miggy: (Default)
miggy ([personal profile] miggy) wrote2011-10-13 10:40 am

fic: "Special" (Chapter 8/?)

Title: Special
Character(s): Ensemble. Seriously. It covers pretty much everyone, plus some Marvel Universe characters.
Rating: R across everything, to be safe.
Word Count: 8900
Spoilers: Through S2
Full-Series Warnings: Violence, potential character death, and other elements common to comics
Summary: Being a part of something special makes you special. (Also, having superpowers.)
Notes: Cliffhanger resolution, romantic triangle semi-establishment: hooray! Between this chapter and the last, it only took eight chapters to tick off the first appearances of Brittana, Klaine, and some Puckurt. ;)






"What should we do?" asked Kurt in a tiny voice as the police sirens closed in. This was not his responsibility. Santana had been fighting with Rachel and Finn over leadership. It was their job to fix it. It was their job to not let the police haul him in front of his father and announce that Kurt was heading for a top-secret prison medical lab with lots of pointy objects.

Rachel and Finn looked nervously at each other. Santana fumbled syllables.

"Uh, they're getting close," Puck said with growing concern. "Guys?"

"Into the alley," Rachel said. "Hurry!" They were happy to have any plan at all, and so they all ran for the alley that held Artie's van.

"Now where?" Mercedes asked as they looked frantically around. The alley's far distant end opened onto another street that might soon hold policemen. For a moment Kurt thought that they could all pile into Artie's van and speed off, but that would draw more attention than simply hoping they were overlooked.

"Brittany, open a portal or something," Santana said. An uncertain response drove her to shake Brittany by the shoulders in desperation. "You said your powers can do anything, so get us out of here!"

"But—"

"Do it!" Santana almost yelled at her and several people lunged forward to cover her mouth. Brittany looked hurt and scared, but still couldn't manage to just pull that rabbit magically from a hat.

"If there's some energy to absorb," Tina said, "maybe I could make them run? It's easy now that I've done it. I... maybe I could use Artie's van battery to charge up. Or some people can pull energy from other people, so maybe if I touch someone—"

"If the police all flee," Rachel replied grimly, "then they'll come back even more determined to figure out what did that to them."

"What's going on?" Artie said across the shoulder communicators. "Guys?"

Kurt stared helplessly at the alley exit. He could see the approaching red-blue swirl of an active siren. The cops were coming. They were almost there.

In that moment, everything became clear. Tina had talked about scaring the police away, but he'd been the one Santana had tapped to scare off that criminal. He couldn't force any sort of reaction like Tina apparently could, but his power was far, far more flexible.

"Artie," Kurt said quickly as he leaned near Rachel's communicator, "do not speak and do not move. That goes for everyone." A beat later a cop car drove up. They pulled to a stop and an officer shone a flashlight down the alley's length.

When they were hit by that light, everyone in their group was invisible.

"Do you see anything?" asked one officer.

Everyone stayed absolutely silent. Their eyes were huge, their breathing panicked. Kurt focused like he never had in his life on making sure that their entire group was hidden behind illusions. Tina was nothing more than shadows under a fire escape. Puck was a brick wall. Quinn and Mike were the side of a dumpster.

The challenge of trying to maintain so many distinct illusions was immediately apparent. Before, he’d subconsciously masked a conversation between both him and Santana... but they’d been so close they were touching. Trying to maintain two illusions during his escape from home had hurt him, even across the space of a bedroom. The illusions were so temperamental that trying to cover a set of pajamas with even minor distractions had left him humiliated in front of his friends.

Now they had their full group and a van scattered down the length of an alley, and he was trying to mask them all.

Kurt felt a gush of something warm start to pour from his nose and had to choose between crying in pain or collapsing. He didn’t have enough strength to overcome both. Only barely able to focus on the idea that they simply could not be found out, he sank silently to the concrete. Blood dripped and splattered against the ground.

As the source of the illusions, Kurt could see where everyone was: way too far apart. But his powers apparently hid everyone else from each other. Otherwise, someone would have surely noticed his obvious pain. The pounding in his head spiked ever-higher and Kurt screwed his eyes shut. They could not be seen. They could not be seen.

Kurt? he heard Finn ask frantically inside his mind. Oh my God, are you okay?

Too far, he thought haltingly. Get people close. Tell them. One group. Too hard like this. Please.

Blood dripped steadily down. When he tried to raise his head it was wet and warm against his lips, and Kurt slumped again so he wouldn't have to taste it.

If they were seen, their lives would be over. Even if they didn't wind up in a lab, they'd probably get slapped with property damage. They'd be tied to those mutants and it'd be terrorism for the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, or whatever the media came up with. They'd be expelled, no school would ever take them....

drip drip drip drip drip

He was only barely aware of feet moving closer. Finn had managed to gather the group. But Kurt couldn't focus on that. The police were still shining their flashlights right at them. They couldn't be seen. They had to be completely invisible. Totally, utterly invisible.

His vision was starting to go black. He wanted to burst out sobbing from the pain between his eyes, and didn't know how much longer he could hold on.

The flashlights from inside the cruiser moved away. "Let's go," the officer said. "We have reports of some men running away with crowbars; another car's on them, but that sounds like bad news. Let's give some backup. I bet they're who we want." A moment later they drove on.

Kurt counted backwards from three before he collapsed into a puddle of his own blood. Everyone around him became abruptly visible. They let out a collective sigh of relief before Finn knelt to check on him and they realized one of their own was prone and bleeding at their feet.

