Actions

Work Header

Sing A Sad Song (Just To Turn It Around)

Chapter Text

All Kurt knew about Nathan Jackson before the Zombie Apocalypse was that he was sarcastic, loved The Simpsons, and sang opera like a dream. He’d showed up to Glee Club one day, said, “Last time I was in high school I did a little singing,” and his audition had been a literal tear-jerker (Bring Him Home from Les Mis), but he’d handled the drama (Rachel) for all of two class periods before calling it quits.

And then the Zombie Apocalypse happened.

Kurt hadn’t been able to find his dad or stepmom or Finn, and he thought he’d done pretty all right by himself, grabbing all the ramen and bottled water he could carry and bunking down in the employee restroom at the local Walmart. He stuck it out for a week, terrified to go outside until the sounds of, well, death and destruction stopped. And then he poked his head out the door.

And almost got his face chewed off by a one-armed zombie with way too many teeth.

And then the zombie’s head exploded right in front of him, covering him in blood and gore, and his scream could have shattered glass.

When he finished retching (because he caught some zombie brains in his mouth, or maybe that was just the taste of terror) he straightened up, and there was Nathan Jackson, wearing khaki pants, one of those fisherman vests with the pockets bulging, and holding a shotgun.

Nathan Jackson, when he wasn’t being sarcastic or quoting The Simpsons, was like MacGyver. He’d built an honest-to-goodness underground shelter, complete with a cistern for catching rainwater, and booby-trapped the perimeter with explosives.

“Where did you get all those bombs?” Kurt asked, wary, and Nathan showed him the precise path to take to get to the door unscathed.

“Made ‘em.”

“From what?”

“Fertilizer, powdered sugar, gummy bears, whatever I could get my hands on.”

“Has anyone told you that you’re basically MacGyver?” Kurt asked once they reached the bunk.

Nathan had a propane stove, actual dishes, and a bed. Kurt flopped down on the bed with a happy moan.

“All the time.” Nathan was unimpressed with the compliment. “Look, you want to make yourself useful? You help me find help.”

Kurt looked down at his once-fabulous, now tattered outfit (Nathan had raided the hunting section of Walmart and was rocking the Duck Dynasty chic) and then up at Nathan, who was reloading his shotgun with terrifying competence.

“How can I find you help?”

Nathan showed him a contraption that was the mutant child of a typewriter, a Walkman, and a new-age crystal shop. “This is my radio. You hit each frequency, you read this message, you wait thirty seconds, you read it again. Ten times on each frequency. All day, every day.”

Kurt stared at the headset and microphone likely stolen from one of those super old phones, like on Mary Poppins. “All day, every day?”

“You have a pleasant voice,” Nathan said. “Use it.”

“What will you be doing?” Kurt asked.

“Getting supplies. You know how to use a shotgun?”

Kurt shook his head.

“All right. I’ll teach you how to use all my weapons eventually. But we’ll start with this one.”

Nathan was like a drill sergeant, and Kurt hated being yelled at, but he also didn’t want to die, so he practiced, and while Nathan was out scavenging (the town had emptied out pretty quickly, he said), Kurt sat at the radio, reciting Nathan’s bizarre message and keeping one hand on the shotgun. He said his father and stepmother and step-brother’s names on the air, too. He listed off everyone in New Directions. He even asked about Sue Sylvester. There was never an answer.

Day in, day out, he recited, This is Sierra Gulf One Niner, requesting backup to the following coordinates. Please respond. Over.

When his voice got hoarse, Nathan had honey-water on hand for him (he’d stolen someone’s beehive and kept it topside, brought in fresh honey often). Kurt was allowed out only when Nathan was home, and even then it was to drill the path from the perimeter to the door so Kurt could run it blindfolded or in the dark or practice using Nathan's veritable arsenal of firearms, knives, baseball bats, and hockey sticks.

They were sitting on the front step of their weird little shelter one night, unnerved by the silence, Nathan’s little walkie talkie at his side (it was connected to his radio down below), when Kurt said,

“Are we going to stay here forever? It’s been -” He realized he had no idea what day it was.

“I give us three months here,” Nathan said. “So far it seems like the zombies are ignoring us, have moved on to more populated areas, don’t give a damn about us. If that changes, we move sooner. If, at the three-month mark, no one comes, we’ll relocate to a more strategic spot.”

Kurt looked at him sideways. “You’re not much of a teenager, are you?”

Nathan and Kurt shared the bed, because why sleep on the floor, especially when they needed to be in primo condition to fight zombies, but the one time Kurt tried to kiss him, Nathan had let him down easy, said Kurt wasn’t his type.

“Boys aren’t your type?” Kurt had asked.

“No, they’re not,” Nathan had said, and sounded sad.

Nathan was silent for a moment, and then he said, “No, I’m not very good at being a teenager, am I?”

Kurt shuffled closer to him, and Nathan slung an arm around his shoulders, rubbed his arm to keep him warm.

“You know what I miss?” Kurt asked.

“No.”

“Music. Singing.”

Nathan glanced at him and said, “You should sing, then. On the radio. No one else does.”

Apart from a few rote messages from the National Guard that were useless (Nathan had already checked them out), the airwaves were dead.

So the next day, Kurt did it. He sang. He’d recite his message (he didn’t even need to read the words anymore), and then he’d sing, every solo he’d dreamed about, every lead he’d coveted. He dedicated each song to someone else - his father, his friends, Blaine.

And then he’d move on to the next frequency and sing again.

He’d just finished a very fine rendition of Defying Gravity and was about to switch frequencies when a voice crackled over the radio. A woman.

“This is Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter, Sierra Golf Charlie Niner. Name, rank, and serial number? Over.”

Kurt stared at the radio in disbelief. Then he scrambled for the notebook Nathan had given him, the one with the response in it.

“Jonathan J. O’Neill, Colonel Xerox, sixty-nine, four, one-forty-one,” he said, voice shaking.

“...Duplicate O’Neill?” the woman asked.

“Um, no. My name is Kurt Hummel. I’m friends with this guy, Nathan Jackson. We’re both juniors at William McKinley High School. He’s out doing his MacGyver thing while I radio for help.”

“His name is Nathan Jackson?”

“Yes, uh, ma’am.”

“Sarcastic, likes The Simpsons?”

Kurt’s heart sped up. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Tell - tell Nathan that we’re coming to him. ETA thirty-six hours, over.”

“Yes, ma’am. Um, over.”

“You have a beautiful voice, by the way. Best thing I’ve heard in, well, a long time.”

Kurt’s eyes burned with tears. “Thank you.”

“See you soon, Kurt Hummel. Over and out.”

And the transmission ended.

Kurt collapsed on the desk and cried.

He’d finally managed to calm down and catch his breath ten minutes later when the radio crackled to life again.

“Kurt, is that you?”

Kurt straightened up. “Artie?”

“Kurt, where are you?”

“I - where are you?”

“We’ve been hiding in the basement of the school, with Mr. Schuester and Coach Sylvester. We only managed to get our radio working today.”

Kurt snatched up his walkie. “I’ll send someone to find you.”

“It’s really good to hear your voice. You sound great.”

“Thank you.” Kurt fired up the walkie. “Kurt to Nathan, over.”

There was a pause, and then, “Go for Nathan.”

“I got a hit on the radio.”

“And?”

“Some of New Directions is alive. In the basement of the high school. Can you rescue them?”

“I’ll go check them out.”

Relief flooded Kurt’s limbs. “Thank you. Also - also Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter from Sierra Golf Charlie Niner radioed me. ETA in thirty-six hours.”

“Carter?”

“That’s what she said her name was.”

There was no response.

“Nathan?”

“You did it, Kurt. You found help. I’ll head over to the school, and then I’ll be right home. Over and out.”

Kurt set the walkie aside, scooped up his headphones, tugged the microphone closer, and started cycling through the radio frequencies again, but this time he didn’t bother with Nathan’s message. He just sang.

Chapter Text

Kurt should have known that universe wouldn’t be kind to him, but it had been easy to give into temptation, into thinking that everything was all right. He’d found the rest of New Directions. Nathan’s weird friends were coming to help. They sounded like they were military. Military meant supplies and weapons and a safe place to stay, right? Life was looking up.

Kurt huddled in the bunker for hours, singing joyfully and trading messages with Artie and Finn and even Rachel until she said that Nathan Jackson was there, and she had to sign off.

Moments later, though, Nathan signed back on and told Kurt to pack. They’d talked about this before, how to pack a seventy-two hour survival kit. Clothes. Food. Water. Other necessities, like weapons and a compass. And the radio. It was critical that they bring the radio. Kurt was no engineer, but he was the son of a mechanic, and he figured out how to dismantle the radio without breaking it. He packed it into a box, which he tied to his massive pack - he wasn’t sure how long he’d be able to carry it, but everything he needed for seventy-two hours did fit in it - and then he sat on the edge of the bed and waited.

It seemed like he’d waited forever before he heard familiar footsteps, and then Nathan was descending the rickety wooden stairs into the bunker. He scooped up his own seventy-two hour pack, thrust a baseball bat into Kurt’s hands - no need to draw zombies with the sound of weapons fire, right? - and together they made the run through the minefield for the last time. Nathan led him from building to building. It was exhausting: crouch, scan, run, crouch, scan, lather, rinse repeat. Kurt’s neck and shoulders ached from the weight of the pack, and his thighs burned from the crouching and running, but when they made it to the school, his heart soared.

They slipped in through a back door and headed down to the basement, and - there. Mr. Schuester. Finn. Rachel. Britney. Coach Sylvester. Tina. Artie. Santana. Mercedes. Puck. Not everyone had made it. Kurt didn’t dare ask Finn about Dad or his mom. So many people. They had mattresses and food and water and sure they were all kinda dirty and all the dudes were unshaven, but - people. Real live people. There were hugs and some kisses.

Through it all, Nathan hung back, looking wary and uncomfortable. For endless days, he’d been Kurt’s north star, calm and competent no matter what, but here, in this room, where everyone knew each other and liked each other (saving perhaps Coach Sylvester) he looked - out of place. Kurt remembered his quiet admission, that he was bad at being a teenager. Apparently when the zombie apocalypse had struck the world, high school awkwardness survived.

“So what’s this about help?” Mr. Schuester asked.

“Some of Nathan’s, um, Army friends? They’re on their way,” Kurt said.

Coach Sylvester narrowed her eyes at Nathan. “They don’t let pipsqueaks into the Army.”

Nathan cleared his throat. “Air Force, actually. My uncle is - was, I don’t know - a general in the Air Force. I reached out to some of his old comrades-in-arms. They say they’ll be here in -” he checked his watch - “thirty hours. All we need to do is sit tight and wait for them to arrive. Kurt, come set up the radio.”

Mr. Schuester crossed the room and put his hands on Nathan’s shoulders. “You’ve done great, son, but it’s okay. You can let the adults handle things now.”

Nathan shrugged him off sharply. “Don’t call me ‘son’. And I know what I’m doing. Kurt, set up the radio. I’m going to head back to the bunker and get some more weapons and supplies.”

“Weapons?” Rachel echoed. “I’m a pacifist.”

Nathan fixed her with a sharp look. “If you want to be a survivor, you will learn how to handle a weapon. Kurt?”

“On it.” Kurt knelt and set down his pack, then unloaded the box with the radio in it. Artie and Finn immediately moved to help him, though Finn was less use than Artie at assembling a crystal radio.

Nathan set his pack in the corner apart from the various mattresses, loaded up several weapons and his walkie-talkie, and set out.

“Should you be going alone?” Tina asked.

“Been going out alone for months,” Nathan said. “I know my way around.” And he headed up the stairs.

The others crowded around Kurt, asking if he was okay, if Nathan had been nice to him. Kurt smiled, basking in the attention, in the sheer presence of other humans. Between him, Artie, and Tina, they got the radio up and running. Kurt tuned it to the frequency that Colonel Carter had first contacted him on, and he pressed the button to broadcast.

“Sierra Golf Charlie Niner, this is Sierra Golf One Niner checking in, over.”

Mr. Schuester and Coach Sylvester crowded around, listening anxiously, but all they heard was static.

“Sierra Golf One, this is Sierra Golf Charlie, Major Evan Lorne speaking for Colonel Carter. Glad to hear your voice. For the record, unless you’re actually Nathan Jackson, your radio call sign is actually Sierra Golf One.” Major Lorne had a pleasant tenor. “But I’m guessing since you’re in high school and probably not in ROTC, no one told you that. Saves us some confusion, though. ETA in twenty-eight hours. Sit rep, over?”

Kurt blinked. He covered the microphone with his hand. “What does that mean?”

“Situation report,” Finn said. He had a thing for action flicks and military movies.

“Um…” How exactly did one accurately describe the relief at finding a bunch of classmates and a couple of teachers holed up in the basement of the local high school?

Finn snagged the microphone from Kurt, nudged him aside. He looked practically giddy with excitement. “Sierra Golf Charlie, this is Finn Hudson, Sierra Golf One. Kurt and Nathan have rendezvoused with the rest of New Directions at William McKinley High School. We are bivouacked in the basement. Nathan Jackson is on a supply run. Over.”

“Thanks for that, Finn Hudson. Clarify: what’s New Directions?”

“It’s our high school Glee Club,” Finn said proudly.

“Glee Club,” Major Lorne echoed. “Nathan Jackson was in the Glee Club?”

“He sings really pretty, but he didn’t handle the, um, personalities too good,” Finn said.

Major Lorne chuckled. “I bet. See you soon, Sierra Golf One. Sierra Golf Charlie out.”

“That does sound very official,” Mr. Schuester said once Kurt ended the transmission. “Now, who wants some food?”

Food was a lot of scavenged canned food - Finn, Puck, Tina, and Santana had followed Coach Sylvester on regular food runs - and some junk food. Kurt dug into a can of peaches with a happy moan. They sat in a circle on the floor and talked - about how they’d been hanging out, singing to keep up their spirits, talking, getting to know each other better. Kurt noticed that everyone avoided talking about their families, who was missing, but he was okay with that. For now.

Nathan returned a couple of hours later laden down with every single weapon he owned, plus several jars of honey - for the singers - and several boxes of homemade explosives.

“Who are you, MacGyver?” Coach Sylvester asked.

“He doesn’t like that,” Kurt said quickly.

Britney said, “Who’s McGyver?”

Nathan rolled his eyes. “Kids these days.” He sounded exactly like Kurt’s dad when he said it. “This is what we need to survive. Carter said she and her people will be arriving in -”

“About twenty-six hours now,” Finn said. “We checked in with them over the radio. Spoke to -”

“Major Lorne,” Kurt said. “I’d guess he’s a tenor.”

Nathan blinked slowly. “Major Lorne. Major Evan Lorne?”

“I think that’s what his name was,” Tina said. “He did have a really pleasant voice.”

“What else did Major Lorne tell you?” Nathan sat down beside his pack and used his knife to open a can of chicken.

“Not a lot. Asked for a sit rep.” Finn smiled proudly. Rachel, tucked up against his side, looked up at him like he was Captain America.

“So you managed to raise him on the radio?” Nathan looked at Kurt.

Kurt nodded.

Nathan set aside the can of chicken and went to crouch beside the radio. “Sierra Golf Charlie, this is Sierra Golf One Niner, over.” He tugged on the headset instead of the speaker, so no one else could hear what the other side was saying. “How many? That’s it? But - really, just three? I didn’t think Henry was that much of a coward. Oh. Well, he’s pretty damn spineless. I’ll bet most people didn’t want to. And internationally? That makes sense. Over and out.”

“What did Colonel Carter say?” Kurt asked when Nathan went back to finish eating his can of chicken.

“ETA in twenty-six hours, like you said. She has three teams under her command. She’s been doing a nationwide sweep for survivors, but no one has wanted to join up so far. Watched too much Walking Dead, I’m guessing. Think they can handle things themselves.”

“We’ve been handling ourselves pretty good so far,” Puck said defensively.

“I’m not saying you haven’t. But going with these people is our best shot at survival.” Nathan finished eating his can of chicken and went to throw it away.

“What about our families?” Mercedes asked in a small voice.

Nathan bowed his head for a moment. “We can go on one last survivor sweep if you want. And by we I mean Kurt, Puck, Finn, and me.”

Mr. Schuester looked concerned once more. “Nathan -”

“You know how to use one of these?” Nathan scooped up his rifle. “Can you tag a guy between the eyes at a hundred yards? Because a head shot is what it takes.”

Mr. Schuester swallowed hard.

Coach Sylvester said, “I’m pretty handy with a baseball bat.”

Nathan shook his head. “You need to help Schuester watch the kids. You and a couple of your - whatever weird cereal name you had for your cheerleaders.”

“You’re taking Kurt?” Rachel echoed. “But -”

“Kurt’s earned his stripes,” Nathan said, “and I trust him to have my back.”

Santana made a face. “What are you, some kind of child soldier?”

“Not a child,” Nathan said softly. “Now, tell me the addresses of your homes, your relatives’ workplaces, their churches, anywhere they might go to hide. We need a solid route.”

Mercedes was the first to speak up. Then everyone was speaking, a torrent of words, and Nathan had to ask them to slow down, and Tina had a pen and a notebook and was writing as fast as she could - she had the neatest handwriting.

“Don’t we need a map or something?” Finn asked.

Nathan raised his eyebrows. “Since when have you needed a map to get around this town?”

“Right.” Finn sighed.

The recon was - long. And boring. More crouching and scanning and running. It took them several tries, but eventually the four of them fell into the leapfrog pattern that Nathan liked, he and Kurt on one wave, Finn and Puck on the other. They checked the garage that Kurt’s dad owned, the church where Mercedes’s parents went, the law firm where Tina’s mom worked, and everyone’s home, but they found no one. Nothing. Most of the food was gone, and what was left was inedible. They didn’t run into any zombies either. The zombies seemed to prefer sleeping during the day, or something.

“It’s numbers, actually,” Nathan said quietly. “They’re conserving their strength. They won’t come out unless there’s five or more humans.”

“How do you know that?” Puck asked.

“Ran a couple of experiments. For science.” Nathan kept his rifle shouldered as he scanned the intersection, and then it was back to the school.

Kurt was feeling pretty damn good about himself, though. He’d never wanted or tried to be badass, but he’d survived. He was a survivor. A fighter. Even if they had nothing to report, he’d survived this run. He’d survived runs before. There were so many runs they could survive.

It was Nathan who delivered the news - so signs of anyone, but no bodies, either. Hopefully their friends and relatives had run, got to safety. Humans were strong and resilient, Nathan said. People thought humans were weak, but they were the ones who prevailed over and over again.

Over dinner, they discussed what they would need to do when Nathan’s friends showed up. There was discussion of seventy-two-hour packs for everyone else, supplies they already had, supplies they’d need to round up. And then there was the discussion of watch.

“Watch?” Mr. Schuester asked.

“Keeping watch,” Nathan said slowly. “To make sure no one breaches the perimeter. There’s enough of you that you could rotate in two-hour shifts.”

“We set up a bunch of alarms,” Artie said. “Raided the home ec classroom and the shop room and rigged up pots and pans and other loud stuff across the windows and doors closest to here so we can hear. If anyone comes close.”

After a long silence, which Kurt knew meant serious disapproval, Nathan said, “It’s better than nothing.”

It was Santana who leaned in and peered at him. “Who are you, seriously? You make bombs out of candy and you can use every weapon ever and you’re like a soldier crammed into a teenager’s body. Except for the part where you sing opera. Why do you sing opera?”

“My mother used to play opera records. Puccini. Verde. Wagner. I grew up singing along to them.” Nathan shrugged.

“Records? That’s old-school.” Artie nodded approvingly.

“I’ll take first watch,” Coach Sylvester said. “Two hours, right?”

Nathan nodded. “Any other volunteers?”

Santana, Mercedes, and Rachel volunteered, and that was it, the entire eight-hour sleep time covered.

As soon as the meal was done and the watch perimeter was established, Nathan curled up in the corner beside his pack, rifle in hand, and fell asleep. He looked like pictures Kurt had seen in a history textbook once, of a soldier asleep in a shelled-out house on the edge of a battlefield.

Finn sat down beside Kurt. “You were with that guy for two months?”

“Yeah.”

“He’s - intense.” Finn looked Kurt up and down. “Are you really okay?”

“Yeah. I am. He helped keep me safe.”

Finn swallowed hard. “And was he, um, polite?”

“You mean did he hit on me? No, he didn’t. We did share a bed, though.”

“What? But -”

“To stay warm. And so neither of us had to sleep on the floor. It was creepy at first, actually. He sleeps like the dead. Doesn’t move at all. Or has screaming nightmares.” Kurt remembered how Nathan had sat bolt upright in bed bellowing in a language Kurt had never heard before. He’d been wide-eyed and terrified and only Kurt talking to him had jolted him out of it. Nathan hadn’t slept for the rest of that night.

“It was so good to hear your voice.” Finn wrapped his arm around Kurt’s shoulders and squeezed.

Kurt reveled in Finn’s warmth and solidness for a moment, and then he nudged Finn in the ribs. “Come on. It’s time to sleep.”

Finn slept on the same mattress as Rachel. Britney and Santana shared a mattress as well. Tina and Mercedes were sharing, but Kurt didn’t read too much into that. Artie and Puck were also sharing a mattress, sleeping tip to tail. The teachers had their own mattresses.

There was a spare mattress for Kurt. He contemplated waking Nathan and offering to share, but in the end he fell asleep.

For the first time in a long time he felt warm and genuinely safe.

He woke for breakfast, when Rachel came off her watch shift, and once everyone was fed, Nathan arranged for another foray into town to get supplies to round out everyone’s seventy-two-hour kits.

By the time they got back, Nathan’s friends were only an hour away. Kurt helped supervise everyone else packing their kits while Nathan got on the radio. Unlike his last radio conversation, he didn’t put on the headphones, let everyone else listen in.

It was neither Lieutenant Colonel Carter nor Major Lorne who answered the radio, but someone named Daniel.

“ETA forty-five minutes, coming in from the south.” Daniel also had a pleasant tenor voice. “What’s the hostile population looking like?”

“I don’t have a good read on numbers,” Nathan admitted. “Killed some. Avoided some. Not sure how many more have joined up or been turned. Problem, though - they come out for groups of five or more. I’ve got eleven civilians with me, including a kid in a wheelchair. They’ll be on us like white on rice as soon as we poke our noses out the door.”

“Good to know,” Daniel said. “Be ready for ex-fil in thirty.”

“Roger that. Sierra Golf One Niner over and out.”

And Daniel said, cryptically, “See you, Jack.” Maybe it was a nickname, because Nathan’s last name was Jackson?

Fifteen minutes later, Nathan had everyone staged by the back doors that led to the back parking lot. Artie was armed with a shotgun, and Puck was in charge of pushing his wheelchair. Nathan was in the front with a rifle, Kurt was on their six with another shotgun, and everyone else was in the middle.

Nathan peered out the tiny window in the door, and then Kurt heard it. A sound he hadn’t heard in so long he’d almost forgotten it. Engines. Vehicles. Help had arrived. Life really was finally looking up. He took a deep breath, pasted on a smile like he was about to go out on stage, and then Nathan said,

“Roll out!”

He burst through the doors, and Kurt’s joy dissolved when he heard the first zombie roar. Gunfire exploded all around, and Kurt’s ears rang. There was shouting, and more gunfire, and an explosion, and Kurt ducked instinctively.

“Shoot it, shoot it!” Britney yelled, and there was a piercing scream as Rachel fired. Missed.

“Get the wheelchair,” Puck shouted, and there was a whole lot of swearing.

“Kurt,” Nathan yelled, “on your six!”

Kurt spun around, and there was half a dozen zombies heading toward him. He fired. Inhaled. Exhaled, squeezed the trigger. Four zombies. Inhale. Exhale. Three zombies. Inhale. Exhale.

And then Kurt actually looked at the zombie and saw -

“Blaine?”

Kurt knew that face, knew those hands, but it wasn’t Blaine, it was all wrong, it was -

The zombie paused, cocked its head, looked at Kurt. Actually looked at him.

“Blaine,” Kurt whispered.

Blaine lunged at him with a snarl.

Kurt didn’t think. He just fired.

And just like that, his world ended all over again.

Someone looped an arm around his waist, tugged so sharply his breath rushed out of his lungs, and then he was being lifted into the back of a military transport truck.

“Is that everyone?” a woman asked. Blonde. Tall. Pretty. Lieutenant Colonel Carter, judging by her voice.

“That’s everyone,” Nathan said. He was crouched beside the tailgate at the back of the truck, looking down at her. “Thanks for swinging by.”

“Anytime, sir.”

Nathan glanced over his shoulder, scanned everyone’s faces. Rachel was tucked against Finn’s side and sobbing, and he was trying to get her to let go of her gun. “Can you spare a medic?”

“Stevens on AR-3 was an EMT in college,” Carter said. “I’ll send him.” She turned and hollered over her shoulder, and a tall black man hoisted himself into the back of the truck.

“Start with Puck,” Nathan said, pointing to where Puck was slumped against Artie’s wheelchair and clutching his arm. Blood streamed from between his fingers.

Kurt stared down at his hands. There should have been blood on them. Why was there no blood? He’d killed zombies. He’d killed people.

Two more soldiers clambered into the back of the truck beside Nathan and crouched down, rifles at the ready. Gunfire echoed all around as the trucks roared through the streets.

“They must think we’re a buffet,” one of the soldiers said. Kurt recognized his voice. Major Lorne.

“Buffets don’t include cover fire,” the other man said.

Major Lorne winced. “Too bad we can’t police our brass.”

Nathan said, “Lorne, you got this?”

“Yes, sir,” Major Lorne said without looking away from his rifle.

