intrigued and repulsed by what she saw there.

“Stop staring at my dick and just get on with it.”

————————

Twenty years and he had yet to cross paths with another living soul. Five had already given up long before that.

All he had left was the determination to get the equations right, get back in time and stop the apocalypse. But he wasn’t feeling up to it on this day, which also happened to be the anniversary of the end of the world.

He’d just finished his last bottle of wine and there were no other other bottles of alcohol left in the vicinity no matter how thoroughly he dug or scrounged. It seemed he only had one other way to seek a temporary oblivion.

He put down his rifle as he closed his eyes and sought his release. Five thought of days gone by and days that could have been. He thought of Vanya. Did she finally find a bit of her own happiness? Proven to herself that she was special in her own right?

Five did not bother to dwell on the image of the partner in his mind taking on youthful qualities. Long straight hair, fair skin that blushed at the slightest exposure to sunlight.

He was getting close when he heard something he knew was definitely not Delores. Delores knew better than to interrupt.

And Five only survived this long by treating anything out of the ordinary (his level of ordinary) with extreme prejudice.

He couldn’t believe his eyes when his clapped eyes with a woman that seemed to have sprung out of a fairy tale. Perhaps she was a fairy herself with her petite frame and white hair. And snow suddenly falling all around them.

Five would have described her as neither old nor young. The woman’s face was more akin to marble statues of goddesses. Ageless.

And it didn’t help that she was wearing a pristine white, lace dress. There was nothing underneath.

Before he knew it, he felt a force keep him stuck to the wall. None of his attempts at movement prevailed. And to his shame, he was hard and he had to stop her from looking at him.

The woman was going to kill him with his pants down. For the first time, Five was happy no one was here to witness it.

She finally looked him in the eye and came closer to him. Five was a lot taller than her so she used her hand to move his head down in what seemed like a cradling gesture.

“Do you need help?”

What?

She must have seen the dumbfounded look on his face and pointedly glanced downward.

“No!”

Five must be dreaming. Though if that were so, shouldn’t he just take her up on her offer?

“What if I can make it worth your while and give you food?”

Seriously?

“I’m not a prostitute.”

Five had never been propositioned before. But he’d be lying if he said it didn’t intrigue him. And he certainly wouldn’t say no to food.

But he didn’t trust this woman. Who knows what sort of creatures the apocalypse birthed? He was already a case in point.

But she wasn’t deterred. If she felt disappointed, she certainly didn’t show it.

She noticed the handgun hidden in his coat and took it out. Then she made him release the rifle only to replace it with the handgun.

“My intentions are straightforward. You and I want something only the other can give. But since you don’t trust me, let me ease some of that fear.”

She had him point the gun at her temple. And started removing her dress.

By that time, nothing was arresting his movements except the sight of her.

But that didn’t last long. Though he never took the gun away from her temple even as he fucked her. Even as he felt her squeeze him and take all he had to give.

When it was over, he didn’t even realize they were on the ground until she stood up and saw his mess trailing down her thighs.

He had no idea where she could have put it in that scrap of clothing. But she took out what appeared to be a seed, placed it on the ground. And in a matter of minutes, an apple tree grew in its place.

The woman walked away without another word

—————-

Elsa wanted to kill the man as soon as he pointed the gun at her. But her longing- dare she admit it? Her loneliness had her doing something foolish.

He may well be the last man on earth. So only he could give her something she knew she wanted since the world was made anew.

A companion.

She touched her stomach as if she was willing life to grow inside her. She can never trust another living soul again. But what about one that lived, breathed and depended solely on her?

She worried that no baby would come. But she pushed that thought away.

If it didn’t, she only had to find the man again. She knew the rhythm of his heartbeat now. She’d be able to find him again. This was still her world, after all. And he was the only other soul in it. At least for now.

Chapter Text

Five knew better than to indulge in the “baser instincts” as Dad would call it. As much as he hated agreeing with the old man, he had to admit sex makes you vulnerable if only by the mere fact that any form of situational awareness goes right out the window as soon as the promise of it starts gearing towards fulfillment.

That first time she left, he couldn’t believe what had just happened. Five had never done it before. Not with anyone.

It was only as he picked out an apple and had a bite that he realized how stupid he had been. He could have asked her if she knew what happened to the world twenty years ago.

Five never did find out. That fateful day he ignored Dad’s order and thought he knew better, he remembered the joy of proving himself right the first time he jumped. A joy that was just as quickly dashed and replaced by horror a few jumps later. In hindsight, that was the last carefree day of his life.

He came back to an Academy in ashes. Unlike nearby buildings and landmarks, not even ruins were left of the only place he called home.

Five remembered calling out for Vanya and Ben, hoping against hope they survived. Then he called Dad because if anyone stood a chance of outlasting the end of the world, it would probably be Reginald Hargreeves.

But even in that, Dad managed to be a buzzkill.

There was no sign of anyone. At least, not anyone alive. Anything that looked vaguely human was charred and covered in ash. Five shuddered to think that he might have passed by one or more of his siblings’ corpses without knowing it.

It took Five years with only Delores for company to find out what happened to most of his family.

Dad died of a heart attack about a week before the end. Ben died much, much earlier before he even got a chance to go to college. Something Five knew Ben had been dreaming of for as long as he could remember.

The Academy disbanded not long after with Luther the only one choosing to stay. Frankly there was no surprise there.

Of all his siblings, he got the most information on Allison due to her stardom. Five did not doubt for a moment that her rumors had more to do with it than actual acting talent. Her marriage and pregnancy was highly publicized. So was her separation with her husband.

Klaus and Diego didn’t feature much in the news. Though some tabloids he picked up showed Klaus in either jail or rehab. Last he heard about Diego was that he was kicked out of the police academy.

And as for Vanya, there was even less to glean from the media which gave little to no reference on the seventh Hargreeves sibling. He read somewhere that she wrote a tell-all autobiography. But try as he might, he never did find a copy.

His frustration knew no bounds. He was stuck in the shitty future with no knowledge of what caused the apocalypse. All he could focus on was finding a way to get back home. But the equations were ever elusive.

Delores told him to take it easy. And to keep it in his pants this next time the Woman visited and get answers from her.

If she isn’t a time traveler herself, the Woman would at least have a better idea than he did.

Five promised Delores to be at his best this time. Unfortunately, even he was starting to doubt himself. Five always meant to start off demanding answers. But she would always inevitably leave him tongue tied as soon as she appeared.

There wasn’t any set schedule for when she’d show herself. Only that when he was awake, she would start removing her clothes as soon as he saw her or as soon as she thought he could see her.

Things were even worse at night when he’d awaken to her ministrations with her hand stroking him or her mouth taking him in.

Suffice it to say, none of his past encounters with the Woman were conducive to talking.

He no longer bothered to take out the guns. At least not in the heat of things. Five inwardly chastised himself for getting complacent.

A part of him thought that he must have truly gone mad to ignore every survival instinct that got him this far. Because after all these encounters, he should have gotten something from her. Yet he didn’t even know her name.

On second thought, perhaps it was the respite she provided in this ugly, horrible that made her irresistible. Despite her ice cold exterior, she was warm to the touch both inside and out. She let him take her in any way he wanted.

Just as long as he finished inside her and never tried to kiss her on the mouth.

Something about that bothered Five.

But as with other times, this time is no different. When she makes him lie on his back and she rides him to oblivion, all thoughts and misgivings are brushed aside. All in favor of the way she makes him feel when they’re together like this.

Perhaps, Five has finally underestimated himself. He cannot pinpoint the exact second. But even as he lies looking up at her, entranced by her radiance, he can’t help but wonder about who she is. It no longer becomes enough to know that there’s another living person alive and have her this way.

Five acknowledges that indulging his cravings with almost no reservation was madness.

The day they first met, how close was he to insanity? He truly didn’t know. All he knew now is that losing this and losing her would be enough to make him succumb to true madness.

So before she gets up to leave, he finds the breath to ask her name.

Five didn’t think she’d answer. But after her clothes are back in place, she replies.

“Elsa.”

—————

Months go by without any telltale signs of pregnancy. Elsa feels a little disappointed. But wills the feeling away by focusing on getting a home ready for a child.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long to find one relatively intact. It had four walls and a roof. And it was near fresh water supply. Her old self would probably call it a shack. But in a world of ruins, the shack was a luxury home.

She quickly had her apples grow around it to make a garden.

Her home had a bed that could comfortably fit three people (as long as they were slightly built). That would do for now. But Elsa resolved to find a cradle or something that would substitute for one.

If she couldn’t find one, she might have to learn how to make one.

That made her wonder if she should ask the man for help. He seemed resourceful enough. Of course, surviving years in this world should have made that trait a given.

And perhaps, having help wouldn’t be so bad?

But she brushed that thought aside. There was no way she’d allow even him close enough to hurt her.

Elsa only needed him for one thing.

And while she can’t deny the process of getting pregnant was pleasurable, it wouldn’t do to confuse things and get attached.

He asked for her name. And she almost gave him her old one. There was something about him that made her drop her guard. She wondered at that.

It took her a long time to finally give her current one. And Elsa still wasn’t sure providing even that was such a good idea.

But she couldn’t risk fully alienating him. Not when she needed him more than she ever remembered needing anyone before. For now, everything must still be new and exciting for him. If she was right, then he must have been a teenager or younger when she destroyed his world. So it wouldn’t be a leap to say that he hadn’t had sex in a long time if at all when they crossed paths.

For now, she had to wait until her plan comes to fruition.

And then he can die for all Elsa cared.

She armed herself with that thought on the way to meeting that man again.

When Elsa neared him, she heard something wrong with his breathing. She felt the heat in his skin and realized that the man was running a fever.

It was then that her future baby was all but forgotten.

Chapter Text

Five dreamt of his last night at Hargreeves Mansion. He was in bed and Vanya was with him. And as usual, he did most of the talking while Vanya did most of the listening.

“I have to show him, Vanya. Once I time travel, there’s no way he can stop us from going wherever we want. We can be anything we want.”

But Vanya just looked incredibly anxious. Had it been anyone else, he would have snapped at them for having so little faith in his abilities.

However, this was Vanya. Of all his siblings, Vanya was the one who he cared for the most. He didn’t doubt that if any harm came to him, she would be the one to stay by his side until he got better. Or should the worst happen, mourn for him long after everyone else got on with their lives.

They grew up in the same household and were told that blatant displays of emotion were unseemly. Dad said it showed a lack of discipline that was prevalent in lesser men. And members of the Umbrella Academy, even those only tangentially connected to it like Vanya, should strive to never descend to that level.

Five knew Vanya tried her best to please Dad. And she succeeded to mask her emotions in front of Dad and their siblings. But only when it came to her own ordeals. Step on a line of ants and she’d be a crying mess.

So Five knew very well that her current anxiety stemmed from concern for his well-being. It didn’t matter how many times he’d assured her that he figured out how to safely time travel. Dad’s repeated warnings of the dangers got to her.

“Please Five. I know you want to try a time jump. But maybe Dad has a point-“

“If we believe everything Dad says, we’ll never leave this Academy. We’ll be stuck here forever. Is that what you want, Vanya? To have this house be your tomb?”

Five noticed tears forming in Vanya’s eyes and instantly regretted his words. He pulled her closer as both a comfort and an apology.

“I’m sorry, Five. I just want you to stay. I really hope I’m just worrying about nothing. But what if something bad happens? How can I help if I can’t get to you?”

“Everything will be fine. I’m only going to prove that I can time travel. There’s no way I’m really leaving without you.”

And what a big whopper that turned out to be. As if to mock Five, his dreams instantly shifted to his introduction to the apocalypse.

Everything was either in ruins or in ashes. And to further heighten his horror, he couldn’t go home. No matter how hard he tried, his powers failed him.

He tried again every day after. Recalculated his formulas. Even prayed to several deities in hopes one actually existed. And when that didn’t work, he tried their more unholy equivalents in case any would be willing to strike a deal.

No dice on that front either.

All he had left was the energy to howl

——————

In anticipation of the baby she might have, Elsa spent the past few months trying to live without relying on her powers. Allison’s daughter Claire was born without powers. With Reginald situated miles away from Claire, Elsa was was fairly sure there was nothing to suppress.

It stands to reason that Elsa’s child could be born without abilities as well.

Elsa thought she’d covered every possible eventuality even before the child was born. However, witnessing the man sick with fever made her realize how underprepared she was.

Where could she find medicine? Since the apocalypse, Elsa had never been sick. And her body immediately healed any wounds she’d acquired.

She rifled through the man’s belongings. Everything had a practical use. From weapons, clothing and a meager supply of food. His cart had books. But she suspected the pages were only used as a substitute for toilet paper. The only book she found intact had been used as a notebook for equations.

The man didn’t strike her as the type to be sentimental. Which was why Elsa was surprised to find an Umbrella Academy vintage lunchbox.

The cartoon style rendition of all six members were prominent. Elsa briefly lingered on Five’s cartoonIsh face before she opened the box.

He never came back no matter how long she waited. And Elsa still wasn’t sure if she hated him for that.

What she found inside were newspaper clippings. It took her no time to realize they were about the Umbrella Academy.

Elsa had to laugh at the absurdity that the last man on earth was a fan. So much for fitting her image of a pragmatic survivalist. It shouldn’t surprise her. They lived in the end of the world. Anyone would want something to hold onto from the life before. No matter how painful the reminder can be.

Elsa was starting to rethink having a baby alone. Her powers were the reason she survived and thrived in this world. Looking through the man’s belongings forced Elsa to take a hard look at this world she inadvertently created.

It did not suffer the foolish or the weak. How can a normal baby survive it with only her as a mother? Elsa may be capable of astounding things. But even she had her limits.

How can she teach any child of hers to survive should the child not inherit her powers?

She was about to put the newspaper clippings back in place when she felt something soft at the bottom of the lunchbox. It was only a plush toy no bigger than her hand.

She was about to put it back when she noticed it was wearing clothes similar in color to the Umbrella Academy uniform. And the doll’s hairstyle, it was the same style she used to wear back in the Academy.

Pieces started fitting into place. Her dread and anticipation warred with each other as she made her way toward the man. Elsa kept telling herself that it wasn’t possible. This shouldn’t be happening. Five was not supposed to be here.

But where else would he be? He wanted to jump through time so why not jump to the apocalypse?

After everything that happened, Five had been here all along. Suffering through a world she brought about. All alone. All this time, she both feared and hoped Five simply found a place that made him so happy he didn’t want to come back to her.

But he had been trying to get back. Elsa didn’t understand the equations themselves but she could see the intentions behind them.

Because who would want to stay here?

By the time she reached him, he was still unconscious. Elsa already knew in her heart who she was looking at. But she still felt compelled to take a look at his arm.

The sight of the tattoo should not have left her staggering.

——————-

Five somehow knew he was still dreaming. Because he was on a bed. A few moments before, someone was washing him, clearing away months and years of dirt and grime.

The hands that cared for him were soft and gentle. And he felt another body pressed up against him.

It had to be Vanya.

He must have finally come home. And Vanya was there to assure him he wasn’t alone.

Five didn’t know how he still had the energy. But he found her hand and pressed it to his cheek.

Then he gave in to years of longing and kissed her hand before darkness claimed him again.

Chapter Text

Five was in and out of consciousness for the past few days. Elsa never did find medicine for the fever. So she had to resort to herbal remedies and her powers. Her powers most of all.

Oddly enough, this came about when Elsa decided that she needed to keep her house and Five clean. Which meant bathing the source of uncleanliness (ie Five).

Five was never fully unclothed during their many heated couplings. Which partially explained how it took her this long to recognize him. And why she felt nervous undressing him.

When she was younger, she remembered daydreaming of living as husband and wife with him. At the time, it consisted of helping him knot his tie and mend his clothes. Playing her violin for him after a long day of work. It was only when they reached puberty when she started imagining taking off his clothes.

Funny that 13-year old Vanya’s imagination always stopped at the act of helping Five out of his uniform. And now, her fantasy was becoming a reality. Though not exactly under the ideal circumstances pre-teen Vanya would have wanted.

So after transporting Five, his belongings and the apple tree (which now had a knife stuck to it for some reason) back to her home, she proceeded to divest him of his tattered garments. Shaking hands and all.

The scars and bruises littering the expanse of his body made her cry out. Elsa was grateful the outburst no longer resulted in a violent thunderstorm. So she focused on the task at hand taking care to clean him as gently as possible.

Elsa didn’t know exactly what she was doing. All she knew was that the wounds needed to go away. She reached out to the nearest bruise and focused the force inside her to flow into Five. To her surprise, it worked.

He still had a fever. But he wouldn’t be in pain (from the bruises, at least). She thanked the universe that he at least had a pair of (relatively) clean underwear left. Elsa helped him put it on while trying not to stare at his crotch. And quickly wrapped him in her favorite afghan before using her abilities to put him on the bed.

There was still so much to do. And even more things to figure out. If given the chance, she wouldn’t want him going back to his camp. He got sick there. And she briefly felt guilty at the possibility he stayed because of the apple tree, which was now safely rooted in the midst of her garden.

The bald mannequin was ensconced on the couch. She knew how important Delores was to Five. In the past months, she would sometimes listen in to his one-sided conversation. At the time, she was relieved because it meant she would have more reason to cut off all contact as soon as she got pregnant.

Now, Elsa was beginning to suspect that she was merely scratching the surface of the great wrong she had done, however inadvertently. There was no one to hate her and call her a monster for the last twenty years. That made it easier to pretend everything was all right and to forget that she killed billions of people, each with their own hopes, dreams and loves that didn’t get to see another sunrise.

By finding out Five of all people had to survive and grow up all alone in the apocalypse, the feelings and the memories she’d suppressed were finally finding their way out of the lock she placed on her heart.

Elsa started missing the pills that numbed her throughout her formative years. But then brushed that foolish thought aside.

The pills were never a solution. Had she continued taking them as Reginald Hargreeves instructed, she would have lived and died the way he wanted. Quietly and without anyone to truly mourn her.

She didn’t know how to proceed from here on out. All she knew was that Five was here and she didn’t want him to leave again.

But Elsa knew better than to expect him to stay. Five would want to go back in time where there was at least something for him.

But she’ll try to keep him here as long as she can. At least long enough to get a baby. So at least she wouldn’t be all alone when he left.

In the back of Elsa’s mind, she knew that she’d eventually be found out for being the cause of the apocalypse. Her reliance on her power was too ingrained after twenty years. It would only be a matter of time before Five figured out how much she could do with her abilities.

So she formed a plan to delay that particular revelation for as long as possible.

Elsa put his things in order, talking care to leave his clothes out. They needed mending. And she needed to do something while she waited for him to recover.

When she finally gave in to the weariness that seemed to reach her bones, she positioned herself beside him. There was only one bed. And she would not share the couch with Delores.

To her surprise, she heard Five call her name. Her old name.

For a few moments, she was frozen on the bed wondering if everything was over. Her plans. And her meager hope of a life after him.

But no. He was talking in his sleep.

But when he reached for her hand and kissed it, she dreaded that sleep wouldn’t be taking her. Not this night.

So she focused her powers on getting his fever down.

For that, she went skin to skin.

————-

Vanya was touching him there.

And Five decided to reciprocate by reaching for that slick, warm place between her thighs. It was dark so he couldn’t see her properly. But he knew it was her. Who else would touch him so tenderly? Or place such a loving kiss on his forehead?

He wished she would press her mouth to his. But for now, being able to embrace her, to touch her was enough.

It didn’t take long for him to give in to his body’s demand to be inside her. The sweet sound she made at the moment of connection only fueled his need to go faster. Deeper.

