emerald city, downtown girl

starring brittany pierce and mike chang; with cameos from and mentions of almost everyone, really; with side pairings/mentions of/really tiny hints of puck/quinn, artie/tina, kurt/blaine and jesse/rachel

notes: for the hell of it, i'm going chuck evidence to the contrary and assume that every member of new directions is in junior year as of "original song". if you try to contradict me i will stick my fingers in my ears and go "LALALALALALA." what happens at before graduation is what i want to happen, so uh, maybe this'll be dug up in the near future and rewritten to fit canon.

more notes: lewis and gabriel are headcanon!mike's older brothers.

summary: Everyone says Brittany clings to Mike because he's familiar in this unfamiliar world of college and drama and units. He knows better. Futurefic.




It's a Monday when Mike realizes that his time with New Directions is ending.

Looking back, it's almost poignantly ridiculous that he hasn't realized it earlier. They're all in the middle of junior year, with little less than a year and a half left in McKinley – their first prom is just around the corner, and Tina's been fussing about her prom dress and saying that he should totally wear a blue tie or something to go with her dress. Mike doesn't dare protest, he knows Tina too well for that.

And he likes the fact that all of New Directions will all go to the prom together. They're like a family, almost, and Mike likes that, because his own family's always been too hung up on his two overachievers of older brothers to care much about him. They have all – or more of – the drama and all the faux hatred and catfights that comes with being one, and yet they have bonds, and it would suck if they had to go to prom in different years.

So they go, all twelve of them, and Kurt comes along with his new boyfriend-mentor-whatever – Blair? Mike was never good with names – and they have a blast even if Rachel is her usual emotional self and Finn almost gets himself kicked out because of Rachel's other douche of an ex that turned up at the last minute – Jess? Jim? – and he claps appreciatively when Lauren wins Prom Queen– she deserves it, and he thinks Quinn's been getting kind of full of herself lately anyway.

But – he's going off track again. This was never about prom. This was about how his family was splitting up.

They don't win Nationals that year, but that's all right, because they could prove that they could – and did – get that far. Figgins isn't about to disband the club, if only because they got all the way to Nationals. And it's great, because Vocal Adrenaline doesn't win either, and the trophy goes to some team from Florida.

Senior year passes through his fingers so fleetingly he wishes he'd paid more attention. They don't take in any more new members that year, but Matt comes back from Miami and Kurt comes back from Dalton and in a way, that's all right with Mike, because it just serves to fortify their team even more. Sure, there's drama, and sure, there's anger, but Mike knows it's all hampered by the impending doom of graduation coming up, and he wishes, wishes, wishes everyone would get along in time for it, because who wants to spend their last night as high school students as bitter enemies?

(He and Tina break up, by the way. Creative differences, they said.)

Three days before Nationals there's a party at Santana's house, and everyone hugs and cheers and sings and tries not to get really drunk and at the end of the night all thirteen of them take hands and jump into the pool, dresses and all, and that's when he realizes – it's really, really almost over, and he talks to every one of them, even himself, telling them to try their hardest, because don't they want to leave with proud memories of their time in glee club?

They win Nationals that year.

And it feels so, so good – not just that they've proven to the school and, to anyone, really, that – that they're winners, not just that they could see the humiliated, crushed, defeated look on Vocal Adrenaline's faces – he always thought its best days were behind it, now that their better coach and their best male lead was gone – not that they could laugh at Coach Sylvester's obviously dismayed face, but because it's shown that they were a team, a good team, and together they could go far, and it's gratifying to see all the students clamoring to join New Directions next year.

(Mike just hopes they were as good as they, because now they have a National title to uphold!)

There's another afterparty at Santana's house after Nationals, but this time they talk not of Nationals but of college applications and what to do now. Artie and Santana say they're going into law, Tina's going to some fashion design school in Seattle and Kurt is going for the same profession but in New York (he says he could get discovered by Broadway agents while he was at it, and Mike's proud of him because he knows he will.) Finn, Matt, and Sam are going to Ohio State on football scholarships, and Sam announces this with a grin at Finn, and Mike's happy that they've made up. Mercedes is going there, too, majoring in music.

Quinn surprises everyone by going into medicine – "I'm going to be an obstetrician," she says to the group. "I want to help girls and women who are going through what I did," she adds, with a gratifying glance at Puck, who surprises everyone as well by going into economics/business/something involving money.

"I've got a full scholarship to UCLA," Rachel admits happily, and even though Finn is visibly furious, Santana is grinning like a maniac and Brittany, ever the oblivious, hugs Rachel with congratulations.

Speaking of. "Where are you off to, Brit?" asks Rachel.

"Tisch," she says, flashing a grin the size of the sun at Rachel. "NYU Tisch School for the Arts, or at least that's what Mom says it was called." She puts on a thoughtful expression that dissipates into the smile again. "I'm going to dance."

Mike almost drops his can of Coke. "I'm going there, too," he says, feeling stupid that he hasn't brought it up earlier. His parents, of course, hoped he'd take up medicine like Quinn (or Lewis) or law like Artie (or Gabriel).

