Noah Puckerman was thrown into a concrete wall so hard that it cratered. He spat out blood and grinned when a tooth didn't follow. "Is that all you got?" he asked his attacker as he lunged forward. His fist impacted the body in front of him, crumpled its armor, and he could hear something inside it snap. The figure wrapped in shadows slumped to the ground and didn't get back up.
A worried voice echoed through his head. Puck glowered and sent a thought back at the source. Stop distracting me, fearless freaking leader. Another thought followed, but Puck tried his best to ignore it. In the heat of battle he made his own rules.
"I have no idea who these guys are," Tina said as she knelt next to the motionless figure. Her bare hand reached into the shadows, hesitating on the way, and then clamped onto whatever was beneath. She shuddered and smiled as energy flowed out of their enemy and into her. Her eyes soon glowed. "Have you ever seen them?" she asked, still with the faint echo that followed absorbing another person.
Puck shook his head. "No. They hit like a sixteen-wheeler, though. And it sounded like the girls could barely get bolts through those shadows." Off in the distance, around a corner, he could hear the sounds of fighting. There was an occasional rush of steam when fireballs met jets of ice.
"I've been trying to drain them so they don't get up again," she explained. "I think we're clear here. Come on, let's go help the others." When he nodded, she led them back to the main group.
Any confidence was unfounded: they were overwhelmed. Finn and Rachel frantically tried to coordinate everyone, but it was to no avail. Their mysterious foes somehow managed to fight back against Brittany's tears in reality; a few even snapped shut with audible crackles of energy. From inside Mercedes' force field, Quinn and Santana desperately tried to fight the figures off from a distance. The enemies kept advancing.
Mike slid between enemies despite the risk and clocked them across their formless faces. He couldn't hit anywhere near as hard as Puck, but their foes couldn't lay a hand on him. The only other person risking close combat was Kurt, and although he wielded swords it made Puck's gut clench to see how close some of the swings came to him. He couldn't dodge as well as Mike and a blow would inevitably land.
"Hurry up with that blast, Mercedes!" Rachel ordered. Her sonic blasts pinged their foes with a dozen overlapping notes each second, but that barely slowed their advance.
"I'm trying," Mercedes gritted out. Inside her force field, Puck could see her energy attack wrapped around her hands. When it reached her elbows she'd be ready to fire, and that usually ended their fights for them. He hoped they'd make it that long.
Mike's foot snapped up and caught a figure in the head, but it wasn't strong enough to end things. He had to fling himself away to avoid the return blow and wound up crashing inelegantly into Kurt, who stumbled forward. All Kurt's effort clearly went into not stabbing himself, and so he was left open to the strike that caught him in the ribs. He hit the wall hard, slid down, and stayed still.
A red film washed across Puck's vision before he heard Finn's voice in his head. Puck! Calm down, he's okay! I can still feel him. He's just knocked out! It almost worked, but then one of those things made a move toward his fallen teammate. Rage surged. Puck roared, lunged forward, and ripped off the nearest shadowy head. It and the abandoned body disappeared into a puff of smoke; he grinned ferally at the sudden success and went for a second round.
Brittany slammed against the wall and crumpled. Rachel screamed and hit the ground. Every sound further shredded Puck's control. He tried to fight the shadows back, but he was the only one strong enough to rip them apart and there were too goddamn many. They kept advancing on everyone, Puck's fists couldn't fly fast enough, and Mercedes' arms only glowed halfway up to her elbows....
A deafening chorus of bullets rang out. Puck instinctively lunged to use himself as a shield, only to realize a second later that he was in no pain and that the shots hadn't been aimed at them. The strange, glowing bullets were instead lodged in the shadowy figures, who began to crumple and fade where they lay. He allowed himself a moment of relief that they'd been saved before refocusing his attention on the injuries in front of him.
"Who are you?" Finn asked warily as he knelt next to Puck.
The agent holding one of those beyond-kickass guns flipped open a badge. "Agent Klemmer, S.H.I.E.L.D. You children are violating a government security clearance and have a lot of explaining to do."
Mercedes' force blast abruptly went off. It punched a hole through three reinforced walls in a row; she'd had the sense to direct it away from anyone. "Sorry," she said sheepishly. "It built up too much to stop."