And throughout all this, Vanya was holding on to him as if her life depended on it.

—————

By morning, Elsa made sure any evidence of last night’s coupling was eradicated. Five had to believe last night was a dream.

He must never know who she is. Or rather, who she was.

—————

When Five finally noticed his surroundings, he realized he was awake and he wanted to weep.

He was on an unfamiliar bed in what appeared to be a shack filled with an eclectic style of furniture. But it was the apocalypse, it made sense to take whatever you can get no matter how painful the combination proved to be to the eyes.

He felt rather than saw something thrown at him. His clothes, washed and mended.

Elsa was only a few feet away. And it felt odd that she made no move to remove her clothes like all their other encounters.

He told himself that was a good thing. It would keep him focused. Finally.

“How long was I out?”

“A few days. I took back the apple tree, by the way. Saw the knife stuck to it. I think it better stay with me.”

Five glared at her. The implication that he couldn’t take care of himself when he’d been successful at it for twenty years offended him.

Elsa remained unperturbed. So he finally asked what he’d been wanting to find out for so long.

“What happened? What made the world like this?”

She took her time to answer as she arranged the table already set with a plate of steaming vegetables. And Five’s mouth watered. When was the last time he ate something his 13-year old self considered edible, palatable even?

“One day, everything was normal. People were everywhere going about their lives. The next day, I opened my eyes to find it all gone. That’s all I can tell you about that.”

So the end really happened without warning. That was more than Five knew in the last twenty years. He suspected it. But to have it confirmed was something else.

“How did you survive?”

“The same way I’ve survived for the last twenty years. Like this.”

To his shock, she produced a knife and slit her wrist. Only for the wound to close moments later. The blood ceased to flow out of her. And if it wasn’t for the red color marring her skin, Five would have thought he imagined the whole thing.

Elsa neared him and sat on the bed. At first, he thought she was going to take off her clothes.

Both to his relief and disappointment, that didn’t happen. Instead she decided to ask him a question.

“Do you have anywhere else you need to be?”

“No.”

Five would have thought it was obvious given how he stayed in the same place for months. If asked, he’d tell her it was because he had a food supply that couldn’t move with him. But he was sure that she would know he was lying if he told her that.

Because he knew full well that he could find food on his own. Maybe not as delicious. But food was food. There was only one thing he couldn’t get anywhere else.

“Then why don’t you stay here? My garden has started to grow more than just apples. In exchange, I need your help to repair this place and the mill a few miles away. Unlike you, I’ve been relying on my powers all this time fearing the day it might go away and I’d be left to fend for myself. But with you here, you can teach me to survive without it.”

Five thought it silly for her to think her powers would go away. His powers were a part of him. He was confident they’d be there until the very end. But then again, was it so unreasonable? Prior to the end of the world, he doubted either of them ever imagined being thrust in the world they have now. So why not have the universe or whatever upend life again by taking away something as essential as their powers?

For the past twenty years, Five moved around in search of answers and possible survivors. Finding a bit of both coincidentally in the city he started at had him rethinking his next move.

Elsa had food supply and shelter. It looked to be near the woods. But he doubted it was far from the city.

He was still recovering.

And it made sense to stay. So he accepted her deal.

He had no idea how to work a mill. But he’d figure it out. He really hoped that he’d get to eat bread again.

Chapter Text

When Five agreed to stay in Elsa’s home, he anticipated having more instead of less time to work on his equations. Having lead a nomadic lifestyle for twenty years as well as having Grace do most of the housework during his Academy days, he supposed that he was being naive in hindsight.

There was always some chore that needed to be done at Elsa’s. From repairing the roof, taking care of the garden and planting crops to setting up the solar panels. And when he wasn’t at Elsa’s cabin, he was at the mill trying to get its machinery to work.

With Elsa’s powers, access to grain wasn’t a problem. The tricky part was getting the mill to fulfill its purpose and make flour so that they could finally have bread after twenty years.

His thirteen-year old self would have scoffed at the idea of working at a mill. Then again, thirteen-year old him only had to worry about getting through homework, training and proving to Dad that he’d outgrown the old man.

It wasn’t too long ago that he barely blinked at eating cockroaches. And the thought of going back to that had him returning to the mill everyday. To Five, the mill was a way to overcome the world he was living in now.

He was still stuck trying to figure out how to jump back in time and stop all this. So working on the mill was what he did in hopes that a solution would come to finally send him home.

He remembered having similar difficulties with his spatial jumps a lifetime ago. No matter how much time and research he pored into it, no answer was forthcoming. Interestingly enough, the answer only presented itself when he allowed Vanya to distract him with violin lessons. At the time, Five himself didn’t think he was doing a good job bringing a tune out of Vanya’s violin. But she was patient with him and had him practice it again and again. The solution only came to him midway into his tenth (or was it his eleventh?) attempt.

Five was hoping for similar results. If it didn’t, at least he’d get to eat bread.

As weeks turned into months, life with Elsa started getting more and more domestic. Or at least domestic in the opinion of a man who grew up in a home that was more boarding school with an adopted father better suited to being a headmaster (and a very stuffy and most likely unpopular one at that).

Five secretly expected Elsa to wear her nigh see-through dresses or even lingerie the women in Klaus’ magazine stash wore. But it seems that Elsa had a different persona for home.

At home, it was sweatpants and t-shirts. Or anything that hid her curves.

Five was just as secretly disappointed. But that didn’t lessen his libido. She only had to make the slightest indication (no matter how vague) and he’d be on her in an instant. Given that he could teleport, that could be taken literally.

His pride wouldn’t allow him to initiate sex. At first, it was because he was used to how things had always been since the beginning of their relationship, with her coming to him. As time passed, it just felt weird for him to try to start sex even while sharing a place and a bed with her. It was to his relief that she would unknowingly albeit regularly indulge him.

It didn’t take long for Five to find out that she already knew who he was. The Umbrella Academy may have disbanded around the time the world ended but it wasn’t easy to forget about kids with extraordinary powers. Plus, she packed his food on the vintage lunchbox every time he went to the mill. So that may have been a giveaway as well. Sometimes, after they were spent from an energetic round of coupling, he’d doze off and wake to find her stroking his tattoo.

The newspaper clippings and his clothes, he set aside in a drawer in Elsa’s home. A part of him was starting to think of the shack as his home too. But he always took great pains to shut that thought down. His home is with his siblings and he had to get back to them and save them. It would be a disaster if he managed to convince himself to stay here indefinitely.

He never told Elsa about his plans to go back in time. She never asked. And he never bothered to tell her. After all, what good would it do? Five was on a mission. He could barely figure out how to travel alone. Bringing someone else would be impossible.

This is why he kept going back to the mill with only Delores and a plush toy that reminded him of Vanya for company. Five had other reasons for wanting to get the mill working all by himself. It was both an act of gratitude to Elsa (for taking care of him when he was sick) and an advanced apology (for leaving her all alone at some future date).

He needed Delores to keep him grounded in reality. To remind him that living in this place wasn’t really a life at all. And he needed to remember Vanya to stand firm on his conviction to get back home to someone who needed him.

Thinking of Vanya was a double edged sword though. He missed her the most. And it took Five a long time to come to terms with his feelings. He’d tried to explain it away. But when he accidentally breathed out Vanya’s name as he came inside Elsa a few night’s back, he knew he was past the point of denial.

If Elsa heard him, she gave no indication. Despite living with her for months now, she remained an enigma to Five.

Five thinks she enjoys his company. He first expected them to stay out of each other’s way when they weren’t fucking or working together to fix the house or plant food.

But more often than not, he’d find her mending clothes while he was reading. Or shearing some of her trees as he sat by his apple tree taking a bite out of apples that he could swear taste like nothing from that of the world before.

In hindsight, it shouldn’t be surprising that they’d spend time talking about life before the end of the world. Obviously they both missed hot water baths and burgers. And toilet paper.

Five found out that she loved looking at the night sky. With no city lights, the stars never failed to shine brightly. On one particular night, Elsa woke him up in the middle of the night to have him follow her outside. She brought some of her pristine bed sheets and spread them on the ground. Before he could question her, she bade him to lie down beside her.

Five honestly thought it was some prelude to sex. In which case, he wished she could have just stayed in bed. But that was almost forgotten when he realized what Elsa wanted him to see.

A meteor shower.

She held his hand for a long time after that. He only stopped gazing at the sky when she rose on top of him and proceeded to take his clothes off.

By the time Five managed to bring home actual flour, the solar powered oven had been ready for weeks. The bread that came out of it was a little burnt and crispy. But as the first bread to be baked in decades, Five and Elsa enjoyed it to the last morsel.

———-
Elsa still showed no signs of pregnancy after so many months of living with Five. But she honestly didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed.

She knew that Five missed his life before he time traveled. He even missed the person she was before. So she must have a baby before he leaves. Elsa didn’t know how close he was to solving his equations. But it could very well happen in one stroke and he’d probably just leave again without a goodbye.

But there’s a part of her that feels guilty. Because using Five to unknowingly impregnate her was wrong.

She didn’t know how much Five knew about the correlation between sex and babies. But neither of them ever brought it up which left Elsa to assume that either Five didn’t know their activities could result in a child or he naively believed she was doing something to prevent pregnancy.

Sometimes, when she felt this way, she would jump Five’s bones until he made her forget. Only for her guilt to reform afterwards.

Thankfully, it was different this night. And Elsa closed her eyes with Five’s heartbeat lulling her to sleep.

——-

“Are you pregnant yet?”

Elsa didn’t contemplate on the how and the why. But she knew she was dreaming.

She turned to find the voice belonging to a man who looked familiar though Elsa would swear she never met him before.

“No.”

“Good. We don’t have much time. So listen to me. Don’t get pregnant. If you are, abort it. Because once you show signs of pregnancy, you’d be as good as dead.”

“Wha-“

“Give Five these equations. These will get him back in time. You can even go with him, if you want to.”

The formula wasn’t hard to commit to memory but everything about this stranger disturbed her.

“Who are you?”

He gave her a sad smile.

“We’re out of time. Please think about leaving the end of the world and starting over.”

He was gone. But his eyes, the same shade of green as Five’s, haunted her even after she woke up.

Chapter Text

When Elsa first realized what she had done to the world, she decided to die along with it. She chose to fall from the highest trees, slit her throat with a knife she sharpened until the slightest caress drew blood and even tried starving herself.

But none of it took. Her body would heal itself and take sustenance from the sound around her. Apparently the sound of living people disappeared only to reveal the sound of a still living planet.

Or rather, a renewed planet. From Elsa’s point of view, the Earth underwent a fiery death only to be born again in the midst of ashes. The wind blew, spreading dust and seeds. The rivers continued to flow.

And soon enough, Elsa decided to follow the planet’s lead. It was a gradual process though. After realizing that she could not die (at least not by her own hand), she spent most of her time playing her violin.

In hindsight, that might have been an understatement. The fact of the matter was that she played day and night without ceasing. When she came back to herself, three days had passed. She found her violin and once pristine-white suit stained with her own blood.

Apparently, she’d played even after her fingers bled. But the only evidence was the crusted brown color decorating her hands.

There was no choice but to carry on. But she decided she’d no longer be Vanya Hargreeves.

When she saw the shock of white hair, she immediately knew what name to take. It was funny how when she first saw the movie, she always thought herself to be Anna, the normal sibling hungry for a scrap of her extraordinary sister’s affection. She actually thought she was Anna, who couldn’t wait to live a life of her own outside the seclusion of the castle.

But now she understood Elsa better. There was freedom in being alone. Away from prying, judging eyes. A lifetime ago, she feared those eyes would see someone lacking and unworthy. But after what she’d done, she feared eyes that see her as a monster.

It made no sense after she realized she’d done away with everyone. But that last day, the way her siblings looked at her as she literally brought down the house, it stayed with her long after they were gone.

After Elsa destroyed almost everything that carried Vanya’s memory, she made a funeral pyre for her siblings. It was then that she found out she could make the flames so hot that four bodies laying side by side turned to ash in an instant.

Elsa had the winds scatter what remained of the four people she loved to the furthest corners of the earth.

The only thing she took with her as she herself decided to roam the earth were her violin, something that was as much a part of her soul as anything else, and the only picture with all seven of them present.

When Grace first became “Mom,” she took so many pictures of her kids. But Reginald put a stop to that. And most of the pictures ended up in the furnace. But this one survived because of Five, of all people.

Vanya was the only one who actually wanted to keep the pictures. After all, it was the only living memory that showed her as part of their family. And Five couldn’t care less about them. When he told her the pictures were meaningless tokens, she stormed out on him. Vanya wanted his help to save at least some of the pictures. But he only saw it as a bother. To her own shame, she gave up and cried herself to sleep, only to find this picture on her dresser the next morning.

Turning the photo, she saw Five’s chicken scratch hand-writing.

I wouldn’t need a picture to remember you.

Elsa managed to preserve them. But with Five around the house, she couldn’t risk them being discovered.

The house was near the woods. So Elsa found the largest tree. It was amazing how much she discovered about her powers over the years. The energy she generated allowed her to bid plants to follow her will.

When she wanted the oldest and largest tree to hide the violin case beneath it, the roots surfaced and in movements similar to Ben’s creature, took the case from her. Her violin and family photo were then safely nestled underground.

Now, many months later and after a dream that haunted even her waking hours, Elsa came back to her violin. A part of her wanted to wrap herself around Five’s body and take him inside her. But if the dream was not just a product of her subconscious and the equation really could take them both back, shouldn’t she take at least a step back from baby-making?

Before that dream, she’d assumed that Five would figure out a way to get back and leave her behind. Or at the very least grow tired of living with her.

The baby would ensure she at least had someone. That she wasn’t alone.

But if she now had the key to get both of them out of this time, shouldn’t she use it? Elsa may have grown to love her life at the end of the world. But she knew in her heart that telling herself for the past twenty years that her world was a better place without people was an act of self deception.

Even after all this time, she craved company. Elsa knew how people can easily devastate each other. She’d been at both ends of that spectrum herself. But it didn’t change her longing. Because when it came down to it, if she could have stopped herself from ending the lives of her siblings and billions of other souls, she would.

And with that realization came the tears. So she took out her violin and played a requiem for the dead.

She remembered that last day so clearly. It was a few days after Leonard got his prosthetic eye. Some would-be murderers decided to invade his house with the both of them inside. Leonard was beaten so badly that he lost an eye. And only Vanya’s use of her powers stopped them.

So by the last day, they both thought Vanya was in control of her abilities. It was then that Leonard presented her with what he found while they last visited Hargreeves House: Reginald’s journal. She had been so stupid to take Leonard’s explanation at face value. In hindsight, there was no way Pogo or Grace would have just left the journal open for anyone to read.

But at the time, Vanya thought she could trust Leonard. She thought he actually loved her. Because he made her feel good about herself. Even to this day, she missed that feeling despite how it came about.

Even before the journal, Vanya knew that her childhood was messed up. But reading the words from Reginald Hargreeves’ own hand showed her the gravity of the abuse done to her. It hurt to know that the man you sought affection from feared you so deeply that he had to keep you drugged all your life.

But what hurt most of all was Allison’s complicity. Was Allison’s overtures of sisterhood simply a ruse to keep a better eye on Vanya now that Reginald was gone? Did Allison spend time with her in case she needed to be close enough to rumor vanya again?

Looking back, Elsa knew that Allison was genuine in wanting to be real sisters. But at the time, Vanya wasn’t seeing reason. All she had was the pain and anger that clamored to be let out.

She and Leonard all but charged the gates to her childhood home fully intending to confront Allison, Pogo and maybe Luther too because Vanya thought Reginald’s Number One would be in on it as well.

Things started to go south even before Vanya used her powers. Upon reaching the living room, she found all four of her remaining siblings present and accounted for. They banded together after they heard through the grapevine of how she dispatched the murderers.

Allison handed her police reports showing that Leonard was actually Harold Jenkins. Not only were the reports about the nature of his incarceration, but it showed an interview with a known associate of the failed murderers. Apparently, Harold was the one who hired them in the first place with the intention of going “as rough as they had to” in order to scare Vanya.

Even Vanya’s desire to believe Leonard couldn’t pull the wool over her eyes. Then, Harold pulled a gun, aiming it at Allison. But instead of letting Diego handle it with his knives, Vanya had all sharp objects in the vicinity piercing a hole in Harold’s body.

She didn’t know what she was expecting but the look of horror in her siblings’ faces wasn’t it.

They broke the silence at the same time. And Vanya couldn’t distinguish anymore on who was saying what. But when Luther took out a familiar pill bottle and ordered her to take one, she lost control. The earth starting trembling and the house was shaking.

Before she knew it, Luther, Diego and even Klaus were holding her down. She heard them planning to put her in the basement. They were locking her up to keep her there forever.

Vanya looked to Allison for help.Hoping her sister would oppose it. To her credit, Allison looked torn. But when she started the opening phrase of her power, Vanya could no longer take the pain and anger and finally unleashed them on the world. When she came to, no one was left alive.

Vanya remembered rushing to each sibling and asking them to wake up. All to no avail.

When Elsa finally finished the requiem, she still didn’t know what to do. So that night, she chose to share the couch with Delores.

————

It had been days since they last had sex and Five was feeling frustrated. The first time he woke up without the feel of her breath tickling his ear or her hands stroking him or any combination of activities that made up a very good morning for Five, he was annoyed. It felt weird, that was all. But he let it go thinking that they’d be back to their usual morning routine by the next day.

That didn’t happen. And it stretched on far longer than he wanted to bear.

Seeing Elsa wrapped around Delores instead of him pissed him off. He was aware that he was being irrational and that pissed him off even more.

What did he have to do to get the attention he wanted? At first, Five tried to casually get as close to her as possible. He hoped the proximity would get her started. But she just moved out of the way.

When he asked her for help in shaving, he was actually anticipating that the prolonged contact would finally end with them ripping each other’s clothes off. However, all he got was a caress on the jaw.

Five felt like a creep when he started following her. The first few times, he lost her in the woods. But his persistence paid off when he caught her near the river. She was naked and lying on a pile of her clothing.

From his perch, he silently witnessed the languid spreading her legs all while trailing her fingers trailed towards the place he wanted to be.

He stifled a groan, among other things. Five wanted to march up to her, take her hand away and replace it with his cock. He’d suck, lick and bite every part of her body within reach to finally take out his frustrations on her all too willing body.

And from the looks of her, she was just as hungry for it as he was. So why was she keeping herself out of his reach?

He had wanted to ask her that and many other things. Five wanted to know about her. But he knew he’d never allow himself to do that. He didn’t need any more reason to get attached.

Five had to go back and save everyone. That included Elsa herself. By going back and stopping the apocalypse, Elsa wouldn’t have to look forward to a bleak future. She could be anything she wanted. Not just a woman with powers that got her through the apocalypse.

But what was the nature of Elsa’s powers exactly? The first time they met, she could pin him to the wall without even touching him. And could heal herself and others (ie him). Not to mention make plants grow. Five suspected that she had some form of energy manipulation but he never bothered to ask.

Just as he never bothered to ask if they’ve met before. Because after months of living with her, there was something about her that was so familiar. He just couldn’t pinpoint what.

But he snapped out of his reverie when Elsa rolled on all fours. One minute, she was on her back and panting from having reached completion. The next, she decided to face the ground and get up from that position.

The sight of her hands and knees on the ground was so erotic that he almost didn’t stop himself from teleporting and taking her from that position.

Fuck. He needed to fix this. But something went wrong when she tried to pick her clothes up. Elsa started to wobble. He finally teleported before she hit the ground.

