All The Other Ghosts, superhero!fic, part 1 of god knows, fml.
Disclaimer: Hand on heart, even the writers of Glee! must know where they're going with it more than I do with this thing ^^; And it seeks to be about as 'realistic' as the average Marvel movie: if anyone tries to tell me that that is not how that profession/New York/the police/physics work, I will give them a weary look through my computer screen. PEOPLE ARE IN ALL SERIOUSNESS WEARING CAPES IN THIS. Please read it in the right spirit ;)
Rating: For now, R. We might end up at NC-17 for smuttiness, but you can take it for granted that this is *not* a children's story either way.
Warnings and spoilers: Spoilers we are batshit AU from season *one* but we will be revisiting some stuff from season two (nothing I'm yet aware of from season three apart from the existence of Cooper Anderson). Some things happened in season two that, had they gone differently, could have been *appalling*. They didn't go appalling *in* this verse but there is a lot of awareness of how they could have, things are harsher here. Kurt in particular you will notice has been through a lot before we even jump into the story, if you remember icy, isolated early-S2 Kurt? He kind of never had the chance to get beyond that, poor bain. Warningswise there is that, and worse than that; we're not fantastically realistic in this verse but there is some bad shit superheroes would have to deal with, if you crack open a newspaper you will see this crap all the time. Burglary, hate crimes, physical assault, sexual assault, the whole shebang. There'll be some violence but nothing excessively gory because *I'm* a wuss, and no explicit sexual assault (I make no promises about explicit *sex*, because this is the internet and that's not even a warning, really ;) ) for the same reason. Mentions of drugs and alcohol etc., look, if you read it in your morning paper once it could easily turn up here. I grew up on Batman comics, bad shit happens.
Summary: It's a big city for one more lost soul in a mask.
Note: So I've already wordvommed before we're even at the fic. Sorry I've been lousy with comments recently, been travelling around a bit, then was offline for a weekender (dancing <3). Back now, dissertationing, trying to relax on an evening with a glass of wine and fanfic formatting . . .
Reasons to move to New York city:
1) Your brother has a spare room going in his apartment.
2) It's not Ohio.
3) Great opportunities for career advancement for an almost-qualified physical therapist.
4) Exciting nightlife and social events.
5) At which you might meet a guy, the sparkling oasis in the endless desert of your love life.
6) You have a crush on New York's resident superhero.
7) The bagels taste incredible.
They call him 'the Ghost'. He goes with it. It's not like it doesn't fit.
The steps leading up to the grand entrance of the American Museum of Natural History are ringed in cop cars, flaring the night a patriotic blue and red. The Ghost walks through them, invisible, listens to them curse and call for back-up in their radios, and he crouches to peer into the upended cop car right outside the entrance; shattered glass but no bodies. There's one plus for the evening so far.
There's an alarm blaring in there, like that's going to help. The Ghost walks up the steps, cloak bellying out behind him, a darker grey than the pale skintight suit. He walks through the wall rather than the cracked open doors, ghosts right through and into the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall, where one of the doors is laying broken on the floor and that alarm is really seriously annoying. He can't hear anything over it and he's still invisible, so the girl with a sapphire the size of a golf ball in her hand walks through his shoulder from behind and he gives a little squeak - it's not that he can't feel things going through him when he's ghosting, it feels alright, and when it's unexpected it feels horrible.
She feels it too, and spins to face him, her blonde bunches bouncing. "Who's there? Santana said there weren't any ghosts. She promised there weren't any ghosts!"
"Just one," he says, fading into view for her. He doesn't stop ghosting, though, because he knows this girl, every damn week it's one thing or another, and he knows not to be off his guard when he's close to her. "Brittany, that really doesn't belong to you."
"It doesn't belong to you! You should put it back!"
"I can't hear you!" she yells at him, then looks around, spots what looks like a fuse box on the wall and walks to it. The Ghost says, "Wai-" but she's already pulled back the fist not holding the sapphire and punched it hard into the box, putting it right through the wall. Wires snap and spark, the emergency lights die and the sound wears down an octave then wavers right out, and the silence of the museum at night makes his knees feel weak after all that noise. "That was loud," she says, and turns to him again. "Hi!" She waves.
"Hi," he says weakly. "Brittany, that doesn't belong to you, you have to put it back."
She's dressed like a cheerleader in white and pink, with a little domino mask over her eyes. Every damn week they have this, and he has work in the morning after this nonsense, god. "Santana wants it."
"I know she does but Brittany, it belongs to the museum."
"Santana said you'd say that."
He sighs. "Did she."
"She said I shouldn't listen to you because you get me in trouble."