Nathan slid away from the tailgate and came, crouched down next to Kurt. “Hey, what’s up? You five by five?”

Kurt shook his head.

“Are you hurt?” Nathan patted him down carefully.

“Blaine,” Kurt said.

Nathan frowned. “Blaine. Wait - your boyfriend, Blaine? The, uh, nightingale?”

“Warbler.”

“What about him?”

“He was - on my six. And I - I sh -” Kurt burst into tears. He couldn’t help it. He’d done his best not to cry in front of Nathan, not ever, but he couldn’t -

“Aw, kid.” Nathan tugged Kurt into a tight hug, rocking him. “I’m so sorry. He wasn’t Blaine anymore, though.”

Kurt sobbed harder.

Nathan held him tighter, lowered his head, and began to sing softly.

Nothing’s gonna harm you
Not while I’m around
Nothing’s gonna harm you,
No sir, not while I’m around
Demons are prowling everywhere
Nowadays
I’ll send them howling
I don’t care
I’ve got ways...

Kurt fell asleep to the rumbling of the tires on the tarmac and the intermittent chatter of gunfire and hoped, when he woke, it would all be a dream.

Chapter Text

Mercedes watched the city fade into the distance as the trucks rumbled along the street and onto an old country highway. Tina and Santana were tending to Puck, Britney was tending to Artie, and Rachel was asleep beside Finn, exhausted from the excitement. Nathan was hunkered down next to Kurt, singing softly to him, and Kurt was crying.

Mercedes had run out of tears weeks ago. Her world had ended. Now it had a chance to begin again. Whoever these people were - soldiers, mostly, though she’d heard the word doctor bandied about a few times - they would know how to stay alive, how to build shelters and homes. Sometime in all this, Kurt had become someone new, someone who could handle a gun and shoot zombies, who could run and fight and be brave. He was crying now, and Mercedes couldn’t blame him, because he’d had to shoot Blaine, or what was left of Blaine after the zombie virus infected him. But the Kurt who’d stepped into the basement, dressed like a redneck hunter, unshaven and unkempt and carrying a shotgun, was a different person. Mercedes had heard his voice on the radio and thought, Yes, Kurt, something is right in the world, Kurt is still singing diva melodies, but she was wrong.

Mercedes slid off the bench and crouched down next to Lorne and the other soldier whose name she didn’t know. None of the soldiers had names on their uniforms like they did on TV. In fact, none of them were even wearing the same uniforms. Sheppard and his team - save Ronon - wore all black. Lorne and his team wore gray pants and jackets with black patches. Carter and her team wore olive uniforms.

“Hi,” she said.

Both men glanced back at her. Lorne smiled; his teammate did not.

“Hello. What’s your name?”

“Mercedes Jones.”

“What can I do for you, Miss Jones?”

“Do you need help with anything?”

The other soldier huffed. “Can you use a P-90?”

“Walker,” Lorne said sharply. He glanced at Mercedes again. “What do you like to do for fun?”

Mercedes blinked. “Fun?”

“You know, before the zombie apocalypse. What did you do when you weren’t in school or working?”

“I like to sing,” Mercedes said.

“Glee Club, sir,” Walker said.

“Take that tone with O’Neill about singing, Captain. I dare you.” Lorne flashed another smile at Mercedes. “Anything else?”

She had to think for a long moment. It had been so long since she’d done anything fun. “I used to cook a lot.”

Walker flicked a look at Mercedes but said nothing.

“Captain,” Lorne said, his tone calm but warning, “every day is a long day for us. Our civilization as we know it has ended. We’re all tired and stressed out. But we’re professionals. Be civil. Watch our six.” Lorne put up his rifle and turned fully to Mercedes, gestured for her to resume her place on one of the benches. He knelt in front of her, expression attentive.

“So, cooking and singing. Anything else?”

“Why?”

“Chances are if you like something, you already have skill at it. If you want to help, we might as well have you helping at something you like and that you’re good at.”

“I can sew. Made a lot of my own costumes, jazzed up my own outfits for school.”

Lorne nodded. “All right. Cooking is something we definitely need help with. And sewing - Stevens can teach you to do stitches. Some basic medic stuff. The more medics the better. You and your other friend -” He tilted his head, peered at Puck and Tina.

“Tina Cohen-Chang.”

“You and Tina may be the only doctors we have where we’re going.”

“Where are we going?”

“For now, that’s classified, but I’m sure Carter will tell you all soon. So, when we stop and make camp for the night, you help Dr. Parrish gather some fresh food, and help him cook. He’s good at knowing what won’t poison us, but he’s not a great cook, and people were not made to survive on MRE’s alone. When Stevens isn’t driving or on guard, you can talk to him about some medic training. How does that sound?”

Mercedes nodded. Then she peered at Lorne. “Do you have kids?”

“Ah, no. Just a couple of nephews.”

“You’re pretty good with kids,” Mercedes said. “What did you do, before you were a soldier?”

“I was a painter. And a surfer. And a bit of a hippie.” Lorne ducked his head, blushing.

“Before the zombie apocalypse, I liked to sing. And go to church. And hang out with friends. It was rough, sometimes, being in Glee Club. The cheerleaders picked on us. A lot of kids picked on us. Used to throw slushies in our faces.” Mercedes glanced at Walker. “Kids made fun of me for being weird, and fat, and stupid, and ugly. Now all those kids are dead. Every day, going to school was - well. I really didn’t like to go very often. Singing was what made it all okay.”

“No more school.” Lorne smiled. “Still singing, though. Now cooking and patching people up, right?”

“Can you sing, Major Lorne?”

“Call me Evan,” he said. “You’re not a soldier. And it’ll be nice, hearing my name once in a while. Pretty sure no one else thinks I have one. And no, I can’t sing. You really don’t want me to.”

Mercedes laughed. “All right.”

Walker hollered for Lorne - Evan - and he saluted Mercedes before returning to the back of the truck, rifle at the ready.

Mercedes went and crouched down beside Tina, asked her what she was doing, if there was anything she could do to help.

Maybe her world had ended, but she would not admit defeat. The world was not rid of Mercedes Jones yet. In fact, the world was about to see a whole new side of her.

Chapter Text

Kurt woke from his post-crying jag nap to discover that the trucks had stopped and the soldiers were making camp for the night. They’d circled the trucks (suddenly the phrase ‘circle the wagons’ made so much more sense) and dug a pit into which to light a fire so visibility would be low. A couple of soldiers were keeping watch while the rest set up hasty tents and made food.

Mercedes, Kurt saw, was helping one of the soldiers with the food beside the fire.

Kurt had been curled up in the back of the truck, with one jacket folded under his head for a pillow, another tucked around him as a blanket. He stood up and stretched, shook out his limbs. He desperately, desperately wanted water. He climbed carefully out of the truck and landed in the dirt, started toward the fire.

And then he heard Daniel say, “How can I explain? I need you here and not here, too.”

“Because the Old Guy is dead,” Nathan said.

Kurt paused. Nathan’s voice was raw. Strained. The entire time Kurt had known him, he’d been easy-going and wry or battle-ready and intense, but never like this. Tired and drained. Nathan was always the guy who knew what was going on, how to take care of himself and the people around him.

“Look, I’ll stay out of your way, stay with Colonel Crazy Hair or Major Poster Boy. We don’t have to -”

“That’s not what I meant,” Daniel said, tone even and reasonable. Cautious. “I just -”

“Believe me, I know.” Nathan took a deep breath. “How did it happen?”

“He was protecting Hayes. To his last breath. He - Mitchell had to put him down.”

“Sounds like him.”

Kurt wondered who they were talking about. Someone they knew? Maybe a relative? Someone they’d lost. Kurt knew everyone had lost someone in this disaster.

“Before we left the Mountain, I - I managed to grab a few things. I swung by Jack’s locker and got this.”

There was silence. Then a sob. Another sob. Then full-on crying.

Kurt, alarmed, peered between the trucks where Daniel and Nathan were talking. He’d refrained from peeking at them out of a sense of manners, but if that was Nathan crying -

Nathan was clutching a photograph and bawling his eyes out, shoulders heaving.

Daniel reached out, put a tentative hand on Nathan’s shoulder. Nathan collapsed against him.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Daniel said. “You’ve been holding it together for a long time. You can rest now. I’m sure your teenage hormones are - making things more difficult. And - and teenagers feel things more intensely. I just -”

Nathan surged forward and caught Daniel in a kiss.

What the hell? Daniel was older than Mr. Schuester. Not as old as Coach Sylvester, but -

And Kurt remembered, when he’d asked if boys were Nathan’s type. He’d said no. Not boys, then, but men. Much older men.

Daniel pulled back. “No, I can’t, you’re not him -”

“But for me, you’re him.” Nathan gazed into Daniel’s eyes.

Daniel shook his head, stepped back. “I’m sorry. I can’t -” He turned and walked away.

Nathan remained standing there, staring down at the photo.

Kurt cleared his throat. “Hey, Nathan.”

Nathan swiped a hand over his face. “Kurt. You’re awake.” He tucked the photo into his pocket, straightened up.

“Yeah. I was wondering if I could get some water. I can’t find my pack or I’d just drink from my canteen.”

“They unloaded the packs and put them by the tents. Come on.” Nathan scrubbed at his face once more, squared his shoulders, and headed toward the center of the camp.

There was indeed a pile of packs between two tents. Kurt scanned them for his - recognizable by the red ribbon he’d tied to it, scavenged from a box of sewing notions Nathan had brought home from foraging because it could be used for sutures.

And then Major Lorne appeared. “Sir,” he said, and Kurt was confused.

Nathan said, “You have to stop calling me that. Unless Colonel Carter wants to have a sit-down with all these civilians, I’m just another kid whose uncle gave him some hardcore survival training.”

“Yes, uh - what should I call you?”

“Nathan is fine.”

Yes, Nathan.” Major Lorne made it sound just like sir.

Nathan sighed. “Look, Major, why don’t you get some water for young Kurt here? And from here on out, stop coming to me for - questions. Or instructions.”

“Yes, Nathan,” Major Lorne said, with an amused quirk of his lips. He had dimples. He was pretty hot, for an older guy. “Come along - Kurt, is it? From the radio? I’m Major Lorne, but you can call me Evan. It’s my first name. You have a lovely singing voice. Have you had professional training?”

“No,” Kurt said. “I just - always liked to sing.” He followed Major Lorne over to the pile of packs.

“That’s pretty great. What else do you like to do?”

Kurt ended up following Major Lorne all over the camp while he checked in with the soldiers and non-soldiers. The man helping Mercedes cook was actually Dr. David Parrish, a botanist. He was useful for figuring out what was and wasn’t poisonous. Dr. Rodney McKay was a physicist and an engineer and was in charge of helping Colonel Carter improvise defenses for the camp. He, like Dr. Parrish and Dr. Daniel Jackson, carried a gun. Teyla and Ronon weren’t part of the Armed Forces but were, by all accounts, warriors in their own right. Major Lorne’s soldiers were Walker and Stevens, both Marines. They were walking the perimeter. The other soldiers were Lieutenant Colonel Carter, Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard, and Lieutenant Colonel Mitchell. Vala wasn’t a soldier, either. She wasn’t even American. She had a British accent and looked plenty comfortable with the gun she carried. Kurt liked her. She was bright and bouncy. He ended up sticking with her, and together they arranged the tents and bedrolls.

“You have an admirable singing voice,” Vala said to Kurt. “It was refreshing to listen to over the radio. We all listened sometimes, while we were rolling along, if there was nothing else they were scanning the radio waves for. Daniel has a pleasant singing voice, as does Ronon. Major Lorne should never be allowed to sing in public, though.”

“Do you know where we’re going?” Kurt asked.

“Somewhere safe. Somewhere new, probably.”

“New?”

“You’ll find out soon enough,” Vala said, and that was that.

The evening meal was surprisingly tasty, thanks to Mercedes and Dr. Parrish - and apparently Major Lorne’s secret stash of herbs and spices. The soldiers arranged a night patrol schedule among themselves, using a whole lot of fancy military code talk.

“How come we have so many Lieutenant Colonels but no, um -” Kurt fumbled. He didn’t know military ranks.

“Full-bird colonels or generals?” Vala smiled kindly. “We were always a bit thin on the ground with full-bird colonels back at our...base. And the two generals who worked with us on the regular both - perished. Protecting our base and the president.”

“So, if they’re all the same rank, who’s in charge?”

Vala flicked a glance at Nathan, then said, “Well, Sam and Cam were always co-leaders of our team. Sheppard leads his own team, though leading is a bit of a domestic term whenever headstrong scientists are involved. And Lorne leads his team, but of course he answers to Sheppard.”

“Why Sheppard?”

“Oh. Lorne and Sheppard were stationed on a different base together.” Vala picked delicately at her food with her hands. “Lorne was Sheppard’s second-in-command. Also he’s just a Major.”

“How do you all know Nathan?” Kurt asked.

“His uncle was one of the generals who commanded our base,” Vala said. “A good officer and a good man. Died defending the President.”

So the person Nathan and Daniel had been talking about was Nathan’s uncle. Had Nathan grown up with Daniel, then? One of those hot for teacher kind of things? Only Nathan and Daniel had the same last name, and but Nathan’s uncle’s name as Jack, and Jack Jackson was a stupid name, and Daniel had called Nathan Jack on the radio one time, and -

Kurt kept those questions to himself, instead listened to Vala tell colorful stories about the time she’d conned a man out of a fancy painting. It was very White Collar meets Indiana Jones. After dinner, he, Finn, and Rachel did the washing up, and then he went hunting for Nathan.

He found Nathan slumped against the side of one of the trucks, staring at that photograph and crying silently, tears slipping down his face.

“Hey,” Kurt said softly. He slid in beside Nathan. He peered at the photo and saw that it was of a little blond boy who looked kind of like Nathan, golden-blond and beaming, maybe eight years old.

“Who is he? Your brother?”

“My son.”

Kurt blinked. There was no way Nathan was old enough to have fathered a child that age.

Nathan tucked the picture away and took a deep breath. “It’s complicated. You doing okay?”

“After a good cry and a nap, sure.”

Nathan reached up, scrubbed at his face. “Guess I need a nap, then. We bunking together, like the old days?”

Kurt laughed. “Like the old days.”

They went back to the fire, to talk to some of the others, check in on those who’d been injured, and then retire to sleep. Kurt curled up in the dimness of the tent and listened to Nathan’s familiar breathing, but he couldn’t fall asleep because he’d slept so much that day already. Nathan fell right to sleep, though. He had that skill, to get sleep whenever he could.

Kurt listened to the camp wind down, people settling in, talking in low murmurs, fading.

And finally he drifted off.

Chapter Text

There was a pretty simple arrangement to the three-truck convoy of survivors headed for who knew where: two soldiers in the cab in front, one driving, one look-out; two soldiers in the back, both look-outs; one navigator; one designated singer (for morale; this position rotated every half hour); and everyone else passengers.

They’d been traveling for three days, and they’d settled into a routine fast, probably because all of the soldiers were in a routine and it was easier to just - fall in. Mercedes, Britney, and Rachel helped Dr. Parrish with all the cooking; everyone took turns doing dishes. Tina, Santana, and Mercedes helped Captain Stevens tend to any wounded. Puck, Finn, Mr. Schuester, and Coach Sylvester were the tent teams, putting up and taking down the tents. Artie and Daniel were in charge of the radios. Ronon, Teyla, and Nathan were in charge of hunting game for food. They, plus Puck, Finn, and Coach Sylvester were also the main scavenging teams when they came across a town that looked relatively unharmed.

All of the professional soldiers had tasks like setting perimeters, traps, and regular patrols, plus some of the science things that Colonel Carter and Dr. McKay did.

They were heading west at a steady pace. Carter, Sheppard, and Lorne had a destination in mind, but they weren’t saying much other than that they were headed somewhere safe. Nathan didn’t seem to know where they were going - his denials to Kurt were genuine - but he trusted Carter and Daniel implicitly. Kurt thought he understood Nathan’s blanket trust of Daniel, who he was pretty obviously in love with, but his trust of Carter made less sense. She always called him Nathan, very carefully, like she had to remind herself that was his name. Lorne and his men made Nathan’s name sound like sir. Sheppard cast Nathan a lot of strange looks and generally avoided him.

Kurt really, really wanted to ask what was going on, where they were going, and he’d just about worked up the nerve to ask Lorne - who seemed the most approachable of all of the soldiers - when a bomb went off on the side of the road.

Kurt didn’t even have time to scream. Rachel’s voice pierced the air, but Nathan was pressing down on Kurt, smothering Kurt in his t-shirt. Shielding him. Protecting him. And then Nathan shoved a rifle into Kurt’s hands and darted for the back of the truck.

“Kurt, Puck, Finn, Schuester, Sylvester, on me,” Nathan shouted, and Kurt didn’t hesitate. He scrambled to obey.

Lorne and Walker, who’d been guarding the back of the truck, were headed for the first truck, which had halted and was smoking.

Gunfire exploded all around, and Kurt realized.

Humans were shooting at them.

Kurt followed Nathan to where he’d taken cover beside one of the trucks, was firing into the bushes on the side of the road.

Colonel Carter was yelling for everyone in the trucks to stay low.

Colonel Sheppard was screaming for a medic. He sounded - agonized. Broken-hearted.

There were shouts for a ceasefire, both from the bushes and from the trucks, and it took Kurt a second to lift his finger off the trigger of his rifle. His heart roared in his ears.

“Surrender now,” a man shouted from somewhere beyond the road, “and you can live. We just want your supplies.”

“We,” Colonel Mitchell said, “will not surrender. We need these supplies to reach our destination. But if you join us, we can protect you.”

“Either you surrender, or you die.”

“We don’t want to hurt you.”

“You can’t hurt us. We outnumber you.”

There was a shrill whistle, and men and women and teenagers all rose up from the shrubbery on either side of the road. There had to be at least a hundred of them.

Kurt’s heart crawled into his throat. They were dead. If they didn’t surrender, they were dead.

“Please,” Colonel Mitchell said, from somewhere near the front of the convoy, “don’t make us do this.”

“Do what?”

Colonel Mitchell sounded anguished when he said, “Vala.”

A strange humming filled the air, louder and louder. There was a scream, and then half a dozen people went flying backward, dolls flung by an invisible giant’s hand.

Mr. Schuester said, “What the hell?”

Kurt couldn’t see who the leader was, but he could hear the man’s voice.

“Did you do this?” His voice was shaking. “Did you unleash this plague on us?”

“No,” Colonel Mitchell said, “but we might very well be the only people who can cure it.”

Kurt saw it before any of the others did, the way one teenage boy near the road was trembling, eyes wide. Saw the moment when the kid decided to fire. He flung himself on Coach Sylvester, knocking her down.

Colonel Mitchell shouted, “Sam!”

Gunfire exploded all around once more.

Kurt hit the dirt and gasped, the wind knocked out of him. He closed his eyes and braced for the burning, the pain. Instead, he heard that strange humming, twice as loud as before.

He lifted his head and saw that the bullets were stopping. Hitting some kind of invisible barrier barrier and just - stopping. The barrier flared golden every time a bullet hit it, shimmering madly under the hail of gunfire. The sound of the gunfire was - muted. Muffled.

Nathan said, “You got a spare one of those?”

“Just one,” Daniel said. “It was Sarah’s before she -”

“Give it here.”

Nathan put up his rifle and turned his back on the shooters, moved between the trucks.

“How can you -?” Daniel asked.

“You forget,” Nathan said, “I was supposed to be a perfect replica, with all of the memories and physiological quirks of the original, up to and including that awkward jaunt to rescue Kanan’s girlfriend.”

“Oh. I -”

“Sorry about Sarah. But - hey, you got her back for a while, right?”

“A while.”

With that baffling exchange Nathan resumed his position near the rear truck. He stretched out one hand, and he was wearing - some kind of metal glove, fingertips and wrist covered in gold, a red jewel in the palm. He furrowed his brow, and there was that familiar humming sound, loud.

The gunfire tapered off as the man, still out of Kurt’s line of sight, shouted for a ceasefire.

Nathan didn’t lower his hand, but the humming faded, and Kurt could hear - weeping.

Sheppard shouted, “Stevens, get over here now! Rodney’s hit and bleeding fast -”

“I’ve got this,” Vala said. “Sam, where’s your healing device?”

“Like I said, we will not surrender.” Colonel Mitchell’s voice was loud over the sudden silence from the enemy. “Now either you let us go on our way without further harm, or I tell Vala, Sam, and Nathan to turn those ribbon devices on all of your people. I didn’t sign up for the Air Force to hurt American citizens. My job is to protect you, and the rest of the people of this planet. To accomplish that mission, we need to be on our way. What’ll it be, stranger?”

“How do we know you didn’t do this to us? Should we let you go?”

“You can’t afford to waste the ammo it would take to find out,” Colonel Mitchell said. “These ribbon devices don’t need batteries, and my people can do this all day and all night. So, what’ll it be?”

There was a long silence.

Finally, the man said, “Everyone, stand down and fall back.”

Kurt kept his hand on his rifle till Stevens hollered, “Tina, Santana, Mercedes, get over here!”

Then Kurt pushed himself to his feet, helped Coach Sylvester to her feet, and ran to pop down the tailgate of the truck and help Mercedes alight so she could help Stevens tend to Dr. McKay.

Colonel Mitchell barked orders, and the soldiers established a perimeter while Vala got Dr. McKay stable enough to transport, and then Kurt and Colonel Mitchell and Nathan had to roll up their sleeves and poke under the hood of the first truck to get it running.

Through it all, Kurt kept looking over his shoulder, wary, sure he was being watched.

He’d never thought other humans would be their enemies. He’d never thought a lot of things, like that energy shields that could stop bullets might be real, or that Nathan was anything other than human. A perfect replica, he’d called himself.

Kurt pushed the thought aside. Had to get the truck working. Needed all three trucks to carry everyone and their much-needed supplies. To get somewhere safe. Kurt had snapped at Walker or Stevens or fucking somebody to get him some duct tape, and then Nathan was helping him tape up a hose and Colonel Mitchell was telling Parrish to fire it up, and finally, it was time to go.

“Good job,” Nathan said, clapping Kurt on the shoulder, and together the two of them climbed into the back of their truck, settled onto one of the benches.

Kurt fell asleep with his rifle propped up between his knees.

He woke when the truck stopped, and it was time to make camp once more. Kurt fell into the routine, and having a routine wasn’t something he’d appreciated before. He didn’t have to think too hard about what to do or where to be. He just - did. And it was enough to keep his mind from racing, but not so much that he was anxious the whole time. He was Kurt. He was part of a team. A team of survivors.

They were going somewhere safe. They had super-advanced technology - Blaine always used to say that whatever people had, the military had had it first, and probably ten years sooner. They’d both joked about how good the other would look in one of the fancy dress uniforms, and also talked about how the military paid for college. But they’d both agreed that being a soldier seemed - mindless. All you did was follow orders.

Blaine.

Kurt hadn’t thought about Blaine in three days. For three days, they’d been survivors, the people who killed zombies. But zombies were people. Had been people. And the people back at that ambush - they’d been humans. Regular humans. Kurt had fired into the bushes without even thinking. Had he killed some of them? They’d definitely been hurt when they were blasted by whatever that thing was Nathan and Colonel Carter and Vala used to make the bulletproof energy shield.

They were all seated around the fire - save Walker and Stevens, who were keeping the perimeter secure and would do so till Ronon and Teyla finished their meal and spelled them - and so Kurt did it. He asked.

“Where are we going, exactly? And what were those things you used so they couldn’t shoot us? And that blasted people? And that kinda healed Dr. McKay?”

Colonel Sheppard was sitting right next to McKay and might well have fed the man, had McKay not grumbled about being an adult, thank you very much. He flicked a glance at Kurt, then at Carter and Mitchell.

Mitchell looked at Carter.

She cleared her throat. “It’s complicated.”

Santana said, “Other humans shot at us. We shot back at them. We hurt them.”

“I got hurt, too,” Dr. McKay protested.

“What are we doing? Why should we trust you?” Santana caught Carter’s gaze and held it. “Because I didn’t sign up for this, for - being a soldier. I’m a cheerleader. I just want to sing my songs and do my cheers and get on with my life.”

Carter looked at Daniel. “Well?”

He frowned. “Why are you looking at me? You’re the ranking officer.”

Nathan huffed. “Since when did you ever care about that kind of thing? Although you always did hate delivering bad news.”

Kurt said, “I just spent the last I don’t know how many months of my life begging for help on a radio, learning to use and clean all manner of firearms, and getting chased by zombies, and I just spent the last three days rolling across a devastated country and being a mini-soldier. Life is complicated. I get it. But I’m not a dumb high school kid anymore. I can handle complicated.”

Carter cleared her throat. “Nathan?”

“Oh, fer cryin’ out loud, why are you asking me?”

“Because -”

“Because what? A few months ago, I, too, was a dumb high school kid.”

Kurt turned to Nathan. “We’ve been friends for a while now, right? I have your back, and you have mine. I can handle it. Give it to me straight.”

Nathan sighed. “Kid -”

“Then give it to me gay.”

Mercedes burst out laughing. So did Finn, and then Rachel, and then Mr. Schuester, and then everyone but Ronon, Teyla, and Vala was laughing, startled but bright.

When Nathan finally caught his breath, he nodded. “All right. Fine. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away -”

Ronon perked up. “Star Wars!”

“No,” Nathan said, and Ronon looked confused. “Well, yes,” Nathan amended, “but that wasn’t where I was going. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away -”

“The Pegasus Galaxy, to be exact,” Dr. McKay said.

