Inspired by the drabble prompt 'dessert'.
That evening, Kurt sets his alarm. He needs to take control of his life. No more depending on his circadian rhythm to wake him up on time. From now on, he sets his own rhythm and follows it. Kurt has always followed the beat of his own drum. He needs to go back to that.
For his sanity if for nothing else.
So his alarm goes off at seven. He gets out of bed, gathers his skin care products and his clothes for the day, and heads to the bathroom. Before he turns on the shower water, he sets another timer. He'll give himself an hour. Half-an-hour seems like rushing, but if he stays in there for longer, he might as well bring a sandwich and set up shop because he'll be there all day.
Sebastian used to joke about Kurt and his "two hour showers", claiming that Kurt's showers alone deprived most of the city of hot water. He blamed three separate water shortages on Kurt (even though none of those droughts affected their area). So on the mornings that Sebastian went to work late, he'd join Kurt in the shower. As soon as Kurt broke out his body wash and started soaping up his skin, Sebastian would relieve him of that responsibility, and Kurt's "two hour" solo shower would turn into a three hour orgasm.
As much as Kurt misses those, he doesn't want to remember them. He's not ready for those to make a comeback.
An hour in the shower is fine.
While he lathers up, he starts making a list of things to do to keep his mind from wandering. First, he needs to finalize those orders sitting in his shopping cart since yesterday. After lunch, Kurt didn't go back to working on the house. Instead, Sebastian lured Kurt into another movie marathon. Movies are the way that Sebastian deals with his depression. As a child, he and his father loved going to the movies together. The minute the newest blockbuster hit the theaters, they were the first two in line. But adult Sebastian can't stand going to the movies. He doesn't like anything about it, from the overpriced tickets to the sticky floors, and the popcorn, which Sebastian accuses of being stale even if it's freshly popped before his eyes. He says it's because he has no desire to waste his time in a stuffy, poorly ventilated theater, watching a movie that will be on Netflix in a few months anyway, especially when there's book reading and fucking to do.
Kurt thinks that might have something to do with the falling out Sebastian and his father had after Sebastian and Kurt got married, but Kurt has yet to ask.
If he did, Sebastian probably wouldn't talk about it.
Sebastian hasn't cracked a book since Grace got sick. Reading gives him too much time inside his own head with his intrusive thoughts. And fucking … well, that isn't something they did anymore.
So movies it is. Sebastian can get lost in movies. He can shut off his brain and just follow along with the words and the action, seeing everything, hearing everything, having it all handed to him without exerting any effort, and absorbing nothing. Kurt will ask him, on occasion, about the show that he's been watching so intently, but except for the prior five minutes, Sebastian usually can't tell him what the plot is. Even without Kurt by his side, he usually falls asleep with the television on.
The television is on in their room right now, cycling from one episode of Lucifer to another on a continuous loop.
Kurt's list making grinds to a halt when thoughts of his husband lying in their bed, curled on his side with the television on, interrupts his contemplating over whether he wants to refinish all of the floors, or does he want carpet on some. Sebastian. His marriage. That's something Kurt's going to have to work on, too. But is that the kind of thing that you jot onto a list filled with stuff like order paint, hire a contractor, and call Terminix to make sure there are no termites in the exterior wood before he starts tearing out drywall? Kurt does have a habit of living his life by lists. If it's not on a list, it often times gets forgotten.
So, yes, working on his marriage makes its way onto his "to do" list.
He rinses off and gets out of the shower before his timer goes off. After he dries, moisturizes, and dresses, he grabs his sketchbook and ventures downstairs. In the few days they've been there, Kurt hasn't spent more than five hours total in the downstairs of the house. He'd better get a move on if they want to enter the New Year with more than a handful of chairs, an old flea market coffee table, and a futon.
Or maybe he should have Sebastian send for the rest of their furniture from the penthouse.
Does Kurt really see himself going back?
Rustling around in the kitchen, getting a pot of coffee started, covers the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs. Kurt wanders from room to room as his coffee heats, but the footsteps join up with him in the room that will become Sebastian's office.
"I didn't think I'd find you down here."
Kurt doesn't look up when his husband stops in the doorway, but Sebastian sounds tired. If the man's still tired, why doesn't he stay in bed? Kurt wonders. It's not like he really needs to be anywhere.
Of course, he could be doing like Kurt, setting a schedule and sticking to it, all in an effort to stay sane.
Kurt can respect that.
