miggy: (Default)
miggy ([personal profile] miggy) wrote2011-12-08 12:18 pm

fic: "Special" (Chapter 15/?)

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: 10,400
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: Boy, this got long. This chapter is all about relationships. Some of them get a lot of perspective now, while others are being set up for interactions in chapters to come. (By the end of the chapter you can guess where one scene'll be set next week.) Next week: discussions of the future.







"Seriously?" Finn demanded as Puck finally gave up and walked toward privacy with him. He knew Puck was only doing it so Finn would leave him alone, but he'd take the opportunity no matter how it came. "How the hell long has this been going on?"

Reading people could be like listening to their thoughts on a telephone with an echo on the line, but it could also be like curling up inside their hearts and feeling whatever they felt. When he'd looked at Puck, he'd experienced an overwhelming physical attraction to Kurt like it was from his own mind. It took him a few horrified seconds to realize it wasn't so. Anything would be better than actually feeling that way about his own twin brother who he could remember from first grade, but it coming from Puck was barely an improvement.

"Look," Puck said defensively, "it's not serious. I'm just a sex—"

"Don't compare yourself to a shark again, or a dinosaur, or a cheetah, or whatever."

"Cheetahs have no stamina," Puck said.

"Whatever! Don't do it!" Finn saw a few people looking curiously at them and lowered his voice. "Since when are you...?"

"Since him," Puck grumbled. "Being all flexible." Gross. So gross. Seeing his reaction, Puck added, "You know I stare at whoever, whenever. I always have. What's the big deal?"

"The big deal," Finn repeated tightly, "is that he is happy and dating someone, and you are not going to screw that up for him."

Puck pulled back. "And why would you assume I'd screw them up?"

Well, that was one hell of a softball thrown at him. "Let me think," Finn said. "I'm sure I'll come up with something. Oh, yeah: you getting my girlfriend pregnant when we were happy and dating. Or going for Rachel when it was me and her. Yeah, you're super trustworthy."

"Nothing happened with Rachel," Puck said harshly, but denying that only made the Quinn affair all the more obvious. Mute with frustration for a few red-faced seconds, Puck finally answered with, "And you're really one to talk about cheating." He saw Finn's scowl, smiled darkly, and asked, "Want me to call Sam over? Have him go all judgmental on your holier-than-thou ass?"

"That was different," Finn said with annoyance. "You were just doing it because you could."

"Yeah, that's totally it," Puck snorted. "You had a good reason and I didn't, because you're always right. Screw you." He saw something in Finn's expression and rolled his eyes. "Calm down. I wasn't serious; you're not hot."

"...Hey!" Finn sputtered. He jabbed a finger at Puck's collar bone; the boy looked down at it, then back up, and raised an eyebrow. "Just stay the hell away from him. You ruin love for people. It's kind of your deal."

Offense and hurt rolled off the boy. Puck clenched his jaw. "You know, if I punched you in the face right now? It'd go right through to the other side."

"Oh hey," Finn said, and pulled on his telekinesis. A rush of psychic energy solidified, drew back, and socked Puck across the chin. It hit with the force of a strong slap for a normal person, not enough to draw notice from the people in the bleachers, but held the threat of more. "I can do that, too."

Puck practically snarled, "And who the hell are you to tell me that I can't—"

"I'm his brother," Finn said. "Like, seriously. Blood. Not 'step.' Twins. There's a lot about our lives that we still don't remember, but I remember that. He's finally found someone, he's happy, and I'm not going to let you screw things up for my brother like you screwed them up for me. Got it?"

He could sense Puck still fighting back the urge to punch him. Finn readied a telekinetic shield just in case. Unclenching his fist was so difficult that Puck actually felt pained, and he laughed humorlessly when he managed it. "Whatever. In case you've forgotten, I've got a girlfriend. I dig her, I'm not gonna cheat on her, end of story. And how the hell are you twins?"

"They don't have to be identical," Finn said, feeling oddly defensive. "Just... stay away from him, okay? You're only going to hurt him if you say anything. He's happy and you're the guy who used to throw him in the trash."

"So are you," Puck fired back. "I thought we were friends. Guess this is what you really think of me. Good to know."

"I'm just trying to look out for—" Finn cut off in the face of Puck's upraised finger, and sighed heavily as the boy stormed over to talk to Lauren. Even after that poor attempt, he just knew now that he had to look out for Kurt. He'd done a shitty job in Lima a lot of the time, but something stronger than guilt was reminding him to do better at that work. He was supposed to smooth the way for him. He just was.

Ugh, what a mess. He could still feel Puck's anger from across the gym. But then, it was a dark day for everyone, full of rage and sorrow. Puck would get over it. Surely his temper wasn't worse than Rachel's heartbreak, or Santana's... yikes, Finn thought as he did a quick sweep of her mind. No one could be worse than Santana's everything, that was for sure. Her face didn't match the hurricane inside; she was rigid and masked where she sat on the bleachers. Finn flinched at the sheer force of her pain, but Brittany and Quinn were attending to Santana, and Rachel and Mercedes were weepier and closer. Probably better to sit next to his girlfriend, he thought as he scooted next to Rachel. "Hey."

She had such big eyes. They made her performances so dramatic. Now he could see each tear standing in them, it seemed like, and every last one was like a punch to his gut. Rachel's voice trembled when she asked, "Finn, when you and Kurt left, did you know about this? Did you not tell me?"

Mercedes looked up, like the wrong answer from Finn could provide her with someone conveniently close to blame.

"No. We realized it when we were standing right in front of them, arguing. Kurt ran out. Burt had to go find him. It was pretty bad." He squeezed Rachel's shoulder and then looked to where Kurt had gone. The three normal people were still being grilled by the adults and Kurt was hovering around them like a moth in anticipation of the first free second. Finn smiled lopsidedly and knew he'd done the right thing. It wasn't that Blaine was his favorite person in the world. There were parts of the guy that seemed cool and parts that seriously bugged; just because his brother was dating him, it didn't mean that he ignored Column B. But he made Kurt happy.

Puck wouldn't. Puck even coming near them could explode all of that happiness in their faces.

Yeah. He'd done the right thing.