Agent Klemmer raised one eyebrow. "Who's in charge here?"
"We are," Finn said as he helped Rachel up. She still looked dizzy.
"So, not your techie?" Her question made Puck realize that he hadn't heard Artie's voice in his headset since they broke into the facility, and as if he'd been cued, the boy spoke reluctantly up.
"Hey, guys. Uh, I think they might have found out what we were doing."
"Come on," she said shortly. "You have a meeting with Colonel Fury."
As if they were trying to hold onto some shred of dignity, Quinn held her head high and asked, "Don't you mean that this... Colonel Fury wants to meet with us?"
"No," the woman said shortly. "He's going to meet with you."
I think we're really in trouble, Finn thought at everyone as they were herded toward the exit. Santana, out of her fire form, helped Brittany keep her balance as she walked. Puck watched Kurt limp on a twisted ankle and picked him up despite his protests.
No shit, Sherlock Puck thought back at him. Finn didn't pass that on to the rest of the group.
* * *
"Do we really have to ride in there?" Mike asked with a half-hearted gesture between himself and Brittany. "Because the two of us could just fly and follow... okay, never mind, we're getting in."
"What'd we do?" Kurt whispered against Puck's ear as they made their way into the chopper. Puck moved too quickly and put pressure on Kurt's injured ankle; he apologized instantly when Kurt hissed in pain. "We were just trying to find out—"
"What your parents were working on as part of the project that turned you into metahumans, we know," said Klemmer. At their surprise, she tapped her earset. "Great directional microphones."
"Wow," Artie's voice said in Puck's other ear. "Nice. I'll have to see if I can put together something that good."
"You won't be doing anything," Klemmer said. "Buckle up, kids. You're headed to the boss upstairs."
"Are you going to tell us who those shadowy things were?" Rachel demanded as she strapped herself in next to Finn. Finn kept checking on Kurt's ankle; both Kurt and Puck batted him away. "They could have killed us!"
"Yes, they could have," Klemmer said as she settled into the co-pilot's seat. "And whose fault would that have been?"
Realizing they weren't getting out of answering for whatever crimes they'd committed, the group sank morosely into their seats and didn't speak as the blades came to life and they lifted into the air. They glided past a million glowing windows; this 'Colonel Fury' seemed to be deeper inside Manhattan. "We keep getting higher," Rachel said just loud enough to be heard over the noise of the helicopter.
Puck looked outside and frowned. She was right. They were well over the spire of the Empire State Building: why? "Oh," he said dumbly when he recognized the giant flying helicarrier. He'd watched the armored airship pass overhead countless times without knowing to whom it belonged: Colonel Fury, apparently.
"Out," Klemmer demanded when the two helicopters landed. They disgorged themselves onto the landing pad. Santana still supported Brittany, and when Kurt's ankle seemed to be hurting him even more Puck didn't hesitate to carry him again. "We're making a scene," Kurt said as the group followed the agent inside.
"You love making scenes," Puck retorted. Kurt couldn't help but smile.
An imposing man with an eyepatch waited for them at their destination. If this wasn't Colonel Fury, Puck would gladly trade him for whatever was behind Door Number Two. He didn't like the looks of Angry Eyepatch. He gave the impression that he didn't have time for any bullshit and thought that every last one of them was full to the brim of it. "Sit down," Fury ordered, just as Puck saw the name on his desk and swallowed. Yep, he was the guy. "Leaders, raise your hands."
Rachel and Finn reluctantly complied.
Fury studied them for a moment, then pursed his lips and nodded. "You mind telling me what you found in that building tonight?"
Kurt spoke up, clearly confused. "Your agent already heard. We just wanted to read about what our parents did."
"I didn't ask what you came in there looking for," Fury snapped, and Kurt cowed under the tone. "I asked what you found."
"We found a bunch of guys who kicked our asses," Santana said. She looked ready to continue when a door at the side opened and, to their collective surprise, Artie wheeled in. "How the hell did you get up here?"
