an: Hey! This story was largely inspired by Ellie Goulding's newest album, "Halcyon." I used a lot of her songs in one way or another. Unfortunately, this site won't let me insert links to the songs. If this is something that interests you, you can visit my tumblr (voices-echo) and read the story there. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Any feedback is always welcome.

I. Hanging on

Something unspeakable happens, chisels away at the shape of you, etches and burns, and you plaster over the lesions until they're smooth again and faded into memory. Life goes on.

The awful thing about forgetting, though, is the moment that comes later, when out of nowhere, you're reminded:

So maybe he's being a little petty, because he's clearly the only one not excited about this. Looking around the classroom serving as student council meeting grounds tells him that much. And though Blaine thinks it's perfectly sensible to worry about the costs of funding a school-wide dance when only a few months later they'll have to do it all over again for prom, it's also true that the school didn't have any type of homecoming dance or a winter formal, or anything like that, so no, it's not an unreasonable request.

Tina has charts, though and they're color coded and Blaine wonders when she did all this, how long she's been planning on ambushing him with that impassioned speech about feminism that he just knows she rehearsed time and time again. They've been getting closer lately, him and Tina, due to joining the Cheerios together, and when she asked if he needed any help with student council he didn't hesitate. This isn't what he had in mind, though.

He's losing the plot, he can see it in their faces, the way they falter before saying anything, like they're afraid, which is ridiculous because he's the one scared out of his mind right now. He's exhausted his arguments—unless he relives his darkest day right here in front of everyone—and when Tina, fed up with the back and forth herself, yells at him

what is your problem with it anyway?

he gives in.

"Fine," he says. "We'll take it to Principal Figgings for approval."

There's a rumble of excitement about the room as they collectively release a breath and he declares the meeting over. Blaine doesn't want to deal with anyone right now. Especially not Tina since he can't look at her without feeling like she's purposely betrayed him. Irrational, yes, but it's like Coach Bieste says: feelings aren't right or wrong; they just are. He packs up his things in haste and hurries out the room, side stepping Sam who's coming after him, looking worried.

Blaine walks, evading the imperative to think and rationalize. Instead he lets the anger take control and energize him. It settles into his bones like an old friend. As long as he remains angry, he will not have given up.

The night he came back from New York after Christmas, Blaine dreamt he and Kurt were back at Bryant Park, except, this time, their friends were there, too. They were all singing when suddenly the ice fractured beneath Blaine's feet, plunging him straight into an icy abyss In the dream, he'd reached out, but there was no one there anymore. No one but Kurt, who took his hands for a second before letting them go. And as Blaine sank down, Kurt had smiled and walked away.

Kurt's going out tonight, apparently, because he's just uploaded a picture of himself to Facebook, with a caption that reads:

Brand new outfit for a night out. How do I look?

He looks amazing, Blaine thinks, even as the disappointment and the hurt creep in. He glances at his phone and the text message that remains unanswered. He spent minutes deciding on those three short sentences,

Hey! You busy? Could we talk tonight?

Which makes him feel pathetic because shouldn't he feel like he can call his best friend when he needs someone to talk to? Christmas was supposed to fix things but all it did was complicate them. They've had exactly one conversation via Skype since then, in which they talked about Rachel's boy troubles and Blaine joining the Cheerios.

Nothing mended, and the white space between them ever widening.

There's only one other person in the world, besides his family, who knows what the words Sadie Hawkins mean to him. He goes as far as typing his first name into the search box on Facebook before he loses his nerve. It's been four years and maybe the only thing they have in common anymore is that awful night. Charlie could be anyone by now.

Blaine hates how much that night still holds so much power over him. Because it's been four years. He's over it. Or at least he should be. He's done the things required to confront and move on: he's gone to prom with another boy and slow danced in front of the entire school. Once even without hair gel. So, what gives?

Blaine's not sure whether he believes in God or not, but he can understand the comfort that comes from believing in structures and fated plans. He has to believe there's a reason for what happened to him and Charlie because the alternative is unthinkable.

He checks his phone again before refreshing Kurt's Facebook profile. He tries to figure out who among the six guys who have recently friended Kurt is The One—because there is a guy, Blaine isn't stupid and the signs are all over—but all he has to go on are tiny pictures and none of these guys look like Kurt's type. Or, more precisely, none of them look like Blaine. He's debating whether or not it'd be a good idea to try sending another text when there's a knock at his door.

"It's open," he says, giving no thought as to who's knocking.

"Hey," a voice decidedly not his mother's speaks and Blaine swivels his desk chair around, startled.

It's Sam. He has his hands inside the pockets of his hoodie and that kicked puppy look on his face that automatically makes Blaine feel guilty even though he knows he has no reason to feel that way.

"Is something wrong?" Blaine says. He doesn't know for certain why Sam has shown up, but he can guess.

"You tell me." Sam shrugs and crosses the threshold.

The thing about Sam is that he's incredibly perceptive, and a lot smarter than people give him credit for. It makes him a great friend, but also annoying on days like these, when Blaine just wants to wallow.

"You didn't stick around after the student council meeting. I saw you working out in the locker room. You seemed pretty into it so I didn't interrupt."

Blaine squeezes his bruised hands into fists, digs his knuckles into his thighs, makes them hurt in a last echo, or perhaps an entirely new manifestation, of his anger. He feels vaguely like he's been intruded on and it leaves him feeling exposed and aching to regain control.

"I'm fine," Blaine says.

Sam circles the room and plays with the toy robots on Blaine's bookshelf, his back to Blaine.

"Is this, like, a Kurt thing? Cause I thought you said you guys worked things out when you visited him over Christmas."

And Blaine laughs once, wryly. It's times like these, when one of his friends oversimplifies his and Kurt's situation, that he feels most old and spent.

"It's not a Kurt thing."

What does it say about him that people automatically assume when he's even a little bit off that it's somehow to do with Kurt?

"But it is something."

Blaine debates the pros and cons of telling Sam the truth. Sam is probably the best friend he has right now, if he doesn't count Kurt, and as much as he and Kurt still tell themselves they're each other's best friend, reality shows differently.

And how many times in these past months has Blaine felt like he's screaming to be heard while others simply hear what they want? Meanwhile, Sam is outright asking him what's wrong right now. So Blaine tells him. He tells Sam about Charlie and coming out. He tells him in the same matter-of-fact tone he used with Kurt once in a booth at Breadstix, borrowing the words he used then, almost verbatim. It's the same speech he's rehearsed and delivered a dozen times.

Recite the facts, break them down into comprehensible particles.

"It's a bit of a sore spot," Blaine concludes.

Sam stares at him, confused, like he literally can't imagine that someone would willingly and maliciously inflict such violence on a 14 year old boy and his date. Sometimes, Blaine finds it hard to understand how Sam doesn't walk around perpetually angry at the world for the life it's handed him, because he had to result to taking his clothes off and let people objectify him to help feed his siblings. And it's not that Blaine thinks there's something shameful about it, unlike his fight with Sam last year might imply, but because, like what happened to him and Charlie, those are experiences no teenage boy should go through.

"But that's not going to happen again, dude," Sam says, "I'm not going to let that happen. And you've got a whole glee club full of guys willing to protect you. Seriously dude, we'll keep an eye on you all night. Heck, I'll go with you, if you want. I'm sure Brittany won't mind. Or we could have a three way date. Brit's half gay anyway, so..."

Blaine fixes his stare somewhere over Sam's shoulder, breathes, tells himself to calm down, Sam doesn't mean anything by it.

"I appreciate what you're trying to do, but it doesn't work that way. Being gay shouldn't come with the need of a whole squad of bodyguards. This isn't on me, Sam."

"I know that."

"No, you don't," Blaine says, not unkindly. "Not really. You don't have to worry about these things, not like I do. Look, I know you're just trying to be a good friend, and do what you think is right, but… I don't want to fight with you, Sam. I think you should leave."

Sam's big green eyes look glassier than normal and Blaine feels like an asshole for making his friend feel bad but this is one thing he can't give in to.

"I'll see you at school, ok?" Blaine says and pretends his desk needs organizing.

"Blaine, I'm sorry—"

"Please, just go."

Blaine turns his back because he doesn't want to see yet another person walk away from him, even if, this time, he's asked him to.

Barely three minutes after Sam has left there's another knock on his door, much softer and unsure than the previous one.

"Everything all right?" It's his mom. "Sam didn't stay long and I heard yelling."

"Everything's fine, mom," he says, his back to the door still.

She's not convinced, apparently, because she comes in and stands behind him. She wraps her arms around him, rests her chin on his shoulder, and rocks them back and forth. Blaine closes his eyes, the subtle movement transporting him to his childhood and the nights she sang him back to sleep after a nightmare, both of them in the old rocking chair.

"You know you can tell me anything, Blaine. You've been so sad lately. You would tell me if something were really wrong, right?"

He stares at the picture board across from him, focuses on the shot of him and Kurt riding that dinosaur from last year's prom photo booth. And he wants to tell her. He might be 18 years old, nearly an adult but he still needs his mom's reassurance now and then. But the words Sadie Hawkins haven't been uttered once in this house since he came home from the hospital, mythicized by silence. It doesn't matter anyway because he's decided he's not going.

"I said I'm fine."

His mom kisses his shoulder.

"Ok. Don't stay up too late."

He just hopes he doesn't dream.

That night Blaine wore a purple and pink plaid bowtie around a gunmetal gray shirt. The pristine black suit, purchased especially for the dance, had been too big for him, especially around the shoulders and the sleeves, but his mom had been sure he'd grow into it.

A quarter after seven Charlie's dad pulled up in front of his house to pick him up. Charlie didn't come in and they didn't pose for embarrassing pictures because Blaine's dad was home and he was still a little sensitive over Blaine's coming out. So Blaine's mom walked him to the car, adjusted his bowtie, told him to have fun and sent him on his way.

And that was that.

It's still dark when Blaine arrives at school for morning yoga with the Cheerios on Monday; a swath of burnt orange barely cuts through the wintry sky. Tina's waiting for him in the parking lot, scarf wrapped around all the way up to her nose. She's got a tray with two coffees in one hand and the other helps balance a box on her hip. It's freezing out and the sliver of skin peeking through the thick scarf is flushed.

"Good morning. The one with the green stirrer is for you," she says, raising the coffee tray.

Blaine thanks her and takes the cup, bringing it up to his lips eagerly because it's cold and he's still half-asleep. It's a soy latte, though, and he doesn't have the heart to tell her he's switched back to medium drips, she looks so pleased.

"I know it's a bit early because we just got the okay from Figgins and we haven't really discussed it but I took the liberty of having these made," she says and shows him the box she's carrying. He hadn't noticed but there's a poster for the dance stuck on the lid of the box. It's a nice, subtle design, made up of silhouettes and muted colors. It actually looks like something Kurt would come up with. He'd expected Tina to design something quirkier.

"My dad knows a guy and he basically gave them to us for free, as long I let him include his logo in the design." She points to the corner where there's a tacky Lima Printing Boutique logo.

"You like 'em?"

"Yeah, of course I do. They're great."

A smile takes over her face and she's suddenly bouncy again as she leads them through the empty halls.

"I'm so glad you like them. I went dress shopping this weekend and I found the perfect dress. There was a party of girls shopping for a sweet sixteen and I had to fight one girl for it but I told her she had to pry it from my cold dead hands if she wanted it."

"You sound like Kurt during a Black Friday sale," Blaine chuckles.

The comment makes Tina beam, for some reason. They reach the old choir room, where some of their squad mates are already running through some basic stretching exercises. They drop their belongings at the back of the room and quickly roll out their yoga mats.

"So, are you thinking of asking anyone to the dance?" Tina asks as she bends over to touch her toes.

"Oh, I'm not going."

"What? But, you have to."

"Who am I going to take? This school isn't exactly crawling with gay guys."

"You could always go with a friend," she says and she stares at him like she's waiting for answer.

The comment makes him stop, but before he can give it more thought, Coach Sylvester walks in, bullhorn in hand, yelling at them to stop yapping and get stretching and the matter is forgotten for the moment.

It's not until lunch that it comes up again. Tina got Brittany and some of the other Cheerios to help put the posters up and by the time lunch comes around the Sadie Hawkins dance is all everybody's talking about.

Tina's shoving notes and diagrams in his face, what about Enchanted Forest for a theme, Blaine? when Brittany shows up at the table, holding what appears to be a bouquet made out of bendy straws and gets down on one knee.

"Sam Evans," she says, "will you be my date to the dance?"

It seems like the entire cafeteria has turned to witness what is the first of what will likely be many proposals and when Sam answers with a yes and Brittany kisses him, every girl in the cafeteria cheers. Tina squeals next to him and even Marley, who hasn't looked this excited about something since they lost Sectionals, grins from ear to ear.

