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Fic: Perfect Note 2/2



Rachel was always on his radar on some level, even though she was dating that ass named Jesse and he had this complicated mess with Quinn. They were friends now, friends with mutual secrets, and he knew she had his back just as much as he covered her. So when she suddenly became very, very quiet Puck knew something was up. Rachel Berry had an opinion about everything and never hesitated to share it.

Then word got around through the glee gossip circle that she had laryngitis or something and that she hadn’t spoken a word all day, and Puck got a little nervous. Kurt had seemed cattily pleased that Rachel had been silenced when he’d shared the news with Quinn at lunch, but Puck knew better. Rachel never got sick, especially when it was related to her throat. It was probably another twist to her mutant abilities or something, according to Rachel, and she had smiled when she’d admitted that it was one of the perks.

He cornered her in the hallway between lunch and fifth period, pulling her aside despite her resistance. “What the fuck’s wrong, Berry?”

Her hands came up and flashed a quick movement before her face filled with frustration. She opened up her notebook to a blank back page and scribbled out a quick reply. ‘Having control problems.’

Shit. It would be funny, if it wasn’t fucking terrifying. “Why?”

‘Stress,’ she wrote. ‘School and Glee and lessons. Jesse is out of town. He didn’t call.’

“Damn it, just dump his ass. We all know he’s here because he’s trying to steal you for Carmel.”

‘He likes me.’

“He’s a son of a bitch who’s only interested in what benefits Jesse St. James. You can do better.” Fuck, how had this conversation turned into giving her relationship advice?

Her hands flew up in another aborted gesture and she huffed out an exasperated breath before scribbling on the notepad. ‘It’s not fair to talk about this kind of thing when I can’t talk back and you can’t read sign.’

“No, but it makes it much, much easier. Did your dads call someone about it?”

‘Waiting. I need to take care of stress.’

Puck lifted one eyebrow and grinned. “You know what a good way to take care of stress is, Berry?”

She rolled her eyes and nodded before writing again. ‘Knew you’d say that.’ She shook her head in a fairly emphatic denial and walked away. Puck watched her go, appreciating the view even if he wasn’t going to go there.

xxx

If her stress levels had been high before, with Jesse and Finn and Glee, Shelby tipped the scales almost entirely. It was one of the great tragedies, in Rachel’s opinion, that no one but Noah and her dads would ever understand how lucky she was that she had enough control to perform at Sectionals. Her meeting and subsequent rejection with her birth mother resulted in every bit of glass in her car dissolving into powder, and when Jesse and his teammates met her out in the parking lot and egged her Rachel came incredibly close to using her abilities on a human being for the first time.

Even more upsetting than Shelby’s rejection, there was no sign at all that the woman was an active mutant of any kind. It would have been so nice to have someone else who understood what it was like to have this kind of gift and to need to keep it secret, someone a little more mature than Noah Puckerman. Rachel had been looking for a mentor ever since she left the school, but so far the only other mutant she had met in Lima was a teenage boy with questionable judgment when it came to sex.

When Shelby looked a little too interested in the baby that was practically delivered onstage at Regionals, Rachel contacted the Professor. Dr. Grey showed up almost ridiculously fast, met very briefly with Noah and Quinn, and left with the baby that Noah had been calling Beth. That had been the plan all along, after all, even if Quinn would never know who the tall, redheaded woman had really been. After the way Shelby had reacted to Rachel, there was no way she was going to let the woman anywhere near her best friend’s daughter.

She wasn’t quite sure how Glee managed to stay on for another year after they (unfairly) lost Regionals, but she wasn’t about to question it. Being in Glee club, being a part of something special, helped, and it helped that she was able to practice singing without losing control on a regular basis. She couldn’t say that, of course, when they sang to Mr. Schuester and shared what Glee club had meant to each one of them, but Noah at least knew.

The last three months of school zipped past in a blur of studying and finals. Mr. Schuester scheduled rehearsals once a week, more to have fun singing and to start thinking about next year than for any specific performance in mind. Rachel tried to institute summer practices, mostly so she could have something fun to do to break up her classes that summer, but the rest of the club was pretty much lukewarm about it. She couldn’t even talk Finn into anything like that, since he was mostly interested in make-out time, and Noah wasn’t in any frame of mind to do anything that reminded him of the baby girl growing up somewhere else.

xxx

It was the first summer that Rachel had ever experienced with a boyfriend and it was surprisingly difficult to lie to Finn about where she would be going when she headed back to Xavier’s for a couple of weeks. Dr. Grey was the only person she could trust when it came to her medical records and her fathers insisted that she show up twice a year for a physical, usually at summer and winter break. Any other doctor might insist on taking blood, which was way too big of a risk, and a very observant one might notice that there was something different when he checked out her throat. Her vocal cords were structured slightly differently from a human baseline

She tried to talk Noah into going along with her, since he would have similar problems and could probably use a glimpse into the mutant community, but he passed for football practice and said he’d find ways around any blood drawing at his physical. Her fathers didn’t tag along, not because they were uncomfortable but because it was a little too difficult to get the time off of work, so Rachel went alone.