"Apparently I deserve my own helicopter escort," Artie said weakly. "Kinda surprised the neighbors when it landed." Artie had been directing them from his bedroom in his Hunters Point home. He'd built his own communications station inside a modified Playstation case. It was strong enough to reach Europe, could carry two dozen simultaneous conversations, and it still played all his games. "Nice flying, by the way. That road looked like a tight fit."
The man escorting him didn't smile at the compliment, and Artie shrank further into his chair and quickly wheeled himself to join the rest of his friends.
"Great comm work," Quinn said darkly as he approached. "You cut out the second we stepped inside that place."
"Not my fault!" Artie protested. "It had some sort of freaky energy field that—"
"That what?" Fury cut in, having been waiting to spring back on them when they least expected it. "What sort of readings were you getting off it?"
"...Freaky?" Artie repeated. He gulped a deep breath when Fury was suddenly in his face, living up to his name.
"You think this is a game? You think S.H.I.E.L.D. is fooling around? You kids put your toes way the hell over the line tonight and there is no going back. Not with where you went, not with the attention you got."
"But we don't know who the hell they were!" Puck said, almost yelling. It was probably a bad idea but he couldn't help it. He'd swung between adrenaline and panic that night, and their interrogation on some weirdass flying aircraft carrier wasn't helping to clear out his system.
"Puck," Kurt said in a thin, reedy voice. "Hands. Getting angry. Hands." Puck gulped and instantly let go. Kurt groaned and rubbed where bruises would show the next day and Puck felt sick with guilt.
"We don't know anything!" Mercedes said. Tears stood in her eyes. "We know our parents all work together. We know we have to go to school together because they do some sort of government... whatever. And we know that whatever they did together at work, it turned us into this. We just want to know what that something is. That's it. We try to help people. We're good. We're the good guys!"
"No. You're the minors who broke into a top-secret government facility, and we're debating whether to treat you as adults for your punishment. Who's responsible for getting you through those doors?" Fury's irritation grew as they stayed silent. "Who?"
In hesitant unison, Artie and Kurt raised their hands. "I hacked into the systems remotely," Artie mumbled, "and took care of the outer security door and the camera system. He illusioned his way past the guards and popped the inner doors to let everyone in."
"How?" Fury asked. Interest seemed to momentarily triumph over anger. "There's no path between—"
"Air vents," Kurt admitted.
Fury's eye narrowed. "They're tiny. I could see Romanoff making that trip, or Natchios, but... fine," he said when Kurt smiled weakly. "We had records of all of you using your powers inside the building," he continued, stepping back to address everyone. "You girls are hitting some serious temperatures," he said with nods toward Quinn and Santana. "If you keep developing, you'll be looking at Iceman and Human Torch territory. And you. Those tears in reality...." His lips pursed as he looked at Brittany. "Reminds me a little of the Scarlet Witch. You got any idea how much trouble she's caused over the years?"
"A lot?" Brittany ventured.
He hissed in annoyance and started pacing around the room. "A telepath, a tank, a fighter practically as agile as Spider-Man... you kids are already a pain in my organization's collective ass and you've only been together for half a year. And now we gotta decide what we have to do to keep everyone safe after your little stunt tonight."
Rachel cut in, pleading. "We know it was wrong to break in, but what was so wrong that it deserves all this? All right, so we broke a security clearance. We're very sorry. If you just tell our parents, then I'm sure they'll ground us and we can put it all behind us. We just wanted to know what might happen to us with our powers," she finished with a wavering smile.
Fury shook his head. "You think we had all those security doors there for your parents? No. They've been relocated. You know damn well what was inside that building... and if you really don't, well, we can't take that chance." His eye hardened. "So my colleagues and I are debating between mindwiping you, imprisoning you for life, or just having you all executed."
The response was chaos. The group sprang to their feet, or pounded their fists and yelled, or simply sat in shock and mouthed his words. Mercedes clutched her seat cushion so firmly that she nearly ripped it apart. Quinn and Mike shook where they sat. Puck felt one of Kurt's hands leave his to fumble for Finn's.
"Sit down," Fury yelled. Something about the man made them follow orders immediately. "You think I want to order a bunch of kids killed? No. I don't. But your idiot leaders may have set you up for that, because they had no idea what they were getting you into." He nodded at Rachel and Finn. "That's right. You get to take the blame, leaders."
