miggy: (Default)
miggy ([personal profile] miggy) wrote2011-12-22 12:35 pm

fic: "Special" (Chapter 17/?)

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: 9900
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: And they're off in this chapter! ...Eventually. But the action does once again pick up. :D Also: am I ever glad I already had custom comment pages in place. Oy, that new comment system.

"You're better than this," Kurt sing-songed as he dropped his die onto the Trivial Pursuit board. It was perfectly obvious that Rachel had convinced Jacob Ben Israel to promote them to a national audience. It was also brash, irresponsible, and from the sound of it, mostly successful. The die stopped. With a sigh, he moved his marker onto the orange wedge space. He was going to get his sports question wrong, but it would be foolish to pass up that roll.

"I'm not better than anything," Rachel said as she dug out the card. "Because I haven't done anything. Where is the Cotton Bowl played?"

The question was so nonsensical that his brain refused to move into gear. "Why would you make a bowl out of cotton?" Kurt asked, even though he knew it was a stupid thing to say.

Finn poked his head into the room. Between him being uninterested in the old Trivial Pursuit they'd found in the closet and players who refused to let a telepath near the cards, he'd stayed clear. Rachel's words had apparently floated to him on his way to the kitchen. "Cotton Bowl's in Texas. Used to be in Dallas, now it's in Arlington."

Rachel, startled, looked between Finn and the card. "That's correct. And you even managed to cover outdated information from...." She flipped through the instruction book, then shot a dark look at Kurt. "1996. Why are we playing this?"

"Because we can't go out," he reminded her. "We can't talk to people over the phone. We can only engage in supervised activities inside the house. And well done, Finn." Kurt couldn't help himself. "You're quite the savant."

Finn hesitated before smiling. "Thanks."

"Let's play something else, at least," Rachel pleaded. "I still think it's unfair that I missed that movie wedge. I just forgot what year Titanic came out. As of now, I was right."

"Didn't Avatar make the most money?" Finn asked innocently, having apparently read her mind to get the context. "Can I play a new game? I'm so bored."

"You're certainly a font of useless information today," Kurt said. "And yes, let's find something else to do." He began to rifle through the game cabinet, but kept shooting suspicious looks at Finn. Not Taboo, not Scattergories, not Balderdash: nothing where creative thought or knowledge played a role. Living with a telepath had more than a few everyday struggles. He saw a faded Life box, grabbed it, and placed it on the coffee table. "There."

Later, when Finn frowned at a space for a child and hesitated for nearly ten seconds over choosing a blue or pink peg, Kurt finally snapped. "For god's sake, Finn, either way it's just a piece of plastic. Pick one and move."

Finn meekly put his peg into his car, then whispered to it, "Your name is Robin, like the bird or the sidekick. They're both cool."

"I have got to get out of this house," Kurt muttered and rested his head in his hands. He saw Rachel about to raise the obvious point and added, "Yours is no better. Or Mercedes'. We're still under supervision. Blaine's parents won't even let me come over, because they think 'having a known metahuman on the property could affect future insurance claims.'"

"That was very precise language," Rachel said.

"I've heard it more than once." Kurt gestured broadly at the room around them. "It's been five days! If something were going to try to kill us, don't you think we'd have seen it by now?"

"Maybe they have, and Sue just didn't tell us?" Rachel asked.

Kurt considered that, then shook his head. "When does she pass up the chance to brag?"

"Good point," Finn said.

"And we don't want to be bored," Kurt said, sliding easily back into judgmental tones. "We do silly, silly things when we're bored."

"Kurt," Rachel said.

"Things that I overhear my parents talking about on the phone."

Her glower intensified. "Kurt, stop it."

Finn looked confused. "What'd she do?"

"She got in touch with Jacob, somehow, and convinced him to pimp us out."

"I did not!" Rachel said. "And I don't appreciate the repeated accusation."

Finn concentrated, then gasped and said, "Rachel, you told me you were going to the bathroom!" He turned to Kurt. "She totally emailed Jacob."

"Mmm hmm," Kurt said knowingly.

"Finn!" Rachel said, then slumped. "Well, I did go to the bathroom. Don't tell my dads, all right? They asked, I told them no... I'd get into trouble."

"Geez, Rach," Finn said after washing down a mouthful of cheese puffs. Kurt's boredom had filled the refrigerator and counters with snack options, but Finn always went for the most processed food available. "You ever think that Sue's keeping us on the down-low for a reason?"

Kurt hesitantly raised his hand. "Don't use that term. But he's right. I want this to be over, but there must be a reason for it."

Rachel neatly avoided the topic like a politician. "I read a lot of the comments about us on Jacob's page, when my dads wanted to see if I knew about it. You and Blaine have quite the fanclub, Kurt. Lots of girls think you're incredibly cute."

"Oh," he said dryly. "So good to know they approve." He paused, then grinned a bit despite himself. "We are cute."

"People are saying good stuff?" Finn asked. "That's cool, I guess."

She coughed into her hand. Kurt didn't need telepathy to know what she wasn't telling them. "Picture any YouTube video or news story online, Finn, and then the comments. I'm sure we're all fat, ugly, talentless degenerates who should still take off our clothes, and plus, vote Ron Paul." Rachel's expression confirmed his suspicions. "Thanks for that, Rachel. I definitely wanted to have my national debut come while I was wearing skintight leather."

"Technically," she countered, "you were in the choir at Nationals and in the squad at, um, other Nationals long before this ever hit the news."

Finn frowned. "You shouldn't have just decided for everyone. What if we'd gotten into trouble? Or danger?"

"You're one to talk," Rachel said. "Can we please have a little discussion about what you did?" He was clearly confused, and so she continued, "You read my mind without permission. That's a complete violation of trust."

Finn snorted. "Come on, be serious. Last time you were here, you used my collectible Burger King cups without asking."

Rachel had developed excellent control over her voice. Each new note and tone came out as its own firework, and yet it all hung together as a beautiful melody. A dangerous one, that left shards of old plastic on their carpet after Kurt threw them like clay pigeons. Wanting to keep the conversation moving, Kurt said, "They were ancient, Finn. All the paint had worn off. ...Fine, we will get you new cups."