Nathan rolled his eyes. “Yes, the Pegasus Galaxy. There was a race of human-like people who were vastly technologically superior. And they perfected the science of using wormholes to travel between planets and, at times, even galaxies.”

“Wait a minute,” Artie said. “This sounds like the plot of that crappy old scifi show, what was it? Wormhole X-treme.”

And just like that, it all came spilling out - stargates, wormholes, aliens were real (Vala and Ronon and Teyla were actual aliens!), interstellar travel, the whole shebang. Made zombies seem pretty mundane in the end. And the TV show Wormhole X-treme, which Kurt had never been into but which Artie, Tina, and Mike had really been into, had been based on an actual military program. Plausible deniability. If reports of the Stargate Program leaked, well, someone was just a Wormhole X-treme super-fan.

Artie and Tina had questions about all the science. Puck and Finn had questions about what it took to be a soldier with Stargate Command. Coach Sylvester and Mr. Schuester wanted to know what, if anything, people from Stargate Command could do to handle the zombie problem.

Daniel explained, grimly, the irony of it all, that they’d spent a decade and change combating aliens only to be ruined by something purely Earth-based, some mad scientist unleashing a virus that turned people into zombies.

Rachel and Britney wanted to know where they were going.

To Atlantis, Colonel Sheppard said. Which was not actually an island but an alien city-slash-starship. Currently parked in San Francisco Bay. It functioned like an island. Zombies couldn’t swim. They’d be safe there while they tried to regroup.

Kurt’s head spun. It was all so much.

He excused himself once the story-telling began - missions through the gate. Aliens. Adventures. Technological wonders. Cultural mysteries solved.

He crawled into the tent he shared with Nathan and tried to sleep, but he couldn’t, because his mind was spinning. He could still hear the others’ voices, low and lulling, with the occasional gasp or burst of laughter, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying.

He’d almost fallen asleep when he heard the tent unzip, heard Nathan step over Kurt’s legs to his sleeping bag.

“Hey,” Kurt murmured.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Wasn’t fully asleep.”

“It’s a lot to take in, I know.”

Kurt opened his eyes, rolled onto his side, watched Nathan kick off his shoes, set them within arm’s reach, and slide into his sleeping bag. “What about you?”

“What do you mean?”

“How do you know all of this stargate stuff?”

“It’s complicated.”

“So give it to me straight.”

“I’m an alien-created clone of one of the Stargate Command personnel.”

“They hired teenagers?”

“The alien hit the wrong button on the xerox machine, and I came out fifteen.”

“How did you know about Stargate Command, then?”

“Body came out fifteen. Had all my memories, though.”

“And they just - let you go?”

“Didn’t really have a choice. They emancipated me, and I took care of myself. Like I always have.”

Kurt peered through the shadows, but he couldn’t make out Nathan’s expression. “Give it to me gay.”

“I woke up one morning and thought I’d been turned into a teenager. Temporarily.”

“What made you think that?”

“It was Stargate Command. I’d been rapidly aged. I’d turned into a caveman. I’d switched bodies with Teal’c and Daniel. Weird things happened.”

“And then you found out you were a clone.”

“Yeah. A broken carbon copy. Why keep me around when they had the real thing?”

Kurt could understand that logic, but not all of it. “So you came to Lima, Ohio to go to high school?”

“I came to Lima, Ohio to get the hell away from my old life so I could maybe try to build something new.”

“What about Daniel?”

I never really had him.”

“I thought, in the military -”

“Things were different, at Stargate Command.”

Kurt closed his eyes and rolled onto his back. “I don’t know which is worse. Me shooting Blaine’s zombie or you having Daniel right here.”

“It’s not a contest.”

“No, it isn’t,” Kurt said quietly. “And if it were, I’m not sure I’d want to win.” He sighed. “Funny, how out of all the things I’ve done and been through - survived the zombie apocalypse, learned to fire a rifle and a shotgun, got shot at by and willingly shot at other humans, and what feels the worst is closing my eyes and seeing Blaine in his last moments.”

“No matter how big or how far our adventures are,” Nathan said, “what matters in the end is the people.”

Chapter Text

Colonel Carter said this would be the hardest part, the drive through the city to the pier where they’d have to unload all of their supplies and ship them over to Atlantis. Sue knew, intellectually, that a city would be more dangerous. It was full of people, and even more full of zombies. Zombies wanted to eat them. At best, the humans wanted to steal from them. At worst, the humans wanted to eat them too.

They were about half an hour out from the city, navigating around abandoned cars, when the general driving rhythm faded, ratcheted up into pre-battle tension. The singing ended, and all of the soldiers got onto the radios with each other, sending orders back and forth. Sue was a strong woman, fit, could handle a shotgun with aplomb, but she was under no illusion that she was as competent as a professional soldier. Hummingbird Hummel and Brainless Britney had proved the big surprises, being as competent with firearms as they were. Granted, Hummel had been trapped with Creepy Nathan, been trained up by him, so he’d had an advantage before they started on this roadtrip. Britney was a natural, though.

It should have been scary, but it wasn’t.

In this new feral world, Britney’s skill with a firearm was beautiful.

Everyone was doing their best to prove themselves useful, to stay relevant in this brave, undead new world, so they could pull their weight, wouldn’t get left behind.

Sue knelt beside Walker and Stevens, shotgun in hand. Major Lorne and Doc Parrish were up front, Parrish driving, Lorne on alert with his gun. They were at the rear of the little caravan. Colonel Carter’s truck was at the front. Colonel Sheppard’s truck was in the middle, and contained the most important medical and technological supplies.

Sue curled her hands around the stock of her shotgun and heard the sound of the road shift beneath the wheels. They were slowing down, entering the city now. Time to be alert. Time to be cautious.

Sue had been in a lot of high-pressure situations. Sure, no one had been out to eat her at cheerleading competitions, but she knew for a fact that more than one coach had made attempts on her life. She’d survived them. They were a hell of a lot smarter than some zombies or nervous rednecks. No reason to be nervous.

Static and chatter emitted from Stevens’s radio, low but not too low to understand.

“How’s it looking up there, Mitchell?” Sheppard asked.

“Five by five for now. Keep on rolling. Stick to the route Lorne mapped out. It’s the fastest. I’d like to avoid unnecessary detours.” Mitchell had the kind of Southern drawl Sue typically associated with white trash, the chronically illiterate, and Elvis. She knew, however, that Mitchell had an engineering degree, so he couldn’t be illiterate.

He didn’t look much like Elvis either.

“Stevens?” Sheppard asked. “How’s our six looking?”

“All clear, sir.” Stevens narrowed his eyes and scanned the horizon.

And then Santana said, “Tina? Tina!”

Rachel let out a cry of pain.

It was Mercedes who shouted, “Take cover!”

“Hold your position,” Walker said to Stevens and Sue, and he ducked back into the truck.

Stevens’s radio exploded with Walker’s voice a moment later. “We’re taking fire!”

Sheppard let out an impressive string of curses. “Dammit. Artie’s been hit.”

“Where’s it coming from?” Mitchell demanded.

Walker swore. “They’re using - they’re darts, sir. Like tranq darts.”

“Get out the shields,” Mitchell ordered.

“Low-velocity projectiles can penetrate the hand shields,” Carter said.

“We can’t just open fire willy-nilly,” Mitchell protested.

“We can’t let them keep shooting at us either,” Jackson said.

“Even if we can’t use the hand devices as shields, we can use them for cover fire,” Vala offered.

“Right.” Mitchell cleared his throat. “Strap in.”

Sue had thought New Directions singing sounded bad. The hand devices weren’t painful to listen to, just uncanny. Their weird whine-vibration made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, and the longer she heard the sound, the more she was convinced she was going insane.

There it was, the first blast. They’d split themselves into three even groups - four soldiers per truck, one hand device wielder per truck.

Of course Sue was assigned to Creepy Nathan’s truck.

More blasts sounded. Sue strained, listening for cries of pain as their hidden attackers got a nasty dose of their own medicine, but she heard none.

“Ready,” Carter said, and Stevens shouldered his rifle, so Sue did the same.

“Covering fire while the device wielders rotate positions,” Carter continued, and was she in command, or Mitchell? It was so unclear.

Carter said the word fire, but before Sue could squeeze the trigger, a hand popped up from beneath the truck, grabbed her shotgun, and yanked.

Sue didn’t even have time to cry out. She toppled out of the back of the truck. She let go of the shotgun. It clattered to the ground. She caught herself on the tailgate with one hand. Tried to pull herself up.

One of those disembodied hands closed over her ankle, tugged.

And she screamed.

There was a roar.

The creature who reared up behind her was -

No zombie, but a human, face painted in dried blood and gore. A boy. He was grinning.

There were screams from the others, shouts, hand device blasts, a hail of gunfire.

So this was it.

Sue was going to die.

After all this, the hiding in abandoned houses, hunting for her sister, throwing her lot in with the damn glee club, surviving the road trip from scifi hell, and she was going to die here, inches from the finish line.

Her life really had just flashed before her eyes.

She’d been living post-zombie apocalypse for her entire life. There was just running and hiding and surviving and now dying.

Dying.

The monster roared and tugged.

Sue’s grip failed.

An explosion went off beside her ear.

A hand closed over her wrist, heaved, dragged her back into the safety of the truck.

Sue tumbled to the floor of the truck, right on top of - Brainless Britney.

Radio chatter all around. Sue was all right. Sue had been recovered. Britney got the target. They were being chased by the insane cannibals, the mad-hungry humans. Artie and Tina called them The Reavers. It was some pathetic scifi reference.

Sue stared up at Britney, panting. “Nice shot, Blondie. I thought I was a goner. Thanks for saving me.” Sue didn’t say things lightly, and she meant that with all her heart.

Britney shrugged. “I had to do it.”

Sue blinked. “What?”

“I had to save you.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re ohana,” Britney said. “Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind.”

Sue had never bought into sentimental Disney drivel. “What makes you say that?”

“It says ohana on your shirt.”

With that, Britney pushed past Sue and took up her spot beside Stevens, providing cover fire for Nathan while he wielded his hand device.

Sue looked down at her shirt, frowned.

She’d never tell Britney that it said Omaha. It had been the destination of the national cheerleading championships that year.

Chapter Text

After the close scare with Sue almost being eaten by an insane cannibal, Will spent the entire rest of the awful ride through the city clutching a rifle he barely knew how to use and praying. He wasn’t a particularly religious man, and after everything he’d learned about aliens and the universe in the last couple of days, his world-view had been seriously upended, but he couldn’t think of anything else to do.

He kept flashing back to that one scene in Saving Private Ryan, when that one soldier was murmuring a prayer while he picked off enemy soldiers one by one with his badass sniper skills. Will didn’t know any prayers off by heart, and he had no badass sniper skills, but this was their Normandy Beach. If they survived this run, the battle was won.

Then there was light, heat, smoke, and the world turned upside down.

Will landed on the floor of the truck - now the wall of the truck, it had capsized - before he heard the boom of the explosion. Then he heard nothing.

Sue was curled around Britney and Santana, one hand outstretched with the tiny pistol Lorne had given her after she’d lost her shotgun. Puck had grabbed Artie and slung him over one shoulder in a fireman’s hold, was wriggling for a way out of the truck.

Will remembered the brief combat tutorials Lorne had doled out here and there, while they were making camp for the night or just in casual conversation. Not the kind of casual conversation Will had ever imagined he’d be having, but then the zombies happened, and hanging out with soldiers happened, and now he was desperate to remember what was probably offhand for Lorne but lifesaving for him.

Cover. Fortified position. Assess enemy positions. Assess resources.

Will clambered over dislodged boxes to the back of the truck to try and see. But there was smoke and gunfire and those people - those Reavers, with the painted face and the bloody teeth and the innumerable weapons, crowded around all of them.

Out the windshield Will could see the other trucks were on their sides as well.

His hearing kicked back into gear.

“ - Regret not being posted in A-stan,” Stevens muttered, rifle shouldered.

“Sit rep?” Carter demanded.

“All vehicles down. Some injured, no fatalities,” Nathan said, and the kid really was some kind of child soldier.

“Dammit, we’re so close,” Sheppard growled.

“I have a plan,” Mitchell said. “You’re not gonna like it.”

“Spit it out,” Carter said.

“We’re close. Damn close. If we can get out a couple of our gene-carrying pilots - there’s a motorcycle in my line of sight. Looks like it’s operational - up on a kickstand. Get our pilots out, get to the jumpers, blast these monsters till kingdom come, and then come back for the rest of us.”

“We can’t afford to lose soldiers - we can’t hold these people off for long,” McKay protested.

“Sure we can.” That was Nathan. “Sheppard, take Lorne and go. Me, Carter, and Vala will hold them off. Just shields. Conserve our ammo.”

“That viable, Ma’am?” Sheppard asked.

“Yes,” Carter said. “Vala, get the ribbon devices.”

Mitchell said, “Riflemen, on me!”

Will scrambled to locate him, and then it was him, Finn, Kurt, Walker, Mitchell, and Stevens laying down cover fire while Sheppard and Lorne made a mad dash for a motorcycle that was propped up just beyond the line of Reavers.

“You’re riding bitch,” Sheppard said, darting across the rubble with the agility of a mountain goat.

“Yes, sir.” Lorne dashed after him, laying down additional cover fire with his rifle.

How anyone could run and shoot with any level of accuracy was beyond Will, but he kept firing until Sheppard was on the motorcycle and Lorne was clinging to his back and the motorcycle was roaring away.

Vala popped up beside them, wearing that gold bracelet-glove thing, and Mitchell called for a ceasefire right before those yellow glowing shields went up.

“Get everyone inside,” Mitchell said. “They might eventually figure out that slower-speed projectiles get through. Don’t want anyone to take a rock to the skull.”

Will nodded, and he shuffled Kurt and a rifle-slinging Rachel back into the shell of one of the trucks, with Dr. McKay and Dr. Parrish. Parrish started sorting through the supplies, checking to see which crates were intact, gathering up anything that had spilled out of other crates.

“To make loading the jumpers easier, when Sheppard and Evan get back,” he explained.

“He’s fidgeting because he’s nervous,” McKay said. But he knelt and picked through some of the food. “For Sam and Vala and the kid. To keep up their strength while they maintain the shields.”

Parrish huffed. “Oh please. You get anxious any time Sheppard goes offworld without you.”

“That’s because without me, Sheppard would die.” But there was a note of worry in his voice.

“How long do you think they’ll take?” Rachel asked. “To come back.”

Will wondered if this was what being in a military bunker was like, listening to all of the explosions and gunfire outside. How long before the enemy gave up, realized the shield was impenetrable? The gunfire and shouting was muted.

After a while, Will knew, it would become din. Being a teacher had made him immune to sustained chaos and noise, or so he’d thought. Leaning against the wall of an overturned truck, rifle in hand, was something he hoped he’d never get used to.

“Not quite sure where in the city we are,” McKay admitted. “But it’s Sheppard and Lorne. Sheppard does the impossible on a daily basis, and so does Lorne. However long it takes, they’ll come back.”

There was a fond note in McKay’s voice, too, when he spoke of Sheppard.

Surprisingly, it was Rachel who asked the question Will had wanted to ask. “How long have you and Sheppard been together?”

McKay blinked. “What?”

Parrish nudged him. “All civilians here, Doc. And it wasn’t like no one on Atlantis knew anyway.”

Rachel said, “I had two dads. I know the signs.”

It was Kurt’s turn to blink. “Wait, you and Colonel Sheppard?”

McKay’s cheeks flushed. “What, you think he’s out of my league?”

Kurt shook his head. “No. Just - you seem so straight. I know gaydar is a stereotype and all, but -”

Parrish burst into giggles. “Pretty sure no one’s ever said that before.”

“I’m bi,” McKay said sourly.

“Colonel Sheppard isn’t a very affectionate person in general,” Will offered diplomatically. He smiled at McKay and added, “You make a lovely couple.”

McKay eyed him askance but finally said, “Thanks.”

Ronon and Teyla came by to report that the locals had stopped shooting, having enough sense in their cannibalistic heads not to waste ammo and were watching. Shields were still up, because better safe than sorry, but if people wanted to get up and stretch their legs, it was safe. For now.

Will went to check on Sue and the other students. He was responsible for them, they were his, they’d trusted him to lead and protect them, and now they had help from Nathan’s Air Force friends, but he was still on the hook for their safety and wellbeing. It was part of his duties as a teacher, and as their show choir coach. Their parents had trusted him, and no matter what had happened to those parents, he couldn’t breach that trust.

That was the only thing that got him off of his bed roll and on his feet most mornings. He had a responsibility to these kids, who he cared about fiercely.

Santana and Britney were okay, huddled close to Sue. Mercedes had a nasty gash on her arm that Tina was tending to. Puck and Finn were helping Artie repair his wheelchair, using some of the tools out of Kurt’s precious toolbox. Walker, Stevens, Mitchell, and Jackson were patrolling the perimeter, just inside the shields.

Vala looked bored, one hand outstretched to maintain the shield, flipping through photos on a smart phone with her other hand.

“Unfortunately,” Carter was saying to Mitchell, “the shields mess with our radios, so I can’t attempt long-range communication with John and Lorne.” She had her shielding hand outstretched, elbow propped up on one knee for support. “Where are we on supplies?” 

“Parrish and McKay are cleaning up as best as they can. Once we get some other people on their feet, they can help,” Mitchell said. “That way we can pack as quickly and efficiently as possible when Lorne and John get back.”

Teyla brought food and snacks to Vala, Carter, and Nathan. Nathan was sitting at the back of the convoy, scanning the perimeter, one hand out to maintain the shield, the other resting on the stock of his rifle.

“You doing all right, son?”

Nathan glanced up at him. “Did Carter and the others not tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“Never mind. I’ll explain later. It’s just that people calling me ‘son’ is just weird. Really weird. You doing okay, Schuester?”

Will nodded. “You think they’ll make it?”

“They will. Carter and Mitchell have a brilliant Plan B, of course, but they will. This insanity, this being overwhelmed by hostile forces and having an entire planet that’s seemingly out to get you? That’s just another day in the Stargate Program for these young bucks.”

“Is there a Plan C?”

“I’ve got Plan C. I’m a Plan C kind of guy.”

Will nodded and wandered back to the truck where Kurt and Rachel were helping McKay and Parrish pack things up. Will rolled up his sleeves and joined in to help, and once they were done they moved to the other trucks, helping stack supplies.

Even though the shooting had stopped, Will could feel eyes on him everywhere he went, and it was highly discomfiting. They did their best to do their work inside the trucks. Chances were the people who’d ambushed them with a poorly-made IED had only suspected what supplies they had. If they had the truth of it, they would probably attack with even more fervor.

The medical supplies and the weapons the soldiers had probably sold for pure gold out in the wider world.

Will was helping Parrish shift a box of antibiotics when the stone came whistling through the shields and struck the side of a truck with a loud bang.

Rachel screamed.

“Dammit, they figured it out already,” Carter said.

Vala said, “Dropping shield,” and then the yellow light around a third of the perimeter dissolved. There was a deep thrum, and screams from the Reavers as Vala blasted them with her ribbon device.

Too late. The Reavers had figured it out. Mitchell shouted, “Open fire!”

Carter and Nathan were blasting Reavers left and right. Kurt scooped up a rifle and took cover, started firing. Puck and Finn scrambled for their rifles to do the same.

Will’s heart roared in his ears. He knelt beside one Kurt and started to open fire, barely aiming, hoping the sound would frighten the Reavers away.

An explosion rocked the ground.

Will ducked for cover instinctively.

Sheppard’s voice filled the air. “Lay down your weapons and back away from the convoy or I will light you up like a Christmas tree on acid.”

Will lifted his head and saw a giant grey log hovering in the air above the convoy. He hadn’t even heard it arrive.

Another grey log shimmered into being, and Lorne said, “I’ve got you covered, sir.”

Gunfire burst from the Reavers, and Will ducked again, swore reflexively.

Something bright and glowing shot from one of the grey logs, and there was another explosion, screams.

“Stand down. Last chance,” Sheppard said.

What Reavers were present wove up, raised their hands above their heads in surrender, and backed away slowly, slowly.

“Make sure they go, Lorne,” Sheppard said.

“Roger that, sir.” And one of the grey logs zipped away.

The remaining log sank down, and a hatch opened in one end of it. Sheppard emerged, rifle in hand.

Rodney was at his side in an instant. “You were gone for too damn long.” He swept his hands over Sheppard, checking for injuries.

“Really? How long?” Sheppard asked, amused.

Mitchell barked, “All right, let’s get this jumper loaded up!”

“How long?” Rodney demanded.

Sheppard tugged him close, pressed a quick kiss to his mouth. Kurt, Will noticed, was pretending not to watch out of the corner of his eye, helping Nathan lift a steel box.

“Time flies when you’re stressed out and dying,” Sheppard said. “What matters is that we made it back, and finally, we can get to Atlantis.”

Rodney nodded. “Yes. And we can be done with ridiculous heroics for a while, hm?”

“You’re just jealous Lorne got to be my biker babe.”

Rodney’s expression turned indignant, and Sheppard laughed. Everyone within earshot laughed as well, and Lorne looked very, very puzzled when he landed his jumper and everyone laughed at him as he emerged.

“Is there something on my face?”

“Get over here and help us load up,” Sheppard said, and Lorne scrambled to obey.

“What’s Atlantis like?” Will asked Nathan as they wrangled another box into the jumper.

Nathan shrugged. “I never got a chance to see it.”

Jackson clapped him on the shoulder. “Now you will.”

Nathan didn’t look particularly enthused at the prospect, and Will wondered what dangers Atlantis might hold.

Chapter Text

Kurt wasn’t sure what to expect of a badass floating alien city, but while he was huddled in the back of the spaceship (Colonel Sheppard called them Puddle Jumpers, but the name seemed inadequate for something that could fly through space and go invisible), all he saw was water. Water. And more water.

Until Colonel Sheppard got on the radio and spoke to someone named Chuck and suddenly there was a giant thing in the middle of the water, massive and spiky and mostly metallic grey. It looked like - well, not so much a city so much as a battle station.

Sheppard guided the jumper to one of the towers and down through a kind of hatch into a room where a bunch of other jumpers were parked.

Kurt stuck close to Nathan, but as soon as Nathan stepped out of the hatch, pack in hand, he came up short, swayed like he was suddenly dizzy.

“Whoa. That’s new.”

“I forgot,” Sheppard said. “You never came here before the - before.”

“What is that?” Nathan asked.

“What is what?” Artie asked. Puck was pushing Artie’s chair because Artie had both his and Puck’s gear piled onto his lap.

“That’s Atlantis,” Sheppard said.

Lorne stepped out of the other jumper, leading the other half of their crew. “Everything all right, sir?”

Sheppard nodded. “Yeah. Nathan’s just meeting the lady of the house.”

“Ah.” Lorne smiled knowingly. “I think you’ll like it here, Nathan.”

Nathan shook himself out. “I’d like it more if I wasn’t here because of the damn zombie apocalypse.”

“Let’s go to Control, check in with Chuck,” Sheppard said. “C’mon. I’ll show you around.”

Inside, Atlantis was less stark and military-looking. There were panels of wall full of bubbling water - some kind of decorations? - and plants. The walls and floors were muted colors, not quite soft enough to be pastel, but not bright, and thankfully there was no linoleum or fluorescent lights. But the ceilings were high and the doorways all double wide, and everything seemed huge.

When Tina asked how big it was, Rodney told her it was approximately the size of Manhattan.

Sheppard showed them where the stairs were, but also how the transporters worked, which were basically Star Trek beaming things in a closet. But one moment they were in the jumper hangar, the next they were in a room full of giant blinking desks where a single man in the same uniform as Rodney - except it had hunter green patches instead of periwinkle - was sitting.

“Chuck,” Sheppard said.

“Sir. I raised the shields as soon as both jumpers were in the hangar.” He scanned Kurt and the rest of the New Directions-Cheerios gang. “You found survivors?”

“Yes, Tech Sergeant Chuck Campbell of the Royal Canadian Air Force, this is New Directions and the Cheerios.” Sheppard gestured vaguely at them.

Chuck raised his eyebrows. “Like the cereal?”

“They are the Glee Club and Cheerleading Squad of William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio,” Lorne said. “Or what’s left of them.”

“And also a clone of General O’Neill,” Sheppard added, jerking a thumb at Nathan.

“I was still a Colonel when a rogue Asgard put me through the Xerox machine and I broke it,” Nathan said.

Mr. Schuester recoiled sharply from Nathan.

“Any word from, well, anyone?” Sheppard asked.

Chuck shook his head. “No. There’s still not enough power to maintain a wormhole.”

“All right.” Sheppard jerked his chin at Lorne. “Major, get the new kids settled in?”

“Yes, sir.” Lorne flashed Mr. Schuester and Coach Sylvester his dimpled smile. “Come on - let me show you to the residential quarters. You can all pick rooms, and then I’ll give you the dime tour.”

They crowded into the transporter with Lorne, and he showed them where on the transporter map their quarters were located. No one blinked when Finn and Rachel decided to room together, when Britney and Santana chose to room together. Puck and Artie decided to double up, as did Tina and Mercedes. Mr. Schuester and Coach Sylvester picked their own rooms.

“There are officers’ quarters at the end of the hall if you like, Nathan,” Lorne said quietly.

“Cat’s out of the bag, Major. You can call me sir if it makes you feel better.”

“It does make me feel better,” Lorne admitted.

Nathan glanced at Kurt. “I can keep bunking with Hummel, here. I trust him to have my six in a zombie attack or, I don’t know, a barracks boot raid.”

Kurt wasn’t sure he knew what a barracks boot raid was, and he didn’t think he wanted to know. But the thought of sleeping without Nathan was discomfiting in a way Kurt wasn’t quite ready to explore.

