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Running is a Victory

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Five appeared in the darkened bookshop with a blue flash, crouching down behind the counter so he wouldn’t trip the security alarms. He peeked over the top of the counter, breathing a sigh of relief when no alarms started going off. 

 

Logically, Five knew he probably could’ve asked Pogo to get this for him, or even steal one of his father’s, but he wanted his own. If he was going to cut all ties with the Umbrella Academy, he wanted it to be a clean cut. Take nothing that came from the Academy, bring everything that he had forged for himself.

 

Digging into his pocket, Five pulled out some rumpled bills and tried to smooth them out before leaving them on the counter for the owner to find the next morning. He crept out onto the main floor of the bookshop, pausing when he heard movement. A couple walked past the bookstore windows, once they were out of sight Five continued on, wandering through the aisles until he found what he was looking for. 

 

He stood in front of the shelf overstuffed with blank books, styles ranging from grade school notebooks to cartographer’s journals. The shelf loomed at least five feet above Five’s head with a ladder at the end of the row to access the higher shelves. Five scanned the shelf, wrinkling his nose when he saw a light purple diary claiming it would keep all his secret crushes safe. 

 

Five jumped over to the ladder, dragging it along the floor and then jumping to one of the top rungs. He leaned over and rifled through the higher shelves, his hand pausing when he came to a simple black leather notebook. It was unobtrusive enough to not attract suspicion, but elegant enough to satisfy Five’s self admitted vanity. 

 

It would do. 

 

Five turned on his heel and let himself fall from the ladder, vanishing in a flash of blue.

 

-

 

“Hey.” Five heard a soft voice come from his room behind him, and he looked over his shoulder to see Vanya standing at his window. “You missed dinner so I brought you a sandwich.”

 

“Thanks.” He forced a smile, quickly folding up the paper he had been clutching for the past- well if he had missed dinner, then at least an hour- and shoving it into his breast pocket, and turned and hopped off the fire escape railing. “How pissed was Dad?”

 

“He didn’t say anything about it, I think you’ll have to worry about Luther the most, his face matched the tomato sauce Mom made for dinner.” Vanya said wryly, stepping aside so Five could climb back into his room. “What were you doing?”

 

Five took the plate from her and smirked at the contents. “You know I do eat things other than peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches, right?” 

 

“It’s easy to make and it’s the one thing I know you’re guaranteed to eat.” Vanya shrugged, crossing in front of Five to go sit on his bed. “Pogo said as long as we’d finished our lessons we could have free time until lights out. Ben’s helping Klaus finish his lessons so he probably won’t be up until much later.”

 

“That’s fine. Did you bring your violin? I’m working on trying to integrate chaos theory into my calculations on time travel and it’s being a complete bitch.” Five looked up at the equations over his bed nearly encroaching on the ceiling and took a bite of his sandwich.

 

Yeah, Vanya was right. It would be criminal of him to let one of these go to waste.

 

“It’s in my room, I can go get it if you want. But I actually wanted to talk to you.” Vanya tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and Five’s full attention was immediately on Vanya. 

 

“Dad said your public debut is coming up soon.” She began, and Five’s wrist twinged with the reminder. The stupid goddamn tattoo- brand- on his right wrist was an all too unpleasant reminder of that fact. Thank god he was left handed, his siblings (save Diego, the ambidextrous bastard,) hadn’t been able to write without pain for days afterwards. 

 

“He makes it sound like we’re southern belles about to present to the public for the first time.” Five’s lips twisted up in a wry smile, trying to lend some sort of levity to the conversation. “Klaus at least would love the dress.”

 

“Just- please be careful.” Vanya blurted out, ignoring Five’s tangent. 

 

Five set his sandwich down on the desk and jumped to sit next to Vanya on his bed. Vanya didn’t startle, just glanced over at him and fuck, there were tears in her eyes.

 

“I can’t promise I won’t get hurt.” He began carefully, placing his hand over Vanya’s. “And you know I won’t just watch if someone else is in trouble and I can do something about it.”

 

“I know, and I know you and I knew you’d say that because you’re stupid and self sacrificing, but just- don’t die.” Vanya pleaded. The tears were threatening to overflow so Five retracted his hand from Vanya’s to wrap his arm around her shoulders.

 

“I won’t. Like hell I’m leaving you here alone with only Klaus for company, you’d go crazy within a week.” Five teased, and Vanya let out a shaky laugh and leaned her head on Five’s shoulder. 

 

“Promise?” 

 

“I’ll always come back. Promise.”

 

-

 

“Why won’t you let me time travel? I’m ready, I’ve been practicing my spacial jumps.” Five questioned furiously, two seconds away from grabbing the nearest vase and chucking it at Reginald’s face.

 

“You are simply not ready, your mind could not possibly comprehend the disastrous effects time travel would have on your mind, and the world at large. Selfishness and ambition have blinded you, leaving you unaware of everything except your own wants.” Reginald said airily, not looking up from his journal. 

 

“The same ambition you praise me for in training? You’re just scared you won’t be able to control me anymore.” Five snarled, fists clenching. 

 

He knew this was a ruse, he knew he could time travel, but Reginald’s insistence that he wasn’t capable was more infuriating than his actual inability to time travel without utilizing an external electric input.

 

Reginald snapped his journal shut, finally looking up at Five. “Number Five, we will not discuss this any further. Now, since you wasted seven minutes of your private training arguing with me in such a childish manner, you have lost your recreational privileges for the rest of the month.”

 

Five had to bite down on his tongue to keep himself from arguing further. He had made his point. Reginald still thought he wasn’t capable of time travel, and he still thought Five was under his thumb. 

 

“Fine.” He spat, then glanced behind him, resigned to the fact that the rest of this training session was going to be hell. “Do you want to do the honors of putting me in the straightjacket or should we call Pogo?”

 

-

 

“Hold still, you’re not making this any easier for either of us.” Five hissed, pausing in his ministrations and glaring up at Ben. 

 

“Well I’m sorry you have the bedside manner of a grizzly bear.” Ben snapped back, snatching the washcloth from Five and viciously started scrubbing his own face. “Just go find Diego or someone and stop bothering me.”

 

“Please, like any of them would be better company.” Five rolled his eyes, sitting back on his heels. He was kneeling on a desk chair in a back office of the bank they had just successfully thwarted a robbery in, the first of many if Reginald was to be believed. Ben was sitting on the desk in front of him, attempting to get all the blood off his person before the cameras arrived.

 

For their first mission, it had gone surprisingly well. Everyone stuck to the plan and all the robbers had either been successfully apprehended or torn to pieces by an eldritch monster. Five had fought Luther tooth and nail to let Five take care of the guys in the vault and not make Ben do it, but Luther was adamant that they stick to Reginald’s orders and use the Eldritch to ‘display the full force of the Umbrella Academy.’ 

 

“Ben, stop, you’re going to tear your skin off.” Five grabbed the washcloth and held it out of arm’s reach, glaring at Ben. “What is going on with you?”

 

“What is going- did you seriously just ask what was going on with me?” Ben’s voice had taken a slightly hysterical tone, and Five winced. 

 

“I just killed people . I opened a portal in my fucking chest and let out a literal monster to rip human beings to pieces. I didn’t even give them a chance to surrender, I just opened the portal and killed them. Tell me Five, how does that make me any better than them?!” Ben dropped his head into his hands and dug his fingers into his scalp. Five froze for a second before dropping the washcloth and jumping so he was sitting next to Ben on the desk. 

 

“Stop, you’re hurting yourself.” He said quietly, tugging Ben’s hands away from his scalp. “And anyways, you are better than them. First off, you didn’t decide to rob a bank and take innocent people hostage. At any moment one of them could have hurt or killed hostages, you did the best you could in a shitty situation. And the fact that you’re beating yourself up about it now just proves you’re a good person, I would be more worried if you weren’t affected at all.” Five reasoned, looking past Ben out the window to try and see if the reporters had started approaching the bank yet. 

 

“It’s not just that.” Ben admitted in a whisper, and Five quickly glanced at him. 

 

“What is it then? If it’s the legality of our whole operation I’m slightly concerned about that too, vigilante justice typically isn’t smiled upon by law enforcement.” He had checked out some legal books a few weeks ago and technically since they were minors they couldn’t be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but there could still be some serious repercussions. Although, Reginald could probably pay off every law enforcement officer and prosecutor in the city and still be rolling in dough, so maybe that wouldn’t be a problem. 

 

Ben huffed out a short laugh, then quickly sobered. “It’s just…” He trailed off, hands moving from his head to hugging his abdomen. “It liked it.”

 

“The Horror?” Five asked, then mentally smacked himself for the idiotic question.

 

“Yeah.” Ben’s voice was barely audible. “It hasn’t calmed down since I let it out. It’s riled up, usually by now it calms down but now it’s... excited.”

 

“Can you keep it under control?” Five asked quickly, hands hovering anxiously around Ben’s shoulders, unsure if the contact would make things worse.

 

“Yeah. Yeah I can keep it in.” Five wasn’t sure if Ben was reassuring Five or himself, but he trusted Ben to know his limits. 

 

“Can I do anything to help? I can jump to a convenience store and grab you something, I’ll take literally two minutes, no one will know I’m gone.” Five offered, already picturing the layout of the city in his mind. There was a convenience store two blocks south that had the yogurt cups Ben liked.

 

“No, I’m fine.” Ben breathed in deeply, then straightened up and smiled thinly at Five. “I’ll use the breathing techniques Mom gave Klaus to use whenever he feels the need to light things on fire.” 

 

“Alright.” Five agreed, nudging Ben’s shoulder with his own. “Hey, before the cameras come do you want to-”

 

“Reporters are here, Luther said get your butts to the front of the bank pronto.” The office door slammed open and Allison looked at the two brothers curiously. “What were you guys doing back here anyway?”

 

“None of your business.” Five snapped back, jumping so he was standing in front of Allison and blocking her view of Ben. “We’ll be there in a minute.”

 

“Fine, just don’t take too long.” Allison shrugged, turning on her heel and walking back down the hallway. Five slammed the door shut again, and turned to face Ben, who had hunched in on himself again. 

 

“Are you up to this? I can jump us home if you need to go.” Five offered, but Ben just shook his head and slowly slid off the desk. 

 

“No, that’ll just make things worse. I’ll be fine, let’s get this over with.” He slowly walked past Five and opened the door, pausing in the doorway. “You coming?”

 

Five was focused on the spot of blood in Ben’s chin that they had missed, but there wasn’t time to fix it now. He nodded and walked besides Ben down the hallway, keeping his eyes straight forward to avoid staring at the bloodstains adorning the walls. 

 

“Masks on.” Diego said as soon as he saw them coming, and Five and Ben exchanged apprehensive glances before donning the domino masks. 

 

“Alright, here we go.” Luther said, and he pushed open the bank doors. 

 

The flash of the cameras was blinding. 

 

-

 

“And good riddance.” Five muttered, kicking the corpse into the lake with vengeance. It landed with a splash, and Five jumped backwards to avoid getting wet. 

 

“God that one smelled terrible.” Ben’s voice was muffled and Five realized he was probably talking through his sleeve. “Dead people are the worst.”

 

Five just shook his head, glancing back in the direction of the mausoleum. “Lucky for you, what was the last one. Did you leave the crowbar in there?”

 

“Yeah. It’s alright to leave it there, right? I don’t want to go back in there tonight. ” Ben pleaded, and Five nodded, then realized Ben couldn't see him. 

 

“Yeah alright, I’ll get it later. Klaus better appreciate this.” Five muttered, twisting his wrists to create a faint blue glow so he could actually see Ben. “How’s it going with him?”

 

“Getting Klaus to do anything he doesn’t want to do is akin to getting you to stop bitching about Dad. I’m trying.” Ben’s frown was illuminated by the blue glow as he walked over to Five. “This should help.”

 

“I do not bitch.” Five muttered sullenly, but conceded the point.

 

“I think telling him about our plan would help, give him a reason to get clean.” Ben suggested, but Five was already shaking his head. 

 

“No. Ben, he can’t keep his mouth shut. Remember when I spent the night in the mausoleum with him? The next morning he yelled it for the world to hear. I know you want to tell him, I get it, but it would ultimately just screw the rest of us over.” 

 

Ben frowned, but begrudgingly accepted it with a nod. “Fine. Hey, before we go back to the academy do you have enough energy to stop at the library? I wanna get a copy of Catcher in the Rye. ” He requested, and Five rolled his eyes. 

 

“I will never understand why you keep reading books that leave you depressed for days on end, our lives are depressing enough.” Honestly. Recently Ben had gotten a hold of The Bell Jar , and he moped around the house for the rest of the week refusing to talk to anyone. 

 

“Is that a no?” Ben honest to god drooped , shoulder slumping and feet shuffling on the dirt. 

 

Jesus Christ. 

 

“Just grab my hand.” Five sighed, letting the blue light vanish and adamantly not looking at Ben. “You have ten minutes to find it, and I’m only doing this because I need books on genealogy.” 

 

“You big softie, you.” Ben teased, grabbing Five’s hand. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell.”

 

“Shut your whore mouth.” Five muttered, hiding his smile. He yanked on the fabric of space, focusing on the public library, and then they were gone. 

 

-

 

Five was a planner. He always had been. He played the long game, manipulating variables and calculating percentages until he achieved the desired outcome. It’s how he utilized his power, and how he survived the hell that was the Umbrella Academy. 

 

Running away, on the surface, seemed illogical. He was twelve years old, no means to support himself, it just seemed like a desperate dream of a child trying to escape- comforting, but ultimately impossible.

 

But Five wasn’t a child. Reginald had made sure of that. 

 

So Five had a plan. 

 

“C’mon, where is it?” He hissed to himself, yanking open another one of Reginald’s filing drawers and rifling through it.

 

Commission contacts, contractual media obligations, contingent fund- actually that would be useful. Five pulled the file and tossed it into a warp to his room and continued on. 

 

He had- he checked the grandfather clock in the corner- twelve more minutes before his siblings and Reginald got home from the mission, Grace and Pogo didn’t know he was home so he didn’t have to worry about them, he disabled the security cameras, everything would be fine if he could just find the goddamn bank statements

 

While nicking fifty bucks at a time from Reginald’s cash storage was easy for petty cash, he needed to build up a bigger stash for when they left; Five hadn’t realized how quickly money could run out until he started going clothes shopping for his siblings. 

 

Why the hell did clothes cost so much?

 

Five shoved the drawer closed and groaned through his teeth. He had ransacked every filing cabinet and drawer in the goddamn office, nothing. Either Reginald had a secret vault somewhere where he kept all the super-sensitive information, which Five wouldn’t put past him, the paranoid bastard, or Five was just missing something. He needed to find them today, there was no way he’d get another chance like this anytime soon, Reginald was already going to have his head as it was for jumping straight home by himself from the mission. 

 

Ten minutes left.

 

Five turned and started rifling through the books on the shelves, trying to ignore Reginald’s gaze glaring down at him from the painting above the mantle. He was getting desperate, he didn’t know when the next mission would be and he needed to get a move on with creating his own bank account, and to do that he needed money for a fake ID and-

 

“What have we here.” Five whispered to himself, pulling some books from the shelf and letting them fall to the floor, revealing small safe tucked into the wall. 

 

Alright, four digit code. Exactly 10,000 possible combinations. Significant dates, what would be significant to Reginald? Not their birthdays, when did Reginald purchase the academy building? 

 

No, too obvious. Reginald wouldn’t go for dates. Five glanced behind him at the clock, then began swearing viciously under his breath.

 

Five minutes. 

 

Five took a step back and took a deep breath. There was no way he’d be able to figure out the passcode in five minutes, so he had to figure something else out. 

 

He was able to ‘swap’ two objects easily if he had one in his hand, one of the only useful things Reginald taught him. If he knew the contents of the safe he could easily switch them with some random item in the office, but Five had no idea what was in there. 

 

Five heard an engine rev outside, and his heart stuttered to a stop. 

 

Shit. They were early. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit. 

 

Ok. The dimensions of the safe were approximately eight by twelve and a half, he couldn’t determine the depth because it was built into the wall. He’d have to make assumptions. 