"Maybe I shouldn't have done that," Rachel said, "and I'm sorry. But someone's mind is the most private, personal thing they have. Their thoughts and memories should be theirs unless they give you permission, or unless it's to keep people safe. And even then it can be an ethical dilemma." She looked between them. "Which you already knew, because I included worksheets on the ethics of superheroics in your booklets."

Kurt didn't bother coming up with a cover story. Nor did Finn.

Voice tight, Rachel asked, "Do you mean to say that you didn't do any of your worksheets?"

"Rachel, no one did their worksheets," Kurt said. "Because they were worksheets, and we are not eight."

"I like you better when you're not in a bad mood," Rachel said.

"I like you better when you're not using my relationship to get people talking about you," Kurt shot back. He pointed at Finn. "You're not off the hook because we're arguing. She's right. You really should stop reading people's minds without permission, or you won't like the images you see in my brain next. I'll be creative." He wormed against his chair's back like a dog seeking a comfortable position to sleep. "I don't know why you two get to visit each other. Blaine's parents won't let him come over here, either."

"Kurt," Rachel began.

He grumbled. "I'm a city-destroying, leather-wearing bad influence, apparently."

Finn sighed heavily and stood. "I'll get one of those boring black and white movies he likes."

Kurt looked up and smiled. "Thanks, Finn. See? You don't have to read people's minds all the time."

Once they'd been left alone, Rachel scooted closer. "I'm sure his parents will change their minds soon. It was probably shocking to see him in front of all that rubble. And, of course, he followed you without telling them. Then they would have found out how you have superpowers—"

"I'm all caught up, thanks," Kurt said dryly.

"So... does it feel strange?" she asked for a neat topic change, and nodded after Finn. "With the two of you."

"It doesn't," Kurt said. "At all. Not after that first reveal. Even if we don't remember all of those fifteen years, yet, that's a lot of time compared to just two years here. I had a brother for a lot longer than I didn't, and it's becoming easier to just slip into how we used to act." A noise at the door made him turn; that didn't sound like Finn.

Burt pointed to the phone. "Someone wants to—"

"His parents finally let him come over?" Kurt asked brightly.

"Sorry, no," Burt said, and Kurt's shoulders slumped. "Just a friend. Is that fine?"

"Sure," Kurt said without asking who it was. It didn't matter. Blaine's parents hated him just because he was a superpowered government plant with a fake identity who'd torn up a major urban center. (The worst part was that every single word of that description did make him sound like genuinely terrible boyfriend material.)

Finn returned with a movie in hand, and Burt moved away when he saw them starting it. "Sure, come on over in a while," he said into the phone. Then, wisely, he left Kurt to sulk.

* * *

"I can't believe this is from the Thirties," Finn said later as he watched Katherine Hepburn square off against Cary Grant. "I didn't know they made movies back then."

"It's a little depressing to know the leopard is long dead," Rachel said sadly. "It's so cute."

"So are Hepburn and Grant," Kurt said.

"I like animals more."

The sound of the doorbell interrupted them, and Burt let in their guest. With more than a little surprise, Kurt saw not Mercedes or Tina at the door, but Sam. "Hey," Sam said, waving. "My parents said it was okay if I came over here. I heard Rachel kept visiting, and, well... two birds, one stone."

Kurt and Rachel shrugged at each other, while Finn looked happy to be around someone who might want to discuss football instead of old movies. That soon faded when Sam made a beeline not for him, but for Kurt. "They let me use her dad's computer when I visited Mercedes, so long as I told them what I was doing. I thought you might think this was neat. Here," he said, and dug out papers.

"What is this?" Kurt asked curiously as he flipped through the pages of whatever Sam had handed over.

"I pulled a bunch of stuff on the Wasp," Sam said. He leaned over to point to various paragraphs. "See?"

"I see a lot of very small print and not enough subheaders. Give me an overview of what I'm looking at."

Sam turned a few pages and a photo of a brunette woman in a sleek yellow-and-black outfit smiled back at Kurt. Finn leaned over to snoop and raised his eyebrows appreciatively, then pulled back when Rachel looked annoyed. "Janet van Dyne is a really important member of the Avengers," Sam explained. "She's smart, and can be kind of bossy, but in a good way that helps out the team."

"Does she turn into a bug?" Kurt asked dubiously.

He grinned. "No. But she's helpful when people need it, and she doesn't take crap when they're annoying, and I just like her a lot."

"Sounds very impressive," Kurt said. "And why are we becoming the founding members of the Wasp Fan Club?"

"I was just gonna say that... she reminds me of you." Sam's smile slid comfortably lopsided. "She made all her own costumes. It was kind of a thing. She's big into fashion."

"Wait," Kurt said. His brow furrowed. Images of runways filled his head. "Wait. This Janet van Dyne is the same as the designer Janet van Dyne."

Chuckling, Sam asked, "Is that a common name?"

"Her work is flawless," Kurt said as he flipped back to the beginning and began reading more thoroughly. "There's so much gossip about her. I've seen party pictures from her apartment. Gorgeous plate glass windows overlooking the park, expensive champagne, the whole deal." He looked back to Sam and asked in disbelief, "And she's an Avenger?"

"Off and on," Sam said and shrugged. "Anyway, I just thought that was kind of neat. You know, she's this popular person in fashion and art there, and she still kicks some serious behind and saves lives. Kind of like how Dazzler's both a popular musician and an X-Man," he added, gesturing to Rachel, but frowned when she didn't take the comparison anywhere close to Kurt's reaction. "Did I say something wrong?"

"Oh, I... I just had a conversation with my dad a few days ago," Rachel said uncertainly. "I need to figure out which I'm going to focus on more: music or heroics."

Sam blinked. "But you can do both. Kurt could do both!"

