Kurt waits by himself, away from the clump of students. He watches all of them, trying to keep his mind busy by guessing what powers everyone has.
It's as easy as it's always been. The tall kid has superstrength, and can't figure out how to control it. The pretty blonde is a shapeshifter, the taller blonde an empath (with a bit of telepathy). Also, she can understand cats. The scary brunette all over the tall blonde is pyrokinetic. Kurt's pretty sure she's the one who burned down that dump outside of town. The loud black girl has a supersonic scream and short brunette (who’s also loud) can walk through solid matter at will. They’re busy yelling at each other about someone named Noah (or Puck? it isn’t at all clear), and Kurt turns away.
Coach Sylvester is running late, so Kurt keeps playing, focusing on the goth now. She’s standing by a kid in a wheelchair, which is interesting—he can heal, so why is he still in the chair? Kurt tilts his head, looking closer. The kid can’t heal himself; that sucks. The goth can levitate, and she also has a touch of telekinesis. With enough practice and control, she’ll actually be able to fly.
Two boys are huddled next to each other, so close they’re almost touching. The black one can make illusions; the Asian can control the weather. Well, a little bit. Mostly wind, right now, though eventually he’ll be able to control water, too, and make storms.
Coach Sylvester stalks in, finally, as Kurt is looking at the last kid in this batch, a boy with a mohawk. He focuses his attention on Coach, though he already knows her ability well; she’s a shapeshifter, but only turns into predators, so it’s no wonder that everybody thinks she’s so tough on those perceived as ‘weak.’
Like Kurt, actually. He’s already sorted everyone, and all of his predictions come true: superstrength, shapeshifter, pyrokinetic, supersonic, walker, and weatherboy are all heroes. Everyone else is hero support (read: wimps) and then Coach orders Mohawk to the center.
He smirks at her and strides forward with a sarcastic salute and “Ma’am, yes, ma’am.” He flicks a glance over everyone and then—winks at Kurt? No way, Kurt must have seen that wrong. And he can’t get a good read on the kid’s power, so he’s as shocked as everyone else when the room goes dark. Even the pyrokinetic can’t do anything about it, if her muttered curses are anything to go by.
Coach is yelling when the lights come back and Mohawk’s gone. Kurt sees him, though, in the shadows on the far side of the room. Then Coach notices him and bites out, “Hero,” between clenched teeth.
She points at Kurt and snaps her fingers. He knows what they all see as he walks forward: his fancy clothes and perfect hair, short stature (he’ll get taller soon enough, and he’s patient) and pale skin. He looks just like his mother.
“Power,” Coach Sylvester says, and Kurt really wishes he could call her Auntie Sue here. He’s nervous. He can read compassion in her eyes, but before he can do anything, the next batch of kids trump in, and one of them (no, not Azimio, not this year, please) barks out a laugh about the faggy fairy.
Kurt really hates Azimio. He has for years, ever since Azimio parroted something his father said about Kurt’s mom and proceeded to run with it. No one actually knows what happened to Kurt’s mom. No one except Auntie Sue and Dad and Kurt.
He’s refused to reveal his power to Azimio before. While Coach Sylvester harangues the group and forces them back outside the gym, Kurt comes to a decision.
“I’m sorry, Coach,” he says, hands clasped in front of him and looking up at her with sincere, innocent eyes, “but I don’t believe in power placement. It’s a terrible practice, and all it does is force students into discriminatory and detrimental cliques.”
Dead silence while Kurt watches his Auntie Sue try to peek out of Coach Sylvester’s eyes. “Let me see if I understand,” Coach Sylvester growls. “You’re refusing to show me your power?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Kurt says respectfully.
“Sidekick!” she roars.
It’s going to be a long four years, Kurt knows. He can already see the friendships forming, and the enmities.
He settles at a table in the far corner of the lunchroom, finding with ease everyone from his group earlier: the two blondes (Quinn and Brittany) are with the tall kid and the pyrokinetic (Finn and Santana). They’ve already been taken under a popular upperclassmen’s tutelage.
Supersonic is eating with Healer and Goth (Mercedes, Artie, and Tina), while Illusionist and Weatherboy (Matt and Mike) are still huddled together, seemingly pooling their lunches, a few seats down. The Walker is making her way towards them, having just left a conference (read: she did all the talking) with the lunch monitor; Auntie Sue, Kurt’s pretty sure, has complained about him before. She always has something to say about his hair.
Mohawk steps out of the shadows behind Kurt and sits next to him, stealing the cookie off his plate. “’sup?” he says.
Kurt honestly did not see that coming. Seems to be a theme with Mohawk (Noah or Puck, depending on who’s talking).
“The heroes are over there,” Kurt says, nodding towards the bright center of the room.
Noah (Puck? Kurt hasn’t decided yet) smiles at him. “I’m good here,” he says, snatching Kurt’s drink next (he treated himself to a Coke today; back to water, tomorrow).
Azimio laughs loudly; Kurt knows why. There are all sorts of rumors about Kurt’s mother. About Puck’s father, too. They vanished around the same time.
“Call me Noah,” he says, leaning back against the wall. His eyes are dark, his smirk dangerous. “You and me, we could be something.”
A thousand different paths play out in Kurt’s mind. Most of them end badly, whether for him or someone else.
Azimio laughs again. Kurt divides his chicken in two and takes his Coke back. “Got anything in mind?” he asks.
That afternoon, Noah sits next to Kurt on the bus. They don’t have any classes together, of course, and will see each other at lunch or in the halls, but Noah asks Kurt for help with his homework. For the rest of the year.
(In a month’s time, Azimio will say something to Noah instead of to Kurt. Azimio has just enough telekinesis to warrant being a hero. Noah will slam him against the wall and whisper something about hungry shadows. Azimio will not even look at Kurt again until the beginning of sophomore year.)
Dad isn’t home when Kurt leads Noah to the kitchen and offers him a snack. Noah explores the downstairs while Kurt straightens up a bit. (A thousand paths, each slightly different.)
“This your mom?” Noah calls from the den.
Kurt walks in and stands beside him, looking at the beautiful woman in the photo. She had been so powerful… a reality shifter, the history books called her. Strongest hero in the world. No one knows she was Kurt’s mom. No one but Auntie Sue, and Dad, and Kurt.
“Yeah,” Kurt says. She’s wearing normal clothes in the picture, standing in Dad’s embrace, holding Kurt. He’s three, and grinning, and didn’t understand then what he understands now.
He wonders if Noah has any pictures of his father at home.
Noah turns away and flops on the couch. “So,” he says, grinning up at Kurt. “Let’s talk long-term goals.”
A thousand paths.
This is how it starts.
Finn had grown up with Noah Puckerman. They had never really been anything more than acquaintances, but Finn was glad to see a familiar face on the bus and then at Power Placement. Two other kids he knew—that loud Berry girl and Mom’s friend’s daughter Mercedes—were already arguing over Puck, something about a carnival and a stuffed bear. Puck, of course, was grinning at the attention.
Two blondes and a smoking hot brunette were huddled together; a black kid and a not-as-tall-as-Finn Asian were practically wrapped around each other; and a boy in a wheelchair and a short girl in all black were talking about videogames.
That left one boy on his own. He was tiny and in fancy clothes, with a cold look on his face.
(Much later, Finn will realize he felt apprehension running down his spine.)
A tall blonde lady stalked in, growling. She shouted, “Hudson! Front and center!”
Finn hurried to the middle and waited for her next order.
“Power!” she said. “Snap to it, Tall Kid.”
“I—I’m strong,” he stammered. “Like, superstrong.”
“Prove it,” Scary Blonde Lady said, and she pulled out a remote, hit a button, and a car fell from nowhere to land on him.
“What the hell?” he yelped, tossing it off. “Are you crazy?”
“Hero!” Scary Blonde Lady announced. “Next up, Berrilicious.”
Rachel Berry flounced forward and stood as tall as possible. Scary Blonde Lady raised an eyebrow as Rachel said, “I know who you are, Coach Sylvester, as my fathers have told me all about this school. But the rest of my classmates, I’m sure, aren’t as lucky. You should introduce yourself.”
Everyone stayed quiet, waiting for Scary Blonde Lady—Coach Sylvester?—to pounce. She really reminded Finn of his mom’s cat, right before he tried jumping through the window after a bird.
After a long moment of Rachel staring up unflinchingly and Scary Blonde Lady staring down in awe? shock? bemusement? Scary Blonde Lady said, “I am Coach Sylvester, the closest thing to divinity any of you pus-filled, bacteria-making factories will ever come. I am a shapeshifter, in command of all predatory shapes. I don’t tolerate weakness in any form, so don’t try to wimp out of anything.” She glared at Rachel. “Now, power!”
Smiling, Rachel clasped her hands together. “I can walk through solid matter, Coach Sylvester. I’ve experimented with numerous things and—”
“Sidekick!” Coach Sylvester bellowed and Rachel actually fell back a step. She quickly turned and hurried to her place next to Mercedes.
“Lopez,” Coach Sylvester said.
The gorgeous brunette sauntered up and purred, “I create and control fire, Coach.”