"Oh my god!" several of them said. Kurt could hear them trying to crowd him to see how he was doing, but Finn shoved each newcomer away as they approached.

"Kurt?" Finn asked desperately. "Come on. You awake?"

"Headache," he managed to whisper. His mouth still tasted of blood.

"Move," someone else said. It took Kurt a second to place the voice: Puck's. "Move!" he repeated more forcefully. Finn stumbled to the side as Puck pushed his way over Kurt, and then his worried face filled Kurt's vision. "Do you need to go to the hospital? Come on, don't close your eyes, Kurt. Stay awake."

"Headache went away before," Kurt managed to spit out, although the effort left his head swimming. "Just... rest. I think."

"We should really take him to the hospital," someone said.

"But we're all in costume!"

"So? This is more important!"

A pair of hands pried at Kurt's mask. It popped off, stinging for a second, but then the pressure eased. It helped. Puck's face filled his vision again; he'd taken off his mask, too. "Do you want to go to the hospital?"

"No. Home."

"Okay," Puck decided and slid his arms under Kurt. Lifting him like he was nothing, Puck then pressed his chin against his shoulder until he finally heard the chirp of the communicator. "Artie, we'll ride with you. Kurt can stretch out flat on the floor. Drive fucking carefully, you got me?"

"No, my car," Kurt protested weakly. They couldn't just leave it there.

"Finn'll drive your car," Puck said. He was already walking toward the van, and other people who came up were elbowed aside. Realizing he wasn't going to win this, Kurt went slack and tried not to throw up from the seasick-inducing rhythm of Puck's steps. He was warm, solid, and comforting after the cold ground.

"Wait, what happened?" Artie asked. "You all just went quiet and did Kurt get hurt or something?"

"He masked us from the cops and got a killer nosebleed," Puck answered as he reached the van. He was able to hold Kurt with one arm as he opened the door, although it was awkward, and then quickly re-supported him as he climbed in. "Hey," he said more gently after he'd laid Kurt down on the flat, broad space needed for Artie to maneuver his wheelchair inside the van. "Seriously, you okay?"

"Can't do that again," Kurt managed to say with a sickly smile. "Ow." He wondered just how terrible he looked. His skin had to be deathly pale, with a fountain of drying red covering his mouth and chin.

Quinn climbed in the shotgun seat. "We're going. Everyone else is riding with Finn. I'm doing directions and watching for any police attention. Puck, you keep an eye on Kurt. Anything happens, I'm finding the nearest hospital on my phone. Artie, drive like this van is full of tiny little babies not wearing their seatbelts."

Kurt felt his skull rock back and forth against the hard floor as the engine roared to life and the van eased out of the alley. He groaned.

"Don't tense up," Puck said quietly. "Gonna move your head a little, okay?"

After a soft assent, Kurt was surprised to feel Puck slip his arm under Kurt's head like a pillow. He tugged him gently up so he was supported against his body, and then laid them both flat against the floor. That done, Puck curled slightly around Kurt and braced one foot against the front seats. "Don't slam the brakes," Puck said to Artie, "but at least I'll be able to grab him if I have to."

"Thanks," Kurt said uncertainly.

"I've gotten a concussion before," Puck said with a smile. "It sucked. I don't know if this is like that, but you probably just kept me from getting sent back to juvie. I owe you."

Oh. That made sense, at least. "Glad to help," Kurt said.

"Guess you're signing off the whole superhero business, huh?" Puck asked. "I guess I can't blame you after that. Too bad. Maybe Santana's who we'd want against the biggest names, but you were really good tonight." Kurt didn't say anything and Puck seemed to take it as a yes. "Hey, Quinn, you got wipes or anything in your purse? There's blood everywhere."

"Here, these are for makeup," she said after a minute of digging through the bag at her feet. "But they should work." Puck tried to lean forward to accept them, but that jostled Kurt. Quinn tossed them, instead.

"Stay still," Puck said as he inspected just how gruesome Kurt looked. "I'll be careful, so let me do it."

"But your hands—"

Seeming to understand his concern, Puck said, "I've got control, don't worry. By now when I concentrate, I don't do anything too hard. And I'll concentrate."

"Thanks." A moment later he felt the moist cloth against his skin and Kurt added, "This is weird."

"We just watched Santana turn into a walking Zippo and wind up naked on the streets of Columbus, and this is weird?" Puck countered as he gently wiped the blood off Kurt's face.

That managed to make Kurt smile. "Point taken." The motion was comforting and his headache wasn't getting any worse, at least. Once Puck seemed convinced that Kurt wasn't concussed, he stopped trying to keep him awake. It would be a long drive, the hum against the floorboards was soothing, and Kurt wanted little more than to fall asleep and wake up with only a shadow of his current pain. His eyes drifted closed. As Kurt fell asleep, he wondered if Quinn had climbed out of her seat and settled next to him. It felt like someone was idly stroking his hair.

* * *


By the time they returned to Lima, Kurt's head had stopped feeling like his brain was about to liquify out through his nose. Instead he simply felt like someone was swirling icepicks in his eyes. The next morning, hopefully, would leave him with nothing worse than "horrible dull throb."

"We're at your house," Artie said. "Just gotta wait for Finn to catch up."

"You make a good pillow," Kurt said as he let his head loll to the side, toward Puck's. Their noses were nearly touching. "We probably shouldn't mention this again."