Unique isn't smiling, though. She's playing with the food on her plate, pushing it around instead of eating it. She's dressed as Wade today and Blaine wonders about the implications. He knows she's good friends with Marley, but he also knows that sometimes friends just can't understand your circumstances, no matter how hard they might try to. Like Sam, who's trying to catch Blaine's eye from where he's sitting at the end of the table, Brittany still on his lap. Blaine smiles at him and gives him a thumbs up and Sam grins in return.

The bell rings and they all scramble to throw their trash away and head to where they need to be. Blaine's still worried about Unique and when Tina asks if they're walking to English together, he tells her to go ahead and follows after Unique.

Blaine finds her at her locker, touching up her mascara in a compact mirror. It's the only allowance she's made, and the small gesture breaks Blaine's heart.

"Hey. Everything alright? I noticed you were quiet back there." he asks.

Unique shrugs. "Everyone's dance-crazy. It's hard to get excited when you know you'll end up skipping it."

"You don't want to go?"

"Of course I want to go, but I don't think any guy in this school would appreciate being asked by me. I know I don't need a man to have fun and party, but I want the experience. I want to have a guy wait for me at the bottom of the stairs and tell me I look beautiful. I want the embarrassing pictures. I want to slow dance. I know it won't always be like this, but some days I get tired of waiting for things to be better."

"They will. Before Kurt came along, I didn't think I would get any of those things either. It will happen. I'm a hate crime survivor, you know." He's never said those words before, not like that. And perhaps he's chosen her because he thinks she'll understand the full weight of what he's saying, really understand and not just sympathize the way you do when you hear someone else going through something terrible and you say I'm so sorry to hear that when you're really thinking thank god it isn't me. And there is empathy emanating from her brown eyes, after a brief but noticeable flash of fear— it's fascinating, Blaine notes, to see someone confronted with the other end of their worst fear. She doesn't say anything for a while, but she smiles, close lipped.

"Everyone always talks about how much they admire our courage," she says. "They have no idea what they're talking about."

And that's something Blaine is familiar with, because the thing about courage is that it requires options. And sure, rationally he knows transferring to Dalton was about survival and not an act of cowardice, but it felt less like a choice and more an obligation because if Ohio were a different place his three assaulters would've been expelled and punished and maybe Blaine wouldn't be plagued with should'ves and what ifs.

Blaine takes advantage of the fact that Coach Sue's baby has a doctor's appointment and after-school practice is blessedly cancelled to dive into dance planning logistics. Tina had a lot of ideas but no real plans.

He doesn't frequent the Lima Bean as much anymore. There are ghosts around the room where he and Kurt used to sit. Two years' worth of them. And even though there's a new barista behind the counter who doesn't know his name yet and someone else sits in the table he and Kurt used to frequent, it doesn't stop Kurt's presence from lingering, almost tangible, like a phantom limb.

He has to start reclaiming spaces though. Being faced with the demon of Sadie Hawkins has made him realize he holds on to things until they become poison.

The Sadie Hawkins dance is happening, whether Blaine wants it to or not, and as president it's his responsibility to make sure it runs smoothly. He's not going to allow something mediocre; just because he'd rather not deal with it doesn't mean he's going to ruin it for everyone else. The budget is ridiculously tight, especially since everything was such short notice, but Blaine welcomes the challenge, hoping he can replace thoughts of Charlie and Tina and the new mystery man Kurt hasn't told him about yet but Blaine knows exists with thoughts of taffeta and canapés and estimates.

The New Directions performing is a given at this point, plus it'll give them something to look forward to now that their competition season is over, and they can save money by hiring a student as the DJ. Maybe the AV club will help with the lighting set-up. He'll figure out what to do about the decorations once they settle on a theme once and for all; he'll leave that to Tina and Brittany. There's still food and table rentals and securing chaperones—maybe Finn will do it?—and he's wondering if they'll have enough money left over to hire a security guard to patrol the parking lot.

"Why do I care so much?" Blaine mumbles, his face pressed against the cold table.

"Do what I do and stop caring."

Blaine snaps straight, and there he is, Sebastian, who doesn't wait for an invitation before taking the seat across from Blaine. He's in casual clothes, which confuses Blaine for a second; he's only ever seen Sebastian out of uniform once. He looks taller, somehow. Older, definitely. And the vertical stripes on his sweater make his shoulders look ridiculously broad.

It's distracting.

They haven't seen or spoken to each other since Sectionals, and something about Sebastian being out of uniform makes Blaine feel like they're on even ground. Sebastian feels less like an adversary and more like a guy who could be his friend.

"You looked like you could use a refill," Sebastian says and slides a grande sized cup of coffee across the table.

Blaine stares at the cup, and then at Sebastian, still perplexed.

"It's just coffee, Blaine, I promise. No additives this time."

Blaine rolls his eyes and brings the cup to his lips in defiance. The bitter taste of a strong, plain brew floods his mouth, and Blaine licks his lips, chasing the spicy aftertaste of cinnamon.

He remembered.


"Don't act so surprised, Blaine. A drip is not exactly a hard order to remember." Sebastian's smug smile says differently. The act was deliberate. Blaine's left wondering what it means.

"Really? I would've thought it was too boring for it to even register. I mean, I don't take fancy French alcohol in my coffee."

Sebastian's ears go red and he reaches back to scratch at the back of his neck.

"I'm never living that down, am I?"

"I lived in Paris, Blaine and I drank cognac with my coffee," Blaine mocks in a voice nothing like Sebastian's and he laughs, probably more than the joke warrants.

"So," Sebastian says loudly, stretching the vowel out, "what is McKinley's best and brightest up to these days, now that the New Directions are no more? The regret sinking in yet?"

"What, no! Why does everyone think life revolves around Glee club? I've got things going on. I've got college applications and student council. And glee club still meets even though we're not competing anymore."

"That's just sad, Blaine. I don't mean to rub it in…"

"Of course you don't."

"But, if you'd taken us up on our offer you'd be leading us to Regionals and complaining about Thad's complete lack of rhythm behind his back."

Blaine pictures Thad trying to do one of Sebastian's complicated dance tricks and chuckles. Thad is very good at a lot of things, but dancing isn't one of them.

"Look, obviously, I'm glad we won but I am upset on your behalf. You belong on a stage, Blaine."

"Who said I wasn't competing anymore?" Blaine deflects. He doesn't know how to take Sebastian's comment, because he's always had ulterior motives before. "My team's going to breeze through Regionals and easily crack the top three at Nationals." He keeps the wording vague, plays coy and waits until Sebastian takes a drink before dropping the bomb.


Sebastian chokes on his drink, inelegantly. His eyes glaze over, his mouth drops open, the muscles in jaw and neck tense.

"So that's what it takes to shut you up," Blaine says.

"There are other ways," Sebastian says, letting his eyes drop obviously to the vicinity of Blaine's lap, were the table not in the way. The blush spreads across Blaine's face quickly, and uninvited.

"Sebastian," Blaine warns.

Sebastian puts his palms up in surrender.

"So, what had you so frustrated before I showed up?"

"Student council stuff."

"Anything I can help with? I am a natural born politician."

"You mean, all promise and no follow through?"

"Ouch. You're feisty today. Lucky for you, I'm into that."

"Oh, please. No, it's just... Ok. So the school is having a Sadie Hawkins dance next weekend and I have exactly nine days to make sure this works out."

"Sadie Hawkins? Is that the one where the girls ask the guys?"

Blaine nods.

"What's the problem? I mean holding hands and slow dancing under the glare of fluorescent lights, sounds like something right up your alley." Sebastian leans back in his chair and crosses his arms.

"Maybe once," Blaine says and brings the paper cup to his mouth again.

"Blaine Anderson, turned cynic?"

"I guess you don't know everything about me."


There is something about Sebastian's unabashed sexuality that attracts Blaine, always has, not necessarily in a sexual manner. The way Sebastian is so comfortable in his skin that he looks over Blaine's shoulder to blatantly ogle the guy who's just walked through the door is enviable. Being gay isn't something Blaine's ever had much issue with; it's just one of his truths. But the world has shown him time and time again that It does have a problem with it and Blaine wonders what it's like to walk around without wondering if you should censor yourself.

"You ever get harassed around here? For being gay?" he asks.

Sebastian frowns at the change of subject but considers the question. "Not really. Sometimes during lacrosse or soccer a guy from the other team might call me a fag but I doubt they even realize I'm actually gay. Which is fucked up."

Blaine feels a strange kinship with Sebastian in that moment. It's something he hasn't ever felt with any other gay guy. Blaine doesn't know that many, much less gay guys his age he can discuss gender politics subject of passing isn't one he ever explored with Kurt because it was a sensitive subject for his ex-boyfriend. And he understands where Kurt is coming from because Kurt can't pass, or so the world has decided. As far as he's concerned there isn't a scale that measures gayness. He is neither more nor less gay than Kurt or Sebastian, but, once again, society has decided to make it okay when people say things like at least you're not one of the girly ones. At the end of the day, passing and playing sports didn't keep him and Charlie safe.

"When I was a freshman I took a friend of mine to a school dance, as a date, and these 3 juniors didn't like that very much."

Sebastian looks at him, brow furrowed for a few seconds before he gets is. "Right," he breathes. "Well, dances are kind of lame anyway right? I mean, I went to an all-boys catholic school before transferring to Dalton, so I've never been to a school dance. Which is a shame because I would've loved to see the look on Father Preston's face when he saw me sticking my tongue down some freshman's throat."

Blaine pictures an old man all buttoned up in clerical attire catching Sebastian and a faceless boy making out and scrunches up his face in disgust.

"You're so vulgar."

"Come on, you can't be that much of a prude."

"French kissing is only fun if you're the one doing it."

"Some people like to watch," Sebastian shrugs.

"You were right," Blaine says. "School dances are my thing. At least the idea of them. I just haven't had good experiences with them. It gets so exhausting, you know, looking over your shoulder, wondering if someone's looking at you weird, if they're going to be waiting for you in the parking lot. My friend Sam was trying to be helpful and volunteered to go with me even though he has a girlfriend and I get that he's just trying to help but… I just want to feel like..."

"A normal person," Sebastian finishes.

"Exactly. And I dunno, maybe I should just go. I'm pretty sure Tina's going to ask me and I have no idea how I'm going to say no."

"It's not that hard, Blaine."

"I can't just reject her."

"So you'd rather force yourself to go to a school dance that you have no interest in, with a girl," Sebastian says, dryly. "Listen, Blaine, I know you don't trust me. You got no reason to listen to me but don't you think it's time you stop apologizing for who you are? I know you believe in unconditional love and that bullshit. That's great. Seems to me the worst thing you can do for yourself is surrender your life for someone else. Die for them, sure. I hear there's honor in that, but don't live for them."

Blaine's mom took an unprecedented leave from her job so they're busy pretending they're the kind of family that sits down to dinner together every night. The experiment has been a failure so far, as they are now in their third night and they've yet to hold a conversation longer than three sentences. They are not eating together so much as in each other's company. Blaine's mom set the table with a pressed tablecloth and fancy dishes. She even served wine and allowed Blaine to indulge in. It's such a spectacle it'd be funny if it wasn't so sad.

Blaine glances out of the corner of his eyes at his mom. She's mouthing at nothing, as if trying to catch words out of the air. It's not the first time he's caught her. It is the first time Blaine feels like rescuing her.

"So, uh," he starts, "AMDA confirmed my audition, it's next month. I got the email this morning."

Blaine's mom makes a squeaky noise at the back of her throat, contained and half-aborted. Even his dad is smiling. There are no hugs, though and Blaine can't help but think this is the kind of moment that warrants a hug.

"Oh Blaine, I'm so glad to hear that," his mom says. "When's the audition? We need to start arranging travel." She's already tapping on her iPhone, dinner forgotten and Blaine marvels at how quickly he's lost her.

"It's not necessary. They're holding a Regional audition at Oberlin, so I won't have to travel that far."

"Oh," she says and deflates a little. "Well, that's convenient."

"Well done, Blaine," his dad says and the comment feels like a balm against sore skin.

"I just hope," his dad continues, "for your sake-heck for all our sake—that they got a new selection committee since your brother applied. I don't know what they were thinking," he says and takes a sip of his wine.

Just like that Blaine's mood plummets because his successes will always live in the shadow of Cooper's failures.

He feels good about his chances and he says as much. His resume is solid and he's already narrowed his potential auditions songs to four. He's ready.

"But whatever happens with AMDA, there's still NYADA."

His parents share a look across the table, doing that married person thing where they communicate non-verbally. Blaine hates it when they talk about him like he's not in the room.

"You don't want me to go to NYADA."

His dad lifts an eyebrow and his mom narrows her eyes at him. What does that mean?

"It's the best school for musical theater in the country," he argues.

