miggy: (Default)
miggy ([personal profile] miggy) wrote2011-12-29 12:25 pm

fic: "Special" (Chapter 18/?)

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: 9200
Spoilers: Through S2
Full-Series Warnings: Violence, potential character death, and other elements common to comics
Summary: Being a part of something special makes you special. (Also, having superpowers.)
Notes: Another fairly narrow focus this time. Then, next chapter, we'll check in with almost everyone as things explode.







Rachel spun to face the door when she heard footsteps pounding toward it. Burt and Carole were there, wide-eyed. "What happened?" Carole shouted over the alarm screaming through the hallway. It was a wonder Rachel had heard their approach.

"Kurt ran away again," Rachel said. "He cut open the screen."

"That damn sword," Carole said, and pointed Burt downstairs. He hurried to turn off the alarm. "Where did he go? Do you know?"

The question was directed mostly at Finn, but he'd been too deeply shocked to read Kurt's mind. He was clearly guessing as he said, "Um, he probably went to Puck's." The words were very loud in the sudden silence when the alarm stopped.

"Puck's?" Carole repeated, surprised. "Why would he go there?"

When Finn couldn't find the right words, Rachel took over. "He remembered how he and Puck used to be romantically involved." Burt returned just in time to hear that, and he looked as shocked as Carole. "Which... S.H.I.E.L.D. would have told you two? Or at least you?" Rachel asked Burt. They had to have at least hinted at it.

"The punk with the mohawk?" Burt asked in disbelief.

Apparently not, then.

"Yeah," Finn said reluctantly, and tapped the side of his head so they'd know he was telling the truth. Burt and Carole boggled at him, then each other.

"He'll probably be fine out there," Carole said, "but we have to let Sue know."

"What if Finn hurt him?" Rachel asked before Carole left, and everyone looked to her for an explanation. "Finn used his powers to alter Kurt's mind before he ran off, and I doubt even he knows exactly what he did to him."

"Finn?" Burt asked, sounding worried and more than a bit angry.

"You think I could have hurt him?" Finn asked Rachel. "Really?"

"You attacked his brain and then he broke violently out of a secured location; for all we know, you lobotomized him!" Realizing she'd snapped those words and left Burt and Carole looking terrified, she attempted damage control. "He looked in command of himself," she said. "It... it was an illusion, but the illusion looked fine."

"God," Carole muttered. "I'll go call Sue. Burt, you handle this with the Puckermans, so they know Kurt's coming and can keep him from running off again."

Burt and Rachel got to work on that. Finn, looking frightened of messing up with someone else, stayed out of their way.

* * *


"I think I'm gonna go outside," grandly said Sarah Puckerman.

"Great," Puck said, and blew away a Nazi. His Xbox was disconnected from the network. He could only play versus the machine, and it sucked.

"I'm going to ride my bike up and down the street," she continued, putting her face right next to his ear, "and go wherever I want, and talk to whoever I want."

"Awesome," Puck said.

"And then I'm gonna call my friends on the phone, and bike to the store and get a—hey!" she protested as Puck picked her up like she weighed nothing, put her outside his door, and shut it. "Mom!" she shouted. "Noah's being mean!"

"Leave your brother alone, Sarah. Go play with your friends." The door opened again, and he looked over to see his mother standing there.

Being trapped practically had him twitching inside his skin. Lauren had come over a couple of times, but they were annoyingly supervised. You couldn't have fun when you were supervised. Mike had stopped by, saying things were tense at his place, but him leaving after a full day of movies and gaming had just reminded Puck how he couldn't fire up his account with the guys like usual. As for everyone else....

He understood that Finn and Rachel would want to see each other first, even if he'd wanted them to visit. Worse than that, though, was the feeling that he wanted Kurt to visit. There was only one explanation for wanting to see him, and Puck didn't want to spend more time considering Bowie. So he hadn't thought about Kurt. At all.

But... Kurt had probably been over at his house all week. Had Blaine been able to come over there, like Lauren had been able to visit Puck? If so, had they been so strictly supervised?

Shit. Why was he thinking about that? Why did it matter?

Puck forced himself to focus on his mother's face. "Do you have any idea how much longer this is gonna go on?"

She opened her mouth to answer, but was interrupted by the ringing phone. After excusing herself, she returned with the phone in hand and a very surprised expression. "It's Burt, Finn and Kurt's dad. It sounds like there's an emergency."

Puck leaned forward. "Is... are they okay?"

"Here," she said, extending the phone. "They think it'll be faster to just talk to you."

Startled, he took it. "Hello?"

He heard Rachel's voice, which was weird, but Puck tried not to let himself get distracted from whatever this emergency might be. "Noah, have you been at your house all day?"

"Yeah," he said. "What's going on? Why are you on the phone?"

"I said I knew the most about what was going on and they gave me the handset. Finn is completely lost and their parents didn't see what happened. Is Kurt there yet?"

Puck froze. "What?"

"Kurt broke out of the house and we're fairly sure he's on the way to see you. They're not happy about this, and it sounds like Sue is being put on his trail. I can't even imagine how much trouble he's going to be in, or maybe it'll be all Finn—"

"Rachel," Puck said until she shut up. "Why is Kurt heading here?"

After only a breath's hesitation, she said, "He remembered how the two of you used to date in New York, and then Finn put another psychic block on him. We have no idea what sort of state his mind is in, Noah. Finn could have done real damage, he's not practiced with this. Kurt could just be angry, but he could also be disoriented, he could have lost all of his memories down to who he is... we have no idea how bad this is. When he arrives, you need to keep him there. Okay?"