“Of course, sir.” Lorne dipped his chin deferentially.

Once everyone had stowed their gear, Lorne took them on a tour of the rest of the habitable areas - gym, training rooms, mess hall and kitchens, ready room, locker rooms, labs, infirmary, some of the common rooms used for socializing - and then back to Control to check in with Sheppard.

Sheppard wasn’t there, but he’d instructed Chuck to issue them all radios so they could remain in contact with each other. The task fell to Nathan to teach everyone radio voice protocol so they weren’t clogging the radio lines and weren’t interrupting each other. Chuck assigned them to a specific radio frequency, taught them which frequencies belonged to which command officers and teams. Chuck established radio hierarchy - who to call and when and how and for what.

It was exhausting, all the new information, the new rules, a new way of life. No more cellphones, just radio. And after the radio lessons were over, Chuck cut them loose.

To do whatever they wanted.

After three hard days of military and making camp routine, and nearly three months of Nathan’s radio routine before that, Kurt was at a loss. What should he do? He tapped his radio.

“Hummel for O’Neill.”

They’d agreed to call Nathan ‘O’Neill’ because Jackson was already taken.

“Go for O’Neill.”

Kurt tried to remember the right phrase. “What’s your...twenty?”

“In the kitchens.”

“Be right there. Don’t go anywhere.”

“Roger that,” Nathan said.

Kurt headed for the transporter at the end of the hall. It took a moment before he remembered what level the mess hall was on, but then he tapped the map and there was a flare of light and then the doors opened and he stumbled into the hallway outside the kitchens.

When he got there, Lorne, Nathan, Mercedes, Parrish, Sheppard, Carter, and Mitchell were gathered around one of the tables.

Kurt pasted on a bright smile. “Did I miss the invitation to the party?”

“We’re just discussing food supplies,” Major Lorne said. “Thankfully we have Dr. Parrish to keep the greenhouses up and running so we can have fresh food, but now that we have more numbers in our ranks, we have to increase our output.”

“What about bees?” Kurt asked. “Nathan stole some guy’s beehives so we always had fresh honey.”

Everyone cast a glance at Nathan.

“That’s not a bad idea,” Dr. Parrish said. “Bees would help with pollination, which would save me and Mercedes the trouble of artificial pollination. That was a big task even when I had an entire team of botanists at my disposal.”

“Sounds like we’ll need to make a run to the mainland,” Sheppard said.

Carter slewed Nathan a look. “You stole some beehives?”

“He wasn’t using them.” Nathan shrugged. “Honey’s useful. Nutritious. Got medicinal utility. Kept Kurt talking and singing on the radio.”

Mercedes lit up at the notion of singing.

“Plus think of all the sweet things Lorne can bake if he has honey. We have no sugar.” Nathan crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m guessing you’ll want to repurpose the new kids into working in the greenhouses.”

“Food is paramount.”

“And for protein?” Nathan asked.

“Some fishing, but we have a lot of nuts and beans in the greenhouses as well,” Dr. Parrish said. “Atlantis was never intended to be self-sufficient, not on our part.”

“Well, that’s the intention now,” Sheppard said. “We’ll make it happen.”

“Is that it?” Kurt asked. “We’re just going to...live on Atlantis forever?”

“We need to find a power source so we can dial out to our colonists and allies,” Mitchell said. “But before we can dedicate any energy to that task, we need to make sure we have the supplies we need.”

“What about the people on the mainland? Is it just America? What about the rest of the world?” Mercedes pressed.

“It’s not just America,” Lorne said grimly.

Kurt thought of all the places he’d imagined going once he was done with high school, when he was a famous broadway star, the stages of Europe, the Sydney Opera House, that super high tower in Dubai. All of them - ravaged, just like Lima.

“What we really need is a medical doctor.” Carter sighed. “There have to be some people who are immune to the virus. Like - like Ronon was immune to being fed on by the Wraith. If we could make a cure or a vaccine, that would be the best.”

“What about Area 51?” Sheppard asked.

Carter shook her head. “It’s a lockdown facility. It was one of the first installations to fall. Luckily the zombies couldn’t remember how to use any of the tech there.”

“We should go on a tech raid,” Mitchell said. “And maybe another survivor sweep. We should try other continents. And this time do it in the jumpers.”

Carter pinched the bridge of her nose. She looked exhausted. “There’s so much to do.”

“We should start small,” Lorne said firmly. “With food.” He cleared his throat, looked at Nathan. “Sir, would your crew be willing to work the greenhouses? Under Parrish and Mercedes.”

“They’re not my crew,” Nathan said. “My crew is me. And Hummel. You want to find out what they’re willing to do, you talk to Schue and Sylvester.”

“We’ll be glad to help,” Mercedes said. “Kurt and I can talk to the others. It shouldn’t be a problem.” She caught Kurt’s eye, and he nodded.

“We also need to establish a firm chain of command,” Carter said. “Mitchell and I co-lead our own team well enough, but we’ve got three light-birds, one major, two captains, three doctors, four civilians, and a handful of minors.”

“Colonel O’Neill is technically a full-bird,” Lorne offered.

Nathan shook his head quickly. “I’m technically nothing. I’m not him. Just the duplicate. And not so duplicate, two years after The Divide.”

“Well - then someone needs a promotion or something,” Sheppard said.

“Carter has the most time in-grade. Treat her like a full-bird.” Nathan lifted his chin at her. “But it really doesn’t matter. None of the Armed Forces even exist anymore. We can do whatever we want.”

“We’ll get the Air Force back, sir,” Carter said.

Kurt sidled closer to Mercedes. It was like watching his parents fight, only worse.

“Didn’t you get the memo?” Nathan asked.

The soldiers stared at him blankly.

Nathan snatched up the notepad Parrish and Lorne had been using to calculate food yields, flipped to a blank page. He grabbed a pen and scrawled in heavy letters, then turned the notepad around for all of them to see.

Apocalypse!!!

“The world as we know it is over. Even if we do get in touch with our colonists, there aren’t enough of them for us to just go back to the way things were.” Nathan slammed the notepad back down on the table. “This isn’t a holding pattern. This is a new way of life. We can’t magically make it like it used to be.”

Mitchell looked spooked. “Sir -”

“We’ve seen this a hundred times, a thousand times, on other planets. Goa’uld. Wraith. Replicators. Ori. Plague. War. Famine. Supervolcano. Some other natural disaster. Before it was us always riding in to save the day. Guess what? No one’s riding in to save us. We have to save ourselves.”

“But - the Asgard -” Carter tried.

“Are getting their skinny gray asses handed to them by the Replicators, from your own report,” Nathan snapped. “This is it. This is Lord of the Flies. This is the Swiss Family Robinson. This is Robinson Crusoe. We adapt, or we die.”

“Shit, well, don’t you tell us how you really feel.” Sheppard’s sarcasm was marred by the tremor in his voice.

Parrish looked ready to cry.

Mitchell crossed his arms over his chest. “Since you have all the answers, why don’t you be our leader?”

“Because -”

“Because what?” Mitchell straightened up, lifted his chin. “As you pointed out, none of the previous structure matters. Why shouldn’t we be taking orders from a seventeen-year-old kid?”

“We need some kind of structure,” Carter said. “Even Daniel would tell you that. If we want to remain civilized, if we want to remain humane -”

“I wasn’t suggesting we firebomb zombie population centers.” Nathan rolled his eyes.

Carter straightened up. “And we wouldn’t follow you if you suggested we do so, but we need a leader and you have the most leadership experience.”

“Are you listening to yourself?” Nathan asked. “I said no.

“Why not?” Sheppard asked.

“Because I am not a person. I’m just the duplicate. Duplicate O’Neill. You thought it up yourself, Carter.” Nathan cast Carter a sharp look, and she flinched.

Kurt flinched too, because for all that he’d agonized over being gay, he’d never thought of himself as not a person.

“But a duplicate is just like the real thing,” Mitchell said.

“It’s just like the real thing because it’s not the real thing. I am not him. You don’t get to ask me to be him, not now.” Nathan scrubbed a hand over his face. “Fucking teenage hormones.”

“I thought you wanted us to treat you like him.” That was Dr. Jackson, standing in the open doorway.

Nathan looked at him for a long time. “You were right. I was wrong. I’m not him. I’ll do my time in the greenhouses with the rest.”

“Jack,” Dr. Jackson began, reaching for Nathan.

Nathan shook his head wildly. “No. It’s Nathan. This is my lot in life. I accept it. We all have to accept what we’ve been given. So once the rest of you adults have decided what the immediate and longterm plans are, let me know, and I’ll toe the line.”

“Why should only the adults have a say?” Mercedes asked, and Kurt could have kissed her.

Lorne, Sheppard, Carter, and Mitchell turned to her, surprised, like they’d forgotten she was there.

“We’re part of this too. We have to live the rest of our lives with the decisions that you make. We should get to make them too.” Mercedes drew herself up. “We need food. Without food, nothing else matters, so let’s take care of that. While we’re getting that taken care of, we can decide what comes next: survivor sweep, finding a cure, or finding energy to call other planets and get help.”

“The lady’s right,” Parrish said. “Food first.”

Carter, Sheppard, and Mitchell exchanged looks.

“Fine,” Carter said. “Food first.”

Parrish scooped up the notepad and turned back to his yield calculations. “Sheppard, I need your math skills.”

“I’ll start on supper,” Lorne said. He patted Mercedes on the shoulder. “Will you help me?”

She smiled at him and nodded, and together they drifted over to one of the kitchen counters.

Nathan pushed past Kurt and Jackson and out of the kitchen. Jackson reached out, tried to catch him, failed. Kurt hurried after Nathan, managed to slip into the transporter beside him.

“Hey,” Kurt said.

Nathan jammed his hands into his pockets and stared straight ahead.

“So, that was a pretty epic hissy-fit back there.”

Nathan didn’t respond. The transporter doors slid open onto the residential corridor, and Nathan stepped out. Kurt followed him.

“Isn’t this what you wanted?” Kurt asked. “For them to take you back, to treat you like who you really are?”

“What I wanted,” Nathan said, “before all this, was to be left alone.”

“And now?”

“Now I don’t know what I want.” Nathan sighed. “Being a teenager once was hard enough. No one should have to do it twice.”

“If you want to leave,” Kurt said, “I’ll come with you.”

Nathan turned to him sharply. “But what about New Directions? And your friends? Your family?”

“I’m not one of them, not anymore.” Kurt shrugged. “We can be misfits together.”

And Nathan laughed.

“What’s so funny?”

“We’re both from our own islands of misfit toys,” Nathan said. “You with the Glee club, me with the SGC. And now we’re both too misfit for even those places.” He eyed Kurt. “Why do you trust me? I’m a cranky old man in a body that doesn’t even shave every day.”

“You protected me,” Kurt said. “And you taught me how to protect myself.” He eyed Nathan right back. “If being around these people pisses you off so much, why did you work so hard to contact them?”

“Because I knew,” Nathan said, “if anyone had a chance of saving you, of fixing this mess, it’d be them.”

They arrived back at their room. Nathan plopped down on the end of his bed, started to unlace his boots, stopped.

Kurt paused just inside the door. “Were you just going to leave me with them?”

“Finn’s your stepbrother, your family.” Nathan shrugged.

“Not just Finn.” Kurt crossed the room, sat beside Nathan. “We’re basically the last pocket of humanity that’s not insane. We all have to stick together. All of us. And we all have to pitch in.”

“I know.”

“So, let’s do it.”

Nathan turned to Kurt, and Kurt recognized the bleakness in his eyes.

“I’m just - tired, kid. I don’t know if you can comprehend this, but I fought in Vietnam. And in the Gulf.  And spent a decade with the Stargate program where, I kid you not, we faced the apocalypse every year for seven years straight. All my life, I’ve fought. It’s all I know how to do. Every time I had a chance to stop, I was pushed on. Time after time. Gonna get a break, O’Neill? No.” Nathan buried his face in his hands for a moment.

“How did you get through it, before?” Kurt asked.

“For a long time, I had Sarah.”

“Sarah?”

“My wife.”

Wife? What about Daniel Jackson? “Oh. Did you lose her when you were cloned?”

“No, I lost her long before then.”

“And after her?”

Nathan looked at Kurt sidelong. “Daniel.”

“And after that?”

“I don’t know.”

Kurt nudged him. “What about me? The misfit toy little brother you never wanted.”

Nathan huffed. “Misfit Toys. Charlie loved that show, you know. The Rudolph movie. Had to watch it a hundred times every Christmas season.”

Charlie. Nathan’s son. Kurt couldn’t quite wrap his head around that.

“They don’t need me to lead them, though,” Nathan said. “Mercedes was right. You kids are going to be leading the world to come. You should learn how to lead now, with just a few of us, when the stakes are, in some ways, relatively small.” He nudged Kurt back. “Sure, little Misfit Toy. We can be our own island.”

Their own island. Kurt liked the sound of that.

The world had ended, but it would start again. Kurt would see to that. Along with Nathan, Mercedes, Tina, Rachel, Finn, Puck, Artie, Britney, Santana, Schue, and even Coach Sylvester.

“Feel better?” Kurt asked.

Nathan nodded. “Yeah. Thanks, kid.”

“Should we go talk to the others?”

“Nah, kid. Not right now. Sing with me?”

Kurt blinked. Nathan had a phenomenal voice, but he hadn’t sung in Kurt’s hearing, not since he’d departed from New Directions after Rachel had an epic hissy fit. “Uh, sure. What did you have in mind?”

Nathan rose up, shook out his shoulders, cleared his throat. “How about a little Les Mis? How’s your One Day More?”

Kurt stood up as well. “Good enough for yours.”

And together they sang.

Chapter Text

Britney loved working in the greenhouses. Every morning she woke up, went running with Kurt, Rachel, Puck, and Finn (Artie could beat them all roundly in his chair), and then she showered, and then went to breakfast in the kitchens (there weren’t enough of them to justify using the entire mess hall). Then off to the greenhouses she went. Dr. Parrish had taken on Mercedes as his official assistant, and under their direction Britney happily spent her hours pruning and weeding and training and tending. They broke for lunch, again in the mess hall (Colonel Sheppard used it to do a headcount), and then more greenhouse business in the afternoon, and then a couple hours before dinner was free time, to do things like clean their room and do the laundry.

For Britney, the simplicity of the routine was perfect. She loved it. She was utterly content with her new existence, pleased when Dr. Parrish praised her for how well her plants were coming along, when he gave her charge over her own section of the greenhouse growing sturdy beans.

Santana was going insane. She wasn’t meant to be a farmer. Sure, sometimes she and Tina got to help Stevens in the infirmary, rolling bandages and cobbling together medical supplies, making up some natural remedies that Jackson, Teyla, Ronon, and Lorne knew. But Santana hadn’t become a junior soldier and shot a mother-load of zombies for this .

She didn’t get people who wished they’d lived in another era. Farming and hunting and fishing to survive sucked. Sure, Santana got breaks, but she wasn’t getting paid. And if she didn’t work, she didn’t eat. It was as simple as that.

It was that simple, and that boring.

Santana was running along one of the balconies - she preferred to run in the evenings, after dinner when it was also cool - when Vala caught up to her.

Anyone who wasn’t out fishing (Nathan loved fishing) or hunting (Teyla, Ronon, and Mitchell were awesome at hunting) or gathering (Sheppard, McKay, and Walker went out gathering in one of the jumpers and came back with stuff like guitars for Puck and Sheppard, clothes for Mercedes to repurpose, and medical supplies) or otherwise engaged in some off-city survival task worked in the greenhouses.

That included Vala.

“I can see that you are like me,” Vala said.

Santana frowned at her. “Yeah right. You’re old.”

“But still fabulous,” Vala said. “Anyway, I’m not looking to get into an argument about good looks, because that would be quite unfair to you. I am here to tell you that we are kindred spirits.”

“Why are we kindred spirits?” Santana would give Vala points. The woman could run and talk at the same time. McKay and Parrish could run or talk but not both.

“Because we were both destined for something bigger and better than gardening,” Vala said.

Santana nodded. “Now you’re speaking my language. What do you propose, Queen’s English?”

Vala blinked, confused at the nickname, and Santana remembered that for all that Vala sounded like she was from Merry Olde England, she was actually an alien. “I was once a queen, but not of any language.”

“Never mind,” Santana said. “Your proposition?”

Vala smiled. “Levity.”

Santana rolled her eyes. “Be more specific.”

“Pranks, darling. Something to entertain us - at everyone else’s expense.”

Santana slowed her pace ever so slightly. “I’m listening.”

“We can start with the basics: a boot raid.”

“Boot raid?”

“Some of the Marines taught me about it.” Vala leaned in, lowered her voice. “This is how it goes.”

How a boot raid went was very simple: Vala taught Santana her world-class thief stealth, and together they broke into everyone’s quarters and stole their left shoes. Every single one of them, so when they woke, they wouldn’t have a complete pair, not a one.

The only person who was spared was Chuck - they didn’t even spare themselves - and then all that was left to do was wait for the fallout.

Ronon and Teyla weren’t too fussed - they ran barefoot the next morning. Britney, Tina, and Rachel were less than pleased at the thought of going into the greenhouses unshod, because Dr. Parrish was experimenting with new types of fertilizer (read: manure) to increase yields. McKay’s answer was to go everywhere on one of his rolling desk chairs.

Carter summoned everyone to Control for a troop muster to find out what was going on. Santana wore her best innocent expression, which was actually just a bored expression, while Carter questioned Stevens and Walker, who were the only two Marines among them (and boot raids were, apparently a Marine tradition).

Both of them insisted they weren’t the culprits with a firm, No, ma’am.

Carter’s next suspects were Puck, Finn, and Artie, because teenage boys were also known to pull pranks.

Artie said, “Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I don’t need shoes.”

Puck rolled his eyes. “If I was gonna pull a prank, it would be way more badass than just stealing some stupid shoes.”

There was something disarming about seeing everyone barefoot. Even Ronon, who was super badass, looked gentler, softer without his shoes.

Finn said, “Why would I touch a bunch of nasty army boots?”

“Air Force,” Mitchell corrected.

Kurt sighed. “We’ve been brothers way too long.”

And then Britney said, “Hey, Sergeant Chuck still has both of his boots.”

Everyone turned to look at him.

He threw his hands up. “Why are you all looking at me? I didn’t do this. Why would I need a bunch of left shoes?” He spent all day in Control, monitoring the city’s power levels and checking radio signals for other broadcasts like Kurt’s.

And then Daniel said, “Vala. This is Vala written all over it.” He turned to her. “Where are they?”

Vala’s innocent smile was a wonder to behold. “I don’t know why you’re asking me either. I can’t imagine why you think I’d want all your manky boots. It’s not as if any of them are worth any money.”

“Nothing’s worthy any money anymore,” Daniel said flatly.

“Lots of things are worth money on other planets. Once we find a way to re-open the Stargates, I can earn us loads of money. Piles of it. We’ll be swimming in it,” Vala said.

Lorne sighed. “I probably have a back stock of heavy socks we can use.”

Carter looked bewildered, but she said, “All right. Socks it is.”

Santana could respect Vala, because Vala was a creative thinker.

“See, a boot raid usually stops right there,” Vala explained when it was the two of them alone, on an evening stroll instead of an evening run. “Everyone gets their boots back. The culprit is discovered and flogged with bars of soap in socks or what have you. But this isn’t just a boot raid. A lady needs to add her own signature to her work. So tonight, we implement phase two.”

Phase two was returning all of the left boots...to random people. So everyone had full pairs of shoes, but not the right pairs.

“If we weren’t running on power rationing, I would be looking through the security footage in a heartbeat,” McKay said, the next morning, when everyone was once again assembled in Control with shoes in hand.

“It has to be someone with the Gene,” Sheppard said. “No way would anyone else be getting past our security.”

McKay cleared his throat. “Due to power rationing, I’ve had to suspend some of the extra features, like Gene-activated super-locks.”

Sheppard spun to him. “What? But people could -”

“Everyone knows we’re knocking boots, John. If they walk in on us, that’s their problem,” McKay said. “What I want to know is who has my other shoe?”

Santana took her cue from Vala and waded into the mix, holding out the shoe that wasn’t hers (it was Parrish’s) and going, “Does anyone recognize this?”

There was some order to the pairs, though. The way Walker and Stevens had Tina and Mercedes’s shoes. Everyone in New Directions knew Walker and Mercedes didn’t get along, for whatever reason.

Nathan and Jackson had each other’s shoes. Santana watched them, saw that tense moment when they were wandering around and they bumped into each other and Jackson’s glasses went askew and Nathan reached out to push them up his nose without thinking, and then they both went still.

They exchanged shoes quickly, avoiding each other’s gazes.

Santana was sitting on one of the chairs at a powered down console pulling on her shoes when Jackson walked over to Vala.

“I know it was you,” he said. “Stop it.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Vala said airily.

But Rachel and Ronon were giggling over the disparate sizes of their shoes - of all the soldiers, Ronon was by far the youngest, if one didn’t count Nathan, and Santana didn’t - and instead of going straight back to work, everyone stayed in Control, talking and laughing.

“That was pretty good,” Santana admitted. “Your twist on things was good. But sometimes, to lift people’s moods, you really do need music. Have you ever heard of a flash mob?”

Vala’s eyes lit up. “No, but tell me more.”

“Can you sing?”

“Like a star-sparrow.”

Santana had no idea what that was, but she could work with it. “All right. We need to pick a song, a venue, and also do some choreography. But I think it’ll take more than just two of us.”

It took Mercedes, who was the best seamstress of them (and also had an in with Lorne, who would sew things with no questions asked), and Britney, who was the best choreographer they had.

Between the four of them, they could do a four-part harmony, and what better than that one Star Wars a capella tribute that Artie and Tina really loved?

They practiced for two weeks, the timing, the lead-up, and finally, it was time. To strike. While everyone was eating lunch in the kitchens.

Mercedes, Lorne, and Parrish were in charge of most of the cooking (so Stevens and Walker and one more volunteer did the dishes), and no one thought too much of it when Mercedes was humming while she worked.

But then she handed Sheppard his sandwich and began to sing the opening riff:

Long long long time ago
Far far far far away

“I’m sorry, what?” Sheppard blinked at her.

Britney chimed in.

Kiss a wookiee
Kick a droid
Fly the Falcon
Through an asteroid

Santana picked up the harmony.

“I wasn’t aware we were doing a performance,” Rachel said, but Artie hushed her, grinning and pleased.

“I know this,” Ronon said. “It’s Star Wars!”

But then Vala joined in, and all of her Stargate comrades turned to her with wide eyes.

“Since when do you sing?” Jackson asked, but Carter waved for him to be quiet. She was smiling.

Mercedes drifted into the middle of the room, and Britney, Santana, and Vala joined her, and it was time for the dance.

“Oh my,” Carter said. “They’re dressed up. Look - Britney is Leia, and Santana is Han, Mercedes is Luke -”

“And Vala’s C3PO. Of course she’s 3PO,” Mitchell said. “She’s shiny.”

Santana hammed it up like it was regionals, singing and dancing, and by the end of it everyone was swaying and clapping along, and when it was done, the four of them resumed their seats.

Santana plopped down next to Puck and said, “Hey, pass the mustard? I like mustard on my sandwich.”

There was a pause, and then applause, and then Artie was hugging Mercedes and Santana felt a bit better about life.

“Well,” Lorne said, “if I’d known what I was sewing, I could’ve put in some more details.”

Sheppard arched an eyebrow at him. “You helped with this?”

“I was an independent contractor sir,” Lorne said.

Vala caught Santana’s eye from across the table and grinned.

After that, it was pretty common, to have sing-alongs in the greenhouses, singing up and down the rows as they worked. Anyone who stopped by was welcome, and sometimes Sheppard would even play his guitar.

They knew they’d moved up in the world when Sheppard and Walker came back from a supply run with an electric keyboard (and a little solar generator to run it). Both Jackson and McKay could play the piano, and after dinner they would have karaoke night, Puck and Sheppard accompanying people on their guitars as well. As it turned out, Teyla had a phenomenal voice, and given time and practice, Ronon learned the guitar well.

“See?” Vala said, one night, after they’d sung a selection from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to celebrate the greenhouses reaching a level of production to sustain them all comfortably, plus supply away teams on survivor sweeps.

“See what?” Santana asked.

“We are destined for great things.” Vala gestured to everyone else, who was laughing and smiling, clapping along while Puck hammed it up as an Elvis-like Pharaoh. “Maintaining the esprit de corps is about - levity. Humor. Pranks. And sharing the things we’re passionate about.”

Santana nodded. “You’re right.”

“Pro tip,” Carter said, leaning in close to Vala and startling them both, “don’t talk about your pranks where other people can hear.”

They turned to her, eyes wide, but she just winked and sauntered away, hands in her pockets.

Carter would keep their secret, Santana was sure of it. Girl Code. She leaned back in to Vala.

“I have an idea for another prank. Are you with me?”

Vala smiled. “I’m with you.”

Chapter Text

The world didn’t end with nuclear war, ice age, or preternatural flood. It didn’t end with fire and brimstone, angels or demons. It ended subtly, quietly, because Alex was a doctor, and she was around sick people all the time. There were epidemics. There were pandemics. People behaved strangely. Patients had attacked her before (one had nearly killed her). When people came into the hospital sick, it was just another day at Hope Zion. When lots of people came down with the same thing, well, these things came in waves. When she saw people blank-faced and shambling through the halls, well, she guided them back to their beds. When one of them lunged at her, she called security.

It was probably a full moon or something.

And then she went into the morgue and saw a nurse gnawing on a corpse’s brain, and she knew something was wrong.