Secure in that knowledge, Finn wrapped his arms more wholly around Rachel, mindful of her bruises, and let her use him as a pillar in the storm.

* * *


Kurt could deal with being an untapped energy source into another dimension and having various unknown pursuers because of it. Truly, he could. He'd spent the last month wondering if he were a mutant (they'd gotten over that idea pretty quickly), a government experiment (as it turned out, not quite), or some magical being (that had been too much to hope for). The specifics of what Sue had told them were new, but he'd had time to accept the idea that he was something... kind of weird. He'd even gotten used to putting himself in incrementally more danger—with occasional huge leaps—to protect others who couldn't protect themselves.

It had just been a day and a half, though, since Blaine had learned the truth about their costumes and heroics. It had been even less time since he'd been put at risk, thanks to Kurt going to Columbus. And Kurt was still faced with the discussion where he would announce that everything in his life was a lie.

This, put very bluntly, was going to suck.

Eventually Sue finished talking to the trio, with Will running interference as best he could. Kurt lunged for Blaine and dragged him away to find any spot of privacy. The gymnasium was like some horrible teamwork-building session. Everyone had paired off: Mike and Tina, Finn and Rachel, Brittany and Santana. Puck made a beeline for Lauren, like Sam did for Mercedes. Quinn had apparently been knocked out of the popular girl trio when it became a Brittany-and-Santana duo, but even she had latched onto Artie as the last remaining solo person there. In short: there were way too many people and way too many discussions going on. "Coach Sylvester?" Kurt asked, risking interrupting the conversation where Will looked two seconds away from gesturing frantically like a muppet. "Could we use your office? It's a little loud in here."

Sue scowled, but hesitated just before "no" actually left her mouth. "Lock up when you leave," she said, handing him a keychain, "and I do videotape everything that goes on in there."

Fine, it wasn't like they were going to strip down on Sue Sylvester's desk. "Thank you," he said and quickly left before she could change her mind. "Come on," he said as he lead Blaine out of the gym with purposeful strides. Blaine followed without comment and they were soon in Sue's office. Mindful of the hidden cameras, he took one of the guest chairs and motioned for Blaine to do the same, rather than even coming near her seat.

"So," Blaine said, exhaling and looking more than a little exhausted. "This was quite a day."

Kurt grimaced. Yes, he was sure it had been, and it was only going to get worse.

"I got home and thankfully, my parents had already gone to bed," Blaine said. It sounded like a good start, but Kurt had the distinct impression that the story would have an unpleasant ending. "Unfortunately, some of their friends did see the news. They checked their messages when they got up, and, well... I had an earlier morning than I would have liked."

"Sorry," Kurt said. This was a conversation that would require an awful lot of apologies.

"Clips are already up on YouTube," Blaine said. "New teams always get some attention when they make their debuts."

Kurt thought of those clips, of the awful YouTube commentariat discussing their appearances and worthiness and general everything, and found himself saying "Sorry" again.

"Why are you apologizing so much?" Blaine asked. "I... look, we still need to talk about the whole superhero thing, but I chose to go with you all to Columbus. I made the decision to run up in front of those cameras. It's not your fault that my parents were upset over me going so far away without telling them." He added in very measured tones, like it was something he'd practiced, "And considering that things clearly weren't what you expected to be facing... it's not your fault that I was so upset last night. I shouldn't have gotten so angry over being scared; I'm sure you were scared, too. You didn't need to have me piling more guilt on top of you." Blaine frowned when every word of his made Kurt look worse, not better. "What's wrong?"

"Something else happened after you left," Kurt said. Now that the moment was finally there, he had no idea how he was supposed to tell that everything they had was constructed upon a lie. "Something that... wow. All right. This is hard."

"What happened?" Blaine asked, sounding very nervous. When Kurt only fumbled for words and couldn't find that perfect one to start his explanation, he ventured, "Okay, then... who was there with you when it happened?"

Kurt blinked. What an odd question. "Um, Finn and Rachel. It was right after you drove off." That seemed to satisfy Blaine, and even though it was a strange starting point, he took it. "Well, Finn and I began to remember some things from our dreams. It turns out that we were having the same dreams, and that they weren't dreams at all."

A worried line etched itself between Blaine's eyebrows. "Did you see something dangerous coming to town?"

"No. No, it wasn't of the future. It was of the past." He was there, right on the edge. He just needed to step over. He could do this. After all, nothing needed to change from what they'd already discussed, right? The future was still set; it was only the past that was in flux. "We. Um." Kurt took a deep breath and looked at the walls surrounding them, at all the plaques and trophies and pictures of Sue Sylvester.

Her voice suddenly filled his head. It was a good thing he was just imagining it; as intriguing as Finn's powers could be, he wouldn't really want to hear the woman's thoughts. "Good lord, Ladyface, you're going in more circles than a carousel pony. A pink one, with pretty little flowers in its drool-stained mane. And yes, I called you Ladyface. Because I know it annoys you, and if you can't sack up and do this, then you deserve to have me irritating you like one tiny piece of sand lodged directly—"

"Finn and I are really brothers and we're actually twins and I used to live in New York and the government wiped my memories and I only got moved to Lima before sophomore year and my name is actually Kurt Hutton." Kurt had to take another deep breath; he was dizzy. "I'm adopted and aliens want to use me as an energy well into other dimensions. Well, maybe not aliens. Someone. They might not be aliens."

Blaine sat very still and remained absolutely silent.

"But I still want to do everything that we talked about before, and move to New York, and argue about getting a cat." Obviously, the answer would be no; lint brushes couldn't possibly pick up every last piece of hair. "Well," Kurt tittered nervously, "I suppose it would be moving back to New York for me. I used to live on the Upper West Side. But I definitely couldn't afford that place for a long time."

Blaine blinked. His mouth opened, worked wordlessly, and closed.

"Okay," Kurt said and smiled like he was pulling teeth. "Now you say something."

"That," Blaine said, and took a long time to continue, "was not what I expected to hear. I'm not sure what I did expect, but it wasn't that."

"I'm still the same person," Kurt said into the silence. "I just have a different name and... and family, and all right, an entirely different background, but I'm still me. I didn't get here like I thought, is the only change."

