miggy: (Default)
miggy ([personal profile] miggy) wrote2011-11-03 12:00 pm

fic: "Special" (Chapter 11/?)

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: 9,100
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: Another montage chapter to deal with some of the initial fallout of what happened in Columbus, both in the media and in people's emotions. Next chapter will have a few snippets but will be mostly single-character, except for some plot flashbacks. Also, this one includes a reveal. ;) Just FYI.

"You know that this was just when we're in our masks, right?" Santana asked Brittany as they walked to her car. The police had sectioned off the area around their victory on campus and were holding back the crowd and media. They apparently thought that it was their role to assist these new superheroes, and they'd take advantage of their cooperation while the novelty lasted.

"What was?" Brittany asked. She hadn't stopped smiling.

"Me kissing you in front of everyone."

Brittany's good mood vanished. "Oh," she said. She clearly wanted to add more, but the words wouldn't come. Looking at the ground, she fumbled for her keys and opened her car door by touch. "Oh."

"Just... I can't yet, okay?" Santana pleaded with her. She leaned forward to tuck a stray lock of Brittany's hair into place. Although she let her, Brittany was rigid as Santana brushed her cheek. "Look, Wildfire can do that. She doesn't have classes, she doesn't have parents, she doesn't have a hometown that can feel like a plastic bag over my head...."

"Uh huh," Brittany said shortly and slid behind the wheel. Santana's heart ached as she took the passenger seat. "You can put on whatever music you want."


"I get it," Brittany said as she turned to her and managed a joyless smile. "I got my hopes up, but I get it."

"Brit, come on." Santana put on her seatbelt when Brittany gave her a pointed look. "Don't be like this."

The engine roared. They raced forward and rounded a corner in the direction of the freeway. "We needed to get away from the crowd," Brittany said without looking away from the windshield, "before they realized who was in the car. They could look up my plates."

"That's really smart," Santana said. The words felt like a plea to understand and forgive her. "You're so much smarter than people give you credit for." Wait, maybe that wasn't the best way to go about it: 'everyone else thinks you're dumb, but I don't!'

"I'm fine if people figure out who I am, Santana," Brittany said and pried off her mask. "Someone would catch them before they got too close, and I could go fight them. But you want your mask on. So I drove off before anyone could see my license plate. You're welcome."

Yeah, they really weren't talking about a couple of molded black masks. "It's not just those four guys tonight," Santana said, choosing to stick to this weird metaphor discussion. "They came stomping down the road and we knocked them out, yay, go team. But they're not everyone. We don't even know who could be coming after us."

"Uh huh. Makes sense. Did you pick this station?" Brittany said and turned up the radio.

It hurt too much to say anything more, so she let the music take over their conversation. Miles down the road, Santana wriggled free of her costume and pulled on jeans and a tank top. "I can hold the wheel for a second if you want to change," she offered. Brittany looked disturbed at the suggestion of not driving while they were shooting down the freeway at seventy miles per hour, and Santana explained, "I thought you'd want to get out of it in case we get pulled over or something. So they won't see you in your costume."

At least Brittany was listening to her, Santana thought as Brittany nodded and then pulled over to the shoulder for a quick clothing swap. Watching her writhe around had the sudden and unwelcome intrusion of remembering Kurt showing off his flexibility to everyone in Rachel's basement. People had clapped, she thought sadly. They clapped for two boys kissing. Those people were safe, and she'd kissed Brittany right in front of them.

Why didn't she think that was a huge freaking step to make?

They started driving again. Brittany didn't pull away when she threaded their fingers together, but eventually they passed through some light rain and she had to turn on the windshield wipers. After that few minutes with both hands on the wheel, she laid her hand back down on the rest between them. Since she didn't reach for Santana, Santana didn't reach for her.

"I'll call you tomorrow, okay?" Santana asked as she leaned through the open window.

"Yeah, okay," Brittany said. So she wasn't being cut entirely out, Santana thought, even though Brittany was clearly unhappy about everything. It wasn't the big romantic moment that their first public kiss should have been, but it wasn't the total disaster that a fight could have easily turned into. That was something, at least. "Bye."

"Bye," Santana said, pulling back, and wrapped her arms around herself. She watched Brittany's taillights vanish into the night and didn't turn toward her front walk until they'd disappeared entirely around a corner.

Shaking out of things, Santana patted herself down. Her mask and costume were safely hidden inside her bag, her hair was sleek and styled, and her communicator was off, silent, and stowed. Oh, right, she thought as she fumbled for a side pocket. They'd all turned off and hidden their cell phones when they'd moved to using communicators, as then there was no chance of being called at the wrong time and giving away their positions. She always had her cell available, and so she quickly thumbed it back on to complete the illusion that everything was normal.

A second later, Santana glanced back at her phone as it started buzzing.

She'd just spent the night with almost everyone she talked to on a regular basis.

So why did she have forty-three messages?

* * *

Rachel stirred and yawned when she felt her car roll to a stop. It took her a few blinks to realize they were idling in her driveway. "Um." She rubbed a hand across her face, grimaced, and peeled off her mask. "The opener is between the seats."

Blaine nodded and felt for it. The garage door soon rumbled skyward. As the sole person who hadn't exhausted himself, he'd taken Rachel's keys from her when she seemed groggy and dangerous behind the wheel. She, Finn, and Kurt had slept the entire drive back, too tired to change out of their costumes or think about the effects of everything that had happened that night. Adrenaline left her feeling hollow after it had fled, and Rachel yawned again as they pulled into the garage and the engine quieted.