After that, she had but one purpose: survive. Protect her family. She tried to find Charlie and Maggie and Dawn and Shahir or someone in the chaos as the disease exploded across the hospital, but in the end she did the only thing she could: she went home, grabbed Luke, and ran. To the family farm out in the middle of nowhere.

She hunkered down with what supplies she had, prepared to defend herself and Luke to her dying breath. She listened to the radio, for any kinds of broadcasts, but there were none.

Days turned into weeks turned into months. Alex was running out of supplies, she was scared, and she was alone. She didn’t know what was going on with the zombie infestation, with anything. She didn’t see anyone, and whenever she heard anything outside the house she grabbed Luke and her go bag, hurried out to the car, and hunkered down with a shotgun and a baseball bat at hand.

And then one night a voice broke the stillness.

“This is Delta Recon Team, from the Frisco Bay Survivor Camp. We’re looking for any survivors. We offer food, shelter, and safety. All we ask is that you contribute to the collective survival of the camp.”

Alex couldn’t remember the last time she’d heard a voice but her own or Luke’s. At first she thought she was dreaming, because so often she dreamed of Charlie and Maggie and Shahir or just someone finding her. And then the message repeated, and the voice was unfamiliar, one she’d never heard before, one she couldn’t have made up. He didn’t sound like anyone she’d ever known. She was out of bed and scooping up Luke and out the front door, jumping up and down and waving mere seconds after the third iteration of the message.

Only the clearing around the farmhouse was empty, and there were no cars or trucks. The boy’s voice sounded like it had come from some kind of bullhorn or loudspeaker.

A boy? The way he’d spoken, he’d sounded like some kind of soldier.

No. Oh no. Some kind of crazy paramilitary survivalists. Alex backed toward the house, Luke tight in her arms, scanning the shadows.

And then, in mid-air, a giant grey log materialized. Only it wasn’t just a log, it had little protrusions out the sides, and a windshield in the front, and Alex could make out two human figures inside.

“Stand back, ma’am. We’re coming in to land.”

Alex could only stare as the log settled right down onto the dirt of the clearing. The side pods retracted, and there was a hiss, and she saw that the two people in the flying log were boys. Teenage boys.

They stood up and exited out the back, where a hatch had opened, and then they circled around to the front. Both wore sturdy jeans, flannel shirts, and olive military-looking jackets. Neither of them looked a day over seventeen. One had slicked-back dark hair, porcelain skin, and a red, wide-lipped smile. He was pretty. The other had dark blond hair and dark eyes.

Both of them raised their hands in surrender.

“We come in peace, ma’am,” Blondie said. He was the one who’d spoken initially.

Alex stared at them. They were kids. “Who’s in charge here?”

Brunette pointed to Blondie.

Blondie pointed to Brunette.

“Me?” Brunette protested. He had a high, sweet tenor. “But you’re -”

“You wanted to take point on this sweep. It’s you,” Blondie said.

Alex held Luke close. “What the hell is that thing?” She lifted her chin at the gray log.

“It’s called a puddle jumper,” Brunette said.

Alex frowned.

Blondie shrugged. “Don’t look at me, I didn’t name it.”

Brunette smiled. “Ma’am, I’m Kurt Hummel, and this is Nathan O’Neill. We’re from a survivor camp down in San Francisco Bay. We’re offering space to anyone who wants to join us.”

“What’s the catch?” Alex asked.

“Just that you help out,” Kurt said. “We have some greenhouses where we grow food, and everyone pitches in. We all handle our own laundry and keep our own quarters clean. You could have a room to yourself, you and your family.”

“Room?” Alex echoed.

“The catch is that our camp is on a floating alien city-starship parked in the Bay,” Nathan said. “It’s about the size of Manhattan. It has residential towers. You could get a room with its own kitchen if you wanted.”

Alex stared at them. “Alien city starship? That’s impossible.”

“Zombie apocalypse, disappearing puddle jumper,” Nathan said reasonably.

Fair enough. So the puddle jumper was alien technology. Alex squinted at them. “Are you aliens?”

“We’re human, ma’am,” Kurt said. “We just use the alien tech.”

“Did you - did you start this disease?” Alex backed away, held Luke even tighter.

Nathan shook his head. “No, ma’am. This disease is entirely of Earth origin. We didn’t start this. But we are looking to finish it.”

“How?” Alex demanded.

“We’re looking for survivors and hoping there’s a doctor out there who might be able to figure this out,” Kurt said. He hastened to add, “We’ll take you even if you’re not a doctor.” His expression was very earnest.

Alex wouldn’t tell them she was a doctor, not yet. “Is it just you and a bunch of other kids?”

“No, ma’am,” Kurt said.

Alex had never been called ma’am so many times in her life.

“Colonel Samantha Carter of what’s left of the United States Air Force is in charge,” Kurt said. “The alien technology we use - the Air Force is the reason we have it.”

“And the Air Force is just letting teenagers fly alien planes?”

“The Air Force is gone, ma’am,” Nathan said quietly. “We take who we can get, teach them new skills so they can maximize their contributions.”

“Can we - can we look for my friends and family?” Alex asked.

Nathan glanced at Kurt, shrugged, and Kurt nodded. “Of course. We’ll take any help we can get in locating survivors.”

“Is it just the two of you?” Nathan asked.

Alex was tempted to lie, say she had a husband, but then she nodded.

“We can help you load up anything you want to bring,” Kurt said. Then he added, “Can we put our hands down now?”

Alex nodded. “Yes. Fine. Okay. I’ll come with you.” She led them into the house. “How did you know I wouldn’t be a threat to you?”

“We didn’t,” Kurt said.

“And if I’d hurt you?”

“You couldn’t have. Alien tech,” Nathan said.

Alex lit one of the candles - she’d run out of electricity long ago - and then paused.

“What can I bring?”

“Anything you want,” Kurt said. “Like Nathan said, the city’s about the size of Manhattan, and there’s only about two dozen of us. There’s room. And the jumper holds a lot.” He reached into his jacket and drew out a flashlight, flipped it on. “We probably have all the furniture you need, but clothes and personal items - bring what you want. You probably won’t be coming back here.”

Alex swallowed hard. “All right.” She’d come with the barest of supplies herself, but the house was full of memories, clothes and pictures and books, toys and games and other mementos. “Um - let’s get the necessary things first, in case we need to cut this short.”

“Sounds good.” Kurt rolled up his sleeves. “Show us where you want us to start.”

Kurt and Nathan were hard workers, accepted direction from Alex with no fuss, only asked questions to clarify instructions. They worked in tandem smoothly. Alex wondered how long they’d been doing this, how long they’d worked together, or if their Air Force leaders had given them some kind of training. Alex helped where she could, one-handed, because Luke refused to be put down. She figured the boys were obeying her because she was a natural authority figure, being an adult and a woman with a baby to boot.

Alex went to help Nathan fill a plastic storage tub with books - books were welcome on Atlantis, the name of their alien city - and Luke started to fuss.

Nathan straightened up. “You got a sheet or something you’re okay to part with?”

“Why?”

“I can fix you a baby sling. Free up your other hand.”

“You can do that?” Alex was surprised, but then she remembered how the boys had talked about people learning new skills to maximize their contributions.

“Wouldn’t have offered if I couldn’t.”

“Right. Yes. Sorry. I’m just - a little overwhelmed.” Alex led Nathan to the spare bedroom.

“I’ll bet - alien tech on top of a zombie apocalypse,” Nathan said wisely. Alex gave him the top sheet off the bed, and he drew a knife, cut the sheet into a wide strip with casual competence. Then he directed her to hold Luke against her, and he showed her how to wrap Luke up. It involved crossing the fabric behind and in front and then wrapping around and tying a knot, then tucking Luke against her chest and pulling the fabric up to support him.

“Thanks,” Alex said. She ducked her head and pressed a kiss to Luke’s brow. He was fast asleep.

“We should salvage what we can of any linens you have. Mercedes and Lorne can turn curtains and things into clothes pretty easily. If you don’t mind,” Nathan said, tucking his knife away.

Alex stared at the cut-up sheet. “Go for it. Not like anyone’s ever coming back here, right?”

“Right,” Nathan said softly. There was something uncanny, knowing, old in his eyes.

Alex had no idea what he’d been through in the worst of the zombie pandemic, what he’d seen. But he and Kurt got things packed up in pretty good time - books, clothes, dishes, linens, all of Luke’s baby supplies, pictures and games and toys. They were right. The only things to leave were the furniture.

The jumper was roomier than Alex expected, as they stacked things in the back behind the four chairs at the front.

Finally, the house was bare, skeletal. They’d taken all the small appliances - electronics could be repurposed on Atlantis; they had an engineer in their ranks - and even the cushions off the couches.

“If you like, you can say goodbye,” Kurt said.

Alex stood in the doorway, staring at the bare bones of her existence, of her past life. Kurt and Nathan retreated a respectful distance.

Alex looked around committed everything to memory. There was nothing left for her here.

“If you like,” Nathan said, “you can sit in the copilot seat, enjoy the view.”

“What about Kurt?” Alex looked at him, but he was already settling into one of the passenger seats, so she took the copilot chair.

“Kurt can’t actually fly this thing.” Nathan slid into the pilot seat, and the back hatch closed with another soft hiss.

“Okay. Do I need a seatbelt or something?”

The console lit blue beneath Nathan’s hands. “No. It has inertial dampeners.”

Alex had heard the phrase before, on Star Trek or something. “What does that mean?” She checked on Luke. He was still sleeping soundly.

“That means,” Nathan said, “you won’t feel this move.”

Alex heard the engines fire up. She lifted her head and - “Oh, you weren’t kidding.” One moment they were on the ground, the next they were in the air, and she didn’t feel a thing. It was like watching a silent film. The scenery just slid past.

“I’m activating the invisibility cloak, so don’t worry about us getting shot down,” Nathan said.

“Invisibility cloak,” Alex echoed faintly. Below, the trees gave way to the suburbs.

“You should call Atlantis and let them know we’ve found someone,” Kurt said.

Nathan nodded. “Roger that. Where do you want us to look?” he asked Alex. “For your friends and family.”

“Toronto.”

“Setting course for Toronto,” Nathan said, and the jumper curved around. He tapped the console, then said, “Delta Recon Team for Atlantis.”

“We read you, Delta Recon. Status?” a woman asked.

“We found a couple of survivors,” Kurt said, leaning in to speak. “We’re doing another survivor sweep of the city based on the survivor’s report, and if we don’t find anyone, we’ll return.”

“Glad to hear it,” the woman said. “Who are your new friends?”

“Alex Reid and her son Luke,” Kurt said.

“Glad you’re joining us, Ms. Reid,” the woman said. “I’m Samantha Carter. Hope to see you and some more of your friends and family soon.”

“Thank you, Colonel Carter,” Alex said, remembering what Kurt had told her about who was running Atlantis.

“Godspeed and good hunting, Delta Recon. Over and out.”

“Delta Recon out.” Nathan tapped the console and shut off the connection.

Alex peered out the viewport, gave them directions to the hospital, which they spotted easily enough with the giant red cross on the roof. But they didn’t land immediately.

“I’m firing up the LSD,” Nathan said, and a screen appeared midair, like the kind Iron Man had in the movies. “Not reading any life signs in the hospital, but zombies don’t register on the LSD.”

“LSD?” Alex was pretty sure they weren’t referring to the drug.

“Life signs detector,” Kurt said. “We didn’t name it that either. That was how we knew there was only you and your baby at the house.”

“Have you seen any life signs?” Alex asked. “As you’ve flown over the city?”

The puddle jumper hovered over the hospital.

“None,” Nathan said softly.

“While we’re at the hospital,” Kurt said, “should we go on a med supply run? I know it’s not part of our orders, but while we’re here…”

Nathan glanced at him sidelong. “Your call, Team Leader.”

“I could come with you, help you carry things,” Alex offered.

Nathan shook his head. “No, you and Luke should stay here, coordinate from the radios. I’ll land this, fire up the LSD so you can see us.” He landed the jumper on the roof, and he showed Alex where the buttons were for the shield, the invisibility cloak, and the rear hatch, and the radio.

He also showed her where some of the other supplies were - food and water rations. Then he and Kurt tugged on backpacks and armed themselves with pistols, knives, what looked like assault rifles, and a pair of wooden batons. Kurt was quite serious and focused with his weapons, making sure they were in the right places, in reach when he needed them. Nathan was calm and comfortable with his weapons, strapped them on like they were part of him, part of his regular clothing and gear.

“I’m taking the jumper remote with me,” Nathan said. “We’ll step out, and then you put up the shield and invisibility cloak, and we’ll do a quick radio check before we head in.”

Alex nodded and turned on the radio, and Kurt and Nathan headed out of the jumper. The hatch closed with a hiss. Alex pressed the buttons for the cloak and shield very carefully, and then she leaned in to the radio.

“This is Alex. Do you copy?” Everything she knew about talking on the radio she’d learned from TV and movies.

“We read you, Alex,” Kurt said. “Our radio callsigns are just our names. We’re pretty simple that way. All right, we’re heading in.”

There was silence as they crossed the roof. Nathan opened the door, Kurt checked inside, and then they descended. Alex watched them go, anxious.

Luke started to stir, fussy and hungry. Just in time, too. The boys were gone, so she could feed him in privacy.

And then Kurt said, “Oh. Nathan says I’m supposed to stay in regular contact with you. So - here goes.” And he narrated his way through the hospital.

If Alex closed her eyes, she could picture the hallways and doors, the signs on the walls.

“What kind of supplies are you looking for?” she asked.

“Medicine, mostly. At least one set of surgical instruments. Bandages and stuff, too,” Kurt said. “If all your friends work here, you probably know your way around.”

“Most of the first-aid type supplies will be down in the ER,” Alex said. “That’s on the ground floor. Surgical instruments will be in the operating rooms. Make sure to grab lots and lots of gloves. Antibiotics will be in the pharmacy. Everything else is a luxury.”

“Roger that,” Kurt said. He was generally very cheerful, and Alex liked that. She guided them to the appropriate places, listened to them discuss divvying up supplies so they weren’t overburdened.

They didn’t talk about any bodies or people, she noticed. Was the hospital empty? Or were they just sparing her the truth? Listening and not being able to see what was happening was nerve-wracking. She kept waiting for the gasp or the scream or the moan of a zombie, but there was none.

Luke finished nursing, and Alex fixed her bra and blouse, settled him against her and let him drift off to sleep. Then she listened to Nathan and Kurt banter back and forth. Occasionally Kurt asked questions, and Nathan reminded him that he was lead on this mission, and then Kurt turned his questions into commands, and Nathan responded readily enough.

Alex was relieved when Nathan and Kurt emerged from the door on the roof, backpacks bulging.

“Deactivate the shield and cloak, please,” Kurt said.

Alex obeyed, and the hatched hissed open, and then they were inside and unloading their supplies.

“You’re knowledgeable about medicine,” Nathan said, looking at Alex.

She shrugged. “Like I said, my best friends worked here.”

“Anywhere else you want us to search?” Nathan asked, sliding into the pilot seat. The rear hatch closed even before he hit a button.

He’d said the LSD was showing no life signs in the entire city.

“No,” Alex said. “Let’s go to Atlantis.”

Kurt was very sweet, helped her set up a place to nap in the back, complete with blankets and pillows, while he assumed the co-pilot seat. Alex dozed, Luke cradled close to her, until Kurt said,

“Hey, we’re coming up on Atlantis, if you want to see.”

Alex checked on Luke, but he was still fast asleep. She made her way gingerly to one of the passenger seats. There was nothing but the blue-green water of the bay.

Kurt tapped the radio. “Atlantis, this is Delta Recon, requesting clearance to land.”

“Good to have you back, Delta Recon,” a man said. “Lowering cloak.”

One moment Alex was staring at San Francisco Bay, the next she was staring at Atlantis.

The boys had told her that Atlantis was an alien city-starship, but she hadn’t expected it to look so, well, alien. Massive and metal and spiky and gray and not like a city or a ship at all, just a too-big building, all needles and edges.

It was unlike anything she’d ever seen, cyclopean and unreal, but then Nathan guided the jumper closer, and she could see it was huge.

“I’ll land her in the gate room so we can unload supplies,” Nathan said, and the man on the other end of the radio connection said,

“Roger that.”

Atlantis’s towers were massive, glass-windowed, bright and shining. She saw a shimmer as soon as the jumper was close to the central tower - no doubt the cloak rising again. The jumper descended through a round space that was some kind of sunroof of skylight and into a space that was much prettier than the metallic exterior would have suggested, all gentle blues and grays, with a giant gray ring - some kind of statue or monument? - at one end of the room.

The jumper set down gently, and the rear hatch hissed open. Alex could see, through the viewport, a bunch of people gathered on the balcony above the landing room. Gate room, Nathan had called it.

Several of the people were wearing olive green uniforms, and others were wearing grey pants and grey windbreakers with different colored patches on them - green, blue, black. One of the women in an olive uniform - she was blonde - descended the stairs from the balcony.

“Welcome back, Delta Recon. And welcome to Atlantis, Ms. Reid.” She offered a hand. “I’m Samantha Carter.”

Colonel Samantha Carter was much prettier than Alex had expected. She also looked exhausted.

“Thank you for rescuing me,” Alex said.

“We’re glad you were willing to join us.” Colonel Carter leaned in, and her expression softened. “This must be Luke.”

“Yes, this is my son. He’s pretty sleepy.”

“We’ll do our best not to wake him,” Colonel Carter said softly. To Nathan and Kurt she said, “Good to have you back.”

“Glad to be back.” Kurt yawned. “I seriously need a shower.”

“Go,” Nathan said. “I got this.”

Kurt nodded, yawned again, and peeled away from the group, headed for some doors away from the balcony.

Colonel Carter called over her shoulder, “Major Lorne, why don’t you show Ms. Reid and her son to their new quarters?”

One of the men in the gray uniforms - he had black patches on his jacket - descended the stairs.

“Ma’am,” he said respectfully to Alex. “Let me grab your essentials, and then I’ll give you the dime tour. Welcome to Atlantis.”

She smiled. “Please, call me Alex. This is Luke.”

“Hello, Luke,” Major Lorne said gently, with an edge of wistfulness. Had he had children, Before? He was handsome, had neat dark hair and blue, blue eyes, a dimpled smile. He followed Alex into the jumper, scooped up what she’d deemed her essentials - diaper bag, overnight bag - and then led her up the stairs to the balcony.

Clustered on the balcony behind the people in uniforms were the people without uniforms - a motley crew of teenagers, plus an older woman in a t-shirt and track pants, and a man in chinos and a polo shirt. The man had curly hair and a sweet smile.

“Oh, look,” one of the girls - a blonde - said. “A baby!”

The girl standing beside her - beautiful, dark-haired and dark-skinned - slapped her lightly on the arm. “Quiet. Let him sleep.”

“His name is Luke,” Alex said gently, pausing so they could see him.

Soon everyone was clustered around her, and introductions were made - Puck, Artie, Finn, Rachel, Tina, Mercedes, Britney - the blonde - and Santana - her friend. Will Schuester. Sue Sylvester. Dr. David Parrish - a botanist (blue patches on his jacket). Dr. Rodney McKay - a physicist and engineer (also blue patches on his jacket). Captains Walker and Stevens (black patches on their jackets). Sergeant Chuck Campbell (green patches on his jacket). Teyla and Ronon (their own clothes). Vala (olive uniform). Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard (black patches on his jacket). Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell (olive uniform).

“Easy now,” Nathan said, “don’t overwhelm the lady. We’ll all have time to get to know each other.”

“We’re glad you’re with us,” Dr. Parrish said. He seemed sincere. They all seemed sincere, even though as far as they knew, Alex was useless, was a drain on resources, a helpless woman and a baby.

But they were the first humans she’d seen in months, and she was glad to see them - and also a little overwhelmed.

Nathan grabbed the diaper bag from Major Lorne, and together they herded Alex out of the crowd and over to a set of doors. Major Lorne explained they were not elevators but transporters, basically teleported people around the city.

The doors slid open, and a man in an olive uniform stepped out.

Alex’s throat closed. “Charlie?”

Nathan made a choking sound. “What did you say?”

The man paused, looked up at her, confused and wary, like she was a stranger. He was wearing glasses, but it was him.

It was too much.

Everything came crashing down on Alex at once. The world had ended. Everyone she knew and loved - gone. Alone for months, hanging on tooth and nail to protect Luke. Alien technology. Farewell to her old life. The City of Atlantis.

And now - Charlie.

Alex collapsed against him, weeping. Luke came awake with an angry wail.

Alex straightened up, tried to soothe him, but she was sobbing.

“Major -?” Charlie asked.

“Sorry, Doc,” Major Lorne said. “Delta Recon just rescued them.” He put a gentle hand on Alex’s shoulder. “Let’s get you to your quarters and you can rest. Someone will watch your son.”

“I’ll watch him,” Nathan said.

Alex was sobbing and smiling at the same time. “No. His father should watch him.” And she eased Luke out of the sling, held him out to Charlie.

He looked like she’d just tried to hand him a bomb. “What?”

“I knew you weren’t dead,” Alex said softly. “They found you too. I -”

“Ma’am,” Charlie said, “I think there’s been some kind of mistake.”

“What mistake?” Alex asked. “You’re alive, we’re both here, it’s fate.”

Luke was still crying. She bounced him gently.

“Yes, we’re both alive, we’re both here, but I don’t know you.”

It was like being slapped.

Alex drew back. “Charlie, it’s me. Alex. Alex Reid.”

Nathan looked like he’d been slapped.

Major Lorne had one hand on the gun holstered at his thigh.

“Ma’am, my name is Daniel Jackson, and I’ve never met you before.”

What? Was this some kind of joke? “Charlie,” Alex whispered, “it’s me. Alex. Don’t you remember?”

“You do look vaguely familiar,” he said. “But I don’t remember you, because I don’t know you.”

“Were you injured? Do you have amnesia? Is this - some kind of fugue state triggered by trauma?” Alex asked. She clutched Luke tightly, tried to soothe his wailing.

She recognized that skeptical arch of eyebrows, those blue eyes, that mouth. She’d kissed that mouth. But those glasses were unfamiliar.

“I don’t have amnesia,” he said. “I’m Dr. Daniel Jackson, and -”

“See?” Alex gazed at him, willing him to remember, praying for him to remember. “You remember being a doctor.”

“Because I am a doctor,” he said slowly.

“Yes - you were chief of surgery, I was chief resident, but then you were in that car accident and were in a coma -”

“Not a medical doctor,” he said. “I have PhDs in linguistics, archaeology, and anthropology.”

Major Lorne blinked. “You have three? McKay only has two.”

“And Sam only has the one. Numbers don’t really matter anymore, Major.” Charlie peered at her. “I think you have me mistaken for someone else.”

Alex shook her head. “No. You’re him. I know you’re him. Charlie, why are you doing this?”

“I’m not Charlie,” he said.

“Yes, yes you are, you’re Charlie Harris, and we were going to get married.”

“Ma’am, I’m Daniel Jackson, and I’ve only been engaged once, and it wasn’t to you.” He had his hands raised in surrender.

“No!” Alex shouted. “You’re him! You’re my Charlie, you -”

“Alex,” Colonel Carter said, hurrying to Alex’s side, “Daniel and I have been friends, coworkers, colleagues, and teammates for over a decade. I promise you, he’s not your - Charlie.”

Nathan flinched.

“But -”

“I’m assuming I look just like him.”

Alex knew that tone, that careful not-quite-a-question.

“I’m not him. Like I said, I’m Daniel Jackson.”

Alex stared at him for a long, long time. “But you’re him. You have to be.”

“He’s not,” Nathan said quietly. “If he were, Luke would know him, even if he didn’t remember himself.”

Alex looked down at Luke. He was still fussing and unhappy, but his cries had subsided to little sobs and hiccups. Alex held him out to the man who was calling himself Daniel Jackson.

Luke began to cry again.

“See?” Nathan said. “Not him.”

And Alex began to cry all over again.

Major Lorne looked very alarmed. Daniel Jackson also looked alarmed.

It was Nathan who said, “I got this. Coordinates, Major?”

Major Lorne said something, a string of numbers and letters Alex didn’t understand, and then Nathan was herding her into the little closet Daniel Jackson had just come out of, and he tapped something on the wall, and the doors closed, and there was a flash of light, and the doors opened again, only they were somewhere else, but the closet hadn’t moved.

Nathan led her down the hall to a large door. He showed her how to open the door - with a swipe of the hand, like automatic paper towel dispensers in public bathrooms - and there was a double bed, an empty desk and bookshelves.

“Is it true?” Alex asked numbly once she found her voice again. “He’s not really Charlie?”

“It’s true,” Nathan said. “Daniel’s a civilian consultant with the Air Force. Has been for over a decade.”

“How is that possible?” Alex sank down on the edge of the mattress, Luke in her arms, still fussing.

“They say everyone has a twin out there.” Nathan eased Luke out of her arms. “Go to sleep, Alex.”

She blinked at him. “Wait, but -”

“I’ve got this,” Nathan said, and he did hold Luke properly, and comfortably, too. Unlike Daniel Jackson, who’d looked mildly terrified of Luke, Nathan held Luke like a person with a lot of experience with children. Perhaps younger siblings Before?

Again Nathan said, very gently, “Go to sleep, Alex.”

Yes. She was exhausted. Drained. Emotionally and physically. “Just a little bit.”

“As long as you need,” Nathan said.

Alex lay back. The mattress was so soft. She closed her eyes. Just a quick nap. And when she woke up, the world would be fine again. It’d be her and Charlie and Luke against the world.

