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“Take me with you.”

Sebastian drew Blaine to him, kissed him, bodies pressed together like a promise.

“I can’t,” Blaine said, pulling back, breathless, pink-cheeked, and frowning.

“You have to,” Sebastian replied urgently. “You can’t do this alone, Blaine.”

“I don’t want anyone else to get hurt.” Blaine touched the bandage curled around Sebastian’s neck, a white collar which spread down to wrap around his chest, covering up third-degree burns that had, yes, hurt like a bitch when he’d gotten them. “I don’t want you to get hurt again.”

“You’ll be the one getting hurt if you go after them alone.”

Blaine hesitated, a flicker in his eyes, and Sebastian pounced on that weakness like had been trained to from the cradle.

“Take me with you,” Sebastian repeated, kissing Blaine again, sweeter. “You need me.”

Blaine’s hesitation collapsed, and he bowed his head, resting his forehead against Sebastian’s shoulder. He hugged Sebastian, and his shoulders shook.

“I do,” he said softly, Sebastian smoothing a hand over his trembling back. “I do.”

“Take me with you?”

Blaine nodded against his shoulder.

“Tonight. Midnight.”

Sebastian kissed him one last time.

--

That was the day Blaine Anderson disappeared without a trace. Sebastian was left behind.

--

Sebastian spent the summer searching for him.

A global manhunt based on no clues, just gut feelings, just pretending he actually knew Blaine. Apparently he didn’t because Blaine was nowhere, a ghost in a world of them, probably dead for all they knew.

Sebastian couldn’t think of Blaine rotting away in some shallow grave somewhere after being tortured for information by the Circle, by his --

He couldn’t. He couldn’t. He couldn’t.

It was the kind of weakness he’d never allowed himself before, but sometimes he also felt that his whole infatuation Blaine had redefined strength in a way that left him nothing but weak.

The Sebastian of two years ago wouldn’t have cared about one dead teenager, spy or no.

The Sebastian of two years ago was sixteen years old and already had blood on his hands.

What was one more death to blame himself for?

--

Seventy-six days. Two and a half months. The length of Dalton Academy for Exceptional Youth’s summer break.

Come fall, students returned to the school’s hallowed halls in droves to continue their education. Dalton Academy taught its students only the most valuable skills, in art, language, math, history, science, and espionage. It was a premiere education; it simply also happened to fast-track one for a career in the CIA or some even more covert agency.

Sebastian thought Dalton was, in a word, quaint. But he’d had a much more intensive education.

Still, he slipped into that blue-and-red blazer come fall, and tried to pretend he wasn’t on house arrest, that he wasn’t being watched, that he still had the choice to walk off these grounds and continue his search.

Seventy-six days. Two and a half months. That was how long Blaine had been missing for.

--

Sebastian fit in at Dalton, well enough.

The classes were doable but interesting, both the physical and mental ones. He even had friends, as odd as it was to say. Mostly they were Blaine’s friends:

Tina Cohen-Chang, who was a chameleon, able to slip forgettably into any situation, and yet inexplicably also loud-mouthed and dramatic, prone to tears and shouting.

Quinn Fabray, a senator’s daughter composed of hard edges hidden behind a sweet smile, and terrifyingly good at manipulating people, a trait she credited to public school cheerleading.

Santana Lopez, a legacy spy who played with knives as a fashion statement and cut with words a dozen times sharper; her parents had been his babysitter over the summer and between Budapest and Greece and Brazil he gained a healthy respect for Santana’s toughness.

There were dozens of others. Blaine Anderson was the son of Dalton’s headmistress, decorated ex-CIA agent Pamela Anderson. (He was like, 90% sure that wasn’t her real name.) His older brother was infamous field agent Cooper Anderson. He was popular in his own right, the best of the best, a Dalton boy through and through. Smart, ambitious, driven. He also drew people to him, all honey. Friendly, sweet, kind.

Not exactly what you expected from a guy with actual high-level clearance who had been taught how to snap necks before he could legally drive.

When they’d first met, Sebastian’s job as visiting Carmel student to try and outfox the Dalton kids and see how they did in the real world, he had thought there was some trick to it. That Blaine was acting, that nobody could really be like that.

Turned out he was wrong. Sebastian was wrong about a lot of things. He lived.

After all, he also never thought Blaine would lie to him.

--

Two weeks after the school term began. Fourteen days. Ninety days.

An utterly normal day at Dalton Academy, Blaine Anderson came back.

--

Sebastian heard the ripples through the school, but he didn’t go looking.

The whispers were enough to build an idea of Blaine in his mind, like his own unwanted kind of echolocation. The resulting image wasn’t a pleasant one.

Damaged. Broken. Scary.

Santana caught up with him as he left his Diplomacy & Treaties class (actual lessons on peaceful resolution -- it was baffling.)

“He’s seriously fucked up,” she said, and he knew her well enough to see the tension at the edges of her otherwise stone face.

“Blaine’s a survivor,” Sebastian said. “He’ll be fine.”

Santana’s mouth twisted. “Yeah? Get back to me on that when you finally see him.”

Sebastian didn’t want to see Blaine. Seventy-six days of searching for him and fourteen more of pacing his cage like a circus tiger, and here he was, terrified of what waited for him somewhere in the otherwise placid halls of Dalton Academy.

Damaged, broken, scary, fucked-up. That was supposed to be Sebastian’s role. He had no idea how to take Blaine’s, how to be the stable one.

All he knew was that Blaine would be there for him.

No, he lied; he also knew that he wanted to help Blaine, however he could. That was all he had ever wanted.

He smothered a brief, unfair surge of anger at Blaine for leaving him behind, and went to find him.

--

“Hey, killer.”

Blaine did look awful. He had always been small, but now he was downright starved, with the same look to his eyes a wild animal caught in a trap might get. His hair was a mass of matted, bleached, white-blonde curls. Dark hollows ringed his wary gaze, and in the simple t-shirt and sweats it was easy to see the dark patterns of scars and wounds which broke up his too-pale skin.

He looked like he’d crawled his way out of that shallow grave.

“Sebastian.”

Blaine adjusted his stance, looking ready to flee. Sebastian kept his hands in his pockets, didn’t make sudden movements.

“What are you doing here?”

“I go here now,” Sebastian shrugged, and Blaine’s gaze flickered to his neck, no doubt staring at the thick pink scar which stretched out across his skin now. “They figured it’s for the best.”

Blaine said nothing. Curled his arms around himself. Became, somehow, smaller.

The door to the medical ward swung open, and Dr. Owen stuck her head out.

“Blaine? We’re ready for you now.”

Blaine nodded jerkily, and with a final look at Sebastian, rabbited inside.

--

Before Dalton, Sebastian attended Carmel Institute for Troubled Youth.

The name always made him chuckle. Troubled. Carmel found the cream of the crop, just as Dalton did. It just had a different flavour of cream. One attached to sealed records and dismayed parents of otherwise bright delinquents, the “but he was such a good child”s of the world, happy to send their disappointments off, out of sight, out of mind.

Then Carmel took these crude lumps of clay and shaped them into the finest trained killers available for hire.

“You’re always guaranteed a job after graduation,” he’d joked once to Blaine, who hadn’t found that very funny.

What could Sebastian say? He had a sense of humour, and it took more than brutal training to coax an assassin out of him to dampen it. Maybe it helped that unlike his peers, Sebastian had never been some petty delinquent. He had known from the start exactly what Carmel was, and what would be expected of him.

Simply put, Sebastian was a legacy.

Not that he’d wanted to be. Not that he’d wanted that life, wanted to be just another monster in the night. So in his attempts to find some way out from the trap tightening around him, he had turned to someone who had successfully done it: Hunter Clarington. Former student and teacher at Carmel, then later at Dalton as its Covert Operations professor. One of Blaine’s favourite teachers, apparently.

He was also a triple agent who had played both sides rather masterfully until he had been forced to make his allegiances clear. He and Sebastian had both done that in the tombs beneath Carmel, in a true trial by fire.

Hunter wasn’t in a hospital though, nor the Dalton medical wing. No, Hunter was seen as a traitor, so he was hidden away in a hidden room in the walls of Dalton, the kind you only found after successfully navigating the warren of secret passageways.

It seemed lonely, but then again, loneliness was expected of their lives.

Sebastian still tried to visit, though Hunter was basically a vegetable, wrapped up like a mummy and coked up to his gills on painkillers, sustained purely by life-support. The doctors weren’t sure if he would wake up; Sebastian thought he would based on nothing but the time he had spent at the man’s side, learning from him, travelling the globe, trying to take the Circle down together.

Hunter Clarington was a mean old dog and it would take a little more than an explosion to stop him.

“Blaine’s back,” he told the unconscious figure.

The machines continued on steadily. Beep. Beep. Beep.

Sebastian shook his head. Silly as it was, he had half-hoped that might suddenly bring the man back. Hunter had been best friends with Danilo Diaz Anderson, Blaine’s deceased father. Like Sebastian, he had been compelled to protect Blaine, another little thing they had in common.

(Blaine had been in those tombs too, and for some stupid reason, Sebastian had thought they’d succeeded and Blaine had come out of that labyrinth uninjured -- but obviously not every hurt was a physical one.)

“He’s … not okay,” he continued.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

“I think …” Sebastian swallowed. “I think my mom got a hold of him.”

Beep. Beep. Beep.

The only mystery was why Blaine was still alive.

--

The Circle of Cavan was a centuries-old terrorist organization.

It had its fingers in every pie throughout the globe, controlling world events and politics and people with the ease of someone rearranging a chessboard. They were rich, powerful, and immensely dangerous.

They had killed Danilo Anderson, because he’d known too much, been trying to take them down.

They had tried (tried?) to kidnap Blaine, because they thought him his father’s son with his father’s knowledge.

They had cornered Sebastian, Blaine, and Hunter in the tombs that held Carmel’s secrets where they had been retrieving Danilo’s journal, and that had ended in Sebastian setting a burn room alight with him and Hunter in it to give Blaine time to run, run, run.

Sebastian’s mother, Camille Smythe, was one of their foremost hitters.

--

“Have you talked to him?”

Sebastian looked up as Tina sat next to him in the Grand Hall where meals were taken. It was lunch, so Sebastian would rather eat than talk, especially when they were required (per the board at the head of the room) to speak in German at this meal -- his was a little rusty.

“Hi, Tina, nice to see you too.”

“Cut the crap.” Tina looked pointedly down the table, where Blaine sat, alone. He had taken one look at Sebastian indicating the empty seat next to him and veered away. “Blaine.”

Santana and Quinn settled next to them, also looking down the table at Blaine. Sebastian shrugged, taking a bite of his perfectly treated chicken. One thing he could say about Dalton: they spared no expense. The chef used to work in the White House, even.

“He’s talked to him,” Santana said shrewdly. “No way he hasn’t.”

“He isn’t talking to us,” Quinn reported. “He isn’t talking to anyone.”

“You think he could at least apologize,” Santana added.

“Apologize?” Sebastian finally gave up on lunch. “What’s he supposed to say? ‘Gee, Santana and pals, sorry I spent the summer getting tortured, but I did pick up some souvenirs -- who wants the snowglobe?’”

“He ran,” Santana hissed. “Without us. Without anyone. He --”

“Got what he deserved?” Sebastian raised an eyebrow. He hoped it conveyed that only one of them had killed before. Santana quieted.

“I just want to know what’s going on with him,” Tina said softly. “I’m worried.”

“Blaine will talk when he’s ready to. He always has,” Quinn said.

“He doesn’t know,” Santana said abruptly. “He doesn’t know about this summer. About everything we did for him …”

“Tell him,” Sebastian advised, leaning into Santana. He knew that under her poison and her barbs she cared deeply. You just had to give her a kick in the ass.

“First I’d have to catch him.”

Sebastian looked at Blaine, but Santana was right; he was no longer there, and the doors to the Grand Hall were swinging slightly. Sebastian changed tactics. Adapt to survive.

“Quinn’s right. He’ll come when he’s ready.”

He hoped he wasn’t lying to them.

--

“We’re getting a new CoveOps teacher.”

“Finally. Who’s it going to be?”

“Goodbye, Dr. Jesse!”