"You're sure your dads really aren't around?" Finn asked as he looked at how they were dressed.

Others thought they were gone far too often, even as they enjoyed the privacy her house gave them, but Rachel knew better. Her dads were just very busy. When they came home, though, they doted on her and more than made up for it. Besides, it was their jobs that had paid for all her childhood dance and music lessons, along with every original cast recording she could ever want. Those things didn't simply appear out of thin air. "They had to go back to Chicago," she said with another yawn. "Or St. Louis, this time. I forget. Their itinerary is on the refrigerator."

"How's your head?" Kurt asked Finn sympathetically.

Finn groaned, but at least he was conscious and upright. From that alone he seemed in much better sorts than Kurt had been after his nosebleed. "Better. Feels like I walked into a pole or something, but it'll be okay." He picked up on the underlying question—perhaps from inference, perhaps from telepathy—and added, "Nowhere near as dangerous as what you did. Don't worry."

"That's a handy phrase," Blaine said, and the three of them abruptly remembered their chauffeur was there. He clicked the door controller again and they were soon safely shielded from any prying eyes. "Don't worry. Funny."

"We didn't expect it to get that out of hand," Kurt said. "Really."

"There's an understatement," Rachel said dryly. Dividing their powers like that had been sloppy. They'd have to do better in the future. She glanced at her phone, felt a fresh wave of exhaustion roll over her, and shoved it away again. They were all battered and bruised. Turning on their cell phones could wait until morning. "How long do you have before you need to get home? Finn, it would be good if you stayed here until you looked a little better."

He nodded. "Yeah, good plan. Uh, we can probably take an hour or so."

"I do need to leave soon," Blaine said. He'd left his car there when they'd driven in together. It was unsurprising that his last-minute story wouldn't come with an overly late curfew.

"That's all right," Rachel said, but he didn't seem to like that answer.

Blaine unbuckled his seatbelt and shoved it off, and then practically stormed inside. The three in the car shared a look before Kurt went after him. "Blaine!" she heard him saying, and they hurried to follow. "I know this was a huge night. I'm sorry that I wasn't more talkative on the drive back."

It took a few seconds of sputtering before Blaine said, "You think I'm upset that you weren't chatty?"

"Well." Kurt looked himself over and brushed some lingering brick dust off his leather outfit. He winced as he moved certain ways; bruises were probably forming. Rachel certainly felt hers. "I mean... we did win."

"I just. I don't." Blaine exhaled. "This has been a lot to take in. Twenty-four hours ago I was just worried about him, and now I've found out that my boyfriend is superpowered and that he's been out fighting the forces of darkness and what have you for weeks. And then I was trapped in a van, only able to listen as you were so in danger that you could have...."

"Hey," Kurt said, and pulled him in for a hug when Blaine's words failed him. "I'm okay. Everything is all right, no one got hurt, and a lot of people are alive tonight who wouldn't have been. Those are all very good things, aren't they?"

"Of course they are," Blaine said. "I've just gone through feeling an awful lot of things tonight, and it's like none of you even care how close you came to being hurt, or worse. Even Sam and Lauren treated everything like a game. It's left me feeling a little alone." After fumbling ineffectually, Kurt pulled him close again and they stood there for a while. Blaine's hands roamed across him, not in a sexual way but like he was reassuring himself of Kurt's safety with every steady breath and warm limb.

"I don't want to do this forever," Kurt said quietly. "This isn't my new life. I just went with them to save the people on campus. I want the same life we've talked about before." That let even more tension out of Blaine, enough to see, and he smiled at hitting the right thing to say. "Nothing has changed, I promise."

Blaine nodded, and the last of the argument drained from his expression. They stood there for a few breaths more until his fears had withered and drifted away.

Kurt stepped back and smiled. "There," he said. "Everything's okay."

"Everything's not okay," Blaine corrected, and Kurt looked annoyed at... well, it was Kurt, after all. He was probably annoyed at not being able to just get away with something. "I still have a lot of problems with what's been happening, but at least now I feel like we can work through them."

"Fair enough," Kurt allowed. Though tension returned, it felt far healthier: a challenge to be overcome, rather than a pit they couldn't hope to cross. But then something began to pull at him, and he hesitated, frowned, and took another step back. "Wait." Kurt squinted, shook his head, and tried to work through whatever he was hearing. "Twenty-four hours ago you were worried about who?"

"I didn't... I mean." Blaine hissed out a short sigh. "I'd really rather not discuss it, if there's some other reason for what I was seeing. And maybe all of this superhero activity is that reason."

Kurt's brows furrowed. Rachel and Finn tried to look like they weren't eavesdropping. "Wait, what were you seeing?"

"I'd prefer to—"

"Spit it out!" Kurt said. Despite their sweet moment, he seemed ready to stomp his boot. In fairness, Rachel amended, it had been a long day.

Of course, it had been a long day for Blaine, too. He looked more than a little annoyed at Kurt's short tone, but was still diplomatic as he answered, "I've been very uncomfortable with how Puck has clearly been... showing you some romantic attention."

The three of them were absolutely silent for a long, still second. If Blaine had looked irritated before, it was nothing compared to his glare when Kurt, Rachel, and Finn burst out in laughter that soon had them in tears. "Oh god," Finn gasped as he wiped at his eyes. "Hurts. Ow. Can't stop."