"Yeah, well, there's a ton of work to do in this house of yours," Kurt says, walking the room. "I can't rest on my laurels."
Sebastian frowns at Kurt's distinction. Sebastian had seen this as their new house, their new start, but apparently Kurt doesn't see it that way. "Well, it's nice seeing you out of your studio," Sebastian says with slight, petty emphasis in an attempt to get Kurt to correct himself.
Kurt's first thought is to come back with, 'Don't get used to it,' but he can't. He has to remember that he's supposed to be trying. He promised he'd try.
"Thanks," Kurt says instead. A long silence stretches between them, but those have ceased to become awkward. It's a consequence of them learning how to communicate with one another again. When they first met in their teens, they had such similar temperaments, which made talking (and insulting) one another simpler. But nowadays Kurt is more prone to flying off the handle, and in response, Sebastian has become submissive, more likely to roll over and expose his belly than instigate a fight.
Kurt hates that. It might be easier for him to decide what he wants to do – stay or go – if Sebastian hadn't begun to change. But Sebastian's adjusting to Kurt, so Kurt only has himself to blame.
Then again, cheater, so …
"Was there something you wanted to ask me?" Kurt says while focusing on his drawing, deciding in what ways the layout he created matches the layout of the actual room.
"Uh, yeah." Sebastian steps in, but not closer to Kurt. He's simply occupying a similar vicinity. "I wanted to know … do you need me here this afternoon? To keep you company or anything? Because I thought I'd run some errands."
Kurt doesn't really give his husband's question too much thought. He doesn't know what he'd need Sebastian for if he stuck around. "No. I'll be fine. You go ahead."
"Okay. Did you need anything from outside?"
Another non-thought. "Nah. I'm all good here."
"Do you … want to know where I'm going?"
Kurt stops pacing. Does he need to know? He has to learn to trust his husband again. If there's no trust in their relationship, then this relationship is never going to work. And just this morning, Kurt promised to make a greater effort. Here's Kurt's chance to prove that he wants to. "That's okay," he says, waving Sebastian away. "You have fun."
"Yeah. Right. Loads," Sebastian says with a nervous laugh and an audible eye-roll, neither of which Kurt seems to catch. "Oh, I peeked into your studio to see how things are coming along, and you still have the wallpaper up. I thought for sure that was the first thing you'd tear down."
It would be if you weren't hiding crap under it, Kurt thinks. He's been wavering on his belief that Sebastian doesn't know that word is there. He may not have put it there himself, but he could have gotten someone else to do it. He sent a colleague here - what was his name? - Tristan. He'd sent Tristan to the house to look it over. Facetimed with him, too. Kurt wouldn't put it past Sebastian to tell the man to write it if he thought it would win Kurt back.
"I am. But I want to find a decent floor guy before I get started on the walls. That floor is a disaster. I'd like to do them both at roughly the same time. Minimize clean up."
That wasn't true at all. It was hard for Kurt to take the plunge. He wants the room to be perfect, but considering his design, he's apprehensive to see what it will look like when it's done.
"Is that the sketch of my office?" Sebastian has gotten closer, step by step while Kurt paced, without Kurt noticing.
"Maybe," Kurt mumbles, changing direction.
"Can I see it?"
Kurt curls his sketchbook towards his chest. He had erased everything he had added to make it unique, to give it a bit of Kurt Hummel flair. But after having the night to think it over, he feels he copped out. But if Sebastian looks at this bland drawing and loves it, Kurt will realize that writing himself out of the picture might be what Sebastian wants. "Not yet. It's not ready."
"Well, I can't wait to see it when it's done."
Kurt raises an eyebrow, then his eyes. "Wh-what if you don't like it?"
Sebastian cocks his head, smiling at the worry on Kurt's face. It's nice to know that his husband still cares what he thinks. "That's not too reassuring, going into this project assuming I won't like it."
"But what if you don't?"
Sebastian doesn't want to answer that. It sounds too much like a test, and Sebastian's too afraid of failing any more of those. "You know, I'm not even considering that a possibility because I know I'll love it."
It annoys Kurt that Sebastian didn't answer the question, but he doesn't let it show on his face. But the blank, disaffected face he makes instead, his default face for anything that falls between sadness and anger, Sebastian can't stand.
"Okay, well, I'm gonna go do my thing," Sebastian says. "I'll see you in a few hours."
Kurt nods, returning his attention to his sketch. "Take your time."