"Kurt's not doing both," Kurt said. "Kurt thinks Ms. van Dyne's work is inspired and appreciates all of her talents, but would like the big apartment without the accompanying gore." The three all looked unconvinced, and he realized it was because he didn't sound particularly convincing. "Okay, I've had fun with some of this," he said defensively. "I've also had fun in some history classes. It doesn't mean I want to catalog ancient pottery for a living."

Holding up his hands, Sam dropped the topic and turned his attention entirely to Rachel. "Well, Mercedes also let me take this, and...." The trio waited for Sam to continue, but he first had to gather his nerve. "You're the captain, right?"

Rachel nodded. Finn pointed to himself, too.

"Okay, when this is over and you can go out and be a team again...." Sam took a deep breath, but he smiled when he exhaled. "I want to join."

Rachel shook her head. "Absolutely not."

Sam didn't respond immediately, and dug through his bag until he could hand her something. "I knew you'd say that, but I'm totally prepared. Here." Kurt frowned. Again, he didn't know what they were looking at. It appeared to be a spiral notebook with rumpled pages and a torn cover. Only after considering it for a few seconds did he identify that first, stained page and the little shred of cover that was left: it was a hero's workbook. Sam flipped past the informative printouts and got to the first worksheet.

It was completed.

"See?" he said and started paging through the other sheets. Every single one was full of blocky pencil script. "I've really thought about this. I did all of the pages. Some asked me about using my powers and so I just pretended I had some," he added sheepishly. "It was the only way I could finish them."

"No one else did any of these," Rachel said in disbelief. She looked almost ready to cry. Her hand shook once when she took the workbook from him. "You did every single one."

"All of your powers seem to kind of match you," Sam added. "I figured I'm a jock like Mike and Puck, and they were kind of... jock-y. So I went with those powers, okay?" he said as he gestured to one worksheet that explained how he would face down a dangerous threat without loss of civilian life.

"But you don't have those powers," Rachel reminded him gently.

"Hawkeye doesn't have powers, and he's an Avenger!" Sam protested. "Please? Come on. I want to be an Awesome." He smiled at Finn. "Which is a great name, co-captain."

Finn grinned, and Kurt rolled his eyes. "You are so easy to suck up to. Look, Sam, she's right. The very first time we did anything, I nearly bled my entire brain out through my nose. And if I hadn't, we would have wound up in jail."

"But," Sam began. Rachel spoke over him.

"It was even worse this last time. If Kurt hadn't hidden us with invisibility, he and I would have died. If Finn hadn't stopped that car, we would have died. If Mercedes didn't have her shields, we all would have died! And if our friends hadn't come, well." Rachel sighed. "Sam...."

"I'll take martial arts. I'll go to a secret monastery and learn how to... not breathe for ten minutes or something. I'm pretty sure there are places that teach stuff like that, right?" He looked between the three of them. "Please?"

"Dude, we did really almost die," Finn said reluctantly. He probably didn't want to turn down the one person who liked his team name. "It wasn't fun."

"Why are you doing this?" Sam asked him. "Why did you put yourself through sneaking out each night, coming up with cover stories, all of that?"

"I... don't know," Finn said. He sounded startled at being asked. "Everyone else was doing it."

Sam looked disappointed. "Rachel?"

"I want to be famous," Rachel said. "Although now I have to reconsider that."

"Kurt?" Sam asked. By that point he sounded a little desperate.

"I wanted to help people," Kurt said. It was the cheesiest answer he could possibly give. If only it weren't the truth. He sounded like a Planeteer. "First I just wanted to keep Finn from getting himself killed. Then, to keep safe the people no one cared about, and then, well. Everyone." He cleared his throat. "But when I move to New York, there will be an enormous surplus of heroes and I can—"

"Yes!" Sam said, and pointed at him. Kurt pulled away. "That's what I'm talking about. I knew Mercedes couldn't be the only one of you guys with the right idea. Heroes are something bigger and better than we are, you know? We thought we were something great when we made it to Nationals, but what did we really do?"

Rachel looked offended at the dismissal of their participation there, but she didn't argue. Kurt suspected it had something to do with the talk she'd had with her dad.

"Mercedes doesn't know if she wants to do this for life, but she knows it's important. And when I talked to her after you guys came back... she loves that she saved the three of you. Although I kinda had to pick that out of her between being super sad about all the government stuff." Sam looked frustrated the longer they went on without matching his enthusiasm. "Life can be so boring, even when it's going well," he finally said. "Other times, it can just plain suck."

"That's why I want to move to New York," Kurt said haughtily. That would fix everything. Writhing around a war zone in skintight leather would hardly fix anything, and in New York, there would be more heroes than anyone knew what to do with. They could deal with projectile cars and killer nosebleeds.

"No. No! It's not about living in Lima," Sam said. "Or any little town versus any big city. It's about... about being trapped with bills and homework and chores. Before I had to cancel my account, there were guys in my Warcraft guild from New York, Atlanta...."

"That's a video game, Sam," Rachel pointed out needlessly.

"Yeah, I know it was a game, but we still killed the Lich King and broke his hold over the undead armies of Northrend."

Kurt exchanged a glance with Rachel. Sam might as well be speaking in tongues.

"It's why I love science fiction," Sam finally said when he realized they didn't understand what he meant. "I love thinking that there's something bigger out there. That we can have even more to look forward to than winning a big game, or even winning Nationals. You're who they write stories about, or you could be. Do you guys even realize what you could do with what you've been given?" He shot a dismayed look at Kurt. "And if you do, how could you ever want to give it up?"

All three of them looked more than a little uncomfortable at his critique. Sam's shoulders slumped. Clearly, that wasn't the reaction he'd wanted. "I'd give anything to have powers like yours," he said, sounding almost hurt. "How can you guys not be totally thrilled about this?"

"Would you trade your parents for powers?" Rachel asked pointedly, and that seemed to get through. He went quiet.

"This isn't a game," Kurt said, nodding at her. Each word he said only ruined Sam's expression more, but it had to be said. "Our lives have been completely turned upside down. We're at risk."

"We seriously almost died," Finn repeated yet again. "Just saying."

