Five stared at the fireplace, watching as the flames rose and disappeared, extinguishing and leaving ashes in the wake.
They choked him, stuck to him even if he tried to scrub them away. He always tied a handkerchief around his mouth, muffling his breathing but protecting him from the sour taste of the ashes. There was no smell in the apocalypse, just the scent of burning and rotting corpses. His siblings’ corpses, which he had buried underneath the rubble as best as he could. The tears had dried days ago, when he had realized crying only helped to dehydrate him, make him die faster.
Any water he found was tainted gray with soot, remains of a world he had left.
I told you so , the voice of his father told him once again.
The heat of the fires stung his face, leaving him short of breath, but they did nothing to warm the ice cold feeling that had settled in his chest.
His family was dead. He could still see they’re cold eyes every time he closed his own, unseeing, staring at something in horror.
He was alone, isolated, with no one to talk to.
Thunder, and then a crash which made him jolt. He looked around, eyes wide and unseeing, his brain trying to catch up, uncharacteristically slow.
He was in the living room, sitting in front of the fire.
There were voices speaking, and what he might’ve recognized as muffled sobs if he had been more aware.
His heart was beating fast, drumming like it was attempting to leap out of his chest. He tried to take a breath, but his throat closed up, and tears sprang to his eyes.
He jumped, turning around with wide eyes. Diego? But Diego was dead, he’d buried him along with the rest, those dark eyes staring at him, unseeing-
“Get up and help me-“
Diego frowned. Five stared at him, ghosts couldn’t talk. Or at least, they never could before. Sometimes they appeared in his dreams, haunting him, but they never spoke. After all, he had never heard the voices of his adult siblings.
“Hey, Five, look at me”
Fingers snapped in front of him, and he flinched so hard Diego took a step back.
“Ah shit. Luther, you got Klaus?”
“Uh... Yeah. What's wrong?”
Luther? When did Luther get here? Luther was dead, clutching a single eye with horror eternally imprinted in his own-
“I think Five had a flashback too. Don’t know that caused it though”
Flashback? He wasn’t having a flashback, didn’t he understand? They were all-
“Dead” his voice cracked and trembled, “you’re all dead”
Diego sighed and crouched down to his level.
“Hey” his voice was soft, and Five looked at him wearily as he reached out. Ghosts couldn’t touch him.
Diego must have read his thoughts, because he grabbed him by the sides of his face, gentle but firm. His hands were cold, and it shocked him harder than it should have. Somehow the way he rubbed at his temple with his thumb felt more grounding than any other sound or image.
“We’re here, Five. You’re home, in 2019”
Minutes (or seconds, time was fuzzy) passed, in which memories filtered in and swept the confusion away.
As he looked at Diego, who somehow looked both soft and stern, he felt his face drain of any color it had left, and then come back rushing in a wave of heat Diego could probably feel through his fingers.
He stumbled back like he’d been burned, rubbing at his cheeks just in case. They were wet, damn it.
“I’m fine” he said, because what else was there to be said? Diego did not respond. “What’s wrong with Klaus?”
Diego looked back to see Luther with an arm around Klaus, who was clutching a steaming mug like it was the only thing keeping him alive.
“I’m peachy, Five. Don’t worry about little old me” he said with a grin, but his voice was wobbly at best. He looked pale, his eyes puffy and rimmed with red.
“The thunder,” Luther explained, rubbing Klaus' shoulder awkwardly. Klaus wordlessly leaned against Luther.
“He… mistook it for something else”
PTSD sucked. That was Five’s conclusion from tonight.
“Five, what triggered you?”
Five turned to Diego
“Your flashback. What triggered it?”
Five stood up, ignoring the way the room spun. His skin was crawling, and he felt dizzy and disoriented, like he’d been spun around a hundred times and then told to finish an equation.
“I didn’t- I’m fine” he spat out, forcing himself to look angry and defensive. It was a good tactic, an easy way to make sure people left him alone.
