Mike had been afraid to dance outside of his room for the longest time. That wasn't a lie.
But it wasn't because he was shy (though he was in general) and it definitely wasn't because he wasn't any good.
Surrounded by nothing, Mike began to move. Starting with a head bop, Mike counted the beats which were instinctive by now. Once sure of his tempo, he threw himself into a spin that had him flying quite some distance. Slipping into another spin to bleed off the extra momentum, Mike felt a thought enter his head that said, "Show off," affectionately.
"Shut it," Mike replied in the same manner.
"Where'd this come from?" the voice chuckled.
Mike didn't quite laugh because he needed his breath control for flips, but the smile on his face was wide. "Hey, unlike some people I don't have all day to practice."
"The new recruits are an interesting bunch," the voice said again as he dripped into a series of slow spins. "One of them looks just like you. Just as dorky."
"Matt," Mike whined, abruptly launching into a backflip.
"Sorry, sorry," Matt apologized as Mike led into a series of pop and lock moves. "I'm not lying though. He looks exactly like you will in... five years? Just, y'know, with glasses and less muscle."
"How is everyone?" Mike asked during a transition into quick kicks that grew higher with each repetition.
Matt paused, and Mike's kicks came slower and less steady as he took in Matt's hesitation. "They're good, but... Ninjato's missing."
"Wait, what?" Mike stumbled but turned his trip into an artful roll and began to dance along the ground, propping himself up with his arms and relying on pure legwork. "And I wasn't told?"
"Spex ordered an information lockdown," Matt said as Mike's footwork began to increase in both speed and complexity. "It's related to the OX and the Uprising."
Mike took a moment to reply, twisting into a one-armed handstand. He fell into a roll to recover and sprung forward to rap out a staccato beat. Serious, he said, "Do you need me?"
With Mike's footwork suddenly taking a sharper edge, Matt replied, "Spex says you're more important where you are right now."
Mike acknowledged this with a sweeping bow that turned into slow, graceful curves with his arms. "Kurt transferred to Dalton. Karkofsky..."
Matt hissed out a "Fuck!" as his body suddenly flung into high kicks, power tightly controlled such that they hit with all their strength while losing none of the rapidity. "You didn't drill him in the face did you?"
Mike channeled his amusement into lowering the height and turning them into spin kicks. It didn't need to be said that that would have been Matt's own response to the problem. "You know we—I—can't afford that." If he was a little less responsible, Karkofsky would have definitely found out just what kind of strength dancing took. "But... We all miss him."
"Any more than they miss me?" Matt snorted. Mike's arm twitched, and he was forced to turn his next spin into an awkward pop and lock.
"That's totally not fair," Mike protested. "You know... You know that this was... That the LXD..."
"...Yeah, sorry dude," he said. They both were silent as Mike started into a series of twists and turns that seemed to defy the way limbs should move.
"I miss you," Mike finally whispered as he thrust his arms out.
"Me too," came the reply, just as soft, as Mike's arms wrapped around himself.
He gently swayed, eyes closed, as Matt said, "I have to go. They need me."
"Good luck, Yang," Mike replied, never once opening his eyes. If he kept them closed, he could almost believe...
"Stay safe, Yin." Matt's voice was barely a whisper, but, then again, the two of them had never needed volume to communicate what really needed to be said.
Mike released a shuddering breath as the last beats faded.
He opened his eyes, and instead of the empty space he had danced in, he saw his room. His basement room with its center cleared and scuffed from countless hours of practice. Instead of the adrenaline and connection he craved, all Mike felt was the stickiness of his sweat-soaked shirt plastered against his flushed skin. He grabbed a water bottle and, in a fit of childishness, dumped half of it over his head before chugging the rest in one go.
He crushed the plastic with a loud crack and tossed it into the trash. Finally exhausted, Mike slumped into the floor, chest heaving and eyes sightless.
His mind was too busy reliving the past.