"We just want you to keep your options open. Wherever you want to go, that's fine," his mom says. "We just want you to make sure it's the best school for you."

There's so much more that she's not saying, but her advice is oddly reminiscent of Sebastian's and Blaine comes to a decision then and there.

"We're hosting a Sadie Hawkins dance next weekend," he rushes through it with an affected casualness that isn't fooling anyone.

The color drains from his mom's face and her hands shake as she puts her wine glass down. Still Blaine soldiers on. Fear of a name only bolsters fear of the thing itself, or so a children's literature book taught him.

"I thought it was silly. I mean Sadie Hawkins day is in November, right." They know; how could they ever forget? "But Tina made a convincing case."

"You're not going to go, are you?" Blaine's dad says.

"I don't know yet."

Blaine's mom looks at him imploringly but his dad looks furious.

"Why would you do that? Blaine, you've done this whole school dance thing. With Kurt. You've proven your point."

"Exactly, I've done it with Kurt. So why would it be such a big deal?" He knows why. He's been angsting over the why all week, but it's his father's careless dismissal that pisses him off.

His dad shakes his head and it's worse than any recrimination.

"Why do you always make things so difficult for yourself?"

It's not long before he feels the traitorous prickle at the back of his eyes. He's not going to let them see him cry.

"May I be excused?" he asks his mom.

"We are not done talking about this, Blaine Devon," his dad says.

"I think I heard enough. You wish I wasn't gay, what else is new?"

"Blaine we don't wish that," his mom interjects.

"You're not in New York yet, Blaine. You're in Ohio. I don't need to tell you what happens to people like you in Ohio."

"People like me?"

"You know what I mean. I don't ever want to get another phone call like that. If not for yourself, then do it for us. For your mother."

Once that comment would've subdued him with guilt. Now it only stokes the nascent fire kindling inside. So Blaine turns around and goes upstairs before he says something he'll regret.

Blaine doesn't know why he kept the number after all this time, especially after switching phones. The name, four syllables total, is both a warning and a temptation. He hasn't thought this through, and it could fail miserably. Or it might just work. Blaine's not ready to think too much about which scenario he's hoping for.

There's something intimate about the time and place he's chosen to call. He's in bed, tucked into the covers, the overhead lights are o and the bedroom is only illuminated by the bedside lamp. He's the only one left awake in the house, prompting him to whisper. Maybe he shouldn't call now, maybe he should wait until morning. No. He has to do it now, or else he won't. Screw trying to rationalize his reasons.

His hands shake as he brings the phone to his ear. His pulse thrums in his head. The tinny thrilling of the phone too loud and conspicuous in the otherwise silent room.

The phone rings once, twice, three times and Blaine's heart is in his throat. Finally the call connects.

"Well, this is a surprise. Twice in one week? Must've done something right. What's up, buddy?"

"Hi," Blaine says suddenly shy and mentally kicks himself for the idiotic reply. On the other end of the phone he hears Sebastian yawn and grunt. "Were you going to bed? I can let you go."

"No, it's fine. I was just watching a movie. Quick, Tom Hardy or JGL?"


"I'm watching Inception."

"Oh, um... JGL I guess. He looks really good in a suit."

"Yeah he's got a great ass, and a tiny little waist. But Tom Hardy's tattoos, though."

"You like tattoos?"

"I like everything. Men are gorgeous creatures, I don't discriminate." He yawns again. "God, I am exhausted. Hunter's been on an insufferable power trip ever since sectionals. We've had practice every day since we got back from Thanksgiving. Now he's instituted a mandatory workout twice a week plus he's mentioned he's putting together a list of things we're not allowed to eat the week of Regionals. What the fuck?"

"He sounds like an army brat version of Rachel Berry."

"Ugh, Blaine thanks for putting that image in my head. What a mood killer."

"I wasn't aware there was a mood to kill. Have you guys asked for a day off? Running yourselves ragged is not going to do you any favors."

"Of course we have. Every time I suggest it he gets all up in my face." Sebastian clears his throat and drops his voice. "We won't get to Nationals by slacking off, Mr. Smythe. It was my insistence on discipline and rigor which won us Sectionals," he says, in a passable imitation of Hunter's baritone timbre. "Last time I checked, we shared the lead. And who got the The Warblers to ditch the two-step in the first place? It was me."

"Got that off your chest? I take it you miss being Captain."

"You've got no idea."

Blaine misses it, too, although he's too afraid to say it out loud. He misses leading a team that knows how to be a team. There's a moment when everyone nails their respective parts and the harmony comes together just right for the first time and takes a new shape. It gives Blaine goose bumps just thinking about it. He lives for that moment.

"I empathize with your sore muscles. Coach Sylvester is choreographing a Cirque du Soleil inspired routine for Regionals—she calls it Sue du Soleil. She has us using contraptions I'd never even heard of. And I tell her, coach I don't think my body bends that way. And she says, you think this is hard? Try crossing Niagara on a bicycle, that's hard. What does that even mean? She hired us a private yoga instructor. Anyway, you should try massages with eucalyptus oil. Then a hot bath. It'll help loosen up all your muscles."

"You offering?"

Blaine chokes on his own saliva. It's not the first time Sebastian's made a comment like that—not by a long shot. But massages seem so intimate to him and the thought of intimacy again after going so long without it awakens a hesitant flutter in his gut.

"You're blushing aren't you? Not that I'm not delighted to hear from you, but is there a reason you called? You've never been one to call for small talk."

Blaine sits up straight, he licks his lips, his mouth has gone dry, and the tribal beating of his heart resumes. It'd been easy to hide behind the flirting and innuendos, delay what he means to do. Blaine has never been afraid to lay his heart out on the line, but there is something about the simplicity of the moment, here alone in his room, as far away from a grand gesture as it can get, that intimidates him.

"Actually, I did want to ask you something. Remember that dance I told you about?" He waits for Sebastian's hum of acknowledgment before continuing, "Well I was wondering if you, perhaps, wanted to my escort?" He frowns at his own reflection, cringing at how pathetic he sounds.

"Way to make me sound like a prostitute, Blaine."

Blaine releases a breath and curses the disappointment he feels. It was a longshot anyway, he tells himself. It's for the best this way. Maybe this is the world's way of telling him he shouldn't go. He'd given it a go and that's all he can ask.

"Wait, you're serious," Sebastian says after silence becomes too uncomfortable to bear.



"Look, you don't have to if you don't want to, obviously. I just thought it'd be fun. You could judge people's dancing skills or something. And you said you'd never been to one before so I thought… never mind though, it's fine."

"Blaine, no, it's not-Didn't you say you didn't want to go?"

"I didn't, but I think I have to. I'm tired of running from this, wondering when it's going to catch up. I'm just trying to follow your advice."

Blaine bites at the skin around his thumbnail. Waits.

"Ok, fine I'll do it."

Blaine sinks into the bedding, the smile on his face is ridiculous, he can feel how big he's smiling.

"One question, though. Will you put out at the end of the night?"

"Tell you what, if your hand happens to wander south of the waistline and cop a feel, I won't tell on you. But just once."


It's four days before the dance and Blaine's working on an essay for English class when a Skype call comes through.

It's Kurt.

Blaine stares at the screen, half-dazed. He hasn't heard from Kurt in weeks, and after his last failed attempt at communication Blaine hasn't tried to contact him again. He accepts the call and it's not until his sees himself in the screen that he remembers there's no gel in his hair because he's already taken a shower and he pats his hair self-consciously.

Kurt on the other hand looks impeccably put together, even in sweats. He's in the living room, from what Blaine can tell.

"Hi," Kurt says. His smile is hesitant but sincere.


"Are you busy?"

"No, I can talk. I'm so glad you called, Kurt."

"We were due for a call. Rachel and Brody are out so I thought now was a good time. I mean, I like Brody, but he's always here. And this place isn't exactly conducive to privacy under normal circumstances. Not that Rachel understands the concept of privacy anyway."

"You and Rachel having issues?"

"Nothing I can't handle. Sooo," Kurt starts. He's hedging, Blaine knows and he wonders if Kurt's calling to tell him about his new guy. "Tina called me last night. She told me about Sadie Hawkins."

Oh. He knows Kurt and Tina are friends, but it stings a little to hear she's been talking to Kurt about matters that concern him, because she's been aloof with him ever since he texted her last weekend to tell her he'd found a date for the dance after all and told her it was a surprise after she demanded he tell her who it was. He feels a little guilty about treating Sebastian like a dirty little secret, but he knows his friends just won't understand.

"Why didn't you tell me, Blaine?" Kurt looks genuinely upset and Blaine picks at the scabs of his own indignation and resentment.

"I tried. You didn't answer."


One time too many.

If Blaine were not himself, and Kurt was someone else, he'd say so much to him. And he would tell the truth, that he's tired of chasing Kurt's love and attention around figure eights. Because it's simple; the world gave them a warning, and so they stand now in the wreckage of everything they own as it falls in from the sky in pieces.

But that is not the conversation Kurt called him to have, so Blaine answers with what Kurt wants to hear, and not what he needs to.

"It was two Fridays ago."

Kurt wears his emotions on his sleeve, as much as he likes to pretend he's reserved and aloof. And Blaine knows all his tells. He can pinpoint the exact moment Kurt remembers what he was doing two Fridays ago by the way Kurt lifts his chin slightly and avoids looking at Blaine directly by looking into the screen and not the camera.


He doesn't say he's sorry, though and it's the lack of surprise that makes Blaine's nose burn with the threat of incoming tears.

"I wasn't going to go at first, but I changed my mind."

Kurt nods once and Blaine gets the feeling Kurt already knew. Blaine wonders how much Tina told him, and if he's called to coax Blaine into saying what he still can't.

I don't think I need you.

"Kurt, in the interest of full disclosure, because I don't want you to find out from anyone else, I have to tell you I'm not going alone."

Kurt takes a sharp intake of breath and sits a little straighter, changing the angle from which Blaine sees him on the screen. He didn't know. Blaine knows what he's about to say will hurt, so he blurts it out and braces for the blow.

"I'm taking Sebastian."

"Sebastian? What, you're talking to him again? Blaine, he tried to blind you." Kurt says, slowly, spelling it out.

"Yeah, I was there, Kurt. I remember."

"And yet you're not only talking to him but taking him out on a date? I don't understand." Kurt pushes the computer off his lap and moves it somewhere further back. For a few seconds Blaine can't see his face.

"It wasn't him, right? You said it wasn't him."

"I didn't lie about that! You think I'd choose him to relive the worst day of my life with if he'd been the one I cheated on you with?"

"Why then? After all he did to us."

"So you get to forgive the guy who systematically verbally and physically harassed you but I don't get to give Sebastian another chance?"

"That's different. Dave was going through a rough time."

Blaine rolls his eyes. He's so fed up. If Kurt gets to make it excuses for Dave, then so can him. Screw hypocrisy.

"And Sebastian is nothing but a spoiled brat who threw a temper tantrum when he didn't get his way. Look, I get it. I've never understood why you forgave Karofsky and even reached out to him. If I'm being completely honest, I wasn't all that comfortable with it. How do you think it made me feel when I found out my boyfriend was practically stalked by some guy pretending to be me while I recovered from eye surgery? But it was your call and I respected that. That's all I'm asking, Kurt."

Kurt sighs. "Fair enough. It's just… Sebastian," Kurt breathes out the name like it's all the explanation necessary. Perhaps it is.

"Right, you're jealous," he says.

"No, Blaine, that's not—"

Blaine is tired of waiting. He wants to have this conversation now, get it over with. Move on.

"No, you are. You want to know how I know that? Because I'm jealous of whomever it is that's making you smile again. There is someone, isn't there?"

Kurt goes pale and stays silent, his shoulders tense. And that's confirmation enough. Blaine feels like there's a giant sitting on his chest.

"That's none of your business." he says, picking at imaginary lint on his clothes.

"And whatever Sebastian and I do is none of yours. I don't have a lot of friends, Kurt."

"Blaine, don't be naïve. Sebastian doesn't want to be your friend. He wants to get in your pants."

"Yeah? Well maybe I want to let him."

Kurt reels back as if he's been struck and for a moment Blaine wonders if that was too low a blow. He can't take it back now, in any case. Will they ever get to a place where they can talk to each other like the best friends they claim to be? Or is it always going to be that way? The petty name calling and airing dirty laundry because the trouble with sharing so much of yourself with someone is that they're most likely to throw you into the gunfire when scorned and Blaine just

"…can't keep hanging on. I can't do this anymore."

"That's right Blaine, run away and ignore the problem. Isn't that what you always do?"

Now that is taking too far.

"Screw you."

Blaine snaps the laptop shut. It's as satisfying as he imagines actually slamming a phone would be.