"Really?" says Brittany, immediately latching on to him. "That's great!"

Rachel says they should hold an annual New Directions reunion because she doesn't want them to grow apart. For once, nobody shoots her down. Instead, Tina says, "I say annual meetings are too far apart, don't you guys think?"

"How about every six months?" Quinn suggests, and they continue discussing. Mike tunes them out eventually, knowing they would fill him in anyway.

"It'll be great to have somebody from high school with me," Brittany says quietly next to him.

Mike smiles quietly. "I know."

It's a Monday when New Directions graduates, and Mike realizes that it's really all over.

Mr. Schue gives a rising speech and so does Rachel, and Mike doesn't usually listen to her all that much, but this time he does. She speaks of friendship and popularity and the future, and how they'll always be together no matter what.

The simplicity of it is poignant, almost. New Directions graduates together and they throw their white hats into the air with a flourish that would make professional dancers jealous. Tina is the first to break down into tears. Rachel and Quinn follow not long after. And Mike hates to admit it, but soon he was crying, too.

It's a Monday when Mike walks into Tisch for his first day, and if anything he's surprised when he's greeted by Brittany flinging herself into his arms. "Brit!"

He finds it odd, sort of. Sure, he and Brittany had been sort of-dating in the beginning of sophomore year, and she was one of the reasons he'd decided to join glee club in the first place. But soon she'd had Artie, and he'd had Tina, and things had been different. But they're not children, now.

They end up spending their after-class periods together.

"Are you having fun here?" Brittany asks him softly, feeding a bit of her cracker to a bird hopping along the ground.

Mike pauses. "Sure," he says. "Remember? Before glee club I couldn't even dance outside my room. I can do that here." He looks at her. "Are you?"

"Yeah," Brittany says after a while. "It's just…I miss Lima sometimes." And my mom. My sister. Santana.

"It's different here," says Mike. "When you're not the only one with mind-blowing talent anymore."

Brittany doesn't say anything, only nods.

One day after school The Zutons' Valerie plays on his iPod.

Mike grins at Brittany. "Hey," he says. "Remember this?"

She half-smiles. "Even I'm not that stupid, Mike." She pauses. "I think Santana sang it better, though." The name hurts, almost.

He holds his hand out, and she takes it, and as if from memory they repeat the long-old routine from three years ago, their movements in perfect synchronicity. "You're getting better," he whispers as she flips over his back.

"Thanks," she says. "You too."

The music ends and they're standing on an (empty) pavilion, feeling the wave of memories wash over them. "I miss Santana," she says before she can stop herself.

Mike doesn't say anything.

"I mean," Brittany continues, "I don't think she ever really forgave me for the whole Artie thing. She was nice enough after graduation, but I – I could feel it, you know? And I do love her, Mike, just not in the way she wants me to. And it hurts."

"Have you two kept in touch?" Mike asks.

Brittany shakes her head. "I only hear from her when she sends mass e-mails to the rest of New Directions," she says. "I texted her couple of times, but she never texts back." She's started crying, and oh my god Mike is not good with crying girls.

Before he can do anything else Mike hugs her. "Sometimes," he says, feeling this is all very out of character, "People just need some time to cool off. I'm sure Santana's dying to talk to you, Brit. And why wouldn't she? You're amazing." He ruffles her hair. "And besides," he said, "The first reunion thing is coming up, so there's no way you two can't talk then."

"Thanks, Mike," she says. "You're nice." Brittany gives him her larger-than-life smile, and he feels great about it.

It's a Monday when Lewis and Gabriel first visit him in New York. They turn up at his apartment after class in their clean-cut, perfectly-tailored suits, both giving him megawatt grins when he opens the door.

He doesn't quite know how to react, really. He's never been too fond of his older brothers, seeing them as far too perfectionist in nature for his tastes. Lewis and Gabriel were his parents' favorites and the source, frankly, of most of his insecurities. They'd done what his parents had wanted him to do - medicine and law and considering that they'd never seemed to care much about him either, well.

"Good afternoon, Michael," says Lewis in his cheery doctor-y way. "How's the world of dance coming along?"

"Hear it's a very fickle world, Michael," Gabriel cuts in like the lawyer he's training to be. "Do you think you could make it?"

Mike frowns. "Why are the two of you here?"

Lewis laughs. "Can't we visit our dear younger brother?" he says, patting Mike on the back. "Now, aren't you going to let us in?"

Mike groans and prays to Buddha, God, Allah, Zoroaster, Lovecraft, anyone, to please please please get his older brothers as far away from him as possible. "Come on in," he says, gritting his teeth together.

"Forgive me for saying so, Michael," says Gabriel as he and Lewis seat themselves effortlessly onto Mike's sofa. "But I don't quite think you - " He looks up and smiles. "Why, Michael! You didn't tell me you had a girlfriend!"