Mike's first clear memory involved a room. He couldn't remember much of it beyond the blue-checkered wallpaper, but the wooden chair in the center was forever emblazoned in his mind.
Mike could never forget the feeling that jumping off of it instilled in him, the sheer rightness that had him twisting in the air before he ever hit the ground. The room haunted him in his dreams, because none of the rooms in his house matched the layout or the color, and he could not find that chair.
(He learned from his parents that the room was from before they fled to Lima because of escalating gang violence in their area. He learned even later that the violence hadn't been all that ordinary.)
His second clear memory was performing that same jump off of a picnic table in the park and having a small boy around his age run up to him, eyes wide and sparkling, and ask if he could learn how to do it.
It was only a minute later after a torrent of words which made Mike's head spin that he remembered to introduce himself.
And that was how Mike Chang met Matt Rutherford.
The two of them hit it off fantastically—even at the tender age of four, they often locked themselves in their rooms to try to emulate what they saw on television before graduating to what they came with on their own. Mike knew Matt's dancing as well as he knew his own, and he also knew the reverse was true.
Though Mike barely spoke, Matt had enough words in him for the two of them, filling up breaks and pauses with details, observations, and anything appeared in his head. He filled the silences even when they weren't in their rooms but at the park, bouncing off of whatever they could find and just trying whatever came to mind.
The fact that they loved dancing together wherever and whenever they could was what brought them to the attention of the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, better known as the LXD.
And to the Organization X, often spoken of in their OX moniker.
The LXD discovered them first, actually. Well, they discovered Matt. An agent passing through caught sight of them practicing, and he saw Matt's spark.
The spark to be extraordinary, so rare in someone so young.
But Matt refused to go, and he wouldn't budge on the subject. The LXD never forced its members—they aggressively recruited and rarely backed down, but every member was a member who joined by choice.
The OX saw deeper than the LXD did and had far less scruples.
Mike's memories of the incident were hazy at best. There was light and dark and the feeling of such overwhelming pressure that his chest hurt. He remembered Matt's deafening scream before pain followed, and he remembered seeing time skip before his eyes. In the daze that followed, he spent a lot of time talking to Matt, because Matt was the only constant in the constantly shifting landscape, the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes and the last thing before time skipped again.
He spoke whenever he was awake, probably more than he ever had the rest of his life combined. He wasn't sure what he said, but he knew (though how, he didn't know at the time) that speaking seemed to calm Matt, despite the fact that Matt never said a word and only gazed at him with sad eyes.
Matt's eyes were probably the least hazy thing about the ordeal.
That, and the warmth of his hand that wouldn't let go.
When they finally were rescued by the LXD, Mike refused to release Matt's hand, because he knew that Matt was scared out of his mind but still wasn't speaking, and that fact in turn made Mike's own waking moments all the more terrifying.
Two days later, when he could actually manage to stay awake for longer than ten minutes, Mike found out why.
Matt refused the OX after seeing them basically knock Mike out when he resisted. He refused to move from Mike's side the entire time. And he refused to be quiet.
So the OX forced him to shut up.
With lasting effects.
Mike did not leave Matt's side afterward. After all, he knew what Matt was feeling, right? So he decided to talk for him. He didn't care that it was pretty much the exact opposite of their previous dynamic; Mike would do it.
Matt did not leave Mike's side as well. When the LXD came around right after, his parents agreeing to the training, Matt once again rejected them unless Mike could come.
Mike's parents, shaken, agreed as well.
And that was how Mike and Matt, barely even tots, became members of the LXD.
It was at the LXD's school that the Legion found what they had missed.
Matt still couldn't speak, so Mike translated for him. In order to be Matt's voice, Mike sat in on the practices that Matt did, and on seeing Matt dance, Mike couldn't stay still. Never mind the fact that Matt's dancing did weird things, like pushing back something without actually touching it; he couldn't be around all these people dancing and moving and not move himself.