Clearly unable to process everything just yet, Blaine nodded like nothing more than a reflex motion. That time, Kurt let him take as long as he liked to respond. "You've had a month to get used to this," Blaine finally said. "I know this last part is new to you, but for a month you've been hiding superpowers, putting yourself in danger, and lying to me about it. I know why you did it. I don't blame you for trying to keep that a secret. But it was already a lot to take in."

Kurt bit his lower lip. For the first time in weeks he was aware of his clothes changing. He let it go, and a Demeulemeester vest morphed into a Gaultier coat that looked too hot for the calendar, which faded into a simple grey jacket and settled there. Blaine noticed the shifting outfits, of course; by the end he stared openly. "Band of Outsiders," Kurt said when he looked down at his final outfit. "Appropriate, I suppose. I'm sorry. Again."

"I'll be fine," Blaine finally said. "I just need a little bit to be fine." He saw Kurt's stricken expression and said, "I'm not angry. I'm... dizzy."

Dizzy was definitely better than angry, Kurt thought with relief. "Oh, good. Not that you're dizzy, but... well, I've been there. I practically lost my mind last night. There Finn and I were, about to get in trouble over the news report, and we realized that our parents... weren't." The pain he'd felt began to come back to him, settling into his eyes like a shadow. "I ran. I just went invisible and ran, even though I could barely walk by that point. I ran and ran, with no idea of where I was planning to end up. In the end I was so exhausted that I passed out in the middle of the cemetery. Dad had to track me down." Kurt managed a small smile. "He knew where to look."

"You called him 'Dad,'" Blaine pointed out. He sounded uncertain of what else to say.

"Yeah," Kurt agreed softly. "Finn showed me what he feels, and he's my dad. Maybe not my first, but he is. I'm also going to need time to get used to all this, but at least I know I have that."

A shadow fell across Blaine's expression, too, and he looked troubled as he worked through everything. When he finally looked back up, his eyes were filled with concern. "You ran away?"

"I didn't know what I was doing," Kurt said, but didn't deny it.

"I'm sorry," Blaine said and stood to close the distance between them. "This is hard for me, but I'm on the outside, looking in. If I think it's a lot to take, it can't be anything compared to what you've gone through." He pulled Kurt in for a hug. It hurt, and Blaine stepped free when Kurt couldn't fight back a tiny whimper. "Are you okay?"

"I threw myself at the street so a car wouldn't land on me," Kurt admitted, flexing his sore muscles. "I guess you wouldn't have seen that. I'm a little banged up."

"This part," Blaine admitted after looking at Kurt with concern, "I might not be all right with."

"Rachel and I were keeping each other safe, and... and don't worry," he said. "I told you, nothing has changed. This isn't what I want. Everyone was going, and a lot of innocent people could have gotten hurt just because they were in the way of superpowered meatheads who thought they were better than them. I couldn't let that happen. But that doesn't mean I'm going to break into the garage to craft my own Batsignal, all right?" He saw Blaine's bemused expression and added, laughing gently, "Sam talks about superheroes a lot. And Finn won't shut up now, for obvious reasons."

"I didn't think you'd heard about Batsignals on your own." The tension ebbed, so palpably that it even felt easier to move, and Blaine's smile finally looked totally, wholly real. "It was very brave of you to do that to help those people."

"I wasn't much help last night," Kurt admitted. "But we make a good team, overall, and a lot of people are still alive. In the meantime, until I'm focusing on stages and subway tokens and terrible upstairs neighbors, I...."

"You like this," Blaine guessed, and Kurt nodded almost shamefully.

"Really, don't worry," Kurt added. "I'm betting that my superheroic wings will have been very much clipped after last night. No more sneaking out, no more adventures...."

"No more costume?" Blaine asked. Kurt saw a hungry edge in his eyes, and Blaine grinned when he'd been found out. "It's just a very intriguing, very well-constructed, very... tight costume. I don't think you should let it go to waste."

Blood rushed to his cheeks and Kurt fought back a laugh. "Um. Well." Oh, he felt like a fool. He'd first considered ease of movement when he'd been piecing together his outfit. Once the fundamental structure was in place, he'd added a variety of functional accessories to give himself some style. It wasn't until Sue had called them just short of S&M gear that he'd realized that, from an outside perspective, his costume did look more than a bit provocative. "I do still have my costume," he finally answered. "And my mask. Do you like the mask?"

"I can't decide. We'll have to research this," Blaine said, and leaned carefully in for a kiss. "Very thoroughly." He kissed him again. "Investigate our options."

"Okay," Kurt said with a goofy, broad grin.

"And just think," Blaine said, finally risking a careful hold on Kurt that avoided any bruised areas, "if you did lose New York in your past, well, just look at it as all having happened so that we could meet." He leaned in for another kiss, but Kurt pulled back. It felt like a lens was snapping into focus after drifting lazily loose.

"Finn is my brother," Kurt reminded him, quiet but intent. "I can only remember flashes of my old life, yet, but I lost out on years of knowing that someone shared my birthday. And god, I love my parents here, but I wouldn't have even known that there was someone else waiting for me to remember them."

"I'm sorry," Blaine said immediately. "Of course you're right. That was an incredibly selfish thing to say. What we have is wonderful, but nothing could possibly make up for having your family ripped apart."

"But it's definitely a plus to everything that happened," Kurt added, smiling so he would know the tension had fled. Blaine leaned in again and Kurt caught the glint of glass. Pulling back, Kurt cleared his throat, nodded to the tiny camera in the corner, and said, "And we're done with the kissing."

"Definitely done with it in this room," Blaine agreed. "...On the way back, let's talk about that costume some more."

Giggling hurt with all of his bruises, but Kurt couldn't force himself to stop.

* * *


Sitting next to Rachel had been comforting, as she knew what Mercedes was going through. But then she folded into Finn's arms and practically disappeared. Mercedes understood; Finn Hudson was a big, solid guy, and sometimes you just wanted something strong to hold onto. Kurt had been there, calmer than either of them, but then he had to make sure that Sue hadn't traumatized Blaine. She understood that, too. No one could leave someone they cared about to the tender mercies of Sue Sylvester. She couldn't blame Rachel for turning away from Mercedes, nor Kurt for leaving the bleachers. Still, she felt a moment of sharp abandonment until she saw her own strong set of arms headed right in her direction.