 

Five squeezed his eyes shut and yanked. Simultaneously he folded the fabric of space around itself, creating an air pocket that he shoved into the safe so it wouldn't collapse in on itself, praying he got the dimensions right. He heard a loud pop as the air pocket from inside the safe filled the void left by the pocket Five had created, and a stack of files appeared in his hands. The front of the safe caved in a little, but it was barely noticeable, you’d have to be looking for it to notice. 

 

“Aright.” Five breathed, turning the files to read the labels on the edges. “Hello you beautiful financial…” 

 

Five trailed off, eyes fixated on the label on the edge of the file. 

 

This was- this-

 

Five nearly tore the file in half ripping it open, eyes frantically scanning the documents. Cut the fucking legal jargon he needs a fucking address-

 

There.

 

Five dropped the files and jumped to his room, grabbing his journal and jumping back before the file hit the ground. Five frantically uncapped his pen, flipping through his journal until he found a black page, and knelt on the floor, leaning over and copying down names and addresses with shaking hands. 

 

It took what felt like an eternity to write all the addresses, but Five finally finished, hastily capping the pen and tossing it and his journal through a rift into his room and reshuffled the papers so they were in their original order. He focused and the files vanished from his hand, hopefully back into the safe. Five didn’t have any way of confirming that, but he was out of time. He hurriedly shoved the books back on the shelf, heart nearly beating out of his chest as he tried to remember what order the books had been in. 

 

Voices from the end of the hallway.

 

Five jumped back to his room and collapsed on his bed, slowly exhaling into his hands.

 

This changed things. 

 

-

 

“Five, can I ask you something?” Vanya stopped playing in the middle of her piece and set her bow down.

 

“Give me a minute.” Five muttered, furiously scribbling the rest of his modifications on the Lorentz equation . If he could determine a way to maintain constant velocity throughout the duration of his jump, theoretically he’d be able to create a different frame throughout space time with which he could actively transport himself through-

 

“Sorry, what?” Five pulled himself out of his thoughts, abruptly realizing he had no idea how much time had passed since Vanya had spoken up.

 

“I just had a question about your powers, I can wait until you’re not busy.” Vanya reassured him hastily, but Five ignored her and jumped so he was sitting on his bed. He patted the space besides him, and Vanya sat down next to him.

 

“How… how do you know how your powers work?” Vanya asked, then quickly amended her question. “Like, why do you know you need to do math to figure them out? The others don’t seem to need to use calculations, what’s different about your powers?”

 

Five considered the question. Vanya’s questions always seemed deceptively simple, but she had pushed him to his biggest breakthrough so he would never discredit her line of thought. He couldn’t really speak for the rest of his siblings, but from what they told him and what he himself observed, the answer was far from simple. 

 

“I don’t… It’s hard to describe.” Five began, then mentally smacked himself for the vague answer. “My first intentional jump was when I was what, four? I wanted something on the top shelf, and next thing I knew I was in the air in front of the shelf. I promptly crashed to the ground and broke my arm.”

 

“I don’t remember that.” Vanya frowned, and Five shrugged. 

 

“I think it happened when you were quarantined with the flu. But back to your question. I can jump without calculations. I can also time travel without calculations. But when I do so, I have little to no control over the outcome. It would be like if I picked up your violin and tried to play it. Yes, sound may come out, but it’s sure as hell not the sound I want.” Five tried to put it into a context Vanya would understand, and from her smile, it worked.

 

“I think I get it. So then what exactly do your calculations do? And how do you even know what to calculate?” Vanya plucked the chalk from Five’s hands. “I guess I’m just wondering why you’re always writing on your walls.”

 

“Because I run out of paper.” Five smirked, then cleared his throat and answered seriously. “Ok, so my spatial jumps. On the surface level, and what the media sees, is me just disappearing and reappearing in a different location. I tell them I just think about where I want to go, and I appear there. And that is true, to an extent, but there are other factors I have to consider.”

 

“Like what?” Vanya prodded when Five paused, and Five stood up and walked over to a set of equations near the baseboard of his bookshelf.

 

“This is the first fundamental equation of motion. Well, one dimensional motion. It’s the most basic equation in physics, and it’s where I started back when I was seven and started researching how to jump further distances than a few feet at a time. I was worried that because of the Earth’s rotation and movement through space when I tried to teleport long distances I would either appear in space or have to compensate for the velocity of the earth. Luckily, I realized before too long that I’m essentially just opening up a hole in space, so my teleportation is instantaneous and the Earth hasn’t moved.” Five walked back over to Vanya. “But that lead to a whole shitload of other questions that I’ve been trying to answer ever since.”

 

Vanya’s mouth had dropped open. “I hadn’t even thought of anything like that.” She admitted, and Five shrugged.

 

“You had no reason to. Once I realized that I was opening up a hole in space, then I started theorizing on how exactly I did it. To be honest, I still don’t have a solid answer. I’ve currently settled on I generate enough energy to access some sort of black hole, which is tentative at best but I’ve had to more on to other inquiries, i.e. time travel.” Five slowly exhaled, rubbing his temples to try and slow the headache he could feel forming. 

 

“The thing with my spatial jumps is I had a starting point. There is an almost infinite well of research and equations on motion, which made figuring out how to apply math to make my spatial jumps more precise eas- well, not easy, but more straightforward.”

 

“Maybe for you, I never understood physics.” Vanya rolled her eyes, then stood up and wandered over to the section of the wall that contained Five’s calculations on how he converted energy into his spatial jumps.

 

“You’re better at Literature than I am. Anyway. With time travel, I have nothing to go on. There’s some theories, but they don’t extend beyond how it could technically be possible. I’ve already proved that it’s possible by time traveling, but I don’t know how to control it. So that’s what I’m trying to figure out. I’m taking my calculations from spatial jumps and trying to incorporate an electrical and possibly magnetic charge. I know, from practical experience, that somehow it transforms my spatial jumps into time jumps. But why does electrical charge make going through what is presumably a black hole deposit me in another time?” Five joined Vanya in looking at his old equations. Vanya glanced over at him, a faint smile on her lips.

 

“You lost me around magnetic charge, but I think I get it now. Well, not get it, but I see what you’re trying to do.” Vanya traced some of the numbers with her finger, then dropped her hand and turned to Five. “I’ll make some more sandwiches.” 

 

-

 

Five and Ben walked out of the movie theater in a daze, bumping into each other as they emerged into the cool spring air.

 

“Oh my god.” Ben broke the silence, staggering to a halt. Five ran into his back and stumbled to a stop as well. “That was…”

 

“Epic.” Five finished his sentence. “That was so fucking epic, oh my god.” 

 

He was well aware that he was grinning like a moron, but dude . That movie was the fucking coolest thing he’d ever seen. 

 

“When that water monster came out and Frodo solved the riddle just in time?” Ben gushed, and Five nodded frantically.

 

“And when Arwen escaped the Ring Wraiths-”

 

“And The Ring Wraiths shredded the dummies of the hobbits-”

 

“And when the hobbits had to hide off the side of the road and the Ring Wraiths were right there-”

 

“And Borormir’s death-”

 

“And the balrog-”

 

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” Both boys finished together, and Five felt lighter than he had in a long time.

 

“I take it you boys just saw Fellowship of the Ring?” A passing man laughed, stopping to talk to the boys. “I remember when I read the book for the first time, it was the book that made me fall in love with reading.”

 

“I read the book a few months ago, the movie was really different but awesome in a different way.” Ben responded, eagerly opening up to the man. “Five didn’t read the books-”

 

“I didn’t even know I’d be seeing the movie until five minutes before we left, Ben just kidnapped me and brought me here.” Five retorted, and it was kind of nice letting his guard down. The man wasn’t a threat, he didn’t know who he and Ben were, he and Ben were just normal kids excited about a movie.

 

“Well I highly recommend reading them before the next movie comes out, they’re great books.” The man smiled, and before either boy could reply, there was a gasp from somewhere to their gasp and Five’s heart sank. 

 

“Oh my god, is that The Umbrella Academy?” A girl practically shouted, and Ben stiffened besides him. A camera flashed and Five froze, unable to comprehend what was happening. 

 

This wasn’t a mission- why were people here? What did they want-

 

“You boys get going now, I’ll see if I can clear up that confusion.” The old man said genially, as if he didn’t realize who they were and what the cameras meant. “Make sure you read the rest of the books, you won’t regret it.” 

 

“Alright.” Ben said faintly, and as the camera flashed again Five grabbed Ben’s arm and jumped them to the theater lobby. It was practically deserted, probably due to it being three in the morning. The cashier behind the counter didn’t even look up, just kept doing his crossword puzzle. Five squeezed his eyes shut as a wave of vertigo rushed through him, and shook his head to clear it. 

 

He really needed to sleep more. 

 

“Well, it was nice while it lasted.” Ben sighed, scuffing his feet on the filthy carpet. “At least we got to get through the movie without being recognized.”

 

“We’d better get home, we’re going to be in enough trouble as it is if those photos get printed.” Five said grimly, offering his hand to Ben. “But for what it’s worth, it was totally worth it.”

 

“Yeah.” Ben agreed, a small smile appearing on his face. “It was.”

 

-

 

Five appeared at the post office about ten minutes before dawn. The office was already swarming with activity, postmen walking in and out of the back entrance and mail trucks revving up to begin their routes. 

 

Pulling the stack of letters from his pocket, Five approached the front of the building and pulled open the mail chute, depositing them inside. He watched them disappear into the darkness with practiced indifference, tamping down his nerves.

 

It was a shot in the dark. He refused to get his hopes up.  

 

Five turned to leave but as he turned someone ran into Five from behind, slamming him against the wall. He pivoted with a snarl, ready to defend himself, but all he saw was a woman with meticulously coiffed blonde hair carrying a briefcase walking away, her heels clicking on the pavement. 

 

Something about her seemed off , but Five didn’t have time to chase her down and figure it out. He had to get back before Reginald reviewed the security footage and he had a lot of work to do before breakfast. 

 

He turned on his heel and jumped back into his bedroom, landing neatly in one of the camera’s blindspots.

 

-

 

“Put your shoulder into it. Punch through me, don’t stop once you connect.” Five instructed tersely, rolling his shoulder to shrug off Vanya’s hit. “Again.”

 

Vanya shifted on her feet and Five saw the punch coming. He grabbed her fist, ducking and pulling her arm over his back so he could elbow her stomach, then shoved her to the ground. 

 

“Don’t broadcast your next move. Always retain the element of surprise.” He said, crossing his arms and watching Vanya struggle to stand, clutching her abdomen. “Again.”

 

“Five just give me a minute.” Vanya begged, looking up at him through her bangs, which were matted to her forehead with sweat. 

 

“You have until four thirty.” Five snapped, glancing at the clock on her wall. The sun would be coming up about an hour, that meant they had about forty more minutes to train. He could feel sweat dripping down the back of his t-shirt, and his sweatpants had a tear from catching on a splinter in Vanya’s floorboards. Vanya was clad in a matching outfit, but her clothes were caked in dust and grime from hitting the floor. 

 

“Alright.” Vanya agreed quietly, pulling herself up so she was leaned against her bed. She fiddled with the wrapping around her fists, readjusting the bandaging. Five sighed and turned to look out the window, scowling at the cardboard duct taped over the broken glass. 

 

This was their fourteenth combat lesson over as many nights. He and Ben had been going over simple self defense with Vanya for months, but they had never taken it seriously, instead seeing it as a game they could use to wrestle until someone got pinned. 

 

That changed two weeks ago. 

 

Someone broke into the Academy. Five had heard the glass shattering in the middle of the night while he was working on distilling certain elements of chaos theory. It had been two thirty seven in the morning, no storms, so that eliminated the possibility of a tree branch through the window. Five himself was the most likely to be breaking windows with his experiments, followed by Diego whose aim, while better than most, was still susceptible to error when he was distracted. 

 

Or tired. 

 

What Diego was doing up throwing things around at two in the morning was beyond Five, and to be perfectly honest, he didn’t care. He would find out tomorrow morning, and if Reginald was too angry then Five would interfere and try to split some of his fury between him and Diego so Diego wouldn’t be pushed too hard. 

 

Then he heard Vanya scream. 

 

Without thinking, Five grabbed a knife from his bedside and jumped down to Vanya’s room, freezing as he took in the scene before him. 

 

A man was crouched in front of Vanya’s shattered window, gun glinting in the moonlight. Vanya was frozen in her bed, eyes wide as she stared at the intruder. 

 

“Don’t move or the girl gets it.” The man threatened, turning and pointing the gun at Vanya’s head. 

 

“Ok, let’s just calm-” Five jumped in the middle of his sentence, appearing on Vanya’s bed and putting himself between her and the gun. Five watched the man’s finger tighten on the trigger as he grabbed Vanya’s arm, yanking her through a jump and depositing her on Ben’s bed. He heard the gunshot from a floor below and inhaled sharply, tightening his grip on his gun. 

 

“What?” Ben muttered groggily, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. “What’s happening?”

 

“Watch her.” Five snapped, not waiting for Ben to reply before jumping back down to Vanya’s room, then stopping and sighing with relief. 

 

The man was lying on the floor, dead, courtesy of five knives in his chest. Five nodded curtly at Diego, who was standing in his doorway wide eyed and clutching three more knives. Five stabbed the man one more time in the eye for good measure, then stood back as Pogo and Grace hurried into the room. 

 

The rest of the night was a blur. Pogo sent them all to bed, forbidding them from leaving their rooms. Vanya stayed in Ben’s room and after Five joined them, Vanya’s combat lessons began. They lined Ben’s floor with all of their clothing to create a mat of sorts, and the first thing Five taught her was how to break the wrist of someone who had you at gunpoint. 

 

The lessons helped, but the fear would always be there. 

 

If Five had been a second slower, or if he had been sleeping and hadn’t heard Vanya, or if Diego hadn’t woken up in time, it all could have gone so much worse.

 

It was fun playing superhero, but now it didn’t cease once they stopped the robbery. 

 

The Umbrella Academy was in the public eye now, and it wasn’t all cheering fans and magazine interviews. 

 

“Alright, get up. Let’s go again.” Five ordered, crossing his arms and looking down at Vanya. “Set position.”

 

Vanya stood silently, tightening her ponytail. She raised her fists, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. 

 

Five threw the first punch. Vanya dodged, and their dance began. 

 

“If you have the option of fight or flight, always choose flight.” Five instructed as he blocked Vanya’s elbow with his forearm, then grabbed her arm and twisted it behind her back. “I broke your arm.” He held her there for a second before releasing and resuming their set position. “People may call you cowardly, or fighting might seem like the honorable option. That’s bullshit. You do whatever the hell you need to survive.”

 

Vanya threw the first punch this time, catching Five by surprise as it landed on his jaw. He snarled and grabbed her wrist, twisting her arm until Vanya had to twist around to keep the pressure from snapping her arm. “If you can’t run, or can’t hide, you fight. Now, in a real fight there is no such thing as playing dirty, no such thing as honor or fighting fair or whatever bullshit Luther may spew. There’s only winning, or dying. So fight dirty if it means you survive.” Vanya tried to kick his knee out, but Five pivoted and grabbed Vanya’s ponytail, yanking her head back. “Like so. Next time put your hair in a bun.”

 

Vanya glared at him and suddenly Five felt a pressure on the back of his knee and he hit the floor as his knee gave out. He gritted his teeth and kept his hold on Vanya’s ponytail and dragged her down with him, landing hard on the wooden floor. She hit the floor with a thud, and Five swung himself up and around until he was seated on Vanya’s abdomen, forearm on her throat. “Better.”

 

Vanya sighed, swallowing shallowly. “Let me up.”

 

Five’s eyes narrowed. “Are you going to say that in a real fight? Rapists won’t let you go just because you asked nicely. Both your arms are still free, use them .”

 

Vanya grabbed Five’s arm and dug her nails in, dragging him down until Five was unbalanced enough for her to surge up, unseating Five. They both sprang apart and scrambled to their feet, Five rubbing his forearm where he felt blood welling up in the shape of small crescents, and Vanya wound her hair up into a bun. 