—————

The Commission Chairman was getting impatient. The pregnancy should have begun by now. But so far, nothing was confirmed.

“Has Graves reported back yet?”

One of his assistants suddenly turned pale. And the Chairman prepared himself for bad news. Really bad news.

“He’s gone, sir.”

“Dead?”

The assistant swallowed hard before continuing.

“No, sir. Gone from existence.”

It was that Abomination. There was no one else who could or would do it. The Chairman wanted to hit his younger self for the hubris that got him to approve that thing’s creation.

“How? We were monitoring the timeline closely. He wasn’t anywhere near Grave’s parents.”

“I don’t know how but as far as our investigation could tell. The Prince made his move on Strasbourg, year 1518.”

The Chairman’s heart was failing him and he needed a new one. The Commission's very existence was on the line because a woman’s reproductive system wasn’t following schedule. And now, he had to deal with a rogue. Any of the three could and would eventually kill him if he gave them a chance.

He honestly didn’t want to know what The Prince did in Strasbourg to erase Graves completely. But as the leader, he had to understand how the enemy worked. Or at least try to understand the workings of a mind so completely alien to his.

“What did he do?”

“It appears that he made the citizens of Strasbourg dance until they died. One of Graves’ ancestors was a casualty.”

The Chairman wanted a drink. Instead, he summoned The Handler. She could get things done. Vanya, Elsa or whatever she called herself had to conceive. From there, everything will fall into place.

He won’t die of a failing heart or blink out of existence. And that monster will not take everything he’d worked for.

—————-

Elsa was bedridden for days.

Five finally got to sleep beside her again. But sex was the furthest thing from his mind.

When he rushed her back to their home, he was terrified that Elsa wouldn’t wake up again. He didn’t think it was possible but her pale skin got paler.

He had no idea what ailed her and Five didn’t sleep a wink on the first night. Thankfully, her color came back to its normal shade by morning. And she was well enough to try to get up and insist on doing her chores.

Of course, Five vetoed the idea. But it took the better part of an hour to convince the woman to lie back down.

The next few days of Elsa’s convalescence was relatively peaceful except for the times when they’d get on each other’s nerves.

It mostly centered around Elsa insisting that she can brush her hair, bathe and eat by herself even when Five offered to help with the full knowledge that she was still sick.

It was on one such occasion that he left her with Delores while he picked vegetables for dinner. One minute everything seemed all right. But the next, he noticed his surroundings visibly darken followed not long after by a roar.

When he looked up at the sky, the tornado was fully forming and headed his way.

Chapter Text

When she heard what must be a maelstrom, Elsa wondered if she caused it. But no, she hadn’t had an outbreak of violent weather conditions in years.

What was happening to her? Collapsing like that. When she woke up on her bed to find Five hovering over her, she thought she was dreaming. There was something that looked like soup on the table and she honestly hoped he wasn’t too liberal on the salt.

But then she remembered feeling so tired. And being naked. And how did Five find her? Was he following her?

Her blood ran cold at the thought of him catching her with the violin.

It had been days since then. And she still couldn’t bring herself to tell him.

Because even if he brought her with him back in time, she’d lose him. He would find out who she really was and what she did.

All Five would need to do was talk to Reginald Hargreeves to put two and two together. If the apocalypse gave her anything, it was plenty of time. When she wasn’t practicing to control her powers or playing her violin, she spent a long time thinking on how it all came to this.

And Reginald’s notes always came to mind. He knew she was dangerous. He’d always known. The only question was why he didn’t kill her.

But could he even do that? Elsa had no illusions that Reginald Hargreeves would do what he thought was needed. It wasn’t a question of intention but that of ability.

Elsa couldn’t off herself despite repeated attempts. She also hadn’t aged either. She wondered if she was no longer human or if she was ever really human in the first place.

Is that why she wasn’t pregnant yet after all this time?

Elsa supposed that was for the best. It was madness to give birth in this world. What could her child have to look forward to in a planet with no other human being left alive?

She had to tell Five the truth. However unlikely, she feared he would figure everything out for himself. And she had to come clean before that ever gets the chance to happen. Elsa didn’t trust situations that went her way. At the back of her mind, she always believed that something was bound to go wrong.

And she was right. Any hope she had harbored immediately sank as she looked out the window to witness the formation of a gigantic tornado.

Truth be told, getting up from bed was harder than dispatching a tornado.

She was at the door when Five teleported inside.

“Where are you going? We have to get to the cellar!”

Elsa managed to evade as he attempt to grab her.

“It’s going to be ok, Five. There won’t be a tornado.”

With that, she went out the door. The roar she heard earlier provided more than enough to counter the twister’s force. It didn’t take long to dispatch it either.

Soon enough, the sun was shining again. Though her garden was a mess.

It took all her remaining energy to look back at Five’s direction.

One glance was all it took for her to know it was over.

——————

Five thought that Elsa was out of her mind to face a tornado. Against his better judgment, he made to rush to her side as soon as it sunk that she really did intend to do something about it.

No one was that powerful. Sure, she may have powers. But as he himself learned soon after landing in the apocalypse, every power has its limits.

So he followed after her fully intending to attempt a spatial jump with Elsa in tow, only to find the tornado weakening, and eventually disappearing. The debris it carried actually falling gently to the ground with neither Elsa or himself hurt.

It was the most marvelous thing he’d ever seen.

Until doubt started to creep in. Who was Elsa? How old was she exactly when the end of the world happen? When he first met her, he thought she was ageless. More a goddess surveying her domain.

But that image was hard to maintain as soon as he started to live with her and had to endure house rules such as washing his hands before he ate and not dirtying her freshly cleaned floor. So he’d assumed they were around the same age.

But if that was so, how did she know about the Umbrella Academy? And how did she come to have powers? As far as he knew, the only ones with such abilities were born on 1989.

If she was thirty-three like him, then she would have been born in 2006. She would have still been a baby when the Academy disbanded. So there wouldn’t have been any news about superheroes saving the world while she was growing up.

He was sure there were a lot of ways to explain how someone her age could know of the Academy. If she really was currently in her thirties.

But something about it was off. He recalled how nothing was left of the Academy in a city of ruins. Reginald Hargreeves had the house constructed to withstand natural disasters.

To find it in ashes while other buildings were in ruins only meant one thing.

Someone had to have done it on purpose. And his instincts were now telling him that he was looking at the culprit.

Elsa went past him and into the house. He followed her in.

“Did you end the world?”

She didn’t bother to look at him when she replied, “Yes.”

“What happened to my family?”

“I killed them. And then I burned their bodies after I destroyed the house. I scattered their ashes everywhere.”

Five didn’t know how it happened. But he must have taken the knife on the table and rushed at her.

He didn’t think he made a sound. But she turned just in time to deflect his knife and use her powers on him. He found himself pinned to a wall.

He wanted to kill her. All this time, it was her. She was the reason he grew up alone. Forced to survive in isolation while hoping he could see his family again.

Was she secretly laughing at how she took him for a fool? He was fucking the woman who murdered everyone he ever loved. And to think he actually felt guilty to have to leave her behind.

And how easily he panted after her. She had him trained like a dog. All she had to do was take off her clothes and he was on her. And lately, she didn’t even have to do anything to get him to do that.

He laughed at himself for even believing for a moment that she had any form of affection for him. To her, he was nothing more than a toy.

And he wanted to make her suffer for that.

But Five realized that he wouldn’t have that chance. He was the one at her mercy from the very beginning. He couldn’t teleport away from her hold.

“I tried killing myself after. But nothing ever took. Nothing I do or say will ever make right what I did. So I won’t even try to apologize.”

She took out pen and paper. Wrote something he couldn’t make out from his vantage point and folded the paper in half.

And then she took out his gun. The pressure keeping him to the wall was gone as soon as she knelt, placed the gun on his hand and trained it at her forehead.

“I can’t guarantee that would kill me. But I won’t retaliate no matter what you do to me.”

————-

When Elsa- no, she was Vanya. Had always been Vanya despite telling herself otherwise.

When Vanya first had him place a gun at her temple that seemingly long ago day when she saw him again but didn’t know it, she only did so to put him at ease. She knew full well that she could stop any bullet he might try to fire.

But now as Vanya knelt at Five’s feet, she resolved not to stop whatever he decided to do. He’d eventually be curious enough to unfold the paper and then complete his equations. He could go back to put all of this behind him.

At least that was her hope.

But to her horror, he put the gun down, pulled her up and proceeded to tear her clothes off.

———

If Five never realized before that he was fucked up, then he did now.

The most powerful creature he had ever met had put herself at his mercy. She also happened to have killed every human being on the planet, including his siblings. Including Vanya.

But instead of putting a bullet in her, he ripped her clothes off.

She wanted to die. But he was petty enough to not give her what she wanted. At least, not yet.

It seemed that he was more interested in getting what he wanted. When there was nothing left on her, he shoved everything off the nearby dining table, including the piece of paper from earlier, and had her lie on it.

She was silent the whole time. Until she heard him unzip his pants.

“No, we shouldn’t.”

He silenced her with a kiss that was as much a punishment as an exploration of a treasure long denied him. She tried to push him away, at first. But she relented eventually.

There was no protest left in her as he had her leg hooked at his waist and proceeded to enter her in one swift thrust. To which, he heard a stifled cry of pain.

She wasn’t as wet as he wanted her to be. Five had half a mind to just continue and let her suffer in silence.

But damn her. And damn him too. He pulled away.

———-

Vanya tried to be as quiet as possible. But the shock of Five’s first thrust had a small sound escaping her. The pain was good. It was the best she could hope for.

There was no forgiveness for what she had done. But if this was what Five needed, she’d bear with it for however long was required.

She readies herself for more only to be thrown into confusion at his withdrawal. She tried to get up only to be sharply told to lie back down as he knelt between her legs, while his large, warm hands kept her thighs spread as he put his mouth on her.

It didn’t feel right to enjoy this. He licked and nipped at all the places he knew would make her feel hotter and needier. When she felt his tongue make its way inside her, she had to bite on her arm to keep from making noise. By the time she reached her peak, she had bitten hard enough to draw blood.

Before she knew it, his cock replaced his mouth. He growled at the sight of her arm and punished her with another kiss. It didn’t take long for her to feel her walls constrict on his shaft and the warmth that erupted from it.

Vanya thought it was over. And that it would soon come time for a reckoning.

But Five wasn’t done. He merely wanted to transfer their activities to the bed where he had her on her hands and knees. Unceremoniously, he proceeded to take her in that position.

Had it not been for her abilities, her body would have sported a number of bruises and marks. Most notably, at the tips of her breasts, the juncture that connected her neck to her shoulders and the inside of her thighs. Her lips felt swollen and then chapped from all the attention Five gave it.

Vanya couldn’t be sure. But she thought the first rays of sunlight were beginning to show by the time she passed out.

When she came to, Five was gone. He took all his possessions: his clothes, his books, his Umbrella Academy lunchbox and Delores with him.

He didn’t even bother to read the paper.

————

When Elsa passed out, Five took out his gun fully intending to end her. Despite everything, he couldn’t kill her while looking her in the eye.

So ending her while she was asleep would have to do. He had no illusions that her death would give him peace. Quite the opposite actually. But she had to pay for what she’d done.

A treacherous thought came to him. Hadn’t she already paid, was still paying by living through the apocalypse?

Everything she’d done until now did not indicate a remorseless monster.

Deep inside, he knew that to be true.

So he put the gun down. Though there was still that nagging feeling that he had met her before. And as he watched her sleeping face, pieces began to form in his mind.

No. It couldn’t be.

Vanya couldn’t do what Elsa did. Vanya didn’t have powers.

But hadn’t he always thought there was something special about Vanya?

The realization only filled him with horror. At what she’d done to the world. And what he’d done to her.

Suddenly, the house that had inadvertently become home transformed into an unbearable place.

He had enough presence of mind to take all his things and as much apples he could carry. Five had no intention of coming back here. Not until he could bear to face the look Vanya would have once she’d processed all that happened last night.

Chapter Text

It was almost comical how everything ended up the way it did. For months, Vanya practically threw herself at Five. She told herself it was only to get pregnant. But with Five out of the picture, out of her life again, she could admit to herself that she only wanted to be near him, as close to him as possible.

Whenever she came to him as naked as the day she was born, what she really wanted was an excuse to be touched. For him to roam her body with a tenderness she’d never truly known. To see and recognize her as he pushed inside her. To tell her that they’d stay together and never part.

There was only so much wishful thinking she could take though. Because Vanya knew better. She was no longer the Vanya that Five knew and loved. She was a monster that ended billions of lives. And no matter how willing she was to please him with her hands, mouth and body, she would never be enough for him to want to stay.

A baby was the only hope she had left for something better. Looking back, Vanya could not believe how foolish she had been. How selfish to condemn a child to a life alone. To see it more as an object to soothe loneliness.

It took a dream to snap her back into reality. Some reassessment was called for. Like always, it took her too long (too late) to acknowledge what needed to be done.

Vanya should have told Five the truth the moment she found him again. Everything.

Vanya should have shared the formula as soon as she woke up.

On that last night, Vanya should have stopped Five from making his way inside her in more ways than one. At first, she was prepared for pain, for whatever punishment he saw fit to dole out. She deserved nothing less, after all. When Vanya realized what he planned, she intended to deny him but he made it impossible for her. His desperation and sorrow made her want to weep.

And even when they were children, Vanya couldn’t say no to Five whether it was listening to his outbursts or sneaking out to Griddy’s.

And here was the result of her weakness. Now that she understood the horrors of giving birth and raising a child at the end of the world, she was pregnant. Vanya could hear that small heart beating in time with her own.

The man in her dream told her to get rid of the child. But she can’t. Or rather, she won’t.

The only option was to find Five.

With her powers, she tracked the sound of Five’s heart and began the long walk to its direction.

——————

Five always thought that getting answers would give him some sort of peace. He had half a mind to find and kill whoever first thought up that bullshit.

Billions died because of Vanya. And if he doesn’t go back to stop her, the blood of billions would be on him too.

The solution was simple, all things considered. The only catch was that Five couldn’t bring himself to do it.

He was unable to shoot her in the head when Vanya already committed the crime. How much more infinite the difficulty when Five faced a Vanya who had yet to do anything?

Damn her. He was supposed to get back to her. That was the plan. She was supposed to be playing her violin to an adoring crowd who would see how special she is. And she was supposed to be waiting for him.

But it was childish fantasy. All these decades, he held onto hope that he’d reunite with his family and be together with her. He’d fantasized of finally going back, rushing up the stairs of Hargreeves manor and find her practicing in her room. She’d be shocked and be in tears (of joy) as he finally pulled her in an embrace.

That thought kept him going for as long as he was in the apocalypse. And he hated Elsa for taking that away from him.

But not as much as he hated himself every time his thoughts eventually went back to what he did to her the last time he had her in the same space.

He knew she would take whatever he chose to dish out. Five didn’t doubt she was ready to die by his hand. So he took advantage.

Five made up elaborate torture fantasies for the person responsible for the apocalypse. He just never expected it to be Vanya.

He had intended to end her. But to his shame, his cock made a different decision for him. He wasn’t done with Elsa. With the woman he must have known was Vanya all along. He just had to look at her to know. But he shut his eyes to what was literally staring him in the face.

He reasoned that Vanya would have been an old woman twenty years after the end. She would never go up to a stranger and invite him to fuck her. She certainly wouldn’t make noises that only goaded him to take her harder and erupt inside her. The Vanya he knew wouldn’t know what to do with his dick if he showed it to her.

Five had held onto the image of 13 year old Vanya for so long that he didn’t account for a full grown woman like Elsa.

He thought that he could keep the two separate. Vanya was the girl he would go home to. But Elsa was the woman who kept him from succumbing to madness in an insane world. Without meaning to, he began to care. And that last night before his conscious mind caught up with what his subconscious knew all along, when she gave him the gun, he became irrationally angry at her for wanting to die.

It was fucked up. He tried to kill her just moments before. Now that she offered him what he wanted on a silver platter, he felt offended that she would want to leave him all alone. So he decided to punish her in a different way.

She was passive the whole damn time. Holding back sighs and moans, she might as well have been a mannequin waiting for him to put her in position. As it so happened, it ended up being several positions as the night went on.

Even as he stared down at her face, she was miles away from him, lying back and “thinking of England” as the saying goes. Instead of just ignoring it, he bit, sucked and pinched harder to get her attention.

Five needed her to give him what he wants. But what it was, even Five didn’t know. An apology? A look? A kiss that meant she hungered for him just as much?

He suspected Elsa had been using him to scratch an itch. He was the last man on Earth and she the last woman. Five told himself it was for the best because he would be leaving. But he resented being used just the same. Even someone as logical as Five wasn’t immune to human irrationality.

He was bitter for the lies and for her killing of their family. But he was disgusted with himself most of all for his desire for her, a desire that didn’t merely limit itself to the physical.

Shame was a foreign feeling to him until that night when he realized that Elsa had been Vanya all along. How could he do that to her?

It was cold comfort that he found a bottle of wine in his current shelter. Delores wanted him to save it for medicinal purposes. But she didn’t understand. He was and currently is sick. The alcohol might not be a cure but it could numb the pain.

He was a few miles away from the site he first met Elsa. Or rather, the place he reunited with Vanya.

Would anything have changed had he found the bottle many months ago instead of indulging his brainless dick? He’d never truly know.

Five must have zoned out because he never even sensed her approach him. It took only the length of a blink of an eye to have her in his sights again.

Five contemplated teleporting away. But all his possessions were here. And even after everything, he didn’t want Vanya to see him as a coward.

She was definitely paler than before. Not as bad as when she collapsed. But there was noticeably less color to her complexion. There was no accusation in her eyes. And he inwardly sighed in relief before telling himself how ridiculous it was to have his emotional well-being be so dependent on someone he should consider to be an enemy.

But just like the actions that got him stuck in a bleak future, there were just things that Five couldn’t help but do. The fury that thought engendered had him put up a hostile front.

The Vanya he remembered would have been cowed, trying to hide her hurt until he realized what an asshole he was and apologized. But the Vanya he was facing was different. She looked unfazed though he wondered at the anxiety she tried to conceal from his eyes. Now that he knew who Elsa was, it became easier to read her.

That brought him some level of comfort. Which in turn gave him the clarity to ask what he’d wanted to know since he got here.

“What happened?”

She didn’t need him to elaborate. From the day of Dad’s funeral to the day the world ended, she spared no details. How she grew infatuated with the first man to ever pay attention to her and how that man manipulated her into finding and using her powers. How she killed Leonard to save Allison and how she ended everything when she lost control.

Slowly, Five began to hope. Maybe he didn’t have to kill Vanya to save the world. Perhaps, he only had to get rid of this Leonard Peabody.

“There’s something else you need to know. Five, I know you want to go back in time. I don’t plan to stop you. But I’d like to ask a favor.”

Five furrowed his brow. But motioned for her to continue.

“I’m pregnant. When you go, please take the baby with you.”

————-

Vanya knew that the news wouldn’t go over well with Five. She honestly wasn’t surprised at his reaction. But it still hurt.

He blanched. Vanya would have gone to him had he not held up his hand to stop her.

She expected him to explode in anger. But his voice was calm and quiet even as his eyes seared hers.

“How could you have been so stupid?”

“If I recall, I wasn’t the only one involved when this baby was conceived.”

She regretted snapping at him. The look on his face made it look like she slapped him.

Vanya continued in a softer tone.

“I know a baby is the last thing you’d want. I’m sorry. But it’s here. Please. I'm not asking you to bring me. Just this baby. It shouldn’t have to grow up here.”