Lopez went back to the two blondes, smirking.
“Brittany,” Coach Sylvester said, and she almost sounded kind. “Has your ability evolved at all?”
“No, Coach,” the taller blonde said. “Lord Tubbington is still trying to be friends with the mice in the walls.”
“Sidekick,” Coach Sylvester said gently. “Stick with the living flint and sticks there.”
“Yes, Coach,” Brittany shouted, bouncing in place. Lopez hooked their pinkies together and Finn only looked away when Sylvester called the next name—Jones. Mom’s friend’s daughter.
They used to play together. She was almost as scary as Sylvester.
“I got a supersonic scream,” Mercedes announced. “I can bust things up.” Finn knew that well.
Sylvester nodded, assessing her. “Hero.”
The not-as-tall-as-Finn Asian kid stepped forward when Sylvester called, “Chang!”
He kept looking away from her and mumbled, “I can make wind.”
Puck laughed and didn’t even try to stifle it.
Chang ducked his head. “I mean, like, when I get angry and stuff. I knocked a tree down once. It almost squashed a house.”
“Well, I guess you could be a hero. One day. With practice.” She sneered. “Now, get out of my sight.”
He fled back to his friend, who went to Sylvester next at her yell of “Rutherford!”
“Power,” she demanded.
In the far corner, light bloomed. It looked like a spiraling galaxy, and then flowers blossomed from the stars, and Finn had never seen anything so beautiful.
Even Coach Sylvester was caught up in it and nearly an entire minute passed before she said, “Sidekick, Illusionist.” He smiled and sedately walked back to Chang.
Five left. Sylvester called the wheelchair kid (Abrams) and then demanded, “Why haven’t you healed yourself, Doc? Sidekick!”
He gaped up at her and spluttered something before turning sharply and wheeling away.
The pretty blonde daintily stepped up at a barked, “Fabray!” and said “I’m a shapeshifter, Coach.” She grew and widened until a second Sylvester stood in front of them. “I can become anyone or any living thing I want.” From Sylvester’s form, she grew taller still and turned into a thin palm tree. She only held the form for a few seconds before returning to the pretty blonde shape.
“Nice,” Coach said. “Hero!”
Finn stared at her in wonder as she walked back to Lopez and Brittany. She smiled at him.
“Cohen-Chang!” Sylvester called.
The girl-in-black shuffled forward and stuttered, “I—I can levi-levitate.” She proceeded to do so and got about half a foot off the ground before falling back down. She stumbled but stayed upright.
“Well, that’s barely useful,” Coach said, waving a dismissive hand. “Sidekick.”
Puck smirked at Coach when she ordered, “Mohawk, up here.” He strode forward, gave her an obviously sarcastic salute, and said, “Ma’am, yes, ma’am.” He looked away from Coach, let his gaze pass over Finn, and winked at—Finn turned to see the fancy kid, and then the room went dark.
Finn really didn’t like Puck’s power; he never had. It was why they never became better friends. No one else seemed to like it either; Lopez was cursing in Spanish and Coach yelling when the lights came back. Puck was across the room and it took a few seconds for Finn to find him in the shadows.
Coach glared at him and looked even scarier. “Hero,” she grit out between clenched teeth.
Finally, it was the last kid’s turn. Finn had to pee and he was hungry and ready to be a hero. Sylvester pointed at the boy and snapped her fingers. He walked smoothly forward, all fancy clothes and perfect hair. He was the smallest boy there and paler even than the girls.
“Power,” Coach said, and there was something gentle in her tone.
But before the kid said or did anything, a group of loud kids barged in. Finn looked at them; a large black boy in the front laughed and said, “Hey, look at the faggy fairy! Thinks he can be a hero? Not a chance.”
Coach Sylvester charged forward, and now she was terrifying, like a mama bear—or a lioness. Yeah, a lioness when hyenas get too close to her cubs.
The kids left and Coach circled back to the boy, who said quietly, “I’m sorry, Coach.” He clasped his hands and gave her such an earnest look that Finn wanted to bundle him away somewhere safe. “I don’t believe in power placement. It’s a terrible practice, and all it does is force students into discriminatory and detrimental cliques.”
No one dared move or make a sound while Coach stared at him. “Let me see if I understand,” she growled. “You’re refusing to show me your power?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said.
Coach Sylvester roared, “Sidekick!”
The kid nodded and returned to his spot, away from everyone else.
Sylvester looked them over and said, “Lunchroom, all of you. Wait for the rest of your class there. Adelaide’ll be by with your schedules once everybody’s been sorted.”
Rachel perked up. “I know the way! Follow me.” She strode determinedly toward the doors and they all fell in behind her, the fancy kid last. Finn hurried to catch up with the shifter and her companions.
“Hey,” he said. “I’m Finn.”
“Brittany!” Brittany said. “And this is Santana.” Lopez nodded.
“Quinn,” the shifter said. She gave him an assessing look. “Sit with me,” he told him. “We should make a plan.” She smiled, linking their arms. “We could rule this school one day.”
Finn couldn’t help but grin. Soon he’d be a hero, and a pretty girl had picked him, and life seemed so good.
(Much later, he’ll realize this isn’t the beginning he thought it was.)
Despite what he’ll say later for badass cred (though Kurt never believes him, of course) Noah Puckerman had no plans when he started McKinley, beyond being so badass nobody messed with him. He already knew most of the kids in his class; he and Finn went way back, even though Finn was a wimp and terrified of Puck’s power. (Which, okay, is kinda smart, considering how fucking badass Puck’s power actually is.)
Puck followed his plan pretty well, all things considered. But no one could possibly plan for Kurt Hummel.
Looking around power placement, Puck assessed everyone and moved on. None of them were threats, though Puck decided to keep his distance from the pyro, for personal reasons he would never tell anyone. (Kurt, of course, already knows. So does most everyone, in fact, but nobody ever has the guts to bring it up to Puck’s face).
One kid caught his attention: the smallest and fanciest boy there, the one also looking around with an assessing eye. Puck winked at him when his turn came, and kept his gaze on the kid when the lights went out.
The kid didn’t panic or get angry. He smiled. Puck wanted to make him smile forever… which would ruin his badass image at the starting gate. He’d have to make the kid’s life a living hell to fix things.
Then the jackasses walked in, right before the kid’s turn, and called him a faggy fairy who could never be a hero. The kid looked resigned; Puck’s mind was made up. This kid would be his project, a badass in the making. Even if his power was something lame (which, wow could Puck have been more wrong about that?), the kid had major stones, refusing placement to Sylvester’s face, and Puck was so badass he could make anyone cooler. It was like his second power or something.
The loud girl led the way to the lunchroom to wait for their schedules; Puck’s project brought up the rear.
Puck settled into the shadows in the cafeteria, watching everyone. The pyro stayed with Finn, Quinn, and Britt, and the rest all divided up how they’d been during placement: Wheels and Floaty Girl, Mercedes and the loud girl, Matt and Mike—and they were cool, he needed to catch up with them later. Puck’s boy was by himself. He stayed that way when the rest of the class trumped in.
The kid who mocked him was in front; he sat next to Finn. The rest of his group filled up Finn’s table.
A small mousey lady walked in. She cleared her throat and waited; no one noticed her but Puck and his boy—needed to learn his name soon—so she cleared her throat again. And again.
Finally, Puck was just embarrassed for her, so he said loudly, “Shut the fuck up, boys and girls.” It shocked them all to silence.
“Thank you,” the mousey lady said. “But please, watch the language.” She looked around, so nervous Puck wanted to wrap her in a thick blanket and keep her safe. What was in the air at this school? His badass cred kept sinking.
“I’m Ms. Pillsbury,” she said. “I’m the guidance counselor here at McKinley. If any of you ever have questions about your powers or your life, or anything at all, really, come to me and I’ll help.” She smiled earnestly. “Now, I’ll call your name and give you your schedules. A sophomore will be waiting outside to help you.”
The first name was Wheels, Artie Abrams. Puck remembered when he used to could walk. Puck was glad Wheels didn’t remember why he couldn’t anymore.
Next was the punk who badmouthed Puck’s boy, Azimio Adams. Puck’s boy was right after Finn: Kurt Hummel. He met Puck’s eyes as he walked out.
Puck’s guide was a kid slightly taller than him, with shaggy blond hair. “Hey!” he says excitedly, holding out a hand. “I’m Sam Evans. I’ll show you around, where your classes are.”
“Puck,” Puck said, shaking his hand.
Sam could control plants. After a few minutes consideration, Puck decided that was actually much more dangerous than it seemed. Sam told Puck that Ms. Pillsbury was an empath who didn’t get proper training as a girl. “She nearly had a breakdown,” Sam confided. “She’s kinda useless around here, but she’s just so sweet.”
Puck nodded. He already fully agreed with that.
Sam showed him each classroom and shared something about the subject or teacher. “You’ll go to afternoon classes today,” Sam said. “Tomorrow will be a normal day.”
By the time they made a full circuit of the school, it was lunch. Sam walked him back to the cafeteria, then after a quick check, abandoned him in the lunch-line. There was a full table waiting for him; Sam sat next to a short kid with crazy, curly-ass hair.