 

“Remember, you are not going to be able to rely on pure strength. We’re both small and not Luther,” Vanya huffed out a short laugh, “so we have to be fast. You will never be the strongest, so that means you have to fight the smartest.” 

 

Five’s first shot out and connected with Vanya’s sternum, making her gasp and reel back. “Strike in weak areas. Don’t go for the jaw, go for the throat or the eyes. Don’t try to hit the stomach, hit the groin. Do whatever it takes to win.” 

 

Vanya tried for a high kick but Five caught her ankle and twisted, knocking Vanya to the ground. He stood over her, and crossed his arms as he stared down at her. 

 

“Above all, remember this. You may be ordinary, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to not become extraordinary.” Five finished, offering her a hand. Vanya grasped it, pulling herself up until the siblings stood eye to eye, inches apart. 

 

“Let’s go again.” Vanya broke the silence, and Five smiled, stepping back and getting ready to fight.

 

-

 

“Something’s wrong.” Five paced back and forth outside the vault, wincing as he heard a particularly loud thud come from inside. “He should be done by now, we haven’t heard any screams in at least four minutes, what is he doing?”

 

“Well it’s not like we can do anything, he’ll be out when he gets the Horror back under control.” Luther said offhandedly, looking over from his conversation with Allison. 

 

Five didn’t bother responding, just turned on his heel and paced the length of the room again.

 

“What do you think is wrong?” Klaus sauntered over with his hands in his pockets, obviously trying for unconcerned but Five saw the way his shoulders were tensed up.

 

“Ben should be out by now. The men had to have been dead a while ago, this usually only takes a minute or two. The Horrors have been out for five.” Five didn’t pause in his pacing, and Klaus followed behind him.

 

“Is there anything we can do?” Klaus asked, and Five shook his head and turned on his heel again.

 

“Not without risking being torn limb from limb.” 

 

Another loud clang resounded from in the vault, and Five’s last nerve snapped.

 

“Klaus, in my room there’s a loose floorboard under my bed and a black journal in it. Give it to Vanya if I don’t come out.” He instructed, and Klaus paled.

 

“Five what are you going to-” 

 

Five jumped before Klaus could finish his sentence.

 

He appeared in the corner of the vault, crouched down near the floor to try and escape detection. Immediately, a tentacle whipped to where Five was and he flattened himself against the ground behind a corpse, the tentacle whooshing inches above his head.

 

Five peered up above the corpse and saw Ben standing in the center of the room, tentacles emerging from a faintly blue circle near his midsection. Ben’s face wasn’t visible from Five’s vantage point, but as Five watched, Ben dropped to his knees as a strangled scream ripped from his lips.

 

Five frantically scanned the room for something to knock Ben out, but as his eyes passed over Ben something caught his attention. 

 

Blue.

 

Ben’s chest was glowing with the same shade of blue that occurred whenever Five jumped. Five focused and summoned the spatial grid into view, eyes widening at what he saw.

 

The tentacles were emitting a bright blue light, nearly blinding him the longer Five stared at them. One of them took another swipe at him and Five jumped to the opposite corner of the room, taking refuge behind a stack of gold bars.

 

Ben himself looked as he usually did, but the spatial grid around his abdomen was torn to shreds, the lines shifting every time a tentacle moved. The grid seemed to be trying to repair itself, but every time the lines connected they were promptly torn apart by a writhing tentacle. 

 

If Five could repair the grid himself, close the portal, then there was a chance he could completely sever the tentacles and seal the entrance shut. He knew how to rip open the grid, it only made sense that he had the ability to repair it as well. 

 

The only problem was he would have to get close. Five wasn’t confident enough in his ability to manipulate the grid in a situation as delicate as this without doing it manually, which meant he needed to get close enough to be able to yank the strands back together himself. 

 

It was a sound theory, the only problem was Five had no idea how long it would take and how he would avoid getting ripped in half during the duration of the action. 

 

Wait.

 

The Eldritch tentacles glowed blue. Five blinked, then jumped so he was crouched atop the piles of gold bars. One of the tentacles immediately flew towards him, and Five narrowed his eyes and clenched his hand into a fist and threw it away from his body, and the tentacle followed the motion, slamming into the wall. 

 

Five nearly laughed out loud, but another scream from where Ben was kneeling immediately grabbed his attention and Five jumped to his side. 

 

“Alright Benjamin Franklin, let’s perform open heart surgery on an inter-dimensional portal.” Five muttered, eyes squinting in the bright blue light emitting from the portal. 

 

Another tentacle flew at his head and Five made a flicking motion with his hand and slammed it into the wall, completely focused on the task at hand. The portal in Ben’s chest was practically bleeding dimensional energy, slowly growing larger for every second it was left open.

 

Five didn’t want to know what would happen when it began to encompass Ben’s entire body.

 

Five took a deep breath and threw an arm across Ben’s front, grabbed a fistful of the fabric of space, and yanked it back across Ben’s body, making all the tentacles bunch to the side as Five pulled, trying to cover the portal completely. Ben had gone limp, back flat on the floor, and Five knelt at his side, holding on desperately to the strands bunched in his fists.

 

The Horror was not going without a fight. It lashed out at Five, forcing him to drop the tendrils with one of his hands to bat the tentacles away, and then Five had an idea.

 

Five tightened his grip on the space he had pulled across Ben with his left hand and balled his right into a fist, gathering the spatial tendrils connected to the tentacles into his fist. 

 

This was just like teleporting objects. He could do this. 

 

In one motion Five yanked , shoving the tentacles back into the portal with one hand and pulled the spatial fabric over Ben’s abdomen back into its rightful place. The grid immediately knitted itself back together and smoothed itself out, and then there was quiet. Five let the grid fade from his vision and the blood soaked room abruptly came back into focus, ceiling lights blinking on and off. 

 

Five gasped as the room spun around him, suddenly aware of the sweat drenching his body. He took a deep breath to steady himself, waiting for the dizziness to subside.

 

“Five?” Five’s eyes flew open and he looked down at Ben, covered in blood and slowly sitting up. “What happened? What are you-”

 

Ben’s eyes widened as he took in his surroundings. “FIVE! Why the hell are you here, you could’ve been killed, I could have hurt you, you shouldn’t have-”

 

“Chill out Benjamin Franklin, I had it under control. You’re welcome, by the way.” Five grinned, and Ben’s mouth dropped open.

 

“Did you-” He cut himself off as Five nodded. “You closed the portal.”

 

“The fabric of space is kind of my area of expertise.” Five shrugged, and then Ben’s arms were squeezing him in a vice-like hug, and Five tried not to think about the blood soaking into his uniform.

 

“I would’ve died. I skipped breakfast and I didn’t sleep and I tried to close the portal but they were stronger than me and they wouldn’t go back and it hurt .” Ben’s voice cracked, and Five returned the hug, hands bunching in the fabric of Ben’s sweater. 

 

“I got you.” He breathed, trying to banish the memory of Ben’s screams from his mind. “I won’t let it happen again.”

 

Five wasn’t sure how long they knelt on the vault floor, but eventually he heard the clanging of the vault being unlocked and they pushed away from each other, Ben wiping his eyes. Five handed him his domino mask from where it was laying on the floor, and Ben pressed it on just in time for Klaus to burst into the vault, limbs flailing.

 

“You’re alive! You’re both alive!” He yelped, throwing himself at Ben and draping himself across him. “Oh, you’re definitely alive, I can touch you, this is a blessed day.”

 

Five stood up as Ben comforted Klaus, taking a few steps back and trying to process the last- had it only been two minutes?

 

Ben’s powers and his own were more interlinked then Five previously thought. This added a whole new layer to consider with Five’s powers, and maybe now Five could help Ben understand his own. They had never really discussed Ben’s power before; Ben hated talking about it and Five didn’t push. 

 

But this changed things, and if Five’s suspicious were correct, things might be finally looking up.

Chapter Text

“You know what we should do?” Allison began, lying on her back on the carpet. 

 

“Leave so I can keep working on my science project?” Five suggested dryly, no real malice in his tone. He couldn’t give two fucks about the science fair, all he was doing was working on dumbing down his calculations on time fluctuation for the imbecilic judges that would be viewing his project. Besides, this was a rare afternoon where they weren’t all at each other’s throats. He was enjoying the peace while it lasted. 

 

The six of them were gathered in Ben’s room, sprawled in various locations. They had tracked down and captured a drug ring earlier in the day and Reginald was away on a business call, so Pogo had decided to take it easy on them and gave them an easy assignment that they all finished in ten minutes. Vanya was still required to complete her normal work, though, so she wouldn’t be done until at least six. 

 

“No, why are you like this?” Allison glared up at him, and Five glared back. He was sitting in his usual spot atop Ben’s wardrobe in a camera blindspot, just the way he liked it. “We should have a hang out spot that only we know about.”

 

“Ooooh, like the bat cave?” Klaus grinned from where he was hanging upside down over the edge of Ben’s bed. Ben sighed quietly and shifted until he was sitting on Klaus’s legs, halting his brother’s slow but steady progress towards the floor. 

 

“Kinda.” Allison sat up, leaning her back on the bed beside Klaus. “You know how in Friends they all hang out at Central Perk?”

 

Five didn’t, but Diego and Luther nodded so he just decided to go with it. He recognized that he wasn’t going to get any more work done so he dropped his journal off the edge of the wardrobe, warping it to his bedroom the second before it hit Diego’s head.

 

“Jackass.” Diego hissed, glaring up at Five from where he was sitting leaned up against the wardrobe, but Five just stared back, unimpressed.

 

That’s what he got for sitting right underneath Five’s workspace. 

 

“We should find a Central Perk! We could sneak out after missions and hang out and talk and do whatever! It’ll be great!” Allison seemed to get more into the idea as she kept talking, practically vibrating with excitement.

 

From the chair in the corner Luther frowned, shifting uncomfortably. He obviously didn’t want to disappoint Allison, but Five had a difficult time imagining him going directly against like Reginald like this. 

 

“I’m down.” Diego surprised Five by speaking up first. “And I know a place.”

 

“Do share.” Klaus prompted, wiggling out from under Ben to slide onto the floor besides Allison. “Obviously, I am also in.”

 

“There’s this place called Griddy’s near the first bank robbery we stopped. It’s a donut shop.” He explained, and Allison’s grin widened. Five leaned over so he could stare suspiciously at the top of Diego’s head, unused to his brother being genuinely helpful without being an asshole. 

 

“That sounds good, I’m in.” Ben chimed in, and Five’s glance darted over to meet Ben’s. Ben shrugged at him, gesturing to Klaus, who seemed remarkably sober.

 

“Fine. I’m in too,” Five agreed, “but we need to set ground rules so we don’t get caught. And, in the eventuality that we do get caught, it’s every man for himself.” 

 

“Agreed.” Diego nodded, then gestured towards Luther in the corner. “But if he isn’t in then he leaves now. We can’t risk him snitching.”

 

“Luther?” Allison turned towards him, a pout already in place. “Are you in?”

 

“Guys, I don’t know…” Luther started, “We should just ask Dad, I’m sure he’ll-”

 

“NO ONE SHARES THE SECRET OF THE BAT CAVE!” Klaus howled, yanking off Ben’s shoe and hurling it at Luther, hitting about two feet to his left.

 

Five cackled, pulling off his own shoe and throwing it at Luther in retaliation for having dumbass plans on missions. He couldn’t contradict him then without getting in trouble; this was the perfect opportunity for payback. 

 

“Guys, stop. Luther, you have to choose. In or out.” Ben said, suppressing a smile. 

 

Luther shifted uncomfortably, but eventually he nodded. “Alright. I’m in.”

 

“Excellent.” Allison grinned. “No one will speak of this outside of the six of us here. This is an Umbrella Academy secret, anyone who breaks this sacred oath will be banished from the Umbrella Academy and forced to spend all their days in regular boring lessons with Vanya. Hands in the middle, umbrellas up.” 

 

Five reluctantly jumped down from the wardrobe, joining his siblings and putting his wrist in the center with the rest of his siblings; their umbrella tattoos creating a ring around their hands.

 

“Our first rendezvous will be Sunday night.” Allison declared, and around him for the first time Five could remember in years, all his siblings were smiling. 

 

-

 

“Five, this is the third time you’ve almost jumped out of your skin for no apparent reason. What’s going on?” Ben demanded, slamming his book closed and glaring at Five. They were both sitting on the roof of the greenhouse, the summer air humid and oppressive. Five froze in the middle of ripping a tendril away from where it was wrapping itself around his wrist, staring at Ben with wide eyes. Fuck. Shit. Fuck .

 

“I thought there was a bug on my wrist, it’s not that big a deal.” He frantically deflected, trying to stay calm. 

 

“Cut the bullshit.” Ben replied immediately. “What is it?”

 

“I’m fine. Now can we get back to planning or did you want to go through another training session like today?” Five demanded, trying to keep himself from twitching. It was always worse when he was exhausted, and training today had been brutal

 

“Stop deflecting.”

 

“Jesus Christ Ben. Just drop it, alright?” Five snapped, slamming his book shut and trying to suppress a full body shudder as another tendril brushed against his cheek.

“Just like you drop it when you know I’m having a bad day with the Horrors?” Ben countered, crossing his arms. 

 

“I- that’s not-”

 

“Yes it is. I’ve noticed you doing things like this for years, but I’ve always brushed it off because you’re just a weird ass kid.” Ben began before Five interrupted him. 

 

“Not a kid.”

“Shut up. But recently it’s gotten so much worse. You keep looking at things I can’t see and jumping out of your skin at random times.” Ben continued, shifting so he was sitting across from Five. 

 

A pause. Five considered his options. 

 

He really didn’t want to discuss this. He sounded crazy even when he tried to describe his theory to himself in his head, and he needed more time to research this phenomena anyway. 

 

Denial it is. 

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He shrugged, cracking his book open again avoid Ben’s gaze.

Five heard Ben groan in frustration, but he didn’t drop it. “Five, whatever it is has you freaked out, I can tell, and honestly that freaks me out a little too. We can figure it out. ”

 

“I’ve been trying to figure it out for years, what makes you think-” Five cut himself off, and groaned. 

 

Dammit. 

 

“Gotcha.” Ben smirked, leaning back and crossing his arms. “Spill.”

 

“Remember that time I disappeared for a day and Reginald told you all I ran away?” Five started, seeing no reason to avoid the topic any longer. He fell for Ben’s trap, he paid the price. 

 

Ben nodded. “The first time you time travelled?”

 

“Yeah.” Five fiddled with the pages of his textbook, trying to find words. Out of the corner of his eye he watched a light blue wisp circle lazily through the air, drawn towards Five as he sat on the rooftop. They were more active tonight than they had been for months, Five had grown used to their absence. 

 

“No, not there. Just- you know how when I jump I can essentially see the fabric of space?” He shook his head and restarted, choosing his words carefully. At Ben’s nod, he continued. “After I time travelled for the first time, and even more frequently after I did it again, there’s these blue strings- tendrils- that sometimes appear, they just kind of float through the air. I- Jesus Christ I’m going to sound crazy.” He muttered, pulling his bangs down in front of his face. 

 

“Five, this entire family is crazy. Our lives are fucking weird. Unless you tell me that you were abducted by aliens I’m inclined to believe you.” Ben shrugged, leaning back on his hands. “Continue. Take your time.”

 

“I think they’re a physical manifestation of time. There’s no way I can be certain, but I can’t see any other possibility.” Five admitted, pushing his hair back. 

 

Be logical. Think it through. 

 

“Space has always been a grid. Inflexible, unmoving. It can’t be manipulated or changed on a whim. When I jump I just nudge it apart enough for me to slip through. Time, on the other hand, is fluid. It’s fragile. One decision can spiral out of control and create an entirely different outcome, and the timeline is reliant on those decisions.” 

 

“Is that why recently you’ve been working with chaos theory?” Ben interrupted, and Five nodded. 