Off in his own little corner, Mike copied Matt's movements. And no one was more surprised than him when the dummy in front of him fell backward in the same way as it had with Matt.
The room basically fell into an uproar.
Mike didn't know it at the time, but it seemed that no one had seen the spark in him. He later found out that when someone who could be extraordinary started to move, anyone with the same talent could see it, feel it. Before that, Mike knew that there was a difference between these people and everyone else, but he couldn't quite name it.
The fact that Mike could be extraordinary without anyone knowing made him special. It wasn't that Mike was weak either; he was just as strong as Matt, and everyone could feel Matt's potential.
Of course, Matt stubbornly insisted that he could feel it as well.
It took Katana himself, who specialized in seeing it, to see Mike's spark in the shadows.
That was how Mike truly joined the LXD, not as Matt's hanger-on but his own merits. It was how he could put a name to that indescribable feeling known only as the Ra, the power that made them extraordinary.
The work was hard; it was at the tail end of the war between the LXD and the OX, so both sides had depleted forces and their attacks were all the more vicious. Some of their instructors were called to the front lines and never came back. So Matt and Mike, being the runts of the Legion, were constantly worked hard, harder than most new recruits because they needed to be able to defend themselves if the OX discovered their school stronghold and decided to take revenge for escaping them.
Mike spent many exhausted nights, when his body ached too badly to sleep, filling the silences with whatever he could in the room he shared with Matt. Matt slowly recovered; he could speak in soft whispers but often chose to remain silent anyway and let Mike speak to him and for him.
Once, Mike asked why Matt didn't go. He wouldn't have been taken as well, wouldn't have had his voice end up the way it did.
Speaking for perhaps the first time since the incident, Matt, voice hoarse and low, said, "Because you would have been alone, stupid."
Mike was quiet for the rest of the night.
It wasn't long after that the war halted and the violence that dominated their lives faded. Both knew the sacrifices that were paid to end the fighting—no one paid attention to the children as long as they stayed in the background. Though low-leveled in the Legion and young enough that the entirety of it escaped them, they probably had as clear a grasp on the situation as anyone save those with Extraordinary-level clearance.
As peace finally reigned once more, their training eased up. Rather than focus on solely on the combat applications of their abilities, they learned about the other aspects. They actually got to go home and see their families during the winters and the summers as well.
It was still hard, but Mike could finally say he enjoyed what he was doing.
With the less-tense atmosphere, they truly became the LXD's darlings and able to actually be children. The youngest by far, when they weren't training or going to the elementary school near the LXD's stronghold, Mike and Matt spent their time shadowing older members, picking up techniques and hobbies while being indulged by them. They watched movies with a Chinese folk dancer from Hong Kong who occasionally slipped into Cantonese when she spoke, bolstering Mike's fading skills and causing Matt to pick up a few phrases. A black football player who tap danced on the side taught them how to throw, pass, and rush, which is what eventually led them to take up the sport in their spare time. They were introduced to comics via an Italian break dancer (though she laughed so hard when Mike and Matt came down on opposite sides of the Marvel/DC debate. Mike and Matt responded with a tickle attack, which she took in good grace until she turned the tables and showed them who was boss), while an English teacher read them books after pop and lock sessions.
It was Ninjato, fresh from the losses of the war, who really took a shine to them. Especially when she found out that they were inseparable and wanted to learn how to dance together. She, arguably the best duet dancer in the entire Legion, worked them mercilessly. But at the same time, no one else pampered them like she did. It was through her that they found why Mike could understand Matt even when he couldn't speak, and why Matt could do the same. They were synchronized deeply, enough that, even from miles away, they could share thoughts and feelings. Connected at the heart and soul, bound by their discoveries together and forged through shared trials—time together had given them an unspoken understanding that the Ra took another step further. Ninjato, above all, understood and nurtured their growth.
They blossomed under her tutelage, especially as it seemed that much of the Legion did not want to teach Mike.
