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The Sinners & The Saints (Wait For It)

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The Dalton Academy of the Arts looks more like an old, moneyed New England manor than a cutting-edge performance arts school for gifted teenagers.

It sits at the center of a sprawling campus of green hills, small cosps of tall, stately trees and meticulously landscaped gardens. The only access to the main building is via a winding cobbled road that stretches all the way from the looming iron gate and guardhouse off the highway, through a dome of even taller trees and dense thickets of wild bushes and viney plant growth.

Jesse travels the fifteen minutes out of Westerville to the guardhouse in relative silence. He almost reaches for the badge he knows he doesn’t have before fishing out his driver’s license for the sleepy-looking guard manning the gates.

Old habits.

Or maybe it’s this old place. Jesse flicks on the car radio as soon as the guard waves him through, grumbling to himself a little as he hugs the right side of the narrow lane disappearing into the woods. Though it’s not like there’s much traffic out here this time of... ever. Except at the begining and end of terms, vacations, school performances (Dalton puts on a lot of those.)

There isn’t any of those going on right now, thank god.

Jesse’s never liked Dalton.

And not just because the Dalton Warblers, the school’s elite vocal troup, had provided maybe the stiffest competition Jesse - a high school vocalist himself - had ever had the misfortune of performing against in show choir. (Okay. So maybe it was exclusively because of that. Jesse had been a little shit in high school, like most teenagers obsessed with the performing arts, he supposes. And almost violently competitive.)

Still. Dalton isn’t anything like Carmel High, which Jesse had attended - a massive, metal and glass structure smack dab in the middle of the city. At Dalton - Jesse had thought back then - the students probably take tea with lemon out of ancient tea cups and nap by the lake between practice sets. Vocal Adrenaline, Jesse’s vocal troup, had spent as much time in the campus coffee shops as in their own dorm rooms. (Yes, shops. Caffeine Consumption was practically on the curriculum at Carmel. There was no time and no patience for napping. During choir season, Vocal Adrenaline hardly slept. There were 5 Hour Energy kiosks at every entrance to the auditorium.)

Jesse knows better now.

In a lot of ways, he wishes he hadn’t. He still doesn’t like Dalton, but these days it’s for a much more personal - and valid - reason.

Jesse parks his car in the wide open student parking lot nearest the main building, rather than the small lot further back near the administrative offices and custodial quarters, where there are spaces for guests. That lot is much fuller at this time of the summer than any other, with new teachers who’ve chosen to live on the campus moving in, administrators pulling double duty to handle yearly registration preparations, and seasonal maintenance workers joining the school’s year-round custodians in getting all of the school buildings ready for the new year.

There’s only one car parked in the student parking lot right now besides Jesse’s, actually. It’s been over five years since Jesse’s seen it, but of course he recognizes it immediately. You get to know a car after you’ve investigated its driver for murder.

Jesse says a silent prayer that he isn’t waiting where Jesse’s almost certain he’s waiting - he was always the type to enjoy making people uncomfortable just to see how they’d handle it, and Jesse doubts prison has changed that. But sure enough, straight through the front doors, Jesse looks up, cranes his head slightly and sees Sebastian Smythe standing on the second floor landing of the massive spiral staircase that greets visitors beneath a grand, glass dome.

The only unexpected part of any of it is that Sebastian isn’t facing Jesse’s way when Jesse starts unhappily up the stairs to meet him, maybe with his arms crossed over his chest and his long legs crossed at the ankles - definitely with a smirk, one part self-deprecation and two parts outward contempt, uglying up his otherwise nearly too pretty face.

Sebastian’s staring out one of the windows that dot the landing, his shoulders - surprisingly broad on a such a long, lean body - slumped forward.

That window has a clear view of the Aviary, Jesse remembers. The building on the other side of the small courtyard behind the main building. The two are attached by their second floors with a rail-lined walkway met on either side by wide french doors. Someone long ago had decided it would be funny to expand the Aviary to include the senior Warbler’s dorm rooms.

Halfway to his destination, Jesse realizes - with a surprisingly sharp twist in his gut - that prison may have changed more than he’d thought.

Something had, anyhow.

Nothing’s changed Smythe’s voice, obviously - which is just as calm and cool as ever as it carries over Smythe’s shoulder to him, always slightly lilted like he’s making a joke at someone else’s expense and just hasn’t gotten to the punchline.

“Detective St. James. Long time no see,” Sebastian says.

The little hint of normalcy is welcome, and enough to give Jesse an excuse for swallowing back the undeniable sympathy he feels for the man standing in front of him.

Jesse’s never liked Sebastian Smythe either.

But sometimes he worries they have more in common, at this point, than they don’t.

“I’m not a detective anymore, Smythe. You know that,” Jesse says, letting himself sound and feel irritated, as the greeting was meant to. “I wouldn’t be here if I still was, would I?”

“Probably not,” Smythe admits, turning from the window at last with some semblance of his old, cocky, devil-may-care(-but-fuck-him) attitude back on display.

Jesse shakes his head and scoffs. He can’t help that his lips curl, the smile not so much out of genuine humor as at the characteristic audacity of this little shit.

But the smile fades pretty quick.

Maybe this part of Sebastian didn’t change. Jesse just hadn't seen - back then, when it might have made him fight harder - how fucking deep it went.

“Jesus, Sebastian. You think it even matters now?”

Of course it’s the wrong thing to say. Of course it matters to Smythe.

He wouldn’t have spent the last half a decade in prison if it hadn’t mattered too much.

Smythe just smirks. The look only carries half the threat, and a fourth of the irreverent sex, it used to, but the smirk is there.

“You want to hear how it really happened or not?”

God help him, but Jesse has to. Almost knowing but not really knowing’s already eaten his first career. He’s gotta find a way to stop feeding it his dreams.

The answer must be evident on his face, because Sebastian nods and starts back down the staircase Jesse had just come up.

“Where are you-”

“If you’re gonna hear how it started, you might as well be where it started,” Sebastian tosses back with a look, like it’s really that simple.

Jesse’s pretty sure there isn’t a spot on this campus that didn’t play backdrop to some part of the unfolding drama that nearly destroyed this place all those years ago. But he lets Sebastian lead him to the student dining hall without question and lets Sebastian keep his reasons to himself.

It’s his secrets Jesse’s after, anyway.

 

 

The Dalton Academy of the Arts is not the only high school Sebastian attended.

It’s not even the only arts-based private school Sebastian’s stunning tenor and his father’s clout (not to mention a frankly disgusting amount of money) had managed to gain him entrance to.

No, Dalton wasn’t the first, just the last - would have been the last, one way or another. Dad had made that clear when Sebastian transferred over, junior year. One more screw-up, one more scandal, and Sebastian would be out. Out of second chances, out of money - out of his father’s good graces. He’d be attending a public school or, more likely (because Sebastian vowed never to debase himself in that way) living destitute and without a diploma, but happy, on the banks of the Seine. Provided he could sell off enough of his personal items to afford the airfare.

Dalton did, however, deserve one small though significant merit of distinction. It housed the one boy Sebastian had ever met who he hadn’t immediately wanted to bone and then be done with. Maybe even before the boning was, technically, completed. (Not that that had ever stopped Sebastian from helping his various partners reach ‘completion’; he was an asshole and a bastard, but he wasn’t a total philistine.)

Or, rather, Sebastian had wanted to bone Blaine Anderson immediately upon laying eyes on him. Maybe even before that. He’d wanted to fuck Blaine’s fine, friendly ass so successfully that Blaine sang out from the sweaty mess of Sebastian’s bed past his natural vocal range and into the territory of a goddamned countertenor.

But he’d wanted more than that too.

Immediately, he’d only realized later - and with no small sense of terror. He’d wanted everything, just as fast as he’d wanted anything.

Not that Sebastian could have announced that, the fall of their senior year, as his fellow Warblers and their Dalton brethren following other fields of study (theater, sculpture, painting, orchestra, dance) started pouring into the converted ballroom that, for most of the year, served as the common dining area for the combined freshman, sophomore, and junior students in all of Dalton’s disciplines.

A few, firey words from their Headmaster, every fall, preceded the first meal of the year. Sophomores, juniors and seniors who’d spent the day traveling to campus or already moving into their new dorms (the freshman had arrived and settled in the evening before, for orientation) joined the fresh-faced newbies waiting obediently at their assigned tables with shouts of greeting at one another and far more conversation than the faculty ever seemed to like. The sophomores and juniors took seats between the freshmen facing the faculty table and the back wall of the ballroom, which had been lined with small, open cubbies that acted as mailboxes for all of the students who dined there.

From his seat, in one of the many antique arm chairs arranged around the edges of the ballroom into separate inward-facing seating areas, Sebastian watched the confined chaos with a mixture of boredom and anticipation.

Even though this was only his second time experiencing the somewhat whirlwind beginning of year ceremonies at Dalton, Sebastian was unimpressed by them. Of course the freshman looked wide-eyed and weak-chinned at the rest of the student body as the juniors and sophomores seated themselves according to study and not class year (no matter how many times the administration had asked them not to.)

It was truly remarkable how easy it was to spot what particular art-fueled obsessive compulsion each student suffered from by sight, even with everyone wearing the requisite, crested Dalton blue blazers and skirts or slacks with patent leather shoes.

There were the painters with - of course - paint smeared on their hands or speckled on their white shirts beneath their blazers (which they somehow got away with, so long as they never lost so many brain cells to paint fumes that they let the blazers suffer as much as a drop.) There were the dancers looking like they’d already forgotten how to walk around in shoes with soles, gliding between the tables regardless, with gym bags slung over their shoulders. The theater kids already had scripts curled up and stuck in their back pockets or clutched reverently in their hands, pencils and pens stuck behind their ears, and a look of haughty pleasure on their faces. A sense of superiority seemed to precede their steps like stage music - tiny divas, every one of them, and proud of it.

Half of the orchestra students had failed to leave their instruments in their rooms as requested, and one back corner of the ballroom looked like the storage shed of a band hall.

The sculpture students struck Sebastian as eerily quiet. They usually had chalk on their hands (or whatever it was they chiseled away at in their corner of the campus), and in their hair, and powdery water stains on the sides of their shoes.

The Warblers, of course - the choir students - were the most recognizable of all. Which might have made calling the theater students the diehard divas on campus a little hypocritical, but it wasn’t so much their attitudes that gave the Warblers their air of general entitlement and sometimes abrasive confidence - the Warblers were the only students allowed to alter their Dalton uniforms. (They’d ought to be - they’d won enough trophies, grants and ribbons over the years to cover the walls of the senior Warblers’ private dining hall.) Under- and middle- classman Warblers wore pins on their lapels, engraved with the silhouette of the Warbler’s mascot, and the seniors got brand-new blazers, the somber blue embellished with satiny red piping.

Sebastian was wearing one of his new blazers then, trying to scan the entire ballroom with his eyes without looking like he was looking for one person with too much intent.

Not that he looked for long. His person had apparently seen him first.

“Am I seeing things.... Or has Sebastian Smythe arrived on time instead of fashionably late?”

Sebastian’s heart thumped, stupidly, and he thought mocking things about it while he pasted on his smoothest smile and turned to greet Blaine for the first time in too much time.

Blaine was grinning, wide and without guile, and Sebastian felt his own smile stretch into something actually honest.

He hoped no one else was looking at him. He had a reputation to maintain around here, even now.

“Killer,” he greeted Blaine with the nickname that never failed to paint the other boy’s face a fucking precious shade of pink. “Have a nice summer? Do anything breathtakingly exciting on your vacation?” Sebastian expertly morphed his smile into a playful leer. “Or anyone?”

It was a risk. Everything between them felt a little risky now, after the debacle of last Christmas - the painful cold spell that followed - the tentative truce they had forged after Blaine witnessed Sebastian’s emotional breakdown last March (and stubbornly refused to let Sebastian play off how badly broken he had been or to be pushed away.)

But Blaine just shook his head in fond exasperation and laughed, taking the seat right next to Sebastian, luckily before Sebastian could do something pathetic like stand just to be courteous. “I’m still with Kurt, Sebastian,” he said simply. And if he felt the need to remind Sebastian about how unwelcome any comments about that fact would be, or what would happen if Sebastian forgot, he kept it to himself.

“So that’s a no, then,” Sebastian said, and winked so Blaine would know that he was (mostly) joking.

He took Blaine’s quiet chuckle as the good sign it was and changed the subject before he could push his luck.

One by one the rest of their abbreviated class of Warblers gathered at the chairs Sebastian had chosen for them - near the back of the ballroom, closest to the baby grand and furthest from the faculty table. Per tradition, this year Sebastian and the rest of the Warblers from his class who’d survived the cuts at the end of junior year (twenty-two in all - a big group, by Dalton standards) would take their meals in one of the drawing rooms off the ball room that had been converted into smaller dining halls.

So they gathered here to listen to the Headmaster’s greeting and the introduction of the faculty (most of whom had been here since before the headmaster and hardly needed introduction).

Trent was the next to arrive - of course - but while he stopped by a group of juniors he’d gotten really chummy with last year, Sugar outpaced him, squealing and spinning like an overexcited child as soon as she saw the both of them. Sebastian endured her hugs and kisses (and, less reluctantly, Blaine’s bashful enjoyment of them) as well as Jeff’s and Nick’s backslaps and more restrained four-way embrace before they piled into the armchairs he and Blaine had just been forceably snuggled out of.

Sugar didn’t miss a beat. She swept the bags she’d dumped onto the settee in order to free her arms for assaulting them off onto the floor, pushed Blaine and Sebastian onto it, and struck a very delicate perch on the ottoman nearby. Then she launched into an enthusiastic account of every single thing she and her family (of both the organized crime and the traditional nature) had done this summer.

That’s how quickly things could go from ‘acceptable’ to ‘okay, this may cause a complication’ (or from ‘good’ to ‘bad’ or vice versa, depending upon whether you asked Sebastian’s dick or his heart) when Sebastian was around these people.

The scent of Blaine in Sebastian’s nose, subtle cologne and clean skin and raspberry hair gel, wasn’t acceptable if Sebastian was going to stay true to his personal vow not to flirt with Blaine too heavily for at least the first twenty-four hours of their renewed friendship. Blaine’s strong, warm thigh pressed so firmly against Sebastian’s was sure to create a complication of the ‘think about your second stepmother in that disgusting green bikini if you want to stand up’ variety eventually.

But being that close to Blaine, after so long of not even seeing him... or only seeing him in passing, across a room, at Blaine’s reluctance-

Yeah, that was good. The way Blaine kept almost looking at him, bashfully half-smiling like he wasn’t sure whether he should acknowledge how closely they were sitting together - but he absolutely couldn’t ignore it - that. That was very good. Especially if Sebastian didn’t think too hard about it.

Eventually Blaine’s more-than-best-but-still-platonic friend Sam Evans added his voice to the conversational choir, with a boom of song from across the ballroom as he came through the doors wearing jeans with his blazer, shirt and tie.

They didn’t let just anybody in that club... took every ounce of heart and sweat and blood to get to wear those game-day jerseys down the hall...” Sam sang, turning 360 and pointing at his own lapels to show off his red pipes, while some of their group (which had continued to grow unnoticed by Sebastian) whooped and applauded.

Sebastian rolled his eyes, but his laughter really only was half because of Blaine’s excitement right beside him.

Of course Evans would pick a country song as his first impromptu songburst of the year. (The Warblers were always, invariably bursting out into song. They sang to one another to communicate sometimes more than they talked. Sebastian could never decide whether he finds this endearing or humiliating. Either way, it’s not like he didn’t indulge himself. When in Rome, after all...)

And of course Blaine would be thrilled to join Sam in a song, whatever the musical genre of choice.

I got your number, I got your back when your back’s against the wall...” he jumped up and sang back before getting caught up in Sam’s full-body hug with a laugh.

“Sam Evans,” Unique’s bubbly voice cut through the noise. “Not all of us are boys.” Marley Rose and Sugar chimed in with some playful ‘boo’s.

“Come on, girls, you know I don’t mean it like that,” Sam clarified after he’d accepted and returned ‘hey, man’s and ‘how are you’s with most of their group - even though he knew Unique and the others had only been teasing. “I meant, like, figurative boys. Like, the way ‘mankind’ means girls too.”

Sebastian’s not sure how that was supposed to help a poppy country tune about football better fit their co-ed choir, but when Sam winked at Unique and corrected one line with, “Young boys dream about the boys of fall...” he knew it didn’t really matter.

Unique let her faux pout drop and laughed out loud.

“Damn right they do,” Sebastian couldn’t help but say. That got Blaine to roll his eyes at Sebastian, but the eye-roll came with another wide grin, so Sebastian counted it as another good sign.

In other words, everybody was in pretty high spirits on the first day of their final year at Dalton as students.

Even after Kitty Wilde arrived, filling Sebastian’s void among the fashionably late.

“Hey, bitches... Ready to make my senior year the very best year yet?” Kitty shouted loud enough to be heard over everyone else’s concurring conversations. (Loud enough to be heard by Professor Schuester, at the faculty table, who glanced sharply in their direction with a frown.)

And the high only heightened after the headmaster finally dismissed the seniors to their separate makeshift dining halls, and the Warblers dispersed - to the stately drawing room just west of the ballroom, where their late lunch (and the particulars in their mailboxes) awaited.

After they ate, they’d be getting their class schedules out of their mailboxes. They’d find out whether they’d be sitting in on Schuester’s Applied Practices for Songwriting before or after their block of core subjects (math, science, literature and composition), and what order they’d be attending their afternoon classes in - Improving Vocal Range with Blaine’s boyfriend’s stepbrother Finn, a recent Dalton graduate; Mixing Musical Genres and Set Planning, both also with Mr. Schue; and Introduction to Dance with Dalton’s most insane instructor, Professor Sylvester.

(They’d been told last year that this year they’d be performing sets from the Broadway musical Newsies throughout the year and at competition - and they knew their classes with “Coach” Sylvester would be anything but introductory. “Anybody can dance,” she’d said to them when someone - who, unsurprisingly, had been cut from the program shortly thereafter - had complained that high school choirs never performed the sets from Newsies. The choreography involved gave most university-level dance students anxiety attacks. “All you’ve got to do is work hard, dance when you’d rather be eating or sleeping... but not bathing. I won’t have any of you nancies slipping in the shower and busting a hip on my watch, and I’m not sitting in an auditorium with you filthy animals unbathed. Also, you’ve got to get over this namby-pamby fear so many of you lazy little babies have of breaking something or pulling something executing a perfectly arched barrel turn on the heels of a spectacular split leap without any prior acrobatic or gymnastic training whatsoever.” When someone had suggested they ask the dance students do the choreography for them while the Warblers sang, Coach Sylvester shattered a metronome and bent two music stands completely in half.

They were hoping to take her class last.)

They’d also be getting their list of weekly practice times and the details of the special performances the senior Warblers helped the theater and dance students put on for the rest of the school every Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Spring.
Once classes kicked off, and they began putting together their first set list, lunches would become less predictable and more sedate. Most of them would eat side by side as if they were sitting on opposite sides of the room rather than while in the proximity to rub elbows, separated by ear buds spouting out prospective set pieces and binders full of sheet music. Sam would spend every other lunch in his favorite armchair in one corner, strumming at the acoustic guitar he took almost everywhere, and balancing his food on every available surface in arm’s reach. Kitty liked holding court in this one winged back on the opposite side of the room. She’d make whoever she could cow into eating while sitting on footstools or on the floor near her seat give her their ideas for which songs should be put on the new set list so she could pick their suggestions apart and mock any outlandish choices. Sometimes she even coerced some poor underclassmen to sneak back into the senior Warblers’ dining hall and give her mani pedis. To Sebastian’s knowledge, she’d never once paid to have her nails done, not in four years of Sadie Hawkins’ Day balls and almost as many Spring Cotillions.

The first lunch of the year, though, was as boisterous as any meal between all of them was going to be that year - save for after show choir competitions or one of the performances many of them helped the theater kids put on twice a year. That day, everyone focused on each other. They shared summer experiences, senior year resolutions, college plans, and idle gossip.

Sebastian had taken his seat by Sugar and across from Artie, taking it in stride when Blaine dropped into the empty seat to his other side, like it was no big deal. He saw Sam take the seat to the other side of Blaine and nod in Sebastian’s direction.

“I mean, but why though?” Marley said, when talk - inevitably - turned, across the whole table, to the upcoming year. “Coach Sylvester doesn’t even like musicals.”

“Somebody probably just told her we couldn’t,” Sebastian heard Ryder say. He’d been pretending to listen to Trent ramble about the Cincinnati zoo and his Nana’s beloved labradoodle. (While listening in for whatever had fleetingly put a quiet, pensive look on Blaine’s face. When Sebastian tuned in, Sam was talking about his ex, Mercede’s, exploits in NYC.)

“Yeah, because we can’t,” Jake said. “The choreography’s a fucking nightmare. I say so, and I’ve taken some dance classes.”

Beneath the disparate conversations petering out around the table, Sebastian could just hear Unique lightly chiding Jake with a flick of her napkin in his direction. “Language, big boy.”

“Oh, please. That shuffling around and twirling Professor July had us do last year?” Kitty was quick to add in. “Those were hardly classes. If any of you had had the foresight to join me in taking Coach Sue’s elective dance lab, you wouldn’t be peeing your granny panties right now because we’re going to do something truly competition-worthy this year.”

Kitty had been Coach Sylvester’s staunchest defender since taking that lab last February. Her only one among the Warblers. Sylvester had taught dance exclusively up until last year, when the school had brought in Cassandra July to take over a couple of her mixed classes.

Sebastian was sure the headmaster had genuinely done it to help lighten Coach Sylvester’s workload. And probably so that he could brag to parents that Dalton’s programs are so good, Broadway legends like July were lining up to assist their professors like it was an honor.

The Warblers hadn’t cared much for the drama that ensued in the dance department, but it was impossible to miss the highlights of Coach Sylvester’s epic protest (/emotional breakdown.) Body canons were involved. And attack dogs.

Maybe Kitty had had foresight in getting into Sylvester’s good graces, because after that the consequently defrocked Sylvester became the Warblers’ drama. Afraid to fire her, the headmaster had given Sylvester the choreography classes for the Warblers, and had given their former choreography instructor to July as her assistant.

“I just wish she could have chosen something with a more diverse cast list," Artie said, pushing his empty plate away. “Half our costuming budget is going to go to dressing all the girls up in drag."

“Hey, honey,” Unique pitched in. “Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.” And there was a lot of giggling at that, although Sebastian caught Kitty sticking out her tongue like she’d swallowed a bug. Unique had gotten pretty good at ignoring Kitty.

Blaine shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“At least you’re a shoe-in for a solo,” Unique said, more seriously. “The rest of us poor fools have to scrap for our share of the spotlight.”

“Uh, yeah, because of typecasting,” Artie huffed, gesturing around himself at his chair. “I passed her in the headmaster’s office this morning, and she called me Crutchy.” In a quieter voice, he turned to Tina and asked, “You don’t think she thinks that’s my actual name, do you?”

“I’m pretty sure she thinks it is now.”

“Anyway, you won’t have to “scrap”, Wade,” Kitty said, calling attention back to herself. (Again.) “After all of those ridiculously over-the-top serenades you and Ryder subjected us to last spring, Schue was practically creaming his pants about getting you two to sing together this year.”

Sebastian secretly agreed that the serenades had been too much. (Blaine had loved them.) But he was way past Kitty’s fucking bigotry. If he was disgusted by the love sap Unique and Ryder had felt compelled to spray all over their goddamned school last year, it was because the whole thing - and Ryder’s en media res am-I-gay freakout - had struck Sebastian as unbearably hokey. Not because he gave a shit about Lynn’s sexuality or Unique’s gender.

Plus, Sebastian was pretty sure that getting in touch with his softer side - or, more accurately, the less-dickish side of himself, which was probably as close to soft as any part of Sebastian ever got (pun intended) - had been part of the bargain he’d made last spring. At least, he was sure that’s how Blaine had interpreted his own freakout.

“I heard you two finally figured things out,” Sebastian said, loudly enough for Ryder and Unique to hear him at that end of the table (and Blaine, going still at Sebastian’s side, unless Sebastian was imagining things). “About time.”

It was a pretty good save - if Sebastian did say so himself. The tense pause that had dropped over the table at Kitty’s crass misnomer lifted, and there were a few twitters - a couple of sighs - from across the table.

Ryder smiled and nodded in thanks in Sebastian’s direction, and even Unique looked somewhat soothed. “Thank you, Sebastian,” she said sweetly.

Blaine was beaming, Sebastian could see him out the corner of his eye, even though Blaine’s face was turned - the last bites of his caesar salad apparently having become suddenly fascinating. That was all the thanks Sebastian needed.

It hadn’t actually been a good idea. Not on a personal level. But when had that ever stopped him from doing something, when it came to Blaine?

“Oh, yeah, and speak of things that are unnatural,” Kitty pounced like the animal of the same name. “When did this happen?” she asked, waving her hand.

Of course she was looking directly at him and Blaine.

“Kitty...” he could hear Jake trying to derail that train, but Kitty ignored him.

“I see the Cold War is over. Does Princess Gayface know, Anderson? Or are you and Bas keeping it on the downlow from your bae?”

Of course Kitty couldn’t tiptoe around the elephant in the room, like every else had so far.

In the chaos of the ballroom, Sebastian understands - it was crazy in there, and everyone had been excited to see one another again. But here in their own space, when Blaine could have chosen any of half a dozen other chairs that had been empty at the moment, he had chosen the one right by Sebastian.

But noone had said anything. If anyone had cast them curious looks, Sebastian had carefully made a point of not looking for them.

“I think it’s so sweet!” Sugar announced, curling one hand around Sebastian’s tricep, bubblegum pink-tipped nails bright against the blue of Sebastian’s blazer sleeve. She smiled around him at Blaine with equally pink lips stretched wide. “Both my boys are good friends again! Now our senior year is really going to be fun!”

“Oh, I’m sure Sebastian is looking for fun,” Kitty said with a dirty little grin.

Blaine was slowly turning pink again - a sight not at all satisfying when Sebastian could tell the blush was of true discomfort. (And not because of Sebastian.)

“We’re just friends, Kitty,” Blaine said quietly.

He was always quiet in the face of Kitty’s obnoxiousness - far past the point he would have been quiet and polite with anyone else. Sebastian didn’t know if it was some kind of fucked up form of solidarity (Kitty and Blaine were two of the few senior Warblers who’d been at Dalton all four of their high school years. Most of them had transferred in sophomore year, when Dalton started offering scholarships to the arts programs at the public schools in Westerville and its neighboring towns.) If so, Kitty certainly didn’t share the sentiment.

“Riiight,” Kitty said, with exaggerated disbelief. And then she turned her talons on Sebastian. “Well, if I were you, Blaine - if you sleep with Sebastian, as in sleep with him - I would sleep with one eye open. Hmm. Or... not. That might just give Sebastian ideas.”

It was low, and unnecessary, and exactly the kind of thing Kitty was always saying when she didn’t have something more important to channel her energy into besides her sharp tongue.

“Kitty, you’re a real bitch sometimes, you know that?” Jake said.

Sebastian appreciated the assist.

But he didn’t need it.

“Nah,” he said, like he was honestly amused Kitty had deigned to grace him and Blaine and their mixed history with her wit. “It was a bargain basement burn at most. But then, basic is what you’re best at, isn’t it Kitty? Which is why you have such a jealous hard on for Blaine.”

It wasn’t Sebastian’s best burn, either, but it wasn’t bad for something he’d had to think of on the fly.

And he was supposed to be playing nice these days. He even earned a small smile from Blaine with his.

Marley said something to distract Kitty, and conversations across the table crept back to several different subjects, but Sebastian’s focus stayed on Blaine.

“Oh, yeah, dude,” Sam leaned in closer to Blaine and said quietly enough not to carry back to Kitty. “I stopped by my room, and fucking Rory was in there, bro.

“No offense, Rory,” Sam leaned back and said loud enough to carry in the opposite direction.

“None taken, mate,” Rory’s thick brogue answered back without question.

Then Sam leaned back in and dropped his voice again. “They didn’t room us together this year. Senior year! And they didn’t put Blam in the same room! What the hell, right?”

Blam - as in Blaine and Sam. They’d roomed together for the last two years, and apparently the friendship that had been born as a result had spawned a portmanteau. If Sam hadn’t been inexplicably (tragically - with lips like those) straight, Sebastian would have had a jealous hard on himself.

Sebastian watched Blaine put two and two together - Kitty’s talk about sleeping, with Sam’s comment, with who he may or may not have seen settling into the dorms that morning.

“Sebastian, what room are you in?”

“I haven’t brought my things in yet, but... second floor. Last room on the right?” Sebastian said, as if he didn’t know perfectly well. He’d left his boxes in the commisary. The rest of his suitcases in his car. He’d spent the summer musing over and dreading the fall by turns, wondering if Blaine would keep the promise he’d made last spring. If he’d have decided (Kurt had decided) it was a promise he ultimately couldn’t keep. Sebastian had planned what he would do if that was the case - had decided that he wouldn’t beg, like some pathetic puppy. Blaine was hot and all, and they’d even become real friends at some point - before things had gone to shit. But it wasn’t like Sebastian needed the guy’s favor for anything.

And then he’d changed his mind.

And then he’d gotten to the Aviary and decided to wait and see.

“Oh! You’re- You’re rooming with me,” Blaine said. And Sebastian spent two precious seconds wondering if that was pleasant surprise he saw in Blaine’s smile.

That’s what Sebastian had been brought to. Wavering back and forth like a total fucking basketcase. Then pathetically overanalyzing what Blaine had to say about the outcome.

Why had Sebastian agreed to his side of the bargain, after all?

“Huh.” Bargain or not, Sebastian was still Sebastian. He hadn’t totally lost his personality. “Sounds like fate just seriously wants to get you in my bedroom, Blaine Anderson.”

Blaine rolled his eyes at Sebastian for the second time in one day - in one hour.

But then he smiled at Sam and said, “I’m sure Blam will survive.”

Maybe he’d even have said it if Sebastian hadn’t been quite so nice.

 

 

Sebastian stands in front of the small, open cubbies carved out of oak and set into the far wall of the west drawing room reserved for Warbler senior meals now, inspecting each nameplate nailed to it, as if he’s likely to recognize even one of them after all this time.

Or maybe he’s looking for names he knows are never gonna be nailed their again. Some names no one will see anywhere, except as a reference to a memory.

“That conversation didn’t help your case, you know,” Jesse says, more to get Sebastian talking again than anything.

He’s gone quiet, eyes moving around the room like he’s seeing things that aren’t there to see. The chairs have been removed, sent away maybe to be reupholstered or just polished, but Jesse doubts the blank spaces Sebastian’s staring at now are chairs in his head.

If Jesse didn’t know better, he’d think Sebastian was enjoying being back in this place. The place that had sent him to prison - an adult prison, no less - before he was old enough to legally buy the fancy cognac he used to sneak down here to slip in his coffees.

“Gee, well, I guess I should have thought of that then, huh,” Smythe says, but distracted. “‘How will this sound when played back to me during a murder investigation’,” he parrots.

“My job would have been a lot easier if you kids would have thought that way.”

Smythe breaks out of his fugue to give Jesse a look - a look he’d seen once or twice back during that investigation.

Yeah, he knows he isn’t much older than the “kids” he’s talking about. Especially these days. He just feels that way.

“You bribed the guard at the gate. You kept the shirt. Was all of it on purpose?” Jesse asks. That’s his biggest question. And he knows he shouldn’t skip to it right away. Not with a guy like Smythe. He learned his lesson back then, when he thought sharing his suspicions would get Sebastian to open up, knowing Jesse was on his side.

But he for one isn’t enjoying being back at Dalton.

“We’ve been over all of that.”

“So tell me something we haven’t,” Jesse suggests. “You said you fought over the phone. After the guard changed his story, I couldn’t tell if that was true. Did he even see you that night?”

“Well, now, that would be skipping ahead.” And - for fuck’s sake - he’s smirking again.

Jesse sighs and prays for patience. Smythe had said he’d tell him the true story.

He hadn’t said he’d do it quickly.

“We need to go somewhere else,” Sebastian says. Because of course they do.

Jesse almost doesn’t want to know where.

“The Aviary. Come on,” Sebastian says and starts out of the room without waiting for Jesse to respond.

Not that he needs a response. What was Jesse going to do except follow? He’s followed Sebastian this far.

But he isn’t happy about it. They’re going to the Aviary... Great. That means they’ll have to take that goddamned staircase again.

 

 

Every year the Warblers had a set of four songs (a setlist) to choose, learn, practice and perfect over a time frame of roughly six weeks before competition. Every level of competition had to have a new setlist, and every new setlist had to be exponentially stronger and more complex than the one that came before.

Dalton actually sent out two teams to compete every year, a mixed troupe of freshmen, sophomores and juniors and the senior choir.

Since their Regionals set list had already been chosen, and would include only songs from one specific Broadway musical, the Warblers decided to make Broadway the theme of all of their others set, as well.

Because apparently singing anything stressed and strained by Coach Sylvester’s grueling choreographical training, and Finn’s surprisingly demanding vocal lessons, just wasn’t challenging enough.

“I’m just saying, it’s a classic.”

“It’s been doooone, Tina,” Artie moaned, in the tone of someone who’d been countering this argument for a lot longer than Sebastian aware it had begun. “Done, done, to death.”

“She just wants to see Rory in a wig and one of Coach Sue’s tracksuits,” Kitty said, casually braiding Marley’s hair.

It looked like she was actually doing something nice for someone else for once, if you didn’t count how many times Marley winced in a minute as she did it.

“Which she would kill him for, by the way,” she added, popping her gum.

“And the rest of us,” Ryder agreed.

“Haven’t all of the classics sort of been done to death, though?” Marley said kindly, aiming one of her soft smiles at Tina, who was outwardly pouting. “If we want to do Broadway, we’re going to do something that’s been done. Unless we do something contemporary-”

Dear Evan Hansen,” someone said immediately, and then, “Ow! What was that for?”

That was for not saying Hamilton first,” said someone else.

Hamilton...” Blaine sighed dreamily, squeezing Sebastian’s arm like the cast of Hamilton had arrived in the flesh.

Life doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints...,” he sang out loudly.

It takes and it takes and it takes!” about half a dozen voices sang back at him.

“Can we even do Hamilton?” Ryder asked, as if this was perfectly normal behavior. Which, for the Warblers... was valid. “And Deer- And that other one?”

Kitty’s eyes narrowed like she was thinking about throwing Marley’s hairbrush at him.

“I bet Coach Sylvester could get the license,” Unique said, narrowing her eyes back as if to say, ‘Bitch, try me.’ “One way or the other.”

“I bet she’s already blown our entire licensing budget on Newsies,” Artie guessed.

No one could argue against the likelihood of that.

“Okay, how about this?” Blaine began. And Sebastian really tried not to be too obvious about how hot it made him.

Blaine had become cautious about putting himself out there over the years. Sebastian knew this, and he hadn’t even been around before Blaine had begun dating Kurt. It had been particularly painful to watch near the end of last year - how Blaine had nearly withdrawn into a Kurt-approved shell. After Sebastian had lost even his chance to tell Blaine what a fucked up thing that was for someone who claimed to love you to just watch happen.