"Hey," Sam said, sweeping her into a hug. "You doing okay? Were your parents mad?"

He didn't know, she realized with fresh shock. Her life would be a constant string of explaining to people that nothing fit right, that nothing was as it should be. Mercedes tried to control herself, but her lip began to wobble. Seeing that, Sam sat her right back down on the nearest empty region of the bleachers and pulled her head onto his shoulder. "Thanks," Mercedes said when she'd sniffled out the worst of her pain.

"What's wrong?" he asked. His fingertips traced light patterns on her cheek. "Are you in a lot of trouble?"

He'd come to her house in the time between deciding to go to Columbus and actually leaving. Sam seemed so enthralled by the idea of everything: the costumes, the powers, the fights. He'd touched everything in her room that had had anything to do with the team, and kept asking if he could take this or that. If he sounded happy about anything she'd learned, if he didn't act like it was a big deal... Mercedes found herself freezing up. Being alone would be better than him treating everything about her past like some big adventure.

"Come on," he prodded. "You can tell me."

With a deep breath, she did: a life she didn't remember, parents who weren't hers. Sam's eyes grew progressively wider as she relayed the whole unbelievable tale. "So that's it," she finished, and wiped at her nose. The back of her hand came away wet. "That's what Sue told us, and Kurt and Finn backed her up. I used to live in New York. I'm a weird government freak and things want to kill me." The last words stuck in her throat like something hard and sharp, and it hurt when she choked out, "And my family's not real."

"Hey," Sam said. "Hey, hey. Don't say that."

Okay, maybe that was too dramatic. They sure acted like they loved her, and she felt like a sister to her little siblings. She supported adoption in theory, and even before she'd ever shared a friendly word with Quinn, she felt in her heart and soul that she was doing the right thing by having her baby. But it was something that happened to someone else. "I just... I can't deal with the idea that my parents aren't my parents," Mercedes said, sniffling.

"They're your parents," Sam said. "They are."

"But—"

"Ma and Pa Kent were totally Superman's parents," he said. "For his whole life."

Dumbstruck with the sheer absurdity of his words, Mercedes teetered on the line between humor and offense. Her life had absolutely been ripped to shreds; all of their lives had. It wasn't a time for jokes, it was a time for howling in grief. She wanted to have someone appreciate the magnitude of what she was going through... but on the other hand, it was such a perfectly him thing to say. She started crying, but it was through laughter. "You are the biggest dork in the world, Sam Evans," Mercedes said and flung her arms around him. "Thank you."

"Glad to help," he said, and held her until she let go. When Mercedes finally pulled away, he retrieved a crumpled napkin from his pocket and offered it to her. "It's clean," he said, and so she took the rough paper and wiped away her tears. "They gave us some extras, and sometimes it's good to have a napkin on you. Like now."

"This is just hard," she whispered when her face was mostly dry.

Thankfully, he stopped talking about napkins. "Mercedes, I've met your parents. Your dad made sure that I wasn't going to hurt you, and I know you told him about... you know, why prom was pretty low-key. He didn't care, he just wanted to know what I was like. He seems like a good person who really cares about you. So does your mom."

It was true: there were a whole lot of people who were a whole lot worse off than she was. Well. With the exception of being some sort of freaky energy tower that aliens wanted to suck dry, but honestly, she could not even deal with that just yet. Mercedes finally said, "This is a whole bunch of stuff to handle in one day."

"I get that," Sam said. "But, it's like... training. When you work muscles for the first time, it really hurts. But then you force yourself to push hard again the next day, and man, it might hurt even more. It hurts less after that, though, and pretty soon it doesn't hurt at all. You just have to get through it and then you're good." That was so not the right metaphor to use, and he seemed to pick up on that. "Do you want me to talk to you?" Sam finally asked. "Or just hug you? Or leave you alone?"

Mercedes managed to smile. Being asked if she wanted space was an entirely different feeling than being ignored. "Just hug me for a while, and then maybe I'll want a little me time."

"You got it," Sam said and locked his arms around her again. "I think you're great, and...." Trailing off at her glance, he said, "Right, I'm just hugging you. Not talking."

"You are the best," Mercedes said and went quiet against him. For now, she could just wait and hope that every few minutes, things would hurt a little less than they did.

* * *


"It's funny," Mike said very slowly, as if he were having to first find every word in the dictionary. "But I kind of understand what Quinn was saying. Things make more sense."

"How can this make sense?" Tina wondered. Sure, they had all been wondering where they got their powers. That explanation all hung together. But living in New York and coming from different families was a crazy, Twin Peaks-esque hairpin turn in their own personal stories.

"I'm scared of my dad," Mike said. Tina's widening eyes made his do the same, and he quickly added, "Not that I think he'll hit me or anything, nothing like that. I'm just so scared of disappointing him, or not being what he wants me to be. Sometimes I wondered if he cared more whether I was happy or whether he'd be." He considered his words. "Parents are supposed to want what's best for their kids. I suppose it doesn't feel like he does. So, yeah. It makes sense."

He'd said iffy lines about his father now and then, but Tina had gotten a different view of his mother. Just as she was about to say something to that effect, he sighed and continued, "But Mom still feels like... like Mom. Is that weird? Should she not? She's ridden me pretty hard about school, too, but it just felt different. Like she cared that I wasn't disappointing myself."

"No matter what anyone says," Tina said, "my family's my family." She said it fast and hard. "Even if you're kind of upset over your dad, maybe you can still know that your mom is definitely yours?" What seemed like an obvious answer clearly wasn't. Mike's face fell, and Tina's echoed a second later. Of course that wouldn't be a solution. That was like asking his mother to choose between his father and him, and the risk of posing that question was that he might not like the answer. "Whatever happens," she finally said, "just know that we'll figure it out together. Okay?"

"I am seriously lucky to have you," Mike said after he looked at Tina with something close to wonder.

"You sorta are," she giggled, and kissed him. Her life was still a wreck, but it was easier to have something else to focus on. Maybe, by the time they figured out what to do with Mike, her life would have magically fallen into place. That'd be just terrific.

