Jul 04, 2020 21:09

“Who in the world needs three trousseaus?” Sebastian moans, trudging behind his boyfriend, his sister, and his soon-to-be brother-in-law through what Olivia refers to as “the hallowed halls of Carolina Premium Outlets”. Kurt was initially surprised that a woman with the financial means of Olivia Smythe would opt to shop at an outlet mall instead of the other upscale clothing stores within a hundred mile radius of the beach house, but it also made him adore her even more.

Never let it be said that Kurt Hummel does not appreciate outlet shopping. His monthly bill to Rue La La alone will attest to that fact.

On top of that, not only had she invited Kurt to come, she demanded his attendance. “I need you, Kurt! I need someone with your refined, sophisticated eye for fashion to help me in this, my hour of need!” she’d declared with the dramatic flair befitting a literary scholar, grabbing him by the hand and wrenching him from his seat in Sebastian’s lap on the porch swing, not about to take no for an answer. At first, he suspected she chose him because her mother was otherwise occupied (which he discovered later on that she wasn’t), but it still flattered him that she went to him for help in this arena and didn’t opt for a personal shopper.

Going to a mall, doing something that could be defined by uncultured swine as banal, had been a welcome change. Not that Kurt didn’t absolutely love everything else they’d done so far - fighting the tides for their dinner, braving bee stings, nearly drowning in Sebastian’s Mustang …

… karaoke.

And the jellyfish. Oh sweet baby Jesus, he can’t forget the jellyfish!

This vacation started out like an episode of Survivor: North Carolina Edition, and even though it isn’t over, Kurt has nothing to worry about because he’s already won the grand prize. But walking into this plucky haven of discounted commerce, with it’s bright, white, artificial lighting and grainy, outdated music piped over the speakers feels like returning to the familiar. Breathing the recycled conditioned air relaxes every muscle like a full-body Shiatsu massage. It reminds him of weekends spent hanging out with his girls, grabbing a soft pretzel and complaining about the men in their lives, which was really a disguised form of good-natured one-upping:

“Finn will never understand the sanctity of my evening ice water face bath! He says it looks painful! He won’t even try it, the scaredy cat! Something about brain freeze and him being afraid of shrinking his skull. But his pores, Kurt! He’s got pores so big, you could live in them! And the sun damage from all that football? He’s such a … such a boy! I don’t know what I’m going to do with him some days! Anyway, did I show you the absolutely adorable music note pin he got me? It’s so perfect, I’m surprised you didn’t have something to do with it! You didn’t, did you? No, I didn’t think so. He said it was for the anniversary of our second kiss! How did he even remember?”

(How did Finn remember? Kurt had thought scornfully. Aside from the fact that Rachel circled the date on Finn’s calendar, then filled in the box with a note written in blood red Sharpie; inputted a message into his phone; and then reminded him every day of the week before; Kurt had no idea …)

“I completely understand what you mean,” Kurt had agreed with an appropriately commiserate eye roll. “I’ve finally managed to open Blaine’s eyes to the importance of jade rolling, but he’s so impatient! Married to the idea that an alpha hydroxy toner is some magical elixir that is going to solve all his problems for him.” Kurt tutted, nodding his head solemnly when Rachel gasped at the failings of his boyfriend. “But he did go out and buy me the cutest raw silk bow tie, out of the blue and for no reason whatsoever, so I guess I can’t be too angry with him for neglecting his dermatological responsibilities …”

The current man in Kurt’s life wouldn’t be in the running to win that competition, not with his constant bitching and complaining about the pain in his feet, the pounding in his head caused by the ‘lame ass music’, and his all-encompassing boredom.

But in this instance, listening to Sebastian gripe doesn’t dull Kurt’s shopping experience an inch.

On the contrary - it heightens it.

“I do.” Olivia grabs Kurt’s hand and bolts towards Talbots to outrun her brother’s sour attitude. “Now, hurry up! We’ve got seven more stores to hit!”

“Why bother?” Sebastian reaches for Kurt’s other hand, frowning when his fingers close around air. “I think you’ve bought every white outfit and peony-covered bed sheet in this place!”

“Hmph. You can never have too much white. And floral never goes out of style,” Olivia tosses over her shoulder, smirking when she notices her brother’s ineffectual attempt at retrieving his boyfriend.

“Great! You can use those sheets when you’re a wrinkled old biddy then.”

“That’s the plan,” Olivia replies with a grin of superiority nearly identical to her brothers. It’s uncanny, like they pass it around, only one of them allowed to use it at any given time.

“Should you even be wearing white at this wedding?” Sebastian retaliates. “I mean, isn’t white reserved for the virtuous?”

“Oh boy,” Brian mutters, taking a gargantuan step away to show how not associated with Sebastian he is at this moment.

Olivia and Kurt stop walking, spinning around in unison to glare down the approaching offender. Kurt wraps an arm around her, shielding her ears with his hands.

“That’s a low blow!” he scolds.

Sebastian shrugs, unfazed. “All I’m saying is that Olivia and Brian haven’t exactly been waiting on a block of ice for this day to arrive, have you guys?” He glances at Brian, who’s strategically hiding behind his fiancee’s fifteen shopping bags and a rotund, fiberglass planter. “Come on, man! Back me up!”

“Look, Sebastian, I love you like a brother,” Brian says, “but I’m not doin’ that. I know which side my bread is buttered.”