Alone, just like in the apocalypse.
His throat closed up again, and he forced himself to take a shaky breath.
“And even if I did have one, you two imbeciles wouldn’t get it anyway”
He expected Diego to get angry, to sneer and bite back, but he didn’t. He just… stood there, still crouched down, as calm as he’d ever seen him.
“Talk to us, Five”
God, why did he have to act this way? The day he needs him to be a hothead he turns into a mature adult.
“Yeah, we can make sure it doesn’t happen again”
He turned to glare at Luther, and found Klaus giving him puppy eyes and clutching his dog tags.
His brothers were the worst.
“The ashes” he said, hating the tremble in his voice. Nobody spoke.
“In the apocalypse, ashes were everywhere. It took months until they settled, but even then there would be a storm and they would fill the air again”
It was stupid, so goddamn stupid. He couldn’t look at them, couldn’t bear to see their pitying gazes.
Nope. He turned around and blinked to his room. Childish? Maybe. He didn’t particularly care.
He looked at his hands, they were trembling. He closed them into fists, waiting for the darkening edges of his vision to clear. Maybe blinking hadn’t been the best idea he’d had.
It took him hours to crash. In the meantime he paced up and down his room, not daring to come out. He tried to write a few equations on the wall, but the numbers seemed to dance in his eyes. At one point he heard footsteps and froze, preparing himself to blink if necessary. The footsteps stopped outside his door, and a yellow note was slid through the gap between the floor and the door.
He picked it up and listened as the footsteps faded away.
If you need a hug, you know where I live
-An old friend of flashbacks
He had scoffed and crumbled the note. Typical Klaus.
Five woke up with a scream in his lips, trembling as he fought to calm his breathing. A few sobs escaped his chest, and he wrapped his arms around his legs, trying very hard not to make any noise.
He had fallen asleep with his uniform on, he realized after a few minutes when he noticed the way his shirt stuck to his back with sweat.
The faces of his siblings’ corpses welcomed him every time he closed his eyes. He normally had three scenarios to choose from. Tonight, it was bullets, his siblings’ bodies showered in crimson, life fading out of their eyes as the seconds passed.
He got up, the blankets suddenly felt suffocating.
His only excuse for what he did next was that he wasn’t thinking clearly. He was panicking and disoriented, and his tiny 13 year old brain did the only thing it could think of.
He blinked into the middle of Klaus’ bedroom, flinching when light assaulted his eyes.
Above Klaus’ bed hung a string of fairy lights, bright and sparkly, which suited Klaus’ whole ‘aesthetic’ as he liked to call it. A lamp on the bedside table was also turned on.
What the hell was Klaus’ doing up at this ungodly hour?
“Christ on a cracker, Five. You scared me”
He was alive, thank God. A tiny part of his mind had been wondering if they really had survived, if he had managed to save them.
“I-“ Five swallowed, looking at the floor “I’ll take that hug now”
Klaus said nothing, which was unusual for him. He simply got up and pulled Five in, wrapping his arms around his shoulders. A hand landed on his head, and Five took a shaky breath and buried his face in Klaus’ chest.
“I watched you die” he finally said, when he couldn’t take the silence anymore. “It’s in my head, constantly on loop, and I can’t-“ his voice broke, and wasn’t that pathetic? A 58 year old man crying on his younger brother because of a nightmare.
Klaus said nothing. His arms around Five tightened as he ran his fingers through the dark locks.
Something loosened in Five’s chest when he felt lips press on the top of his head.
He wasn’t sure how long they stayed like that, enough for his tears to dry and his breathing to calm down.
Five pulled away first, and Klaus let him, waiting for him as he straightened his tie, shook his head and pushed his hair back.
“What were you doing up?” Five asked, relieved when his voice didn’t tremble or crack.
“I couldn’t sleep” he pointed at his bed, where a pair of needles and yarn were laying.
“Sorry, I disturbed you”
He turned around but Klaus grabbed his arm.