"I'm sorry," Kurt said after taking a few deep breaths to steady himself. He fluttered a hand at his face for fresh air. "I'm okay." His next breath was shaky and again dissolved into giggles, and he had to try a few more times to repeat, "I'm okay."

"This really isn't funny," Blaine said tightly. His facade was clearly cracking, and seeing him coming close to losing control toned down their amusement. "You haven't been telling me anything. And maybe this is some sort of payback for taking so long to come around, I don't know, but I've felt completely closed off. Then I hear you describe him as someone who made your life hell, but you're still...."

"Still what?" Kurt asked.

"I can't explain it," Blaine reluctantly replied. He shot a dark look at Finn and Rachel for inserting themselves into the discussion, when previously they'd had the decency to make a pretense at privacy. "But he's been very affectionate around you. You have to have noticed."

"Oh, that's just Puck," Kurt waved off. "When he doesn't like you, he's terrible to be near. But then he comes around and he's willingly offering to put himself on the line to keep you safe." He smiled brightly. "I know you're worried because he used to bully, but he bullied everyone. This wasn't a laser focus situation. It wasn't personal."

"Is that supposed to make it sound better?" Blaine asked dubiously. "Someone doing what he did is making it personal."

"I mean that he was just... an annoying bug I had to deal with," Kurt amended. "And he's really tried to better himself over the long haul. I won't say that we're friends, but I really have no reason not to be friendly with him." He raised an eyebrow. "And he is quite possibly the least likely boy I have ever met who would try to make a move on me."

"We are talking about the boy who plied Quinn with alcohol while she was dating Finn, aren't we?" Blaine asked dryly. "Not to mention slashing a rival's tires and nearly getting himself into legal trouble, and then stealing an ATM and finally earning that criminal record? I'm just pointing out that he's hardly reliable, or a model citizen. And just because it didn't affect you that badly doesn't excuse his behavior."

"I never told you about the tires," Kurt said. "Or how he landed in juvie. And did... did we actually talk about what happened with him and Quinn?"

"I asked around," Blaine admitted. "I was worried."

"He is straight," Kurt said. "I swear, he can probably find a pair of breasts through two walls and a set of doors, like his penis sends off radar."

"And you'd be ever so willing to consider the possibility that he's bisexual," Blaine said very pointedly.

"Oh god." Kurt groaned and looked toward the ceiling before plastering on a cheerful tone. "Noah Puckerman is straight because he is straight. We get along now, but I am not secretly dating him. He just loves it when he gets the chance to stand up and prove himself, and taking care of me after my nosebleed gave him that chance. He was showing off. And remember, you are my first... everything that matters, okay?" Kurt asked. He smiled until Blaine smiled back. "I am sorry that I didn't tell you about this, but I promise, that's all I've hidden. I love you, remember?"

"I do remember that," Blaine said ruefully. "From a day when everything made sense. Back before you were calling yourself a ninja." He saw Kurt's expectant face, and with a sigh that morphed into a smile he replied, "I love you, too. And those powers of yours are...."

"Are?" Kurt supplied after he didn't continue.

"Very interesting," Blaine finished. A blush put a lie to his typically calm demeanor. "Had you been... stretching at all before I came over, or—" Kurt casually reached behind him and pulled one leg far past what looked comfortable, and Blaine swallowed. "I suppose stretching's not necessary, then."

After letting his foot fall back to the floor, Kurt straightened Blaine's shirt collar as he said, "You are who I go on dates with. You are who I talk about the future with. You are my ticket to a brighter world, and I'm yours in every way that matters. All right?"

"And I'm yours," Blaine repeated meaningfully. He shook his head and chuckled. "I suppose I was letting my imagination run away with me. I trust you, and if you've said that nothing's ever happened with him, then nothing has."

"Nothing has," Kurt confirmed. He kept smoothing Blaine's shirt like an obsession. "We only hid what we were doing to keep people safe, and we only took a risk tonight to save lives."

"I want to know before you do anything else, all right?" Blaine said. "And I may put my foot down."

"Do you get to 'put your foot down' on my life?" Kurt asked pointedly.

"I may express serious reservations," Blaine said. "And let you know how much I would appreciate it if you respected my fears." He waited until Kurt nodded at that compromise, and then leaned in to kiss him. "All right. It has been an unbelievably long day, and I really need to get home. I'll call you tomorrow. Love you," he said and started toward the door.

"Love you, too. You can stop pretending that you're not listening, now," Kurt said as he turned around and the door closed.

Finn and Rachel poked their heads above the couch's back. After including themselves during the laughter over Puck, they'd wanted to finish listening to everything. They'd slumped progressively further during the conversation until their eyes were just high enough to see, like they were alligators in water. "You could have gone to another part of the house if you really cared about privacy," Rachel said after she and Kurt studied each other.

"Your inimitable talent clearly extends to apologies," Kurt said.

Well, it was true. As she heard Blaine's car pulling away, Rachel hopped up and gestured toward the front hall. "I'll just go lock the door, and then get drinks. Finn, you still need to rest up." She brushed past Kurt, who still seemed to be waiting for an acknowledgment that perhaps they could have left them alone, and clicked the deadbolt into place.