Mike looks up, just as perplexed at his older brother, and smacks himself on the head for forgetting that this was one of the days Brittany had chosen to hang out at his apartment after class. "Brittany - "

"Mike!" Oblivious to the atmosphere, Brittany flashed his brothers her signature effervescent grin. "Are these your brothers?" She turns to them. "Mike's told me so much about you!"

Gabriel stands up, probably to introduce himself, but Brittany holds up a hand. "Don't bother," she says. "I know who you are. Gabriel, right? Mike's right, that nose is horrendous to look at."

Rude as it is, Mike has to suppress the chortle that threatens to leave his mouth at the look at Gabriel's face.

"And you must be Lewis!" Brittany continues. "I know 'cause Mike says that huge mole on your neck calls attention. And it does. He says you're a jerk, too."

Lewis's mouth opens and closes like a fish's.

Mike sighs. "Brittany, I never said those things," he says, shooting her a Look at her immediate face of protest. "Sorry, Gabriel and Lewis, but Brit isn't my girlfriend, either. She's a high school friend. Now, what were you two saying?"

"We were saying," says Lewis, not losing face. "That maybe you aren't cut out for dancing."

"What?" sputters Mike.

"Well," Gabriel continues, "Can you really make it out there, Mike? I mean, really, you're talented, but can you really look at yourself and say, 'I can be a dancer?' It's a hard world out there, and dancers can go out of work as early as thirty-five. And you know Mom and Dad would absolutely love it if you went into, say, law instead, and - "

"We're just looking out for you, Michael," says Lewis. "Really."

Brittany moves faster than Mike thought she was capable of, and slaps Gabriel and Lewis straight across the face. "How could you?" she says, her brow folded into a frown. "Mike loves dancing! He's really great at it, too, and I bet he's better than you'll ever be! I bet you're the reason he was afraid to dance outside his room before glee club!"

At this Mike stands up and grabs Brittany by the arm. "Brit! Stop it, really!"

"Oh, she needn't," says Gabriel, an icy edge to his voice. "We were just leaving."


Lewis stands up, a half-smile on his face. "Really." He watches a twitching Gabriel walk briskly out the door. He leans in close to Mike, who overcomes the urge to punch him. "I think you did good," he whispers, loud enough for Brittany to hear. "Actually, no. I think you'll be amazing. But don't tell Gabby that." He laughs at his younger brother's dumbstruck face. "I'll see you again, little brother."

When he closes the door behind Lewis, Mike turns to Brittany, who intervenes before he can say anything.

"Sorry about that," she says. "I - I have a little sister, see, and I don't think I could bear to see that happen to her, and you're really good, Mike, and..."

"No," he says, and grins. "It's okay. Thanks."

They meet up with Kurt soon enough, and the three of them travel back to Ohio during Christmas break.

Even if it's only been six months, it already feels different. After living in the glitz and glam of New York, Lima does seem rather small-town. But next to him, Brittany's eyes are bright, and he knows that this will always be home to her.

Rachel meets them at her front door, giving each of them a big hug. "And look at you two," she says, after she's done with Kurt and shooed him along to the basement – "Blaine's here," she says, "I got him to come." – "On your way to being professional dancers already! One day you guys'll be touring with me, I promise." She laughs good-naturedly.

"How's UCLA?" Mike asks after all the gushing is done.

"Fantastic," sings Rachel, and admittedly she's happier than he's ever seen her.

"Mr. Schue's son studies there, doesn't he?" Brittany pipes up. "What?" she says to Mike when he frowns. "She was gushing about it before graduation!"

"Oh, Brittany." Rachel hugs her again. "How's Tisch?"

"They have a really good dance program," says Mike.

"Really great," says Brittany. "It's nice that's Mike's there with me."

Rachel gives her a beaming smile. "It's really nice when there's someone you know with you, isn't there?" Rachel sighs happily. "Hurry along to the basement, guys. I'm still expecting Noah and Santana."

Brittany visibly stiffens, but Mike gives her hand a reassuring squeeze. "C'mon, Brit. I'm sure Artie's there already."

"It's not just Artie I want to see, Mike," she says. "It feels like it's been forever since I've seen Finn, or Tina, or Mercedes…"

He lets her hand go and watches as her ponytail bobs downstairs to the basement, and it's a Monday when he thinks that maybe, just maybe, he loves this beautiful sweet not-dumb talented wonderful girl, and his hand lingers in the air longer than it should.

"Mike!" she calls, their eyes meeting. "Hurry up!"

He smiles. It had been forever.

Been watching Glee out of utter boredom later, and writing to get rid of the incessant writer's block that just won't let me go. And I owe a lot of people a Glee fic (even if I haven't been religiously watching it since like episode 14 and am only in it for the music). In any case, this is the first in a series of mostly unrelated, mostly standalone future!oneshots that will ultimately come full circle. I still don't know whether I'll continue with it, though. But for now, as requested by someone, Mike/Brittany. (It fit with what I was planning, anyway, and I do kinda ship it a little).

I have totally not been listening to Kaleidoscope Eyes from Panic at the Disco's latest album, Vices and Virtues. Title totally does not come from that song either. Sarcasm does not convey well over text.

I own nothing.