Over the past month, Sebastian felt like he’d been watching the exact opposite - and it was never more obvious than when Blaine spoke up in class, took the lead during one of these semi-productive, unofficial Warbler gatherings - when he took charge during practice.

“How about we each choose one song from one classic Broadway play and one song from a contemporary Broadway play?” Blaine suggested. “Don’t think about licensing or any of that stuff... Just pick something with lyrics that speak to you.”

How is that different from what Schue’s already making us do in his stupid Musical Genres and Set Planning classes?” Kitty asked.

“It’s different because Mr. Schue never assigns us anything that we actually end up using at competition,” Artie answered before Sebastian could say anything. “I mean, I love the guy. But I have no idea how singing our favorite pop song is supposed to help us ‘discover the themes you want to find in the showtunes you’d like to perform.’”

Blaine nodded at Artie in thanks. “When you’ve chosen your songs, choose which lines you think are the most important in each song and write them down,” he told the Warblers sitting or lying around the section of courtyard between Dalton Main and the Aviary that they’d more or less claimed as their own for outdoor lunches and these meetings. “It’ll probably be easier to narrow down all of our options if we look at specific lyrics instead of trying to compare everything to everything else all at once.”

Simple enough, right? But thinking small wasn’t something that naturally occurred to choir kids - even for the sake of something bigger.

“Okay, fine, but I’m still doing Mathilda,” Tina said.

Tina,” Artie groaned.

“You tell ‘em, Killer,” Sebastian told Blaine when he wandered back to the bench where his and Sebastian’s books were piled to grab a composition book and a pen.

After a year of responding to Sebastian’s meaningless flirtation with reluctant charm, half a year of honor-driven protests and then half a year of complete radio silence... Sebastian had come to enjoy the new way Blaine had slowly started to respond this year.

He was Sebastian’s bashful schoolboy, as ever, but he’d begun to own the role. Blaine didn’t hide his flushed face or fluttering lashes from Sebastian these days. If he wasn’t lost in some pensive thought - which he did get, from time to time - he smiled right in Sebastian’s face. ‘I see exactly what you’re doing,’ his little laughs seemed to say.

Caged by his own vow to turn over a leaf - to not push people, especially Blaine, too far or too hard - this new delineation of Blaine’s limits was driving Sebastian crazy. It made him feel like he was the one being pushed, even though Blaine’s brand of flirting back was never as out there as Sebastian’s.

“Did you have any better ideas, Sebastian?” Blaine challenged him. He was fucking adorable when he stood like that.

Three days a week, seniors were required to schedule some athletic activity with the Dalton campus trainer, Coach Beiste, and the end of the lunch hour on Tuesdays meant half of the Warblers, including Sebastian, had workouts to get to.

So Sebastian was already packed up to leave, as several of the others were in the process of doing.

“Just one,” Sebastian told him with a wink. He’d torn the bottom two lines off of a sheet of lined paper and scribbled the lines before he could make himself overthink them.

Blaine had been the one to ask for them. And he was just as likely to take them as another tease as anything else.

Sebastian dropped the slip of paper on top of the open composition book in Blaine’s hands and walked away before he had the chance to overthink Blaine’s reaction to it as well.

He’d written some slightly bastardized lines from Hamilton: ‘Love doesn’t descriminate between the sinners and the saints... and if there’s a reason I’m by your side, I’m willing to wait for it’.

Chapter Text

That was August.

It’s hard for Sebastian to look back and choose which moments in the whirlwind of September - when the new year had officially stopped beginning, and had for all purposes begun - needed to be told to explain what really happened in November, and nothing more. Or in the chaos of October when they stopped thinking about what needed to be done this year, talking about how to do it, and actually started doing.

Most of the moments Sebastian remembers the clearest, of the most importance to him personally, might not have been all that significant in the grand scheme of things, honestly. They probably don’t make a whole lot of sense taken out of the context he hasn’t provided yet for the climax of this story.

But that doesn’t change the way he remembers them.

On paper, September is Invitationals. That’s the highlight of the month for the show choir competitive circuit, and it was a highlight for Sebastian.

He’d performed competitively beside Blaine the year before, but basically in blinders - that’s how Sebastian had come to think of himself before Blaine’s hospitalization and David Karofsky. He remembered watching stride out onto the stage from his place on the stage behind and to the right or the left of the more established Warbler. He’d watched Blaine’s ass for most of the performances - or his hands on the microphone. The closest Sebastian had come to glancing around the douche goggles he must have been wearing at the time was when they stepped off stage and he once caught himself thinking, ‘Goddamn, I need to have that.’

Blaine had been laughing with David and Wes, all of the excitement that radiated out of the movements of his body during a performance concentrated solely in the expression of his face. And Sebastian hadn’t been looking at Blaine’s ass that time. His heart had thumped for a boy, for Blaine, for the first time without his dick also reacting to his presence. He’d caught Blaine’s face as he’d been looking up at David, and later - much later - he’d realized that he’d been imagining Blaine looking at him and laughing like that. Sharing a moment like that - no hint of sex or tension in the air, just happy.

That September the blinders were off, and performing next to Blaine - right at his side this time - was like a whole new experience. Watching Blaine still made Sebastian’s dick take notice, his heart thump, but now both at the same time - and he hardly had to drop his eyes to Blaine’s, truly drop-worthy, ass for it to happen.

At some point between sets, Blaine looked over at Sebastian and winked. He winked.

Sebastian’s not sure why he did it - or how his own face reacted - but however it did, Blaine’s head dropped back and he laughed, before smiling at Sebastian in a way that even Sebastian couldn’t overanalyze as anything other than fond.

Sebastian found himself thinking, 'I’m never giving that up.’ That’s probably significant.

Invitationals wasn’t the only part of September that gave Sebastian that kind of pause, however. The other things were harder to explain.

And as for the highlight- Well.

October was most obviously about Sadie Hawkin’s Day. Maybe even more so than November, when the day actually came.

Everyone was supposed to be planning their Halloween performance - and they were. Sugar and Rory went walking around, singing bits and pieces of their favorite Halloween songs at random, double-checking the acoustics in different locations across the campus. Jake and Marley, Ryder and Unique met with some of the Art kids to give them an idea of which songs would be sung on Halloween night - so they could coordinate the most appropriate Halloween decorations to go with the set list. Tina had gotten to choose the songs, since she was still a little more than quietly annoyed that Mathilda hadn’t made the cut for Invitationals. (Sebastian’s sure she chose the most obscure pieces just to get back at them all, but nobody complained.)

But behind all of that - or maybe on top of it - came the Sadie Hawkin’s Day dance planning.

Freedom, you see, has got our hearts singing so joyfully...” Unique sang loudly as they poured into Schue’s SP hour one day. “Just look about! You owe it to yourself to check it out!

And Sebastian, who hadn’t paid much attention to the dance last year (had laughed, he thinks, at the poor girl and two boys who’d asked him to go - although he’d told the boys they were welcome to blow their lame dance and come with him to Scandals if they’d been so inclined. They hadn’t been.)

(Maybe Sebastian’s shouldn’t have asked them both right in front of one another.)

Sebastian didn’t see what she was so chipper about.

Schue had them practicing their Halloween set on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, their self-selected sets for Sectionals on Tuesdays, and whatever Coach Sue (Kitty’s moniker for Sylvester had caught on) wanted on Thursdays.

When she remembered that they were practicing for a choir competition. (“Um... I don’t know. Have ‘em do the one about newspaper moguls whipping street urchins. That sounds fun,” they’d overheard her telling Schue outside his classroom one day.)

So obviously that hadn’t been going well, and even the Tuesday practices hinged more on their maintaining the system Blaine had set in place for set selection, than on the instruction they were getting from Professor Schuester.

Then Sugar came into the classroom, looking pleased as pink (not that she often looked anything but) with her arms laden by fabric swatches, catalogues, and even a pastry box.

“Oy. It’s tha’ time alr’y then?” Rory remarked, and Sebastian had - somewhat unfortunately - spent enough time around Flannagan to understand.

“What time”

“Time for Sadie Hawkins’ Day!” Tina trilled, looking just as pleased as Sugar - and that was different.

“Sadie Hawkin’s Day is next month,” Thad tried reasoning, but that just got him assaulted with a dress catalogue by Kitty, who’d slinked in behind him.

“It takes a month to pick the perfect dress for the dance, plebian,” she said as she whacked him.

“You mean you aren’t picking whichever dress has the most feathers this year?” Ryder was brave enough to tease.

Every year, according to what Sebastian had heard, Kitty went to the Sadie Hawkin’s Day dance just shy of having dressed up like an actual bird. Feather-covered ball gowns, feather headdresses, feathers on her heels... Like she’d nominated herself as the Warblers’ mascot, a human rival to Pavarotti, the songbird the Warblers officially chose for the job.

“I have to pick the perfect cut,” Kitty insisted, with a glare, and Ryder put his hands up.

Sebastian had already lost interest in either of them, though.

Blaine had just walked through the door. Sam was at his side, an arm thrown over Blaine’s shoulder, and Blaine had that lost in thought look on his face that he’d been getting more and more since September.

Sebastian knew the healing powers of Blam would do their job - and if they didn’t, Sebastian had developed a set of sure-fire cure-alls over the past month, for whenever Blaine got too stressed, got too quiet or too busy - like he was trying to distract himself from something.

“Missed you at lunch today, Killer. Hudson didn’t give you a hard time, did he?” Sebastian drawled, as casually as he could.

But he knew his concern was probably obvious. He felt too tense, too still.

Blaine just looked at him at first, and it felt a fist closing around Sebastian’s throat.

Then Blaine relaxed. Like he hadn’t realized he’d been holding a breath, or what to do with it, until he saw Sebastian and made up his mind. He smiled. That bashful smile that dug under Sebastian’s skin in the first place.

“No. No, everything went great.”

Sam had stopped to talk to Artie about something, and Sebastian had no idea if Sam even knew what Blaine had gone to see Finn about - but in his relief, he can admit now, he hadn’t actually cared.

“Well, I certainly know who I’m going to ask,” Tina was saying, and the rest of the classroom suddenly came back into existence for Sebastian, who snapped out of just sitting there, smiling lazily back at Blaine as Blaine dropped into the seat next to him.

“Don’t even think about it,” Sebastian said loudly and clearly, causing most of the room to pause.

He hadn’t needed to hear the conversation that had led up to Tina’s declaration. He knew one of the reasons she’d been so pouty this year, and while ridiculous, he’d considered her growing infatuation harmless and kind of cute.

That didn’t mean he was going to encourage her delusions.

“Blaine’s already got a date,” Sebastian said confidently. Letting the others make of his grin what they would.

Blaine blushed and slapped at him, but ultimately agreed, “Bas and I are going together.” And Sam didn’t look surprised, so that answered that question.

Blaine added, “As friends," with a careful look at Sebastian, who nodded (and at Kitty, although Sebastian didn’t notice himself noticing at the time.) But it made sense. Sebastian hadn’t known then what he knows now - about Blaine’s history. He thinks maybe only Sam had known - but the timing was right.

“What, really?” Artie was already asking. “You two never go to Sadie Hawkins. Blaine didn’t even go when Kurt was here.”

“I guess Hummel missed out then,” Sebastian couldn’t help throwing in.

“Yeah, but it’s senior year, man,” Sam said at basically the same time. “Blaine’s gotta go to our last Sadie Hawkin’s dance ever.” It even sounded to Sebastian like Sam approved of the choice, for more than just the reason that it would give Blam one more high school highlight to share. Sam kept throwing Sebastian these soft little looks that Sebastian didn’t know what to do with.

It didn’t occur to Sebastian to pay as much attention to who didn’t have something to say about the subject as who did.

“Oh, god, do we have to start saying things like that already!” Marley said. “That makes it all sound so sad!” And soon enough the girls, and some of the boys (Sebastian clearly saw Trent wiping his eyes) were mourning for the same reason they’d been celebrating a moment before.

By the time Schue showed up and tried to assert some order over the aftermath, Sebastian was bored with them all, all over again.

Not that it was a fair fight - who could hold Sebastian’s attention longer, Blaine or any of the rest.

Blaine had gotten quiet again while Sebastian wasn’t looking, drawn into a conversation with Sugar about how she’d secured “an inside man” on the dance planning committee so she could influence decisions about this year’s refreshments (her tasting box continued to make its rounds, shamelessly, throughout the classroom while Professor Schuester wasn’t looking.)

Sebastian had assumed Blaine was talking to Sam, sitting to Blaine’s other side, who he’d seen lean in that direction out of the corner of his eye. But when he turned back around, Blaine was staring out the window, worrying little tears into the paper sticking out of his notebook. He didn’t even flinch as, across the room, Nick and Marley argued about whether or not Elphaba lost anything as a character if played by a boy. Sam was turned backwards in his seat, talking to Jake.

He just watched him for a moment. Slumped down in his seat as he was, feet stretched forward (all the better for napping, he would have said this time last year) and disinterested in everything else going on, it was almost easy for Sebastian to forget that he was still a part of it all. Visible, even if the world outside the little bubble that was the set of chairs he and his closest friends sat in, felt invisible to Sebastian at the moment.

He bet it would explode heads if he were to wrap an arm across Blaine’s slumped shoulders. If he leaned when he spoke to him, close enough to brush Blaine’s ear with his lips.

He settled for brushing Blaine’s fingertips, stopping the nervous gesture, so lightly, they might not have touched at all.

“Maybe I should apologize for just announcing my intentions to the world like that,” Sebastian admitted, seriously just realizing that it might have been a dick move. He wasn’t even sure why he did it. He hadn’t realized Blaine had never gone to the dance. Might have his own reasons for that. And he hardly needed Sebastian to protect him from an awkward if heartfelt invitation from Tina. He could have played Sebastian’s announcement off as a joke, but still. “The more they make such a big deal out of it, the more fondly I remember my parking spot at Scandals,” he said in the way of offering a belated out.

Blaine came back to life beside Sebastian, and of course he understood. “No, it’s alright,” he said, slowly moving his hand back. An inch. Then he teased, “Your parking spot?”

“Best place to put the getaway car for a night at the club,” Sebastian played along, although he wasn’t actually exaggerating why he’d always parked in the same spot back in the day. He hadn’t been to the club since the summer, and even that trip hadn’t amounted to much. Once he’d seen the cheap to the way things for him had been, it seems that he couldn’t unsee it. “If you’re lucky enough to find someone worth a little bit of your time... It’s a nice, private spot, away from prying eyes...” Really it was the way he said it, how he put his eyes and face into the saying, that clarified what Sebastian wanted the privacy for.

“You’re horrible,” Blaine laughed.

“And if the liquor comes quicker than the men, well. It’s a safe space to sleep it off.”

“Right.”

“I spent a very nice Sadie Hawkin’s day there last year. Reportedly.”

That quiet Blaine who’d stared moodily into nothing was gone like he’d never been in the room. Blaine tipped back his head, he laughed so hard.

“And you’re passing all that up for little old me,” Blaine joked.

Sebastian just smiled. “The sacrifices I make for our friendship,” he said.

 

 

Smythe talks from as soon as Jesse catches up to him in the hall, to the moment they reach the walkway between Dalton Main and the Aviary.

He hadn’t treated the trip like it meant anything to him. Walking up that spiral staircase... Maybe it’s that he made so many trips before and after that night - the space itself doesn’t carry any eerie significance to him. Jesse himself can’t separate the image of it in his mind from the image of the body that had hung in the center of the spiral, as if frozen between the coils of some massive constrictor.

He doesn’t like walking up it, finds himself stupidly avoiding touching the handrails, but Sebastian doesn’t look twice.

It’s only when the Aviary is right in front of them that he suddenly becomes distracted. Stares down at the spot in the courtyard Jesse thinks he remembers someone saying the Warblers used to gather near. He stares for even longer at a long line of hedges at the very back corner of the campus, visible at a distance from the walkway on which they stand.

Jesse’s not sure what part of the story Sebastian is telling played out behind those hedges, if any. Sebastian could be staring into nothing while he gathers his thoughts, as far as Jesse can tell, but this time he doesn’t try to rush.

Something’s bothering him. Niggling at the back of his brain, like a thought he’s had before, so it knows its way around better than most.

“You’ve got the keys to the dormrooms, right?” Sebastian asks, sooner than Jesse anticipated. “We can get into one?”

“Anywhere but the classrooms, as long as I’m with you,” Jesse repeats the agreement he made with Headmaster Figgins.

But instead of heading on, in that direction, Sebastian leans his forearms on the railing and looks back at that same corner. Walking forward to stand beside him, Jesse can see that it’s not really a straight line of hedges that he’s seeing, but the perimeter of some kind of garden, the hedges acting as the outermost boundaries of the large space.

“What did you even decide on as a motive, anyway?” Smythe asks, like he’s asking who won the last Spurs game. He laughs at whatever expression Jesse must make at the comparison and says, “I don’t mean at the trial. I was sorta there for that...”

“I noticed.”

“I mean you. What was your motive?”

He has no way of knowing what a loaded question that is for Jesse. Does he?

What motive had he thought Sebastian Smythe had for wanting a fellow student dead?

Jesse’s department had certainly had its theories. Everybody bought the ‘too drunk to know what he was doing’ theory, before the details of the attempted cover up came out. Then they started looked for signs that the accident had been premeditated.

Ironically, the alibi that held Smythe above reproach - before the confession - sank him afterwards. They had witness testimony against another suspect, a stunt the victim had pulled that seemed to have pissed off half the student body- But because he had “faked” his alibi, nobody seemed to care when the guard who said he’d seen Sebastian at one hour suddenly changed his mind and said he’d seen him five hours later. Nobody cared that the shirt didn’t make sense. If he’d been trying to cover up a murder, why had he kept the bloody shirt instead of destroying it?

Maybe Sebastian knew it was a loaded question, after all.

He knows Jesse never accepted any of the evidence. He knows Jesse thought he was innocent, all along - Jesse told him so, at the very beginning.

He wasn’t asking that. He was asking what motive Jesse had had to care so much.

Was that a cynic thing - the disbelief that a detective might care whether or not he’‘d helped send the wrong man away for a potentially long time?

Granted, Jesse hadn’t turned out to be a very good detective, by his department’s standards. He’d spent more time continuing to pick apart Sebastian’s closed case, well after the sentencing, than he had on his open investigations. When his chief had found out Jesse’d gone behind his back to rig an appeal, without even Sebastian’s permission, he’d put Jesse on leave. Jesse had never gone back.

“I didn’t think you did it,” Jesse says now, to see if he was right. Sebastian’s expression doesn’t change, so he nods.

He was asking Sebastian to give up details he’d cared enough about protecting to take with him to prison. Solely in exchange for Jesse’s peace of mind and a little information that wouldn’t change anything. He could say this next thing.

“You reminded me of me,” Jesse admits, and he lets himself accept the words once and for all. He hadn’t just been fighting for an innocent man in this case. He’d been fighting against the reality that that could have been him. He’d been as reckless as Sebastian, back at his own high school. As ruthless, even with his friends, as the Warblers could apparently be. One accident and some bad choices could have ruined him just the same, and walking away from Sebastian’s case had felt like turning his back on the luck he’d enjoyed instead. Ungrateful, even. Hypocritical in some way. “I couldn’t stand thinking... I’d been a lot like you back in high school,” he explains. “It was probably the mercy of a lot more people than I even knew about that helped me make it through unscathed. And I kept thinking, who was gonna show that kind of mercy to you?”

Sebastian looks away. “Maybe I didn’t deserve it.”

Jesse’s become more than a little cynical over the years himself, but he has to laugh at that. “Of course we didn’t deserve it, man. That’s why it’s called mercy. And not just ‘the right thing.’”

Sebastian doesn’t say anything to that.

But after another moment, he turns his back on the distant gardens and asks, “If it had been me... Why do you think I’d have done it?”

It’s a weird question, but no weirder than the trade-off Sebastian asked for. No weirder than his asking that they do this here.

“I always figured the posters had to have had something to do with it,” Jesse sees no harm in saying. “That’s why we leaned so hard on the others.”

Jesse’s always known, though, that he had to be missing something about even that.

Sebastian starts to talk again, as they heard towards the Aviary dorms, and the niggling thought at the back of Jesse’s mind really starts to dig in.

 

 

Okay, so, a funny thing had started happening between Sebastian and Blaine, during that same time.

They’d regularly taken their coffee together in the morning back when they’d been friends the first time - before Kurt had developed a problem with it. (Mostly because Sebastian had worked hard to make it a problem for Kurt.)

But it had hardly been a part of either of their daily routines... Wake. Shower. Dress. Go down for breakfast and coffee together - whoever’s up first gets to chill while the other grabs plates and mugs and carries them to the seats they’d more or less marked, with their repeated presence, as their own.

At first, Sebastian didn’t think anything of it. It was just easy. They were both coming from the same place, going to the same place. It was a nice gesture between friends - to pick up one another’s food. He’s sure that’s all Blaine thought of it at first, too. If he let himself think about it at all.

But by October, scribbling lyrics on little scraps of paper and dropping them on Blaine’s books, or tucking them under Blaine’s bedsheets when he wasn’t looking - finding them written in Blaine’s neat handwriting, tucked in a dresser drawer or the pocket of a coat - had become a thing for them, and Sebastian was wrestling with what it all meant.

(He had, actually, dropped a note on Blaine’s desk the day he’d more or less asked Blaine to go with him to the Sadie Hawkin’s Day dance that made something in his own chest twist, later, with knowing. He’d written it during class for reasons that had nothing to do with the dance - he and Blaine had been discussing something the night before, and the lyrics had come to him. After Blaine’s moody behavior in class, Sebastian had hidden his pen and paper on the other side of his desk and jotted, while Blaine wasn’t looking: ‘Nothing's gonna harm you, not while I'm around...
Nothing's gonna harm you, no sir, not while I'm around.
’)

And then Sebastian realized how much their morning routine had come to mean.

One day, Marley asked if Blaine could help her look over the essay she’d written that was due that day. Blaine had just been telling Sebastian that he wasn’t really all that hungry that morning - had snacked too hard during an almost-all-night essay-writing session with some of the others last night. And he didn’t eat anything that morning... Just drank his coffee while Sebastian ate. But he told Marley, without even considering it, he’d find her “after Bas and I finish breakfast.”

Another day, Sam stopped beside Sebastian as he was coming from the kitchens.

“Oh, dude. I didn’t know you guys hadn’t eaten. I was going to see if Blaine wanted to work on our duet for Schue’s this evening.”

Sebastian had opened his mouth to recommend that Sam go grab a tray. He could take Blaine’s food, and the two of them could write and tweak and harmonize between inhales of pancakes and OJ. He and Blaine had completed several projects, and countless hours of rambling nonsense (just talk for the sake of talking) in just that way.

But Sam had immediately said, “Tell him to find me after, okay?”

“You don’t want to-” Sebastian had tried again, motioning towards the drawing room with his one laden tray.

“Nah, man. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” Sam had said, like Blaine would just not eat if he didn’t eat with Sebastian. Sam slapped Sebastian on the shoulder companionably and walked away.

Another time, Sebastian found Jeff moaning into a stack of papers spread on the coffee table in front of him in the sitting room of the Aviary. Sebastian couldn’t tell what the papers were exactly - but there was a lot of red on them.

Luckily, not blood red, but if Jeff kept thumping his own head on the coffee table like that, Sebastian thought it might be a very near thing.

“What, exactly, do you think giving yourself a concussion is going to do?” Sebastian asked, standing over Jeff’s miserable figure, bemused.

Jeff mumbled something about punishment, until Sebastian kindly kicked him in the ribs until he sat up and could be clearly heard.

“Maybe then next time I won’t wait til the last minute to get help when Claymore gives us, like, two thousand drill problems at one time!” Jeff said, picking up - presumably - exactly where his mumbles had left off before the kicking.

“There were thirty,” Sebastian corrected him, for the record.

“Well, there were too many!” Jeff moaned. “I bombed, man. I bombed bad. I’m gonna have to, like, ace that test next week. Ace it!”

Jeff didn’t regularly ace anything in Math. It was a good thing the core subjects didn’t, in the long run, mean a whole lot to any of them, all having plans to go into the performing arts after graduation.

Sebastian took a seat across the table o’ Jeff’s mathematical failures and sipped at the late night coffee he’d brought back to the Aviary from the kitchens. (Sans couvessier this once. He had a lot of work to do before he slept tonight. And an early morning jog planned with Coach Beiste.)

By ‘last minute’, Sebastian knew Jeff really meant last. He’d seen him throughout the day, and Jeff hadn’t once mentioned needing help to Sebastian. They’d been in the dining hall for breakfast at the same time, and Sebastian had often helped him with his math problems before.

“You should have said something,” Sebastian said then, draining the last bit of caffeine-laden goodness from his cup.

“Yeah. But the only time I saw you today was at breakfast, and that’s, like, sacred Seblaine time. Everybody knows that, dude. I wasn’t gonna get in the way.”

Sebastian almost needed the heimlich manuever to survive his response.

“We have a name?” was the first sound approaching human speech he managed after recovering the proper use of his lungs, with Jeff’s help.

“Uh... yeah,” Jeff said, looking at him like he was worried maybe Sebastian had been without oxygen for too long. “Tina wrote, like, this whole, weird Blam versus Seblaine... thing last week. It was totally stupid. But I guess the name kinda caught on.”

They had a portmanteau.

Sebastian kept wrestling.

 

 

Those were good things that happened in October. And there were others.

Sebastian doesn’t remember a Halloween he’d had more fun celebrating. And as November began, even in the midst of pre-Sectionals freak-outs and pre-Sadie Hawkins shake-ups (break ups, make ups, and popularity power plays) Sebastian was at all-time high.

He and Blaine both had solos planned for Sectionals. They had, miracle of all miracles, mastered a part of one of their Newsies set pieces. Sebastian had never gone so long at a school without becoming personally involved in a scandal, and his father was practically effusive with praise. (He’d texted twice from Maui - had even included some well-wishes from step-mom number three.)

Blaine wasn’t having as easy of a time.

Sebastian knew - although he wasn’t sure Blaine could tell that he knew. He kept trying to put on a brave face, and most of the time he managed.

He was genuinely happy, most of the time - Sebastian swears that he was.

But something was eating at him. It used to be Kurt. Blaine didn’t even have to say - wouldn’t have said before September, because they never discussed Kurt before - but Sebastian had developed a sort of sixth sense for when Lady Hummel had fucked something up.

Sebastian had learned in the meantime that it wasn’t actually so hard to be the nice guy that Blaine wanted to be friends with - mostly he just had to be as nice as Sebastian had sat, once, in the bird enclosure of the Aviary and wished he could be, for his own sake. So he could stop feeling so goddamned guilty all the time.

But by October, Kurt wasn’t Blaine’s problem anymore, so when he slipped into a broody mood - and Sebastian got that same old sense - it began to eat at Sebastian too.

He started to question if his “sense” had ever been correct. Or if what he’d perceived as Hummel having shelved Blaine, to come back to as he saw fit - and Blaine finally seeing the shelf - had been a different problem altogether.

Blaine was still laughing with him - still smiling at him, when his eyes weren’t miles away. The lyrics kept coming from Blaine’s end, even if the loose board in the floor by Sebastian’s bed - where he’d cheekily begun saving the slips of paper - had started to mock him whenever he crossed it. (Sebastian’d had the vague notion of surprising Blaine with the lyrics one day. Blaine had let slip once that he assumed Sebastian threw them away. It was a blow to the pride, knowing Blaine hadn’t been holding onto his the same way Sebastian had been, but he figured it might earn him points someday, all the same.)

Eventually Sebastian worked out that it had something to do with the dance, and inevitably he came to the conclusion that Blaine had started to regret agreeing to go to it with Sebastian.

He could have just asked. He should have just asked - when had he ever shied away from meeting a problem head on? From facing what someone else thought of him and sneering in their face.

Obviously he couldn’t sneer at Blaine, pretend it didn’t hurt more than offend him at this point - that not only had Blaine gotten weird about spending a whole night as a couple in front of their friends, but that he felt that he couldn’t even talk about it with Sebastian. The way they still talked about most things.

But he’d already opened himself up to the point where he was hurt. He could have braved going just a little further and found out that Blaine’s broody moods hadn’t really had anything to do with Sebastian at all.

On Sadie Hawkin’s Day, Blaine avoided everyone. Sebastian thought he’d only been avoiding him, and he was terse by the time he got done searching the campus on foot and resorted to texting Blaine a needy ‘Where are you?’

It took far too long for Blaine to text back, ‘Sorry. Coming. Meet you by the staircase?’

Sebastian texted back only, ‘k’.

Sebastian doesn’t even remember watching Blaine come down the stairs when they met that night. If he’d even looked at Blaine’s face. If Blaine had looked frightened. He didn't notice that Blaine had switched out his standard Dalton tie for a bowtie.

The first sign Sebastian had got that he’d gotten it all wrong was when Blaine grabbed his hand as they reached the double doors of the ball room - what had been converted back for its original purpose.

Twice a year the students of Dalton completely transformed the most common areas of the campus. They strung lights and, depending upon the season, garland all along the curved haindrails of the grand spiral staircase in Dalton Main. The tapestries in the ball room were switched out and lined with twinkle lights. The only tables left in the ballroom were moved to the sides of the massive space and covered in linen and shining candelabras and crystal dishes someone had once donated to the kitchens.

Where the faculty table usually sat, a narrow stage was set up for a live band. Drinks were served from a buffet table at the back of the ball room, so students could drink without moving far from the dance floor, but full refreshments - small sandwiches, tiny cakes, cookies and other pastries and snacks were laid out in each of the drawing rooms.

The drawing room walls were even brought into the events. Portraits of former headmasters and faculty members and school teams were taken down for the night and replaced with portraits that had been commissioned over the years by students who wanted to leave their mark on future festivities. The portraits were switched out the night before and covered with Dalton blue drapes, to be unveiled after the school chaperones opened the festivities and the students were given time to browse the drawing rooms and eat before the music began.

Some of the boys showed up in tuxes, but most of the Warblers, especially the seniors - Blaine and Sebastian included - wore their uniforms for the Sadie Hawkin’s Day dance and saved the tuxes for the Spring Cotillion. (It was a long-standing tradition the Dalton girls had once started, actually. Other than the dance team, which had a disproportionate number of boys to girls, the Warblers were the most successful students on campus. And there were plenty of girls from the other course studies at the school who wanted to be escorted to the dance by that lapel pin or, even better, those signature red pipes.)

Sugar looked stunning. Blaine and Sebastian were sure to give her the attention and appreciation she deserved, before spotting a few of the other senior Warbler girls - Tina, Marley, Unique - and moving to show them some respect, as well. Sebastian’s pretty sure the kiss Blaine pressed to Tina’s cheek didn’t help kill that crush she was nursing stronger than ever, but she’d certainly seemed happy to have it.

But first-

Blaine grabbed Sebastian’s hand. Tight. He slid his fingers between Sebastian’s, with a nervous look up at him, like he was frightened Sebastian might pull his hand away - and apologetic that he couldn’t let go.

All of the frustration Sebastian had been helplessly aiming at Blaine disappeared and he squeezed Blaine’s hand, daring to reach up and touch Blaine’s face, to get him to look back at him.

“Blaine, are you okay?”

Blaine breathed so deeply - like just that small token of concern, from Sebastian, had removed some impossible weight from his shoulders - and for the first time in months Sebastian felt incredibly ashamed, as if it were March again and he’d just realized how his callousness could hurt someone else.

“I am. No, I am. I’m just- I’m really glad you’re here with me.”

Sebastian lifted their joined hands and kissed Blaine on the back of his. He tried to swallow whatever that was he was feeling, but it wouldn’t go down.

It was still probably all over his voice as he said, “Thank you for chosing me, Killer.” Making the name sound softer, even in his own ears, than it had any right to be.

Blaine stared at him so long. “Sebastian... thank you,” he said, like he knew Sebastian wasn’t just talking about the dance. “I don’t think I could have handled this without... Well, just without you. Really.

That was definitely a sign that Sebastian had missed something. Something big. But unfortunately, he didn’t push to find out what before the chaperones had said their piece and made a quick exit. (The Bribing of the Dance Chaperones was practically an official part of preparations for Dalton social events. Some of the faculty counted it as part of their annual income.)

And then almost everyone was heading into the drawing rooms, where the portraits were being unveiled, and one by one - from each room - the sound of chaos ensued.

Chapter Text

Never had Sebastian seen so much time, so much expense, and so much spite put into a “prank” if that’s what someone was calling this.

He’d have liked to say he could at least admire the effort behind the handiwork, but honestly, the gesture was so ugly even he - and he had said and done some ugly things in his day - couldn’t see past it, nevermind that the targets were his friends. A target was his friend, his-

Nevermind the images of himself. He’d probably have found them hilarious if it had just been him up on the drawing room walls. Blaine, Ryder, and Unique were all strong - Blaine was maybe the strongest person he knew. But everyone had their soft targets; Sebastian’s sexual history wasn’t his, but it wasn’t the same for the others.

Instead of the usual Sadie Hawkin’s Day portraits, the walls of the drawing rooms had been covered in draped posters - some even set into heavy, gilded frames. Various sizes of each portrait had been copied, over and over, and hung - but there were only four portraits in all. They were all senior Warbler headshots, taken at the start of year for choir promotional materials. Sebastian’s had the word ‘player’ written over each and every one in bold, white print.

Which was almost kind, from his perspective.

Unique’s had a big, pink ‘pervert’ written on her posters; Ryder, the word ‘gay’ made almost to look as though it had been patterned with sequins. Blaine’s posters had the largest lettering of all, and his word was ‘slut’.

To their credit, the few students who tittered at the absurd sight were obviously either nervous or confused, and they stopped almost instantly. Mostly there were a lot of gasps, a lot of hushed or not so hushed talking - a good deal of ‘oh my god’ and cursing. A couple of the theater kids had shrieked when the drapes came off.

And then there was just quiet as the shock faded away.

At least until one loud, unmistakeable laugh came from the direction of the ball room.

As seniors and Warblers, the drawing room the victims of all of this had naturally gathered in was their own - and that’s where Kitty headed. She laughed and stumbled alongside her uncomfortable-looking date, clutching at him occasionally as if she needed the support to stay upright.

She wasn’t drunk, just really fucking pleased with herself.

It was the first time Sebastian had seen her that night, and it was clear she’d outdone herself to not be overlooked. Her strapless white ball gown clung tight to her petite curves - a long and flowing white silk that seemed to float just over the ground behind her as she walked, like it was braced somehow to hold the shape of being in motion even when she stood still. Every inch of the gown was covered in tiny, semi-iridescent white feathers, whispy and soft. She was wearing translucent heels and diamonds on her neck and wrists.

“Oh... my... god, the looks on your faces!” she shrieked, and then began to laugh again.

“Kitty, this is-” Marley began, but couldn’t even seem to finish her sentence. There looked like there were tears in her eyes, and Jake - who usually responded to Kitty’s meaner stunts sternly but calmly - looked so angry he’d gone red, his hands curled tight into fists at his side.

“This is not fucking cool, is what it is,” Sam said very clearly from somewhere in the room. Sebastian wasn’t sure he’d ever heard him sound so serious.

“Well, I think...,” Kitty addressed the crowd, like a princess to her subjects, “Since a certain set of our beloved songbirds had taken it upon themselves to make such spectacles of their...” and Kitty paused, her tone painting the next word as ugly as her thoughts, “-relationships... that they should be happy to see the occasion memorialized like this!”