"You're not really going to kill us, are you?" Tina asked. Tears filled her eyes. "We're really sorry. We didn't know."
Fury looked away, swore to himself, and rubbed a hand over his face. "No one here wants to kill you. We'll imprison you if we have to, but... option number one is that I put in a little call to Xavier's and we get a telepath to mindwipe you with that big round room of theirs."
Finn let out a short, relieved laugh. "So what, just erase our memories of tonight? Okay, that's easy. Do that."
"Speak for yourself," Santana said. "I don't want some mutant messing around with my head."
"So what, you want to go to jail?" Finn asked.
"Some of us actually have brains to worry about and we don't want a frontal lobotomy!"
"Not just of tonight," Fury said before the argument could develop further. "You've caught the attention of the wrong people. Prison would protect the world from you. It'd also protect you from them. If we mindwipe you, you'll stay free... but it won't be where anyone would expect to find you. And you won't remember who you are."
"Wait, what?" Quinn asked, half-laughing. "Where would we go? That sounds crazy. This is just... you can't do this." She swallowed. "You can't do this. Any of what you said, you can't."
"We're in a giant floating fortress and they don't have to let us go," Finn said nervously. "I kinda think they can."
"Why don't you stay here tonight?" Fury said. He smiled, but it wasn't pleasant. "We have rooms for... visitors. You can think over your options. Those of you who got injured, you can stop by the infirmary and have your wounds looked at." As before, nothing he said sounded like a question. With a sigh, they nodded at each other because there was nothing else to be done. Kurt was helped away by some S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Rachel and Brittany followed to be checked for concussions.
"This sucks," Puck said to Finn as they were led into the bowels of the ship. The agent guiding them inspected a list, and then gestured at a room for the two of them. Mike and Artie were pointed firmly toward a different door. When they stepped inside, the lock closed with a final-sounding thud.
"It's pretty much past 'sucks,'" Finn laughed darkly. He traced his hand around a metal ring on the wall; a small porthole showed the lights of Manhattan below. "You could punch through this," he said after a moment of consideration.
"Yeah," Puck said, "but I couldn't fit through it." He doubted he could widen the hole beyond what was already there. Plexiglass was one thing; reinforced metal might be another. Who knew what kind of technology the helicarrier used?
Finn frowned at the sight. "But Kurt could."
"And then, what, he falls?"
"Mike can fly." Finn seemed to remember that Mike had been directed to another room, and slumped. "And Mike's not in here. Or Kurt."
Puck raised his eyebrows. Bingo, moron. "My mom's gotta be flipping out. I didn't think we'd be this late; I said I'd be home. Do you think your folks know you do this stuff?"
Finn managed to laugh. "Crazy superhero stuff? I don't think so. Breaking into their work? Definitely not." He sat on the edge of one of the cots and rubbed his face. "Eyepatch Guy really doesn't seem to want to, um, kill us. But do you think he's serious about...?"
"Yeah," Puck finally said. "I think he is. He either wants to stick us in jail or brainwash us and move us to... I don't know. Nebraska." They sat quietly for a while until Puck asked, "How's everyone doing?"
Finn closed his eyes. A minute later he opened them and said, "Everyone's pretty scared. But we all figure that killing's not really going to happen. We hope." They both looked unhappy at the idea that they could only hope for a well-funded, well-armed organization not to kill them and sat again in silence. The engines keeping them aloft thrummed faintly in the distance. He could feel the vibrations in the deck plating.
The door opened again and Puck shot to his feet even before he saw it was Kurt. "Hey," Kurt said groggily. "We have to triple up in here. It sounds like they wanted you watching me." He was walking without a limp, but he wasn't steady. He looked on the verge of losing his balance with every step.
"You okay?" Puck asked him carefully as he grabbed Kurt's shoulders and guided him to the closest cot. Like Miss America, Finn looked ready to step in if Puck couldn't fulfill his fretting duties. Kurt had lost his balance during the fight earlier, but only because he'd taken Mike Chang squarely to the small of his back. Left to his own devices, he was in control of his body... usually.