“Coward.” Sebastian turns his attention back to his sister and his boyfriend. He rolls his eyes condescendingly at their united front, their matching expressions of umbrage. “Sorry, not sorry,” he offers as his trivial non-apology.

“Oh, okay …” Olivia rolls up her sleeves, gearing up for a fight. “If that’s the way you want it, let’s talk some truth! If I was worried at all about a higher power sending lightning down to smote the impure at my perfect wedding, I wouldn’t have invited Julian or you! Between the two of you, you could set the entire venue on fire!”

Instead of being offended by that remark, Sebastian grins. “You’re not wrong. In fact …” Sebastian’s grin widens like he’s just conceived the most brilliant plan in the world “… I think it might be better if Kurt and I didn’t attend your stuffy old wedding.” He creeps closer to Kurt, prepared to take his sister to the ground to get his boyfriend’s hand back. “For the safety of your guests, of course.”

Olivia pivots, maneuvering a giggling Kurt out of her brother’s reach as swiftly as a chess master would castle a king. “I never said Kurt would set the place on fire.”

“And who says I wouldn’t go just because you weren’t going?” Kurt points out as he’s shuffled towards the safety of another store.

Olivia squeezes Kurt’s hand and beams, proud to have such a loyal companion in this fight.

“Employing that logic, I don’t see why my presence was necessary for this shopping excursion,” Sebastian argues, though it comes across more like he’s pouting. “You have Brian here to play valet. You guys could have gone by yourselves and had all the old lady fun you wanted. I would have given you my blessing.”

Kurt’s jaw drops straight to the collar of his borrowed button-down. “We told you where we were going! And I told you you’d be bored out of your mind! You begged us to come!”

“As a favor to you, babe.” Sebastian crosses his arms over his chest like a petulant toddler - a toddler with biceps the size of Kurt’s calves, on breathtaking display in the tight t-shirt he’s wearing. But Sebastian also looks so charmingly immature, Kurt can’t help breaking, smiling at him with heart eyes. This attitude shift - his playful moping and edge-free teasing - is one of the things Kurt loves about having Sebastian out here, surrounded by the loving bosom of his family. He’s softened, less sardonic, stopped trying to keep Kurt at arm’s length via the use of inappropriate jokes and jabs that skirt a line.

He’s gone from minor criminal mastermind, the scourge of Dalton Academy, and has become a goofy teenager.

Sebastian caps off his claim with, “Lord knows neither one of you has any sense of style,” and this time, it’s Olivia’s turn to cover Kurt’s ears. “Offense! Now you’ve gone too far!”

“Come, Olivia …” Kurt sniffles, squaring his back with a dignified roll of his shoulders, symbolically sloughing off Sebastian’s slights “… I refuse to stand here and be insulted by a boy wearing boat shoes.”

“Now, Kurt, don’t you listen to that mean, bitter … oh my God! Neiman Marcus is having a clearance sale! Come on!” She grabs Kurt’s hand and bolts toward the store, and God, is she strong! Kurt feels his feet fly out from under him as he rushes to keep up, Sebastian and Brian chuckling behind them. Kurt loses Sebastian in a sea of discount racks, each boasting bright red and yellow signs proclaiming 50% off! Final sale! 85% off re-racks! Kurt frowns at the signage, but then can’t help snickering at his own reaction to them. These signs are tackier than Kurt would expect for a Neiman Marcus store, outlet or otherwise, no doubt, but look at him being a sign snob when he can barely afford half the items on the rack at regular price?

Kurt finds his size (or his general range) and starts sifting through items one at a time, savoring the experience. He hears Olivia ooo and ahhh at a rack beside him, but his mind begins wandering to thoughts of the boy sauntering their way, helping Brian bear his load, laughing while his eyes search for Kurt.

And smiling like he’s never been happier.

For all of Sebastian’s incessant whining and rude remarks, Kurt can’t say he hasn’t fantasized about going on a no holds barred shopping excursion with him. He’s curious as hell how Sebastian would dress him. How Sebastian sees him. This button-down he’s wearing, top button undone and collar popped, is one of Sebastian’s - something Sebastian had tossed Kurt’s way after breakfast with only a, “Please?” as if his intentions were clear without further comment.

And they were.

But in a dedicated ensemble-selecting situation, what would his aesthetic be?

Kurt assumes there’d be a lot of denim and distressed tees involved, which might actually be quite fetching on him. It is on Sebastian, and the two of them are proportionately similar. With a chunky leather belt and his Doc Martens, he could see himself pulling that off. It’d be comfy, less restricting than the clothes he chooses for himself. And who knows? Sebastian might throw him a curve ball, surprise him by choosing an out-of-left-field accessory.

He’s exceptionally good at that.

The more Kurt thinks about it, the more he finds himself getting excited over the prospect of such a trip even though it’ll likely never happen.

But it could. Who knows?

It gives him something new to fantasize over.

Cooper had once accused Kurt of picking out Blaine’s clothes, and Blaine had defended him. Or himself, come to think of it. His personal style choices. But the truth is Blaine balked at a lot of Kurt’s attempts to dress him. He borrowed items from Kurt’s closet and vice versa, but letting Kurt style him? They didn’t do that all too often. The two of them had such signature styles, it felt like stepping on one another’s toes.

Might have been a good thing that Kurt didn’t, in retrospect. As with Rachel’s carousel horse sweaters, Blaine owns a cardigan or two that Kurt wouldn’t mind setting on fire.