In Blaine's earliest memory, he's three years old and sitting on his Poppa Anderson's lap having his first piano lesson. "Feel her, Blaine," his grandfather says, holding Blaine's tiny toddler hands over the wood. "She's a gorgeous, living, breathing being. She can speak. She can listen. And she's saying she's very happy to meet you."

She is a Bösendorfer grand piano—handmade, massive at nine feet long and eight extra keys. She's older than any of them know for certain. Poppa Anderson is sure she was present at Woodstock (although Blaine has no idea how he knows that.)

The day Blaine came back from the hospital after the dance incident, he found the piano had been moved out of his grandfather's house and into the basement of his own, much to Cooper's chagrin as he was sure the Bozzie (as he referred to it) was going to him as soon as the old man kicked it.

That night, Blaine and his grandfather had shared the bench one more time and Poppa Anderson had told him the story of how he'd found Her battered and bruised in a Catholic church and then had her restored. She's angry, Blaine. That's why she hits harder. He said the soul of everybody who'd touched her was is in there and if he allowed it, she and him could become extensions of one other, too. Then Poppa had left and Blaine had played and played, old songs, new songs, orphaned melodies, until his fingers ached and his mom had asked him to go to bed.

There are other pianos in the house, like Cooper's old upright, and the Baldwin in the living room upstairs, which was a present from Blaine's father when he turned eight. But Blaine always gravitates to the Bösendorfer when there's a song in his heart, shapeless and embryonic. It's wacky but Blaine feels like she knows what he's feeling before he has words for it. When he plays it's almost like he's discovering the song for the first time. She allows him to name the unnameable.

So he sits before her now, caresses the wood as he always does and wonders if he's gone too far, if he should go back upstairs, turn the computer back on and pray that Kurt would still be online. Should he call? Apologize? Should he cancel with Sebastian? Is it bad that he doesn't feel guilty? Is he doing the right thing? And that's all he ever seems to do anymore, wonder. He's beginning to understand that doubt is not something you ever grow out of and that being an adult means embracing the uncertainty.

He's not there yet, though, and it gnaws at his insides like a hungry parasite excavating a home. All the old should'ves and what ifs are still there, accompanied by new ones. Concepts that terrify him, spreading like fire, seeking air. All the lost dreams he'd buried in his sleep for Kurt, now rousing.

What do they all mean?

I don't think I need you.

He plays the opening notes to "Gethsemane" from Jesus Christ Superstar simply because the sheet music is there and he's been considering it as an audition song (I have changed; I'm not as sure as when we started) but soon enough his fingers wander into another slower, melody, sober almost. His voice joins in, harmonizing in time to the beat. One. One. One. One two three and

"Clinging to me, like a last breath you would breathe. You were like home to me. I don't recognize this street."

One. One. One. One two three and

"Please don't close your eyes. Don't know where to look without them."

People often speak of that moment of realization when one comprehends they're in love as an awakening. Finally opening their eyes. For Blaine, falling in love with Kurt had been like falling into a comfortable, safe sleep. Trusting in the fact that Kurt wouldn't let him come to harm. I know you care. The awakening is happening now and Blaine feels like he's been thrust alone into a strange city, where objects and sounds are unrecognizable.

One. One. One. One two three and

"I used to run down the stairs to the door when I thought you were there. Too shaped to the comfort of us. Two lovers locked out of love."

And the love that remains (that has always been there) might not be enough bridge the gaps. "And there's trouble ahead, Blaine can feel it. "You are just saving yourself when you hide it."

The worst heartbreak comes from acknowledging that life does go on, you still wake up and you breathe even when you swore you'd die without that one thing that seemed to complete you so perfectly. To Blaine, that feels like the worst betrayal of all, and the knowledge his salvation lies not with Kurt but within himself hurts as much as it uplifts. He understands now that it's up to him, he'll

"be saving myself from the ruin."

And no, "it wasn't always wrong... but I've never known a winter so cold. Now I don't warm my hands in your coat. But Blaine still hopes "because this is how things ought to have been and I know the worst of us was not all that it seemed so why can't I dream...why can't I dream?"

Why can't he dream?


Blaine stands in front of the mirror above his dresser, holding his own stare as he buttons up the crisp white shirt from the bottom up, slowly, keeping his hands steady, before reaching for the bowtie laid out on the doesn't quite look exactly like the one he wore four years ago— the colors are right but it's gingham instead of plaid- but it's an adequate substitute. He has no idea where the original is as his clothes never came back from the hospital with him. He wants to bring a piece of that night with him, wants to bring 14 year old, wide-eyed, unsuspecting Blaine, and hopefully, together they can make new memories to superimpose over the old ones.

Blaine flips his shirt collar up with a practiced flick of his fingers and drapes the tie over his neck. His eyes focus on his hands as they go over the process of tying it. He recites the steps out loud, just like his grandfather taught him, even if can perform them without thought now.

"Down with the right side, up with the left. Right side over and under it goes. Right side in the shape of a bow. The left goes over the top just like this, both sides then make them both kiss."

He adds a pair or deep purple suspenders for a bit of rebellious flair.

He's deliberating between Hugo Boss or Gucci for cologne when his phone buzzes and skids across the dresser top. He sprays the Gucci hastily and grabs the jacket from where it's laid out on the bed. It's probably Sebastian texting him to let him know he's near. Blaine didn't tell his parents he decided on going to the dance after all because he didn't want to them to talk him out of it.

The phone keeps buzzing, though, and Blaine reaches for it, confused. It's not Sebastian's name flashing across the screen; it's Kurt's. Blaine glances at the time anxiously and looks out the window to check for Sebastian's car. He's not here yet but he will be any minute and Blaine doesn't have the time, nor the energy, to contend with Kurt right now.

But he remembers Christmas before last and a boy in love building a ring out of gum wrappers and promises. And this Christmas and another promise made. And what if something happened to Burt? Blaine doesn't want to be the guy that breaks promises anymore. He takes a deep, steeling breath, sits at the edge of his bed and answers the phone.

"Hi Kurt," he says.

"Hi," Kurt breathes out. "I'm so glad you picked up."

Blaine opens his mouth to speak but Kurt interrupts him before he has a chance to speak.

"Before you say anything, I just want to say that I'm sorry. I couldn't let you go to that dance tonight without apologizing first." He sounds a little rehearsed but Blaine knows he's sincere. "What I said, about you being a coward? I didn't mean it. You're one of the bravest people I know, Blaine. I don't know why I said that."

"You said it because you knew it'd hurt me."

Kurt doesn't say anything and Blaine stares at his reflection until he can't take the silence anymore.

"For what it's worth," Blaine says, "I'm sorry, too. I shouldn't have pried into your personal life."

"It's okay. I'm curious about your life, too, you know? It's just-I don't know what we're doing. I'm lost when it comes to us."

"So am I, Kurt. I've never done this before, either. We have to talk."

"Yeah, I know. Communication is key and all that. We'll figure it out together."

"No, that's not—well yeah, I agree. But I meant, we have to talk. We owe ourselves a conversation. The one we were supposed to have at Christmas. I know other stuff happened that took priority but we need to talk about things. There are no excuses for what I did, but there are reasons, and if we want to be in each other's lives then we have to talk about them."

Blaine hears Kurt sniffle and clear his throat at the other end of the line.

"I don't have a lot of time right now. Sebastian's going to be here any minute."

"Maybe you could call me tomorrow? Or I could call you and you could tell me about tonight."


"Listen, Blaine, about Adam…"

So that's his name.

"…I was going to tell you. I just didn't know how to bring it up and then you brought it up and I got defensive, which just made things worse."

"Tomorrow, Kurt."

"Right." Kurt clears his throat again. "Be safe tonight, all right? And, take pictures maybe? I want to see what you're wearing. And, I have to admit-although it pains me-that I am curious about Sebastian's sartorial choices. Do you think he'll try to pull off a popped collar with a suit?"

"I hope not," Blaine chuckles.

"So, I'll talk to you tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow," Blaine echoes. "Goodbye, Kurt."

He waits for Kurt's faint goodbye before hanging up the phone. He feels oddly numb right now, neither comforted nor angered by that conversation. But he figures it's at least a step in the right direction.

He sneaks a peek at his phone again and sees that he missed a text message from Sebastian while talking to Kurt and he curses. He's wondering how he's going to sneak past his parents when there's a soft knock at the door and his mom is letting herself in without waiting his approval.

There is no surprise in her demeanor, nor anger, only a quiet resignation and regret. Blaine stands there, rooted to the spot, clutching the phone in his hand.

"There's a very well-dressed young man downstairs who says he's here to pick you up."

Blaine's caught in the crossfire of his own thoughts. All the arguments he made in his head are suddenly gone, vanished. His reasons are his own and he doesn't think she'll be able to understand them. But the last thing he wants to do is disappoint his own mother. This is something she will never understand, though, because no matter how much she sympathizes, she'll never be able to empathize. She doesn't know what it's like for the world to hate you over something you have no control over. She's never felt unadulterated hate rattle down to her bones. Even though he understands and shares her fears, this is something he has to do.


"It's okay, Blaine. You don't have to explain."

Her eyes are glassy, but still contained. She's dressed down in comfortable clothes. She looks older and fragile, like someone he could hurt. She comes forward, adjusts his bowtie even though it doesn't need adjusting, a knowing, nostalgic smile on her face. Her hands are shaking and Blaine takes them in his and brings them toward his chest. Without heels on, she's much shorter than him. He knows this of course but it's one of those things he forgets. She clears her throat and looks away, offers him a broken smile.

"You remember that time when you were six and you got pneumonia? All you wanted was to go outside and play in the snow like all the other kids and you couldn't understand why I wouldn't let you. I was so nervous I slept in your bed with you until you got better. You were my baby," she says with a smile. "To you it was just a cough, but to me…I want you to do all the things you want to do, of course I do. Be happy, Blaine. That's all I want."

The words sound like a command coming from her mouth and Blaine feels a knot weave at the back of his throat. This is the most personal they've gotten in a while. She clears her throat and suddenly she's composed again.

"He's very handsome. Your date."

Blaine blushes and shakes his head.

"It's not like that."

"It'd be okay if it was, you know. It's okay to like other boys."

Blaine rolls his eyes.

"I know, mamma. Can we go rescue him before dad glares him to death?"

His mom scolds him gently but laughs a little just the same.

In movies and television shows the guy is always waiting at the bottom of the stairs for his date to dramatically descend them. The stairs in Blaine's house, however, are hidden at the back of the house. Sebastian is waiting for him in the foyer, hands in the front pockets of his pants, and having a staring contest with Blaine's dad.

Blaine takes the opportunity to look at him without Sebastian knowing he's watching. His mom was right; he is handsome, especially in the tailored charcoal gray suit and aubergine shirt that brings out the green in his eyes.

"Hi," Blaine says.

Sebastian raises his eyes to look at Blaine and smiles.

"Hello. Don't you look ravishing?" Sebastian says, standing right there next to Blaine's dad in the middle of the foyer. His eyes venture up and down, and back again.

Kurt liked to call Blaine sweetie, adjust his clothes and hold his hand over the table whenever he'd come over for dinner; small, yet terribly powerful acts of defiance.

Although, safe.

There's no mistaking the implication in Sebastian's words, though. His barefaced remark feels dangerous. Especially tonight. And something funny and warm begins to kindle beneath Blaine's heart.

"Mom, dad, this is Sebastian. He goes to Dalton."

Although this this is technically the fourth time Blaine's done this- gone to a dance with a boy- it's the first time they've all done the meet-the-parents bit. It's terribly awkward.

Blaine's dad flexes his fists the way he always does whenever he misses his stress ball and he excuses himself, pretending he has a phone call to make.

Sebastian quirks an eyebrow in question and Blaine smiles ruefully in return.

Nothing new. Let be.

"We should-we should go," Blaine stutters.

"Oh, okay," Blaine's mom says, a little surprised. She hugs Blaine, holding on for a little too long for a normal goodbye hug. "Don't worry about your dad, ok?" she whispers into Blaine's ear. "Just have fun."

"I will mamma."

"Be safe, both you of you," she says after she lets him go.

"Don't worry, Mrs. Anderson. I'll bring him back in one piece."

Sebastian's trying to be charming (maybe a little too charming) but he's chosen the wrong thing to say and Mrs. Anderson's responding laugh is more so a sob than a chuckle.

"Ok, then! We should really get going," Blaine says, practically pushing Sebastian out of the house before he has the chance to say something else to upset either of his parents.

"Your dad always that uptight?" Sebastian mumbles as they walk side by side toward his car.

"Sort of? He's mostly angry because I didn't tell him I was going to the dance, much less with a boy he's never met before."

Sebastian stops before opening the driver's side door, raises an eyebrow.

"Oh? Wait, they have no idea who I am, do they?"

Blaine shakes his head and decidedly avoids thinking about what his parents would do if they found out their youngest son was out on a date with the boy who almost blinded him. They climb into the car and Blaine fixes his stare on the rearview mirror, the image of his mother lingering on the front porch getting smaller and smaller until it fades completely.