“I miss Mr. Clarington.”

“I don’t know, he was gorgeous, but he was a total dick.”

“I heard a rumour they’re bringing Agent Crawford back.”

“Oh, that would be even worse than Dr. Jesse … ”

“What about --”

Everyone was abuzz, but Sebastian paid it no mind. Whoever it was wouldn’t be as good as Hunter, and Sebastian only cared about learning from the best.

--

It was dinner in Arabic when Dean Anderson rose to her feet.

Sebastian watched her, more curious, as ever, about the woman who had raised Blaine than he was about anything else. She would have had the same training as his mother, but she was a whole different creature. Almost … silly.

She had always been kind to him. He could forgive silliness.

“Attention everyone,” she called, but the hall was already silent -- good spies paid attention. “As I’m sure many of you are aware, we’re getting a new CoveOps teacher today.”

Everyone looked between each other, excited eyebrows going up. Sebastian glanced at Blaine; he was huddled at the very end of the table, stabbing at his food.

“Dr. Jesse has served us well, but he’ll now be focusing on teaching Psychology.”

Dr. Jesse St. James smiled and waved at everyone. Sebastian shook his head. The only reason the doctor was here was to keep an eye on Sebastian. He was also a Carmel export, which found many uses in having someone who knew the ins and outs of the human psyche. Sebastian thought he was a dick, but he and Hunter were working together to dismantle Carmel. Hunter trusted him, as much as any of them could trust anyone, so Sebastian did too.

“Taking his place is, I’m very happy and proud to announce, my son …” everyone turned to stare at Blaine, who shrank back “... Cooper Anderson.”

The doors to the Grand Hall swung open with flair, and in strode an impeccably handsome man, the kind you found on billboards and silver screens. His blue eyes twinkled, his teeth flashed white, and as he walked by everyone, regardless of gender, craned their head and stared, stunned. When he reached the front of the hall he pivoted, grinned, and held up his hands.

“Please, please … hold the applause.”

Sebastian raised an eyebrow as everyone laughed. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected Blaine’s brother to be like, but this wasn’t it. But should he be surprised? The polar opposite of Tina’s chameleon skills was to be a peacock. That had been Blaine’s talent; deliberately inviting attention to spin it to his benefit. Of course his older brother would be much the same.

Blaine had never been this … over the top with it, though.

“Students of Dalton!” Cooper called, once the students settled. “It’s a real pleasure to be here, where some of my biggest fans live, and to get to teach you some real life skills, if you know what I mean!”

Cooper winked broadly. Everyone was eating it up.

“So I’ll let you finish eating, but if you have any questions, want any autographs, I’ll stick around after dinner.” Cooper jerked both thumbs to himself. “Anderson. Cooper Anderson. Shaken, not stirred. Have a good night, everyone.”

Everyone applauded. Sebastian looked to Blaine, who was digging his fingers into his arms, expression ill. Frowning, Sebastian started to rise, concern overwhelming the desire to give Blaine space, but Blaine got up before he could and left. Sebastian slowly sat back down.

Hopefully having more family around would help Blaine, not hurt.

--

“I hear his mom found him in a brothel in Amsterdam …”

“Have you heard him? He just hums to himself. All the time. Totally weird.”

“Those marks on his arms … do you think they’re all inflicted by someone else?”

“No, he was found in a Mexican jail cell. He did something to get put there.”

“Did he run away, or was he kidnapped?”

“He’s not participating in P&E. He’s still too injured. They must be pretty bad … unless he’s faking it.”

“When’s his mom going to make him get a haircut?”

“He always breaks the rules. Remember when he dated that civilian? They had to bring in actual agents to interrogate him!”

“He’s just desperate for attention.”

“No, he was definitely found working for a home-grown terrorist cell, they had to deprogram him …”

“He’s going to cause trouble.”

--

Blaine was a ghost; sometimes it seemed he’d never returned.

He walked the halls lightly, keeping to himself; Sebastian watched him from a distance. Blaine didn’t socialize; he barely ate; he sat quietly in the back of each class and didn’t take notes. It was hard to tell if his wounds were healing under his Dalton uniform, but his gait was still one of shrinking injury. He had yet to do anything about his hair except wash it.

Sebastian wished he could do these things for Blaine, but he couldn’t.

--

CoveOps was held on Sublevel Three that day.

Sebastian paused as he entered the classroom, before moving to stand behind one of the tables. Each bore a long narrow crate; he knew what was inside. Hell, he’d known it was going to be something like his when the class was held somewhere this high security.

Blaine entered the class last. Took a spot in the back.

“So, Smythe,” Cooper said, gaze sharp as he took in Sebastian. “Know what they are?”

“Yes.”

“Care to share with the class?”

“No.”

Cooper nodded, then the sharpness faded as he looked over the class, winning smile back in place.

“Alright kiddos!” Cooper clasped his hands together. “Open up!”

They weren’t given tools but that wasn’t a problem. Spies were inventive. Sebastian soon had his crate pried open and stared down, resigned, at the black rifle parts bedded in the straw.

He was years too old for this lesson, that was for sure. He glanced back at Blaine, who was staring blankly at the disassembled gun.

“Can someone tell me the difference between CoveOps and P&E?”

Quinn raised her hand. “It’s in the name. Protection and Enforcement is all about prevention. Protecting yourself. CoveOps is more active. Taking on operations, putting yourself into life-threatening situations.”

“Exactly. Ten points to Ms. Grace Kelly.” Cooper smiled at Quinn, then continued his slow pacing. “Can someone tell me why you haven’t learned about guns yet?”

“They’re … active,” Tina said. “They’re dangerous.”

“True, but that isn’t why they’re controversial. Blaine? Any ideas?”

Blaine was still staring at the rifle, didn’t even raise his head.  

“They make you lazy,” Santana interjected in a bored drawl. “If you need a gun at all, it’s probably too late to be safe.”

“Bam, you’re dead,” Sebastian added coldly, and everyone stared at him. Cooper cleared his throat.

“Yes. A good spy doesn’t need one, but they’re still useful to know. Just like you should always have a smooth jazz number tucked into your back pocket in case a Moroccan princess says she loves your voice -- tell you all about it later -- you --”

“Blaine!”

Nick’s shout made them all turn. In a sure grip Blaine held a now fully assembled semi-automatic, its dark branching shape gleaming dully under the light. It was pointed at the rest of the class.

“Blainey?” Cooper’s voice was soft.

Blaine looked up, some awareness leaching back into his eyes. His hands started to tremble.

Neutralize the threat, whispered his mother, or was that Hunter, or someone else entirely, himself. But this wasn’t a threat. It was Blaine.

“Blaine,” Sebastian said, trying to sound soothing as he took a step toward him. Eight feet away. “Just put it down ...”

He wasn’t sure if he was fast enough to disarm Blaine non-lethally if Blaine was about to do something very, very stupid.

“Blaine, it’s okay, you’re safe here …” he continued. Another step. Seven feet away. Tip a table, use it as a shield? Tell the class to get down. Now? Would that set Blaine off?

Sebastian was saved from having to make a choice when Blaine made a choked sound and dropped the gun with a clatter. Turning, he fled, by the sound of it headed straight for the elevator out of there.

Cooper chased after him, shouting his name; Sebastian went for the rifle, which he quickly disassembled, shaken himself. It had taken Blaine under a minute to put this together. That wasn’t studying in advance; that was familiarity. A killer’s ease.

Sebastian had thought Blaine entirely a victim in his time away, but what if …

--

There were rumours Blaine needed deprogramming.

Sebastian hadn’t believed them, but now he wasn’t so sure.

Blaine definitely wasn’t making the best case for himself.

--

After he left the class, Blaine apparently found himself on one of the main staircases.

Apparently, St. James had tried to catch his attention, ask what was wrong, and startled Blaine.

Apparently, Blaine had turned on him, wrapped both his hands around St. James’s neck and tried to strangle him over the balustrade.

Apparently, it had taken three others to pull him off, and St. James’s neck was purpled almost black now.

Apparently, Blaine had been carted away after that, and not seen since.

“He’s lost it,” Santana said, a catch to her voice. “What can we …”

“There, there,” said Brittany, a new transfer and, Sebastian suspected, becoming more than just a friend to Santana, as she ran a hand over Santana’s hair. “He’s just having a bad day.”

“A bad brain,” Tina corrected, eyes red-rimmed; she cried when she was worried, a terrible trait for a spy to have. “What’s wrong with him?”

What isn’t, Sebastian wanted to say, but it felt mean, so he tamped it down.

Blaine needed support right now, not judgement. Now if only Sebastian could give him the former when Blaine seemed to expect only the latter, running from each open hand like he expected a slap. What did they do to you, he thought to the absence of Blaine. Just how deep under your skin did they get?

--

Despite people claiming Blaine was on his way to a government blacksite to be locked away for treason, he was at breakfast the next day. He looked as small as ever, though, and with each hissed piece of gossip he shrank further.

Screw it, Sebastian thought, before picking up his tray and going to sit next to Blaine, setting his tray down with a clatter; Blaine’s eyes widened and he flinched back.

“Morning, tiger. Wonderful day in the neighbourhood, isn’t it?”

Blaine stared a few seconds before responding. “No, it’s not.”

“Aw. What’s getting you down?”

Blaine’s expression twisted bitterly. “What do you think?”

“What, choking out St. James? We’ve all wanted to do that. You know, he used to make us do vocal drills while we ran marathons.”

“What …” Blaine frowned. “Vocal drills? Like … left, right, left, right?”

“Songs. Marching ones, but he threw in some Top 40 when he felt creative.”

“Why on earth ..?”

“Music is deeply embedded in our brains. Connected to memory, our senses, our whole nervous system. Well -- according to him. So it’s probably bullshit.”

“I think I actually read something about that once in Scientific American.” Blaine’s eyes lit up with an old, familiar glow. Sebastian smiled fondly.

“You’re cute -- for a geek.”

“Hey …” Blaine laughed briefly, but it faded soon after, his whole form seemed to fade, like an overexposed photograph. “I have to see Dr. Jesse.”

“To apologize?”

“No. Well, yes. But.” Blaine took a deep breath, lowered his voice. “I have to talk to him.”

“Why?”

“I have to. Like a, a … therapy thing.”

“For the PTSD?”

Blaine blinked. “How do you know I have that?”

Sebastian stared at him, eyebrow raised silently. Blaine ducked his head, cheeks burning.

“You deserve help,” Sebastian finally said, reaching over to squeeze Blaine’s hand. He was heartened when Blaine didn’t immediately yank his hand away.

“I do?” Blaine shook his head. “I ...”

“Just try it out,” Sebastian urged. “Okay?”

“... Okay.”

--

They ate the rest of their breakfast in silence.

It was the last time they ate together for a while; Blaine went back to avoiding him.

Sebastian tried not to let that hurt.

--

Weeks passed. Nearly three. Nineteen days.

Blaine’s sessions with St. James had to be paying off. He finally started to put on some weight again, and he walked a little taller. He was still withdrawn, but it was in this contemplative way. Doubtless, he had a lot to think about. Sebastian frequently puzzled over what secrets of the summer were locked behind Blaine’s deep glacier of silence; maybe Sebastian and their friends didn’t have the clearance to know. At least Blaine had someone he could talk to now, and you couldn't say St. James was bad at his job.

Santana reported, however, that Blaine had started sleepwalking. That one night he’d come right to her, Tina, and Quinn’s room and knocked on it without even realizing he was there.

“Whatever Dr. Jesse is doing, I wish he’d do faster,” she had snarled.

Quinn later told him as they studied in the library together that Santana and Blaine had gotten into a huge blow-out after this late night visit. That ugly things were shouted from both sides, blame and insults and cold dismissals.

“Blaine’s gotten meaner,” Quinn finished off with.

“I don’t think so,” Sebastian said, and Quinn gave him a look.

“You’re a little biased, aren’t you?”

Sebastian's back went up at that. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“We all know how you feel about him,” Quinn said pointedly.

Sebastian scowled. Oh great. Relationship talk. “I’d argue he doesn’t.”

Quinn set her books aside and leaned in. “You can’t honestly think that,” she said, like she thought Sebastian was telling an amateur lie.