The school was pretty much the same, in all the ways that mattered. Students and even teachers would come and go, though there were a few who had nothing outside of the school and stayed year-round. Professor Xavier was always there, of course, and the building itself hadn’t really changed in the time she’d been attending. Having spent four years here when her powers first manifested, Xavier’s felt like home almost as much as the house she shared with her fathers in Ohio. If it hadn’t been for Finn and Noah back in Lima, Rachel would have had a hard time leaving this time. This past year had been hard, and this was the only place where she could be herself without any repercussions. Without the lure of a boyfriend and the responsibility of helping watch out for Noah while he adjusted to all of this, she would have given in to the urge for safety and acceptance and stayed.

In the end, she stayed for two weeks and then boarded the plane back to Ohio. She wanted her boyfriend and her friends and singing with the New Directions and nothing else even came close, not even the security of being surrounded with other mutants. Rachel Berry was going to be a star, no matter what, and Xavier’s would be there if she needed it.

Two-a-days were starting up when she got back, which left her feeling a little bereft, but Rachel consoled herself with extra dance classes and attempts at bonding with her other Glee club members. It was easiest to reach Mercedes and plan things with her and by extension with Kurt, even if the other girl’s attitude towards mutants was completely uncomfortable. Despite everything, she didn’t quite have the courage to call up any of the cheerleaders. Tina was busy with some sort of summer camp, Artie was involved in a fairly detailed video project, and all of the other boys in the club were also football players.

The excursions with Mercedes and Kurt almost inevitably led to the mall and often to an attack at Rachel’s wardrobe, but they were better than sitting in her house all alone every afternoon. She spent most evenings with Finn, but he was usually so wiped out from practice that he went to bed almost ridiculously early.

Noah wasn’t quite so tired out by practices, but he was still doing some version of his pool-cleaning business (Rachel refused to think about whether or not he was currently partaking of the side-benefits of that business) and it ate up most of his free time. In some ways he was just as devoted to getting out of this town as Rachel, though he took his own unique approach to it.

The first day of school was almost a relief. Despite the likelihood of slushies and name-calling, she would have enough to keep her busy and she would probably see more of both her boyfriend and Noah once they were all in school. Besides, she missed singing in a group. When left to her own devices Rachel’s vocal rehearsals usually became more exercises in control and not really something she enjoyed. The only real fun she’d had with singing had been when she and Noah had driven out past the edge of town one Sunday and she’d demonstrated how her power worked, methodically demolishing an abandoned building and basking in Noah’s delight and admiration. It figured that she’d finally get that kind of attention when it involved destruction.

Finn was a little more awkward with her in the school hallways than he had been when they’d spent time together during the summer, but he was still sweet and openly affectionate and everything she’d ever wanted in a leading man. Rachel could handle anything that came her way with him by her side and Noah as her friend.

xxx

This had been a long time coming. It was a continuous surprise to Puck that she’d actually held out this long, because if he’d had any kind of ability to kick the ass of someone like these assholes besides his fists he would have used it. Rachel let the personal insults and slushies just slide right off of her, but if one of those jackasses went after anyone she’d claimed (admittedly, this was pretty much limited to the members of the glee club) then he’d better be prepared for a fight. The thrill seeker in Puck was admittedly turned on a little by the fact that Rachel could kill him without lifting one tiny finger, and he couldn’t help but laugh at how many people took their lives in their hands when they antagonized her.

Right now she was standing in front of Kurt Hummel, her chin tilted up to look the mullet-wearing hockey player in the eye. Puck was standing next to her and he could feel the hum against his skin as she told the asshole off. There was a crack in the cinderblock wall behind the guy and as much as he didn’t want that wrath turned in his direction, she was going to blow her secret wide open. He closed his eyes for a second and looked ahead. In one future the cracked wall disintegrated completely, and it was actually the least gruesome of the outcomes. The hockey player ended up with various broken bones, depending on how he moved while Rachel yelled at him, and one of those cases ended with him dead because his entire rib cage was turned into splinters that tore into his lungs and heart. Karofsky came around the corner and shoved her into a locker and she cracked her skull and died almost instantly. A chunk of the ceiling fell down and killed her, Kurt, and Mullet-boy. He saw all of the possibilities in a split second, and none of them were good. “Rachel, stop it.”

She kept going with her stream of insults instead. “You’re all petty, small-minded Neanderthals and brainless thugs who only care about shoving down the people who stand out, destined to live your meaningless lives stuck in some dead-end job while Kurt moves on to better things.”

The hum against his skin became more intense until it was almost a buzz, and Puck threw caution to the wind and grabbed her wrist. “Rachel,” he hissed into her ear. “Stop. You’re about to out yourself to the entire school.”

She stopped mid-sentence and he turned his attention to the idiot in front of him. “Get lost,” he snarled, and the guy showed the first glimmer of intelligence by scurrying back down the corridor and disappearing around the corner. He had to get Rachel and Hummel away before he came back with some buddies.

It wasn’t hard to haul the kid to his feet and hustle the two of them down the hall into the empty choir room. He shut the door behind them and blocked it off with a chair for good measure as the final bell rang. The last thing they needed right now was even more of an audience.

Hummel stumbled into a chair, his face pale. “What the hell just happened?”

Puck ignored the demanding tone of his voice. “You stay over there. Rachel’s freak-out takes priority over yours, Hummel.”