Puck glanced around, listening to shadows—there. There was his boy, Kurt. Alone by a mess of shadows, with a full meal in front of him and an ice-cold Coke. Much better than the tacos the school was serving, trying to pass off as real food.
Puck slipped into a shadow, stepping out by his boy. Kurt didn’t even look surprised and Puck sat next to him, stealing the cookie off his plate. “’sup?” he said.
Kurt said frostily, “The heroes are over there,” nodding towards the table with Finn and Adams and a dozen other annoying people Puck just couldn’t care less about.
“I’m good here,” Puck said, snagging the Coke for a long gulp. “Call me Noah,” he added, setting down the Coke and leaning back against the wall. He gave Kurt his most dangerous smirk. “You and me, we could be something.”
Kurt looked at him for a long minute and then divided his chicken in two helpings. As he took back his Coke, he asked, “Got anything in mind?”
Yeah, this kid had something about him, something different from everyone else. He wasn’t a project anymore. More like a future partner.
They talked through lunch, about what their guides—Kurt’s was telepath named Blaine, the kid next to Sam—said about the school. They didn’t have any classes together, but Puck said that didn’t matter.
Smiling, Kurt agreed.
When Kurt is three years old, he tells Kathryn about a possible future. He’s too young yet to understand what he sees, but Kathryn comprehends it fully.
Kurt sees a world on fire and then a mother’s grief destroying everything. Kathryn fights every minute to keep her temper checked and her pain at bay, but when her childhood friend kills her son in a fit of rage because his son refuses to join him…
Well. There’s really only one option, isn’t there?
Kathryn is the most powerful person in the world. If her father hadn’t been a dampener and blocked her ability, she would’ve unmade it all as a girl. But she learned to only do things when she really meant it.
So she hugs Kurt close, kisses Burt passionately and takes him to bed, and plans.
When Kurt is eight years old, Inferno makes the first move of his decade-long plot to take over the American government. He tries to use his son, Noah, but Noah’s power is still mostly undeveloped and while he can communicate through shadows, he can’t transport anyone through them yet. Kurt tells Kathryn the possibilities, but still doesn’t understand.
Kathryn holds her son one last time. She kisses Burt and promises she’ll always love him.
And then Shade challenges Inferno and removes them both from existence. Abraham will never kill Kurt and Kathryn will never destroy the world in her despair.
(What Kurt didn’t tell his mother: one day, he’ll make the same choice, but it won’t be for the world.)
Sue’s best friend, from kindergarten on, was Kathryn Morana. They were both ‘shifters, both beautiful, both strong—they’d either be friends or enemies, and when Kathryn smiled instead of rejecting Sue’s proposal, the future was set.
Sue’s older sister, Jean, died at twelve years old, when Sue was five. Sue barely remembered her, but she missed what could have been. Her parents were around even less after that, leaving her with tutors and nannies.
When they were thirteen (older than Jean would ever be) during what was becoming a nightly sleepover, curled up together in Kathryn’s bed, Kathryn whispered, “I could bring your sister back. You wouldn’t be alone in that big ole house, then.”
Sue thought about it. She really did. And then she said, “No, Kathy. I’ll just move in with you.”
Kathryn held Sue through the first broken heart and Sue told Kathryn to go for it with Buster Hummel, the non-powered mechanic whose laugh caught her ear. (Sue took him out for a test-run first, of course. He was a good guy. He’d be good for Kathryn.)
Sue understood best, perhaps, how Kathryn’s power worked. Kathryn’s father, Randall, had shielded the world from any accidents; he could dampen or completely block abilities, and that alone spared the world from any childhood tantrums. Sue was there for all of Kathryn’s early experimentation and talked her down when she really didn’t want to change something but had on accident.
After Sue was Maid of Honor and Kathryn married Buster, after Figgins finally did something right and hired Sue to teach Supers how to use their powers responsibly, after Sue went solo so Kathryn could rest—Kathryn called Sue in a panic, tears nearly stealing her voice, and she sobbed, “No one should have so much, Susie! It’s not right!”
“Kathy!” Sue shouted into the phone. “Kathy, you listen to me, girl!”
Kathryn quieted and Sue continued gently, “Don’t will away your ability, Kathryn. You’re the best person I know. You’re the epitome of good. What brought this on?”
Kathryn took one, two, three deep breaths. Then she said, “I’m pregnant. Burt’s non-powered. I… I’m the closest thing to a god there is. Our child...”
“Oh, Kathy,” Sue murmured. “I’ll be right there.” She hung up and hurried to the window, shifting to a peregrine falcon. Kathryn’s house with Buster was all the way across town.
Sue was there within five minutes. She thought Kathryn might have sped things up, which was worrisome whether or not it was consciously done. Burt was at work and Kathryn in the master bedroom, under the covers and crying again. Sue shifted to a Siberian tiger, Kathryn’s favorite animal, and stretched out next to her, waiting.
Finally, Kathryn calmed down and turned to Sue. She wrapped her arms around Sue’s neck, buried her face in Sue’s shoulder, twisting her fingers in Sue’s fur. “Sorry, Susie,” she mumbled. “Sorry.”
Sue growled a little. Kathryn laughed. “I have chocolate in the kitchen. You’re gonna make me talk either way, but I want some.”
Sue herded Kathryn to the kitchen, playfully nipping at her heels, and waited till Kathryn had sorted the Hersey kisses in two portions before shifting back.
“Your sprog will more than likely have a power,” Sue said baldly. Kathryn ducked her head and Sue continued without mercy. “Buster has no power, and his parents had no power, and his mother’s mother could heal nothing worse than a bruise. But you, Kathy—you’re a reality shifter, the most powerful person in the world. Nobody has ever been like you. Your father could shut your ability off completely and your mother manipulated gravity. Your mom’s parents were elementals; your dad’s could turn invisible and fly.” (Sue had known in-depth research would pay off one day.)
Kathryn sniffled into her chocolate. Sue said, “You’re pregnant. Your kid will most likely have a power. One day, you’ll be annoyed at the sprog, or angry, or hurt. Your power will try to lash out, to fix things. But—and remember this, Kathryn Elaine Morana Hummel—you control your power. Not the other way around. You didn’t make Burt love you or marry you. I wanted to be friends with you before you even knew I existed.”
Kathryn looked up to meet her eyes and Sue told her, “You will have this child, and you will love this child, and you will change nothing about this child. We clear?”
“Yes,” Kathryn said softly. “Thank you, Sue.”
So Kathryn told Buster she was pregnant and he had a mild panic attack, and she told him she was Shade and Sue was Raptor, and they were both superheroes (which, yeah, he knew, since he didn’t live under a rock and their alter-egos were a mite famous), and their child would almost definitely be, too. Buster had another panic attack.
But Kathryn gave birth to a healthy baby boy mid-morning on a warm Friday in the spring. If Sue believed in portents, she would’ve been reassured. (And the portents would have been fucking liars.)
“What should we name him?” Kathryn asked Sue while Buster held his son and stared in wonder at his tiny hands. “Everything we discussed seems wrong now.”
“We made him,” Burt murmured. “Me and you, Katie. We made a little person and he’s so perfect. So little.”
Sue smiled, squeezing Kathryn’s hand. “Kathryn and Burt. Kurt.”
Kathryn laughed and Buster said, “Kurt. Yes. My baby—our baby boy.”
Sue loved Kurt as much as she loved Kathryn. He was a happy baby and a giggling toddler, and Sue felt almost optimistic whenever she held him and he grinned up at her.
When Kurt was three, Kathryn called Sue and said, “I need to come out of retirement.” Her voice was tired, filled with old tears. Sorrow clung to the words.
“Kathy, what’s wrong?” she asked, already moving toward the window.
“Kurt has foresight,” Kathryn said. “He sees… shit, Susie. He sees every possible outcome. He knows things about people who aren’t born yet, about decisions that won’t be made for years.”
“What did he tell you?” Sue opened the window, getting ready to fly.
“That’s not important,” Kathryn said, her first lie in over thirty years of friendship. “Sue, will you be my partner again?”
“Of course,” Sue replied.
She took a leave of absence from McKinley, tested Kathryn’s ability for any signs of atrophy (there were none), and reintroduced Shade to the world. The world had not forgotten her.
Over the next five years, Sue and Kathryn taught Kurt little tricks to keep hold of his power. He learned to focus on what was, not what could be. They realized, with a smidge of apprehension, that he didn’t just see the future: he manipulated the present to achieve the outcome he wanted, and Randall Morana, the only dampener in recorded history, had been dead for fifteen years. The only thing to do was teach a child iron control so he didn’t unmake existence during a hissy fit.
Kurt knew, of course. But he didn’t understand. He thought it was a game, the things he saw, the things he knew, the things he could do.
And then, when Kurt was eight, Shade and Raptor confronted Inferno. Sue remembered him; he’d been a friend when they were children. He’d followed Kathryn and Sue everywhere. At McKinley, he’d gone a different way, wondering why Supers didn’t just take over. He’d married a non-powered woman, though, and had two children with her—one Kurt’s age, the other an infant. But now, here he was, still planning domination, and using his son to attempt it.