"Hey, by now I've paid you back for keeping me out of juvie," Puck said lightly. "No prob on my end if we shut up."

Trying to sit up made his vision swirl again and Kurt's plans to pull away from Puck were ruined. He was stuck using his arm as a pillow until the door slid open and Finn climbed inside. "Quinn, you mind clearing out for a second?" he asked her as he closed the heavy side door. The sound echoed and Kurt felt his pain begin to settle firmly in his stomach as nausea.

"Why me?" she asked flatly.

"Uh, because Kurt and I need to get dressed in our normal clothes before we go inside, and you're the only girl here."

"Oh," she said. Tilting up her chin, she left through the passenger door like it had been her plan all along.

"I'm glad I wore jeans," Finn mumbled as he shucked his shirt, then withdrew a plaid button-up from a gym bag he'd been toting around in the Navigator. "Puck, can you help? I've got his stuff in here, too." When Puck and Kurt both hesitated, Finn said tightly, "If they've noticed we've parked out here, they're going to be wondering why we're not coming inside. Hurry up."

"Okay," Puck said. "Uh, you fine with...?"

Kurt tried to nod and groaned at the movement. There was no question about it: he was going to throw up at some point in the next five minutes. Hopefully it could be on the lawn. "Yes." Going limp, he let Puck unzip his jacket and start working on his shoes. Puck really was being gentle, he thought as he felt the hands that could crush stone slowly begin to work his tight leather pants off his legs. When those words entered his mind, Kurt felt himself blush and hoped terrible teenage timing wouldn't make Puck's work suddenly awkward. Sure, this was Noah Puckerman, who'd destroyed countless fabulous outfits with garbage and slushies, but he wasn't used to having anyone strip him down.

Finn had apparently pulled on his own clothes by that point, and so he grabbed Kurt's jacket from prior to their adventure and worked it over Kurt's arms. The thin t-shirt he'd worn under his costume's coat stayed on, even though it was sweaty. Kurt couldn't bring himself to care. "So this is us being superheroes," Finn said to Puck with a grin as the two of them kept dressing Kurt like a paper doll.

"It's pretty weird," Puck said back. His grin was even broader, but faded into curiosity as he peeled the leather pants completely away. "No wonder you were a killer kicker. You've got some serious legs."

Thankfully the muscles in his face were still responding, and so Kurt managed to quirk an eyebrow at Puck. Finn's expression was far more openly confused. "Dude," he finally said.

"What?" Puck asked and pulled on Kurt's jeans. Even though they were tight, after those leather things the cotton slid on like a dream. He tugged the waistband over Kurt's hips and then began to fasten the fly.

"I've got it," Kurt said, forcing his arm to cooperate.

"Oh," Puck said, sitting back. He frowned. The oddity of the moment sank in and he looked puzzled. He glanced at Finn, who still seemed put off over Puck's comment on Kurt's legs. Turning to Artie offered no help, as the boy had been eying him silently sidelong.

"I'm just going to put on his shoes," Finn said, sounding very wary indeed, "and then I'll take him inside. Artie, you mind cramming everyone else in here?"

"In a van with only five seatbelts?" Artie asked dryly. "I'd just be setting myself up to lose my license if someone pulled me over, and...." He caught Finn's tense, annoyed stare. Clearly Finn was going to take Kurt inside and stay there, rather than running right back out to drive people in the SUV. "And it'll be an adventure, sure."

"Okay," Finn said and slung the bag over his arm. He helped Kurt slowly sit up and Kurt could feel his pulse pounding in his forehead. "Puck, get the door?" It slid open and the fresh air helped, at least a little, but Kurt didn't trust himself to stand on his own two feet without falling.

"I can carry him," Puck offered.

"It's gonna be hard enough to explain this," Finn said. "And Burt doesn't like you."

"Why don't he like me?" Puck asked. He sounded genuinely offended.

"Can we do this later?" Kurt asked. Finn refocused, nodded, and helped him to the street. That he even managed to stand made Kurt rather proud, although he was leaning into Finn like a downed tree. "I look drunk," he said as they wobbled toward the front door without so much as a good-bye to everyone else.

Finn gently guided him. "Hey, that could work—whoa," he said and just managed to turn Kurt away when his nausea finally overwhelmed him and Kurt threw up the full contents of his stomach into the grass. From the sounds Finn was making, the sight made him want to do the same.

"Sorry," Kurt said as Finn slowly set them back into motion. He wanted some aspirin. "Brain powers suck."

"Don't push so hard," Finn said. "Seriously. You could have really hurt yourself, okay?" With a smile, he added, "Leave the heavy-duty brain powers to me. You can kick ass. Like when you climbed up that fire escape."

"Nngh," Kurt managed. Yes, he'd found his limits as surely as Santana had burned her costume to a crisp and Tina had finally pinned down her abilities. Columbus had been a big learning experience for everyone. Yay.

Finn fumbled in the bag for the keys. "Hope the system isn't on, since they know we're coming home," he muttered as he unlocked the front door and they shuffled inside. Behind them Kurt could hear Artie's van driving off. He really did hope the cops didn't stop them. The house was dark when they walked in, and stayed so when he quietly closed and re-locked the door. "Okay, can you do stairs?"

Staring at the seeming mountain made Kurt's head swim. They looked impassable.

"Okay, we'll go slow," Finn said when he saw Kurt's dubious reaction. He slowly approached them, Kurt still leaning against his side. After a few attempts he muttered, "Maybe we should have let Puck come in."