She was only vaguely aware of someone covering her with a blanket.

Yes, when she woke, everything would be fine.

She drifted off to the sound of Nathan singing Luke a soft lullaby.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Rachel asked for possibly the hundredth time. “While Finn is an exceptional singer and a dancer who certainly passes muster, I don’t think he’s qualified to -”

“Fly an alien spaceship?” Finn bounced in the co-pilot seat. “I have the magic alien gene, I get to fly the magic alien ship!”

Stevens, who was wearing his uniform and full tac gear, glanced at Finn sidelong, faintly amused. It took a lot to ruffle Stevens, Finn knew. Walker was cranky all the time, but Stevens was kind of like Lorne, always chill.

“He’s got to learn sometime,” Stevens said to Rachel, who was in the passenger seat behind Finn, and ostensibly along as backup. She’d proved surprisingly handy with a pistol - she had steady hands - and had a good head for organizing things, so she was officially along as Lorne’s delegate to make sure they marshaled their supplies wisely for this recon mission.

“It’s not magic, it’s science,” Rachel said primly. She put a hand on Finn’s shoulder, squeezed. “Be careful, all right?”

For all her ways of being nagging and loud, Finn knew she loved him, cared about him, worried about him, and being nagging and loud was her way of telling him without telling him.

“It’s not like we’re going into battle against other spaceships,” Finn said. “We’re just gonna fly around and look for survivors, right?”

“Right.” Stevens tapped the comm button, cleared his throat, but then Rachel poked her head up between the seats.

“May I?”

Stevens glanced at Finn. Finn shrugged. Rachel liked to use her voice.

“Go ahead,” Stevens said.

Rachel smiled, cleared her throat, and then enunciated, “Charlie Recon is ready to launch.”

There was a pause, and Finn was pretty sure he heard some giggling on the other end, but then Chuck said, “Charlie Recon, this is Atlantis. You are go for launch.”

“Roger that,” Rachel said. “Over and out.”

It took Finn a bit to figure out how to get the jumper bay doors open, because using things half with his mind was weird. Whatever Rachel said about his coordination, he was actually pretty damn coordinated, even if their high school football team had kind of sucked.

Of the Lima Survivors, the gene therapy had taken for Finn, Britney, Coach Sue, and Mercedes. Nathan had the magical alien gene naturally, and he was already a pilot besides, so he and Kurt were allowed to go on recon missions alone, whereas all the other junior recon teams had to have an actual pilot with them.

Once the bay doors were open, Stevens guided them out of the jumper bay, and once they were clear of Atlantis, they told Chuck to raise the cloak again, and then Stevens said, “All right, take her away.”

They were sweeping the country one state at a time. Not everyone wanted to come with them. Some people had shot at recon teams. Some people wanted to steal their jumpers, even though no one knew how to fly them, let alone if anyone in their survivor camps had the gene. There were some survivors who were friendly, who had built a large and welcoming camp with thousands of people but were holding out for others to join them.

Today, Charlie Recon was headed for Kansas.

“Maybe we can get some wheat and corn,” Rachel said, because she’d paid a lot of attention in geography class.

Stevens walked Finn through pulling up the HUD maps. McKay and Carter had gone to great lengths to program the jumpers with useful maps of Earth so people could navigate. Finn had to concentrate on keeping the jumper flying in a straight line, keep an eye on the map display, and also listen to Stevens’s instructions.

Rachel was humming softly, but then Rachel was always making music, and her voice was comforting.

Ancient tech felt like a weird buzzing in the back of Finn’s head, like something he was trying to remember but couldn’t quite find, and he had to search for it, reach for it, hold onto it. The more he did it, the easier it was to find, but it was a bit of a struggle every time. He knew it was easier for other people, like Nathan and Colonel Sheppard, and he wondered if that buzzing was uncomfortable for them.

The jumpers flew fast - so fast, faster than any airplane, fast enough to break atmosphere if necessary - so getting to Kansas only took a few minutes, and that wasn’t going at full speed.

“How fast can these go, full speed?” Finn asked.

“They can cross a solar system in about fifteen hours, so...seventeen-thousand kilometers a second,” Stevens said.

Finn blinked. “Did you just calculate that in your head?”

“Maybe,” Stevens said mildly.

Once they arrived at the southwestern corner of Kansas, on the border of Oklahoma, Stevens directed Finn to slow way down, boost the jumper’s sensors, and fire up the LSD.

“Remember,” Stevens said, keeping the jumper hovering while Finn searched for the sensor control display, “zombies don’t show up on the LSD.”

“Roger that,” Finn said.

It was depressing, how few life signs even showed up on the LSD. A couple of times Finn brought the jumper into a descent only the life sign they were approaching flickered out. People were dying down there.

Under Stevens’s direction - his expression was grim, Rachel was quiet, one hand on Finn’s shoulder to anchor him to her presence - Finn guided the jumper east along the state line (best guess by the map programmed into the LSD’s guidance system). Above a farmhouse in a fairly rural town - a cluster of buildings, then scattered farmhouses outside the town center - Finn read a life sign.

He started the descend.

“Want to read the message?” Stevens flicked a glance at Rachel.

She nodded. “Of course.”

Stevens fired up the exterior communication system while Finn brought the jumper down low over the farmhouse and barn. It was surrounded by broken bales of hay, rusted farm equipment, and some beat-up trucks that looked like they’d been in a tornado.

“Ready?” Stevens asked Finn.

Finn set the jumper to hover where they could get a good view of the farmhouse and barn but out of range of anything more primitive than a firearm. “Ready.”

“I’m ready,” Rachel added, and Stevens counted her in.

Rachel spoke loudly and clearly. “This is Charlie Recon Team, from the Frisco Bay Survivor Camp. We’re looking for any survivors. We offer food, shelter, and safety. All we ask is that you contribute to the collective survival of the camp.”

Based on the LSD, the single life sign was in the house, but it wasn’t moving.

“Maybe they’re sick or injured,” Rachel said in a low voice.

And then noise exploded over the comm system.

It took Finn a moment to recognize the sound. A dog. He was hearing a dog bark.

A golden retriever came tearing out of the house, barking up a storm.

The life sign in the house hadn’t moved, but then Stevens had the thing set to only detect humans (as opposed to animals or aliens).

Rachel was immediately on the comms. “No, shh, easy boy, we’re friends, we’re nice, we come in peace.”

The dog continued to bark and bark and bark, hackles up like a golden mohawk down its neck and back.

“Please, be quiet,” Rachel begged. “You’ll wake the zombies.”

The dog was still barking angrily.

Finn saw the life sign move, and then the front door swung open, and there was a woman. She had short blonde hair, wore jeans and a flannel shirt and an oversized red jacket.

“Shelby!” she shouted, heading for the dog.

Stevens said, “I’m dropping the cloak.”

Finn felt a brief thrum of energy through the jumper, and then the woman jumped back a step.

“Holy crap suddenly visible flying log!”

“Repeat the message,” Stevens hissed, and Rachel fumbled for a moment before she obeyed.

The woman gaped up at them. Then she called back, “Are you aliens?”

That wasn’t a response anyone had reported before.

“No,” Rachel said, “but we are borrowing alien technology.”

“Is it from Krypton?” the woman asked.

She was crazy. Finn glanced at Stevens. Stevens was watching the woman intently.

“No,” Rachel said. “It’s from another galaxy we call Pegasus.”

“How do I know you’re not going to kidnap me and sacrifice me to the zombies?” the woman asked.

Rachel was perplexed.

Finn leaned in to the comm panel. “If we were going to do that, we’d have kidnapped you already. And your little dog, too.”

“A Wizard of Oz joke in Kansas,” the woman said flatly. “How original.”

“He didn’t mean it like that,” Rachel said quickly, coming to his defense. “If you don’t want to come with us, you don’t have to.”

The woman peered up at them. “Can I bring Shelby?”

Shelby had ceased barking and was standing beside the woman, teeth bared in a snarl.

Finn looked at Stevens. “Can she?”

“Let us check with our leaders,” Stevens said.

The woman shaded her eyes and peered up at them. “How many of you are in there?”

Finn started to say three , but Stevens cut him off with a sharp gesture.

“There’s room for you and your possessions and your dog if our leaders allow it,” Stevens said. He cast Finn a pointed look.

Right. They shouldn’t give away important tactical knowledge.

Stevens tapped the subspace radio button. “Charlie Recon for Atlantis.”

“Go for Atlantis,” Chuck said.

“We’ve found a survivor. She wants to bring her dog,” Stevens said.

“Let me run that up the chain to Colonel Carter,” Chuck said.

Stevens nodded. “Roger that.”

Then the line went silent. Finn wished there was some kind of hold music.

“Well?” the woman asked.

“We’re running it up the chain,” Rachel said as politely as possible.

The woman snorted. “You’re definitely human. Bureaucracy exists even after the Apocalypse.”

Chuck said, “Pets are welcome on Atlantis.”

“Roger that.” Stevens said to the woman, “You can bring Shelby with you, but you will be responsible for feeding him and cleaning up after him.”

The woman knelt and murmured something to Shelby, and then she straightened up. “All right. I’ll come with you.”

“Roger that,” Stevens said. “We’re bringing her down.”

He walked Finn through the landing process, which was harder than it looked, especially since jumpers went on autopilot to land in Atlantis, but they made it to the ground with only a bit of bumping and jostling. With the inertial dampeners, no one felt the bumping, but Finn could certainly hear it.

Stevens took point, one hand on the pistol at his thigh, after Finn opened the rear hatch.

The woman stared at them. “You’re teenagers.”

“Almost eighteen,” Rachel said defensively.

“I’m not a teenager,” Stevens said. “I’m Captain Cyrus Stevens, USAF. This is Rachel Berry and Finn Hudson.”

“Chloe Sullivan,” the woman said. “Air Force?”

“What’s left of it.”

“I guess that makes sense, with the flying and all.” The woman offered a hand, and Stevens shook it.

“Can we help you pack anything?” Finn asked, remembering his manners.

“I don’t have a lot,” Chloe admitted. “This isn’t my house. It’s my friend’s house. Shelby  is his dog. Well - Shelby’s basically my dog, now. My friend, Clark, he left. Said he’d try to get help. He’s tough - super tough - but I haven’t seen or heard anything from him. Can I leave him a note?”

“Of course,” Stevens said gently. “Let him know you’re at the survivor camp in San Francisco Bay. If he makes his way there, we’ll gladly take him in. Unless you know where to search for him?”

“Not a clue,” Chloe said. She let them into the farmhouse.

Once upon a time, it must have been very cute inside, all handmade furniture and decorations. It was dusty and in shambles now. Chloe had a single duffel bag of clothes and supplies.

Now that everyone was on the ground, Shelby was much friendlier, and he basked in the attention Rachel gave him. She let him sniff her hand, then knelt down and gave him a good belly rub.

Chloe wrote a note, left it on the kitchen table with an empty flower pot as a paperweight, and then they trooped back out to the jumper.

“Do we keep sweeping the state?” Finn asked.

“No.” Stevens showed Chloe where to stash her gear and to a seat.

Shelby wandered around sniffing everything before he settled at Chloe’s feet.

“Orders are to transport any survivors back to base,” Stevens said.

“You’ll like it,” Rachel said, smiling brightly at Chloe. “We have fresh food and clean water and warm showers.”

Chloe smiled dreamily. “Mmmm. Showers.”

“Do you have any special skills?” Stevens asked.

“I’m a reporter. Was a reporter. Before. That’s probably not so useful now.” Chloe shrugged. “I was always good at computers, too, but that’s probably not useful either.”

“Actually computer skills are important to us,” Stevens said.

Chloe raised her eyebrows. “You have computers?”

“We have an alien spaceship,” Finn pointed out.

Chloe stared. “This can go into outer space? How fast? Do I need a seatbelt?”

“Don’t worry. It has inertial dampeners. Let’s take her up.” Finn made sure the jumper’s ascent was smoother than the descent. It was easier, this time to access the guidance HUD and head back toward Atlantis.

Chloe peered through the viewport. “Whoa. This is so cool.”

“What made you think we were aliens?” Stevens asked.

Chloe shrugged. “You know, invisible flying log ship. Of course, people think Air Force experimental craft are UFOs all the time.”

“All the time,” Stevens echoed, sounding amused.

Rachel made conversation with Chloe, asked about where she was from and about her life Before. Chloe had been a reporter all the way back to high school, gone to college in journalism, and worked at a fancy big city newspaper as an investigative reporter, uncovering crimes and scandals and scams and schemes. She’d grown up with her dad - her mother had died when she was a kid - and her two favorite cousins Lucy and Lois, whose dad had been an Army general.

Her best friend, the one whose house she’d been staying at, was Clark, who’d also been a reporter with her through high school and after college. He was tough, a farm boy. Shelby was a dog they’d rescued while investigating a story about awful animal experiments. Shelby was a very smart dog.

Stevens had Finn fly back to Atlantis slowly, at speeds people were more used to, partially so Rachel and Chloe had time to talk, and partially so Finn could get in the flying time now that their survivor sweep had been cut short.

Finn could see how Chloe was a reporter, the way she steered the conversation away from herself and to Rachel, who told her proudly about New Directions and regionals and state and nationals, about being Finn’s girlfriend and how they’d survived things together.

Chloe seemed like a nice enough person, and Finn was pretty sure Stevens wouldn’t have brought her along if she was a bad person. Besides, Shelby liked her, and dogs were good judges of character, right? If Shelby liked her, she had to be a good person. Or at least a decent person. Or at least she didn’t want to hurt them right this second.

Stevens let Rachel call in the approach.

“Atlantis, this is Charlie Recon on approach with survivor Chloe Sullivan and her dog Shelby.”

“Atlantis?” Chloe echoed.

“The name of our base,” Stevens said.

“Roger that, Charlie Recon,” Chuck said. “Lowering cloak.”

Chloe swore. “Whoa! Is that a giant spaceship?”

“It’s a city,” Finn said. “It’s our base.”

“It’s huge! You probably have a small country packed away in there.” Chloe’s eyes were wide. “Is it - is it alien?”

“Yes,” Stevens said.

Finn felt the moment the autopilot engaged, lifted his hands off the controls. Stevens took over, nudged autopilot to take them into the gate room where people were waiting.

Colonel Carter, Colonel Sheppard, and Colonel Mitchell were always part of the official welcome wagon, but Finn could see Schue and Coach Sue up beside Chuck in Control as well.

The jumper landed, and Finn opened the rear hatch. Stevens scooped up Chloe’s bag.

“Shelby! Wait!”

Shelby darted out of the jumper, barking joyfully, tail wagging, and made a beeline up the stairs to Colonel Mitchell.

He immediately dropped down to one knee to give Shelby a good scratch behind the ears. “Hey, buddy. How are you?”

“Ma’am,” Stevens said, “this is Chloe Sullivan. She was a reporter, Before, but she says she has some computer skills. And this is Shelby, her dog.”

“Hi,” Chloe said. “How do you guys rate, all tucked up in an alien city?”

“It was ours before the zombies happened,” Carter said. “I’m Colonel Samantha Carter. I’m the commander of this base. This is Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard and Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell, Will Schuester and Sue Sylvester.”

Chloe shook all of their hands. “Thanks for letting me stay with you guys in your seriously awesome digs.”

“I hope your trip was a pleasant one,” Carter said.

“It was, thanks.”

“Finn’s first time flying recon was a success, ma’am,” Stevens said.

“So,” Chloe said, “what’s the catch? With me staying here.”

“Really the only condition is that you contribute to the upkeep of the city,” Carter said. “If you have computer skills, you might end up assisting me, Dr. McKay, or Sergeant Campbell with various tasks around the city. Everyone helps out in the greenhouses so we have food, and also if you have the ATA gene, you can learn to pilot a jumper. We send people out on recon sweeps too, if they like. Weapons and other combat training is available.”

“ATA gene?” Chloe asked.

Carter smiled ruefully. “Even after a zombie apocalypse, Atlantis is a lot to take in. Finn, why don’t you and Captain Stevens get Miss Sullivan settled in? Do the orientation. I’m sure Daniel and Alex will help.”

Finn straightened up. Carter was giving him responsibility. “Yes, ma’am.” He saluted as best he could.

Sheppard looked amused, but Carter saluted him back.

“Welcome to Atlantis,” Carter said again, and then Chuck summoned her to look at something.

“First things first,” Finn said, “you should get checked over by Dr. Reid, and while you’re doing that, Dr. Jackson can talk to you about Atlantis and the Ancients.” His mind raced. What else did Chloe need? “Oh - Captain Stevens, can you please find out from Major Lorne what quarters are available for Chloe? And also requisition some supplies for Shelby.”

“Yes, Finn.” Stevens tapped his radio and began speaking softly to Major Lorne.

“Come on Shelby,” Rachel said, because of course she was tagging along.

Colonel Mitchell released Shelby with a final pat, and Finn led Chloe and Shelby to the transporters. He showed her how they worked - she was awed and excited - and together they headed for the infirmary.

“We don’t have a vet - yet,” Finn said, “but we finally have a doctor. For a while it was just Stevens, who was a medic before he joined the Air Force, and then Tina. Dr. Reid was the chief resident surgeon at a fancy hospital in Toronto before - Before. We’re really lucky to have her.”

“I feel fine,” Chloe said. “Haven’t seen a zombie in - a long time. I’d almost eaten through all of Mrs. Kent’s food storage.” She looked sad for a moment.

Finn figured she missed Mrs. Kent, her friend Clark’s mother.

“But I get it. Better safe than sorry.” Chloe mustered up a smile.

“The infirmary is in here,” Finn said. “Sometimes we take turns helping Stevens and Tina and Dr. Reid restock bandages, sort medical supplies we pick up on supply runs. Here, this is how the doors work.”

He waved a hand over the door lock, and the doors whooshed open. Of course Dr. Reid was waiting. Stevens had probably radioed ahead. Finn was still kind of slow to remember to radio ahead for things. He never thought he’d miss having a cellphone.

“Hello, I’m Alex Reid, and welcome to Atlantis -”

“Lois!” Chloe threw her arms around Dr. Reid.

“Whoa, hey, what?” Dr. Reid staggered back, startled.

Chloe, who’d been really bright and chipper once she was on the jumper, was bawling her eyes out.

Stevens looked alarmed. Even Rachel looked alarmed.

“Lois, you’re alive!” Chloe sobbed. “I was so afraid I lost you forever -”

“My name is Alex Reid, and I’m the chief medical officer on Atlantis,” Dr. Reid said.

Chloe drew back. “What? No, it’s me, Chloe, your cousin.”

Dr. Reid looked very alarmed.

Stevens was on his radio in the background.

Dr. Jackson said, “Well, now I suppose you know how I felt.” He put a hand on Chloe’s shoulder. “Ma’am, this woman isn’t your cousin. I’m sure she looks just like your cousin, but she’s not your cousin.”

Chloe sobbed. “What? How?”

“We’re all trying not to overthink it too much.” Dr. Jackson pushed his glasses up his nose. “They say everyone has a twin out there.”

Shelby made a low whimpering noise of distress.

Dr. Jackson blinked. “That’s a dog.”

“You have a talent for stating the obvious,” Dr. McKay said, clapping him on the shoulder condescendingly. He eyed Chloe. “Did you make another woman cry? Why do you keep making women cry? It’s a wonder you were ever married at all.”

“Of those of us who were married,” Dr. Jackson said, “I’m the only one who never got divorced. And no, I didn’t make her cry. Apparently Dr. Reid is a doppelganger of someone she knows.”

Dr. Reid put an arm around Chloe’s shoulders, led her over to one of the exam tables.

“Her name’s Chloe,” Rachel offered. “She’s good with computers.”

Dr. McKay lit up. “Really?”

“That’s what she says, Doc.” Stevens shrugged.

“We’ll see how good. But then what else can I expect from a woman and her dog at the end of the world?” Dr. McKay ambled over to the exam table. “So, you’re good with computers.”

“Not now, Rodney,” Dr. Reid said patiently.

“Who’s this?” Chloe asked. “He’s kinda cute.”

“He’s also taken,” Dr. Reid said.

But Dr. McKay smiled. “You think I’m cute?”

“Don’t feed his ego, please,” Dr. Jackson said. “So, Chloe...Sullivan, is it?”

She nodded. Dr. Reid was taking her blood pressure.

Dr. Jackson eyed Dr. McKay. “Bet you my next ration of chocolate she’s good for the Gene.”

“I’ll take that bet,” Dr. McKay said.

“What gene?” Chloe asked. She wiped her eyes, offered a wobbly version of her formerly bright smile. “Wow. You look just like my cousin Lois.”

Dr. Reid smiled gently. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“You should. Lois is - was, I don’t know - an amazing woman.”

“Hopefully we’ll find her,” Dr. Reid said. “Your blood pressure’s a little high, but I suppose that’s about to be expected. It might just get a little higher. Dr. Jackson, if you’d like to do the honors?”

Dr. Jackson cleared his throat. “In 1928 on the Giza Plateau in Egypt, archaeologists discovered an ancient artefact known as the Stargate. When I say ancient , I mean it in a couple of different ways…”

Finn had heard this lecture before, but he didn’t mind hearing it again. Dr. Jackson had a soothing voice. He was a pretty good singer, took.

Stevens clapped Finn on the shoulder. “Good flying today, Hudson.”

Finn smiled at him. “Thanks.”

Rachel slipped her hand into his, squeezed. He smiled down at her, kissed her. Everything on Atlantis would be all right.

And then Shelby licked his shoe.

Chapter Text

Danny would be the first to admit that he’d ruthlessly made fun of Steve for being a machine, an animal, a weapon, body and mind honed for killing and surviving. After the freakin’ zombie apocalypse hit Hawaii and Steve was the one who figured out how to get them off the island, how to build shelter on a tiny deserted island and stay alive, Danny had nothing but praises for Steve’s skills and training.

Steve’s training had kept Danny and Gracie alive.

Just Danny and Gracie. Not Rachel, not Kono and Chin and Lou and Max, not - anyone else.

Danny regretted all the times he’d joked Steve was a monster, an animal, because he’d never truly seen Steve at his SEAL fiercest, his SEAL finest, and - and he’d never appreciated it, when Catherine had explained that military training broke a person and remade them so they were useful to the Service.

Because Danny was pretty sure Steve was broken.

Yes, Steve was keeping them alive. He was hunting and fishing, building shelters, building signals and signs for help to find them. But there was emptiness behind his eyes. Because they hadn’t found Mary either.

Gracie had grown up since their escape from certain death by brain-eating zombies. She obeyed requests the first time they were given, she didn’t complain, and she did her best to smile and crack jokes and cheer Steve and Danny up.

Danny’s heart broke the first time she offered to learn how to use a pistol, so she could help Steve if somehow the zombies figured out how to swim. Danny had a measure of hope for Steve’s humanity when Steve hesitated, looked at Danny.

But Danny knew it was a good idea, so he nodded.

And then Gracie was eager, learning how to stand and fire and field strip and clean and reassemble a pistol. Steve came alive, bright with enthusiasm. Every day, they had Gracie-and-Steve time for marksmanship practice, and Gracie would sit beside Steve in the dying firelight after their evening meal, disassembling and reassembling her little pistol over and over again, trying to be faster and more efficient. Steve would count quietly under his breath, like it was a game, smile at her when she shaved another second off her time. It was heartwarming - Steve was such a good father to Gracie - and also horrifying, because Danny’s little girl was learning how to shoot to kill.

Sometimes Steve went on fishing and exploration expeditions alone. He’d hop onto his surfboard, paddle out far past the surf - he never rode the waves for fun anymore - and come back with grim reports of other islands being crowded with zombies still, or with a brace of fish for dinner.

When Steve was gone, Danny did his best to be the anchor for Gracie. Together they shored up their shelter, foraged for coconuts (they now had a pretty good array of coconut bowl-cups and utensils) and other food. Sometimes Danny would help Gracie practice her marksmanship (dry fire practice, because bullets were a precious commodity), and sometimes they would go check on the messages and signals they’d laid in hopes that help would come for them.

Steve was keeping a tally of how many days they’d been on that island. Danny knew where Steve kept his tally stick, but he never looked at it, because he didn’t want to know. Didn’t want to think about his mom and dad and sisters and nieces and nephews back on the mainland.

Danny and Gracie were straightening the giant arrow they’d made out of a bunch of white clothes laid over tops of trees when a voice broke the silence. It was like the voice of God out of nowhere, if God were a teenage boy.

Gracie screamed and flung herself against Danny, cowering.

“This is Bravo Recon Team, from the Frisco Bay Survivor Camp. We’re looking for any survivors. We offer food, shelter, and safety. All we ask is that you contribute to the collective survival of the camp.”

Danny clutched Gracie close, spun around, searching the sky and the trees.

“Who are you? Where are you?”

The sky above them shimmered, and this thing appeared. A giant gray log with sloped ends and some kind of windshield hovered in the air above them.

“We come in peace,” the voice said.

And then Steve was there, leaping in front of them, pistol raised high. “Who the fuck are you and why shouldn’t I shoot you out of the sky right now?”

“Whoa, whoa!” the voice protested, and he really did sound like a teenage boy. “Don’t shoot. I said we come in peace!

And then there was a muffled noise, and in the background Danny heard, “Give me that, you suck at this.”

Then another voice - still a teenage boy - sounded from the flying log.

“Look, if you want hot food and warm showers, you can come with us, but if you want to stay out here and be crazy and mean, you can do that too.”

“Steve,” Danny began.

Steve fired.

There was a ping! as the bullet ricocheted off the flying log. Danny ducked instinctively, bringing Grace with him, and there was more muffled panicked yelling inside the flying log.

“Run away, run away!”