* * *

"That was pretty great," Lauren said as her car rolled to a stop in front of Puck's house. "Seriously, you should have told me before." She'd taken everything weirdly well, like she'd just watched a kickass summer blockbuster with her boyfriend in the starring role. Mike and Tina had filled the back seat, and when they weren't cuddling they talked excitedly with her about everything that had happened. It had kept all of them busy during the drive.

That was good, because Puck had zoned out the entire time. It was like they'd teleported from Columbus to Lima. One minute he was in front of television cameras and making out with his girlfriend: his hot, cool, strong girlfriend who he dug and respected. He hadn't really known what it was like to feel that way about someone before her.

Instead of telling him he was stupid for liking video games, and telling her that her interests were stupid in return, they learned to compromise. He got to list his theories about the genealogy of the Belmont Family in exchange for listening to her explain why someone named Jacob Black was one, a werewolf, and two, evil and dedicated to ruining her 'OTP.' He wasn't dating her to be popular, or because she fit into a mold of his perfect dating partner. He was dating Lauren because they were friends who got along, made each other better, and liked making out.

For months she'd felt like the most overwhelming and real thing in his heart outside of blood relatives. Of course, very different feelings bloomed for Lauren than for his mom or sister or for a tiny little girl he'd last seen in a hospital nursery. She wormed into him in ways that all his pool clients or random girls at school hadn't. Even going through having a child with Quinn didn't compare, because he'd veered between being a total dick and wanting to be better than his father while she just wanted to move on. That wasn't a connection. In the end, it was just biology.

Those were most of the things that had run through Puck's mind on the freeway. It was lucky she'd been driving, as he probably would have merged into a car. There something else that had been on constant loop and he had no idea how to deal with it.

Ever since Kurt had done the splits earlier, that image kept clawing its way back inside. That was okay, though, since it was unnatural and looked painful. That was the sort of thing that floated up without warning, like some contortionist equivalent of a football-to-the-groin video. So when it kept coming back to him as the day went on, he could excuse it.

But then everything had gone to hell in Columbus and Puck had stopped that thrown car.

He hadn't known he could move that fast.

He couldn't have done it to save Mercedes. He couldn't have done it to save Finn or Rachel, even.

Even as Puck was filled with rage, he'd nearly been driven to tears with the thought of what he'd almost just lost: Kurt. He'd run there in time to protect Kurt, he'd stopped a car with his body to protect Kurt. The only thought in his furious mind was simple: don't dare touch what was his.

What the hell was going on?

"Hey," Lauren said, and Puck snapped back to awareness with an almost physical force. "You still awake?"

"Yeah. Sorry." He swallowed. "I guess I was just thinking about stuff." Like how Kurt had just casually reached back and started twisting himself like a knot in a rope....

Oh crap. Was he one of those dudes who liked dudes? Not full-on gay, but like... David Bowie or Freddie Mercury? Wait, but they were both awesome. Freddie had it going on with some chick for years, right? And Bowie landed Iman. Iman. They weren't less because of it, they were just too much man to deny anyone who came near.

Huh. Okay. That was one way to look at it. Maybe it should have felt weird to have his mind linger over the way Kurt's back had arched, but instead it was comfortable like a well-worn pair of jeans. It was almost too easy to think Kurt was hot, Puck realized with a bit of panic. He might be okay with being Freddie or Bowie. Heading into Elton territory was not cool.

What did he think of Finn? Gross, his brain instantly told him. He could picture a Mr. Yuck sticker plastered on the side of his skull. Sam? No way. Artie? Ha, no way in hell. Mike? Well... Puck's eyebrows rose. Maybe Mike. Mike was bendy. Mike had been doing all those flips right beside Kurt. Maybe he just had a gymnast fetish. And gymnasts were hot, right? That was about as normal as a man could get.

"Yo, Puckerman," Lauren said good-naturedly. "You're zoning out. Go to sleep."

"It was just a big day," Puck said with a fake laugh. Worst case scenario, he was Bowie, right? Not Elton? He looked Lauren over, was pleased to feel a reaction as he looked at the curve of her shirt collar, and said with relief, "I love your tits."

"Sweet talker," she said dryly. "Seriously, go to sleep." She looked him over. "No, change your pants, then go."

"Thanks for the reminder," he said and began the awkward work of changing back into his jeans. Mike and Tina had done so shamelessly on the drive home, but he'd been a million miles away until they'd been dropped off and they were parked in front of his door. If she hadn't told him otherwise, Puck would have walked right back into the house in his costume. "Talk to you tomorrow," he said and leaned over to kiss her.

"Talk to you then," Lauren agreed and grinned. "I'm dating a superhero."

The need to turn on his charm to maximum hit Puck in a wave, so she wouldn't know what had been in his head. "Just had to catch up to you, baby," he said and winked at her. That did it, and Lauren looked incredibly pleased as she drove off. Puck exhaled, watched her go, and decided he needed to go watch some YouTube videos of panties being thrown at Bowie and Freddie. It was late; he'd have to keep the volume down so he didn't wake anyone up.

Though he'd expected the house to be asleep, Puck looked with surprise at the lit dining room when he walked inside. His little sister Sarah was sitting at the table far past her normal bedtime and was flipping through a well-worn book. "Why are you up?" he asked suspiciously as he hit the fridge and grabbed the first can his hand found.

"I was waiting for you," she said, licked her finger, and dramatically turned the page.


"Noah!" his mother called from upstairs. "Is that you?" He could hear her rushing to join them.