The lights came on. The sudden illumination hurt too much for Kurt to feel panicked over their discovery.

"Kurt?" Burt asked, rushing down the stairs. "Are you okay?" He rounded on Finn when Kurt didn't manage to respond. "What the hell happened?"

"At the concert," Finn said. "I think there was something in his drink."

Even with his headache, Kurt managed to look with surprise at Finn. Oh, so that's what he'd meant on the front lawn by 'that could work.'

You should hear what it's like inside his head right now. Getting him scared over something totally non-superhero-y? He'll never ask twice.

Kurt decided to take Finn's word for it, and hoped he wouldn't do any more telepathic communications until his headache was gone. "I really want to go to bed," he slurred.

"Why didn't you take him to the hospital there?" Burt asked more loudly. His voice was just on the edge of frantic, and Carole came sleepily out to join him. Her eyes flew open when she saw what was going on.

"I'm fine," Kurt mumbled. "I just want to sleep it off. I'm fine. Wanted to come home." Couldn't they please stop asking him questions? Answering questions involved talking and remaining upright.

"Why is there blood on his face?" Carole asked when she joined them. Burt looked startled by her question, and she pointed to a few spots around his nostrils and at the edge of his mouth. Puck must have missed them in the darkness of the van, and in his concern over his son's general state, so had Burt.

"Tried to walk on my own," Kurt said after Finn cast helplessly about for an answer. "Ran into something. Nosebleed. Can I go to bed?" They looked ready to grill Finn more, and Kurt repeated plaintively, "Can I please go to bed?"

"Come on," Burt finally said with a sigh. He came down to Kurt's other side, and between him and Finn they were able to get him upstairs without risk of losing his balance halfway there. "How could you let something like this happen?" he asked Finn as they slowly helped Kurt to his room.

"Helped as soon as they saw, Dad," Kurt said. "Everyone did. I'll be okay."

"This is what happens in big cities," Carole said, shaking her head. "We never should have let you kids go off on your own, and to a concert. A dark room with people serving drinks, it's no wonder they'd try to take advantage."

"There you go," Burt said as he gently lowered Kurt into bed, and then pulled off his shoes and tugged the covers over him. "I'll come check on you soon, okay? Make sure we don't need to take you to the ER, after all."

Kurt managed to smile at his worried father. "Feel better already. I promise."

"Come on," Carole said. "Finn, I want you to tell us everything that happened."

Although Finn shot Kurt a worried look as he was herded out, Kurt was too exhausted to shoot him any pointers. Trying to keep his eyes open left him dizzy and it was no use fighting his body any more. Like diving off a vast cliff, Kurt fell into sleep.

* * *


In his dreams, Kurt was in Central Park. The southeast corner surrendered gracefully to the Plaza and Bergdorf Goodman, but real geography ended there. In the impossible nature of dreams, he could see the Empire State Building looming over the Plaza. The Chrysler Building was tucked securely against it. Even the Brooklyn Bridge made an appearance when he looked toward 5th Avenue.

But also in the nature of dreams, he accepted the changes without concern. He looked up, smiled at a starry sky that would never be visible through Manhattan's lights, and waited.

When a pair of strong arms came from behind him and circled his chest, Kurt giggled. In the real city it would be dangerous, but here he knew what was happening. The pitch of his voice distantly surprised him. It was a bit higher than he'd finally settled into, like it had been when he was younger. "You're late," he said. His voice was definitely higher.

"Sorry," a voice purred into his ear. Who was...?

The question fell away as soon he'd asked it. Dream Kurt knew who was behind him. The real Kurt had his own answer. Either way, he felt confident and there was no need to worry about those warm, strong arms. Kurt heard another whisper and obediently closed his eyes as a kiss was placed below his ear, then on his cheek, and then hot against his mouth. His head tilted up to meet him.

When Kurt woke up, it took him a while to realize he still had a headache.

* * *


"Hey," Burt said gently that morning. Kurt had stayed in bed long enough to be noticed. The pleasant remnants of his dream had worn off and his headache had returned, milder but still intense. "How're you doing?"

"Orange juice and aspirin?" Kurt gave for an answer. With a quick stroke of his hair and worried sigh, Burt nodded and left him in bed.

These powers were dangerous, Kurt thought as he wormed securely back under the covers. He knew Santana had nearly burned down her house, but he'd only seen a few smoke-streaked windows. And she'd hurt things, not her own body. Feeling like he was going to hemorrhage his entire blood volume out through his nose had done a fine job of cranking up the intensity meter on what they were facing.

He'd seen photos of people with psychic abilities losing one dramatic crimson droplet. When he'd had that same thing happen during his escape from the house, he'd wiped it away without a second thought. If he had to accept a droplet here and there as a trade-off for invisibility, he would. For it to just... gush like that hadn't been expected, though.

Why did it happen, anyway? Kurt wondered grumpily. It wasn't like people kept their brains stored in their sinus cavities. His grousing had given Burt time to head to the kitchen and back, and he managed to smile at his father when he gently set down the glass and pills on Kurt's nightstand. "Thanks."

"When I saw you looking like that last night," Burt began shakily, "I was so...." He shook his head. "You're telling me the truth, right? You weren't drinking anything but water or—"

"I promise, Dad, I wasn't drinking alcohol," Kurt said as he caught on. "No alcohol was anywhere near me. Promise."

"And someone still thought he could just...." Burt forced his fists to relax. "Look, I know this wasn't your fault, but I don't want you going anywhere for a while. You can go out with your friends, just stay a little closer. Okay?"