Without morning traffic to contend with, the drive from his house to the high school happens much faster that Blaine is used to. He's wondering and doubting again. Maybe he should've secured more chaperones. And called the caterer to confirm the delivery for the food. And maybe he should've gone with the Hugo Boss instead of the Gucci. Is he sending the wrong signal by wearing cologne called Guilty? He doesn't think he's—



"I said, are you ready to go in?" Sebastian asks again.

Fuck. He's just remembered he never actually told anyone Sebastian was coming tonight. Blaine is definitely not ready for this.

"Yeah, sure," he says.

The decoration committee, namely Tina, Sugar and Brittany, decided on Enchanted Forest for a theme after all, but Tina's original sketches were a lot more conservative than what Blaine and Sebastian have just walked into. They must've blown half the budget on glitter alone. There are glittery round ornaments hanging from the ceiling, and glitter-covered flowers twined around lattice arches. Even the cupcakes are adorned with sugar crystals. There are silver and white glitter particles all over the floor, presumably having fallen from the overhead decorations.

"Oh my god, Blaine, this is, like, my worst nightmare," Sebastian says.

"Don't be such a drama queen, it's not that bad."

"Not that bad? Blaine, that over there is a giant fake unicorn wearing a glittery tutu. The only thing that would make it gayer would be Hummel riding it."

Sebastian laughs at his own joke, but Blaine bristles at it, remembering the drama behind Kurt's presidential campaign. Maybe it's a bit over the top, and not really what Blaine would ever choose himself-he's saving Old Hollywood for prom—but the girls must've worked really hard on it, so he reprimands Sebastian for his insensitivity and Sebastian looks honestly remorseful by Blaine's admonishment.

"You're right. I'm sorry. I'm sure there's a seven year old girl somewhere who'd really love it," Sebastian says and Blaine can't tell if he's being sarcastic or sincere.

Blaine is about to suggest they go find his friends when Unique –looking gorgeous in a teal gown—bursts from within the mass of dancing couples.

"Thank god you're here," she says. "We need you. There's an emergency of the musical variety."

"What?" Blaine says.

"Oh," Unique says, noticing Sebastian standing behind Blaine.

"Did you find him?" Tina chimes in as she, too, emerges from the crowd.

"Yes, he's here," Unique says, still staring at Sebastian.

Tina follows Unique's gaze and locks eyes with Sebastian. She looks at Blaine, and for a second Blaine thinks she's going to cry, but then her jaw sets and her eyes narrow.

"Him? You brought him? What does he have that-"

"-you don't?" Sebastian interrupts. "Do you really want him to answer that, Blowing-Wang?"

Tina stares at her shoes and


She had dropped enough hints that Blaine knew she probably wanted to ask him to be her date, but he figured she missed Mike and Blaine seemed like a safe choice because he wouldn't demand anything from her. It had never occurred to Blaine that Tina actually liked him. That she felt enough for him to orchestrate an entire scenario where she could safely ask him out without fear.

"Tina—" he starts.

"Blaine, dude, there you are." Now it's Sam who's shown up out of nowhere. "We've been looking all over for you."

"Well, here I am."

Tina is still staring at her shoes and Unique, caught in the middle, looks from Blaine to Tina, to Sebastian and back again

"Everything, okay?" Sam says. "Wait, why is there a Warbler here?"

"Because he's my date, ok?" Blaine says and it's too early to get into this now, even if he knew it would happen. "Now what exactly is this emergency you need me so bad for?"

Everyone snaps out of their stupor and Unique latches on to one of Blaine's hands to drag him away.

"I'll try to be back as soon as I can," Blaine calls to Sebastian as Unique leads him into the crowd. "Just hang around and try not murder anyone, okay? I'm sorry, I'll be right back."

It turns out the student they hired as a DJ has yet to show up and isn't answering his phone, so Artie is doing the best he can with a laptop and his Pandora One subscription.

"Make him stop, Blaine," Sugar whines. "Artie's only playing sad songs because no one thought he was cool enough to ask him out tonight."

Everyone's talking over each other, calling out his name, Blaine this, Blaine that, they've barely started and he's already exhausted, brought down by mental fatigue. He feels the last of week of troubled sleep catch up with him at once. He's not one to believe in omens, but this seems like a terribly appropriate way to start this dance he was barely interested in.

They ultimately decide to start with the performances, to fill the gap and give the DJ time to show up.

Blaine gets through No Scrubs on autopilot, thankful that he's mastered muscle memory to the point where his body can make right moves without him having to think about them. He doesn't even know if he messes up. Not even the thundering cheers and applause bring him out of the weird headspace he's dropped into.

By the time Blaine gets back to Sebastian it's been almost 45 minutes since he left him. He finds him by the punch bowl, staring at Coach Sylvester with a scandalized look on his face. Blaine blanches at the thought of what those two could possibly be talking about.

"Hi," Blaine exhales, interrupting their conversation and grabbing Sebastian by the elbow to lead him away. "Excuse us, Coach, I'm going to steal this guy for a minute."

"Spare me the details of your deviance. I'm not interested," she says.

"Your coach is an interesting lady," Sebastian says once they're out of earshot.

"I'm sorry I left you on your own so long. The student we got to DJ didn't show up and we had to improvise."

"Maybe you guys should improvise more often. That was super hot. Although, I could've done without the Bieber wannabe doing whatever it is he did. Now that wasn't hot."

"Can we sit down for a while? I'm still keyed up from the performance," Blaine says and leads them to the nearest available table.

"So, what did Coach say to you?" he asks once they're seated.

"She asked me if that was lube in my hair."

"Huh. That's actually not that bad."

Sebastian raises an eyebrow, impressed, and maybe a little curious. Blaine looks around to make sure nobody's listening and leans in.

"Last week she called me a power bottom in the middle of our yoga session."

Sebastian grins.

"Don't even think about it, Sebastian. You are not allowed to say anything."

"Blaine," he whines. "You can't say something like that and expect me to shut up."


Sebastian says his name again, his voice low and teasing, and leans into Blaine's personal space. For a second Blaine wonders if Sebastian's going to kiss him.

"Oh, gag me," someone says and they spring apart, startled. It's one of the hockey jocks and Blaine instantly feels his blood go cold.

"Excuse me?" Sebastian says.

"Sebastian, don't."

"Yeah, listen to him, pretty boy. Anderson knows how it works around here. Remember when your boyfriend got voted prom queen?" the jock says and walks away.

And just like that Blaine remembers where he is and why he's here. He looks out into the crowd of swaying couples and the envy rises up from his entrails, tastes like bile in his throat.

"I'm going to get something to eat," Blaine says and walks away without giving Sebastian the chance to say anything.

An hour later they still sit in the same spot. Blaine's friends have come and gone, tried to make conversation and then inevitable walked away when they didn't receive a response. Sebastian's getting restless and a little irritated, Blaine can tell, but he can't bring himself to move into the dance floor. He's not even all that angry at the jock. What he said wasn't anything Blaine hadn't heard before. He's angry at himself for having expectations, for turning a stupid school dance into a redemptory crusade. For what? For the world to turn around and remind him that he's not normal, that he's still in Bumfuck, Ohio and that it doesn't matter how big the silent majority is. Not when the bad apples scream the loudest.

Sorry, Blaine. Better luck next time.

"Okay, that's it," Sebastian says, snapping Blaine out of his sulk. "I'm not some loser wallflower. I didn't come here to squander my Saturday night torturing myself by watching shapeless, acne ridden sweat sacks flap their way through something they call dancing. Now, get up, Blaine and dance with me."

"Sebastian, I'm not in the mood."

"Too bad because I don't care."

Sebastian drags Blaine to the dance floor, promising to keep it professional. The DJ (who showed up after all) is playing a Ke$ha song that Blaine hates because it gets stuck in his head all day whenever he hears it. Sebastian dances circles around Blaine, pulling exaggerated faces, imitating some of the worst dancers in the crowd. He's trying to get Blaine to smile, and it works. He's true to his word and doesn't try to get handsy.

Blaine relaxes enough to bop in time to the music, to Sebastian's delight. Sebastian gets confident and grabs one of Blaine's hands, guiding him into a spin. He seizes Blaine's free hand and twists them into a fancy ballroom dance turn Blaine isn't familiar with. Blaine loses his balance and giggles.

"Whoa, slow down there, killer," Sebastian laughs. "Ready?" he says.

"For what?"

"This," Sebastian says before lowering Blaine into an unexpected dip which makes him squeak.

They dance and it's nice, not earth-shattering. Sebastian's a great dancer but he doesn't make Blaine's stomach feel like there's an entire packet of Pop Rocks fluttering in there. Maybe it's because this is the first time Blaine has held another boy's hand since Kurt. Sebastian's hand feels too large, like a presence he can't ignore. His body and Sebastian's haven't yet learned each other's contours. It's not seamless. It doesn't feel like intimacy.

Or maybe it's because people are staring. Really staring. And not all of them are being judgmental, but some are. Enough to make Blaine look over Sebastian's shoulder as they dance, to scope out who might be a threat.

"They're staring because they're jealous of our hotness," Sebastian says, right into Blaine's ear.

The Glee Club is on their second round of performances by now. Marley's on stage swaying back and forth to the piano intro of her ballad. Sebastian splays a hand across Blaine's lower back and pulls their bodies close. His eyes are on Blaine as they slow dance but Blaine's vacillate around them. Next to them, Sam and Brittany move intimately to the melody. Far off Blaine can see Tina awkwardly dancing with Ryder. The hockey jock form earlier and another one of his friends are staring and Blaine stops moving. Sebastian cranes his neck around, sees the guys and glares at them the way only he can.

"Don't look at them. They're not going to touch us. Trust me."

Marley's voice swells up into the chorus as she begs for someone to be her friend, to unfurl and wrap her up and Blaine allows himself to melt into Sebastian's embrace. He tries to turn off his brain and not think about anything but the moment.

There's something about the scent of public school gym and mingling perfumes, or maybe the feel of the air, stuffy and closed, that transports him to the first time he did this, when he was fourteen, transports him to the sweetness of his first kiss under the gymnasium fluorescent lights and how he and Charlie had swayed clumsily back and forth, without care. And for a second, present Blaine envies past Blaine because the possibility of someone taking their fists to them hadn't even registered then. A sweet moment, untainted. Dancing with a boy was dancing with a boy and not some kind of statement bigger than either of them. Blaine can never get that back, no matter how many school dances he goes to.

"What are we doing here?" Blaine says, completely halting in is movements.

"We're dancing?"

Around them the students of McKinley High rock and circle, experiencing something just out Blaine's reach and he thinks he might break.

He is a solitude in a crowd.

"We shouldn't have come here," he says.

Sebastian looks around them, looking for what has upset Blaine.

"Can we please go?"

"I don't understand," Sebastian says.

"I just really don't want to be here right now."

Blaine stomps down the hallway. He doesn't know if Sebastian is following. He doesn't care. He flexes his fists, trying to recall the phantom pain of bruised knuckles, feel it ground him. If he were to stretch out his arms right now they'd tremble uncontrollably, possessed by some strange energy Blaine can't quite comprehend.

Once outside, the chilled air dries his mouth, his throat, makes his lungs spasm. He feels as if his diaphragm is being laid out and tightened over a stretcher, like yards of canvas.

He crosses the parking lot, Sebastian at his heels. Blaine plunks himself down as soon as Sebastian opens the car, slamming the car door harder than he intended.

"Whoa, careful there, buddy. Don't take it out on my car."

Blaine mumbles an apology, automatically.

"Did someone say anything to you?"

Blaine shakes his head.

"You going to tell me what's wrong?"

Blaine shakes his head again.

They sit in silence waiting for the car to warm up sufficiently.

"Do you want to go home?"

Blaine thinks about the questions and the explanations and the inevitable I told you sos coming from his father.

"No, I really don't. Just drive somewhere. Anywhere. Surprise me."

Sebastian stops at the Lima Bean and buys two large cups of hot chocolate and a bag of assorted cookies before driving to Schoonover Park. He parks the car by the secluded hill near the lake where all the couples go to make out after football games. Tonight the student body is mostly at the school dance. Blaine surveys the area, but there's only one other car around, its windows all fogged up. Blaine tenses and Sebastian must sense it because he's quick to reassure Blaine.

"Relax, your virtue's safe. I thought we could take advantage of my moon roof, enjoy the view and talk," his voice lifts up at the end in question.

"Are you asking me or are you telling me?"

"Both I guess. I don't know what's going on right now, but I really wanted you to have a good time tonight," Sebastian says, his self-deprecating laugh no more than a puff of air.

Blaine looks at him, contemplating.

"Why are you staring at me?" Sebastian says.