Sebastian, feeling stupid and sulky and childish, slumped in his chair. “I’m just his buddy.”

“Look at this.” Quinn pointed to his scar; he caught her wrist, squeezing, but she didn’t flinch. “You were willing to die for him.”

Sebastian glared. “So?”

So,” Quinn said, “don’t you think he knows that?”

Sebastian shrugged, not meeting her eye. Quinn shook her head and tugged her hand away.

Boys,” she dismissed with a sniff. “All I’m saying is, there’s a reason Blaine didn’t take any of us, especially you, with him.”

“He should have, though,” Sebastian said, a little hoarser than he'd intended.

“Yeah.” Quinn sighed. “He should have.”

--

“Sebastian.”

He turned. St. James approached with his usual swagger. His neck had healed up, voice clear as ever.

“What’s up, doc?”

“We’re going on a field trip.”

Sebastian stiffened. “To Carmel?”

“No.” St. James shook his head. “That’s crazy, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t do crazy.”

“You’re a shrink.”

“Other people’s crazy is fun.” St. James smirked. “No, we’re going to Clarington’s cabin.”

“What? Why?”

Hunter had a cabin hide-out, only a few hours away. Sebastian had been only once, and immediately decided he’d never live outside a city. There were, like, bugs out there.

“For Blaine Anderson’s treatment.”

“His ... what?”

“We know he stopped by there before he took off on his little jaunt --”

“They investigated. Said there was nothing there.”

Sebastian had been in Buenos Aires at the time, not with the Lopezes, not with anyone, two weeks to chase his own, personal leads.

“Yes, but we’re hoping that if we take Blaine there it will bring something back.”

“Why would he need stuff brought back?”

St. James tilted his head to the side, actually smirking. The dick. “You don’t know?”

“Know what?”

“He doesn't remember what he did over the summer,” St. James said. “Not a thing. The last thing he remembers is leaving Dalton -- everything after that is gone until he woke in a convent in the Alps in September.”

“The Alps?” Sebastian gaped. “He has amnesia?

“Trauma can do that to a person.”

“Why didn’t he …”

“Say something?” St. James shrugged. “He’s a very private individual, isn’t he? You have to admire it. I hate when people talk about themselves too much. I’ve personally been called stoic yet charming in a Clark Gable kind of way ...”

“Again, you’re a shrink. People are supposed to whine at you.”

St. James dismissed that with an airy wave of his hand.

“Just get ready to leave tomorrow morning for the cabin.”

“Why am I coming?”

Had Blaine asked for him? Hope bubbled up.

“I’m your handler. Sebastian. Where I go, you go.”

Sebastian nodded, and suppressed his disappointment.

--

Early next morning, Sebastian, Dean Anderson, Cooper, St. James, Blaine, and the girls piled into a van for the drive to Hunter’s cabin.

As he slumped back in his corner, earbuds in but music quiet, Sebastian observed how Blaine interacted with his friends.

Tina was full of false cheer, trying to offer possible amnesia cures and reassuring Blaine that it was only a matter of time until something sparked.

Quinn was as level-headed as ever, talking about assignments and gossip about other students, treating this like any other op.

Santana was fiery and icy at turns; either making snide comments about Blaine’s decision not to tell them about his amnesia or freezing him out.

Blaine all but ignored them, answering only the most direct questions and then only in short, clipped phrases. He kept looking at St. James, who gave him a reassuring nod or two that helped Blaine settle down.

Sebastian wondered what, exactly, they discussed in therapy.

Was Blaine only bothered by the fact that he couldn’t remember what to be bothered by? Or was there more going on than St. James had let on to? Were there flashes of memory? Scars that told a story? New information found?

Hopefully the cabin would provide answers.

--

Sebastian let everyone enter first in case of ambush (some habits died hard; particularly when they worth keeping alive to keep you alive) and circled the cabin, looking around at the quiet, colourful woods.

It actually felt too quiet, but that was likely down to their presence; a big old van driving up tended to scare off the critters who saw human activity very rarely. Still, he wanted out of there ASAP. Isolated spots like this were great for assassins to work in. When your target has nowhere to run, no one to help them, they’re more likely to give up.

Another lesson: Every spy who dies gave up in some way. There’s always a way out.

When he finally joined the group, they were reviewing Hunter’s security tapes, watching the recordings of Blaine’s visit. It was mundane things, making dinner, reading, adding to his go bag. At the end of the tape, Video Blaine noticed the camera and destroyed it. Smart. Not useful for them now, but smart.

Cooper leaned back, kicked his feet up, tucked his hands behind his head; Sebastian wondered if he’d been to Hunter’s cabin before, or if he just treated everywhere like his own personal abode.

“Tell us why you came here, Squirt.”

“I don’t know,” Blaine snapped; Sebastian was sure everyone noticed the nervous energy building up in his tense shoulders. “I don’t remember.”

“Not what I asked. Why, of all the places you could go, would you come here?”

Blaine looked around the cabin, taking a few deep breaths. Sebastian followed his gaze, frowning. Something wasn’t right …

“I left without supplies, without a plan. I had to go somewhere I knew to prepare.”

“Hunter’s stash was half-empty,” the dean confirmed. “Money, papers, weapons, all gone.”

There was a brief silence laid over with the memory of Blaine easily assembling that semi-automatic in CoveOps; Blaine looked ill.

“Was this really the only place?” Quinn asked hastily. “It seems too obvious.”

“Maybe there was something else …” Blaine let out a frustrated sigh, kicking at the ground. “Mr. Clarington hid so much from us.”

And right then, they couldn’t ask the man for help. Sebastian kept looking, determined that when Hunter woke up he would hear Sebastian had done good work, and then with a raise of his eyebrow he spotted something.

“Sebastian?” Sebastian looked over. The dean was looking expectantly at him. “What do you see?”

Sebastian went to one spot in the wall he’d noticed, a paler knot of wood, and pressed with his hand, running it along the faint seam that appeared. He hit a pressure point, pushed, and then pried the loose board free. The hiding spot behind it was empty.

Cooper frowned. “What was in there?”

“I don’t know,” Sebastian said with a shrug. “I’ve never seen it before.”

“If only Mr. Clarington was awake --”

“That isn’t Hunter’s hiding spot,” the dean said, voice soft. “That was … the kind Dan always used.”

They all fell silent, staring at the hole. Its dark rectangle looked almost coffin-like now, an omen from the past. Blaine stepped forward, jaw tight, and reached inside, running his fingers in search of something, anything. This close, Sebastian could smell the Dalton-issued soap he’d used in the shower, except Blaine had never used to be standard anything. So much had changed ...

“I must have found whatever it was,” Blaine said, turning on them, a little wild-eyed. “It was dad’s … it was probably about the Circle!”

“Are you remembering anything?” Tina asked eagerly, but Blaine shook his head impatiently.

“No, no but it had to have been!”

“I don’t know what Dan would have hid there,” the dean said, doubtful.

“And now we’ll never know.” Blaine started to pace, his excitement faded into furrowed brows and tense, jumping fingers. “I lost whatever it was, just like I lost his journal.”

“It isn’t your fault, sweetie,” the dean said, Cooper nodding and reaching out, but Blaine jumped away from their reassurance.

“Yes it is!” Blaine ran a and through his bleached curls. “I ran away, I took them, they got lost, it’s all my fault.”

“Calm down Blaine,” St. James tried, voice gentler than Sebastian had ever heard from him before, but it just set Blaine off. With a final, almost animalistic sound he spun and marched off, shoving the door open and leaving it swinging behind him as he headed for the woods.

“I don’t know about all you,” Santana said, “but I’m getting real sick of pint-sized Jason Bourne there flouncing off!” She headed for the door too, shouting, “GET BACK HERE, PUSSY!”

Tina and Quinn made to follow, but St. James touched their shoulders.

“Let them work it out,” he said. Cooper took his mother by the arm, sitting her down at Hunter’s small table and murmuring to her and rubbing her back; she looked a little shaken. Sebastian, tired of the tension and feeling restless, headed to the door but St. James tried to stop him too. “Sebastian …”

“No worries, doc,” Sebastian threw over his shoulder. “I’m going to walk the perimeter. Leave the emotional blowouts to people who have feelings.”

St. James let him go, looking like he’d roll his eyes if he were a decade younger, and Sebastian was soon wandering the woods. It was cool out there, late autumn bringing a fiery spread of leaves down to paint a thick, springy carpet across the forest floor. It was still quiet, but at least some birds were chirping their little songs. At one point Sebastian spotted one of Hunter’s traps; a thin wire stretching ankle-height between two trees, no doubt connected to an incendiary or a sawed-off shotgun.

Chuckling -- the mean old dog could keep biting even in a coma -- he stepped over it and continued deeper in the wood. It was almost … peaceful.

Maybe some time living alone wouldn’t be so bad. Last time he’d been here he’d been so angry it was hard to appreciate the silent beauty of the trees, the rise and fall of the hills, the crisp, clean quality of the air …

A gunshot sounded.

Sebastian straightened, looking around with narrowed eyes, ears pricked.

Rifle. Hunting one. But he doubted it was someone after game. At least, not the animal kind.

Still keeping watch, he crouched, retrieving the blade he kept strapped to his ankle. Hiding even a single weapon from the keen eyes of the Dalton staff was a feat worthy of the best agent out there, but Sebastian was glad for the effort as he palmed the blade and began a slow stalk through the woods. They were likely shooting at Santana and Blaine. Only one shot; unless it had been very lucky, at least one was still alive.

Another gunshot. Scratch that.

Judging by how it echoed, at least seventy yards away. South. Wind was blowing that way; good. It would cover his approach.

Walking carefully, not making a sound, he headed back toward the cabin.

A third gunshot. Maybe the gunman wasn’t having any luck.

Was that Santana, shouting Blaine’s name? He eyed the hill between him and the gunshots and started to climb. He reached the top before long, peering over cautiously.

Fourth gunshot. Different weapon. A shotgun. Hunter’s trap? More to the west. Thirty yards.

Sebastian resisted the urge to run. Kept his even pace, his breathing steady. As he got closer he slipped behind a tree. Listened. A murmur of voices. That was St. James:

“I was worried about you, Blaine, I came to check on you -- ah, don’t poke it, I’ll just keep the pressure on, done this a hundred times before …”

Then, Blaine: “It’ll be okay Dr. Jesse, don’t worry.” Voice low. Alert. Keeping watch.

Blaine was alive. That was good. There was no relief, though. There was nothing but his training. Where was the assailant?

“Watch out!” St. James suddenly shouted.

Grunts. Skin meeting skin. Close combat. The gunman must have been disarmed. Ten yards.

Sebastian looked around the tree slowly. There was a strange man dressed in camo meeting Santana blow for blow -- but good as she was she had little real-life experience. Sebastian stepped out, ready to help. The gunman dropped Santana, was drawing his hand back, something glinting in his hold. Sebastian was running, his own blade ready, bury it into the thick web of muscle in his back, twist, get him to drop the knife, jerk it out, grab his head, yank it back, slit his throat --

Fifth gunshot. The rifle. The gunman fell back, gurgling wetly. Hit the ground. Went still.

Sebastian looked up. Blaine stood there, stance braced, rifle trained on the dead assailant. Sebastian exhaled slowly.

“Blaine!”

Tina and Quinn were suddenly there; Quinn went to help St. James, whose arm was bleeding from a starburst shotgun blast pattern; Tina took one look at the body and started to gag, turning to a bush as her shoulders heaved. Blaine kept the gun steady. Santana crawled away from the body, eyes wide, face splattered red. Sebastian tucked his knife away then approached from the side. Movements calm and steady, but loud enough to announce his presence.

Blaine didn’t so much as twitch.

“Blaine.” Sebastian reached out, curled his hand around the warm barrel of the rifle. “Put the gun down.”

Blaine blinked slowly, but otherwise gave no indication he’d heard Sebastian.

“Blainey!” That was Cooper. “Put down the gun. It’s safe now.”

Blaine flinched, and hesitantly lowered the weapon. Sebastian took it, though he didn’t bear the familiar weight long before Cooper was claiming it. Sebastian released it gladly; he didn’t think Cooper trusted him with a weapon, but he didn’t blame the guy.