"They shot me with something," Kurt said. He rubbed the side of his neck. His eyes were a bit unfocused, Puck saw when he checked. "I feel kind of out of it. They shot Brit and Rachel, too."
Puck and Finn exchanged a concerned look. It was unlikely those two girls had needed an injection of painkillers like Kurt would have. "See if they're okay," Puck murmured to Finn. "I'll watch him."
Kurt didn't seem to realize who was with him as he slipped quickly toward sleep. Puck couldn't blame him too much for the mistake; he was used to falling asleep in his own bed, in a small, two-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side. He probably talked to Finn a lot as he drifted off. "Mom and Dad'll be worried," he said. His eyes were closed and he seemed to be talking on auto-pilot. "We can't let them know. It's a secret. We'd get in trouble if they knew."
Sadly, Puck knew he didn't mean breaking into a top-secret government facility, or being captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. and held captive with deadly threats hanging over their heads. He simply meant that their parents couldn't know that they went out every night, hunted down petty criminals, and thumped some heads. Even that would get them grounded through graduation.
His thumb rubbed soft circles on Kurt's temple until he stopped whispering and relaxed into sleep. Puck sighed and looked around their small room: the riveted metal walls, the porthole looking down at freedom, Finn silently measuring everyone's terror.
He wished he knew how big a punishment they'd earn for what had happened that night.
* * *
"So," Colonel Fury said when they returned to his office. Puck wondered if he'd slept. He seemed like the kind of guy who wouldn't waste time on it. "Have you considered my offer?"
"What offer?" Rachel asked. She rubbed the side of her neck where Kurt had; Puck frowned at the sight. "All you said is that you wanted to kill us, imprison us for life, or forever change our memories and identities."
"Exactly," Fury said mildly. "Those are the three offers. Which do you want?"
"You can't do this," Mercedes said. "We're just kids. We're fifteen. You are going to be in so much trouble when people find out what you've been doing to us."
"I can do whatever is necessary to secure national security, and right now that means having you pick Door A, B, or C." He folded his arms across his chest. "I'm guessing you're not a fan of Door A. This is real, kids. You're not walking out of here with your powers intact. Three of you have already been neutralized, and we'll give the rest of you your shots before you leave."
Rachel, Kurt, and Brittany clutched the side of their necks in unison. They looked horrified, as did everyone else. Puck felt a stab of fresh rage at the idea that this guy thought he could just neuter them. Like the group hadn't reacted at all, Fury continued, "Obviously you can't keep your powers in prison; you'd break out. That's why it was so important to knock those two out of commission last night," he added with gestures toward Kurt and Brittany. "I didn't want someone sneaking into our control room to destroy the computers, or randomly turning her cell door into... pudding." He made an annoyed noise and muttered something about chaos powers.
That didn't distract him for long, and he picked right back up with his explanation. "And just as obviously, if you're going to be normal kids well away from where anyone would know you, you have to be normal kids. No memories of parents doing secret work, no memories of fighting crime, no memories of New York... and no powers."
"But our parents' jobs are all here," Artie protested weakly. "There's only the one place that does that kind of stuff. They can't—"
"Your parents wouldn't come with you. Your parents wouldn't even remember you. The memory wipes would affect everyone: you, them, the people in that town."
Horror slid up and down Puck's spine. He tried not to shiver or grow ill. "I'll take jail," he said flatly. Maybe he shouldn't have spoken up; they might think he was speaking for everyone. Still, he suspected that they felt the same way. If they went to jail, then they would still be them and they'd have the hope of getting things fixed. Agreeing to this mindwipe would be barely better than the execution.
Another agent came in and murmured something to Fury. He frowned, nodded, and said to the group, "I'll be back shortly. I'll expect your decision then. Consider your options very, very carefully." The door seemed to echo when he closed it behind him.
Conversation started immediately. "Would he seriously kill us?" Santana asked.
Finn half-laughed, "How would I know?" He saw everyone staring at him, blushed, and said softly, "Oh. Right. Reading minds."
"Isn't this just Alanis-level ironic?" Santana sneered. "We're the only team on the planet that has a grade-A certified moron for our telepath. And now it's too late for you to check. Awesome." Finn was terrible at picking out a specific stranger's mind from a crowd; he couldn't be sure he was reading Fury's mind unless he could see the man in front of him.