But while she was making her case, Five figured something out.

“You know, ever since I figured out who you are, I’ve been wondering why you’d be ‘free with your favors,’ as Dad would say. I thought you were just horny. I was too. But you were using me as a sperm donor, weren’t you? You started living in that shack not long after you found me, didn’t you? You weren’t tired of wandering around. You were preparing for a baby.”

Vanya should have expected him to figure that out too. But she didn’t and she had no words to express how deeply she regretted this particular set of actions. However, she had to try to convince him to take the baby.

“I don’t want to see you ever again. If you really care about it, do it a favor by not bringing it into this world. You ruin everything you touch. What do you think would happen even if I agree to take it with me? That it would grow up and live happily ever after? You just told me that the whole apocalypse was an accident. All it would take is for you to lose control and boom everything dies. Even if you somehow control yourself or if I killed you to stop it, what makes you think the baby won’t be erased out of existence? The only reason it exists is because I couldn’t keep it in my pants and you’re a lying bitch.”

—————

For the first time in years, he made her cry. Every cell in his body clamored for him to take his words back, to follow her as she stumbled away from him and to press her close to tell her it was going to be alright.

But he’d be a liar and a hypocrite to do that. If he could have erased what happened that night, he would. When Vanya told him how the apocalypse came about, he thought he found a way to save both Vanya and the world and to start life anew.

All it took was ending the life of a piece of shit.

But a baby would be a constant reminder of the night that showed him the kind of man he really is. He already had a hard enough time with leaving Vanya here. To leave her with a baby was out of the question.

But to take the baby with him seemed even more preposterous. If it didn’t blink out of existence, what would he do with it? How can he look at the child and not be reminded of something he’d rather forget. And if it did disappear, would he be devastated or relieved? Would he even remember?

So he stayed away from Vanya even though there were days and nights when all he wanted was to lie in her arms.

As he wandered a town he’d never explored before, Five finally found her book. Her photo at the back showed a Vanya with eyes full of sorrow. Despite his misgivings, he opened it and read her story.

Five only moved from his perch to eat and relieve himself. Other than that, his eyes stayed glued to her words.

It was the Vanya he remembered. And he loved it as much as it pained him. He was sure the book didn’t go over well with the rest of the family. But he wasn’t sure he cared that much. All he knew was that this was a piece of the old Vanya.

The one who sympathized with the underdogs and cried for the “little creatures” as Grace would put it. Vanya wanted to be a part of the family. But the book made it clear that she never got it.

No wonder Peabody got to her so quickly.

Could he have changed things had he not time traveled? Or would he be just as caught up in his own problems (just like everyone in the family) to notice Vanya’s own pain?

Five knew better than to give in to this game of what-ifs. But he had nothing else to do.

You could go back to Vanya. Be there for her and the baby. Your baby.

He told Delores to shut up. But it was too late.

He fell asleep thinking of Vanya and his child growing inside her.

If he thought that sleep would give him peace, he was wrong. Five dreamed of one of his missions. One of the hostages was a woman heavy with child. She started her labor in the middle of the robbery. But it was still ongoing by the time the Academy terminated the robbers.

The medics were in a rush to get the woman to the hospital. Five remembered Allison asking if the woman would be ok. To which Reginald Hargreeves replied that there’s always the chance the woman could die giving birth. That was always a risk for women, after all.

Five woke up in a cold sweat. It was still dark. But it didn’t stop him from packing and setting off on a long journey back to Vanya

————-

The violin had again calmed her nerves. Ever since Vanya came back from her conversation with Five, she’d been relying on her music to keep her grounded. To stop her from giving in to despair.

For the first few days, she didn’t have the energy to do much of anything. It was only the thought of the baby that got her through the lonely days.

She didn’t think long bouts of melancholy was good for the baby so she took the violin back. And played again and again.

There were chores she was neglecting. She felt bad about that but she told herself that at least the baby seemed to like the music.

Vanya didn’t get the chance to give Five the formula. A selfish part of her thought it was a good thing. He should suffer for what he said to her. And he should never be given the chance to leave without taking the baby with him.

But Vanya was sick and tired of making choices for Five. Of doing things to ensure he gave her what she wanted. If she had been truthful from the start, told him who she was at the very beginning, or if she’d told him about her dream instead of keeping everything from him, maybe things would be different.

But it looked like it was too late to reconcile with Five. She didn’t think he’d ever forgive her. But perhaps he’d be curious enough to see the baby one day.

Vanya suspected that he wouldn’t even let his presence be known. So she wrote the final note she expected to write to him. She came up to his tree with the knife still stuck to its bark. And through her will, she instructed the tree to give her message to Five if or when he came by.

She wasn’t in any condition to travel. So she couldn’t get the formula to him herself. And she didn’t expect to go anywhere very soon with a newborn in tow.

Once the tree made an opening right beside Five’s knife, she placed the note inside and hoped for the best. Vanya didn’t know what Five would do with the information. He could make good on his word by going back in time to kill her.

Or he could not.

She hoped not. But at the very least, the choice was his.

Then the pain came. It was more painful than the contractions she’d been having. But she’d practiced and she was confident she had enough control not to break anything while in extreme pain.

Did she just pee?

It took her a moment to realize that her water broke. She made a beeline to her house when to her shock, she found a white-haired woman standing by her door.

Vanya didn’t have time to process what her appearance meant. Her instincts were sounding alarm bells before she even realized a small army of masked men surrounded her.

“Hello Vanya. We have a healthy respect for your powers. But I honestly hope your not thinking of endangering your baby. You’re about to give birth after all.”

Vanya knew it for the distraction it was. She deflected the net thrown at her by slicing it with her bow.

She tried to dispatch them. But they seem to come out of nowhere in even greater numbers. And the pain from the contractions were getting more frequent.

Soon enough, the pain was all she could focus on and she felt a pinch before her vision went hazy.

Before everything went dark, she heard the white-haired woman say something about an operation and getting the donor to HQ

—————-

Five honestly couldn’t fathom his sense of urgency. He’d gone without food or sleep for three days now. He had a bicycle attached to his cart and pedaled for all he was worth.

Five had to see her and assure himself she was alright. He shouldn’t have stayed away for so long.

One of the wheels broke down. And Five decided to use his powers.

He’d just have to come back for his things later.

The multiple jumps pushed him to his limits. And the last he could manage was a few miles away from the house.

Five didn’t have time to rest though because he could smell fire and ash from where he was standing.

No, no, no

He ran hoping Vanya just happened to accidentally set something on fire. He called her name until his voice went hoarse. He didn’t stop running until he found the house and the surrounding gardens in flames.

————-

Five spent the next few years wandering around hoping to hear the sound of a violin or a child’s laughter. He was always disappointed.

The first few nights, he’d sworn he’d stay in this godforsaken time if only he could see Vanya again. But when years passed with no sign of her, he spent the nights staring at the equations he’d written in her book. It seemed that the price for getting home was never knowing what happened to Vanya and the child.

That didn’t stop him from finding fresh tears on his face as he woke up in the morning. He couldn’t remember what exactly it was about. But if there were tears, it was probably some variation of Vanya dying alone as she gave birth or Vanya following his stupid advice and aborting the child along with her own life.

Had she finally managed to do what she couldn’t long ago?

He said and did awful things to her. And the look on her face as he said them haunted him and would continue haunting him for years.

The only thing keeping him going now was stopping the end of the world. One way or another, he’ll find a way. He would kill Leonard Peabody and then he’d try to see if he wasn’t too broken to build a life with Vanya.

If it ever came down to putting a bullet in Vanya’s head, he’d be sure to save one for himself too.

“Mourning a lost love?”

That wasn’t Delores. He turned, rifle ready in hand, to find a white-haired woman in black.

Chapter Text

The white-haired woman introduced herself as The Handler. From the first time Five heard her voice, he didn’t trust her. Looking at her faux pity only cemented his stance.

For this woman to even allude about Vanya made his blood boil. But Five wasn’t the same man he was ten years ago. He might not even recognize himself as that teenaged boy who thought he could prove his tyrant of a guardian wrong.

Giving in to his anger and acting on impulse had cost him everything.

Questions such as where The Handler came from were temporarily thrown to the wayside in favor of assessing if she was a threat.

Whoever and whatever she was, The Handler was not a creature of the apocalypse. Her clothing, the way she was put together, her makeup. These no longer existed at the end of the world. Not in such condition.

He kept the rifle trained at her while she told him about The Commission and its purpose, which was basically to maintain the timeline. That meant ensuring the apocalypse happened.

If he accepted the offer, he’d be working for the people who at the very least did nothing while the whole world burned. He’d actually be helping them make sure nothing changed. But it had been decades and he had been no closer to jumping back. He had already lost so much in his pursuit of preventing the end of the world.

So he figured, what more could he lose?

Five knew he was asking for trouble. But at this point in time, he was willing to do anything to get out of this place and away from the memories that haunted him. Of course, saving his family should go without saying.

—————-

Training started in a lecture hall with 19 other Commission recruits. Unsurprisingly, Five was the oldest and received varying looks ranging from mocking to suspicious.

The youngest recruit looked to be in his teens and high on his arrogance and belief in invincibility. Five took a seat as far away from him as possible. The kid was loud and annoying. And Five had no illusions about the kind of people the Commission recruits for their Corrections Department.

Given the chance, Five had no doubt the kid would kill him if it was for his own best interests. And so would Five.

Orientation was supposed to have started 15 minutes ago. But there was still no sign of their instructor. To make matters worse, the air conditioning remained off. Frankly, Five was only surprised it took so long for a fight to break out.

He didn’t really care why it started. Only if it would reach his spot. But after a short glance to see the other trainees forming a wall around the two fighters, Five decided to ignore the commotion and remain seated.

It was only then that he noticed a man in an all black suit. Tall and lean, the man drank from a flask as he surveyed the room only to stop as his gaze landed on Five.

“Excuse me, Sir. I think you’re in the wrong room. This is for training field agents. Accounting is that way,” the man said as he pointed towards the exit.

Five bristled at the mocking tone and the impertinent smirk. He made no move to stand up.

“Relax! I was only joking. Of course, I know you’re supposed to be here. Now that’s an interesting start to my first day as instructor!”

Apparently, the others heard him and went back to his seat which only left the two men fighting in the middle of the room.

“You two have three seconds to disengage and move back to your seats. If not, kiss this job goodbye.”

In no time, the classroom was back in order though it was still as hot as ever.

The instructor, Rhys, took his seat in front facing the trainees. Five had never sat for any normal class with Reginald Hargreeves homeschooling him and his siblings. But he was pretty sure putting one’s legs on top of the desk while having both hands at the back of one’s head isn’t normal teaching behavior.

Minutes passed as the roomful of trainees waited for Rhys to say something. What were they supposed to learn from him? What were they supposed to do?

Almost everyone perked up when Rhys finally put his feet back on the ground. He appeared to be fishing something from his coat.

Five hoped it would be some sort of syllabus. But when it turned out to be a cigarette pack and a lighter, he struggled to keep his temper in check.

Had this been any other situation, a situation that didn’t involve his very survival and completion of his lifelong mission, Five would have given Rhys a piece of his mind. Clearly, sitting in this class was a waste of time. Five did not and would never believe in what the Commission was selling. But he at least thought The Commission was at least competent in its choice of personnel.

Five was seriously contemplating tuning out this idiot out when he heard a nearby window crash.

“Somebody call maintenance! But wait- Before that, I guess I might as well give you your orientation. No one really reads the handbook. So I’ll do all of you a favor and summarize it for you. Rule Number 1: do what your told. I think that speaks for itself. So let’s move on to Rule Number 2: do not mess up the timeline. For those of you who don’t understand what it means, I’ll elaborate. No indiscriminate killing. If you end up killing someone that’s supposed to be alive, you’ll have to answer to me. And I’m honestly not inclined to write HR and Accounting a report detailing why you shouldn’t be terminated.”

Rhys paused from his monologue to take a swig before continuing.

“No indiscriminate fucking without birth control either. I guess this applies more to the men than the women. The ladies among you can get an abortion here but that’s coming out of your pay and you can expect a hysterectomy automatically included. Just FYI. But for the men, if you sire a kid and I hear about it from those desk jockeys upstairs, I will hunt it down and make you eat it raw. Remember which department you’ll be working for. We correct the timeline. We do not mess it up by introducing wild variables into an already volatile system. With that, I have a sign-up sheet for any of you who want to get a vasectomy or a hysterectomy. Here pass it around.”

Five wasn’t surprised that no one ever did sign up. For an asshole though, he thought Rhys summed up the employee manual pretty well.

He was still on the fence on Rhys’ effectivity as an instructor but he was paying attention as Rhys used a marker to draw something on the board. It looked to be some sort of probability tree.

“This diagram will be useful to any of you in doubt of who you can and cannot kill. Each mission is different. In some, you can get to the target and take him out. While others require a lot more planning. For example, what if Churchill decided to take the Titanic? The Titanic has to sink but Churchill can’t die yet. This diagram will help you determine how many are allowed to live or die and who should not under any circumstance leave the Atlantic alive. Any q-“

Another window crashed. It was clear to Five that someone was doing it on purpose. He was seated at the back and he would notice if anyone threw something. But there was nothing.

The windows looks new so he didn’t think the glass was the problem. It must be someone with powers.

But who? If the Commission recruited him, they could have recruited more like him.

However, short of the culprit announcing himself, there was no way for Five to identify him or her.

Rhys’ response was to go back to his desk and fold his paper into what Five recognized as a paper airplane. Or something that will become one once Rhys stopped being so careful with his folding.

“Whoever did that should call maintenance. Do that and I’ll forget about this incident.”

“What happens if I don’t?”

It was the teenager. The one Five wanted to be away from. The insolent smile on his face was enough for Five to brand him as a moron. There was nothing to be gained by playing a game of dominance with the instructor.

Five wondered if he was ever that bad back in his days with the Academy. Considering he ended up stuck in a world that came after a mass extinction event, Five conceded that he was.

Rhys was no Reginald Hargreeves however. There was no stern scowl of disapproval. Rhys wasn’t even looking at the kid. Instead, he flew his paper airplane and folded another.

The kid was not a fan of being ignored and more windows shattered. Rhys paid it no mind. All he focused on was the paper he was shaping in front of him.

“What type of teacher are you?”

The stupid kid somehow got it into his head to storm towards Rhys’ direction. There was a pocket knife in his hand as he made to attack the instructor.

And then something happened as the kid got within Rhys’ reach. Rhys easily grabbed the kid’s knife hand. His grip was strong enough to make the boy let go.

Then, so quickly, that Five almost didn’t notice, Rhys made a slashing motion at the kid’s throat.

It took Five a few seconds to realize Rhys was holding what appeared to be an origami knife.

“You made a knife out of pap-“

The kid never got to finish his sentence as a line of red appeared at his throat. The kid tried to staunch it with his hands.

No one in the classroom moved.

No one except Rhys who had the boy lie down on the floor.

“Yes. It’s made of paper. Under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t die but with the help of state of the art technology, a paper cut is now lethal. It sucks that you won’t live long enough to learn about using everyday objects as weapons or about the price for insubordination. Don’t worry, your death won’t be in vain. You’ll be a cautionary tale for the rest of the trainees. Do not fuck with me. You think your powers make you better, superior somehow. But I’ve hunted people like you before. I’m still alive and they’re not. And I didn’t need to rely on powers to do it.”

Rhys got up and addressed everyone else in the room. Making sure to look each one in the eye, with Five being the last to receive his gaze.

“I may have given some of you an impression that I’m a dumbass. And for the most part, I am. But not when it comes to killing or the job. If any of you harbor any sort of pity for that kid over there, save your energy. He’s had sex. Lots of sex. And killed a lot of people. And a lot of the time he fucked people while killing them. In some cultures, he’s lived a full life. In any case, he wasn’t a good fit for the Commission anyway. Had too much of an appetite, if you know what I mean. He’d follow it at the expense of the mission. So here we are, with his blood on the pristine white floors. Oh well. While you guys take the time to observe the life leaving his body, let me just tell you that I’m expecting a lot of you to be cautionary tales. It would be good if you prove me wrong. If not, that’s no skin off my nose. You should ask the last batch I trained. Ok. Class dismissed. See you at the shooting range in four hours. Since none of you had the initiative to call maintenance, I’ll just do it myself.”

Rhys exited the room without further ado. The rest of the trainees, even Five himself, was in a state of shock at what just happened.

While Five was no stranger to death, seeing it dispensed so casually in a teaching environment was a whole new experience. He had no doubts that Rhys did his homework on all the trainees. If Rhys even suspected that Five planned to betray the Commission, Five may well be joining the kid.

Not that Five thought he didn’t stand a chance against Rhys. But Rhys had the Commission at his back. Even Five had to tread lightly when dealing with an organization that recruits killers en masse only to cull whoever they considered to be the best fit for their agenda.

Perhaps he should ask around about Rhys and do his own investigation on the man who was to train him. He mentioned the last batch he instructed.

Five was about to leave the room when he caught sight of the paper plane Rhys flew earlier. Unfolding it showed that his initial plans would have been fruitless.

The paper was a memo from HR politely instructing Rhys not to rig explosives in class and blow up the current batch of trainees.

That bastard had wanted someone to know.

——————

Rhys had him on a diet of fish, fruit and vegetables. Unlike Dad, Rhys didn’t allow processed sugar but did allow caffeine, particularly coffee.

It bothered Five to compare a man in his thirties to Reginald Hargreeves. Perhaps it was simply because of Rhys’ role as instructor that made Five remember Dad.

The diet was to increase Five’s endurance and hopefully extend the number of jumps he could accomplish in a day. And despite being alternating from being sarcastic, demanding and condescending, to which Five had to hold back his tongue several times, Rhys did provide results. Five wanted to kill him. But Five can’t deny that his spatial jumps have increased in frequency and speed.

If anything, Rhys was resourceful. And he taught the trainees how to cobble together makeshift weapons at the least amount of time. Five proved to be an apt pupil.

The Handler stopped by sometimes to oversee the progress of the trainees. Though for some reason, Five felt that she was paying him too much attention.

The only good thing about it was that he got to observe Rhys and the Handler. It was obvious that the two did not get along. Five filed that in case he might need it in the future.

—————-

The classroom was as hot as always. But at least the current subject was interesting. Rogue agents.

Rhys gave them pictures of those already terminated. He really wanted to drive the point home on how ignoring direct orders turn agents into cautionary tales so the photos were mostly autopsy shots. That sick fuck.

By now, Five was used to it. But he wanted to learn more about them. These so-called traitors that decided to break away. He didn’t need to ask why they were killed. Five knew the Commission’s official answer to that and he had no illusions about the type of employer the Commission was. But the question was how they were stopped.

Rhys provided the information readily enough. Every Commission agent has a tracker implanted on them. The organization can trace them at any place and any time. It didn’t help that rogues tend to go it alone. Most Commission employees from desk jockeys to field agents are loyal. So rogue agents feel safer keeping their traitorous thoughts to themselves lest they get reported.

With the ease in tracking and the isolation, it was only a matter of time before rogue agents are captured and terminated.

Rhys showed them video clips of rogue agents getting cornered and hunted like animals. It was just sad that they all followed the same pattern towards destruction.

Though one rogue did garner more attention than others. Red-One was codenamed after some Japanese sentai series and a highly skilled pyrokinetic. Even in the face of doom, he never seemed to waver from the fight. Though eventually he went down just like others before him. That didn’t stop his seeming optimism though because Red-One promised he’d be back.