"We were together," Puck said blankly. His mind felt like Tetris pieces sliding into place. Finally, every weird little piece of the past month fit into one perfect story, and then that wall vanished.

They'd been together. Really, totally together. He'd spent so much time trying to figure out what was happening, and then to avoid thinking about it. After being handed the answer, all that mental energy finally had an outlet. Everything made sense. Absolutely everything.

"I'm sorry for springing this on you if you didn't remember, but—"

"No," Puck said distantly, and sat on his bed. "I remember. Okay. I'll keep him around until Sylvester or his dad gets here, whatever. Don't worry. Later." He hung up and handed the receiver back to his mom, who looked at him sympathetically.

"You sound ready to pass out. I'll keep Sarah out of your hair, don't worry."

"Mom?" Puck asked her. (He'd reconsidered using 'Mom' for a few short minutes after finding out the truth, but she still felt like it and it seemed like too much trouble to reassess what they were to each other.) "Did you know about me and him?" Wait, had that just been coming out to his mom? Or would she have gotten that from listening to him on the phone? He was dizzy. This was hard.

"No," she said, but didn't seem too broken up about it. After getting his best friend's girlfriend pregnant right upon moving there, Puck supposed a lot of other relationships would look pretty good in comparison. "This group of kids sure does look like Bravo," she said lightly, and he knew that things were really okay between them. "But I guess you are a show choir from New York."

"Yeah," Puck said uncertainly. He was fairly sure that was the end of their big talk. They didn't do emotions in the Puckerman house. "Thanks."

She ruffled his hair affectionately, kissed him on his bare scalp, and told him she'd keep an eye out for Kurt. Then she unlocked his window, just in case Kurt decided to break in like he'd broken out. "Let me know if he does come in this way," she said, and then left Puck to his memories.

There were so many, and they felt more real than the room around him.

* * *


Rachel Berry was Noah Puckerman's second girlfriend, at the ripe old age of twelve. (He was an early bloomer. She called herself precocious.)

Twenty minutes into lunch, Puck wanted to throw himself into the deep fryer. She never shut up. They'd met at temple, and people tended to bite their tongues when they were busy with all that religious stuff. Out in the wild, he felt like he needed earplugs to deal with her.

"You remind me of my best friend's brother," Rachel said, and delicately ate a single french fry off Puck's plate.

Puck, dazed, tried to catch up. He had no idea who her best friend was, and so he had no idea who that brother was. "Okay," he said, then protected the rest of his fries.

"Kurt and I go to the same vocal teacher. We've had recitals together since we were five." Rachel smiled. "He thought he could steal the lead in her custom Nativity medley away from me."

Puck eyed her. "You're Jewish."

"And he's an atheist." When Puck stared blankly back, Rachel said like it explained everything, "It was the lead." She dipped her roll into her soup, took a bite, and swallowed, but somehow it seemed like she hadn't paused at all. She was a wave of sound: relentless. "Anyway, I'm sure you met him last week at my bat mitzvah."

"I met a lot of people there," Puck said. "You practically needed to rent out Yankee Stadium."

She gestured with her half-eaten roll. "We'll all be in the same high school, and you and Finn would get along well. I should introduce you!"

"Sure, whatever," Puck said, and started thinking about boobs.

Finn Hutton turned out to be a pretty cool guy: laid-back, funny, kinda dumb. Puck had the feeling that his brother was funny, too, but it was that weird New Yorker, Fraiser-y humor that he didn't really get. He could see how the two might have looked almost identical when they were young, but by twelve years old, Finn had hit a growth spurt and never looked back.

Rachel was super, scarily intense with her first relationship, and Puck began to get nervous about whether she'd flip out when he dumped her. Kurt and Finn were pressure release valves: when all four of them hung out, she could talk about Broadway with Kurt while Puck talked sports with Finn. Even so, after a month, the annoyance of dating Rachel outweighed the fear that she'd go total stalker on him. "That's fine," Rachel said, to his bewildered surprise. "You were an excellent first boyfriend, Noah. A perfect foundation, and I've learned some things. Thank you."

"Uh, welcome," he said, and felt a little like he'd been used. But it could have been way worse.

Rachel still wanted to be friends, and she was actually a pretty cool one to have. That little distance between "dating" and "friends" made all the clingy difference in the world. Puck still wanted to see Finn, too, and their foursome stayed together even though he didn't need to use Kurt to distract his girlfriend. It was comfortable.

One day, when Rachel and Kurt were talking about the Tonys, or maybe someone named Tony, Puck leaned over and asked, "So you're gay, right?"

Kurt froze. Finn looked flatly at Puck. "Dude, you can't just ask him that." A beat, then, "Yeah, but you can't just ask."

"Finn!" Rachel said, and glared at him. She turned to Kurt and said brightly, "Don't worry, we won't tell anyone. I had a feeling when you kept asking about my dads, but unlike some people I know you're not allowed to just demand an answer." She shot Puck another dirty look. Geez, it wasn't like he had a problem with it; he'd dated a girl with two dads and he was pretty sure the two old Chinese dudes in the apartment above his were queer. He'd just wanted to be sure.

After a few seconds more, in which he seemed to convince himself that everything wouldn't suddenly fall apart, Kurt smiled nervously at them. "You won't tell, right?"

"Of course we won't," Rachel said instantly.