“The term is ‘fall back’, moron.”

Another voice came over the flying log’s loudspeakers (though Danny couldn’t see any).

“This is Major Evan Lorne of what’s left of the United States Air Force. We’re offering sanctuary to any who wish to join us, but you are under no obligation to do so.”

“Air Force?” Steve straightened up, lowered his gun. “Lieutenant Commander Steven McGarrett, Navy SEAL.”

“Holy shit, a Navy SEAL? No wonder he’s so badass.”

“Don’t swear in front of the little girl.”

For one moment, Danny was sure Steve was going to ask to go with them, because hot food and warm showers sounded divine, not to mention if they were concerned about swearing in front of Gracie, they couldn’t be too bad, right?

But then Steve brought his pistol back up. “Prove you are who you say you are.”

“Well, Puck and I aren’t in the Air Force,” said the first voice, the teenage boy. “But Major Lorne is. You have a military ID, right?”

“Yes, Artie,” said Major Lorne, all dryness, “I have kept my ID on me, because I wanted zombies to be able to verify my identity before they ate me.”

“What about your dog tags?” the other boy asked. “If he’s a Navy SEAL, he knows what real dog tags look like.”

“Would inspection of my tags satisfy you, Commander?” Major Lorne asked. Points to him for calling Steve Commander instead of the full Lieutenant Commander, which a lot of civilians did out of excessive formality and not understanding how ranks and titles worked.

“Depends on if your tags pass muster,” Steve said.

“Where would you like us to land?”

Steve rattled off coordinates in military fashion and said, “Meet you there.” Then he turned to Danny and Gracie, pistol still at the ready, and said, “Let’s go.”

The gray log was already landed on the beach a safe distance away from their little shelter when they got there, which was more points for Major Lorne being an actual military guy, because he understood military coordinates. (Just because he was military didn’t automatically make him trustworthy, which Steve knew as well as Danny. Because, hello, giant flying log.)

Danny could see, in the late afternoon light, that there were three people in the log, two of them teenage boys - one with glasses, one with a short dark mohawk - and one of them a man who was wearing a black-and-gray windbreaker. His hair was short and neat, too long to be regulation, but both Danny and Steve were unshaven and unkempt, so Danny couldn’t really judge.

“Coming out now,” Major Lorne said.

Steve circled around to the rear of the log, and a hatch hissed open, and Lorne stepped out, hands raised in surrender.

The teenage boys remained inside the log behind him. The one with glasses was in a wheelchair.

“Commander,” Major Lorne said, “I’m going to toss you my tags. Are you ready?”

Steve nodded, pistol aimed right at the man’s heart.

Major Lorne kept one hand up, used the other to awkwardly tug his tags up over his head. He tossed them underarm, and Steve caught them one-handed. To Danny, they looked legit - one tag on the main chain, second tag on a smaller chain loop, black rubber silencers around the edges.

“Name?” Steve demanded. His voice cracked like a whip. He was tense enough to snap.

“Evan Lorne.”

“What’s the A stand for?”

“Alexander, after my father.”

“Serial number?”

Major Lorne recited the one listed on the tag.

“Blood type?”

“O neg.”

“Religion?”

“Jedi.”

The boy with the mohawk snorted. “Seriously? Jedi?”

Major Lorne rolled his eyes. “I was eighteen.”

Major Lorne was wearing some kind of uniform. His pants matched his jacket. But it wasn’t like any uniform Danny had ever seen. Not that he was an expert on Air Force uniforms.

Steve said, “That’s not an Air Force uniform.” It was like he could read Danny’s mind.

“It’s the uniform for a classified project,” Major Lorne said.

“World’s over. Who gives a damn about classified?” Steve’s grip on his pistol was unwavering. One wrong move and Major Lorne was dead.

“I can tell you all about it on the ride back,” Major Lorne said. “But that’s why you’ve never seen it before.”

“Tell me all the places you were stationed,” Steve said. As if he’d be able to verify what Major Lorne said.

“Kunsan right out of the Academy, then Bagram, then Peterson ever since. It was the cover station for the Program.”

Major Lorne’s two teen companions were huddled behind him, eyes wide. Gracie clung to Danny’s side, her breathing fast and shallow. He patted her shoulder, trying to soothe her.

Steve narrowed his eyes. “When were you stationed in Bagram?”

Before Major Lorne could answer, a voice erupted from the gray log behind him.

Bravo Recon, this is Atlantis. You’re overdue for check-in. Please respond. Over.

It was another man’s voice.

“What happens if you don’t answer that?” Steve demanded.

“They’ll scramble another recon team to our position,” Major Lorne said.

“How many teams do you have?”

If Major Lorne were a real soldier, he wouldn’t give away tactical information like that.

“I don’t rightly know,” Major Lorne said. “Teams are a bit of a flexible arrangement. I’m not in charge of coordinating recon. I just fly the jumper.”

“Jumper?” Steve pressed.

“Puddle jumper.” Major Lorne nodded at the gray log.

“If we come with you, what’s the catch?” Steve asked.

“No catch,” Major Lorne said. “You can resupply with us and go on your way, or you can stay with us. Pitch in with the survival efforts.”

“You said hot food and warm showers,” Gracie piped up.

“Quiet,” Steve snapped.

She flinched back with a tiny whimper.

“Hey,” Danny protested. “Don’t talk to her like that!”

“How do we know you don’t plan to enslave us or use us as cannon fodder against the zombies?” Steve demanded.

The boy in the wheelchair said, “Pretty sure if they were going to use anyone as cannon fodder against the zombies, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Danny recognized his voice. Artie.

The other boy - Puck - looked guilty.

Major Lorne looked horrified. He turned to look at Artie. “No, we’d never -”

“Eyes front!” Steve snarled, and Major Lorne snapped back around to face him, eyes wide.

Puck stepped out of the jumper. “Look, if you don’t want to come with us, you don’t have to. Give Lorne his dog tags and let us be on our way.”

Puck was young, but he was by no means small. He was tall, broad-shouldered, strong. And he looked angry.

“Puck, stay back, I’ve got this,” Major Lorne began.

Steve drew his other pistol, aimed it right at Puck.

Puck came up short, but he didn’t raise his hands in surrender. “Lorne, it’s obvious these people don’t want to come with us. We should just go. More food for us, right?”

Danny said, “Steve, look, let’s give this a chance. Artie’s in a wheelchair. How dangerous can he be? If we don’t like it, we don’t have to stay.”

Steve shook his head. “No. We shouldn’t.”

“We have a doctor,” Artie offered. “Like, an actual medical doctor. Her name’s Alex. We rescued her from Canada.”

“We’re safe here,” Steve said, “just the three of us. I have to protect us.” His voice shook. “I can protect us. We have what we need. We -”

“Uncle Steve.” Gracie stepped forward. “We should go with them.”

Steve blinked at her. “What?”

Gracie put a tentative hand on his arm. “You’ve kept us safe, Uncle Steve. You protected us. But these people can help us. You don’t have to protect us anymore. You can stop now.”

Steve shook his head. “No. Gracie, get back. I have to -”

Gracie reached up and carefully took one of the pistols from him. “It’s okay, Uncle Steve. I promise.” And she hugged him.

Steve wilted, lowered his other pistol, folded over Gracie, and began to cry.

Danny froze. He’d never seen Steve cry.

But Gracie didn’t look at all alarmed. She lifted her chin at Danny, beckoning with her gaze, and immediately he was there to take Steve’s weight from her.

Gracie tucked the pistol away into the holster at her hip and scooped up Major Lorne’s dog tags from the sand where Steve had let them fall when he’d drawn his other pistol.

“If we’re coming with you, there are some things we need to pack,” she said, taking charge from Steve as smoothly as if she were an adult.

Danny was torn between his heart breaking for the little adult adult she’d become and being so proud of how brave she was. But mostly he was distracted by Steve, who was sobbing into his neck, gut-wrenching sobs like he was in physical agony.

Artie hurried to answer the radio call, and Puck and Major Lorne set to Gracie’s bidding with barely any hesitation. They staged items - food, clothing, other survival supplies - on the ramp of the so-called jumper, and Artie arranged them in the back of the jumper.

By the time Steve had stopped crying, Lorne, Gracie, and Puck had packed all of the McGarrett-Wiliams worldly possessions into the back of the jumper.

“Are we ready to go?” Gracie asked.

“Steve?” Danny asked. “Babe?”

Steve straightened up, his expression completely blank. He looked awful, eyes swollen and red. But he nodded. “Yeah. Let’s go.” And he strode onto the jumper.

Danny expected him to at least attempt to take the co-pilot seat, but he sank onto one of the back benches behind the bulkhead doors, tipped his head back, and closed his eyes.

Puck graciously offered Gracie the co-pilot seat so she could see, and Danny was given the passenger seat beside Puck so Artie could sit sort of between the passenger seats and see as well.

Gracie asked all kinds of questions - Where are we going? What’s it like there? What kind of food do you have? Will I get my own room? Are there other kids there? How long did it take you to learn how to fly this?

Artie and Puck fell all over each other to answer what questions they could. They were going to a giant alien city spaceship in San Francisco Bay. It was called Atlantis, and it was super huge, like the size of New York City (they’d only ever been once, for a national Glee Club competition), but there were less than forty people in the city, so they all stayed pretty close together. Atlantis was awesome - full of cool alien technology that some people could use with their minds. They had their own rooms - well, Puck and Artie were roommates - with their own bathrooms, and some rooms even had balconies, which was pretty cool. Nice views. They had good food - fresh vegetables and fruit from the greenhouse where everyone helped, plus fish when people went fishing. Gracie could probably have her own room if she wanted - but she might want to stay with her dad and uncle.

Artie and Puck were two of a group of high school students, all from the same Glee club, who’d survived the apocalypse together, them and their Glee club coach and the cheerleading coach (two of them were cheerleaders, Puck and another boy named Finn had also been on the football team). There was no one else really Gracie’s age, but Santana and Britney (the cheerleaders) could probably teach her a bunch of cheers. There was a baby named Luke (he belonged to Alex, the doctor), and everyone also took turns babysitting him, and there was a dog named Shelby.

Major Lorne explained that he’d learned to fly cargo planes for the Air Force after he finished officer training, and he’d also been certified to fly a super cool half-alien fighter jet called an F-302. He’d learned to fly a puddle jumper pretty quickly after he arrived in Atlantis. He had a special gene that allowed him to fly the jumper, and it was pretty easy to do once you got used to the feeling in your head. Anyone who had the gene could learn to fly, including some of the high school students, but neither Artie nor Puck had the gene.

Danny listened to their friendly chatter with only half an ear, watching Steve sleep instead.

Danny dozed himself, only came awake when he heard Gracie speaking.

“Bravo Recon for Atlantis.” She sounded very smart and official.

“We read you, Bravo Recon,” a woman said. “Have you been sucking on helium, Major Lorne?”

“No, Chloe. This is Grace Williams, one of our new friends,” Major Lorne said.

“Hi Chloe!” Gracie chirped.

“One of your new friends?” Chloe asked.

“Yes. We’ve picked up Detective Daniel Williams and Lieutenant Commander Steven McGarrett from Hawaii’s 5-0 task force and Grace, who is Detective Williams’s daughter,” Major Lorne said. “What’s the news from the other teams?”

“Echo Recon picked up some Arabica plants and a cocoa tree,” Chloe said.

“Coffee and chocolate?” Major Lorne asked. “Parrish is gonna love that.”

“Everyone’s gonna love that. What’s your ETA, Bravo Recon?”

“Three minutes. Have Walker and Stevens prep family quarters, and let Dr. Reid know we have people incoming.”

“Roger that. See you soon.”

It was Gracie who said, “Bravo Recon over and out.”

Steve came awake when Major Lorne said, “Touchdown, Delilah.”

“Who’s Delilah?” Gracie asked.

“That’s this jumper’s name.” Major Lorne patted the control console fondly, stood up. He eyed Steve warily. “You ready?”

“As we’ll ever be,” Danny said, standing. Steve rose beside him, said nothing.

The rear hatch opened, and everything after that was a blur.

Names. Faces. Handshakes. Uniforms and not-uniforms. Gracie recognized a couple of the teenage girls. You’re Cheerios! I saw you on TV at nationals! You’re so cool! Colonel Samantha Carter, leader of Atlantis. A bunch of doctors, none of whom practiced medicine. Did you hear, Lorne? We’re going to have coffee. Real coffee! And chocolate! You can make chocolate, right? That’s one of the things you can do? Besides soldiering, I mean . A dog, happy and barking, who immediately bowled Gracie over and licked her face while she laughed. Danny couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard her laugh.

There were teleportation closets and doors that opened with a thought or a hand gesture. A nice lady doctor with a gentle smile and soft hands who checked them over, diagnosed them with mild dehydration, prescribed them water and electrolytes (brought by a teenage girl with fading purple highlights in her sleek black hair).

A boy named Kurt showed them to their room. It had three twin beds, a desk, an empty bookshelf, a bathroom. People had donated clothes. People would see about making some clothes for Gracie, or going on a clothes run. There were clean towels and fresh handmade soaps laid out.

Everyone, including Gracie, was issued little radio earpieces so they could contact each other at a moment’s notice. Call signs were first names or last names as needed. McGarrett instead of Steve, because of Stevens. Williams instead of Danny, because of Dr. Daniel Jackson. Gracie was fine for her.

Danny told Gracie to take the first shower, and then he took the second.

Over the radios, someone named Mercedes announced that dinner would be ready in about half an hour. Gracie said she would meet them at the mess hall, assured Danny she knew where she was going, and then she was out the door with a spring in her step and a brightness in her eyes that reminded Danny that she really was a child .

Danny had to chivvy Steve into the shower, and Steve stayed under the water for so long Danny was afraid he’d drowned, but eventually Steve emerged, clean-shaven. His expression was still terribly blank, and he strapped on his thigh holster and pistol, but seeing as how Major Lorne and the other soldiers walked around armed, Danny figured no one would take it as a threat.

Steve followed Danny down the hall to the transporter, and they found the mess hall easily enough. When they got there, food was laid out buffet style beside what Danny guessed was the kitchen door, and people were arrayed at little tables in no particular order. In fact, Major Lorne drifted between tables, plate in hand, answering questions as he went. Of the adults, he seemed the most popular among the teens.

Gracie was ensconced with a couple of the teenage girls, gesticulating wildly and talking fast, eyes bright.

“Commander, Detective.” The blonde woman who called out to them was Colonel Carter. She said they could call her Sam. “Come sit with us.”

Danny noticed that they gave Steve the best tactical spot at the table.

“Is this everyone?” Danny asked. “I feel like there are more people here than there were in the original welcome wagon.”

“This is everyone,” Sam said. She made another round of introductions - Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell, Vala, Ronon, Teyla, Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard.

Puck hadn’t been kidding. The food was hot, and it was good. Mercedes, Major Lorne, and Dr. Parrish explained what all the dishes were. Most of them were made out of Earth-based food, but some of the plants - tava root - were apparently native to a whole other galaxy.

Sam explained they could be tested for the gene if they wanted, and if they didn’t have it, they could try gene therapy to see if it took for them. The gene would allow them to fly the jumpers and use some things easier in the city, like doors and showers. Even if they didn’t have the gene, they could contribute to the city in a lot of ways, if they so chose - become part of a recon team, sweeping for survivors and supplies, or work in the greenhouses to help provide food for everyone.

Steve was silent through it all, as surly and antisocial as Danny had ever seen him. So Danny did his best to smile and nod in all the right places. Recon sounded like it would be helpful, busy. He had tac training, could cover a pilot.

Sam explained their goal was to find enough power to dial the stargate so they could contact their allies or fellow Earthlings offworld, see if they could get help. They were also looking to find doctors who might be able to work on a cure for the zombie disease.

“Stargate?” Danny echoed.

Sam blinked. “Oh. Did Major Lorne not -?”

“Puck and Artie did their best,” Danny said.

Dr. Jackson cleared his throat. “If I may -”

“Let me tell it,” Colonel Sheppard said. “I’m the least likely to put it in terms normal humans don’t understand.”

Dr. Jackson looked offended.

“Wormhole X-treme.” Colonel Mitchell, who’d been quiet for most the meal, suddenly spoke up.

“The crappy sci-fi TV show? What about it? I caught episodes here and there. One of my old partners liked it.” Danny swallowed hard. Grace had loved it.

“Amen to the crappy, but not so much with the fi.” Colonel Mitchell raised his eyebrows pointedly.

“You mean -”

“Stargates are star portals.” Colonel Mitchell speared up a forkful of tava root, ate it calmly. “Stable wormholes. Alien planets.”

“Really?”

“Plausible deniability,” Sam explained. “If the program was ever leaked, whistleblowers were just crazy fans.”

“So -”

“We have allies who are aliens, and also we evacuated some people from Earth to our backup sites on other planets,” Sam said.

Danny swallowed hard. “So when you say aliens -”

Vala smiled sweetly and waved. “Hi. My name’s Vala Mal Doran. I’m an alien.”

“You look like a human,” Danny said.

“I am. Just born on another planet.”

“You sound...British.”

“And yet Ronon and I sound American,” Teyla said.

Danny blinked at her. “You two -?”

“Both of us,” Teyla said graciously.

“How’s the food?” Colonel Sheppard asked.

“Everything on Atlantis is citrus-free,” Dr. McKay said. “I’m deathly allergic to anything citrus.”

“Noted,” Danny said faintly.

It was Dr. Jackson who asked if Danny had any hobbies. Atlantis was equipped with a good collection of movies, music, and books. There was also a piano and two guitars to be had, for live music and singing along. In fact, there was a sing-along tonight in one of the common rooms, if they were interested. Also people needed to draw lots, to see who helped with the dishes after dinner.

“Steve plays the guitar,” Danny said.

Steve shook his head and said, “No.”

“You don’t?” Dr. Jackson asked.

“Not singing tonight,” Steve said flatly.

Dr. Jackson raised one hand in surrender. “Understood. Invitation stands. If not tonight, there will be others.”

“If we stay,” Steve said.

Dr. Jackson nodded, his expression cautious. “Yes. If you stay.”

Danny glanced across the way to the other table where Gracie was following along with Britney and Santana as they demonstrated the hand motions for a cheer routine. She was smiling. She looked happy. Could he take her away from this?

Because Mercedes, Major Lorne, and Dr. Parrish had cooked, they were exempt from the drawing of lots to do the dishes. Tina, Puck, and Rachel were set to do the dishes, which prompted Rachel to call out to Dr. Jackson,

“Don’t play any Streisand before I get there.”

“Duly noted,” he said, smiling, and headed out of the mess hall.

Steve finished his food, scooped up his plate, took it into the kitchen. Danny scrambled to follow him.

“Hey, where are we going?”

“Back to the room. We’ll get our supplies and we’ll go.” Steve’s jaw was tight. He stared straight ahead as he made for the nearest transporter.

“Couldn’t we stay just a little while?” Danny asked. “Gracie’s happy here.”

“Happy isn’t the same as safe,” Steve said.

Danny didn’t know how they could get any safer than a giant alien city that was invisible most of the time. One thing they knew was that zombies couldn’t swim.

“You can relax now, Steve,” Danny said, fumbling for the words Gracie had used on the beach.

“We’re safe here.”

“Are we?” Steve stepped into the transporter, and Danny darted after him before he could get left behind. Steve jabbed at the coordinate panel on the back wall.

“Wait. Are you sure you picked the right place?” Danny asked.

But then the transport light flashed and the door opened and they were in another hallway. All the hallways and corridors of Atlantis looked the same to Danny. For a couple of seconds he thought they were in the right place, but none of the doors opened for them, not even when they counted down to what Danny was sure was their door.

“I think we’re lost,” Danny said.

Steve did an about-face, marched past the transporter, and headed down another hallway. “No we’re not.” He counted the doors, swiped a hand over the door mechanism at door seven, and the doors hissed open.

But not into their room.

Out onto a balcony.

For one second, Danny was stunned by the view. A few lights flickered along the coastline. The stars above were brighter than ever. The stars over their tiny island had been brilliant and bright, but -

This must have been what the coastline looked like, fires like starlight, centuries ago, after it was first settled by Western explorers. It was beautiful.

Steve froze halfway onto the balcony, spine rigid, like a cat splashed with ice water.

Did he not like the view? Or was he seeing something else, something out of a terrible memory?

Danny put a hand on his shoulder. “Steve -”

Steve held up a hand, and Danny fell silent. He peered around Steve, and he saw -

Colonel Sheppard. And Dr. McKay. Up against the balcony railing, arms wrapped around each other, all tangled up with each other as they kissed and kissed and kissed.

And then Steve stepped backward, sweeping Danny with him, back into the hallway, and closed the door behind them. He spun on his heel, marched for the transporter. Danny followed helplessly. He remembered how Steve had blown their cover when they were staking out that apartment rather than let that old lady think they were gay. DADT had been repealed, but Steve was the epitome of the military macho man, all muscles and guns and violence in a way Danny, as a cop, never had been. Women always loved Steve, from Catherine to random strangers they met while working cases. If Steve decided this place was unsafe just because two of the men were together -

Steve picked the right coordinates in the transporter this time, and he made a beeline for their room. As soon as they were inside, Steve spun and faced Danny.

“Did you see that?”

No need to ask what that was. “Yeah.” Danny couldn’t read the expression in Steve’s eyes, behind the stoic blankness he wore when he was facing down a terrible situation.

“Did it bother you?”

“No, and it shouldn’t have,” Danny said, lifting his chin defiantly. He crossed his arms over his chest. His mind was racing. What was Steve going to say, going to do? If Danny told Steve the truth, would Steve be disgusted? Want to leave Danny and Gracie behind? Would losing Steve be the only way to save Gracie?

“Why not?” Steve asked.

“Because - because I’m bi. I’ve dated men. I’ve kissed men. I’ve done more with men.” Danny had been in love with Steve for so long he couldn’t remember what it was like not to be in love with him. If Steve rejected him after this - all that mattered was Gracie anyway.

Steve looked at him for a long time.

Danny shifted toward the door, ready for the blow-up, to make his escape.

Steve stepped closer and kissed him.

Danny’s eyes went wide, and he saw Steve’s eyes were closed, his unfairly long lashes a dark crescent against his cheek, and then Danny closed his eyes, because - holy crap Steve was kissing him .

His mouth was warm and soft, his lips a little chapped. The kiss was firm but chaste, the only point of contact between them.

Hesitation, Danny realized. Caution.

He reached up, wound his arms around Steve’s neck, and kissed him back.

After a moment they had to part for breath, but Danny hung onto Steve, searching his gaze.

“Steve?” he asked. “What was that?”

“I’m safe now,” Steve whispered. “Here. With you.”

And like that, Atlantis was home, because Steve and Gracie were here.

Chapter Text

They’d been drifting in the boat for who knew how long, in hollow silence, barely looking at each other. Sometimes Molly did the fishing, sometimes Sherlock. She was getting good at making nigiri, but they were going to run out of rice soon, and then she didn’t know what they would do. They rationed water carefully, would dip into the freezing ocean in lieu of bathing. Molly had cut off all her hair a week into this endeavor, because she had no way of washing it, and it’d grow back, and it wasn’t like Sherlock thought she was pretty anyway.

John had put them on the boat, had insisted they shove off, that he’d be right behind them, everyone knew the undead couldn’t swim.

But he hadn’t been right behind them, and he’d rigged the engine to go and not stop till it ran out of fuel, and by the time Sherlock figured out how to stop the engine, it was too late. The coastline was gone and they didn’t know where they were. Because John was a soldier as well as a doctor, was smart, the boat he’d supplied for them was full of everything they’d need for extended survival - food, water, clothes, hygiene supplies, a crystal radio kit so they could conserve power and only use the radio to call for help when calling for help was a viable option.

Calling for help wasn’t a viable option. The first thing Sherlock did was set up the crystal radio and flip through the frequencies, listening to news broadcasts, hoping to hear something about London or Baker Street or John himself, but there was nothing. Then he switched to listening to military channels, because John had been in the Army, had friends in the Army, but it soon became apparent that the military broadcasts were actually looped messages, weren’t anything at all.

Sherlock gave up, and then he lapsed into utter silence, not speaking to Molly, their only communication gestures, though most of the time Sherlock just did things himself rather than try to ask for assistance.

Sometimes, when Sherlock was asleep, Molly would sneak away and listen to the crystal radio quietly, even the pre-recorded, looped military messages, just to hear someone else’s voice.

Molly fast lost track how long they’d been at sea, because they kept adjusting the rations as they dwindled, even though there had been enough rations on the boat for three people - Sherlock, John, and somehow Molly, though she doubted the third share had been intended for her; she’d just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or right time, depending on how one looked at it. Because they’d had three people’s worth of rations, the rations lasted longer than Molly had been afraid of.

She’d been more afraid of the terribly blank look on Sherlock’s face when he first reached for a water bottle labeled John. He’d stared at it for a long time, then twisted off the cap and drank.

But now even John’s share was almost gone, and Sherlock was even thinner and pointier than before, and Molly didn’t dare look at herself in the tiny bathroom mirror, sure she was in turns awfully sunburned and also pale and windblown.

After a while, they drifted far enough that the crystal radio wasn’t picking up pre-recorded military radio broadcasts, and Molly was completely alone with the sharp silence of Sherlock’s grief.

She lasted for three days before she finally grabbed the crystal radio, scrambled up to the roof, turned it on, and hoisted it to the sky.

But there was silence.

Silence.

Silence.

And then a crackle of static and a boy singing to soft acoustic guitar strains.

Love of mine
Someday you will die
But I’ll be close behind
And I’ll follow you into the dark

Molly’s breath caught in her throat. Tears pricked in her eyes.