 

“Exactly. Time is the progression of cause and effect. It’s malleable. It’s like… picture a braid made up of thousands of cords. Time goes from point A to point B. It all began with the big bang, and eventually time will end with the death of the universe. It’s expanding constantly, every moment of time happening at once for those who can navigate it.” Five tried to organize his thoughts into something that resembled a logical progression. 

 

“So, you.” Ben surmised, and Five nodded.

 

“Yeah. Me.”

 

“That must be scary.” Ben said softly, and Five frowned.

 

“Being scared never occurred to me.” He admitted, and Ben leaned forward.

 

“If time works like you say it does, and you’re the only one who can break the cycle of cause and effect at will, then you might be the only constant in the universe. Think about it. You can time travel and affect any event you want. That changes the future. It could change all of us. You’re the only one who can’t be affected. You’re always you. We just exist relative to you and your actions.” Ben explained. 

 

Five blinked. That… No.


“I- I wouldn’t do that, though. I don’t want to change things, I wouldn’t change you. I- no.” He protested, unnerved. 

 

“I didn’t mean it in a bad way, it just kind of occurred to me. It’s alright.” Ben shrugged, and Five watched a blue tendril settle on the ground near Ben’s knee. “Keep going with your explanation. You can see time, which is delicate. What does that have to do with you just freaking out some days?”

 

“Some days time is… unsettled. I’ve been trying to track it, find a pattern, but it’s seemingly at random. On those days, it feels like time is unraveling at the seams. On those days I just get on edge, I can feel something is wrong, but I have no idea how to fix it. I can see the broken pieces of time in the air- they’re like frayed threads. They gravitate towards me, and I can physically feel them. Some days it feels like they’re trying to pull me somewhere, some days they just won’t leave me alone.”

 

“And that’s why I notice you jumping and trying to pull something invisible off of you.” Ben interrupted. 

 

“Yeah. It doesn’t hurt me, or anything like that, it’s just annoying, and since I’m already on edge it just makes things worse.” Five shrugged, grabbing the tendril that had settled near Ben and wrapping it absentmindedly around his finger. “Right now, there’s nothing I can do about any of it. I’m trying to bridge the gap between my time travel calculations and whatever it is that I see, but it’s not going well, so I’m just focusing on the math. Less room for error.”

 

 “Are you messing with one right now?” Ben asked, pointing at Five’s hand. He was squinting, probably trying to see it, but Five could tell it was in vain.

 

“Yeah. It’s blue, the same shade as when I jump and the portal in your chest, about eight inches long, threadlike in texture.” Five described rapidly, unwinding it from his finger and pooling it in his hand. “I could give it to you, but I don’t think you’ll be able to feel it.”

 

“Sure.” Ben offered his hand and Five brushed the thread into it, watching it settle into Ben’s palm. “That’s so weird.” Ben commented, poking at his palm experimentally. “I believe you that it’s there, it’s just so weird to know something exists yet not be able to quantify it.” 

 

“It’s gone now.” Five watched the tendril fade away to nothingness, then frowned and looked around. “Actually, they all are.”

 

“Time is back to normal?” Ben asked, and Five nodded. The air felt different than before- better than it did when the tendrils appeared, but still not completely normal. Something had changed, but time wasn’t bleeding anymore. 

 

“Yeah. No idea why.”

 

“Maybe that’s just how time is.” Ben shrugged, studying Five. “Do you feel better?”

 

Five nodded, stretching out his legs. “I’m fine. C’mon, you want to go to Griddy’s? I’m starving.”

 

“We just had dinner.” Ben rolled his eyes, but he set aside his book and offered his hand to Five, who took it and pulled them away.

 

-

 

“What are you guys doing?”  Allison asked from Ben’s doorway, making Five, Ben, and Vanya jump. 

 

“Nothing!” Ben blurted, hastily hiding his makeshift sword behind his back. Five warped his own to the attic and tried to look innocent. Vanya was seated on Ben’s bed, chalkboard in her hands, which she hastily stuffed under a pillow.

 

“Doesn’t look like nothing.” Allison scoffed, walking into the room and eyeing Ben suspiciously. “C’mon, I won’t tell Dad.” 

 

“There’s nothing to tell. It’s too hot out to play outside so we’re just talking. What are you doing up here?” Five deflected, slipping some chalk from his pocket into his hand and swapping it with the wood behind Ben’s back, then sending the sword to the attic with Five’s. 

 

Allison turned red and muttered “None of your business.”

 

“Well, sounds like we’re at an impasse.” Five smiled. “Now if you’ll excuse us?”

 

Too late, Five realized his mistake. Allison’s eyes narrowed and she opened her mouth-

 

“I heard a ru-”

 

Five grabbed Ben’s hand and pulled them through a jump onto his bed when he grabbed Vanya’s arm and yanked them through another jump onto the roof.

 

“I hate being rumored.” Five growled, letting go of Ben and Vanya to let them recover from the jump. Ben staggered, face pale, while Vanya blinked hard and sat down abruptly.

 

“You couldn’t have just told her we-”

 

“No.” Five cut off Vanya, feeling his ears heat up with embarrassment. “No one finds out.”

 

“No one can know the great Number Five recreates battle scenes from Lord of the Rings with his brother.” Ben laughed, thankfully no longer looking like he was going to throw up.

 

“Shut up.” Five muttered, ears burning as Vanya laughed.

 

“If it makes you feel any better you guys pretty much abandoned the characters and started trying to hit each other with reckless abandon about twenty seconds in.” She commented from her seat on the roof. “Ben was ahead by five touches.”

 

“Suck it!” Ben cheered, pointing victoriously at Five. “I get to be Aragon from now on!” 

 

Vanya snorted and Five groaned, dramatically collapsing on the ground beside her. “Nooooo.” He moaned, covering his face with his arms. 

 

“You know who you are shorty?” Ben didn’t relent, and Five felt a shadow fall onto his face. He cautiously removed his arms and looked up at Ben, already dreading the answer. 

 

“Gimli.” Ben cackled, sitting down besides Ben and Vanya. “Vanya’s Arwen.”

 

“Rude.” Five muttered, hauling himself into a sitting position. “If anyone’s Gimli it’s Luther. I’m Gandalf.”

 

“I could see that.” Vanya tilted her head in consideration. “Your powers are the closest to magic and you seem to be the only one who knows what’s going on, even if your strategy for dealing with things is convoluted and unnecessarily complicated.”

 

“Hello figuring out how to time travel instead of just running away.” Ben laughed, but Five winced. Ben noticed and stopped laughing. “Five, I was joking, it didn’t mean anything.”

 

“Your logic makes sense, Dad would probably get the army to look for you two if you went missing, and you’re so close to figuring out how to time travel that we don’t mind waiting a few extra weeks.” Vanya added, but that didn’t stop Five from feeling guilty. 

 

“Still. If there’s ever a point where you guys need to leave then I’m down. We’ll deal with the consequences. Promise me.” Five demanded.

 

“Of course.” Vanya said immediately, and Ben nodded.

 

“Duh. Now c’mon, get the rods back to we can keep fighting, this is one thing I’m better than you at and I refuse to waste the opportunity.”

 

-

 

“Hey, are you ok?” Five caught Ben’s arm as he passed Five in the hallway on his way to his room. “You look pale.”

 

“I’m fine.” Ben muttered, shaking Five’s arm off. “Just tired.”

 

Five raised his eyebrows, following Ben into his room. “Well now I know you’re not fine, you sound like me. Spill.”

 

Ben huffed a small laugh, finally turning to look at Five. “Now you know how I always feel. I’m fine, The Horror is just taking longer than usual to settle down.”

 

Five frowned. “What do you mean? You’ve never mentioned anything like this before.”

 

Ben didn’t answer immediately, instead walking over to his bookshelf and pulling out a book. He climbed onto his bed, fingers clenched around the book. “Sometimes, after missions, it takes The Horror a while to stop fighting to get back out. Usually it stops after an hour or so, but today it seems especially set on getting out.”

 

“And it’s painful.” Five surmised, jumping onto the bed beside Ben.

 

“Yeah.” Ben squeezed his eyes shut, holding his book against his abdomen. “Turns out eldritch monsters don’t take kindly to being told to go to it’s room.”

 

“Did you just compare a banishing a literal monster through a portal to sending it to it’s room?” Five laughed, settling with his back against Ben’s headboard and his side pressed against Ben’s.

 

“If nothing else I’ve kept my sense of humor.” Ben said dryly. “I’m just worried-” He cut himself off abruptly, sucking in a sharp breath through his teeth.

 

“Breathe.” Five murmured, glancing at Ben’s abdomen to make sure the spatial grid was still fully intact. Five couldn’t detect any abnormalities, which on one hand was good because Ben was doing a good job of keeping it together, but that also meant there was nothing Five could do to help. He could stop the Horror if it escaped and force it back through the portal, but when it was inside he could no nothing do stop it from fighting Ben’s control.

 

“I’m just worried if I get distracted or fall asleep before it settles down it’ll escape.” Ben admitted softly, knuckles white around his book.

 

“I’ll stay.” Five said immediately, continuing before Ben could argue. “I wasn’t going to sleep tonight anyway, I’m close to a breakthrough. I’ll stay in here and work, and if you feel like it’s close to escaping I’ll force it back in. I checked, you’re doing a good job, it hasn’t broken through at all.”

 

“Are you sure?” Ben asked, and Five nodded and nudged his shoulder with his own.

 

“Yeah I’m sure. Let me take care of you for once. Read your stupid book and I’ll do my work and I’ll just make sure to be alert for any abnormalties in the spatial grid.” 

 

Ben smiled, nudging Five back. “Times like this I really think you should’ve been Number One, Luther and Diego’s powers really don’t hold a candle to yours.”

 

“The numbers don’t matter.” Five shook his head. “The sooner Luther and Diego realize that the better.”

 

“They will. Eventually.”

 

They sat in silence for a moment before Ben cried out abruptly and doubled over, one hand clamped over his mouth and the other squeezing his abdomen. Five immediately checked for tears in the fabric of space, but there were none. He cautiously rubbed a hand up and down Ben’s back, furious at his own helplessness. 

 

“I’m fine.” Ben whispered after a minute. “It just took me by surprise.” He straightened up, slowly resting back against the headboard next to Five. 

 

“Is there anything I can do?” Five asked hollowly, already anticipating Ben’s answer.

 

“No.” Ben shook his head slowly, head tipping back to lean against the headboard, eyes closed, breathing shallowly. “Just stay. Make sure it doesn’t escape.”

 

Five nodded, then realized Ben wasn’t looking at him. “Obviously. Do-” he hesitated. He really had needed to work tonight, he was on the verge of a breakthrough, the discovery that his powers could potentially span dimensional planes had been huge- 

 

Ben came first.

 

He carefully tugged the book out of Ben’s hand, smiling slightly as he read the title of the spine. “1984? Glad to see you’re doing some light reading.”

 

“Shut up.” Ben smiled, opening his eyes enough to glare playfully at Five. “At least I can read.”

 

“You insult me Benjamin Franklin.” Five rolled his eyes before opening to the bookmarked page and began reading aloud, keeping his voice down in case Grace or Pogo were patrolling the halls. “Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

 

Ben’s eyes squeezed shut again and he curled in on himself. Five kept reading, focusing on keeping a steady tone. He reached down and placed his hand on the bed beside Ben, whose own hand snaked out and grabbed onto it.

 

They remained there until the sun rose.

 

-

 

“Luther, something’s wrong, Diego should’ve checked in by now.” Five hissed, barely resisting the urge to shatter Luther’s kneecaps. It wouldn’t even be hard, there was a toolbox three feet to Five’s left because Luther’s brilliant plan involved them standing in a maintenance closet for the past thirty minutes. 

 

“He probably just got distracted, Ben and Klaus would let us know if something went wrong.” Luther didn’t even look at Five, just continued his watch of the closed door. 

 

“And how are they supposed to let us know anything? Why the hell did you send Klaus with Ben instead of me? If I was monitoring the security feed with Ben then I could jump and let you know the second we notice something’s wrong, but since I’m not there they have no way of telling us something’s wrong.” That hammer was looking more and more attractive by the minute. Maybe he could use it to bash some fucking sense into Luther’s skull. 

 

Five was on edge. For the past two days something had felt different, but he couldn’t figure out what. Time felt- he didn’t know how to describe it. The tendrils hadn’t been too bad at first, but they had steadily increased in number until Five could barely move without one of them wrapping itself around his wrist and trying to pull him away. 

 

Something was wrong with time. Something was pulling it from its natural order, making it frayed and useless, and that pissed Five off, but he didn’t have time to figure it out now because his siblings were probably in trouble and Luther refused to admit it. 

 

“This way Ben will make sure Klaus doesn’t sneak off again and get high like last time. Stop questioning me Five , I’m Number One. We’ll stick to the plan.” Luther finally turned around and glared at Five, who glared back.

 

“Fine, you don’t care about Diego. What about Allison? They were supposed to meet up, and if something happened to Diego then she’s vulnerable.” Five was ready to tear his hair out. Something was so obviously not right, but Luther refused to admit it because that would mean admitting he was wrong, and everyone knew the oh-so-perfect Number One didn’t make mistakes. 

 

Luther turned his back towards Five again, crossing his arms. “Five, shut up. Nothing is wrong, Ben and Klaus would’ve told us. Diego and Allison are probably just taking longer than we expected.” And just like that, they were back where they started.

 

“And how do you propose Ben and Klaus would let us- We’re going in circles! Our siblings could be hurt, possibly dying, and you want to wait here and just let the robbers come to us? You are unbelievable.” Five seethed, turning on his heel and beginning to pace. “Two more minutes and I’m going to look for them, your dumbass plan be damned.” 

 

“And I’ll tell Dad how you disobeyed during a mission and endangered all of us.” Luther countered, and Jesus Christ Five was going to have a meltdown.

 

“So fucking what ? You of all people should know that I'm not afraid of him, and I would rather go through a year’s worth of private training than do nothing while our siblings die! Just because you’re our leader through by some fluke chance doesn’t mean you’re infallible!” Five nearly shouted, then turned and resumed his pacing, trying to take deep breaths. 

 

“They are not dying! If they stuck to my plan, then they’re fine!” Luther spun around again, fists clenched. 

 

Five took a deep breath, trying to imagine what Ben would do in this situation. Ben had a way of de-escalating tension between the Hargreeves, and if he weren’t in the fucking security office with fucking Klaus they wouldn’t be having these problems in the first place!

 

Fuck it. He wasn’t Ben. 

 

“If I’m not back in five minutes assume I’ve been killed and you’re next.” Five spat and jumped out of the closet, landing in a crouch around the corner from the vault, which was supposed to have been Allison and Diego’s rendezvous spot. 

 

Five slowly crept to the end of the hall and peered around the corner, eyes widening behind his domino mask as he took in the scene before him. 

 

Diego and Allison were both bound and gagged, shoved in a corner across the room, Five couldn’t see their eyes because of their masks, but the way Diego was slumped over suggested he was unconscious. Allison was struggling against her bonds, but she seemed to have made little to no progress.

 

Five’s eyes darted to the security camera in the corner of the room. Black paint covered the lense, completely obscuring the camera’s view of the room.

 

These guys, whoever they were, were good.

 

But where were they?

 

The sound of a gun being cocked answered his question, and a man’s voice came from behind Five.

 

“One wrong move and your brains will be decorating the walls. Hands where I can see ‘em.”

 

Five slowly raised his hands, then spun around and grabbed the gun and forced it upwards, discharging it into the ceiling. The man (dressed in a black suit and tie, approximately 6’2”, caucasian, scar above his right eye) wrestled the gun from Five, but before Five could retaliate he heard a muffled shout from the other side of the room and he whipped his head over and froze.

 

“One more move and a bullet goes through her skull.” Another man threatened (also dressed in a black suit and tie, 5’11”, caucasian, no noticeable scars, birthmark under his chin), a gun pressed against Allison’s temple. Allison was sitting perfectly still, tension radiating from her body.

 

Goddamn it.

 

“Fine.” Five raised his hands in surrender, and the goon behind him grabbed his arms and wrestled them behind his back, securing them with handcuffs. Five was then led over to where his siblings sat, the man’s crushing grip never leaving his shoulder.