* * *


Sometimes Santana didn't want to say anything. She talked a lot at school, after all. That was where she faced down anyone who tried to challenge her, covered her hurt with sharp words, and made sure she acted like a girl who deserved all the attention in the world. Brittany had learned that one of the things Santana liked most when they were alone, in the still moments, was to just be quiet.

Sometimes they talked about the squad or friends or favorite television shows. Santana let down her defenses and smiled when she talked about things she liked, like she never did around anyone else. But a lot of times she just liked to curl up next to Brittany on the bed, relax, and let all her shields fall away. She didn't frown, she didn't go tense, and she didn't have to think of the right words. Brittany thought that Santana was happiest then.

Her parents hadn't taken it well, unlike Brittany's. Santana hadn't needed to explain any of that; Brittany figured it out without a single word being spoken.

"My parents saw what was on TV," Brittany said when Santana had been quiet in her arms for a long, pained time. "They didn't care. They said they knew. That we were supposed to be together, and it was okay."

Santana flinched.

"If... if you want, you can come over to my house when it's hard at yours." Brittany stroked her hair, tucking stray pieces behind her ears. She liked taking care of Santana. She didn't get to, not often, and she took the chance when it was offered. "Okay?"

Dark eyes, glossy with tears, turned to her. Santana didn't answer out loud, but that time she didn't need to use her words. Brittany knew her look meant "okay" as surely as if she really did have Finn's powers. "Okay," Brittany repeated, like Santana had given the answer herself, and squeezed her tightly. "It'll all work out."

"How?" Santana asked.

Brittany shrugged. "It just will."

Santana seemed to accept that.

* * *


"Well," Lauren drawled as she and Puck took a seat against a far wall, "this has been fun."

He chuckled sheepishly and rubbed his mohawk like a lucky rabbit's foot. "How much did it suck for you when your folks saw the news?"

She shrugged. "They didn't care about the superhero stuff, just about sneaking out. I told 'em it was a new thing and they believed me. Sylvester ruined my day, though."

Puck grimaced. "How bad was it?"

Lauren snorted and glared at the woman. "She didn't believe that we hadn't known about this until it felt like we'd gone through a friggin' colonoscopy. At least Mr. Schue called her on it when she said she wanted to haul everyone to Gitmo."

"Yeah, she's like that," Puck said. "Sorry you had to deal with her." His words were half-hearted, as he was still hurt by the insinuations from Finn. He thought a lot of girls were hot and he hadn't cheated on Lauren, so why would being intrigued by how damn bendy Kurt was suddenly break his fidelity streak?

"So," Lauren asked after a long stretch of watching him, "why didn't you tell me? Why'd I have to stumble across your costume?"

He got the feeling that there was a right and wrong answer he could give, but he had no idea which was which. Did she think that girlfriends deserved to know everything? Did she have a secret hero fetish like she had a vampire fetish, and was annoyed that they'd lost out on precious makeout time? As he had no idea which tactic to take, Puck decided to go with the simple truth and hope for the best. "Everyone kept talking about how people dating superheroes could wind up in danger, and we didn't want to let that happen." He shrugged. "Sorry."

Lauren's face was unreadable. He didn't know whether that had been a good answer or not. "Yeah," she finally said, "I thought that was probably it. And that's crap."

Right: bad answer.

"I'm not weak and I'm not a kid, okay?" She waited for him to nod. "Okay. You don't get to make decisions for me. You don't get to treat me like I'm going to break. The Zizes does not break. I didn't break when that crap went down at the wrestling state championship, I didn't break when I had to change my own tire in a blizzard... get it?" At his second nod, she continued. "I'm strong and I love being strong. Don't treat me like I'm some china doll. I'd rather be cheated on than have someone treat me like I'm weak, seriously, that's how much I hate it."

What was with people assuming he was going to cheat? "Okay, sorry," Puck said. "You're right. You kick ass and I shouldn't have thought you couldn't deal with whatever happened here. And. Uh." Oh, crap.

She saw the slow-building horror behind his eyes and asked, "What?"

"Yeah. So if I'm being clean with everything, and I'm not going to treat you like you could break...." Puck swallowed. "You know how I haven't been down with, uh, getting down?"

"Yeah?" Lauren asked warily.

"It's because I'm strong. I was worried that I'd hurt you on accident." He saw her start to say something, offended again, and added, "Look, Kurt and Rachel made me check myself and I dented the wall."

Lauren frowned. "What, did your hand slip? Use less lotion."

Man, if only. "No. I mean. When I." Boy, was it ever awkward to try to explain splooge going off like a bullet. "When I, uh, reached the promised land. All my muscles are strong."

"Oh," Lauren said, but didn't seem to truly process that for a few seconds. Her eyes opened abruptly wide and she swallowed. "Got it." She took a few deep breaths while Puck thought about the horrors of celibacy, then said, "So until you figure out how... not to do that, we've got mouths and hands. Right?"

Puck blinked. That was true, and considering that Lauren didn't treat him like he would break, a handjob actually felt pretty fantastic. "Uh, right. Wow, I didn't think you'd be so cool with this."

Proud of herself, Lauren smirked and slung her arm around his shoulders. "See? This is what happens when you don't try to make decisions for me. You get blowjobs."

"That could still be kind of dangerous—"

"Not a problem. You make this face when you've got five seconds to go." He pulled back to eye her, and she nodded. "You do. This weird twisted-up 'oh god' face," she said and imitated it. It looked stupid and Puck felt a wave of embarrassment over how he apparently looked like anything but a sex god with a few seconds left on the timer, but she laughed and leaned back into him. "So how'd things go with your family?"

"You know," Puck said, "I think things are gonna be okay."

* * *


It just wasn't fair. That was all there was to it: her life was not fair. Rachel was supposed to be respected and beloved and competent, and the previous twelve hours had stripped her of all of those things. If her life had been turned upside down like this, then she felt she was owed an interview on the news. If she had to deal with a secret past and media silence and a shredded family, then she at least deserved to maintain control of her own team. But no, she didn't get anything.

Everything had gone so wrong. Usually, when things fell apart, she had some idea of what to try. She never simply sat back and let things happen. She strove, she fought, she did whatever seemed best at the time. It didn't always work out, but not being able to try anything was the worst outcome of all.