Most of the Legion still found it eerie that they couldn't sense the Ra in Mike when he danced. Mike didn't care, not really, and Matt backed him to hilt.
It was only when they were in duet practice, learning how to dodge attacks and redirect force onto another target, that they discovered the true reason why. Suddenly, while they were dancing—Matt's spark disappeared, even as he blasted a dummy right off of its foundation. Further tests revealed that Mike could do what it seemed no one else could: hide the Ra from sight, except from all but the most sensitive sensors—those like Katana.
Whereas Mike's special ability involved hiding others, Matt's was to seek them out. He could see the Ra in even the faintest of movements, if it existed. People like Matt were crucial in determining foes from the crowd; Mike could counter those very attempts, as he could hide the Ra from him and from others deeply.
Combined with their duet dancing, Mike and Matt eventually accepted, with no small amount of irony, the names Yin and Yang.
They rose in the ranks together, developing their abilities higher and further, never losing sight of the other. It was well known around the Legion that where Mike was, Matt would follow, and the reverse was true. The connection they forged would not break easily.
So when Mike was tasked to investigate something weird in Lima, the place he called his hometown but only saw during winters and summers, no one doubted that Matt would follow.
At the age of thirteen but with nearly a decade of training in the Legion, the two of them returned to Lima.
"You're distracted today."
Mike flinched as he shut his locker but relaxed when he turned and saw Tina. For a moment, he wondered how he managed to get to school when the last thing he clearly remembered was falling to the floor after dancing, but then he decided to roll with it anyway. Mike swept in for a quick kiss, which Tina reciprocated before pulling back. "You're not getting away from me that easily, mister. Spill."
"Just have a lot on my mind," he hedged.
"Well, I've always found that talking to—well, someone, helped," Tina said. She tugged on his arm lightly and directed them to the choir room, but the slight tightening of her fingers told him that she wasn't letting him off easy.
Deciding how to handle this, Mike stuttered, "It's... well... You know how I only used to come back only during vacation?"
"Mhm," Tina nodded. The Asian-American community in Lima was tight-knit, and the fact that Mike, one of the few Asians in their year, only appeared during winter and summer was noticed. It eventually got around that Mike was going to boarding school on scholarship, if only to stop any rumors from springing up. Matt's disappearances were explained in the same way.
"Well, I heard that one of my teachers got hurt. I just hope she's all right." It was as close to the truth as he was going to allow.
Tina sighed in sympathy and nudged him on the arm. "Cheer up; I'm sure she's fine."
In his mind, Mike couldn't help but think, "I hope so," yet flashed Tina a quick smile anyway.
"How's Matt doing, anyway? He's back at the school now, right?"
Mike's grip inadvertently tightened as he replied, "He's doing good. I talked to him yesterday," in as level a voice he could.
"Tell him that we miss him next time," Tina informed him as they entered the choir room and took their seats.
An uncharacteristically bitter voice in his head muttered, "It's nice to know that you care," before Mike stamped it down. It wasn't her fault; Tina was being completely sincere.
Never mind that this was quite possibly the first time someone asked him about Matt in the months since his "move" beyond the typical beginning of the school year questions. No one seemed to care too much that Matt was gone, which only served to remind him how marginalized they had been in last year's New Directions, to the point where Matt's texts and emails with the Glee club were sparse at best.
And it reminded him of exactly how far Matt was, around people he knew appreciated him, and he was stuck here.
But he still had his mission to carry out. And he did like performing in New Directions, counting its members among his friends. They actually did depend on him, if not for his singing than his choreography and teaching skills.
(Mike liked teaching dance. He and Matt were probably some of the Legion's youngest teachers.)
Mike watched with practiced attention at whatever latest song Rachel was singing, only half-listening to what was going on. His senses, however, were opened to their max so he could observe the phenomenon that was unique to New Directions and had stumped them for so long.