The boy was crying, and shadows all over the complex writhed. “Get him out of here!” Shade commanded Raptor, so she shifted into a gorilla and scooped him up. He was a scrawny little thing and didn’t even try to fight.
“I can’t!” the boy shouted. “Daddy, I can’t! I’m sorry!”
All of Inferno’s henchmen fled, ignoring Raptor as she carried the boy out. Something built on the air; Raptor shuddered, and the boy in her grip went silent.
At first, it seemed like nothing had happened. Raptor handed the boy off to Tempest and hurried back into the complex, and there was no sign of Shade or Inferno. No hint of a great battle, no clue to where they’d gone.
Sue knew. Burt knew. Kurt asked once why Mama left him behind when she went exploring, so he knew, too. But to the world, normal and super alike, Shade and Inferno vanished.
Kathryn Hummel died in a home invasion while Burt took their son out for ice-cream. Nobody could know about Shade’s family, so Sue arranged everything. The first time Sue cried since her sister’s death was at her best friend’s funeral.
Burt practically shut down for a few months and Sue did the best she could for Kurt. He quit asking for his mother after the first week; Sue nearly cried for the third time in her life when Kurt explained he never saw Mama in the not-yets anymore.
Sue officially retired as Raptor when Kathryn died. She returned to McKinley only after Burt resumed functioning and began taking care of his son again. She spent most afternoons and all weekends with Kurt, making sure he had total control of his power.
Kurt didn’t complain about school; he also didn’t have any friends. Sue overheard him promising his dad that things would get better once he started McKinley.
“You’ll like Noah,” Kurt said, serving Burt a small brownie. “He’s powerful, and he’ll love me.” A quick glance at Sue as she entered the kitchen, and he cut another brownie, adding, “I’ll love him, too.”
Burt looked to Sue, but she shrugged. She’d suspected since the tea parties. “Well,” Burt said, smiling at Kurt. “So long as you’re happy.”
Kurt’s grin was blinding.
Sue said, “Don’t worry, Buster. This Noah kid puts one toe outta line, I’ll tear it off.”
Kurt laughed, and Sue would remember that conversation three years later when Kurt brought home Noah Puckerman, the smart-ass shadow-walker, Inferno’s son.
Noah didn’t recognize Sue as Raptor, as the Hero who carried him to safety the day his father died. Kurt had to know—he knew everything, even if he ignored some things. But he ate lunch with Puckerman, and brought him home or went home with him, and won Save the Civilian with him (okay, that was Sue’s fault, but she was curious).
Kurt had something in the works, and he was cultivating allies. Kathryn had done something similar, their senior year, and by the second semester, Kurt already had half a dozen minions who would do anything he asked.
Most people looking in, Sue knew, didn’t look past Puckerman’s attitude and reputation. If she hadn’t known Kurt since he was a sprog, she’d be fooled, too. Puckerman was dangerous: a shadow-walker, Inferno’s son, the delinquent who terrorized fellow students when he bothered attending school at all. He disrespected teachers and threatened violence, but Sue saw how he responded to Kurt’s requests, to the touch of Kurt’s hand.
Kurt murmured a suggestion and Puckerman complied. Everybody had written Puckerman off as a villain while he was still a freshman, and he was so goddamned powerful, and Kurt… it might have almost frightened Sue (if she hadn’t overcome the fear gene as a pre-teen), the way Kurt managed Puckerman.
Burt liked Puckerman, just the way Kurt had said he would. Whatever else he did, Puckerman was clearly crazy about Kurt. Sue doubted Kurt could’ve utilized him so well if they weren’t in love (though only Kurt seemed to know it, yet). The rest of Kurt’s crew feared him, but the one thing they all had in common: they followed Kurt. Wherever Kurt led, they’d follow him.
As much as she adored the kid, Sue really wasn’t sure if that was good or not. He wasn’t the giggling toddler anymore. She barely recognized him.
Kurt’s years at McKinley passed swiftly. Sue didn’t need foresight to know what would happen next.
A few months after graduation, Kurt hugged and kissed Sue goodbye, then he did the same for his father. “I love you,” he told them both. “We’ll see each other again soon.”
Kurt took Puckerman’s hand. Puckerman promised, “Mr. H, Coach, I’ll look after him.”
Kurt blew his father another kiss and Puckerman tugged him into a shadow.
Sue closed her eyes, letting Burt wrap an arm around her shoulders.
Whatever they had planned, Sue could only hope Kurt knew what he was doing.
Of course he did.
(And when he asked his father and Auntie Sue to join him, they followed him, just like everyone else.)
Freshmen have never win Save the Civilian. Their grasp on their powers isn’t strong enough; the powers are still too new. Most heroes (and hero support) don’t even get their powers until about twelve or thirteen, and it takes years until control is as easy as breathing.
Kurt has never known anything different. His earliest memories are playing Guess the Outcome with his mother in Dad’s garage, while Dad worked on cars and laughed at the funnier things Kurt said.
Noah, he knows, has always walked the shadows. His father’s ability was the opposite; Puckerman Senior created fire. Noah can strangle it with the same care he takes in running his fingers along a shadow (the same care he’ll someday use on Kurt’s skin). Noah is sarcastic and can be cruel; he’s angry all the time, lashing out at anyone who gets in his way. Sometimes he misses days of school at a time, whenever he goes on a walkabout through the shadows. Kurt collects his assignments whenever that happens and when Noah returns, sits him down and makes him finish them all.
Kurt is the only one can control Noah and though it takes a while for everyone else, they eventually all catch on.
The turning point is Save the Civilian.
Freshmen never win it, not when paired against any students in a higher year.
Auntie Sue meets Kurt’s eyes with a smirk when she announces the teams: Puckerman and Hummel vs Rashad and Turner, two juniors. The rest of their training class starts muttering to each other; freshmen never win, and everybody knows this won’t be any different. Not even if the delinquent is part of one pair. After all, his partner is that kid who refused power placement. He doesn’t even have an ability anyone’s seen.
Kurt and Noah share a smile.
Freshmen don’t have much control over their powers. Rashad’s a telekinetic and Turner’s a speedster, top of their class in creativity and infinitesimal dexterity—that’s why Coach Sylvester picked them. Whether her endgame is simply shaking things up or actually teaching a lesson, Kurt’s not entirely sure. Probably a good deal of both, and she doesn’t know, either.
The clock starts and Kurt whispers into the shadow in his curled fist every move their opponents will make. Within seconds, their own shadows turn against them and they’re caught. Kurt gently retrieves the Civilian while Noah snickers at Rashad’s shouted curses.
Freshmen never win at Save the Civilian. Noah and Kurt just did in under ten seconds.
The gym is dead silent. (In ten years, Auntie Sue will remember this day and wonder… but she’ll never take the chance to ask.)
Azimio Adams had big shoes to fill: his father still held one of the highest records of scumbags taken down. Alonzo Adams was a dual elemental, water and air. He didn’t really control the weather so much as freeze and asphyxiate people, but either way, his was a name worth reckoning.
Azimio’s telekinesis kicked in during a tantrum when he was seven. His dad taught him the basics of control and then let him have free rein; so long as he didn’t destroy anything or hurt someone too badly, Dad didn’t care what he did. Mom was always away being a representative for the Supers with the government and Dad had his career, so Azimio spent most of his time during elementary school with a non-powered nanny. The best days were when he made her cry. Mom didn’t care and Dad just said, “Not too much mental scarring, kiddo.”
The nanny had a breakdown when Azimio was ten. He was left on his own after school from then on. He spent his time not doing homework and practicing with his power, trying to get stronger; he could barely lift the coffee table, much less a 747 about to crash. He was sure his dad was disappointed in him.
That same year, Kurt Hummel predicted the blizzard that buried a town in North Dakota, which wasn’t a big deal. But he also said that Desirium, a supervillain who vanished six months before, following a fight with Azimio’s dad, would be found when the town thawed.
Desirium made the news, his corpse discovered in a pretty nice house’s master bathtub. Nobody knew how or why, and nobody really cared, either. Desirium had driven an entire bus of children insane.
When Azimio told Dad about Hummel’s accurate prediction, Dad went off on a tirade about someone named Kathryn and her whorish tendencies and her bad taste and half-breed children who looked too much like their mothers.
Azimio didn’t understand most of it, but he realized that his father had just called Hummel’s dead mother a slut.
Which… well. Azimio wasn’t sure what to do with that. He’d kick the ass of and telekinetically strangle anyone who said something like that about his mom, and she was still alive, exerting her will on Washington.
But then Hummel was partnered with Azimio for an English project and refused to do all of it. Like Azimio had the time to read some book about a chick and her pet dolphins. When Hummel turned in his own half and no more, he didn’t even look at Azimio. At lunch, Azimio shoved him in the cafeteria and called his mom a hussy who died to leave his worthless ass behind.