"Do you remember anything else yet?" Finn asked her. She shook her head. "Don't worry. It'll come. I think... heh, yeah, you and Kurt were friends in New York. Really good ones. That's cool, huh?"

"And they ruined that for us?" she asked flatly. "We couldn't keep that friendship when we got here? We had to earn it all over again?" Whoever had made all these decisions about their lives was simply sadistic.

What were people saying about Anthem right now? Did little girls already want to be her, or would she take up one afternoon's imagination in the city park and then be forgotten? She didn't know. Her phone and computer were gone, and from the sound of it, S.H.I.E.L.D. had shut down the media. That had to be wildly unconstitutional, but it didn't matter. They could get away with delaying the story and after a few days the interest would be gone. There would be no striking while the iron was hot. She was dully and totally certain that, with those government threats, not a single reporter at any local news station would accept her call even if she could make one. They'd probably hang up, convinced they were headed for jail.

Rachel frowned. Wait.

With fortunate speed, she realized who she was sitting next to and tried to fight back her thoughts before Finn read anything incriminating. Waterfalls. Rushing streams. Fountains. "Finn," she said when she felt all the right things, "it looks like Ms. Sylvester and Mr. Schue left to go get our parents, and I really have to use the bathroom. Cover for me if she comes back, all right? I'll just be a minute."

He nodded. "Got it. Hurry up, though, I bet Sue'd be pretty upset if she saw you were gone."

Yes, Rachel certainly planned to take action before anyone saw her. She kissed Finn, thanked him, and then walked out of the gym with the awkward stance of someone whose bladder felt ready to explode. It was, if she were to give herself proper credit, entirely convincing. The second the doors closed behind her, she made sure the hallways were clear and ran.

She never just sat on her hands and let the world happen to her, Rachel thought with a grin as her feet pounded the way to the library, in the opposite direction from the choir room. The computers wouldn't have this email address stored, but she knew it by heart. She'd gotten countless messages from that one familiar name.

Normally, she ignored every single one. Today, though, she was going to make Jacob Ben Israel's dreams come true.

Hello Jacob,

It's Rachel. Everything you saw on the news was real and we're all superheroes, but I'm under a media lockout. The government is involved. I need your help. I need you to tell everyone in the entire world how fabulous I am and what a perfect hero I would make. Talk to people who know me, get quotes, everything. Set up fan pages on Facebook. Whatever you think would be the best way to go about this. I trust your judgment. <3

I know it's an awful lot to ask, but I would be SO appreciative. You'd be MY hero. :) :) :)

Thank you thank you! I will make this up to you as soon as all this craziness dies down.


Rachel hesitated before finishing her email. Oh, what the hell. It wasn't like she was going to follow through on any of these implied promises.

Love, Rachel
XOXOXO


Feeling only a little bit dirty, she sent her email, logged out of Gmail, and darted to the restroom just in case Finn had some knee-jerk reaction of checking whether her body really felt attended to. As she washed her hands, Rachel smiled at her face in the mirror and saw the strength that everyone had tried to steal from her.

Sue Sylvester was many things, but incompetent was not one of them. Now they had multiple S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who'd revealed themselves, too. All of those skilled agents working together would certainly be able to take care of this little concern over New Directions (the Awesomes) being targeted. That danger would be addressed and permanently resolved. Then, Rachel would be able to step in front of the cameras and answer questions coming from a media with pent-up demand. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Never give up, her brain chirped at her as she hurried back to the gym, and never surrender. Finn loved that movie. He'd made her watch it a half-dozen times, probably. She kept the image of Alan Rickman in a terrible alien costume firmly in mind as she returned to Finn's side.

"We should watch Galaxy Quest again," he said with a smile. "I mean, assuming they let us out of our houses for the next year."

"We absolutely will," Rachel said. As Finn talked about what their old home and friendships had been like, she managed to forget about Jacob Ben Israel just like she did on every other day of her life.

* * *


The rejects. The dregs. The leftovers, the extra pieces that didn't quite fit. Quinn listened to the words floating up from conversations around her and tried not to let her tight, strained smile waver for even a second.

"I can remember New York," Artie said in amazement. "It was like they just had to mention it and... yeah, now I can remember. Well, pieces of it, anyway. I can see my old room, and our neighbor...." Trailing off, Artie squinted at nothing. "He had a lot of birds. Seriously. Birds. That guy went through newspaper like crazy."

Finn and Rachel were talking about recovering relationships. Even if Quinn couldn't remember New York, it was clear what was happening: what was old was new again. Apparently Finn and Kurt were actually related, which she would laugh hysterically over at some point in the future, and she had the distinct feeling that many of the couples in the gym had recreated themselves after a short break. Friendships were returning. The disturbed equilibrium was correcting itself. "Do you know what this makes us?" Quinn asked bitterly.

Artie considered that. "New Yorkers by way of Ohioans? New... Yorkians?"

"The two of us, Artie? We're distractions." She'd thought it wouldn't hurt. Then why did her voice sound so funny?

"I don't get it," he said uncertainly.

"When our fake lives started up here in Ohio," Quinn began, gesturing toward two couples on the bleachers, "we were dating people. I had Finn and you had Tina. Now they're back with who they're supposed to have and we're all alone, talking to each other."

Artie looked at the paired room. His expression dropped with each romantic couple, but he made a valiant effort to collect himself when his attention returned to Quinn. "Yeah, but... but we've dated other people since then. Why couldn't Tina be my distraction? Why wasn't Finn your distraction?"

It was a poor argument. He clearly knew it. "Look at them," Quinn said as she watched Rachel and Finn merge into a single silhouette against the pale gym floor. They were an inseparable mass of comfort, all arms and smiles. "Look at them," she repeated, nodding to where Mike and Tina looked ready to take on the world together. "And then look at us."

He took in what that meant. All Artie had to offer in response was a stricken, painfully lonely expression.

"We were spare parts before we moved here, I'm guessing," Quinn said. "And we got used to break up the happy couples until they moved on to someone better. They get the happy endings. I get to hear that my fake dad couldn't wait to get rid of me." Her laugh landed like a broken bird. "Like I said, everything's making so much more sense right now."