And the temptation is strong.

But as for Sebastian’s style - Kurt suspects there’s a degree to which someone else buys his clothes for him. Like a personal shopper, or perhaps even his mom. He wears a lot of the same outside of his Dalton uniform - designer label clothes that suit his figure but don’t exactly scream personality. Kurt can see Sebastian approving the colors and having the final say, but in the end, he doesn’t do the work.

His t-shirts are a different story. Those he obviously picked out personally. They’re conversational, speak to more than his taste in clothing.

They’re a peek into his identity.

If Kurt had the chance to get his hands on Sebastian’s wardrobe, he’d dress him in pieces tailored more for his figure - dress shirts with the sleeves rolled up and one tail untucked hinting at his trim waist, layered over simple tanks of solid colors, and jeans slightly snugger than he usually wears.

Kurt swallows, his mouth stone dry at the silhouette that combination creates in his mind.

He startles out of his daydream when he realizes he’s stopped searching. Olivia’s voice has become a low hum in his ears, blending with the music and occasional store announcements; his hands gripping two separate hangers like an iron vice determined to break them in half. He peeks up to see an amused Sebastian staring at him, heading in their direction, but his view gets cut when Olivia thrusts a hanger in front of his face.

“Oh, Kurt! Look! It’s Tom Ford and it’s leopard! It would look so fierce on you!” Olivia takes a gander at the tag. “And it’s 75% off! A steal, Kurt! You have to get it!”

“Should I?” Kurt turns to the nearest mirror, mounted on a support pillar, and holds the long-sleeved shirt up to his chin. It is rather stunning. He doesn’t have to look at the price tag to know that it costs a pretty penny. 75% off of Tom Ford’s average retail price is quite the splurge for normal, non-economically blessed humans. What Olivia considers a steal would mean the sacrifice of an entire weekend at his dad’s shop. But, luckily, he has it to spend. And he’s worth it, especially after everything he’s been through.

“Absolutely! You’d be losing money not buying it at that price!”

“You know what? I think I will!” And as excited as he is at adding a new separate to his Tom Ford collection, Kurt feels a pit grow in his stomach when those words pass his lips. He feels guilty not bookmarking every single cent he has for NYADA, but seeing as he has this new plan to put into action, he breaks down and decides to buy the shirt, a pair of slacks, and a belt to tie the whole look together.

“You know, you should just go crazy,” Sebastian mentions. “It’s all good. I’ll pick up the tab.”

Kurt’s heart speeds at the offer, an orgasmic Yes! pinging through his brain, but he shakes his head. “That’s very generous, but even on sale, the prices in this place are insane! I don’t want you spending that kind of money on me.”

“Why not? I have it to spend. What’s a couple thousand between boyfriends?” Sebastian says, playfully bumping Kurt’s hip with his own. “Besides, I like the idea of spoiling you.” He leans close to Kurt’s ear and whispers, “If you want, I can take it out of what I owe you. Or in exchange for sex. Whatever floats your boat.”

Those words, in contrast to the heat of Sebastian’s breath, make Kurt’s skin go cold. It’s a joke. Sebastian is teasing. And Kurt should be happy that he feels free to tease him about this. Things are slowly coming out in the open, people are finding out about their ruse, and they don’t care, because in the end, the two of them fell in love. They’re happy.

And no one died.

Jokes about money, or their relationship, may not mean anything to Sebastian, not since the end justified the means. So they shouldn’t mean anything to Kurt.

So why do they?

Bzzz-bzzz. Bzzz-bzzz.

Kurt’s phone vibrating in his pocket is rare enough for this trip that it makes him jump a full foot in the air. Truthfully, he forgot he brought it with him. He’d deemed it unnecessary for most outings, only holding on to it in case of an emergency. He sticks the leopard shirt under his arm and pulls his phone out of his pocket. He unlocks his screen and sees an incoming message from his father. He taps on it to open it, but it refuses, bouncing back to the main screen after a few seconds of stalling.

“What is it, babe?” Sebastian asks after Kurt stabs at his screen for the fifth time with no luck.

“It’s a text from my dad, but I can’t open it,” Kurt replies. “He sent a picture attachment, but it keeps freezing up.”

“Maybe it’s too big.” Sebastian puts his share of Olivia’s shopping bags down and rests his hands on Kurt’s shoulders, gently kneading away the tension this is causing him. “Lord knows I understand that problem.”

“Ha ha,” Kurt deadpans, assaulting the screen more vigorously like he’s interrogating it for information.

Which he kind of is.

“Speaking of, can I see those pictures?” Olivia asks.

Sebastian shoots his sister a disturbed look. “You want to see pictures of my junk?”

“Does Kurt have pictures of your junk on his phone? Because if he does, I think we’ve identified the problem.”

“And what’s that?”

Olivia stares at her brother with such intense seriousness, Kurt thinks she may not be kidding when she says, “His phone obviously has a virus.”

Brian guffaws unexpectedly and turns away.

“Funny,” Sebastian deadpans back.

“I want to see the pictures from that hot air balloon ride you guys took!” Olivia clarifies, blessedly halting the conversation in its tracks.

“Oh. Yeah,” Kurt says, distracted by this issue with his phone. “Let me just …”

“Did you forget how to use it?” Sebastian asks, only half kidding. “I mean, you haven’t really been using your phone since we got here.”