Puck eyed Sarah as he fumbled with the tab on his can. "What's going on?"

"I don't know," Sarah said, and turned the page again. There was no way she'd read anything that time, the little drama queen. "But it sounds like you are in a ton of trouble."

* * *

Rachel balanced everything in her arms and saw that the light on the phone was flashing. She gave momentary consideration to trying to check her messages, gave up, and deposited the snacks and first aid supplies in the living room with the boys. Now with free hands, she returned to the kitchen and dialed the code to listen to their voice mail.

"Hi, sweetie," said one of her dads. His voice sounded strange. Maybe they'd bought her a present in Chicago (or St. Louis) and were trying to hide it, Rachel thought, and smiled sleepily. "We have to come home early. Um, stay around the house, okay?"

"Okay," she told the recording and tried not to laugh. Well, she would stay around the house now. They could hardly hold it against her if she'd left it before she'd heard that message. Considering things, Rachel hung up on any more voice mails and then punched in the short code to turn off incoming calls. Once she managed to fall asleep for the night, she didn't want some drunk accidentally dialing her number. After a quick detour to her room, she returned to the living room wearing a far more comfortable pair of pajamas.

"Can I ask you something?" Kurt asked Finn as he slouched on the sofa like he would never move again.

"Yeah, either you need to stop poofing up your hair so much or Blaine needs to stop plastering down his." Finn narrowed his eyes in thought. "Or he could just get taller."

"I was not wondering that, Finn," Kurt said flatly.

"Yes you were," Finn said, grinned at him, and tapped the side of his head knowingly.

The disgruntled look Kurt gave him in return was a classic, Rachel thought as she curled up in a chair opposite the couch. She'd considered sitting next to Finn, but she was really starting to feel her bruises from when Kurt had thrown her away from the Suburban. The soft cushions of her dad's favorite recliner were a safer bet. "What is it, Kurt?" she asked to get them back on track.

"This is going to sound incredibly strange," Kurt began, "but... you've had a lot of dreams about a specific subway station?"

"Yeah," Finn said after a moment of thought. "Totally forgot that I said anything about that."

With a quick bite of his lower lip, Kurt continued, "I only remembered it because I thought about how tired I was, and then I wondered if I'd have another New York dream, and...." He shook his head. "Never mind. But you said it was the 96th Street Station?"

Finn blinked. "Yeah. Wow, that was this morning. How did you remember that one number?"

Delicately, Kurt answered, "Because it's the same one I've always gone to in my dreams."

What? But that was an impossible coincidence, Rachel thought. She pulled on her rough mental map of the city and placed 96th Street: far into the Upper West Side, well away from anywhere they'd visited on their trip. Wait, she thought after a second of hesitation. How had she been so sure that it was the Upper West Side? 96th Street was on the east side of Central Park, too.

A heavy fog of uncertainty began to settle across them. Kurt and Finn kept looking at each other, frowning, and then looking away in thought. It was Kurt who eventually spoke again. "There was one building I kept coming out of," Kurt said with half-lidded eyes as he retreated into memories. "From there I could either turn left and go to the station, or—"

"Or right and go to the park," Finn added. He looked to be in his own dream world, too.

Kurt sat very still before he continued. "Yes. I'd walk under trees. It was... there was this huge street at the end of the block. I'd go one more block past it, turn right and keep walking."

"Yeah, onto Broadway," Finn agreed without hesitating. "I thought Broadway was full of lights and stuff, but around there it was mostly full of little restaurants."

"It was Broadway," Kurt said in obvious shock. "That's right, it was Broadway. And the station was under construction. They'd just started renovating it."

"Why were you dreaming about the same spot?" Rachel finally asked when they stared at each other and seemed to be at a logjam for any further discussions. "What's going on? Finn, were you getting Kurt's dreams bleeding over into yours?"

Finn brightened at the explanation, but then slumped hopelessly. "No. Not this time. It felt different."

Kurt looked very concerned as he asked, "Finn? Did... did someone do something to us in New York? Can you look at my brain and see if it looks funny?"

"What am I looking for?" Finn asked. "Funny how?"

"I don't know!" Kurt said desperately. "You're the telepath!"

"Well, you have weird psychic powers, too! Give me a hint!" Finn said. But Kurt clearly had nothing to offer, and so he sighed, squinted at Kurt, and sat there motionless for at least thirty seconds.

"Well?" Kurt eventually asked.

"Don't talk, I'm trying to avoid the Captain Kirk stuff." Finn grimaced. "Okay, shouldn't have mentioned it. Now it's all I can see."

Rachel tilted her head as Kurt smiled in mingled apology and amusement. Boys were so strange.

Everything was quiet for a while. Rachel could hear a neighbor's dog barking, and a lone car driving past them on the street. Despite the impossible enormity of what they'd done in Columbus, it was a sleepy night in Lima. Had it really just been a few hours earlier that she'd feared for her life? That Kurt had tried to shield her body with his? No wonder Blaine had felt like he was the only one upset by everything that had happened. Given even a short time away from the worst of the fight, they were all acting like it was almost... normal.

Finn finally pulled back. He looked overwhelmed.

"What did you see?" Kurt asked worriedly, probing at the side of his head like that would reveal something.

"The memories of walking to the subway station," Finn said slowly. "They're... they're real."

Kurt laughed uneasily. "How can they be real? I've never lived in New York. I've been there once, and we never went near that part of the city. Are you sure you're doing that right?"