“We need to go,” Sebastian said, watching the way Blaine’s gaze remained glued to the man he’d killed. “He might have back-up.”

Cooper nodded, wrapping an arm around Blaine. He tugged his little brother away to join Quinn and St. James, as their mother came to hug Blaine from the other side, a worried hand cupping his face. Sebastian’s gaze lingered on Blaine a moment longer, then he looked for Santana and Tina. Santana had run a hand over her face; the blood was smeared. Crouching, she was running her hands over the corpse.

“Santana,” he said sharply as he came over. “Leave it.”

“He might have something on him --”

“He’s a professional. He won’t have anything except backup. Unless you want to die, move.”

Santana nodded and rose, but still needed Sebastian to tug her arm and direct her to the waiting group, St. James and Quinn meeting her halfway there and murmuring to her, Quinn taking her by the hand. All that was left was Tina, who was staring not at the body but Blaine, face pale.

“Come on, Cohen-Chang. Move it.”

“Blaine killed him,” Tina said weakly. “He killed him.”

“Yes,” Sebastian said. Tina looked at him, mouth wobbling dangerously. God help him if she started to cry. Blaine would probably get mad at him if he slapped her. “You see that body? He wasn’t a good man. He deserved to die. We’re happy he’s dead. Understood?”

“We’re … happy …?”

“Yes, happy.” Sebastian nodded, and Tina automatically nodded too. Satisfied he had her, he touched her shoulder and showed her along.

They left the body in the woods. A clean up crew would be by later.

It would be like it had never happened.

--

Someone knocked on his door.

Sebastian considered ignoring it, his hand sliding down to his ankle knife.

“Sebastian, it’s me. Pam.”

He couldn’t shut out the school’s dean and mother to his -- well, whatever the hell Blaine was to him.

“Come in.”

He got up, moving out of the way of a direct attack. She entered, shutting the door behind her. She zeroed in on his placement in the room.

“You’re a very careful boy, aren’t you Sebastian?”

“All Carmel students are, Dean.”

She looked around and he knew what she saw. How bare his quarters were, how he had covered up the window. No tells or sightlines made for a cosy room, if you asked Sebastian.

“Please, call me Pam.”

That was informal. Insubordinate. “Are you sure?”

“You’re more than just a student, dear.” Now her trained gaze gave him a once-over. “Are you okay?”

Sebastian crossed his arms. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“It’s been a stressful time for you.”

“It’s been a stressful time for you too,” he countered.

“These are stressful times,” she agreed, almost as if she didn't hear herself, smoothing down her dress. She was nervous. “I’m worried about Blaine.”

Sebastian relaxed. They had that in common. “We all are. Pam.”

“He’s not -- right. He loses time. He doesn’t remember the things he’s doing. He sleepwalks. I know PTSD. Every agent knows that. But this …”

Sebastian nodded slowly. “Does he need deprogramming?”

“I don’t know. We’re not sure what he’s been programmed for.”

That seemed obvious to Sebastian. “To serve the Circle.”

“But how? Why? We don’t know these things.” She frowned, then waved a hand. “But that’s talk for a higher clearance. I need to ask a favour of you, Sebastian.”

“You could just order me.”

“You’re more than just a student,” she repeated, then smiled crookedly. “And I don’t think you’re so good at doing what you’re told.”

Sebastian smirked at that. It was true, and damned if he didn’t take it as a compliment.

“So what’s this favour?”

“We’re holding a meeting tomorrow morning. I want it to remain undisturbed.”

Sebastian saw through that.

“They’re going to talk about Blaine. About whether he’s been compromised. You don’t want him knowing about it.”

She nodded, almost shame-faced. “I’m going to tell them they’re wrong.”

“I’ll do it,” Sebastian said. “The last thing Blaine needs is to hear people doubting him.”

“I’m glad you understand.” She looked up at him, gaze sincere. “I’m asking because I know you look out for him.”

“I try. When he lets me.”

Pam smiled, gave his hand a squeeze, and left.

--

Blaine and his mother were very close.

Sebastian thought it was sweet. Sometimes he was jealous, admittedly. His dad had been a mystery to him, and his qmother would never win any parenting awards.

But Blaine deserved a good relationship with his mother -- especially after losing his dad. Danilo Anderson was dead, Sebastian was sure of that, but after ninety days of having no clue where Blaine was he better understood why Blaine clung to the things he did.

His mother. His dad’s journal. His dad’s noble quest. And … his dad’s empty grave.

Maybe if there had been a body, Blaine wouldn’t have run away. Maybe he wouldn’t be so damned secretive. Maybe he would have given up on chasing the Circle.

Maybe he would be safe.

--

Next morning, two days after the incident in the woods, Sebastian caught up with Blaine in one of the study rooms.

All thoughts of Pam’s favour briefly flew from his mind at the sight of him. Oh, he could tell Blaine somehow knew about the meeting and was off to investigate. But sometime since the woods Blaine had cut his hair, dyed it black, and gotten back to gelling it. With his weight and colour returning he looked halfway to normal.

You just had to ignore the look of quiet horror in his eyes.

“Looking good, sexy.”

Blaine looked over, blushed. Touched his hair. “Quinn and Tina helped dye it back.”

“They do good work.”

Sebastian came over and ran a finger over the curve of Blaine’s ear, and Blaine’s lashes lowered briefly at the touch. Sebastian wished he could kiss him, but now wasn’t the time.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m an early riser. Wanted to get some studying done.”

Blaine stepped away. “Without books?”

Sebastian smiled innocently. “What kind of spy carries books?”

“My mom sent you, didn’t she?” Blaine scowled. “I don’t need a babysitter.”

“So you’re not going to see what’s up with those two limos that just drove up?”

Blaine glared at him then turned and approached the unlit fireplace. He ran his fingers along the mantle, and there was a distinctive click. The fireplace slid back into the wall and then to the side with a grinding sound, revealing a dark hole in the wall.

Dalton’s secret passageways. You had to love them.

“You shouldn’t go,” Sebastian told him. “Some things you aren’t meant to hear, tiger.”

Blaine continued to ignore him, diving into the darkness of the passage. Sebastian followed him, stooping. It was a low ceiling, and as the fireplace moved back into place behind them it became pitch-black, like they’d been swallowed by a giant, lazy snake. But he could hear Blaine’s breathing, and he trusted the guy who had all but lived at Dalton since he was twelve and knew all its secrets to lead the way.

“We’re heading … west,” Sebastian said after a moment; it was too quiet. “This leads to Hunter’s room.”

“Yeah.” Blaine finally spoke, voice echoing. “I wish he would wake up …”

“He will,” Sebastian said confidently. “Just you wait.”

A long silence. Then, “I wish I had your faith.”

“I’m no believer,” Sebastian told him with a snort. “I’m just very good at people.”

“Was that your specialty? At Carmel?”

Blaine hadn’t learned from Sebastian about the training Carmel did. He learned it from Hunter when they’d been sneaking into the institute’s grounds, and he hadn’t been happy to hear it (relatively) second-hand. He also knew Blaine struggled with the idea of Sebastian’s bloody destiny, which was why Sebastian hadn’t wanted to tell him.

“You don’t want to know what my specialty was.”

Blaine fell silent again. They came to another passageway after Blaine pushed open a sliding panel. This path was lit, and familiar; left led to Hunter’s room (Sebastian could hear the beep, beep, beep from here) but Blaine went right. They were headed for the dean’s office. Along the way Blaine began to hum to himself, a tune Sebastian couldn’t quite place.

Hopefully he was thinking this crazy plan over, but knowing Blaine, he wasn’t.

“Pam really didn’t want you to hear this, Nancy Drew,” Sebastian said, once they were close.

Blaine sent him an unreadable look. “Since when do you call my mother ‘Pam’?”

“Since she asked me too. What can I say? I’m catnip to the Anderson clan.”

Blaine grimaced, then ordered: “Hush.”

Sebastian smirked. “Can’t handle the truth?”

“No, hush, we’re nearly there.”

Sebastian sighed, but obeyed. He didn’t want to get Blaine in trouble, or Pam knowing he failed his mission. He joined Blaine against the wall, where Blaine was pressed against pinprick holes that led into the dean’s room.

Knowing it was a bad idea, Sebastian listened in too.

--

“Where the Circle is involved, the CIA always has a leak.”

“The real concern is the fact that that boy is always leaving school grounds.”

“Blaine is not the problem.”

“We should be asking less if it’s dangerous for him to leave … but if it’s dangerous for him to stay.”

“Blaine is not dangerous.”

“The corpse sitting in the morgue at Langley might care to disagree.”

“That was self-defense!”

This time.”

“And the Circle wants to kill him. They’ve decided he’s finally disposable. Danger is following him no matter what.”

“He’s a threat no matter what. He’s been compromised --”

“We don’t know that!”

“When the Circle had him --”

If the Circle had him --”

“Maybe they never had him. Maybe they sent him back. Sent him back with an agenda.”

“Blaine is no double agent.”

“We don’t know anything, Pamela. Your son ran away, and I think we’re all very interested in exactly who came back.”

--

Blaine was running again. Sebastian, exasperated, chased him.

Through the passage, up a narrow zigzagging flight of stairs, to a gable room with a window punctured by a large stained glass design akin to the school crest. It painted the pale dawn light filtering into the room in blues and reds, dramatic and strange. Blaine was pacing, and Sebastian sighed, relieved to see he had stopped trying to get away, at least.

“If you run out of every situation, it ruins the drama of it, you know.”

“I’m not in the mood for jokes, Sebastian.”

“That wasn’t a joke. It was a pithy observation.”

Blaine looked like he wanted to drag his hands through his hair but he remembered it was now gelled. Instead he left his hands hovering in the air and turned on Sebastian to snap, “Why are you even here?”

“Well, I wanted to go to Vegas and count cards, but according to the government I need a high school diploma.”

“Be serious!” Blaine ordered, almost desperate, a streak of red light across his eyes. “For once, can you just answer a damn question?”

“What, exactly, is the question?”

“Why did you follow me!”

“Because I wanted to.” Sebastian stepped closer; Blaine stepped back. A purgatory of a dance. “Because you needed me to.”

“I don’t need that,” Blaine insisted, arms wrapping around himself.

“Yes you do.” Sebastian smiled, a little weakly. “Who else will let you yell at them like this?”

Blaine flinched, shifted his weight uncomfortably. “I’m not mad at you,” he said, voice briefly retreating from his angry tones, revealing vulnerability underneath. “Not really. I’m -- I’m furious with myself.”

“Why?”

Blaine’s anger returned, drifting even further into the array of red. Further away from Sebastian.

“I killed someone.”

Sebastian refused to let that stand. “And why did you do that?”

Blaine glanced away. “It doesn’t matter.”

“You’re not stupid, killer, so don’t act like it.”

Blaine stepped back like he’d been slapped, jaw dropping. “Don’t call me that!”

“I thought that’s what you were,” Sebastian sneered. “A killer. No ifs, ands, or buts.”

“I --”

Or,” Sebastian continued, overriding him, tone gentling, “you had a reason. What was that reason?”

Blaine’s shoulders slumped. “To save Santana.” He started to pace again, weaving in and out of the colours, energy rolling off him in waves. Sebastian, seeing he’d found a fracture point, continued to hammer it.

“So do you think shooting someone to save a friend is the exact same as the person you shot hunting two teenagers through the woods?”

“No!” Blaine ran a hand over his face, mumbled something against his hand, before he dropped it to continue aloud. “But I still did it. And I -- I don’t want to justify it.”

“Then what do you want?”

“To not be a killer. To not have that man’s and god knows who else’s blood on my hands!”

Sebastian walked up to Blaine, curled his hands around his shoulders, squeezing when Blaine flinched. He looked down at Blaine, trying for stern but landing on sad. “Then tell me: why didn’t you let me do it?”

Blaine’s breath caught. “What?”

“I would have killed him. I was going to kill him.”

“Don’t say that.”

“I would kill anyone for you.”

It wasn’t a huge declaration to Sebastian. It was simply a fact.

Blaine shook his head, denial crossing his features, mouth working silently for a moment. “You wouldn’t --”

“I would.”

