the atmosphere comes to life
[EPISODE TWO: FIELDWORK]
The first thing that Kurt Hummel did after that day at Torchwood was march into the office of his (soon-to-be) former employer and hand him in resignation papers, smacking them onto his boss's desk.
The man quirked a brow, staring at Kurt. "And what's this?" he asked in a cold tone.
"I quit," Kurt said simply.
His boss scoffed. "You can't quit," he said.
"Yes, I can," Kurt told him. "And I am."
"So I give you your first story and you walk out of here?" he snapped. "You never even came back with it. Someone else payin' you more for it? I could get you in a lot of trouble for that, Hummel."
"No," Kurt said. "I've just had it with this place. So here—" He pulled his notepad out of his bag and tossed it onto the desk as well. "—are your notes. Write your own story. I'm done."
"Well, you won't get any recommendations from me," his boss continued. "You just disappeared yesterday!"
"Actually, it was because I was shot," Kurt said plainly, pulling the bottom of his shirt slightly to show him the white bandages, and the other man raised his eyebrows a comical amount. "And frankly, I should have quit long ago. Being broke would have been worth it to not be in this miserable pit."
Kurt turned on his heel and walked out in the proudest manner he could manage with the flesh around his middle still tender from the bullet wound. He waited until he was back in his car to hiss slightly from the pain, putting a little pressure on the area. But he'd live. Santana had assured him of that.
Kurt closed his eyes as he clutched the steering wheel. He wished he could have said so many more things to the man, really forced him to understand just how miserable he was at his job, how miserable it had made him in his life. But it wasn't worth the effort. He sighed, sitting up and grabbing at his bag for the bottle of industrial strength painkillers Rachel had given him, taking a few with his bottle of water and hoping that the pain would start to ebb away. He'd need to be at his best.
He put his keys in the ignition and drove in the direction of his new job.
But he quickly found out that it didn't matter how he was feeling, after all. Rachel greeted him once he came in through the doors, pressing a hot mug of coffee into his hands. He couldn't help but love the feeling, the idea that that was no longer his job, that it never would be again. And even then, he knew that it was a different gesture, coming from the tiny brunette girl. It wasn't out of duty, but genuine affection that she felt toward him. He liked that feeling.
But the good mood quickly dissipated as Puck and Santana ran through the front room, past Kurt and Rachel. Santana only stopped at the door for a brief moment.
"Apparently there's a Blowfish reeking havoc near the refinery," she informed them. "Berry, look after Hummel. We'll be back as soon as this is dealt with."
Kurt frowned as the door swung closed behind Santana. Rachel placed a gentle hand on his arm.
"She thinks I need a babysitter," he said bitterly. He let out a small laugh. "Yesterday she had only good things to say about me."
"She didn't mean it that way, it's just because of your injury," Rachel told him, but she frowned a little at the look Kurt gave her, challenging her statement. "Come on," she said, wrapping her arm around his elbow. "Let's sit in the lounge, we can talk. Tell me all about your life before Torchwood."
Kurt smiled faintly at her and nodded, walking with her down the hallway, finally entering a neatly furnished room. It had the same sterile white walls, but there were a few comfortable black chairs surrounding a silver coffee table, and in a strange way, it felt very homey.
"What did you do before here?" Rachel asked him, sipping her coffee. "I mean, few people wake up and know they want to fight aliens. And you definitely don't fit the bill as that type."
"I was on Broadway," Kurt admitted, smiling fondly at the memory. "Well, nearly, anyway. I went to school in New York and graduated and got my first part in a musical when my dad had his second heart attack. I came back here to take care of him, and then got a miserable job at the local paper. It was my first decent story, to cover that death caused by the Weevil. And then I met Santana." He smiled faintly at her. "After that I just can't go back."
Rachel nodded, though she was furrowing her brow. "Why have I not met you before?" she asked him, and he quirked a brow.
"Why would you have?"
"I mean, I know that New York is a big place, but—"
"You lived in New York, too?" Kurt asked curiously.