Puck realized they'd turned to him, and added, "Yeah, don't worry." He'd just wanted to know. What was the big deal?

Later, Finn stopped him in the hallway as they left Rachel's. "Look," he said seriously. "Kurt is really scared about our parents finding out, so you can't tell anyone. Okay? This could hurt him. Bad."

"I won't," Puck said. "Why won't anyone trust me on this?"

"You make fun of people," Finn said after a beat, like he was giving Puck the chance to answer for himself. "When someone says something wrong, you laugh at them. You can be a jerk."

"So can you," Puck said defensively. "Fine, but I don't do that about big stuff."

"Well... I just wanted to make sure you knew that this was big."

"Got it," Puck said, and he did. There was something in Finn's voice that communicated two things very sincerely: if Puck used this as a weapon against Kurt then Finn would get serious revenge, and it would hurt Kurt more than Puck had ever tried to hurt someone. Neither was appealing, and Puck kept that knowledge under lock and key.

Two years went by. Rachel was still best friends with Kurt, and Puck with Finn. The brothers were the closest, naturally, while Puck and Kurt were the most distant of their little foursome. It wasn't that Puck disliked him; Kurt was brave and stubborn, talented and abrasive, driven and emotional. All of those things could have made him annoying, but he had a big enough heart that he was a good person with some bad points, rather than the other way around. They simply found it harder to talk, and unlike any other combination of the four, usually fell into polite silence.

Finn kept growing. Fat and muscle had yet to catch up to his bones, so he looked like a stick figure next to the three of them. One day he didn't seem quite so gaunt, and then a month later he looked two years older. Puck didn't shoot up with the same ridiculous speed. Without the growing pains that had plagued Finn, he was able to work out constantly. At fourteen years old, he felt like he should be giving lessons to the men on the sidewalk about how to strut and to catch girls.

Kurt kept waiting to grow toward the sky like Finn had, but it never happened. He kept waiting for the baby fat to melt away from his cheeks, but that never happened, either. He avoided all the junk food they scarfed down and balanced his diet with protein and vitamins like some Olympic athlete, but he still stayed short, his cheeks stayed round, and his voice stayed high.

At first Puck teased him about it, but then it really seemed to bother Kurt. More than it should. He stopped.

Puck knew their parents all worked for the government, but it had never played a huge role in their friendships. At most they'd been mildly encouraged to befriend each other, as their parents liked being able to chat about their kids at the office. But all of a sudden the four of them were shipped off to a tiny government school with high-priced tutors, and their parents' jobs became a real factor in their lives. Thanks to that new top-secret assignment, it was just the four of them in a class with seven strangers. The new kids were nice, generally, but by that point every last one found it hard to believe that Finn and Kurt were twin brothers.

He and Kurt still didn't talk that easily, but they were still more familiar territory than all those strangers from other neighborhoods. They began to spend more time together than they had before, and that was when Puck noticed the shadow hiding in Kurt's eyes whenever Finn mentioned their dad.

Finn loved the guy; they went to a game almost every weekend. Kurt spent nearly as much time with his mom, and Puck figured it was what he wanted. After all, if Kurt put on a dress and a little makeup one day, he'd fool a lot of people. Seriously, it was easy to mistake him for a chick. He wasn't trying to be a dick or anything, and he knew Kurt hated when he got called a girl, but Puck just figured it was easier for him to be around women. They probably judged him less, and he made Finn look more butch with every day that passed.

After one too many sad looks, Puck started wondering if that isolation from their dad was by choice.

And after a flinch at a seemingly harmless comment from Finn about 'the guys,' Puck began to worry deep in his gut.

His own dad had left before things got too bad, thankfully, but he'd been really young. He couldn't have done anything if the man had lost his temper. Kurt was bigger than he'd been, but he still wasn't big. "Hey," Puck said as he sat next to Kurt during lunch. "Can I ask you something?"

"Besides that?" Kurt replied with a faint grin. His clothes were especially ridiculous that day; he tried to copy the expensive stuff in magazines and while he matched it well, some of it was just plain weird to begin with. As always, clothing covered almost every square inch of skin. Puck usually figured that coverage was due to Kurt being self-conscious when he compared his body to Finn's, but... but maybe not. Maybe he was hiding something else.

In retrospect, Puck realized that the louder his clothes were, the less attention anyone paid to what might be lurking behind Kurt's eyes. There was no way that wasn't on purpose. If Kurt hadn't flinched and if Puck hadn't remembered doing the same, he probably wouldn't have noticed the pain pulling his expression very slightly tight.

Puck looked at him seriously. "Okay, I'm just gonna come out with this. I won't tell anyone. And you know when I say that, I mean it." He never had told anyone that Kurt was gay, even if they assumed it as soon as they saw him. Kurt knew that, and so with a wary look, he nodded. "You don't have to tell me, but I just thought you might want to have someone to say 'yes' to, if it's true." Puck took a deep breath and checked to make sure no one was listening. "Does your dad hit you?"

Kurt made a strangled noise like he'd nearly choked on his tongue. "What? No. What the hell, Puck?"

There was no need to be that enthusiastic with his denial if he were covering for him, and it sounded like the truth. Plus, even if he were lying, it was the sort of thing that a person needed to come out with on their own time. Puck accepted it and nodded. "Okay. Is your dad mean to you?"

"What?" Kurt repeated, and was silent for a while before he said, "No."

Their eyes met. Puck had been vaguely sure that they were green, but now they looked blue. Sad. "But you had to think about it, didn't you?" Puck asked.