"Okay," Kurt said. There was clearly no use in arguing. He downed his aspirin and most of the glass of orange juice, then laid back down. "I'm going to try to sleep a little more. This headache stuck around."

Burt sighed again and nodded. "This lasts much longer, I am taking you to the hospital. You hear me?" He shook his head, swore under his breath, and then walked out with a few muttered promises to track down whoever thought he could pull this on his son.

Something about that tugged vaguely at Kurt, but he had the sudden hope that one more nap would get rid of the worst of his lingering headache. He shimmed off his jeans and jacket, wishing that he'd bothered to undress himself after he'd been laid on the bed, and folded them on his other nightstand. In his t-shirt and boxers, he slept again.

Noises woke him up from another strange dream about New York. He'd returned to Central Park after sneaking out of an apartment, but the specifics of what he'd seen and who he'd met were already slipping from memory. It took him a few breaths to process exactly what was happening in the waking world: Carole was looking through the bag Finn had dumped in Kurt's room. The bag that had been used when they were swapping clothes.

A block of ice formed in Kurt's gut. Had Finn put their costumes back in there? Their masks? "I'm sorry I woke you," she said softly when she realized he was looking at her. "I just... well, I saw that you'd gotten sick last night. I'm doing laundry and I thought I'd see if any of your clothes needed to be washed right away."

"Oh," Kurt said. He swallowed. She didn't seem surprised. Had Finn hidden their superhero gear?

"Doesn't look like there's anything in here," she said. "Go back to sleep. Or would you like me to bring you something else? You haven't had anything to eat yet, right?"

The knot in his stomach began to unravel. Were the costumes really not in there? He wasn't hungry, but he hadn't eaten since dinner the day before, and he'd thrown that up. "Um. A sandwich or something? I'll be up by this evening, I promise, but...."

"Of course," she said. Carole walked over and kissed Kurt on the forehead, then ruffled his hair. "I don't think you even know how worried we were when we saw you last night. I know you probably wish you could go off to the city again, but you're just going to have to put up being worried over by your loving parents."

"Too bad," he said, managing to smile. She smiled back and walked out without grabbing anything else for the wash. (Worrying about vomit stains was one thing, but Carole had generally learned better than to touch Kurt's clothes.) After a few beats Kurt grabbed his phone and sent a message to Finn: Get in here!!!

"Hey!" Finn said when he poked his head inside. "Are you okay?"

Kurt waved off the question. "Yeah, I'm fine. Or I will be fine. Carole just looked in the bag with the costumes, except the costumes weren't in there. Where are they?"

"I left them in the van when we changed," Finn said. "By accident. I realized I needed to ask Artie to bring them by, and...." He let out a relieved sigh. "Guess it was a lucky break that I didn't grab them last night, huh?"

"A very lucky break," Kurt agreed and rubbed at his eyes. Everything that had happened the night before had been very, very lucky. It could have gone so wrong for everyone. "Oh. What happened when they talked to you last night? After we got home?"

"I got yelled at. A lot." Finn snorted. "But you know, I read their minds and it was totally different from what they were saying. They weren't really mad at me, they were mad at themselves. It was just easier to yell at me since I was there with you." His brow furrowed. "I guess I didn't realize how much they worry that one of us will get hurt."

"Well, consider this year for me," Kurt pointed out. "And I'm sure they know that someone else in your position on the team got sent to the hospital," he added, remembering Sam's injury. He heard Carole returning with a sandwich and motioned for Finn to be quiet.

"People want to make sure you're okay," Finn said once Carole had set down Kurt's food and then left them alone again. "Can they come by?"

"I'm not an invalid," Kurt said with some annoyance. "Yes, it's fine. They don't need to, but they can if they want." He turned to grab the sandwich, determined to eat something, and hesitated when his fingertips brushed across a picture of Central Park. Of course: the photo album of their trip to Nationals was on his nightstand. He'd probably seen it right before he fell asleep, and his pained mind had latched onto the place like some sort of psychic morphine.

That made perfect sense, then. After an initial surge of queasiness that threatened to ruin things, Kurt did feel better as he ate. By three bites in he realized that he was actually hungry and when he polished off the remnants of the sandwich he wished there were more. He hadn't actually dribbled out his brains, he wasn't permanently injured, and his weird "sneak out of a Manhattan apartment when he was younger" dreams had a clear explanation. Things were looking up.

Kurt had just begun to contemplate addressing his abused, neglected skin when a knock sounded on the doorframe. He turned and saw Rachel standing there. She looked incredibly apologetic; seeing him sprawled in bed at one in the afternoon clearly had her worried. For his part, Kurt just tried not to think about how he was in nothing more than an extremely functional t-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts. "I came by to see if you were okay," Rachel said quietly. "Is that all right?"

He was fine, but he wanted an answer on something else. "Come in and close the door," he said. Though confused, she followed his request and took a seat by the bed. Normally Kurt would care about his appalling state of dress, but there was something far more important. "Are we going to be in trouble?" Kurt asked.

Thankfully, she knew exactly what he meant. She must have worried about the same thing. "I checked the news first thing this morning."

"I slept so long that I forgot to," Kurt admitted, put at ease by her general mood. "My brain felt like it just gave out."

"I don't blame you," Rachel said. "Seeing what you...." Her head bowed. "No one should have been put in a position to do that."

"Someone fired a bullet at us," Kurt said. "Everyone faced something bad last night."