"No reason. I just think that's the most sincere thing you're ever said to me."

"What are you talking about? I've never lied to you. Don't look at me that way, I'm serious. It's true. I've never- okay, okay, there is something. But it wasn't a lie exactly, I just forgot to mention something."

This is interesting.

"What was it? I bet it's Paris. You didn't actually live in Paris, did you?"

"Of course I did!" Sebastian says like Blaine has hit him with the worst kind of insult, though there's a smile attempting to turn his indignant mug upside down. "I lived there for two whole months one summer when I went to visit my grandparents."

Blaine doesn't know how to react for a second. Then a laugh explodes from within, surprising yet not unwelcome. He can't stop, he's halfway hysterical. It's the funniest thing he's heard all week.

"So you see, it wasn't a lie."

"Okay, okay," Blaine says, still laughing. "What was the half-truth then?"

"I don't want to tell you. It's embarrassing."

"You can't say that and then not tell me. Come on, I'll tell you something about me."

Sebastian scrunches up his whole face in deliberation. Then he breathes out.

"You were the reason I joined the Warblers." He doesn't give Blaine a chance to process the information before continuing, "We had a class together the first day of school. Just the first day because I switched out. Everywhere I went it was Blaine Anderson this and Blaine Anderson that. And then I saw you perform at the welcome assembly. So imagine my surprise when I show up a week later to auditions and all the Warblers are bemoaning the loss of their lead soloist."

Sebastian stares ahead at the view before them, hands on the wheel even though he's not driving and Blaine realizes that Sebastian is nervous, that he cares about what Blaine is going to say.

"That's not embarrassing. It's sweet. You know, in a creepy way."

"Don't flatter yourself, Blaine. I just wanted in your pants."

Blaine's smile drops. "Blaine, don't be naïve. Sebastian doesn't want to be your friend. He wants to get in your pants."

"Okay, a deal's a deal. Your turn," Sebastian says.

"Kurt got really mad when he found out I asked you out," Blaine says after a few moments. His hands tear at the cardboard sleeve on his hot chocolate cup. He'd meant to find something funny and embarrassing to say in exchange but this is what he wants to talk about instead.

"He's seeing someone." It's the first time he's ever told anyone. Getting it out doesn't make him feel any better, nor does it leave him raw and hurting. It just is.

"So he doesn't want you but doesn't want anyone else to lay their hands on you. Of course. He probably thinks he can keep you as a backup and that you'll come running once he's decided he wants you back. But enough about gay-face. I want to talk about you."

Blaine's not listening. Sebastian's offhand remark hit closer to home than he wants to admit.

"I think part of me asked you because I knew it would make him mad. I'm sorry. I'm a terrible person, I know."

Sebastian sighs in something like exasperation. "Stop being so morose. You're talking to the guy who almost blinded you. You're not a bad guy, Blaine. You're allowed to move on with your life. Besides, I kinda like being used."

Blaine shakes his head and takes the out Sebastian is offering. Sebastian reclines his seat all the way back and Blaine follows suit. Sebastian was right; the view here is amazing, although Blaine decides not to dwell too much on how and why Sebastian knows this spot so well.

"Ok, your turn," Blaine says.

"Oh, so we're doing this. Ok then." Sebastian goes quiet, like he's thinking too much about to say.

"Something true, though," Blaine reminds him and Sebastian nods impatiently.

So Sebastian tells him about his absent mother, who lives in San Francisco with her lover and hasn't visited in over a year. Tells him about the father who tries too hard and still comes up short most times. Blaine in turn tells Sebastian about the car he and his dad rebuilt the summer after he came out and while Sebastian doesn't quite understand because his sexuality has never been the issue, he does get it because he knows what it's like to know your parents love you and have it not be enough.

Blaine tells him about Jeremiah and Sebastian recounts the night he lost his virginity at fourteen with one of the altar boys at the Catholic school he went to before Dalton.

"I kept replaying that moment you jumped in front of the slushy, over and over. For days," Sebastian says, later even. "I was so angry at you for doing it. I couldn't understand why you'd take a drink to the face just to spare someone else the humiliation. You didn't even know there was anything in it. It blew my mind."

Sebastian's confession gives Blaine the courage to ask something he's been dying to ask for nearly a year now.

"Why did you keep pursuing me even when I turned you down? Was it the thrill of the chase? Was I the only one to ever say no to you?"

"I don't waste my time with games like that. I see something worth my time, I go after it."

"I'm worth your time?" Blaine parrots. "Why?" He's not being self-deprecating; he's genuinely curious.

"Because you're not impressed by me."

The speed with which Sebastian answers makes Blaine wonder if Sebastian has also been waiting for Blaine to ask the question, how long he's had the answer ready.

"Only you can make a compliment to someone else sound narcissistic."

Sebastian laughs, full-bodied and honest. Blaine's seen him smile a hundred times, Sebastian's always smiling, but he's never seen him laugh. Blaine closes his eyes and lets the sound lull him into a doze.

The radio, which has been no more than white noise all night, catches Blaine's attention. A folksy tune is playing, a hit that was famous some years ago and the melody hits him with a case of déjà vu: the cloying scent of too much cologne and the taste of fruit punch on Charlie's lips.

"I don't even remember it happening," he says, eyes still closed. "The last song we danced to was "Tears on My Guitar." Charlie was really into Taylor Swift. It was really dark inside the gym and nobody was paying attention, so I kissed him. We didn't like each other that way but we'd had such a nice time, I thought why not. Then we went outside. Charlie's dad said he'd be waiting for us but I guess he was running late. It was cold and I didn't have a proper coat on so Charlie and I huddled together to keep warm. Then Jason Crowley and his two sidekicks showed up. There was no one else around. They asked us which one of us was the girl and that's the last thing I remember. Next thing I know I'm waking up in the hospital and my dad is yelling at a police officer. They wanted my statement, but I didn't remember anything."

"Jesus Christ, Blaine."

Blaine opens his eyes. Sebastian is lying on his side, head propped up on one hand the other hand across the console, inches away from Blaine's hip.

"What happened after?"

Blaine shrugs.

"Dalton happened." Simple as that. There was no indictment, no trial, definitely no sentences or expulsions. Just two transfers and a severed friendship.

"I thought I needed a do-over. That's what tonight was supposed to be about. I thought if we went to the dance and nothing happened it would somehow cancel out the bad. But how can I replace memories I don't even have? This happened to me and nothing I do will ever change that. I hate not knowing where my attackers are, or if they ever think about what they did. Because I can't walk away from it, like they had the privilege of doing. And that fucking sucks. I tell myself "Blaine, survival isn't cowardice." Maybe one day I'll be able to believe that."

Sebastian's hand edges closer. He digs his index finger into the leather of the seat, so close Blaine can feel it against the side of his leg, yet not close enough to feel purposeful. Sebastian stares at it as it moves back and forth.

"They do think about it. Your attackers, I mean."

"How do you know that?"

"I was kicked out of the Catholic school I went to before Dalton. There was a boy who had a crush on me. He was two years younger than me, and a bit of a loner. So I took him out on a few dates, made him think I liked him, and then very publicly told him it was all a joke. Some guys from the lacrosse team started messing around with him after, saying he was obsessed with me. I didn't join in but I didn't stop them either. I don't know what he told his mom but she complained to the faculty. They didn't do anything. It wasn't until I got caught having sex in the dorms that I got kicked out. The violence and public humiliation they could deal with, but the gay sex was just pushing it."

"That's really bad, Sebastian."

"I know. I think about that kid all the time, and how I probably messed him up. I think my dad sent me to Dalton because he thought the no harassment policy would keep me out of trouble. Lot of good it did. I've never seen him as mad as he was after the Dalton headmaster called him to tell him about the slushy thing."

Blaine doesn't know what to do with this new information. He's always known Sebastian isn't a saint but to hear him say he believes his own father sent him to a school with a no harassment policy not to protect him but to protect others from him is disturbing.

"Okay," Sebastian says and pulls the seat upright. "That's enough chick talk for one night, I can feel my balls shrinking already. You and I were supposed to party tonight. And party we shall."

It's not until Sebastian's pulling into the parking lot of the sad-looking dive spot on the edges of West Lima that Blaine realizes where they've been headed all this time.

"Sebastian, no. Why did you bring me here? You know this isn't my scene."

"Oh come on, they've made renovations since the last time you were here."'

"Yeah, I can see that."

Blaine points to the sign in front and above them and Sebastian cackles loudly after noticing the sign reads S

"Oh, that's priceless. Why didn't I think of that before?"

The place does look livelier than the last time Blaine was here. And by that Blaine means there are more than five cars in the parking lot. So, actually not that encouraging after all. He halfheartedly pleads with Sebastian again but Sebastian isn't having it.

"It's karaoke Saturday, Blaine. You're not going to say no to a microphone, are you?"

"Karaoke Saturday at Scanals, sounds like a great time. I don't even have an ID."

"That's not a problem." Sebastian grabs his phone from the cup holder between the seats and taps out a message. "We need to do something about your clothes," he says, eyes still on the screen.

Blaine looks down at the velvet jacket and tailored pants.

"I thought you liked them."

"Uh, well, they're not exactly club attire, are they?"

"Uh, well, you're being a little generous with the term club, aren't you?" he returns in the same condescending tone.

"I love it when you get feisty with me," Sebastian says and he grins. "Just take off your jacket and roll up your sleeves," he says, fingers occupied once again with replying to whatever message just came through.

Who is Blaine kidding? He sucks at saying no. He shrugs out of his jacket and folds up his sleeves up to his forearms. His fingers hesitate at the ends of his bowtie.

"Leave it," Sebastian says. "The suspenders can stay, too." He rakes his eyes up and down, appraisingly, and nods. "You look hot."

Sebastian strips out of his own tie and jacket before climbing out the car. Blaine follows him around the side of the building to where the employee entrance is located.

There's a guy leaning against the door, the lone light bulb above the door shines down on his white blonde hair like a halo. He's young, Blaine notices, probably somewhere in his early twenties. He's wearing a white V-neck shirt and a leather jacket. His face lights up once he sees Sebastian and a lazy smile takes over his face.

"Long time no see. All dressed up for me?"

Sebastian snorts. "As if. Matt, this is Blaine."

Sebastian steps aside, leaving Blaine and Matt face to face. Matt pushes himself upright and gives Blaine a once over, crossing his arms.

"You didn't say anything about company," Matt says.

"Didn't I?" Sebastian says.

They stare at each other unblinkingly. What's the story there? Matt's hurt and humiliated by Blaine's presence and Sebastian's feigning innocence, smirk in place, daring. Almost cruel. The atmosphere becomes so uncomfortable Blaine almost tells Sebastian to forget it and drive him home instead.

"Are you going to let us in or what? It's fucking freezing out here," Sebastian says.

Matt breaks eye contact with Sebastian and holds open the door for them to pass through, relenting.

"Thank you," Blaine says as he walks past Matt into the darkened hallway, but Matt isn't looking at him.

The renovations Sebastian spoke of consist of four round tables with four chairs each near the end of the bar, a karaoke machine and new flooring. Maybe it's the fact that it's Saturday and not the middle of the week but the crowd feels younger than it was the only other time Blaine was here. There's a group of twenty-something year old guys dancing together to a drag queen warbling her way through a rendition of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun on the karaoke machine. She's so off key Blaine wants to laugh. There are still some older guys in flannel and baseball caps perched at the bar, hungry eyes raking through the dance floor, giving into their desires in the anonymity the sleazy bar provides.

It still doesn't look anything like the clubs Blaine sees in TV and movies. The kind of clubs he imagines exist in cities like New York and San Francisco; flashing lights, bass pumping so loud your entire body vibrates with it, boys in eyeliner and tight clothes.

The bar is fairly packed but Sebastian manages to score an empty stool. He gestures for Blaine to take it, so he does.

"One of your conquests?" Blaine asks, gesturing with his head to Matt, who's at the other end of the counter, pouring someone a drink.

"Ha! No. Matt and I have an understanding. I flirt with him and he pretends he doesn't know I'm not legally allowed in here. Everybody wins."

"Are you sure about that?" Blaine asks, thinking about the genuine hurt on Matt's face when Sebastian blindsided him with Blaine.

"Look, if he wants to entertain fantasies about the two of us holding hands and making love, or whatever other bullshit then that's on him. I've never promised him anything. He knows what I come here for."

Blaine knows firsthand it doesn't work like that. That you can't simply tell yourself to stop caring for someone even when it's blatantly clear they don't want you the way you want them. Blaine knows the ways hope can be the most hurtful emotion of all.

"If it makes you feel any better, I've never slept with him," Sebastian says.

"That does make me feel better, actually."

"Yeah? Let's get a drink from your new BFF."

Sebastian calls for Matt and Matt sidles up to them.

