title: The Man Who Would Be King
pairings: allusions to Sebastian/Blaine, but mostly a Sebastian character-study.
warnings/spoilers: Spoilers for 3.11
summary: If there's one thing that Sebastian knows it's that there is always an opportunity for the man who's willing to take it.
notes: Title from The Libertines. Major thanks to missgoalie75 for helping me kick this into shape.
When Sebastian was a little boy his father had a wooden plaque that hung above the door in his study.
The room was rarely used, his father preferred to get his work done at work, but it had been one of Sebastian's favourite hiding places. He remembers spinning and kicking his feet on the leather office chair for hours one day, his eyes glued to the carved words as he whirled around and around until the letters all blurred together.
Fortes Fortuna Adiuvat.
He remembers the day that his father sat him down and explained to him what those words meant. A real man, he was told, makes his own opportunities. He doesn't wait for the world to be offered to him, he takes it with both hands.
Sebastian learnt everything he knows about life from his father.
It should be easy.
All he has to do is pick up his phone and dial the number.
All Blaine has to do is answer.
His road to Dalton Academy is a by-product of his father's incessant need to ensure that Sebastian is reaching his full potential. That world is first placed into his hands in the form of a glossy prospectus, resplendent with beautiful blazered boys who are all toothy-smiles and perfectly coiffed hair.
His father talks about the curriculum, the championship-winning lacrosse team, the extra-curricular list that's lit up with honors and awards and seemingly miles long. He talks awards and scholarships and slips words like respectability, honesty and hard-working in amidst the pitch, like Sebastian won't realize what he's really saying if he frames it in the terms of a glowing endorsement of a school trapped in Bumfuck, Ohio.
The thing is, Bumfuck, Ohio aside, Sebastian thinks that Dalton doesn't look so bad.
And, okay, it may have something to do with those beautiful, blazered boys – there's a part of his mind that latches onto the thread of those crimson and navy ties and considers the feel of one wrapped around his fingers. His mind summons images of pristine white school shirts untucked and rumpled to his specifications; hopelessly wrinkled blazers hastily jerked aside and yes, okay, he has now established that the blushing schoolboy look could be a thing for him.
That it makes his father beam with pride, clap him on the shoulder and call him champ when he agrees is a pleasant side effect, at least (even if their enthusiasm doesn't spring from anything close to the same source.)
It's curiosity that leads him to Blaine.
He's a mythic figure inside Dalton's halls. Those first few weeks not a single Warbler practice goes by without the legend of Blaine Anderson passing someone's lips with the same hushed reverence that Sebastian had always assumed was reserved solely for twelve year old girls discussing Justin Bieber.
When a boy appears in the open doorway during rehearsal, both painfully out of place and completely at home, and Sebastian's breath actually catches in his throat, it's an opportunity that's he's all too willing to seize.
He likes Blaine. He's sweet, he's naïve, surprisingly witty behind that pretty face when he's given the chance. Sebastian would love to take him apart, to figure out how he works, how he breaks, take all he has to give and then start all over again.
Sebastian has never hesitated to go after what he wants and he certainly will not be cowed by anything so insignificant as a boyfriend.
He sometimes thinks he might even genuinely like Blaine beyond that gorgeous exterior, the startlingly bright eyes, the small, compact shape of him and that truly phenomenal ass.
He sometimes thinks it must be hard not to like Blaine.
It's kind of the problem.
They may promote some Utopian zero tolerance ideal, but places like Dalton, all high schools really, have a hierarchy. Sebastian has made an art form of navigating high school politics.
It's clear from the very start that the Warblers are royalty in these halls and, more than anything else, Sebastian has always needed to be on top. He knows the way high school works, how to play the system. Popularity awards leverage, leverage awards opportunities and privileges like nothing else.
This isn't about Blaine. Not really.
It's about what Blaine had. Has, really, without even knowing it. Without even trying. He has the Warblers loyalty, their respect, (even their friendship) and he dropped it all like it meant nothing for whatever scraps the New Directions would deign to give him. It's much too easy to twist the knife of abandonment in their side, drop suggestions of betrayal in their ears.