Five concluded Red-One was a madman despite admiring said madman’s defiance to the last.

“So there’s no rogues left at large?”

Someone managed to ask.

“Plenty. There may come a time when you’d be asked to hunt a couple of them down. For most of them, it’s only a matter of time before they meet their maker. But there is one you should watch out for.”

Rhys had the sense for the dramatic. Wanting to pause to heighten the suspense. Though some would say he was just hankering to smoke a cigarette, which was exactly what he was doing as the entire room waited for him to finish.

After orientation, none of them dared to interrupt him. Five would have if there was anything to be gained. But months of training under Rhys taught him to be patient. Forcing his instructor to divulge anything only made him want to hold back more. Five found that it was better to let him do what he liked. Good mood always made Rhys chattier.

“I don’t have a photo of that asshole to show you but if in the course of the mission, you notice time going wonky, my advice is to report back to HQ. Don’t try to investigate without the full might of the Commission behind you.”

“What do you mean by wonky?”

Five asked the question this time. If this rogue can manipulate time, perhaps Five could finally get back in time to stop the apocalypse.

“Some examples include people moving like their on rewind, or aging in a matter of minutes or people dancing for hours because ‘time got away from them.’ Seriously, The Prince is a crazy motherfucker. The citizens of Strasbourg literally danced until they died. Though you guys might want to thank him. His attack on Commission HQ took out the majority of our manpower. That’s why you guys are here right now.”

Of course, you fail to mention that we’re also here because you blew up your last trainees.

Five honestly wanted to say it out loud. But he was supposed to act like a dutiful Commission recruit. It wouldn’t do to be singled out because of insubordination. Rhys proved that he dealt with it swiftly and with absolute finality.

Five had to wonder where they found this Prince. Rhys made the rogue sound like a one-man army. Five never allowed himself to get close to his fellow trainees. But if the snippets of conversation he heard were true, then they were also plucked out from some point in time.

Other than the stupid kid who got himself killed, there was no one else who displayed any extraordinary abilities. It was an odd time to miss his siblings. But there it was.

Life in the Commission was hard because there was no one to trust. Five had to leave Delores behind. So there wasn’t even anyone he could share ideas with.

——————-

Five completed the training period in no time. He couldn’t say the same for the majority of the recruits who died or were killed in the course of that grueling ordeal.

In the end, there were only five people left. There was no graduation ceremony or celebration to mark the completion of a period that aged Five further in both the mental and physical sense.

They moved straight to their first supervised mission. Everyone was dressed in suits and geared up.

Rhys was about to take a briefcase that would take them to the time they needed to be when The Handler came in and decided her own mission had to take precedence.

She was a cheerful and pleasant as ever. But Five knew better than to relax his guard around her. The Handler may be liked and well-respected by almost everyone in the Commission. But Five had no doubt she was a top-tier calculating, manipulative bitch.

After all, if you’re in charge of a team of killers and mass murderers, you have to be.

“Before you head off to the mission Rhys has painstakingly put together, I’d like all five of you to undertake a small test of loyalty. The Commission is a large institution and there will be times when one department is in the dark about what another branch is doing. But rest assured that management has the best interest of everyone at heart. So in this test, we would need you to follow instructions and terminate the specified targets with no questions asked.”

The Handler made to pass five sheets of paper to the trainees. But Rhys snatched them off her hands.

He looked at each one and promptly threw it on the nearby trash.

“What the hell, you bitch? Don’t interfere with those bullshit missions. A fucking amateur can take out those targets with his eyes closed. You wanted professionals. And there they are. Don’t insult me by giving them easy targets for their first mission.”

“My dear Rhys. This came from management. So there’s nothing I can do, I’m afraid. They have to take the test. Don’t worry, you can make their succeeding missions as hard as you like. I expected you to react this way. So I made extra copies. Here, Number Five, this one’s for you.”

Five had to read the paper twice before it fully registered.

Terminate Harper Strauss. 7 months pregnant.

——————-

Rhys was right. It was easy, far too easy for Five to take out a pregnant woman. Five was a good shot. And Harper never saw it coming.

Afterwards, after he spent a long time vomiting out the contents of his dinner, he told himself that he won’t let this break him. There’s still an apocalypse to stop. And he hadn’t even gone back in time to do anything about it yet.

He’d already lost his family, Vanya, the baby and now a piece of his humanity. Some of those, he could gain back. But it won’t happen if he let himself fall apart at this point.

——————

Rhys took them to a bar after their final supervised mission. Five would have preferred to go back to his motel room and attempt to complete his equations. But decided to get some liquor before he left his idiot team to its own devices.

Rhys brought a plastic bag full of condoms and handed it to everyone except Five. Five didn’t even want any but in a perverse way, being denied it only made Five want it.

So when Rhys wasn’t looking, Five snatched a couple and made his way to a dark, secluded corner to have his drink in peace. He felt stupid for taking the damn condoms. It wasn’t as if he had any plans to use them. But being reminded of his age and how life had passed him by was getting to him.

He would finish this drink and go back to work. His work.

That was when she came up to him. Five didn’t bother asking her name. All that really mattered was that she was around Vanya’s height and had the same dark hair as in Extra Ordinary’s back cover.

She didn’t bother asking for his name either. The only thing that mattered to her was whether he had enough to pay her, which he did.

They made their way to the alley before she helped him put on the condom. In his mind, it was Vanya he wanted to be with. So he made her face the wall and lean over.

Her short skirt barely hid anything but he bunched it up to her waist anyway. Five imagined it was Vanya asking him to come inside her and to slide harder and deeper.

Perhaps he shouldn’t have distracted himself. Before any actual contact could happen, Five found himself pulled away.

“Shame on you. Taking advantage of my recently widowed dad. Here. For your trouble. Now go away before I call the cops on you.”

Rhys made short work of paying the girl off. The girl took the money and left without a backward glance.

Five hurried to zip himself up. He was embarrassed. But because he hated that feeling, he chose to be angry instead.

“What the hell was that?!”

Rhys was as unaffected as ever. He made to take out his cigarette pack. In Five’s fury, he batted it away causing the pack to fall on a nearby puddle.

“Because it was my bad, I’ll pretend that didn’t happen, Number Five. I honestly thought you were gonna become a pedophile. From where I was standing, it looked like you were getting it on with a teenager. I know what you’re thinking. I don’t blink twice at burning orphanages, but I’m against sexual molestation. I’m aware of the cognitive dissonance. But I am what I am. Honestly, couldn’t you have chosen someone less likely to be mistaken for a child?”

Five didn’t bother to dignify that with an answer. He went back to his motel room and spent a fruitless night alone.

Chapter Text

All agents were partnered up for missions. In the Commission, a partnership was the closest thing to marriage. Five didn’t appreciate it. He didn’t trust anyone the Commission would assign to him for the simple fact that he didn’t trust the Commission.

But it was a necessary evil he had to deal with to get back home. And he felt that the Commission viewed him the same way. But perhaps, to a lesser degree. From what Five could tell of its history, the Commission has employed many skilled and powerful agents. Some retired peacefully while some were made to retire.

No one and nothing had ever brought it down. Hence, the organization rode on the confidence that its end would never come.

As much as he tried to blend in and toe the line, Five could only do so up to a certain point. It was never his way to make friends and discuss frivolities. He had better things to do. Besides, if all goes according to plan and he gets back ahead of time to stop the end of the world, he might have to go through the Commission.

At the moment, taking a briefcase was off the table. The Commission had systems to easily track the briefcase destination. It also knew whether the journey was authorized or not.

Five had no illusions that they would send people after him as soon as they registered his target date. All he could do at the moment was learn as much about the enemy as possible while working on the equations.

He was always on his guard for anyone trying to get close to him. In his mind, everyone and anyone could be a potential spy reporting his every move to the Handler and the management.

That doubly applies to his partner. But because there was nothing he could do about it, he approached the first meeting with resignation.

To his utter surprise, he found that he met his new partner before. Actually trained under him for months.

It was Rhys.

—————

Rhys was apparently a substitute instructor while the actual training instructor was convalescing. By the time of the real instructor’s recovery, Five and his fellow trainees were already well on their way to their final supervised mission.

As expected, Rhys was always watching him. The most annoying thing was that Rhys didn’t even bother to hide it. When Five wanted to take a piss, so would Rhys. They even shared a motel room because according to Rhys, the paper pushers were cost cutting.

Bullshit. Five knew well enough that the bureaucrats feared Rhys, enough to give him almost anything he asked for. A separate room would have been the least of it.

There had been a rumor going around that he murdered the last analyst to give him bad intel. But because the body was never found, there was no actual proof to lay at Rhys’ door. Of course, that all changed when he rigged the classroom and detonated as soon as his previous trainees were inside.

According to those who witnessed the incident, Rhys peeked into the classroom, muttered a “no,” walked out, took out a device and pressed the button. A loud explosion was then heard followed by the sight of debris and ashes over what was once the classroom.

And management gave him what was essentially a free pass for that.

Why? Perhaps Rhys had something over management? Or maybe, it’s something as simple as having no one else left to do the work? Or could it be that Rhys was actually part of management?

Perhaps Five had just become too paranoid.

Whoever Rhys really is, he was a pain in the ass who made it his life’s mission to annoy Five. Recently, Rhys had even taken to toting a series of paperback novels called “The Babysitters’ Club.” Five did not for one moment think it was anything but a subtle dig at the nature of their partnership.

On the bright side, Five wouldn’t have any second thoughts about killing Rhys if he had to. His partner pretty much drove the point home almost every time he spoke.

The very first day of their partnership, Rhys told him to not stand too close to him during a fight. Because he might “accidentally” use Five as a body shield.

But true to his word on Five’s first day of training, Rhys was serious about the job. Five respected his efficiency as well as how succinct he was in the middle of a mission, which was directly opposite how he normally was when outside one.

Neither of them actually hung out by choice. Merely forced together for long stretches of time by circumstance. Five later realized that he’d had gone months with only Rhys to talk to.

For one thing, because they were immediately assigned to the next job minutes after completing the last. Rarely, do they get a break. It seemed to Five that the Commission wanted to get the most use out of Five before his contract expired.

Missions ranged from inciting full scale disasters and riots to taking out individual targets. Sometimes, they’d be tasked to protect people. But Five noticed that those happened to be the ones he’d rather have killed.

Five never enjoyed the job. But each assignment was difficult in its own way, which meant that Five derived some form of satisfaction from a task completed.

Whatever Rhys thought of their missions, Five didn’t know and didn’t care to ask

—————

Countless missions with the Commission later, Five finally encountered his first rogue agent. And not a normal agent. One with powers.

The target was supposed to be a man named Erik Nillson, who should have died in a car crash.

But several failed “accidents” and two dead agents later, Erik was still alive. A reconnaissance team was sent to figure out what was going on.

After a few days of surveillance, they found her.

Intel identified her as Melpomene. A powerful telekinetic who took advantage of The Prince’s attack on Commission HQ to disappear. She had plastic surgery done to change her appearance. But a fingerprint the team managed to lift matched with the Commission’s database.

The orders were now amended to kill Nillson and bring Melpomene back alive. Since she took out two agents, the higher-ups saw fit to bring in a strike team to back them up. Neither Five nor Rhys appreciated it.

Nillson came from money and had a big house outside the city. No neighbors nearby to alert the police. And even if Nillson himself attempted it, the police were too far off to respond in time. Nevertheless, the strike team cut off all telephone lines, making the Nillson house truly out of reach to the outside world and vice versa.

Five wondered why a skilled operative such as Melpomene would risk detection by defending Nillson. Was he an employer? Was a life of danger the only way for her? Or was it something else?

Everyone on the team took great pains to avoid the alarms. The plan was to move fast. And if all went well, it would be over within thirty minutes.

No one really believed that.

True to form, projectiles started raining on them as soon as they entered the house. Five avoided most of it by jumping to the second floor landing.

True to his word, Rhys used the nearest man as a body shield as he made his way up the stairs.

By then, all projectiles ceased but it took most of the strike team out.

“The strike team is essentially useless. Melpomene was an agent herself. She knows we won’t stop. Did you memorize the layout of the house?”

At Five’s affirmative, Rhys imparted his theory that she’d be running and taking Nillson with her.

Without another word, Five jumped near the garage, making sure that Melpomene didn’t see him. Nillson was unconscious as she deposited him at the back of the car.

Looking at the care she took to ensure Nillson was comfortable, Five finally knew. She wasn’t his bodyguard. She and Nillson were lovers. But Melpomene never bothered to tell her boyfriend exactly who she was and where she came from.

In another time, in another life, Five might have let them go. But he was living in the now. And he can’t afford to have The Commission suspect him of disloyal leanings. Or worse, incompetence. So he waited for an opening to make his move.

It came when someone appeared at the doorway connecting the house to the garage. Melpomene reacted as expected, throwing the sharpest objects at the intruder.

Everything connected. And Five even heard a groan of pain and a sigh as if to signify a soul leaving the body. Strangely enough, the body remained upright.

“We can do this all night, Mel. But you and I know that time is working against you the longer you stay.”

Rhys. He held the body in front of him using it as a barrier between him and a desperate rogue agent.

“Rhys? Is that you?”

“In the flesh. Why don’t you surrender? Our orders are to take you back alive.”

“Not without assurance that you’ll leave Erik alone. And we both know the Commission’s stance on that. So I’m not coming with you. Even if it’s to save my own life, which I doubt. All rogues get sent to B&E. No one comes back from there.”

“You’d be surprised. Anyway, I’m here to convince you that he’s not worth it. You’re better off coming back. I mean, did you even tell him what you could do? What you’ve already done? If he actually believed you, you wouldn’t be in this mess. Maybe you would have lived a quiet life and died just as quietly. But you didn’t even tell him, did you? You have the worst luck falling for a target. What happened to the girl with top-rate survival instincts? She would have run the moment she first spotted agents.”

“I should be the one asking that. You’ve changed, Rhys. You used to be less chatty.”

“Near death experience. Nothing like it to change a person’s perspective. But let’s not get too off topic, you need eyes to aim your power. Close them and come with me.”

But Melpomene was done talking. She focused the full force of her powers on Rhys. And it was a wonder he was still standing. His body shield had already lost a head and a limb.

Melpomene wasn’t even near done. She was readying what would have been the finishing blow when she heard Erik.

“Mel? What the hell is going on?”

Before she even turned her head, she could hear Five’s rifle near Erik’s direction.

“Give up. And we’ll give him a head start. He can take the car. Sure you can try to take me out, but not before I use your boyfriend to block your attacks.”

Ever the pragmatist, Five saw the easiest way to subdue the rogue agent and took it.

Melpomene chose the most inconvenient time, place and person to fall for. And that was what lead to her capture. Rhys covered her face as soon as she closed her eyes. The hood he used was no different from the ones used on hangings.

Erik didn’t even steal another glance before he sped away. Apparently, she wasted her love on him. It left a bad taste on Five’s mouth that the woman reminded her of Vanya.

He knew what was coming next and didn’t know how to feel about that.

The car was past the gate when it exploded. Five used Rhys’ distraction to plant the bomb. He wasn’t proud of deceiving the woman. But he wasn’t sorry for killing a coward who left his girlfriend in the line of fire either.

Melpomene wailed.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t all she did. Suddenly, every inanimate object that wasn’t nailed to the floor or the walls were thrown in Five’s general direction. Apparently, Mel had honed her powers to the point where she didn’t need eyes to aim.

Five would have been a goner if it wasn’t for his spatial jumps and for Rhys using a knife to puncture the rogue agent’s head.

Five couldn’t help but think how aptly named she was. Named after the Greek muse of tragedy.

—————-

The Commission cafeteria was out of bread because someone mislaid whole bags of flour. It had been days since the Melpomene debacle. But Five still wasn’t cleared for active duty. The lack of toast to go with his coffee soured his already dour mood.

It was then that he noticed the apples. Five hadn’t touched any for a long time. It reminded him of many things he’d rather not get into lest he break down in front of people who would be ready to pounce at the slightest show of vulnerability.

He should have just left the apples alone. But perhaps he was in a masochistic mood today. So he took one and brought it to his assigned quarters. The memory of his apple tree was bittersweet. He remembered its unique taste.

Of course, thinking about it made him think about Vanya. She grew it for him. And it didn’t help that the first time he took a bite was not long after they’d first had sex.

He should just throw it away. But a perverse part of him decided to take a bite.

Only for him to take another bite.

The taste.

It was an apple from his tree.

And almost as soon as he realized it, writings appeared on the skin.

He recognized the formula at once. The missing piece. It would enable him to travel with a partner. But it’s too late now, isn’t it? Because there’s no one he’d want to take with him. Not anymore.

And then he recognized the handwriting that marred the apple skin with its parting words.

To take you home. -V

—————

It didn’t take long for him to find out the supplier, who turned out to be one of the soldiers who was employed to take Vanya out as she was in the middle of labor. What better time, after all?

The soldier took an apple as a souvenir. He planted it near his house a little ways outside Commission HQ and it eventually grew. When a friend in the cafeteria lost his apple supplier, the soldier was more than willing to earn extra cash.

Why Five never even considered that the Commission had something to do with that conflagration he witnessed, he would only have to wonder about later. For now, what he wanted to know was where Vanya and the baby where.

The soldier had no answers, only clues. So Five killed him. Not as long and painfully as would have wanted to. But it would do.

He didn’t bother hiding the body. Five had no plans on continuing his association with the Commission as soon as he got to the Handler and Rhys.

——————

When he got back to HQ, they were waiting for him. But he was beyond caring. He took down as many of them as he could. Five wondered if he looked like a demon because some of the strike team decided to desert in the middle of battle.

But enough of them kept coming until Five could no longer sustain another jump.

The Handler only made her appearance once what remained of the soldiers had him on the ground and tied up.

She remained serene, acting like a mother scolding a naughty child. But he cut her off and demanded what they did to Vanya.

The Handler’s tone was moderate. It was as if she was reciting poetry, if it wasn’t the most horrible thing Five had ever heard.

“We took her baby, her lungs, her liver, her heart. All her organs. Even those that couldn’t be transplanted. By the time you got back to her house that day, the day of your son’s birth, there was nothing left to remember her by.”

Five wanted to tear her limb from limb. For once, he wished he had Vanya’s powers so that he could destroy everything and everyone connected to the Commission.

“I’m disappointed our association had to end this way. But I suppose it was inevitable. Take him to-“

She was interrupted by one of her assistants telling her to go up to management immediately. Apparently, the Chairman was having a heart attack

Five was left to the mercies of the Commission soldiers who were none to gentle in pulling him up. They alternated at shoving and dragging him to the prison quarters.

None of these low lives understood that something was seriously wrong in this scenario. The Chairman having a heart attack just as Five was captured? He didn’t believe in coincidences. It didn’t necessarily mean he’d be rescued. But it did provide a chance for escape.

He’d stop the apocalypse. And then, he’d come back here to obliterate everything and everyone. Burn it down just as how everything that meant anything to him was burned down. It would be an inferno by the time Five was done.

Rhys appeared just as they neared the prison.

In typical Rhys fashion, he insisted on being Five’s sole escort to a cage. But whether it was their numbers or just that they obtained a spine by surviving an encounter with Five, the soldiers did not back down.

It was a funny time to stand up to Rhys. Because that was when all the soldiers caught fire out of nowhere. It didn’t take long for them to turn to ash down to the bone.

————

“Come with me. I know how to get you out of here.”

Rhys made to pull Five towards the nearest exit. But Five stood his ground. Rhys was part of the assault team that took Vanya. There was something he wanted to know and Rhys was the only one within reach to tell him.