“It’s not that,” Kurt says, not surprised anymore by how easy it is to bypass Sebastian’s humor and see the real message inside. Kurt is struggling to open a text - a text from his father. Sebastian knows that’s going to cause Kurt anxiety. “This has happened to me a few times before. Shoot! Now it won’t let me access my photo gallery!”

“I should really upgrade your phone,” Sebastian says, like it’s his responsibility to handle this problem, as if he has the authority to make that decision.

“My phone’s fine, Bas,” Kurt grumbles, more annoyed at his phone than he is at his boyfriend.

“Kurt, this is serious! I don’t want your wack ass service to go out when I need to get a hold of you. What if we’re sexting and your phone locks my messages, too?”

“I don’t think it’s the service. I have full bars. I can get on the Internet just fine. It’s my internal storage … mmph!” Kurt gives up on his gallery, accessing Facebook for the photos instead. “It’s the phone! I think it’s finally aged out.”

“Ergo why I should upgrade it.”

“Grr!” Kurt doesn’t bother glaring at Sebastian since he accepts the fact that he made his point for him. Yes, it would be nice to have a new phone. This one’s been giving him grief for a while. But it still works, and it’s decent. Why toss something away because it’s temperamental and frustrating? If that’s the case, he should break up with Sebastian. He laughs out loud when that conclusion pops into his head, but he doesn’t mention why, regardless of the strange looks he’s getting.

“It’s okay,” Sebastian mouths to a perplexed Olivia while pretending to patronizingly pat Kurt’s hair. “He does that sometimes.”

“Okay, okay!” Kurt cheers as his Facebook page pops on the screen. “I’ve got it! Here’s the one at holy shit!”

“Holy shit?” Olivia repeats.

“I don’t remember us going there.” Sebastian crowds with Olivia and Brian around Kurt, all staring at his phone. The first photo that comes up is the exact photo Kurt wanted - the two of them kissing in the basket of that hot air balloon with the caption he wrote, Love Defies Gravity, overhead. But that’s not the issue. The issue is:

“Seen by … 1,452 people!?”

Even Sebastian gasps when Kurt reads it.

“That’s … a lot of people,” Brian says, a less astute observation than Kurt would expect from a lawyer.

“It is. I---I didn’t even know this many people were checking their Facebook pages over the summer. Everyone seemed so busy …” Kurt pauses, swallows heavy, one that fills all the negative space in his throat, then crawls through his chest when it gets that far - his lungs, the spaces between his ribs, his heart. There it stays, obstructing his breathing, rooting him to the spot with its oppressive weight. Because it’s not just the length of the seen by list that makes Kurt’s eyes swell (and yes, it appears that almost everyone he’s ever met, known, given his Facebook information to has seen this picture), but the comments they left. Only the first four are displayed, but when he clicks the View more comments hyperlink, they shoot down his screen, disappearing out of sight.

Kurt scans the list of names quickly, noting that pretty much every member of the New Directions has not only seen the pictures but has had something to say - something positive, and that makes Kurt giddy with relief. Not that their disapproval would have had any influence over whether Kurt stays with Sebastian or not. He doesn’t need a single one of his friends to approve as long as they understand that this is what he wants. But it’s nice to know that his friends are happy for him, even Rachel, who has left him a string of heart emojis, one or two of them broken, and the almost impossible to believe comment - I’m so sorry. About everything. Call me soon. I want to talk about this.

Kurt stops reading names after he sees Santana’s remark - Plot twist of the century! Way to get it, pretty pony! FYI - I’m still down to cut a bitch if he goes back to being a puto!

“Hey!” Sebastian says, pointing her comment out.

“What?” Kurt gives him a one shoulder shrug. “It’s her way of saying she approves. Besides, it’s good to know.” Kurt smiles to himself when he hears Olivia backhand her brother and he yelps, “Careful, will ya!? Your engagement ring’s sharp!”

Kurt gets so caught up in his happiness, he doesn’t see one name in particular at the way bottom of the list. The name of someone who had said they’d sworn off Facebook for the summer, but who’d been checking it on the sly whenever they got the chance.

One of the first people to flip through all the photographs on Kurt’s page, even though they didn’t leave a comment.

They couldn’t bring themselves to, not on any of the photographs Kurt has uploaded while he’s been at the beach house - the ones he took of the ocean view from Sebastian’s room, the selfie he took with Sebastian on the porch swing, the one he took of Sebastian asleep in bed.

Especially the one of Sebastian asleep in bed.

Blaine Anderson.


Several times on the car ride home, Kurt attempts to download his father’s message. He waits while the loading icon circles round and round and round, but all he gets back is the error message File not available for download.

“Shoot! But why aren’t you available for download?”

The phone doesn’t answer, but Sebastian does.

“Because I’m a shit phone, Kurt,” he says in a cartoonish falsetto. “Let your sexy boyfriend upgrade me.”

Kurt side-eyes Sebastian. “Is that code?”

Sebastian bounces his eyebrows. “Do you want it to be? There is such a thing as a gadget kink, isn’t there?”

“You would know,” Kurt mutters. “You do realize that even if you upgrade my phone today to one that is faster, more reliable, has a longer battery life, and …”

Sebastian glances from the road to Kurt stuck in the midst of that sentence with his mouth half-open “… and …?”