“I was already awake, and I wasn’t alone, Ben’s here”
Five stiffened under his arm.
Klaus scoffed out a laugh
“He’s always here” there was silence for a moment. “He says hi, and that he’s happy you came to me”
“Can I see him?”
Klaus’ fists glowed blue.
A figure flickered like a hologram on Klaus left.
Ben grinned at him
A smile tugged at Five’s lips.
He remembered finding out about Ben’s death in Vanya’s book, blinking back tears as she described how the horror in Ben’s chest had gone out of control. That had been the second and last time he had cried in the apocalypse, imagining his littlest brother screaming.
His smile banished
“I’m sorry” his voice was hoarse again, damn it.
Ben’s smile turned even kinder. He had missed him so much.
“It’s alright, Five. You were forgiven a long time ago”
That almost made him cry again but he swallowed down the lump in his throat.
“Do you want to stay here tonight?” Klaus asked. Five looked at him wearily, the response of I’m not a kid in his lips.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m probably not gonna get any sleep tonight, I just thought we could both use the company”
He almost refused. Almost. But then he saw Klaus tired eyes, his uncharacteristically serious expression, and he found himself nodding.
He blinked to his room to grab a book, and when he came back Klaus threw something at him.
He caught it on instinct and found it was a pair of sweatpants and a soft t-shirt.
“Change. You’re not getting on my bed with those clothes,” he snorted, a bit of his usual light sparking up in his eyes, “that sounded so dirty”
Five made a face and blinked into the bathroom to change.
No wonder Klaus looked worried , he thought when he saw his reflection, I look like shit.
His skin looked paler than it already was, his cheeks red and his eyes puffy and fever bright. He realized he did feel uncomfortably hot in his blazer.
He changed quickly, avoiding the mirror as much as possible. He washed his face, relishing the feeling of the cool water on his feverish face.
He got out of the bathroom, ignoring the sly grin on Klaus’ face -he was well aware of how ridiculous he looked, thank you very much.
The shirt was too big for him, it slipped down one of his arms, exposing his bony clavicle and shoulder. But it was incredibly soft, and it smelled like Klaus’, like home, so he decided not to complain.
The sweatpants were also too big, he’d had to roll the waistband several times so he wouldn’t trip while walking.
“You look adorable” Klaus commented gleefully.
“I will strangle you with those fairy lights”
“Ben agrees with me”
“No he doesn’t”
Klaus’ fist glowed blue, and Ben appeared sitting on a loveseat by the window.
“Yes I do”
He disappeared again, but Five still flipped him off.
Ignoring Klaus’ laughter, he jumped on the bed and crawled under the covers, aggressively opening the book and burying his face in it.
He ignored the way his ears were burning.
Beside him, Klaus stifled a last giggle and continued with his knitting. Five allowed himself a small smile.
The hours of the night ticked by, and Klaus and Five sat in silence. Klaus fell asleep for a few hours, his head fell onto Five’s shoulder as he snored softly. When he started mumbling in distress about an hour into his slumber, Five turned to him, his eyes never leaving his book. He kissed Klaus’ temple, and his younger brother relaxed again, his soft breaths tickling Five’s neck.
When Five woke up, sunlight was beginning to seep into the room. The first thing he felt was an arm around him, and then the sound of a heartbeat in his ear. He opened his eyes to find himself leaning against Klaus’ chest as the latter read his book.
A part of him considered jumping out of bed, acting angry and evasive to erase the night of weakness.
He shifted to look at Klaus better.
“Did you steal m’book?” He slurred, his mind still groggy from sleep.
“It looked interesting,” Klaus said, turning a page. “You can go back to sleep, Five”
Five hummed and shifted a little.
“‘Kay… did you get any sleep?”
“A few hours”
Five thought about it for a moment until he remembered Klaus sleeping against him. Satisfied, he closed his eyes again, listening to the sound of Klaus’ heart as darkness overtook him once more.