Authors Notes: Blame this fic on Greens at Speedrent, who gave us the challenge of taking the show "Heroes" and using it as a baseline for an AU fic. Seeing as how this is my thing, I jumped on it and it ran away with me clinging on for dear life! So Greens, this fic is for you. This fic is also unbeta'd, so blame mistakes on me, I'm trying to catch them. It is complete, but as I'm doing a beta and have RL going on growls, I'll be posting daily rather than in one lump, so please feel free to put this story on your alert list. And while I've got you here, I started a yahoogroup for sharing Rent wips called "Fic4Rent". Members are encouraged to bat around ideas, post fics, discuss, and whatnot. This is a new group that needs members, so if you are interested in joining, please email me or leave a note in your review.
R/R are greatly appreciated, I like knowing what works and what doesn't in the stories I write. For those that are following "Scream", I'm still working on that as well. Thank you all very much!! -Kam :)
First chapter won 1st place at Speedrent.
There was no lightning, no crash of thunder, no evil, demonic voice that demanded his attention, no teleport into another world, no supernatural being that forced a last breath into his mouth before dying. But still, Mark knew it. He knew it, deep in his bones, like someone lit a neon sign and bashed him head first into it.
Something was different.
Something wasn't right, something had changed, and it made him scurry off his floppy, floor-bound mattress and quickly retie the drawstring to the navy sweat pants he slept in as he surveyed his room, blurry-eyed. He fumbled for his glasses. Where was his camera? There, in the chair. He snatched it up and checked the film, not paying attention to where he was stepping, instinctively knowing the path around his clothes to the door. His arms instantly held goosebumps, the wooden floor was cold to his bare feet, and he took to stepping on his clothes rather than around them. He wasn't usually this messy, but then he wasn't usually this busy.
He quickly walked out of his room, his camera to his eye, poised for a revelation. The humming that echoed through the loft sounded harsh, not happy, but the mouth that closed around the hum was upturned in a smile. Roger Davis was composing. Shit. Roger was cleaning.
Mark slowly lowered the camera. This wasn't a standard spring clean. Those Roger would work on with half-hearted abandon, then give up and go outside to enjoy the warmer air, or head up to the roof with his guitar in hand. Well, granted it had been a long time since he went anywhere with his guitar in hand, which was what made the incessant humming all the more distracting. And it definitely wasn't spring.
Mark leaned back against the wall, the sight becoming too much for his curiosity to handle. The hand holding the camera dropped to his side, still filming. "Roger?" His voice betrayed concern.
"Hmm? Oh, hi. You're up." Roger casually smacked a dishcloth against his denim-clad leg after wiping off a table.
"Hi," Mark said faintly, watching him in uncertainty. He found the strength to shoulder away from the wall and walked toward the kitchen. But he still didn't know what to say.
"You're still filming." Roger gestured toward the camera.
"What? Oh." Mark looked down, then raised the camera to his eye. He winced and lowered it, turning it off.
Roger raised his brow and walked to the sink. "Uh-oh. That's not a good sign. You feeling okay?"
"I-I was going to ask that about you, actually." Mark sat down at the large crumb-free, mug free, dust and grime free table that doubled and tripled as an eating area, work area, and clutter-catcher. "You're cleaning."
"Place is a wreck."
"Like you care! You're wiping things down, stop, look, give me that!" He snatched the cloth away. "What's going on?"
Roger popped a kernel of dry cereal into his mouth. Mark noticed two bowls on the counter, and eyed them as Roger said, "You should do your laundry. It'll be crawling in here before you know it."
"It's not that bad, look, what's going on?" Mark then found himself eyeing Roger's arm. He knew all about the physical high his friend would thrive on after shooting up (come to think of it that was one thing that prompted spring cleanings) and he couldn't forget the restlessness that caused him to wander aimlessly around the loft in the middle of the night. On worse occasions, well. . .he didn't want to think about that. Besides, he didn't look bad. At all.
"Nothing's going on! I just feel good." Roger's expression fell slightly. "That bother you?"
"NO! Are you kidding, no!" Mark allowed himself to laugh around the sentence. "It doesn't! It's just, it's been a while, you know?"
"Yeah. So don't ruin it, okay?" Green eyes sent a clear message to Mark.
He stood and backed away, hands held in the air, message received as clearly as it was given. "I won't touch it." He continued to stare dubiously as he reversed direction. "I'm going to take a shower." Once he was certain Roger wasn't going to morph into some creature that would rip his throat out before waking from a nightmare, he turned.