“Why? Why take Vanya and our child?”

Seeing how stubborn Five can be, Rhys sighed in frustration.

“The upper management are old coots who want to prolong their lives. Vanya has regenerative powers. So someone had the idea to use her organs. And your son. Your son is the reason the Commission exists.”

“What?”

“You heard me, asshole. This whole mess is sort of your fault. Your son grew up to found the Commission. He invented the briefcase. The way I heard it was that he wanted to use time travel to correct the past and make the world a better place. Too bad his successors had too much self interest. The management has a cushy life in the Commission. So of course they want to ensure the apocalypse happens. Without it, the Founder never gets born and he never would have thought up of the Commission. The apocalypse gave him too much time to think. In my opinion, it could have been avoided had he gotten friends to do stupid shit with.”

“Where is he? My son?”

“If you ask management, he’s back in the apocalypse. All the better to create the fire inside him to make the world a better place by time travel. But here’s a secret they’d find out soon enough, he’s not there anymore.”

———-

Rhys had a briefcase stashed just outside HQ. He assured Five they won’t be tracked. At least, not anymore.

Five was too busy reeling at the thought that he had a son. That he was alive somewhere.

It took them to the 1920’s, right outside a house. A dark haired toddler was playing in the garden with a man and woman staring at him with adoration.

“He was left at their doorstep as a baby. The couple who owns the house couldn’t have kids. So it was like an answer to their prayers when little Lucian appeared. Of course, they have hopes and dreams for him. But they’ve been vetted. They’re normal. But kind and loving. The type of parents who would be just as proud if the only thing Lucian accomplished was having a lot of friends.”

And what else could Five say about that? There was no way he’d take his son anywhere near the year of the apocalypse. The boy looked happy with the only parents he ever knew. How could he take Lucian from that? After all, it wasn’t as if Five was in any shape or form considered a fit parent. All Five knew was killing. Not an environment considered healthy to grow up in.

The boy had a mix of his and Vanya’s features. And it was a stab to the heart. An insane part of him wanted to grab the boy and run. But Five knew he’d only frighten the toddler. Even if Five introduced himself (which he won’t), he’d be nothing more than a faceless stranger.

So he looked his fill until Lucian was ushered in the house.

————————

Rhys explained that he and a group of like-minded individuals took advantage of the Commission’s complacency. Management never left their tower and assigned the day to day operations to the Handler, with clear instructions that they are not to be bothered unless it’s an emergency. With the help of an associate with a supernatural affinity for tech and computers, it was easy to forge orders and instructions from high up, especially when no one down the totem pole would dare to double check its veracity.

“How else did you think I got away with killing trainees and colleagues? I would have preferred not to in order to maintain the illusion I was a good worker bee. But my orders where to get you out of the apocalypse. And the Commission needed to have some serious manpower issues to even consider taking you.”

Five pondered on everything he learned in the past few days. Trying to sort the clues and filter which ones are lies or truths.

“Melpomene said that you changed. And you said it was the near death experience. Vanya was the near death experience. You were part of the assault team. But it would be more accurate to say that Rhys, the actual Rhys, was part of the assault team. But you weren’t inhabiting his body then. Were you, Red One?”

Rhys cracked a smile that would have chilled lesser men to the bone. But for him, it was a sign of respect. To clarify this, Rhys tipped an imaginary hat to Number Five.

“I did tell Mel she’d be surprised at the number of people that escaped B&E. The Commission lies about what they do to rogue agents. The ‘lucky ones’ like yours truly are forced to stay alive.”

From Five’s point of view, that only raised more questions. Who let him out? Who was pulling Red One’s strings? What exactly is B&E and its purpose? And what exactly is Red One’s goals?

“I went to the scene of the crime and found this,” Rhys took out a plastic baggie that held the apple.

“This is where we part ways then. The Commission won’t destroy itself without me and you have an apocalypse to stop. Do make sure you stop it. I don’t want to have to go through this again.”

With that, Red One opened the briefcase and disappeared.

Alone with his thoughts, Five cursed whoever wrote about how the truth provided peace. Well, now he knew what really happened to Vanya. And it will haunt him for the rest of his life. However long that may be.

For the first time in a long while, no one was watching his every move. So Five allowed himself to break down. But only for a little while.

He still had a mission to accomplish.

——————

All agents of a certain parentage eventually make their way to B&E. The Beginning and the End. It was a section marked by the Alpha and Omega signs on its non-descript door.

Long ago, after Lucian was too weak to hold the reins of the monster that is The Commission, the new Chairman had people with abilities culled throughout time. They became the first agents as Red One knew them.

But everyone had to bow down to the ravages of time. With agents spending the majority of their lives within the timestream to complete missions, they eventually aged and weakened. So the Chairman, who had the convenience of living outside of time where aging was remarkably slowed, ordered a program to make “homegrown” agents.

Their in-house scientists found that powered children only come when both parents have powers themselves. Pairing a normal individual to one with abilities resulted only in a normal child.

So they took samples wherever they could. Five was an unknowing contributors. Having apparently jerked off enough times and living a nomadic lifestyle in the apocalypse made it easy for an agent to collect samples.

That did not mean that children with abilities had special privileges within the Commission. Unbeknownst to these children, they were slated for B&E as soon as they expired or were deemed a liability. All while being promised an attractive retirement package that only the normal agents and employees would benefit from.

The lucky ones got to die first before their organs were harvested. The ones who had Five as a sperm donor like Red One and a version of Lucian get to live through and after the ordeal. And yes, Red One remained alive after a fashion. His brain, the center of his thought processes, was the only thing he had left of himself. And he spent what he had thought as the end sedated in a tank along with his fellow brothers and sisters.

It was the White Violin that kept them alive.They were figuratively on the same boat. But she didn’t need organs to live. She was infinite, the source of ever-renewing energy. Time travel required enormous amounts of power. As far as the Commission was concerned, who better to supply it?

Without her, the briefcase would only be used to carry random objects. Without her, Red One and his siblings wouldn’t have a whisper of a chance to finally strike back.

But the relationship didn’t go just one way. She needed them as well. No amount of drugs, technology or outside power could truly contain her. At least, not for long.

The only way for the Commission to be able to continue using her was to appease her subconscious need to be with her child. So the Commission had the elderly Lucian’s living brain bottled in the tank beside hers. Over time, Lucian wasn’t enough. So all fallen and disgraced agents that Five “fathered” found themselves floating in tanks around hers, surrounding her as if she were the sun and they the planets. Dead brains didn’t satisfy her.

Truth be told, the Commission had a pretty good setup. It had gone on for a very long time. But it was folly for management to believe it could be sustained forever.

When they replaced the old White Violin for the new one, they didn’t quite expect how she’d think or react. They also never imagined that the sedation used on the old one wouldn’t continue working on this one.

It didn’t help that nepotism and incompetence had started to rear its head into the once illustrious organization. Well, it didn’t help The Commission. But it was a godsend to the residents of B&E.

And as Red One descended the stairs to the deepest section of B&E, he wondered at the sight of said poster boy for nepotism and incompetence impaled on the White Violin’s newly grown tree. It wasn’t there a few hours ago. So Red One guessed the White Violin decided that the Chairman’s grandson had outlived his usefulness or uselessness. It really depended on one’s point of view.

None of them could have gotten out of the tanks had the grandson not spent time drinking and getting high. So Red One gave the corpse a parting salute before moving on to his intended location.

Red One was intentionally vague with Five on how he acquired Rhys’ body. As much as he would have loved to share, his orders were to keep Five fit and alive to get back home. And to keep everything about B&E under wraps.

But he remembered the day he got this new body. Poor Rhys came to get a new liver. But that wasn’t the only organ that got replaced. Now Rhys took Red One’s place in the tank. And the thought of that delighted Red One as much as the experience of eating, drinking and killing.

The door opened to reveal his brother Asclepius in another man’s body.

His brother wasted no time.

“She wants to see you.”

Red One’s smile was the closest to genuine that it could ever be.

“She’s ready then?”

“You know her as well as I. Is everything in order?”

“Anything that could combust has already been placed at the designated locations. Just as planned.” Red One didn’t bother to mention what a bitch it was to steal bags of flour and get the siblings who inhabited the janitorial staff to put them in place.

“Red One?”

The White Violin. It felt weird to finally hear a voice instead of thoughts.

“Number Five got to see the kid. He has the equations. He’ll go back in time. You don’t need to worry, White Violin”

Red One reassured her as he entered the room to reveal Melpomene. Or more accurately, the White Violin in Mel’s body. Her eyes a luminescent white down to the pupils.

“Thank you. And I told you. You can call me Vanya.”

Chapter Text

Vanya remembered going into labor, meeting a white haired woman and then being attacked. Everything went dark after that. When she became conscious, she found that she couldn’t move, couldn’t open her eyes, couldn’t smell anything and couldn’t even scream her frustration and horror.

It might have taken her a long time or a split second (she couldn’t be sure). But she eventually realized she could do nothing because she had nothing.

No limbs to feel anything out. No skin to sense the temperature or feel the space she was in. No lungs to breathe in. No heartbeat to remind her she was afraid or that she was even still alive.

Vanya briefly wondered if she was dead.

But she soon forgot that thought when she heard something. Perhaps hearing would not be the right word for it because she had no ears to hear. But she did sense sound. And her brain translated it as the sound of machinery all around her.

When Vanya managed to calm down enough, she finally registered more. Energy. Flowing out of her. The majority of which was going somewhere far off in such great speed and distance that she wasn’t able to register where it went. Whatever remained she felt as tendrils, each one connecting her to other forms of energy.

Not just energy. Life. People (they were still people to Vanya) like her who’ve lost everything but their minds.

But unlike her, they were unconscious. Sedated.

She could feel their distress and despair even as they dreamt.

They were having nightmares. But no matter what she did, her power would not follow her will.

It was then that she realized she had truly lost everything. Five. Her baby. Her own body. And to top it off, her powers felt no longer her own.

Something was siphoning off her energy. And all she had left was enough to keep her and the others alive. And even that small measure of power was on autopilot. Ignoring her wishes.

The utter horror of facing the same thing for eternity would have been enough to break anyone’s mind. Had she a voice and a mouth, Vanya would have screamed.

But she didn’t have that. So any howling stayed inside of her. Whatever was left of her.

And for a long time, she indulged in her despair.

She would have continued screaming to an audience of one had the suffering emanating around her not increased. Were her feelings of hopelessness only causing the others even more pain?

That thought ceased her internal screams. The feeling of despair lessened and plateaued around her.

She was the only one awake. And there was no way for her to rouse anyone to comfort them.

Vanya felt ridiculous for even considering waking the others. Wouldn’t this reality actually be the worst nightmare?

But still, for the first time in a long while, Vanya was able to see beyond her own suffering. What could she do to give even some form of relief?

When Vanya felt the seemingly endless sadness threaten to overtake her in the past, she would either take a pill or play her violin. She had neither on hand.

Vanya realized that she could do nothing. The feeling of uselessness was a familiar old friend. And it urged her to simply continue with her despair. And to hell to anyone affected by her decisions.

But wasn’t that what started her on the path that lead to this destination? Back when she waited for her baby to be born, she worried what would happen if it was born normal. Vanya was in control of her powers but that didn’t mean she was in control of everything.

Was this fear of hurting something so small and fragile part of the reason why most of her siblings didn’t want to include her in playtime? Back then, Vanya didn’t think so. They were so strong and confident.

But they hated her for publishing her book. So didn’t that mean they weren’t as strong and confident as they seemed? That in the back of their minds, there was always the fear of not ever being good enough?

She hurt them. And that only served to widen the gulf between them.

Had she tried to put herself in their shoes as she was trying now, would it have changed anything? But it was too late to repair the damage done. Far too late.

Vanya couldn’t believe she missed the ability to shed tears.

She couldn’t do anything for her siblings. But perhaps, she could help the others around her. At least, she hoped she could.

In her mind, she played her violin. She imagined how the notes would sound like and hoped that the phantom melody would be transmitted to the others.

She was halfway done with the first song when she sensed something akin to relief all around her. It wasn’t exactly peace. But it seemed that the song made its way to them and acted as some sort of balm for whatever they were ailing from.

So she continued to the next song. And then the next.

It gave her hope to go on.

And as she worked to calm the tormented minds around her, Vanya kept a figurative eye open for an opportunity.

Whether it was to escape or to avenge herself, she still hadn’t decided.

——

The chance came with the Chairman’s grandson.

Vanya didn’t know what organization held her. For a long time, the only moving people who came near Vanya and her “companions” with any regularity were the janitorial staff, who made it their mission to clean as close to the speed of light as possible and leave the room just as quickly.

Apparently, the janitors were creeped out by the room’s inhabitants. But Vanya knew there were grounds for their fears. It was never wise to cross her. The world before didn’t survive her. And she didn’t even intend to end it.

Having no eyes, Vanya wasn’t able to see. But she soon found out how highly adaptable her mind and her powers were.

Even without ears, her mind could process sound and create an image for her. Occasionally, a man in a lab coat would come in. Vanya didn’t need to expend a lot of effort to deduce the man was there to ensure the condition of the room, the machinery, and the brains remained status quo.

What was surprising to learn was that she was supposed to be as sedated as the rest of the brains around her. And yet, her dosage which the nearby panel indicated as ten times stronger than what was given to the rest didn’t affect her at all.

The man in the lab coat was none the wiser.

Technically speaking, nothing changed. But Vanya reveled in the knowledge. Whoever these people are, they think they’ve won. But she told herself she was merely lying in wait.

Someone would drop his guard. Someone would make a mistake while in this room. It may not happen at this very moment. But it will happen one day. When it does, Vanya would be there to take advantage.

So on the day the man in the lab coat brought an insolent looking young man, Vanya was at full attention. The young man gave an overall impression of weakness. Sure, he had a sly intelligence to him. But it didn’t make up for his weakness in character and discipline.

The man in the lab coat instructed his young companion on what to maintain and check for. But the young man didn’t seem like he was interested. Vanya wondered why the man in the lab coat even bothered to train someone so obviously unsuited for the job.

But the answer was revealed to her soon enough.

“Leo, are you even paying attention? This is important! This room is the source of all power in the Commission. And of all the promising, responsible employees, I agreed to the Chairman’s request of bestowing this important responsibility to you, his grandson. I have my doubts about you. But out of deference to your grandfather, I’ll give you one chance. Don’t blow it.”

The man in the lab coat left Leo with a look of distaste. As soon as the man was out of sight, Leo immediately made a beeline for Vanya’s tank.

“He thinks I don’t know. But Gramps told me you’re the only source needed to power the time travel briefcases.” He was talking more to himself than to Vanya. Though it felt nice to imagine having a conversation with someone

Leo flipped a few switches. And Vanya felt some force loosening. With some manipulation of the controls, Leo was able to siphon off some energy into a bottle he brought with him.

“Now I have enough energy to play with my toys,” Leo said to no one in particular.

He left without bothering to return things back to normal.

So Vanya decided to test the limits of this newfound freedom. The extensive instructions given to Leo proved to be helpful. Vanya decided to switch off all the sedatives and other medication of the tank closest to her.

It might have been a few hours later. But she thought she heard a voice or more accurately she sensed a thought being projected through the room.

“Is anyone awake?”

“Yes. I’m awake. I’m Vanya. What’s your name?”

There was silence after that. Vanya assumed that her thoughts weren’t communicated properly. She wasn’t a telepath, after all.

Vanya prepared to try again when an image appeared in her mind. It was an old man she’d never seen before.

But one look at his green eyes told her she was mistaken. The image slowly morphed into that of a younger man’s. It was the man who appeared in her dream many months ago. Or was it longer than that? All she remembered was that her child wasn’t even conceived yet when he came to warn her about bringing a child into the world.

And just as he did then, he turned her world upside down as he uttered a single word.

“Mom?”

————-

“You’re here. It means I failed.”

The despondency in his voice made Vanya wish to hold him in her arms to give him some form of comfort. At the same time, her anger was threatening to boil over.

Vanya had no doubt he was her child. To know that he also shared her fate would have made her weep if a) she still had tears and b) she wasn’t so busy being furious.

But she told herself to delay vengeance. The Commission would pay. But that shouldn’t mean she could hurt anyone who just happened to be at the wrong place and time.

Vanya had enough innocent blood in her hands to fill a sea basin. Besides, if she lost control, she’d kill the other tormented souls in the room with them. Some might think it a kindness. But Vanya refused to believe it was truly the end of all their lives.

She didn’t know what she could do. But she had to try something, anything, to help.

First, she needed to know.

“What’s your name?”

“Lucian.”

Yes. Vanya remembered picking that name if she had a boy. Her soul ached. But she resolved to give time for her sorrow later, after she’d heard Lucian’s story. For there was one, she was sure.

“What happened to you after they took you from me?”

Lucian gave her a small sad smile. Familiar as it echoed hers whenever she attempted one in front of a mirror.

“That’s not what happened in my timeline, I’m afraid. In my timeline, you raised me until I was sixteen.”

So Five really never came back.

Lucian’s eyes suddenly brightened with interest. Vanya couldn’t be sure but was that hope slowly making its way on his face?

“Five is alive? That’s new. That never happened before.”

—————

According to Lucian, Five attempted to kill her in her sleep. It was the night he found out. As he pulled the trigger, Vanya’s power protected her by deflecting the bullet at Five’s direction.

Vanya was never truly the same afterwards. At least in Lucian’s timeline.

The mother he grew up with was loving but prone to long bouts of despondency. Growing up in the apocalypse was lonely with only Vanya for company. So when he discovered that he could visit dreams belonging to anyone across space and time, Lucian was ecstatic.

He made use of knowledge gleaned from the greatest minds throughout history to invent machinery that made life in the apocalypse easier to bear. Though for some reason, Five’s dreams had always remained a locked door to him so he never had the chance to meet his father in the dream world as well.

But for all the distance in time and space, in spite of never having spoken to him, Lucian shared Five’s fascination for time travel.

It was beyond Lucian’s own abilities to transport his body to another time. So he decided to use his technical knowledge to make a time machine.

At first, Vanya was against it. She feared losing the only thing that still meant something to her.

Out of fear for what she might do if he continued, Lucian set aside his time machine. He wasn’t afraid of his mother harming him. But he feared what she might do to herself if left alone.

So he decided to turn his focus on developing his abilities. Serendipitously, it was at this time when he discovered a different aspect to his powers.

He was trying to see if he could venture into dreams without being asleep himself when he suddenly found himself in a younger body. More specifically, he was inhabiting his younger self.

This he quickly realized because he was holding his mother’s only remaining family photo of her with her siblings. This was the day he accidentally destroyed it when he dropped it in an open fire.

Lucian remembered that day as the only day he ever saw his mother weep. So he quickly and carefully placed the picture back on the table.

Almost instantaneously, Lucian was back in his present body. When he came back inside the house, sure enough, there was the photo he had destroyed in a different timeline.

He had changed the past. Unfortunately, he quickly found out that he can only project his consciousness into his past selves. And having only lived in the apocalypse for his entire life, there wasn’t much he could change.

Lucian tried to hide his growing disappointment. But Vanya noticed. It led to her change of heart. And Lucian was back to tinkering with his time machine.

At first, he was happy with what his invention could do. By the time he turned sixteen, the machine could take him back a few years into the past.

To his dismay, that was as far as the machine could take him. To get him further, the machine would require huge amounts of energy. Energy that nothing on earth could harness safely.

He told Vanya everything. As usual, she was a good listener. Not offering input but just taking in everything he had said. It was late and he was about to take himself to bed when she took hold of his hand.