"What'll be, boys?" He's a little stiff but professional nonetheless.

From up close Blaine notices Matt's even younger than he first thought. He has boyish features, thick eye lashes and freckles dusting across his nose.

"I'll start off with a mojito, as always, and Blaine?"

"A beer?"

"No. He'll have a Black Russian. You'll like it," he tells Blaine. "It tastes like coffee. I will be right back. I have to go to the bathroom. Don't go anywhere."

Sebastian disappears through the crowd and then it's just Blaine and Matt. Matt turns around, grabs a bottle from beneath the bar and starts mixing their drinks.

"So, how do you two know each other?" Matt says, speaking into the mirror in front of him so Blaine can see him. "I've never seen you around here before."

"Mutual friends," Blaine answers. It's a gross over simplification but there's no way Blaine's telling him the whole story. "And, actually, I have been here before."

"Really? Must've been on a night I wasn't working." Matt turns around and places his and Sebastian's drinks in front of him.

"I was wondering why he hadn't been around lately. Looks like he found something else to pass the time with," Matt says with affected nonchalance.

"It's not like that."

"Of course."

Blaine can't tell if Matt's pretending to be friendly or outright insulting him. He feels like they're having two entirely different conversations.

"Well, when he comes back, tell him I've started a tab for him. Let me know how you like your drink," he says, smiling big for a second before moving on to take care of the other patrons waiting for their drinks.

Blaine surveys the area and catches the eye of burly man in an orange trucker hat and large sweat stains on his shirt. The guy smiles and Blaine quickly swivels back on his stool, wishing Matt hadn't walked away so Blaine didn't look so obviously alone and out of his element. He takes careful sips of his cocktail. It's good, if a little rich for him. Blaine sneaks a peek through the corner of his eye and the guy is walking toward him now, licking his lips. He's getting closer, almost there, reaching out as if to touch him and Blaine flinches when a voice behind him interrupts.

"Don't even think about it, Sir-Sweats-a-lot. He's with me," Sebastian says.

Blaine has never been more thankful for Sebastian's presence before.

The guy glares at Sebastian but walks away nonetheless, and Blaine wants to laugh at the fact that a 300 pound man let himself be intimidated into submission by a teenager.

"Don't ever make eye contact with Thomas. He's crazy," Sebastian warns him and takes a gulp of his drink.

"Matt may be a clingy pain in the ass but he knows how to mix a drink."

"Oh! He told me to tell you he started a tab for you."

"That asshole. He usually lets me drink for free."

"I think that may be my fault. He was pumping me for information. I think he thinks you and I are together. Maybe you should talk to him. It's not cool if you're leading him on."

"So you're saying that if I do this," Sebastian says, deliberately cupping Blaine's inner thigh, pressing his thumb into the flesh so hard Blaine holds his breath. "And this," he leans in and blows hot air across Blaine's neck, making him shiver and giggle, "he'll get mad?"

"Sebastian, stop."

"Look, Blaine, I'm not the asshole you seem to think I am. Contrary to popular belief, I don't get off on breaking people's hearts. I could've slept with him at any time, but I didn't. Stop worrying about Matt's sensibilities and finish your drink. You still owe me a dance."

Blaine takes a longer sip of his cocktail, better handling the alcoholic burn this time when one of the twenty-something guys approaches him, barely sparing Sebastian a glance. He's wearing a David Bowie t-shirt and tight jeans.

"Do you jive?" he says, his voice deep and lazy, not unlike the real David Bowie's.


"Yes, yes he does," Sebastian says and pushes Blaine off the stool making him crash into the boy's arms.

Bowie-Boy, as Blaine has decided to call him in his head, leads him to an empty spot in the dance floor. It isn't hard to find one as there is practically no one dancing. Blaine bobs his head as Bowie-Boy dances in circles around Blaine, rotating his shoulders. Blaine tries to follow him but there is no rhyme or reason to his dance moves. Blaine glances back to the bar where Sebastian, now in the stool Blaine just vacated, is laughing.

"Oooh, jailbait. Yum," someone says from behind Blaine and presses their body against Blaine, grinding into his ass. Blaine bounces between them, uncertain and a little scared, until Sebastian takes pity on him and effortlessly works himself into their group, maneuvering until they're all dancing in a circle.

Eventually others join and they dance to increasingly bad renditions of 80's songs courtesy of the Cindy Lauper drag queen until Blaine gets thirsty.

"I think I'm going to take a break," he shouts at Sebastian over the music.

"Suit yourself," he says and grabs Jailbait by the waist, much to the guy's delight.

Blaine orders a Margarita because he's feeling giddy and Margaritas are festive. The buzz has long settled into his bloodstream, making his fingertips tingle. Drag Cindy Lauper got tired of being the only one on the karaoke machine so Matt turned on the stereo, which is apparently another one of the new additions.

Sebastian is still on the dance floor. His partners come and go with the songs and Sebastian doesn't even notice. At times he'll reach out for a body but as far as Blaine can tell Sebastian is moving on his own. All eyes are on him- darling boys all love him. It's not just because he looks ridiculously attractive right now, the first few buttons of his dress shirt undone, sweating, his long bangs falling across his forehead. He's undulating to the tambouring in time, somewhere, far for the twisted reach of crazy sorrow and Blaine realizes the dance floor is Sebastian's equivalent of the Bösendorfer.

Sebastian opens his eyes and locks gazes with Blaine. There's a challenge in his body language and Blaine's reminded of their phone call last week, laced with innuendoes and talk of intimacy and massages, and Blaine dares to name the emotion he'd been too scared to acknowledge then: desire.

In the dance floor, Sebastian stops snapping his fingers in time to the beat to beckon Blaine to join him; his hips never stop rocking side to side to the playful, sensual bass line filling up the room. Blaine can read his filthy mind from here, but it doesn't scare or put him off like it used to. The air is so thick with want, like someone's turned on the fog. Blaine downs the last of his Margarita for courage and hops off the stool.

Sebastian pulls him by his suspenders as soon as he's close enough, and they're swaying, face to face, toe to toe. Sebastian runs his knuckles up and down Blaine's ribcage and he shivers. His skin feels so sensitive. Blaine feels strangely exposed, he doesn't really know what he's doing. He's great at executing choreography but freestyle always leaves him baffled. Sebastian uses the suspenders to bring then even closer, slots their hips together.

"Just go with it," he says.

Blaine mimics the to-and-fro roll of Sebastian's hips and it gets easier with every sway. Blaine feels bold then and holds on to Sebastian's waist. Sebastian's own hands wander down Blaine's back before one of them settles on Blaine's back pocket. Blaine startles a little but doesn't tell him to stop and Sebastian grins.

"Oops," he says.

Blaine looks around, and all eyes are on them. He feels objectified. It's a new feeling, unused. Sebastian revels in it. Blaine has never met anyone like him before. And for the first time ever Blaine wonders what it'd be like to enjoy sex with someone he's not in love with. Because he misses it and it used to make him feel guilty and dirty but he's beginning to move past that now. He's a single man- he's been single for months- and he always had a practical attitude toward sex—until Eli (but he's not thinking about that). How long will he punish himself with chastity when it's so obvious his body has needs he wants to give into?

The song's tempo increases and with it the rocking of their bodies, Blaine is panting, frightened, feeling naked.

"What are you thinking about?" Sebastian whispers and Blaine doesn't consider it before answering.

"Sex," he says.

"Fuck," Sebastian whines, and the hand on Blaine's back pocket tightens for a moment. He leans his forehead against Blaine's, they stand there sharing alcohol-laced breath, sharing heartbeats and Blaine really wants to kiss him. But the song ends and there's a heavy silent moment before the next song starts where all he can hear is Sebastian's loud breathing, intimate and vulnerable in the light of what they've just shared.

"I need a drink," Sebastian says, disentangling their bodies.

Blaine is left standing in the middle of the dance floor, feeling oddly rejected even though he wasn't propositioning.

At the bar Sebastian kicks back a shot of something before stalking across the dance floor and ripping out the microphone from a trucker's hand, who's just lined up at the karaoke machine.

Blaine walks back to the bar and takes the same stool he sat at earlier. He's confused and troubled about what just happened. Isn't it curious how something that doesn't happen can leave you as rattled as anything that does take place?

Matt, unexpectedly places a brand new water bottle next to Blaine's elbow.

"Here," he says. It feels like a peace offering.

"He's quite something isn't he?"

Matt's talking about Sebastian, who's looking through the karaoke machine's song selection. The longing in his eyes is painful to watch. It's also strange and unexpected, like catching your reflection first thing in the morning.

"The first time I met him he ordered something I had never heard of and said that when he lived in Paris he drank it like it was—"

"Mother's milk," Blaine finishes.

And that's where the similarities' between him and Matt end, because what he and Kurt had was real and Matt has built up his feelings based on fantasies. Blaine doesn't have the heart to tell him Sebastian could never give him what he wants.

Suddenly the intro to Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative" blares through the speaker system and Sebastian's voice joins in.

"Are you guys ready for tonight's real entertainment?" he says and the whole bar cheers for him. He starts singing the first chorus, playing it up for the crowd and Blaine wonders if he's drunk.

"Does he do this often?" Blaine asks Matt.

"Never," he says, equally fascinated.

"They say I'm crazy, I really don't care. That's my prerogative," Sebastian sings. He moves around as he continues singing and he stops in front of a table where four young guys are sitting. "They say I'm nasty, but I don't give a damn. Getting boys is how I live," he continues, popping his hips suggestively in a guy's face.

He moves from table to table, his dancing getting more suggestive as the song progresses. The whole bar is eating it up, some men getting bold enough to touch Sebastian when he's near. Blaine just feels like he's missing something. As far as he's concerned they'd been having a great time together. Until Blaine had to go and ruin it by mentioning sex. Now, Sebastian doesn't even look at him as he rubs himself all over strange men and Blaine feels anger take over him.

The song moves into the second verse and Sebastian finally looks over at where Blaine and Matt are standing, and he sings the next lines right at them.

"All these strange relationships, really gets me down. I see nothing wrong with spreading myself around."

Blaine can't tell if he's singing to him or to Matt. Maybe it's both of them. And Blaine's not having it anymore. Whatever game Sebastian's playing, Blaine doesn't want a part of. So he returns Sebastian gaze without faltering, letting him see the disappointment and confusion. Sebastian merely smiles, leaving Blaine feeling nervous about whatever he's going to do next.

"Hey guys," Sebastian says into the microphone, the background track continuing without him. "Y'all see that guy over there?" and he points to Blaine. "His name is Blaine. Not only is he sex on a stick but he also sings like a dream." A guy whoops and the comment makes Blaine blush, just like the first time it was directed at him.

"Do you guys want to see him sing with me?"

A collective yeah sounds through the crowd. Sebastian's walking toward him and Blaine shakes his head. He's not giving in, even if Sebastian's pouting.

Sebastian's standing right before him now, between his legs.

"Come on, Blaine, don't leave me hanging," he says directly to him and not into the microphone.

"I'm doing it just for you," Sebastian sings and Blaine's resolve wavers. He jumps off the stool, takes the microphone from Sebastian and joins in:

"Tell me, tell me, why can't I live my life without all of the things that people say."

The crowd cheers, Sebastian laughs and pushes him to the other end of the bar

"I can do what I wanna do. Me and you. Together, together, together, together, together," they both sing, in continue together, trading off the last choruses and adlibs, dancing overdramatically. The track tapers off and Blaine laughs against Sebastian's shoulder.

"Thanks for that," he says.

Everyone wants to buy them a round but Blaine's more interested in the karaoke. He sings a decent duet with the Bowie-Boy to "Let's Dance." The Cindy Lauper drag queen joins him for fun, tongue-in-cheek rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

At the height of his performance euphoria Blaine sings Katy Perry's "Part of Me", which leaves him raw and shaking but serene. He sings to his old bullies, sings to his father, sings to Kurt. He sings to himself.

When he's done there are tears spilling out of the corners of his eyes and Sebastian's looking at him with something Blaine has to recognize as affection.

One of the young guys plays in a band and he conveniently happened to have a keyboard in his van. Blaine's sitting behind it now, having turned into a live show, unexpectedly. He's been playing requests for the last forty-five minutes.

He's not on the Bösendorfer, but there's a song in his heart right now, nascent and embryonic. He strokes the plastic like he would the wood, pretends he's back in his basement.

"So," he says into the microphone, "this next song is for my friend, Sebastian."

Sebastian stops his conversation with Matt, startled, but intrigued. He stands straighter, giving Blaine all of his attention.

"And because he's the biggest narcissist I know, he'll get a kick out of it."

Blaine tests out the keys a bit before starting with the melody. Someone in the back must recognize the song because they whoop. Or maybe they're just drunk.