"Hot water's out."
"So what's new?" Mark asked over his shoulder as he returned his camera to the bag in his room and grabbed a pair of tan pants, clean boxers, and a sweater. "We got clean towels?" he yelled out as he searched for socks. Roger answered by suddenly appearing and playfully throwing one in his face, and didn't budge. Mark realized he was being scrutinized, and tugged self-consciously at his thin t-shirt. His bare foot scraped against the floor.
"You're eating two bowls of cereal this morning, scarecrow," Roger merely said, and left Mark to his duties.
The shower was cold, damn cold, but it made him feel better. Well, it woke him up. He soaped up his face, rinsed, then worked his way down, careful not to slip in the sudsy water that pooled at his feet. Damn drain. Washing his hair was quick, quicker than Roger handling that mane of his, a result of intense depression when he didn't give a crap about his looks, and had to be forced to shower. He had yet to cut it, but at least it stayed clean now. Maureen was a threat to put the wavy locks up into girly pigtails, and Mark was about ready to let her do it. He rinsed throughly, gargled a mouth full of water and spat it out, then shut the shower off. He toweled quickly, trying not to shiver.
He realized once he left the shower that he felt pretty damn good himself, except for a slightly nagging headache, more than likely due to staying up the previous night to edit his film. He vaguely remembered Roger walking up to him at "ten past too fucking late," as he put it, and dragging him away from the projector, steering him to bed. He hesitated in his toweling as he remembered thinking how much stronger than usual Roger's grip felt. Not lethargic, not weak. Firm. Commanding. Just plain strong. But he didn't think anything else of it. He had felt tired, stressed, and was glad to crash. He finished drying and clothed himself, his thoughts circling.
Now he found himself watching Roger as he prepared for his day. The man was still a little pale, but his movements seemed . . .more fluid. Different. Mark's brows knitted over puzzled eyes. He had never seen the musician move like this, not even when engaged in a song. Not with this much confidence. Ever. And the fact that his friend ushered him out of the loft to get some fresh, cold air after their breakfast was enough to make Mark want to run to Collins and ask for help. In fact he suggested heading that way, just to be sure.
Roger was all to glad to visit their friend, and agreed quickly. It had been nearly a week since Collins was at their place, and both were missing his steady presence. Roger chatted lightly, and Mark suddenly realized he was having the best time he'd had in ages.
Roger was actually being funny, actually being more like the Roger he had first moved in with, the life-long friend and brother that a lover's death and terminal illness tried so hard to steal from him. He walked with his hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans, his head down, but he joked and smiled and dammit, looked like he felt great. Mark was delighted and confused, and decided to just enjoy the ride. Hell, his friend deserved a break. Of course it wasn't destined to last as they turned down an alley that was meant to be a shortcut.
It was daylight, for God's sake.
Mark knew instantly that something wasn't right. A cold chill ran down his arms, making the cold shower he'd taken earlier feel like a heat wave and making the fine, light hairs stand on end. He felt a sudden pain in his head, bad enough to make him wince. The realization caught him by surprise, and he checked up for a moment, one hand poised to grab his head, but there was no time. Roger walked on, involved in a story that he himself found hilarious, but that Mark had lost track of.
He didn't know how, but red warning lights flashing before his eyes, only he felt the sensation rather than saw it. It was like waking up in the loft that morning and knowing something was different, but this was a bad something, not a good something. Without thinking he raced forward and clutched Roger's arm, pulling him to a sudden stop as he assessed his feelings. "Wait, Roger, wait."
"What's up?" Roger turned to him, and his levity faded. "Mark?"
"You look . . ."
"Go. Go now." Mark urged him forward quickly. What he should have done, was turn around.
The attack not only took them both by surprise, but was relentless. He heard Roger yell his name as he was snatched away and slammed into the brick wall. His head connected, and he slumped to the alley floor heavily, the area around him spinning, his camera bag slipping from his shoulder. He had the presence of mind to shove it to safety as a boot sailed into his stomach. He cried out and doubled over on his side. Again he was kicked, this time in the head, and he rolled onto his back, dazed. He heard yelling and managed to catch a glimpse of Roger on the ground, two men standing over him, and all he could think was, he's bleeding. Good. They deserve it. It was a callous thought, fed on by fear.