Kurt remembers talking to Sebastian that morning before Sebastian left, but he doesn't realize Sebastian's gone until he's been gone for hours. Loneliness seeps into his skin all the way to his bones. Kurt feels his chest tighten, and hears a ringing in his ears in place of conversation. Kurt doesn't have a problem being alone, he just doesn't do it well. This house is not the best place to be alone, he's begun to realize. It's steeped in spirits. Kurt can hear them in the wood when the house creaks, talking to one another in the eaves when the wind blows. Kurt doesn't mind ghosts – he has plenty of his own - as long as they leave him alone. But these ghosts are beginning to discover that he's there, and they're trying to get his ghosts to come out and play.
He's thankful he's not back home, alone in the penthouse. After Grace died, their home filled with a brand of silence that Kurt never got used to. It was cruel, held memories of laughter and jokes and singing that would never again be heard within those walls. Kurt tried to bring it back by watching old home videos, but he couldn't stand it for too long. It was too painful.
With the specters of this new house closing in around him by way of lengthening shadows across the floors, he didn't enjoy being stuck in this silence either. Would he ever be able to handle being alone again? Why couldn't he exist by himself in his own flesh for longer than a few hours? He tries putting on music, runs upstairs to find something on his iPod that he can blast throughout the whole house, noise ordinances be damned, but nothing he finds helps. Every song he knows, every playlist he has, has a connection in one way or another to someone he's lost – his mother, his stepbrother, his father, Grace … and Sebastian. Kurt's about to switch to radio and settle on a Spanish station when he hears the front door open and shut.
"Kur-rt. I brought you desser-rt," Sebastian calls, crossing through the empty living room to the kitchen and setting a bakery box on the table. "Something I know you've been missing."
The silence broken, the ghosts go back into hiding, and Kurt's relieved to have Sebastian home.
That's why he needed him, Kurt thinks with a mental scoff. To keep the ghosts away. Shit. That makes Sebastian damn near invaluable.
"Really?" Kurt asks. He ventures down the steps, intrigued. He sees Sebastian open the lid and his eyes light up. "Cheesecake?" he gasps. "You bought me a cheesecake?"
"Yup," Sebastian says, going into the cabinet for plates.
"Where the heck did you find cheesecake out here in the boonies?"
"Kurt, we haven't left civilization, you know. They have a mall out here. It even has a Nordies."
"Well, thank heavens for small favors." Kurt doesn't wait for a slice, digging out a piece with his fingers and popping it into his mouth. He doesn't chew. He doesn't have to. The cream cheese goodness melts on his tongue. He closes his eyes and sighs. Yes siree. That's the good stuff. When Sebastian doesn't give up the name of the bakery, Kurt takes a peek at the lid. If there's a place anywhere near them that sells cheesecake this heavenly, Kurt's going to send Sebastian there every day. But when Kurt flips the lid down and sees teal writing against white paperboard, he doesn't have to read it. He's seen this box a hundred times before. "You got this … from Renaldi's? You went … you went into the city?"
Sebastian puts the plates down on the table gently so they don't clatter. He doesn't go back for the forks. "Yeah. Yeah, I did." Sebastian had picked the cheesecake up on a whim. He didn't have an ulterior motive other than he wanted Kurt to have something nice to bring him out of his funk. It hadn't hit Sebastian until close to home what he had done. He contemplated stopping off somewhere and getting a plain box to replace the custom one, or pitching the cheesecake altogether, but he didn't want to keep any more secrets from Kurt.
He was in a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.
"You … you didn't tell me you were going into the city."
"I asked you if you wanted to know where I was going, and you said no," Sebastian points out.
Sebastian's answer isn't an answer. It's a loophole. A fucking loophole!
Kurt wants to pick up a chair and throw it.
"I had some quick, last minute business to attend to," Sebastian explains, the last resort of a drowning man who's sunk his own ship. He knows he fucked up. Now he has to keep his head above water long enough to swim to shore. "You know, tie up some loose ends."
"A-ha." Kurt crosses his arms. "Did you go to wrap up loose ends, or did you go to see him?"
Sebastian has to physically stop himself from retaliating, keep the dozen bitter comments that rush to his tongue from firing. Kurt may have built up walls, but Sebastian doesn't. He forgoes walls entirely in favor of weapons – insults, sarcastic remarks, low blows. They may do nothing to break down Kurt's walls, but that was never their purpose. They're there to inflict pain. But Sebastian doesn't want to do that. He can't do that. "Actually, I went to see her."
Kurt's face goes from red with anger to pale and sick. He suddenly feels sweaty, like he might throw up. "You … you went to see Grace … without me?"