"I get you in trouble? She just sent you to steal a - that's the Star of India." He stares at it for a moment, because it is so very very pretty, milk-blue and gleaming in the dancing light of the cop cars through the doors. "She sent you to steal the - why did she want it? There's a million jewellers in this city -"
Brittany twirls the end of one of her bunches around her finger. "She said it reminded her of my eyes," she says, smiling her schoolgirl smile, and the Ghost squeezes the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger.
"So she sent you to steal it. Okay. Yes. That sounds like her."
"She said where's the point in me being all super-strong and stuff if we never use it for anything."
"You could get the lids off Coke bottles for her," the Ghost says. "You don't have to steal giant sapphires for her. A nice girlfriend wouldn't ask you to do that."
Brittany's eyebrows lower. "She said I shouldn't listen to you. You're not nice. You hurt me."
"You hurt me too," he mutters, keeping his body tilted away from her even ghosted. "And you were going to really, really hurt those people, Brittany."
"You shouldn't call me Brittany." She strikes a little pose, fingers of one hand wiggling in the air. "I'm Cheer Girl!"
"That is not a very good name for a supervillain."
There's a cop making his careful way up the steps, gun in hand. The Ghost tries not to look directly at him or risk her noticing, he's behind Brittany's back and what the hell does he think he's doing, he thinks it's a good idea to intervene in this? "Brittany," he says slowly, "please put it back. It's in the museum so people can look at it, because lots of people want to look at it. It's not fair if it's not there for other people to look at, just you and Santana. Please put it back."
Her fingers drum off it, she squirms a little on one leg. "But," she says, looking down at it. "It was romantic."
The cop's got the gun up and aimed on her. "Freeze!" he yells. "Hands where I can-"
The sapphire just misses him - lucky him, it would have put his brains out through the back of his head - a fraction of an inch past his face and straight through the doors into the open night and the Ghost yells, "Catch that!" and tackles her as the cop fires three quick rounds right at them. He catches her and ghosts, straight through the floor, slowly through the solidity and then open air and they drop like stones. He lets her go and ghosts right through that floor as well, hears her hit something with an ooff in the pitch black; he doesn't even know what's down here, as he slows himself, fingers almost phased to solidity as they catch at the concrete, feet kicking the foundations he's inside so he can slow and swim back for the 'surface', for the floor of the room he dropped Brittany into.
He pulls his head and shoulders through and still can't see a thing. "Brittany?" he says. "Are you alright?"
She says in the dark, "That was mean."
"I'm sorry. He was going to shoot you."
"It wouldn't have hurt."
I know, but then you would have broken his spine, the idiot. "I didn't want to take that risk. Where are you?" He hauls himself back onto the solid surface of the floor, crouched on the balls of his feet, feeling in the belt for his flashlight. "Can't see a damn -"
He turns it on, and the room - some sort of lab - illuminates pale blue. And Brittany takes two running steps at him and punches.
He ghosts right through the floor in shock, then pulls himself up again, and she's sitting exactly where she jumped to, arms around her knees. "That was mean," he says tartly.
"I'm sorry," she says, watching him from over her knees. "I don't like the dark. Don't go away again. Santana said not to listen to you and I'm - it's all confusing."
"Please don't hit people. Brittany, it's really not nice and when you hit people you have a tendency to knock their head right off their body, please don't hit people."
"I know. Santana said-"
He needs to get Brittany on some sort of five-step programme to break up with her supervillain girlfriend who is not a good influence on her. Brittany could actually help people with her powers if she wasn't dragging him around on stupid wild goose chases across the city whenever Santana gets bored.
"I'll get you out of here. But if you try and hit me again I'll turn the light off and leave you down here. In the dark. With all the other ghosts."
Her eyes look so desperate. "Don't do that."
"Then don't try to hit me." He'd offer her a hand to help her up but he's wary of her, has been ever since the first time they met, when the Ghost didn't think the innocent girl in pink and white could be all that dangerous and she broke his wrist just by grabbing it. "If I help you out of here, I want you to promise me two things."
She hugs her knees, says, "What two things?"
"One," he says, clipping the flashlight back into his belt so it casts its beam forward, "don't try to hurt me, because that's really not fair when I'm trying to help you, is it?"
She narrows her eyes with the effort of thought. "But you were trying to stop me taking Santana the sapphire."
"You threw the sapphire away, Brittany, all I'm trying to do is help you out of the dark. Right?"
". . . right . . ."
"And two, don't hurt any of the police, because they're only doing their job, they're trying to keep the museum safe. Promise me those two."
"Then will you get me out of the dark?"
"Okay. Pinkie swear?"
His mouth twists, he could almost laugh in all this. "Okay."
He's tense as a violin string for her to rip his finger right out, but she doesn't. She solemnly shakes it a couple of times, then says, "Can I hold the flashlight?"