The trio looked at Sam and waited patiently for an answer. He looked so disheartened, and Kurt did feel guilty about ruining his good mood. He didn't understand all that... nerd stuff, but still, too few people had smiled recently.

Between one breath and the next, Sam started grinning again. "Okay, so can I be a sidekick?"

"No," Kurt and Rachel said loudly. Kurt elbowed Finn when he seemed to really consider the idea, and he followed suit. "We don't want anyone dying because of us," Kurt continued. "And you—"

"I'm not useless," Sam said.

"Of course we don't think you're useless," Rachel said. But they didn't know what else to add. Useless might be too strong a word, but he was certainly helpless.

Sam pulled back. "Fine. Guess I didn't realize how selfish my friends all were."

"Hey," Kurt said, genuinely hurt after the effort he'd put into helping Sam earlier. Just because Sam had probably filmed himself in a mock lightsaber battle didn't give him the right to criticize them for not being as excited as he was.

"Have fun with your big apartment, Kurt," Sam told him bitterly. "Rachel, have fun being famous. Finn, have fun being...." Trailing off, he snorted, and Finn looked uncomfortable at how he'd never been able to give a real answer for why he was fighting. "Enjoy your movie."

He left, having apparently driven himself there.

"Come on," Finn finally said when they'd sat in uncomfortable silence for far too long. "Let's finish Kurt's movie, I know Rachel's dads want her back home soon."

* * *

"Porcelain," Sue said late that afternoon, nodding at Kurt as she stood at the front door of the Hummel-Hudson abode. It was a bizarre sight, like seeing Santa Claus on Venice Beach. Some things were not meant to cross paths. She was back to wearing her normal track suit, but the bag she had looked intriguingly official. "Your house is next on my list. Is your brother available or is he busy carrying Fay Wray up the Empire State Building?"

It took Kurt a second to respond. He'd never considered that she would come to their house to talk to Finn. Sue snapped her fingers at him so closely that it felt like she might break off his nose and Kurt, jolted, said, "Yes, he's in his room. I'll go get him."

"Hurry up," she said. "I have rounds to finish today and I have to check off everyone. If Nurse Ratched can set that pace, I can match it."

Kurt knew better than to comment on the idealization of one of cinema's great villains; he'd learned that lesson when he'd done a double-take at her saying that Glenn Close should be applauded for turning that rabbit into a tasty meal. He hurried upstairs, apologized to Finn for sending him into the line of fire, and then settled in to his room after a quick explanation to their parents.

He'd fallen into the latest Elle when a knock sounded on his doorframe. He turned to see Carole there. "Sue's done with Finn and she wants to talk to you."

"How bad is it going to be?" Kurt asked wryly, setting aside his magazine. "I only know the version of her that doesn't carry a gun."

"Finn doesn't seem too traumatized," Carole said. "I'm sure she just wants to make sure that everyone's stories match up."

Steeling himself, Kurt walked downstairs to join Sue in the living room. She was inspecting a photograph on the mantle. "Funny, isn't it?" she asked him as she tilted the frame to show a childhood picture of Kurt. "You never think about all the support staff necessary to pull off a job like this."

"I'm sorry?" Kurt asked. He had the feeling he'd walked into the middle of something.

"Where do you think this came from?" Sue asked him and tapped the glass. Oh, of course, he realized; there was no way the photo was real. "I'll tell you where it came from: we have great graphics people. They ran your face through age-regression software, mapped it onto a child's body doing... hopscotch, apparently, and composited it with the sort of suburban streetscape that you don't see in Manhattan. Boom, instant knick-knack for an unremarkable house in the middle of nowhere."

Kurt frowned at the description. It was a nice house in the middle of nowhere.

She actually seemed cheerful as she gestured around the living room. "And I know this place was decorated since you moved here, but what about your old house? Once you found out about this all, did you ever stop to consider just how hard it'd be to get all those homes ready in a couple days' time?"

"I suppose not," Kurt admitted. It was easier to focus on the part of S.H.I.E.L.D. that did their work with guns blazing, but a convincing cover was important. Still.... "If I might ask, why are we talking about interior design?"

"A gay fetus doesn't want to discuss interior design," Sue said to herself. "Interesting." Kurt generally knew better than to react to her and she grinned after a few seconds of his silence. "So. When'd you find out about your powers?"

"On the last day of school." Kurt told the truth, as he suspected lying would be painful at best. "Artie was the first one. He accidentally activated all of our powers, and Finn read my mind right after school that day. We were surprised, to say the least."

"Hmm." Sue's gaze flicked up and down his body. Kurt was glad he hadn't taken the liberty of sitting. "What did you do prior to this Columbus escapade?"

He told her everything: their failed first night, how injured he'd gotten, and how he'd been left out of action until he healed up. He continued with the training missions he'd run after that and finished with their grand debut on the media stage. "That's about it, I suppose," he eventually said.

Sue eyed him oddly. "Aren't you supposed to be stealthy?"

"I suppose so?" Kurt replied. Had he said something wrong?

"I expected you to prevaricate a little more," Sue said and took a seat on a couch's armrest. Kurt remained standing. "Cover your back."

"I assumed you would know," Kurt said. "Carole says you're good. Besides, we've probably already hit the major 'in trouble' threshold with what happened in front of the cameras."

"Huh," Sue said, and really seemed to consider him like she hadn't seen him before. "Good assessment."

He really shouldn't feel so pleased every time he got a bit of praise from Sue Sylvester, but it was just so damned hard to earn. Kurt smiled without trying to hide it. To be fair, he did get more kind words from her than most people at that school: her having faith in his talent, looking out for him when Burt was in the hospital and when he was in danger. Even working with her sister's funeral had felt like some odd but real connection.

Why, though? His existence was just as fake as the rest of the club's. She occasionally praised Quinn or Santana, but it was in the role of them doing something for her. There was no logical reason for Sue Sylvester to be nice to him, whether she was a much-decorated cheerleading coach or an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

"Whatever you're thinking," Sue said, "spit it out. I can see sparks about to fly from your ears."