Hummel ignored him, but for the rest of the year, all the classwork Azimio did mysteriously disappeared. His grades were nearly the worst in his class. He’d never be able to prove Hummel did it; he pushed Hummel around anyway, calling him names that got worse as years passed.
When he started at McKinley High, Azimio was placed in Hero, of course. His guide was Dave Karofsky, a guy who could blow shit up with his mind. He let Azimio know about the cliques and how to stay on top, and told Azimio to eat lunch at his table. Life was going good; he just needed to find Hummel and show him nothing had changed. Like Hummel actually had enough of an ability to stay in McKinley? He’d made one prediction three years ago.
Hummel ignored him like he always had, and didn’t try to avoid him, and held his head high after every insult, every shove. Hummel didn’t report it and no one said a thing, so Azimio grew more creative and daring.
A month into school, Azimio called Hummel a little faggy bitch right in front of Puck. Dave was a little ways down the hall, the rest of their group ranged up and down it. Hummel stood next to Puck and didn’t react.
All sorts of rumors surrounded Puck. Azimio figured he was a teleporter, but there was no way he’d teleport anyone out on a school grounds. Even a supervillain in the making wouldn’t be so obvious about it.
Puck lunged forward, grabbed Azimio’s neck, and slammed him into the lockers so hard his head rang. Azimio couldn’t look away from Puck’s dark eyes, and Puck leaned forward to murmur in his ear, “Shadows are always hungry, dude. You ever say or do anything to my boy again, I’ll feed you to ‘em.”
Azimio felt something slithering on his head, then on his skin all over his body. Shadows moved in Puck’s eyes, on his face, on the wall behind him.
Puck let him go, stepped back, and Azimio stumbled away. He ran down the hall, out the school, and all the way home.
He didn’t look at Hummel again until the next year and got the best grades in his entire history as a student because he didn’t focus on anything else, terrified to draw Puck’s attention.
Hummel still ignored him. Azimio was more than fine with that.
Blaine can read minds, but not control them. He reiterates that constantly. It’s why Coach Sylvester put him in Hero Support. It’s also a lie.
His mother told him to be underestimated whenever possible, to never let anyone in so far as to trust them.
Blaine is well-liked at McKinley, though no one really knows him. He hasn’t reprogrammed anyone yet, or even stolen secrets. Everyone knows Blaine Anderson is honorable, a real stand-up guy.
He meets Kurt Hummel in his sophomore year, when he’s assigned a freshman to guide. By the end of the week, he knows he’ll follow Kurt anywhere. He also knows he’ll never have a shot at being more than friends as long as Noah Puckerman is around. The two of them aren’t even together yet, anything beyond friends, but it’s so obvious they will be one day.
His mom would tell him to start planning.
Kurt’s icy gaze tells him any plan would be a terrible idea. So does Kurt’s whisper in his mind: Noah is mine. be my friend, nothing more. or… He never finishes the warning. He doesn’t need to; the image in his mind is eloquent enough. Blaine’s still shuddering at random times days later.
Two people at McKinley know who Kurt’s mother was. Blaine is Kurt’s friend and will never be anything else. He focuses on Kurt’s well-being, which involves keeping Puckerman safe, unfortunately. He lets Kurt know who could be a strong ally, who would betray them at the first chance, starts ferreting out secrets for the one person in the world he loves.
Puckerman smirks at him over Kurt’s head when they eat lunch together. If anyone else did it, it’d be cuddling. For Puckerman and Kurt, it’s simply sitting near each other.
Nothing is sure yet. At the moment, Puckerman’s seeking alliances, and there is nowhere better than the training ground of tomorrow’s heroes. (Tomorrow’s villains, too, but nobody ever talks about that.)
Kurt attends the freshmen hero support classes, Puckerman the freshmen hero courses. They’re ignorable until Save the Civilian, and then the entire school realizes what Blaine has known since the first day of the year: Kurt and Puckerman will be feared and respected and hated and loved. Blaine will be with them, and he starts marking off others.
Sam Evans, Puckerman’s guide and one of Blaine’s closest allies, joins them for lunch the day after Blaine does. Others cycle in and out, seeking Kurt’s favor without meaning to or seemingly realizing that’s what they’re doing. Everyone thinks Puckerman is the power of their duo; Blaine knows better.
Of course, Blaine can see into Kurt’s mind, though he doesn’t go in there often, and knows exactly what he’s capable of. Not even Puckerman understands Kurt’s full potential yet.
Kurt and Puckerman are still boys. All of them are still children. But Blaine imagines what they’ll become, what all the information he’s gathered will be used for, and it’s frightening in all the best ways. It’s exhilarating.
He knows what his mother would say, and he smiles.
They’re all being underestimated, and soon their names will be known, and respected, and—best of all—feared.
Kurt cannot see the future, not really. What he sees are possibilities. He’s seen them all his life. No one understands his power, not Auntie Sue or Dad. Mom did, he remembers that.
Noah asks what he sees for them, when the shadows are wrapped around Kurt and Dad’s sleeping down the hall. Kurt turns in closer, closer than close, and he whispers, I see the world, and Noah laughs, his deep, dangerous laugh.
Kurt sees a thousand deaths, none of them from old age. He sees Noah being torn apart, sees himself burned alive. He sees the world’s greatest heroes chasing them, finding them. He sees Noah dying to save him, him dying to save Noah. Sees them dying together and apart. Not once does he see them old in each other’s arms.
He tells Noah that the world will know their names, will fear them. Tells Noah the world will be at their feet.
Kurt cannot see the future. What he sees are possibilities that he can shape how he wishes.
(What he doesn’t tell Noah, wrapped in the shadows, or anytime after, is that all paths lead to a choice. As Kurt moves in Noah’s grip, leaning up to kiss him, he doesn’t say, I’ll change the world for you.
Kurt’s mother was a reality shifter, the strongest hero the world had ever known.
Kurt doesn’t see the future. He changes it. And when the greatest heroes come after them, for Noah and his pet psychic, Kurt will make the choice his mother made, and Noah will never know.)
Dave’s power came in a week before he started at McKinley. Dad had been assuring him since he was eleven that he’d have an ability since both his parents did: Dad was an empath and Mom could teleport. If both parents had an ability, Dad repeated over and over, then the child would. Some kids didn’t get their power until they were fifteen, so Dave still had time. Dave didn’t need to worry.
Mom kept saying that late bloomers never got very strong at all.
Dad told Mom to quit sniping, but she just waited till Dad wasn’t around. Dave tried to ignore her, but the best day of his life was the one where he yelled and the kitchen table exploded into shards.
Coach Sylvester put Dave in Hero. He focused on doing well for the first few months, until Mom asked why he wasn’t popular, where his friends were. She’d ruled McKinley the four years she went there.
So Dave began courting the upperclassmen. Before long, Dave their mascot, the little freshie they guided to popularity. His own classmates watched with awed eyes.
Dave’s grades stayed passing but not exemplary, and he couldn’t honestly say he was happy. But he was popular and Mom had never been prouder.
His sophomore year, Dave was assigned a freshman to guide. Azimio Adams reminded Dave of himself. He told the kid things he’d wanted to know and invited him to his table.
That first day, Dave noticed a fancy kid, hero support, being led by telepathic Anderson. He was nothing special, but Dave just looked at him for a good minute. The kid met his eyes for a moment, then focused back on Anderson.
Dave tried to ignore the kid, but apparently Azimio had a grudge against him, so he pushed the kid around and called him names, and Dave didn’t try to stop him. Azimio said the kid could see the future, which wasn’t all that impressive, and he never fought back, never asked for help.
The kid, Hummel, hung around with a punk, a bad-boy villain-in-training (and as Inferno’s son, was there any question what Puckerman would become?). No one was sure what Puck’s power was; freshmen sorted with him said he made the room go dark, which was about as impressive as Hummel’s. There was something about Puck, though; he was earning himself a rep as dangerous, as if his name wasn’t enough.
And then Azimio verbally assaulted Hummel right in front of Puck.
Dave was there to watch Azimio’s back, and a few of his friends were there because it was on the way to the cafeteria, so they all witnessed Puck’s power.
Puck physically grabbed Azimio and slammed him into the lockers; the lights in the hall dimmed. Shadows writhed on the wall and in the air, and Dave swallowed. He wasn’t scared, not like Azimio, who looked like he’d pissed his pants. But when Azimio fled, Dave didn’t blame him. And when Azimio didn’t look up from his schoolwork for the rest of the year, Dave still let him eat at the popular table.
If Puck’s reputation hadn’t been cemented by his display in the hall, he secured it forever by winning Save the Civilian as a freshman in less than a minute. Only Dave seemed to notice Hummel muttering and Puck not moving till Hummel spoke.
Dave watched from afar as Hummel and Puck held court in the cafeteria, as they made alliances and wooed the children of the most powerful people in the world.
A few of Dave’s friends ate lunch with Hummel and Puck once or twice. Dave was never invited. He told himself it didn’t bother him.
Sophomore year ended. Over the summer, Dave studied stuff he should’ve learned during the year. He didn’t hang out with his friends.
He did figure out for sure, though, that he didn’t really much care for girls.