“But . . .,” the young man began, only to shut his mouth with an audible click at Puck’s glare.

That taken care of, he turned his full attention to Rachel. She was similarly pale, her pupils blown as she stared at him. “What almost happened, Noah?”

“Rach, calm down. Nothing happened.”

“Something almost happened, though. What did you see?”

“We’ll talk about that later.”

“No, we’ll talk about it now!” He felt the familiar hum against his skin and looked up to see the windows vibrating. Time to pull out the big guns.

“Rachel, you’re about to wreck the choir room and maybe your singing voice two weeks before sectionals if you don’t calm the fuck down,” he said, and her mouth closed just as fast as it had out in the hallway. “All right. Deep breaths.”

She pulled the first one in, a little shaky. “I think I’m going to throw up.”

“Hummel! Trash can!” The plastic can appeared at his elbow almost instantly, the other kid hovering a little too closely for comfort, and Puck shoved it between Rachel’s knees just in time. He pulled her hair back in one hand while she puked, because she would spend the rest of the afternoon bitching about it otherwise, and waited until she was done. “Better?”

She nodded. “Water?”

Puck flicked his eyes to the backpack he’d abandoned by the door. “Hummel, get my bag,” he ordered. There was a bottle in there that he hadn’t opened yet. It would do.

She rinsed her mouth out and spit into the trash can before cautiously sipping from the bottle. “Do you think the whole school knows already?”

Puck shoved the trash can as far away as possible without getting up. “I don’t think that dumbass mullet-head has the brain cells to figure it out. You’re going to have to explain it to Hummel, though.”

xxx

They turned to look at him in eerie unison and Kurt felt his panic ratchet up a few more notches. The two of them were each intimidating in their own manner, but combined it was scary as hell, especially when you consider that the wall had cracked and the windows had been shaking. “What’s going on?”

“What the hell do you think is going on?” Puck replied, his expression grim. He didn’t say anything further, and Rachel was oddly silent as well.

Kurt wet his lips. He’d never considered himself a coward, really. He’d endured dumpsters and slushies and shoves into lockers for being himself and never once considered toning down his personality so that he could blend in a little better. This was a little different, though, and while the words were at the front of his mind he couldn’t quite get them out. “You’re . . .”

“Just spit it out, Hummel.” Puck’s glare turned up to nuclear and he stood up. “We all know that the word you’re thinking of is mutant.”

It was exactly what he was thinking, of course, and it made so much sense. “Rachel’s a mutant,” he breathed, and he saw her tense up.

“We both are,” Puck growled. He’d missed the look Rachel gave him, all quick surprise that was quickly glossed over, but Kurt saw it and couldn’t help but wonder.

“Please don’t tell anyone.” Rachel stood up and moved next to Puck, her hand on his arm but her attention entirely on Kurt. “You know what would happen if anyone knew.”

“People might be surprised, but I think they’d get over it, especially in Glee,” Kurt argued, and Puck snorted out a laugh.

“Bullshit. I’ve sat here in this room and heard Mercedes argue for mutant registration.”

Kurt knew this. He’d taken part in those discussions, after all, and Mercedes’ argument had merit. In retrospect, it suddenly made sense why Rachel hadn’t shared her opinion when the subject was introduced. “Only for the dangerous ones,” he said.

“The dangerous ones?” Puck asked, his voice low and threatening. Rachel shook her head and tightened her grip on his arm.

“Who gets to decide what makes a person dangerous, Kurt? Are you going to register anyone who knows a martial art?” She had her show face on, the expression masking everything that she might be feeling. “Which one of us is more dangerous right now, me or Noah?”

At this moment, he was leaning toward Puck for that particular category, but he couldn’t forget what had happened out in the hall not even ten minutes ago. “I think . . .I think you’re both dangerous,” he finally said.

“You got that right. But I’m only dangerous because if you keep looking at us like that I’m going to beat your face in with my badass guns. It’s got nothing to do with being a mutant.”

The chair in front of the door scraped across the tile floor and in the ten seconds it took for Mr. Schuester to come into the room Puck’s body language switched from aggressive to something much more neutral. “What are you guys doing in here? Shouldn’t you be in class?”

“Rachel’s sick, Mr. Shue.” Puck gestured to the stinking trash can for proof and the teacher grimaced. “She couldn’t make it to the bathroom and this was the only place that didn’t have a class right now.”

“Is that true, Rachel?”

The girl nodded and Kurt felt admiration for her acting skills for the first time. “I really need to go home, Mr. Schue,” she said, her voice softer than he’d ever heard it. “Can Noah and Kurt please help me?”

Mr. Schuester looked at all three of them and Kurt was sure that his somewhat stricken expression was being taken the wrong way. Rachel, of course, had a spotless record when it came to school matters on her side, and Kurt would freely admit that the Glee kids tended to get a little more leniency from the man than they really deserved. “I don’t think that will be a problem,” he said. “I’m guessing you’ll be missing practice.”

“I hope to be fully recovered by tomorrow,” she said, her normal sparkle and energy gone. That was likely what had convinced him in the first place, and it was a very nice touch. He’d never realized how good of an actress Rachel Berry really was.