"Coach Sylvester? Why have you been nice to me?" Kurt laughed once and amended, "That is, to your particular definition of 'nice.'"

"I am capable of showing limited affection to a few people worthy of it," Sue said. "The jury's still out on you, but hey, I've said: I'm bored. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt until I figure it out for sure." Yes, Kurt thought that qualified as 'nice' when it came from her. When it became apparent that he actually wanted an answer, she leaned back and asked, "Honestly?"

Oh, what a minefield that word was when it involved Sue Sylvester. Steeling himself for whatever she might say, Kurt nodded.

"Being a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is the best, most important thing I've done with my life, and you were the kid who'd be the best match for joining up." Sue smirked at his surprise. "What, shocked that I care about doing any good? Don't get me wrong: I expect to be duly rewarded upon completing my missions. I enjoy being showered in glory by my peers like most people enjoy watching C-list celebrities attempt ballroom dancing."

"Sorry," Kurt said. "My life goals don't include being stuck in Lima version two-point-oh as I lie to a bunch of brainwashed kids."

"Oh, I hate this project," Sue said.

"And us, we know," Kurt said, rolling his eyes.

"I don't hate you. I am often annoyed by you, or bewildered when you show up on campus under the apparent misconception that you can pull off being shrink-wrapped in plaid, but I want to keep you kids alive." Sue leaned back. "That's what I've done: keep people alive. By my estimate, about twelve million."

Kurt's eyes widened before he could help it.

"Like I said," Sue said, digging casually through her pocket and then offering him a stick of gum. It was probably enhanced with some godawful vitamins and hormone supplements, and so he turned it down. "I've disarmed bombs. Foiled supervillains. Those blast radiuses were going to be big, and a whole lot of people were going to die. They didn't. Sure, they're just aimless drones who don't have a thought in their head besides whether Ashton is going to live up to Charlie's masterpiece performance, but, you know." Sue shrugged. "They have families they're trying to provide for. I can respect that."

"You've really saved that many people?" Kurt asked in disbelief.

"Eh," she said with a shrug. "After your first million, it all starts to blur together."

"Oh," Kurt said quietly. Sam's printouts filled his vision: the fashion designer and superhero Janet van Dyne, living in a glamourous New York apartment and still helping people in need. S.H.I.E.L.D., doing whatever it took to save tens of millions of lives. There was an entire world out there and one of its top agents thought he fit right into it.

He didn't want to be a superhero. He... he didn't. It was a funny feeling, though, to have people who thought he should. "Coach Sylvester, then why did you take this job if you knew it would be a poor match? Did they order you to come here?"

"No," Sue said. "No, I didn't volunteer, but I agreed when they asked me."

"Why?" Kurt wondered. She seemed to love being an agent more than anything. Was it a love with a limited shelf life, perhaps? Was it something that no one would really want to do for all their life?

"My sister was getting weaker," Sue said after a long pause. Her voice was thick. "If I took this assignment, I could see her every day." She sat in silence for a while and Kurt didn't interrupt her. "I watched the video of what happened in my office."

His mind went straight to how they'd kissed, and Kurt blushed. "Sorry. We made sure to stop before we got too—"

"Not that," Sue said, grimacing. "I was horrified when I saw his oil slick of a head moving toward you. All I could picture was you floundering on a beach like some sea bird after the Exxon Valdez spill."

Oh. "I know you said our powers are unstable," Kurt ventured, "but I do normally have better control over my illusions." She looked blankly back and he explained, "When my outfit started changing?"

"I didn't see any changes, because your illusions are psychic. They're obviously not going to come across to a camera." Sue snorted at his surprise. "You kids are operating blind but think you know everything. Abrams is still convinced that he's going to make sex robots."

His blush remained in place. Sue's praise might be rare pearls, but it also softened him up so that her criticism stung more. "Then what are you talking about?"

"When you blew off the entire idea of working with your powers on anything but a limited basis. I saw you assure that overly groomed boyfriend of yours that you were going to hang up your swords in exchange for subway tokens and an everything bagel." Sue looked him over again. "Is that what you really want, or is that what a temporary version of you used to want? Look, if you want to take the easy route I won't blame you. I'll insult you every chance I get, but I won't be mean."

"What's the difference?" Kurt asked in open confusion.

"The second involves a flamethrower." Sue put her elbows on her knees and leaned forward. "I thought I saw something in you that worked well with the agency. I hate to be wrong. And you are currently living a life based on lies, so you need to figure out what feels real."

This was so much longer than she'd spent talking to Finn. Kurt inhaled, nodded, and exhaled. "I feel real. I know my past is fake, but I still feel real. My family feels real. Blaine feels real, and my friendships with Rachel, Mercedes, Tina... it all feels real."

"And saving people's lives?"

Kurt swallowed, and remembered two frightened mutant women. "That feels... really real."

"So what's your big life plan?" Sue asked. She imbued every word with derision, preemptively mocking the sort of dreams Kurt Hummel typically clung to.

"I still want to live in the city. I want the big apartment, the parties, the champagne." As Sue began to look away in what might be disgust or even disappointment, Kurt hesitantly continued, "But... but Sam stopped by to tell me about someone. The Wasp? She has all of that and she—"

"Saves lives," Sue agreed.

And that sounded pretty much perfect. Her own fashion line, her own grand apartment, and people who owed their lives to her existence. Seriously, it was perfect.

It just wasn't what he'd said his life would be.

Seeing his indecision, Sue leaned over to unzip her bag. "I brought something for you."

"You did?" Kurt asked and tried to refocus. What could Sue Sylvester possibly bring for him? Would it hurt? It would probably hurt.

"The reason I thought you'd be the best match was partially due to your powers," Sue said. "Quinn also has the personality for this, but people with powers like hers are typically put in technicolor spandex and shoved out in public. Yours match the S.H.I.E.L.D. mission, just like Mister Sulu's. But inside, he's not cut from the right cloth."

"Meaning?" Kurt asked. He wasn't sure what it meant to have the right personality for S.H.I.E.L.D.