"I didn't think you'd want to go with me."
"But you didn't even ask me!"
"I didn't want you to get upset."
"Yeah, well, you're doing an amazing job there!"
"I'm trying to be the good guy, Kurt!" Sebastian says, begging Kurt to see reason, to see his side just once. "I'm doing everything you want! I'm giving you your space!"
"This is different and you know it!" Kurt cries. "We swore we'd never go without each other! You promised!"
"I'm sorry, Kurt. I am. But I … I needed a moment with her alone."
"Are you sure it's her you needed a moment alone with? Are you sure you're not using her as an elaborate excuse?"
Sebastian stares at Kurt as if he punched him in the face, rammed him in the stomach, and kicked him in the balls. "Kurt, that's not fair."
"Right." Kurt hugs himself tight, feeling vitriol rise up inside him and embracing the temporary rush. "I'm the one who's not being fair. You're breaking promises left and right and I'm not being fair!?"
"Kurt, I'm trying to do what you want, I swear. I'm trying to fix things!"
"You don't fix things by keeping secrets from me!"
"I don't know how to talk to you anymore, Kurt! You're so wrapped up in your own depression, in your anger towards me that you seem to forget …" Sebastian pinches his lips shut, which makes Kurt curious as hell. He's never seen his husband slam to a stop in the middle of an argument like that before.
"Forget what?" Kurt says. "Go ahead. Come out and say it."
Sebastian's jaw doesn't loosen when he talks. "That you're not the only one here who lost a daughter. I lost one, too. The only difference is that now I'm losing a husband as well."
"Losing?" Kurt laughs at the gall of that statement. "You didn't lose me. It's not like I wandered off alone, or you forgot where you put me. You tossed me aside! You stepped out on me! I needed you! I needed you to need me, I needed us to grieve together, and you went to someone else! You don't get to blame me for that!"
Sebastian takes a breath to calm down. "I know, Kurt," he says, letting the breath go. "I know. I'm ..."
"You're what? You're sorry? Saying you're sorry without changing things doesn't fix them! Sorry without action is just a word! And it's one I'm getting tired as hell of hearing." Kurt storms away from the table, blowing through the living room to the staircase with Sebastian following behind.
"Kurt! Where are you going?"
"I'm going to work on my studio," Kurt declares, racing up the stairs.
"But … but what about the cheesecake?" Sebastian asks, grasping at straws to make Kurt rethink himself and stay.
"You eat it. I'm not hungry." Kurt gets to the top landing and stops. There's something he's about to say, buzzing at the tip of his tongue, but he has to ask himself - is he going to say it just to hurt Sebastian? Or is this what he truly believes? Either way, it makes an entrance before Kurt has the chance to stop it. "You know what? You might want to hire a decorator to do your office."
"What?" Sebastian gasps like Kurt tore out his heart. "But … b-but why?"
"Because I think you were right the first time," Kurt says, knowing that this is the truth – a heartbreaking truth. "We need our own spaces." Kurt sees his husband's face drop, every inch of hope on it crumbling away, and even though Kurt's mad at him, he can't leave him that way. "At least … we do for now."
Kurt marches down the hallway and into his studio, but he doesn't close the door behind him. He hears Sebastian in the living room. Or, more to the point, Kurt doesn't hear him, not for a while. Sebastian remains at the bottom step, staring upward in disbelief, wondering what the hell he's supposed to do now. But it's not long after that Kurt hears stomping across the bottom level, followed by the loud scrape and angry splat of what has to be a cheesecake flying off the kitchen table and hitting the floor.
Kurt glares at the walls of his studio, at the floors, and his sketchbook - the top page showing the plans he's made, plans he's putting off - and decides enough is enough. No more waiting. He needs to jump in with both feet. That's what Sebastian does. He doesn't consider consequences. He just does what he wants. And who tells him no? No one. No one ever tells him no. No one tells him to wait, or he can't, or he shouldn't. No one except Kurt. But Kurt's opinion doesn't matter. When Kurt says no, Sebastian always finds a way around.
"You should have known better than to marry a lawyer, babe," he'd say, and then he'd laugh like it's so funny. Like it's such a big fucking joke. A big fucking joke with Kurt as the big fucking punchline.
They had made a pact, and to Kurt, that pact was sacred. But Sebastian doesn't seem to know the meaning of that word. Their vows were sacred, too, but he found a loophole around those. Apparently grief gives a person carte blanche. Kurt wishes he'd known that was how it worked. Maybe he could have found solace between another man's legs and chalked it up to grief, too.