Silence sat after her declaration, for just a moment more.

And then Unique softly began to cry.

She seemed too shaken to move - staring not at Kitty, not at Ryder, standing frozen in horror at her side, but at one specific poster propped up on the fireplace mantle, near to where she stood.

There had been more than four portraits copied and displayed, Sebastian saw. The one Unique was staring at had to be the headshot Unique had been more or less coerced into taking her sophomore year, before her uncle raised holy hell and threatened Dalton with a civil right suit as soon as he found out. Sebastian had heard about that.

In the portrait, Unique wore the standard Dalton uniform of blazer, long tie, lapel pin, and pants. The standard Dalton uniform for a boy. Her hair was neatly shorn. The portrait wasn’t even of Unique, obviously - it was of Wade Adams.

The word ‘pervert’ was written more than once on top of him.

“You fucking bitch!” Ryder screamed. There might have spittle on his lips - he looked ready to collapse in rage right there.

Meanwhile, around the room students were starting to move. Sam had lunged for the Wade portrait as soon as he’d seen it, and he tore it down, handed it to Artie who’d been wheeling in that direction already. Artie held it in his lap, and Tina wheeled him out of the room as they accepted more and more of the posters and others joined Sam in taking them down.

“Oh, come on... It was a joke, Lynn,” Kitty scoffed, as if she truly couldn’t tell that she’d gone too far. Or as if she didn’t care.

“No, it wasn’t,” someone said, in such a deep, angry voice that Sebastian didn’t immediately recognize it as Blaine’s.

He’d let Sebastian’s hand drop, and he stood there pale and- Not shaking. He looked so far beyond that that he’d gone frighteningly still. Sebastian wouldn’t have believed he could look so brutally fierce.

“It was an act of hate. Because you’re a hateful, vindictive, spiteful, shallow-”

“Wow. Calm down, Anderson. Learn to take a goddamned-”

“Shut the fuck, up!” Blaine yelled, and it was clear from the dropped jaws around the room that no one present had ever heard him raise his voice like that except in song.

Kitty, unflappable Kitty, looked startled. Even frightened, if only visibly for a moment, which gave Sebastian a sick sense of satisfaction - and Blaine wasn’t even done.

“You’re cold, cruel, and sadistic, Kitty. And I don’t know how it happened. I know everything hasn’t always been as easy for you as people think... But you don’t get to hurt people, you don’t get to hate them, just because they’re gay, and a gay boy broke your heart that one time!”

Sebastian blinked. Of everything that could have come out about what kind of secret history had first turned Kitty so against Blaine, Sebastian hadn’t ever expected that.

And there was no way to interpret Blaine’s words in any other way.

Because suddenly his voice had gone soft again. It cracked. “Cause you know what?” he said, at half the volume. “You broke mine, too, Kitty.”

And then he left.

He heard Kitty calling out after them, as he trailed Blaine through the ball room and then beyond.

“Ander- Blaine! Blaine! Don’t you fucking walk away!”

Neither of them stopped.

 

 

When they get to the Aviary, Jesse’s sure they’ll be going to one of the dorm rooms - the one Sebastian had shared with Blaine, logically. After Sebastian had asked about it, it only made sense...

But when they enter the Aviary’s second floor, instead of heading left or right - to either side of the bird enclosure, where the dorm rooms were built on - they head down the narrow stairway that wraps around the glass enclosure.

Dalton and their spiral stairways.

Jesse had almost forgotten about Parvotti.

At the foot of the narrow staircase, next to the gate to the enclosure and across from the door to the Aviary, Parvotti’s bircage hangs in its place of honor, from its tall, filigreed iron stand.

Or not Parvotti’s obviously. Even if he hadn’t died that night, he surely would have passed on by now of old age. It might not even be the same cage. The old one might have been damaged beyond repair, if they’d tried to repair it, or replaced - maybe once and then again - with each new bird.

The little silver nameplate on the cage’s door says 'Leonyta’.

Sebastian opens the gate to the enclosure and steps inside, Jesse follows, and then they’re sitting on remarkably bird-shit free benches inside of the slightly humid, modestly scenic space.

A climate control panel stands next to the gate, and stacked three high along one curve of the enclosure are the old hawk cages, testifying to the purpose the Aviary had once served. Other than that and the benches, the enclosure looks like something out of some remote wood - thin, reedy trees stretch towards the dome at the top of the enclosure, and vines grow up and over and around everything. Numerous plants, and even a patch of carefully tended grass, cover the enclosure floor.

There are very few, very old-looking lights affixed at regular intervals around the enclosure, set high up the curved walls. The lighting they provide, combined with the soft sunlight coming in through the dome, cast everything in surreal patterns of shine and shade.

It’s a soothing space. Jesse counts maybe twenty - twenty five birds, perched delicately in the branches of the sturdier trees, nesting in the old hawk cages, or jumping from plant to plant like they’re playing.

Or Jesse imagines it must be soothing, to someone whose first and only significant experience with the space hadn’t started with prying Parvotti’s tiny, blood-stained corpse out of the hand of a dead teenager.

After Sebastian mentions the part about Kitty having had a thing for Blaine, Jesse has to admit that it surprises him.

“But you knew about the rest of it?” Sebastian asks. “About what happened back then?”

He found out. That’s why the thought of Kitty and Blaine having been friends - of Kitty even having had a crush on Blaine as a boy - is so surpising. Things change, and no one is who they really are at fourteen. But to go from friends to that.

“That and the scene at the dance are why he was my first suspect,” Jesse admits, and he watches Sebastian try, but not quite manage, to hide his flinch.

He’s not the only one. That niggle at the back of Jesse’s mind isn’t really a niggle anymore.

Sebastian had asked about his motive. Jesse hadn’t been able to attribute one to Sebastian, then, but he remembers now the only one he’d seriously considered. He hadn’t had proof - just a feeling, and the specific way in which their friends had been helpful with some of his questions, tight-lipped with others.

He’s been getting that feeling a lot today.

And of course he felt sympathy for Blaine then, and he feels it now. After what happened, who wouldn’t?

“He thought they were going to kill him,” Sebastian is saying.

“I know.”

“They broke his arm, his ribs... dislocated his shoulder. They gave him a concussion,” Smythe lists the damage in a sort of mockingly casual tone of voiice. “The doctors weren’t sure at first if he was going to wake up. It was two weeks before he did.”

“I know, Smythe.”

Sebastian’s shoulders hitch, just once - he turns away from Jesse, they hitch again, much harder, and that’s the only warning Jesse gets before Sebastian is on his feet and shouting in rage at the sky. “Fuck!”

Jesse’s on his feet too, thinking maybe some property damage might accompany the obscenity, but Sebastian just stands there with his hands fisted in his own hair, breathing like he’s just raced a freight train from the exertion needed to get himself back under control.

Not that the outburst doesn’t cause its own kind of chaos. All of the birds in the enclosure go nuts, rustling through branches, overturning feeders and squawking in terror and a great flap of wings.

The sounds they cause are so loud, Jesse almost can’t hear Sebastian continuing to talk.

“Her brother was there - Kitty’s brother. Did you know that?”

“Smythe-”

“She put him up to it. Blaine had had a friend drop him off in Westerville. It was a kid he’d met at Invitationals. They were going to eat in town, then Blaine’s mom was going to come and give them a ride to the school. But he got there first, him and a few of his friends. He- he told Blaine she wanted them to-”

Smythe.

“To fucking- To hurt him worse,” Sebastian just keeps on. His eyes drop shut and his fists drop, still curled dangerously, at his sides. When he opens his eyes, Jesse prays that Sebastian’s memory of prison is vivid enough to stop him from looking up Robbie Wilde after they’re done here.

“‘But we don’t touch fags like that, even to put them in their place,’” Sebastian sneers. “He said that to him.

Fuck. Jesse hadn’t known that. He’d found out about the assault through the school and the parents’ financials. He hadn’t needed the details to be disgusted by the whole thing, but to hear them now makes him feel vaguely ill.

“And then his father,” Sebastian spits the word, “Took a business deal in exchange for not pressing charges.”

“Sebastian, I know all of that,” Jesse simply says. The brother hadn’t gone to school at Dalton. He’d gone to St. Theresa’s near Laramie so he could play football. He hadn’t lasted past college, but apparently he’d been hopeful back then. Couldn’t let a little thing like a hatecrime derail all of his big, entitled, pro-ball dreams.

Blaine’s father claimed he didn’t see the problem. He’d done everything to get Blaine to agree to switch schools, and if what had happened hadn’t been bad enough for that, then what good would it have done to “cause a scandal” with an ugly criminal investigation.

Smythe would probably pull away if Jesse tried, but he almost wishes he could reach out and offer some comfort. A hand on the shoulder. Something.

It would take a whole lot more than an impersonal touch from a stranger to soothe the kind of hurt Sebastian is feeling right now, anyway.

“You were in love with him.”

Jesse doesn’t even mean to say it, but the thought’s too strong to keep to himself. Maybe the feeling’s too strong for Smythe to keep quiet any longer.

There had to be a reason he’d reached out to Jesse, sooner than he’d called his own family, straight out of lock-up. A reason more than curiosity or simple regret.

Sebastian tells him one thing Jesse had just guessed, and one thing he hadn’t.

“Of course I fucking was,” Sebastian says, with a laugh that sounds distinctly manic. “We’d been together since September.”

 

 

“Blaine, wait...”

Sebastian followed Blaine out of the ballroom - up the staircase, speeding up as Blaine sped up, almost running by the time they’d reached the second floor balcony.

“Babe, wait.”

He thought maybe they were headed for their room, but Blaine paused, and at the last minute he seemed to decide to head downstairs. To the enclosure. Sebastian wasn’t sure if Blaine was headed there for the reason he was thinking, but just the thought - of all things - made something turn in Sebastian’s chest.

He followed Blaine into the enclosure, the way Blaine had followed him last March.

When Sebastian had come here to hate himself.

David Karofsky had just tried to hang himself, then. He hadn’t been anyone to Sebastian - just some dumb, public school boy. Some dumb, sad, lonely boy, who was someone to someone, and he’d strung a belt from a ceiling fan and tried to kill himself with it.

The night before Sebastian had humiliated him at Scandals. Loudly enough that someone had recorded him obviously rejecting David’s advances, and they’d posted it to YouTube, and in a day, he’d been outed to his whole, bigotted, cruel-minded little school.

But that hadn’t been the start.

Two months before, Sebastian had put Blaine in the hospital.

Blaine.

He had liked Blaine. He had felt... something from the moment they’d met. Not like he feels now, but their friendship had been real. He hadn’t known how to express that, after he’d fucked it all up, but it had been real.

Sebastian had goaded Kurt to showing up one of the Art kids’ infamous parties, and then he’d tossed a jar of paint at him. He’d just wanted to embarrass him and to make a point. He’d heard Kurt telling someone earlier that he’d handmade the outfit he was going to wear - maybe Sebastian had wanted to save a fashion faux pas from itself as well. But Blaine had jumped in the way. He’d spent days in the hospital, and then weeks in an eye patch. He’d had to have surgery, and at one point he’d been afraid he would never see out of his right eye again.

Sebastian had smirked, he’d posed, and he’d rolled his eyes and he’d said it was just a prank. That everyone was blowing it out of proportion. That Blaine “was pretty” but how could Sebastian have known he’d have gotten in his way?

He’d been losing it, as quietly and as privately as he could manage. And then Karofsky, and Sebastian hadn’t been able to manage anymore.

He’d wondered, for one moment, if fear was the only thing keeping him from stringing up his own belt. It certainly hadn’t been his crushing sense of self-worth.

He’d come to the enclosure and he’d done something he hadn’t done since he was too little (and dumb, and sad, and lonely) to remember. Sebastian had cried.

He’d been embarrassed when Blaine had found him. Had thought at first that it had to be a mistake - just his fucking luck, to choose the one spot to break down in where he’d run into the one boy he was, in a big way, breaking down for.

Blaine had come looking for him. To give Sebastian a piece of his mind, once and for all, after having heard the story about David from Kurt.

Instead he’d ended up consoling Sebastian. Listened to all of the ugly, guilty things Sebastian had had to say about himself, and he hadn’t let Sebastian push him away before he made Sebastian see past all of the bad.

“You’re not a bad person, Sebastian,” he’d said, and he’d just waited when Sebastian’s scoff sounded more like the fading edge of a sob. “You just- You’ve always gotta be the coolest guy in the room. I think, if you’d let yourself admit that you don’t actually want to be alone in there... then maybe you wouldn’t keep doing things that make you feel sorta like you deserve to be. ”

Goddamned but Blaine got him.

“I don’t hate you, Sebastian,” he’d said, when Sebastian had confessed that he’d missed this. Missed having Blaine talk to him - look at him - like maybe he didn’t hate Sebastian as much as he had every right to hate him.

“You. You hurt me,” Blaine explained. “You hurt me and then you just walked away... Like it didn’t matter. After all of your talk. All the flirting... Like you- Like you really wanted me...”

“Blaine.” Sebastian had barely been able to speak his name.

“I hated that I’d liked you so much,” Blaine admitted, almost in a whisper.

Then he’d taken a deep breath - because that’s what Blaine did, when he got hurt. Whenever somebody hurt him. As soon as he could breathe, he took a breath, he let himself feel it. And then he thought, ‘okay, so now what?’

“But I never hated you, Sebastian,” Blaine said. “And I tried.”

The way he laughed, Sebastian couldn’t help but laugh a little brokenly with him.

“I don’t know, I guess-” Blaine had said, softly smiling - like maybe he hadn’t known the words were true until he spoke them, and he didn’t think that they were a bad thing, “Maybe I’ve missed this too.”

Blaine hadn’t wanted to stress Kurt out while he was auditioning for NYADA and preparing to move out of state with the shakeup their makeup would have been - so he’d promised that they could try to be friends again the next fall. Sebastian had promised not to make him regret it.

When Sebastian got to the enclosure, Blaine was standing facing away from the gate, shoulders hunched forward and sucking in short, wet bursts of air, which Sebastian realized with his heart breaking was what Blaine sounded like when he was trying desperately not to cry.

“Killer...”

Blaine let out this tiny, soft sob - maybe at the way Sebastian said the name. Sebastian had only just realized - did he always sound like that, when he spoke to Blaine alone?

How long had it said it that way?

Only the fact that Blaine needed him kept Sebastian from turning on his heel and finding Kitty. To give her the attention she’d deserved but that Sebastian had been too startled, and then too focused on Blaine, to give her.

“Is she wrong, though?” Blaine said so quietly, Sebastian could have pretended he hadn’t heard him correctly, over the birds.

But no. There’s no way that thought had come out of Sebastian’s head.

What? How the hell could you even say that?”

“About me, I mean. Not-”

“No, not about you,” Sebastian snapped. He wasn’t angry at Blaine. But if Blaine thought, for even one second, that Sebastian was going to allow anyone to call Blaine Anderson a slut - even Blaine himself - he wasn’t actually thinking.

“I’m a cheater, Sebastian!” Blaine said, like the words just burst out of him, thick and festered.

Sebastian cursed under his breath. Of course, Blaine hadn’t been able to get past that as smoothly as he’d been pretending he had. Sebastian really should have known.

“Please. If you hadn’t stepped out on Hummel, you’d have been cheating yourself,” Sebastian played his response light, because he honestly couldn’t think of what else to do. He just wanted to stop Blaine from shaking like he was. “As far as I’m concerned, you were practically a virgin when we started having sex. Hummel only counts as half.”

Bas...” The sound was part scorn, part plea, and Sebastian made himself stop and breathe, the way Blaine might have done, before dealing with something he wasn’t even sure he knew how to deal with.

“And that’s done now. You cut him loose. You don’t owe him anything else, Blaine.”

Less than nothing, if you asked Sebastian. It had taken Blaine a week just to get Kurt to take one of his calls. (He’d told Sebastian what Kurt had been busy with - something about apples. With Hummel, any question was a trip down the rabbit hole, so Sebastian hadn’t asked.) Ultimately, Blaine had had to get Kurt’s brother to help him impress upon Kurt how urgently they needed to speak.

Blaine didn’t say anything, and Sebastian couldn’t stand not seeing what was going on on his face any longer.

“Hey. Tell me what you’re thinking.” Sebastian set a hand on Blaine’s shoulder, and Blaine reached up and took it in his own, pressed kisses to Sebastian’s fingertips.

“Blaine, what?” Sebastian repeated.

And Blaine told him why he’d never gone to the Sadie Hawkin’s Day dance with Kurt.

 

 

Blaine had been talking about Brandon since Kitty first started dropping hints that she’d like Blaine to go with her to the dance.

They’d met at Invitationals. Coming off stage, Brandon had given him a very unmistakeable once over that had made Blaine blush so brightly, it had fueled his courage to ask Brandon for his number later.

Blaine had always planned on asking Brandon to the Sadie Hawkin’s Day dance. It had seemed like the perfect time to come out - he’d been working up the nerve since the seventh grade, and Blaine had been - then as always - convinced that anything worth doing was worth doing with a grand gesture.

He’d planned to come out to Kitty first, his first and fiercest friend at Dalton. Blaine and Kitty had hit it off, in fact, even quicker than Blaine had fallen in with a couple of the sophomore Warblers, Wes and David. Blaine and Kitty’s fathers worked in the same industry, and they both loved to dance almost as much as they loved to sing.

Kitty especially loved to take Blaine shopping, one of Blaine’s own favorite pasttimes. She didn’t even feel uncomfortable sharing a dressing room with him, so long as they didn’t get caught by a saleswoman who might get the wrong idea. She wasn’t like so many of the other girls in their class, who seemed to have just discovered the fact that boys exist overnight. (Yeah. Blaine felt pretty stupid looking back. It had never occurred to him how unlikely it was that every outfit she’d tried on was too complicated to get in and out of without Blaine’s help.)

Blaine had thought she could help him decide what to wear, when he and Brandon went out to dinner before the dance.

She hadn’t taken it well, when she’d finally asked why on earth Blaine planned on taking some boy out to dinner before escorting her to the dance.

As it turned out, Kitty hadn’t been dropping hints. She’d assumed they were going together and that she hadn’t needed to ask.

Kitty had thrown a tantrum the likes of which Blaine had never seen.

She hadn’t told anyone why - thankfully. Blaine hadn’t wanted his coming out to forever be associated with the negativity of his and Kitty’s first big spat.

He’d been so goddamned naive.

Sebastian sat and listened. Sat and listened and silently seethed.

When Blaine got to the part where Robbie and his friends had started getting serious - when it had first occurred to Blaine that maybe they just weren’t going to stop - he began to make that noise again.

Sebastian wrapped Blaine as tightly in an embrace as as he could manage. Like maybe if he could stretch his arms long enough, he could block out even the past, keep it from touching Blaine again with so much evil and cruelty.

“Come on, Killer, just let it out,” he said again and again, until Blaine would accept it. “It’s okay to cry... Fuck, I’m crying. Who the hell are you trying to be strong for?”

When Blaine had finally sobbed out the rest of the horrifying tale, Sebastian went upstairs to their room and brought down a blanket. He spread it out on the floor of the enclosure, and he and Blaine lay there still wrapped up in one another, still dressed in their full Warbler attire, nothing but the birds and the branches, and the glass dome of the aviary separating them from the stars.

“At first, I just- I didn’t believe it. And then I thought maybe I was crazy. I felt so... so devastated,” Blaine eventually began to speak again. “ By my own father. So betrayed - so humiliated, maybe even more then than I still felt about the beating. And he acted like it just made perfect sense... Mom kept trying to explain it to me. Why it was so much better this way-”

“They’re fucked up, Blaine,” Sebastian didn’t bother sugarcoating. With Blaine in his arms, drawing strength from him, everything that Sebastian had heard just gathered there inside of him. Waiting for him to be free to process it all and react.

But he’d be reacting. Oh, shit, yeah, he’d be reacting.

“That was fucked up,” he said. “You weren’t the crazy one.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I know... Cooper was livid. I’d never seen him so angry. He screamed at Dad for days. He kept saying that if no one else filed charges, he’d do it himself, but Dad had already given the police who’d been to the hospital a statement. The Wildes had found a “witness” to give descriptions of Robbie and his buddies that sounded nothing like them, and Mom kept saying how the deal was done. If we backed out then, my father would lose so much money. He might even lose enough that the board would want to fire him.”

“So you went along with whatever they said.” Sebastian guessed. He shook his head in disgust - but obviously not at Blaine. Who the hell would do that to a kid - coerce their own kid like that, and while he was still recovering from so many injuries?

“I don’t know why Brandon did too,” Blaine said. “I never saw him again. My phone got crushed during the- I didn’t have his number anymore, and he never called mine.”

“But I really... I just wanted for everything to stop. The screaming... and the talking about it," Blaine explained. “And. I wanted everything to stop.

“Cooper never forgave our dad. He still hasn’t talked to him.”

Sebastian only had one thing to say about that. “Good.”

Blaine looked at him.

“You’ve gotta have at least one immediate family member worth meeting,” Sebastian told him. He was familiar with the concept, even if he’d never met anyone before Blaine who’d been worth the trouble. “Mine is my mom. Who, coincidently, lives in Paris. So meeting her is a win-win.”

Sebastian had been looking directly at Blaine’s face the moment he said it, toying with a loose curl that had eventually defied the gel Blaine meticulously applied every morning. So he saw the idea hit Blaine.

“You want me to meet your mom?” Blaine asked after a short pause. He sounded almost awed, and he looked it.

Sebastian hoped the moonlight coming through the dome overhead and the Aviary’s paltry lighting weren’t enough to reveal that he was the one blushing for once. Even if he couldn’t feel the heat on his face, he’d have known it from the way his heart rate had picked up.

For the first time, Sebastian admitted to Blaine what he’d known before this thing between them had even moved past advanced flirting and romantic tokens.

“I want everything,” he said. No innuendo in his tone to mask the truth.

Ironically, that put this look in Blaine’s eyes - this... focus - that usually came first whenever Blaine had apparently decided he was going to jump Sebastian’s body at the soonest opportunity.

And, oh, Sebastian was down. He didn’t know any better. But instead, Blaine started talking again, eyes on Sebastian’s face, flickering between Sebastian’s eyes and his lips. Like he was revealing something, and he had to stay focused or he’d chicken out - something he’d never shared out loud before. Like he wasn’t sure if he wanted to see in Sebastian’s eyes whatever might be said in return, but he coudln’t help but check.

“I- I was so messed up for a while,” Blaine said, with the softness of a secret, although they were lying so close that he could have shouted and no one else would have heard. “My father had this car... this classic ‘57 Chevy, with a Hemi engine and hood scoops.” Sebastian nodded, as if he had any idea what that meant.

“We restored it together, the summer before. It took us the whole summer to get it just right - all factory original parts. He brought in packages from all over the country, rented all this special equiptment. And it looked really good when we were done; like, show-worthy. We could have had it judged.”

Blaine talked about the car in the past tense, but then he said, “I- I guess he still has it. He had it put in storage, after- I just... I didn’t know if he’d ever meant it, you know? That the car, it would be this big ‘father-son bonding experience.’ I’d liked working on it. It was fun, and I learned a lot of things... But what I really wanted was just to do something with him. To spend some kind of time that wasn’t just angry or polite. And maybe all it had ever been to him was something manly he could get me interested in. Like, if he’d been doing things like that with me all along, I wouldn’t have turned out gay.”

Sebastian didn’t pick up on the tension that was building in Blaine’s face, in his shoulders. Straining the tone of his words.

“I almost drove it into the lake by our house,” Blaine said, “A week after they let me out of the hospital.”

Sebastian could picture it - Blaine standing on the lakeside and watching his father’s veiled (and sort of sad) attempt at gay conversion sink into oblivion. Probably with that stubborn tilt to his chin Blaine got when he was outwardly defying something. Sebastian pictured the look that would have been on Anderson senior’s face and laughed.

Blaine startled, but he laughed too. Smiled in relief - that what? Sebastian didn’t judge him for wanting to inflict some spectacularly well-deserved property damage on someone who’d turned their back on him?

As if.

“Oh, wow. That would have showed him. You didn’t go through with it?”

“No.” And Blaine laughed again, remembering - he said - his brother’s reaction.

It was almost a sad laugh, but then Sebastian had already heard about Blaine’s relationship with his brother. How they’d spent years almost never seeing one another - barely talking about anything significant. For no good reason, just time and space, and maybe the age gap, making it easier for Cooper to forget he had a little brother at home while he was all caught up in trying to break out in Hollywood.

They’d only recently become close, and now Sebastian knew why.

“Cooper stopped me. He completely freaked out... He said if I hated Dad that much, I should come and live with him in Los Angeles. I- I actually thought about it.”

“L.A., nice,” Sebastian agreed.

“But if I was going to go back to school, I had to go back to Dalton,” Blaine said, with a certainty that was good to hear after all of the doubt and the self-deprecation Sebastian had heard in Blaine’s voice that evening.

“Yeah, and look how that turned out,” Sebastian teased.

Blaine smiled up at him. There were still tears drying on his lashes, but there was also this open, peaceful look that Sebastian hadn’t realized had been missing until he’d finally seen it. And Blaine was looking like that at Sebastian.

“Yeah. Look at that,” Blaine said. And he surged up to kiss him.

It made Sebastian feel like he’d just won the world. Like he could take on anything - even Kitty’s incredibly tasteless (and literally criminal) power plays.

And seeing Blaine now so relaxed at his side, Sebastian considered how wise it had been, that the only out Cooper had extended to Blaine (as grateful as Sebastian was that he’d extended it) was to run away. It certainly didn’t seem to have helped Blaine to have run away every time the Sadie Hawkin’s Day dance had come back around for the last two years, even when he’d had Sam for moral support, and Kurt to stand by him (for whatever that was worth).

Sebastian manfully resisted letting their kissing go any further. After catching Blaine’s wandering hand - and when he couldn’t stand keeping his own hands away from the more dangerously tempting parts of Blaine’s anatomy - Sebastian pulled back.

“As good of an idea as that would undoubtedly be,” Sebastian drug up the sense of responsibility to say, “- and believe me, by good, I mean goddamn, Killer. You’re going to tell me more about “Hemi engines” and hood scoops” later.”

Blaine laughed.

“I just left my first and last Sadie Hawkin’s Day dance without so much as one slowdance with my excruciatingly hot date,” Sebastian said. “Are we just not going to do anything about that?”

Blaine looked hesitant, but not as wary as Sebastian had worried that he would. And then he said, “Of course not.”

He was the first to jump up, and he offered Sebastian a hand.

Sebastian groaned. Pretending (mostly) to be disappointed that Blaine had taken him seriously. Responsibility felt really fucking terrible.

“Okay,” Sebastian said, like it hadn’t been his idea in the first place. He adjusted himself. “Just give me a minute.”

Blaine laughed again, and he was still looking at Sebastian in that new, incredible way.

Sebastian would gladly suffer a regular case of blue balls, if it gave him the chance to get used to that.

Chapter Text

Once Sebastian starts thinking about Blaine - about what passed between them, in just those short, ridiculous, amazing months before everything went to shit - he can never make himself stop.

It’s a good thing and a bad thing, because a part of Sebastian never wants to stop, nevermind how well he knows that he should. Which is pretty much how it had been back then, actually.

Anyway, Sebastian hadn’t meant to share this part. He doesn’t need to, to explain what happened, like he promised. And everybody else already has some part of the things they know about Blaine that are just for them. What Sebastian had with Blaine, for those three months- That’s Sebastian’s. He hadn’t planned on sharing it with anyone.

But he starts talking, and then he can’t stop - the racier details playing out only in his head, but probably not all that subtly omitted.

Rooming with Blaine had been the best - and the worst - idea Sebastian had ever had.

Best, mostly - and eventually without question, but those first few weeks had hit him like an addict who’d gone cold turkey, then thought it would be a good idea to set up house inside of a crack den.

The sheer amount of purposeless, exclusive access Sebastian suddenly had to Blaine had, frankly, short-circuited Sebastian’s finer sense of self-preservation.

There was no other explanation for how easily Sebastian managed all of the minor inconveniences and larger adjustments that came with sharing Blaine’s space. Talking out when Blaine would accept his regular skype calls from Kurt, and where Sebastian would be when the couple followed their weekly routine of hate-watching Treme... Gamely sacrificing most of the shelf space in the small shower/sink/toilet combo each senior dorm room at Dalton has, so that Blaine had plenty of space for all of his hair care products and Sam’s monthly supply of chapstick. (Sam would go through it all in about two weeks if they let him, Blaine had explained, so the chapstick stock would always stay where Blaine could monitor it and supply Sam at a more sensible rate.)

No. Easily isn’t the word - ‘dumbly’ is the word that Sebastian should use.

Sebastian didn’t adapt so well to being Blaine’s roommate because it was in any way easy. He did most of what he did that seemed to work for Blaine because he just couldn’t do anything else.

He didn’t know how to talk about Kurt for an extended period of time without saying something ‘mean’ (Sebastian would have called it ‘less carefully honest’), so he just agreed to whatever schedule Blaine said would be best. He wasn’t paying attention the second day, when Blaine stepped out of the bathroom in his boxer shorts and a t-shirt, and apologized for taking up some of Sebastian’s shelf-space. Sebastian was just stunned by Blaine’s behead. No - seriously. Stunned by how swiftly and how powerfully the somewhat ridiculous sight had hit him, not only in the gut but in the chest. He’d been too stunned to flirt, too stunned to ask what Blaine could possibly need three whole shelves - already - for. He said, “No apologies necessary. Keep it. I don’t actually have that much stuff to put there,” before he could think twice.

Sebastian had planned to be on his best behavior for Blaine. To tone down how often he flirted with Blaine, and how hard. To save any compliments of Blaine’s ass until Blaine asked for them, and to at least resist calling Kurt Princess Gayface, Lady Hummel, or (and Sebastian had been particularly pleased with himself the one time he’d said this before; Blaine hadn’t) ‘what would happen if you stood a baby on a slightly taller baby’s head and dressed them both in a Puerto Rican pride float’.

Sebastian hadn’t expected his best behavior to really be all that good.

But then the results of these few, fortunate knee-jerk reactions had started to pay off.

Blaine seemed so relieved whenever Sebastian passed up an opportunity to point out what a terrible... everything in general his boyfriend was, so happy in Sebastian’s presence, that Sebastian started to add to his ‘No_Kurt’ list. ‘No commenting on the intelligence, romantic prowess, or sexual proclivities of Kurt.’ ‘No comparing any of Kurt’s features to that of a pre-pubescent member of any species.’ And the longer Sebastian’s list grew, the happier Blaine became. He started seeking Sebastian outside of the room for more than just an occasional coffee and some small talk. Their text messages doubled in frequency and content. Blaine started staying in, when he knew Sebastian was staying in, when they had time to themselves and he didn’t have plans elsewhere with Sam.

In just a couple of weeks, they were studying together there in their room more often than separately anywhere else. They were exchanging book recommendations and reading them in their beds - carrying on commentary on both books at once, each from his own side of the room.

And because Sebastian had seemed sympathetic to Blaine’s need for over eighteen health and beauty products, Blaine started going to Sebastian for advice on things he didn’t know a second thing about.

Did this aftershave make his pores look enlarged? Of course, Blaine would have to lean in close so Sebastian could see and tell him. Did this hair gel smell better than the one Blaine had worn the day before? If Sebastian said he didn’t remember what Blaine had smelled like the day before, Blaine was sure to come the next day and ask which one Sebastian thought smelled better now. (Sebastian stood there, with Blaine practically tucked under his chin - the heat of Blaine’s body delicious in their always-slightly-chill room - while Blaine waited for Sebastian to put their heads close enough together to smell him, and Sebastian never remembered.)

The problem with all of this was this: it gave them ideas.

Them. Not just Sebastian, but Blaine too - Blaine had obviously gotten it into his head that, if Sebastian wasn’t challenging Kurt’s claim to Blaine at every turn, he had somehow transcended the desire to make a claim of his own.

Flirting didn’t bother him anymore.

He started flirting back. First as if he couldn’t believe he was doing it - wasn’t quite sure if he should. And then, when Sebastian’s own flirting didn’t intensify any further than it already had (with a lack of disapproval from Blaine to discourage him) like he wasn’t sure if he was doing it right.

(Sebastian thought a lot about his step-mothers near the end of August and the beginning of September. Blaine was most definitely doing it right.)

And finally - to Sebastian’s delight and despair - Blaine started to flirt with confidence.

Their morning routine had been established by this time, and Blaine started getting ideas about that. Asking if he could finish off Sebastian’s coffee if Sebastian wasn’t going to finish it.

“If you think you can handle it, Killer. As you know, I prefer to take my coffee... strong.”

Blaine nearly snorted the coffee out of his nose when he tasted how much courvoisier Sebastian put in there, which was adorable. But then Sebastian thoughtlessly promised to slip less in next time, and Blaine took that as permission to get even more comfortable with ‘Bas’.

Sebastian woke one Saturday morning to the impact of a person dropping onto the foot of his bed.

“He didn’t do it,” Blaine said, like that made any kind of sense.

Sebastian blinked blearily, peeked over his shoulder and out from under his covers long enough to confirm that he wasn’t about to be murdered, and then burrowed back down beneath his pillow.

He remembered which book Blaine had stayed up last last night reading, and he groaned.

“If you weren’t so cute, I’d kill you.”

“My mind is blown,” Blaine persisted.

Obviously, Sebastian thought but didn’t say. At what hour, and at what level of sleeplessness, did Blaine think it was a good idea to crawl on top of Sebastian’s bed. He was behaving... not a eunuch.

Sebastian looked again. “You haven’t even finished it,” he pointed out, dumbly. Blaine hadn’t so much as had the decency to hide his curls.

Fuck. They were forty-two days into the school year, and Blaine Anderson was sitting at his feet, talking about being blown. Sebastian should have asked for some conditions when they came to terms last spring.

“Wanna read together?” Blaine asked, like they hadn’t done so a dozen times before.

He’d seen the little hint of mischief in Blaine’s eyes too late, and only after Blaine grabbed his extra pillow and settled against Sebastian’s footboard did he realize what Blaine meant.

So that’s how reading together, in the same bed, became another one of their things.

 

 

It wasn’t like every hint of ‘Klaine’ had vanished at this point. They were still keeping to the same schedule for Blaine’s skype and Treme sessions. But the less Blaine had to say each time he was asked, the less the others asked about Kurt, until eventually, the only time any of the Warblers said his name - as far as Sebastian could tell - was when they were discussing things that had happened before Kurt had graduated, or when they were asking Finn about all of their friends who had moved to New York.

And by mid-September, Sebastian couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Blaine take a phone call that wasn’t from his parents or his brother. The last time Blaine had gotten sappy looking over a text message, like he used to do whenever Kurt texted him.

When Sebastian thought about it, he wasn’t sure Blaine even got text messages from Kurt anymore. The one time Sebastian had asked who he was texting, and Blaine had said Kurt, he’d looking anything but happy about it.

It looked like Kurt had shelved Blaine, to come back to now and then, whenever it was convenient or necessary to him. And Blaine had only just seen the shelf.

Ideas. Sebastian kept having them.

If flirting was suddenly okay, as long as he didn’t flirt any harder, maybe Sebastian could flirt smarter.

No more leering. No more lines, just this side of sleazy, so Blaine could take them as a joke if he chose. A purposeful look in the eyes... a slow drop of his gaze. A curl of his lips as smooth as breathing.