“I don’t know. I kind of lost myself in my own argument.” Kurt’s face goes blank, marooned on the question of exactly why it is he’s turning down the offer of a new phone. He’s never been a phone snob. He’s the one constantly defending the fact that yes, he owns an older iPhone, but if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

Except now that argument is invalid.

A newer generation iPhone would be nice, but again, it’s too much money. He loves Sebastian, but he doesn’t need him paying for everything.

At what point would spoiling be considered mooching in Sebastian’s eyes, even if Kurt starts out by vehemently objecting?

Kurt shakes his head, demolishing the image of himself wielding the latest in Apple technology when he remembers the point he was attempting to make. “That’s right. Even if you upgraded my phone today, I still might not be able to open this message. If I can’t download it, it might not transfer over.”

“Why don’t you give him a call?”

“I’ve tried! It’s not just my texting that’s on the fritz, I can’t do anything! The infuriating thing is I haven’t gotten any significant messages from anyone the whole time I’ve been here! The one day my dad has something so important to tell me he includes a picture, it pulls this crap, deciding that, after a long and loyal relationship, today is the day it’s going to screw the pooch!” At least it waited longer than Blaine, Kurt thinks sourly. Was more reliable in the end, too.

“Maybe the problem is your service and we’ve entered a dead zone,” Sebastian says sympathetically, as if a similar criticism about Blaine may have crossed his mind. “You’ve had no problems using your phone at the house, right?”


“Then I say wait till you get to the house and give it another shot.”

“You’re … you’re probably right.”

“Hey …” Sebastian reaches across the center console for Kurt’s hand. Kurt takes it without looking, without needing to look “… if you’re that worried about him, use the landline. Put your mind at ease.”

“Yeah.” Kurt pockets his phone, his mind whirling through the spectrum of possibilities, trying to hit blindly on which one is more plausible. It doesn’t help too much since not a single one of them is any better than the rest. “I might just do that.”


To Kurt:

Call me as soon as you can. We need to talk  ASAP .

Sitting alone on the edge of Sebastian’s bed, staring at his phone screen, those words are as far as Kurt gets before his phone goes loopy again, but the chills that spiral up and down his spine show no sign of stopping.

Now that he has that much of the message open, his Facebook app starts flipping out. He’d been reading the threads underneath his photos, but the longer he scrolls, the app errors out and shuts down, forcing him to log in all over again. He has two-factor authentification set on all his apps, which means waiting for an authorization text before he can do anything. He’s had to change his password twice so far. He prays he won’t have to do it again.

There are just so many variations of TheGoddessPattiLuPone he can come up with.

He’ll have to move on to TheGoddessBetteMidler soon.

In between shut downs, he catches snippets of conversations that solve a couple of mysteries for him. Like how Sebastian managed to see his old Cheerios videos. A helpful Brittany was apparently instrumental behind that one, bringing them up on her phone from the official Cheerios archive (accessible only by past and present members of the Cheerios) when Sebastian mentioned he was interested in starting a squad at Dalton and would she mind giving him a few pointers seeing as she was one of McKinley’s star cheerleaders and all.

Kurt sighs over the fact that she fell for that one but he can’t hold it against her. She’s a sweetheart that way, rarely thinks badly of anyone for too long. Even with everything Sebastian has done to sabotage the New Directions, it would be water under the bridge as long as he was nice to her. Maybe gave her a gummy bear or two.

Kurt’s coffee order - a splash of cream and a half spoon of sugar - Kurt deduces in a round about way came from Mercedes one day when they went to visit Dalton to pick up some transcripts and he took her to the commons for coffee. He remembers her commenting in a voice that could never competently whisper, “A drop of cream and a half spoon of sugar? Oh honey. What’s wrong now?”

It was only once. Kurt had forgotten Sebastian was even there. He had started to dish when he caught sight of Sebastian out the corner of his eye. He immediately took Mercedes by the arm and led her away out of earshot of ‘the criminal chipmunk’.

If Kurt doubted that Sebastian actually did spend a great deal of his time gathering blackmail fodder on people the way he claimed, his mind has definitely changed, though he’s not exactly sure how knowing Kurt’s secret coffee order would help Sebastian bend him to his will.

On the flip side, Kurt is interested to find out what else he knows, and about whom.

The phone shuts down and restarts. As soon as it springs to life, it rings, the volume turned up so loud, it shocks him, causing him to fling his phone a foot in the air. Luckily he catches it before it hits the floor. He can’t afford for this thing to break more than it has. He looks at the screen, expecting (but not necessarily hoping, and that makes him feel like a heel) his dad’s number. But it’s not.

It’s Rachel’s.

Kurt groans. He’s not sure he wants to talk to her yet. Because it won’t be talked to, but talked at, a dozen questions flying at him in a single breath which he won’t be given a chance to mull over adequately before he’s expected to answer. And even though he recognizes that he doesn’t owe Rachel anything - any explanations and definitely no apologies - she may ask questions he doesn’t have satisfactory answers for. Not according to her.

Oh God! He doesn’t need this now! Doesn’t need this stress, doesn’t need to be pressured, especially when he has a mysterious message from his father to reckon with. He argues over it to a phantom Rachel in his head, outlining his reasons in a numbered list as to why he doesn’t need her interrupting his calm, harshing the one luxury he’s allowed himself the entire summer, and how there’s not a single thing she can say that will guilt him into feeling anything other than over-the-top, insanely happy.