 

The vault was still closed, and the men didn’t seem interested in opening it, which meant this whole robbery had been a trap from the beginning. They knew to neutralize Diego and gag Allison; they had done their research. These men were professionals, and they were here specifically to lure in the Umbrella Academy. 

 

“Which one is he? The one who can see ghosts or the time traveler?” The man with the gun to Allison’s head demanded, and Five was spun around so they could examine his face.

 

“Can’t tell, the brats all look the same.” Eyebrow Scar responded, disgust clear on his face. “Where’s the photo?”

 

Birthmark dug around in his pocket with his free hand and pulled out a crumpled paper containing what Five could only imagine was a picture of himself, holding it up beside Five’s head. 

 

“Wait,” Eyebrow Scar pulled off Five’s mask, “there we go. We got him; he’s the mark.”

 

Allison shifted besides Five and slipped something cold and metal into his palm. Five didn’t react, just closed his fingers around it. 

 

“Good, grab him and let’s get out of here, they already docked us six percent because we took too long to set this up.” Birthmark rolled his eyes, and Five stilled, eyes wide. 

 

“God knows how he hasn’t managed to screw up the timeline yet, didn’t HQ say he managed two jumps without a briefcase? Gotta wonder how he’s still alive.” His partner replied, reaching down for Five-

 

and Five made his move. 

 

He jumped and landed on Birthmark’s back, looping his arms around his neck and yanking the chain on the handcuffs tight.  Birthmark’s hands flew up and grabbed the chain, a gurgle escaping from his lips. 

 

“Hey!” Eyebrow Scar shouted, leveling his gun at Five. Five tightened his grip and pulled harder, yanking the Birthmark to the side as bullets flew into the wall just inches to Five’s left. 

 

The gun was still in Birthmark’s left hand, right besides Five’s head. Five tried to maneuver and grab it from him, but he wasn’t fast enough.

 

The gun went off.

 

Allison screamed from behind her gag. Plaster rained down from the ceiling.

 

Five reappeared in front of Birthmark, twisting his body around so the handcuff chains were crossed across the man’s neck and jerked his arms to the side and felt a snap as his neck broke. 

 

The man went limp, and immediately Five jumped out of the handcuffs and landed behind Eyebrow Scar, flipping open the butterfly knife Allison had palmed him. He drove it into the base of the man’s neck, yanking the knife to the side and severing the carotid artery. 

 

The man fell to the ground.

 

Dead. 

 

Five’s hand was covered in blood. There was a ringing in his left ear. Five touched it with the hand not holding the knife, vaguely surprised when it came away covered in blood.

 

But that was the least of his worries.

 

They had been here for him. They knew that he could time travel. 

 

How was that possible? The public didn’t have any inkling that Five’s powers went beyond spatial jumps, and even in the Academy the only people who knew Five could time travel were Ben and Vanya. These men had been taken by surprise by his jumps, which made even less sense, how had they known about the time travel and not his primary ability?

 

Who had sent them? Why had they even wanted him in the first place, how had they known he time travelled twice, how did that make him a target? Who was targeting him, and what the fuck did a briefcase have to do with time travel? 

 

Five abruptly realized time was back to normal. There were no broken threads in the air, the strangeness Five had been feeling for the past two days was suddenly absent. Why? What had happened to fix it, what did it have to do with the men lying dead at Five’s feet?

 

It was getting hard to breathe. Five dropped the knife and sank to his knees, hand scrabbling at his chest as he tried to get air into his lungs. 

 

How had they known? Not even Reginald knew, Five was so careful in interviews and so was Ben, neither of them had slipped up. That only left Vanya, and she would never tell anyone, but there was no other option, and now he was being hunted down, he was dying-

 

“Five. Five, where are you hurt, where’s the bleeding coming from-” 

 

He had put his siblings in danger. They almost got killed because someone was hunting him . Something was wrong with time.

 

He had to run. He had to leave, he couldn’t stay here-

 

Five yanked space around him and vanished.

 

-

 

“Five! Where have you been, we’ve all been so worried, Allison said you got shot and there was blood all over you and you jumped before Ben could see where you were hurt, what happened?”

 

“Self preservation. I was temporarily overwhelmed, so my powers took over and took me out of the situation.”

 

“Five, you were gone for almost a week. Did you time travel?”

“I had some matters I needed to attend to.”

 

“Can you at least tell me what you were doing? Five, we were all so scared, Diego kept saying you were dead, and Dad refused to let us search for you-”

 

“I’m sorry you had to go through that, but I can’t tell you what I was doing. I’m going to go to bed now, I’m in for hell tomorrow and I’d like to sleep peacefully while I still can.”

 

“Five-”

 

-

 

“Où est la menace? Nous sommes ici pour aider.Ben asked Five, who grimaced as he wracked his brain for the response. He could feel Reginald’s glare boring into the back of his skull, and Ben’s concerned frown wasn’t helping. 

 

“위협을 어디에? 우리 여기에 도움이 됩니다.” He finally got out, and Ben nodded, slowly signing Where is the threat, we’re here to help , stalling to give Five time to collect his thoughts and prepare for the next phrase. 

 

“Déposez vos armes .” Five blurted as soon as Ben finished, and now it was Ben’s turn to translate from French to Korean.

 

Language was easily Five’s least favorite subject. Grace had started teaching them their second language when they were four, and started them on their third when they were ten. Testing had started when they were six, always held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. For the entire day the academy students were only permitted to speak in the languages they were learning, which were different for each academy pair. Reginald had split up the most common languages in the United States among the six of them, going from most to least common as their numbers ascended. Luther and Diego had Spanish and Chinese, Allison and Klaus had German and Tagalog, and Five and Ben had French and Korean. Additionally, all six of them were required to know rudimentary sign language to be able to communicate nonverbally during missions. 

 

Grace used to focus on teaching them conversational skills, but ever since they had begun missions Grace had quickly transitioned into teaching vocabulary and phrases they’d need in the field. 

 

As much as Five hated to admit it, he probably struggled the most out of all his siblings with learning languages. He picked up sign language quickly enough, and French had been his second language so he at least had the extra years to learn it, but Korean? He was fucked. He could memorize vocabulary all day long, but when it came to having conversations his brain couldn’t make the connection between the memorized vocabulary and the sounds his ears were hearing. It was beyond frustrating, and the worst part was that if they failed the assessment Reginald wouldn’t let them return to English until they performed to his standards. 

 

Once, when Five was eleven, he had to speak Korean for three weeks straight until Reginald finally relented and let him return to English. 

 

Five was lucky to have Ben as his partner. Ben took to languages like a duck to water, easily absorbing vocabulary and conjugations while Five struggled to conjugate the word ‘be.’ Ben did his best to help him, patiently making Five flashcards and conversing with him in whichever language Five felt like he was falling behind in. 

 

“무기를 내려놔.” Ben responded, and Five quickly repeated the phrase in sign language. Drop your weapons.

 

“That will be enough for now, your performance has been acceptable. Continue in French for the remainder of the day.” Reginald interrupted them, to Five’s relief. 

 

“Volontiers.” Ben replied for the both of them as Five quickly shoved his chair back and stood up, stalking past Reginald without acknowledgment. 

 

“Hé!” Ben called after him, and Five sighed and turned to wait for his brother. 

 

“Tu t’en sors?” Ben asked him, signing along so Five could follow along more easily. You alright?

 

Five didn’t have the energy to respond in French so he used sign language, signing Yeah, just tired. 

 

Did you sleep at all last night? Ben asked, and Five smiled tightly. He spotted Pogo coming down the hall towards him, and Five didn’t feel like dealing with him right now. They had twenty minutes to themselves before dinner, and he wanted to make the most of it. 

 

Hold still. He grabbed Ben’s arm and jumped them to Ben’s room. 

 

You never answered my question. Ben glared accusingly at Five. Five groaned and fell backwards onto Ben’s bed, covering his face with a pillow so he didn’t have to deal with Ben’s mother-henning.

 

“Espèce d'idiot, je te parle!” Ben ripped the pillow from Five’s hands and started hitting him with it. “Répondez à la question!”

 

Five jumped to the top of Ben’s wardrobe, cackling when Ben suddenly fell forward, unbalanced as he tried to hit the empty air where Five had been an instant before. 

 

“J'ai assez dormi.” He answered Ben, refusing to admit that he had technically only slept an hour last night. Ben was getting on his case about sleep lately, and while Five appreciated the thought he really didn’t need the constant harassment. Ben turned and sighed when he saw Five on top of his wardrobe, briefly shutting his eyes and looking heavenward.

 

“Gargouille.” He muttered, crossing his arms and sitting on his bed. 

 

“Why do you even know gargoyle in French? There’s no way that came up in lessons.” Five gave up on French, jumping back down to sit besides Ben.

 

“I learned it for this exact reason. Your Korean is getting better, by the way, you barely hesitated today during the assessment.” Ben turned to face Five, pulling his legs up onto the bed. 

 

“Thanks.” Five muttered, hands itching for a piece of chalk as he blinked spots out of his eyes. Jumping while he was tired wasn’t nearly as disastrous as it used to be, but it still gave him a headache. 

 

“Wow, no backhanded compliment back, now I know you’re tired. Migraine?” Ben asked, lowering his voice as to not make Five’s headache worse.

 

He didn’t deserve Ben.

 

“A little. I’ll be fine, I just need a minute and to eat something, I’m starving.” Five admitted, shutting his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose. 

 

Ever since that day in the bank two weeks ago Five’s anxiety had skyrocketed, making him too paranoid to sleep more than thirty minutes at a time most nights. He had spent the week after trying to track down the organization the men were from, going over police files on the incident, trying to find any scrap of information he could on the men that tried to take him, but it was all to no avail. The men didn’t register in any database, DNA hadn’t been able to trace them, it was like they didn’t exist. Eventually Five was forced to recognize defeat and go back to the academy empty handed. Strangely, Reginald didn’t bat an eye at Five’s sudden reappearance; he carried on as if he hadn’t noticed Five was gone.

 

Five didn’t know how to feel about that, but he had bigger problems to worry about. 

 

He had no leads to go on, no information to work with, just the knowledge that somewhere there was an organization that wanted him dead for his ability to time travel. Add to that the fact that he was convinced he was coming down with the flu or a cold or something , Five could admit that he was not doing great. 

 

“I’ll get the blinds and leave you alone until dinner, try to sleep.” Ben stood up and pulled the shades down over the window. “I’ll get you when it’s time for dinner.”

 

Five nodded and Ben padded out of the room, closing the door softly behind him. 

 

Five hadn’t told anyone what had happened that day. Diego had been unconscious the entire time, and Allison had admitted that she hadn’t been listening to what the- Five had to call them what they were- assassins were saying, she had been focused on trying to slide the butterfly knife from Diego’s harness without attracting attention. 

 

That left only Five with the knowledge that he had a target on his back, and he had no plans of changing that. 

 

If he told Ben and Vanya that would put them in danger. He knew neither of them had told anyone about his time travel, but he feared if he told them about the assassins that would make them targets themselves.  

 

Five refused to put them in harm’s way, which meant that now he had to push back their escape plan even further. 

 

If Five was a mark for some agency so widespread that they knew he could time travel, there was no doubt in his mind that they were more dangerous than anything he’d ever faced before. If he Vanya and Ben ran away they would already have a target on their backs, even if they time traveled. But now, Five didn’t know if the organization had further plans to take him out. If so, Ben and Vanya would be completely vulnerable if they ran and the organization decided to try and kill Five. 

 

Which meant Five had to take them out first. 

 

Which meant he had no time for naps. 

 

Five jumped to his window, fingers pulling a fresh piece of chalk from his pocket. 

 

Ignoring the tremors wracking his body, he began to work. 

 

The faster one moves through space, the slower one moves through time...

 

-

 

It took Five two interviews to decide he hated them, three to figure out how to get them to go completely off the rails for his own personal amusement, and four to determine which of Reginald’s buttons to push to get out of them. 

 

That ultimately led to Five left at home doing remedial studies while the rest of the academy was out on another teen magazine interview. 

 

Not that he minded. 

 

Headaches were part of his new normal, a side effect of not sleeping more than four hours a night. Five could ignore them, but they made his irritable and prone to snapping at reporters for asking dumbass questions, which led to more discipline training for Reginald which made feel worse and sleep less so he could work on his calculations to escape which made his headaches worse, and the vicious cycle continued. 

 

Besides, the company at home was better.

 

“Five, can you help me with this math problem? Pogo already explained it three times but I still don’t get it and I don’t want to bother him again.” Vanya asked, sliding her textbook across the dining room table towards Five. 

 

“Integrals? Be still my heart.” Five muttered through his teeth, taking in the lesson. “So what’s the issue?”

 

“I just don’t get it. I can find the area under one curve but how can I find the area between curves? I’ll never understand any of this and Dad will just hate me more.” Vanya grumbled, and Five glanced up at her, pausing in his reading. 

 

Vanya was smart, probably the second smartest kid in the mansion, behind only Five himself. He knew she was capable of understanding this if she just slowed down and thought through it, right now she was just too frustrated. 

 

It also probably didn’t help that Reginald had been even more of an ass to her recently, denying her requests for more sheet music and refusing to let her practice because it would apparently ‘distract the academy from training.’ Usually Vanya could shake it off, but Five hadn’t been able to spend as much time with her recently and he knew she was feeling forgotten. 

 

“Come on, let’s take a break.” Five grabbed her hand, tugging her away from the table. “I have an idea.”

 

Vanya smiled, allowing Five to pull her away from the textbook and down the hallway, stopping outside Luther’s room. 

 

“Ok, take a deep breath and hold it.” Five instructed gravely, exaggerating his inhale and puffing his cheeks out and gestured for Vanya to do the same. “We’re entering an area that, if tested, would qualify as an environmental biohazard because of Luther’s socks alone.” Vanya complied with a giggle, and Five pushed open Luther’s door.

 

“Grab a bunch of records and save yourself, regroup in my room, go go go!” He instructed Vanya, sleeve over his face as not to expose himself to the toxic air more than necessary. She nodded, running over to the shelf and yanking records off. 

 

Five examined Luther’s record player before shrugging and grabbing the entire thing, jumping into his room. He dropped the record player on his desk, tucking his journal into a drawer before Vanya arrived.

 

“You abandoned me in a warzone! Left me to fend for myself against an enemy that can’t be defeated. A sneaker touched my foot, Five!” Vanya yelled from the bottom of the staircase, her thudding footsteps rapidly approaching. “How could you?”

 

“Vanya, when it’s a life or death situation like that it’s every man for himself.” He informed her gravely as she burst into his room, toeing off his shoes to sit cross-legged on his bed. “Did you get the goods?”

 

“Yep!” Vanya ran into his room, out of breath. “Mission success.”

 

“Close the door, Mom and Pogo should be on the first floor but better safe than sorry.” Five leaned back on his hands. “Alright, what do we got?”

 

“I just grabbed a bunch and ran. Umm Queen, Tiffany, Backstreet Boys- Wait, Backstreet Boys?” Vanya started laughing, holding the record up for Five to see.

 

“Oh my god, Allison has him on a leash!” Five cackled, grabbing the album from Vanya. 

 

“Or Luther just likes the Backstreet Boys, you never know.” Vanya tried to muffle her own laughter, sorting through the rest of the records. “The rest are just Dad’s old Herr recordings.”

 

“Pity. Alright, put the Tiffany record on, Queen evokes a certain mood that isn’t fitting of the current atmosphere.” Five gestured to the record player on his desk. Vanya slid the record on and placed the needle, the stereo crackling to life.

 

“Turn it up.” Five requested, sliding off the bed. Vanya complied, and soon I Think We’re Alone Now filled the room.

 

Vanya look around, apparently expecting something to happen. When she turned back to Five he tilted his head, spreading out his arms in the universal gesture for ‘well?’

 

“What.. what now?” Vanya asked. Five groaned, rubbing a hand over his face. 

 

“You’re really gonna make me spell this out.”

 

“What? Five, what are you talking about?” Vanya asked, and Five held out his hand. 