"Lay off him," Kurt said darkly. He still looked unsettled at the revelation of what Fury had done to his powers.
Around the room, others comforted each other as best they could. Quinn stared at a shard of ice above her palm as Mercedes insisted that they would be fine. Santana let go of her anger at Finn in favor of resting her forehead lightly against Brittany's temple. She whispered soothing words to her girlfriend as Brittany tried futilely to snap her fingers and tear reality.
They all seemed so damned resigned, Puck realized sickly as he looked at everyone. Mercedes' words sounded like lies. Mike looked hurt as Tina ignored him; her conversation with Artie about what they might be able to do was pointless and they both clearly knew it. Puck turned to Kurt, expecting him to be there, but he'd moved to talk with Finn. That stung, but he knew they were talking about what their parents would think and how they couldn't possibly just leave them. They'd pick jail over leaving their folks. Puck could handle himself in jail, and so could Finn, but it nauseated him to picture Kurt in there.
The two of them talking had left Rachel alone in her misery. Puck scooted over to join her. "Hey," he said.
"Hey," she replied and sniffled wetly. "I'm so sorry I got us into all of this."
"Not your fault, come on. We all wanted to know. We all thought...." Puck rubbed the back of his head. "We thought dealing with some moron thugs on the street meant we were badasses. Just because we could get into that place, we figured we could get out. We all did. Everyone got knocked off-balance by this, okay?"
She shrugged. "It seems like that's been our lives, hasn't it? Being taken by surprise."
Laughing, he gathered her against his shoulder. That was an understatement like saying her bat mitzvah had been 'a little over the top.' He hadn't expected for his group of friends to have the weirdest goddamn field trip ever, or to be able to lift a few tons over his head after that visit to their parents' work. He hadn't expected to patrol the streets of New York in an actual, real live superhero costume. Hell, he hadn't expected to fall for a dude before that dude checked out his own changes and practically pretzeled himself right in front of everyone. Puck's smile wavered as he looked at Kurt, who was still talking frantically to Finn. That day, when Santana had giggled over her fiery hand and Mike bounced off the walls, seemed impossibly long ago.
"I don't want to go to jail, Noah," Rachel said quietly.
"That mindwipe'd be worse. We'd still have our families. They'd figure out what to do next. You can fix jail."
He could feel that opinion running through everyone: they weren't happy about it, but they'd pick jail. In jail they'd still be themselves. Puck was strong, even without his powers; he could look out for them. Besides, they were kids. It wouldn't be real jail, with three-hundred pound guys covered in scars and tattoos. He could keep his boy safe until they got things fixed.
Okay. That was it. They were going to jail. Their parents would hear the news, they'd bring them home, and everything would work out just fine.
"Kids," Fury said with an abrupt reappearance. His voice was very solemn. "Have you made a decision?"
Though he tried to make sure he didn't sound like he was speaking for everyone, Puck repeated his earlier choice. "Jail. You can take away our powers, whatever. You can't take away who we are."
"You can't tell us we can never see our families again," Artie added. Everyone nodded.
Fury swallowed. He actually looked pained, which Puck hadn't expected. "I, ah. When I was called out just now, I heard some news."
"That you're going to set us all free?" Mike ventured.
Fury's mouth worked silently for a second, and then he took a deep breath and simply came out with it. "There was a secondary assault early this morning on another research facility. All personnel inside were killed. That facility was the one where all of your parents are... were employed."
"What?" Quinn asked after a long, silent moment. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying," Fury said with what seemed like genuine sympathy, "that all of your parents are dead."
"Like Batman?" Finn said blankly. His brain seemed to be slipping out of gear, but Kurt had processed Fury's words and one hand was over his mouth. His pale eyes swam with tears.
"Bullshit," Puck decided. Everyone looked at him. "You've been trying to convince us to do this brainwashing thing."
"He's right!" Santana said. "You've been on the whole 'memory wipe' kick like crazy, and we said we weren't going to give up our families."
"So you just convince us that we don't have any families left," Tina finished, smirking. "We've figured you out."