"You're strong on your own when you need to be," Sue added. A dark cast moved across her eyes, and she added, "That's important for people at the top."

No wonder she'd taken a mission that would put her near her sister, Kurt thought, and watched her quietly retrieve two leather sheaths from her bag. "This was part of my standard gear, but I hate edged melee. I'm an expert, of course, but it's not my style. Give me a Glock any day of the week." Seeing his hesitance, Sue extended her arm and gave him the two swords. "Take them."

"Wait, you're giving these to me?" Kurt asked in utter shock.

"I never use them and they're a hell of a sight better than those ren faire rejects you had in the videos." Sue shrugged. "Yeah, take them."

They gave the impression of being incredibly well-made and expensive. Kurt set one down on the couch almost reverently, then drew the other from its sheath. The metal of the sword gleamed like platinum, and when he tapped a fingernail against it, it sounded as hard as ceramic. He wondered what they were made of. "These are for me?" he asked again in disbelief. They didn't just look dangerous, they were beautiful.

"For the last time, yes. They were just cluttering up my house. Take them and shut up."

"I don't know how to use a... katana?" Kurt ventured, looking at the blade with a slight curve.

"Wakizashi," Sue corrected. "Shorter. Nice length to strap to your back. And yes, you do. Your powers include weapons mastery, annoyingly. You'll be decent with pretty much anything you pick up, and will be good with far less training than's fair." She gave him a bit to stare in wonder at the sword, which really was more like art than just some simple weapon. "So. You can either hang them up on your eventual wall as a charming piece of cultural appropriation before you go back to discussing how this season's runway models are heifers who need to stop eating those extra raisins... or you can use them. Up to you."

"But we're not supposed to use our powers," Kurt said. It was the perfect way to dodge the issue.

Sue smirked at him. "You know perfectly well that won't last forever, Porcelain. Go try cutting up a tomato. They're better than a Ginsu."

She let herself out.

"Dude," Finn said when he came to join Kurt, having heard the closing door. "She gave you something? That's not fair, she didn't give me anything. Those are awesome swords. Are you really going to use them?"

Kurt stared at where the two sheaths were resting in an X across his knees. Was he really going to use them, he repeated as his fingertips traced down the long leather length of one blade's cover. "I don't know."

* * *

"Again?" Kurt asked when Rachel walked through their front door the next morning.

"I wanted to see my boyfriend and best friend," Rachel said as Carole turned locks behind her. "What's wrong with that?"

"Besides the fact that you can?" Kurt answered morosely, then boggled when she pulled out a cell phone. "You are kidding me. Is this what being the daughter of two agents gets you?"

"Hi," Rachel said when Finn walked in, and kissed him. But then she went right back to looking at her phone and sighing. "There's only one unlocked number on this, so don't be jealous. I've been putting off the call."

"To who?" Finn asked. They both looked at him; he tapped the side of his head and grinned. "I'm not looking at your brain."

She smiled, a weak flash. "Well, Sue did get Jacob's Facebook page about us taken down."

"And?" Kurt prompted. That clearly wasn't the end of the story.

"He's apparently still insistent about getting the message out for me," Rachel said sheepishly. "A man with a mission. I probably shouldn't have signed my email 'love.'"

"Ew, Rachel," Finn said.

"I'm sorry! I didn't think he'd go this far. Now he has his own website for us, it's hosted in another country, and he's not in control any more. Ownership keeps rotating between some people he apparently met who hate 'government censorship' and aren't big fans of Facebook, either." At their questioning looks, Rachel shrugged. "I'm not sure, my dad just said they were anonymous. They're really hoping I can rein things in."

Kurt shot Finn a look as Rachel reluctantly dialed. Bet we don't want to know the sort of personal information he's been spreading. Finn didn't look worried, so Kurt added, You realize he wants her, and so is probably painting her boyfriend as increasingly awful the longer this goes on.

Finn grimaced and listened in to the conversation that had started up without them.

"But can't you just tell them to delete it?" Rachel asked. "I know you don't know the other people personally, but this is a big deal. I don't care if they just think it's funny to defy the government! It's not a joke. We could be in danger. There's something going on and we really shouldn't have all that information about our powers and... no, the government is not standing over my shoulder right now, Jacob. Kurt is. No, 'Kurt' is not a code word for anything, I'm actually talking about him. He looks annoyed."

"Take down any gross comments," Kurt said loudly. "You owe us that much, Ben Israel."

Rachel's fist clenched at whatever Jacob said next. "Jacob, stop. Jacob! We are not being coerced into... I don't care if those other people are having fun with running the site, stop them!" She looked dismayed. "How did they even find that mattress commercial? Look. Enough is enough. If you don't take that site down, I swear I will hate you forever. My last moment on earth will be to curse your name." Her expression flattened further. "No. It's not romantic that I'd be thinking of you then. Just do it!" she finished, and hung up.

"That went great," Finn said.

After allowing herself one long groan, Rachel's expression brightened. "Let's be fair," she said. "We were already on the news. How much worse will this really be?"

Though Finn seemed convinced, Kurt folded his arms and said, "Well, let's see. Before, we were just presented as the latest teen group to try their hand at heroics. Now, in case anyone creepy was wondering if we were the right teen group they wanted? They know the government is trying to hide us." His words clearly dismayed Rachel, and Kurt decided to pull back just a bit. "Look... Jacob went overboard. You asked him to stop and he ignored you. So now, when Coach Sylvester applies the thumbscrews to get him to really talk, it'll be all his fault."

She managed to laugh. "He is a bit of a loose cannon."

"Exactly," Kurt said, and then waved them up the stairs. "Now: mingle, because you just gave me precedent." Without further explanation, he chased down Carole. "Hi!" Kurt said hopefully. "Rachel just got to call someone on the phone, and I wanted to see if I could, too." Before she could argue, he said, "It's nearly a week since that meeting, and I haven't even been able to talk to him. Please?"