Yeah. Blaine liked that.

So Sebastian built off of it. A different shape to the smile each time - sexy, thinking about the other morning, when Blaine hadn’t bothered to grab a shirt before coming out of the bathroom in his boxer shorts - tight, dark patterns of chest hair, drawing Sebastian’s eye down... Or playful, remembering what Sebastian had wanted to do in that moment. To fold his long legs underneath himself and kneel for Blaine (Sebastian never knelt on a floor for anyone.) To feel Blaine’s fingers tangle in his hair the way he dreamed of tangling his fingers in those wild, wild curls...

Sebastian got so used to watching Blaine’s reaction to his smiles, that he caught how Blaine’s bashful blush seemed darker the time Sebastian grinned at him over the book Blaine had recommended. He’d been teasing Blaine over the choice, and why he thought Blaine must like the book, and Blaine had given him such a proud, defiant little tilt of his chin, Sebastian had tipped his head back and laughed.

He hadn’t been flirting. He’d just forgotten himself for a minute.

And so... He discovered another shape of smile - the most effective he had given Blaine yet. A smile in the shape of being happy. Just... happy.

They were harder to let happen, and they felt terrifying on Sebastian’s end, but who was he to argue with results?

Then Sebastian started to apply what he’d learned to other things.

When he looked Blaine in the eyes, he didn’t always think about sex, or power, like if he just stared Blaine down long enough, thinking ‘I got this’, Blaine would eventually believe it. Sebastian started thinking about silly things - the kind of things that had made him laugh like he had the night Blaine had gotten flustered and stuttery over his smile.

It made a kind of unsettling difference. Because thinking about those things made Sebastian want to share the reasons they’d been so funny, and he’d thought he was doing a ridiculous amount of talking to Blaine already.

Eventually he was talking Blaine’s ear off. Boring him with stories about this step-mother, that ill-planned adventure, the summer his parents divorced and a thousand other things Sebastian suddenly realized he’d never talked about before, most of them not really funny. (Only Blaine never seemed bored.)

Blaine told Sebastian about his parents. About the brother he idolized as a child, had grown distant from after Cooper had moved out West, and had reconnected with his freshman year. Sebastian told Blaine about Paris - not the showy, surreal details he used to tell boys to try and impress them; the intimate things that made Paris Paris for him.

Blaine ate up the words about obscure little bookstores, quirky wait staff at some so-so cafe, this one spot along the Seine where Sebastian had once watched the sun rise, and now considers his favorite for no logical reason, since a sun rise from any other point along the river probably looks just about the same.

Sebastian told Blaine how looking at the city from a hilltop - with the building fronts and stair steps, and long, curving roads stretching almost endlessly out in front of him,before curving unseen around some towering building - had made him cry once. He’d been out drinking - drinking too much, obviously. He didn’t remember getting back to his mother’s flat from the club, but he remembered looking at the ordinary stretch of Parisian street from the top of a massive amount of stairs, and thinking that it almost looked like the city was curling upwards, Inception-like, to catch him if he fell.

He thought Blaine would laugh - regretted bringing it up almost as soon as he started talking, unsure then why he had - but Blaine went quiet instead.

Sebastian’s face burned. His face burned. And he didn’t blush easily. He was sure Blaine was embarrassed for him, but when he turned to Blaine, mouth already open on a joke-

Blaine was blinking something out of his eyes.

“It sounds beautiful,” Blaine said, voice sounding oddly deep.

Sebastian couldn’t describe the shape of Blaine’s smile.

 

 

Near the end of September, something... gave. Sebastian should have known something would. He’d opened up a floodgate.

The day after Sebastian gave Blaine that first set of lyrics written hastily on a slip of paper, he stopped back by the room before Finn’s class. “Professor Hudson” was giving a quiz that day - Sebastian hadn’t forgotten. Finn’s quizzes had become something of a scandal, at least if you asked most of the senior Warblers that year.

Maybe because Finn had only graduated from Dalton two years before, and most of the seniors could remember when he’d been a student there. Or maybe because they all knew he hadn’t gotten his degree yet - he was teaching by day, taking his classes at the Lima Community College at night. Maybe because Finn Hudson looked like what the words ‘aw, shucks’ and ‘no homo’ would look like if they intermixed and became a person. Whatever - at the beginning of the year, the Warblers had somehow assumed that Finn would be a pushover. His class? More like a sorely needed study hour where they could catch up on work for their core classes, or set plan or catch a nap before Coach Sue got them.

Sebastian was sure Finn had anticipated the problem, and he was overcompensating by making some of the more delicate among them want to simultaneously cry and apologize for upsetting him by doing it.

Hudson was just so nice about harassing them with phonetics, and the tonal spectrum, and language pathology... Sebastian would have thought an attitude like his would defeat the purpose of subjugating your students through forty-five minute lectures on tonal languages. Finn acted positively guilty.

(Sebastian was betting his “curriculum” was just whatever Finn was supposed to do himself each week for his college professors, but he was keeping the speculation to himself. In case he needed a respectable ‘B’ to trade his silence for at the end of the semester.)

No, Sebastian hadn’t forgotten about the quiz, but his notes were a different story.

Strictly speaking, Sebastian wasn’t the tidiest Dalton Warbler who’d ever walked its halls. You might not guess it from looking at him - he wasn’t sloppy - but everything back exactly in its place, every time, was not Sebastian’s strong suit.

Sebastian stopped by the room to look for his notes on bel canto and chest register - in the stack of textbooks and manuals sitting beside his bed like a second nightstand, and beneath the small pile of ‘probably clean enough to wear again before going through the trouble of having them laundered’ clothing gathered on top of the armchair beside his desk, and the-

And then he saw the neatly clipped square of paper sitting in the center of his relatively organized desk (relative by Sebastian’s standards).

Ink sprawled across the square in Blaine’s handwriting:

I look into your eyes,
and the sky’s the limit- I'm helpless!
Down for the count, and I'm drowning in them...‘

That’s not what Sebstian had expected when he‘d dropped his own lyrics on Blaine the day before.

If he’d expected anything, Sebastian might have thought that Blaine would write something silly in return. Or he’d choose to misunderstand the gesture - which Sebastian thought was much more likely - and accept it as Sebastian’s contribution to their set planning. Maybe he’d finally shoot Sebastian down, if Sebastian wrote more.
Sebastian sat in his desk chair and stared.

Was there another explanation? Maybe Blaine had written it to Kurt and- And given it to Sebastian for what reason? It didn’t make sense as a song suggestion for their setlist, either - why give that to Sebastian at all?

Maybe Blaine was being silly, just making a joke.

If he was, Sebastian didn’t think it was very funny.

So Sebastian didn’t go to Finn’s class after all - by the time he snapped out of it and actually located his notes, there was no point. He’d rush into class late, only to sit in his usual spot behind Blaine and fail a test he’d be too busy staring at the back of Blaine’s head, trying to see inside of it, to focus on.

Instead, Sebastian headed over to the nurse’s office to sweet-talk his way to a couple of aspirin and a note to take to Professor Hudson tomorrow. Then he walked around campus until he felt less freaked out by the fact that sweet-talk hadn’t actually been necessary. He’d said he had a headache that had been getting worse all morning, and Nurse Pillsbury had taken one look at him and said, “Oh, you don’t look so good, either. I’ll give you some aspirin, but you really need to get some rest.

She’d given him a pamphlet on managing stress with his medicine, and another on identifying migraines and how to treat them.

When he got back to the room, Blaine was waiting for him.

“There you are... I can’t believe you actually skipped Finn’s quiz. You know he’s only gonna, like, toss in a dozen more questions about clavicular breathing or something just because, right?” Blaine was saying, without even looking up from his book.

But Sebastian couldn’t pretend to be so casual - him. The practical prince of putting a smirk on a blank face. What had Blaine called him, that one time? ‘The coolest guy in the room’. Well, Sebastian didn’t feel cool. He felt hot inside his own skin. His heart was beating too fast, and he probably looked jittery too.

He picked up the square note and spun his chair towards Blaine, holding the little paper out between two fingers, like it might hold him back if he held it too tightly.

“Blaine, what’s this?” he asked. No smirks this time. No smile, in any shape.

And this wasn’t like him. He didn’t get nervous when someone upped a game he’d been playing - he didn’t get serious. He got seriously busy one-upping that game right back at them. Sebastian relished the challenge.

But that was the thing. He’d been trying to change himself. Or ‘be himself’ - whatever Blaine wanted.

Why was Blaine changing, if all he wanted was to be Sebastian’s friend and to not mess things up with Kurt?

“I...” Blaine slowly put down his book. And that wasn’t a laugh - Sebastian had half steeled himself for Blaine’s laughter, although he bet Blaine had never laughed in someone’s face in his entire laugh. Blaine wasn’t denying that Sebastian held something in his hand - something that didn’t mean nothing.

“What do you want it to be?” Blaine asked quietly, and Sebastian’s heart skipped. Then, with more strength - that slight tilt of his chin, Blaine asked,“What did you give me?”

It’s not like he could back down then. Sebastian answered, maybe with a bit of his stess straining the tone of his words. He would replay, and replay, the conversation in his head later, worried that he’d scared Blaine away. But it was one think to get the idea into his head that he had a shot with Blaine after all - believing it was another.

Still, he called it honestly. “What have I ever given you, Blaine?” Sebastian said. “An opportunity.”

Blaine wasn’t moving any faster or any slower than he ever did, but Sebastian swears it felt like he sat there and watched Blaine slip off of his bed and walk across the room for an age.

“What- what if I want to take that opportunity?” Blaine asked, when he was standing close enough to Sebastian to touch.

Blaine was breathing so carefully - like he’d sound breathless if he wasn’t trying so hard to keep his voice even. Or was Sebastian projecting all of that? He wasn’t projecting Blaine’s reaction when Sebastian licked his lips. Blaine’s gaze zeroed in like a missile, and he bit his lip, looked back up at Sebastian from under his lashes, eyes as dark as Sebastian had ever seen them.

“What about Kurt?”

That fucking bargain - Sebastian might have known that it would bring him down one day, but he never would have guessed it would be like this.

Blaine Anderson was, apparently, throwing himself at Sebastian - and Sebastian was the one asking about the so-called boyfriend. And Blaine Anderson was the one saying, “You- uh. You used to say ‘it doesn’t bother me if-”

“If it doesn’t bother you,” Sebastian repeated, the memory surprisingly bitter now that Sebastian had actually put time and thought into considering what would bother Blaine. The only thing that kept Sebastian’s heart racing - and not dropping to his feet - was how exceptionally bad Blaine was at trying to pull off Sebastian’s old ‘casual heartbreaker’ routine. Like, if the boy fidgeted any harder, Sebastian would have to sit him down before he hurt himself. Blaine paused before he nodded, and however careful he’d been, his breath shook then.

It was almost so cute Sebastian smiled, but he reminded himself that his question was a good one - whatever the old him might have said.

“Is that what you want?”

Blaine’s chest rose and fell, and he kept up a brave face, but his eyes looked a little bright, a little wild. It could have been with passion. The tension in the air between them- Sebastian used to make up cheesy come-ons about things like that, but this time the tension was real.

And he wasn’t saying anything.

“I-” Blaine started and stopped.

Sebastian reached out to touch him, to brush the backs of his fingers against the backs of Blaine’s, which curled and uncurled at Blaine’s sides like the pump of a heart. It wasn’t a test, really - although it occurred to Sebastian the second their hands met that it was going to hurt if Blaine pulled back.

“I don’t- I just-,” Blaine stuttered.

But he didn’t jerk his hand way from Sebastian’s touch - he grabbed Sebastian’s fingers and curled them up in his own, tight.

Like that was all he’d needed to find his words, Blaine started talking, and he didn’t stop until Sebastian knew everything he’d missed since last spring and Kurt’s NYADA audition - or that he’d avoided, for the sake of his No__ Kurt rule.

He told himself he could have guessed half of it, but the truth was, even Sebastian wouldn’t have believed just how bad the neglect Blaine’s relationship had experienced had gotten before Blaine told him. It sounded less like Kurt had shelved Blaine, and more like he’d forgotten that Blaine existed, free and separate from Kurt himself and Kurt’s interests and Kurt’s plans.

“So you want to get back at him,” Sebastian guessed when Blaine paused long enough for him to speak, and Blaine stopped the frustrated pacing he’d slipped into.

No!” Blaine sighed. “I mean- Maybe? That’s probably a little of it. But that’s not-”

“Not why you want to fuck me behind your boyfriend’s back?” Sebastian attempted a casual, amused tone, but he’s sure it fell flat. “It’s okay, Blaine. It doesn’t bother me, if it doesn’t bother you, remember?”

Stop it,” Blaine hissed. “Sebastian, I- Shit. I know you aren’t like that anymore... I don’t know why I brought it up-”

“Maybe because suddenly you are?” Sebastian asked. “At least, you seem to be trying really damned hard to act like it."

Sebastian realized why he was suddenly so angry.

Honestly, even if he wasn’t as “like that” these days - Sebastian was still human. He was as hung up on Blaine as he’d ever been. He wasn’t saying no to anything Blaine was offering - Kurt or no Kurt. Sebastian could keep whatever they did next quiet - didn’t even think it would be difficult. They’d been flirting pretty openly for a while now, and no one had paid them much attention - completely certain in Blaine’s complete devotion to “Klaine” (and his complete immunity to Sebastian?).

The thought of Blaine, with his pretty pathological need to be good, always - in every way - defying everyone to be with Sebastian... was hot, to say the least.

It was intoxicating. Sebastian doesn’t care how cheesy that sounds - that was the word.

But the thought that Blaine was doing it because of Hummel - not in spite of him...

Sebastian, “like that”, might not have been bothered - might/i> - but that thought bothered the hell out of Sebastian now.

“I didn’t mean it like that!”

“Really... I wasn’t aware there were so many ways to interpret-”

“I need time... to figure out this thing with Kurt. That’s all I was saying,” Blaine insisted.

“And in the meantime, you thought - what?” Sebastian asked, standing. “My good buddy Sebastian is always dtf... not to mention, he’s been bending over backwards since August, fucking, first to keep me ha-”

Blaine didn’t even let him finish the sentence. Louder than Blaine had ever spoken to him before, he practially shouted at Sebastian: “I’ve wanted you since the beginning!”

He was so fired up, he didn’t seem to notice that he’d shocked Sebastian absolutely silent. He kept talking like he was afraid Sebastian would stop him at any minute - or walk away.

“I just ignored it,” he was saying. “Because I was with Kurt... and because I knew it wouldn’t have meant anything to you. But, god, I wanted you the second I saw you.”

Silent? Maybe Sebastian had been shocked deaf as well as dumb. He couldn’t have heard that correctly...

“Blaine-”

“I told myself it didn’t mean anything to me, either... I had Kurt. I loved Kurt. It was just some... stupid, helpless attraction.

“But it wasn’t,” Blaine said, with the seriousness of a confession. He still had that wild, bright look in his eyes - but there was a stubbornness to it now, too. Blaine sounded as certain about this as everyone else seemed certain that he would never say something like this to Sebastian. “I kept telling myself I was just... I don’t know, distracting myself, when things with Kurt started to go wrong... That we were just friends, and it still didn’t mean anything, but the more I got to know you, Bas- The past two months have just- I keep waiting for it to hurt. When he doesn’t call... When he barely pays me any attention when I call him. I keep waiting to feel bad that it doesn’t hurt as much as it should, but I don’t.”

Blaine was looking at him like he was waiting, too, for Sebastian to say something about that. But he didn’t dare to interrupt this.

“I don’t,” Blaine said when Sebastian didn’t immediately speak. “And that has to- I mean. That does mean something, doesn’t it? Sebastian, it has to. I’m just not sure it means- That means what I think it does.”

Sebastian wasn’t saying no. His heart was beating so wildly, he could practically hear the ‘yes’ whispered back at Blaine a thousand times in his blood. He’d worry later about scaring Blaine away by listening to all that... and, just like Blaine had seemed to fear, turning and walking away.

But it was all just too surreal. Sebastian needed to think. To breathe.

“Let me know when you are,” he said simply. He didn’t trust himself with anything more.

But while Blaine watched, Sebastian took the square of paper that Blaine had left for him... and placed it back on his own desk.

Then he left.

Chapter Text

Sebastian doesn’t share what happened immediately after that with Jesse. The too-quiet night they spent, when Sebastian returned, each in their own bed in the dark, breathing too carefully to be asleep.

When Sebastian woke, Blaine was gone, and for the first time since it began, Sebastian broke their morning routine.

He thinks he was the one who broke it. For all he knew at the time, Blaine had skipped breakfast too. When Sebastian got to his first class of the day, Blaine was there, and no one seemed concerned - or even aware - about the interruption to “Seblaine’s” daily schedule.

Blaine didn’t even look up when Sebastian paused by his usual seat, at Blaine’s side... so Sebastian kept walking. He took a seat further back, next to Jeff, and Blaine didn’t look up for that either.

Sebastian was sure - with a sinking sort of numbness (like a bath bomb dropped into a dirty pool - pervasive, at first, but fizzling away quickly) - that that was it.

So much for their bargain. So much for that second chance.

Blaine had apparently decided what his shameless attraction to Sebastian meant - and somehow, in Blaine’s head, it meant that they were better off ignoring one another in class and in the halls once again.

But in the hallway, Blaine smiled at Sebastian. He turned as pink as he'd ever been - like a smile was going to give away anything that he hadn’t announced in words the night before. Throughout the rest of their morning classes, in fact, Blaine acted like the night before hadn’t happened at all

By the time the lunch hour arrived, the numbness of earlier had almost completely faded, and Sebastian felt dangerously close to sinking into bitterness instead.

Having Blaine decide to seriously pretend that their fight - if that’s what it had been - was just in their heads seemed even more impossible, even more cruel than what Sebastian had assumed Blaine had decided before. Being propositioned by the boy he’d lusted after for over a year... that he’d finally let himself admit he felt more for than just lust... was one genie Sebstian knew he, at least, couldn’t possibly shove back into its bottle.

When Blaine stopped him on their way out of their last class before lunch, Sebastian almost brushed him off to walk right by.

“Sebastian, can we go outside and talk?” Blaine asked.

“What, are we admitting we have something to talk about now?” Sebastian asked back at him.

Only Blaine didn’t react the way Sebastian had expected him to.

The pink had returned to his face, and Blaine looked down at his feet - not with shame or disappointment in Sebastian for not playing his game. Blaine looked... excited. And nervous.

And just like that, Sebastian’s adrenaline level was spiking once more.

Loving Blaine Anderson was a rollercoaster ride. If there’s anything Sebastian can say for sure about their story - it’s that.

“I didn’t mean for it to seem like we don’t,” Blaine said. “I just... I had a lot to think about. And. And I guess I had to work up my nerve.”

“You don’t have to work up the nerve to tell me whatever, Blaine,” Sebastian said - and added, despite what he’d been thinking literally moments before, “I can take it, you know.”

Blaine sighed. Partly in relief, perhaps; but mostly, it seemed, in resolve.

“I don’t want to tell you...” Blaine met Sebastian’s eyes at last. “I want to sing it to you.

“Can we go some-”

“Anywhere you want, Killer.”

Blaine sighed again - this time obviously relieved. His breath sounded as shaky as Sebastian’s pulse felt.

“Good... Okay, good.”

That’s how they ended up in the topiary garden in the right back corner of the campus.

 

 

Dalton’s topiary garden wasn’t a popular spot in the fall. Soon, the leaves on the carefully trimmed shrubs and precisely molded trees that dotted the maze-like garden - giving it its name - would turn the colors of autumn. The faces of life-size topiary scholars, giant topiary birds and butterflies and musical instruments would be mottled by spots of brown and yellow and orange. The Dalton gardeners never tended the topiary sculptures as meticulously in the summer, fall and winter as they did in the spring, so some of the installations would be half sunken into the vines and flowering plants around them, or grown out so that their shapes had become indistinct and - in the case of the sculptures of people - unsettling.

The one time the garden got any traffic, in fact, before spring, was at Halloween when the art and theater students would host their annual Witching Hour celebration. Just inside the tall hedges that acted as the garden’s outermost border, Sebastian realized that that was why Blaine had asked Sebastian to follow him there. Sebastian stopped at the row of benches just inside the garden, but Blaine took him by the arm.

“Hey, let’s go a little farther in, okay?” Blaine said quickly, and Sebastian watched him swallow.

When Sebastian hesitated, Blaine’s hand slid slowly down until it could wrap around Sebastian’s own.

“After you, Killer,” Sebastian knows he said, but all he could really hear was his own heartbeat as Blaine smiled.

He had the rest of the trip to the center of the topiary, where the oldest of the sculptures in the garden were located, to quietly freak out over what that smile meant. Blaine was nervous still. And getting worse. But the excitement was growing too.

When they reached the middle of the garden - and a massive, intricate cutting of three trees into the shape of a dancing couple - Blaine let Sebastian’s hand drop.

“Okay. Just- Sit here?” Blaine asked, leading Sebastian to the stone bench beneath the arch of the female dancer’s flowing skirt. Sebastian played along and sat where Blaine sat him, but the casual expression he’d carefully pulled over his face started to sag when Blaine didn’t step away.

He stayed standing close enough to Sebastian to touch - to barely move and be in Sebastian’s lap - and pulled out his phone to find, Sebastian assumed, the background music for whichever song he planned to sing. Under the September sun, his nearness felt hot... and the scent of his cologne collected. Sebastian watched almost in a daze, completely unable to read the look pulled over Blaine’s face as Blaine pushed play on the song he’d been looking for. Blaine leaned over to set the phone on the bench beside him, and it’s probably a miracle Sebastian didn’t interrupt everything to grab Blaine right then and kiss him.

Then Sebastian recognized the song that Blaine had chosen.

He doesn’t know if he’d been about to laugh or to curse - some sound stuck in Sebastian’s throat, nearly strangling the shaky breath Sebastian sucked in as the message in the song suddenly occurred to him.

Blaine began to sing.

Tryna play it coy... tryna make it disappear, but just like the battle of Troy, there’s nothing subtle here...

Holy shit. “Blaine...”

Ooooh, you’re taking up a fraction of my mind...” Blaine just continued to sing, in the perfect tone of an unrequited lover, struggling not to throw himself at the person he wants. “Ooooh, every time I watch you, serpentine... I’m tryin, I’m tryin not to think about you.... No, no, not to give into you...”

What the fuck was Sebastian supposed to do with that?

Blaine’s body moved as smoothly with the music as the lyrics sailed off of his tongue.

What else could Sebastian do?

Your touch like a happy pill... still all we do is fear,” Blaine sang, and Sebastian took it like the confession he felt in his chest. Like the invitation he hoped it was.

Like a final straw.

Sebastian reached out and touched him. He wrapped his hands around Blaine’s gently swaying hips.

Blaine’s eyes went half-lidded. His voice wavered, and Sebastian slipped in while Blaine breathed, like he was trying to breathe out all of the tension that had carried them here. All of the angst that had to have been crawling around inside of him for a while now for him to have decided to really do this.

...I'm tryin, I'm tryin, I'm tryin not to think about you...” Sebastian sang - and when Blaine recovered his voice, he joined back in and they sang together. They’d never done that before.

And - god - it was a revealation all of its own. Sebastian had never felt so in sync with anyone or anything in his life - and at the same time he was free-falling. From entirely too high. He’d felt less electrified fucking other people than he felt with just his hands sliding, so slow, up Blaine’s sides - Blaine’s hands setting down on his shoulders, like he was afraid Sebastian would vanish if he touched him too hard.

...not to give in to you...” Blaine sang as Sebastian echoed, “...not to give it to you...” and Blaine’s voice hitched in this little hiccup of a gasp, a shudder slinking through him - sharp enough that Sebastian could feel it with his hands under the hem of Blaine’s shirt, on Blaine’s skin. It was the single sexiest moment Sebastian had ever experienced.

For a moment. Then he tugged, and Blaine stepped the last step forward needed until he was standing between Sebastian’s legs. His hands moved - over Sebastian’s shoulders, one sliding into his hair. Sebastian slid his hands up Blaine’s back.

Blaine’s legs pressed tight against the insides of Sebastian’s thighs as he shifted his feet. His shirt had hiked up with the motion of Sebastian’s arms, and Sebastian watched the shift of muscle under tanned skin and soft patterns of dark hair until he couldn’t just watch anymore.

His voice left Blaine’s, which had already been fading, really - weakened by sighs and thick with passion. Blaine was practically whispering by the time he got to, “...my feelings on fire, guess I’m a bad liar.”

Sebastian kissed Blaine directly over his navel and watched Blaine’s abs contract. Then he shifted slightly to the right and did it again.

Sebastian...”

Blaine tugged him back with a fist in his hair - a move so fucking hot, Sebastian felt himself groan, the sound rumbling out of him like ground breaking - and then Blaine’s mouth was on his, Blaine’s tongue feeding him quick, teasing licks and little moans.

“Fuck, Blaine, come here,” Sebastian gasped, as Blaine moved that tongue next to the stretch of Sebastian’s neck.

That’s how Sebastian got a lapful of Blaine Anderson.

And Sebastian would like to say that their first time wasn’t right there in the garden, under the sky, where technically anyone could have found them.

Sure - it was romantic. But messy. Irresponsible. They needed to talk. As soon as he had Blaine’s mouth open on his and Blaine trembling under his touch, Sebastian knew for sure that his ‘It doesn‘t bother me’ days were completely done. He’d known he’d wanted way more from Blaine than just fun, just once. But now he was certain - he couldn’t settle for less than everything Blaine had been wasting on Hummel. Not without killing this new, less-bastardly self Sebastian had worked hard since the summer to become.

“Blaine? Blaine, are you sure? Are you-”

“God, yes. Please. Sebastian, I’ve never been more sure about anything...”

Sebastian just couldn’t pull himself back from that. He wasn’t that good. The best he could do was realize that if they kept doing what they’d been doing - his hands on Blaine’s ass, pulling Blaine down as he ground up from the bench, the both of them panting and grunting... They’d eventually come in their pants, like complete morons. And they were already soaked with sweat.

“Move,” Sebastian said, lips still touching Blaine’s cheek.

Blaine clutched him tighter.

But Sebastian kissed him. “Not stopping,” he said, something certainly like laughter bubbling up now. Manic, and self-aware, but happy. “Not to stop. Just-”

They stumbled up and around the dancing couple, to a shadier and more hidden spot behind it, kissing and touching as they moved. They lay in the grass and tugged and pulled their clothing as far out of the way as they could before wrapping their hands around one another, stroking one another toward quick - but powerful - climaxes.

Coming, Blaine made a sound like the one Sebastian had heard a few times before in the dark, but amplified, and the implications of that were so hot, Sebastian whimpered as his own orgasm shuddered to a stop.

Cleaning up well enough to get back to the Aviary without getting expelled was an experience.

But Blaine looked-

He looked like he’d been fucked well - not just given a messy handjob in a topiary garden. But more important, he looked happy too. Sincerely happy, not just the happy that come drunk guys always look.

He kept looking at Sebastian and grinning, or giggling, as they dressed.

So, yeah, Sebastian had shamelessly jumped Blaine as soon as Blaine offered. But at least Blaine hadn’t regretted it immediately. In fact, Blaine had never regretted that - at least that much Sebastian knows.

Blaine said so in his letter.

 

 

Smythe goes into more detail about his relationship with Blaine - the parts of it he’d talked around and over so carefully before - than Jesse expected or, frankly, is comfortable with.

He’s obviously leaving out a lot that Jesse should be happy to be spared - but honestly, Jesse thinks he could probably stomach hearing the boastful play-by-plays of their sex life, no matter how crass, better than he does listening to Sebastian describe the shape of Blaine’s smile after all this time.

As he’s talking, Sebastian gets up and starts out of the enclosure without announcing his intentions - pausing only for a moment at the enclosure gate for Jesse to join him. Then he starts up the stairs to the dorm rooms, and Jesse follows just as quietly.

The story-telling stops when they’re outside the door to the room Sebastian had shared with Blaine. He doesn’t ask again whether or not Jesse has the key to it - he just stands there and stares at it like a part of him is waiting for it to open for somebody on the other side.

Jesse doesn’t make him ask. He’s had the key in his palm since they were halfway up the stairs, and he opens up the lock for Sebastian without comment.

Sebastian steps through with his eyes already aimed at the floorboard he came up here for - his gaze never even ghosting over the bare walls and vacant furniture framing the space.

“You didn’t take anything else out of here, did you,” he says, but Jesse isn’t sure he’s asking - just talking, maybe, just to keep those bare walls from coming any closer, becoming any more noticeable.

“Only the shirt,” Jesse confirms anyway.

Sebastian nods, but he’s already kneeling near the stripped bed to the right. He pries up the floorboard a part of Jesse expects to reveal another bloody garment when it comes loose, except Jesse doesn’t see anything but a dark space at first.

Sebastian leans down and stretches his arm into the cavity, far enough that he’s almost lying flat on the floor before he stops moving, searching.

When he comes back up, he has what looks like a small block of banded paper in his hand.

For an instant, Jesse regrets ever coming here.

He turns his back, to give Smythe privacy, arguably - but really so he doesn’t see whatever’s on Smythe’s face when the band comes off and he starts reading those damned love notes. Then he wonders if turning his back on the guy is such a wise idea.

But Sebastian doesn’t rage again like he had in the enclosure. For a moment, he’s so quiet that even with the open door in his line of sight, Jesse’s half tempted to turn back and make sure Sebastian hasn’t left the room. There’s just the sound of softly rustling paper.

And then Jesse can hear Smythe breathe. Short, almost panting huffs of air. This is what Sebastian sounds like when he’s trying desperately not to cry, Jesse realizes, and wishes he’d never had the thought.

Fuck...” Sebastian says, almost whispers, the perfect antithesis to how he’d screamed the word downstairs.

Jesse turns at last to see Smythe sitting with his back to the bare bed, his legs bent before him and his arms dangling over his knees. He has one of the small cards in his hand; the others lie beside him in a haphazard little pile.

It takes Jesse a moment to catch that, when Sebastian starts talking again, he’s reading the card - not speaking to someone else directly, if even just the memory of them.

However our story ends, ” Sebastian says, “ I know you’ll have changed mine.

Jesse recognizes the lyrics, even if they’re abbreviated and Vocal Adrenaline, his choir troupe back at Carmel, weren’t as fond of showtunes as the Dalton Warblers.

“This is why you wanted to do this here,” Jesse says, without any accusation. “So you could come back and get those.” It’s a wonder they hadn’t been found in the search five years ago.

“Well, they’re mine, aren’t they?” Sebastian asks without missing a beat. But all the old snark’s gone completely out of him. He talks the way he had looked when Jesse first saw him staring out that window... tired. Absent, almost. Not that Jesse wants to think about where his mind must be.

Damn. Or maybe he does.

He missed this back then. Not just the cards, but the relationship that produced it. Jesse had suspected, but he’d let witness testimonies cast doubt on his instincts. What else had he missed?

The hidden shirt. The disappearing alibi. What happened at the dance - both before and after Sebastian and Blaine took that trip to the aviary... Jesse believed it all added up to an accident that Sebastian had taken more than his fair share of responsibility for. Maybe knowingly, out of stress and guilt for the random hook-up with his roommate that had caused so much destruction... Or maybe because he really had been too drunk to remember, and he’d jumped to the same, hasty conclusions afterwards as everybody else.

But what if they hadn’t been so hasty?

“Why else did you agree to talk to me?” Jesse asks, feeling unease creep across him.

Ironically, whatever look that caused to follow across Jesse’s face seems to revive Sebastian somewhat. One corner of his lips twitch into a seemingly amused smirk.

“Relax, Detective. I’m not here to tell you you had the right man all along,” Sebastian says. “I want the file. I want to be done already. Nothing I can say would send me back to prison.”

“I’m not a detective anymore,” Jesse snaps for the final time. Because for a moment he’s actually regretting the fact. “You said it yourself. I wouldn’t be here if-”

“If you could make all of this a matter of public record?” Sebastian snaps back just as fast, before seeming to slump again into himself. He rubs his palms over his face, like he can wipe away all of the things Jesse sees there now, and speaks from behind his hands. “It’s our story. And it can’t change anything now.”

When his eyes meet Jesse’s at last, they’re as stubborn as Jesse’s ever seen them, tired or not.

Even as he gives Jesse what Jesse’s been waiting for this entire time.

“I didn’t kill her,” Sebastian says simply. Like he should have kept doing five years ago. Like he hasn’t since the night he “confessed” - even after the letter surfaced and freed him from prison.

Then who did?” Jesse pushes. Maybe he should have kept doing that back then too. However badly Smythe reacted to it.

“She did. Mostly,” is the cryptic answer he gets for his trouble. But then Sebastian rubs his eyes one more time and gets that absent look again. “But she had help.”

 

 

Maybe if they hadn’t gone back to that stupid dance everything would have been different.

Sebastian never lets himself think like that anymore, though. It was driving him crazy when he did.

They returned to the ballroom, and it was like nothing had gone wrong in the first place. Kitty was no where to be seen. (Her date was - dancing with someone who hadn’t made a huge, homophobic/transphobic spectacle of herself that night - an observation that made Sebastian happy in a shamelessly petty way.)

They’d passed the posters in the main hall - stacked in piles of ripped pieces, lying facedown, the frames that had held some of them leaning against the walls.

Ryder and Unique had left, but the others said they’d been better when they had - that Ryder had promised, loudly, to remind Unique how well he knew the gender of his own girlfriend, to Unique’s rolling eyes and charmed giggles.

They hung out and talked to their friends a little. Kitty’s spectacularly gross stunt - and the epic way Blaine had told her off - would be the talk of the school... tomorrow For the rest of that night, though (what was left of it, anyway) everyone just wanted to pretend like everything was normal. To go back to enjoying the dance - and, later, the afterparties - that most of them had been looking forward to for months; maybe even since the last Sade Hawkin’s Day celebration had ended.

Couples drifted apart to dance, and Sebastian got to have that slow dance with Blaine that he’d only half-jokingly admitted that he wanted back in the enclosure.

He got to have several, in fact. With every song, he and Blaine seemed to sink deeper into one another. Their bodies pressed closer. Their gazes caught and held for longer and longer. They’d agreed to keep things quiet until the fall break - after Blaine had gotten a chance to talk to Kurt’s father, who he was still close with, in person. But if anyone had been paying them any attention on that dancefloor, Sebastian’s sure it would have been obvious that they’d been sleeping together as much as they’d been sleeping together for more than a month.

The only reason he and Blaine weren’t all over one another when their unwelcome guest arrived was that Sebastian had pulled back - about to ask if Blaine wanted anything from the drink table. This long after the chaperones had left, no one was even hiding how spiked everything over there was. Bottles of flavored vodka and cheap champagne sat on the table next to the crystal punchbowls that came out for every Dalton occasion.

Before he could speak, Sebastian saw who had walked up behind Blaine through the nearly dark ballroom with a strained smile on his pale face and something sharp in his carefully casual expression.

Sebastian was literally too shocked to speak. He can admit it. Hummel got him that time.

“Well, I had hoped my coming after all would be a surprise...” Kurt said, when Blaine turned in the direction that Sebastian was suddenly staring, and literally dropped his jaw. Sebastian could hear him draw in a breath even over the music playing this close to the stage. “Glad to see Finn kept a secret this once. May I cut in?”