Dad asked him, after supper one night, if he wanted to talk. Dave almost told him, but then Mom raged in the living room, about how families were a man and a woman, not fags or dykes.
Dave flinched and dropped his eyes, and told Dad he was tired, so he’d just crash now.
Junior year, Dave focused less on maintaining his popularity and tried to salvage his GPA. He concentrated on honing his ability, until he could explode a single flower petal or an entire semi-trailer, and nothing on accident.
He still needed to control his temper, but that held true with every hero and sidekick. (He sometimes fantasized about three years from now, when he and Hummel had both graduated, and he’d ask Hummel to be his sidekick, and Hummel said yes. Stupid, of course, because anybody with eyes could see Hummel was totally wrapped up in Puck.)
Hummel and Puckerman kept up their alliance-making. Their group continued to grow.
Dave noticed Hummel more and more, his pale skin and huge eyes, and he felt a surge of want—but Puck noticed his notice and Anderson glared, muttering something to Puck, so Dave turned away. He spent the rest of the year ignored Hummel and his entourage.
Senior year, Hummel showed up four inches taller and so gorgeous Dave couldn’t look away. Dave swore to continue ignoring him because Puck was even more vicious now and a legitimate badass, and Anderson kept looking at Dave whenever they were in the same room. Anderson was a telepath.
Dave had a tight leash on his desire until he got out of the shower after another Save the Civilian practice and Hummel sauntered into the locker-room.
It was a stupid crush, Dave knew. He was on his way to being a better man, a hero. Dad was proud. He didn’t care Mom was never home anymore.
Hummel said, “You’ve been watching me, Dave. Please tell me why.”
Dave’s mouth went dry. He stupidly said, “No, I haven’t.”
Hummel gave him a look. “We could use a man of your talents, Dave.”
Dave scoffed. “You think Anderson or Puckerman would let me join your little league of supervillains-in-training? No fuckin’ way.” Dave pulled his boxers on, ignoring the thrill of knowing Hummel might look. “Besides,” he added, “I wanna be a hero, not whatever you’re gonna be.”
He raised his head and swallowed noisily because Hummel was closer, within touching distance. Dave could pull him in. Taste him. Just to see, just to know…
So he did. Didn’t even think about it. Two years of watching and he finally took, grabbed Hummel’s face and kissed him.
And when he tilted his head back, still holding Hummel’s face, Hummel said, “I gave you a chance, Dave. It’s out of my hands now.”
Dave went to ask and saw Puck surge out of the shadows behind Hummel. Puck had never looked so angry, so dangerous. The shadows writhed, reaching for Dave. He lunged away from Hummel, but shadows couldn’t explode. His power was useless.
Dad would be so disappointed, but probably not surprised, at what his only son had done. He locked eyes with Hummel and took a deep breath as the shadows swelled around him.
His last thought before the darkness: it doesn’t hurt.
Puck has noticed the guy watching his boy. Of course he has. Shadows are everywhere. But Kurt told him to leave it alone, told him he could handle it.
Except, when Puck asked point-blank what would happen, Kurt didn’t meet his eyes when he said, “Karofsky’ll shove me around, I’ll yell some, and then it’ll be over.”
Kurt really is a marvelous liar. He can even fool Sylvester, which is a damned good accomplishment. But he can’t lie for shit to Puck. And that’s why Puck knows that whatever’s going to go down, it’s going down today. Two years at this school, every single day cementing his reputation as the baddest of badasses, and how Karofsky can still be stupid enough to go after Kurt, Puck has no idea.
Puck’s not the only with a rep for being dangerous, either. He knows Kurt can’t actually see the future, because the future’s not set in stone, but he sees the most likely possibilities and arranges things to his liking, so it seems to everyone that he’s making the future. If it wasn’t to his benefit, Puck would find it as terrifying the rest of the students do.
So, Karofsky is not only fucking with the guy who could make his own shadow eat him. He’s fucking with a boy one temper-tantrum away from being a reality shifter, which is just the dumbest thing he could ever do.
While Puck is in the middle of a conversation with Finn about their history project, a shadow whispers, the douche is with our boy, alone in the locker room. Puck doesn’t even say goodbye to Finn; he lunges into the nearest shadow and sprints to the shadow closest to Kurt.
Puck knows that Kurt can take care of himself; of course he knows that. Puck’s pretty sure that Kurt has smoothed the way for Puck before, little annoyances that could have exploded but never did because of well-timed interventions. Kurt has been subtly controlling the school since Day 1, and why he won’t let Puck deal with Karofsky… probably a good reason. Puck no longer gives a shit. Karofsky’s gotten too close, gone too far. The shadows will take him, no matter what Kurt has to say about it.
Puck stalks out of the shadow at Kurt’s back and Karofsky’s eyes widen. His hands drop from Kurt’s face and he falls back a step. Puck snarls, shadows writhe, and Kurt says quietly, “I gave you a chance, Dave. It’s out of my hands now.”
Puck pulls Kurt to him as the shadows swell, and Kurt leans against him.
When Puck lets the lights come back, Karofsky’s gone. Puck hears him screaming, but no one else ever will.
“He could’ve been useful,” Kurt murmurs. “His power was interesting.”
Puck presses a quick kiss to the top of his head and says simply, “He touched you.”
Kurt smiles up at him, not flinching from the shadows caressing his face. Kurt has never flinched. Puck’s finally sure he never will.
Matt Rutherford and Mike Chang met when they were both three, when the Rutherfords moved in next door. They learned to dance together, when playing hero and villain got boring. Mike guided Matt through his very first illusions, when they were eight. Five years later, Matt talked Mike down when he accidently made a tornado in the backyard and nearly tore the roof off.
Matt’s mom had long since realized that Mike was his past, present, and future; Mike’s mother still held out hope for a daughter-in-law. Their moms had never really discussed them, but Matt’s dad told Mike’s that it wasn’t the end of the world: their sons were happy. Wasn’t that all that mattered?
Yes, Mike’s dad decided. That argument finally convinced his mom, too.
Mike was worried in the days leading up to high school. They both knew that active powers led to Hero and passive to Sidekick. Mike controlled the wind; Matt made illusions. They wouldn’t be placed together. They would be separate for the first time in a decade. They’d been in the same classes at the same school, on the same bus and in the same house, since they alternated spending the night with each of their families, from the moment they met as toddlers.
Matt smiled at him and smacked the back of his head. “Right,” Mike said, and settled down to show Matt a new move he’d thought up.
Mike was called up first by the scary blonde lady, Coach Sylvester. He stuttered something out about making wind; someone in the back laughed and Mike felt himself blush. He mumbled something else, and Coach growled, “Hero,” so he fled back to Matt.
Matt was called next, and he brushed his fingers against Mike’s as he stepped past. He wasn’t all that nervous; he’d already decided what illusion he’d show, and he’d practiced for hours in the past week. He didn’t even have to think about it anymore: when Coach Sylvester demanded his power, he shaped Mike’s favorite, a spiraling galaxy, with flowers blossoming from the stars.
Sylvester said, “Sidekick,” of course. Matt walked back to Mike and leaned into him, so close they almost shared breath, and power placement continued.
Matt and Mike were friendly to the other kids in their class. Matt’s sophomore guide was a smiling boy named Keith, who could detect lies, and Mike’s was Melissa, who could manifest any kind of wings she wanted. After the first day’s lunch, they never really spent time with anyone else; when people noticed they’d prefer to be alone, they were left alone.
All in all, McKinley wasn’t much different from their previous schooling. It had always been Matt&Mike vs the world. They did their homework together, met up in the halls and at lunch, and counted down the days.
Blaine Anderson sat at their table one day in their junior year. They knew about him, of course; he was the spokesperson for Kurt Hummel and Puck, and nobody was so oblivious as to not know who they were.
“We could use men of your talents,” Anderson said, giving them a charming grin. “And we would be great friends to anyone who joined us.”
Matt gave him a charming smile right back. Mike said, “Thanks but no thanks.”
Anderson shrugged and went back to the kids who would one day rule the world—or destroy it. Matt and Mike weren’t sure yet.
The summer between junior and senior year, Matt sat his parents down at the kitchen table and said, “I’m in love with Mike and we’re going to be together forever.”
Mike sat his parents down on the couch and said the same.
After their senior year, during the height of summer, Mike said, “You wanna?”
The next morning, they were gone.
(Both their mothers cried. Their fathers shook their heads and sighed. Mike’s little sister trashed his room in a fit of rage and grief. Matt’s older brother came home for a week, trying to figure out where they could have run to.
No one was surprised.)
On the day they graduate, Noah leans across the row of chairs to pull Kurt into the filthiest kiss they’ve ever shared, right there in front of their parents and their classmates and everyone they’ve ever known. When they separate, Noah is smirking and Kurt’s grinning, and in the audience, Dad has buried his face in his hands.
Kurt sees a thousand ways this can go. He chooses the one that ends the best and play-slaps Noah on the shoulder, giggling an apology to the masses. Noah turns back to face the front. The ceremony continues.
Kurt can’t stop smiling, and there’s a shadow nestled in his neck. As they toss their mortarboards and their parents cheer, Kurt reaches for Noah’s hand.