He walked them out to the parking lot, and watched them all climb into Kurt’s SUV. “I hope you feel better soon, Rachel. Puck, Kurt, you two come right back when you’re done.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Schue,” Puck said, his tone agreeable. It was the same way he used to sound when he was preparing to get away with tossing Kurt into a dumpster. The teacher smiled one last time and headed back into the school and Puck helped Rachel into the back seat. “Drive, Hummel. You know how to get to Rachel’s house.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Kurt said. It had been a year since he’d been tossed in a dumpster, but he remembered what that look said. That particular expression had retribution written all over it.

“We need to talk about what happened, Kurt.” Rachel seemed a little more lively now that they were away from the school. “And it’s not something that should really be discussed in public.”

“You promise you won’t kill me and dump my body in the gutter?”

“In case you missed it, the only reason you even know about it is because she was defending you,” Puck pointed out. “Maybe you should give the anti-mutant propaganda a rest.” There was an insufferable smirk aimed at him via the rearview mirror. “It’s really offensive when you judge us by such stereotypes.”

He caught a blur of motion out of the corner of his eye, probably one of Rachel’s tiny fists, and saw Puck flinch a little. “We’re not going to hurt you, Kurt.”

“I might.”

Rachel rolled her eyes and continued as if there had never been an interruption. “We only want to talk. That’s all, I promise.”

Kurt put the vehicle into gear and drove. What else could he do?

xxx

Her dads were both at work, which was perfect for Rachel. Hopefully she could manage to keep this whole incident from them, because they had been against her coming back to Ohio in the first place. Xavier’s was much safer, after all, and there was little doubt that she was receiving a better education while she was there. She’d actually had to work for her A’s, unlike here at McKinley where she could practically do all of her work in her sleep.

Noah headed straight for the liquor cabinet, which made her wrinkle her nose, but she didn’t really say anything. He knew better than to drink to excess in the middle of the day, especially when he had to go back to school this afternoon (and he better go back to school). Rachel went for a bottle of water and offered one to Kurt, who shook his head mutely. Her throat felt a little raw, between the accidental power usage and the throwing up, and she put the kettle on for some herbal tea as well. “All right. Let’s talk.”

“Does Finn know?” Kurt asked immediately, and Rachel winced. She supposed that she should have been expecting that particular question. Her boyfriend was well on his way to becoming Kurt’s stepbrother and Kurt took that responsibility seriously.

“No,” she said, glancing over at Noah. He’d been arguing that she should tell Finn recently. “I’m not ready for that. It’s hard enough to balance our relationship without telling him I can kill people with my voice. Other than my parents, no one but Noah knows.”

Kurt paled a little. “You can kill people?”

She felt Noah move in a little closer. “Yes, in theory,” she admitted. “But I never have, and I don’t intend to do so.”

“So what happened in the hallway?”

“I lost control,” Rachel told him carefully. “Strong emotions tend to amplify a person’s abilities while simultaneously making them more difficult to control, and Rick made me so angry when he shoved you into the lockers like that.”

The feeling was still fresh in her mind, the rage rolling under her skin until she’d felt like she was literally vibrating. The Professor had always advocated control of both the emotions and the abilities, of not letting what you could do control you instead. He would probably be disappointed that she’d lost her temper, though Rachel was confident that she was in the right in this situation.

If she couldn’t convince Kurt to keep the secret, she wouldn’t be going back to McKinley. Mutant pride was all well and good, but she was already the annoying, abrasive girl with too much talent and two gay dads. There was no way she was also going to be a mutant freak, especially when you consider that they’d probably make her quit Glee Club and pretty much any sort of activity where she sang with the ‘dangerous’ label slapped onto her back. Rachel would head back to Xavier’s within a week if that happened, and she couldn’t help but hope that she could drag Noah along this time. After all, they’d likely make him quit football and his other sports teams as well, and today was the first time she’d ever heard him claim his mutancy.

“What would have happened if you had kept going?”

Noah surprised her by answering before she could get a word out. “The wall would have come down,” he said, no doubt listing one of the possibilities he’d seen. Rachel still wanted to know what else he’d seen, but that would be a conversation for another time, when they didn’t have one of the school’s biggest gossips listening in. “Look, are you going to keep your mouth shut or what? ‘Cause if you’re going to put this out to your little coffee klatch we need to know.”

Kurt shook his head. “I won’t tell anyone,” he said, his voice a little harsher than normal. “But I won’t cover for you, either. No one should be forced to stay in the closet.”

“I wasn’t asking you to cover for me, jackass. Just keep your mouth shut for the time being.”

Rachel sighed. “Despite the rude manner in which he stated it, I agree with Noah. I’m only asking for your silence.”

“And you should tell Finn.”

“Not yet,” she told him. “Not until I know how he’ll handle it. It’s not really safe for either one of us.” She rather tactfully didn’t elaborate on whether she meant for her and Finn, or her and Noah. Truthfully, she wasn’t entirely sure which one either and didn’t really want to spend much time exploring it.

“All right, good to know. Now, let’s get something to eat.” Noah disappeared into the kitchen. Rachel’s stomach was still unsettled after her slip in the school hallway, the idea of what might have happened making her queasy even now, but she rolled her eyes and followed him. She had learned long ago that Noah could wreak havoc on a kitchen and she didn’t want to spend the night cleaning up. Besides, she could really use that tea now.