"I know, but this was just too... no. We're not going to be in trouble," Rachel finally answered. "The press reported that it was because of rioters upset over the loss of OSU's coach."

Kurt blinked. "Seriously?"

"It was close enough to the university, a car—well, a motorcycle—was set on fire, and they'd just gotten bad sports news." Rachel smiled humorlessly. "Athletic riots were apparently the go-to explanation for the media. Mostly, anyway."

He didn't like that qualifier. "Mostly?"

She looked at where her hands were folded on her knees. "People in that bar heard fighting outside immediately after two very visible mutants had left it. Some people think they started all the trouble. And from the sound of things, mutants are an even more attractive target than sports fans."

"But they didn't do anything wrong," Kurt said. His brain felt like it was stuck in second gear; maybe he needed to rest a little more.

"We know that. We know they were victims, nothing more." Rachel looked up and tittered nervously. "I suppose I expected them to fight back. I mean, they're mutants. Surely they had... claws or acid saliva or something; that one girl looked almost like a lizard. But in retrospect, it's a good thing they didn't. Then they really would have taken the blame."

"Yes, they would," Kurt said quietly.

"Well, I'm sorry to have pushed everyone into going last night," Rachel said. "We were worried about you during the entire drive back. What I did was wrong and... and you could have gotten so hurt. Everyone could have. I'm so, so sorry," she said as she flashed a wavering smile and then left without a proper farewell.

Kurt was deep in thought, still, as Mercedes stopped by to check on him. He tried to answer her, he really did, but it was like his thoughts were a spiral. Every time he'd broken free of last night, it pulled him right back in.

"You still seem kind of dizzy," Mercedes finally said, and stroked his hair before she left. "Go back to sleep, okay?"

He did not go back to sleep. He grabbed his phone and started reading news articles about what had gone down in Columbus, and felt both guilty and relieved that they weren't mentioned at all.

"I got a text from Tina earlier," said a familiar voice in the midst of his reading. Kurt was torn between smiling at Blaine's surprise appearance or feeling a keen stab of shame that he was still sprawled under his covers, with hair that had yet to be brushed and his face cleaned only by Quinn's makeup pads. (Once he did lurch out of bed, he would have to preen.) "She told me that dinner tonight was off."

"Sorry," Kurt said as guilt threatened to drown him. Right, he'd blown off Blaine all week with the promise of a date to celebrate his finals being over. He'd struggled to find a reason why Friday night wasn't the right time for that, and now that Saturday was finally there, he didn't have anything but excuses. "I should have called. But we didn't really have to cancel, I'm feeling much better, we could still—"

"Stop. I'm not worried about dinner," Blaine said with gentle disbelief. As he continued, his voice began to strain with darker emotions. "She said you weren't feeling well, but when I got here your dad said that something happened? You came home dizzy and bloody, and...." He swallowed, apparently unwilling or unable to continue.

"Bloody is an overstatement," Kurt finally said. "It was just my nose. I walked into a pole."

A pole: so that was what lying to his boyfriend felt like when it moved past simple delaying tactics. He couldn't say that he enjoyed it. Unlike the lying he'd done to his father a week earlier, Kurt didn't put up an illusion of a controlled expression. (He doubted he'd be able to illusion himself for days.) He was terrible with masking his lie because of it, and Blaine stayed quiet for a long time before he said anything.

"What really happened?" Blaine asked levelly.

"I told you, I walked into a pole," Kurt said. But Blaine's suspicion made him nervous and twitchy, and it sounded even less convincing than before.

"So out of everyone there," Blaine said, "you were the only person to wind up with a bloody nose. You were the only person to have someone single them out." He laughed bitterly, sounding like he wanted to cry. "Are you trying to protect me or something?"

Things clicked into place and Kurt gasped. "Oh, no. No, no. I swear, it was nothing like that."

"Don't lie to me." Kurt swallowed at Blaine's low, intent words. His eyes flicked to the door and back, and Blaine turned to see it standing open. "Should I close it?"

"I'm only allowed to close it with girls in the room, now," Kurt mumbled. He glanced nervously at the hallway and dropped his voice to a whisper. Don't lie to him, huh; too bad 'by omission' still counted. "Did you see the stories about the, um, riot in Columbus?"

"From the mutants," Blaine said. It was hard not to wince at the lies spread by the media. "Of course. I saw and was worried that you were there, but then I mapped it and it wasn't anywhere near where a concert would be."

"We got bored and left," Kurt said. "We wanted to wander around the city and got caught up in things. That's why I didn't tell my parents what really happened. They could handle one dangerous person better than the idea that I was in a... in a riot with lots of angry people. And this way no one else had to tell their parents that they could have been hurt, too." The lie was terrible. Just awful. The break in his voice midway through should have been a dead giveaway.

But just like Finn had told Burt what he wanted to hear, Blaine was so relieved at the lie that he latched onto it. Kurt hadn't been the target of a hate crime. Some big, threatening shadow in a club hadn't tried to rape him. He'd simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, as any other person could have been. It was still scary, but it could have happened to anyone. It wasn't personal. It wasn't anything but bad luck, and there was a strange comfort in that.

"Don't scare me like that," Blaine finally said with a rush of exhaled air, and smiled. He gently hugged Kurt and kissed him high on one temple.

Kurt, meanwhile, wondered if it were possible to vomit from guilt. Desperately wanting to change the subject, he said, "You know, I saw them. The mutants."