Artie looked at Mike and Tina for a very long time, still and silent. They didn't notice.

Quinn had begun to retreat into herself when she felt a warm, gloved hand close around hers. She looked at Artie and managed to smile. The leather of his glove was slick and clean, and the fingers inside it were very strong. "Thanks," she said, threading her fingers through his.

"I heard what you were doing with those bad guys," Artie said. "You took out one guy all by yourself. You're pretty awesome."

Her tiny, frail smile grew. "You set up that whole system to direct people, and you woke up our powers in the first place. You're sort of awesome yourself." She hesitated. "We have to stop using that word, I hate Finn's stupid name."

Artie laughed. "You're kind of kickass."

Quinn leaned over and nudged his shoulder with hers. "I'll take that."

* * *


"Okay, kids," Sue announced upon her return, and everyone turned to face her as parents trailed into the gym. Finn swept the group's minds like a habit. After their time spent in close comfort, people seemed to be in better sorts than when they'd first found out about their families. Even Santana seemed marginally less... awful. "You're being sent home now that I've talked to everyone. Hopefully I've impressed upon you how very, very stupid you would be to not listen to your friendly neighborhood S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with more decorations than the Rockefeller tree. Know that I will be coming by. I will be giving more orders. And I will expect all of you to follow your parents' directions as if they came directly from me, your lord and master. Keys."

Kurt bolted from the bleachers, put a keychain in her hand, and hurried back.

Sue shoved the keychain into her pocket. "Go home. I suppose you can be allowed to mingle between yourselves, but don't go out in public. That's—"

"Can Santana stay at my house?" Brittany asked. Her parents' shock was clear, and not just to Finn. They turned to another couple and made questioning noises.

"That's fine," said who had to be Mrs. Lopez. "Santana can pack a bag if she likes, to stay over there longer." Her words earned a strange combination of relief and heartbreak from Santana, but relief was the greater by far. She nodded. When she mouthed 'thank you' to the Pierces, they smiled back.

Seeing his parents walking toward him, Finn whispered to Rachel, "Talk to you soon, okay? Sounds like they'll let you come over." She kissed him and departed for her fathers as Finn stood to great Burt and Carole.

"Hey," Burt said, nodding to both boys as they came together. "How'd it go with, you know, everyone? She said all the kids heard about their folks."

"Some people are pretty upset," Kurt said. "But no one fired up their powers and ran away, so I suppose they have one up on me." He smiled when Burt good-naturedly chucked his chin. "I think things will work out. It might take longer for some people, but no one seems, you know... broken."

"Yeah," Finn agreed after a slow look around the room. "I think everyone's got at least a little hope, and that's what you need, right?"

"Right," Carole agreed. "Oh, boys, I'm so proud of you for handling all of this. I can't even believe how much you've been through, and here you are all... logical and mature." She smiled sadly. "You're growing up so fast."

"We knew we wouldn't have them in the house for long," Burt pointed out and she nodded mournfully. "Come on. We'll stop on the way home, get whatever you want."

"Is that safe?" Kurt asked.

Burt and Carole looked at each other, startled. Finn felt a jolt of surprise as well when he realized just how pervasive this was in every aspect of their lives. They clearly hadn't considered that allowing someone else to prepare their food could be a risk. "Yes," Carole decided. "Yes, the people in this town aren't hostile."

"You'd be surprised," Kurt said meaningfully.

She smiled. "Sorry. I mean they're not actively trying to... well... we would have been told if we needed to exercise that level of caution. But you were very on top of things to think of it as a possible vector of attack. I'm out of practice. Although I do still use the lingo, apparently." With a tired glance toward Burt, she laughed and said, "Let's just go home."

They spent the evening as a family. It was as if every single move was deliberately chosen on Burt and Carole's part to make them feel that way, and yet it didn't seem forced. They didn't just get fast food, they called ahead to a restaurant and picked up their favorite full meals. They ate around the table, talking about plans for their senior year instead of what they'd done as superheroes. Two movies topped things off, with so many snacks and drinks that Finn only stopped when his stomach felt slightly distended.

"It'll be okay, boys," Carole said again when they all headed upstairs. "As much as I hate to admit this, I know Sue's reputation. She's fantastic."

"That is what she always tells us," Kurt replied wryly. Everyone chuckled. "Thanks for...."

"For being you," Finn finished, and Kurt nodded. Burt and Carole smiled back, and it didn't feel like their temporary home or their new home, but simply home within those walls. When Kurt walked into his room, Finn found himself following. "Hey, uh. You wanna talk at all? Watch more TV, whatever?"

Kurt looked up from wiping a few dust smudges off his costume. He was blushing as he worked. Finn deliberately stayed out of his mind; he didn't want to know why. "Oh, um. All right." After flinging himself onto his bed and gesturing to a chair, he said, "So, what do you remember?"

"The way our apartment smelled," Finn said after a thoughtful pause. "Kind of flowery?"

Considering that, Kurt got up and started rifling through his vanity. He occasionally popped open a tube, squeezed, and sniffed. "There," he finally said in wonder and returned to Finn. "Lavender, right?"

A small puff of air under Finn's nose had him ten years old again. He was in a Giants jersey that was several sizes too big. (Disembodied voices told him that he'd grow into it.) With excitement, he told his unseen mother that.... Finn shook his head, laughing as he snapped out of something that was less a memory than a full-on flashback. "That's it. Man, smells do something to you."

"They're very evocative," Kurt agreed, and sent a few more puffs of air at himself. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. "I just want to remember everything. Our first attempt at being heroes, what school was like, my favorite places to go... everything. And now I'm getting high off hand lotion, time to put it away."

Grinning, Finn waited until he was comfortably back on the bed. "Do you remember anything about... uh, what should I call them. Do you remember First Mom and Dad yet?"

"No." Kurt frowned. "Is that strange? That we can remember other things?"

"Maybe," Finn shrugged. "But it's the same for me. I remember that you were totally buds with Rachel, though. Same with me for, um, Puck."

Kurt didn't seem to pick up on his hesitation with Puck's name. "That's a little unfair, isn't it? You got to keep your friendship, even if things did blow up after we got here. You were dating someone. You had... you had anyone," he finished quietly. "Some people started off here a lot better than others."