That time, Kurt didn't have an answer.

* * *


"Do you think he's okay?" Finn asked Rachel.

She turned when he reached for her. "I don't know." He made another move for her hand. That time, Rachel jerked away. "I don't know, Finn!"

"Why are you yelling at me?" Finn asked, hurt. "I'm worried about him. More than you are."

"Well, you're the one who did this," Rachel said, folding her arms tightly across her chest so he couldn't try again.

"But I didn't mean—"

"And right now," she continued, avoiding looking at him to lessen the ache in her heart, "I'm thinking very long and hard about whether I can stay in a relationship with you."

It took Finn a second to reply. He was very quiet when he did. "What?" When she didn't answer, he said with a tinge of desperation, "Come on, Rachel, I know you're friends with him, but I'm your boyfriend! Yeah, I made a mistake, and I'm freaking out over whether he's okay! It just happened!"

"Did it 'just happen' when you apparently assured him that he'd never dated anyone in New York? Even though you could have seen from his memories that he had?" Rachel stared at Finn as his shoulders slumped, and he shook his head. "I didn't think so."

"Can you please hug me?" Finn asked after an awkward pause, sounding very young. "I'm scared for him. What if I did zap his brain too much? What if I really—"

"No," Rachel said in disbelief. "I don't know if I'm still going to be your girlfriend, I'm furious with you, and you can't just ask me that!" He looked so lost and confused, and she saw that she needed to explain. "Not everyone can abuse their powers like you. What would Mercedes do, or Mike? Or me?" She took a deep breath. "But Tina could drive people's fear or pleasure to get what she wants. Kurt could watch someone undress, or walk off with their things. They don't, but they could. You, apparently, can make people think however you want." She hugged herself again. "And you do. It's the worst thing anyone could do. It's what S.H.I.E.L.D. did to us, but at least they had the excuse of saving our lives as they ruined them."

"I didn't mean to do it," Finn said. "Please." Tears choked his voice. "Look, when I thought about what I saw with Kurt and Puck, I was terrified for him. I knew that Puck is bad news, and Kurt would get hurt."

"So if Jesse shows up again," Rachel said, interrupting his heartfelt plea, "will you remove all my memories of him? You have a real problem with him, after all. Wouldn't it be so much easier if I just didn't know who he was? Easier for you?"

"God, it's not like...." His hands started shaking. She didn't know whether he was more scared for Kurt or his relationship. If he were smart, he'd be most terrified over what he was apparently capable of doing. Of course, Rachel added bitterly to herself, Finn had never been smart. Maybe he'd heard that thought; she couldn't feel badly if he had. "I would never do that to you," Finn said after a heavy breath.

"How can I believe you, if you would do this to your brother? The one family member you have left by birth in the entire world?"

Frustrated, Finn took a few seconds to answer. She could see an answer come to mind, and he seized on it instantly, without taking any time to decide whether it was the right thing to say. "He is my brother," Finn said, nodding, "and so his brain is the easiest for me to read and mess with. You know that I wouldn't do this to you, because I'm pretty sure that I can't!" He looked so hopeful at his argument that he wouldn't remove Rachel's free will because it was just too tricky for him to do.

Finn Hudson had never, ever been smart.

"I'm calling my dads," she said, gathering her things, "and I'm going home."

"Are you breaking up with me?" Finn asked desperately.

"I'm going home," Rachel repeated. "I don't know what that means just yet. I'll tell you when I do."

"Rachel!"

"Sam's right," Rachel said before she left his room. "You really need to think about what you're doing. Because right now you're directionless, and you could be incredibly dangerous if you do the wrong thing." She couldn't look at him any more. Had he lied about her own memories? She couldn't be sure. "Like this."

"Please don't go," he said just above a whisper.

"I'm going to wait in the living room for my dads to come by," Rachel said. "Stay up here, please."

The request turned out not to matter, as Burt was heading out to go look for Kurt and he gave her a ride home. They didn't say a word, since they could have done little but try to reassure the other that Kurt would be fine and Finn hadn't accidentally locked away everything that made him himself. "Thank you, Mr. Hummel," she said when she was being turned over into her dads' care. Leroy had suited up, while Hiram looked ready to watch her at home. "Please let me know when you hear something?"

"Will do," he said, and then looked at Leroy. "Which way are you headed?"

"I heard from Sue. She wants you to check the Puckerman place. She and I are doing broader patrols, since we're trained."

Burt nodded, then drove off without another word.

"Come on, sweetie," Hiram said and led Rachel inside. "You know," he finally said when he'd put a plate of warm food in front of her, "there's gossip among the circles of people who're like... this. It can be a little tricky to have a telepath close. Why, Scott Summers over on the X-Men has dealt with—"

"Not now, please," she said, and he thankfully stopped talking.

* * *


Puck kept staring at his hands. He wasn't really looking at them; his head was heavy and drooping, and they were resting on his legs. They were just there.

He remembered putting those hands on someone who had every reason to believe that nothing good could happen, and proving him wrong. He remembered being trusted, being treated like he was worth something and that he was someone to rely on, instead of someone who always fucked things up. He remembered smiles, laughter, tears. He remembered being in love, in one of the very few times in his life when he'd really opened his heart instead of just his fly.

And he remembered laughing as he picked up Kurt and threw him into the trash.