"I suppose a phone call won't hurt," Carole finally said. "Use the one in the kitchen and stay in there. I won't listen in, but if Sue finds out I can say I had everything under control."

He hugged her. "Thank you, thank you, I've been losing my mind." Hurrying in before she could withdraw permission, he grabbed the phone and punched in Blaine's number so forcefully that it felt like he might break the buttons. "Yes, it's really me," he said when Blaine excitedly asked if the caller ID was accurate. "I got permission to call. Say something, I miss your voice."

"You have to say something, I miss your voice," Blaine said right back, and they laughed over their impasse. "What have you been doing?"

"Just hanging around the house," Kurt said. They both started bringing up any minutia that was even remotely notable. As they talked, Kurt picked up the sword he'd absent-mindedly started carrying. Some corner of his mind had wanted to get a feel for what it felt like to bear that weight. He palmed the slick leather, passed it from hand to hand, and then finally attached it to his belt so he'd stop distracting himself. "How much do your parents hate me?"

"They have a problem," Blaine reluctantly said. "But I did hear my dad say that he was glad someone stopped those men in Columbus, so I really think they can get over it. And Mom called you a hero."

Kurt grinned. "Really?" That word had to be a good thing.

"Mmmhmm. In the context of thinking it was very strange that I was dating one, but I still heard the term. They wanted to know everything you could do. I mentioned the swords and the illusions. I skipped the flexibility."

"Blaine," Kurt giggled into the phone. "You need to stop acting like it's so dirty."

"You knew exactly what you were doing when you showed me that move." Blaine's pitch dropped a bit, which made Kurt wish he had a phone cord to twirl coquettishly around his finger. "You must have ideas."

"I... someone might be listening in, we should change topics," Kurt said as his face flushed hot. "Any headway on them thinking I'm an insurance risk?"

"Not yet," Blaine said. "But if they're calling you a hero, there's hope."

"I guess that's true." Leaning against the wall, Kurt found it surprisingly easy to accept the rare positives in his life. Hearing his boyfriend's voice after so long bolstered his spirits like nothing else. "It's funny, actually. Coach Sylvester came by with insults, but then she sort of... complimented me. If I develop a case of whiplash, I'm blaming her."

"I didn't know she was capable of offering compliments, from how you've described her," Blaine said with good humor. "At least that's something good. What did she say?"

"It was completely ridiculous, actually. She thought I'd be a good match for joining S.H.I.E.L.D." He waited to hear hearty laughter on the line. When Blaine didn't offer any, Kurt picked up the slack. The sound was as flimsy as a cheap windchime.

The second he went silent again Blaine asked, "You told her no, right?"

"I... mostly. She's intimidating! She talked about flamethrowers."

"See?" Blaine pointed out, very reasonably. "Just remember that S.H.I.E.L.D. means Sue Sylvester with a flamethrower, and lying to you about your past. That doesn't sound very fun to me."

"Living a charmingly bohemian lifestyle until we get a big break and become famous and successful sounds fun," Kurt agreed, reciting one of the sillier paths they'd discussed in their grand plans about the future. "And arguing over a cat."

"As I've said before, Siamese are incredibly personable and clean. I had one when I was younger and you would have loved her, Kurt."

"The only cat I would ever consider are those evil-looking hairless ones," Kurt said. "And they, well, look evil." The easy banter put a smile on his face, but it dropped off as something bubbled up through his mind. Kurt found himself unable to hold back his next words. "Rachel's dads are both S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and so was Carole. They're all nice." He could imagine Blaine's disappointed expression. The silence was more telling than a sigh. "Would it really be so bad?"


"You're supposed to figure out your path in high school," Kurt said defensively. "People go through lots of interests. I love fashion, performing, and... and possibly weapons. I'm good. I might be able to be great. And I could help people!" He pictured Sam giving him a goofy thumbs-up and tried his best to focus.

"I thought you were going to die!" Blaine said, voice anguished, and Kurt stopped arguing. "Tina was keeping me in that van when I wanted to come help you. But she was right: even if I had gotten out, I couldn't have done anything. You could have been killed and I wouldn't have been able to lift a finger to stop them. Why would you want to...." He sounded almost ready to cry when he spoke next. Kurt found himself tearing up, too. "Just listening to you in danger nearly drove me out of my mind. I haven't been able to talk to you in nearly a week and you call to tell me you really want to get yourself killed? You're so talented at so many other things. Why this?"

"I...." Kurt trailed off, uselessly.

"They can get other agents to carry out whatever mission comes up. You can't be replaced. Please," Blaine said, and it sounded like he'd finally lost the battle against his tears. "At least think about that. Think about how you'd feel if someone were coming for my life and you could only watch. Weigh that against what we talked about together."

Kurt leaned against the wall. As he didn't yet trust his voice, he didn't reply. Blaine continued, "I don't care if you're not from Ohio. I don't care what your last name really is, or which of them you want to use. I don't even care if you dated every boy in New York City—"

"I haven't," Kurt said quickly. At least he knew that much. "Finn looked at my memories."

"But I wouldn't care," Blaine said. "Because I know you now, and I am madly in love with that boy. I don't want to lose him to some thug with something to prove, and have nothing more left than a folded flag and a medal."

The phrasing put him in mind of Christopher Hudson before Kurt remembered that such a man had never existed. Nor had his supposed birth mother, but his and Finn's pain had been very real. He would never want to put someone through pain like he'd felt. Kurt allowed himself a wave of it to serve of a reminder of just what he'd be doing to Blaine. That was what it had felt like when he went to his mother's funeral. He let the memory, false though it was, linger and dig in. That was what it had felt like to see her as a corpse. And that was what it had felt like when the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. told him his parents were dead.

Kurt froze. What? There was a large man with an eyepatch, holding photographs in his hands. Photographs that would show a man and a woman who.... "Blaine, I... I think I need to go."

"Are they making you get off?" Blaine asked regretfully.

"No, I'll call you later, and I... I just... I need to talk to Finn. I think I'm finally remembering my parents," Kurt said in shock.