When she glanced back at Kurt, her friend was still sitting on the couch, staring at her with a strange expression on his face. That wasn’t something she needed to be thinking about right now, so she tucked it away for later and focused on keeping Noah Puckerman from entirely destroying her kitchen in his quest for a snack.

She and Finn weren’t going to last much longer. Every time she tried to tell him about how she was a mutant, the words caught in her throat. She loved him, probably more than she should have, but experience had taught her that she couldn’t trust him. Rachel was determined to enjoy it as much as she possibly could before it all fell apart.

xxx

Sectionals came and went with their usual drama. Rachel was pissed at Finn for lying to her sometime last year. That girl could hold a grudge like no one else. Santana was angry at the world in general and being a bitch about it, but for some reason she’d focused her ire on Rachel specifically. Shue didn’t stay out of the arguments like he should have, but somehow they all managed to pull together and at least tie for first place and move on to Regionals. Last year they hadn’t scheduled practices over winter break, but Rachel insisted and Shue backed her for once. They met up for the first rehearsal two days after Christmas, the whole group slowly dragging in and grumbling. He didn’t know what their problem was. Practice wasn’t until ten in the morning and Rachel had come over and dragged him out of bed before eight.

They were in the middle of brainstorming song ideas and about to take a break. Puck saw Rachel’s hands fly to her head a split second before the pain shoved its way into his own skull. One tiny corner of his brain managed to note how she’d dropped to the floor as his own knees gave way and he joined her. He was dimly aware of voices raised in alarm all around him, but the agony in his head took up most of his attention. Rachel turned towards him, eyes wide and dark and terrified and he knew that whatever was happening it had hit the only two mutants in glee club.

He had no way of knowing how long they stayed like that while the feeling of something grabbing onto his mind invaded his entire body, but when it stopped they were both too wrung out to do much more than climb into chairs while Mr. Schue hovered over both of them. Whatever had happened, it was fairly obvious to Puck that it had only affected mutants and that Rachel, his personal expert in mutant matters, was just as lost as he was.

Then the other people in the room dropped to the floor in just the same way he remembered doing a second ago, and he was even more confused. Rachel stood up despite her obvious dizziness, her eyes on Finn even as she dropped down next to Brittany. “Help them, Noah?” she asked, her voice oddly raspy. “We can’t let them get hurt.”

He did as she asked, probably a little less gently than she’d have liked. Most of the other members were already safely down on the ground, clutching their heads in the same familiar agony that he’d just experienced. Mr. Schue was still aware enough to notice him through the pain and he did his best to reassure the teacher even if he still had no clue what was going on.

It was over after two panicked minutes, leaving the others groggy and only mildly coherent. Rachel was a little better than he was and she already had her cell phone out. “You calling your dads?”

She nodded, eyes on the device. Puck let out a shaky breath and reached for his own phone. They needed an ambulance here, as soon as they could make it happen. He looked down at Mr. Schue as the older man started to get up and frowned at the spiderweb of cracks on the floor. That had been exactly where Rachel had been when they’d both collapsed.

There was no signal from either cell phone, and Puck cursed as he closed his up and shoved it into his pocket. He had no idea what was going on. All he knew was that he had to get away from the other members of the glee club before they started asking questions, and he needed to check on his mom and Hannah. Besides, he had a feeling that Rachel had figured something out, given the expression on her face. “We need to go,” she said, her voice a little stronger. “They’ll be all right, Noah, but we need to leave right now.”

Puck watched as she glanced over at Finn and the tall boy flinched and looked away from Rachel. The hurt in her expression was come and gone before it really registered and she spun on her heel and headed for the door. He followed her as she hurried out of the choir room. “You know something,” he said once they were clear of the school.

“I have an idea.” She walked a little faster, her eyes flicking from him to the cell phone in her hand. “And I think we might have a big problem.” She held up the device, showing the ‘No Service’ message currently blinking at the top. “I have a feeling that hit more than just us.”

Puck swore and kicked at the trash can. “I’ve got to get home, right now.”

Rachel nodded and headed towards his truck. “Your mom and Hannah, then my dads. I’ll tell you my theories on the way.”

He needed to give her a boost, as always, since his truck sat about a foot higher than most vehicles, but he did it as quickly as possible and ran around to the driver’s seat like Coach Beiste was running drills with a shotgun in hand. There wasn’t much active traffic as he drove, disregarding any sort of posted speed limit in a bid to get to his mom and sister, though they could both hear sirens in the distance.

She started talking immediately. “There was this really intense pressure in my head the whole time. Same thing for you?”

“Yeah,” he agreed, nodding. “Like someone was trying to grab onto me and was holding on way too tight.”

“Exactly!” She beamed for a second, probably because someone had actually followed along with her line of reasoning and agreed with her, and then went back to the matter at hand. “I’ve never felt anything on that scale before, but at the school there are a few telepaths and if you multiply a usual telepathic contact by at least one thousand, that’s what I imagine it would feel like. The problem is, there aren’t that many telepaths out there that are truly powerful enough to do something like that even at close range. The only way I can think of to make it happen should be locked away at the school, so either someone got in or someone accessed the plans.”

“Wait, there are telepaths that can do that?”