“Lucian, I’m so sorry. You deserve better than having me for a mother. You should be with other people. Not here with only me for company. Back in the world before, children eventually leave home to live their own lives. And you’re so mature for your age. I want that for you. I’m sorry it took me so long to do this.”

“Mom, what are you-“

“I think I figured it out. It’s my brain. That’s the source of my power. Use it. It’s the only way you’ll have a life outside this place.”

Lucian grew even more alarmed when Vanya started glowing. By then, she had already let go of his hand. Lucian tried to grab her, to do something to make her stop.

But Vanya used her powers to hold him back. And Lucian was forced to witness his mother’s body disintegrating. Leaving only the brain.

At first, Lucian was in a state of shock. Then he tried to project his consciousness back in time. However, no matter what he did. No matter what he said. The result was always the same.

He tried to jump to dreams of the most distinguished and well regarded physicians and psychiatrists to find out why she would do what she did. He even tried jumping to her dreams.

But he soon realized that it was beyond his powers to fix his mother.

After countless attempts, he realized that what ailed his mother couldn’t be fixed by anything from his time. It couldn’t be fixed by anything in his mother’s time either.

Perhaps it had been his grief taking over. But he somehow got it into his head that it was the world that needed fixing. Only with a better world could he finally help repair his mother’s broken mind.

So he took his mother’s power source. And then used it to jump back.

In a lot of ways, he found the world before to be worse than the one he grew up with. People killing each other for money, prestige and other inconsequential things. It was madness. He was right to think that it was the world before that made his mother the way she was.

He had to make it better. But he can’t do it alone. And he needed a space to plan his activities without interference. In whatever time he jumped, he found that there were always people on the lookout for ways to achieve power. These people would do everything they could to wrest his machine and what was left of his mother away from him.

But he needed allies. Because as much as Lucian would have preferred to go it alone, he had to recognize his own limitations.

Finding a space outside time was a lot easier than finding people he could trust, people who shared the same vision. But he eventually found them. And there the Commission was born.

Looking back, it looked like he underestimated human greed. The allies he recruited started out idealistic. But overtime, they became addicted to the power they gained by being able to manipulate history.

It all came to a head when a mission accidentally caused one of their members to never be born in the first place. As soon as that member stepped out of the space outside time and into actual time, he disappeared.

And even when they scrambled to correct this mistake, the erased member never came back into existence.

That was when the Commission turned from an organization dedicated to creating a better world to one that ensured the timeline stayed the same.

By that time, he was already weak and outnumbered. And before long, he found himself in the tank right next to his mother’s.

—————

“If they wanted things to stay the same, then why did they do this to me? Why did they take you from me when I was supposed to have at least sixteen years with you?”

Lucian didn’t answer her right away. Instead, he told her why he was given a place beside her. And why there were others accompanying them.

The Commission Board couldn’t truly control Vanya. Not without Lucian. But as Lucian was unwilling to go along with the Commission’s change of direction, they found a way around it.

Vanya would not emit power for anyone other than Lucian. So they had Lucian’s living brain beside her to fool her into thinking she was still powering the machine for Lucian.

Unfortunately, the brain was somewhere in between dream and waking. And Lucian was unable to contact his mother.

But before long, Vanya or at least the brain powering the Commission was beginning to notice that Lucian wasn’t exactly his old self. So the brain started trickling down its power.

The Commission found a solution by sending in more brains. Not just any brains however. The Chairman that replaced Lucian had test tube babies created to become future agents. Most of them had powers. And some of them had Five as a sperm donor.

Once Five’s children become a liability, their organs are harvested. And their brains become Lucian’s new neighbors. Somehow, Vanya’s brain recognized something of Five in them. And she continued functioning as the Commission wanted. Overtime, Vanya’s brain started holding back on energy again. And the Commission’s solution was to add more living brains.

And they had to be alive or else Vanya would have no reaction. She (the old her) became so protective of all the brains that when the Prince attacked, she decided to use her power at the expense of disintegration in order to save the other brains.

—————-

“The Commission needed a new brain quickly. That’s why they took me?”

“It wasn’t just that. The Chairman and most of the board were too far along in years. They thought that perhaps getting your organs would extend their own lives.”

So she just happened to be the version the Commission decided to screw over.

“Where did they take my baby? If I’m not there, who’s going to power the time machine he’d build one day?”

“The Commission has several master social engineers and actual engineers to make sure the other Lucian gets to the important milestones.”

“Without me.”

The thought of strangers, especially those that did this to her, raising her son would have been enough reason for Vanya to destroy everything in sight. But this Lucian was here. And so were Five’s other children. They were still alive. And she couldn’t destroy indiscriminately again. Sure, there was some satisfaction in vanquishing enemies. But would she truly be able to face herself or Five again after?

Five! If the Commission has its way, he’d never leave the apocalypse. She had to get him out of there.

But how?

“I take it that Number Five didn’t attempt to murder you in your sleep? If that’s true and if he gets back to the time before the world ends, he might be able to stop this.”

But if the apocalypse never happened and the Commission never existed, what would happen to Lucian and the other children? It was silly of Vanya to think of them as such but didn’t she soothe them in their sleep and weren’t they Five’s children, no matter the age?

Lucian seemed to have sensed the source of her anxiety.

“Don’t worry. There’s more than one reason they wanted Five’s progeny. His children make good agents because they have a resistance to changes in the timeline. The Commission tested it before. They’ve undone completed missions. But these children retain memories of the mission that never was. So I’m pretty confident we won’t be erased from existence even if we manage to stop the apocalypse.”

Vanya didn’t like if’s and maybe’s but she supposed that was the best she could hope for.

There were many things she wanted to do. Get Five out of the apocalypse. Stop the apocalypse from happening. Take out the Commission (if only to make sure they don’t get in her way of preventing the end of the world). Get herself and the children out of here.

A plan started to form in her mind. She didn’t know if it would work and the immensity of things that needed to be set in motion intimidated her. But she asked herself what Five would do.

First, break your plan into small, simple tasks. Then work from there.

Yes, that’s what she’d do.

Vanya shared it with Lucian, who had a frown on his face by the time he heard the end.

“I’ve never done it before. But with your powers, it is possible. My only concern- the thing that worries me are the others. They hate me. They might not even want to hear us out.”

—————

Using Lucian’s powers to transfer everyone’s consciousness to their past selves situated across different periods in time would be a challenge. Lucian would need Commission resources and a vast amount of Vanya’s energy harnessing abilities to pull it off.

To do that without the Commission being the wiser would require help from the others.

Lucian was able to create a space in the dreamworld that he used to summon the others. One by one they appeared. Vanya could see a bit of Five in each of them. Some in their physical features. Some in the way they moved about.

Lucian asked her to keep herself hidden as the others were born and raised in the Commission. Meaning that they were inherently distrustful of newcomers as much as they were distrustful of each other.

True enough, they turned on one another as soon as they found out they couldn’t leave Lucian’s space. It was a sight reminiscent of schoolyard brawls Vanya had seen on TV. She wondered if they knew they were technically in the dreamworld and could not actually hurt one another. Not to mention that there was little of them left in the waking world.

Vanya turned to Lucian in hopes that he’d do something. But he just shrugged as if to say there’s nothing he could do.

For a moment, Vanya was back to being small and alone in a dark room with nothing to do but wait and hope she’d soon be let out. But she snapped herself out of it. She was technically the most helpless when she woke up to find her body reduced to a brain and her powers out of her conscious control. She survived that horrifying moment. And she resolved never to let herself feel that helpless ever again.

Vanya didn’t exactly know how she did it. But she wished for her violin and the dreamworld supplied it. Thankfully, the dream violin played just as she expected.

At first, nothing seemed to have changed. Five’s children were still at each other’s throats. But as soon as they recognized the notes. The very first song she played to calm them, they disengaged from each other and finally stared right at her.

—————-

There were a lot of interruptions before she reached the end of her explanation on her plan. A lot of them didn’t believe that Lucian could transfer their consciousness permanently into their past selves. Strangely enough, they were still on board with her plan of destroying the Commission.

As one of them put it, “What’s the worst they could do to us now? Kill us? I’m actually at the stage where that’s preferable.”

Vanya insisted on learning their names. She was appalled to discover that the Commission was no better than Reginald Hargreeves. The children (though they were in fact grown adults by the time their brains were introduced to the tanks) were given code names instead of actual names. And each codename depended on their minders preference.

There was a minder that liked the Looney Tunes. Hence one petite woman was called Tweety Bird. Her abilities were more geared towards the physical. And she headed the faction that wanted to be woken up only when everyone was ready for carnage. Vanya was amazed with how easily Tweety could just trust her, to which the woman simply explained that she always decided with her (proverbial) gut and it said to trust Vanya. Besides, Tweety was one of the few who knew Vanya’s role in bringing about the apocalypse. Tweety pretty much shared with the whole room that Vanya could have just ended the Commission without their help.

After that, Vanya sensed the tension lessen as the people in the space grew to trust her.

Miss Dashwood was named in homage to Jane Austen characters. Vanya had to look twice at Miss Dashwood to realize she wasn’t the white haired woman who appeared when she was in labor. Lucian explained that Miss Dashwood was the Handler’s twin. And there was no love lost between the two.

If the Handler was professional and elegant, Miss Dashwood was the hippie mom who walked barefoot and made tie-dyed shirts.

It bothered Vanya that the Handler (who was once called Miss Bennet) was actually one of Five’s daughters. But Miss Dashwood was actually pleasant to be around. She had the power to manipulate anyone she came in contact with. The longer the contact, the more she had a hold on a person. And as it so happened, she’d slept with a few members of the Commission Board, enough to pass a resolution to fully digitize all communication and access to the briefcase system.

This enabled Grumpy (who was actually more stoic than grumpy) to gain access to Commission resources and forge directives from the ever out of touch Management to the day to day Operations division.

Then there was Asklepios who was polite and attentive. He had the best knowledge on the human body given that his abilities were greatly attuned to human cells, tissues and organs. He was the one who suggested using the janitors as the first hosts for the infiltration team. From there, the janitors would discreetly take select low level Commission employees for what amounted to a brain exchange.

It helped that the section they were housed in was the deepest part of B&E, where organs are harvested and transplanted to other Commission employees. It was apparently considered a coup that Asklepios managed to get the body of the Head of Surgery, which only further facilitated the brain exchange with people in high enough positions of power.

In another life, she might have been horrified with what she allowed to happen. But that was a long time ago, a different Vanya ago. That Vanya still had a family, albeit one that hated her. But still, they were alive. That Vanya had the chance to look beyond the small space that Reginald Hargreeves allotted her and chosen by her own will to make it bigger. Now she had almost nothing. And it was funny that it was now that she finally decided to take whatever opportunity arises to live again. This time, if all goes well, she won’t squander what time she managed to take.

Then there was Red One. According to the Commission database, he was the best agent it ever produced until he decided to turn rogue by almost succeeding in burning the whole of HQ. Which was partly why she decided to entrust him with the task of getting her child and Five out of the apocalypse. He may have also promised her that he’d make sure Five stayed alive and without any romantic/sexual partners. But that was the very last thing on her mind when she chose him.

Red One proved to be resourceful as well as a master of deceit.

With Grumpy’s help, Red One was able to smuggle baby Lucian out of the apocalypse and into the loving arms of a childless couple. Vanya hoped her baby would grow up in relative peace and live a full life. Vanya didn’t want him to live any time near 2019.

Extracting Number Five was trickier. Because the only way he could be taken out of the apocalypse without the Commission coming to kill him is if the Commission itself offered him a job. Red One accomplished that by discreetly murdering agents and trainees until the Handler was left with no choice but to recruit Five.

None of them ever called her by name. They all preferred to call her the White Violin. At first, she thought it was just their way of distancing themselves from her. But Lucian said that it was their way of saying she was one of them.

It touched her deeply that she would have cried had she still been capable of it.

But in the back of her mind, she still wanted to be called Vanya. It was her name, after all.

————-

Vanya didn’t want Five to know what happened to her. Last time they saw each other, she was still whole and he despised her. She didn’t blame him for that.

But it seems she was a coward. Because she was afraid of how he’d react when he found out. She’d like to think she still knew him. A part of her believed that he’d blame himself for what happened. Be consumed with pain and guilt that he might even momentarily throw caution to the wind.

And if that ever came to pass while he was in the very heart of enemy territory, she wouldn’t know what she would do to save him. But that wasn’t really true was it? Vanya knew exactly what she was capable of. She just wondered how much of her soul she’d have to sacrifice when all was said and done.

Then, there was the other part of her, the cynical part, that believed Five was no longer the same boy she knew. He attempted to kill her. And if not for one fateful decision to spare her life, she would have inadvertently killed him. Her cynical mind whispered that Five meant it when he said he never wanted to see her again. He never even tried to see her the whole time she was pregnant. And would he even care about their baby? Would he even be a little bit sad to know what became of her?

Vanya pushed the thoughts away. They were doing her no good.

Despite bringing her pain, she’d insist on wanting to see an image of him. He was much older. Time and the apocalypse made him harder but it also took a toll on him, aging him beyond his actual years. But Vanya suspected that her heart would have still skipped a beat had it still been in her possession.

—————

The Commission has grown complacent enough to view its disembodied charges as harmless. They even had them sedated to keep them unconscious. And should they somehow wake up, there were drugs to repress powers supplied to their tanks as well.

But the Commission has never truly prepared itself for Vanya. At least, not this version of Vanya.

Doomsday was close at hand. Vanya had enough energy to both destroy the Commission and help transfer everyone’s consciousness.

All they needed was to get Five away from the Commission before Doomsday happened. That proved to be trickier. And Red One asked for more time to plan it.

But as with all proverbial best laid plans, something had to go wrong.

At first, Vanya thought nothing of it when she sensed her apples in HQ. The day of her labor was the day the world again gained the presence of hundreds, maybe even thousands of people (The Commission did not underestimate her that time).

But with the presence of so many soldiers, it wasn’t really surprising, someone would decide to take a souvenir. She didn’t realize the souvenir came from Five’s tree, the one she instructed to give Five the message.

By the time she understood what happened, Red One had already found Five’s victim and was rushing to get to Five before Five got himself killed.

It seemed that Doomsday needed to happen today. The Commission was in uproar and Five needed to survive this. So she focused on the sound of her heartbeat. The heart was now lodged inside the Chairman and it was enough reason for her to crush it.

——————

At her request, Vanya was the last to get a new body.

By the time she walked out of surgery, Grumpy had already activated the self-destruct of all facilities that had that option.

Tweety Bird was particularly thrilled at having a body again that she raised up the stairs to meet the Commission strike team. Before Vanya took the elevator, she witnessed Tweety pulling out hearts, kidneys and livers with her bare hands.

Red One and Lucian were in the elevator with her. They were making their way up to management. For Vanya, the ride up seemed to be taking too long. So she searched for her organs. It was like playing a video game. Her mind would pinpoint the location of each and then she would use her powers to reach out and cause them to self-destruct, thereby killing the ones who stole them from her.

When she was done, the elevator had reached the top floor. Vanya was unsurprised to see that most of the occupants were dead. She savored this moment. After witnessing Five’s reaction to the Handler’s half-truth, she made a decision. She only hoped the others wouldn’t be too put out by the change in plans.

Vanya then closed her eyes and freely let herself be amused with what was going on outside the elevator. Her affinity for sound made it possible to hear the havoc and carnage the children spread all around Commission HQ.

“Grumpy, can you hear us?”

A “Yes” came out of a nearby speaker.

“Have you finished setting the briefcases?”

“Yes. As you wished, all briefcases still in existence are set for only two usage attempts. The first attempt will send the holder to 7 days before the apocalypse. The second attempt will trigger the briefcase self-destruct sequence.”

There’s only one escape out of Doomsday for Commission personnel. And that’s by briefcase. Vanya figured that if the Commission wanted the apocalypse to happen so much, they can attempt it at the risk of ending their own lives as well.

It’s all well and good for the Commission to have a “que sera sera” outlook when they have HQ to go back to. But she would pay to see their reaction once they find out there would be no escape from Year 2019.

“Tell everyone to stop what they’re doing and go to the meeting place. It’s time.”

—————

Some of the children came. Vanya wasn’t surprised to hear that the others either went down fighting or decided to make it on their own with a briefcase despite Asklepios’ warning that the new bodies were only temporary and would eventually reject their brains.

Vanya had half a mind to ask Miss Dashwood to force them back. But she stopped herself. She had to let others make their own choices. She had to accept that a lot of things were out of her control.

Wasn’t that the Commission’s problem? It decided that it needed to control the timeline just to ensure its continued existence? Vanya certainly thought it was pathetic.

Red One set fire to all that was left of the Commission. And Vanya made sure the fire burned enough to ensure that not even ruins remained.

She turned to the children.

“I guess this is goodbye. Thank you. I know that a lot of you are even considering going to 2019 to help me. But I really hope you stay wherever you are and make a life for yourself.”

There were looks of confusion all around. The plan was for Vanya’s consciousness to be sent to about a week before the apocalypse to stop herself from launching energy destructive enough to kill everyone.

It sounded like a foolproof plan until Red One brought up that it might not just be Leonard Peabody she had to watch out for. In any undertaking, Vanya had to consider the unknown factor that may or may not derail her plans. So it would be better for her to have at least someone watching her back.

Besides, they knew that they couldn’t possibly have taken out everyone in the Commission. A significant number of them were fanatics who would actually be willing to die to ensure the Commission exists.

The children were all agents and existed in one point of the timeline or the other. Due to the nature of their job, a briefcase would be within reach.

But now, Vanya wanted all of them to forego traveling to 2019.

“Number Five should be on his way to stop the apocalypse. That should be enough. So even if you did go to 2019, I wouldn’t be able to recognize any of you because I wouldn’t have even met you then. And you can’t support someone who doesn’t trust you.”

Lucian saw the look in Vanya’s eyes and immediately recognized it.

“You’re not planning to go back. Don’t do this, damn you! Why would you want to destroy yourself?”

How can she explain that Five was right? She literally and figuratively ruined everything she touched. Five almost got himself killed because of her. She didn’t deserve to be near him or their siblings. If she went back, she might actually make things worse.

“The best way to stop the apocalypse is to kill me before I find out about my powers. I couldn’t heal myself then. So anytime from the date of my birth to before Leonard tells me about my powers would be the best time to kill me.”

————-

Five made the final adjustments to the equation that will finally get him back in time to stop the apocalypse.

He mentally reviewed the plan. Get back to hopefully before Vanya even meets Leonard Peabody and then kill that son of a bitch.

He took out Vanya’s book to give the numbers one final glance. Despite double and triple checking, something was off with his calculations but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

Five was sifting through the pages when the book faded and then disappeared.

What was going on? What if something happened to Vanya? Impossible. The Commission wouldn’t let her come to harm. At least not before she caused the end of the world. Maybe she just decided not to publish her book. That must be it. He hoped that was it.

In any case, it was now or never. He hoped to see Vanya on the other side of that blue light.

——————

“No! Just no!”

It was Miss Dashwood. Vanya was slightly taken aback because Miss Dashwood was normally easygoing and good natured.

“Listen to me, please! Before I got to know you, I thought you were crazy for even suggesting we can start over. Plus, how can you trust someone whose power is basically mind controlling people?”

That got a lot of assenting murmurs.

“But then I spent more time with you and saw videos of you and Five together. So I know you’re trying your best to be a better person. You spent your whole life being afraid. Afraid of trying in case you failed. Afraid of reaching out to others lest they reject you. Afraid of trusting them in case they betray you. You wanted to change. That’s why you decided to be brave and try to save us instead of just destroying everything as soon as you had your powers back. Now you’re afraid again. I won’t tell you there’s nothing to fear. But I will tell you that you have to see this through. If you end it now, then you would be no better than Lucian’s Mom.”