“Does killing not matter to you?” Blaine tried to tug himself away, but Sebastian didn’t let go. “Is it that -- that meaningless?

“No,” Sebastian said, a brief flare of his own anger curling in his gut. “It matters. I know it matters.”

Blaine’s eyes widened, and they took Sebastian in as if seeing him for the first time. As if remembering just how Sebastian had earned his perspective. It changed something in him, unsteady and broken free.

“I don’t even remember doing it,” Blaine finally confessed.

“Killing him?”

Blaine nodded. “Or -- or picking up the gun. We were in the woods and he attacked and then -- you were there, taking the gun away.” He exhaled shakily. “You were there the whole time, weren’t you?”

“I was.”

“You’re always there …”

Sebastian said nothing. Blaine pulled away from his grasp and this time Sebastian let him go, watching the antsy clench and release of Blaine’s fists, dappled in blues and greens.

“I don’t remember doing it …” he spoke quietly. Then: “They’re right.”

Sebastian bit back an aggravated sound. “They aren’t right.”

“How can you say that?”

“Because they don’t know you.”

“And you, and mom, and Cooper, and my friends …” Blaine listed off each one like they hurt. “They’re all too close to this. To me.”

“Right.” Sebastian pointed vaguely in the direction of the office. “What the hell do you think their opinion on me is? Would you listen to that?”

It occurred to him Blaine very well could, but it was too late. The words were already out there.

“No!” Blaine turned back, and then his hand was there, sliding along Sebastian’s neck, fingertips tracing the line of his scar. Sebastian shivered. “But you’ve proven yourself.”

“So have you.” Sebastian caught Blaine’s hand, drew it to his mouth, kissed his fingertips. Blaine breathed in, out. Wet his lips. Looked away, then back. Asked:

“Do you trust me?”

“Yes.”

“Are you afraid of me?”

“Never.”

Blaine’s expression crumpled. “I wish I had that faith in myself.”

“Until you do, you have me,” Sebastian promised, and then suddenly Blaine was pressed against him, a surging wall of heat that zeroed in on their joined mouths as they kissed, a deep kiss, the kind they hadn’t shared since Blaine had run away. Sebastian let go of Blaine just to draw him closer, arms around him, hand pressed against the wing of Blaine’s still too-sharp backbone, sure he could feel his beating heart through the clothes and skin and muscle and bone. Blaine shuddered in his arms, pulled back, pressed his forehead to Sebastian’s chin.

“Don’t go,” he asked, so low Sebastian almost didn’t hear.

It wasn’t the kind of promise spies could make. Sebastian didn’t care.

“I won’t,” Sebastian replied, and he wanted to ask the same, wanted to remind Blaine that he was the one who always did the leaving, but he knew it wasn’t important. Blaine had asked, and in doing so, he’d made what he needed clear.

Sebastian kissed him again, and despite everything, things felt -- right.

--

Sebastian wasn’t even sure how many days it had been since he and Blaine first met.

It had become a matter of countlessness based purely on the fact that Sebastian had no plans to ever say goodbye. What was the point of keeping track?

So he could be forgiven for a bit of exaggeration when he said that it had been forever and a half of them dancing around each other to finally, finally be -- official.

Official … boyfriends? Jesus.

Whatever you would call it. Sebastian had certainly never done this before, and Blaine’s one try at it hadn’t been so hot, so they were both just fumbling along.

Well. Fumbling could be nice. Thank god they both had single dorms.

--

Sebastian was in the middle of learning all the pretty little sounds he could coax out of Blaine without their clothes coming off when a knock came to the door.

“Blainey Days!”

“Go away,” Sebastian growled, then added to Blaine, “I knew we should have gone to my room.”

“Your room creeps me out. I feel nervous about snipers.”

“The whole point of the window being covered is so you aren’t nervous.”

“Yeah, it has the opposite effect.”

The door swung open. Sebastian groaned and rolled off Blaine, who sat up, adjusting his shirt and tugging a pillow over his lap.

“Took you that long to pick a lock?” Sebastian asked, sitting up himself. Tina glared as she tucked her hairpins away

“I was giving you time to get decent.”

“Sebastian? Decent? Now there’s a joke.” Santana followed Tina in, with Quinn, who laughed at her comment.

“I don’t recall inviting the peanut gallery,” Sebastian complained.

“Your loss,” Santana said, and perched herself on Blaine’s desk. “We have a surprise for you.”

“And it couldn’t wait until morning?”

“Yeah guys,” Blaine said. “You know I love you all but it’s nearly midnight.”

Tina took a deep breath. “It’s about your summer away.”

That chilled the mood. Sebastian got to his feet, arms crossing as he hovered over Tina.

“What is it?”

Tina flinched.

“Sebastian?” He looked at Santana. “Back off.”

Her tone was understanding. Sebastian took a deep breath, nodded, and sat back on the bed. Blaine grabbed his hand, and squeezed it.

“What did you find, Tina?” Blaine asked.

“Remember when we were at Mr. Clarington’s cabin?” Tina reached into the bag she’d brought and pulled out a stack of … flyers. “I grabbed his mail before we left. I thought, I don’t know, there would be a clue.”

“And she’s just nosy,” Quinn said; Tina threw a flyer at her, then handed Blaine an envelope on top of the stack. Blaine gasped.

Sebastian leaned over, and his eyebrows went up.

The letter was addressed to Hunter (under an alias) and judging by the postage it came from Rome. And the sender was … Blaine Anderson.

“Are we sure this is yours?”

“Oh, definitely,” Tina said. “I’d recognize Blaine’s cute little loops anywhere.”

Sebastian didn’t recognize Blaine’s handwriting. That was an oversight. He’d fix it.

Blaine took a deep breath.

“We should take this to my mom.”

--

The letter contained … souvenirs. A handsome watch for Blaine, a necklace for his mom.

Still, it was all they had. And it served as an arrow, pointing the way. Blaine was going to Rome to see what it sparked in his memory. Going with him was Cooper, his friends, and Agent Crawford, who was an MI6 agent Sebastian had never met though he knew him by reputation.

Sebastian would not get a chance to meet him, because Sebastian was not allowed to go.

“Blainey’s not the only one the Circle wants to get a hold of,” Cooper pointed out. “And Sebastian’s not allowed to go anywhere without St. James, but we can’t make this an official trip.”

So Sebastian was once again left behind as Blaine jetted off.

This time though? He wasn’t taking it lying down.

--

Rome was beautiful. He almost appreciated it.

Last time he’d been here, he had been with Hunter. He’d been taught about the world of art crime in between hunting down their enemies, touring galleries and museums and getting lessons on actual art on the side. He liked that about Hunter. No one would ever call him nice, but he saw that Sebastian lacked education in the finer (simpler? more frivolous?) things in life, and found a way to teach him that wasn’t condescending.

Before that, his last trip to Rome had been with his mom. She’d handed him a pair of pliers and told him, “I’ll hold him down while you do the work.

Hell of a thirteenth birthday present, that was for sure.

Sebastian shook off the memories. He had tracked Blaine down to their safehouse, and sat outside for hours, perched on the roof opposite. But night had fallen and the lights were off so everyone was likely asleep. He was thinking about going for a walk to stretch his legs when the front door swung open. Sebastian shrank back down. Blaine was leaving, but something wasn’t right. His gait was slow and awkward, and his clothes looked wrong (Sebastian was like, 99% sure that was Tina’s shirt. Blaine didn’t wear skulls.)

Sleepwalking. Blaine was in the habit now.

With a sigh, Sebastian climbed down the fire escape and followed Blaine, leaving some space as he tailed him. He didn’t exactly want Blaine to know he was in town, because then Cooper and Agent Crawford would send him right back. Blaine might also call him clingy.

So. Healthy distance. Sebastian followed for nearly six blocks, Blaine wandering the sidewalks, seemingly aimlessly. All seemed fine ...

Then Blaine walked right into oncoming traffic. Jesus christ.

“Blaine!”

Sebastian broke into a run, legs eating up the distance between them in a few breaths as horns blared until he could slam into Blaine, grabbing him and yanking him back onto the sidewalk. They fell down in a painful tangle, and Blaine made a groggy sound.

“Sebastian ..?”

“Jeez, babe,” he said, a little winded. “You were never taught to look both ways?”

“Where are we?” Blaine sat up, frowning down at him. “Why aren’t you at school?”

Sebastian only raised his eyebrows, and with a sigh Blaine clambered off him, offering Sebastian a hand up. As he got up, Blaine abruptly asked,

“Where were you those two weeks in summer?”

Sebastian’s eyebrows stayed up. “How did you hear about that?”

“Santana told me. Where were you?”

Blaine was sounding distrustful. Sebastian didn’t like that.

“Why do you ask?”

“Because I was with someone in Rome, apparently, some guy --”

“Some guy?” Sebastian scowled against a burst of stupid, petty jealousy. “Hot date?”

Blaine frowned back. “It wasn’t you?”

“No. If I found you, you really think I’d have let you run off again?” Sebastian shook his head. “I … went looking for my mom. Bad idea. Okay?”

Blaine stared at him inscrutably, gaze still a little muggy with sleep, then nodded.

“Fine.” Blaine looked around him, orienteering himself and humming thoughtfully, and then started to walk. Away from the safehouse. Sebastian caught up again, baffled and tired.

“Where are you going?”

“This way.”

“The safehouse is the other way.”

“I have to go this way …”

Blaine sounded out of it; Sebastian peered into his eyes, but he was awake, if a little dreamy-eyed. Lost in thought? In memory?

Shrugging, Sebastian decided to go with it.

--

Blaine led them to the U.S. Embassy. Of course he did.

Blaine input the code to one of the gates like he’d done it a hundred times before.

Blaine saw the guy who stepped out to greet them (tall, blond, mouth) and smiled widely before shouting “Sam!” and moving to hug him.

Sebastian stepped between them, eyeing the guy suspiciously.

“Who the hell are you?”

“Sam Evans.” The guy grinned, offering Sebastian a hand. “You must be Sebastian Smythe. Cool.”

Sebastian did not shake that hand, gaze analytically scanning this Sam for any kind of weapon. Muscular, but not a fighter’s body. Sebastian could take him. Low blow first, then go for the neck --

“Sebastian,” Blaine touched his elbow. “Sam is an old friend.”

“How --” Sebastian thought about it. “Your dad ran for president.” He smirked. “And lost. Russell Fabray was his running mate.”

“He and Quinn, you know,” Blaine offered lowly.

“What? Fucked?”

“Sebastian,” Blaine hissed as Sam made a face that made it clear he never got any. Sebastian experienced unwanted sympathy. “They dated.”

“Blaine and his friends were there on the campaign,” Sam explained. “And then I bumped into him here and I was like, Whoa.”

Sebastian stared. Was that … a Keanu impersonation?

“So I was here?” Blaine’s eyes widened excitedly. “In the summer?”

Running footsteps. Sebastian turned. A man was coming up fast, gun drawn.

“Yeah, of course dude! It was --”

Sebastian moved instantly, putting Blaine behind him. He could use Sam as a buffer if need be. Shift Blaine behind Sam, charge from the right -- the man was leading from the left. Slightly uneven steps. Bum leg? Aim for that.

“FREEZE!”

No, Sam would run. Blaine needed to move too.

Run!”

Sebastian took a step forward (get the leg, trip him, hit to the shoulder so he dropped his gun) but Blaine grabbed his elbow.

“Sebastian! Stop!”

Stop? Why the hell would he stop? But -- the man did. Lowered his gun.

“Sebastian?” he asked, in a crisp London accent. “This is Sebastian Smythe?”

“What the hell’s it to you?”

“Sebastian,” Blaine said, now almost amused. “This is Agent Crawford. My ... chaperone.”

Ah. So Sebastian was busted. Too bad; he was kind of looking forward to sneaking around.

--

It turned out all of Blaine’s companions had followed him in various states of dress, and soon everyone was upstairs inside the Embassy.

No background checks. No IDs handed over. No calls to verify their clearance.

Sebastian half-wanted to kill someone just to teach them a lesson. Mindful that crack probably wouldn’t go over too well in present company, Sebastian started to pace the room slowly. It was luxurious, his feet sinking into the pearl carpet with every step.