“I’ve only met two,” Rachel admitted. “A lot of people are mildly telepathic, but most of them can’t really do anything. The few who can are really, really careful to keep it quiet.”

“I bet,” he muttered. “So, telepathic attack.”

“It didn’t feel like an attack. It was more like someone trying to reach out using their powers and pushing too hard, like they don’t know their own strength.” Rachel’s voice had mostly evened out now, back to its usual smoothness. It made him a little less tense

“So why did it hit us first, and then everyone else?”

“I have no idea,” Rachel said. “But I think whoever did it just outed every mutant in existence, if people start putting things together.”

“You think our cover’s blown, don’t you?”

“I think there’s a good chance that we’ve just been dragged out of the mutant closet, yes. Kurt knows exactly what makes the two of us different from everyone else in Glee Club, and I don’t know if he’ll continue to keep the secret now. People are going to panic. I don’t think the telepath intended to attack, but that’s what everyone’s going to call it. We need to be ready when that happens.”

Puck noted the when, not if, of her sentence as he turned down his street and roared into the driveway, braking raggedly. Some part of him wondered if she’d been preparing to get slapped with the mutant label for a long time.

His mom’s car was in the garage, which was a relief. She wasn’t scheduled to work tonight, but it was still early afternoon and she could have been out running errands with Hannah in the car, which was usually what she did on her days off. There were a hundred different things that could have happened to them out there. He called out as soon as he’d cleared the door, Rachel at his heels. “Mom?”

There was a sound upstairs, almost too faint to hear, and Puck was on the stairs without a conscious decision. He tried to access his ability as he ran, but the effort made him stumble in his headlong rush and he abandoned it and the instant headache that came with it. He followed the noises, which were starting to grow louder, and crashed into his mother’s bedroom with Rachel close behind.

Hannah was up and moving, energetic enough that she was probably hit in the first wave and that was something he would think about later. Rachel had probably already noted it, made the appropriate conclusions, and moved on to the matter at hand, because she pushed past him and pulled his sister away.

With his sister taken care of (because, seriously, Rachel would probably kill to protect her. Those two had struck up some weird friendship based on their mutual love of Disney movies back when Quinn had still been living with them) Puck focused on his mother. She was on the floor, struggling to stand up and not quite making it, so he helped her up and onto the bed. “I think I hit my head,” she mumbled, clearly a little bit incoherent, and Puck felt like a horrible son. Because they’d been in the house, neither one of them realized the scale of what had happened and Puck wasn’t planning on filling them in on what Rachel thought.

At several times during his adolescence Puck had been waiting for his mother to kick him out of the house, most recently because of all the problems with Quinn. He’d always had a sneaking suspicion that if she figured out her son was a mutant that would be the last straw, so he was glad to delay that for a little while longer. Now, though, there was a slightly bigger problem.

Rachel had already pulled Hannah out of the room, working on calming his little sister down, and Puck sat down next to his mother and reluctantly looked forward again. It still hurt a little, but it wasn’t quite as bad as it had been when he’d tried on the steps.

He told her everything and she did exactly what he’d been waiting for and kicked him out. Rewind, and he skipped over the mutant thing and explained exactly what had just happened. His mother laughed at him. He told her what he suspected about Hannah and about himself, and she kicked them both out. After a half-dozen attempts Puck realized that there was no way she was going to be able to handle any of the truth, not now. It might work better tomorrow after she’d had time to readjust, but for now there was no way he was telling her anything. “Just take a nap. I’ll keep an eye on Hannah.”

His mother nodded, holding her head between both hands and lying back onto the bed. Puck waited until he was sure she was going to stay there before heading down the stairs. Rachel had Hannah sitting on the couch and was moving around in their tiny kitchen. After glancing at his sister and making sure she hadn’t gone entirely ‘round the bend, he joined Rachel in her quest for food and drink. “What do we do now?”

“I still need to get a hold of my dads,” Rachel told him. “After that, I’ve got no idea. I’m fairly certain the school would be the safest place for all of us, but your mother isn’t going to like it if we run off with Hannah.”

It was nice to know that Rachel had picked up on that little clue as well. “Did you get to talk to her?”

“She had no idea what I was talking about when I tried to ask her about any abilities, but she had a sudden headache first, just like we did. Either her powers hadn’t manifested yet or the . . .event latched on to her as a latent mutant, but there’s no way of knowing without heading to the school. I may be your source of mutant knowledge, Noah, but I’m far from an expert on these things.”

“So that’s the plan?”

Rachel nodded and turned back to the cupboards, rummaging around for something easy and vaguely healthy to fix for Hannah. Puck wished her luck on that. His mother couldn’t cook much more than macaroni and cheese. “That’s my plan, anyway. Kurt was barely holding on to our secret as it was. Besides, I think Mr. Schuester put a few things together just now. He was close enough to see the floor cracking when I couldn’t quite control my voice.” He noticed that she didn’t mention Finn and the way he’d flinched back from her earlier and there was no way he was bringing that up. Right now they needed a plan, and they didn’t need Rachel to fall apart over Finn the idiot. “They’ll never let me sing again, Noah, and that was practically the only thing that made that school bearable.” She glanced at him and then away, carefully not looking at him. “You might be all right, though.”