Fury looked regretfully at Finn. "Read my mind, kid. You'll see I'm telling the truth." Finn looked at him only to stagger back a moment later with tears streaming down his face. The truth hit Puck: his mom was dead. Finn had read it. His mom was gone. She was gone forever. He was distantly aware that everyone else was gasping for air like he was.
Fury held up a stack of files. "There are photographs if anyone wants to see the security footage." No one answered.
Their parents were dead, Puck thought numbly. His mom was dead. His mom was dead, and she'd been killed while he'd been off on some stupid plan to... to... he didn't even know what they'd been looking for. Had she called home? Could he have talked to her one more time? His mom wouldn't get him out of jail; she wouldn't even make soup again, or tell him to do his homework. Ever.
How could a life fall apart so much in one night?
"I still need an answer," Fury said.
"You're a monster," Quinn whispered.
"I've heard that a lot, but whatever I have to do to keep people safe, I will do. I'm assuming you all don't want to die." The unspoken 'as well' earned some fresh sobs. "So... you get locked up or I make a call to a telepath at Xavier's. Which'll it be?"
Rachel cried against Puck's shoulder, but then her hands fisted around his shirt and her head whipped up. "We told you. Prison. We're not going to have our minds be wiped, our identities stolen...."
"You mean we could forget?" Mike asked in a plaintive voice, and everyone turned to look at him.
"Mike?" Mercedes asked disbelievingly. "You want to...."
"Our parents are dead and we're about to be locked up for life," he said. His voice trembled. "We can't change that. But we can either be miserable forever in jail, or we can be happy."
"What if he's lying?" Tina demanded.
"He's not," Finn said. "Guys, I wish... I wish to god he were, but he's not."
"What would happen?" Brittany asked, looking up from the floor. "What would it be like?" Ignorance is bliss, Puck thought darkly. Of course Brittany would go for the mindwiping.
"You'll get new identities," Fury said shortly. "New homes, go to a new school... you'd be all together for monitoring, but you won't be friends. Not more than a couple here or there, anyway. Too much risk if you're all known as a group." He saw many of them start to shake their heads. "You don't have to. You can still take prison."
Puck wiped his eyes and hated that they were wet. His mom was dead and his life and freedom were about to be ripped away from him in one way or another. Still, he didn't cry. He had to be strong. He didn't cry. "Do the mindwipe," he said dully. Kurt realized he'd directed that at him and looked startled. "I don’t want you locked up. Go be somewhere else, live that life."
"If he goes, I go," Finn said. Puck felt a stab of jealousy. He was going to lose his sister, who might never know what happened to them. Why'd those two luck out and have someone going through the same thing?
"I don't want to go to jail," Quinn murmured. "I don't."
Mercedes closed her eyes. Her cheeks glistened. "I don't want to forget them, but I don't want to hurt this bad. But I can't just forget my parents. That's so wrong."
"I just want to go home," Brittany whimpered against Santana's chest. Santana softly stroked her hair and promised her that everything would be okay, but she looked sick as she lied.
"...Okay, it's settled," Fury seemed to decide as he looked around the room. "I'll just make a call."
"We didn't decide anything," Puck said warily. "Not all of us."
"Close enough," Fury said and picked up the phone. "Yeah, it's what we talked about. The details are still the same; they're ready to go."
"Wait," Artie said. "Wait, I'm not ready. I... I have all these notes on my desk for—"
"You won't need those notes," Fury said. "As soon as the mindwipe hits, all active powers will be suppressed. You'll be on a flight for your new home."
"But what about the town?" Artie asked. "They'll know we don't belong!"
"The town'll be wiped, too. It'll be waiting for you."
"I didn't say yes!" Puck cried as he felt the first tugging at his brain. He and Rachel stared at each other, and then lunged for the two boys who were still holding each other as anchors against their shared loss. "Goddammit, I didn't say yes!"
"Have a good life, kids," Colonel Fury told them as they clung to each other. Puck tried to remember: laughing as he and Finn smacked each other around after school. Asking out the cute girl from Temple, and instead turning into Rachel's bodyguard when dating didn't quite work out. Deciding that he just didn't give a fuck about what anyone thought, and feeling Kurt arch pliantly in his arms. He tried to remember, but it did no good.
The world faded.