It wasn't quite the Ra, but it felt like it. And it wasn't very strong either, at least not here. It felt like a flicker or a shadow, whereas the Ra tended to blaze and shine. Mike would have called it half-formed sparks, if the Ra wasn't all or nothing in a person. It was proven that someone could develop the ability later, but it turned on similar to switch, rather than these wavy whispers.
Whatever they were, there were a lot of them in Lima, and most tended to be drawn into some sort of performance. McKinley High had the strongest of the flickers, but they were still scattered. So, for the better part of freshman year, he and Matt simply observed and tried to act like normal high schoolers, joining the football team and just living.
And then the Glee club formed.
And it drew the strongest of the strongest together.
The effect multiplied. It weakened when they were on the outs with each other, but when the internal harmony was just right—they shined. It wasn't quite like the Ra, but it was something special all the same.
Mike still couldn't figure out what it was, but he could mask it with his presence. If the OX discovered this...
No, Mike would protect his friends, even if all he wanted to do was go back. Though they weren't the Legion, Mike found that he was discovering his own place here.
Mike's one regret was how much he had to lie to everyone. No one in Lima, save his parents and the Rutherfords, knew the extent of his past and his present. He couldn't kid himself either; Mike was as much as spy as any of the Cheerios had been. Just, a spy with New Directions' best interests at heart.
Watching everyone laughing together, dancing together, having fun together, Mike's heart grew just a little bit fonder each day.
For these weird, quirky people who created drama like nobody's business—and came together at the end of the day as a team.
Mike was snapped out of his thoughts when Finn tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Are you all right? You're, uh... You're kinda staring. And clapping too long,"
Well. If Finn noticed, then Mike had to get better at hiding his thoughts.
And clapping too long?
Mike hid a wince as he surreptitiously looked around, but only Tina was giving him concerned glances.
"If... If you need to talk or something, I'm like, good at listening. I mean, as long as you don't expect me to talk back. Or I can talk back, but—"
"It's fine, Finn. Thanks." Mike smiled brilliantly, because he could see the sincerity in Finn's halting, fumbling words.
Yeah, the Glee club could do far worse than having Finn as their lead.
Finn smiled back in relief.
It was the little things like that that made New Directions worth it, really. No matter what the risks were in putting himself out in the open, no matter how much he was cutting himself off from the family that was the Legion—hell, no matter how far he was from Matt, his constant partner for a decade of his life, in the end New Directions was worth it.
With a small smirk on his face, Mike looked forward and took in the next performance.
"Spex, should you even be calling me?" Mike sniped.
"Don't get testy with me, Yin." Spex's voice was terse down the line. "Give me your status report."
Mike pulled his cell away from his mouth in time to huff angrily before all but spitting, "Hummel's departure seems to have weakened the overall strength of the group, but Zises adds an additional layer almost makes up for Hummel and could prove to be a significant asset in the future. As reported before, the addition of Evans more than offset Yang's removal."
"Individual power continues to wax and wane with the connection of the group but on average seems to have increased."
"How about Zises? Early reports state that she had little to no presence until her last minute addition to the group."
Mike paused and glared his phone. "Zises has a significant presence now."
"Keep an eye on such growth. It may help us determine how to accommodate this phenomenon in the future."
"Yes, Spex," Mike bit out, clenching his cell phone tighter in his fist.
"What's with the attitude?" Spex shot back. "It's unbecoming."
"How about the fact that you called me while I'm at school?" Mike snapped, eyes narrowed in a glare. "I'm not in the proper place to give a status report."
"I need the info now," Spex replied, indifferent.
"And how was I not informed of Ninjato's abduction?" Mike continued right over him as he began to pace. "I should have been told."
"Your mission is to observe Lima, Ohio to determine what exactly is happening and prevent the OX from possibly exploiting it. Anything else would distract you." Spex's words were cold and concise and did nothing to calm Mike.
"Well fuck you too, Spex! You're not the only one who is close to Ninjato!"