There were so many ways Sebastian considered responding to that...

He remembers a mean sort of satisfaction building up behind his smile as he decided- Would he rub it in Hummel’s face that he had to ask? That he’d blown his shot, and now Blaine was with Sebastian after everything. Would he tell him to wait? Ask Blaine to finish the song with him and let Hummel get a nice eyeful of his ex dancing in Sebastian’s arms like he was destined to be there.

It’s funny that he doesn’t remember the rage that popped up in him and spread under his skin - Sebastian had bloody halfmoons in his palms when he looked later. His face and shoulders felt strained by tension. But in the moment, Sebastian doesn’t remember having been furious - having thought, how dare he? Or, to be exact, ‘Who the fuck does he think he is?’ Fucking up the two years Blaine had lowered himself to give, then showing back up here unannounced, to try and win Blaine back.

To try and take Blaine back from Sebastian.

It isn’t really important, Sebastian figures. He felt plenty angry after Blaine spoke.

“Uh- Of course. Bas...”

It hadn’t even occurred to Sebastian that Blaine would just say yes to Kurt.

After it had taken him so much effort to say no. So much effort to say yes to Sebastian.

“Bas?” Sebastian heard Kurt say, quietly, almost to himself, his face screwing up in obvious confusion.

And Sebastian can be slow, when it comes to Blaine... But he wasn’t stupid. And neither was Kurt.

Then it did occur to Sebastian what made a whole lot more sense than Kurt abandoning Blaine, for all intents and purposes, Blaine breaking up with him, and then Kurt flying halfway across the country to see Blaine anyway, and Blaine saying ‘of course’ like there really was no reason for Kurt not to expect a dance with his ex-boyfriend...

If Blaine wasn’t his ex-boyfriend-

“Right. Of course,” Sebastian said, although he could barely feels the words leaving his lips. They sounded about right, and Kurt’s eyes narrowed.

“Sebastian-”

“Why would I mind. Right, Killer?”

“Wait-”

Sebastian didn’t. He turned and left - making only one stop on his way to the ballroom doors: at the drink table, to grab some of that vodka.

 

 

Sebastian lingered in the doorway for a while. Other dancers had filled in the path he’d cut away from Blaine and his- from Blaine and Hummel, and Sebastian watched them for a moment without being seen.

He didn’t know if Blaine even thought about coming after him when Sebastian started to walk off. He didn’t know what Blaine had told Kurt to explain... anything that Kurt might have somehow figured out or known having been almost completely fucking absent from Blaine’s life for the last three months plus.

But once he had a drink in his hand and the burn in his throat had let up, and Sebastian turned to look, Blaine and Kurt were talking. He couldn’t see their faces. He did see Blaine put a hand on Kurt’s arm... And like a complete fucking masochist, he watched while Kurt took that hand in one of his own and lifted it-

No.

Sebastian didn’t want to storm off like some kind of scorned woman, but he wasn’t going to stick around and watch more of that either.

He left to get as drunk as his high tolerance for alcohol and the entirety of his bank account, if needed, would allow.

The problem was it took too long to get to Westerville and the nearest liquor store to distract himself with insulting Kurt Hummel, and every goddamned thing that meant anything to him - in two languages - for the whole trip. Visualizing different violent, and needlessly humiliating, ends for the man gave him time to kill half his bottle of barely acceptable vodka while parked outside the shop.

And then Sebastian ran out of scorn.

He got back in his car and drove blindly, to be honest. But when he eventually pulled into the back corner of the Scandals parking lot (his old haunt) Sebastian couldn’t question his subconscious’s remarkable instincts. There was nothing like seeing what was left to him, with Blaine back in his so-called-man’s arms, to get Sebastian focused on his newfound anger and not-

Except. Then - in some sort of cosmic joke, to beat all the cosmic jokes in the universe - Sebastian realized that the car parked a short ways away in the lot looked an awful lot like Blaine’s.

And Blaine climbed out of it.

He sounded winded, like he’d run the distance from Dalton to Westerville to this seedy little pocket of Ohio’s negligible suburban gay nightlife.

Not that that stopped the verbal upchuck that began before he‘d even taken his first step in Sebastian‘s direction. “Oh, god, Sebastian," he said, like he was talking to a lost pet. Not his-

(What? What had Sebastian thought he was to Blaine? Ex? But had they ever even made it official? If they had, they hadn’t officially called things off, so ‘sidepiece’ was the first word that came to Sebastian’s mind. He didn’t think it had much flare.)

“I thought I’d guessed wrong,” Blaine rambled. “I thought you might come here if- I mean, of course. Of course you’re angry. I know you’re angry. And I’m so sorry... I’m so sorry, Sebastian. Please let me just- Let’s talk about this.”

“Doesn’t seem like there’s much to talk about, Killer,” Sebastian said. “You and Kurt are back together, and since I didn’t feel like waiting around to congratulate the happy couple - you, what, assumed I went straight to the nearest gay club to pick up some less complicated piece of ass?”

Blaine didn’t point out that he’d obviously assumed right (about everything but the picking someone up. But Sebastian supposed Blaine didn’t really care about that.)

“I looked everywhere else Sebastian. And I knew you’d be pissed-”

Sebastian laughed. He put every bit of bitter insult and disappointment (and every bit of hurt - but he wasnt acknowledging that) into the sound. It wasn’t pretty.

“Maybe even pissed enough to do something stupid-”

And at that he laughed even harder.

“Oh, wow. Well, thank you, Saint Anderson, for worrying about my virtue,” Sebastian snapped. He wasn’t thinking twice when he spoke - a thing he remembered, too late, he’d been teaching himself to always do when he talked to Blaine about Kurt, or about Blaine and Kurt to other people.

Then he remembered why he’d been learning it, and carried on with a kind of manic, self-destructive glee.

“You can welcome your boyfriend - yeah, don’t look so surprised. I figured that out, Blaine,” Sebastian let loose. “You can welcome your boyfriend back with open arms, in a roomful of people who probably all know that we’ve been fucking like animals for months... But you’re afraid I might, god forbid, hook up with someone I don’t have a boyfriend to give a shit about?”

Blaine stumbled back like the words were physical slaps. Or maybe because Sebastian had started walking closer towards him with each one, whatever had to be in his eyes had to certainly seem like some kind of threatening.

“That’s not what happened,” Blaine insisted. With such confidence. Such hurt, shining in his eyes, that for one stupid, terrible moment Sebastian almost felt hope.

“So you did break up with him,” Sebastian said, making each word as mocking as he felt towards himself. “And he just, what - came here to cut in for one dance... and afterwords to tell us what a nice couple we’d make?”

Blaine stood up well enough to Sebastian’s tone. At least at first.

“Sebastian, I swear to you... I had no idea he was going to come here,” Blaine pleaded. He was pleading with Sebastian. “And I was going to break up with him... I was!”

“Blaine, you told me you already had,” Sebastian reminded him.

“I tried! I just- I couldn’t do it over the phone...,” Blaine explained, like that was any explanation from Sebastian’s point of view - feeling like he’d been living an entirely different reality for the past few months than he’d actually been. “I knew he was going to come down at Thanksgiving, to see his family... I thought I could just do it then and-”

“Fuck.” It made so much sense to Sebastian suddenly - why that precise timetable for letting everyone know that he and Sebastian were together.

Sebastian obviously had been stupid. But how stupid, exactly?

“Sebastian, we dated for almost three years... I thought I was in love with him-,” Blaine was saying.

“Shut up.”

“-and I’m sorry! God, I’m so sorry! I should have just told you. I know I should have just told you...” Blaine just went on. “He just- He still thought we were going to get married one day! I couldn’t just dump him over a phonecall...”

Sebastian couldn’t even look at him. He started walking - away, he thought. But it was Blaine’s car he ended up stopping by, not his own.

He was getting tired of stumbling around blindly.

Apparently that’s all he’d been doing this year.

“You told me you broke up.”

And, god, Sebastian thought he would hate himself for sounding so goddamned pathetic one day. About as much as he’d hate how little he had been able to help it.

Blaine got in his face. Hands on his arms, big, sad brown eyes coming at him.

“You assumed,” Blaine said softly. “You assumed, and- And you looked so... I didn’t know how to tell you that I hadn’t gone through with it. Then you looked so relieved-”

“Fuck you,” was all Sebastian could think to say.

“I was going to do it as soon as he came down!” Blaine finally began shouting back. “He just sprung this trip on me... And I couldn’t think! Of course I agreed to talk to him, Sebastian. To talk. I was just going to get him off of the dancefloor, away from everybody. And I was going to tell him right-”

Fuck you, Blaine.”

“I came here, didn’t I?” Blaine threw out his arms and said. “I didn’t stay and talk to Kurt... like he deserved. Like I should have a long time ago. When I saw you leave the room, I left too. For you. I swear, Bas - I didn’t want him there. I don’t want him. I want you!”

But Sebastian had already been thrown through too many loops on this ride. And he wasn’t ready to let go of his handlebar just yet.

“You think I even fucking care?” Sebastian heard himself shout back. It was the only weapon Sebastian had on hand, and it’s like his mouth fired off the shot without his permission. He leaned right into Blaine’s grasping hands and heartbroken face and sneered. “If you just wanted a fuck on the side and to play boyfriends, you could have just said. I’d have been down,” Sebastian lied.

And then he couldn’t fucking stop.

“I’d have thanked you for saving me from all the lovey dovey bullshit I thought was just, like, some sort of kink for you. All you had to say was that we were just fucking around til Hummel came home. You didn’t have to put on such a fucking show. If that’s all any of it had ever-”

Really, he was grateful when Blaine shut him up.

Sebastian would have gladly taken a fist to the face if that’s what it took to stop whatever he’d been about to say next. (He still doesn’t know for sure, but he’s certain it would have been more “lovey dovey bullshit”, of the worst kind.) But of course Blaine didn’t hit him.

Blaine didn’t hit people. Didn’t hurt them. He was too nice. So what did it say that he’d brought himself to grind Sebastian so completely under his fucking heel? That he’d been able to stomach the guilt of it?

“I would have fucked you better because I wouldn’t have had to try so hard to act nice all the time,” he spit.

And Blaine held him.

He let go of Sebastian’s arms and threw his around Sebastian’s shoulders and held on.

Don’t say that,” Blaine breathed into Sebastian’s neck. He clung tighter when Sebastian tried to push him away.

“Get the fuck off me.”

“Bas, please. Bas, please," he sobbed. He sobbed at Sebastian. “I fucked everything up. I’m so sorry I fucked everything up. Just please don’t... Please stop.”

Sebastian still doesn’t know how they went from him trying to wrestle Blaine away, Blaine trying to wrestle him still - like if he could hold Sebastian still enough, he could make him listen - to having sex. Both of them were crying.

Then they were kissing.

He had Blaine pressed backwards over the trunk of his car, mouth open for Sebastian to devour, his hand down Blaine’s pants and moving furiously, before he thought twice.

Then he made himself not think again.

Made himself not ask who Blaine had already prepped himself for when Sebastian reached around and found him slick - the sick burn coming to him like a bad habit, hurting Sebastian himself too badly to make its way out of his mouth. Blaine cried out at Sebastian’s rough fingers but begged for more when Sebastian shifted as if he was going to move away.

They climbed into the back seat of Blaine’s car and stripped out of shirts and ties and jackets. Sebastian just pulled down Blaine’s pants and shorts, and his own enough to get his dick out, and it was over pretty soon after that.

He felt like he’d come his soul out. Or maybe it had slipped out of he hole Blaine had dug in his chest.

He’d maybe drank more than just a half bottle of vodka earlier.

Blaine called out to him when Sebastian started to pull away, but either he’d been as hollowed out by the shouting and the sex as Sebastian had, or he was just too tired not to, because he let Sebastian go easily enough when Sebastian said he’d be back. He just had to grab something from his car.

Specifically, he had to grab the liqour.

And in a sort of unspoken truce - other than the “Want-” Sebastian had asked, as he reopened Blaine’s car door, and the “Please” Blaine had given him with a watery smile - they curled up together on the back seat, pants pulled back up but not fastened, and began to drank away Sebastian’s stockpile with purpose.

The silence had almost started to feel comforting when Kitty Wilde showed up.

 

 

“Well, well, well, look what the gay, promiscuous cat drug in...” Kitty trilled, with far too much personal satisfaction, through the car window Blaine had started up the car just long enough to lower.

Then she wrinkled up her tiny nose.

Jesus, did you two have all the nasty butt sex up in here or what? Damn. It’s gonna take more than one car window down to get all the eau de homosexual out of there, boys.”

“What the hell are you doing here, Kitty?” Sebastian asked. He and Blaine had more or less righted their clothing as Kitty had amused herself, and they stumbled out of the door opposite of the one she was looming over.

She was still wearing the white, feathered gown she’d worn to the dance, although she’d switched out her heels for flip flops and pulled up her hair in a messy bun.

She looked like a dove who hadn’t decided whether it was a movie star or a beach bum - and ecstatic to find some target for meanness to take her mind off of her existential problems.

“Oh, me? Well, I had just left Dalton... I decided to blow the dance. You know, the one, Blaine. The one you were just dancing at with your boyfriend? Yeah, I heard. And the girls and I thought we’d get some nightcaps, so I offered to drive into town and pick them up.”

Kitty really should have chosen theater for her study plan. She narrated the obvious course of events that inflicted her upon them with relish.

“And, driving by on the overpass, who should I look down to the right and see tumbling, in a passionate embrace, into the back of Blaine Anderson’s car for a fast fuck but Blaine Anderson! And Sebastian Smythe, a.ka. Not Blaine’s Boyfriend!”

“Fuck,” Blaine cursed under his breath, and Sebastian was just drunk enough and emotionally exhausted to share the feeling.

What the fuck was it to them if Kitty got her kicks haunting gay bar parking lots, harassing parkers like a prude the heterosexual male populace of Dalton’s dance program could testify that she’d never been.

“After I made my purchases,” Kitty all but sing-songed, really getting into her performance. “I thought it was important I stop back here and just let you two crazy kids know you’d been spotted. I mean, if I saw you doing the dirty, all the way out here, there’s no telling who else might have seen!”

And then she did maybe the most dangerous thing any of them had done so far that evening.

She held up her a phone, with a triumphant, mocking little grin.

Sebastian might have laughed.

Except Blaine freaked the fuck out.

“Kitty, what did you do?” he demanded. He honest to god looked ready to charge her, for the second time in one night. He even took a step forward, Kitty took a step back, and Sebastian threw an arm across his chest - like any part of him could actually have thought that Blaine was going to attack her.

“Oh, ho, why, Anderson?" Kitty taunted. “Worried I might have sent your cuckhold some incriminating pictures? Don’t worry. I don’t care that much about Hummel. But someone might be interested in seeing such quality gay porn. Say... on YouTube? You could get your future career in the performing arts off to an absolutely fabulous start. If you don’t think ‘gettin’ it in a grimy dive bar parking lot’ is pigeonholing your range.”

Okay now, that made Sebastian mad too.

“If you post anything you might have gotten of us skulking around in the dark like a sick, perverted bitch,” he hissed at her, Blaine shaking against his arm. “My father will make sure the only performing you do is for the Ohio State Women’s Corrections parole board.”

It was a fucking mess.

“Oh, so you’d rather I did send these to Lady Kurt?” Kitty pushed, having the time of her life.

“Send him whatever the fuck you’d like,” Sebastian sneered, at the same time as Blaine said - so loudly his voice echoed probably across the entire parking lot - “No!

He shocked even Kitty silent.

Wide-eyed, mouth parted in an exaggerated little meu of shock, she chuckled.

Sebastian doesn’t know what he did, but he knows he stopped touching Blaine. About as soon as he was able to move, and Blaine had gone loose in his arms, the struggle completely drained out of him.

“Bas...”

“Wow. Cold, Anderson. How’s that-”

Sebastian just wanted to be done.

“If you don’t take your fucking phone, and your fucking porn, and get back in your fucking car right now,” he said, dead serious, “You can battle my father’s lawsuit for invasion of privacy and sexual assault from a hospital bed, because I’m going to hit you until I run out of reasons to want to.”

That shut her up.

For whatever it was worth. She glared at him, as Blaine softly called his name in the background, and left. But Sebastian had seen that gleam in her eye one too many times - targeted at flustered professors or unfortunate freshmen, unlucky sycophants - for comfort.

The gleam meant vengeance. And somehow Sebastian didn’t think this time she would strike back by calling her father or by secretly sewing their stage costumes one size too small to make them feel fat.

After Kitty stormed away, silence built.

Sebastian’s blazer looked like he’d been fighting, he noticed - just to not notice anything else.

“I just- He shouldn’t... he shouldn’t find out like that. Not like that, Sebastian, that’s all.” Blaine’s voice was a persistent buzzing.

Sebastian looked like he’d been fighting, not that there was much difference from the kind of fucking that had just gone on in Blaine’s car. Some of the piping on his left lapel looked loose, and there were wrinkles where Blaine had fisted his hands in the fabric, a pin-sized stain on the lining from when Blaine had come, the heat splattering mostly on Blaine’s stomach but splattering a little, too, up at Sebastian. His shirt wouldn’t button correctly, and the sound of tearing stopped Sebastian from trying to pull it closed more comfortably.

Blaine didn’t look much better. (Who was he fucking kidding. Blaine looking well-fucked was sex incarnate. Sebastian couldn’t stand it.)

He turned on his heels and walked away.

“Is that it?”

Blaine’s voice stopped him halfway between their cars.

He was still angry. God knows he was still angry... And he could have proved it by letting loose with a thousand cutting, fire-edged insults and mocking slurs and lies, fueled by everything that had passed between them since last spring. Meanness. Spite. Cruelty. Everything he’d taught himself to swallow back, shove down, pretend he doesn’t have in spades - he could have unleashed it all on Blaine, at one time, after months of isolation, and completely fucking destroyed him.

Everything Sebastian was made of. The only things he was made of, anyways, that he still wanted to claim.

Everything else just seemed to get him hurt like this.

Everything else just never seemed to be enough for Blaine.

Sebastian stopped, and maybe his shoulders shook.

But his goddamned voice - the one fucking beautiful thing he’d ever been given that hadn’t turned on him or come with too high a price - didn’t betray him.

He wouldn’t last through a full assault. But he could manage one parting shot.

“Sorry, Killer. Feeling like something fresh for my round two. I’m sure Hummel will give you another fucking, if you’re still horny. I mean, it’ll suck, but I guess that’s just what does it for you.”

Bas...

Blaine didn’t sound destroyed. Not the way Sebastian had wanted, anyway.

Somehow he got that fucking room key out of his pocket after only two tries - the hotel room he’d reserved at his father’s favorite hotel in the city. Someplace he could take Blaine after the dance that didn’t have any of the memories of Dalton from their past, good or bad. He’d thought it would send Blaine a strong message, with fall break just around the corner. A sign that he was ready to take what they had, not just outside the walls of their dorm room but outside the walls of Dalton altogether, just as soon as Blaine was.

Somehow the key didn’t slip through Sebastian’s nerveless fingers before he wanted it to.

He flung it back, in Blaine’s direction, without looking.

“Here. I even got you a room.”

Then Sebastian hid inside Scandals until he was sure Blaine had driven away.

 

 

He took what remained of the liquor he’d bought with him back to the room.

It was like he was charmed - irony of all ironies. He could have been pulled over, should have been pulled over, really, at any time. He didn’t even hide the bottles, just tucked one under his arm and drank from the other as he stumbled through the student parking lot, into the main building. How did he even get past the guard’s station?

Sebastian vaguely recalled threatening to put his car through the gate if Gus, the guard on duty, didn’t let him through. (“You fucking know me, Gus, but fuck. Here. Now open up.”) In the morning, he’d find several bills missing from his wallet.

He stumbled through the main building, up the stairs... He passed one stupid junior passed out behind the massive potted plants beside the main doors, so he knew the party the Art students were almost certain to have hosted after the dance must have trailed somewhat across campus.

Otherwise, though, the building was quiet. Sebastian couldn’t tell what time it was, but it had to have been late.

He doesn’t remember making it across the walkway to the Aviary. Doesn’t remember stumbling into his dorm room almost too out of it to kick he door shut behind him, stripping off his clothes and letting them fall wherever.

As soon as his head hit the pillow, he must have been out. Dreaming of Kitty screeching with laughter, her phone shoved in Sebastian’s face.

But in the dreams, the couple writhing against one another in the backseat of Blaine’s car - captured for posterity in video and playing out on Kitty’s phone screen - wasn’t Blaine and him. Kurt smirked up at Sebastian from the phone, and Sebastian tossed and turned in his sleep.

It wasn’t even morning when Sebastian woke, someone banging at the dorm room door and calling his name frantically.

He literally rolled out of his bed... and onto the pile of clothes abandoned on the floor.

The bloody pile of clothes abandoned on the floor.

Sebastian lay on the floor, he blinked, he tried to breathe, but the bloody pile of clothes remained - his bloody shirt lying right on top of it.

Chapter Text

Sebastian will always remember that early morning like there are scratches in the disc of his brain. Moments of clarity, made vivid by emotion... and then skip. A moment out of sequence, out of context. A moment of conversation, skip.

His first memory - the shirt - is hazy remembered through the fog of his panic. He couldn’t say then whether there was one person pounding at his door or ten - his own heart beating, loud in his ears, had made the sound seem distant and vague.

But Sebastian’s next memory is about Blaine, sharp and clear as a fire alarm. Specifically, Sebastian remembers the shirt and then he remembers looking across the room and seeing that Blaine wasn’t in it. The room light was still on, but outside of his window the world was still dark, there was blood on his shirt, and Blaine wasn’t in his bed. Sebastian jerked upright and there was a buzzing in his ears - he felt faint.

Skip. Sebastian had dressed - apparently. Jeans. A t-shirt. He was still barefoot when he opened the door and Sam almost fell on top of him.

“Blaine...” Sam was saying before the door had swung wide enough for Sebastian to even see him. “Where’s Blaine?”

His panic instantly intensified Sebastian’s own.

“He’s not with you?” Sebastian asked without thinking.

Sam looked like he was bracing himself when he grabbed onto the doorframe. “Oh, god...” Then he sank his hands into his hair, like he was going to go out of his mind if he didn’t latch onto it.

“Sam, what’s going on?” Sebastian demanded, but that’s when he remembered what he could remember of the night before. The night that happened only hours before.

Those stupid fucking posters. Blaine trying not to cry... Kurt. Their fight in the parking-

They fought in a parking lot. Had sex there. Then Kitty came, and they argued again... What happened when they got back to the room? Did they both come back to the room? Did they fight again?

No. Blaine wasn’t here. There was blood on Sebastian’s shirt, but Blaine wasn’t here, and Sebastian could never-

Dude! Sit down! Hey-” Skip. Sam had helped Sebastian into his desk chair, the closest soft surface to the door. “I’ve gotta go find Blaine, man. He won’t answer his phone, and-”

“Go. No, I’m alright. Go, Sam. Go...”

Skip.

It was a miracle Sam hadn’t seen the blood while he was there, even from across the room. Sebastian sat, kept trying to breathe, and stared at it. Before he went to put on his shoes, he grabbed the pile and reached for the loose floorboard without even realizing that was what he had planned. He shoved everything that was underneath further beneath the floor and dropped the clothing into the space, then he pushed the boards back into place.

Shoes on, he went to find out what sent Sam frantically looking for his best friend.

Sebastian didn’t have to go far.

No one had run to wake up an administrator, and Dalton never did one of their surprise room inspections the day after a big event. No one had run over to the guard station, either, and it wasn’t time for one of their rounds.

A senior had found the body, so it was mostly seniors on the scene. Sebastian saw three as soon as he opened the french doors out to the walkway towards the main building.

Trent looked like he’d been sick over the railing. Marley was sitting on the balcony at the other end of the walkway, hyperventilating. Rory crouched at her side, rubbing her back and talking- nonsense, maybe, but in his brogue, and Marley was nodding along to the sound of it, trying to even out her breathing. She’d been crying.

There were others on the stairway when Sebastian reached it, but he didn’t see any of them.

He didn’t see anything but Kitty, her body suspended between the second and first floors of Dalton Main, face a pale blue and lips purpled like she’d put on a dark, violet lipstick.

For the dance this year, some of the string lights had been hung between the rails of the spiral staircase, creating a web across the space at its center. If she fell, Sebastian remembers thinking - and of course she fell, he immediately thought next; he didn’t know why he even thought that, ‘if’- When Kitty fell, the lights caught her... but they didn’t save her. Her chin had hooked over one string, arching her head back at an impossible angle; other strings had snagged her arms at different heights. One of her feet had caught in a separate string. Her shoes had fallen off. Broken lights littered the floor beneath her, and so did blood.

Her blonde hair was matted at the back of her head with it. It dripped down one side of her face.

Sebastian thought of the shirt upstairs in the Aviary, hidden beneath the floor beside his bed, and clutched at the railing in front of him. Snippets of the dream he’d had came back to him - Kitty laughing in his face. Had she been standing on these stairs when he’d come up them?

A half-moon of people had gathered on the main floor, at the edges of the destruction. Jake was sitting on the floor and sobbing, both arms latched onto the one Ryder had slung across his chest, holding his best friend and talking close to his ear. Artie was staring, shocked dumb it seemed, Tina gripping his hand and not-so-quietly freaking out at his side. Nick was pacing while Jeff was asking loudly what they should do - did anybody know what to do?

It’s like none of them knew the numbers nine or one. They’d all been shocked a little dumb, apparently. And it was obvious that a few of them were still drunk. Later, Sebastian would hear that it was Ryder who’d found the body. He’d just left the party still winding down over at the Art barn, and he’d wanted to see if there were any posters left in the ballroom. The thought had come to him over his nth shot of whiskey that there might be, and once the thought had sunk in, he couldn’t let it go.

He’d called Jake, who was with Marley, and Marley had overheard him panicking over the phone, and eventually all of the seniors who were still at the party and conscious had come here - along with anyone who’d been woken up in the Aviary by friends checking to see if anyone else was hurt.

It seemed like as soon as Sebastian stepped up to the railing of the stair case, Tina started screaming and pointing. He was so startled, he stumbled back - he almost ran. Was there blood on him, like there was on the shirt he’d hid?

But Tina wasn’t pointing at Sebastian. Everyone else had startled too, and they stared in the direction that Tina was staring.

Suspended like she was, in that gown, Kitty looked like a gory bird in flight. The tailored train of her gown stuck out behind her, unsupported, making it look like her body wasn’t suspended at all but floating. Hovering. Some of the feathers on her right side were bloody, like someone had brushed their bloody hand against the dress.
And in Kitty’s right hand was an actual bird - Pavarotti - gripped too tightly in Kitty’s claw-like fist to be so still unless he was dead. He was bloody too. Blood literally dripped down Kitty’s fingers from the tiny corpse.

Once he’d seen it, it was like Sebastian could hear the quiet plop-plops of blooddrops meeting marble as he watched them fall.

“We have to get somebody... Guys. Guys, we have to do something.”

That was Blaine. Sebastian’s head whipped around so fast, it was lucky that he didn’t fall to his death. Blaine was standing on the first stair off of the second floor landing. He was pale, and he wasn’t quite looking at the body - he wasn’t looking at anyone; his hands were clenched so tight at his sides, they were as white as his face.

He was still wearing his uniform from the night before; only his bowtie was missing, his top button undone.

“Blaine’s right,” Sebastian heard as if from a thousand miles away. He was barely aware of Artie scrambling his cell phone out of his pocket and Jeff pulling Nick out the front door, to go and find a guard.

He didn’t care where Blaine had come from, or where he’d been - there wasn’t a drop of blood or a bruise on him, and Sebastian barely heard himself say, “Blaine, thank God.”

Blaine looked up, startled, but Sebastian was already in his space by then. He swept Blaine into his arms and buried his face in Blaine’s neck, breathing at last it seemed, now that Blaine was there to breathe in.

Blaine’s chest hitched just once, in an odd sort of silent sob, and then his arms were gripping Sebastian just as desperately.

People moved around them, voices rose and fell, but Sebastian and Blaine remained there, in one another’s arms, like they could each hide the other - or maybe themselves - from reality if they just pressed close enough to the wall and to each other. They stayed until the Headmaster and a few of the teachers began calling everyone together, into the ballroom to wait for the police. As they passed one guard on the main floor, standing there shaking his head up at the body in horror, he glanced at Sebastian once - and then again - but Sebastian didn’t pay him much attention.

Sebastian’s memory skips over most of the chaos that followed. Every moment seems to fade into the last - waves of shocked friends slowly snapping out of their stupor, talking loudly or quietly crying, cresting on a whole new flux of horrified faces as the news spread, until enough faculty members and guards had arrived to block the entrances to the main building and to secure the students in the other buildings across the campus in their dorm rooms.

Blaine didn’t leave Sebastian’s side - not that he could have gone far, with Headmaster Figgins keeping them all in. Figgins had put Professor Schuester at one exit out of the ballroom, where Schue stood consoling as many students as he could from his post, and Nurse Pillsbury at the other, where she was helplessly trying to comfort a fiercely grieving Coach Sylvester. They’d closed and locked the doors to all of the drawing rooms.

At some point, Sam barged his way into the ballroom and drug Blaine into a hug. Only Blaine didn’t let go of Sebastian, so Sebastian was swept up too, turning Blam’s bromantic embrace into a tangle of the three of them that somehow managed to feel more comforting than awkward.

“Bro, don’t ever scare me like that,” Sam said shakily when he finally let Blaine go - let the both of them go, with a pat on Sebastian’s back that he probably didn’t realize was strong enough to jerk Sebastian forward. “Where even is your phone? Everything’s gone fucking insane around here.”

“I- I know. I’m sorry. I don’t know. I guess I lost it...,” Blaine said, with a look at Sebastian that Sebastian couldn’t read.

“Sugar’s with Rory now,” Sam told them. “She’s okay, just freaked out, like all of us, I guess. Man, I can’t believe this is happening.”

And he looked like he couldn’t believe it. He looked paler than ever, and his hair was wild - like he’d had a hard sleep, although Sebastian was pretty sure Sam hadn’t slept the night before. Sebastian had heard Sam tell Blaine he’d just been headed back to the Aviary when Marley and Jake rushed by with Ryder frantic on the other side of Jake’s phone. There were marks on his neck and his shirt collar in the very particular shade that a certain dance student had worn to the dance.

Sam’s eyes were almost that pink, too, like he’d been crying. Blaine definitely had.

Sebastian couldn’t.

He just-

He couldn’t. He couldn’t think about anything that could possibly make him cry. If he thought about Kitty’s dead body... If he thought about Kitty. Awful, vicious, talented, witty, ridiculous Kitty... She was so young. They were all just- so young. And most of them were vicious at their worst. Not Sam, maybe. Certainly not Blaine... but most of them were capable of doing really awful things when they weren’t in a good place. Sometimes over the pettiest of reasons. (Sebastian thought about Blaine in an eye patch. He thought about that shirt.)

Blaine’s breath grew even shakier than Sam’s words.

Blaine was probably the greatest reason Sebastian couldn’t cry. Couldn’t let himself lose it. (He could feel his thoughts building up at the back of his brain, like they were crawling over one another, fighting to see who would get to him to lose his grip first.) It wasn’t just the careful way Blaine was looking at him, or the way he barely seemed able to look anybody else in the face. There was a stillness to Blaine that was just... it was wrong. He wasn’t calm, although Sebastian supposed he looked it to anyone who didn’t know him. Didn’t know how Blaine was meant to look: like he was constantly poised to jump into action - to jump on a table, even - to dance or to sing or to step between someone and their completely irrelevant problems.

Blaine looked so long past not calm that he was frozen with- With whatever. Fear? Pain... Kitty had been his oldest friend. Regardless of how that had turned out, Blaine had lost a friend today. Some version of one, at least.

They all had.

Sebastian couldn’t cry and hold himself together - but he could watch out for Blaine, for wherever Blaine’s stillness had come from and where it was going. And as long as Sebastian had that purpose, maybe he could not think about what he’d hidden in their room and not detonate like a human hand grenade with a pulled pin.

Blaine was holding down the release, keeping Sebastian in one piece, and he didn’t even know it.

“It was an accident,” Sebastian found himself saying. He’d worry later about whether or not he said it too quickly, too strongly. “Accidents happen. Especially when a bunch of kids run around drinking themselves stupid.”

It was like a Hallmark movie on the dangers of underaged drinking. Or one of those drunk driving pamphlets Ms. Pillsbury passed out once a year. “If you’re not worried about what you could do to you when you’re too inebriated to know what you’re doing,” Ms. Pillsbury said - the one time Sebastian had sat in for her presentation, “worry about what you could do to someone else. A family member... a friend. Even one of your classmates sitting here with you right now.”

Those pamphlets never said anything about getting into drunken arguments on staircases. About waking up the next morning not knowing if you’d hit one of your classmates over the head and tossed her body over a railing.

“You- you believe that?” Blaine asked, just in time for Sebastian to rein in his spiraling thoughts.

God, he hoped so. Sebastian had to believe he wasn’t that far gone underneath all his delusions of becoming nicer actually helping him to become a better person.

Luckily, Sam saved Sebastian from saying something dangerously close to exactly that with a heartfelt, “Wow. Yeah, of course, man. Jesus. It had to have been an accident, right? Even if Kitty could be really... Kitty... nobody would have hurt her! Especially nobody around here.”

“Right,” Blaine said quietly, but he was still looking at Sebastian.

“Look, I’m gonna go check on Tina, alright? Looks like Artie’s having trouble talking her down. You okay, bro?”

Sebastian doesn’t remember how Blaine answered, but with another hug, Sam left for the other side of the ballroom. Over his shoulder, Sebastian noticed one of the detectives who’d arrived with the uniformed cops - a young guy, barely older than any of the senior Warblers by the looks of him - walking up to Headmaster Figgins.

Sebastian only remembers seeing him because beyond him - through a window someone had just opened - Sebastian got his first glimpse of the new day. All of the other tapestries in the ballroom were still pulled shut; Sebastian hadn’t known the sun had risen.

It felt like it had been weeks - not hours - since the last time Sebastian had seen daylight.

When Sebastian turned back to focus on Blaine, Blaine was already focused on him. And there was something wild in Blaine’s eyes - something that Sebastian had seen more than once, he suddenly realized, since he had reached for Blaine on the staircase. That hard to read look... only it wasn’t so hard to read once the still surface of Blaine’s demeanor started to ripple. Then Sebastian was the one who felt frozen.

If Sebastian was a hand grenade, Blaine was looking at him like he was afraid to hope that he could push the pin back in.

“You- It was an accident...” Blaine was saying, too quietly. Too much like he was afraid someone else might hear. “You- You meant that, right? When you said that you b- You believe. That it was just an accident...”

If Sebastian could feel his hands, he’s sure he’d feel them shaking.

Like he was in a dream - a nightmare - Sebastian spoke almost on autopilot while his mind spun.

“What else could it have been, Blaine.” Not even a question. Was Sebastian sitting down? Maybe he should sit down.

Blaine knew. Blaine knew, and Sebastian didn’t know how Blaine knew, but Blaine knew, and then Sebastian realized. The light had been on in the room when Sebastian woke. He couldn’t remember much of the night before, but he could remember it being so dark when he tripped into bed that he couldn’t see the wall across from him... He remembered kicking the door shut behind him, but not locking it. And it had been locked when Sam had woken Sebastian up with his knocking.