Rachel nodded quickly. "I moved there straight after high school," she said. "I was studying to be in musical theater, too. Except I—I didn't finish school."
"Why not?" he inquired.
She bit her lip. She closed his eyes, smiling sadly. "I was young and stupid and in love," she said. "This boy named Finn Hudson. We were high school sweethearts from around here." She pulled out a necklace from beneath her shirt, a ring hanging from the chain. "He wanted to marry me."
"He was killed," she said. "By one Cybermen, a year and a half ago. Killed," she clarified suddenly, "but not deleted. That means that there's still this—this chance."
"Rachel..." Kurt said slowly.
"No, I—" She took a deep breath, smiling. "I'm not crazy, I promise. There's this—this thing that Torchwood Three found months back. They called it the resurrection gauntlet. It could bring people back to life." She licked her lips, staring at Kurt with wide eyes. "They've destroyed it, but Torchwood Three mentioned that there might be more out there, and we needed to be careful with what they can do."
"Rachel," Kurt tried again, "if it's something you need to be 'careful with', then it might be the best to move on."
Rachel shook her head. "This is why I joined Torchwood," she said. "To find a way to bring him back. I gave up everything, all my dreams, just to find a way to save him. I'm not ready to live without him, Kurt. I'm not even sure that I want to."
"Rachel?" The two looked up to see Brittany standing in the doorway, looking cautious. "Santana just called and asked if you could lazy right now with the people at the refinery."
Kurt turned to Rachel, who sighed. "'Lazy'?" he asked, under his breath.
The corners of Rachel's lips twitched slightly as she almost smiled. "She means 'liaise'," she said softly. "We generally don't try to correct her, anymore. We know what she means, so it isn't worth it." She turned her attention back to the blond. "I'll go call her, see exactly what she needs," she said. "Thanks, Brittany."
Brittany nodded, smiling as Rachel set her empty coffee mug into the sink, then left the lounge. Brittany then turned her attention to Kurt, grinning broadly and bounding into the room, settling herself across from the young man. "Hi, Kurt!" she said excitedly. "How are you feeling today?"
He smiled wryly. "I've been better," he said, taking a sip of his coffee.
"What were you and Rachel talking about?" she asked.
"Life before Torchwood," he responded. "She and I both shared the same Broadway aspirations, apparently."
"I love Broadway," Brittany said. "I love music."
"Were you involved with music before you started here?" he asked her curiously.
She nodded. "I was a dancer," she said. "I was really good, too." She frowned a little. "I really miss it."
"Why did you stop?"
Brittany leaned down, rolling up her pant leg until it was above her knee, revealing a deep-looking scar. "I was shot at by a Roboform, about three years ago, now," she said. "I knew a little about Torchwood by then because Santana had joined up the year before. She didn't want me to join, though. She didn't think it was safe." She grimaced. "But then this happened, and I wasn't even a member. Santana got really mad about it all. She said... 'What good is trying to protect you from what I see when I haven't been able to keep you safe?'" She sighed. "It wasn't her fault, of course. But I guess after that she decided it was better if I was fighting, so she offered me a job. Puck had just stepped down from being leader and had put her in charge, so she thought that maybe I would be safer if I could be ready."
Kurt smiled softly at her. "She really cares about you."
Brittany beamed at these words. "I like to think she does," she said. "She says she does. But she says it's complicated, too." She sighed. "She really doesn't like being judged and she doesn't like labels. But I love her and we make each other happy, so that's what's important, right?"
"Right," Kurt assured her.
"Besides, she always comes back for me," she continued. "Even when she ends up like you did."
Kurt furrowed his brow slightly. "What do you mean 'when she ends up like I did'?" he asked.