"Sorry," Finn said. He was pretty sure it wasn't really his fault, but that sort of thing just demanded a sorry.

They moved quietly and naturally into watching sitcom reruns. Finn didn't plan on sleeping there again. It had felt natural and as nostalgic as Christmas morning, but they were both seventeen years old with their own rooms. Time to grow up. Still, it felt good to at least approach sleep in the same room and Finn felt no real drive to head to his own bed. That day had shown him how important it was not to feel alone.

In the middle of a Simpsons rerun, Finn heard snoring. Kurt must have fallen asleep while Finn was too enthralled with the discussion of monorails to notice. As Kurt slipped into dreaming, Finn bit back a pained groan. Like some reflex, the pain of recent events was trying to hide behind something much, much more pleasant. Quietly, Finn stood and crept to the door. Having a wall between them wouldn't block Kurt's dreams, he knew from unfortunate experience, but it would at least block the sight and sound of his brother getting off to some dream dude.

(Even though Rachel had once lectured him about using the word, Finn kept thinking that Dream Kurt was kind of a slut.)

Yep, Finn thought as he sped his pace. He so did not need to see and feel being pinned to the wall by Blaine or Captain Kirk. He so did not need... oh god, the guy had a cocky smile and needed to be rescued from some mistake, it was Kirk again. Run, run, he told himself. The lens flares were coming and they would soon be his only protection against a full-frontal view.

Wait.

No, run, part of his brain told him, but another demanded that he stop, turn around, and stare at Kurt in open-mouthed horror. That wasn't Captain Kirk. Kurt was dreaming about a charming showoff playboy, but he wasn't James T. Kirk.

That wasn't what Captain Kirk's hair looked like.

It would have been so easy to excuse this as a dream. Finn had dreamed about every single girl in New Directions, along with Terri, Emma, Rachel's mom, and, on one really unfortunate occasion that had him avoiding everyone's eyes all day, Sue. Finn would have loved to excuse this as a dream, if not for how his memories resonated like a bell being struck.

Him and Rachel.

Mike and Tina.

Santana and Brittany.

Kurt... and Puck.

"Oh god," Finn whispered as the feeling of fingertips sliding across a stubble-marked scalp filled his mind. He recognized them not as dreams, but as memories. "Oh god." Frozen in horror, he could only stare in horror as Kurt's mouth parted just enough for some imaginary partner to kiss. He shifted on the bed. When he began to roll flat, Finn bolted through the door before he could see whether his pants would tent.

Brittany's chaos powers had hit him, Finn decided as he fled to the living room and began pacing back and forth. His brain was filled with impossible things. That was why he thought Kurt remembered being with Puck, or why his memories told him that they were as natural together as him and Rachel. Brittany had turned a pillow into a fish, after all; she could warp a few lousy memories.

But Puck had shoved Finn out of the way when Kurt was hurt and on the edge of consciousness. He'd admired Kurt's legs like it was normal. They'd been sitting together, laughing, joking. He'd run in quickly enough to stop a car, and Finn had a sinking feeling that he knew who in their group had really mattered. And now he was feeling physical attraction toward Kurt and not even trying to deny it, just as their memories had been slowly breaking free of their bonds.

It was real. Oh god, it was real. He began to remember moments of a younger Puck showing up in a New York apartment that smelled of lavender, of Puck and Kurt running off together down the sidewalk, of.... Finn screwed his eyes closed, took a deep breath, and tried to think rationally about what was going on.

Fact: Kurt was very happy with a boy who didn't cheat as easily as he breathed or slept.

Fact: Kurt and Puck were both involved in relationships, and so had no reason to consider each other at all, just like Puck himself had said.

Fact: He'd stayed clear of Blaine's brain but he knew firsthand what sort of sick, twisted attraction lingered in Puck's, and he was so not cool with knowing how someone felt toward his brother.

And, fact: knowing this would only make things worse. There were absolutely no positives.

Certainty brought a calmness with it. Finn inhaled, exhaled, and nodded before he turned around to climb the stairs. It was his job to look out for Kurt. He'd screwed it up in Lima. He had to do better.

The next morning he made sure to catch Kurt in the kitchen. "Hey," Finn said and reached for the carton of orange juice. "I was really trying to remember things, and now I think I know why I was dating someone here and you weren't."

Grimacing faintly, Kurt said, "Do tell. This should be a delight."

"It's just that you'd never dated anyone in New York, and so they wanted to have things feel the same way here," Finn said. He'd been practicing that line for the past twenty minutes. It barely sounded like a lie.

"Really?" Kurt asked after a second of hesitation. "Are you sure? That's a little depressing that even in a big gay paradise, I was left on the shelf." He did sound hurt, which Finn hadn't intended. Crap. Crap crap crap.

"Well, you know." Finn laughed nervously. "You're into, like, grown-up romance and chick stuff. Which is fine! And this would have been junior high years, right? Everyone's dumb during junior high. Maybe you just wanted to wait for the right guy." He brightened. His smile was painfully large. "And hey, you did! Yay!" Oh god, did he just actually use the word yay?

Kurt eyed him, grabbed his toast as it ejected, and spread margarine with a thoughtful look. "Huh. I suppose so. I just... I'd been having these little flashes that felt like something."

Finn stared at Kurt like he was reading his mind, and then shook his head. "Nope. Just dreams. No real memories." At the questioning look he nodded and gestured to his temple. "And I'd know the truth, right? Come on. Isn't it better to get a real first boyfriend instead of some random guy in New York that you'll never see again?"

Kurt swallowed a bite of toast, took a drink, then admitted, "That's an excellent point. Thanks."

"Any time," Finn said, and started two more pieces of bread toasting. The previous day in the gym, with everyone's shock and heartbreak, had shown him just how bad things could get. No, strike that: the pain just before Kurt had run out of the house was worse than anything, when he'd flashed through a hundred memories of Burt in an instant and then tried to discard them all. Just as surely as they'd seen pain, Finn had also seen comfort when people paired off. They needed each other. If they were going to make it through everything, they had to depend on each other. "Just trying to look out for you."

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