He didn't know if S.H.I.E.L.D. had specifically programmed him to behave that way, if they'd just pushed his worst tendencies to the forefront, or if they'd simply removed his memories and waited to see what happened. If it were option one, nothing was his fault. Option two, they still had to take some of the blame. Option three... he didn't know if he could forgive himself. Not after what he remembered, and after the feelings that had been stirred in his heart again. And he didn't have a clue which it might be. He could have been programmed to act out a sick and twisted play, or he could have been hurting Kurt because he thought it was genuinely fun and didn't have any real reason not to.

But no matter what the answer was, Kurt would remember all of it. He'd remember Puck as the guy who did that to him.

So, when Puck heard Burt arrive and ask if Kurt had come by, his mom said no. Puck didn't yell down to correct her. Burt didn't come up to see him, to read him the riot act about treating his son right. The door slammed, and he drove off.

It wasn't surprising that Kurt had gone to see someone else.

* * *


Lima flew past Kurt's eyes, though no one saw him. He dropped off the Winnebago's ladder when it slowed for a turn at an intersection. A pickup was waiting for its light to turn green. When it accelerated toward the next block, it had an invisible passenger in its bed. He made his way over miles like that, always conscious of traffic cameras and anything else that Sue might be able to access remotely in search of the runaway teenager. He couldn't hide from them entirely, but he tried to use the truck's walls and angles to his advantages whenever possible.

Kurt hopped into another pickup when he needed to change directions. For once, he was glad to live where he did, surrounded by farms and fields; tiny urban cars would have been very hard to hold onto. When he got within a few blocks, he just ran under the summer sun. His sword smacked his hip and stress pounded at the base of his skull.

There was no convenient lattice against the wall to scale, nor a tree branch that arced right to the window. Kurt had to climb a tree in a neighbor's yard, scoot out to where one of its branches just barely supported his weight, and then try to land on the roof without crashing through to the attic. He rolled to lessen the chance he'd be heard, then nearly flew off the edge because of it. His fingertips latched onto the rain gutter, and after a panicked second when he was worried that it would wrench loose, Kurt pulled himself back onto the roof.

Panting, he took a minute to collect himself. He looked a mess, and a cough lingered in his throat from all the summer dust on the road. A short break would give their attention a chance to wander if he had made noise, but as he took it he became aware of how hot it was on the black shingles. The Kurt Hummel who didn't have powers would have complained about all of that. After superpowers, the reveal of their histories, and the knowledge that they were marked for death, he'd reassessed his priorities.

Now that he'd stopped thinking through what was necessary to implement this 'mission,' all of the earlier pain and fear began to rush back in. He'd felt like he'd been able to choose so little in his life. He struggled against what the world did to him, but sometimes it was still futile. Sometimes people got to do what they wanted to him and everyone else looked the other way. It turned out that people even thought they were justified in altering his entire life to suit their purposes, and the worst part was that they might be right.

This wasn't right, though. There was no way this could be right. After painful rounds of pretense and abuse, Kurt had the comfort of romantic contact that was desired. Wanted. Chosen.

He never would have chosen Noah Puckerman for a single first. But he could choose what happened from that point out.

He didn't know what had happened back in New York to create those memories, thanks to Finn's block, but he knew it had to have been forced on him somehow. Maybe he'd been too lonely and tired, and had just given in? Maybe Puck had made a bet about how he could even land a guy, and everything was a lie. Maybe... the possibilities were too awful to think about.

Unable to hold back any more, Kurt hung over the edge of the roof and looked in the window. Seeing Blaine alone in his room, he knocked on the glass. Blaine looked up and frowned, so Kurt knocked again.

"Hello?" Blaine asked when he'd walked to the window, opened it, and peered toward the grass like someone must be throwing rocks. Kurt blinked at him, as he was just a few inches away, and then realized he'd never dropped his invisibility. When he popped back into sight, Blaine yelped and stumbled backward over his own feet. Kurt winced at the heavy thump, and stayed invisible when his father came in to see if everything was all right. His head started to pound from hanging upside down.

"I was looking out the window," Blaine said after a few flustered seconds. "A bird flew into it. I was just startled."

"Hrm. Is it hurt? That'd be a long fall...."

"It flew off. Everything's fine." Blaine's smile grew far too wide. "I'm going to practice songs, all right?"

Rolling his eyes tolerantly at what Kurt knew was a loud setlist for the theme park show, his father nodded and closed the door behind him when he left. Blaine counted to three, and then rushed back to the window.

"Pop the screen out," Kurt said. "My head is killing me."

Staring at him, Blaine did as requested and tucked the screen neatly between the back of a chair and the wall. "What in the world are you doing?" he asked as Kurt slid through the window and felt his blood flow back toward his feet. "You could have warned me you were going to do that. My parents are going to be furious if they know you snuck in like... Kurt?" he asked when he noticed Kurt's broken expression.

"I had to get out of there," Kurt said after a long, choked pause.

"What happened?" Blaine asked cautiously, and brushed dust off his shoulder with clear surprise that his clothing was dirty.

"I...." He couldn't find the right words. "Can you hug me?" he asked instead.

Blaine obediently pulled him tight and close. The warmth of his body mingled with the summer afternoon pouring through the open window, and it all circled around Kurt's overheated body from the trip down the roads. He wanted to pass out. "Are you okay?"

"No," Kurt said into the side of his head. "No, I'm not okay."

Hands stroked his back. "Do you want to talk about it?"

No, but he had to. He'd lied, after all, even if he hadn't meant to. He didn't want to be like Finn and lie when he knew better.