Brittany smiled excitedly. "Santana is really special," she told him. "We grew up together. It was always me, her, and our other friend, Quinn. We'd always play together, and when we got older, we did everything together. Sometimes, we'd get in these completely crazy situations... like... Santana shouldn't have been okay. We joked about it and all that when we were younger. She always said she was invincible. I think that's part of how she ended up here." She paused for a moment. "But... there are times on this job that she should have died. And like you, there are times when she technically did. I asked her how she did it, once, and she told me it was because she had to come back for me." She smiled softly. "I know that's not how, but it's still a nice reason. We still joke about it. Puck and Rachel do, too. But I can tell Santana's starting to get a bit scared. She said her luck's going to run out eventually, and she's afraid for when it does." She paused again. "I am, too."
Kurt looked at the blond with concern, taking her hand in his. He smiled at her. "She'll be fine," he assured her. "I can tell you from just the little bit I know about her, she's sure as hell not giving up."
Brittany grinned. "That's one of the things I love about her," she said, her cheery manner suddenly returning. "She never gives up. She really doesn't."
Kurt continued to smile at her as they fell into a small silence. Then, a thought crossed his mind, and he frowned slightly. "Brittany?" he asked. "Why did Puck step down as leader?"
"I don't know," she admitted. "I don't know a lot about what happened just before I joined. I've asked, but Santana said it's for the best if I don't know, and Puck just snaps every time I ask." She bit her lip for a moment, furrowing her brow in thought. "You should ask Rachel, though. She and Puck are really close."
Brittany nodded. "Santana didn't want Rachel to be a part of the team," she informed him. "You can tell, just the way she treats her, even after a year and a half. But Puck convinced her. And... well... then Santana said a lot of nasty things about it. She still does."
"Like what?" Kurt pressed on curiously.
"Things like, 'Puckerman only wanted that dwarf here so that he could always have someone warm to fuck'," Brittany said with a sigh.
Kurt raised his eyebrows. "Oh," he said lamely. "Are he and Rachel... involved?"
Brittany shrugged a little. "I've found them on the camera feed making out a few times—well, a lot of times—but I don't they're serious about each other," she explained. "Rachel loves Finn, and Puck doesn't talk about personal things."
A loud buzz rang out through the building, and Brittany's face lit up. "She and Puck are back," she explained quickly. She got to her feet and Kurt followed her quickly into the main work area, just in time for the other pair to trudge in, neither looking very happy.
"We're going to need to call in Mike," Santana sighed to Brittany, her tone clipped. "The blowfish didn't make it out alive. Things escalated to a hostage situation, and Puckerman ended up shooting him."
Puck narrowed his eyes. "It isn't my fault," he spat. "If I hadn't have shot—"
"I'm not blaming you for shit, Puckerman," Santana snapped in response. "I was there, I know what had to be done, so cool down and shut up." Kurt raised his eyebrows a little, but kept his mouth shut. Santana turned back to Brittany. "Get Mike on the phone, see when he can come in to take a look at the body before we put him in the morgue." She sighed as Brittany went back into the front office where her desk was, the buzz sounding through the building again. "God, I wish he hadn't quit. It'd be so much easier with a doctor on staff full-time."
"UNIT said they'd be willing to send one our way if we need it," Rachel reminded her from her workstation.
"Yeah, and look what our last UNIT-sent employee got us," she snapped.
"Just because Sebastian was terrible doesn't mean that anyone UNIT sends—"
"Besides," Santana cut in. "We have five employees again. And between you and Brittany, we have first aid covered just fine. Anything more serious, dead bodies—we just need to call in Mike. He was the one who made the offer."
Rachel sighed. "But you just said—"
"I said," Santana ground out, "that it would be easier. Nothing more."
Rachel snapped her mouth shut, turning on her heel and walking out of the room. Puck sighed frustratedly.
"For fuck's sake, Santana," he bit out tiredly. "Every day. Can't you just leave her alone? She was trying to offer some help." Santana narrowed her eyes at the man, but he didn't back down. "I'm going to get the body. You should try figuring out what's got your panties in a twist and fixing it."
Santana let out a small growl of frustration, pressing her fingers to her temples. She took a deep breath, not opening her eyes as she sank into the chair at her desk.