The signal came stronger, and the boy kept singing, and the guitar kept playing.

She cranked up the volume, not sure if she was hearing right.

She pinched herself. Was she awake?

The boy was still singing.

The boat continued to drift, and the signal got stronger, the music louder.

There was a thump and then the cabin door crashed open, and Sherlock demanded, his voice harsh and grating after so long an absence, “What the hell is that noise?”

The boy sang on.

If heaven and hell decide
That they are both satisfied
Illuminate the no’s
On their vacancy signs
If there’s no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I’ll follow you
Into the dark

Sherlock froze on the deck, staring up at her.

She must have looked a madwoman, standing on her toes, waving their crystal radio at the sky.

The boy sang,

Then I’ll follow you
Into the dark

The song ended, and the boy cleared his throat.

“That was I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie, and you are listening to Radio Atlantis.”

His voice was beautiful.

“I am Puck, and I will be with you for the next half hour, and then I’ll be handing you off to the piano stylings of Dr. Daniel Jackson,” he said. “In the meantime, if you’re listening to this broadcast and you’re not on Atlantis with us, feel free to reach out to us on our open receiving frequency. Chuck and Chloe are ready and willing to take your calls.”

He rattled off a frequency.

Molly didn’t think, just reacted. She scrambled down off the roof of the cabin and for the helm. She fired up the radio and fumbled with the dial with shaking hands till she found the right frequency.

Sherlock wrenched her away from the radio.

“What are you doing?” Molly protested, struggling, but he was so damn strong. “We have to call them.”

Sherlock shut off the radio, then turned and headed for the portside railing. He climbed up onto it.

“Sherlock,” Molly said, approaching him slowly, “what are you doing?”

“I will follow you into the dark,” he said.

Dread curled, icy and leaden, in the pit of Molly’s stomach. “Sherlock -”

“Call them if you want,” Sherlock said, “but our journey together ends here.”

Again, Molly didn’t even think. She lunged, caught Sherlock’s belt, hauled him backward. He landed on the deck with a thump. She climbed on top of him and slapped him across the face. Hard.

He stared up at her, dazed but distant beneath it all.

“No,” Molly snarled. “I know I’m not John or Mrs. Hudson or Mycroft or any of the people you’d have wanted with you, but I did not put up with your silence and brooding for who knows how long just to have you top yourself over a stupid emo Death Cab for Cutie song.”

“Death cab,” Sherlock echoed, and Molly winced, remembering the first case he and John had ever worked together.

She slapped him again. “No. You’re staying with me, and you’re staying alive.”

She climbed to her feet, caught his ankle, dragged him over to the radio, and held onto him him while she found the right frequency. She toggled the radio on.

“Molly Hooper for Atlantis, over.”

There was a crackle of static, and then a woman said, “Go for Atlantis, Molly Hooper.”

“My colleague and I are stranded on a boat we don’t even know where. Can you - can you find us? We’re out of fuel and almost out of rations and I don’t know how much longer we can survive. Also my colleague is expressing suicidal ideations, and he’s bigger and stronger than me, so I don’t know how long I can keep him alive as well.”

“Roger that, Molly Hooper. We are triangulating your position right now and scrambling rescue craft,” the woman said. “Tell your colleague to hold on, all right? Help is on the way.”

But Sherlock was unmoving, as blank and silent as ever.

“Roger that,” Molly said. “And - thank you.”

“We’re sending medical personnel with our rescue team,” the woman said. “Atlantis over and out.”

Molly sank to her knees, still clutching Sherlock’s leg. She wished she’d brought the crystal radio down with her so she could keep listening to Radio Atlantis, so she could hear human voices and know help was on the way.

Finally. Help. She could relax. She could -

She fell asleep.

Molly jolted awake when boots landed on the deck beside her. She screamed and scrambled backward. Two men in what looked like military uniforms were hauling Sherlock upright between them while a woman shone a penlight in his eyes.

It was a teenage boy in regular jeans and a t-shirt who offered Molly a hand. “You’re Molly Hooper, right?”

She gazed at him, dazed. “Are you - are you Puck?”

“How did you know that?”

“I heard your voice. On the radio. I Will Follow You Into the Dark.”

Puck smiled. “Yeah. It’s kinda emo, but Dr. Reid likes it, so - I sang it for her. You liked it?”

“Your voice is beautiful,” Molly said.

Puck preened. “Yeah, it is. Now come on, come with us. We’ve got hot showers and fresh food where we’re going. Anything you want to bring?”

Molly looked at the boat, considered. Then she found an empty water bottle with John’s name written on the side of it, in his own writing. She scooped it up and clutched it tightly. Sherlock would want it later. “No,” she said.

Puck nodded and led her to the port side railing to where some kind of giant gray log was floating on the water, the rear hatch open. Puck gave her a hand over the railing and into the log, where another man who looked like a soldier was waiting, and then Puck went to help wrangle Sherlock off of the boat and into the floating log.

The rear hatch closed with a hiss. The soldier guided Molly to a passenger bench, wrapped an emergency blanket around her shoulders, handed her a bottle of water and some kind of power bar, then climbed into the pilot seat.

“Commander McGarrett,” the woman checking over Sherlock said, “let’s go.”

Molly could only stare as some kind of fancy hologram display appeared midair. She could see out the viewport as the log began to rise, but she didn’t feel it.

“Where are we going?” she asked.

One of the soldiers, a man in an olive uniform with the name Mitchell on his left pocket, said, “Atlantis.”

Chapter Text

“You’re in love with him, aren’t you?”

Kurt looked up, startled. Atlantis’s two newest residents were Molly, a medical examiner from London, and Sherlock, who Molly said had been some kind of private investigator. Sherlock called himself a consulting detective. Danny Williams, who’d been a real-life detective before, said there was no such thing.

Now Molly was working with Alex in the infirmary, trying to figure out a cure or vaccine for the zombie problem, and Sherlock was working in the greenhouses with the rest of the botany team, though he was a beekeeper (apiologist) instead of working with the plants directly. Nathan’s plan to acquire beehives had passed the vote, and now they had bees helping with pollination, and also a supply of honey.

In the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, food that tasted good was rare. Honey made sweet treats possible. Evan knew how to substitute honey for sugar in baked goods, and the result was amazing. Also now that there was fresh honey to hand, some of the New Directions could resume musical training. There were enough people on Atlantis to help out with the daily chores of living that people could pursue hobbies again, and Mr. Schuester was offering music lessons yet again.

Kurt was working up to a fairly operatic duet with Nathan for the next Broadway-themed karaoke night.

“In love with who?” Kurt asked, setting aside his pruning shears lest he accidentally mar a plant and reduce Dr. Parrish to tears.

“Your erstwhile roommate,” Sherlock said. He sounded serious but looked kind of silly in his beekeeper outfit, which Mercedes and Evan had constructed out of old window screens and an Atlantis hazmat suit.

“Nathan?” Kurt echoed, incredulous.

Sure, he and Nathan still shared a bed, but it wasn’t the least bit sexual, even if both of them were teenage boys and sometimes work up hard and had to clean the pipes in their morning showers.

“It’s obvious to anyone with eyes,” Sherlock said.

He said a lot of things were obvious even when they weren’t.

But then Molly said he was a genius, like Rodney, and Rodney did get frustrated when the people around him were slow.

“How so?” Kurt asked. He’d seen Sherlock work his magic, how he knew McGarrett had once been a Navy SEAL from the way he tied nautical knots to how he knew Coach Sylvester had had a disabled sister from the way she talked to Grace to the way he knew Teyla had a child of her own from the way she held Baby Luke.

Molly explained that Sherlock was just really observant and could put puzzle pieces together very fast.

Too fast for her liking, sometimes.

“Your utter lack of personal space for each other speaks to people who share space quite intimately.”

“Intimate isn’t the same as romantic,” Kurt pointed out, because he and Nathan did share a bed, because they’d shared a bed in Nathan’s fallout shelter back in Lima right after the zombie outbreak, because sharing a bed felt like safety, like home, and it made Nathan feel like he could protect Kurt if Kurt was right there at all times (even though Kurt was pretty damn handy with firearms by now).

Sherlock glanced at him sidelong and then stepped into the bee enclosure.

“He’s incredibly protective of you,” Sherlock continued.

“Because he’s older than me,” Kurt said. “He sees me as a little brother. We’re sort of - blood brothers.”

“You exchanged blood in some ghoulish but ultimately childish ritual?”

Even though Kurt couldn’t see Sherlock’s face, he could hear the disdainful sarcasm dripping off of his every word.

Kurt resumed pruning back the coffee plant that Dr. Parrish was carefully cultivating.

“As in we fought side by side to get here,” Kurt said.

Sherlock made a knowing noise. “Ah.” He cleared his throat and recited:

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.”

“Shakespeare?” Kurt asked.

“So your high school education wasn’t as deplorable as rumored.”

“No. But also you’re British, and you’re not the only person capable of deductions,” Kurt said.

Sherlock made a disdainful noise. “Not all British people like or even read Shakespeare.”

“You’re not all British people,” Kurt said.

“That I am not.” Sherlock’s tone turned thoughtful. He finished whatever he was doing with the beehives and retreated from the bee enclosure. As soon as the doors were firmly closed behind him, he took off his helmet, took a deep breath of fresh air.

Kurt finished with the coffee plant and moved on to the cocoa plant, which Parrish was trying to cultivate so they could take clippings off of it and grow more.

“I don’t understand him,” Sherlock said.

“Who?” Kurt asked.

“Your roommate,” Sherlock said. “Your blood brother.”

Kurt eyed him. Had no one told him what Nathan was, a clone of a fifty-two-year-old military officer stuffed into a teenage body and cut loose on the world, adrift without friends or family? “Have you talked to him?”

“I’m still working him out. He is a delightful puzzle.”

“What is it you don’t understand about him?” Kurt asked.

“Everything. How he is one person at all. If I were to ignore his face and form, he is the very model of a retired Air Force combat pilot, that reckless arrogance combined with that exceptional hand-eye coordination and reflexes, but a certain disregard of military formality and protocol borne of distance and time, not disdain. But I look at his face and hear his singing voice and I also know he is a young man without family ties, without foundation, who has poured his heart and soul into his music, his survival, and protecting you, his peer, the only other homosexual boy his age,” Sherlock said.

“I think he and Artie are actually bi,” Kurt said.

Sherlock raised one eyebrow, filed that piece of information away. He had his helmet tucked against his hip, looked like an ungainly version of one of those fancy fencers. “Interesting. I thought the love of his life was Daniel Jackson, and it was going to prove a boring drama, you in love with Nathan, he in love with Daniel, like a terrible soap opera.”

That was news to Kurt. “Nathan’s still in love with Daniel?”

After that huge fight everyone had had right after arriving in Atlantis, when Nathan refused to take command, Kurt had figured he and Daniel were over, especially since Daniel had turned him down.

Sherlock smirked. “Ah. Not as knowledgeable about your blood brother as you thought.”

It made sense, though. Kurt had no idea how long Nathan had been in love with Daniel, but if it was a long time, well, those feelings didn’t go away overnight even though Nathan treated Daniel the same way the rest of the New Directions kids did, with respect but some amount of distance. In fact, Nathan tended to ask Rodney to accompany him on piano for music night even though Daniel had practiced much more regularly than Rodney prior to the apocalypse.

“Maybe not,” Kurt said, “but it’s okay if I don’t know every single thing about every person around me. A few secrets are healthy.”

“You have no secrets,” Sherlock said.

“That’s what you think,” Kurt said. “But you can’t read my mind. And if you’re keeping secrets from me, well, I can keep secrets from you.”

Sherlock frowned. “That’s not how it works.”

“Sure it is. So long as you’re willing to lie to yourself, other people can lie to you.” Kurt finished with the cocoa plant and moved on to the bed of clovers that were vital to honey production. Once these clovers were old enough, they’d be put in the bee enclosure for the bees to use. “You think you know all the cracks in my armor, mine and Nathan’s and maybe Dr. Jackson’s, because you know I care about Nathan and Nathan is still in love with Daniel.

Sherlock said nothing, arms crossed over his chest, posture defensive.

“Seems like you refuse to admit who you’re in love with,” Kurt said.

“I’m in love with no one,” Sherlock said tightly.

“Really?” Kurt asked. “Or is it just that the person you’re in love with doesn’t exist anymore?”

Sherlock’s face went pale, but he made no movement.

Kurt said, “My boyfriend got turned into a zombie. I had to shoot him in the face to get out of Lima alive.”

Sherlock’s expression didn’t change.

Kurt asked, “What was his name?”

“He wasn’t my boyfriend.”

“Not what I asked.”

“John. His name was John.”

“Explains why you call Sheppard Sheppard but call all the other officers by their first names.”

Sherlock eyed him. “You’re more observant than the others, aren’t you?”

“All of us are,” Kurt said. “Always had to be on the lookout for people who might throw slushies at us.”

“Some form of high school hazing, I assume.”

“Something like that.” Kurt finished with the clovers and moved on to the green beans. “So, tell me about John.”

“Afghanistan or Iraq.”

Kurt was confused. “What?”

“Those were the first words I ever said to him,” Sherlock said. He finished peeling out of his beekeeper suit, then pulled on a pair of gardening gloves and moved to weed the little flower bed for the roses. “Besides thanks.”

“Why?” Kurt asked.

Sherlock spoke, wove an amazing, if convoluted and occasionally dry and condescending, tale, about John Watson, soldier, doctor, and best friend.

That night at supper, Nathan raised his eyebrows when Sherlock sat with them and then proceeded to interrogate Nathan about his upbringing, but Kurt just shrugged, and Nathan nodded and then told Sherlock the literal truth, about growing up in a cabin in Minnesota and then parts of Chicago, and Nathan and Kurt enjoyed watching Sherlock mull over his newest puzzle.

Chapter Text

It was only a matter of time before someone on Atlantis figured out how to make booze. Between Parrish, Carter, Rodney, and Tina’s chemistry know-how, they constructed a still, and soon enough, there was booze.

Alex was very firm on none of the minors having alcohol, because it would damage their brains, and the human brain didn’t stop developing till about twenty-three, so as far as she was concerned, the drinking age on Atlantis was twenty-three and not twenty-one.

And besides, she wanted most of the alcohol for the infirmary, to use as disinfectant.

Evan requisitioned some for the kitchen, for cooking purposes.

Kurt wasn’t in any hurry to get hungover or damage his liver or his brain. Since they were a fraction of what human survivors there were and a good number of them were gay or queer, they needed to preserve themselves - and the human race - as best as they could.

Kurt was under no illusion that the grown-ups weren’t getting at least a little drunk in their spare time now and again, because surprise surprise, the zombie apocalypse was pretty damn stressful. Sure, Atlantis was a paradise compared to the rest of the world, with an endless supply of clean running water and food, shelter from the elements and also some creature comforts like movies and music and art and books.

But it was still the zombie apocalypse. Almost everyone they’d known before was dead or zombified, or first one and then the other.

Some days Kurt woke up and rolled over, went to reach for his cell phone so he could text Blaine and wish him a good morning, ask if he’d had sweet dreams.

And then he’d accidentally elbow Nathan in the face and Nathan would either wake up fighting or wake up with a tear-stained face because he’d dreamed of his dead son or some other unknown horror. He’d served in Vietnam and the Gulf before Stargate Command, and Kurt had heard what the other soldiers and scientists said to each other, hinted at and alluded to here and there, and apparently Stargate Command had made the zombie apocalypse look like a walk in the park.

“It’s been a while since we had a full music night,” Rachel said at breakfast one morning. “How about in a couple of weeks we perform? Pick pieces and perform.”

“I like it,” Vala said, because she was always one for attention and liked performing (which Mitchell said was better than thieving).

“Two weeks?” Rodney asked.

Rachel nodded.

Molly said, “Could we do a supply run to the mainland? Sherlock plays the violin.”

Kurt glanced over at Sherlock, who continued to follow Nathan around and attempt to puzzle him out. He refused to ask what was really up with Nathan, because he was determined to figure it out himself.

Sherlock noticed Kurt looking at him, nodded. “Yes. I play the violin.”

That opened up a lot of possibilities. The violin had the same range as the human voice, and Kurt had imagined recreating one of his and Blaine’s old duets with just a violin in Blaine’s place. Maybe it could finally happen.

After breakfast, Kurt was on dishes duty. Nathan went to speak to Rodney, which was unusual, because best as Kurt could tell they hadn’t been friends Before, and they were wary of each other after, even though Kurt knew they would die for each other in a heartbeat.

Whatever Nathan said he wanted to keep private. Rodney looked surprised, but he nodded, and then they parted ways.

Rachel’s proposed recital turned into a pretty big deal. Performers spent all their spare moments practising their pieces. Those who weren’t performing - Evan hadn’t been kidding when he said he wasn’t a singer - were organizing a performance space with comfortable seating for the audience and some kind of stage for the performers, complete with fun lighting. Evan was also organizing fancy treats for the event. There were rumors that there might be some wine as well - for the adults.

Sherlock was willing to put the problem of Nathan aside in preparation for the recital. He and Kurt spent a lot of time in one of the many empty rooms on Atlantis, practising their song. Kurt and Blaine’s first duet had been a Christmas song, and that wasn’t quite right, even though Kurt wasn’t sure if anyone would bother celebrating Christmas this year.

Even though Sherlock was bossy and condescending, he was a talented musician, and since Kurt was a bit of a perfectionist about his performances, what could have been a massive personality clash ended up being an energetic collaborative effort, and when the big night arrived, Kurt was excited.

The room the others had set up was one of the old common rooms. Furniture had been rearranged so there were comfy couches and overstuffed chairs. Chloe and Chuck had found some spare LEDs, and Evan and Stevens and Walker had made paper lanterns out of colored paper, and Kurt felt anticipation wash over him. This was going to be amazing.

There was a little snack buffet, fruit and sweets and savory raw vegetables, some creamy dip, honey and bread, and of course drinks, gentle wine for the adults and somehow a sweet carbonated beverage for the teens. Kurt knew better than to drink a carbonated soda before he performed, but he hadn’t had soda in forever, and he was eager to try some.

Vala was, of course, the mistress of ceremonies for the night. Where she’d found that dress Kurt didn’t know, but in the flowing cream gown she looked like a Greek goddess, or maybe a Hollywood starlet on the red carpet. Kurt approved.

Rachel opened the show with Don’t Rain On My Parade, because Broadway showstoppers were her thing. Puck and Sheppard did a pretty awesome cover of a Johnny Cash song, both of them on guitar, Puck singing.

Mercedes did a Whitney number, because no one else could pull it off like she could.

Britney and Santana did a super cute duet, and for one moment Kurt was horribly jealous of them, that they could have that together still when his other half was gone.

Tina and Artie did a duet, an old Sonny and Cher song that had people singing along.

Finn did a classic rock ballad, because those were his thing.

Teyla also sang, a pretty song traditional to her people, while Ronon accompanied her on a homemade drum.

When it was Nathan’s turn, Kurt settled in for an operatic piece, one he didn’t understand but that would move him anyway.

But then Rodney hit those opening notes, and Kurt was startled, because he recognized the song.

Death Cab for Cutie.

Brothers on a Hotel Bed.

The youthful boy below
Who turned your way and saw
Something he was not looking for
Both a beginning and an end

It was like a punch to the gut.

Nathan was leaning against Rodney’s piano, gaze deceptively downcast, contemplative, introspective, like he was talking to himself and everyone else just happened to be there to overhear.

Kurt knew Nathan was singing to Daniel.

Nathan lifted his head, looked right him.

But now he lives inside
Someone he does not recognize
When he catches his reflection on accident

Daniel gazed up at him, his expression unreadable.

You may tire of me
As our December sun is sitting
‘Cause I’m not who I used to be

Those final notes were so soft and so heartbroken that Kurt wanted to weep. He glanced at Sherlock beside him, expecting the man to look smug and knowing, but instead he was pale, shocked.

When last piano notes faded, there was a pause, and then Kurt rose to his feet, applauded, and applause swept over the room in a staggered wave.

Nathan took his bows, thanked Rodney, and then it was Kurt’s turn on the stage with Sherlock.

They did Pink’s Fuckin’ Perfect, and since this wasn’t a school venue Kurt could sing the actual lyrics. Sherlock on the violin in Blaine’s place was perfect. That he’d agreed to do the sort-of rap part in the middle that Blaine had always done had been utterly unexpected the surprise and delight on everyone’s faces was worth it.

Kurt and Sherlock took their bows, and then the final song of the evening was Daniel’s.

He accompanied himself on the piano.

Typically Daniel sang folk songs from other countries, once a song in French that made Rodney and Sheppard look kinda weepy. So Kurt was surprised to hear Sondheim. A Little Night Music. Usually a song sung by a leading lady.

Daniel was sarcastic, in a lot of ways just like Nathan, the two of them opposite sides of the same sardonic coin, but he could also be passionate and earnest in a way Nathan wasn’t, in a way Nathan avoided.

His rendition of Send In the Clowns was longing and heartbroken and in places almost angry.

Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want
Sorry, my dear

Kurt glanced at Nathan, who was sitting beside him. His expression was unreadable.

But then he looked amused when Daniel sang,

What a surprise
What a cliche

His expression changed when Daniel sang on.

Isn’t it rich?
Isn’t it queer?

Losing my timing this late
In my career
And where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns

Don’t bother
They’re here

Rachel was on her feet immediately, because she loved those emotional leading lady show-stoppers, and Mercedes was right beside her.

The final number was, Mr. Schuester and Coach Sylvester, a lively duet of Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better, full of energy and laughter, and Kurt enjoyed himself immensely. After the final bows, the stage lights (controlled by Chuck) went down and the house lights came up and there were drinks and treats and that honey soda was so, so good. Kurt did his best not to drink more than his fair share, but he’d missed soda so much for some stupid, inexplicable reason.

Kurt supposed he should have kept a closer eye on Nathan, because there had been so many jokes from Carter and the rest of senior command once the official booze announcement was made.

“Remember, sir,” Carter said to Nathan. “You can’t have any till you’re twenty-three. Doc says so.”

Nathan had made a face, and Mitchell had said, “If you do that it’ll get stuck like that,” and there had been more laughter, but more than once during Kurt’s time with Nathan he’d said, I’d kill for a beer, just like Kurt’s dad used to say it.

Of course Nathan would sneak a drink.

When Kurt finally had the presence of mind to track him down - plenty of people had positive things to say about his and Sherlock’s performance, especially Molly, she was glad to see Sherlock living again, and not just obsessing over Nathan - he wasn’t surprised to find him in a shadowed corner, talking to Daniel.

“ - Nathan -”

“ - With your stupid blue eyes and your stupid glasses -”

“ - You were right, okay? You were right. It’s the apocalypse. Nothing’s the same anymore. Our world is over. It will never be the same again. Some of the rules we had before were to maintain order and safety over a society built on a large population. But now, here, with just us -”

“You said I wasn’t him, that we couldn’t -”

“I’m saying you’re close enough.”

Nathan recoiled like he’d been slapped. He shook his head. “No. I’m me. I want the real thing, or I’ll take nothing at all.”

“I had the real thing, and it’s gone. But you’re here and I -”

Nathan shook his head again. “Like I said, you were a beginning - and an end. It’s over, Daniel.” He turned away.

Daniel reached out, caught his wrist. “Jack. Please.”

Nathan froze at the sound of his old name.

“C’mon.” Daniel was begging. “You love my stupid glasses and my stupid blue eyes -”

“I love you. But you don’t love me.” Nathan went to pull away.

Daniel kissed him.

Nathan kissed him back.

Sherlock dove between them, wrenched them apart. “What the bloody hell is going on here?” He moved in front of Nathan, shielding him.

Nathan hiccuped a sob. “Damn teenage hormones.”

Daniel, Kurt realized, was very drunk, cheeks flushed, blue eyes wide and a little hazy. “None of your business.”

“He’s a child,” Sherlock snapped. “The world may be over but we are still humans, still civilized.”

“He’s not a child,” Daniel said at the same time as Nathan said,

“I’m not really a child.”

“Well,” Kurt said, making his presence known, “looks like the clowns are here.”

Daniel, Sherlock, and Nathan turned to him, startled.

Kurt reached out, offered Nathan a hand. “C’mon. You’re drunk. You’re both drunk. Talk about it in the morning.”

“He never talks about his feelings. He hardly talks about them when he’s drunk,” Daniel said, sulky.

Sherlock nudged Nathan toward Kurt. He stumbled, and Kurt caught him.

“I think,” Sherlock said, “you’ve both talked about your feelings enough for one night. Or sung about them. Go.”

Kurt nodded, wrapped an arm around Nathan’s shoulders, and guided him over to the transporter. Nathan was quiet, let Kurt shepherd him through brushing his teeth and washing his face, getting ready for bed. They curled up together, not quite touching, and listened to each other breathe, waiting for the other to fall asleep.

When Kurt woke, he missed Blaine.

Nathan was gone.

Then a call came over the radio. Assemble in the gate room.

They didn’t often assemble, all of them, and it was gratifying to see how their numbers had grown, but also sobering to see how there was still relatively few of them.

Molly and Alex had good news. They were close to a vaccination against the zombie disease, but they needed to test it. For that, they needed test subjects by way of mice.

And they needed a couple of ‘live’ zombies.

Of course McGarrett volunteered, and Williams with him even though he looked very irritated at his partner’s enthusiasm.

Nathan said, “I’ll go.”

Someone must have finally told Sherlock who Nathan really was, because he didn’t protest.

Kurt looked at the kiss-bruise on Nathan’s throat, at the way Daniel was very carefully not looking at him, and knew he couldn’t let Nathan go out there alone.

“I’ll go with you.”