This revelation had made the decision for him: Kurt Hummel's life was far better than Kurt Hutton's. Kurt Hummel had mocked the cocky boy humiliating him each morning, not fallen in love with him. He knew what he wanted. The sword on his hip felt like a silly toy, now. It was time to set things right in this life. "Finn lied to me when he said I hadn't dated anyone in New York," Kurt said, a little surprised that he managed to get everything out.

"Oh," Blaine said, and pulled back to take in his expression. He didn't look mad, and concern was outweighed by curiosity. "And?"

"I remembered everything," Kurt said bitterly. "For about two seconds, before he wiped my memories again."

"What?" Blaine asked, nearly choking on the word.

"All I remember is what happened, not how I felt." Kurt's shoulders sagged. "But I do remember the 'what.' Parts of it, at least."

"All right," Blaine said carefully, and led Kurt to a chair. "It's fine that you had a boyfriend in New York, Kurt. You look nervous... did you think I'd be mad about you dating someone before we ever met?" When Kurt didn't reply, he knelt in front of him. "You're upset about having your old life overwritten."

Kurt nodded.

"You're upset about Finn doing the same thing today."

Kurt nodded again.

"And you're upset that this old boyfriend...." He frowned and worked through that. "Were you still dating when you were taken here?"

"Yes," Kurt said dully.

"You were only fifteen," Blaine said, clearly trying to figure out just what Kurt had discovered and then lost. "So I can't imagine you were very...." He trailed off at the hollow look in Kurt's eyes, and swallowed. "Oh," he said at that silent confirmation that Kurt had become very physical with that boy, long ago. "I wouldn't have guessed that," he admitted, which had to be an understatement considering how awkward Kurt had been on the topic. "And... and I can see why that would upset you."

For an instant Kurt wished he had Finn's powers. Did Blaine think he was cheap? Was fifteen too young? Was he already pulling away now that he knew that Kurt had slept with someone else, and that they'd never officially broken up before the government swept in? That he'd been comfortable with that other boy like he hadn't yet with Blaine? "It was bad," he said when Blaine seemed to want more of an answer.

"The relationship was... cruel?" Blaine asked.

"I don't know for certain," Kurt was forced to admit, "but it must have been. And I just can't believe that I lost everything to someone who—"

"Kurt, Kurt, stop," Blaine said, and took his wrists in his hands. "If you don't remember more than a few pieces, how do you know it was bad? This already has to be traumatic. You don't need to make it even worse."

He'd never be able to explain everything. He just needed to say the basics and get it over with. "Because I didn't want my first time to be with Puck," Kurt said. It felt like the words vomited out.

Blaine looked at him for a long time, and stayed very still. Then he stood and moved away.

A tiny, pained noise escaped Kurt, but he didn't reach for him.

"Oh," Blaine said quietly. "I suppose that makes sense, after how you two have been acting. Right in front of me, too."

"Please," Kurt said and wiped away a tear. "I didn't know. I am horrified by this, can't you tell?"

"You haven't been acting horrified around him," Blaine said. He sounded incredibly hurt, and the attempt to guilt Kurt made things a million times worse.

"You think I'd cheat on you," Kurt said. "You actually think I'd cheat on you."

"I don't... I didn't like seeing how he acted around you. Now I know that he was trying to make up for lost time. And you were defending the actions of your boyfriend." Blaine nodded. He sounded like he was giving a school presentation: totally detached. "Everything makes much more sense now."

"Oh my god," Kurt said, his eyes rimmed with red, "he is not my boyfriend. You are."

"You never broke up with him," Blaine pointed out. "And I'm here with no superpowers, while he would fit right into your life of being a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, tearing up cities and—"

"I think he broke up with me when he threw me into the trash," Kurt said. "God, Blaine! I just learned that I somehow started dating someone who's humiliated me countless times, and I didn't get to pick how.... my first...." His breath came in gulps. "And you think I'd cheat on you." He gulped again. His voice sounded funny. "Everyone just gets to shove me around." He snorted snot back up his nose. "When do I get to pick how...." He broke entirely, then, and curled up into a tight ball in the chair. He expected to weep, but only stray tears came. His emotions instead surged with huge, gasping breaths. It took him a while to recognize that Blaine's hand was on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry," Blaine quietly said when Kurt looked up at him. "You've been saying he's a good friend... I suppose that's for now, not then. I didn't realize you still had problems with how he'd acted before."

"How could I have... my first time...." Screwing his eyes shut, Kurt hugged his knees tightly to himself. He remembered Puck very well against the backdrop of their first days in Lima: that cruel sneer, that rampaging ego as he delighted in humiliating anyone who crossed his path. If he could get along with the older Puck, fine, but to have gotten close to that awful person who'd existed before New Directions? To have given him everything?

He eventually opened his eyes again, wiped away the droplets clinging to his lashes, and then the wetness at his nose. Blaine was looking at him with concern, with those warm eyes and worried brows, with the face that had only ever hurt him by accident. Kurt abruptly reared up out of the chair and flung his arms around Blaine's shoulders, kissing him deeply. "I pick you," he said, then slid one hand under the bottom of Blaine's shirt to rest possessively on his stomach. "I pick you," he said, and relaxed into him like Blaine could do anything to him and he wouldn't protest. "I—"

"Kurt," Blaine said as he gently tried to remove Kurt's hand from his skin.