He gets so wrapped up in winning this non-existent argument, lining up the zingers he’s been stockpiling for just such an occasion, it takes him a few seconds to notice that his phone has stopped ringing.

He stares at the red disconnected call icon on the screen, a choked off, “Oh no,” slipping past his lips.

Kurt took too long.

This could be bad.

But on the bright side, it’s not bad right this second. It seems fate answered his question for him. At least now he has a chance to take a breath before he has to consider---

The phone rings again.

Kurt sees Rachel’s name re-appear on the screen and mutters, “Good God.”

Rachel has nothing going on this summer, so she has plenty of time to keep dogging him till he answers. He knows that for a fact.

He could turn off his phone, put it in a plastic bag, shove that plastic bag in a pillowcase, and then put that pillowcase in his luggage, but he’s still trying to get to the bottom of the text from his dad.

He has no choice.

Best to get this over with, he decides, before she sweet talks Finn into finding out where he is and makes him drive her to North Carolina to talk to him personally. Even if they can’t narrow down the exact location of the beach house, she’d make him drive around while she called out his name through a bull horn to hunt him down.

Erring on the side of caution, Kurt begrudgingly picks up. Rachel’s voice comes through before the phone even makes it to his ear.



“Oh thank God!” she says with an exaggerated sigh, as if Kurt has been missing for months. “I’ve been trying to get a hold of you all day!”

Kurt glances at his screen, the call history for her number outlined in small white numbers denoting this as the fifteenth call from her in the past hour. “I can see that.”

Then comes silence.

Silence because she expects him to lay everything out for her without her having to ask.

And, at the moment, after everything she said about Sebastian being a temporary person (even though, to be fair, Kurt had given her no concrete reason to think otherwise) he’s bitter enough not to.

She breathes in as if she’s about to start a sentence.

He breathes in, prepared to cut in and say, “I know what you’re going to say, Rachel,” though he doesn’t.

So he waits.

She clears her throat, and in a compassionate voice, she asks, “Wha---what happened?”

“Uh …” If that isn’t the loaded question of the decade, Kurt thinks. “It’s like this … he … Sebastian, that is … no - maybe I should start with Blaine … but first, there was this …” Kurt sighs. There is no good place to begin. “You know, it’s a lot to talk about and, to be honest, I’d rather not do it over the phone.”

“Fair enough,” she says, and Kurt can almost hear her nodding. She breathes in again but pauses, holding this one breath for a long time before letting it out in a rush. “You and Blaine aren’t getting back together … are you?”

She sounds so sad.

She sounds the way Puck’s hug felt after he and Blaine told their friends about their decision to break up.

She sounds like something important has been ripped away from her, because Kurt and Blaine’s plans for New York were, in small part, Rachel and Finn’s plans, too. As much as he’d daydreamed about living the poor college student life with Blaine, their Bohemia Academia in a run down apartment they’d make quaint and homey with a combination of stuff from home and accumulated kitsch, Rachel had imagined living somewhere nearby with Finn so they could drop in unannounced for impromptu trips to the farmer’s market; hang out on the fire escape during hot summer nights, sipping sweet vermouth and talking about the cattle calls they’d been to, the parts they hoped they’d get, commenting on no small parts, only small actors, which would turn into a dig at Blaine’s and Rachel’s heights respectively, and probably devolve into a pillow fight..

There was a future wrapped up in Kurt and Blaine’s plans that wasn’t entirely theirs and now that life is being mourned.

“No,” Kurt says, pulling off that bandage before it sits too long, hurts too much. It’s not the declaration that hurts. It’s the anticipation of what that answer might bring. He closes his eyes, jaw going rigid, hands clenching, bracing for the impact. “Never.”

Another in a long series of silences hovers between them. Not a tense one, but not a comfortable one. But then Rachel says the one word Kurt never expected to hear in response to that revelation.


Kurt’s eyes pop open, and inside his chest, his heart stops. “Come again?” he asks when he should be relieved he’s getting away relatively unscathed.

“He shouldn’t have broken up with you, Kurt! He was wrong! Everything he said at that party was wrong!”

“What about what you said at the party?” Kurt asks sarcastically. He can only keep so much of his anger over that contained. Of course what she said was annoying - typical Rachel Berry rhetoric. But he also felt betrayed by the person whose alliance was the most difficult of his life to obtain. He’d thought that made it the sincerest. “About how we were being very mature about the whole thing, and it was good that we were taking some time to reevaluate our choices as we stepped into the future as adults?”

“I was wrong,” she admits tearfully. And not Rachel Berry’s overacted I feel sad when you’re sad tears. These are the genuine article. “I wanted to support you. I wanted to support what I thought was your joint decision. But thinking back on it, re-evaluating what Blaine said, how you reacted to it …” She sniffles, blows her nose away from the phone, and all of the seething bitterness that has been building up in Kurt’s heart over her melts “… then seeing those pictures of you and Sebastian together, and after having a long talk with Finn, I realized that what Blaine did to you is wrong. On so many levels. You did nothing to deserve it. Nothing. And if Sebastian treats you right, if he treats you the way Blaine should have treated you, the way you deserve to be treated then …” She pauses for a deep breath, returning to form, coming to the crux of her argument “… you have my blessing.”

Kurt rolls his eyes at the insinuation that he needs any blessing from her, but he smiles fondly, so hard that his cheeks hurt. It’s a curse that none of them can seem to stay angry at Rachel for long. Even Mercedes, who had more right than any of them to hate Rachel’s guts after that rigmarole with West Side Story came around about a month later. “Thank you, Rachel. That’s very kind of you to say.”