"It's okay, this won't take long. Give me your hand."
He climbs onto one of the lab benches, while she placidly holds his hand and watches him put an arm up through the ceiling, brace himself and haul himself up. She gets the idea, climbs up after him, and he hikes her through with himself - slow like moving through water through the solidity between floors - and then they're back into the entranceway, scaring the bejeezus out a cop by the entrance, there are three guns on them instantly. The Ghost holds his arms up to show he's harmless because he basically is and it's not like they could hurt him anyway; Brittany pulls at her skirt a little, and looks sulky. "They're gonna arrest me. Being arrested is boring."
"They just want to make sure you won't steal anything else, Brittany."
"Santana said it's not stealing if you really really want it."
"I'm sure she did."
"You know," one of the cops says, both hands on his gun, "I got orders to bring in both of you on sight."
The Ghost says, "If you can get the cuffs on me then you can take me." and says to Brittany, "Just go with them for a while, see what they have to say. Okay? You promised not to hurt any of them."
She shrugs and kicks at the floor a bit, and he sighs, turns around - the cop yells at him, "Stay right where you-" and ghosts right through the floor again, where it's quieter, and darker, and better suited for a ghost.
He sits on a blanket on the rooftop of Cooper's building, with a flask of coffee and a pair of binoculars next to him. He doesn't know what he's doing. He's being stupid. Like the Ghost's just going to pass by this building, maybe wave as he goes? You don't run into a superhero on top of a quiet residential block where nothing's happening, he needs to be out there somewhere where there are sirens and yelling and - well, and danger. People who need rescuing. People who need help.
He huddles his arms closer around himself, because it's cold. And at the two exaggerated knocks he looks over his shoulder, at Cooper standing next to the propped-open doorway back into the building, eyebrows raised. "We have a TV, you know."
Blaine rolls his eyes back to the skyline. "I spend enough time dealing with your face when you're not popping up every commercial break, Cooper."
"You love my face. Everyone loves my face. I have an inherently loveable face, Blaine!"
Blaine really should have learned by age eleven that ignoring Cooper would never get him to just leave him alone to read Harry Potter or listen to Britney Spears. Cooper takes being ignored as a challenge. Cooper, after all, so very much likes being noticed.
He plunks down next to Blaine, props himself back on his hands, sighs. "New York skyline. Most exciting in the world."
"You hate it here. You like California. You only moved here for a part."
"Blaine, it is bad for my show if people think I hate New York. So I love New York. Repeat after me: Cooper loves New York. He loves it. It makes him giddy."
Blaine mutters, "You are such a dork."
"It turns him on."
"You're not here for the skyline either." Cooper's grinning that goddamn grin of his, god who invented big brothers. "You think I don't know? First thing you did in the whole apartment was put up that poster -"
"I came up here because I wanted some air." It's dark, so maybe the heat in his face won't show.
"- and put your binoculars next to the window like a little creeper -"
"I like birds."
"- and now you're up on the rooftop superhero-spotting." Cooper watches him sidelong. "You know he can't fly, right?"
"You don't know that. You've never even seen him."
"So he is why you're up here."
Okay, under any lighting in the world, that blush is going to show. "Shut up, Cooper."
"No, I think it's cute. My little brother has a crush on a superhero. He could like, rescue you, and sweep you up in his arms and possibly-fly away, apparently we're not sure on that one -"
"I'll hit you with the binoculars."
"- and you can be all, Oh Ghost, thank you for saving my life and he'll be all -" He puts on a deeper voice - "It was my pleasure, attractive male citizen, would you like to put your tongue down my heroic throat? and you can be all-"
"He doesn't even sound like that!"
"How the hell would you know what he sounds like?" Cooper looks aggrieved that his dramatic rendering has been cut short.
"Because there's audio clips on the internet! I know more about him than you do and I only just moved here!"
"You know more about him than I do because you're a giant super-creeper, squirt."
Blaine shoves Cooper's foot with his. "Just - go inside. Go away. I was having a nice quiet evening before you got here."
Cooper gives him another sidelong look, then says, "You don't need to get rescued, little brother." Blaine glares at him, waiting for the punch line. "You can be your own superhero, you know that?"
For half a second he doesn't even know what to say. Cooper has no idea. He can't have any idea. But . . .
He wriggles his shoulders, looks back to the skyline. Cooper's right, he's not just going to fly past even if he could do that (no record of anyone seeing him do it; he can pass through solid objects and turn invisible and somehow knock criminals out through sheer fear, but no record of him flying). This isn't how Blaine would run into him. Really, he knows the best shot he has of running into him.
You can be your own superhero.
Cooper says, "Move over. You're taking up all the blanket."
"Get your own blanket."
"It is my own blanket, you got it out of my apartment."
"I'll tell Mom if you don't share."
"I'll tell Mom you're creeping on innocent superheroes in skintight spandex."
"I'll tell Mom you're a douche."
"I'll Mom you said 'douche'."
"Squirt. Ow! I'm telling Mom you pinched!"
She's got too many shopping bags and the little girl's throwing a tantrum, too hot and too tired on the subway, and - it happens so fast, it just happens so fast and so naturally like it was always going to happen, how the little girl gets her foot tangled in the handles of a bag and pitches forward and skins her palms and knees and tumbles right off the edge of the platform before she's even had the time to cry out.
And her mother stands up and screams as the entire platform freezes, and there's a train coming in brakes squealing, and a dark grey figure dives over the platform edge after her. The train passes over them both, no time to stop. Her mother crumples, hands to her mouth as the scream gurgles away.
Two people rush to the woman, the driver in the front of the stopped train has put her hands over her face. But when the doors open in the nearest carriage, there's a figure in a long dark cloak, hood up and eyes hidden, holding the little girl awkwardly to his hip. He steps off the train and the mother can't stand up, just kneels there crying while people back away and he puts the girl down in front of her, and her mother's hands go pale at the knuckles grabbing her in close.
Someone tries to pat the Ghost's shoulder but his hand goes right through. "Dude. That was -"
He touches the little girl's head and says softly, "Careful next time. Don't scare your mom." and turns away. A couple of people scramble out of his way as he walks down the platform but then he vanishes, he's just not there, and someone further down the platform screams all over again.
The girl in the beanie hat lowers her phone and plays the video back, and oh man that is the coolest thing that has ever ever ever ever ever ever happened.
Blaine's first week in New York, he settles into his brother's apartment and goes to orientation classes for his Masters, and walks and walks and walks, walks until he has blisters. The city's gorgeous in the autumn. Fuzzy blue skies and amber leaves in the parks, and that quality of sunlight on the stonework. He takes a whole bunch of photos for his blog.
A whole bunch of photos and not one of the Ghost.
The blogs are busy, there's even been a new video uploaded of him hauling a kid out from under a subway train - not close enough to see anything really, nothing any other video hasn't shown before, and whoever's next to the person filming is talking when he talks so it's not even clear what he's saying. But then he turns away, that long heavy cloak swing-coiling after him like it does, takes two steps and vanishes. Blaine gets chills. He watches it fifteen times in a row. It's not as good as the carjackers video or the one of him fighting that guy who got his genes spliced with some kind of dinosaur, but it's something.
One of his favourite Ghost bloggers has put up a comic strip of Ghost on his day off. Laundering his cape still with his mask on, reading the newspaper in the launderette. Sitting in a movie with his hood up, eating popcorn. Talking on his cell surrounded by passed-out burglars, No I haven't met a nice girl yet Mom. Blaine reblogs it but he does feel the little jump in his gut. It wouldn't have to be a nice girl. They don't know . . .
There are still some bloggers who swear he's not even a he. Small breasts do not mean no breasts! Haven't you heard the audios? The counter of course being, High pitched voices do not mean no balls! Haven't you looked at his *crotch*? He does tend to come down hard as hell on sex crimes, though Blaine likes to think that some guys are feminist enough to do that anyway. And since he does seem to spend a fair bit of time haunting gay pockets of the city and making hate crimes really not worth it for the criminals, there has been speculation enough on his sexuality. Which is probably cruel, just for giving Blaine false hope.
Because yes, it is ridiculous to have a crush on a superhero. He knows he's not alone (dat ass is one of the loudest tags on that up-cloak photo of him dropping through the ceiling of a bank, shot from below, braced to land on a counter, hell that suit is tight) but it's still really really stupid. It's stupid to hoard gifs of him to stare at. It's stupid to have an entire playlist of grainy, distorted clips of his voice recorded on random cell phones. It's stupid to feel better about the world just because he's in it. It's stupid to feel a schoolgirl flutter at the thought of him. It's stupid to look at him as a beacon of how a life should be lived.
It's seriously stupid to move to a whole new city just to be closer to him.
You can be your own superhero. He walks down the block with his iPod on, watching his feet schuff the leaves aside. You can be your own superhero.
He's always been too scared. Not scared of getting hurt so much, just scared of screwing up. Not actually helping. Making things worse.
He does it. Goes out every night and risks his neck to make this city just a little bit less shitty, one life at a time. He must risk the same as Blaine. Sure he's got superpowers, that doesn't make him immortal, doesn't make him a god. It's not even the powers that make him a hero, it's what he does with them that counts.
Blaine thinks about it, and schuffs the leaves as he walks. And he thinks, I'm going to need a costume.
Rachel knocks and tries the handle at the same time, which she always does, which is why he always locks it. "Kurt!" she sings through it. "I can't help but notice that the emergency tub of Half Baked is gone! Which means you're having an emergency and you should talk to your roommate about it, or else you aren't having an emergency and you probably shouldn't have broken into our emergency ice cream! For emergencies! Like my deadline!"
Kurt looks over from his computer with the spoon hanging from his mouth, and scowls, and gets up to unlock the door.
Rachel pounds at it twice again before he gets there. "My deadline! For my internship! The internship that could make my whole career-" She staggers a little as the door comes in the next time she shoves it, hanging off the handle, and blinks at Kurt sitting down at the computer again, clicking onto the next tab, making some notes on the paper next to him. She stands in his doorway, takes a breath, says, "So! Your emergency?"
Kurt digs some more ice cream out, puts the spoon back in his mouth, picks his cell up. He sets it to play the message on speaker phone, then scrolls down the webpage a little, and makes a note of, Latex, seriously? How empowering is a fabric that makes you sweat like a pig and then pass out?
"Hi, Kurt, it's me," the voice slurs from the message. "It's Adam, you remember Adam, we dated for like three months if you rainchecking every date three times and just not turning up half the time counts as dating, well I'm in a bar and I have a hot guy's number and you know what? This is me deleting your number! This is my 'I'm deleting your number' message! Which I knew would be a message because you never pick your goddamn phone up! This is me deleting your tight-assed number 'cause this guy doesn't have a stick up his ass the size of the fucking Empire State Building and hey he actually seems interested in sleeping with me! This is me deleting your number you frigid-"
The beep cuts him off. Kurt digs out some more ice cream, and scribbles in next to the sketch, Leather is also an awful awful idea. He taps the pen off the paper. Maybe in patches.
Rachel breathes, "Kurt I'm so sorry."
Kurt shrugs, says around the spoon, "Working."
Meekly, "What are you working on?"
He waves a bit of paper at her, clicks back to his search. She walks over and takes the paper, says, "Superheroes again."
He stabs the spoon into the ice cream. "This is the project that won me that job. This is what fashion is supposed to be for."
"Yes, yes, empowerment, politics, you know there are dangerous implications for the stuff they pull." She drops the paper onto his desk. "You work far too much. We should go out this weekend, screw Adam, we'll find you a nice -"
"I have to work this weekend. And I have yoga Sunday mornings, you know I don't do Saturday nights. And I have aikido Saturday afternoons so there's no way I'm drinking on a Friday night-"
"You don't have to work every day of the week."
"Okay, Rachel, you know the competition you have for your internship? Well now imagine that competition combined with an office which takes bitching to Olympic levels, and, yes, I do have to work. And anyway, this is more fun than trawling disgusting bars for disgusting guys." His eyes trail over a sketch, and he corrects the angle a cape should take over a shoulder. "Do you want the ice cream or not?"
"Prince Charming is not just going to drop into your lap, Kurt. We could get you on one of those dating sites, there must be-"
"Oh god, Rachel, what part of no is difficult, it's one syllable. What are you working on, anyway?" She's usually pretty easy to distract from complicating Kurt's life even further. "You could do something on the fallout of increasing gentrification of the inner city for the economic classes forced out." He sees it all the time, scouring vintage stores popping up where they used to sell things people actually needed to live. Not that Kurt doesn't think that retro designer labels aren't important, but there's a weird guilt in it, sometimes.
"You know what I'm working on," she says, and takes his spoon from the tub, works out a little ball of cookie dough.
"Stalking vigilantes in tights. You say I'm obsessed with superheroes." He rolls his eyes, skips to another tab. Skintight is a problem, not everyone has a body that looks the way it 'should' in spray-on clothing. Control panels? Or just 'fuck you, this is what my ass looks like and if I don't have a problem with it, what's your problem'? Women should get to decide what makes them feel sexy, after all.
"My project is about holding supers to account, you know they never hang around to deal with the fallout of what they do, they don't answer to anyone, they're not accountable and not transparent and we don't know -"
"Yes, I'm sure they're terrible people." He takes the spoon out of her hand, scrapes around the edges of the tub for the softer ice cream. "Go get a spoon and your laptop. You better be quiet, I actually am working, Rachel."
She's quiet for a moment, while he scrolls through a website and thinks - like the sun beginning to peel through a cloud - weave fabric densities together, gradiate the weight to give the right hang and swing to the cape - when she puts her arms around his shoulders, hugs him from behind. "You'll find the right guy, Kurt."
The 'fuck you' break-up messages are a lot better than the disappointed ones. He looks at his keyboard, and thinks that he should probably call his dad.
The Ghost's costume, broken down from a gifset of zoomed-in shots people have managed to grab over the last few years:
That cloak, of course, hooded and heavy, long enough almost to sweep the ground. It keeps his eyes covered, there's hardly any photos even catching his nose - he has a cute nose - and that shot outside the burning building shows he's wearing a grey mask over his eyes under it, so he's pretty damn secretive about his identity, yeah. He has an expressive mouth, maybe it just seems it because it's the only part of his face really visible, warm-flushed lips, jaw tight with concentration in most of the shots. Well, he is 'working'.
That bodysuit, paler grey and god it looks like it's painted on, it's only the creases at elbow and knee (and under that glorious ass) that really show it's fabric at all. Blaine doesn't know what it's made out of. But it clings to his body - his incredible tapered body, sturdy chest and shoulders, delicate clavicle standing out through the material, god his waist though and well, dat ass - like it loves it. What wouldn't do the same? There are nights Blaine would sell his soul to be that bodysuit.
Darker grey gloves, and those knee boots. Darker grey belts, one around his hips and one slung up over one shoulder, one clipped around one thigh, so many small bulky attachments. Could be anything in there. His utility belt, his superhero kit, Blaine tries to imagine what a superhero would need; he realises pretty early on that a decent costume is going to be more than a weekend's work.
But mostly it's just him. That suit offers no protection Blaine's aware of, he just stands there open and vulnerable in front of people with weapons who've already decided to do the wrong thing, and he might as well be in t-shirt and jeans. It's not armour. It doesn't shield him. Okay, so he's intangible whenever he wants to be, maybe he's not afraid of needing to be shielded; Blaine just thinks about shields a lot of the time, which makes sense.
What he concludes in the end is that he needs a costume no-one's really going to notice at first. Until he works out how to do this thing - he doesn't even know how he'll find trouble to help people out of, just wander the city looking for it? - he needs to be a very low key kind of hero. Not even a hero at all, not until he saves someone. So, a hoodie and jeans for now, black, and he doesn't know what to call himself so he can't even put any kind of symbol on it. Just clothes no-one would look twice at before he actually did something to make them look.
He'll find trouble, and the Ghost will already be there, and Blaine will do something heroic - just casually yeah, look what I can do - and the Ghost will say Thank you for helping me (rescuing me, Blaine's imagination flutters away with him sometimes) and he'll look into his eyes from under that hood, push it back so he's bared to him, lean in and -
This is not a good reason to become a superhero.
Remember helplessness, and terror, and crying no no no.
There are reasons.
Finn's shifty at the other side of the table, and okay he's as tall as a tree but in a busy New York coffee shop, even he doesn't stand out so much. "I could get in so much trouble for this," he mutters, playing a little with the bag in his lap.
Kurt takes a sip of coffee, puts his cup down. "Then don't get caught. What have you got for me?"
Finn narrows his eyes at him, and Kurt looks evenly back. "You could get in so much trouble. You know that Puckzilla guy broke out of jail and he's headed back here? How can you just sit there all calm like he doesn't want to pull your head off an' use it for a football?"
"Because he's not here right now, and if you guys do your job the way you didn't when it came to keeping him in prison then I'll never even see him again, will I?"
Finn's mouth twitches. "Don't hold me responsible for every cop an' prison officer in the state, Kurt."
Kurt's eyes flick away. Okay. That was cheap and it was cruel. He tilts his cup around a little, says softly, "I bought you a doughnut," as an apology.
"You can't just buy cops over with doughnuts!"
"Actually, so far it's worked quite well," Kurt says, trying for teasing, meeting his eyes again with a little smile. Finn just stares at him, then rubs his face and pulls a piece of paper out of his bag, a photocopy with a picture at the top. "Last girl who got attacked on the Upper East Side gave us this photofit." His mouth twists again, differently this time and worse. "Guy's a sick bastard."
Kurt scans the image, keeping his face steady, then holds his phone over it and photographs it. "Thanks."
Finn stuffs the paper away again quickly, picks up the last piece of his doughnut and chews it, still frowning. "That Puckzilla guy seriously wants you dead, dude."
"He can get in line behind every gangster, supervillain and deadbeat mugger in the city." Kurt says, and shrugs. "He can't even touch me, you know that."
"I know he wasn't easy to bring down last time."
"This time I know how."
Finn pats his finger on his plate a few times, gathering crumbs and not looking at Kurt's face. He says, "You call Burt recently?" and sucks the sugar from his finger, and swallows. Kurt keeps his hand around his cup, keeps his body calm in its seat.
"You know I have, Finn."
"This worries the crap out of him."
"Please don't try to make me feel guilty about this. What do you want me to do, throw the cloak in and let the city get overrun? You know you guys can't take down someone like - like that huge walking handbag coming back for me, you know I have to do this -"
"You know it scares the crap out of the rest of us!"
"I'm fine. Finn, they can't even touch me, I'm fine."
"You were all kinds of fine that time I had to go pick you off the floor of a sewer in the middle of the night." Finn mutters to his cup, and Kurt lets his breath out hard through his nose, glaring at him. That incident, as much as anything else, was humiliating, to have been so close to real danger because of the worst supervillain he's ever even heard of, seriously, who calls themselves the Pink Dagger - ?
"Are you fishing for gratitude or do you just not want me to call you next time? He surprised me."
"You know what it's like getting a weird text at midnight to come -" He looks around the room, drops his voice, "pick up a superhero - you have any idea what it was like trying to haul you around in that cape? - from out of some sewer an' take him to some random guy's house -"
"He's a doctor. He knew what he was doing."
"- an' I didn't know if you were gonna die, man, you were just -"
"You shouldn't have told Dad about that."
Finn's mouth stays open for a second in silence. "What the hell, that is not something minor -"
Kurt rubs an eye. "Finn, I really don't want to talk about this here."
"You don't wanna talk about it anywhere. You never want to talk about it."
"If you don't want to help me then just say it."
Finn rubs a hand over his face, says through it, "No, jeez, no. You're out there alone enough as it is, I don't want . . . that guy over in Chicago's got a sidekick now. The flying light-shooting guy? There's some girl made out of stone hanging out with him."
"What are you suggesting, I advertise on Craigslist for a sidekick? I don't need help. They would slow me down and make things more complicated and Finn, seriously, my roommate - your girlfriend? - is a demented journalism student whose dearest wish is to unmask me, no guy in New York is willing to put up with my antisocial hours, I have lost count of how many supervillains want me dead, you're under orders to arrest me on sight sitting right opposite me and my job hangs by the thread of my psychopathic supervisors' unpredictable whims, my life is complicated enough, do you realise that?"
Finn just rubs his eye again, and checks his watch. "I need to get to work."
Kurt puts his phone in his pocket. "Thank you. For the -" He stops. "Just thank you."
Finn gives him a weird tight not-smile, mouth just twisting at one side. "Be careful."
He makes sure he smiles back. "You too, Officer Hudson."
Finn rolls his eyes, climbs out of his seat and strolls out of the coffee shop. Kurt drums his fingers off his cup, and tries to avoid thinking about his dad. Then he drains his coffee and picks up his satchel, dropping a tip onto the table. He's going to need a hell of a lot more coffee to get through the day, does Finn realise the economic catastrophe it would cause the coffee shops of this city if Kurt wasn't out there until two in the morning every day of the week . . . ?
Blaine reblogs it when it turns up on the internet, three nights later. Everyone reblogs it. Like a line of candles being lit, spreading out in the dark, across the whole internet, a web of little lights across the whole world.
If you read this, please reblog. I don't know any other way to reach him.
Last night I was walking home from the subway, just two blocks not even that late, when a man pushed me into an alleyway and held a knife to my throat and squeezed my thigh so hard he broke the skin. I begged him to take my purse because I knew that wasn't what he wanted. He was so close I could smell his breath. I know what would have happened.
But then *he* was standing there further down the alleyway like he'd always been there, and he asked so quietly for the man to put the knife down. And the man grabbed my neck and swore he'd kill me if the Ghost didn't do something, I didn't get to hear 'or else' because he just *vanished*. The man was panicking and squeezing my neck and I thought I would die, I thought I would have to die, this is where I would die, like *this*, and then I felt another hand around my wrist even though I couldn't see it and I slipped through that man's fingers. I mean *through*, just like they weren't there anymore, and the Ghost was standing between us holding me behind him. The man lunged at him with the knife. He raised a hand.
That was all he did, he just put his hand up at the man's head, and I have never heard anyone SCREAM like that before in my life. He curled up in a ball on the ground and jerked like he was going to throw up and cried a bit and passed out. And the Ghost just stood watching him, then when he was still he tied his hands behind his back and asked if I was okay and asked if I could call the cops, because he probably shouldn't be calling them. And he smiled. You can't see much of his face but he has a really cute smile, I can confirm for all the fanghosts out there :)
He sat with me while I called my boyfriend and the police, because I was really shaken up. I was so shaken up that when my boyfriend got there I just held onto him and cried, and when I looked around he was already gone. And I didn't say thank you, I never got to say thank you.
That's why I need this reblogging, can you just keep on posting it, as far and wide as you can? Because I don't know any other way he might see it.
I know I'm only one in dozens to you, I know you probably save people from things like that every night of the week. But every one of those people I'm sure is just as grateful as I am because I know what would have happened if you hadn't been there. You save *so* many people. And Commissioner Figgins is an idiot for wanting to arrest you, you're a *hero*.
Thank you so much. Thank you so so much, I can't ever say how grateful I am. Thank you so so so so much. I hope you know how grateful we all are, all the time.
Please keep on haunting us for as long as you can xxx
Midnight on Friday night, he has a date. Only date he'll probably ever get at this rate.
He ghosts down through the outer wall of the building to land with a little thump of his boots on the thin roof of the kitchen, sloping gently into the alley at the side. He sighs, and pulls his hood back for a moment to get some air, closing his eyes, face raised to the empty sky above; he's tired.
Then he sits down with his boots hanging over the edge of the roof, and yawns behind a hand. The back door to the kitchen opens and a man walks out humming, with a cardboard cup of coffee and a paper bag in his hand. He looks up at the Ghost sitting on his roof and tuts, then hands up the cup and then the bag. "Long week, it looks like."
He warms his hands on the cup, bag in his lap. "Even ghosts get tired, Mr Conti."
"Could take a night off now or then."
The Ghost quirks him a weary little smile. "So could you."
"Tch, I work, I get money. Who pays you for this?"
The Ghost waggles the cup of coffee at him. "Thank you."
"Cup of coffee and a pastry. This is the reward for madness every night."
"Not a pastry," the Ghost says wheedlingly. "The best lobstertail in New York."
The man wipes his hands off on his apron, folds his arms. "Good night?"
He takes a sip of coffee, sighs the warmth out. "Nothing big. Same old same old."
"I watch this Puckzilla escape on the news."
"They say not to approach him."
"They also say to call the police if you see me," the Ghost points out, and the man below beams.
"What do I see? Nothing at all. Just a ghost." The Ghost laughs, and the man shakes his head. "Be careful. This Puckzilla, he's big."
He swallows more coffee, opens the bag. "Mm, I'll be fine. How's your family?"
"Good, good. Sal started college. Smart boy. Will be a lawyer."
The Ghost closes his eyes, smiles and nods, huddles behind his cup. One night two years ago Mr Conti's son got the wrong sort of attention from a gang of guys looking for trouble, and the Ghost walked him home afterwards, the boy crying with fear, holding the busted elbow the Ghost was a half second too late to save. His father burst out of the coffee shop into this back alleyway where they had a rapid, tearful conversation in Italian, and then the man hugged his son and before he could turn intangible he hugged the Ghost too, and swore he didn't care what the police said, he would kill the man who tried to arrest him.
Every Friday night since he's patrolled this part of town, and there's always been a cup of coffee in it for him.
Coffee here. There's a curry place in Gramercy, a Chinese takeout on the Upper West Side. Saving lives, he tells himself, burns a lot of calories, and so long as he can still fit into that suit he is not saying no to that sushi place in SoHo with a waitress he once rescued and salmon nigiri to die for . . .
"Sal met a boy on his course," the man below says, and the Ghost blinks down at him, as he watches his own hands tightening the cords of his apron. "Nice guy."
"Good for him," the Ghost says, and takes a bite of lobstertail.
"You find a nice guy yet?"
Around his mouthful, "Secret identity, Mr Conti." He neither confirms nor denies the guess at his sexuality, because he is aware that people have been able to 'guess' that since he was three years old.
"I only ask. I worry. Never you bring a date."
He swallows. "Not the most romantic evening, Mr Conti, chasing criminals."
"Still, it kills you to be happy? Leave the cape a night, bring a boy. Have some fun before you're old. It comes quick, you know that."
What're the odds, he wonders sometimes, of getting to get old? He smiles at him, and Mr Conti rolls his eyes and points a finger at him. "You be careful."
The Ghost lifts his cup at him. "Grazie, Mr Conti."
The door to the kitchens closes behind him. The Ghost sighs, lays back on the angled roof, propped up on one bent leg. No stars overhead, too much light down here, New York's blaze deafens the whole sky for light. He hums a little to himself. Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars?
He's probably better off without a boy. They would never put up with his crap, and in the end, it is so much better when they give up on him than when he has to tell them that he can't, without ever being able to tell them why.
Because I have to go out every night in a cloak haunting the crap out of criminals. Because sometimes supervillains want me dead and you do not want to be around for that. Because I can't be what you want, whatever you want, believe me, believe me, I know I can't.
Because what happens if I fall in love with you, and something happens to you because of me? What happens if you fall in love with me and then one night I just don't come home?
What happens when I tell you everything, and then you know . . . ?
He finishes his coffee, rolls up the bag, drops them neatly into the trash can by the back door. Then he sets a foot into the brickwork of the building, reaches up and grips through higher bricks, begins climbing back up again. Give it another hour and then head back. See what trouble he can find. It's Friday night in New York, there's got to be something horrible happening somewhere . . .