characters/pairings: Sebastian Smythe, Blaine Anderson, Kurt Hummel. Klaine, Seblaine (friendship? ambiguous.)
ratings/warnings: Alluded to canon infidelity (so, not Sebastian) spoilers/speculation for future episodes (specifically 4x07, including a spoiler character for that plotline.)
summary: Sebastian sometimes thinks he can smell vulnerability on a cute boy from a mile away. In this case it isn’t nearly as satisfying as he thinks it should be.
notes: Title from the lyrics of ‘Young Folks’ by Peter Bjorn and John. This was my 4x01 reaction fic that I couldn’t seem to find an ending for. I found out why after 4x04 aired. And there will more than likely be another 4x04 fic because I'm not satisfied yet.
Sebastian has put an inordinate amount of effort into trying to uphold the truce.
Not that it can really be counted as a truce as such. A truce implies some level of mutually beneficial agreement and, as of yet, the benefits of this ceasefire haven’t exactly filtered down to his camp.
He doesn’t know what he’d expected really.
Apologizing isn’t something he does a lot of but he had thought for just a moment - up on that stage beneath the sweltering heat of the stagelights and watching them hit Blaine’s eyes just right, rendering them soft and brilliant, with his fingers curled tight around the back of his warm hand - that maybe they could start over. That he would get the second chance he had almost conceded to begging for.
Months later and he is maybe still just a little surprised that, once again, things hadn’t quite worked out the way he expected them to.
It is something of a recurring theme when it comes to his dealings with Blaine Anderson.
Of all the things he hadn’t expected to be right about though - well, maybe he can’t help being just a little bit smug. Returning to Ohio after two months of debauchery on the Côte d'Azur (two months that had utterly failed to cleanse the mistakes he’d made from his skin or his memory) had to have an eventual upside, after all.
He keeps the smile just this side of polite, the tone neutral. He knows how to play nice when he has to, even if the edge that wants to crawl into his voice through the sheer incidental fact of being in Hummel’s presence isn’t nice at all. Bitterness isn’t a good look on anyone. Jealousy even worse.
Especially when it’s source is currently wearing a Lima Bean apron and one of the most tragically ugly hats Sebastian has ever laid eyes on. He is not nearly so far gone as to concede defeat to that.
“You aren’t welcome here,” Hummel bites out, fingers digging into the surface of the counter until his knuckles turn white and embarrassment rises hot in his cheeks.
“I’m a valued customer,” Sebastian replies easily, waving his wallet just a little smugly. “Americano, if you don’t mind.”
He is almost certain he hears Kurt mutter, ‘I do mind,’ beneath his breath as he takes the proffered bill from his fingers and scrawls out something on the side of a cup that Sebastian won’t be the least bit surprised to find says, Anti-Christ, when he picks up his order.
Instead he drops a single quarter into the tips jar, bites down the urge to tell Kurt to put it towards his operation to become a real boy (because he is trying, at least) and when he takes his seat he makes sure it is as far away from the counter as possible.
Because if anyone is going to break this farce of a truce, Sebastian is determined it isn’t going to be him.
There is something about being back in Ohio that makes it hard not to fall back on old habits.
Perhaps it’s the last of the golden sunshine and the gorgeous boys he had gorged on for two months fading from his skin - perhaps it is just the stark reminder of the cage that Ohio has become for him (trapped in a pit with every last one of his worst mistakes) - but instead of researching his first homework assignment of the year he finds himself scrolling through that obnoxious McKinley kid’s gossip blog.
It isn’t such a departure from his normal routine. Keeping tabs on the Warblers biggest competition isn’t a bad idea if he wants them to let him help drag them out of their two years running Regionals rut, but he figures he might just be kidding himself a little when he drags the timestamp on that stupid video back ten times to watch Blaine Anderson smile at the camera and declare himself the new Rachel.
Maybe it’s the oddity of the situation. Of seeing Blaine declare himself the new anything, like he needs to be something other than himself to prove he is capable of being a leader when the Warblers would have taken him back in a heartbeat (he’s learned as much in their first meeting of the year). Maybe it’s the razor edge to the look in Blaine’s eyes when he realizes he isn’t the only one with those ambitions.
Whatever it is, Sebastian is starting to realize that maybe his situation is a little more dire than he’d anticipated.
It takes two more trips to the Lima Bean, a wide painful smirk tacked to his lips as he holds in every last comment that desperately wants to escape (Nice hat, Pinocchio, what a shame Gepetto couldn’t spring for some dignity for you as well) before the peace lines are officially crossed.