“Be my sidekick?” Noah murmurs, cupping Kurt’s face. Kurt turns to press his lips against Noah’s palm.
(Not too long from now, Kurt will be called a pet psychic and hated for the ability that has had his peers shying away for years. Not too long after that, people will learn who his mother was.
He’ll still be holding Noah’s hand.)
“Of course,” Kurt says, and then drags Noah to his dad and Auntie Sue for pictures. Noah’s mom and sister meet them there. Sarah takes almost as many photos as Dad and won’t stop talking about the kiss; Ruth pulls her son into a hug and whispers into his ear. Kurt will never mention it, but being told he’s a better man than his father means the world to Noah.
They will never set foot in this school again, and will only meet their once-classmates across battle-lines. A few, Kurt knows, will join them. Most won’t.
(Not too long from now, Ruth Puckerman will die and her daughter will be taken in by Burt Hummel. She’ll go to McKinley for one month before she’s chased out for being Shadow’s sister. Ruth will never see her son’s name being hated far more than his father’s ever was.)
They’re not villains, Noah and Kurt have assured each other of that. And Dad, and Auntie Sue, and eventually Sarah. But they’re not exactly heroes, either, and for a world that relies on two sides, that’s a bad thing.
Kurt knows how the story ends, but even if Noah asks, he’ll never tell.
“You’re all gonna die,” Mercedes tells him, holding his hand as they look out into the yard.
They’ve been McKinley graduates for a month. Finn finally received the email he’s been waiting for. Blaine, Sam, and a dozen others have already left.
“I love you,” Finn says. “Come with me.” With us, he doesn’t say. Mercedes likes Kurt well enough, he knows that. Most people like Kurt. It’s Puck they shy away from, and where there’s one, there’s the other.
Puck is scary, Finn willingly admits that. His power is… terrifying in a way most of the others Finn’s encountered aren’t.
But Kurt’s right, is the thing. Finn had never thought about it, but even with all their powers pooled, Normals still had the better end of the deal. The world was skewed in their favor, and Kurt wanted to even things out. Kurt had explained everything, even made Finn a list and illustrated it, and Finn’s dad died because Normals freaked out when he tried to save them. Mom had told him a nice lie for a long time, but Kurt helped him find out the truth.
“I… a part of me wants to,” Mercedes says, turning to look at him. “But, baby, it’s not…” She sighs, reaching up with her free hand to flip her bangs out of her eyes. “The world isn’t fair. It never has been. But I like it the way it is.”
Finn runs the tips of his fingers along her palm. “I don’t want to leave you behind,” he tells her, “but I’m going, Sadie.”
She looks away, back out the window. “Even if y’all don’t think of yourself as villains,” she says, voice sharp to hide her tears, “that’s how the government will paint you. You think Kurt and Puck can stand up to that? With a dozen barely-outta-school kids? It’ll be a massacre, Finn.”
It won’t be. Mercedes never got close enough to see, but Finn—he’s not sure what all Puck can do (and what he knows about is scary enough), but Kurt? There’s more to Kurt than foresight. And he promised Finn that none of them would die for a long time.
Kurt keeps his promises.
Mercedes raises his hand to kiss his knuckles. “I guess I can check it out,” she mutters. “Not like I trust any of them boys to watch your back.”
Finn smiles, scooping her up to spin them both around. “It’ll be awesome, Sadie, I swear!” She laughs, but pulls his head down for a kiss.
Finn leaves a note for his mom, promising to be careful. Mercedes tells her parents she and her boy are going on a road-trip and will be back in three weeks. (They aren’t, and they won’t.)
Kurt greets them both with a smile; Puck ignores them. Blaine gives them a tour, and Sam introduces them to the couple of people they don’t know.
The first night, Mercedes sleeps in Finn’s arms; when they wake from a shared nightmare, she whispers, “Don’t die before me, ‘kay?”
“Only if you don’t die before me, either,” he whispers back.
(Kurt has a plan. It’s a good plan.
When the World Council realizes what they’re doing, it’s almost a bloodbath.
Kurt saves Finn’s life, then Mercedes’, and neither of them will ever leave after that.)
In the dream, he’s walking down a road. The sky is cloudy, rain moving in; shadows follow him, bounding at his heels like his own pack of dogs. There’s a small house at the end of the road, in the distance, and a warm breeze blows through his hair, at his back.
He’s walking down a road and it’s raining. He listens to the shadows, to the secrets they tell. The one name he wants most to hear is the one they do not speak.
He’s walking. It’s raining. He’s alone except for weeping shadows and a hidden sun.
The house keeps moving further down the road. The rain pours down, wind whipping around him, and lightning flashes, thunder booms. The shadows scream in voices he knows, voices he’s missed, since he left them all behind.
(No. It’s a dream. He hasn’t left yet.
He hasn’t been left yet.)
Shadows bounding, and the sky clearing, and the sun so bright.
There is a house at the end of the road. (He’s dreaming.)
No one’s waiting at the house. He throws open the door and yells a name and stretches out with every shadow in his reach. No one answers and no one’s there.
No one is there.
He wakes up to an empty bed and a silent room, and knows that Kurt is still gone.
(Things change that afternoon, and Shadow’s war with minimal casualties explodes into a bloody conflagration that will kill thousands. He never tells anyone that he’s waiting for Kurt to return and stop him. Those who know him the best already know, anyway.
Besides, in the end, it works. Nothing else matters.)
In later years, when he’s asked about Kurt Hummel and Noah Puckerman, Arthur Abrams won’t know what to say. Every time, he’ll search for the words, and he’ll look to his wife, Tina, but she’ll be at a loss, too.
Arthur wrote a dozen technical manuals, all added to McKinley’s curriculum, and then to Hero schools around the world. He spent twenty years as the Hero representative to America’s government, while his wife was the ambassador for the World Council.
Everyone is fascinated with Shadow and Sol, Inferno’s son and his pet psychic. Rachel Berry’s memoirs sold out every copy within a week because she dedicated a chapter to each of them; their school days, the beginning of their rhetoric, how they swayed so many powerful Supers to their cause.
It was such a perfect tragedy, she wrote. Romeo and Juliet of our day, right there in the lunchroom, sharing a Coke and ovenbaked chicken. Kurt knew even then, of course. I doubt there’s much he didn’t know.
For so long, after all, everyone believed Shadow was the mastermind, the true power behind the throne. He was where the authorities focused, where the assassins went—each and every one lost to the shadows forever, screaming for his pleasure alone. (Or maybe Sol listened, too, and that was the music in their bedroom. So much speculation, since so much went unknown.)
They called Sol the pet psychic, were derisive in the planning room, laughed about bedroom games. Even with the input of their schoolmates, no one really understood Sol, his power or his plot.
When we learned his mother had been Shade, Senator Rivers wrote in his tell-all, we realized that we had completely underestimated the Super known as Sol, once called Kurt Hummel. How could we have known? Shadow released every communiqué, gave every speech. There is so much I, we, would have done differently, if we’d any idea at all.
Quinn Fabray would say only that she disagreed with their methods. She’d worked her way up the Super Special Forces to Assistant Director and she sent dozens of agents after Shadow and Sol, and the only statement she ever gave was that she disagreed. A few brave newshounds noted that she said nothing about their endgame.
And what each of them—the Abrams, Berry, and Fabray—what they each thought but never said—I wish I’d chosen differently. I wish I’d joined when I had the chance. I wish I was brave enough now to find Shadow and beg forgiveness and change things.
And what Noah says, face buried in a pillow that still smells like Kurt, listening to the screams of those responsible for Kurt going away, is, “Fuck you, why didn’t you take me, too?”
(And what Kurt thinks, in a place of quiet and peace, is, wait for me, Noah, I’m waiting for you.)
These are the notes I made for the 'verse. *shrugs* I really don't see myself ever coming back to it, so I figured I'd just toss 'em out here.
