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oh, simple thing (where have you gone?)

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He is so scared to look.

Five’s felt horror enough times in his life to recognize it, how it creeps in like ice in his veins. He feels it building as strong as the pounding in his chest.

He finds the fourth body lying down on his stomach. He's wrapped in a fur coat, and his cheek is resting on a brick, his eyes horribly open. And when Five follows the length of his arm down, down, downward - his suspicion is confirmed. 

It's not a ridiculous conclusion to come to, he knows. But there is something so awful about it that he has to shove it to the back of his mind until he finds further evidence. A different conclusion. 

He finds Luther first. 

In a big, gloved hand, he is holding an eyeball between his fingertips with blood and flesh surrounding it, as if he'd pulled it out himself. He knows they'd grown up but he didn't think it possible to grow this much. Underneath what Five thinks is a car door, he can see the size, width, girth of Luther's body, unlike anyone he's seen before, only in comic books or the television shows they were allowed on rare occasions. He must have missed something, something between then and now or now and then, something that would explain it. 

He moves through the piles of falling building and the ash and the dust and he sees Diego. God, Diego. It must be, Number One and Number Two. Of course, he'd find them in order (habit must last a lifetime, Five thinks). A trickle of blood has already dried down his face but he shakes him anyway, shakes him even though he knows he's too late.

He blinks in disbelief as he looks up and around him, at the wreckage. His heart catches in his throat - Allison is laying there, not too far from Diego, with a crease between her brows. She is weighed down by rocks and Five tries futilely to lift them, thinks there's nothing worse than his sister dying under all this damage when she grew up to be so beautiful. 

Five walks through the rubble like it's grass. The rough edges of bricks and shards of glass caught on his exposed shins are the thorns in the berry bushes. It can't be anything other than that. 

He stops in his tracks at the sight of another body. Laid flat on his stomach with his cheek smushed against the brick he lays on, he wears an almost peaceful expression on his face, if you don't count his unblinking eyes. 

Five thinks, seven of them total. He's found three, including himself, three left. This is the fourth member of his family, he concludes, and that's only if he's right. 

(He prays, for the first time in his life, that his calculations are incorrect.)

He lets his eyes fall down the body's (Klaus', his brain supplies, but he ignores it) arm, his pale skin littered with dark hair, the faint lines of muscle, and -

A tattoo of an umbrella with a red handle, surrounded by a circle. 

Five falls to the ground as it hits him. 

(He searches and searches through the piles and piles, he digs in the ground, he walks through the carcass of the place he used to call home, and he can't find them. He can't find them, he can't find them, he can't find himself if he can't find them, how does he live if he can't find them?)

There is something equally horrific and comforting as he lifts Diego's arm long enough to tuck himself under it. Rocks don't make good pillows or good beds, but he is so tired. Diego was always soft, he remembers. Even though they sparred - even though they fought, and trained, and fought some more, he was always soft. Soft and warm, like heat radiated from him. 

He ignores the twist in his stomach at how cold Diego is, just to be able to rest. Just for a bit. 

Five wakes and the first thing he notices is the absence of light. Then, the arm around him and he almost freaks - almost starts going batshit because how and why and when and who drugged him and got in bed with him but then reality hits him like a cold brick wall. 

The arm he laid over himself hasn't moved an inch since he fell asleep - the body next to him is dead, the bodies surrounding those bodies are dead. 

He wishes he could go back to sleep, he wishes when he balled his hands into fists the stupid things worked - and he knows he's worth more than his power, knows he's capable of thousands of other respectable things, but he can't help but feel like he's a failure, every time the air warps around his hands and nothing else comes from it. 

Onto something useful, he tells himself. 

He walks for miles and miles, until both his feet hurt, until he thinks for sure his toes have bled through his socks, until he falls to the ground before him once more. 

He found bodies - but none that he was looking for. 

(He can't find them, he can't find them, who is he if he can't find them? How does he get back if he can't find them?)

Fire, Five concludes. Maybe a meteor shower, but he's not too sure, because he doesn't know how much time has passed. He's not sure how to solve it without knowing at least one of the variables. All he knows his: his family is dead. All he knows is: there are no living life forms around him. All he knows is: he jumped too far and he can't seem to get back. 

Perhaps it had been something else - but if the hundreds of charred bodies (body parts, more accurately) he found are anything to go by, that's about the only thing that makes sense. 