 

“Dance with me.” He offered. Vanya hesitantly took it, and Five pulled her towards him, grabbing her other hand. 

 

Vanya must have put the needle in the middle of the record because the song was already halfway over. That was fine, they probably didn’t have too much time until their family got back anyway. 

 

“Do you even know how to dance?” Vanya asked, swinging their hands together in time to the music. 

 

“No, but if I can figure out quantum physics I can figure out dancing.” Five cracked a grin, lifting his hand up to twirl Vanya. 

 

I think we’re alone now

 

Vanya spun and giggled, grabbing Five’s other hand again and started pushing and pulling his arms in time to the beat. 

 

The beating of our hearts is the only sound

 

Vanya’s eyes closed as they started spinning around the room, jumping in time to the beat of the dance break. Five grinned, his hair falling into his face, and he jumped them onto his bed. Vanya’s eyes flew open and she laughed out loud, and they were jumping on his bed and for the first time in forever Vanya seemed happy-

 

“Number Five! Number Seven! What is the meaning of this?” Five’s door slammed open and there stood Reginald Hargreeves, and Five and Vanya froze. There was a thump, and the music stuttered to a halt. Five immediately jumped to stand in front of Reginald, desperate to draw attention away from Vanya.

 

“I finished my assigned studies and asked Vanya to assist me with some equations.” He replied, lifting his chin and looking Reginald in the eye. “I’m working on calculating the effect of electricity on spatial jumps, and how to utilize that to time travel.”

 

Dancing ,”  Reginald spat the word as if it were a curse, “is not a conducive use of your time Number Five. Recreational time is limited to Saturdays between noon and half past noon.” he began, and Five rolled his eyes. He sensed Vanya slowly clambering off the bed and coming to stand at his shoulder. He tried to subtly nudge her back with his shoulder, but she either didn’t notice or ignored him.

 

Probably the latter.

 

“Please, it’s not like I had anything better to do. Maybe if you actually gave me something difficult to do we wouldn’t be having these problems. Maybe something like, oh I don’t know, time travel?” Five ignored Vanya pinching his back to try and get him to shut up. 

 

“As I have told you many times before, you are simply not prepared for time travel! Now, if you are so bored-” Reginald cut off in the middle of his sentence, looking past Five and Vanya into Five’s room. “How did you room get into such a state of disrepair?”

 

Five frowned and turned to follow Reginald’s gaze, and his eyes widened.

 

His room was an absolute mess, all his stuff strewn about the floor. His bedsheets were half-falling off his bed, and his textbooks which he knew for a fact were stacked neatly a few minutes ago were fanned out on the floor. Even his window was open now, and Five could’ve sworn that he had closed it this morning. 

 

Had he and Vanya done that? There was no way they had done that, Five would’ve heard his books fall, his comforter could be explained by them jumping on the bed but everything else? What?

 

He had no idea what happened, but no way in hell was he letting Reginald know that.

 

“I thought I saw a cockroach.” Five lied through his teeth. “Things escalated. I haven’t had a chance to clean up.”

 

Vanya frowned at him but Five ignored her, turning to face Reginald again. “Is that all?”

 

“Number Seven, have you been taking your medication?” Reginald asked and Five blinked.

 

Wait, what? 

 

“I didn’t take any yesterday because I needed a refill and I forgot this morning, but I’ll just take it now.” Vanya mumbled, pulling her pill bottle out of her skirt pocket and dry swallowing a pill. Five stared between her, his room, and Reginald, trying to figure out what he was missing. 

 

There had to be a link he was missing. The mess, Vanya’s pills, Reginald. 

 

Mess, pills, Reginald, Vanya. 

 

“Number Seven, that is unacceptable. If you are not able to focus enough to even remember to take your medication that is a clear sign you will be needing a stronger dosage.” Reginald said, making Five snap out of his thoughts.

 

“What? That makes no sense by any definition of the term.” Five spat, stepping forward and in front of Vanya. “You know what? Why does she even need that medication? What does it even do for her?”

 

“Number Five, I do not answer to you!” Reginald barked, but Five didn’t back down. This had been bothering him for far too long and he had gone too far to stop now. 

 

“You always told her it’s for her anxiety, but she’s been taking those pills for as long as I can remember. Who gives a five year old anxiety medication? I’ve been reading up on some of the chemicals in those pills, and the level of brain activity they suppress makes me think-”

 

Five’s tirade stuttered to a halt as he connected the dots.

 

It wasn’t possible. There was no way-

 

Oh, but it was . This made so much sense , this explained Vanya’s medication and-

 

“How long have you been hiding this.” His voice was hoarse and his fists were clenched so tightly he could feel his nails pierce his skin, and Reginald narrowed his eyes.

 

“Number Five, this insolence will not be tolerated!” Reginald barked, but Five was too furious to think straight.

 

How could he.

 

How could he.

 

“How could you do this to her?” Five demanded. “Do you have any idea-” 

 

He was cut off as Reginald backhanded him across the face. Five’s head snapped to the side and he froze, then slowly lifted a hand and wiped the blood from his lip. He turned back to Reginald, smiling.

 

“You have no idea what you just did.” He said lowly, smile never leaving his face, and then Reginald was grabbing his shoulder and manhandling him out of his room, leaving Vanya frozen behind him.

 

“Get off me, let go of me you bastard!” Five tried to wrench his arm away but Reginald’s grip was vicelike around his bicep. “Vanya, you have-”

 

“That is enough!” Reginald shouted, and this was the first time Five ever saw a crack in his cold, calculating exterior. “Number Seven, return to your room immediately! Number Five, I will not hear another word from your mouth!”

 

“Vanya, you-” Five tried desperately got get out, but then there was a sharp pain in his head and everything went black. 

 

-

 

Five woke up lying on his bed with no idea how he got there.

 

“What?” He mumbled, trying to roll over to check his clock. As soon as he tried to move his head felt like it was about to split open and Five slammed his eyes shut, battling down nausea. His arm spasmed and Five grit his teeth. 

 

It felt like he got fucking electrocuted, what the hell happened?

 

The last thing he remembered was… breakfast? No, he stayed home with Vanya and they had done… what? He remembered lessons and then-

 

-

 

Five slowly opened his eyes and squinted against the sunlight. He had a splitting headache, and he checked the clock-

 

10:30? What the hell? They had to be up by seven, what was going on?

 

Before he could move, Grace walked into his room, smiling when she saw him sitting up. 

 

“Hello, Five. You had an accident during training and you hit your head, causing a severe concussion. You have been unconscious for approximately fifty two hours. You are on bed rest for the rest of the week to recover.” She informed him, sitting down on the edge of his bed and pushing his bangs away from his face. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine.” Five muttered, ducking away from her hand. His head throbbed with the sudden movement and he hissed against the pain. “I’m just going to sleep now.”

 

He had no memory whatsoever of hitting his head, but that was probably the concussion. God, head injuries were the worst, so much wasted time. He couldn’t even work on his time travel calculations; he could barely even keep his train of thought for more than a minute. 

 

“I’ll leave you alone to sleep, let me know if you need any painkillers.” Grace smiled again, and stood up and walked towards the doorway, heels clicking against the floor. The noise pierced Five’s skull, and he grit his teeth against the pounding in his head.

 

Jesus. He’d better be able to sleep this off.

 

-

 

The lock on the P.O. box clicked open as Five turned the key, and he held his breath as he pulled open the box. 

 

Two letters were inside. 

 

Five snatched them immediately, as if they would disappear the second he took his eyes off of them. He re-locked the box and tucked the key inside his pocket, and casually walked out of the bank, trying not to tear the envelopes from how tightly he was clutching them. 

 

He emerged into the pre-dawn light and walked around the corner of the building to the alleyway, and immediately jumped. 

 

The library shelves shuddered with the sudden weight, and Five dropped to his stomach to avoid falling off the shelf. His head pounded, and he had to squeeze his eyes shut as the world spun around him. 

 

Once he was no longer in danger of knocking the shelf over or falling off, Five slowly sat up and placed the envelopes in front of his, looking at the return addresses. 

 

Vancouver, Canada, and New York City, New York. 

 

The two closest locations, it made sense that they would get back to him first. He pulled a knife from his pocket and made quick work of the envelope from New York and pulling out the paper inside. 

 

The letter was short, but it gave him the information he needed. 

 

Five pulled his journal from his waistband and a pen from his sock. He flipped to a carefully bookmarked page near the center of the book, uncapping the pen with his teeth.

 

Placing the letter to his right, Five began carefully transcribing the contents into his journal, taking care not to smudge any letters. At the top corner of the page, he drew a small check.  

 

Once he finished, he tore the letter and envelope in half, sending each piece through a different warp to various places around the city. 

 

He grabbed the second envelope and opened it just as carefully, frowning when he saw only two sentences scribbled onto the piece of paper. 

 

Inwardly grimacing he transcribed that letter as well, flipping to the page previous the one he had just written on and drew a small X on the top right corner. 

 

That letter received the same treatment as the previous one; strewn throughout space. 

 

Five snapped the journal closed and carefully stood, stooping so he didn’t hit his head on the ceiling. He tucked the knife back in his pocket and the pen back in his sock, and quietly jumped to the Science Fiction section to grab a copy of Frankenstein for Ben and then, in a flash of blue, he was gone.

 

-

 

“Hey Vanya, want to referee me and Five swordfighting? We have twenty minutes of free time left.” 

 

“No thank you, I’m going to practice.”

 

“Are you sure? We haven’t been able to spend as much time together because of missions, you can practice anytime.”

 

“I’m sure, thank you.”

 

“We can stay and listen to you, I’ll grab a book and Five could work on his equations.”

 

“No thank you, I just want to practice alone.”

 

“...”

 

“Has she seemed different to you recently?”

 

“I can’t remember the last time I saw her laugh.”

 

“Did we do something do upset her?”

 

“I can’t think of anything. She’s been really subdued, even her playing is different, listen.”

 

“She’s just playing scales. What about that Vivaldi piece she was working on?”

 

“It’s like she’s lost her passion. She loves violin.”

 

“I’ll try and talk to her later, maybe she’s not feeling well.”

 

“Ok, I will too. I’ll try and catch her just after she takes her meds, Klaus said he heard Reginald tell Grace to up the dosage because her anxiety was getting worse.”

 

“I hadn’t noticed.”

 

“Me neither.”

 

“...”

 

“I’m going to go work on my calculations. I don’t like this.”

 

“I’ll help. I’m not sure we should’ve been sword fighting in the first place, you look pale. Have you slept at all this week?”

 

“It’s just a headache, I’m fine. We can meet in your room, I want to grab a sweatshirt.”

 

“Fine. I’ll see if I can get you Advil from Mom.”

 

-

 

“Here.” Five shoved a bundle at Ben, ignoring his growling stomach.

 

“What is- Five, is this your breakfast?” Ben frowned, unfolding the napkin to reveal sausages and bacon. “Why didn’t you eat it?”

 

The car hit a pothole and Five had to dive to keep the food from spilling onto the black leather. He and Ben were in the back row of the Academy car with Allison and Klaus in the seat in front of them and Luther and Diego in front of them. Whenever they had official Academy business they were required to assemble in numerical order, which always resulted in Five and Ben in the back.

“I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t want to see it go to waste. Besides, you need to eat more on mission days.” 

 

Ben looked uncomfortable but accepted the food, and Five sighed in relief.

 

Recently jumping had been- it had been different. Five refused to say difficult, because it wasn’t. Jumping was a part of him. For as long as he could remember it had been as natural as breathing, he could just reach out and part space and go through. But now it was requiring more and more effort, leaving him more and more exhausted after every jump. Five didn’t want to think about what that signified, but it meant he had to be careful and save his energy for the end of the mission in case Ben needed his help. 

 

“We’re here.” Luther called back from the front seat. “Masks on.” 

 

Five stiffened and he felt Ben do the same besides him.

 

“Here we go.” Ben muttered under his breath, and Five laughed.

 

“Here we go.” 


-

 

“Five?” Ben stood in Five’s doorway at three am, and Five spun around, hand automatically grabbing for the knife he kept on his dresser before he realized it was just Ben.

 

Five didn’t have to ask what he needed. He immediately jumped to Ben’s side checking for any tears in space. As usual, there were none, so Five took a deep breath and guided Ben over to Five’s bed. “Want me to grab a book?”

 

“No. Just- just make sure it doesn’t escape and hurt anyone.” Ben pleaded, not bothering to climb onto the bed, just sliding down until he was sitting on the floor with his back against the door, knees pulled up to his chest. 

 

“Alright.” Five agreed quietly, sliding down to sit next to him. 

 

Ben’s bad nights were becoming more and more frequent. The more the Horror came out on missions the less it went back without a fight, which was taking an enormous toll on Ben. Five had begun jumping in and helping Ben wrangle the monster back in at the end of missions, but he still couldn’t help with keeping it in. 

 

“Tell me about your equations.” Ben broke the silence, and Five half smiled, looking around at his walls, wincing as his stomach growled loudly.

 

“Wow, this is a first, usually you’re telling me to shut up about them. Tonight’s focus is on the tendency to move from order to disorder increasing as time progresses...”

 

-

 

“So how are you all adjusting to being teen celebrities?” The interviewer asked, and Five shifted uncomfortably in his seat and he glanced at the clock.

 

He could handle press conferences. All he had to do was state what happened and answer questions pertaining to the mission. But magazine interviews?

 

The worst .

 

They always asked weird personal questions and tried to get them to show off their powers. Five usually didn’t mind showing off, but he hated being treated like a circus act, so it had become his custom to say mute unless absolutely necessary. Plus, he was starving and it was absolutely freezing in the studio, honestly, were they trying to make things as uncomfortable as possible?

 

“It’s been pretty crazy.” Allison answered the journalist, smiling at the photographer as his camera flashed. Honestly, Five didn’t know how her face wasn’t twitching with the amount of smiling she’d been doing. 

 

“Yeah, there’s people who are always camped outside our house with signs and stuff, it’s kind of creepy.” Ben added. 

 

They were all sitting in directors style chairs lined up in numerical order, starting with Luther to Five’s far right and Ben on his immediate left. The female interviewer- Five hadn’t been paying attention when she introduced herself- was sitting opposite Allison, which was lucky for her because Allison was the only one acting remotely civilized. 

 

“That’s a lot of pressure, I can’t imagine. Speaking of pressure, Allison, how do you maintain that figure?” The woman asked, and Five blinked and exchanged a glance with Ben. 

 

What the fuck, why was she just asking Allison?

 

Allison looked taken aback as well, so Five decided to jump in for the first time in the interview. 

 

“We all have the same fitness regime, and our diets are tailored according to how much we exert ourselves using our powers.” He explained, trying not to let his hostility bubble over. Reginald has threatened them within an inch of their lives right before the interview, and Five could just picture him glaring at them through the door. 

 

“Oh, alright then.” The reporter seemed taken aback by Five answering, but she shook it off and continued. “So according to the comics, all proper superheroes should have a superhero name. Have you all put some thought into yours?”

 

None of Five’s siblings seemed to have a response to that; Five was at a loss as well. After an awkward silence the reporter continued.

 

“Well, luckily for you guys we’ve taken the liberty of picking a few out for you guys.” The reporter smiled with far too many teeth, pulling a list out of her file. 

 

“Luther, because of your very public interest in space you have been dubbed Spaceboy.” She began, and Five nearly lost his shit right there.

 

Oh my god. This was too good, holy shit.

 

Five caught Ben’s eye and saw his internal struggle as well, and he looked away quickly because he was absolutely going to lose it.

 

Five missed Luther’s reaction but he was smiling, so Five assumed he liked it. Luther always went for that corny superhero shit. 

 

“Diego, you are The Kraken.” The reporter continued and Five had to physically bite his cheek to keep from laughing. He refused to look at Ben, who was coughing besides him, obviously trying to keep his laughter under wraps. 

 

“Cool.” Diego muttered, kicking his feet back and forth. “Thanks.” 

 

“Allison, we spoke about this before the interview so you already know what I’m about to say, but for the audience, Allison has been named The Rumor.” 