Blaine's eyes remain fixed on is hands as he sings the first verse, his voice soft and a little unsure. His mind can't help but transport him to the last time he serenated someone in bar under fairy lights and his fingers falter and miss a note.

"Somebody called him Sebastian," he sings the chorus, changing the lyrics slightly to better fit the circumstance. "Somebody called him Sebastian," he sings again, louder this time.

He starts on the second verse, still looking down. He takes a steeling breath and raises his eyes, finds Sebastian in the audience begging him to listen as Blaine sings the next lines:

"And you, oh so gay, with Parisian demands, you can run around. Your view of society screws up my mind like you'll never know. Lead me away, come inside, see my mind in kaleidoscope."

Sebastian holds his stare. There's a challenge in his eyes, a challenge for Blaine to follow through with what he's just sang. There's no hesitation in Sebastian's countenance now.

Blaine closes his eyes in time to close up the next chorus, feels the music swell up within him and thrum in his veins. There's an entire orchestra in his head, the inadequate keyboard beneath him becomes the Bösendorfer. The non-existent stage vanishes from around him. The hairs on his arms stand up and he shivers with goosebumps.

The song swells up into the climax, Blaine's vocalizing, stomping his foot to the imaginary drum, higher and faster, louder until he stops, suddenly, without warning, leaving his audience rapt and on the edge.

There is reverent silence for a few seconds, save for the sound of Blaine's loud breathing over the microphone, until one person claps, the rest of them joining in at once.

He's a tough act to follow and every one unanimously agrees karaoke is done for the night. Matt turns the stereo back on. It'll be last call soon, so Matt's already collecting glasses and empty bottles. Most of the crowd has left already, the dance floor completely empty.

"You owe me a slow dance," Sebastian says and doesn't wait for Blaine's assent before leading him to the middle of the dance floor, right underneath the disco ball. Elliot Smith is playing, a soft guitar driven tune. Sebastian brings their joined hands between their chests right between the space where they're hearts beat, in time, shared. Blaine presses a cheek against the heat of Sebastian's chest; he's so much taller than him. He's never been able to do this, surrender his body this way, to be so completely enveloped by the shape of another person. Except maybe his brother, but Blaine doesn't count that. There is nothing platonic about Sebastian's thumb ghosting across Blaine's lower back. Or Sebastian's nose pressed intimately against the side of Blaine's head, his hot breath blowing across flushed ears.

It's neither better nor worse than slow dancing with Kurt. It's just different.

Sebastian starts humming the song's melody, the vibrations a lullaby. There is nothing but them right now. Nobody's looking at them because nobody cares. It's all Blaine has ever wanted, to dance with another boy for the simple pleasure of it.

Blaine has never wanted to be extraordinary for the things he has no control over. Wearing his hair curly or gelled isn't any kind of statement against societal structures. So why should dancing with another boy be one? And maybe the venue and his dance partner are not the ones he imagined, but this uncomplicated moment, simply swaying back and forth in a boy's arms, is all Blaine ever wanted for himself. He doesn't know if whatever has started tonight in this bar will live past tonight but Blaine wants to embrace it for the moment.

Blaine drags his lips across Sebastian's jaw, finds his ear.

"I think I want to go home now," he whispers, trusting Sebastian will catch on to everything he's not saying.


A gorgeous, vapory, silent hue covers the pre-dawn sky as Blaine and Sebastian exit the bar. They don't speak. Their breath materializes before completely escaping their mouths, but Blaine isn't even cold. His heart beats steadily with certainty and self-assuredness. He's not afraid. He knows what he wants right now.

Blaine leans against the back door of Sebastian's car and looks up at him through his lashes, eyes already heavy with want. In one smooth move he hooks a finger around one of Sebastian's belt loops, the other grappling at the hair at the back of his head as he brings Sebastian's face down to meet him in a kiss. Sebastian inhales sharply through his nose and steps closer, a hand spread across Blaine's neck, instantly kissing back. Sebastian presses a little too hard on Blaine's pulse point, makes it hurt and Blaine bites his bottom lip in answer.

They are foam and rock crashing against the shore of possibility.

Sebastian pulls back only for as long as it takes him to open the car and push Blaine into it. He closes the door behind himself and pins Blaine to the seat, his hold tight on Blaine's wrists, attacking Blaine's mouth desperately, incredulous, almost violently, switching between short deep kisses and dirty sloppy ones so fast Blaine can hardly keep up. It's as if, now, finally faced with the opportunity, he can't decide on how he wants to kiss Blaine.

Blaine breaks the kiss, wiggles his wrists until Sebastian releases him. Sebastian looks wrecked—his hair is a mess, his lips already chapped and swollen. He can't stop staring at Blaine's mouth.

Blaine nudges him back until Sebastian's seated with his back against the door. He brackets his thighs around Sebastian's and lowers himself. Sebastian's not saying anything but his whole body is pleading, hands twitching at his sides, chest heaving, mouth parted and his eyes…His eyes, they're, like, a color Blaine doesn't have a name for. Like deep space sparkle, or teal steel, or maybe just cornflower blue.

"Shh, slow down," Blaine whispers, rubbing his nose against Sebastian's before sucking on his bottom lip. He kisses Sebastian softly, chastely even, pulling back when Sebastian starts to respond. He does it again and Sebastian finally relaxes and gives in. Sebastian opens his mouth clumsily, as if he were being kissed for the first time. And Blaine wonders when was the last time he kissed someone without another end in mind. When was the last time he allowed himself to be kissed. Sebastian's hands come to rest on Blaine's hips, kneading, but not demanding and Blaine moans into Sebastian's mouth.

They go at it like that, leisurely and without hurry until Blaine is sweating under his dress shirt and he's dizzy from lack of air. He dares to pull Sebastian's shirt out of his pants and skim the pads of his fingers across the planes of Sebastian's sweaty stomach.

Sebastian shivers and breaks their kiss, suddenly, his hands grabbing at Blaine's wrists, halting his explorations and Blaine recoils, too, embarrassed.

"Blaine, we have to stop," Sebastian says.

"What? Why? I thought this was what you wanted," Blaine says and he leans in again but Sebastian moves his head.

"Blaine, please, listen to me. We can't do this right now."

"Why not? I'm not drunk, I swear. I know what I'm doing."

"It's not that," he whines, almost hysterical and unlike anything Blaine has ever heard him sound before.

"What's wrong?"

"Goddammit!" Sebastian says, maneuvering out from under Blaine to reach over the console and open the glove box compartment. Blaine flops into the warm space vacated by Sebastian.

"Here, this is yours," he says, dropping the small, rectangular object in Blaine's lap.

"Why are you giving me a tape?" Blaine turns it over in his hands but it has no markers or labels.

"It's my confession. I've been carrying it around all week hoping I'd work up the courage to give it to you." Sebastian's voice sounds like that of a man on the brink of breaking point and Blaine's stomach floats and drops, like when riding a rollercoaster.

He wants to go back to kissing Sebastian, wants to shut him up and swallow the words from his mouth before he has a chance to speak them.

"What are you talking about?"

"Santana got me on tape admitting I put rock salt in that slushy that almost blinded you. She came to see me at Dalton, she must've worn a wire."

"If Santana got you on tape, why did you have it?" His voice is louder, shrill inside the small space of the car. Sebastian doesn't say anything.

"Why did you have it?"

Blaine thinks he's never been more afraid of anything before in his life.


"Why did you have it?" he yells.

"Because Kurt gave it back to me!"

"You're lying." Blaine knows he's not, but he must be because the alternative is unthinkable. There is no air left inside the car, it's too warm, he can't fucking breathe. Is this how Kurt felt that night in Battery Park when Blaine pulled the rug out from underneath him?

"I'm not lying, I swear. I'm so sorry, Blaine. I should've given it back after Regionals last year but my dad said he'd send me to reform camp if I fucked up again and he wasn't bluffing. And I didn't want you to hate me again."

Blaine feels as though he's underwater. Sebastian is nothing but a stalk of algae swaying in the current.

"Did you threaten him?"

Sebastian goes from contrite to mad in a second; his jaw muscles tighten, he sucks his lips into his mouth.

"No, I didn't. In fact he gave it back to me out of his own volition, because he said, and I quote, that it'd more satisfying to beat me at Regionals. Your precious boyfriend traded my punishment for a chance at a trophy. So can we stop pretending I'm the only bad guy here?"

Blaine bolts out of the car before Sebastian's done speaking.

"Blaine, wait. Where are you going? Blaine!"

Blaine's deaf with fury. He doesn't know where he's going, he crosses the parking lot and keeps on walking, no end in sight. It feels like someone is digging their knees into his chest, he can't breathe, and maybe it's the cold.

His fingers fumble for his phone, and he can't stop trembling. Why can't he stop trembling? The phone trills in his ear but it's not the voice of his ex-boyfriend that answers. It's a machine and Blaine opens his mouth to let it have it when the phone is ripped from his grasp.

"Sebastian, give it back!"

Sebastian raises his arm as straight as he can, effectively holding the phone out of Blaine's reach and Blaine wants to punch him; he hates it when people use their height advantage against him. He could do it, too. He knows where to punch to cause the most damage.

But he's so tired.


The question echoes across the space between them, loaded.

"Because you're not sober and you're angry."

"I don't care! Why are you defending him? You hate him."

"I don't give a fuck about Hummel. You could tell him to light himself on fire for all I care. But I know you'd regret it, and quite frankly, Blaine, you've got enough of those."

Blaine's defeated. Exhausted with loving and wanting and yearning for a past that might or might not have been real. No fight left in him.


Because all this time he's been holding on to the broken hope that things would somehow get back to what they were, in some fashion. That the puzzle pieces would come together again to show the same picture. But that can never happen. Whatever shape they'll take now will have to be a new one, different to accommodate for the cracks and the breaks.

Blaine braces himself as the ice fractures under him again, ready to fall into the arctic abyss. But this time Sebastian's there to catch him. And he weeps out his anger, his hurt and humiliations. He cries harder than he's ever allowed himself to. And Sebastian holds on to him and doesn't let go.

When they pull up in front of Blaine's house it's 4:30 in the morning. The neighborhood is sleepily quiet. There's a light on somewhere in his house and Blaine hopes his mom didn't stay up to wait for him because he must look terrible. He can feel his face swollen past the point of being easily explained by allergies.

"Well, this is it, I guess," Sebastian says. It's the first thing either of them has said since Blaine finally stopped crying and asked Sebastian to take him home.

"This was, officially, the weirdest date I've ever been on," Blaine says, going for humor, but the joke falls flat.

"Well it's the only date I've ever been on, so for all I know there was nothing weird about it," Sebastian says, shy and completely honest.

"Oh god, now I feel like apologizing. I had an emotional outburstall over you."

"I don't know what you're talking about. All I remember is you rocking my world in the backseat of my car."

"It was pretty memorable. The whole night was, bumps and all," Blaine says, suddenly serious.


"I don't think you understand what you did for me tonight."

"I made you cry."

"You did." Blaine agrees.

"But you also made me smile and laugh, and you listened to me. You shared yourself with me. You respected me enough to give me a choice, even knowing what it could cost you. Tonight of all nights, that's the best gift anyone could give me."

Sebastian's mouth lifts in a soft, sweet smile, a blush suffusing his face with color at the praise. Blaine answers with one if his own.

"No regrets, then?"

Blaine shakes his head.

"Good. Well, maybe we could do it again not go prom together or something."

"Yeah, maybe."

"Well, I'll see you around I guess," Sebastian says.

"Don't be silly," Blaine says, rolling his eyes. "I'll call you in a few days."

A good date ends with a kiss, though, and Blaine turns in his seat before he can change his mind.

"What the heck, one more for the road?" he says, kissing Sebastian one last time, grinning at the dazed look on Sebastian's face.

Blaine's mom is asleep on the couch, her phone still clutched in her hands. She probably went through hell all night, thanks to him and he vows to take her out to lunch tomorrow (or later today, he realizes).

He shakes her awake, gently, kisses her on the forehead.

"Mom, it's me. I'm home," he whispers.

"Everything ok?" She mumbles, still half-asleep.

"Yeah, everything's fine. Go back to sleep," he says and she does.

Blaine stands in front of the mirror above his dresser, holding his own stare as he unbuttons the wrinkled white shirt from the bottom up, slowly, keeping his hands steady. He flips his shirt collar up with a practiced flick of his fingers and pulls the undone bowtie, before laying it over the dresser next to the non-descript tape that means everything.

In a few hours, he'll call Kurt and they'll talk. And Blaine will ask why. Maybe they'll put themselves back together. Maybe they won't. And for the first time in a long time, that thought doesn't leave him hopeless. Blaine's figured out that joy isn't in Kurt's arms—or in Sebastian's.

Letting himself dream again is terrifying because things will never be the same again. But there is neither victory nor transformation possible without fear.

It's his turn to run into the flames, rise up, and make explosions.