He wants Blaine, that's true enough, but sometimes he thinks he wants to be Blaine even more. There's only room enough for one on top of that pedestal they've got Blaine set up on. It isn't personal for him, but for them, he thinks, it actually might be.
The thing about Dalton is that it really is just a big old boys club. They prize loyalty and brotherhood and honour over all else. When they say, once a Warbler, always a Warbler, they really do mean it.
It's part of why it's so easy to turn them. To twist and tangle their sad little strings to his own agenda. Pride is a big thing, for the Warblers. To say theirs is wounded is an understatement.
It only takes the smallest of nudges to set his plans in motion.
He sees an opportunity, a way into the spotlight of that inner circle, and just like dear old Dad always taught him, he takes it.
Blaine is an easily painted victim amongst his remaining, steadfast friends. Love-struck and foolish and sure to return, if the Warblers argue their case just right. Blaine had been a King at Dalton, at McKinley he's just another sad little pawn.
Rapidly approaching competition and Michael Jackson might provide the fuel, but the fire is already burning long before Sebastian gets to it.
The phone rings.
The New Directions are like kicked dogs. Vicious and sad and more than a little pathetic.
He pushes and prods, provides them with all the fuel they need to turn on each other (on Blaine, really, but it's all part of the plan) and it's almost sad, how readily they take the bait. How they snap and snarl back like they can actually get to him.
The look of surprise (betrayal) on Blaine's face at the Lima Bean is regrettable, but it's a necessary reminder. It's cruel maybe, but Blaine has to realize that the Warblers are done playing nice, that he can't have his cake and eat it too. Sebastian is giving him this one last chance.
He can be a king or he can be a pawn.
The choice is his.
They take the bait.
Blaine's standing is rocky, his loyalty wavering indecisively. He leads his new teammates into Dalton with not even half the confidence he'd shown that day not so long ago. He looks so very out of place as the Warblers tear through the perfected routine they have nailed down in anticipation.
'I Want You Back' isn't a serenade. It's a negotiation.
Blaine gets it.
There's an opportunity there. An offer extended. But the uncertainty in the way Blaine clings to the outskirts of the New Directions, the way he hesitates to approach the people he doesn't seem to know if he can still call friends. These things tell Sebastian all he needs to know.
Blaine isn't a king here, not anymore. He looks about as lost, as desperately out of place as the rest of his little public school friends.
The difference is that this time Sebastian makes sure he feels it too.
It goes to voice-mail.
Sebastian hangs up.
He'll try again later.
Blaine delivers the message himself.
It's a surprise, to see his name flash up on the display of his phone, and for a brief, heart-pounding moment Sebastian believes that he's changed his mind ahead of schedule.
His voice is clipped, his message to the point as he reads out an address and a time. It's the first glimpse of a fight Sebastian's seen in him. Blaine is too passive by half, too given to retreat, so easily taken advantage of. It's a flaw in his leadership that Sebastian has picked over thoroughly.
He's intrigued. Clandestine meetings in parking garages are hardly what he'd anticipated when he set this game in motion, but an opportunity is an opportunity.
(Kurt is the more palatable target. A few of the Warblers are already calling him Yoko when Sebastian first auditions and it isn't a difficult task to twist the Warblers perception of him. His time at Dalton was brief enough, his attitude abrasive enough, his enthusiasm lacking enough and Sebastian is just good enough to make them see it.
It has nothing to do with Blaine at all.)
Sebastian has probably given McKinley more consideration than any public school actually deserves.
It's that curiosity, thing at first. And yeah, the Blaine thing as well.
He uncovers all manner of the schools dirtiest little secrets in his research, but the slushies are what sticks with him. There's something so utterly appealing about using something so uniquely McKinley to put the New Directions in their place (to put Kurt Hummel in his place.)
The rock salt is a last minute addition, something of his own invention that will hopefully give Hummel a little something to remember him by.
What he doesn't anticipate is Blaine.
Blaine who can never seem to do what Sebastian wants or expects him to. Can never quite follow the plan.