“You’re very welcome,” she says, her voice slightly broken as she gathers herself together. “Well (*sniff*) now that you guys are official (and Kurt can see the air quotes on that one), may I ask you a very important question? And please answer honestly. This is for science.”

Oh boy. Here it comes, Kurt thinks. “Sure, Rachel. What would you like to know?”

“He’s a good kisser, right? Tell me I’m right! A boy with as much experience as he has should have gold medal technique!”

“Yes, Rachel,” Kurt says, laughing when he hears her snort. “A-plus. The absolute best!”


“Fuck …”

Sitting on the porch swing, stiff and expressionless as an Easter Island statue, Kurt stares at his phone screen, unable to blink even with the salty sea air stinging his eyes, sucking the moisture from them. His lips try to move instead so he can mutter to himself, sort things through with a private debate, but all he can manage is another expletive.

“Fuck …”

To Kurt:

Call me as soon as you can. We need to talk  ASAP .

Along with that ominous message, his father sent a picture of an envelope, the return address NYADA, specifically the financial aid department. Across the bottom of the envelope where Kurt has gotten used to seeing the words AMOUNT DUE are stamped the words FINAL NOTICE.

Kurt swallows hard.

He’d tried calling his father when they reached the beach house on both his dad’s cell phone and the house phone, but they just rang and rang. They didn’t even go to voicemail. Considering the time, he was either running errands or in a meeting, Kurt didn’t know for sure, which didn’t calm his anxiety any. Because those errands could be to the doctor’s office, or with his cardiologist.

Spur-of-the-moment meetings, since Kurt didn’t know about them, indicating something important had cropped up while he was away.

He’d considered calling the Lima Police and requesting they stop by and do a wellness check, but that felt like an overreaction, so he decided to try one last hard reboot of his phone. The screen went black for what seemed like an hour but was probably more like fifteen seconds. After keeping him waiting, sweating it out, the operating system had the nerve to update. Close to five minutes later, the screen went white. His icons shuffled, then everything snapped back to normal. Then, without him touching it, the boxes he’d been trying to access for most of the afternoon opened, including the message from his father and its accompanying picture.

He didn’t have to look at it too long to know what it was. It slapped him in the face the second it filled the screen.

He wishes the file hadn’t opened so smoothly, that he could have eased into accessing it. Because now, underneath this beautiful star-filled sky, a stone’s thrown away from a magnificent beach, he’s about to be sick.

No, he thinks. Not now. Not when I’m here, in this sanctuary, where nothing bad can touch me, still trying to make sense of my feelings. Not when I don’t have a clue how to fix this, where to even start.

But maybe that’s the rub. Maybe he was never meant to figure this problem out. Maybe his acceptance to NYADA was something he was meant to lose, like Blaine, another part of his life he arrogantly thought was a sure thing, something he didn’t bother worrying about once he’d gotten it, slipping through his fingers.

“Hey! You figured your phone out!”

“Yeah,” Kurt says, quickly closing the text. “I just … turned it off and turned it back on again. Worked like a charm.”

Sebastian looks his boyfriend over, but particularly his smile - two-dimensional, not doing its usual job of lighting his eyes - and starts to worry. “What did your dad have to say? Nothing bad, right? He’s not … he’s not sick or anything?”

“No. No, he’s fine. He just got home, I guess.” Kurt tries to stuff the phone in his pocket, but his numb fingers have a problem working.

“You know” - Sebastian sits beside Kurt, his eyes lingering on the phone Kurt tucks out of sight - “I never did ask you what you needed $10,000 for. I mean, did you pick that number out of the air at random? Or was that what you thought dating me was worth, because, if that’s the case, then frankly I think you sold one of us short.”

Kurt nods tersely but doesn’t answer. He can’t. He’s paralyzed. Now is definitely the time to own up to something, but what? To his old plan of needing the money to go to NYADA? Or this new plan of moving wherever Sebastian is going that he’s become attached to? He knows he’ll tell Sebastian both, but which one takes precedence? If emotion weren’t entering in to it at all, if he wasn’t still confused about this relationship with Sebastian, then the answer would be NYADA, definitely. And even as that new plan, glimmering in his head, tickles his lips to make its way out, he knows the answer is NYADA no matter what, above all.

Sebastian puts an arm around Kurt’s shoulder and pulls him against him as he reclines. He pushes off the porch with his feet and starts the swing rocking its soothing rhythm.

“Originally I thought it was so you could buy yourself a new wardrobe,” Sebastian continues, trying to get Kurt relaxed enough to spill, “and I have to say, I was all for that. Hell, I was going to up it to $50,000 and take you shopping myself. Make sure you got your money’s worth.” Sebastian waits for a comeback, a snide remark, anything. But when Kurt remains quiet, Sebastian kisses his head. “Talk to me, babe. Tell me what’s going on.”

Kurt sighs. He can’t put this off any longer. Putting it off, coming up with some excuse not to talk about it, would feel like lying, and he doesn’t want to lie to Sebastian.