Blaine had been back to the room, and he’d obviously seen Sebastian’s shirt, seen the blood- Maybe he’d even been there, asleep in his bed, when Sebastian got there.

Blaine closed the few steps between them, so quickly Sebastian flinched, but Blaine’s hands on Sebastian’s arms weren’t- whatever Sebastian had half-expected: an attack, maybe? Anger, fear... a demand for answers.

“Nothing. It was like you said. An accident.” Blaine almost sounded like he was trying to convince Sebastian more than he was trying to convince himself, whispering so quickly, at first Sebastian wasn’t sure he hadn’t fantasized the words. “It was just an accident. We were all so drunk... Then we had that stupid- that stupid fight-”

It did seem stupid - the morning after, in the face of... all of this. Insignificant. Blaine had lied by omission, and Sebastian wasn’t used to being the one to care about full disclosure, but what had Sebastian been thinking - assuming a guy like Blaine would break up with his long-time boyfriend over a phonecall... or an internet connection? And he had come to Sebastian - had left Kurt at a dace Kurt had only gone to for Blaine to find Sebastian. He’d come back here last night. And even if he hadn’t - even if things had been as bad last night as they had seemed after Kitty’s cruel “prank” and the emotional aftermath, through a haze of exhaustion and alcohol... For a moment this morning, Sebastian had feared that Blaine was hurt - that he had hurt him. But Blaine was here, he was fine, and he wasn’t running away from Sebastian in terror or disgust. Somehow, miraculously, he was still here with Sebastian.

“I didn’t mean to-” Blaine shuddered, tears spilling over from his eyes. “Sebastian, I swear. I- I called Kurt-”

“Blaine, it’s alright...”

“Bas, I’m so scared.”

That? That finally put tears into Sebastian’s eyes... but it also did a strange thing. It actually put those thoughts that had been battling at the back of Sebastian’s brain into some order.

Maybe Kitty and Sebastian had fought and she fell, or maybe she’d hit her head and Sebastian had tried to help her? Perhaps he’d pushed her, and she’d hit her head on the way down... but maybe she’d lunged at him and lost her balance? There was no way to say, but Blaine knew Sebastian better than anyone. He seemed to know things about Sebastian before Sebastian knew them. And he was scared for Sebastian, not of him.

That had to say something, right?

To Sebastian, it said that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that he’d hidden the shirt, that he hadn’t said anything about it to anyone. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if he never said anything about it to anyone else.

Maybe it would actually be the better thing.

Sebastian wouldn’t just be protecting himself... He’d be wiping that helpless terror out of Blaine’s eyes. He’d be protecting this thing they’d found with one another. Blaine was looking at him the way he’d looked at Sebastian last night in the Aviary - almost the way he’d smiled at Sebastian the night they’d talked about Paris - and Sebastian wasn’t ready to give that up.

“Babe, it’s- There’s nothing to be scared of,” Sebastian said, an actual sense of calm settling over him - not just the careful numbness he’d been hiding inside before. Blaine believed in him. It was like Sebastian had been given permission to believe in himself. That seemed to be all he’d needed.

Unfortunately, the same couldn‘t be said for Blaine. “What if the police think it was on purpose?” he asked, whispering less quietly, and then looking panicked because of it - like it was all he could do just not to shout. He looked, as did Sebastian, but the two officers in the ballroom, near the doors, weren’t looking back at them, and neither was anyone else. “Sebastian, they’re going to ask who was here when it happened.”

The solution came to Sebastian easy. “So we weren’t,” he decided.

Blaine’s mouth opened, and then it closed. “What?”

“Do you still have the key I gave you?”

Sebastian’s stomach turned when he remembered how he’d given it to Blaine - the ugly things he’d said in his drunken anger - but Blaine just blinked. “I turned it in,” he said.

“When?”

“Right- Right before I came back here... I came in through the Aviary, and everybody was freaking out-”

“We’ll say we were at the hotel all night,” Sebastian said, like it was just that simple.

And at the moment, Sebastian couldn’t think of a single reason why it wasn’t. Other than that he was essentially asking Blaine now to lie for him. To the police. Which hadn’t immediately occurred to him, but by the time it did, Blaine was visibly decompressing right in front of him.

Blaine breathed in a breath so sharp with relief - released it with a shudder - and practically breathed too, “Sebastian... are you sure?”

All Sebastian heard was how less tense Blaine sounded - not more - at the idea.

It didn’t even feel like a gamble when he said, “It’s up to you, Killer.” It just felt right. “Whatever you want to do... I promise. Either way, I’m fine with it.” He’d have to be.

Blaine stared into his eyes a moment more. And then he kissed Sebastian - right there where anyone could turn their head and see. It was the best answer Sebastian could have gotten.

When an officer finally came and led them to separate drawing rooms, and Sebastian gave his statement, he was still thinking about that. He was thinking about it while he gave his (edited) account of the night before.

He didn’t know that he’d said anything wrong, until the officer making his report told him to stay put. That a detective would want to speak to him.

Then the young detective that Sebastian had noticed before came in and introduced himself as Detective Jesse St. James.

Gus the security guard had given the police a list of students who’d left the campus during or after the dance and returned after curfew, and Sebastian was on it. Sebastian had forgotten all about Gus. He hadn’t given the police an exact time - or mentioned that Sebastian had come back drunk as a skunk (and the next time Sebastian checked his wallet, he realized why), so it didn’t actually matter all that much. But it had been enough to catch the detective’s attention.

Why did the guard say Sebastian had returned late last night, St. James asked, if Sebastian had been in the city with his roommate until this morning? Sebastian asked how the guard could be sure it was late last night if he couldn’t say an exact time. It was November, Sebastian argued with a smirk - November mornings are dark.

It was lucky he didn’t get himself arrested just for being kind of a little shit.

But Sebastian only knows one way to play calm - and that is playing extra, extra cocky. Strategically, it’s a method that’s bit him in the ass as often as it’s saved his, but in this case, it seemed to serve Sebastian well. St. James asked him about the posters, and Sebastian laughed; he asked about Blaine, and Sebastian said he’d only rented the hotel room “just in case” - that he and Blaine had been friends and roommates only until Kurt had come down and Blaine had decided he’d had enough of him. (That’s how it had happened as far as anyone else knew. No sense giving the detective the impression that he and Blaine were used to hiding things from people.) He didn’t ask about the confrontation at Scandal’s, and Sebastian and Blaine had agreed to risk not mentioning it, so Sebastian didn’t bring it up.

And in less than an hour, Sebastian was free to go.

He refused to let himself believe it was all over that easy until he was back in his and Blaine’s dormroom, sitting on his bed with the biggest threat to his alibi still tucked safely under floorboards only Sebastian and maybe some long gone Dalton alumni knew about. Then Blaine was there. Pausing at the doorway, like he was waiting for a sign that he was still welcome - or safe - there.

Boom. It finally hit Sebastian, and it hit him hard. Kitty... may have been because of him. And even if she hadn’t, Sebastian had lied about it now. He’d let Blaine lie for him - what the hell had he done?

Sebastian’s not sure what ‘losing it’ looks like on him, but Blaine obviously spotted it immediately.

“Oh, Sebastian.”

Blaine was across the room in a blink, all but straddling Sebastian and wrapping Sebastian up in his arms. From over Blaine’s shoulder, Sebastian could still see those goddamned floorboards, and whatever sound burst out of him, it wasn’t the hysterical laughter Sebastian had thought had been bubbling up in him. Blaine held him all the same, saying quiet, comforting things Sebastian could only make out as words half of the time. It was Blaine’s comforting tone, anyway, that soothed Sebastian, put him back together, even as Blaine continued shedding his own tears.

Whatever had been done, there was no undoing it, but it was difficult for Sebastian to care as much when he and Blaine were together, in every sense of the word.

Chapter Text

Nobody talks about what happened with Sebastian anymore - nobody he’d actually talk to, anyways.

After the last time Blaine visited him in prison, Sebastian turned down visitation after visitation by the others, until eventually all of them stopped trying. He told his dad, at the start, not to come so much as once. (Before he could be told whether or not that was something Dad had even considered.)

Sam and Jeff still write; Trent and Jake and Sugar call from time to time, but none of them so much as mention Blaine by name.

So it’s a blessing and a curse. Most of the time, Sebastian would rather act like it was all just a bad dream. Another lifetime - too fantastic, in parts, to possibly have been as good as he remembers it; too terrible, at the end, for anyone to actively want to bring those memories back to light.

Sometimes pretending makes Sebastian feel crazy, is the problem. He wonders sometimes which parts of his life before he really did dream up, and which ones he lived.

It was the same just after word spread that the Westerville Police Department was ruling Kitty’s death an accident. Sebastian can’t say why he and Blaine never talked about that night, after they made their agreement in the ballroom... Sebastian would feel sometimes like he had so much to say, that he didn’t know where to start; or he would get as far as beginning the conversation with Blaine, and then he’d see something wary in Blaine’s smile - or look too closely into Blaine’s eyes - and he’d chicken out. Sometimes Blaine looked like he was about to bring it up with Sebastian... but Sebastian supposed that Blaine couldn’t find the nerve to follow through either.

The Thanksgiving holiday, Dalton’s fall break, came not long after the Sadie Hawkin’s Day dance, and Kitty’s funeral was held right between the two. In the week between that and the break, it was the only thing the other senior Warblers talked about.

Sometimes it seemed like the only thing some of them could talk about, without setting someone else off.

“Dude. I was agreeing with you,” Blaine and Sebastian walked into Hudson’s class one day, just in time to hear Jake say.

“Okay, well, just- Just don’t, alright?” Ryder told him, from where he sat sulking in a desk on he row farthest left of the rolling blackboard Finn always lectured in front of. Most of the others sat as far right as possible - closest to the door and eventual freedom. “I didn’t mean that she doesn’t have a point-”

“But she doesn’t,” Jake insisted. It might have been like any other squabble between any two of them - when you spend almost every hour of every day with the same group of people, after a couple of years, you learn to fight often about the little things - otherwise they get the time to grow into something big.

Only there was something in Jake’s tone that made Sebastian take notice. That made most of them go quiet and notice, Sebastian would look back later and realize. Jake rarely used that tone with one of them. And never with Ryder.

“Like you were supposed to blow off a friend just because she’s still, like, cloistering herself or whatever-”

“Man, don’t be a dick. She’s coping, okay?” Ryder fired back - again, a lot sharper than Ryder ever spoke to Jake.

Sebastian caught on that they were talking about Unique, not that it was all that difficult to guess. Unique had practically vanished since the night of Kitty’s death. She’d had some kind of breakdown the day after - the faculty was saying it was because of the accident, but most of the Warblers assumed it was more because of the “prank” earlier that evening. As far as anyone knew, Unique hadn’t left her dorm room since retreating there after she left the dance, hours before Kitty would have been on that staircase.

And if Unique had vanished, Ryder had begun phasing in and out. By the end of fall break, Sebastian would hear that he and Unique had broken up - that they’d been fighting about everything from whether or not it was healthy for Unique to take her meals in her room as the faculty had begun allowing her to do, to how Ryder had attended the funeral “against her wishes.”

“We’re all coping, Ryder,” Marley quietly interjected.

“I’m just saying...,” Ryder said, “Maybe it wasn’t so bad that she wanted me and her to cope together that day.” And then he raised his voice at the frustrated sound Jake made. “It wouldn’t have been “blowing Kitty off”. She’s dead, remember? She probably doesn’t even know who was at her funeral and who wasn’t!”

Jake got so angry, he didn’t say another thing. He kicked his bookbag aside, slid out of his desk, and stormed out of the room, almost walking right into Professor Hudson on his way out. Finn and Marley both called out after him, but Ryder just sat there looking momentarily stunned out of the dark mood he’d apparently been stewing in for too long.

“What the he- What was that about?” Finn asked anyone who would listen.

Marley answered, but she was talking to Ryder, not the professor. “Kitty wasn’t the friend Jake thought you’d be blowing off if you hadn’t come with us, Ryder,” Marley told him, looking unusually angry herself.

Ryder stared at her. Everyone else stared at him. And then, with a soft curse, he rushed out of the classroom after Jake.

Wait! What- Is anybody else going to go running out of here suddenly, before class has even- Oh, wow, okay. Great. I shouldn’t have asked!” That was Finn - barely through a sentence before Marley was hopping out of her seat and rushing after the boys.

“Guys, get out your sheet music from yesterday and let’s get something done,” Finn said helplessly, “before I have to bar the door to block any more deserters.”

And he did too - he pushed his rolling blackboard right in front of the exit and started his lesson, constantly turning his head towards the class to make sure no one was preparing to rush him while his attention was on the notes he was giving them.

It was hardly the only incident Sebastian witnessed that fall involving the other senior Warblers, raised voices, an overdramatic exit, and an oddly forgiving authority figure. (At worst, Sebastian knew, Finn would make Jake, Ryder and Marley sing about their problems sometime in the near future.) It wasn’t even the only incident Sebastian witnessed that week.

But it was a significant incident in one way - while Hudson’s back was turned, nobody plotted to force their way through him to get to the door; they did, however, talk about the ongoing drama that was the Ryder/Unique romance, Jake/Ryder bromance, Jake/Marley/Ryder triangle (that hadn’t really been a triangle since Ryder fell for Unique via anonymous social media interaction - long story.) Blaine was conspicuously quiet. And it made Sebastian realize how quiet they had both been lately, about a number of things beyond Kitty.

They’d done more talking about Kurt since the dance than Blaine and Sebastian had done before in the entire time that they’d known one another. But Sebastian still didn’t know what exactly Blaine had told Kurt that night - only that a couple of days later, Sam had given Sebastian a friendly version of the ‘you hurt him and I hurt you’ speech. At dinner that same day, Sugar had presented them with an over-the-top cake she’d had her bakery decorate with only one word - ‘Seblaine’. And when Tina had seen the cake and grudgingly admitted, “It’s about time,” she’d rolled her eyes at a couple of Kurt-loyalists who’d given her a dirty look for it.

“Oh, please. Did Artie tell you Kurt called and chewed us both out for not “warning” him that Seblaine were friends again? Like that’s my job,” Tina had said, like she wouldn’t have absolutely told Kurt that Blaine was also seeing Sebastian - if she’d known. “I mean, we hadn’t heard from him in weeks... but we’re the bad friends because we didn’t know better than he did what his ex-boyfriend was doing?”

Blaine knew that Sebastian was planning to stay at Dalton for Thanksgiving (Mom never celebrated the holiday unless she was in the states, and Dad had a business engagement the day of), and Sebastian knew that Blaine was dreading going home for his.

They’d lain in Sebastian’s bed just that morning, shirtless but in their pajama bottoms - like two thin layers of cotton were gonna be enough to keep them from getting too worked up to make it down for breakfast and first period. (They had made it down - though being responsible had hardly felt good.) And Blaine had said, alternating words with casual kisses across Sebastian’s torso, “I wish I could just take you with me and we could spend the whole holiday like this.”

“If you want me to come home with you for Thanksgiving, Killer, you know you just have to ask,” Sebastian had said. “Although, if your parents would be cool with us spending the holiday like this...,” Sebastian had smiled down at Blaine’s progress, laughing - and then groaning - as Blaine playfully bit at one of Sebastian’s nipples, and then licked over the gentle bite, “I have to say... you’ve been grossly misrepresenting your folks’ cool factor.”

“I couldn’t subject you to them,” Blaine had simply replied.

But, sitting in Hudson’s class, Sebastian realized that he didn’t really know why Blaine was dreading the short stay at home quite so much. Blaine’s relationship with his parents had been strained for as long as Sebastian had known him - and after Sadie Hawkin’s Day, Sebastian finally knew why. But he couldn’t remember Blaine ever actually complaining about having to go home for a holiday before - even when, as he would this Thanksgiving, Cooper bowed out for an audition.

They didn’t talk about the fact that Sebastian hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol since that night.

Blaine had been obsessing about NYADA and preparing for his spring audition before the dance - but since, he hadn’t mentioned graduation or what comes after even once. They didn’t talk about that either.

At the end of class, Finn asked Blaine to stay behind for a moment, and maybe it was just that Sebastian had been thinking about these things that made the request seem... off. Maybe it was the way Blaine hesitated, like he’d rather sit in the headmaster’s office for brushing off a teacher than have a private word with Hudson.

But Sebastian didn’t think he was imagining the tension in Finn’s voice when Sebastian hung behind as well.

“You can go ahead, Sebastian. I just need to talk to Blaine for a minute.”

“Right...”

Sebastian waited right outside the open door - until Finn sighed heavily and said, “Could you close the door, please?”

Yeah, no. Sebastian pulled it almost completely shut, and then waited nearby.

Barely any time had passed when Blaine was flinging the door back open and hurrying out.

“Blaine!” Finn called from inside the classroom, but if he said anything else, Sebastian didn’t hear it as he hurried after Blaine.

“Blaine, what was that?” he asked.

“Nothing...”

“Uh-huh, no. Stop, alright. Blaine, hey, stop.” Sebastian grabbed Blaine by the shoulder and tugged him into one of the many alcoves that lined the halls of Dalton Main’s elegantly decorated upper floors. A delicate vase rattled in caution as their hips bumped into the small table it sat upon, tucked into the alcove.

“Hey... what the hell did Hudson say to you?” Sebastian demanded. Jokes about teachers and the “bad touch” died in his throat. Finn seemed about as likely to inappropriately proposition a student (on purpose) as Sebastian seemed likely to teach one someday, but something that had been said behind that mostly-closed door had obviously seriously upset Blaine.

Blaine drew a shaky breath. He wasn’t looking directly at Sebastian. He didn’t even necessarily seem to be giving Sebastian an answer - just talking.

“Kurt told him,” Blaine said quietly. “Kurt promised not to tell anyone.”

Sebastian had no idea what he was talking about, and his brain went first - irrationally - to the breakup.

But they were obviously well past that misunderstanding. Kurt had been complaining to anyone who might listen how Blaine “lost his mind and left me for that- that... meerkat-faced gigolo.” (That asshole.) And Blaine hadn’t hesitated once to confirm, to anyone who asked, that - yes - he and Sebastian were more than friends now. (At first with a tentative sort of pleasure, looking carefully sideways at Sebastian as if he didn’t know that Sebastian’s ‘I don’t do boyfriends’ days had been completely obliterated by a head full of curls, a sweet smile, and some brown eyes.)

“Blaine, what are you talking about?”

Blaine finally looked at him. “Kitty sent Kurt the video,” Blaine said, and Sebastian’s pulse spiked at having the name spoken directly to him for the first time since the accident. “...of us. She sent him the video she took of us.”

Of all the things they hadn’t been talking about since that night, Kitty’s threat in the parking lot - and their confrontation because of it - was the thing that Sebastian had been most desperately not talking about.

-I’m going to hit you until I run out of reasons to want to...’ Sebastian had said to Kitty, drunk and angry - and Blaine had heard him.

“I thought she was just messing around about that,” Sebastian said numbly.

“Well, she wasn’t. Not about that, anyway. She didn’t send it to anyone else, or post it somewhere, like she said... but she sent it to Kurt. I went to tell him about us... but I was too late,” Blaine was saying, shifting uncomfortably. “He said- He said he knew as soon as he saw us dancing...”

And he looked more apologetic about that than ashamed, pink rising in his cheeks, which would have soothed Sebastian quite a bit if he could have focused on his residual fear that Blaine still cared more about what Kurt thought than he should.

But bigger concerns were coming to light here.

“He was freaking out before I even got to his house,” Blaine said. “But I watched him delete the text... Why would he tell Finn about it? Why- Why even bring it up?”

Blaine obviously realized that those concerns existed - he looked unsettled, beyond his embarrassment, and he trembled - Sebastian could feel it where Blaine’s body pressed tight against Sebastian’s own, squeezed into the alcove as they were.

But the question sounded ridiculously naive to Sebastian’s ears. Why wouldn’t Hummel tell Hudson about the video? If he tried pointing a finger at Sebastian, he’d look like a jeaous ex, just trying to cause trouble. But if a teacher at the school said something-

And word was that the cops were ruling the death an accident, but no one had heard anything official. If they had closed the case - how easy would it be to open it back up?

“Are you kidding? Why wouldn’t he tell Hudson?” Sebastian repeated aloud. “You know what that video looks like.”

Blaine shook his head. “What-”

Motive, Killer,” Sebastian spelled it out, missing Blaine’s tiny wince at the nickname. “I’m surprised Hummel didn’t go running to the police as soon as he heard what happened.”

“That- Kurt wouldn’t do that.”

“No? The same way he wouldn’t go telling Finn about our amateur sex tape?” Blaine looked pale. “Look, maybe Hummel’s a sore loser. Maybe he’s feeling petty-”

“I don’t think that’s what he’s doing, Sebastian.”

“But it doesn’t matter,” Sebastian said, trying to convince them both. “We have an alibi. What, did Hudson threaten to go to the police himself? To Figgins?”

“No!” Blaine was looking more alarmed by the moment. “You think- No. No, he didn’t. He just wanted to- to make sure I was being... safe.” That further explained Blaine’s blushing. “And to tell me that I’m still invited to his family’s house for Thanksgiving, even though Kurt and I are broken up.”

Right. Like Sebastian couldn’t see exactly where that night would go. Before the pumpkin pie was sliced, Blaine would get two to five lectures on how Sebastian is evil incarnate, and at least one offer from Kurt to take Blaine back... if Blaine did the proper amount of groveling, of course.

From there, they’d start in on the questions - was Blaine sure he’d spent that whole night with Sebastian? Was he sure that it really had been an accident?

How could Sebastian expect Blaine to answer that question wisely? Sebastian wasn’t entirely sure of the answer himself.

“Do you want an invitation?” Sebastian asked before he could think twice about it.

No,” Blaine said again. “I know... I know it’s a bad idea. But. But what if they’ve gotten the wrong impression?” Blaine worried, while Sebastian worried that they’d gotten exactly the right one. “Maybe I should go... I could talk to them. Make sure they don’t think you had something to do with... with what happened. Sebastian, Kurt would never really try to hurt me... Even if he’s really, really angry at me right now.”

Sebastian thought that fact was debatable. Hummel seemed like the type for petty vengeances - and more than petty if he could convince himself it was ‘for your own good’. Either way, Sebastian doubted Kurt would hesitate to hurt Blaine in the short term if he could play the white knight rescuing Blaine from Sebastian’s evil clutches in the end.

And as for hurting Sebastian - well. It’s not like Sebastian had ever encouraged an attitude of pulling punches between them himself.

“Oh, so Kurt you’ll talk to,” Sebastian was saying before he realized he’d formed the thought.

Blaine was understandably blindsided.

“What?”

Whether it was all of the (partially self-imposed) silence finally getting to him... or something self-destructive finally working its way out of him - Sebastian got no more warning than that, and neither did Blaine, before he was unloading what felt like weeks of fears, self-loathing and uncertainty, not days.

“You didn’t tell me about Kurt and the video. What else aren’t you telling me?” Sebastian demanded, like he had any room to talk. He hadn’t told Blaine where the shirt went, or about Gus the guard, and Blaine hadn’t once asked.

“I-”

“How do you know Kitty didn’t send that video to anyone else, huh, Blaine?” The cops had never found Kitty’s phone. Her friends said that Kitty had lost a phone on a night out partying too hard once before, but she didn’t want her parents to be able to “spy” on her, so she never used the GPS function on her current one. For all they knew, though, she’d sent that video a dozen places before she lost her phone.

“She didn’t!”

“Because hoping makes it true, right?” Sebastian mocked.

“Bec- What- Sebastian, why are you being like this?” Blaine stuttered in his alarm. He looked so hurt, and a part of Sebastian wanted to just stop talking. To just be quiet, like they had been, until Blaine stopped looking at Sebastian like Sebastian was the one with the most power to hurt him.

But even more terrifying than the fact that Blaine hadn’t trusted Sebastian enough to tell him about the video (like - what? Did he think Sebastian was gonna hunt Hummel down and... do something to him? Did he think that little of Sebastian now?) was Sebastian’s own voice, in his head, asking ‘What else did you expect?’ They’d had a version of this fight before. Blaine hadn’t trusted that Sebastian would let him tell Kurt about their relationship in his own time. It seemed like, however much Blaine had forgiven Sebastian for his old ways - however much Blaine had grown to even like Sebastian despite of them, to want to be around Sebastian and to want to give in to the attraction between them - he just couldn’t forget.

And even more terrifying than that... was the thought that maybe it was a good idea that he didn’t.

Sebastian had never claimed to be a good person - even to himself. He’d only promised Blaine he would be better. ‘Better’, apparently, earned Blaine’s time and his intimacy, but it didn’t earn his trust. And how could Sebastian fault him for that?

Unfortunately, Sebastian has never reacted well to being terrified, fault or not.

“Maybe I’m getting a little sick of hearing things from you after the fact, Blaine,” Sebastian snapped. “You tell me you’re not sure you’re actually ready to be done with Kurt after the first time you try to hook up with me. You tell me you two never actually broke up after he shows up in fucking person asking to cut in...”

“Sebastian-” Blaine tried to interject, quietly, with a look that Sebastian could only read as pity.

Talk about terrifying. Sebastian had never before so fully realized, right in the middle of telling off a boy, that said boy might not actually want Sebastian the way that Sebastian wanted him. Mostly because Sebastian had never wanted anyone as badly as he’d always seemed to want Blaine. He’d never been in love before.

His throat felt thick, his eyes burned, and that was just not acceptable.

“And I get it. I’m the asshole, right? I’m the ‘manwhore’ who swooped in and lured you away from your precious boyfriend-”

You’re my boyfriend now, Bas.”

“Am I?” Sebastian asked, keeping his angry, mocking tone wrapped tight around him, like kevlar. “See, we’ve never really talked about it. Like we don’t talk about the fact that apparently you’ve all but given up on trying out for NYADA in the spring.”

That was a guess - Blaine could just as easily have stopped talking about his audition because of everything else that had been happening lately - but the look on Blaine’s face confirmed what Sebastian had been half sure he’d only imagined.

“Right,” Sebastian said, with a shake of his head. “Wow. That’s not the kind of thing you discuss with your boyfriend?”

“I was going to tell you-”

“After Kurt, right?” Sebastian faked as convincingly scathing a laugh as he could manage. There was more pain, probably, than actual scorn in the sound, but Sebastian hoped Blaine would just ignore that for the sake of his dignity. “Maybe it is the kind of thing you discuss with a boyfriend... I guess I wouldn’t know. I haven’t officially ever had one.

“Maybe it’s just not the kind of thing you discuss with a murderer.”

That practically sucked the air out of the whole hallway.

Sebastian had said it. Out loud and not just to himself. His heart felt like it was going to burst out of his chest. He couldn’t hear anything over the pounding of it.

They were having this conversation in a goddamned hallway alcove... It was the definition of insanity. But when a thing breaks it breaks where it breaks, Sebastian supposes.

He thinks that’s where he and Blaine both broke.

Blaine stared at him. Sebastian stared back. He probably looked every bit as lost and freaked out as he felt. Like he’d just thrown himself off of a cliff that he’d been leaning over farther and for longer than a sane person would, and suddenly he’d decided that he didn’t want falling to be the way he goes.

Blaine just looked blank.

“How... how could you say that to me?” he said blankly.

Not ‘how could you say that’ - but how could Sebastian say that to Blaine. Who he’d let lie for him to the police. Okay, who he’d asked to lie for him to the police.

“You said it was an accident,” Blaine said, still in that awful, quiet, numb way he was suddenly speaking. “You said it yourself. You- You said it was an accident, Sebastian.”

“Did that shirt look like an accident to you?” Sebastian asked. He was probably still speaking louder, and angrier, than he should be. But he was honestly asking. Did Blaine actually believe in Sebastian? Or had he faked it for both their sakes. Because he’d needed to believe, for himself, that Sebastian wasn’t as bad as he was beginning to look like he believed Sebastian to be.

Sebastian didn’t take Blaine’s shocked silence as his answer.

But he didn‘t have to. “Sebastian, please stop talking,” Blaine whispered, like that’s as loud as he could make his voice go. He sounded urgent.

Sebastian looked around, but there was no one in this end of the hallway with them. Apparently there was just Blaine, asking Sebastian not to ask a question he knew Sebastian wouldn’t like his answer to.

“You know what?” Sebastian whispered back. “Tell Kurt whatever you want.”

Then he stepped out of the alcove. “Tell whoever whatever the fuck you want,” Sebastian said louder. Blaine didn’t stop him as he stormed away.

 

 

 

Jesse doesn’t say anything as Sebastian carefully straightens the stack of cards and paper scraps he pulled out from under the floorboards. He doesn’t say anything as Sebastian tucks the stack deep into his coat pocket and replaces the boards the way they’d been. He’s half tempted to follow Sebastian into the bathroom, when Sebastian goes to wash his face in the sink, but it’s a silly urge and Jesse knows it.

If Sebastian was going to hurt himself, he would have done it a long time ago. That first year in prison, maybe. When he had to accept a GED in place of the prestigious Dalton diploma he’d worked for. When even his father’s clout as a DA hadn’t been enough to get him moved to a less prison-like prison facility. The verdict had been manslaughter - not murder as the charge became when the case reopened - but it still could have meant ten years behind bars if Sebastian didn’t qualify for parole after half that time.

No, Sebastian seems content to hurt himself in a different way. If it were Jesse, Jesse doesn’t think he could touch those lovenotes. He couldn’t have even looked at them.

Sebastian doesn’t speak to or look at Jesse when he comes out of the bathroom fresh-faced and more or less looking like the past hour didn’t happen. He just heads out the door and Jesse heads out with him.

They don’t go back to the main building via the walkway, though. They head across the grounds towards the hedges that Jesse realized earlier aren’t just hedges - they conceal some sort of garden tucked away in a back corner of the campus. Only when they’re close enough to see inside of the garden does Jesse see that someone has lined the hedges with lights they will presumably turn on once the evening becomes night.

The lights line the inside of the hedges, as well as the gate at the entrance to the garden. Two spotlights are set up to one side within the garden, in front of a latticed structure flanked on either side by small tables. Creepily, the hedges within the garden are just as tall as the ones that surround it, with one stretching almost the entire width of the garden only a few feet in - a door-like gap in its middle. The garden is probably a maze. And even more creepily, the hedges and flowers within the garden aren’t alone with the old stone benches and the new lattice structure and tables. There are towering plants and trees in the garden, cut into shapes. The newest one looks like an oversized dove preparing to take flight.

And creepiest of all... there are two framed portraits hanging on the latticed structure, directly above the spotlight. One portrait of Kitty Wilde, and one portrait of Blaine Anderson.

“Tell me this school doesn’t have a shrine,” Jesse says and means it.

Sebastian graces him with a tiny, real smile.

“Of course not. That’s what the drawing rooms are for,” he quips. “This is just for tonight.”

“Tonight?”

“Sugar put it together. A celebration of life,” Sebastian says, still sounding too tired to muster up much vocal irony - but with a smirk that says he’s aware of the irony that’s there.

“For both of them?” Jesse asks, not sure if he should feel surprised by that or not. He doesn’t, in either case.

“Once a Warbler, always a Warbler,” Sebastian says, still somehow managing to sound proud of the motto.

Then he turns and he stares at Blaine’s portrait - just for a moment. Just long enough to start blinking a bit more than is normal and then to force his eyes away.

“They wouldn’t let me go to the funeral,” Sebastian says, looking at the cutting of the overlarge bird instead. “So Sugar put this together. Invited some of the others... Talked Headmaster Sylvester into allowing it.”

“Well,” Sebastian says with a little more irony in his voice, “Her father talked Sylvester into it. He’s good at that, you know. Talking to people.”

It’s a piece of the puzzle that’s been in front of Jesse’s face the whole time.

“Your one phonecall was to Anton Motta,” Jesse remembers aloud. Sebastian keeps smirking. He doesn’t even have to nod for Jesse to know.

After their hearsay witness came forward, and they made an arrest, they re-interviewed everyone they’d interviewed before. That included Gus Baker, the security guard. Once Baker heard that the investigation of Wilde’s death had become a murder investigation, he copped to the truth - that he actually could remember exactly when Sebastian Smythe had returned to the campus.

He said Sebastian was back well before forensics said Wilde would have hit her head the final time. Too much before, in fact, to make sense. As drunk as Baker claimed Sebastian had been... it seemed unlikely that he would have arrived back so early and then still been on that staircase to confront Kitty without anyone having seen him in the interim.

By the time the case went to trial, however, Baker had changed his tune. He claimed he’d only given his second statement under duress, in the hopes of saving his job by protecting one of Dalton’s wealthier students. Then he swore that Sebastian returned hours later - but not the hours later that would have backed up his initial alibi of having been with Blaine at the hotel all night.

Baker recanted having seen Blaine at all, except the next morning, which backed up security footage from the hotel that placed Blaine there early that morning turning in the room key. When Sebastian suddenly swore that he’d left the hotel while Blaine was still sleeping, and had argued with Kitty before she’d followed him up the stairs, Baker’s “confession” seemed to make sense. It had to the jury anyway.

Jesse had been certain that Baker had been paid off. And now he knows that he was half-right.

Jesse considers what Sebastian said - about telling Blaine to tell whoever he wanted whatever he wanted. About where Sebastian’s mind had been then. Jesse considers the phonecall.

Baker had been paid off, alright - but not by someone out to get Sebastian for a crime he didn’t commit. By someone acting on Sebastian’s own request.

Jesse almost resorts to old tactics. But nothing good had come of the night Jesse had stormed up to Sebastian’s cell and insisted that he could help Sebastian out of this... He could help him, whatever Blaine - and possibly the ex, Hummel - had convinced him that he’d done, or that he deserved, or that anyone had guilted him into thinking...

Sebastian had only gotten upset. Jesse had assumed it was because he’d gotten through to Sebastian - had helped him see that he was being used, or at the very least, misled. But the next day, Sebastian had requested to speak with “any detective but St. James”. And then he’d explained exactly what hid under the floorboards in his old dormroom and exactly how to find it.

Sebastian doesn’t react well to being pushed. Jesse still doesn’t understand all of this, but he understands that.

“For years, I thought maybe Hudson paid off the guard,” Jesse does admit. “But he didn’t, did he.”

Sebastian just smirks.

“I still don’t understand,” Jesse repeats aloud. If Sebastian truly did believe he’d killed Kitty, and he’d wanted to face the consequences of his crime, why had he held the shirt back at first?

And why has he still not officially recanted his confession of having drunkenly shoved Kitty, then having left her hanging near those stairs? Could unrequited love and a quasi-secret affair have earned that much?

Sebastian can’t be protecting Blaine’s memory, could he? After what Blaine had confessed in his letter...

“Which of the others are coming,” Jesse changes tracks. “Sam? Marley?” Not Tina, certainly. Unique? From what Jesse hears, she’s done everything she could over the years to distance herself from Dalton and everyone she knew there.

“Among others.”

“Hummel?”

Sebastian gives Jesse a very Sebastian Smythe look. It’s almost comforting.

“Hummel hasn’t spoken to me since he visited me in prison,” Sebastian says, which is something else Jesse hadn’t known.

Hummel visited you in prison?” Jesse has to ask.