- Blaine, Brittany, Finn, Mercedes, Sam, and Santana join Kurt&Noah (Finn/Mercedes Sam/Blaine? Santana/Brittany) Warblers join Kurt
- Artie, Rachel, Quinn, and Tina don’t
- Matt&Mike run away together
Shadow-walker: control shadows, speak to/with/through shadows, travel through shadows; could banish light by swelling shadows; vanish people into shadows
Kurt can see every possible future and arrange things to whichever future he chose; could change tiny things to his whim, but kept a tight grip on his temper so he doesn’t change too much (knows his mother chose to erase herself to save the world; knows he’ll choose the same to save Noah)
Kathryn (Morana) Hummel and Abraham Puckerman were friends as kids
- Kathryn married Burt Hummel and was a world-famous Hero as ‘Shade’ (reality shifter); no one knew Shade had a husband (no power) and a son (Kurt)
- Abraham married Ruth (no power) and was an infamous villain as ‘Inferno’ (pyrokinetic); everyone knew he had two children (Noah and Sarah)
- Kathryn and Abraham fought for the final time when their sons were eight; Kathryn vanished them both instead of letting Abraham ruin his children
- Kurt had told Kathryn about a future he saw where she lost her mind and destroyed the world; she left to make sure it wouldn’t come true
- Kathryn spurned Alonzo Adams for Burt Hummel; fueled a vendetta against the Hummels that continued to his son, Azimio
S 9) Hummel, Kurt: see possible futures (reality shifter) (Sol)
Hummel, Burt: no power
Hummel, (Morana) Kathryn: reality shifter (Shade)
Morana, Randall: dampner
Morana, Miriam: gravity shifter
(Miriam’s parents: earth and air elementals)
(Randall’s parents: invisibility and flight)
(Burt’s maternal grandmother: healing)
H 9) Puckerman, Noah: shadow-walker (Shadow)
(H) Puckerman, Sarah: superagility
Puckerman, Abraham: pyrokinetic (Inferno)
Puckerman, Ruth: no power
Sue Sylvester: shapeshifter (predators) (Raptor)
Jean Sylvester: never manifested
Doris Sylvester: superhearing
Theodore Sylvester: supersmell
S 9) Abrams, Artie: healer
H 9) Adams, Azimio: telekinetic
Adams, Alonzo: elemental (air/water) (Tempest)
Adams, Monica: manipulate emotions
S 10) Anderson, Blaine: telepath (Kurt’s guide)
Anderson, Angelica: chameleon
S 9) ben Israel, Jacob: manipulate electronic signals
S 9) Berry, Rachel: walk through solid matter
H 9) Chang, Mike: weather
Chang, Kevin: technopathy
Chang, Christine: shapeshifter (avian)
(H) Chang, Lucy: manipulate liquids
S 9) Cohen-Chang, Tina: levitation(telekinesis)
H 10) Evans, Sam: control plants (Puck’s guide)
H 9) Fabray, Quinn: shapeshifter
H 9) Hudson, Finn: superstrength
Hudson, Christopher: flight
Hudson, Carole: elemental (earth)
H 9) Jones, Mercedes: supersonic scream
H 10) Karofsky, Dave: molecular combustion (Azimio’s guide)
Karofsky, Paul: empathy
Karofsky, Nicole: teleporter
H 9) Lopez, Santana: pyrokinetic
S 10) Montgomery, Wes: doesn’t need to breathe (Jacob’s guide)
S 9) Pierce, Brittany: empathy/telepathy, talk to felines
H 11) Rashad, Anthony: telekinetic
S 9) Rutherford, Matt: illusionist
Rutherford, Robert: mimic sounds
Rutherford, Mary: create bone blades
(S) Rutherford, Brandon: speak to equines
H 11) Thompson, David: impenetrable skin (Sam’s guide)
H 11) Turner, Bill: superspeed
H 11) Zizes, Lauren: superstrength (Dave’s guide)
This is an AU I started, because I felt so bad about killing Karofsky.
Notes I made about this AU:
Dave/Kurt, Wes/David, Jacob/Rachel, Blaine/Sam, Noah/?
Shade arrested Nicole Karofsky for jewelry heists. Paul Karofsky raised Dave alone from Dave’s tenth birthday. Dave got his power at thirteen.
Befriends Kurt during his sophomore (Kurt’s first at McKinley)
When Kurt Hummel was eight years old, a hero named Shade fought a supervillain calling himself Inferno. She won handily, of course; she was a reality shifter and could unmake the world if she wanted.
Inferno had burnt his wife to death after the miscarriage of their second child; their son, a boy Kurt’s own age, had disappeared into the shadows he barely controlled, where not even Kurt’s mom could reach him.
Kurt assured Mama that Noah Puckerman would return one day, when he was ready. Kurt would be his friend and teach him all the things he missed. Mama kissed Kurt’s forehead and called him the best boy in the world.
The rest of the Supers learned that Shade was actually Kathryn Hummel when Kurt was eleven. Kurt knew that Mama almost made everyone forget more than once, but Dad told her not to bother. It might put them in danger, sure, but it also worked as a great deterrent.
Kurt had been practicing, anyway. He saw a dozen possibilities every moment, which was much better than the thousand when he was younger. He could choose his favorite and make it happen. Mom called him a reality shifter in the making; Dad told him not to let it go to his head. Be careful, Dad cautioned him. Don’t lose your temper and do something in anger, Kurt.
Mom helped Kurt learn little tricks, how to let the future happen without doing anything to it, how to ignore the things he saw and knew.
When Kurt started at McKinley, Aunt Sue promised to help. She and Mom used to be a team; they were friends from way back. Aunt Sue even dated Dad once. Don’t worry, Buster, Aunt Sue told Dad. I’ll keep my eye on the sprog.
Sue, Dad said, you know that I love you. But what good is a shapeshifter if a reality shifter loses it?
Aunt Sue cackled. Mom laughed. You’d be surprised, sweetie, Mom said. Sue saved the world more than once when we were young.
Dad stared at them both before swallowing nervously. That… doesn’t really make me feel better, he admitted.
Mom kissed his cheek. Don’t worry, dear, Mom said. After you and Kurt, Sue is the one I trust most. She’ll take care of our boy.
Kurt assessed the capabilities of everyone in his group; including him, half would be sidekicks. Aunt Sue wouldn’t have a choice but to put him there when he refused to reveal his power.
He was called last. Azimio Adams jeered at him when he said, “This is an archaic system, Coach Sylvester. I refuse to participate.”
Aunt Sue’s expression said, I hope you know what you’re doing, kid.
He nodded in reply.
Coach Sylvester shouted, “Sidekick!”
Kurt’s sophomore guide was a telepath named Blaine Anderson. He invited Kurt to eat lunch with him and his friends; the only other freshman at the table was Jacob Ben Israel. His guide was Blaine’s best friend, Wes Montgomery. Jacob could manipulate electronic signals and after glancing around nervously, he confided quietly, “It’s actually a lot more dangerous than Coach thinks.”
“I know,” Kurt said, equally soft. There were only two people in the school, after all, who could even begin to comprehend how dangerous Kurt actually was. Three, if Blaine decided to peek.
Azimio tried continuing their one-sided grudge match that afternoon, the way to their very first classes. Azimio had been put in Hero, so their classes were down opposite halls. Kurt knew it was coming, and he thought about avoiding it or fighting back, but then Azimio’s guide nudged his shoulder and muttered, “None of that here, dude.”
“What?” Azimio said.
Kurt met the older boy’s eyes and knew everything about him, from his mother’s arrest to a thousand ways his life could end. Even the way it did once, when Kurt met Noah on the first day of school instead of five years after graduation.
“See you later, Hummel,” Dave Karofsky said as he pulled Azimio away.
Kurt ignored everything but now. He shoved all the things he shouldn’t know into a box in the back of his mind.
Jacob asked, “How do you know that jerk?”
“I don’t know the guide,” Kurt said. “But Azimio’s hated me since he flunked seventh grade English.” Kurt shrugged. “I didn’t feel like doing his work, too.”
Blaine said, “Bullying isn’t allowed here. It could go so badly so easily, since most powers are triggered by emotion.” His look was almost wary as he met Kurt’s eyes.
He knew, then. Kurt smiled.
The first few months passed easily. Kurt kept up his grades and ate lunch with Jacob and Blaine and Blaine’s friends. He charmed them all, and Blaine never mentioned to anyone that Kurt was more than a seer.
Aunt Sue let him be, calling him for a weekly chat during his study hall. They talked about schoolwork and hierarchies and how he wasn’t subtly manipulating everyone to his will. He could, though. With barely any effort at all.
Aunt Sue did worry, though. So the next time Kurt’s training class played Save the Civilian, Coach Sylvester called his name.
“And,” she said, “a partner from Hero… Karofsky! Get down here, boy!”
Dave Karofsky hurried down the bleachers and stood next to Kurt.
Coach Sylvester called, “Rashad and Turner! You’re against ‘em. Next twenty seconds for strategy. Go!”
“I blow shit up,” Dave told him.
“I see the future,” Kurt replied, watching their opponents: two juniors, telekinesis and superspeed. Kurt studied them, then added, “Rashad is going to blast you, then Turner will come at me.”
Dave tilted his head and said, “Now that is handy.”
Coach blew her whistle. Dave dodged to the side and exploded the ground in front of Turner, barely keeping control of the explosion. Turner lost his balance and went flying. Dave and Rashad started trading blasts, Dave keeping his small enough to control. Kurt quickly made his way to the other side of the arena and rescued the civilian before Turner regained his feet.
Jacob and Blaine led the cheering. Dave clapped Kurt on the back and said, “That was awesome, dude!”
Dave sat at Kurt’s table for lunch that day. He mostly talked to Sam, one of Blaine’s childhood friends, who controlled plants. He told Wes, “It was so cool, when you held your breath for ten minutes.”
Kurt lifted a brow and looked at Dave, then Wes. Wes ducked his head, so Dave explained, “For power placement. Wes held his breath for ten minutes, while Coach just stared. It was awesome.”
Blaine laughed. “I remember that!” Sam nodded, and David Thompson looked over to add, “She was so annoyed. Wasted another ten minutes ranting about useless powers.”