Blaine stops behind the empty chair across from him, fingers clasped tight around the coffee cup in his hand and looking just a little guilty as he glances over his shoulder in the direction of the counter before turning back to frown at him, “What are you doing?”
“Coffee,” Sebastian replies brightly as he glances up from the notes he has been pretending to read since Blaine first wandered inside with the dopey blonde cheerleader in tow. “Though if you wanted to change the agenda for later I can make some room in my schedule.”
The momentary flash of confusion across Blaine’s face is worth the reward when he blushes deeply, fingers clenching tighter into his coffee cup as he puffs up indignantly and huffs, “In your dreams.”
“Frequently,” Sebastian agrees, the smugness slipping from his smile when Blaine fails to react as he should (and really, breaking the months long vow of silence between them for a few weak rounds of flirtatious banter isn’t exactly the grand gameplay Sebastian had in mind, let alone with Blaine refusing to act accordingly.)
“It was a joke, Blaine,” he offers in an attempt to soothe some of the prickliness from Blaine’s demeanour, letting something a little more natural tug at his lips as he sinks back in his chair and looks up at him. “So does this mean the silent treatment is over?”
“You’re making Kurt uncomfortable,” Blaine replies in lieu of an answer, staring down at the lid of his coffee cup. “I thought - after Regionals -”
Sebastian rolls his eyes, desperately hoping the urge to scoff doesn’t make it’s way past his lips because of course Kurt had tattled on him for just daring to exist in the same environment as him, even when he is playing nice. Instead he glances down at the side of his cup where Lucifer is scrawled in that same looping handwriting and turns it towards Blaine’s view, eyebrows raised just so for effect.
Blaine bites down on his lower lip, like he isn’t sure whether to laugh or not, eventually giving in to an awkward half smile as he rolls his eyes to himself and drags the chair out from the table. It feels like a victory even as Blaine perches on the edge of the seat, like he is ready to leave at the first sign of wrongdoing.
"In case you’ve forgotten, this was a Dalton hangout long before your boyfriend started stocking the biscotti barrel,” Sebastian says lightly, picking up his coffee and taking a pointed sip as Blaine shifts restlessly on the edge of his seat. “I’m just here for the coffee.”
The pronounced roll of Blaine’s eyes this time makes him smile just a little, quickly hidden behind his coffee cup when Blaine frowns across at him and says, “Of course I remember. In case you've forgotten I was a Warbler long before you showed up to corrupt them."
"Ouch," Sebastian laughs back delightedly, leaning forward in his seat to regard Blaine with interest, "He bites too. The new attitude looks good on you, Anderson."
Blaine huffs and looks down at the table, a hint of a smile just visible at the edges of his lips as he glances up through his lashes and says, "Just play nice, Sebastian."
“However could I resist such a polite request?” Sebastian replies, eyebrows inching upwards as he tilts his head to the side, staring hard at Blaine for a moment and wondering what it is about him that seems different. He seems hungry, somehow, off kilter and desperate for something that Sebastian is almost entirely sure won’t be found in any title so lacking as a replacement Rachel Berry.
(Maybe Blaine’s just as trapped as he is.)
“I mean it,” Blaine insists firmly, fingers twisting together on the tabletop as he glances over at Sebastian and says, “He's having a rough time at the moment.”
Sebastian surprises even himself, his fingers curling tight around his coffee cup as the question spills out of his lips, “And what about you, Anderson?”
The wide, blinking stare is familiar, the nervous laugh as Blaine looks down at the table, toying with his fingers as he asks, “What do you mean?” about as convincing as Hummel’s attempt to wish him a nice day earlier (as in, not at all.)
Sebastian sometimes thinks he can smell vulnerability on a cute boy from a mile away. It isn’t as satisfying as he thinks it should be.
“Really?” Sebastian asks with a quirk of his lips, leaning back in his chair and eyeing him curiously, “We both know your newfound competitive spirit, while adorably ineffectual, is a pretty transparent cry for attention.”
Blaine huffs out a surprised laugh, his eyes widening as he looks over at Sebastian with apparent disbelief, “You’re kidding me, right? This is the first time we’ve talked in months and you think that somehow me wanting a position that I, by the way, am more than qualified to handle, is some kind of desperate plea for your attention-”
“I didn’t say mine,” Sebastian replies, intrigued by the increasingly agitated rise of color in Blaine’s cheeks and the brightness of his eyes. “And nothing quite reeks of desperation like battling it out to be a poor imitation of Rachel Berry, Anderson.”
Anger sharpens Blaine’s edges, has him puffing up with indignation and getting to his feet to glower down at Sebastian, his coffee forgotten as he snaps, “I don’t know why I even bothered.”