"I know I haven't gone as far as you've wanted," Kurt said against the curves of his ear. If he'd given himself to Puck, then wouldn't it be better to catch up with someone he actually cared about? The sheer, utter wrongness of that knowledge overrode everything else in Kurt's mind. He was on autopilot. Maybe Finn had done that to him, too. "What do you want to do now? We can."

"Nothing," Blaine said, and tried to reach for Kurt's hands as they roamed Blaine's body.

"I promise, he doesn't mean anything to me," Kurt said. "If that's why you don't want to do anything now, then he doesn't matter. Whatever you've dreamed about, we can do it."

"Kurt!" Blaine snapped. The tone jolted Kurt enough that he finally stopped moving. "My parents are downstairs."

But if he didn't, he'd lose him. Blaine thought he was capable of cheating, after all. "But—"

"Stop," Blaine said, and caught Kurt's face in his hands. "Stop. You said you picked me. All right. I believe you."

"You do?" Kurt asked hopefully. Finn's powers seemed tempting again, even after what Finn had done. He'd give anything to know that Blaine wasn't just placating him to stop the argument.

"I don't want you to think you have to prove anything. Not like this. Not when it's about someone else." He tried to fix the mess that was Kurt's hair, and sighed. "And I want you to stop looking so heartbroken. I can't believe I'm saying this, but... well, I don't know the specifics, but I get the feeling that Finn hurt you earlier? Not about the memory block today, but at school? When you first moved here?"

Kurt nodded. "He was best friends with Puck, after all," he muttered, and let that communicate everything.

"Do you think your brother would have done that to you on his own? I'm guessing he was influenced at least a little by whatever gave you these new lives." Blaine managed a weak smile. "Selfishly, I don't want you to forgive Puck too much. But I also don't want you so heartbroken over him being, well...."

Over him being Kurt's first everything, just as Kurt had assured Blaine he wasn't. The irony was so sharp that he could stab someone right through the heart with it.

Seeing his words getting through, Blaine nodded and wiped away sticky, half-dried tear tracks. "I'm sure it was good. I'm sure you didn't regret it. You've moved on, but it wasn't because it was so awful. I don't want you thinking that your first everything was ruined forever." He waited until Kurt looked a little more settled, and then asked, "So you've calmed down?"

"I've calmed down," Kurt said. "And I know that I am choosing program applications and auditions, not S.H.I.E.L.D."

That was the look he'd expected to see when he'd thrown himself at Blaine: love and acceptance. "That is very good to hear," Blaine said, and kissed him. "I love you." If he still sounded unsettled over what Kurt had told him about Puck, at least it fell behind other emotions in importance. They could work through this.

"I love you, too," Kurt said as he heard a car pull in front of the house. Its engine died, but it wasn't until he heard a familiar voice at the front door that he swore colorfully and nearly punched the nearby chair. "I'm not here," he said, and went invisible. "Straighten your shirt."

"Blaine!" Kurt heard his father shout up the stairs. "The woman from the government is here again. She needs to talk to you."

"Um, send her up?" Blaine said uncertainly. He looked at where Kurt was standing for guidance, but Kurt didn't trust himself to try to drop his illusions just for Blaine, and so remained an empty space in the room. "Ms. Sylvester," he said politely when Sue reached his doorway. "What a surprise."

"Is it really?" Sue asked with a thin smile.

From over her shoulder, Mr. Anderson said, "You know, Blaine, Kurt has caused quite a ruckus with everything. You should talk to him about that."

Sue looked sharply at Blaine, a serpentine smile on her face, and Kurt swallowed. She knew perfectly well that they'd talked. Recently. Her searching gaze landed behind where Kurt silently stood, and he turned to look at what had caught her attention: the edge of the window screen, just barely poking out from behind the chair. "There's been a disturbance with the hostiles I mentioned to you earlier," she said. She was able to be more polite with civilians, thankfully. "I just need to record your son's room for analysis." Then she held up a video camera and looked less like a predator when she smiled again.

"All right," said Mr. Anderson, with one pointed look for his son. Kurt felt that sinking sensation again; even if Blaine still wanted him, he'd just taken about a hundred steps back with his parents.

Sue began to raise the camera and Kurt gave up. He didn't trust himself to get safely out the window, and he certainly didn't think he could outrun her in her car if he did make it to the ground somehow. He tiptoed across the carpet and whispered right into her ear, "Don't say anything to his dad, I'll be in your front seat."

Sue glanced at where he was standing, but didn't nod. She made a show of recording Blaine's room and then said, "Done. Thank you for your cooperation. I'll be in touch again if needed. I hope it won't be." She set off walking down the hall without any further farewell to the family, and Kurt hurried after her.

He didn't drop his invisibility until he was in the front seat, strapped in and glowering at the windshield. "Guess you found me."

"That was spectacularly stupid," she said as the car set into motion. "I know most teen hormones rage like Niagara, but I figured you'd be safe for not getting tempted toward your boyfriend's bed. They put eunuchs in charge of harems for a reason, you know." When he glared at her, she raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Someone's in a mood if I can't even make a single castration joke. Well, get out your tantrum now, Porcelain. I'm about to make your life a living hell for violating orders."

"I don't have to follow your orders," Kurt snapped. "I know you're working to keep us safe, but I'm not in S.H.I.E.L.D. and I'm never going to be."

"Really," she said after a moment of hesitation.

"Really. That's a life for someone who'd be happy that they used to be with Puck, and that's not me," Kurt said thinly. "I'm Kurt Hummel, not Kurt Hutton, and Kurt Hummel already knew what his life was going to be."

