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Arriving 15 Minutes Late With Starbucks

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Gossiping wasn’t limited to middle-class housewives with nothing better to do. Allison wasn’t the sole purveyor of rumors. Whispered insults, assumptions, lies and truths, sharing information with a sweet turn of the lips. In fact, they were rife in high school.

“Have you met the new student yet? Five?”

“Are you kidding? He’s in my fourth period. Always walks in late with coffee. The teacher doesn’t even care.”

They didn’t bother to lower their voices to whispers as Five walked by, but he didn’t really care what they said about him. Five didn’t really concern himself over what others thought of him, although he appreciated that most of his classmates didn’t look down on him as a kid who couldn’t possibly understand anything. They were kids themselves, and although they were woefully immature and hormonal depressed wrecks, it was a step up to be considered an equal after so many other disappointing encounters with anyone over the age of 30.

They were annoying when they asked him for help on homework or even tried to talk to him, but he didn’t stick around during lunch period, and being lost in a thick textbook or equations that would give a university physics professor a migraine usually deterred most from disturbing him.

If they wanted to talk about how he teleported between classes over to the coffee shop down the street that was so used to teenage customers that they took his order without a second glance, that was their problem. He didn’t care for arriving to class on time. Greeting the Spanish teacher with perfect German as he walked in 15 minutes after the bell threw her off, and he figured that when the novelty of the trick wore off, he’d have enough top marks in class that she wouldn’t care what he did.

Going to public school wasn’t very exciting, and definitely hadn’t been on Five’s list of things to do after stopping the apocalypse, but laws had to be what they were and nosy neighbors just had to be nosy, didn’t they?

After a new wardrobe of pressed shirts and pants, fresh notebooks, a backpack, and a series of placement tests later, Five Hargreeves had been registered at a nearby school, a grade above normal 13-year-olds, taking classes meant for overachieving students who wanted college credit. Having around 45 years on all of them, he was sure colleges would come calling because of the perfect grades he was going to get.

It was high school, and he was 58 years old in reality. Of course he was going to ace everything.

For the most part, Five kept his head down, out of and away from drama, and he hadn’t even broken anyone’s fingers yet. That streak likely wouldn’t last the whole year, but he could read and work out his equations between all the actual school stuff that teachers expected him to do, and there was always coffee, so there was a good chance that the streak could hold out for a while.

That didn’t mean he didn’t notice what was going on.

There was something to the real secrets passed in whispers or spoken about in neglected corners of the school’s halls where they thought nobody was lurking, in those same neglected corners that Five jumped in and out of to avoid teleporting in front of anyone who didn’t know about his powers.

The whispers that floated ideas of magic and the impossible, talking about controlling water and speaking as if there was one singular person to blame for the neighborhood blackouts.

It wasn’t much of a surprise when one of his classmates followed him as he slipped around a corner when the lunch bell rang. Instead of blinking over to one of the nearby restaurants to grab a better lunch than what the cafeteria offered, Five stopped, turning to face his pursuer.

“We need to talk,” Tawny said, fixing him with a serious stare.

Five gestured to the empty hallway. “Then talk.”

“We’ve seen you, you know,” she started with. “Your teleporting. Jumping around when you thought nobody would see you.”

“Well, I’ve never really seen much point in hiding it before coming here.” Five sighed, then grinned. “I guess I slipped up somewhere. What are you gonna do about it, Sparky?”

Tawny’s eyes widened at the nickname. “You’re one of us.”

“Us…” He sucked in air between his teeth, pointedly looking up her up and down, from her heavy boots to the rest of her punk aesthetic with condescension. “I wouldn’t really call it that, but I’ve seen you fry your phone once or twice.” She grimaced at that reminder. Clearly it was a common occurrence. “And Giggles in my chem class doesn’t know the meaning of subtle.”

There were small things that most students probably wouldn’t notice or think hard on, but Five knew the impossible was possible, so he had noticed how spilled water swept itself into the sink with a vague gesture. Chokers, long hair, and high collars hid the strange markings on her neck from casual view, but she slipped up sometimes. Five had seen the gills and shifting scales.

“That’s Draga. Elior’s part of our group, too,” Tawny gave away, seeing as Five had already figured them out. He wasn’t familiar with that name. “I wanted to offer you a chance at learning more.”

“I’ve learned plenty over the years, but thanks,” he said, a biting tone to his words.

“How much do you know about magic?” Tawny pressed anyway, taking a step forward. She had nearly a whole foot of height on him.

Five snorted. “At a certain point, science is indecipherable from magic. I know enough about physics to understand my power, so I don’t need anything you’re offering.”

Tawny smirked, and oh, he hated that. “So you only know your own specialty.”

“Specialty?” he spat. “It’s my power, just like yours is electrical discharge—”

“We can teach you more, if you come with us. Draga knows a lot more, and she’s been teaching us some spells.”

“Tawny?” A head of brown hair peeked around the corner, eyes taking in the scene of Five and Tawny standing there. A skittish-looking kid walked towards them. “Has he said yes yet?”

“You’re Elior?” Five guessed. “There’s no guarantee I’ll agree to anything, much less if you’re going around calling it magic.”

The kid called Elior disappeared, only for Five to whirl around to see Elior standing behind him. “Magic, power, thinking with portals, whatever,” Elior said with a shrug. “I can ‘port you to where we usually go to practice our stuff.”

“Just once,” Tawny insisted. “And you can sleep on it after you see everything.”

Five didn’t give a response, just a steady glare, but a sweep of Elior’s hand rose a portal from the floor. Fog filled the hole in the fabric of space, but the longer he stared, the more it cleared, opening into an enticing forest glade. Five tore his eyes from the sight.

“And what do you get out of this?” he asked Tawny. “You’re offering me ‘magic’ or whatever, and it looks like you already have someone among you with my same power.”

And Tawny shrugged.

She fucking shrugged.

God, he hated teenagers.

“Someone in on the secrets?” she said as if it was a question, and she walked past him as if he didn’t want to murder her. “Just go in the portal, Five. You’ll see it’s fun, and that you’re not alone. You’re not the only person with powers here.”

She walked into the portal, turning into a wavering blur in the image on the other side.

Not alone. Five had brothers and sisters with powers; he’d known since he was little that he wasn’t the only one who could do something special. These kids, however, had never heard of the Umbrella Academy. Reginald Hargreeves had never become a person of note in this timeline. All they had were superhero movies and fantasy novels.

He looked at Elior, a nondescript kid he could almost see his former 13-year-old self in; eager to push the limits on what was possible just so he could say he did it. A boy about to come crashing down into a reality of death and ash.

Five sighed loudly.

“This better not cause the apocalypse,” Five muttered, walking into the portal, and he stepped out into a pleasant forest glade, the plants and trees an unseasonably bright green for what was supposed to be late autumn.

Well. Maybe high school would be exciting after all.