"So they really were there," Blaine said in surprise, although he had the sense to still keep his voice soft.

"They weren't doing anything wrong," Kurt said. "They were being attacked and they just barely managed to run away. It's so unfair that the news is blaming them."

Blaine shrugged once. What was to be done? Those prejudices were deep, after all; it was only to be expected that they would be pulled out as a convenient scapegoat. And they'd just had a conversation based on unfortunate knowledge of how the world worked. "It is unfair," he agreed when Kurt seemed to want an answer.

"I thought they'd fight back," Kurt finally said. It should have been breathtakingly awkward to be in bed in his underwear with Blaine sitting right beside him, but his mind was consumed with memories of their ill-advised adventure. "They were very clearly mutants, trust me. But they didn't do anything that a regular person couldn't do."

"Most mutants are like that," Blaine said.

Kurt started. That had to be wrong. All the mutants on the news—except for these scapegoats—earned attention because they were superheroes or supervillains. Occasionally there would be stories about some child entering puberty who'd accidentally killed his family with his awakening powers, or who'd seen her own life end when they burned out of control.

Sensing his confusion, Blaine explained, "I wrote a history report on them. We were supposed to write about something in the Twentieth Century, and a friend had already snagged the Civil Rights Movement. We decided to combine research forces. I took the rise of mutantkind in the Sixties."

Fine, whatever. "Mutants have powers," Kurt protested. "That's what makes them mutants."

"No, the mutant gene makes them mutants. It's actually a very tiny sliver of the population that has powers like you see on the news. The vast majority just have very weak powers that certainly wouldn't be useful in a fight, or... or have absolutely nothing more to show than a disfigured body." Blaine sounded a little proud of the information he was able to bring thanks to his convenient research project.

Kurt knew mutants were targeted for hated. He'd been able to rationalize his reaction with the knowledge that, unlike gays or immigrants or whoever else, they could defend themselves. Because of their eyebeams and weather control and whatnot, they'd never really been a group that he cared about. It wasn't right, but his time and energy was limited. Focusing on the people who were more likely to be victims only made sense.

There had almost been two victims outside that bar, and there wasn't an eyebeam to be seen.

For all he knew, their superhero group might still be mutants. But if so, he added grimly as he thought back to those two terrified faces, they were the lucky ones.

Blaine was still talking, Kurt realized suddenly, and tried to catch up. "...even have a neighborhood of their own in New York. They call it Mutant Town, appropriately enough. Or District X," he added, probably pulling in a footnote that he'd thrown in for an extra point from the teacher.

New York. Kurt leapt on the new topic, wanting to get away from the discussion of mutants and superpowers. "I had a dream about you last night," he said lightly.

"Really?" Blaine said. He seemed intrigued. "What were my powers?"

"No, no." Kurt shook his head once and was pleased to not feel a surge of pain from the movement. He was definitely healing up. "You reminded me with the mention of New York."

"Oh!" That sounded like an even better topic than mutants. "What were we doing?" They'd talked about many things to do in the city, mostly centered on what Kurt had seen during his trip there.

After a quick glance back to his photo album cover, Kurt replied, "We were in Central Park. It was night. I was waiting for you near the Plaza, and you surprised me with...." He trailed off as a memory bubbled to the surface and burst, in the peculiar way that dreams were recalled. Tilting his head, he finished, "You were taller than me."

"I'll try not to take that personally," Blaine laughed. "Not everything in a dream is wish fulfillment."

"This was definitely a strange dream," Kurt confirmed. "It felt like I was remembering things, more than seeing anything new. Maybe... maybe I had this dream when I was in New York and it simply repeated last night? Deja vu all over again."

"Maybe."

"Oh, uh, hey," said a new voice that Kurt had very definitely not expected to hear. Puck looked between them from his awkward, uncertain stance in the doorway. "Sorry, Finn let me in. I guess he didn't know you were here," he said with a nod in Blaine's direction. "I just wanted to see if you were okay."

That took Blaine by clear surprise. His few encounters with Puck had been pleasant, but not the type to give the impression that Puck would ever come for a visit. "How thoughtful," he said after that beat. "Kurt, you have very considerate friends."

"Puck carried me back to the car," Kurt explained as Puck approached him. He walked up to the bed to stand next to where Blaine was sitting. Although time had eaten up the height advantage Puck once held, from the bed Kurt was forced to look up to meet his eyes. And since Puck had helped it only seemed fair to acknowledge him, even if craning his neck did bring back a hint of a headache. With a grateful smile, Kurt looked up at Puck's face and began to say, "I owe him a...."

Deja vu all over again, he thought dizzily and nearly fell back against the pillow.

Both boys' hands landed on his shoulder at the same time.

"I'm fine," Kurt said. "That was just...." He shook his head and almost missed the strange look Blaine gave Puck as he took in the position of their hands. "That was strange. Maybe I'm dehydrated."

"I'll get him a drink," Puck instantly said and vanished toward the bathroom.

Blaine's eyebrows rose. "He's nice. I know about books, covers, and judging, but I wouldn't have expected it."

"He's gotten a lot better," Kurt confirmed. Puck returned after that with a half-full glass of water. When he handed it over, he looked hopeful in a strange, puppydog sort of way. "Thank you, Puck. And for last night."

Nervous at what he might had just given away, Puck asked him, "And... how much have you talked about last night?"

"Blaine knows all about how we got caught up in those riots with the mutants," Kurt said. Guilt raked claws across his heart once more. "Or the sports fans, or whatever was going on." His heart ached with the lie.