"YIN! GET AHOLD OF YOURSELF!" Spex all but roared. "I'm sorry I didn't inform you earlier, all right?"
Mike mumbled an apology, eyes focused on his shoes.
"You sound like you're a hair's breadth away from snapping." This time, Spex's voice was softer, warmer. "Do you need to see—"
"I'm fine. I'm fine," Mike repeated with one hand over his face. "It's been a long week. End report, Spex."
Spex paused, as if searching for something to say, but he instead just said, "Good luck, Yin." The line closed, and all Mike could do was take slow, deep breaths as he exited the classroom he was in.
It took them that long to tell him Ninjato had been abducted? Over a month before he got word? Like, seriously?
How could they keep this from him?
And Spex had the audacity to act like it was normal. That he could just call in in the middle of Glee practice and demand a status report without even thinking of telling him what the hell was going on back at home base.
He was tired of this shit. Tired of missing the LXD and then being confronted with the fact that even they were hiding stuff from him. Tired of being charmed by the little things New Directions did only to be sidelined once more when they were done. Tired of the lies and deceit, not matter how necessary.
Rage bubbled inside of him. It flared and twisted until his head spun. With a snarl, Mike slammed his hand into the locker next to him. Metal nearly crumpled under his fist; the burn in his knuckles felt all too good at the moment, so he drew back his arm again.
"Boy, what the hell do you think you're doing?"
Mike's head snapped up when he heard Mercedes's voice. He only remembered the sheer anger that ran through his body when Mercedes actually took a step back from him. The emotion fled under Mercedes's shocked look, leaving only guilt and remorse behind.
Mercedes just snorted, shaking off whatever fear had frozen her before. "Idiot boy," she lamented as she strode forward. "You should go get your hand looked at."
Mike shifted said appendage behind his back, knowing that, while it hurt, it wouldn't quite bruise. Those with the Ra were made of tough stuff. "It's fine."
"Idiot boy," she repeated as she stopped in front of him, looking him straight in the eye. Mike didn't know what she was searching for, but Mercedes apparently found it because she tugged him forward to the choir room. "You aren't as good as hiding as you think you are."
Mike's heart nearly stopped. "W-What?"
"Everyone knows you miss Matt, but they didn't want to say anything 'cause it seemed like you needed to get over him moving." Mercedes threw a side-glance at him. "Well, it seemed like we screwed up, considering the way you stormed out of the room."
"Matt wonders if he's missed," Mike said quietly, not acknowledging his reaction to Spex's number on his cell but instead moving to a different matter.
Mercedes didn't hesitate, though the way she eyed him told him that she knew what he was doing. "He's an idiot boy too; of course we miss him." Her tone softened, just for an instant. "Just like Kurt's still part of New Directions even if he is a Warbler now, Matt's part of us too no matter how far away he is."
For a moment, Mike was struck dumb by her words. The pure sincerity, the lack of doubt—Mike knew Matt would be able to feel this. It soothed him and again reminded him of why he actually enjoyed being part of New Directions.
"Yeah, he is," Mike chuckled.
Right outside of the choir room, Mercedes turned and looked him in the eye again. "You are too, Mike."
"Yeah, I am," he repeated with a smile, scratching the back of his head.
"Seems like there's more to you than the smiling jock," Mercedes grinned. "Now c'mon; Quinn and Rachel are going to get into an epic brawl over the next song."
Mike actually laughed this time as he linked arms with Mercedes. "Can't miss that, can we?"
Mike and Yin were one and the same. Beneath it all, however, he was Mike. He would always be Mike, the silly boy who bounced around the park, who geeked over movies and comics, even though he was also Yin, secret agent for the LXD with Extraordinary-level clearance in spite of his youth.
For so long, he'd been scared to dance outside of his room, because the panicked flashes of memory made him terrified of the OX's attention.
But Mike would dance openly, loud and proud, if it meant protecting his friends. That had always been true for the LXD.
Mike was still discovering just for true it was for the New Directions too.