Thankfully, Blaine didn't argue for a second. "Go. I'll want to hear everything, but until then, I love you and goodbye."

"Bye," Kurt said distantly and hung up without realizing he should have added an 'I love you' of his own. His mother had dark hair and eyes paler than his. Her name was Margaret, which she always hated until she heard her young son add, "Like the princess!" Kurt kept trying to get her to wear different clothes, just as he'd made over Carole, but she thought it would be a silly waste of money when she wore a lab coat all day.

He wobbled. Had he blocked them on purpose, or had someone else put extra shields around his family? Other memories had come back so much more smoothly, and now it felt as if a dam had burst. Margaret had loved him dearly, but never played favorites. She loved Finn just as much. Still, she wound up spending more time around Kurt, because—

His hand splayed against the wall as a fresh wave of dizziness nearly knocked him over. Luke. Luke Hutton, with his coppery hair and dark brown eyes. A broad smile, terrible jokes, and unbearable awkwardness when... when....

A headache started pounding between Kurt's eyes. It felt almost like his old illusion headaches, but it came entirely from trying to make sense of what he was remembering. "I have to talk to Finn," he muttered and scrambled upstairs. What he was remembering didn't make any sense: Luke had always been awkward when Kurt's boyfriend came over.

But Finn had looked at his memories and said that Kurt didn't have a boyfriend in New York. Had someone locked that away, and Finn had missed it? Or had someone altered his memories since then? Or, Kurt wondered for an even more unpleasant final option, had Finn lied? "Hey," he said shakily when he pushed Finn's door open. Rachel pulled away from Finn, blushing, but he ignored her. "I need to ask you something."

"Knock next time," Finn muttered, and tried to point subtly at Rachel.

"Did you lie to me about whether I'd had a boyfriend in New York?" Kurt asked, his voice close to cracking.

As Finn stammered, Rachel turned and looked at him in shock. "Finn?"

"Why would you think I'd lied to you?" Finn asked and laughed nervously.

"Because I remember Dad and he didn't like my boyfriend," Kurt said. With each word he said, he was more confident in his recollection. "I did. I had a boyfriend, Finn. These aren't just dreams, they're memories." He rounded on Rachel. "Try to remember. Can you picture me when I was younger?"

She focused on Kurt. Finn tried to speak over them, but they ignored him. "I... all right, I'm picturing your old hair style. You're younger, and shorter, and... and I can see you in a classroom I've never been in before," Rachel said, nodding. "Although I suppose I have been in it."

"Guys!" Finn said urgently.

"He was taller than me," Kurt said. "And just... just bigger."

"Double dates," Rachel said, and Kurt gasped and pointed at her. Yes, she was right: she and Finn had gone on countless dates with Kurt and... and.... Her hand covered her mouth, and her eyes grew very large. "What I'm remembering doesn't make any sense," Rachel said.

"Oh," Kurt said in a tiny, frightened voice as he remembered bulky arms encircling him. Hazel eyes fluttering closed. A strong hand threading through his hair, and a horrifyingly familiar voice whispering against his ear. "Oh no. No, no, no. This is impossible," he said as he remembered Puck—Puck—trailing his mouth down Kurt's arched throat. "This is... why?" he asked Finn.

"You can't remember him, okay!" Finn said helplessly. "You're happy, I didn't want him to ruin it! He ruins things!"

"You lied to him about what was in his own head?" Rachel asked. "Finn, that's incredibly wrong! You don't get to make that decision for anyone."

As the two of them began to argue over the ethics of telepathy, Kurt found himself staring blankly at the far wall. Noah Puckerman had been his first boyfriend? Puck, who he knew for a fact was straight? Who, oh god, he'd assured Blaine was straight and certainly not interested in him? He'd just told Blaine that he was Kurt's first, and that had been a lie?

He remembered a warm smile at the end of a hard class. Puck was smarter than he gave himself credit for, at least when he tried.

He'd stepped in when someone began to press Kurt on the subway. Especially when he was younger, Kurt looked like an easy target. Puck didn't, though, and Finn wasn't always around.

It was easier to find privacy at Puck's. First Puck peeled off his shirt, and then Kurt's, as the two of them—

"No," Kurt almost sobbed. No, he couldn't have lost that. "No." His anguished cry had interrupted Finn and Rachel's argument, and both turned to him. "I...." he began, but had no idea what to say next. His mind was filled with horrifyingly pleasurable memories, but the worst part was his heart. It wasn't just sex. He had been madly and totally in love with Puck.

As the physical memories ran through Kurt's mind, Finn went very pale. A thin layer of sweat beaded his top lip and he looked ill. But it was nothing compared to the horror on his face when Kurt remembered being in love. "You can't!" Finn shouted, and just for an instant his eyes glowed purple vibrant enough to match any neon sign.

They faded. With them, so did Kurt's unearthed memories about love. He knew that he had dated Puck, and that he'd loved him and even lost his virginity to him, but it could have happened to someone else. It was like reading a fact in a textbook. "What the hell did you just do?" he snarled.

"I...." Finn hesitantly reached up and rubbed his temple with his fingertips. "I don't know."

"Finn?" Rachel asked.

"I don't know!" Finn said, turning to her to plead his case. "His brain is the easiest for me to look into, and I just... I just put up walls without knowing what I was doing, and—"

"You did another memory block on Kurt," Rachel said in horror. "Finn!"

He had to get out of there, Kurt thought as he tried to fight back hysterical sobs. He knew that as certainly as he'd known it on the night he fled from Burt. Leaving behind an illusion of himself as they argued, he unsheathed the sword at his hip and sliced open the screen in Finn's window. An alarm started blaring. It took them a few precious seconds to realize what was happening, and Kurt already knew that he could run across the roof, leap for that sturdy branch, and land safely on the grass. Even in his daze, he didn't stumble once on his way to the street.

A Winnebago drove by. Kurt, secure in his agility and utterly single-minded in his focus, grabbed its ladder. He knew they'd be looking for him, and that they could see him if they looked through a video camera, but he planned to move quickly.

There was someone he needed to talk to.

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