He felt himself being hoisted up, his shirt and jacket gathered around his chin in a fist, and he gasped as he slammed back against the wall. The person holding him laughed, then dropped him. Mark landed like a lead weight, spied his bag, and oddly enough was more worried about it than about the knee pinning him to the ground, crushing his chest, and the fist raised over his face. He squirmed, trying to get to the bag, and felt the blow which snapped his head to the side. The pressure on his chest increased. He couldn't move, couldn't breathe, and he felt a hand around his throat as the man leaned into his face, his stale breath clouding him. He clawed desperately at the fingers that suddenly cut off his air flow. There was an outraged yell, Roger's apparently, and the man that held him suddenly jerked his head to the side. Mark managed to follow his glance.
He saw Roger at about the time his friend flung off an attacker and threw him bodily against the bricks. Two other men were on the ground, one rolling in pain, the other still.
The man pinning Mark down noticed it too, right as Roger's boot raced up and met with his nose, breaking it. The weight shifted as the man fell over, and Mark felt himself being pulled up and tossed to the side gently, yet effortlessly, like a rag doll. He stumbled backwards and landed on his ass, his glasses askew on his bloodied face. Roger picked up his attacker by the collar, looked at him, and released him in disgust. He surveyed the damaged, then quickly grabbed Mark's arm. "Mark! You okay? Huh? Come on. Wait, careful, we're both bleeding."
Mark was watching the thug wide-eyed as he was pulled to his feet. His attention suddenly snapped to the man that held him. "Roger? What the hell . . ."
"Let's go, come on!"
"Wait, wait, I gotta. . ." Mark pointed to his bag as he was pulled to his feet, and shakily picked it up, pausing in confusion to look at the groaning men. "Wh – how the hell . . ."
"Same way you knew they were there, I guess," Roger said hurriedly, "let's go." He ushered Mark out of the alley, and the two of them hastened as best they could to Collins' flat. No more words were spoken.
Neither knew what to say.
Tom Collins had his head buried in a book, almost literally. The subject was fascinating, and for once he was able to read through it and absorb the notations and facts and dates and theories like a sponge soaking up water. Days like these were rare, when he could just concentrate with no distractions, and this one was more rare than most. He was happy to take full advantage of it. The light filtered in through half-drawn windows. Unread volumes were stacked to his right. The knock on his door pissed him off.
He tried to ignore it. It was probably Mrs. What's-her-burger, uh, Watsonfurber, and he had no intention of breaking away from his studying to unclog her sink, or get her cat off the roof, or whatever else she . . .the pounding increased, and Collins growled deep in irritation as he scraped his chair back from his small dining table and stormed to the door, flinging it open. "What?" He quickly stepped back, seeing his two friends and former roommates looking like they had come out of the raw end of a meat grinder. "Holy shit. Get in here." He grabbed Mark by the shoulder of his jacket and pulled him in, giving Roger a once over at the same time. "Guess you guys took the alley to get here, huh?"
"It's daylight," Mark muttered as he stumbled in and collapsed painfully onto Collins' sofa. His breathing was light, like he was afraid to pull in a complete breath. He looked like he wanted to vomit.
Roger collapsed onto the cushion beside him. His lip was bleeding, swollen, but other than that he didn't look the worse for wear. Mark had a bruise forming around a cut on his head, and a long scrape on his cheek. His hands were skinned. Collins watched as Roger looked over Mark once, registered the pained breathing, and pulled up his sweater, jerking back as Mark batted his hands away. "And what the hell was that out there?" Mark demanded of his friend, obviously continuing a previous conversation. Collins listened intently as he headed for the small kitchen.
"Oh, I don't know, a mugging, maybe? You've lived here how long?" Roger asked, reaching for the sweater again. "Look, take that jacket off so I can get to you."
Again Mark pushed him away. "Hey! I'm fine! Since when do you fight like that?"
"Fight like what?" Collins returned with several cold cloths. He pressed one to Roger's lip, who instantly jerked it away, and pressed the other to Mark's head. Figured that these two would find a way to get beat up in broad daylight.
"Like a damn kung-fu movie. All high kicks and punches. He threw a guy against a wall!" Mark's eyes widened, and he sat up. "Roger, you took down three guys!"
Roger glared at him. "What, you think I can't defend myself?" He replaced the cloth that had slid from Mark's head, and Collins smiled. One thing he enjoyed about their friendship, was just watching it.
"No!" Mark exclaimed, taking the cloth. "Not like that! You got that guy off me then threw me out of his way like I weighed nothing!"
"You do weigh nothing!"