All it takes is Blaine pushing his baby-faced boyfriend out of the way, moving just a fraction too low, taking the full brunt of the slushie in the face when Sebastian had taken such pains to aim for Hummel's obnoxious mouth. Those precious few inches wouldn't have mattered if he hadn't added the salt. It had been for flavour, to see Hummel's face screwed up in disgust and humiliation.
All it takes is Blaine going down screaming for all of Sebastian's plans to go up in smoke.
There's no victory in this.
It wasn't supposed to be Blaine.
There's a hand on his shoulder, words that he can't distinguish in his ears. The Warblers are worried, muttering dissention in the background.
They leave while Blaine is still writhing on the ground.
He swallows back the rise of bile when an ambulance tears past his car, flying in the opposite direction, its lights flashing and sirens wailing.
His dad once told him that in the climb to the top there will always be collateral damage, that he needs to anticipate it and learn to move on. But he's almost certain that this is a mistake he can't come back from.
He blinks away the glare of the lights from his vision but he still hears the sirens, ringing in his ears long after the ambulance is gone from the sight of his rear-view mirror.
Their rehearsals are filled with tension.
Nobody's heard how Blaine is doing and, however they feel about his place in the New Directions, deep down the Warblers will always count him as one of their own. There is guilt on their faces and Sebastian wonders if he is half so obvious as they are.
If Sebastian isn't careful, he knows that one stupid accident could ruin everything he has worked for at Dalton. That it probably already has.
It takes some convincing but he assures them that Blaine will be fine, that slushies are harmless and that the New Directions are withholding information on him to put them off their game. By the time he's through he's almost convinced himself.
They run through the steps of 'I Want You Back' over and over, drilling themselves into perfection.
He can't seem to shake off the near-constant sensation of falling.
He considers, for just a moment, sending a text.
But his fingers refuse to cooperate, so instead he dials the number again and listens to it ring.
The Dean calls him into his office in second period and Sebastian knows that there is nothing to worry about, that his dad will take care of any problems that arise. He won't be impressed, not after Paris and Sebastian's promise of good behaviour, but there is no need to worry.
He knows exactly what's coming when he's told that a complaint has been lodged by William McKinley High School.
He denies all knowledge of an altercation at a parking garage in Lima and an unfortunate incident that put a former-Dalton student in the hospital.
They have no proof. That's what matters, right?
None of this would have happened if Blaine hadn't gotten in the way.
He wouldn't have whispers following him down the halls when he's spotted leaving the Dean's office. There wouldn't be rumours spreading like wildfire through the school, because a secret never stays a secret in high school, not that anybody seems to know what actually happened. He wouldn't feel like he's constantly walking a tightrope, trying to keep his footing with the Warblers.
The things that keep them at his back (loyalty, brotherhood, honour) are the same things that threaten his position. (Blaine was theirs first. Once a Warbler, always a Warbler.)
He could say it isn't about Blaine, but he can't kid himself anymore. Blaine is the one thread that ties them all together. Some days it feels like everything in this town, this school, this whole damn state, comes down to Blaine Anderson.
He should have known that she would be the one to come.
He'd thought it might be Kurt or the tiny, loud brunette who'd proclaimed herself their leader, but in retrospect this makes sense. She had been the one to stand up, first at the Lima Bean and then again, getting in his face at the parking lot.
He can pick her for a kindred spirit (in the loosest of terms) from the moment he sets eyes on her. There's a part of him that thinks it's fitting that she would be the one to confront him; she's the only one of that sorry bunch who could ever hope to see him for what he is.
She knows she's getting under his skin, he suspects she has a talent for it. Her cuts are so precise, snipping neatly through the strings that keep his elaborate plans in play like she can see them trailing from his fingers. She's clever like that. He'd hate to think what they'd accomplish if they were ever to join forces.
Sebastian's been on edge since the word hospital came up in the Dean's office. His father's been calling every day to check in with him since the administration contacted him about the complaint. He isn't impressed. Having to clean up his son's mistakes is something he will not allow to pass without comment, not this time around.
She probably assumes that this was about revenge, she certainly seems the type. She probably thinks that he's bitter because Blaine rejected him or something equally as predictable. He doubts any of them would get it, really, that he never actually wanted to hurt Blaine. At the very least that would require conceding defeat and even now, he isn't entirely sure that that's something he is willing to do.