“It’s for … it was for college. NYADA.” God, he isn’t prepared to admit this. Not yet. Even after the time he’s given himself, he’d never wanted to admit to any of this out loud. That was worse than not having the money, so he’d been doing everything in his power not to. “I had gotten some scholarships and some financial aid, but I was approved before my father was elected to Congress.” Kurt hears Sebastian sigh. He knows he can fill in the rest, but Kurt feels like he has to keep going. “It never dawned on me to call and update them, but they found out on their own anyway. They readjusted my aid and, in the end, I came up short. Without that money, I … I can’t go to college.”

Sebastian sighs again, but instead of sounding frustrated, this sigh sounds hurt. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because it doesn’t matter, Sebastian. I can’t take that money now. Not after …”

“Stop, Kurt.” Sebastian reaches into his back pocket. “Just … just stop.” He pulls out his wallet, takes out a piece of paper, folded once, and hands it to Kurt. At first, Kurt has no idea what it could be, though he has a nagging suspicion. But that suspicion can’t be correct! It would be ludicrous if it were!

But since ludicrous seems like par for the course this summer, it’s exactly what Kurt thinks it is - a cashier’s check for $10,000, made out to Kurt Hummel, dated the day Kurt agreed to their fake boyfriend arrangement. And even though Kurt is teetering on the brink of incredulity, he has to smirk at the comment Sebastian had the bank print in the memo line - For services rendered. Bow-chicka-bow-wow.

“You’ve … you’ve been carrying this around with you this whole time?”

“Well, yeah.” Sebastian shrugs. “Regardless of what you see on TV, you can’t just write a personal check for ten grand. And I had every intention of keeping up my end of the bargain. I got it drawn up early in case we didn’t fool anyone and my folks cleaned out my bank account. A personal check would have been worthless then, so …” Sebastian makes a go ahead and take it gesture, encouraging Kurt to put it away for safe keeping. But Kurt shakes his head.

“Thank you, but … but I … I can’t,” Kurt says, those words killing him, driving nails into his heart and twisting as he stares at this check, made out for more than he needs, his name in the pay to the order of line. It’s the answer to all his prayers, but for the sake of his conscience, he has to turn it down. Goddamned conscience! Fuck you! “That’s very generous of you, but …”

“We had a deal, Kurt,” Sebastian interrupts. “You more than held up your end. In fact, I would say you went above and beyond considering.”

Kurt nods. Objectively, he has to agree, but the way Sebastian chose to phrase it makes him feel sick. Plus, and he doesn’t know why, he feels offended. He doesn’t know what he expected Sebastian to say about the matter. He’d prepared himself for Sebastian to give him the money. He’d prepared to refuse and for the two of them to fight over it. But instead of indignant, he feels insulted.

“Then … then what does that make us? What does that make this? Everything we’ve done so far?”

“It makes it what it is, Kurt,” Sebastian says, throwing an arm in the air. “I love you, and you love me. And this …” He gestures to the check in Kurt’s hands like it’s an annoying fly he’s shooing away “… this is ancient history. Tying up loose ends.” Kurt starts shaking his head. It’s a reflex to object. This doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that boyfriends did for one another. Teenage boyfriends at that! It’s too much!

Sebastian, facing down his obstinate boyfriend, groans. “Kurt! Are you really going to throw your dreams away, your entire future, for something as stupid as money?”

“Well, you can call money stupid,” Kurt argues, his hand holding the check shaking. “You have it, alright? But when you don’t have it, it’s not stupid! It’s actually kind of important!”

“You’re right,” Sebastian agrees. “You’re absolutely right. It is important. It’s important, and you need it. You need it to go to college. So why the fuck aren’t you taking it, Kurt? I’m fortunate. I happen to have more money than I can use, sitting around, doing nothing. So let me give you some …” Kurt scoffs, rolls his head away. Sebastian amends his statement. “Or lend you some - however you want to do this. Remember when I said that money doesn’t matter to me beyond enjoying all the things my wealth can buy me? Well, I would really enjoy the opportunity to do this for you.”

Kurt doesn’t know what to say, so he stays quiet, hoping the right words will simply come to him. When they don’t, Sebastian takes that as Kurt trying to come up with a better argument against this, and he huffs out a frustrated breath.

“Look, if you don’t take it, I’m just going to send it to fucking NYADA with your name plastered all over it, so you might as well stop being so fucking stubborn and do it your damn self! If you and I hadn’t gotten together for real, if we hadn’t fallen in love, you’d be taking this check, conscience clear, and on your way to New York. But we lucked out, Kurt. We got something better out of this in the end. Being able to call you mine is worth the world to me. But if it causes you to give up your dream, then it’s a bad thing. I don’t want what we have to be a bad thing. I want it to be a good thing. I want it to grow and last, and that will only happen if you live out your life. If you follow your dream.”

Sebastian takes the check from Kurt’s fingers. He folds it and slides it in Kurt’s pocket. Kurt doesn’t move to object. He can’t. What Sebastian says makes sense to him logically. It’s his pride that has a problem with it. This isn’t the end. Sebastian isn’t Blaine. He isn’t going to let Kurt go just because they’re going to schools in separate states. Kurt is finally seeing an ending to this where he gets to have it all - the school of his dreams, the future he planned, and the boy he never planned on. This would be a loan, he promises himself. He’ll pay back every single cent, even if it takes him a lifetime.

“You’re going to NYADA, Kurt,” Sebastian says, kissing Kurt on the forehead between words, “one way or another. And there’s not a force anywhere on earth that’s going to keep me from making sure you get there.”

kurt hummel, acitw au, acitw, sebastian smythe, glee, kurtbastian

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