"Look, Hummel," she called out to the young man, and he looked at her expectantly. "Get me a coffee, would you? Black."
His heart sank at the request. "Right away," he mumbled, turning and going back into the lounge. The frustration bubbled inside him as he warmed the coffee, then poured it into a mug. Here he was, so convinced that things were changing. Yet he had merely ended up back in square one. He took a deep breath, screwing his eyes up to the ceiling as he chose his words carefully, preparing himself for what he'd say to Santana.
Because, honestly, he was not going to stand by and let this happen all over again.
He set the coffee down on her desk a little more forcefully than necessary. She glanced up at him reproachfully.
"Santana," he said. "Can I ask you a question?" She gave him an expression that clearly said no as she picked up her coffee and took a sip, but he plowed on anyway. "Is this why you hired me? To make your coffee? Because I'm telling you right now that I'm not going to stand for it. I expected a hell of a lot more from working here. If I wanted to make coffee, I would have stayed at the paper, or gotten a job at the Lima Bean."
"You think I hired you to be coffee boy again," she said shortly, an eyebrow arched. She shook her head, setting down her coffee. "Don't be stupid, Hummel."
Santana pushed herself up from her desk. Even though she was shorter than Kurt, he still felt mildly intimidated by her. Still, he held his ground. "I hired you to be in the field, Hummel. Just like the rest of us. That's what you want, isn't it?"
"If that's why you hired me," he pressed on heatedly, "then why did you leave me here while you and Puck ran off, telling Rachel to look after me like I need a babysitter?"
"Jesus Christ, Hummel," she sighed, rolling her eyes. "You clearly need to look at this from my point of view. Yesterday," she said in a patronizingly slow tone, "you got shot. Moments before this, you picked up an alien weapon to try to fight off your attacker. I'm guessing that you've never even held any sort of gun from our planet. Am I right?" Kurt frowned slightly. "You've never held a gun, never used one. And did you even notice that I didn't even take Brittany out there? We only needed two people. Two people who can shoot, two people who aren't recovering from gunshot wounds."
"I'm sorry," Kurt muttered.
Santana shrugged, then folded her arms against her chest. "I could have stuck back for a minute to fill you in," she admitted. She sighed. "How are you, Hummel?" she asked him.
He shrugged half-heartedly. "Fine," he told her.
She nodded understandingly. "We're going to start training you in a day or two, provided that you're feeling better," she said. "I can get you some better painkillers than whatever the midget gave you, but you might not really be in the right mindset, and you've gotta be on the ball when you've got a gun, even if it's just on the practice range."
Kurt nodded. "Of course," he said. "I think I'm fine with what I have right now. I've managed to hide it from my dad, and that isn't an easy feat..."
Santana raised an eyebrow. "You still live with your dad?"
"I moved back with him," Kurt said stiffly. "He had a heart attack, and I needed to take care of him."
Santana stared at him for a moment, then nodded curtly. "Well, just because we can't get you trained doesn't mean we can't do anything," she said. "Rachel can get all of your information, get you completely in the computer system, and Brittany can get you an earpiece. We're going to need to take a blood sample, too—that's policy. We have blood samples of all current team members." She offered him a small smile. "I'm looking forward to having on on the team, Hummel. I didn't mean for you to think otherwise."
"You're not a bad shot, Hummel."
Kurt watched as Puck examined the cutouts specially created for target practice. It was his second day of training, having been down in the shooting range with Santana the day before. The woman had taught him the basics, and he'd quickly picked up on them.
Overall, things were easy enough to adapt to. He rather enjoyed getting finger-print access to the base, being able to press his thumb up against the scanner, which then revealed the rest of the building behind the positively normal-looking office space up front. The earpieces were fantastic, allowing communication with the others, but merely looking like a handsfree piece for the phone instead of anything more telling.
And now, he was quickly getting the hang of using a gun. Of course, the reality of it struck him on occasion, realizing that he was using a gun, only months after he'd been an aspiring Broadway star. Honestly, he found it a little funny at times. Just because—really? Him? With a gun? It was a little comical, if he told the truth.