"Look, you told me to check things out and I did!" Finn frowned. "I don't know how I can tell they're real, but they are. It's like tasting real Coke and Pepsi instead of that crap you bring home. I know when it's diet, okay?" As his offense passed, Finn slowly realized the implications of what he'd said. "Wait, so you... so you're actually remembering living in New York."

"So are you," Kurt said.

Finn shook his head. "I can't check my own memories like that."

"But you remembered all the same things as me!" Kurt insisted. "If I were really there, and you saw the same things, then doesn't it make sense that you were, too?" He waited for Finn to nod and then sank back with his hand against his forehead. "Oh my god, somehow we forgot that we actually lived in New York. I bet we got our powers there."

"And when we went back there, they woke back up?" Finn guessed.

Kurt nodded fiercely. "This makes sense. I mean, it makes no sense whatsoever to say that we just completely forgot that we used to live there and somehow we got super powers, but... but it also makes total sense!" He hopped up and started pacing around the room as Rachel tried her best to remember any specifics about the city for herself. Surely they couldn't be the only two. "There had to be others there," he continued, like he knew what Rachel had been thinking.

"Why?" Finn asked. "Just because everyone else got powers, too?"

Kurt shook his head. "Yes, but it's not just that. Santana mentioned that she'd been dreaming repeatedly about Brooklyn, and she had no clue why she was imagining herself somewhere that we didn't visit. Which probably means...."

"That Santana lived in Brooklyn!" Rachel finished excitedly. "This is amazing. When we got there for Nationals, it felt so right, like it was where I'd always dreamed of going. But it also felt...." She struggled for the right word. Her hand tried to snatch it from the air. "In retrospect," she finally said, "it felt like coming home."

The way Kurt pointed at her suggested that he was thinking much the same. He let himself muse for a bit before continuing. His boots paced steadily against the floor. "We were wondering what caused these powers. We must have gotten them in New York. And maybe something attacked us and gave us amnesia?"

That made sense! If they'd been attacked, it would be natural for their parents to try to take them to safety. Despite Lima's high crime rate, it was certainly much safer than a metropolis famously populated by supervillains. There they had to worry about bullies and car accidents, not about memory-wiping creatures with a taste for superpowered teenagers.

"Can you remember anything?" Finn asked her.

Rachel tried, but she had to give up and shake her head. The most she had were flashes of familiarity; certainly nothing to compare to the walking tour they apparently remembered. But then, she added to herself, she had been sure which side of the city they'd been on. Maybe that meant something?

"We've used our powers more than you," Kurt realized. "And who else probably came close to her limits, weeks back?"

"Santana," Rachel said. "That's it. It has to be it. Finn, you're really remembering things after you went so far tonight. Kurt and Santana both pushed themselves hard on that first visit to Columbus. In comparison, I've barely been able to use my powers much at all." The enormity of what they were discussing began to overwhelm her. "Well then. Let's see. Artie and Puck also constantly use theirs, I think. Have they pushed themselves so far? Well, maybe repeated use does the trick or... I don't know! What's happening?"

"I was remembering some stuff even before tonight," Finn said as he tried to work through the mystery in front of them. "Now it's pouring in, but I bet it's there for everyone. Maybe if we talk to them, we can work through some of the blocks? Make them remember more?"

Kurt hurried in front of Finn and sat on the edge of the coffee table. For a moment Rachel thought about telling him not to sit there, but decided to let things pass. "We were remembering the same path to the subway station," he said. "That means we were coming from the same place."

"That's true," Finn said, but then stiffened and repeated, "That's true! Wait, what the hell? We were living together back then?" He hesitated, tilted his head to the side like he was hearing something, and repeated, "We were living together."

They had sailed far past strange and into completely unbelievable, and yet no one wanted to stop. Rachel grabbed a notepad and started jotting down anything that they could drag free from their spotty memories. "I remember...." Kurt squeezed his eyes shut hard, like he could block out everything about Ohio to clear his mind. "The fourth floor."

Finn looked uncertain, but then a slow smile began to spread across his face. "Yeah. Forty... eight?" But he instantly shook his head. "No. Wrong apartment number. Forty-three." Rachel could practically see that imagined eight on the door change as he recalled wherever he'd once lived. "And... and you walked in and there was a table to your left. The TV and stuff was right in front of you."

"Right, right!" Kurt said excitedly. "I can see it. This is so weird. Parquet flooring. It must have been pre-war, picturing the architecture. And... I can see the canopy in front of the door! 124 on...." He burst out laughing. "124 West 93rd! That was our building! Apartment 43!"

Finn started laughing, too. By the end it was closer to a giggle. "We totally used to live near Central Park!"

"That's probably why they could only afford two bedrooms," Kurt said easily, then started. His eyes looked ready to pop out of his head. "That's right. We had the same room. Oh my god, did we seriously have bunk beds? How pathetic were we?"

"I wonder if we, um, argued at all," Finn said, coughing. Kurt shot him a knowing look; Rachel wondered what she'd missed. She knew better than to speak up, though. It would be a foolish move to interrupt the recollections. "I don't think so, though." His brow furrowed. "I remember talking when stuff got hard, with school and life and whatever. I'm pretty sure that it was kind of nice to share that room."