"I . . ." Mark huffed and turned to Collins. "I'm telling you, he's taking classes or something. And right when I couldn't get to my camera."
"Are you serious?" Roger asked him, incredulous.
The image of Roger performing some sort of kung-fu nearly sent Collins into an unseemly fit of laughter. "And when the hell is he taking classes?" he asked, not bother to hide the humor in his voice.
"I don't know! I . . ." Mark looked at Roger and gave up, grunted, and let his head fall back against the sofa in defeat. "God, I hurt." This time Roger lifted his sweater with no resulting argument and check out the bruising that was forming over Mark's ribs. Gentle pressing showed nothing more serious.
Collins watched them, and shook his head. Right when he thought he was going to have a good day. . ."I got this new herbal tea," he said, "I'll brew some up." He jerked his chin at Roger. Watching the two of them banter about events was entertaining and all, but he wanted some real facts. He wasn't totally convinced that Mark didn't need to see a doctor.
"Uh, yeah, I'll help." Roger caught the hint. He took his own cloth, examined it, and draped it over Mark's bruising torso, then followed Collins into the tiny kitchen. "What's up?"
"You tell me," Collins replied in a low voice as he pulled out a box of tea bags. He nodded toward the kettle, and Roger handed it to him.
"I don't know. I can't tell you anything. I just reacted."
"I meant for you to put water in it, not hand it to me. Taking down three guys . . ."
"You know I can fight." Roger filled the kettle and put it on the heat.
"Three guys," Collins reiterated.
Roger just shrugged and grabbed some mugs. "Oh, but hey, you want to know something?" He leaned his elbow on the counter. "Mark knew they were coming. He got this funny look and said, 'let's go' and started shoving me down the alley. So maybe you should ask him what's going on."
"Sounds to me like he finally developed some street instinct."
"Uh-uh." Roger shook his head. "This was more than that."
"Nah. You just want it to be more, so the heat's off you for being stupid."
Roger stared. "How the hell is fighting off these guys stupid?"
"It was stupid to go down the alley." There was no more talk as the water heated, and the kettle whistled. Collins poured the water over the tea bags and handed Roger a mug. He held his grip on it until Roger met his eyes, making his point known, then picked up the other two. Damn kids. They weren't that much younger than him, only a few years, but sometimes it seemed more like twenty. "Now if you two want to sit here and rest, fine. I've been doing some good research, and I'd like to get back to it."
"Yeah, sure." Roger followed Collins. He felt Roger's eyes on him as he handed Mark his tea, the gaze following him as he sat down at his book-laden desk. "This what you've been doing all week?" He angled his head over the book. "What'cha reading?"
Collins opened his mouth. And what followed was a surprisingly spell-binding dissertation on the three books he had read that morning.
Okay, that was new.
Collins just grinned when questioned, more than happy to explain his new found skill. "Yeah. I can feel this information sinking into my pores, man. It's incredible, it feels like I've learned a new way to study. Never felt anything like it. I sure as hell don't plan on wasting a day like this." If only there was a way to teach the technique, it would make putting up with his students a hell of a lot easier. He grinned again, right as Mark caught his attention. The boy, he would always think of him as a boy, he'd be old and grey and still look fifteen, was staring at his mug. "You okay? The tea not good?"
Mark was sitting up. "We need a fourth," he muttered.
Collins felt his gut go cold. He looked at Roger, both stunned at what he said, and even more stunned that they almost knew what he was talking about. Almost. "What do you mean, a fourth?" Roger asked quietly, sitting beside Mark. Collins was quite sure he wasn't ready for an answer to that.
"We need a fourth." Mark simply repeated, like it made all the sense in the world, and looked up. "I think he's here." There was a knock on the door.
Collins looked at Mark for a long minute. There was no way, no way . . .he must've heard the person come up the stairs, except this wasn't the loft, there was no announcement of an arrival though vibrations in the floor, or sounds of doors sliding open then shut. This was a proper apartment. The occasional door slam, voices in the hall, but Collins had heard none of that. Mark's expression was more curious than anything, as though he hadn't said something unusual. It was more like he was waiting to see how the scene played out. Okay then, if that was how he wanted it.
Collins cast another glance over his shoulder at the men on the sofa as he let his guest in. He recognized the light cologne, and groaned inwardly. This was the last person they needed to see right now. Mark and Roger both looked up in surprise as Collins took a deliberate step back. "Benny. What the hell are you doing here? You look . . .crumpled." It was the only was to describe the sudden lack of flair in an otherwise secure man, and it temporarily threw Collins off-guard.