The funny part is that, as Sebastian watches him stalk away and his eyes dip unrepentantly to the snug fit of his jeans over the ass that is still as phenomenal as he remembered, he can’t seem to figure it out either.
Sebastian decides to steer clear of the Lima Bean for a few days.
He trusts Hummel’s professionalism as a barista about as far as he could kick him and he doesn’t want to risk any nasty surprises along with his daily caffeine hit. It has absolutely nothing to do with the look that Blaine had given him before he’d stalked away.
(If he does, however, find a poll on that gawky kid with the jewfro’s gossip blog and maybe clicks Blaine’s name a few more times than anyone without any vested interest in the results possibly should, it’s only because he wants the Warblers to face some actual competition this year before Nationals.)
"I hear some congratulations are in order," Sebastian says as he drops into the seat opposite Blaine, ignoring the curious and complete absence of Hummel's eyes trying to burn a hole through the back of his skull from the counter.
For three days Sebastian has laid low, avoiding the Lima Bean in some misguided attempt to give Blaine space to cool down. He’d realized yesterday what a ridiculous idea that was - Blaine had nothing but space over the summer and that had gotten him precisely nowhere.
Sebastian likes to think that when Blaine had asked him to go easy on Kurt, a request that he's pretty sure would have been better directed at the snappy cheerleader and her cronies in the corner, it had been an olive branch of sorts. One that Sebastian had promptly gone and stepped on but still - he hadn't even commented on that horrific ascot Hummel had been wearing. He should have gotten leeway for the Herculanean effort involved in that alone.
Blaine's head jerks up, eyes wide with surprise as he glances up from his phone and asks, "What do you mean?"
To Sebastian’s surprise he doesn’t seem overly hostile, there is a hint of caution in the guarded expression on his face but he doesn’t look like he’s planning on dumping his coffee order in Sebastian’s lap so it’s a start.
"The new Mr. Rachel Berry isn't it?" Sebastian asks, eyebrows hitched high as he leans back in his seat.
He can't quite tell if the flush of color that pools across Blaine's cheeks is pleased or embarrassed. "How do you know about that?"
Sebastian shrugs, ignoring the distracted way Blaine keeps glancing over his shoulder and the familiar grating sound of the cheerleader in the corner as he says, "I hear things."
"You've been keeping tabs on us," Blaine replies, narrowing his eyes a little.
"There's nothing wrong with keeping an eye on the competition," Sebastian replies lightly. "Though I have to say - you don't seem all that thrilled about it."
"Of course I'm thrilled," Blaine replies, fidgeting uncomfortably under Sebastian's eyes before blurting out, "Kurt's gone now. You can stop coming here to harass him."
And isn't that the irony, that even when he is playing nice Sebastian is still the one at fault. He wonders if maybe he deserves that.
"What makes you think I’ve been coming here to see Kurt?" Sebastian scoffs, lips twitching as Blaine's head jerks up, before he adds, "They still have the best coffee in the area."
They don’t actually. Not that Blaine needs to know that.
There's a loud titter of laughter from the corner and Blaine's shoulders stiffen, his frown growing deeper and a little more troubled, his chin jerking determinedly upwards as he says, “Well, he’s gone, so.”
Sebastian tips his head, watches Blaine stare down at the lid of his coffee and chew his lower lip. There’s something not quite right in the tight smile, trying so hard to appear unconcerned or supportive or some version of himself that Blaine so clearly isn’t.
He could ask. Maybe Blaine would even answer.
Blaine has always been unpredictable like that.
Instead he shrugs, sinks back in his chair as he takes a sip of his coffee and says, “So you already said.”
“I should probably be going,” Blaine says after the moment has been allowed to fester, silence growing heavy as he reaches for his coffee and drains the last of it, eyes never straying once in Sebastian’s direction as he pushes himself to his feet.
Sebastian watches him grab for his satchel, pulling it over his shoulder with shaking hands and he wonders for a moment just to what extent Kurt’s gone means. Blaine is just turning to leave when it trips off his tongue, faster than he had intended, "For the record, I think the old Blaine Anderson suits you better.”
Blaine pauses, turning just enough that Sebastian catches a glimpse of the strained expression on his face before he waves a silent goodbye.
And for a moment he could swear he heard Blaine say, “That’s not who they were looking for.”
It isn’t that the encounter in the Lima Bean or the expression on Blaine’s face as he walked away gets forgotten, but things get busy after that.