"I should get additional combat pay for dealing with teen melodrama," Sue muttered. "Yes, you used to be together with Puckerman. Deal with it. Quinn woke up here in Lima and was dating Paul Bunyan. Things change." He kept glaring at her and she glared right back. "Look, I have files explaining why they changed everything that they did, but I haven't even opened them. I don't question orders, I just fulfill my assignment. And right now, my assignment is to get you back into your house and leave you so traumatized that you'll call Boo Radley a social butterfly."

"Fine."

"I got soft after a year of this," Sue said as they pulled to a stop at an intersection. "I'd been ordered to break up the club so you all would stop interacting as a group, but then the other judges started insulting you at Regionals. I figured that if you'd already been spending time together, it'd just be maintaining a status quo that worked. I felt sorry for you, I stuck up for the club. Even voted you kids as first place. When you still lost, I mentioned something to Figgins. I can terrify the man. He let your club stay alive."

Kurt looked at her sidelong. He still felt like he should be glaring.

"The end result of that move," Sue said as they accelerated down the road, "was getting my ass handed to me the next time I submitted a report. I was told to never get distracted from my goal of breaking up that club and keeping you kids apart. So that's what I did: followed orders. Because I knew they had the big picture in mind, and I'd been distracted by something that didn't matter."

"Well," Kurt said, "I've learned the same thing. Your offer doesn't matter. I already had a big picture in mind, and I'm not going to be distracted from it. Where are we going?" he asked as they turned the wrong way.

"We're going to Castle Point," Sue said, naming a subdivision that had been started and then abandoned when the real estate market collapsed. It was full of empty lots and half-finished houses that had lost the loans backing them.

"You can't torture me into agreeing with you," Kurt said. He was starting to get rather nervous, as he'd realized that Sue Sylvester was deliberately taking him somewhere isolated after he'd just angered her and thrown her trust and gifts back in her face.

"That's not the problem," Sue said, and glanced at the rearview mirror. "We're being followed and I need to take care of this away from civilians."

"What?" Kurt asked, turning around. He didn't see anything until he leaned over to peer into the mirror. A yelp escaped him. A shifting mass of shadows was flying after the car, and it was completely invisible when he turned back around for a second look. What was that thing?

"They stick to the ground, usually," Sue said as they turned past a graffiti-covered concrete sign for Castle Point. "They must be worried they'll lose us, so they're putting the energy into flying. They'll be easy marks when we face them."

"What are they?" Kurt asked, then realized what she'd said. "Wait, we?" he asked, going very pale.

"You've got one of your swords, at least. You basically know how to use it. I just need you to cover me in case something slips past my bullets."

"But—"

"Those swords are special issue to top agents, they can cut through nearly anything. Just don't pull your strikes and you'll be fine," Sue said, and then turned down a road with an empty cul-de-sac at the end.

Kurt's pulse started to pound. He desperately wanted to be playing Trivial Pursuit again: bored out of his mind, never faced with the question of the spotlight versus S.H.I.E.L.D., not knowing that Blaine hadn't been his first boyfriend, and without unknown shadow creatures coming for his head on a dead-end street. "But—"

"Unbuckle your seatbelt and hold on, you'll throw the door open as soon as we've come to a stop. Back me up. They'll become visible when they move into this dimension enough to attack us."

This was real, Kurt thought vacantly as he unbuckled. He was on autopilot again. He needed to fight to stay alive, and even if he'd had one of his worst days ever, he wanted to reach a better future. So he needed to fight. Sue screeched around the cul-de-sac and came to a stop facing the way they'd came, and Kurt shoved open his door and leapt out, sword in hand.

Sue raised her gun. When the first shadow leapt at them out of a bright afternoon sky, she put a bullet through its forehead. She took out one more and then the cartridge fell noisily to the ground. "Huge caliber," she explained as she shoved another one in. "They don't hold much."

That was enough time for a third to get through, and Kurt shrieked as he saw shifting, ethereal claws lunge at him. It was the Dementors and Ringwraiths and every movie monster rolled into one, except it was there. Focused on nothing more than keeping it from getting to him, he spun with sword raised. His arms arced down in a flash of silvery light. The metal resisted, just for a second, and then slid through flesh and bone. Inertia carried the attacker forward through the air, and the dead body smacked heavily and wetly into Kurt. It bled darkness all over his chest as he picked himself up off the rough asphalt.

Two more shots from Sue took out two more of them, then she squinted distrustfully at the sky. "I counted five in my scanner," she said with a nod toward her rearview mirror, "but they were clumped. I could have missed one."

Kurt didn't reply. It was all he could do to stare at the monster's corpse bleeding all over his chest without screaming or passing out.

She shoved in a fresh cartridge and glared at Kurt when he still didn't say anything. "Do you normally let unknown hostiles from another dimension bleed potential biohazards everywhere, or did the memory of Puckerman sticking it to you give you a deathwish?"

That was it. Kurt flung it away, ripped off his shirt and the one under it when he saw it was also stained, and used the clump of fabric to wipe his unbroken skin. "What the hell just happened?" he demanded, only then realizing he'd stalked up to Sue and was threatening her with his sword. He debated lowering it, but instead threw his ruined clothes to the ground and used that additional hand to steady his weapon. "Tell me!" He was about to snap. He had a sword. And it had been a bad day.

"Can't you tell?" Sue asked, holstering her gun. She looked entirely unintimidated by the sword near her throat. "They found you."

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