Kurt ran a hand through his hair. He looked to be in utter disbelief of everything they were discussing, and yet delighted over it at the same time. "I'm still stuck on the fact that my decorating sense was so off-base that I actually allowed bunk beds to come near me. Who buys those when they're... when would we have moved in, fourteen? Fifteen?"

The response from Finn was distracted and short. He sounded like he was already thinking of other things: their old school, perhaps, or a pet. "Nah, we had that since we were kids." But as soon as the words were out of his mouth, Finn paused with his jaw still half-open. He looked confused.

"Since we were...." Kurt drew back. A thin line of confusion scored the space between his eyebrows. They shot abruptly up his forehead and his hand covered his mouth. "Oh my god."

"This is weird," Finn said as he scratched his temple. He looked ready to shake his head like a dog. More memories must be rattling around like pinballs, bouncing off walls and lighting up connections when they struck. "Yeah. Yeah, I remember getting that bed a really long time ago. It's crazy, but I swear it feels like—"

"You're actually my brother," Kurt said in a tiny, terrified voice. Chalky, sickly tones swept over him and he looked ready to crumple where he stood. No one dared say anything. Color returned suddenly and Kurt turned bright red. He flailed his hands, gasped for air, and then backed away from them as he began a waterfall of, "Ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew ew!"

He bolted for the bathroom and slammed the door behind him. Rachel inched toward it. Her head was swimming as that single word "ew" was still being shouted inside. "Kurt?" she asked. "Are you okay?" The sound of drawers opening and closing sent a flash of fear through her. There were many dangerous things inside a bathroom. Glancing over her shoulder showed how stunned Finn looked, and he hadn't been the one dreaming about his own kin. The sound of another door slamming jolted Rachel with fear. The bathroom had pills. It had razors. "Kurt!" she said and pounded on the door. "What are you doing?"

"Where is your rubbing alcohol?" he shouted. "I can't find the damn bottle!"

"I will find you vodka if you want to drink yourself into a stupor," Rachel said as she rattled the handle. "Although I do not recommend that approach. But you cannot be foolish enough to ignore the fact that rubbing alcohol is not safe to—"

The door swung open enough to reveal a sliver of Kurt's face. "I do not want to drink it. I want to disinfect my entire body."

"Oh." Rachel shot another nervous glance at Finn. He had yet to move. "Bottom shelf of the cabinet against the wall."

"Thank you," Kurt said. The door slammed shut.

Finn was still a pale, stunned statue when she turned to him. He'd stood, but then stayed there like he didn't know where to go. "Whoa," he finally managed. "This is... uh. Wow."

"Was he right?" Rachel asked in disbelief. This was just so ridiculous, and yet if they were flinging around superpowers and unearthing memories from a hidden past in New York City, was anything truly outside the realm of possibility?

With a heavy sigh, Finn sank onto the nearest chair. It was a fortunate thing that it had been close; too much further and he might have collapsed onto the floor. "If he's not, then Mom and Dad got married when we were way too young to remember it." He jolted and silently repeated the words ‘Mom and Dad' that had flowed so easily from his mouth. "Wait. Then why... why did they split up when they moved here?" Finn asked Rachel with a pleading, sincere tone that demanded a real attempt at an answer.

"I don't know," she admitted. "I can't remember things yet, Finn." She perched on the armrest of the chair and his arm snaked immediately around her. It was a firm, comforting gesture; she felt more like a teddy bear than a girlfriend. Rachel didn't complain about her bruises. "If I had to guess, then whatever put us here with all our memories removed, well... it probably wanted to keep us away from each other. Who would have imagined that all of us would come together, when we all started so far apart?" Many of them had been so very alone: herself, Kurt, Mercedes. Some had rare friendships. Some had ties to many others at school, but seemed unfulfilled within them.

Given a little time, though, they'd all found each other again.

"I have a brother," Finn finally said. "I mean, a real, blood... we're the same age."

The implications hit her and Rachel almost laughed. That night they'd fought back famous supervillains, had nearly died, and had discovered a hidden past in another state that had likely given them their powers. And yet it was this that seemed the most impossible. "Twins. Not identical, I suppose."

Finn managed the laughter that Rachel had fought back. It probably kept him from crying. "I didn't make the connection because Tina zaps people's minds, too. But...."

"She's more like an energy vampire," Rachel realized. She affected other people's minds, but her own brain had nothing to do with what happened to her targets. All this time, Finn and Kurt's powers had uniquely overlapped and no one thought anything of it. "You two both have psychic powers, and you're the only ones who do." With a glance at the door, she whispered, "I'll be right back, okay?" and walked to the bathroom again. "Kurt, I just want to make sure that you're all right."

"I'm... just give me a minute."

Fair enough. She returned to Finn's armrest and perched there again. "How are you doing?"

"I'm okay," Finn said slowly. "Maybe you wouldn't think so, but we already live together, you know? This is huge, but I'm not about to start knocking over chairs or something."

The phrasing there made her pull back. "Do you think this is bad?"

"No," Finn said instantly, and then seemed to consider his reaction. "No," he repeated more meaningfully. "No, this is...." When he looked up from staring at his hands, his eyes were full of tears. "I talked to him after I kissed you for the first time, Rachel. I talked to him all night because I'd been so scared that I'd screw things up with you, and then you kissed me back."

Tears blurred her vision, now. "You were kissing me in New York?" Rachel asked through a choked throat.

"You were my first girlfriend," Finn said in wonder. "Puck introduced us. He knew you from your Jewish church."