“The last time Blaine visited me, he sounded...” Sebastian starts and stops, swallowing thickly, eyes distant. “About a month later, they tell me I have a visitor. Hummel’s the last person I expected to see. I see him... think about how weird Blaine was acting the last time we spoke, some of the things he said. I think, yeah, great. After everything, after- Blaine’s gone back to that? I think Hummel’s just there to gloat, he’s turned around - doesn’t even see me, so I just walk away.”

Jesse does the math in his head. He knows the date of Blaine’s last visit.

He could have cursed, but he bites his tongue. The garden feels hallowed with those portraits staring down at them and Sebastian saying this to him.

“That’s how you found out?” was all Jesse can bring himself to say.

“I wasn’t taking anyone’s calls. Officially, you hadn’t- Well, the police hadn’t ruled it a suicide. No one I was talking to was saying anything because I wasn’t talking to anyone who gave a shit.

“A week later, Dad’s lawyer comes and tells me there’s been ‘a development’. That we won’t have to wait another year to file for release,” Sebastian tells this part of his story like he wasn’t even there for it. Like the side of him who was is still sitting up in that dormroom maybe. “Like it’s a good thing, right?” Sebastian goes on, eyes narrowing a little all the same. His tone really earns the twist of his lips. Sebastian Smythe at his coldest and most cutting. Talking about the thing that made him a free man years earlier than he should have been. “The best fucking news. We can get my whole case thrown out soon as it goes back to court. A ten year sentence served in four to five, no stain on my record after. So I asked how the hell that was possible.”

Jesse can picture the scene, although he doesn’t think he wants to. He’s been to the facility where Sebastian was being kept back then. The visitation room is a wide area, full of spaced out picnic table-like benches nailed down to the floor. Moderate security. Guards looking on as inmates meet more or less comfortably with one to four visitors after a rudimentary frisk of both.

“Then Hummel storms in. Second trip in two weeks, and I don’t see how shitty he looks. I don’t mean his every day, ‘got lost in my weird kid sister’s closet, and came out looking like this’ shitty... I mean like he hadn’t slept. Like he’d been crying.”

“Smythe-” Jesse can guess what Hummel had said next.

Which is when Jesse realizes that the disgust in Sebastian’s voice is for himself and not for Hummel. Sebastian almost sounds admiring as he says, “He came back every day between the first time and the last. I found that out later. He was waiting for me to come out and agree to talk to someone so he could show up and get his shot in without me taking one look at him and turning back around.

“I admit, I didn’t think he had it in him. He asked, ‘Are you happy now, you evil son of a bitch?’ I didn’t know what my lawyer was about to tell me... but I figured somehow Hummel had found out about it, and he didn’t like the idea of me ‘getting off easy’ so much. And I was feeling bitter. So I said, ‘I’d be happier if your boy was here to give me the good news himself, but I guess he made his choice. Too bad he couldn’t handle sticking with the right one.’ You can guess how that sounded to Hummel. He didn’t know that I hadn’t heard yet.”

“Jesus.”

Sebastian almost looks like he wants to smile when he says, “He punched the shit out of me. Don’t let those tiny, effiminate hands fool you. Hummel can hold his own in a fight. At least when the other guy isn’t expecting it.”

But it’s a diversionary tactic - Sebastian diverting himself from what they’re actually talking about here. Jesse can guess too why he never heard about Smythe being assaulted in visitation from any of the sources that Jesse’s kept in place to stay at least somewhat in the loop on what happened to Sebastian after the Kitty Wilde case closed for good.

Blaine’s letter included a confession naming himself as the only person present when Kitty went over the rails of that staircase, hit her head, and fell to her death. And after they’d dragged the lake next to Blaine’s family’s home - and found Kitty’s phone along with everything else - the legal system had wanted to be done with Sebastian Smythe, the DA’s son they’d wrongfully imprisoned with or without his help, as quickly and as quietly as possible.

Jesse can also guess one last thing.

“Blaine didn’t go back to Hummel,” Jesse doesn’t ask.

“No,” Sebastian agrees. “He didn’t come to me to gloat. He came to curse my name for killing Blaine.”

 

 

After their argument in the hallway, Sebastian found himself back at their room without consciously deciding that that was where he wanted to be.

It was probably the last place he wanted to be, actually. They had read a short story in English about just this kind of fucking thing - what happens when you stay cooped up for too long too close to the evidence to your own fucking crime.

It was about time to do something about that, Sebastian thought, hands shaking on the doorlock as he locked the door.

Past time. (He approached the loose floorboards near his bed the way you approach a thing that might bite if you approached it too quickly.) What had he even been thinking, leaving his own bloody clothing here in his own room... Leaving it to chance that no one would ever come seriously looking for them.

No. Leaving it to Blaine that no one would ever come seriously looking for them. This same time last year, Sebastian had decided that it would be better to attack and humiliate Blaine’s boyfriend, maybe scaring Blaine off for good (the paint would wash out - but Hummel’s rage and indignity would not, and Hummel would insist that his feelings be Blaine’s feelings - he always did) than to go on trusting Blaine with his heart. (Sebastian had felt like he’d been wearing it on his sleeve for weeks. Weathering rejection after rejection and coming back to Blaine for more - his jealous obsession as glaring a beacon as any bashful schoolboy’s blush, to anyone who knew Sebastian well enough to know that, anyway.)

Now he’d gone and trusted Blaine with his life?

He deserved how badly it was all starting to go, Sebastian imagined. He pried up the floorboards and made himself look at the ugly truth they revealed.

The clothes weren’t as bloody as they seemed the first time he’d seen them, Sebastian realized. Then, the blood was all he could see, and it was like it had been everywhere when really there were only a few streaks here and there along the front and along the arms. It looked like he’d reached up towards something bloody, had maybe tried to move it, but he hadn’t gotten far.

Sebastian pulled it out and set it aside, careful to touch only the blood-free sides of the shirt. The shirt was definitely his - Sebastian recognized the label, and it was in his size. But the pants underneath-

They didn’t look his length. There wasn’t any blood on them, so Sebastian touched them less carefully - he turned the waistband slightly outwards so he could read the label inside, and something heavy fell out of the back pocket and thunked on the floor right beside him.

It was a phone.

It was Blaine’s cell phone. The old one that he’d... lost.

Sebastian didn’t process what he was seeing right away. His mind was spinning. Like the mismatched sizes of the shirt and the pants had opened up a memory in his brain that had been sealed shut, he remembered vaguely when he and Blaine had scrambled to get dressed in the backseat of Blaine’s car, as Kitty waited. How he’d struggled getting “his” shirt back on. How tight it had felt-

Sebastian mindlessly searched the rest of the pants pockets, and out of one he pulled an untied bowtie. The dark fabric was darker in a few places, stained by the same blood that had stained the shirt.

Sebastian’s shirt.

Which Blaine had been wearing when he’d left the Scandals parking lot. Sebastian had been wearing Blaine’s.

This changed everything. Sebastian flung the pants away from himself as if they were a living thing, threatening him just by being. He shoved the shirt back where it had come from and replaced the boards. Then he sat staring at the phone, at the bowtie, trying to breathe and trying to think.

And finally he replayed the conversation he’d had with Blaine in that alcove. Specifically he remembered how he’d encouraged Blaine - had practically challenged him - to tell whoever whatever he wanted.

Blaine must have thought Sebastian had had his back this whole time, the way Sebastian had thought that Blaine had had his. And in the alcove, Blaine must have thought that was Sebastian saying he just wouldn’t do it anymore. Saying that Blaine was a murderer. And that he might as well tell someone else already.

Sebastian scrambled for the door so quickly, he crawled first, then stumbled to his feet. He shoved the bowtie in his pocket without thinking, fumbled his own phone out of his pocket, and rushed out of the room, barely pulling the door shut behind him.

All of the senior Warblers were supposed to be gathering for a rehearsal with Coach Sue today. They were going to practice a few of their Newsies numbers for Sectionals. Sebastian had completely forgotten about it in the midst of his own drama, but he hoped Blaine hadn’t. He called Blaine as he ran towards the dance studio in the northwest corner of the campus. His call was never answered, so he disconnected, and he called again. When he got Blaine’s voicemail a second time, he disconnected and kept repeating the process.

He prayed that Blaine was there - and not somewhere doing something stupid that he thought Sebastian had told him to do.

Coach Sylvester had had their set crew deck the stage with a set worthy of a theatrical production. And when Sebastian reached Auditorium One, where they’d be rehearsing, he saw towering brick building faces lining the back of the stage. The stage itself had been temporarily resurfaced to look like the street-top that newsboys of the Hearst era used to sell their wares from. Trash fires had been set in vintage-looking metal trashcans stageleft, stageright, and in the center of the dimly lit stage.
The fires looked, frankly, dangerous, and some of the costumed Warblers stood around on the stage watching them warily while Coach Sue could be heard berating some other Warblers backstage.

There were harness wires dangling here and there over the stage, and the first Warbler Sebastian came across right through the doors of the auditorium - Artie - was wearing a harness. Sebastian didn’t take the time to ask. They hadn’t done anything with wires so far in their practices.

“Artie, tell me you’ve seen Blaine.”

“What? Blaine- Yeah, he’s back in the dressing rooms. Have you seen Tina? She’s not here yet and Sue noticed. She’s-”

“Sorry, man, no. I have to find Blaine.”

And Sebastian did. Auditorium One had three boys’ dressing rooms, and three girls’, and Sebasian found Blaine alone in the second one he checked.

Like deja vu, Sebastian found himself saying, “Blaine, thank god...” and rushing Blaine, sweeping him up in his arms before Blaine had looked up from gloomily studying the oxfords Sue was making them all dance in.

“Sebastian! What-”

“Thank god you didn’t listen to me... I’m so fucking stupid,” Sebastian could only say, the nickname slipping out of him - making them both wince this time. “I’m so stupid, Killer. I’m so sorry...”

“Bas, you... You’re not stupid,” Blaine said softly, this terrible note of wary hope in his voice. He touched Sebastian the way he’d looked at him that night. Like he wasn’t sure he wasn’t imagining Sebastian’s presence near him. Like it didn’t add up that Sebastian hadn’t vanished as soon as Blaine had made his horrible, but no doubt completely accidental mistake. Whatever had happened to leave Kitty hanging like that and the shirt that Blaine had been wearing bloody in their dormroom.

It was Blaine. And suddenly Blaine’s too-still stillness the day after, his silence ever since - especially about the future - made even more sense than before.

“What’s happening?” Blaine asked.

There had been too many misunderstandings between them. Sebastian pulled back and he pulled the bowtie out of his pocket. Then he shoved it back in, out of sight, before the horror on Blaine’s face could bloom any more fear or betrayal.

Sebastian pulled Blaine back into his arms so he’d know that Sebastian hadn’t done it for the reasons Blaine must imagine, his eyes brimming with tears and staring at Sebastian like he thought maybe Sebastian was playing some kind of cruel joke, and he was waiting for the punchline.

“I didn’t see that, or your phone, when I hid the clothes. I didn’t know you were there,” Sebastian wastes no more time saying. “I thought I was. Blaine, I thought I was there that night. Not you.”

This time, when Blaine looked horrified, it was in a very different way.

“You- Oh, Sebastian,” he said in that soft way he often said Sebastian’s name in private. “How- Why would you think that?”

“Blaine, I was so fucking drunk, babe. And I must have dreamed about Kitty, about what happened at Scandals, and I dreamed about fighting with her. Then I woke up and there was blood on my shirt, and she was downstairs... like that-”

“We switched shirts. In the parking lot. I accidentally put on yours, and you got mine,” Blaine confirmed. Then he said, urgently, before Sebastian could even react to that, “I swear I didn’t do it on purpose! Sebastian, I promise. Oh my god...”

“I know, Blaine,” Sebastian said, because in that moment he did.

“I mean it. I- After... I came back to the room, and I just- I was barely thinking. I stripped out of the- To get away from the blood,” Blaine said, brokenly, but Sebastian nodded along. He could make out the gist of what Blaine was trying to say. “You’d left my shirt on the floor, the one you’d taken, and I just- You were passed out. I was going to wake you, but I couldn’t- I couldn’t let you see me like-”

Blaine was really shaking then. So hard Sebastian felt like he was shaking with him. Maybe he was.

“Blaine, it’s okay,” Sebastian said, just like he had that night.

“I grabbed my shirt and some other pants, and I left what I’d been wearing just where I stood. I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t- I didn’t think you’d get rid of it all for me. I just. I thought I’d get back in time to- To, I don’t know. To explain or-”

“How did it happen?” Sebastian asked quietly, hoping if he kept calm and quiet it would help Blaine get there himself.

He didn’t even care, honestly - how it happened. Just like that night - all he’d cared about that was Blaine was safe.

But Blaine needed to tell him. Sebastian could sense it. Or maybe he’s full of shit, but he thought that that was what Blaine needed. To tell him - to tell someone - what really happened. The way he’d (holy shit) been considering telling Hummel and Hudson and their family. Someone who wouldn’t get as uncomfortable talking about it as Sebastian would get whenever he saw Blaine getting uncomfortable talking about it.

And in the dressing room, Blaine told him everything. How Blaine waited for Sebastian to come back out of Scandals until Kurt called him, sounding frantic. So Blaine went over to the Hummel-Hudson house just to get screamed and cried at and called every awful name Hummel, with his limited if occasionally dead-on wit, could dream up. (Well. Blaine didn’t tell him that part. But Sebastian could piece it together, from the misery and the shame on Blaine’s face.)

How he’d begged Kurt to delete the video, and Kurt had before slamming his door in Blaine’s face and how Blaine had returned to Dalton. He’d been crying so hard, when he reached the gates, that when he asked the guard if he could please, just please not report Blaine’s being out after curfew... Gus must have taken pity on him. He’d waved Blaine through without reaching for his clipboard.

Right inside the main building, it had all gone down. Between Blaine... and Kitty... and Unique.

After a night of mostly crying alone in her room (she had run Ryder off early in, and he’d gone to the art students’ party to get drunk himself) Unique had gone back to the ballroom to make sure that all of the posters had been removed.

Kitty had been there. Drinking and complaining loudly, drunkenly, about people not being able to take a joke - or being a joke - Unique had been upset when she’d told Blaine that part. She hadn’t been making a whole lot of complete sense.

Kitty had had Pavarotti with her, in the cage they took him out in when they brought him to special events. Either someone had forgotten to put him back up after the dance, or Kitty had gone back and gotten him again. Unique had stepped in - not wanting another confrontation with Kitty, and certainly not wanting one in private, but too worried about Pavarotti’s safety to just do nothing.

When Blaine had shown up, Kitty’d had Unique backed up against a wall, close to crying once more - this time as much in anger as in genuine hurt or embarrassment. Unique had let Kitty say what she wanted to say, focused more on trying to get to Pavarotti before he could be hurt than on defending herself against Kitty’s increasingly ugly taunts and speculation.

Blaine hadn’t wanted another confrontation either. His whole night had been one, long battle - he was wrung out. But when Blaine had stepped in to help Unique, Kitty had turned on him. She’d cackled over sending the video to Kurt. She’d called Blaine a cocktease, a man-slut and worse. Then she’d said the one thing that had been one thing too far. The one thing that could have short circuited every better instinct Blaine had and every bit of logic that could have evened out his reaction.

She’d mentioned her brother. She’d said maybe she should have sent the video to him instead. Maybe she still would.

“She- She said... ‘You obviously just don’t learn, Blainey-bear,’,” Blaine told Sebastian, looking wrecked by the childhood nickname. “‘But I bet Sebastian would. What do you say, huh? Should I call Rob? I bet he could talk some sense into your fuckbuddy. Or, you know... beat some sense into him.’”

“Blaine...”

“I- I couldn’t think. I just-” Blaine swallowed, shuddered. He made a little sound so heartbreaking. “I didn’t really want to hurt her, I just wasn’t thinking! I shoved her... And- and she fell,” Blaine said. “It happened so fast. She just- she went down. And she landed on Pavarotti’s cage.”

Kitty had flailed, and the cage had crumbled beneath Kitty’s head and shoulders, Pavarotti’s frantic chirping and trilling abruptly stopped. Blaine and Unique had stood, stunned and horrified, staring and then struggling not to scream, to breathe and to think, and then Kitty had blinked once, twice. But she hadn’t moved. And a tiny rivulet of blood had begun to stretch out from beneath her, as if towards them.

Unique had shrieked and she’d run, mindlessly into the ballroom.

Blaine had chased after her, trying to calm her, just on reflex. He’d called Ryder for help because that’s who Unique had been fumbling with her phone to call, teary-eyed and blind anyways with panic. When he’d finally convinced Unique to quiet enough for him to go back and check on Kitty, Kitty hadn’t been there.

It was like listening to a horror story read out loud... like the scariest campfire tell Sebastian had ever heard told, an a performance worthy of an Oscary, only it had all really happened and Blaine wasn’t just performing.

Kitty hadn’t been where they’d left her, in the hall outside the ballroom. Even the broken, bloody cage had been gone. All that had remained was smudges of blood.

Sebastian had heard about those details of the case, as the younger students on campus - and some of the older, more childish students as well (the ones who didn’t know Kitty at least well enough not to want to turn her death into some story) - had circulated the facts they’d picked up or maybe just imagined, creating their own little, Dalton-exclusive urban legend. Kitty had taken Pavarotti’s cage with her up the stairs. It had been found on the floor beneath her, among the broken lights and the blood splatters.

More blood had been found on the floor near the ballroom, but it had been smudged beneath at least a dozen different shoes in the dark, before someone had found the presence of mind to turn on more than just the handful of dimmer lights that stayed on all night in the main building. Even Headmaster Figgins had had blood on he soles of his shoes by the time the police had arrived. One student had overheard a detective calling the whole thing a ‘forensic nightmare’.

Now Sebastian listened as Blaine told him how he and Unique had warily headed out into the hall, not sure what to expect. Was Kitty really okay? Was she stumbling around, too drunk to realize she’d been hurt? Did they need to help her or fear her? Maybe she hadn’t been hurt that badly, and she was waiting to attack them as soon as they neared.

Blaine had seen her first. She’d made it halfway up the staircase, and just by looking at her, he had known that she hadn’t been okay. She’d moved almost zombie-like, the cage in one hand, what looked like Pavarotti, dead, in the other. She couldn’t have been thinking clearly. She’d probably suffered brain trauma, even then.

Unique had shrieked again, and Kitty had jerked. She’d teetered on a step, and Blaine had rushed up to help her.

As fast as he’d run, Kitty had fallen faster. She’d teetered and lurched straight over the rail. Blaine had been so close, he had almost been able to grab her arm, but it had slipped past him. Then Kitty had hit her head a second time, on the way down, a terrible cracking sound echoing in the domed stairway.

Kitty had also snagged some of the lights hung between the rails on her way down, and she was still twitching - struggling to get free, Blaine had thought at the time,
although later he’d realized she’d probably been past conscious decision at that point - in the tangle. Blaine had run back downstairs, and he’d reached up to try and help her down, but anything he did had only seemed to make the cords of the lights clutch tighter at Kitty. And then Kitty had stopped moving altogether. Blaine had looked up, and Kitty’s lips had started to purple.

Blaine said everything after that, until Blaine returned to Dalton, seemed to have happened in a haze. Ryder arrived, and he helped Blaine get Unique to at least stop shrieking, and to muffle her cries. He’d helped Unique back to her room, and Blaine-

Blaine had stayed there, for long moments. He’d just stayed there. With Kitty.

Then something had buzzed from the ground. Kitty’s phone. It had fallen from wherever Kitty had apparently stowed it in her dress.
Blaine hadn’t even been thinking when he’d picked it up. But the name in the text alert that had flashed across Kitty’s screen had been ‘Big Bro’, surrounded by hearts and puking emojis, and it was like the choice had been made for him.

Blaine had used Kitty hand - the one not still somehow clenched around poor little Pavarotti - to unlock Kitty’s phone screen. Then he’d checked to see if Kitty had sent the video to Rob like she’d threatened.

According to Kitty’s phone log, she’d only sent it to Kurt.

Blaine had found the video and deleted it in a panic. Then he’d deleted the message to Kurt to be safe. Then some glimmer of sense had finally slipped into his brain, and he’d realized that his fingerprints were now all over Kitty’s phone. Bloody fingerprints. Then Blaine had really panicked.

He’d gone back to the room to stare at Sebastian, who was sleeping, and debate waking him up. Seeking him out for- For help. For direction. For just the comfort of not being alone, with Kitty’s blood and his thoughts and Kitty’s phone still in one hand, like it had grown there.

Finally, Blaine had made himself change his clothes. He’d left everything that had been on him in a haphazard pile on the floor. He hadn’t meant to leave them where Sebastian could find them. He hadn’t been able to think that far ahead into the morning. He’d thrown up a couple of times in the bathroom. He’d sobbed as he’d wiped his own bloody fingerprints off of the room’s doorknobs. Then he’d grabbed his car keys, he’d wiped down Kitty’s phone and tucked it deep into the pocket of his clean pants, and he’d locked the dormroom door behind him.

He’d gone home, but the thought that his parents might wake up and confront him in the night about showing up so late had been intolerable. So he’d driven out to the lake on their property, he’d tossed in Kitty’s phone, and he’d driven away before he could start to think about the last time he’d driven out to the lake alone.

To avoid going back to Dalton (to Kitty) Blaine had considered going to the hotel that Sebastian had rented a room in. The key Sebastian had tossed at Blaine, taunting him so cruelly (but of course Blaine had forgiven him - of course he’d understood) had still been in Blaine’s car.

Blaine had remembered his clothes then. The mess he’d left at Dalton that he couldn’t escape, no matter how he would have liked to. Absurdly, he still found himself taking the time to turn in the key to the hotel room. It had still been dark out, would be for a while, but it was technically morning then. It had been a momentary relief to worry about Sebastian having to pay for not having made check-out that day, instead of everything else that had been driving Blaine steadily towards an emotional breakdown.

So he’d gone back to Dalton without sleeping at all. Gus had just waved him back through. He’d avoided the main building altogether, and had walked around and entered the Aviary through the garden entrance.

But when he’d gotten to the room, the bloody clothes had been gone. Like they’d never been there. There had been kids just outside the second floor, on the walkway, crying or panicking and all of them talking, speculating, but the clothes had been gone, and so had Sebastian.

Blaine’s mind had spun. Sebastian had already hated him when they’d parted ways in the Scandals parking lot. Now he’d had an even better reason to be disgusted by Blaine - to never want to talk to him again, much less to go back to this crazy, amazing, surprising thing that they’d found together.

(Maybe, a mean and frightened little voice in Blaine’s brain had said, Sebastian would even be happy to use this against Blaine. Sebastian had never pulled his punches with someone he hates before, to Blaine’s knowledge, but Blaine had forced himself not to keep thinking like that.)

“And then- then you were there... on the stairs, just- Just so happy just to see me... so relieved,” Blaine said, tears having started streaming down his face well into the story. “It felt like- Like... it couldn’t be that bad, if nobody knew- I couldn’t be that bad. It was an accident. Sebastian, it was an accident, and you believed me, and I just wanted it all to go away-”

“Blaine, hey,” Sebastian took Blaine’s face in his hands and kissed him quiet, when Blaine began to get as worked up as he’d been when Sebastian had found him. stuttering out his promise that Blaine hadn’t meant to fool him.

His words were so like Sebastian’s thoughts had been that night. Sebastian felt his heart thump with more than just the adrenaline that had been carrying him then for nearly an hour.

“Hey, I know it was. It was an accident. And it’s over now,” Sebastian promised. He’d had no right, but he’d have said anything to give Blaine what he wanted in that moment. To make everything bad that had happened that month - that had happened to Blaine ever - just go away. Just stop.

Blaine kept talking, even when Sebastian gave up on kisses and pressed Blaine’s face into his chest, pressed their bodies together so tight, Blaine couldn’t possibly miss that he wasn’t alone in what had happened. Not anymore.

Mostly, Blaine said ‘I’m sorry’ and mumbled things that Sebastian could just pick words like ‘accident’ and ‘friend’ and ‘scared’ out of.

“It’s over,” Sebastian said again and again. “No one’s ever going to know. Blaine? You hear me? No one else will ever know. I’ll never let this hurt you. I promise, okay? It’s over.”

Kurt told Finn. Unique’s losing it. Ryder’s trying to help her keep it together, but- Sebastian, I’m losing it. I can’t-”

“You can. I’ll help you. Alright? I can help you, Blaine. You’ll be fine.” Looking back, Sebastian can see how desperately he’d been trying to convince himself - as much as Blaine. But for a moment he’d actually believed it. The investigation was over, wasn’t it? Kitty’s death had been an accident, and even if the police hadn’t known all the facts, they’d been able to figure that out. All Finn and Hummel had was knowledge of a video they didn’t have anymore - of Sebastian and Blaine having sex, and they’d already told the police that they’d spent the night together. Ryder wouldn’t implicate himself in some kind of cover-up. Unique might be a problem, but she might not... She’d hardly ventured out of her room since the accident. It was only a matter of time before a decision was made - by her or by the headmaster - that this just wasn’t the best place for her to cope. And the more time that passed, the less seriously anyone would take it if she did ever come forward and say something.

It was a selfish way of looking at things, maybe even unkind, but Sebastian had always reserved his right to be those things when the circumstances called for it. And protecting Blaine called for it - maybe even more than protecting himself had, when Sebastian had thought he was the one who’d worn that shirt, who’d given Kitty that push.

Blaine luckily calmed down quite a bit before one of the stage crew knocked then stuck her head in and told them both that Sue was ready for a run-through.

“Listen, you can do this, alright?” Sebastian told Blaine one last time, helping Blaine regel the curls escaping his usually immaculate gelling regiment, taking a handwipe and using it to wipe both their faces tear-free.

He could see that Blaine wasn’t “doing this”. He was slowly and quietly falling apart - he had been ever since fucking Hudson had pulled him aside, Sebastian just hadn’t seen it right away.

But Blaine just took a shaky breath and nodded his head. And after a few more encouraging words, after stealing a few more kisses which Sebastian gladly gave him, he actually led the way out to the stage.

“-center! And somebody call Chang and tell her that when she gets here, she’s going to wish she was never born...” Coach Sylvester was in the middle of roaring when Sebastian and Blaine got within hearing range.

“That’ll get her over here quick,” Sebastian heard Jeff mutter at the back of the crowd.

“Do I have to do this?” Artie said, and Sebastian had to look around to find him.

Because Artie was overheard. Suspended in his harness.

“That has to be against, like, fifteen separate UIL safety regulations,” Blaine whispered at Sebastian’s side, and Sebastian nodded.

“Shut it, Crutchy!” Sylvester snapped. “Smythe! Are you still not in costume? You know what, nevermind. I’ll deal with you later. Everybody take your places. This is a rehearsal, and by God, today we are going to rehearse something if we’ve got to sacrifice Baby Face’s sure-to-be short and uneventful future career in the performing arts to the great, fickle goddess of show choir hopefuls to do it!”

“What?” Trent blinked, suddenly alarmed - like there was any such mythical goddess for them to sacrifice anyone’s future career to, however that ritual was supposed to work. “Why m-”

Places!” Coach Sue repeated.

And the Warblers fell into line.

But they barely got halfway through a full set before their orchestral members abruptly stopped playing, and Artie jerked in his harness, letting out a sharp little screech.

Before Sebastian could even guess what the interruption was about, they were all hearing the voice that called out from across the auditorium.

“Coach Sylvester? These men would like to talk with one of our students!” Headmaster Figgins was shouting loud enough to be heard from the auditorium’s double doors.

He was standing with the young detective who’d seemed in charge of Kitty’s investigation - Detective St. James. And a handful of uniformed police officers.

And Tina, red-eyed and shoulders shaking with sobs Sebastian couldn’t hear from the stage but could clearly see.

She’d been in the hallway, Sebastian would find out later. Blaine had seen her, but he hadn’t known if she’d actually heard anything.

In that moment, all Sebastian knew was that Tina had heard - or seen - something. And she’d obviously heard and seen correctly. St. James was looking directly at Blaine.

Sebastian looked at Blaine too. From Sebastian’s spot in the number they’d been rehearsing before, it was unlikely that St. James could see him as he approached the stage, pulling his badge out of his leather jacket.

Sebastian remembers it all like something out of a movie. Slow motion, wide-angle.

Blaine looking at St. James... looking back at Sebastian... then again at St. James. What he was going to do was clear on his face.

No,” Sebastian whispered.

Then Tina screamed across the auditorium, “I’m so sorry!” She was looking directly at Blaine too.

Chaos set in. Kids wandered out of their places, all talking over one another, and whatever St. James was saying was suddenly lost to any of them up on the stage.

Sebastian was still looking at Blaine. Blaine looked back... and smiled. The saddest smile Sebastian had ever seen.

“It’s okay,” he mouthed. And over the years, Sebastian had swung from trusting himself to not on this particular detail, but he swears now that he really saw it. Blaine looked at Sebastian and mouthed, “I love you.”

But Sebastian believes he was ready to do what he did next before that.

With a glance to ensure that St. James really was too far away, at too awkard an angle, to see Sebastian - even if he looked - Sebastian reached into his pocket and pulled out the bowtie. He saw the surprise on Blaine’s face when he saw it - and saw too how it turned to horror when Sebastian tossed the tie into the nearest trashfire.

It was too late for him to have seen what Sebastian had done, but St. James did look - everyone looked - when the fire sparked and crackled and flared up. The Warblers shouted and crowded together closer to the front of the stage in the confusion, and Sebastian made his way quickly to Blaine with them as cover.

“Sebastian, what-”

“Don’t say anything. Let me help you, Blaine,” Sebastian said. Blaine clearly couldn’t guess what he was about to do. Sebastian was having trouble believing it himself. But he knew he was.

“I don’t know what you-”

And because he knew Blaine- He knew Blaine would fight him on this. Without even thinking about it, Sebastian knew. So he said. “I still have the shirt. Don’t. Say. Anything. I’ll tell them it was an accident, and they’ll believe me as long as I don’t give them the shirt.”

Blaine’s eyes immediately widened and his face paled. His lips moved before his tongue even started speaking. “Sebastian, don't-”

But St. James had drawn near enough to try and talk to the madness up on the stage again.

“I’m looking for-”

“Me,” Sebastian called out loud enough for the detective to hear - for anyone in the auditorium to hear. And the talking over one another started up again among the Warblers.

“Oh my god, Sebastian, please-” Blaine hissed brokenly, but Sebastian strode forward - past Blaine, past the crowd - where St. James could see him.

And he said the words that made all of the context for this story, his story - and Blaine’s - possible.

“I killed Kitty Wilde,” Sebastian said clearly. And he made such a show out meeting the detective halfway with his confession, St. James was practically obligated to lead him away in cuffs.

Chapter Text

Sebastian missed most of what Hummel was saying as he went down beneath Hummel’s fist, ears ringing, and then the guards descended to tear Hummel off.

Most of it just sounded like inarticulate rage, anyways, but a few choice phrases stood out to Sebastian amongst the chaos.

“You killed him! This is your fault! You killed him, you son of a bitch!”

Kurt was still screaming - crying, Sebastian finally noticed - as they drug him away. Another guard and Sebastian’s lawyer each stood there offering him a hand up, but Sebastian stayed sitting. He couldn’t have stood if he wanted to, even with assistance.

“What’s he talking about?”

To this day, Sebastian isn’t sure whether he actually managed to say it aloud the first time - or if everyone just ignored him because they didn’t know what to say. Because they did and they didn’t want to see how he’d react to it.

“Smythe, get up.”

“Sebastian-”

What the fuck is he talking about?

“Come on, Smythe. Let us get you off the goddamned floor.”

He was being almost gentle. One of the guards... being almost gentle, downright compassionate. There was only one ‘him’ that Hummel would come at Sebastian like this for. And no one in visitation knew a whole lot about Sebastian, but they all knew who signed the visitor’s log each week - who had signed the visitor’s log and written Sebastian’s name in the column next to theirs almost every week until lately.

Blaine hadn’t exactly been subtle.

“Can- Will they... do anything, if I touch you?” Blaine had asked once, eyes wary on the guards at the exits of the visitation room.

“Depends on what you had in mind, babe,” Sebastian told him, and he let his grin slip into something dirty.

Blaine actually smiled back at him - he’d begun to try and let himself do that again, for Sebastian - and he blushed for the first time in too much time, despite Sebastian’s many and continued attempts. (Blaine’s visits were the highlight of Sebastian’s week, and he’d be damned if he spent one acting gloomy or bitter. The times when he felt too stuck in his own shit to conduct himself appropriately, Sebastian warned Blaine ahead of time to hold off for a couple of days.)

Pleased, Sebastian threw in his most suggestive leer and a nice, long look up and down as much of Blaine as he could see as they sat at one of the visitation benches, with a slow lick of his lips to top off the display.

Blaine just blushed brighter... and then he slowly slid his hands across the table between them, over Sebastian’s closed fists, until they opened and turned so that Blaine could press their palms together and link their fingers - the first touch of any kind that Sebastian had felt in months.

Blaine looked so happy that no one came to break it up (the guards around there were pretty lenient about that kind of thing, as long as you didn’t push it), and he gave Sebastian plenty of time to pretend that he wasn’t breathing the way he was, blinking too much.

Once Sebastian had gotten himself under control, Blaine started to talk.

Well. He started to sing. Too quietly at first for Sebastian to make out the tune immediately, then louder - finally loud enough that Sebastian was sure every head in the room was either turned towards them or would be shortly.

Blaine was wide-eyed and still red-faced - he stayed that way throughout the song, expecting any moment to be hushed, probably even asked to leave - but he kept singing.

“Ki- Blaine, what are you doing?”

Then Sebastian let himself actually listen to the words that were coming out of Blaine’s mouth.

“What would I do without your smart mouth, drawing me in...”

“Babe,” Sebastian breathed, but it wasn’t a complaint.

Who the hell serenades his screw-up of an asshole boyfriend in prison? Blaine Devon Anderson, that’s who. Sebastian was pretty sure that someone would break it up eventually, too, but he was determined to enjoy the sound of Blaine’s singing voice - god, he’d missed it, almost as much as Blaine’s touch - for as long as he could.

“My head’s under water but I’m breathing fine... You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind,” Blaine sang. “‘Cause all of me loves all of you... Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections...”

Because he could - because he hadn’t sung since even before the last time he’d held his boyfriend’s hand, Sebastian sang back, “Give your all to me... I’ll give my all to you. You’re my end and my beginning. Even if I lose, I’m winning...”

If Sebastian closes his eyes now, he can imagine the sound of Blaine’s breath hitching, at just that moment, but his voice continuing on - soft but strong and steady, like a promise. “The world is beating you, i’m around through every mood... You’re my downfall, you’re my muse...” Sebastian can imagine the warmth and grip of Blaine’s hand.

It was a good day.

And Sebastian didn’t have a lot of good days in prison. It was prison. He’d sacrificed his life - literally, life as he knew it, as he’d planned it to be for his future - to be there. He had more bad days than not, bitter days, sleepless nights teetering on the verge of a stress-induced breakdown, twitchy days tormented by a jittery, restless panic.

But then his mom came - or his dad called. Sugar or one of the others visited.

Blaine came.

And smiled at Sebastian. And sang to him. And looked so haunted when he talked about what they were saying about the case these days in the news, or skirted around talking about his parents altogether. Clammed up and refused to talk about himself at all if Sebastian so much as brought up Blaine’s choice to attend the Westerville Community College, and continue living at home with his folks, so he could see Sebastian as often as he liked.