But Kurt wouldn't have even if he could have. That's not the man he is.
So what does he have? What vices does he get to fall back on? Nothing. He's never been a vice kind of guy. In all his life, he's gotten drunk about four times, gotten one piercing (that he took out two days later), and one lame tattoo. And even though he's standing in the center of a bridge between repairing his marriage and leaving his husband, he can't bring himself to indulge in one revenge fuck that, by all rights, he's entitled to.
Well, he's had it! No more emotional manipulation, no more secrets! Kurt's not a teenager anymore, sitting on a block of ice, watching Sebastian fuck everything on two legs, waiting in the wings because Sebastian says he's unsure of his feelings even though he claims he fell in love with Kurt the moment he laid eyes on him.
No more living in fear that one day Kurt won't be good enough, handsome enough, exciting enough, daring enough (even though those thoughts were Kurt's and Kurt's alone – he recognizes that) and Sebastian will leave him for someone else.
Kurt's living that reality now, even if it was just the one night. In Kurt's eyes, that should imbue him with a certain amount of freedom, but he feels locked down even tighter. Sebastian cheated on him and yet the burden seems to be on Kurt to make things better. Sebastian says he's trying to fix things, but Kurt's the one who's expected to give him the time to do that.
Sebastian takes, takes, takes, and Kurt gives in.
But no more. No more slip-ups in the name of grief. No more white lies shadowing half-truths. No more, no more, no more!
It's about time that Kurt starts rebuilding, and in order to do that, he needs to tear something apart other than himself.
And Kurt knows exactly where he wants to start.
His eyes zero in on the torn corner of wallpaper. He barrels up to it, grabs the edge, and tugs. He meets resistance, the glue adhering the paper to the wall much stronger than Kurt anticipated. It's difficult to hold on to with just his fingers, and it doesn't want to come down without a fight.
"So you're not going to go easy, are you? Well, fuck you, then!" He steps back and yanks hard. With a final tug that nearly sprains his wrist, the piece vised between Kurt's fingers tears free. The corner scores along the seam of the window frame with a dull noise, like linen rending instead of paper, and then snaps free, sending Kurt stumbling back about five steps. Breathing heavy, Kurt looks at the piece of wallpaper in his hand, the word darling printed in reverse on the opposite side, which should tell his rational brain that Sebastian, or Tristan, couldn't have written it. It had to be underneath the wallpaper when it went up on the wall. Judging by the texture of the paper, the fact that there's more than one layer of paper fused together, and the pebbly remains of the glue underneath, that couldn't have been recently. Kurt's done enough renovations to know that, but he doesn't care. Whatever this is, he's determined to blame Sebastian for it, because the fault lies with him. Everything that's gone wrong in their lives thus far is his fault … his fault! And now Kurt has to pay the price. Kurt crumples the piece of wallpaper in his hands, digging his nails into it until a sharp edge of folded paper digs into his palm. He finally looks at the wall, ready to read whatever else Sebastian had the gall to hide underneath this paper because logic and reason don't live here anymore. Only hate.
And Kurt's ready to hate Sebastian more.
But when Kurt sees the writing revealed by the torn paper, his mouth drops open.
What's underneath the wallpaper isn't just words. It's a love letter, like Kurt suspected.
Except, it's not a letter to Kurt.
And it wasn't written by Sebastian.
To my darling, my beloved, the love of my life,
I pray every day that things were different between us, that I could be where you are, that I can do more than just send you letters. I want to see your smiling face, touch your hand. I want to know in no uncertain terms that you love me. You tell me you do, but I miss hearing your voice. With every minute that passes, I lose hope that we'll finally be together. Please tell me you're still willing to wait for me? I can't lose you. Not now. Not ever.
Forever yours, I shall remain –
Kurt reads the letter to himself, then once again out loud. He looks at the tear in the wallpaper and sees more words, more letters hidden underneath. They're not written on the wall. They're paper letters glued to the wall that were covered up by the wallpaper … several layers of wallpaper, since underneath this top cover is a red rose paisley, followed by a plain seafoam green, and a cream with gold filigree; at least seven individual layers that Kurt can see, as if someone went to great lengths to cover up these letters … and forget about them.
His anger from earlier momentarily forgotten, Kurt reaches up and traces over the name with his fingertips.
"Blaine," he whispers, narrowing his eyelids. "Who are you, Blaine?"