Benjamin Coffin the Third had a look about him that benefitted the grandeur of the name. Usually. Today the crisp lines of his suit were marred with overuse, and his uncertain expression looked just as tousled. "Look, I know, I'm sorry to drop in like this. I just came by to . . ." his gaze fell to the men seated on the sofa, "Jesus, what the hell happened to you two?"
"New York," Mark groused, and Roger merely leaned his head back.
Collins watched Benny. He looked uncomfortable, and it made Collins even more uneasy than his normal arrogance did. He gestured for Benny to come in, his eyes never leaving the disturbed face. Benny nodded and seemed uncertain how to go about the business that had brought him to the door. "Well, I figured you'd all be here." He held out a hand, and Collins stared, and saw Mark straighten. He just knew, he knew.
There was an aura around it. His head pounded. He felt frightened. His fear was reflected on the faces of those around him, his eyes meeting those of Mark's.
"Guys," Benny said calmly, "I think I need to talk."
They sat around the room, motionless, each staring at a spot on the wall. The conversation had taken several turns, and all led to one conclusion. They had changed. They were . . .yeah. That.
"So, you're saying you can influence people," Roger said to Benny without looking at him. "Inspire them. Con them. And it literally seals with a handshake."
"Yep. Been happening for two days now. Didn't occur to me that something was going on until I started testing it today. I've closed deals that have been fought over for months." Benny raised his hand, and again the aura glowed.
Roger quirked his eyebrows and shrugged, leaning back. "Yeah, okay. You got that, Mark senses shit now, and Collins is sucking up knowledge like vacuum."
"And you're a fucking Bruce Lee incarnation," Mark muttered.
"Hm. Don't suppose there's any radioactive spiders in New York," Collins said. Mark managed a small smile.
Benny sighed and pushed back against his chair, his arms braced on his legs. "Guess we do need a name," he said casually.
"What," Mark scoffed, "insane?"
"Besides," Roger leaned forward, "you're now implying that the same thing is happening to all of us, and we don't even know that something is happening in the first place. We could just be having a really good day."
"Collins said you took down three guys," Benny pressed.
"Collins wasn't there."
"He did," Mark cut in.
Roger threw up his arms in annoyance. "Why is everyone so amazed by that? I played in bars, for Christ sake! You think I never got into barroom brawls? Pitched drunk people over pool tables?"
"Not lately," Collins muttered.
"I think you aren't accepting what's going on," Benny added.
"Oh, and the voice of reason speaks." Roger threw up his hands.
"What do you think is going on?" Mark asked cautiously.
"I think this is happening for a reason. We're all here, together. We don't have to understand it." Benny rose from his chair and sat on the arm of the couch, mirroring Collins' position. Mark and Roger were seated between them, all but glaring. "I mean, they all have names."
"Who's they?" Mark asked.
"You know." He seemed reluctant to say it.
Mark was even more reluctant to hear it. He grimace and shook his head.
Benny sighed. "Hell Mark, you want a community? Looks like you got one."
Mark just shook his head in disbelief, still staring at the wall. "This isn't happening. Just. . .tell me this isn't happening."
"It'd make a hell of a documentary," Collins said calmly.
"Dammit, be serious!" Mark rubbed at his head, careful of the injury. "How did this happen?"
"Guess we'll find out," Benny replied.
"Are you serious about a name?"
"I don't know." Benny shrugged.
Collins allowed a devilish smile to cross his lips, and passed a pointed look over his companions. "So it seems that, what we have here, essentially, is someone who is omnipotent, we have a rouge . . ."
"I am NOT a rogue!" Roger barked.
"Someone with extrasensory perception," Mark started to say something but snapped his mouth shut, "and myself, who seems is becoming something along the lines of . . . omniscient. Now. Put that together and what does it spell?"
"You sound like a fucking cheerleader," Roger muttered.
"Onmipotenttrougeextrasensoryperceptiononmniscient. Can I have my spoonful of sugar, now?"
Collins just grinned. "OREO."
"What the hell?" Benny leaned forward to flash him an incredulous look. He then noticed how they had arranged themselves on the sofa, and burst into the best laughter he'd had all year.
"Be serious," Mark snapped again. His head was pounding, the laughter wasn't helping, he was feeling dizzy, and no one seemed to give a shit. And that was when he experienced his first very real, agonizing, potentially deadly psychic attack.