He used to stay in rooms like these, houses and hotels alike. The Circle paid well, and the Smythes were old money thanks to that. He would ask what blood money had paid for this room, but you just had to pick up a history textbook for that.

He didn’t trust this Sam, though. Everyone treated him like a friend (and Quinn like a long-lost chance) but … politicians. Dwight Evans had nearly been president; that was exactly the kind of man the Circle would buy off. Then he’d become an ambassador after losing? That implied friends in powerful places. No, Dwight was definitely dirty.

Which left the pertinent question: just what had Dwight taught Sam? Because Sebastian didn’t believe a son could remain ignorant, hands clean, of what their parent was doing for long.

He definitely didn’t trust Sam.

So he felt nothing but foreboding when Sam told Blaine:

“You wanted to rob a bank.”

Because then Blaine got a glint to his eye and declared:

“Then we’re going to have to rob a bank.”

--

As the heist planning began, Sebastian ended up by Agent Crawford, who didn’t seem too happy with this nonsense either.

“This is a bad idea,” he told the man, who nodded.

“Very much so.”

“Can’t you tell him no?” Sebastian asked. “You are mission leader.”

“I believe we must do it, even if it is rather dangerous. This could give us the leg up we need on the Circle.”

“Hmph.” Sebastian crossed his arms. “Just remember tomorrow that I already said I told you so.”

Agent Crawford gave him an amused side-eye.

“You’re quite protective of Blaine, aren’t you?”

Sebastian shrugged. “He needs a lot of protecting.”

He was planning a bank heist, for Pete’s sake.

“I find him to be a very capable young man, actually.”

“Well, he is, but …”

“You love him.”

Sebastian swallowed a strangled sound only thanks to years of training. “He’s … a special guy,” was his weak response. Agent Crawford chuckled.

“I admit, when I heard the son of Camille Smythe was lurking about, I thought for sure it was some kind of trick.”

Sebastian stiffened. “Oh yeah?”

“But I am not so sure now.” Agent Crawford tilted his head. “I have a confession.”

Sebastian looked at him expectantly. This conversation had been incredibly awkward so far; he hoped it wasn’t about to get worse.

“I am acquainted with your mother,” Agent Crawford said slowly. “And … I once tried to kill her.”

Oh, was that all?

Sebastian cocked an eyebrow. “Can I make a confession?”

Agent Crawford bowed his head in silent encouragement.

“I wish you hadn’t fucked it up.”

Agent Crawford looked from Sebastian to Blaine (and with his clearance he would have read the reports, known exactly what Camille had both actually and likely done to Blaine) and then looked back, nodding.

“Next time, she won’t be so lucky.”

“Yes,” Sebastian agreed, a hard, cold sense of promise tightening in his gut. “She won’t be.”

--

That night, as he lay awake in the guest room at the embassy, Blaine came to him.

“Sebastian?” he asked quietly as he slipped into the dark room, shutting the door behind him with a soft click. “Are you awake?”

“Yeah,” Sebastian extended his arm. “It’s a good idea not to sleep in strange places.”

“Normally I’d call you paranoid, but …”

“Things have changed,” Sebastian filled in for him, and Blaine made a small sound of agreement as he came over. He sank onto the bed and Sebastian curled his arm around him, tugging him down. Blaine lay next to him, face pressed against Sebastian’s shoulder.

“I want to sleep,” Blaine confessed after a few beats as their breathing adjusted to each other, Sebastian actually relaxing. “But I’m scared.”

“I’ll stay awake for you,” Sebastian said, rubbing slow circles on his back.

Blaine kissed his shoulder. “Thank you,” he murmured, and Sebastian smiled.

“Hey, like I’d ever say no to sleeping with you …”

Blaine laughed, already sounding sleepier, and gave Sebastian’s chest a light whack.

“The Incorrigible Mr. Smythe …”

“That’s my name, don’t wear it out.”

Blaine mumbled something, but after that, he was out like a light.

--

The heist went wrong. Naturally.

Six tense hours after it began Blaine was back at the embassy with nothing but his dad’s journal (which he already had memorized) and a bleeding Ambassador Evans. The Circle tried to ambush them, and they’d barely escaped with their lives.

“I told you so,” he muttered to Agent Crawford, who sent him a reproachful look before going to look over the journal with Blaine.

Then, against all odds, they found something new.

--

It was a letter.

Hidden in the lining of the journal, written by Danilo, and addressed to Pam and their children.

Cooper’s voice shook briefly as he read it aloud to Blaine, who stared at the paper like it was his father, risen from the grave.

Danilo claimed to have hidden a key in the Roman safety deposit box.

(But the box was empty, Blaine had said, except for this journal.)

That wasn’t the part which dictated their next move though. No, that was when Blaine traced his father’s initials at the bottom of the letter than looked to Cooper with frantic urgency.

“We need to get a car,” he said.

“We have no idea where this key is, Squirt,” Cooper had shot back, but Blaine was shaking his head, jumping to his feet.

“Not that. I just -- I know where we need to go. I’m … remembering.”

Tina gasped, which was how they were all feeling probably, and they went to go rent a van.

--

It was a long drive; they were on the road all night.

Blaine held Sebastian’s hand but didn’t speak to him, staring out the window as he gave Cooper terse directions.

Through here. Turn here. Straight ahead. Right. Left.

It took them out of the city-state, far and away, then up, up, up … the roads became narrow mountainous ones and Blaine’s grip grew clammier in Sebastian’s hand, beads of sweat appearing on his forehead.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Sebastian asked, but Blaine was like a man possessed -- not the way he was sometimes since his return, but like a dog with a bone. He just nodded shortly and kept pointing the way. Sebastian didn’t fail to notice that they were in the Alps now; probably not too far from where Blaine had been found all those months ago.

Finally, they ran out of road.

“Are you sure this right?” Cooper asked, but Blaine was already opening the door and climbing out. Uncaring of the snow drifts on the ground he started to walk, mouth set in a firm line.

Sebastian, absently grateful that they were all wearing thick coats, followed a few steps behind. He kept a wary eye on Blaine, half-thinking he was on the verge of collapse. His steps swayed and his breath was ragged -- not used to the altitude, maybe. Was he even in good enough shape for this? It was a strain on Sebastian and he hadn’t recently spent two months being starved and tortured. They should turn back; there would be no clues waiting for them, just confirmations.

“C’mon, mountain man,” Sebastian tried after a half-hour of steady uphill climbing, following what was barely a path, concerned. “Haven’t we gone far enough? There’s nothing to see.”

Blaine pointed to a nearby pine. As if purely to prove Sebastian wrong, a streak of blood marred the bark, and Sebastian swallowed.

They both knew whose blood that was.

He was silent as they continued. It only took another half hour, legs aching and soaked through and wishing he was in a bubbling hot tub right then, but they came across what they were looking for: a crumbling stone building, looking long abandoned. Except there were trees nearby cut not too many months ago, and a pile of fresh firewood out back. No tracks in the snow though. Used recently, but no more.

Nobody needed to say it, staring at the stark grey lines of the building against the clear sky, white snow, and skinny trees, so seemingly unremarkable. This was where Blaine had been over the summer; the place where he had been tortured so thoroughly the shock had lost him his memory.

“I don’t like this,” he told Blaine as Blaine fearlessly approached the house. “The Circle won’t have left anything behind …”

Blaine shook his head. He wasn’t looking for anything about the Circle, Sebastian realized. This was entirely personal.

He followed Blaine inside (small, neat room, the fireplace the only point of interest; his mom wouldn’t have found it rich enough for her tastes) then down the stairs to the basement, which was guarded by a heavy wooden door. Blaine braced himself up against it then shoved with a strained sound; it dragged across the floor, leaving marks. Then it was open, revealing a room illuminated only via a small, barred window.

Blaine hesitated, then ghosted inside, looking around with wide eyes.

Sebastian stayed by the door. He wasn’t interested in seeing more, not that there was much to see. The room was empty except for a narrow cot with restraints up against the wall and a bucket that stank even in the cold.

Blaine went to the cot, and lifted the thin mattress. Tossed it aside. Reached down and ran his fingers over the wall.

“Blaine,” Sebastian murmured, not even sure what he was going to say.

“B.D.A.,” Blaine read. Carvings in the stone? “D.D.A.”

Blaine Devon Anderson. Danilo Diaz Anderson.

“He was here too,” Blaine said wonderingly, then his shoulders seized. “God, oh god, he was -- he was …”

Blaine turned, expression shock-sick. He walked over on unsteady legs, trembling hand pressed to his mouth; Sebastian tried to catch him, but Blaine shook him off, feet guiding him automatically past Sebastian and back up the stairs.

Sebastian sent a final, repulsed look over the room before he followed, dragging the door shut behind him. It closed with a distinctive click.

How many times had Blaine heard that over the summer?

“Blaine?” Tina asked, uncertain. “Are you okay?”

Everyone else stared at him, but he walked by like he hadn’t even heard, arms curled around himself, breathing laboured. He exited the cabin and drove straight into the snow, headed back for the treeline, continuing to climb. There was no doubt to any step he took, moving with unerring focus as he had all day.

Everyone tumbled out after him; Sebastian brought up the rear. It was hard to watch this.

“Hang on, kiddo,” Cooper said, moving to catch up with his brother. He tried to stop Blaine but Blaine ducked his hold.

“Coop,” Blaine said, voice shaking. “Dad was here. He’s … he’s here.”

Cooper paled. “Blainey …”

And Blaine kept walking. Sebastian knew that the end of this journey would be the worst discovery yet, he was sure everyone knew that. Blaine needed this, though, so all they could do was follow their amnesiac Pied Piper and see where he lead them. There was no sound except the crunch of snow beneath their feet and the drag of the wind over the mountain, the occasional twitter of distant birdsong. There was no path, no sign they were headed anywhere but into the wilderness to be lost.

Then, after twenty minutes of walking, everyone shaking from the cold, they found an unnaturally square man-made clearing, and ...

“A grave,” Tina said quietly, and Sebastian had to look away.

Blaine fell to his knees in the snow atop the distinctive raised rectangle. His head bowed as if in prayer, or maybe as if asking for forgiveness, and he stayed there for a long, long time.

Danilo Anderson had finally been found.

--

The flight back home was long, and quiet.

Sebastian kept to himself; Blaine wanted nor needed any company, curled up his seat on the Fabray’s jet, staring out the window. Cooper sat across from him, his earbuds in, eyes shut, looking for all the world like he was asleep but the tension in his fingers was unmistakable.

Everyone else didn’t want to intrude upon the brothers and their grief so they occupied themselves with unobtrusive tasks; Santana was texting Brittany, Quinn was reading, and Tina dozed fitfully. Agent Crawford was writing a report. Sebastian wondered what it said about him; it was selfish, but every positive word about Sebastian might help to loosen the collar around his neck.

He was feeling the urge to run. To go hunting. To find anyone who’d set foot in that stone building and repay them every mark painting Blaine’s skin in kind.

Those were fantasies for now, though. He tried to focus on reality, the questions still nipping at him. About how Blaine had gotten out of that basement, how he had gotten there in the first place. Had he escaped, or been let go? Had he been taken, or gone willingly? Had Sebastian’s mother been there? How much had she done to Blaine?

He wondered if his mother had killed Blaine’s father, and hated that the answer was likely yes.

He also wondered if Blaine had realized that too.

Stupidly, pointlessly, Sebastian hoped he hadn’t, and that he never would.

--

Pam greeted them when they pulled up to Dalton.

Blaine approached her cautiously but she wasted no time pulling him into a hug, then Cooper when he came near as well. They stayed tangled together, sharing each other’s grief, until Blaine pulled back.

“I’m sorry, mama,” he said.

“Don’t be, baby,” she replied, voice wavering. “You brought him home.”

Blaine’s face crumpled and he hugged her again; Sebastian and everyone were doing their best to sneak around the Andersons and give them their privacy when Pam looked up sharply.

“Sebastian, wait,” she said. He froze. Was he going to get lectured for giving his handler the slip? But Pam was smiling. “Hunter’s awake.”

Sebastian’s eyes widened, and he took off running.