(They will haunt him forever in his dreams, he thinks. Their eyes, frozen in fear. So many of them died afraid, but so many others seemed like they hadn't realized. When he feels a wave of something taking over him, when he feels like he's losing his mind - he tries to put stories to their faces. A mother, a teacher, a fighter. Maybe someone not unlike himself. He wonders, what did his siblings become? If they had children or maybe got married, had their own family. It's unfathomable - to imagine the faces he knew, the faces they were, he can't possibly picture them as adults with responsibilities, with people depending on them wholly. It makes his heart ache.)

When Five dreams that night, there was horror, of course. And it jolted him awake with screams and bile rising his throat.

But then he was home.

He was home but home wasn't home, wasn't the forbidden rooms and looming shadows of high ceilings and windows. Home was warmth. Home was Mom waking him up with a gentle hand on his cheek. Home was soft embraces from his siblings, days in the park and nights laying out on the lawn, watching as the clouds passed and stars flickered out. Home was love. 

All he can think of, as he treks through the wasteland that New York had been transformed to, is how cold he is. 

"Where'd you get this?" He asks Diego. 

He spends a considerable amount of time studying their bodies before the stench becomes too much to handle. The curve of Luther's nose, Allison's new hair, the jut of Klaus' jaw (he looks so thin, too thin to be healthy). 

He's not sure when he stops looking for them. 

He traces the scar that cuts through Diego's eyebrow gently. He tries to will a response out of him, something from the beyond, any words to come out of his lips that get more and more chapped as the days go on. There is never any answer. 

He talks to them like they're still there, even though he knows nothing about the people who inhabited these bodies. Five tries but he can't ever find a trace of the people he knew in them, except for the authoritative set of Luther's shoulder's, Diego's knife harness, the curve of Allison's lips, and Klaus - 

Klaus seems to be nothing more than a stranger in this body. 

Number Four went to the mausoleum again today, Five chalks up in his evergrowing list of daily information he finds useful. It's different things: the look Vanya gives him at the kitchen table over their oatmeal, the faint stain of blood on Ben's collar, the disheveled look of both Luther and Allison, if Diego stuttered that particular day and how often. 

Klaus'  habits are different, in a way Five only ever seems to notice. Darker, perhaps. It's the nature of his power that torments him so much. Father, who only makes it worse. 

He takes note of the tear tracks on his cheeks, the volume of his cries at night. If he hears the door open or the window.

Five never got to find out where he went, if he ever went anywhere. Five never got to find out a lot of things. 

"Vanya!" He calls. "Ben!"

There is fire and there is ash and no matter how loud he yells, no one can hear him. 

"Dad!" He tries. Surely his father was playing some type of trick, right? He couldn't have jumped this far, Reginald would have stopped it, somehow, surely. 

The panic sets in before he can stop it. He's getting more desperate and he thinks he can hear the way time passes so, so slowly. 

"Anyone!" He tries, as a last resort. Maybe if his family couldn't hear him, someone else would. 

Five's blind optimism baffles him now. 

He laughs bitterly into a bottle of alcohol that he can't find the label of, fallen ash making it illegible. He'd never drank before he came here, and he's past the point of understanding how he got by without it. Dolores tells him he drinks too much, too often, but he's past the point of listening to her, too. 

He slurs out their names again, like another person's Hail Mary, another person's ritual. "Vanya and Ben, Ben and Vanya!" He spits. "Six and Seven, you disappear in order on purpose? Did you - you fucking leave me on purpose?" He chokes out. 

Maybe Dolores was right. He walks with some difficulty towards the edge of his terrain and hurls the bottle as far as he can. 

He'll go back out for it later, but no one has to know. He'll leave Dolores on watch duty. 

Five buries them where they lay. 

He stacks bricks and rubble and anything he can find in three high piles, the only gravestone he can give them. 

His arms ache by the time he's finished with Luther, and when he's covered Allison, he slumps to the ground next to Diego. He thinks of the first day he came here, ages and ages ago, and how good it had felt to rest. He moves as if in a trance and steps over to Diego's other side and lifts his arm again, and it's déjà vu, his movements. This time, he turns towards Diego, he studies his face with rapt attention. He doesn't want to forget - he can't imagine he ever could, but for good luck, just in case. 

He traces the raised skin of Diego's scar and feels a tear fall down his cheek, and he shivers at the coldness of it.

"I'm doing this for you," he whispers, and closes his eyes.