“It’s not going to be hard to figure out that I’m just as much of a freak as you, Rachel.” The words could have been cruel, but he didn’t mean them like that and he was pretty sure that she knew that. “Whatever we’re doing, you’re not doing it alone.”

He was hugging her before he was aware that he’d decided to do it and she relaxed into his embrace completely. No matter what happened, he would always have Rachel and she would always have him. Everything else would fall into place soon enough.

The phones were still down and there wasn’t any food to be had here, so they packed up and headed over to Rachel’s house. After a moment’s consideration, Puck packed up a few things that he wouldn’t have been able to live without and did the same for Hannah. Better to be prepared for the long-term. He was still trying to find the least painful way possible through this minefield, but deep down he doubted that he was going to get away completely intact. One way or another, his mom was going to end up making this painful.

Rachel half-carried Hannah out to the truck despite the fact that the eleven-year-old was nearly the same height and Puck followed behind them with the bags he had packed, snagging his guitar on the way. He resisted the urge to look back one last time. Chances were good that he wouldn’t be back here again, and right now that was just fine.

The drive over was awkward. Hannah was sandwiched between him and Rachel, though she was starting to recover from her headache and ask questions about what was happening. His knee-jerk response that their mother was sick and they were going over to stay with Rachel was met with a level look full of skepticism and Puck sighed. “Something happened. I’m not sure we’ll be all right at mom’s house.”

There was a look from Rachel, one that promised he would be spilling everything once they were away from Hannah’s supposedly tender ears (he’d taught her how to cuss like a sailor when he was in sixth grade and she was in kindergarten, because he’d thought it was hilarious) and a huff from Hannah.

When they got to the Berry house, Rachel let out a sigh of relief at the sight of two cars in the driveway, presumably belonging to her fathers. They were both sitting on the couch when Puck followed Rachel inside, Hannah in tow, looking a little worse for wear but whole and alive. Puck ignored the hugs and mutual exclamations of worry, even though Hannah seemed fascinated by them, and dragged his sister into the kitchen. Rachel might have been into rabbit food, but her dads weren’t and it wasn’t hard to throw together a few sandwiches from the deli meat in the fridge. Hannah ate it quickly, crusts included. His sister had never really had the opportunity to be a picky eater.

Rachel was right behind them, slipping around him and getting a glass from the cupboard. There was a troubled look on her face as she filled the glass with water from the fridge tap. “Most of the television stations are down and the ones still operating are on programming loops. Daddy said that the radio is the same way. They’re getting ready to try the internet.”

He had been getting ready to start on a second sandwich, but the news made him lose his appetite. “Shit. That means whatever happened was big. Possibly worldwide big.”

“Phone lines are still down, too.” Rachel carefully sipped from her glass of water. “People will start to panic soon. We should get ready.”

“What, get ready to leave?”

She gave him a steady look. “We just got outed as mutants to the biggest gossips at McKinley High. I’m not planning on waiting around for the torches and pitchforks.”

“I need to tell my mom.” He didn’t bother to explain why. Rachel would get it. “You need to explain what’s happening to Hannah.” There was a moment of satisfaction that he’d managed to foist that responsibility off onto Rachel when she nodded in agreement, but it was overshadowed by the fact that he would be the one talking to his mother. He didn’t need to look ahead to tell that this was going to suck major balls.

It was fairly obvious from Rachel’s expression that she knew exactly who was getting the worst deal. “You’re not going back over there alone,” she said, lifting her chin and crossing her arms.

“Wasn’t planning on it,” he admitted. There was no way he wanted to have that conversation in person.

Rachel glanced at Hannah. His little sister was paying rapt attention to the two of them and their discussion, and there was no way she was going to leave the room now. “What did you see?”

“She kicks me out, every single time.” And she’d kicked Hannah out the one time he’d mentioned his sister and mutant in the same sentence, but he was leaving that out of the telling for the moment. “I figure it’ll be a little easier over the phone.”

“Are you comfortable calling from the road on your cell phone? I don’t want to lose the lead we have right now.”

“Are either one of you going to tell me what’s going on?” Hannah asked, standing against the counter with her arms crossed. She’d had a growth spurt recently and was nearly the same height as Rachel.

“We’ll tell you on the road,” Rachel promised. “Everything. But we need to go right now. I’ll grab my bag and meet you guys outside in five minutes.”

It would be a cozy fit in his truck for the very long drive ahead, but they didn’t have many other alternatives. Rachel was ready in five, with a few last hugs to her fathers that were kept brief and thankfully non-weepy, and they started out. By the time they’d reached Mansfield, she’d told Hannah everything and promised her a demonstration of her abilities when they stopped for the night. None of them could figure out what Hannah could do. Whatever it was, it wasn’t flashy and Rachel didn’t seem too concerned about it for the moment.

They pulled over in Akron to fill the gas tank. The roads were starting to fill again, though there were far more emergency vehicles traveling around than normal, and the two of them had a discussion on avoiding attention that ended in the two of them pulling off of the interstate entirely to take the back roads.

He avoided the phone call with the simple fact that Rachel couldn’t drive a stick shift and she was big on not talking and driving at the same time, especially on Ohio’s back roads in the middle of winter, but once they’d pulled into a rest stop in Pennsylvania for the night she handed him the phone and herded Hannah into the rest room to clean up. It was too risky to stay in a motel, even with the cold weather making the prospect of sleeping in the truck unpleasant. There would be enough combined body heat to keep the cab of his truck reasonably warm despite the weather.