--

“Hunter.”

“Sebastian.”

They exchanged a handclasp. Hunter was actually sitting up, in a wheelchair. His skin still bandaged and his voice was hoarse like he had a pack-a-day habit but Sebastian was so relieved to see him up with all his mental faculties in place that he nearly did something really embarrassing and hugged him. Instead, he sat on the ground next to Hunter’s chair, feeling like he was about to hear yet another lesson.

“Been keeping out of trouble?” Hunter asked.

Sebastian laughed. “Have you met me?”

“Right. Stupid question.” Hunter’s trained gaze checked him for injury, and Sebastian probably should have been insulted but, well. He was in too good a mood. “Where have you been?”

“Here, there, everywhere.”

“Not Rome?”

“That might have been a pitstop.” Sebastian realized then he might have to be the one to tell Hunter that his best friend was definitely dead, and his cheer faded under a wash of fear. He looked at Hunter uncertainly, but of course Hunter was never easily surprised.

“Pamela told me you found Dan.”

Sebastian ducked his head, a useless apology bubbling up that he swallowed. Hunter sighed.

“I knew the old bastard was dead. I just hope it gives Pamela some peace.”

“Yeah?” Sebastian smirked, tried to lighten the mood. “Plans to move in on his widow?”

To his amazement, Hunter almost looked flustered for half a second, which was some of the most genuine emotion he’d ever seen the man display.

“You’re a sick little freak,” Hunter told him genially, and Sebastian laughed, ducking the hand Hunter tried to swat him with.

“Too slow, old man,” he said, but Hunter might be decrepit and broken but he sure wasn’t beaten, because his other hand snaked out lightning-quick to give Sebastian’s hair a tousle. “Hey,” Sebastian whined, moving away and smoothing his hair down.

“That is the least you deserve,” Hunter informed him haughtily. “Now: mission details. Report, soldier.”

Sebastian straightened and did just that. Once he was done, and they were snickering over some dry crack Hunter had made, the door opened. Blaine stood there.

“Sorry,” he said, eyes wide. “I thought you were done.”

“We are.” Sebastian got up, stretching with a yawn. “He’s all yours, killer.”

The old nickname came automatically, and Sebastian realized belatedly it might not go over so well, after that day in the woods. He went to apologize, but Blaine just smiled at him before turning his attention to Hunter. Sebastian left them at it, then went to go find his bed.

He hadn’t slept in three days. Time to fix that.

--

They got two new pieces of the puzzle from Hunter.

First, what they were looking for:

“A list,” Hunter said, rocking his wheelchair like his form of pacing. “That Lord and Lady Dalton compiled, of every founding member of the Circle of Cavan.”

The Lord and Lady had first encountered the Circle when Thomas Cavan, its leader, had tried to assassinate Lincoln. (Well, one out of two assassination preventions wasn’t too bad.) They would have researched this -- good spies were all about information.

“How does that help us?” Blaine asked. “Those people are over a century dead.”

“It’s a family business,” Sebastian guessed; Hunter nodded. “Passed down through the generations.”

“If we find that list,” Cooper said excitedly, “then we know who leads the Circle today.”

“And then we can take them down,” Blaine said, the excitement catching.

“So Dan found this list?” Pam asked. “How?”

“I don’t know,” Hunter said. “I just realized he must have found it. I’d hoped it was in his journal, but obviously not.”

“The key,” Blaine said, looking around. “They key leads to the list. But we don’t have the key.”

Before he could deflate, Hunter smirked. “Actually, we do.”

Which was the second piece Hunter gave them: that Blaine not only had the key, he was wearing it.

“The watch?” Blaine stared down at his adorned wrist, like he’d forgotten about it. “I don’t understand.”

“Look at the design on the face. What do you see?”

“The red and blue … it … kind of looks like the school crest, I guess?”

“It’s the Dalton family crest,” Hunter explained. “Naturally, you wouldn’t recognize it. It was scrubbed from all records to protect the school and the Daltons’ descendants.”

Quinn, who had been silent until now, absorbing everything with an equally observant Santana and Tina, reached out; Blaine offered her his hand, and she started at the watch face, fascinated. She was a distant relation, Sebastian knew, though she’d learned it so late in life he wondered what hold it could really have over her.

“I must have gotten it in Rome,” Blaine said. “I didn’t fail the first bank job … and I mailed it back with the necklace so it would look like nothing serious.”

“Very good,” Hunter said, and Blaine smiled at that. “We are at a standstill now, however.”

“We have the key,” Santana said slowly, “but we don’t have the lock, do we?”

“What on earth could a watch unlock?” Tina asked. “Some kind of vault?”

They looked between each other, but nobody had any ideas.

Two steps forward, one step back; that should be the real motto of espionage.

--

The next month was almost … normal.

Whatever normal was in lives like theirs, at least. Sebastian and Blaine went to classes, hung out with friends, did homework, made out, and in Blaine’s case, went to therapy.

When Blaine wasn’t free to do the chatting/kissing/hanging out thing, Sebastian would go socialize with Hunter. Hunter was going through physical therapy and it made him grumpy, but Sebastian knew that in this case, his bark was worse than his bite. Though Hunter could probably still find a way to kill them all, if he got into the mood.

Luckily he was over that ‘killing everyone’ phase of his life and onto the much healthier ‘making threats, blackmailing, and swearing’ phase as Sebastian helped him do the simple exercises Dr. Owen had prescribed.

“This is a form of torture,” Hunter grumbled as he tried to stretch out his legs, and Sebastian snickered from where he was pushing down on his back.

“Well, we all know torture is my specialty …”

Hunter groaned, stretch furthering. “Jesse actually says your specialty is annoying people.”

“Same thing, isn’t it?”

“Can’t argue with that.”

It was just like old times; and to think, Sebastian had almost forgotten what understanding felt like -- but give it to Hunter to remind him. That was, well, that was why they had each other, as stupidly sappy as it was to think. They kept each other honest, and it was ... nice.

Not that Sebastian would ever tell Hunter or anyone else that, though. Some things were a matter of pride.

--

“Sebastian.”

Sebastian jumped; immediately shifting into a defensive stance. Blaine stepped out from behind a tree, smiling shyly. Of course Blaine had managed to surprise him; a very capable young man.

“Hey, sailor.”

Blaine approached, offering his hand. Sebastian took it and they continued to walk through the Dalton grounds together, all thoughts of heading back inside vanishing the moment Blaine’s warm hand found his. It was chilly, an anticipation of snow in the thick low clouds. Sebastian couldn’t stand the cold; once he’d told Blaine that and Blaine had said, “That’s got to be the first weakness I’ve ever heard from you.”

Sebastian didn’t get why Blaine never saw that everything Sebastian did for him was an admitted weakness.

“Sebastian …”

“Yeah?”

Blaine took a deep breath.

“Is Mr. Clarington your dad?”

That startled a laugh out of Sebastian. “No.” He would ask what gave Blaine that idea, but he knew why Blaine had fathers and sons on the brain. “I never knew my dad.”

“I’m sorry,” Blaine offered.

Such a sweet guy. He had recently learned that his dad was definitely dead but he still cared to comfort Sebastian on some old fact of his life. Sebastian … oh, Sebastian was just so grateful to know him.

“It’s no big deal.”

Blaine was silent for a moment. “How did you and him meet?”

“Ah, tiger, you don’t need to hear that …”

Blaine huffed, squeezing his hand. “You are so secretive!” He sounded a bit sullen.

Sebastian cracked up at that. All this time he’d call Blaine the secretive one, but maybe that was just because Sebastian expected secrets. Blaine was right; he didn’t like to share, because sharing got you dead. Sharing was like when he was eight and a nice man helped him find his way home, and then that nice man his nice Interpol friends had broken into their house later to get his mother and she had gunned them all down with expert grace. Sharing had been his mother then forcing him to look at their bodies and saying, “This is the price of trust,” and as she hugged him he’d wondered, terrified, if he couldn’t trust her either.

“I’m serious,” Blaine insisted as Sebastian tried to calm his laughter. “I … I really do care about you Sebastian, but you act like … like I’ll run screaming from you.”

“You do have a habit of running way.”

“Says the jetsetter.” Blaine frowned. “I am sorry I left without you this summer, but it was to keep you safe. I was the only one the Circle wouldn’t kill.”

“There are worse things than dying.”

“I know.” Blaine exhaled slowly. “I know that now. But after you threw yourself on that bomb …” Sebastian’s briefly felt the dull whump and hot flare of the burn room igniting around him, and his scars pulled tight. “I needed to do it alone.”

“I know,” Sebastian echoed, absently rubbing his neck. “Still sucks though.”

“It does.” Blaine looked over. “And stop misdirecting!”

“Misdirecting? Me?”

“If you don’t want to tell me about you and Mr. Clarington, you can just say so.”

“You really want to know? It’s not so exciting.”

“If it involves you, I’m excited to hear it.”

Someone genuinely interested in his life because it was his, not because of what he knew. It was hard to wrap his head around.

“Fine.” Sebastian took a moment to order his thoughts. “I had just killed my first man and was about to start high school, which are both pretty big milestones in a young man’s life …”

Sebastian glanced at Blaine, and though he had paled a little, he didn’t flinch away. Amused and touched, Sebastian continued.

“Mom had taught me all the basics and it was like, So long son, see you at graduation so you can enter the family business. And in comes Hunter. I think he just wanted to win my loyalty so the Circle didn’t get it but I’m grateful.”

“Maybe he just liked you,” Blaine suggested hesitantly.

“He did say I reminded him of a younger version of him,” Sebastian said. “You know. Angry. Stupid. Ready to watch the world burn. He took all that and helped me channel it into something more … productive.”

“Just at Carmel?”

“No, we spent summer breaks together.” Sebastian smiled mischievously. “I don’t know if you have the clearance to hear some of those stories.”

Blaine’s nose wrinkled. “Was it just spy stuff?”

“What do you mean?”

“My dad used to, you know. Take me to football games, museums, concerts …”

Blaine trailed off. Sebastian glanced over and nudged him; Blaine blinked and came back to himself.

“You know. Not everything is shadow games,” Blaine finished.

“I didn’t want to do that stuff,” Sebastian said. “But … sometimes, yeah, he would make it like a training exercise. And we’d go to art galleries and rugby games and all that crap.”

“That’s good,” Blaine said, smiling up at him.

Sebastian shrugged. “Civilian life seems pretty damn boring, but I guess dabbling isn’t so bad.”

“I agree,” Blaine said. “I pretended to be a civilian once, so I could date …”

“Hummel,” Sebastian said distastefully; he had shown up in time for the tail end of that drama.

“Yes … and I realized it was fun to pretend, but this?” Blaine gestured, indicating the two of them and Dalton in the distance across the snowy lawns. “This is the real me, and it’s what I want.”

“Good choice. Pick the fun life.”

Blaine grinned, then tugged him into a kiss.

“You are the fun life,” he said, and Sebastian kissed him again, smiling just as widely back.

--

Blaine and the girls figured out the map.

Sebastian could have hit himself when they told him what it was; apparently, Tina had been flipping through Lady Dalton’s old journals and shared with the class. In them they had found reference to a window to the future which had led them to the gable room and its stained glass window.

That same window Sebastian had spent a very happy afternoon making out with Blaine in front of, after they’d eavesdropped on the meeting with the trustees.

Analyzing the window design revealed that it was actually a map, which when paired with the design on the watch pointed to an abandoned residence of the Dalton family in Ireland.

“That’s where the list is,” Blaine said, eyes bright. “Ireland. We have to go to Ireland.”

--

“I’m glad I don’t get jet lag.”

Sebastian settled next to Santana on the plane, who smirked.

“Subtle brag, Amelia Earhart.”

“She went missing, I don’t know how I feel about that comparison.”

“Actually, she didn’t,” Quinn said, seated across from them and taking the long flight as the perfect time to paint her nails. “She was a Dalton graduate, a spy. She went into deep cover after she landed.”

“Helped take down the Order of Anubis,” Santana added. “Crazy death cult that was, big surprise, nothing but white people … Amelia kicked their asses though.”

“They buried her on the Dalton grounds when she passed away,” Quinn said. “She lived to be ninety. One of her descendants is in our math class.”