"Right," Puck agreed. His sigh of relief was a little too dramatic.

"Did you tell Lauren about the riot?" Kurt asked carefully.

"Yep. That's all I told her about where I was." They shared a knowing smile, and Blaine's brow furrowed like it had when their hands landed on Kurt's shoulder together.

When his father walked by, the open door requirement let Burt see both boys next to Kurt's bed. He backtracked and frowned at the sight inside. "Hey, uh, Puck."

Puck turned. He practically snapped to attention as he did. "Yes, sir?"

Not laughing was a challenge. Sir?

"I didn't know you were here," Burt said. His gaze flicked up and down the boy, lingering on his mohawk. "Did Finn let you in?"

"Yes, he did. I just wanted to see how Kurt was doing after last night. I won't be long." Okay, this was just weird and wrong, like when Nelson Muntz started wearing sweater vests to date Lisa Simpson.

"Well, uh." Burt frowned again. He clearly wanted to say something but couldn't quite find it. "Thoughtful of you," he said, sounding like that was pulling teeth, and then walked on.

"Yeah, Finn was right," Puck muttered. "That guy seriously doesn't like me." In one of the strangest moments Kurt had ever seen, Puck—the same boy who'd filled baked goods with controlled substances—actually seemed sad about that. "What'd I do?"

"Um," Kurt offered. Blaine simply seemed intrigued at all the tension rattling around the room, like he was watching some sort of very mild domestic soap opera.

"No, really?" Puck insisted.

After gauging that Puck really seemed to want an answer, Kurt rattled off, "Well... vandalized our house, treated me horribly just because you could, cheated with the girlfriend of the boy who is now his stepson, and landed in juvenile detention."

"Yeah, but... I meant lately," Puck finished, shifting his weight.

"I didn't know you were one of the people who gave Kurt trouble," Blaine said in a clear, almost challenging tone. Oh no. That was the sound of a button being pushed.

"I'm not," Puck said shortly.

"But you were?"

"That... look, it was a long time ago." Puck's nostrils flared like a bull's. "Whatever. Kurt, glad you're okay. I'm gonna take off before your dad comes back holding a baseball bat." With a flat look for Blaine, he nodded once more at Kurt before heading for the door and heavily down the stairs. Fantastic. Kurt definitely needed seething dislike between the two of them, or whatever that exchange would become after a bit of percolating. Really, his life didn't have enough complications at the moment.

"He's fine," Kurt reassured Blaine once they heard the front door close. "Really."

"I don't know why I reacted like that," Blaine admitted. "You're obviously on good terms with him now. I just... I just got put on edge, for whatever reason, and perhaps I made a bit of a fool of myself. Ah, well. I can't imagine we'll have much reason to interact, but I'll try to smooth things over the next time we meet." Relief was clear on Kurt's face, as he suddenly really wanted the two of them to get along, and it echoed in Blaine's expression. "Well, I should probably let you rest more, if you need to." Kurt didn't, but still desperately wanted to clean up. "We'll make up that dinner with Mike and Tina when you're up for it," Blaine said, and kissed him affectionately on the forehead. "Don't push, though. You could have gotten hurt, and don't do that to yourself."

"You're so thoughtful," Kurt said. The dreamy air to his voice was only partially forced. "Love you, talk to you soon." When the words were echoed and Blaine departed, Kurt slumped back against his pillow for one long beat. Before the trip to Columbus, he'd thought ending up as part of a group of teenage superheroes was weird. No. His life had become significantly more weird in a day's time, and everything in it was pointing toward one conclusion.

Kurt scooped up his phone, clicked through his contacts, and found a rarely-used number. He didn't send a text. It was probably better not to leave any sort of record. "Hey, Mike," he near-whispered.

"Kurt!" Mike said excitedly. "You're okay, right? Finn told all of us that you were doing better."

"Yes, I'll be fine. Don't worry." That was a funny thing to tell the boy who'd nearly flown off like a jetplane and still couldn't control himself. "Mike, I know Brittany and Artie have been rather blasé about what's been going on. And then you, Quinn, and I... well, they practically had to drag us there."

"Yeah," Mike said. "Last night, when the police cars were closing in... all I could hear in my head was 'please don't let my dad find out.'"

"What did you think before that, though?" Kurt asked. "When we were helping those mutants?"

It took a while for Mike to reply. "I thought that if people were getting hurt and no one cared about it... maybe we should care."

"Yeah." Kurt's fingers played across the bedcovers. "Did you talk to Quinn, by any chance?"

"I think everyone's talked to everyone." Mike laughed once. "She said hitting that guy in the back of his head felt good. Like it was worth doing."

"It really did," Kurt agreed. They let the line sit idle for a few breaths. "We were really terrible at it, though."

"We were. We should practice more before next time." Neither of them questioned the existence of a next time. They had to look out for the people no one cared about: the freaks. They had to make use of what they had. And perhaps they could even make it up to the city of Columbus' budget, somehow. "I'll let you know the schedule."

"Thanks. I'll be up and about tonight, but will want to stay around the house for a day or two."

"Sure thing. I'll tell people I talked to you, and Finn will tell people. And... I'm sorry for rambling. We were just really scared when we saw you last night. It was really real, you know?"

"Yeah," Kurt said. His lips curved, just barely. "Okay. Talk to you later, bye." He clicked off the phone at Mike's farewell and studied the far wall for a long while.

Things were real, now. They'd better prepare.

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