Vanya was touched by her impassioned words until she realized what Miss Dashwood just said.

“You had videos of Five and me together?”

“I got it from Grumpy. And Red One was the one who insisted he had to know everything.”

Red One was immediately on the defensive.

“At least I wasn’t the one who kept pressing the rewind button.”

“Shut your filthy mouth, Red One,” Asklepios cried as he looked ready to hit his brother.

Vanya couldn’t remember being this embarrassed. Then she saw Lucian.

“I’m sorry for what I almost did.”

Lucian gave her one hard look before softening.

“Promise you won’t do it again.”

“Only if you promise me something in return.”

——————

When Vanya opened her eyes, Vanya was back in her apartment. The feeling of unreality and disbelief had her staring at the mirror for far longer than necessary. She found her own face staring back at her. Her hair was dark and her eyes were brown again.

Just to be sure, she turned to her calendar, which caused her mouth to open in shock.

Lucian sent her five years before the apocalypse.

Sure enough, the manuscript of her autobiography was on her coffee table. It was neatly stacked in an envelope. All she needed to do was send it.

Instead, Vanya burned it in the fireplace.

She was about to make coffee when someone knocked to bring in a package. The return address was from a prestigious sounding law firm. But inside was a photo album with a letter on top.

As promised, I lived a good life. Here’s the proof. Please keep your promise. -Lucian

The album showed her pictures of her baby growing up with loving friends and family. In exchange for her promise not to give up, she made Lucian promise to start over in the care of a loving family. Instead of saving the world, Lucian chose to save the people he came across instead.

And for the first time in so very long, Vanya allowed herself to weep

This is the end of the Alpha and Omega arc.

Chapter Text

The attack on the Commission was so sudden and complete that the Handler and what was left of Management felt lucky to escape with their lives. All throughout the scramble for briefcases, the Handler was focused on getting management to safety.

She briefly wondered how the Commission HQ could have been destroyed in a span of minutes. Who and what caused this? But that was a silly notion. No single individual could have done it alone. It must have been an inside job. Loathe as she was to admit it, it must have been a conspiracy that brewed right under her nose.

She wished she had the chance to observe what sort of people were attacking HQ itself. But the moment bodies started dropping within Management Tower itself, what was left of Commission leadership ordered an immediate evacuation. The Handler was given no choice but to accompany them even though she would have rather stayed to fight and understand what they were dealing with.

The Commission had numerous safehouses, weapons and resources in the 1950s. The plan was to use the briefcases to get there.

But when the light faded from their briefcases to signal that they had arrived, no one had any doubts they were far from the 1950s. They had been taken to some sort of arena, with rows and rows of seats surrounding the stage they landed on. The stage was at the bottom while the seat rows rose the further each row was from the stage.

Lights and cameras were pointed at their direction. A fence separated the stage from the seats. They found out it was electric when the Comptroller touched the wire in an attempt to escape.

None of them liked this situation. Clearly, they’ve been caught in a trap. The Handler steeled herself to use her abilities. She was the only thing standing in the way of whoever would want Management gone. She knew her purpose and she intended to stay true to it until the end.

This was what made her different from Ms Dashwood. The Handler was loyal and she believed in the mission. Ms Dashwood was selfish and ungrateful to want to leave the Commission after everything it had given them. Dashwood deserved to be sent to B&E where she could at least be of use.

What remained of Management was six men. All of them the more junior members. Not that they hadn’t lived long lives. Just that they were relatively young compared to the senior members who had been there since the Commission’s founding.

Now all founding members were gone. And what remained were either sniveling or in shock. The state of Commission leadership was enough to test the Handler’s conviction.

But there was no time for doubt because before her very eyes, the men with her started to fade. She had only seen this once before, when an agent was wiped out of existence. Either killed in the womb or never even given the chance to conceive.

“Do something, Handler!”

The Comptroller demanded as he fought panic. The Handler honestly didn’t know what he expected her to do. She could freeze time but she couldn’t undo an existential scrub.

They were a hair’s breadth away from disappearing completely when just as suddenly, the same six men started to become corporeal again.

“Well, well, well. Locked out of heaven, caught in a trap and then almost wiped out from existence. You’re welcome by the way. It took me a very long time and millions of dollars to get this place. But I have to say, seeing what’s left of Management here, it’s made the long years and the hefty amount I just spent worth it.”

She knew the figure descending the stairs. The Handler recruited him herself. He started this mess in the first place.

“Number Five?”

The old man heading her way simply raised his left forearm to reveal a completely different tattoo. Instead of an umbrella sigil, this tattoo showed two serpents forming an infinity symbol as each ate the other’s tail. It was a mark the Commission itself had given this man when the man was a mere boy. A mark to remind everyone of this man’s origins so that no one can forget how utterly dangerous he was and still is. As a case in point, this man was the reason for the Commission’s manpower problem going so far as to erase agents from the timeline.

“Forgotten me already, Ms Bennet? Let me turn back the clock.”

There was no need. The Handler knew who he was. But the man in front of her decided a further show of power was in order. So the old man started looking younger, with wrinkles getting smoother and silver hair turning dark. But the piercing green eyes remained the same. So did the conceited smirk plastered on his face.

“Do you know what day it is? It’s seven days until doomsday. It took a lot of wrangling to find out where the Management briefcases would end up in. But I’m sure you can imagine my delight to find out Management, or what’s left of it, finally get front row seats to the end of the world.”

The Handler didn’t doubt his joy. After his almost devastating attack on the Commission that left the organization without enough agents and a source of renewable energy, he went out of the way to almost bring the Commission to its knees.

She cursed the day she believed reports that said he succumbed to the 1918 influenza pandemic.

To the Handler’s horror, the six men with her started begging for their lives. Unlike her, they wanted to find a way out of Year 2019 and were willing to do anything just to live longer.

She could sense the derision in their captor’s eyes. She would have advised her companions to save their breath because she knew this man can’t take them out of time. It wasn’t in his power, after all.

“Apologies but there’s no way I can help you. I may have considerable powers but time travel just isn’t one of my skill sets.”

So all this time, he had lived through hundreds, maybe thousands of years to get to this point in time. Unlike his sire Number Five, he found himself in the distant past after leaving the place he grew up in. Having no way to travel from one time period to another (the Handler made sure of that by having the briefcase he used for escape self detonate), he was forced to live out the long years.

The Comptroller was the first to lose his patience.

“Then how can you be so calm, you basta-“

Before the Comptroller could finish, his whole body aged in the span of seconds. Before long, the life went out of him and his body decomposed until all that was left was dust and bones.

“To posthumously answer his question, it’s because I can do that and do it backwards too. I’ve lived a long life and the only thing that means anything to me right now is getting entertained. So whether the apocalypse really happens or not doesn’t concern me. If I don’t like what happens, I can make it so that everyone can do it over again until I’m satisfied. As for the rest of you, you’re free to go as soon as I leave. Find your colleagues or whatever. It doesn’t matter to me. This is no longer the world you know. No matter what happens, the Commission is done. And not even an apocalypse can bring it back or make it happen again.”

And with a parting salute, the Prince left the arena.

Chapter Text

While the majority of Commission employees who were in HQ did not survive the attack, there were those who escaped with their lives. But only with the help of the briefcases. Their relief in retaining their lives was short-lived. Because they found themselves in the city that would be the epicenter of the apocalypse. And the end of the world, the very one needed to start the Commission, was only 7 days away.

As for the employees away from HQ for whatever reason (this could vary from completing missions to correct the timeline or training new recruits), they became mildly disquieted when their attempts to contact headquarters were met with static. This also didn’t last long. Because they soon found themselves dead. Killed by either their partners or one of their recruits who unbeknownst to the recently fallen were spurred to murderous actions by the various consciousness that had a hand in destroying HQ.

As per their training, Five’s children showed neither remorse nor pity for murder in cold-blood. They only did what they had to do to survive. Besides, they had many inhuman things done to them. In turn, they doled out the same or perhaps even greater level of atrocities just to get to this point. They weren’t likely to worry about the state of their souls after one more execution. Existing as brains in tanks for who knows how long gave them a better appreciation for having bodies again. And they didn’t intend to squander this hard-won opportunity. Neither were they inclined to let anyone get in their way.

For those who came back to their bodies when they were agents, it was simply a choice of whether to use the briefcase to go into the future or to destroy it and live the rest of their lives in relative peace. And as expected, some chose to go while some chose to stay permanently in the year they found themselves in. However, there were some who took a middle ground, opting to keep the case, live their own lives for a few years before using the briefcase to face the year 2019.

For those who came back as recruits, it was a little more complicated. Recruits were only taken out of HQ for training purposes. There was no such thing as one-on-one hands-on training, meaning that there was a group of five recruits for each instructor.

Depending on the personality of the person who returned to his or her past body, the other recruits might be left dead or alive. In general, the returned got the briefcase due to the element of surprise. So some killed their fellow recruits thinking it to be the more merciful solution. Some allowed the other recruits to escape and survive in a time and place unfamiliar to them. And some chose to care for their fellow recruits who were technically still young children.

________________

Vanya knew she was dreaming again. Dreaming of the time she called herself Elsa, of the time Five was just a hand’s reach away, of the time they shared a bed, a house and something of a life at the end of the world.

She must be dreaming of a time that was months after he started living with her. The first time they had sex completely unclothed was the day Elsa learned the man she was using as a stud was also Number Five, her brother. A beloved brother she didn’t have entirely platonic feelings for.

Vanya remembered trying to ignore the feeling of his ribs sticking out of his torso, proof that he spent many a day and night hungry. She allayed the feeling of guilt by promising to feed him three square meals a day going forward.

And it paid off. Months later, she felt more than skin and bones when she brushed her hand over his body on its way to the part of him she desperately needed to place inside her. Back then, she told herself it was only for the baby, the one to come that would cure her loneliness.

In hindsight, she knew that the simple fact was that she just wanted Five. And she was more than willing to take whatever little scraps of him she could get. So she became whatever he needed. For Five, that was an occasional person to talk to (other than Delores) and an enthusiastic bedmate.

Because until that night he found out about her role in the apocalypse, he would never be the first to make sexual advances. Thus, it fell to her to signal her interest. She was never disappointed because he would always reciprocated.

She expected the same response this time as she made a few tugs that didn’t seem to rouse him from his sleep, though it did elicit a few hip thrusts. She licked her lips and then the tip of his member. By the time Five opened his eyes, he was greeted with the sight of Elsa taking him as deep as the back of her throat.

Then her dream diverged from memory. While she still had his cock lodged deep enough to possibly trigger a gag reflex, she found herself positioned in such a way that Five had a view of the wetness she could have sworn was already dripping from between her legs.

She felt cool fingers spread her open and enter her as she busied herself with licking and sucking his member. She imagined the second knuckles were already inside her when he immediately stopped. No withdrawals or advances. Just two (maybe three) ice-cold fingers immobile inside her.

It should have alarmed her. Should have told her something was off with Five. But it was a dream, so she figured that anything goes in this world. Instead of withdrawing from his cock and his fingers, she hollowed her cheeks to suck him harder and she clenched around his fingers as tightly as she could manage. Thankfully, he took her up on her silent invitation.

As if by some magnetic force, his fingers immediately reached the spot that made her release his cock to scream her pleasure and arch her back. Her reaction made Five relentless, hitting the same point over and over again until she was insensate to everything around her but his fingers.

Somewhere along the way, she had closed her eyes to give herself over to the delicious heat and friction emanating from between her legs.

But then the digits left her completely. In her alarm, she opened her eyes to find everything around her had turned dark.

Was that a tornado in the horizon?

But her observation was interrupted when she felt bruising hands on her hips. It made her recall that night. The night that she was sure lead to Lucian’s conception and hoped he never learned about. And she felt her panic rising.

“Stop! No!”

Vanya tried to get away, to crawl out of bed on all fours and utterly failed. Because in this dream, he held all the power. Unlike that night, she didn’t willingly cede all power to him. In this dream, she could do absolutely nothing to stop him even if she had wanted to. In spite of the moisture that had gathered inside her, she still felt the pain of his rough entry. Every thrust was like a stab and every withdrawal was like sprinkling salt on an open wound.

She didn’t remember repeatedly begging him to stop. At least, not on the actual night she’d rather forget. But in this dream she did.

It proved to be futile and only made him go faster and deeper inside her, made him pull her hair and lean close to her ear.

“Isn’t this what you wanted? Now you get to re-live it over again knowing nothing you do will make a difference. You ruin everything you touch. And no matter how much of the world you alter, that will always remain the same.”

—————-

When Vanya woke up, she was dismayed to remember all of it in vivid detail with her heart beating as if it had run a marathon and her sweat soaking both her shirt and bedsheets.

She felt like sobbing just as hard as when she realized she’d never see her baby boy alive again. But she didn’t go through with it. Because the thunderstorm she knew she conjured in her sleep had done the crying for her. It continued raging for some time as she stared sightlessly at her bedroom wall.

—————

The world Vanya had woken up to on the year 2014 was both similar and different from the one she remembered as a brain in a tank.

Apparently, the children had made some changes to whatever time they found themselves in. Thankfully, the memories of the Vanya that lived in this new reality started seeping in to fill the gaps of her knowledge.

She wondered how Lucian and Five’s other children fared because no change in time would affect their memories of their own personal history. Some of them might find themselves in a surreal world both similar and different from the one they knew.

She honestly hoped they were all right. And she tried to comfort herself by thinking that Five sired them. So they were genetically predisposed to land on their feet.

Looking at her current life, she discovered a bittersweet comfort in the realization that Vanya’s life was generally the same.

Instead of a typewriter, a laptop and printer was used to produce her manuscript. Vanya had access to internet that got her in contact with people who shared her interest in music and a cellphone that had her siblings numbers.

But in spite of this reality’s advancements in communication and interconnectivity, it didn’t change much for Vanya herself.

Her internet friends were nothing more than casual acquaintances who didn’t even know her real name or vice versa. Vanya had not even met any of them in person. This was motivated more by fear of rejection rather than any horror stories about predators one might meet on the internet.

And in spite of having an easier way to communicate with her siblings (at least the ones still alive and not lost in time), Vanya never did manage to exchange more than a few pleasantries and the occasional holiday greetings with them. Everyone was busy living their own lives and Vanya was still as clueless as ever on how to build a better relationship with them.

Vanya had resolved to change that. She had just come out of an experience that left her literally disembodied. It was practically a near death experience. Now that she’d been given a new lease on life, she was determined not to waste it until she had that dream, making her revisit that ever familiar feeling of self-doubt.

This only got her into procrastination mode where she alternated with playing her violin and looking at cat videos on YouTube. When that didn’t ease her anxiety, Vanya unconsciously reached for her pills only to find her hand trying to grab at thin air. Then, she would remember flushing the pills down the toilet and throwing the bottle in the trash.

This body may still be habituated to the medication, but she was never taking those pills again. No matter how much she might welcome numbness at the moment.

Was it such a good idea to stop so suddenly after a lifetime where her current body was used to popping at least two or three pills a day? The internet gave Vanya conflicting answers. A part of her thinks it’s a bad idea. But Vanya would rather be without her pills than without her powers and all of her senses.

Without the pills, she had the presence of mind to mark the calendar for the approximate date she would need to re-fill her prescription. From Vanya’s memories of this reality, she could easily surmise that while Reginald Hargreeves didn’t bother much with Vanya’s living and work arrangements, he was very interested in Vanya’s continued adherence to his prescribed medication.

If she did not re-fill it herself, before long she’d get a visit from Pogo with a bottle full of said pills. And she really couldn’t deal with Pogo at any time in the foreseeable future. Not to mention that she couldn’t afford to be on Reginald Hargreeves’ radar. If he knew she wasn’t taking the pills, he could very well have the perfect excuse to bring the Academy back together again.

So she would continue to collect and pay for pills she’d just as soon throw down the drain. All to maintain a cover. She was the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing now and Vanya honestly did not know how to feel about that.

At least she had the internet. For all the negative views she heard, it was certainly a great avenue for distraction. She was in the middle of listening to another violin cover of Ed Sheeran’s Perfect, when a reminder popped up on the screen.

Oh shit!

She had to teach today. And it was two new students. Two sisters with one in middle school and another in elementary.

She had an hour left to get her apartment and herself ready. Nothing much had changed work-wise. Vanya was still third chair at the city orchestra and supplemented her income by teaching.

So far, her students had been children. And given her horrible past experience with Leonard, she’d want it to remain that way.

Not that teaching children hadn’t been a challenge in itself and a possible horror story all on its own. Most of her students were there simply because their moms made them do it. But some were actually eager to learn and had obviously practiced enough to show remarkable improvement by the succeeding weeks. There were also some who started reluctantly only to develop a passion for playing afterwards. So she approached her role with a lot of long suffering but also a feeling of accomplishment in helping the kids.

When the doorbell rang, she was surprised to find a boy and girl in scout uniforms. The Boy Scout wore glasses and looked to be around twelve or thirteen. The girl was younger and engrossed in a copy of The Baby-Sitters Club, her long blond hair pulled back in a ponytail.

They did not look at all alike but for some reason, Vanya got it into her head that they were related. Maybe cousins or even siblings.

Vanya was confused to find both carrying violin cases in a sling along with backpacks.

The boy took the initiative to introduce himself: “Hi! I’m Evelyn and this is Ashley-“

“I also pee standing up,” Ashley piped in.

Evelyn looked embarrassed by his sister’s or rather, his brother’s outburst. Given that Evelyn did not correct Ashley, Vanya was inclined to believe that Ashley the Girl Scout was actually Ashley the youngest crossdresser she ever met in person.

Vanya had heard of mothers dressing up their toddlers, even male toddlers in cute girl outfits. But Ashley seemed comfortable enough in his clothes to make Vanya think he dressed himself and at his own volition.

As they moved inside her apartment, she heard something that alarmed her.

“What are you carrying?” She asked with growing suspicion but tried to keep her tone casual. Sounding merely curious instead.

“It’s camping gear. Some clothes, a flashlight, a pocket knife and a first aid kit.” Evelyn said in monotone.

“I meant what’s in your violin cases?”

“We’re here for lessons. Of course, we’ll bring vio-“

But Ashley cut his brother’s words short.

“Let’s not bullshit her. And don’t chicken out. I’m sure you noticed the change in her heart rate and breathing by now. I don’t have your powers but I can pretty much deduce it just by looking at her.”

Ashley then proceeded to put his book down on Vanya’s coffee table. He took out his violin and it was honestly the most bizarre looking thing Vanya had ever seen.

There was the string, the neck and the tuning pegs. But Ashley’s violin looked more like a hybrid between the aforementioned musical instrument and a machine gun.

“It can be both,” Ashley said with a grin as he plopped down on the couch with the violin gun perched on his lap, legs together instead of apart as boys usually do. To be fair, Ashley was wearing a skirt. But for some reason, Vanya thought that he wasn’t wearing it just because he liked girl’s clothes. It was as if Ashley was trying to sell a part. But not to Vanya. He already told her from the get go that he was male.

And then Vanya really looked at both their faces. Looking past their clothes, the glasses, the hair and their youth.

And the she saw.

Vanya had only seen them in their original forms in Lucian’s shared space. But they were already grown men by then.

“Asklepios?” She gazed incredulously at Evelyn.

And then she turned her attention on Ashley.

“Red One?”

Ashley’s grin turned even wider.