It rang three times on the other end before his mother picked up, and when she did it was clear she’d been drinking from the way she slurred out her hello. “It’s me, Mom.” He didn’t look ahead. No sense in experiencing this more than once.

She was quiet for several moments and he could hear the television in the background. “Noah, are you a mutant?”

“Yes,” he said, almost immediately. He wasn’t sure how she’d figured it out, though there could have been something on the news by now. The three of them had been avoiding all of the news bites on the radio.

“Is Hannah?”

He was a little more cautious this time. “I think so, yeah.”

“Don’t come home.” There was a rustle on the other end, something he couldn’t identify. “I want the both of you to stay away.”

Part of him wanted to fight, but he’d been preparing for this for years and by now he mostly just felt resigned. “You sure about Hannah?”

“You two are just like your father,” his mother said, anger and bitterness in her tone. “I don’t want to see either one of you freaks ever again.” He heard a click and the line went dead.

He sat there in the growing dark for at least half an hour. He wanted to hit something, and he also wanted to curl into a ball and cry. The two urges mostly canceled each other out and left him feeling numb.

Rachel was back with Hannah after a decent length of time, her hair brushed and braided and her face washed clean of makeup. They didn’t have the room to spare for sleep clothes, so she was still wearing the dress she’d worn to school that morning with her red coat buttoned up over it. Puck climbed into the passenger seat, needing the extra leg room, with Hannah in the middle and Rachel behind the wheel. It didn’t take long for Hannah to get to sleep with the day she’d had and once he was sure that the girl was under he told Rachel what had happened, keeping his voice quiet and mostly steady. Once the story was over the girl leaned over and wrapped her arms around him in a brief, awkward hug. She didn’t say anything, which Puck appreciated.

They fell asleep that way, Hannah resting her head on her brother’s lap and Rachel against his opposite side, the three blankets he kept behind the seat draped over the group. He woke up once or twice in the night to formless nightmares, but the even breathing on both sides lulled him back under pretty quickly.

Morning was a bitch and it took a half hour to get his body loosened up after a night spent sleeping upright. Hannah woke up chipper and rattling off questions and she wouldn’t let them pull out of the rest area without a demonstration of Rachel’s abilities. They ate granola bars and drank bottled water as something to tide them over until they could reach civilization (also known as McDonald’s) and could have something warm to eat and drink.

People were still pretty obviously spooked by yesterday’s smackdown, but they were also working to get back to normal and there were more people on the road than he’d seen the day before. He was driving more carefully than normal, trying not to attract attention. There was no telling what his mother might have told the cops, after all, if she’d said anything at all to explain what had happened to her children.

Rachel made him stop every three hours or so for the bathroom and supplies and managed to keep him in enough Red Bull that he pushed through and drove straight through, even with the roadblocks and weather making the trip take twice as long as it should have.

The place was pretty torn up when they pulled into the driveway, but there were people blocking off windows and picking up broken glass even with the sun going down. Berry gave a tired wave, a day and a half spent in the cab of his truck apparently enough to wear off even her high-octane personality. She slid out of the truck and turned around for Hannah, who should have been her usual hyperactive self but was limp with exhaustion. Rachel couldn’t actually lift his little sister, but she managed to get Hannah somewhat vertical and moving in the general direction of the building. Puck took a second to stretch before grabbing the bags and heading after them. He debated about his guitar, but there was no point in lugging the thing inside right now. It would wait.

There was a decently hot Asian girl sweeping up glass when they walked through the door. She abandoned the broom when Rachel steered Hannah inside and gave Rachel a tight hug, Hannah included since Rachel was more or less propping her up. There was a bruise on her cheek and a bandage across the palm of her right hand.

“What happened?” Rachel asked, her eyes fixed on the girl.

“There was a raid,” the Asian hottie told her. She rubbed at the bandage, sparks jumping from the tips of her fingers. Puck took a startled step back. What the fuck was that? “Soldiers broke in and kidnapped anyone they could get their hands on.” She bit her lip, dark eyes going distant. “Dr. Grey didn’t make it.”

Puck inhaled sharply and glanced over at Rachel. They were supposed to be safe here. That was the woman who’d taken Beth.

“Is the school safe?” Rachel asked, shooting a look over at Puck.

“The professor says it should be fine. Where else can we go, anyway? At least here we’ve got company.”

Rachel looked like she wanted to argue about something, but before she could get a word out Puck heard glass crunching. They all turned to look at the sound, apparently caused by a wheelchair being driven by an old man, his bald head gleaming. “Rachel. This is a surprise.”

“We were in the choir room with the biggest gossips that go to our high school when it happened,” Rachel said, her tone matter-of-fact. “Noah and I decided that discretion was needed.”

The man turned to Puck, faded blue eyes surprisingly intense. “It is wonderful to meet you, Noah. Welcome to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.” He smiled. “I think you and your sister should do very well here.”

Epilogue

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
jaq_of_spades
Jun. 21st, 2012 08:22 am (UTC)
Perfect buildup of tension and angst throughout this. The incident at school and then departure from Lima was so well done ... it had me genuinely tense.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )