A/N1: Sorry for the delay in getting this out. Everything decided to happen all at once in my life.
A/N2: As usual, all forms of feedback are more than welcome, even flames.
Finn was sitting in one of Xander’s dining room chairs with the back of it against his chest. His shirt was off and his watcher was currently seated behind him, tending to a large gash in his back right along the interior of his left shoulder blade. He occasionally winced and hissed at the feeling of the needle and thread making another loop around the cut. His right hand was kept busy holding an icepack against the side of his head.
“So,” said his watcher, “care to tell me again how you managed to screw up what was supposed to be a simple recon?”
“I told you that one of them caught me snooping around. And by the way, I’m pretty certain that this is the part where you show concern for my well-being.”
Both hearing the sigh and feeling it ghost across his bare back, he heard his watcher say, “you’re right. I’m glad you’re okay, Finn. But you came damn close tonight to being just another statistic. You did good though.”
Why did he sound so reluctant in praising him? Was he hiding what he really thought of Finn’s performance? A seed of doubt had been planted in his mind and he knew that it would only grow in time.
“What about the thing I took?” It might be nice for a change in topic, he decided. “D’you know anything about it? What it is? What it’s for?” He pointed out with a nudge of his chin toward the object in question sitting next to him on the table.
It was about a foot long and made of a sturdy-looking metal. The thing appeared old, like ancient relic old. There was a clearly defined handle on one end in the shape of a hexagon and a weird looking emblem engraved into it. The other end of the object broke out into four prongs in a square-like shape, each one jagged and oddly grooved. All four prongs were also shaped slightly differently from each other beyond that.
“I don’t know. It doesn’t look familiar at all. There’ll be plenty of time to research it later. For right now, I’m more concerned with all the digging equipment you said you discovered. They must be after something, something important. And it’s buried deep in the ground. We need to find out what it is they’re after.”
Finn mused on that for a moment before he said, “the only thing I know for certain about that is that they haven’t found it yet.”
He could practically feel his watcher thinking that over before he asked, “why do you think that?”
“Well, if they already knew where it was, wouldn’t all that equipment already be at the site?”
“Hmm, good point. Now, you said you found several vampires waiting to rise and a bunch of blood bags. You also told me there were a bunch of vamps there walking around. Exactly how many were there?”
“I don’t know. Maybe about thirty that I saw.” Finn winced at another painful tug on his skin.
“And who knows how many more were off doing other things,” said his watcher, more to himself than to Finn.
The slayer sat there quietly after that, content to just let his watcher finish up with his back without any more words spoken about vampires and their mysterious plans. He could tell that Xander was disappointed in him, but he just didn’t know why. Was it simply because he’d screwed up and was discovered? Or was he disappointed that Finn hadn’t slain more vampires in the fight? Because it really didn’t seem fair to him to be held accountable for that. There were way too many for him to take on by himself. The thought, as true as it might’ve been, did little to comfort him or to stop him from feeling like he’d somehow failed.
“There,” said his watcher, “all done. The stitches should be good to come out by the morning, a benefit of slayer healing. A cut this big though will probably scar, even for you.”
“Thank you,” he mumbled quietly.
Xander proceeded to clean up the scraps from his patch job and put his first aid kit away. He stood up and walked off to do so, coming back a moment later.
“Hey Xander?” he asked.
“Yeah, what is it?”
“D’you mind if I crash here tonight? I don’t wanna chance my mom seeing these bruises and get her all worried, or more worried than she already is.”
Xander thought that over for a second before replying, “sure, I guess. But won’t your mom be even more worried when you don’t show up?”
Finn rolled his eyes and said, “well, I plan to call her and tell her first, of course.”
“Alright. When you’re done calling her, you can go on up and take a shower. I’ll leave out some food for you in the kitchen when you’re done. I’ll be in the library researching.”
He nodded his head in response to that and got up himself, setting the ice pack down on the table. He went over to his backpack and pulled his cellphone out. Selecting his mom’s number, he hit send and waited for her to answer. “Hi mom,” he said. There was a pause as he listened to her speak. “No, I’m fine. I just wanted to call you to say that I think I’ll be staying here tonight.” He paused again for a moment. “No, I told you, I’m fine. I just don’t wanna drive home in this rain is all.” Another pause. “No, I’m not hurt, I swear.” Yet another pause. “Fine, I’ll call again in the morning before I leave.” He paused once more. “Of course. Love you too. Bye.” Finn hung up.
Putting his phone back in his bag, he picked the whole thing up and trudged his way upstairs to take a shower. Finn stripped out of the rest of his wet clothing and stepped under the hot spray of the shower-head. It felt blessedly wonderful on his skin, even with the sting of it on the open cut on his back and whatever other cuts and scrapes that hadn’t yet healed. It was funny how the best treatment for a night spent out in the cold driving rain was more water, funny in a way that didn’t seem funny at all. His thoughts were spent devoted to the spectacular screw up he’d made earlier and how to do better to get his watcher’s approval.
Xander sat at his desk, an open book set before him with a whole stack more off to the side waiting their turn. Briefly, he considered sending a call into Cleveland for a backup team to be prepped. By the numbers the kid mentioned, these vampires were a far bigger threat than they had taken them for. Quickly, he determined to wait until tomorrow to see about getting help and focus on other things right now.
He had his books open and the strange object next to him and a seriously vague description of the leader; it was time to do some research. But his mind wasn’t on his research, it was on how he’d fucked up. It was pretty obvious that Finn was seeking his approval; it was something the kid seemed to be always looking for from everyone.
All he had to do was tell him he was doing a good job and to sound like he meant it. Sure, he’d said the words to the kid and in his mind and heart, he’d meant them. But it was just hard to get them out and when he did manage to, it ended up sounding hollow and meaningless even to his own ears.
Why was it so difficult to open some sort of connection to this kid? It had always been one of Xander’s strong points in the past, being able to see into the heart of someone he cared about and say the right thing when it was absolutely needed of him. And he did care about the kid, he was responsible for him and wanted him to succeed. So why? It’s obvious,
a snide little corner of his mind told him, it’s because he isn’t a girl.
Xander looked up at that. Was that it? Did he have a hard time closing that gap between them because Finn was of the same gender as him? He’d spent so long around females, strong and independent females with vulnerable sides that maybe he’d lost the ability to connect to his fellow males. Men in the slaying business, at least when it came to his own personal experience, were few and far between and his contact with them was complicated and storied.
Women had become easy to work with over the years, his exposure to them being so consistent that he’d almost become a bit of an expert on them (well expert might’ve been stretching things a bit). And other men? Giles was the only consistent male influence in his life, far more than Oz, Angel, Spike, Riley, or even his own father. And the man wasn’t really known for his personal connection to Xander. His concern was largely reserved for Buffy and to a lesser extent Willow, while he had fallen to the wayside. As soon as he thought it, Xander felt bad. It wasn’t Giles’s fault that their relationship had been remote and only existent through their mutual relationship with Buffy. Circumstances and his own resistance to having a father figure in his life had seen to that
remoteness. Besides, it wasn’t like they were really
distant from each other, he joked with the older man often and they had a great working relationship.
But Finn was different. The kid was painfully and desperately filling the void of a strong male influence in his life and was searching for someone to fill in that hole for him. Xander had seen for himself how he latched onto any male that entered his life that he could. Finn needed approval like people needed oxygen and the poor kid had gotten him of all people. Now, how screwed up was that?
Still, Xander had all the information, knew exactly what was needed of him here, but he still had serious trouble with putting the words together to help whenever the kid was around. Now, here he was, failing his own slayer when he desperately needed him. The kid was probably thinking that he’d
been the screw up when it was Xander who had screwed up. Hell, the kid had found himself surrounded by thirty
freakin’ vampires and had made it out okay. It was a testament to his growing skills as a slayer that he wasn’t dead or worse right now, and all Xander could say in response was to berate him. And the worst part was that he knew the next time they had a situation where he could break through that block of ice between them, he’d just screw it up all over again.
An old crate sailed through the air and smashed loudly into the exterior wall of the warehouse, shattering into thousands of splinters and shards. It had come close to hitting a nearby vampire, who looked a little shaken from being so close to being hit.
“HOW COULD YOU LET HIM GET AWAY!!!”
“But master, we didn’t just-“
“DO NOT SPEAK!!! THERE WAS ONE OF HIM AND A FEW DOZEN OF YOU!!!
AND STILL, HE GETS AWAY!!!”
“He surprised us this time. Next time, we’ll-“
The minion who had been speaking was stopped by a stake through the heart. It burst into ashes that fell in a pile to the floor. Silence swept over the room after that as everyone stared in shock at what had just happened.
“Next time,” he said laughing, “next time, I will drink his blood till his veins are emptied and then I will wear his flesh like clothing. He stole my key, the last fucking one I needed. I want to know who this kid is, this boy playing slayer. I want to know who he is, who his family is, where he lives, and who his friends are. I want to know what his favorite fucking food is. I. Want. To. Know. Everything. About. Him. And I want to know NOW!!!”
His minions scrambled to get started on their orders right away. One of them who ran too close to the master was grabbed in a painfully tight grip by the arm and stopped in his tracks. “You,” he said, “have another task. Something is being shipped to my address in Cincinnati on Thursday. I need you to go get it for me. It is . . . precious to me. Here is the key to my place there. You will go there now and wait for it to arrive. Keep a low profile. That means no feeding and no killing. Your job is to sit and wait for my package to arrive. You will sign for it and you will come straight back here when it shows up. Do you understand me?”
“Y,yes sir. I will do as you order. Where is your place?
The master vampire handed him a slip of paper with an address written on it. “There, now go. Oh, and if you fail to retrieve it and bring it back, I will hunt you down to the ends of the Earth and peel the flesh off your body strip by strip.”
“Good. Now get out of here.”
“Right away, sir.” With that, the minion fled from the warehouse to complete his task.
When he was alone, the master vampire calmly walked out of the room, saying to himself, “I wonder if Netflixx is streaming anything good right now?”
Finn was sitting in the study hall trying desperately to get his homework completed before the school day ended. It was Wednesday and glee club was in the middle of it’s anthem assignment. He hadn’t even picked out a song yet and time was starting to run out. The stress of balancing school, slaying, and glee all at the same time was beginning to take it’s toll on him. Last night, he had ended up staying up half the night hunting something that looked like it belonged in an old monster movie from the fifties through the sewer systems.
He was exhausted and his shoulder still ached from when the ligament was torn during the fight. Beyond that, he was pretty certain that he still smelled faintly of sewer no matter how many times he scrubbed his body. His clothing had to be thrown away, being far too soiled to ever be worn again. Kurt would no doubt count that as a plus, but he’d liked that shirt.
With the training and the patrolling, he was left with too little time to do much else. On top of that, his new responsibilities hadn’t gotten him much of any slack when it came to his household chores. Homework wasn’t getting any easier to do and Glee was slowly proving to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. It didn’t help that Coach Bieste was still having the football team run drills twice a week. Eventually, he knew that something was going to have to give, that he wouldn’t be able to balance it all.
And this algebra was starting to look more and more like those ancient languages in Xander’s books. With a sigh, he pushed his textbook and homework away and rested his head in his hands, trying in vain to rub the exhaustion from his eyes and to will away his growing headache.
“Finn,” said Rachel enthusiastically from somewhere off behind him, making him jump slightly in his seat. Great, so much for getting rid of the headache.
Looking up, he saw her looking back down at him with an expectant smile on her face. “Oh hey, Rachel. What’s up?”
“Well, I know that since we broke up, we’ve kind of been avoiding each other with you doing most of the avoiding. But I don’t feel hurt by that, I really don’t. I understand that I hurt you and that it would be improper of me to try force a friendship on you, especially so soon. However, as co-captains of New Directions, we have responsibilities to the group that will force us to work closely with one another in a professional manner. So, I think it’s important for us to sit down and have at least one civilized discussion about glee club.”
Sighing, he conceded the point with a nod of his head and said, “you’re right. We should be able to work together professionally. So, what do you wish to discuss with me?”
“Well, I was wondering what your plans were for this week’s assignment? I’m thinking of Rent. How about you?”
“Honestly, I haven’t been able to pick anything so far.”
She shook her head and gave him a look of deep disappointment. “Finn, I thought you of all people could find an anthem to sing. I mean classic rock is filled with an abundant array of them to choose from. You have a duty to show the rest of the club a classic example of the sub-genre.”
“I know I don’t know as much about music as you do, Rachel, but I don’t think an anthem qualifies as a sub-genre of music.”
Smiling softly at him, she said, “I love it when you show that you know more than you let other people think you do. And you’re right, it’s not really a sub-genre, but it lacks a title to be attached to that I can think of at the moment. Of course, anthems have a religious origin that dates back to-“
“Rachel,” he said, chuckling in spite of himself. “I would love to hear all about this, but I’ve gotta study right now. So, unless you have an idea for a song I could sing, I’ve really gotta get back to it.”
“Of course, but Finn, I noticed that you didn’t have a song for last week’s love song assignment either and I understand if you weren’t really feeling that one given recent history, but you need to have a song. You can’t go two weeks in a row without bringing something to the table. The team needs you.”
“I know,” he said, looking down at the table. “I just have a lot going on right now and it’s been hard to balance things, you know.”
“What exactly do you need to balance?”
“It’s personal stuff, family stuff.” He was beginning to grow uncomfortable with this conversation.
“Of course, I understand. It’s just that you’ve been a little distant and sullen lately and I’m getting a little worried about you.”
“Well, it’s not your place to be worried about me anymore, so please leave me alone.” Finn almost immediately felt bad for snapping.
She gave him a piercing stare, looking more than a little affronted by that. Then, she deflated a little, saying, “you’re right. I overstepped my bounds. I’ll leave you to your studies, but you need to pick something to sing, you really do.” Rachel walked away after that, leaving him alone with his thoughts.
Maybe he could do Smells like Teen Spirit.
That was an anthem of sorts and he could totally rock it like Cobain did, no doubt. Of course, it wouldn’t really work for a show choir’s purposes, but it would at least get everyone focused again on the assignment and not this ridiculous Bieber garbage Sam sprung on everybody.
“Now, I know you’re all wondering why I gathered you together,” said Rachel to the rest of the glee club, minus Finn.
“Let me guess,” ventured Santana, “you’re finally gonna get your sex change operation and become ‘Raymond.’”
“It’s about Finn,” she said, ignoring the other girl’s barb. The collective response she got to this statement was a chorus of groans.
“What about him?” asked Mercedes.
“Has anyone else noticed that he’s been acting differently?”
“No,” said Artie, sounding completely uninterested.
“Rachel, I’m going to give you a piece of advice: let it go. You cheated on him and he left you. It’s sort of what happens when you do that. Trust me, I know.” Quinn didn’t sound unkind in how she said this, more like she was stating a fact.
“It’s not that, it’s something else. I don’t know.” Rachel took a breath, giving herself a second to collect her thoughts. “He’s been distant lately and not just to myself, but to everyone. He comes to school late, has missed classes, and hasn’t participated in our Glee assignments lately.”
“So what?” said Sam. “That doesn’t mean a thing. He’s never to my knowledge been very interested in his classes and considering that last week’s assignment was about love songs and he’s just recently been cheated on, it’s not very surprising at all.”
“But it’s more than that,” she insisted.
“Like what?” asked Tina.
“I don’t know. It’s just a bunch of little things, like how he always seems tired and his mind never seems to be focused on what’s happening around him. And have you noticed that he’s come to school with weird little cuts and bruises?”
“Maybe he restarted fight club,” suggested Puck.
“That’s stupid, Puck,” responded the diva. “Please stop talking.”
“Wait,” said Artie, “fight club’s been canceled?”
“Ronnie Caruthers dislocated his shoulder and cried to his parents. Figgins shut us down.” Puck sounded genuinely sad about this.
“Now that you mention it,” said Mike, “I think I’ve noticed something too. Finn’s dancing skills have improved recently. Now, I thought that it was just that he’d been taking some extra lessons on the side, but now I’m not so sure.”
A number of other club members nodded along with this, appearing thoughtful now that someone other than Rachel had validated the topic.
“Have you spoken to Kurt about this? He might know more.”
“I’ve tried, Mercedes, but Kurt just dismissed my questions as me wanting to get back together with him.”
“Well, isn’t that true?” asked Santana. “I mean, it’s pretty obvious that you’re totally not over him. God knows why. He has like chick boobs.”
“No, he doesn’t,” said Brittany, surprising everyone. “I know he totally used to, but he’s like ripped now or something.”
“Finnocence?” said Santana. “No way. How would you even know?”
“Because I’ve started having sex dreams about him again. It’s the only explanation. I just figured it was because he suddenly got superpowers.”
“What does this all add up to?” asked Puck, standing up. “I’ll tell you: absolutely nothing. Finn’s my boy and I’d know if anything was going on with him. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got algebra next and I’m feeling sleepy.” With that, he left. The others began to follow his lead and left the choir room, as well.
Soon, Rachel was left alone with her thoughts. She knew she was right and that something was going on with her ex, but she didn’t know what to do about it. For now, she figured the only thing she could do was watch him and see if she could spot anything new.
Finn was standing outside his house, staring in through the large picture window that revealed the living room. His mom was inside, cuddling up to Burt on the couch as they watched television. He stared at them for what seemed like hours, before something made him decide to turn around.
It was night out and there was a chill in the air. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at first, but then his eyes settled on the building across from him. Instead of Old Lady Erma’s place, the rickety old house that always smelled like cats even from the outside, there was another building altogether; it was the high school.
He took a step forward, feeling the crisp grass underneath his bare feet. Taking a deep breath, he continued forward, crossing the street and heading to the school. His will was not his own, as if he were being dragged toward it by some invisible force.
Reaching out, he opened the front doors and stepped inside. Finn found himself inside the choir room. There were four other people in there already. Rachel was sitting off in the corner with Quinn and they were whispering things into each other’s ears and giggling like they were the best of friends, one or both of them sneaking a glance in his direction occasionally and giggling even more. Santana was standing up in the stands, her frame as still as a statue.
Puck was standing dead-center of the room, staring straight at him. Finn approached him until they were face to face. “Dude, what the fuck was that!?” yelled out his (somewhat former) best friend. He looked shocked, maybe even a little scared.
All he could do was turn around, there being no words for him to speak and no other action to take. He suddenly found himself standing in the school library, positioned directly in front of the table where he’d placed the duffel bag full of anvils that changed his life. And like that incident, Xander was there. But there was no eye patch this time, the eye he’d presumably lost completely intact.
Finn opened his mouth to say something, but still the words wouldn’t come out.
“Lonely is the path you walk,” said his watcher. “The clouds are red and the door is yours to open.”
“I don’t understand,” replied Finn, finally able to communicate.
The older man ignored him and continued his cryptic speech. “Little lost child and plans undone, taken for the chosen one.”
Xander then pointed at something behind Finn and he turned around. He saw Kurt standing there facing him, his back to the wall. His brother stared at him impassively, almost as if there were no recognition of Finn’s identity whatsoever.
Kurt opened his mouth and said, “destruction, absolute.” He then took a step back and seemed to just melt
into the wall.
A deep bottomless pit of fear opened up within him and Finn ran for the wall, beating his fists against it pointlessly. He was unable to even make a mark on it and his fear grew. His fingernails clawed at it, but accomplished nothing beyond breaking them off. Blood flowed out from his fingertips and stained the wall red. Still, he tried with manic desperation to tear through the wall that had taken his brother. But there was no strength in him, none at all.
Eventually, he stopped. Finn could feel something behind him, something dreadful. It made his spine tingle and that well of fear widened within him. He turned around and found himself in a completely different place. Before him was a wall made of earth, roots and stones sticking out of it in places.
Set in the wall of dirt was a stone door. It was big, easily large enough to fit someone a foot taller than himself. In the center of the door was a large round protrusion with a strangely familiar symbol full of weird squiggly lines on it. Finn took a tentative step toward it.
When he was right in front of it, he noticed another detail he’d missed earlier. There were three depressions set into the circular protrusion in a triangular pattern. Two of these depressions had something sticking out of them with the third one remaining empty. He instantly recognized the objects sticking out as the handle end of that weird object he’d taken from that warehouse.
He looked down and found the missing third piece in his hand. Finn reached out and stuck it in the empty depression and his fear consumed him.
With a gasp for breath, Finn Hudson shot up out of bed. Sweat dripped down his face and his clothes felt drenched in it. Adrenaline pumped savagely through his system and he couldn’t seem to get his breathing under control. His nerves were shot and he realized that he was shaking.
Pushing back the covers, he swung his legs over the side and sat on the edge of his bed. It was all just a dream. But it had been so vivid, so real. He’d never had a dream like this, not once. Well, he had to admit that that wasn’t entirely true. When he first became a slayer, he recalled the nightmares of past slayers meeting their ends. Those dreams had been as real as being awake and this one had been just as vivid as those. Maybe Xander would know something about it. He resolved that he would talk to his watcher about it the next day after school. With that, he went downstairs to get a glass of milk and maybe try sleeping again after that.