"Temple," Rachel automatically corrected, but her voice was strained with the need to laugh and cry and sing and do something. "So we probably lived by each other. That's how I knew which side of the city that station was on. This is...." Overcome, she flung her arms around Finn's shoulders and wondered just how amazing a life they'd left behind in New York and what they could do to get it back.

"I really remember, now," Finn said as he looked warily at the door where Kurt was still hidden and silent. "Not everything, but I remember being kids together. And him flirting with me here. Oh man. I don't know if I can handle this, Rachel."

She pulled back and met his eyes. "I can't say it was innocent, Finn, and he did some very wrong things. But if I had to categorize his crush as anything, I'd call it, well... hero worship. Like he thought you would be there for him."

"I was," Finn said, and teared up anew. "I always was. Oh man. He was creeping me out and doing wrong stuff and... and he didn't even know that he was getting our parents back together."

"It doesn't excuse his methods," Rachel said, "but maybe there was a subconscious motivation there. Look at us: we apparently dated before and now we're dating again. You didn't have any reason to look at me here, Finn. You had Quinn. But for whatever reason, you and I connected. We all must have been friends then if we all got powers together, but we didn't start off as a group here. But when we had the chance to join the same club, well, we took it."

That didn't seem to have reassured him, and when he spoke she knew why. "What about when I laughed when he got thrown into a dumpster? What was my big plan there, huh?"

She didn't have an answer for that one, and so tried to distract him. "So which of you has the real name?" she asked as lightly as she could.

Finn looked confused, but soon realized what she meant. "Oh. I guess you're right. We must have had the same last name. Was I Hummel?" he wondered but shook his head as soon as he'd asked it. "So he must have been... no. No, he wasn't Hudson. What the hell?"

"Finn," Rachel began, but he immediately shushed her. She stayed quiet and didn't interrupt his flow of memories again.

"Was that even my name? No, I'm Finn Hu... Hu...." Finn's forehead creased with what looked like physical pain. When he tried again, the word sounded awkward, as if he'd just come from a dentist's office. "Hutton." The initial letters, the double consonant, the ending sound. It was as if someone had neatly split up their old identity and found new ones just close enough to fit without notice. "How could they do this?" Finn finally asked. "Who would do this to us? We used to talk about all the crap of... of life until the middle of the night, and all of a sudden our parents aren't married and I turned into a jerk who totally tortured him?"

"Maybe you should go talk to him now," Rachel gently suggested.

It was as if he'd forgotten that Kurt was just on the other side of the door, and Finn hurried to it and opened it without knocking. Though Kurt protested, Finn stayed right there in front of him. "I remember, man. I remember buying stuff for school, and going to Coney Island and us both getting sick." Kurt laughed wetly, nodded, and wiped at his eyes, and Finn grinned with relief and continued. "I remember when I was the first person you told about... you know."

"Yeah," Kurt agreed. His eyes were as red as she'd ever seen, and Rachel had a sudden flashback to watching him perform a song for a father who might be dying. He hadn't been smiling then, though. He was now. "Me too." He wiped at his cheek with the back of his hand. "And here I'd thought that having a car thrown at me would be the most dramatic part of my evening." He started laughing, tinged with an edge of hysteria, and Rachel began to think that they should really get some sleep.

"Are you going to tell them that you know?" she asked, gently prodding them toward their house.

After a surprised look between them, Finn and Kurt considered that and nodded in slow unison. "We have to," Finn said. "They have to tell us why they split up. I don't remember stuff about them yet, but there has to be a reason."

"No reason good enough," Kurt said grimly, "but we're still owed the truth, even though it'll lead to some bad questions. We don't have to tell them about our powers, don't worry. We won't mention anyone else."

"Good luck," Rachel said, and got up on her toes to kiss Finn. She hugged Kurt after that and they both winced as their bruises were jostled. "You have to let me know. You have to let all of us know, all right? Because what you're remembering... it must have happened to all of us. So if you two are the first to remember everything—"

"We will," Finn promised, but his attention turned quickly to Kurt. They swallowed hard as they smiled at each other, and both looked constantly on the verge of tearing up again. "Hey."

"Hey," Kurt repeated shakily. When Finn slung an arm around his shoulder to guide them toward his parked truck, he let out a noise that was lost somewhere because laughter and crying.

Her own eyes were wet, Rachel realized as she wiped at them. She carefully washed her face and then began slowly working out the kinks in her abused muscles before sliding into bed. What would they talk about on the drive home? What had caused their parents to split up before they both moved to Lima, and why had they gotten together again? This was all so strange, and she was so tired that she knew her brain wasn't running at a capacity that could process everything. Determined to sleep so that she could wake up bright-eyed and ready to tackle the incredible questions ahead of them, Rachel turned on the television for company and waited for it to make her drift off.

She sat up a few seconds later. "Oh no," she said as she looked at her own face on television. "Oh no."

That mask really didn't hide much.

They'd been in Columbus, she thought dumbly as she watched video footage of the villains' destruction replayed and dissected. They'd taken precautions. They'd been hours away. That didn't mean anything in the digital world of 2011, though.

That mask hardly hid anything at all.

"Oh no," she repeated, and fumbled for her cell phone to turn it on.

She'd never had so many messages before.

* * *

Into the dark spaces between worlds, where gods warred and psychic demons prowled the astral plane, knowledge of the group's powers filtered.

Something paid attention.

They told their friends.

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