 

At least that one made sense. Five stopped biting the inside of his cheek, taking a deep breath and recovering his composure. 

 

“I already have one picked out for myself.” Klaus blurted before the reporter could open her mouth. “I will be called Superman. Get it? Because I’m always hi-”

 

Allison and Five lunged simultaneously to slap their hands over Klaus’ mouth, resulting in all three of them crashing to the ground, limbs entangled. 

 

“Shut up! You can’t say that!” Allison whispered furiously.

 

“Do you want Dad to kill you?” Five hissed at the same time, scrambling into a kneeling position as his vision swam, but Klaus just giggled.

 

“Are you three alright?” The reporter asked, and Five and Allison exchanged glances before standing up.

 

“Dad just always warned us about infringing on copyright, we might have been a little overzealous.” Allison laughed, fixing her hair and climbing back into her seat. “So what code name does Klaus get?”

Five hauled Klaus back to his feet, pushing him in the direction of his chair and climbing back into his own. His head pounded from the sudden movement and he gritted his teeth, checking the clock.

 

Ten more minutes.

 

“And Five! Yours gave us some trouble.” The reporter said cheerfully, and it took everything in Five for his not to roll his eyes.

 

“Oh?” He prompted, biting his cheek so hard he tasted blood.

 

“At first we thought you would be Spaceboy, but we went back through some of your old battle footage and found a name that seems strange, but it fits in with your aesthetic nicely.” She rambled, and Five frowned.

 

Where was she going with this?

 

“Your superhero name is The Boy, based on your mysterious nature and chosen name.” She said, her tone going for mysterious, but Five was too taken aback to laugh at her.

 

He didn’t hate it.

 

“Five’s only chance to get a normal name and he gets stuck with that.” Klaus laughed, and without looking Five reached over and shoved him.

 

“I like it.” He told the reporter, trying his best to smile normally and not look psychotic. A snicker from Ben’s direction and the nervous smile from the reporter informed him he failed.

 

“And finally, Ben! This one was easy, your code name is The Horror, based on what you’ve called your power.” This time Five couldn’t stop himself from rolling his eyes.

 

This lady was the worst.

 

“Thanks.” Ben muttered, and shit, he sounded upset. Five knocked their feet together, trying to stop Ben from dwelling on it.

 

“And that looks like all the time we have for today, thank you Umbrella Academy for joining us!” 

 

Thank god.

 

“Thanks for having us.” Luther replied, and the reporter clicked her recorder off, which meant Five was done.

 

“It’s just a stupid nickname, it probably won’t even catch on.” He said to Ben, hopping off his chair and waiting as Ben did the same. “What are the chances more than six people read this shithole magazine?”

 

“Yeah.” Ben huffed a laugh, attempting a smile. “But I gotta love being named after the one thing in my life I despise the most.” 

 

“At least you’re not Luther.” Five cracked a grin. “I can never take him seriously again.”

 

Ben laughed and Five sighed in relief, grabbing Ben’s arm and pulling him towards the door, away from the reporter who was still talking to Luther, Diego, and Allison. He wasn’t sure where Klaus had gone, and he honestly didn’t want to know.

 

“These better not catch on.” Ben muttered under his breath, and for all their sakes, Five hoped so too.

 

-

 

“Hey Klaus, have you- OW! Ow, what the hell Klaus?” Ben cried, hand over his eye as Klaus cradled his fist. Five raised his eyebrows as he watched the exchange, sipping his smuggled coffee. 

 

“Sorry! Sorry Ben, I’m so sorry.” Klaus babbled, hands fluttering uselessly around Ben’s face, trying to fix his mistake. “I’m sorry, I’m just really jumpy after missions, I didn’t mean to punch you- here, let me get you ice.” 

 

Ben waved him away, shaking his head. “No it’s fine, just leave it Klaus.” He muttered, taking his hand away from his eye and blinking hard. 

 

“I’m so sorry.” Klaus repeated, distress clearly written across his face. 

 

“Forget about it.” Ben shook his head, turning away and leaving the kitchen, hand over his eye again. Klaus watched him go before sighing and pulling a joint from his pocket and searching another, probably for a lighter. 

 

“I wouldn’t recommend that before training.” Five spoke up, and Klaus jumped. 

 

“Fivey! Didn’t see you there bro!” He cried, tucking the joint behind his ear. 

 

“I’ve been here the entire time. Don’t feel guilty about punching Ben, we’re all on edge.” He advised, taking another sip of coffee. “Consequences of always expecting to be attacked.”

 

“I don’t even fight, I understand you and Diego and Luther but why me?” Klaus lamented, sprawling himself across the table opposite Five. 

 

Five winced, eyeing the amount of coffee left in his mug, trying to estimate if he had enough left to survive this conversation. Sighing inwardly, he set his mug down and looked across the table at Klaus. He could already feel a headache forming. 

 

“If you’re in active combat situations on a regular basis, you become accustomed to that type of environment. Therefore, if you expect to be attacked at all times, you’re going to react accordingly.” Five shrugged. 

 

It was happening to all of them. Diego stabbed Five in the bicep when he appeared without warning besides him in the hallway two days ago, and Allison kicked Klaus down the stairs when he suddenly started singing besides her. They were all slowly inching towards the level of paranoia usually only found in PTSD-riddled veterans. Totally unhealthy, but if it kept them alive then there was nothing to be done about it. 

 

“Just don’t sneak up on Luther and we should survive.” Five shrugged again, standing and grabbing his mug. “Please don’t be high when we have group training, I think Reginald is having us do nature survival skills and I don’t want it to be any worse than it has to be.”

 

Five needed to grab a sweatshirt or coat before they left, the summer air felt chilly. And food. Reginald didn’t seem to be in the opinion that growing children needed extra food, Five felt like he was constantly hungry. 

 

“No promises Fivel!” Klaus sang, and Five rolled his eyes as he left the room, draining the rest of his coffee. 

 

God help them all. 

 

-

 

Five was curled up in one of the storage rooms in the back of the library, trying to ignore his headache as he copied the second letter into his journal. The air conditioning had to be on blast; even though he couldn’t feel the air current Five was freezing. His handwriting was shaky at best, incomprehensible scrawl at worst, Five gritted his teeth as he scratched out what even he could tell was intelligible scrawl.

 

After putting a checkmark in the top of the page Five slammed the journal shut and ripped the letter to shreds, dumping them all through a warp over the harbor. He was starving, it felt like dinner was hours ago.

 

He’d stop at Griddy’s before he went home. 

 

-

 

“...Five? Five!” Five groaned, slowly opening his eyes.

 

He was lying on the floor of his bedroom, which was a bit alarming considering he had no idea how he got there.

 

“Don’t move, I’m getting Mom.” Ben ordered, and Five’s eyes widened and he bolted upright, hissing as the move exacerbated the pounding in his head.

 

“Don’t. I’m fine.” He shook his head, ignoring Ben’s hands trying to keep him down and shakily standing up, keeping his eyes on a fixed point in the distance to negate the dizziness.

 

“Five, you’re not alright! I just found you passed out on the floor of your bedroom, that is not fucking healthy.” Ben hissed, looking angrier than Five had seen him in a while.

 

“I’m fine, just tired. Leave it Ben.” Five snapped back, grabbing the chalk from where it had fallen on the floor and stared at his wall, trying to remember what he had been working on. 

 

“No, there’s something seriously wrong. You’re pale too, and don’t think I haven’t noticed you’ve been wearing sweatshirts in ninety degree weather, plus the bags under your eyes make it look like you have two black eyes. Either you come with me to Mom willingly or I’m dragging her up here. Your choice.” Five could feel Ben’s glare drilling into the back of his skull, and he knew he wasn’t bluffing. 

 

“You’ll have to catch me first.” He said, still refusing to face Ben. “So why not make this easier on both of us and just leave it.” 

 

“You really want to let Dad know something’s going on? Because he will notice if I’m dragging Mom all over the house trying to chase after you.” Ben countered, and Five stared at the ceiling and groaned.

 

“Fine. Let’s just get this over with.” He muttered, jumping to Ben’s side and suppressing a wave of dizziness. “Don’t tell Vanya.” 

 

“Don’t tell- what? Why- nevermind, it doesn’t matter. C’mon.” Ben grabbed Five’s bicep and rugged him down the hallway, grip tightening every time Five stumbled. 

 

Normally Five would be fighting Ben tooth and nail on this, but even he couldn’t deny that something was off. Lately he’d been fighting off constant migraines and chills, not to mention the dizziness when he jumped. He was probably just coming down with a fever or needed more sleep or something, if he went along with Ben Grace could give him antibiotics or something and he’d go back to normal. 

 

“I think she’s in the kitchen.” Ben muttered to himself, guiding Five down the stairs and through the storefront that served as an entrance to the Academy. “I heard her telling Diego that he could help her make cookies if he wanted.” 

 

Five didn’t respond, just followed Ben down another flight of stairs into the kitchen. Mom was standing in front of the stove, humming to herself as she dusted off the stovetop. 

 

“Five’s sick.” Ben announced as they entered the room. Grace immediately turned around and set her feather duster down, mouth downturned in a frown.

 

“Well, we can’t have that. Come here, let me take your temperature.” She requested and Ben shoved Five forward, keeping a hand on his collar as if he thought Five was still going to try and run.

“Hmm, no fever.” Grace said to herself, feeling Five’s forehead with her hand. Five had seen her blueprints, she had thermal scanners in her hands. 

 

“He keeps getting migraines and he won’t stop shaking.” Ben informed her. Five finalled yanked his jacket from Ben’s grasp, turning and glaring at him. 

 

“I can speak for myself.” He hissed, then turned back to Grace. “It’s probably just a cold, so could I have some antibiotics so I can get back to work?”

 

“What is the meaning of this?” Reginald’s voice came from behind then, and Five groaned inwardly. 

 

Just what he needed.

 

“Five wasn’t feeling well, I am working on diagnosing him now.” Grace informed Reginald promptly, and Five glared at Reginald when his scowl turned to Five. 

 

“Very well. Number Six, return to your room.” He ordered, and Five stepped on Ben’s foot when he saw Ben draw breath to protest, shaking his head.

 

Ben glared, but acquiesced. 

 

“Fill me in later.” He hissed under his breath, turning on his heel and walking back towards the staircase, ducking his head to avoid Reginald’s stare. 

 

“Number Five, what are your symptoms?” Reginald demanded as soon as Ben was out of sight. Five bristled. What the fuck did Reginald care, this is what Grace was for.

 

“It’s just a cold, Ben is overreacting. Don’t you have better things to do?” He snarled. 

 

His head was throbbing, he was hungry, he was freezing, and he felt like he was falling asleep on his feet. He just wanted to curl up in bed under a pile of blankets and forget today ever happened.

 

“Five, have you been eating all your meals? It seems you are suffering from insufficient calorie intake.” Grace interrupted, and Five’s gaze swung around towards her. 

 

“Yeah.” He skipped a few meals when he got too involved in his work, but not enough to potentially-

 

“Well, using your powers burns a lot of calories, so we just need to increase your daily intake and you should be right as rain in no time!” Grace said cheerfully, and the pieces clicked together in Five’s head. 

 

Feeling cold, constantly hungry, headaches, irritability, dizziness- Five has blamed it all of sleep deprivation but they were symptoms of not getting enough calories and nutrients. Which actually made sense, Five had been doing longer and longer jumps- he was up to five miles now- and they used up more energy than Five had been able to replenish by eating. At least this was an easy fix, he just needed to eat more and he’d be back to just sleep deprived.

 

“Number Five, your current calorie intake is sufficient for your necessary power expenditure for training and missions. No changes will be made to your diet.” Reginald said briskly, and Five’s blood froze.

 

No. 

 

“So you’re saying I can’t use my powers outside of missions if I don’t want to starve? That’s insane!” He protested, fighting back rising panic.

 

“I see no need for you to be using your powers otherwise. The only thing that is detrimental to your health at this point in time is your excessive power use for your personal means, which will cease immediately. If I see you attempting to eat outside of mealtimes I will be forced to discipline you. Grace, see to it that the kitchen is monitored at all times.”

 

And just like that, the conversation was over. Reginald turned on his heel and walked out of the room, and there was nothing Five could do but watch him go. 

 

No. No, no no no no no no. 

 

“I’m pretty sure this constitutes as some form of child abuse, witholding food? That’s illegal, you can’t let him do this.” Five appealed to Grace, but her fixed smile didn’t waiver.

 

“That is correct Five, but as long as you follow your father’s rules then you won’t suffer any negative physical repercussions.” She tried to push his hair out of his eyes, but Five jerked away, mind racing.

 

“Mom, you can’t let him do this. Our welfare is your number one priority, right? This will hurt me.” Five pleaded, and this time Grace’s smile wavered, but reappeared just as quickly.

 

“Don’t be silly, your father wouldn’t do that, these rules are for your own good. Your father is a wise and just man, a force for good in this world. Did you know he was a gold medalist in the Olympics?” She began the monologue that seemed to be her default whenever any of the children questioned Reginald.

 

“You’re useless. ” Five hissed, turning away from her and moving to jump to his room, then hesitated.

 

“Useless.” He repeated quietly, then anger welled up and he jumped back to his room, stumbling as vertigo hit him. Five quickly sat down on his bed, squeezing his eyes shut until it passed.

 

He needed to jump outside of training and missions. That was non-negotiable. Not only was jumping literally ingrained into him since he was a child, he needed to get out of the mansion. He still had so much to do to prepare to leave, he needed to be alert and ready if someone else was sent to try and kill him, and experiments with spatial jumps were essential to understanding time travel. 

 

But if he couldn’t eat, his own powers would start to slowly kill him. Long distance jumps especially took a lot of energy, and Five had planned at least four ten plus mile jumps for the near future. 

 

He could just start stealing food from nearby grocery stores and hide it in his room, but that just wasn’t practical. There was no way Five could take and hide enough food to get the calories he needed, plus the nearest grocery store was a quarter mile away and that jump by itself would require more calories than he could afford.

 

For the first time in his life, Five was trapped. 

 

A wave of anger rushed through Five, leaving him trembling even more violently than before. His gaze fell on his dissertation of time travel Reginald was making him submit to the stupid goddamn science fair.

 

His vision tunneled. Five stormed over to the paper, grabbing it and ripping it in half, then again, and again. The pieces rained down on Five’s carpet like ash falling from the sky.

 

Reginald wanted to play this game?

 

Five would fucking play. 

 

-

 

***“This is not… how you say an elementary school science fair, Monsieur Hargreeves.” A man in a checkered sweater vest said slowly in an accented voice, staring at Five, then back at Reginald. “We were told the children were of superior intellect and extraordinary ability-- thought this is appears to be not the case.”

 

“I am of the same opinion as my colleague Sir Reginald.” A man with a sash and medal Five thought might be the mayor of Paris agreed. “This is an embarrassment for you.”

 

Five kept his face schooled into a neutral expression.

 

“I’m well aware of that gentlemen.” Reginald was fighting to keep his composure; Five could see his hand tightening around his cane. “Have you anything to say for yourself, Number Five?”

 

Five had to keep his lips from twitching up into a smirk. “Rather than bore our esteemed guests with an arrogant display of my space-displacement capabilities or a diagrammed thesis on slips in the chronosphere,” he saw Reginald’s grip on his cane clench even tighter when he mentioned time travel- “I decided on something much more interesting and far less insulting.” 

 

Five gestured besides him, where his science fair project was waiting. “An exact replica of our solar system.” 

 

He had created it in a night using a shoe box he found in a storage room, planets he had stolen from a nearby craft store, and his desk lamp acting as the sun through a hole in the side of the shoebox. Honestly he didn’t even fully remember making it, he had been so angry his memories were overshadowed by his desire to make Reginald pay. 

 

“Disappointingly obvious, Number Five.” Reginald ground out, leaning down and examining it more closely. “Although to call it ‘exact’ is of far greater arrogance, as you seem to have left out one important detail.” 

 

“Oh?” Five asked, examining his nails. The other two men shifted uncomfortably, unsure of what to do with themselves as the tension in the room rose to unbearable levels.