“You did this,” he almost shouted, the one time Sebastian had not backed down and let it go. There was a fire in his eyes and that tilt to his chin that Sebastian hadn’t seen in far too long. “Don’t you dare tell me that I can’t switch schools for you. Don’t you dare, Sebastian.”

Blaine came and reminded Sebastian, once a week, just by being - by continuing to live his life free, why all of it had been worth it.

Until Blaine just couldn’t do it anymore.

Sebastian doesn’t remember how he reacted when his lawyer finally said the words. He woke up in the prison infirmary, but not because of the shiner Hummel had left him with.

All of it flips around inside of Sebastian’s head, like a coin tumbling end over end - his father’s face the night of the arrest, Blaine’s hands seeking his at every visit after that first time; the first time Sebastian’s mom had ever cried in front of Sebastian because of Sebastian.

Blaine singing, “Cards on the table, we’re both showing hearts... Risking it all, though it’s hard...” Kurt screaming, “You killed him, you son of a bitch!”

The letter Blaine had written at Sebastian’s request - even longer and hotter than he’d hoped - giving Sebastian the first pleasant nights he’d had since being incarcerated. How Sugar’s shoulders had shaken as she’d hiccuped with her sobs. “Daddy’s a wreck, but he said ‘a favor’s a favor’," she'd cried. “Why, Bas? Why’d you ask him to do it! Why wouldn’t you let him help you instead? Why?”

Blaine. Just every single moment of Blaine Sebastian had never deserved... but would have killed to keep, if he’d had to.

There’s only so much of it Sebastian’s willing to share with St. James - even for the trade they agreed upon.

Luckily, St. James doesn’t ask for much. He’s already figured out that is was Sebastian who arranged for Gus the guard to conveniently re-remember what time he’d seen Sebastian that night. He must have figured out by now why Sebastian had finally given up the shirt. It had all been to keep the blame for Kitty square on his shoulders - off of Blaine’s. The one thing he had ever given Blaine without maybe taking even more for himself.

And St. James got what he wanted.

“You knew,” St. James says simply, when Sebastian finally stops talking. “All this time, I thought you- That they’d tricked you. Blaine. Or Hummel. That someone had paid you off maybe, or had something on you.”

“I knew what I was doing,” Sebastian assures him, “no blackmail necessary.”

And maybe if Sebastian’s history hadn’t been what it was, St. James would have seen that. Or would have trusted it when he saw it - instead of imagining murder plots and double-crosses.

“That doesn’t explain all this cloak and dagger shit, man,” St. James says with more than just his usual, carefully muted frustration.

It almost makes Sebastian smile. It didn’t always feel like a good thing - having someone so close to the secret he’d been hiding this whole time care so much about his welfare. But Sebastian did appreciate it on some level - he still does. A lot of people who had actually known him before he was a name on a news reel had written him off about as soon as #deathatDalton??? had stopped trending on Twitter.

“Sebastian... Blaine admitted to being the only one there when Kitty died,” St. James says carefully - whether for Sebastian’s sake, or because he feels it too - the presence of that second portrait above the spotlights.

But there’s no careful way to talk about Blaine’s suicide. Sebastian’s accepted that much. It’s been nearly a year. The letter Blaine had left in a simple, cream envelope on the deck of his parents’ lake... before he’d driven his father’s car into its depths... hadn’t said much about the night Kitty died. He hadn’t mentioned Ryder or Unique. He hadn’t clarified why Sebastian had come forward in his place. But he’d said enough. He’d said that he’d been there and Sebastian hadn’t, and once the police had found Kitty’s phone in that same lake - had leaned on Gus Baker hard enough - it had been enough to win Sebastian’s father the appeal Sebastian no longer had a reason to hold back on. They’d begun the process immediately, and Sebastian had been released, free and clear, around the time he would have just begun parole proceedings.

It’s been nearly a year, and Sebastian is under no delusions that any tone of voice, any gentle choice of words, is going to make talking about Blaine’s death less painful for him.

He knows only one thing that could make it worse.

“You know what Blaine hated most about what I did?” Sebastian asks and gives St. James a moment to reel in his obvious surprise at Sebastian’s easy acknowledgement. (Yes, Sebastian knows now that Blaine had hated Sebastian a little bit for what he had done, as much as Blaine had loved him. There were times Sebastian had hated them both, in a way, despite himself. And if he hadn’t realized that Blaine felt the same- Well. Blaine had certainly clarified that at the lake.)

“What?” St. James asks, mostly like he isn’t sure he wants to hear what Sebastian will say.

“Hearing people talk about what I’d done like they should have expected it,” Sebastian says, remembering the first time Blaine had brought it up. And all of the times that Blaine had gotten upset over it after that, over a lot of things. Sebastian had done whatever he could to make Blaine feel better in the moment instead of really listening to what Blaine had to say - partly because he couldn’t not want to make Blaine feel better, and partly because he hadn’t wanted to spend what precious time they’d had together talking about things he couldn’t change.

Maybe if Sebastian had thought harder about the things that Blaine said - and listened closer for the things that Blaine obviously hadn’t - Blaine would have had one less reason to- Well. One less reason.

(But Sebastian’s therapist makes him try not to think about that.)

“The nightly news, Blaine’s parents - even some of our “friends”,” Sebastian scoffs. “Suddenly they seemed to think I was the boogeyman. Asking why no one had done anything about my “drinking problem" sooner. Wondering if I’d done something to somebody at any of my other schools, but my father had paid off enough people there that I’d just never been caught.

Sebastian wasn’t technically supposed to be thinking about that either - but if he didn’t think about half the things his therapist told him not to, he’d practically be a vegetable.

“Every boy I’d ever fucked wanted his fifteen minutes of fame for dodging a bullet," Sebastian says. “Nevermind that my one and only “victim” was a straight girl. They’d message Blaine on Facebook, find him on Snapchat, wanting to connect. Like they’d formed a special little club and they thought he was one of them.

“Half of them were probably just trying to get into his pants,” Sebastian speculates. Blaine hadn’t thought so, but Blaine never thinks- never thought about himself like that; like someone so crazy hot, guys would invent reasons just to talk to him. “But almost all of them went out of their way to tell Blaine how they didn’t blame him for letting me ‘get to him.’ That they’d all been ‘fooled.’ That it didn’t make him a bad person.”

“I didn’t know about any of that,” St. James admits, looking vaguely queasy at the thought - the only acceptable reaction.

Sebastian nods.

“He got off of social media altogether after that, but they’d come up to him in the mall, in coffee shops. It was fucking ridiculous. But you know what?” Sebastian swallows. “I didn’t know about any of that then, either. Blaine didn’t tell me. He told Sam he didn’t want me feeling bad about it. Because for Blaine, the worst thing wasn’t what all of that was doing to him. It was having to listen to people talking like that about me. About somebody he cared about. And not being able to set them straight... Just having to listen- It ate at him. Every day.”

Sebastian makes no excuse for the thickness of his voice, the quiver in his lips. St. James doesn’t wait for one, looking away to let Sebastian recollect himself.

It takes a moment. Blaine’s selective silence was Sebastian’s fault too. Apparently, Blaine hadn’t told anyone everything. Just enough to take some of it off of his chest - never enough to get anyone worried, the way they should have been. And maybe it would have never occurred to Blaine to do that if Sebastian hadn’t put so much pressure on what Blaine said. If, in his panic on that stage, he hadn’t insinuated that he would turn in the shirt if Blaine challenged his confession. If he hadn’t constantly challenged Blaine’s decision to stay in Ohio.

Sebastian should have known, when Blaine didn’t stop fighting Sebastian - if only in private, if only by continually trying to convince Sebastian to let his father file that appeal, to say that he’d forgive Blaine if Blaine spoke up - that Blaine wasn’t going to stop. Not after the first year. Not after the second. Sebastian kept telling himself that it was just Blaine’s chivalrous nature that wouldn’t let him give it a rest. They just had three more years until Sebastian could try for parole... And then two. If Blaine could just hold out for two more years- Sebastian would have to serve his parole in Westerville, but they’d be together. And in a few more years he’d be free - finally free. Then he and Blaine could go wherever they liked. They could do whatever they liked.

The worst case scenario, Sebastian had assumed, was that Blaine would get tired of the waiting - or realize that Sebastian wasn’t all that worth waiting for after all.

“Nobody gets to call Blaine ‘Killer’ but me,” Sebastian says as soon as he can, trying to dispel some of the heavy gloom that’s settled over him. “It was an accident - a stupid accident -and people can say whatever he hell they want to say about it now. I won’t.”

Just to St. James, because the guy’s earned it - and because he has something Sebastian wants.

And he seems to read Sebastian’s mind.

St. James pulls out the thin file Sebastian had requested, from within his jacket, and bends it back and forth to smooth the crease folding it up and tucking it away has given it. He holds it out to Sebastian with a wry sort of smile. “I believe you,” he says. “I have five years’ experience with just how stubborn you can be.”

Sebastian hesitates only a second before taking the file.

“If you think Sebastian’s stubborn,” a perky voice says from behind the both of them, “that just means you know him.”

They turn, and there’s Sugar, beaming at Sebastian so excitedly, he can’t help but grin back.

It’s the first time Sebastian has seen her outside of a facility in his own clothes in years, so of course there’s a lot of squealing and hugging to follow. Sugar looks fabulous in a party dress she probably had tailored for this precise occasion - in the shade of pink she’d worn for their junior class performance of Grease (Blaine had gotten drunk after the last run and told her that she should always dress like Frenchy, because she’d “look like candy - candy is yummy”, and Sugar had teased Blaine about that ever since.) She’s been wearing her hair longer these days, and it falls over her shoulders in big, pink curls - similarly tailored to the occasion (a celebration of life indeed.) She’s wearing tiny gold and diamond earrings shaped like the Eiffel tower glittering in the moonlight, and Sebastian kisses her on the cheek when she stops squeezing him and shouting in his ear.

“You look amazing,” he tells her, and she swats at him playfully.

“Me? Look who’s talking,” she says, “Mr. Sight For Sore Eyes. Rowr.”

Yeah, Sugar is still the same old Sugar.

“Are you staying for our little shindig, ex-Detective St. James?” Sugar directs at St. James, who’s been staring at her six inch heels as if wondering how she made it across the open campus and into the garden in those.

(He doesn’t really know Sugar. Yet.)

“Uh. I don’t-”

“You should," Sugar stops him right away. “You should give the Warblers a chance to introduce themselves to you as something other than persons of interest, don’t you think?”

St. James doesn’t look like he does. But it’s hard to say no to a sweetly smiling Sugar Motta. “I’ll stay... if you call me Jesse,” St. James decides, with a slow smile.

And that just gets Sugar squealing again.

 

 

The caterers have arrived and begin loading up the tables to either side of the lighted portraits - fingerfoods and iced buckets of Fillico when Jesse steps outside the garden to make a call. Sugar sits with Sebastian on one of the new stone benches beside the topiary memorial to Pavarotti while they watch the sun set.

Others show up. Most of them greet Sebastian as warmly as ever - maybe even better than they would have had time been the biggest separator between them for the past five years, instead of legal and physical barriers. A few let their eyes ghost over Sebastian’s presence like he isn’t even there, and with narrowed eyes and a seering stare, Sebastian sees Sugar mentally adjusting future invitation lists and her social calendar accordingly.

It’s all overwhelming to Sebastian. He’s no longer used to being in wide open spaces for long periods of time, to large groups of people coming and going as they please - but he grits his teeth and stays through the initial influx of guests to Sugar’s celebration, forcing himself to respond to each surprise embrace and silent stare with the same mild smile equally.

Tina shows up, and Sebastian can see her nervousness and her fear from across the garden. He doesn’t even wait for her to apologize (the one time she’d visited him in prison - that’s all she’d done.)

“You did what you thought you had to do, Tina,” Sebastian tells her, but he knows it won’t do her much good. She’s already tossing tearful looks at Blaine’s portrait. Sebastian doesn’t imagine his forgiveness means half as much to her as the one Blaine had promised in the post-script of his letter.

Still he gives it, and they awkwardly almost-hug before shaking hands. “I didn’t mean for any of this to happen,” she says earnestly.

She’s here with Mike Chang, who returns Sebastian’s simple nod of greeting, and mostly offers Tina the support of a gentle hand at her back while she makes her peace.

Sebastian makes just enough conversation with just enough people to officially be considered ‘mingling’. He finds out that Tina took a gap year before beginning her studies to become a speech pathologist; that Mike’s been in L.A., performing with a production that’s been steadily making their way in the world of dance.

Artie’s about a semester away from earning his film degree, and has already directed a few short films - one based on their experiences at Dalton that Sebastian lies and promises to see sometime this decade.

Sebastian hears that Sam did some modeling for a time, but that he’s been out of the business for a while now - backpacking in Europe, which strikes Sebastian as a very Sam thing to do. This comes from Nick and Jeff, who talk about nothing but their recent engagement until Sam himself walks into the garden, looking like a scruffy European backpacker turned lead guitarist in a folk band.

Sam doesn’t say a word to Sebastian until he’s swept him up into a crushing, Blam-worthy hug.

“Dude, it’s about time we’re all back together, right?” he says then.

Nodding feels safer to Sebastian than saying that that’s not really an option these days.

Sam probably sees the words on Sebastian’s face all the same, because he hesitates for a moment, his large hand on Sebastian’s shoulder a weight Sebastian hadn’t known he needed until this second.

“Hey, it- It’s gonna be okay, Sebastian,” Sam tells him sincerely. “You know that, right?” He’s watching Sebastian so closely - maybe he’s looking for the same signs in Sebastian that they hadn’t seen in Blaine.

Sebastian could ensure Sam that he won’t see any. He could promise that much. But that’s a pretty far cry from being “okay”, Sebastian figures, so he just says, “I know, man. I know,” as convincingly as he can manage.

Sam doesn’t look convinced, but he lets the subject drop, taking a seat on the nearest bench to where Sebastian had been standing, and Sebastian takes the move as the invitation it was and sits too.

“I can’t believe no one saw that coming,” Sam says, looking away, which seems sudden until Sebastian looks in the direction that Sam is looking.

At first, he thinks it’s how close Ryder is standing to Marley as they talk to Jake and Trent. Sebastian’s ready to ask about that - it’s not like he hadn’t picked up on a little of the stray chemistry that had always been between those two back in school. But he wouldn’t have thought that Jake, as possessive as he’d always seemed, would be as cool about the change as he seems. He and Marley must have broken up some time ago.

Or so Sebastian thinks until Ryder leans over and kisses Marley on the lips... and then does the same with Ryder, then heads to the drink table with a smile for both of them, that both of them return.

“Are you kidding me?” Sebastian finds himself saying.

Sam laughs. “Right?

“That... makes a stupid amount of sense now that I think about it,” Sebastian muses.

“Yeah. Like, sixty percent of their drama back in highschool was apparently triangular sexual tension.”

Sebastian shakes his head. He’s always wondered if it was the stress of what happened with Kitty that did Ryder and Unique’s relationship in, or something more. Their love story had been sweet. But looking back, Sebastian can’t say he’s surprised that it hadn’t been a lengthy story. There had never been a question of whether or not Unique would be leaving Ohio - only how fast she would get as far as she was bound to go. Sebastian’s heard that she’s in Los Angeles now, working on her second EP. Meanwhile, Ryder had never seemed as concerned with where he’d be in the next five years - or even the next five days.

What he had seemed maybe a little bit too concerned with was his best friend - and his best friend’s relationship with his girlfriend.

Sebastian and Sam talk a while longer and watch their fellow Warblers as they criss-cross this first section of the garden. St. James returned from making his call shortly after Sam arrived and stands near the drinks table, talking to a former Dalton student Sebastian had never known well but who would have known both Blaine and Kitty when she attended.

Sugar had itinerized the evening - for the first hour, everyone was asked to stick close and catch up; after that, Sugar would say a few words and invite the others to do the same if they could. It went without saying that there would be song - probably an excess of song. Sebastian frankly isn’t certain he has it in him to stay long enough to hear which songs any of them will pick, or how far they’ll make it through the performances, but he’d promised Sugar he would try.

He doesn’t plan to sing, however. Not to the crowd. He’s made an emotional display of himself in front of another person often enough today.

Conversation with Sam turns to his parents, and then Sebastian’s - and then, somehow, to Blaine’s.

“Cooper’s doing okay, though,” Sam says, watching Sebastian closely again. Probably because Sebastian had nothing to say about the Andersons and how well they are or aren’t taking things.

The first and only time Sebastian got his wish - to meet the one member of Blaine’s family he’d deemed important - Cooper didn’t seem ‘okay’ to him. He’d called ahead, almost as soon as Sebastian was out of observation and back in his cell, able to receive visitors again.

The guards all watched Sebastian closely - almost protectively now that he was so close to his name being cleared - and Sebastian will admit, he’d agreed to meet with Cooper out of a sense of guilt and self-loathing. Sebastian had imagined their meeting maybe going the same way Kurt’s last visit had gone.

And he’d been alright with that. Had welcomed it actually. It was the least, he thought, that he had coming to him.

But Cooper sat across from him in the visitation room quietly. Cooper’s eyes were red-rimmed and his jaw was stubbled - obvious signs of grief - but there wasn’t any hate in his gaze as he studied Sebastian.

“I had to come see for myself why you’re worth all of this,” was the only thing Cooper said to Sebastian, all the same.

No punch could have hurt so badly. Sebastian could barely breathe through it.

“I’m not...” he confessed, voice breaking. “I’m not.”

Cooper didnt argue; he just stared a moment more, stood up, and walked away.

“I heard he left Los Angeles,” Sebastian says now. From what Blaine says- said, making it big in Hollywood had been Cooper’s lifelong dream. He walked away from that, but he’s okay?

“Aw, he was tired of making commercials and straight-to-dvd stuff,” Sam argues. “LA’s not the only place to make movies, you know?”

That’s like saying that New York isn’t the only place to perform on a stage, but on second thought, Sebastian thinks he gets it. It’s not like his own childish hopes of making it big on Broadway have survived all that’s happened.

“Bas-” Sam starts to say, but then Sugar is tapping her long, jewel-tipped fingernails against the glass of her water bottle and calling out to everyone to quiet down and listen up.

“Ladies and gentleman... fellow Warblers,” she says into a microphone that’s been set up on a stand near the entrance to the garden, “First of all, I just want to thank you all for coming here and helping me to celebrate, one more time, the life of our lovely, lively and much missed sister Warbler, Ms. Kitty Wilde.” Sugar pauses, to let everyone clapping, or sniffling, at the announcement quiet down again. “And also,” she goes on, with maybe just a little more quiver in the shaky sound of her voice - if that’s not just Sebastian projecting, “our sweet, brave Blaine Anderson... who could no longer be here with us in the flesh, but who is now - and will always be - with us in spirit... and in our hearts.”

Sebastian breathes... and breathes. And that’s honestly all he can do.

Sam’s hand returns to his shoulder, and Sebastian appreciates it while also almost resenting it a little bit.

He’s in love with Blaine. Still. Even with no Blaine around to be in love with, and for all of the many reasons that Sebastian had once decided he was never going to let himself get mixed up in this heart-eyed, angst-ridden, pining and longing “bullshit”, that had never been one that he’d considered possible.

But Sam loves Blaine, too. The way Blam had carried on, there’s no way Sam isn’t still feeling a loss right now as deep and as profound as the one that Sebastian feels nearly crippling.

But Sam is still functioning like a person. And it terrifies Sebastian that maybe, if he can’t do it now, maybe he never fully will.

“Blaine, for one, would not want us gloomy gusses all standing around here, moping when we could be remembering all of the good memories we have of him, and of Kitty,” Sugar is saying. “So who wants to go first and say a little something the way we Warblers say it best?”

“That’s my cue,” Sam says to Sebastian, and then he makes his way over to Sugar and the microphone.

Some of the guys Sebastian recognizes from orchestral back in the day have brought instruments with them, and after talking to Sam for a moment they strike up a vaguely familiar country tune that worries Sebastian at first.

But Sebastian manages, despite his misgivings when one of the men hands Sam a guitar. Sam sings a country song about enduring friendship which is touching and bittersweet without being too obviously about loving and losing or about Heaven or anything equally masochistic. Sam says a few nice things about Kitty when he finishes, then tells a funny story about a dance lesson he and Kitty both took when he first came to Dalton. And the highlights from the early years of Blam that he shares are light-hearted and fun before Sam chokes up just a little and cuts himself off with a Forrest Gump impersonation. (“And that’s all I have to say about that.”)

Tina only makes it up to the mic before bursting into tears and rushing out of the garden with Mike on her heels.

Marley talks about how Blaine took her under his wing when she first joined the choir program and about how Kitty pushed her to break out of her shell. Then she and some of the boys - Ryder and Jake and Artie are among them (even Sam jumps back in) - sing the song that had won their class of Warblers Nationals sophomore year. (“...I did it all.... I owned every moment that this world could give, I saw so many places, the things that I did...”)

Which is just about Sebastian’s limit.

But it’s after Rachel, the alum Sebastian sees that Jesse has still been chatting with, this long into the celebration (that’s an interesting development) says some inspiring - if borderline narcissistic - things about Kitty and Blaine that Sebastian just can’t take anymore.

She starts to sing “Candle in the Wind.”

And Sebastian wishes he could say it’s the cliche of it that gets to him... but it’s probably obvious that it’s not.

“Sebastian, wait-” he hears Sugar saying behind him, but Sebastian’s already moved one garden wall away, onto the path through the hedges that leads to the center of the topiary garden.

The garden is usually lit at night only by the moon and rows of solar flood lights along the ground. That’s the only lighting provided deeper into the garden, but Sebastian doesn’t slow his steps when he reaches the eerily dim inner pathways of the garden, the moon casting long, reaching shadows out from every topiary shape.

He barely sees them. His breath comes fast and shaky and he’d had a reason for asking for that file. He had the dimmest glimmer of a tentative hope so desperate he couldn’t think about it directly- He has it; it kept him mostly sane through that last, Blaine-less year in prison. It seems like all he’s been running on since being released. But another thing he hadn’t let himself think about deeply was the alternative to his likely fanciful hope.

It’s a thought that had been easy enough to avoid behind bars, where he only experienced the outside world in the bits and pieces that he actively sought out or accepted. A thought so threatening he’d been almost relieved when he was denied his request to attend Blaine’s funeral.

But there’s no avoiding it here. The alternative stretches out before him, as endless as the star-dotted night sky above, and as inescapable if his fragile, probably pathetic hopes are about to be proven wrong.

 

 

Sebastian’s replayed his last conversation with Blaine in his head so many times since that he trusts his memory of the day about as much as he trusts his judgement.

(‘I just wanted it all to stop,’ Blaine had said the night of the dance, in the Aviary, and Sebastian hadn’t thought twice about it.)

Had Blaine seemed different, from the moment he showed up that day? He’d looked tired. But then, Blaine had always looked tired by that time - sad beneath a thin cheer Sebastian assumed he’d engineered for Sebastian’s sake.

Then, Sebastian imagined it was the visits themselves that seemed to drain Blaine week after week, year after year. It was why Sebastian kept challenging Blaine’s choice to stay in Ohio, although he didn’t have it in him to cut Blaine off from coming to see him. When Blaine didn’t show more than a week after that last time, and Kurt did, Sebastian figured Blaine had finally made the choice to cut things off himself.

But back up.

Had Blaine seemed more tired that day - more sad than usual?

“You know you don’t have to take his calls, right?” Sebastian had said at one point. The topic of Kurt had come up. Again.

“We’re friends, Sebastian. He’s just trying to help,” Blaine told him, tiredly.

‘He’s trying to help himself back into your pants,’ Sebastian thought. Or did he actually say that out loud to Blaine? Could he have? Certainly he had kept the ugly thought that had gone with it to himself. The thought that Kurt might not have to try so hard. Week after week, year after year, Blaine wasn’t happy. Sebastian did everything he could not to make Blaine un-happy, but he could only do so much from inside a prison cell. It would be good for Blaine if Blaine did move on.

Just not back to Kurt. Anyone but him. A sense of obligation might have been all that was keeping Blaine there for Sebastian at that point, Sebastian had tormented himself by thinking at some of his lower points, but at least Sebastian never wielded that sense like a weapon. Like a tool to keep Blaine hanging on.

Did they even talk about Blaine’s parents that day?

About how Blaine’s dad was pushing him to come and work for the company. Alongside “Harold Wilde’s boy”. To “bury the hatchet” and “let bygones be bygones. We all make stupid choices when we’re boys, son. You don’t think that- boyfriend of yours wouldn’t agree?”

Or had that been the week before?

(Sebastian’s rage against Blaine’s parents has coagulated their many missteps over time, into one mass inside Sebastian’s mind.)

They didn’t sing together that day the way they sometimes had.

Blaine went quiet, near the end of their visit and muttered a few lines Sebastian happened to remember well - having seen Amelie with his mother more than once.

“They say times are hard for dreamers... but they won’t be hard for me...”

When he didn’t keep going, Sebastian lifted their joined hands to his lips and kissed Blaine’s palms. He skipped ahead.

“It isn’t what I have, it’s only what I have in store...” Sebastian sang quietly, earnestly back at Blaine, holding his gaze. “And everything I’ll ever need is here.”

In the letter Blaine left beside the lake, he had written lines to a number of people in his life. The few he’d addressed directly to Sebastian are burned into Sebastian’s brain. And they’d been followed by a few lines more:

They say times are hard for dreamers...
And who knows, maybe they are.
People seem stuck, or lost at sea.
And I might be a dreamer,
but it’s gotten me this far

And that is far enough for me.

Sebastian’s clung to those lyrics. He’d looked past the actual words within them to the fact that Blaine had sung some of them to him, that he’d chosen a song about Paris, about finding Paris. The one city in the world, he knew, where Sebastian feels like himself. (Like himself isn’t such a bad thing to be.)

Sebastian had imagined that the lines were less about context and more about code - a code they’d worked out in song lyrics written on notecards and paper scraps throughout the crazy, wonderful, catastrophic span of their time together. If Sebastian interprets the lines that way, there’s hope. A ridiculous, insane, unlikely hope - but what part of their story hasn’t been at least a little ridiculous, entirely insane, and more than half unlikely?

If Sebastian interprets the lines that way, the file he bargained with Jesse for will tell him that the “end” of Blaine’s story is missing one thing. One very crucial thing.

If it doesn’t-

If it doesn’t.

Sad songs sung by teary-eyed friends... a stack of lonely notecards in his pocket that only he will ever understand the significance of- And empty space beside him in the dark, quiet center of the garden he’s stumbling through in the near dark-

That will be the outcome of Sebastian’s last ridiculous, insane, unlikely plot to escape reality for just a little longer.

Suddenly, Sebastian almost wants to take the file he’d bargained for and hidden inside his jacket and fling it as far away from himself into the darkness as he can.

Like if the proof, one way or another, is out of sight, he can keep it out of mind just a while longer. He can keep it from breaking what’s left intact of his heart.

“Bas... Sebastian, hold up!” Sam starts to call from a distance - shorter than the indistinguishable sounds of singing now far enough away that Sebastian can’t tell if it’s still Rachel at the mic, or if someone else has stepped up to say their piece about Kitty’s and Blaine’s death.

Because Blaine’s dead.

Because Blaine, who Sebastian would rather have thrown his entire fucking life away than see in a cage, drowned himself in the lake he’d tried to drown himself in after freshman year... had been pulled out of that lake and put in the ground like there wasn’t a part of him still up here, in Sebastian’s chest, pounding like it knows that the distance that it’s being stretched from is too long for it not to snap eventually.

“Sebastian? Dude, wait. Where are you?”

Sebastian had once made such a point of convincing people that he doesn’t care. His father could marry whoever he wanted... Sebastian didn’t care. They could kick him out of another school - threaten that there wouldn’t be another another; he’d just smirk. That cute boy at his new school had a cute boyfriend who had an awful personality and hated Sebastian on sight - Sebastian would fuck one and fuck over the other. No sweat off his back.

He’d tried to change, to stop, but maybe he’d only stopped convincing himself. He’d made his one, grand, selfless sacrifice for his love of Blaine - but it hadn’t really been selfless, had it?

Whether he’d lied for the wrong reasons or for the right ones, he’d still lied. And Blaine had been forced to live with the consequences, without a say if he didn’t fight for it - just the same as he’d been when his parents had decided for him not to press charges against Robbie Wilde.

Had Sebastian changed at all, then?

Had he just been lying to himself about a different thing - looking for hidden meanings that didn’t exist, just to run from reality for a little longer?

A reality he’d helped create.

Sebastian pulls out the file and steps through the last opening in the garden walls to the center of the garden. In the moonlight, he can just make out the towering figures of the sculpted dancers. In the near-dark, they could just as easily be diving as dancing, falling, one figure dragging the other down with him rather than forward. Sebastian falls onto as much as he sits down on the bench where he and Blaine had made out for the first time, a lifetime ago.

He thinks he may vomit. The file shakes in his hand.

“Jesus, Sebastian. Bro,” Sam’s voice finds him, with a rustle of leaves, heavy breathing and heavy footsteps, as Sam almost runs through a hedge to catch up with Sebastian instead of around it and through the intended opening. “I’m sorry, alright? We thought maybe you already figured- But I guess not.”

That makes no sense to Sebastian. “What do you want, Sam?”

“You aren’t- You don’t... have anything. For doing something stupid with, do you?”

Sam had been watching Sebastian so closely tonight because he’d been worried about Sebastian hurting himself then, hadn’t he?

“No, Sam,” Sebastian simply says. “Give me a minute, alright?”

When he reads the file, Sebastian will know. And then maybe Sam will have a reason to watch him closely. The possibility certainly doesn’t seem as preposterous to Sebastian now, with all of his delusions maybe about to fall apart in his hands, even as self-centered as Sebastian has proven himself time and time again to be.

“Hey, man, no, really,” Sam says almost urgently. “The last time I didn’t make sure that a friend was okay? I nearly had a fucking breakdown, man, watching the news before I got Cooper’s call.”

Sam’s at the bench now, and he sits down beside Sebastian as carefully as if Sebastian’s a bomb he could set off with just the wrong move.

And maybe he’s right about that too.

“I’m sorry,” Sam says again. But before Sebastian can misunderstand once more, he continues, “St. James seems like a nice guy. But he’s not, you know... One of us. I couldn’t just come out and ask with him around. Only a few of us know. Everything is alright, man, okay? Calm down.”

The words don’t automatically compute. Maybe Sebastian doesn’t want them to. He’s just acknowledged how likely it is that the hopes that brought him here have been in vain. Fresh hope just feels like another opportunity to hurt himself.

“What- What the hell are you saying?” Sebastian feels the words slipping past his numb lips, but he doesn’t really have control of himself for that moment - the blood rushing to his head feels like it’s sweeping away his thoughts in the flood.

“Don’t worry - no one else is gonna come looking for us. Sugar’s making su-”

Sam, what are you saying to me right now?”

It’s like the moment back in prison, the day Kurt Hummel had knocked him off his feet - only inverted. Sam’s reaction is the photo negative of Sebastian’s lawyer’s the day he told Sebastian that Blaine had killed himself and left a letter clearing Sebastian’s name.

This lightness that had been muted by caution in Sam’s eyes before flares, bright and happy, and his mouth stretches into a grin at once reassuring and still seeming a little awestruck. As if he's still not entirely sure that this is his new reality, but he’s sure enough to pull Sebastian into it with him.

“He couldn’t have done it, dude. You get that, right? This wasn’t just- He couldn’t take it anymore,” Sam starts saying, trying to get everything out at once it seems. “But you’re free and clear now. Not even a parole. You can go wherever you want. No one has a reason to follow you.”

Sebastian looks down at the file in his lap. Is Sam saying-

Sam must be saying...

“Look, this is for you, alright? You’re not gonna believe me if you don’t see it for yourself. Just- It’s alright, Bas. Like I said.”

Sam pulls a small envelope out of his pocket and hands it over... Watches Sebastian once more in what Sebastian realizes now is a search for recognition.

Sebastian sits as if frozen for a moment and then drops to the ground, nearer the floodlights at their feet. He pays no attention to Sam doing the same, but turns the envelope over in his hands in the glow of the nearer floodlight, searching both sides for any hint, even the vaguest sign that-

The envelope stamp is dated two weeks ago, and the return address is addressed to Cooper Anderson. The bottom stamp isn’t from an American post office.

On the back of the envelope, someone had written: ‘We’ll see. - Cooper’.

(“I had to come see for myself why you’re worth all of this,” Cooper had said. Sebastian had told him he’s not.)

For a moment, the words disappear - become only smudges on a white space - and Sebastian’s breath hitches, his heartrate spikes, but he didn’t imagine what he’d read. His eyesight, full as his eyes have become, has blurred, and with a blink the tentative proof returns. Sebastian feels like he’s sucking in air to keep his chest expanding and contracting.

“Open it, man,” Sam gently urges.

Sebastian does. He tries his hardest to be careful, to not disturb whatever amazing reprieve the envelope might contain, but the top still rips between his nerveless fingers.

Luckily, the single notecard inside is untouched. Sebastian pulls it out.

On the card, in familiar loops and lines, someone has written six lines - not from a song this time, but something about them teases at Sebastian’s memory. And the handwriting on the card doesn’t match the handwriting on the envelope.

Sebastian laughs. The sound is wet and thick and probably pitiful, but he can’t help it.

Because this is perfect.

It’s far past time that they started using more of their own words with one another.

The card says:

I am a man who thinks with my heart.
My heart is not always wise.
You are a man who stumbles and falls.
But you are a man who tries.
Loving a man is to forgive and forgive...
And help and protect - as long as we live.

“Oh my god...”

Sam stretches his whole arm across Sebastian’s shoulders this time. Even his voice sounds changed, when he says. “See? I told you. It’s alright, man. It’s alright.”

Sebastian even checks to be sure. He fumbles in his pocket and pulls out the notes he’d collected just hours earlier. At random, he chooses the one that says, ‘ However our story ends, I know that you’ll have changed mine... ’ He holds it and the card Cooper’s sent him nearer to the light.

The handwriting on the new card is a perfect match to Blaine’s.

Sebastian lets both cards fall into his lap, barely noticing as Sam scoops up the other cards Sebastian’s let fall at his side.

“Holy shit...” Sam says softly, as if in awe. “Are you kidding me right now?”

Sebastian lets himself laugh again - even at the risk of sounding hysterical.

The story told in the scraps of paper Sam holds up to the moonlight do suggest all the makings of an epic love story.

Or a tragedy.

Sebastian can’t let himself trust until he knows more. He opens up the file and rustles quickly through the papers within, holding each to the light, one by one, and then letting it fall. It isn’t long before he finds what he needs.

On the final page of the police report St. James pulled strings and called in favors to acquire for him, the investigating officer had written the detail Blaine’s family’s lawyers had worked hard to keep out of the press.

After dragging the river several times, Blaine’s body had still not been found. There are notations about local wildlife, Blaine’s possessions found in the car and in his parents’ home, but Sebastian has already seen what he needed to see.

“Backpacking in Europe?” he whispers, because that’s all he has the breath to do at the moment.

“Great way to meet friends, you know?” Sam says, with totally unmuted joy in his voice.

And Sebastian finally believes.