A new guy is muscling his way into the Warblers and Sebastian feels like he should probably be less surprised at how readily they shaft him for a new leader. Hunter is a piece of work, anyone can see that, but the Warblers have always been easily led. It was part of what he had liked about them, last year at least.
He is still trying to better himself, to not slip back into the familiar habits, so he lets it go. Hunter can pull the strings this year, but he won’t be pulling Sebastian’s.
It isn’t a surprise the first time Blaine’s name comes up again in that rehearsal room, a part of him wonders if this batch of Warblers will ever quite recover from the loss of his presence, but a part of him is instantly wary at the way Hunter’s attention is caught by the fading glow of that reverence.
Sebastian knows guys like Hunter, is a guy like Hunter, and he can practically hear the wheels in his head turning.
They run into each other every now and again.
He’ll see Blaine driving away in his car when Sebastian is just arriving or sitting at a table in the corner nursing a drink or waiting by the counter with a distracted look on his face while he distractedly plays with the buttons on his phone. But even when he has a companion (the cheerleader more often than not or the asian girl, one week it’s the blond with the enormous mouth) Sebastian can’t help but think that he looks lonely.
Nothing quite fixes the hole that he carries around with him, an absence that drapes over him, heavy and pointed.
It’s that vulnerability thing, maybe. Sebastian can smell it from a mile away.
Or maybe he just recognizes something of himself in the broken composure on Blaine’s face.
(Trapped in a pit with every last one of his worst fears.)
“Why the long face, Killer?”
There had been a post on that McKinley kids blog about the student elections and Sebastian had been unsurprised to see Blaine’s face there. Sebastian is starting to suspect he knows what Blaine is doing better than Blaine himself does.
It has been weeks now of nods from across a coffee shop and aborted conversations and Sebastian doesn’t know why today is different, why the sight of Blaine hunched over a table in the corner staring down at the table draws his feet in that direction, but Blaine all but jumps in his chair at the greeting. His phone trembling in his fingers as his head jerks up and something burns in his eyes, guilty and terrified and Sebastian knows he is staring but that -
He sinks into the chair opposite, wondering, fingers curled tight around the warmth of his cup and he knows. He knows by the parted lips and the tangled strand of hair that has escaped it’s hold, the creases in the clothes and the mark that is starting to bloom beneath the hastily buttoned collar of Blaine’s shirt.
There is terror bleeding in Blaine’s eyes and the cardboard sleeve from Blaine’s cup has been torn to shreds in front of him, the tattered remains sitting scattered around his phone which sits silent and dark on the table in front of him.
The bitter taste at the back of his throat lingers for only a moment because the look on Blaine’s face is not one even he wishes to be responsible for.
“I was just going,” Blaine says after a moment, not so much as budging an inch in his seat.
“Who was it?” Sebastian asks, curiosity and something sharper burning up his throat as he watches and watches and he should probably look away when Blaine’s breath catches and his fingers flex convulsively as he grabs for his phone.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Blaine replies and Sebastian expects him to get up, to flutter away in panicked flight.
Instead he sinks, heavy and weighted and silent.
“Of course you don’t,” Sebastian says after a moment, setting his coffee neatly at his side and eyeing the scattered wreckage of cardboard that cover Blaine’s side of the table.
There’s an invitation in the way he tilts his head, leaning back in his chair and waiting but Blaine never sees it. His eyes drift from fingers to floor to some indistinct spot on the wall before his phone buzzes on the table and he all but vaults forward out of his chair, scrabbling to grab it.
Sebastian doesn’t miss the disappointment (relief) that settles over his face when he realizes it’s only a text message.
“I need to go,” Blaine says as he stares at the screen of his phone and can’t so much as bring himself to look in Sebastian’s direction as he pushes himself out of his chair and almost forgets first his satchel and then his phone in his rush to leave.
Sebastian has often wondered what it would look like to see Blaine Anderson fall apart. To watch all of that composure break and see what’s hidden inside. There’s a certain kind of irony that this, the wide wounded eyes and the fingers that twist and bend and wind together as he hurries for the door, is what he gets instead.
Hunter isn’t subtle and Sebastian doesn’t think he’s particularly clever either, which is part of why he is so loath to help him, but a nudge in the right direction won’t hurt.
The thing about guys like them is that they are opportunists, through and through. And what Sebastian knows -
(what it feels like to be trapped, alone, with your every mistake reflected back at you in the eyes of your peers)
- is that maybe Blaine isn’t so unobtainable after all.
All Sebastian really needs is a chance.
(A Lima Bean apron, a nationals trophy and Blaine at his side. It sounds kind of familiar, now that he thinks about it.)