His plans are so much more than that. Even as they come crashing down around his ears he takes comfort in the fact that not even she can seem to see how he has played them all. How they had all so willingly followed his machinations without even realizing.
They had been so willing to turn on Blaine, both the New Directions and the Warblers alike. So willing to fall in line like good little soldiers with Blaine caught up in the middle, forced to choose sides once and for all. To realize that the people he calls friends are truly anything but. It had only been the first phase, of course, but Blaine had managed to mess it up anyway.
She no doubt has her own agenda too, coming here, he just can't see it yet.
She gets it, exactly how his world works. How to ruin everything he's been working for.
She makes sure to drop her bombshells while the softest Warblers are in hearing range (might lose an eye, needs surgery, could be blinded, I know you put something in that slushie). She's determined to bring his every plan down around his ears and she knows just how to do it.
It's always Blaine, here. Pauper or prince or king, it doesn't matter, not really. He's their weak spot even now.
She knows it too. Lays it on thick in their presence, questions Sebastian's honor and integrity like she knows exactly how much the Warblers value them. He knows the events of the parking lot haven't sat well with those Warblers who were closest to Blaine, she gives them reason to doubt.
He pushes back the only way he knows how, because if she's going to discredit him the only option left to him is to discredit her first.
He plays at irreverence, like she doesn't even faze him. He calls her out, twists the focus; does everything he possibly can to divert attention from the news she brings with her.
Sebastian doesn't know if it actually works but the slushy, at least, should dissuade her from returning a second time.
His father sits him down one day when he's still just a kid. He tells him that any man can inherit a kingdom, but a real man forges his own empire.
Sebastian thinks he understands that now.
The Warblers that Blaine knew were shaped in his image. They worked on flirty charm and diplomacy and good sportsmanship because that was what Blaine valued. They were a team.
But Sebastian is no Blaine Anderson. People just don't warm to him the way they do Blaine. He remakes the Warblers to his own specifications, dubs himself Captain because Blaine had refused any such title. He likes to win, so win they will.
It even works, for a while. He kids himself that it would have kept on working had his plan not been thrown so wildly off track.
The line clicks in and he's almost too surprised to speak, his breath catching before he forces himself to get a grip.
There's something that might be a stifled yawn, a hazy murmur of, "S'bastian?"
He sounds like he's just woken up. Like he's doped up on pain meds and maybe still a little bit of whatever it was they gave him for the surgery. The surgery that was yesterday, from what little information he's been able to obtain.
He hadn't really expected Blaine to pick up. He doesn't know why he isn't just hanging up.
"'M not s'posed to talk to you," Blaine yawns out and Sebastian can hear the rustle of blankets in the background.
"It wasn't meant for you," he blurts out, because he needs to make sure that Blaine knows that whatever else went down this week, it wasn't supposed to be him.
"Do you think that makes me feel any better?" Blaine replies, though his voice lacks venom. He mostly just sounds tired.
"I just wanted you to know," Sebastian replies.
"Well, I know."
There's nothing except the rustle of blankets and Blaine's breathing, an uncomfortable huff of air before Blaine speaks again.
"You probably shouldn't call me anymore."
He'd expected Blaine to be mad, to want to yell, to make him hurt.
Somehow this is almost worse.
It's over long before Trent leaves his seat and gets up on that stage, taking the rest of the Warblers with him. Leaving Sebastian to sit alone, once again.
That's another thing his father once told him, though he honestly doubts it's something he was ever meant to hear; it's lonely at the top.
In all honesty, Sebastian knows it was over the moment Blaine dove in front of that slushy. The slow disintegration of his standing has been inevitable. But now it's clear just what the cost will be.
The Warblers stare down at him like they hadn't allowed themselves to be led, like they are any less to blame for what happened to Blaine than Sebastian is. Than Blaine himself is.
The New Directions may have outplayed him this time, and the smug looks tell him that they think they've already won the war, but the truth is that all he really needs is another opportunity.
And there is always an opportunity for the man who's willing to take it.
They don't have the slightest idea of what he's really capable of.
After all, he really has nothing left to lose.