 

“You left out the Earth!” Reginald’s voice rose to a shout, and Five had to bite the inside of his cheek to conceal his smile. 

 

“Are you sure?” He didn’t look up from his nails. “It’s rather small, so it may be hard to see.” He finally looked up at Reginald, a pleasant smile fixed on his face. “It should be third closest to the sun.” He added helpfully, further humiliating Reginald- and himself, but he couldn’t care less about his own reputation.

 

“I know where Earth is, you idiot.” Reginald hissed, and this was going more perfectly than Five could have ever imagined. “Have a look for yourself.”

 

He stepped back and gestured for Five to look at his diagram himself. Five walked over and peered closely at the planets, waiting a few seconds before exaggeratedly widening his eyes, although the effect was probably negated by the domino mask. 

 

“Wow... how about that.” He drawled, stepping back and turning towards the other three men. The scientist and the politician looked at him incredulously, but Reginald’s expression was eerily calm. He leaned down until he was level with Five’s ear, and whispered “You did this on purpose.”

 

He stood back up and Five met his gaze evenly. Reginald held his stare for a moment before turning away and facing the other two men, gesturing for them to leave. The men practically fled the room, and Reginald followed them with a much slower pace. 

 

“I want you to take it down to the incinerator Number Five.” He called over his shoulder. “And destroy it.”

 

Five finally let a smile creep onto his face. “Understood.” ***

 

-

 

“How’d the science fair go? We missed you, we thought you’d only be gone two days.” 

 

“Oh I’ve been back for three days now, Reginald didn’t like my project very much so we’ve been having some quality father son bonding in the training rooms in the basement.” 

 

“What? I thought he approved of your dissertation.” 

 

“Well I decided that would insult our judge’s intelligence, so I made a different call on my project.”

 

“...what did you do.” 

 

“Did you know mine was the only model of the solar system there? It was almost an exact replica, except in an unfortunate mix up the earth seemed to have been left out.”

 

“You know, one day Dad is actually going to kill you. He’s not even going to make it look like an accident.”

 

“I’d like to see him try.”

 

-

 

Five sighed in relief as he pulled three envelopes from the P.O. box. He closed the box and dropped the key on the floor.

 

He wouldn’t need it anymore.

 

He kept his head down and walked quickly out of the post office, turning the corner and crossed the street to the park. It was deserted, the sun just peeking above the horizon. 

 

Five sat down on a bench and pulled his legs into his oversized hoodie, huddled in a small ball to preserve body heat. The dawn air was freezing against his face, and his fingers shook as he opened the first of the three letters.

 

Check.

 

He opened the second.

 

X.

 

Five hesitated before opening the third. The envelope seemed unremarkable, but he couldn’t bring himself to open it. 

 

He shoved it in his hoodie pocket. He’d open it later. He had to get back to the Academy before anyone noticed he was gone. 

 

-

 

“Breathe.” Five fought to keep his voice steady. “Ben you need to breathe, please .”

 

Ben just shook his head, still hidden in his knees, eyes squeezed shut. 

 

“Ben-” Five began, but he cut himself off. 

 

He hated feeling helpless. Fucking hated it. That’s why he planned. He prepared for every contingency, made sure he was always in control, he always had options. If someone was going to be suffering, if someone was going to be in pain, if something was going to go wrong, he made sure he took the brunt of it, because then he was still in control, he could deal with it. 

 

And this. This was hell. 

 

It used to be once in a while. Five had been relatively successful in fighting Luther on using The Horror, usually just taking care of the threat himself before Luther could stop him. But now they were taking on threats bigger than Five could take care of himself, no matter how hard he fought, and he had no choice but to step aside and let Ben unleash the Horror. He always stayed and helped Ben get it back under control, but now that missions were becoming an almost daily occurrence, the Horror was coming out to play far, far too often, and the monster started fighting back even more viciously than before.

 

There hadn’t been any noticeable change in Ben’s physical health, Five forced Grace to check Ben daily before wiping her memory of doing so. Physically, Ben was a healthy twelve year old. The problem wasn’t with his physical body, it was something else entirely, something completely unknown, and it terrified him. 

 

No equations could fix this. There was nothing Five could do. Hot compresses didn’t help, ice packs did nothing, bandages were laughable. 

 

He could do but watch and make sure it didn’t escape. They had had some close calls, but Five and Ben were always able to force it back before it could emerge fully and alert the rest of the house to its presence. 

 

“Ben, please try and breathe. I know it hurts, but you need to breathe.” Five said steadily, refusing to let his voice waver.

 

This was the worst night Ben had had so far. Five had noticed at dinner Ben was hunched over in pain, and as soon as dinner was over Five jumped them to Ben’s room, where Ben had curled up and hadn’t uncurled since. Five had caught the Horror emerging four times already and had taken care of it quickly, afraid to leave Ben’s side.

 

Five had been supposed to listen to Vanya practice tonight, but he couldn’t leave Ben alone on nights like this. He’d try and make it up to her later, but right now he couldn’t leave Ben. 

 

“I can’t.” Ben sobbed, the sound directly piercing Five’s heart. 

 

“You can. I’m going to touch your back.” Five said quietly, moving to sit against the headboard next to Ben. He gently placed his hand on Ben’s back, feeling the muscles like iron rods, straining against an invisible force. “Do you feel my hand?”

 

Ben nodded, his face still hidden in his knees, but Five took it in stride. “Good. I want you to push against it. Expand your chest, you need to let air in.”

 

Ben nodded again, sucking in a shallow breath. An improvement from the hyperventilating earlier that night and the shallow panting of a few seconds ago, but still not enough. 

 

Five fought to keep his own breathing steady. If Ben didn’t start to breathe, really breathe, he was going to pass out. 

 

It had happened once before.

 

They didn’t talk about that night. 

 

“Good. Again, deeper.” Five pushed the despair away, focused on his task. One breath at a time. 

 

Get to the next breath. Then repeat. 

 

Ben complied, the breath slightly deeper. 

 

“Good.” Five whispered as Ben repeated the process, breaths getting deeper. “I’m not going to let this happen again.” Five said, not caring if Ben was listening. “It’s always worst after it comes out. I’m taking over on missions. Luther and his orders can go to hell. If there’s still criminals that need to be taken care of, I'll do it. I’ll train more, be better .”

 

“No.” Ben protested, rocking forward before resettling back against Five’s hand. “You could get hurt.”

 

“Well if you take care of them you are practically guaranteed hell later that night. This isn’t about you not being capable or me being overbearing and trying to stifle you or whatever other complaints you have. This is about your life being in danger. I’ll take the risk of getting a minor injury if it prevents this.” Five fought to keep his tone neutral and his voice down. 

 

“Alright.” Ben whispered, and it was a testament to how much pain he had to be in if he was willingly agreeing to let Five put himself in danger. 

 

The night wore on.

 

-

 

Five slowly pushed open the graveyard gate, wincing as it screeched loudly. Seriously, Reginald couldn’t have chosen a nicer graveyard to stick his adopted son in? Reginald had gotten sloppy. He had informed Klaus that he would be having private training tonight right in front of the rest of the academy, which was unusual, to say the least. Reginald usually kept private training sessions under wraps; but Five wasn’t going to complain about the one thing in his life that was going his way. 

 

As he walked quickly through the rows of tombstones he briefly shut his eyes and breathed out, trying to stop shivering. Now that he knew what the problem was he couldn’t ignore the constant hollowness in his stomach and the weakness and chills that accompanied slowly starving. 

 

Maybe after he checked on Klaus he’d stop at a diner or something; it wouldn’t fix anything long term but at least he’d feel better for an evening. He caught sight of the mausoleum in the distance, the imposing structure looming over the rest of the graveyard. 

 

Five was just here to make sure that his and Ben’s plan worked; tonight was the first night Klaus had been forced back into the mausoleum since Five had snuck in and stayed with him. Hopefully since the corpses were dumped in the nearby lake the ghosts had gone with them and Five could go to Griddy’s and not spend another sleepless night in a mausoleum.

 

The hill leading up to the mausoleum was steep and Five’s legs were burning. Five had been trying to avoid extraneous jumps; he had walked the three miles here and he had slowly been adjusting to conserving his energy for when he really needed to jump. It went against every rebellious instinct Five was ingrained with, but he had to play this smart. Between helping Ben contain the Horror and jumping for missions Five’s energy levels were lower than they had ever been. He had been ingesting coffee at what even he could admit was a frankly alarming rate, but it was the only way to combat the exhaustion that was settling into his bones, making him slow to respond to his siblings and had almost gotten him killed a few times on missions. 

 

Ben knew something was wrong, but Five wasn’t spilling. It was better this way.

 

Five finally reached the top of the hill, glaring spitefully at the padlock on the mausoleum doors. 

 

Reginald was the worst .

 

Five shouldered his backpack and prepared to jump in, but before he did, he felt a shiver run down his spine and he spun around, convinced he was being watched. His gaze darted through the rows of gravestones, eyes squinting into the darkness. After a moment he turned back to the doors and twisted his wrists, going through the motions of jumping and-

 

And nothing. Five blinked, panic welling up in him. He twisted his wrists again, staring at the spatial grid that refused to part and let him through. He pushed , abandoning his usual method of drawing space around and reverting back to trying to tear a hole in space.

 

A blue glow radiated from his fists, but grid remained stubbornly intact. 

 

As the glow fizzled out Five stared at his hands, eyes wide with disbelief. 

 

He- he couldn’t jump. 

 

This had never happened before. What-

 

Five was suddenly aware of the sweat coating his body, and he was colder than he was before. It was suddenly a struggle to stay on his feet, and he felt the world spin around him.

 

The rev of a car engine broke him out of his shock and he spun around, caught in the beam of headlights. 

 

No. Why was he back so soon, he wasn’t supposed to be back until dawn, why was he here-

 

“Number Five. What is the meaning of this?” Reginald’s voice washed over Five like a cold wave.

 

No. This was not happening, this couldn’t be happening, this wasn’t real, this wasn’t-

 

“Number Five!” Reginald barked and Five jumped, yanked out his spiral.

 

A plan. He needed an explanation.

 

“I-” he managed to croak out, but the words were stuck in his throat. The air felt like it was suffocating him, his mind kept replaying his inability to jump. Everything was moving in slow motion. “I was-”

 

“Very well.” Reginald walked towards him and Five couldn’t make himself move. Distantly, he registered a scream coming from the mausoleum, but it sounded like it was underwater. 

 

Five realized with a start that Reginald was only a few feet away. He desperately tried to force himself through a jump but the surface of space would not yield to him, it felt like he was pushing against an elastic wall, it kept pushing him back and he was so tired-

 

Five’s body gave out.

 

-

 

When Five woke up, it was to a blinding light in his face and a pounding in his head. His wrists and ankles were strapped down to a metal chair eerily reminiscent of the one he had been strapped into when he was eleven and, wait, yeah, same chair. Five followed the wires to the switch in the wall, involuntarily yanking his hands back, trying to slide them out of the restraints. 

 

No use. 

 

Five breathed deeply and tried to center himself. 

 

What had happened?

 

Graveyard. Klaus. Reginald.

 

His powers had failed him.

 

His body finally gave out. It couldn’t support the constant energy drain and trying to force the jumps on next to no energy had just drained him, and he paid the price for it happening at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

 

He could worry about that later. Right now, he needed to worry about-

 

“Number Five.”

 

Reginald.

 

“Reginald Hargreeves.” Five lifted his chin and stared Reginald in the eyes. 

 

Reginald didn’t dignify him with an answer, just raised his hand and backhanded Five across the face. Five’s head snapped to the side and his vision swam, and Five blinked, fighting to stay conscious.

 

“I see you decided to ignore my explicit instructions. Not only did you endanger yourself by using your powers irresponsibly, but you risked your brother’s safety by trying to interrupt his private training. What do you have to say for yourself?”

 

Five smiled. He was done caring about what happened to him. There was no point in holding back. 

 

“Gosh, I’m real sorry for trying to be a good brother, I just thought Klaus might get lonely.” He did his best to shrug with his arms pinned down as blood began to drip into his eyes. Damn, had he hit his head too?

 

“Number Five, your insolence will not be tolerated!” Reginald yelled, his composure falling completely. “You will be put in place!”

 

“You’re trying to beat a square peg into a round hole buddy.” Five snarled, and the blood dripped down his cheek. “You can’t control me, you never could.”

 

“We’ll see about that.” Reginald said calmly, all traces of rage instantly gone from his face. He walked over to the wall and placed his hand on the switch, looking back at Five, who lifted his chin and refused to let any fear show on his face.

 

“Do it.”

 

Reginald flipped the switch and electricity coursed through Five’s body, his mind going white as his body seized up.

 

Instinctually Five tried to jump. Space rippled around him, pulling itself towards him, but he couldn’t complete the circuit. 

 

He couldn’t break through.

 

The electricity stopped and Five opened his eyes, trying to keep control of his spasming muscles. The world was spinning around him, and he fought to remain conscious. 

 

“I’m sorry, was that supposed to do something?” His voice was raspy but he smiled, raising his chin from his chest. 

 

Reginald remained silent, studying him. Five fought to maintain eye contact while his vision faded in and out. He tightened his wrists against the restraints, using the pain as a focus to stay conscious. 

 

“Number Five, you are of above average intellect. You must see the futility in your actions.” Reginald finally spoke. His hand was still hovered over the switch, waiting for Five to make one wrong more.

 

Five stared at him for a moment, incredulous, then he began to laugh. It started small, but before long he was laughing uncontrollably, doubled over in his restraints.

 

He might have passed out. He wasn’t sure. But when he straightened up again his vision was steady, and he blinked away tears.

 

“You know what? You’re right. My actions are completely futile. Why don’t you go back to repeatedly electrocuting me in the hopes that it will make me fall in line and turn into your perfect little soldier.” Five mocked over the roaring in his ears, his whole body shuddering.

 

Reginald considered him coldly, then his hand fell away from the switch. He walked back over to Five and stood over him. Five’s vision began to blur again, and this time to amount of pain from his wrists wasn’t enough to bring it back into focus.

 

“I would consider your next actions carefully, Number Five.” Reginald broke the silence as Five fought desperately to stay conscious. “Next time this device is used, you might not be the one in it.” 

 

“You’re bluffing. None of them would survive this, you need your little soldiers.” Five panted, and Reginald’s blurred figure got closer.

 

“That may be correct, but Number Seven is of no use to me.”

 

And there it was. 

 

“I could get her out. You’d never see her again.”

 

“Yes, I suppose you could.” Reginald said arily, as if they were discussing what Grace made for dinner that evening. “But my resources far outnumber yours, you wouldn’t stay hidden for long.”

 

“Alright then. What’s your deal?” Five responded, blinking away the mixture of tears and blood under his eyes.

 

“There is no deal Number Five. This is of no consequence to me.” Reginald walked towards the door. “I advise you to think about your next move. Next time I will not be nearly as forgiving.”

 

The lights went out and the door slammed, leaving Five alone.

 

And in the darkness, Five planned.

 

-

 

Five is sitting on his bed, envelope in his lap, still unopened. His journal is open beside him, blank page waiting for a checkmark or an X.

 

Five opens the envelope. His eyes quickly scan the letter, and when he reaches the last line his hands clench, and the paper tears in his hands. Five squeezes his eyes shut, crumpling the paper further.

 

He breathes. 

 

In

 

And

 

Out

 

Five opens his eyes and writes a small X on the top of the blank journal page. He moves on autopilot, shredding the paper and letting the scraps float down to rest on his bed. 

 

There is nothing left to wait for. 

 

He has to do this. 

 

He hates it, but he has to go. It is the only solution. 

 

He will not put his siblings in danger. He would rather have them hate him than them get hurt because of him. 

 

He will explain it all when he got back. 

 

Five stands and picks up his journal, sliding off the bed and reaching underneath it to pry up the loose floorboard. He slips the journal in and stands up, staring at the clock on his wall. The second hand ticks to the twelve, and it is midnight. 

 

Tuesday, November fifth, 2002. 

 

-

 

T-Minus Five