He did it his best to think of it more like that then the fact that he was holding a weapon in his hand, and one day, probably soon, he might have to use it.
"It's cliché, of course," Santana had told him, "but there's always the hope that you won't have to use it. I hope you don't. But you will. That's just the way it goes. And you'll probably need to use it before you're honestly ready. And that's the worst part."
Kurt had swallowed thickly at this, and found his hands shaking slightly. And that was when he'd stopped thinking and feeling and just did.
"Whatever you're doing," Puck continued, breaking Kurt from his thoughts, "keep doing it. You're way better than Rachel was when she started." He paused for a moment. "Hell, maybe even better than Brittany. And that's saying something."
Kurt nodded, vaguely registering Puck's words. The older man came back to where Kurt was standing. He raised an eyebrow. "You all right, Hummel?"
"Yeah," Kurt responded, taking in a deep breath. He grimaced. "I think the painkillers are waring off," he admitted. "I'm starting to get that sharp pain in my side." He winced slightly, placing his hand on the area of the wound in an attempt to apply a soothing pressure.
"Take a break," Puck told him. "Don't want you passing out or anything. I'll see if Rachel can bring down a shot for you—works faster and better than those pills she gave you."
Kurt nodded absently again, taking a seat on the bench in the room.
"First time you've been shot, right?" Puck asked, sitting beside him. "It's that first time that hurts like hell."
"How many times have you been shot?" Kurt inquired. "You make it sound like it's become a daily occurrence."
Puck chuckled. "Hardly," he said. "But I've been here... almost eleven years, now. Joined up when I'd just turned eighteen. I can fairly say that I've been shot a fair number of times. And the stomach really sucks. Just all that flesh there, you know? And in inch either way and you could be hitting a vital organ." He sighed, leaning back against the wall and folding his arms against his chest. "Around the joints are shit, too. Then you can't move or you'll tear it all open again, and that is fucking torture when you do. We had to be real careful with Brittany when she was shot at, and that wasn't a bullet, so it was trickier. And even after all of that, she'll never be able to dance again. Not like she used to." He closed his eyes and shook his head.
"If it wasn't this, it would have been something else," Kurt told him softly, and Puck turned to him, an eyebrow raised. Kurt shrugged slightly. "The way you said it, it sounds like you blame yourself," he said. "But I was working up on Broadway before I moved back here. Performers are always injured. All it takes is one tiny misstep of you or someone else, and then it just takes one small injury. If you're not careful, you end up ruined for life. It's terrible to admit, but it's likely it would have happened to her eventually." He smiled slightly. "Besides, she said she wasn't even a member yet when she got hurt."
"The two of you have been talking, then?"
"A little bit," Kurt allowed.
"What else has she told you?"
"Very little about you, if that's your concern," Kurt told him. "She said you're a more private person."
"She said if anything, I should ask Rachel about you."
Puck scoffed slightly at this. "Don't waste your time," he said. "She doesn't know much, either."
"Why all the secrets?" Kurt asked softly.
Puck didn't look at him, staring up at the ceiling, as though trying to burn holes in it. At last, he pushed himself up from the bench. "I'm going to send Rachel down with something to help with that pain," he told him. "Sit tight. After it gets working, you can try another round and I'll compare the numbers."
He left the room, and Kurt sighed. He grimaced slightly at the idea that Puck might think he was being nosy; he wasn't, he really wasn't. He was merely curious, after being thrown into such a strange situation in a strange environment. He couldn't help but be interested in the stories of his new coworkers.
He smiled a little at the thought of it being a different type of fieldwork.
Still, Puck's aversion to his words...
He quickly shook off the feeling. The older man hadn't sounded the least bit angry during their conversation. After eleven years, Kurt was sure that Puck was used to the questions, anyway.
And needless to say, Kurt was more than a little curious about everything that Torchwood had hidden within its walls, and even more what was actually on the outside of them, now that he had an inkling.