“Guess I still have Dalton secrets to learn,” Sebastian said, eyebrows raised.

“Don’t let Blaine hear you say that,” Santana said, rolling her eyes. “He’ll talk your ear off.”

They all looked down the plane, where Tina and Blaine were playing a vigorous game of War. It was nice to see Blaine laughing so freely again.

“I wonder if he’ll stay, after graduation,” Quinn said thoughtfully. “Or at least come back after college to teach.”

“Probably,” Santana said. She flashed Sebastian a smug look. “Ready to settle down, Sebby?”

Sebastian pulled a face, both at the future she’d painted and the nickname.

“Blaine isn’t ready to settle,” Sebastian said, with great confidence. Blaine was just coming alive again after a huge trauma; why wouldn’t he want to explore all he could, shout his triumph of survival to the world? “Once we take down the Circle, you’ll see.”

If we take it down. We have to find that list and even then ...”

“Never say never,” Sebastian said. “In my experience, nothing -- nobody -- is immortal.”

“God,” Santana said with a roll of her eyes. “Not your ‘I’m big and bad and have seen all there is to see’ routine. Get a new shtick, because this one’s old.”

“You would know all about overplayed clichés Ms. ‘I’m Going Gay For a Girl I Met At Boarding School.’”

Santana actually blushed, and Sebastian shared an amused look with Quinn.

“Britt’s just -- she’s not like anyone else,” Santana finally said, getting all -- gooey. “Not a jaded asshole like everyone else in our world. She’s ... the bright parts of life.”

Sebastian could certainly understand the appeal. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t torment her though, because that was apparently what best friends did.

“Christ. Is that the start to your vows? You know what, ask Quinn to be your maid of honour, I just can’t fill out a dress the same way …”

“Who said you’d even be invited to the wedding!”

“But you’ll definitely invite Blaine, and I’ll be his plus one.”

Santana now shared a look with Quinn, and then said wickedly, “Blaine strikes me as the kind of gay to go chase down that bouquet so watch out, Smythe.”

“It might turn into a double wedding,” Quinn added dryly.

Sebastian glanced at Blaine. He knew they were just teasing but … marriage. Not really a thing Sebastian had ever thought he’d have, and god knows he didn’t have any kind of reference point for what a healthy marriage looked like, especially between two people in the business. The whole idea sounded … claustrophobic and kind of terrifying. But once upon a time, coming to Dalton and dating Blaine and signing himself up for this potential suicide mission to stop the Circle would have felt the same way so … who knew?

One thing was for sure: he doubted there was any other person on this planet who could make him feel the way Blaine did.

“Oh my god,” Santana whisper-shouted. “You’re actually considering it!”

“No I’m not, I just didn’t want to dignify you with a response …”

“You’re totally imagining being Mrs. Anderson! Oh, this is rich. Not so big and bad now, are you?”

The thing was ... she was right.

And it wasn’t so bad to know.

--

They landed in bonny green Ireland in the morning.

Agent Crawford greeted them as they got off the plane, taking his aviators off in a move Sebastian bet he’d practised.

“Welcome to the Emerald Isle,” he said, and exchanged cheek kisses and hand clasps with Pam and Cooper. “Pamela, Cooper, always lovely … no Hunter?”

“He’s still not well enough to travel,” Pam said.

“He must be happy about that,” Agent Crawford said with a chuckle.

“He was watching Top Gun and muttering the lines under his breath when we left,” Cooper said. “Mi hermano esta loco.”

“Can we socialize later?” Blaine suddenly interjected, shifting his weight. “No offense, Agent Crawford, I just feel like we’re running out of time.”

“Understandable, Blaine. Well, let’s get a move on.”

Agent Crawford had rented a few cars, which they took on a long drive to a pier. Cooper drove their car, and there was some tension under his usual carefree expression that Sebastian noted from where he sat in the back, giving Blaine’s knee reassuring squeezes whenever he saw Blaine's tension rise to match. From there it was a boat ride through the choppy waters of the Atlantic, aiming for the distant island where the Dalton family ancestral home was. They could see it as they approached, blinking the ocean spray from their eyes; a large, decaying building similar in shape to the Academy, a massive manor that reached four stories into a grey sky promising rain like a hulking, sleeping bear.

“Weren’t exactly a fan of visitors, were they?” Sebastian asked once they hit the cliff, mooring against some jagged rocks.

“For good reason,” Pam said. “The Daltons have always been targets.”

“Still, they could have put in an old-school elevator …”

“Scared of a little climbing, Sebby?” Cooper smirked as he handed Sebastian a rope, which he accepted with a silent exhale.

“Sebastian,” he said, glaring around the boat. “My name is Sebastian. Not Sebby, not Seb, not any other butchering you can think of. Three syllables. Not hard to manage.”

Judging by the smirks around the boat, he was going to be hearing a lot of nicknames in the near future. Sighing, he grabbed the rope and some climbing spikes and started his way up, ignoring Tina’s call of “Bassy, make sure you don’t slip!” Halfway there it started to rain, and Sebastian wasn’t even surprised. He managed the slick rocks with ease (it was just like that time in Zambia with Hunter) but he couldn’t help but take it as a bad sign.

Once at the top he pushed wet hair out of his eyes and waited for Blaine, offering him a hand to pull him up over the edge. Blaine smiled as he straightened, their soaked bodies briefly pressed together, a welcome warmth in the icy chill. Blaine pushed up to kiss Sebastian, then stepped away.

“We should split up,” Blaine said, at least having the decency to sound regretful.

“I was afraid you’d say that,” Sebastian said, sighing. “When are you going to realize we work better together?”

“We do,” Blaine earnestly agreed. “But some things are about more than work.”

Whatever the hell that meant.

“Besides,” Blaine added, “I trust you. And you’re the only one here with a connection to the Circle … so if they’ve been here, you might spot the signs.”

“Right.” Sebastian briefly wondered if his appeal to Blaine was based on his connection to the mystery that had defined half Blaine’s life. “You’re right, we’ll cover more ground apart. Happy hunting.”

They shared a last kiss, and then Sebastian started to wander the perimeter, shoulders hunched against the cold, delicate rain, as he cut through a path through the white mist swirling around the building and grounds. The manor was in bad shape; they must have run out of money building its massive frame, hauling supplies up and down the cliffs; he could see missing touches. The elements hadn’t helped since; whole floors had collapsed, leaving a gaping hole in its side. At one point he saw Blaine, at the edge of the floor where it had gave out, before Blaine slipped back inside.

Tired of the rain and seeing nothing, Sebastian walked back to the entrance. Quinn was there, staring at a statue in the overgrown garden out front.

“Find something, Fabray?” Sebastian approached her.

“I think that’s Lady Dalton,” she said, staring up at the statue’s worn face.

“Oh yeah? I see the resemblance.”

Quinn gave him a doubtful look. “It’s just a statue.”

“Look at the way she’s holding that parasol -- you know there’s a knife inside. And she’s in a fighter’s stance.” He winked at her. “Beautiful, but more importantly deadly. Just like you.”

Quinn smiled at him. “Sometimes, I actually get what Blaine sees in you.”

“I don’t know if I should be flattered or insulted.” Sebastian smirked. “Saying you want to jump my bones?”

“I think they call it temporary madness,” she shot back. Sebastian was grinning at that when he heard something under the rattle of the rain. A stone, scattered underfoot? He tilted his head, listening closer; Quinn noticed his change in mood and though her smile didn’t fade she grew more alert.

“Walk with me, Fabray,” Sebastian offered, and Quinn nodded. She took his arm and they started to wander the garden. The rain came down harder; all they could hear was it, clattering against stone and wood like pebbles falling from the sky.

As they rounded a large fountain, a dark figure rose up from the bushes and trained  a gun on them. Clearly he thought he had the drop on them, but Sebastian and Quinn were ready.

Sebastian dove low, and Quinn jumped up, pressing a dainty foot on Sebastian’s back which she used like a springboard. It was just like P&E; as Sebastian somersaulted behind the man, turning to ram his foot behind the back of his knee, Quinn arced through the air like the Irish mists taken human form then brought her feet up to slam into the assailant’s chest; he fired wildly as she sent him to the ground with a sickening thud.

Sebastian sharply jabbed the muscle above the man’s armpit, making his fingers spasm on his gun, which Sebastian tore from his slack grip. Quinn wasted no time drawing her fist back to punch him in temple. His head bounced back against the stone and then he was unconscious, eyes rolling up into the back of his head.

“Nice arm,” Sebastian said.

“Thanks …” Quinn stood up, staring down at the man with a troubled expression. “Where did he come from?”

Sebastian got up too, keeping the gun in hand as he took a closer look at the attacker, squinting against the rain.

Recognition dawned, and Sebastian sent a wary look around them.

“I know him,” Sebastian said. “He used to babysit me.”

Quinn’s eyes widened in understanding: Sebastian’s mother was here.

“We need to find Blaine,” she said grimly, and they took off towards the manor entrance.

That was when the explosion sounded.

--

God fucking dammit. He knew this was going to end badly.

Sebastian and Quinn had turned heel and made for the side of the manor instead, where the explosion had sounded. They leaped a short crumbling wall then made in a large arc to see that a new hole had been blasted out the side of the building, rubble still smoking despite the rain. Santana stood there, peering around.

“It was your psycho mom,” she told Sebastian, then cursed in Spanish for a breath before turning back. “She was chasing Blaine and Tina.”

“Which way?”

“I didn’t see, but --”

“Look!” Quinn pointed toward a distant flash of yellow; the sweater Blaine had been wearing was that colour. Sebastian took off running, feet slipping on the thick wet tufts of grass between the rocky landscape of the island. It was steadily dropping; sixty yards away Blaine and Tina were being chased by a distinctive slim figure.

Mom.

“Sebastian, wait up --”

If they couldn’t keep up that was their business. The wind rolled up off the ocean, up the cliff, over the edge; the rain was being driven right into his face and he could barely see the three he was chasing except for that distinctive yellow bobbing ahead.

He tossed the gun. No use. Couldn’t aim in this rain while running.

Blaine slowed due to the approaching cliff edge; Camille had boxed him towards the edge of the island like a fox with a rabbit. Camille unfurled a powerful side-kick at him; Blaine went tumbling, dangerously close to the edge. Sebastian was closing in, but he was still too far away. Tina launched herself at Camille, who easily tossed her aside. Blaine scrambled, rolling over and kicking out at Camille, but she leaped over his windmilling legs gracefully. Blaine unsteadily got to his feet.

Thirty yards out. Were they speaking?

Camille glanced over her shoulder; spotted Sebastian. Her expression was unreadable from this distance; she turned away. Took a step towards Blaine; he slid a foot back, his heel going over the edge.

Twenty yards. Blaine suddenly raised a -- a gun? Where had he gotten that? Camille stopped advancing.

Ten yards. Blaine lifted the gun higher, and fired; a rocket of burning orange streaked into a high arc across the wet sky. Flare. Camille ran at him; Blaine dodged; she dived off the cliff.

“Blaine!” he shouted, but Blaine didn’t seem to hear. He was on the edge of the cliff and raising his hands like he intended to dive in after Camille --

Oh no you don’t.

Sebastian poured a final bit of energy into a dead sprint, skidding to a dangerous stop at the edge of the island and wrapping an arm around Blaine’s waist. Blaine struggled, but Sebastian stumbled back, lifting Blaine off his feet.

“Don’t do it, killer,” he gasped, catching a few angry elbows Blaine threw.

“Let me go!” Blaine snarled. “Let me go, Sebastian!”

“Stop, Blaine!” Santana added, just a few breaths behind him; out of the corner of his eye he could see Quinn helping Tina up. “It’s over, stop!”

Blaine slackened, and Sebastian set Blaine down, still holding on in case the sudden acquiescence was a trick, but Blaine just stared off into the dark, churning waters below, panting raggedly.

“It’s gone,” he said, voice shaking. “It’s all gone.”

--

Another quiet flight back to America. Too bad he wasn’t getting frequent flyer miles from all this travel.

Sebastian had found some tiny vodka bottles and was hoping to drink the time away but before he could crack them open Cooper, smirking widely, had confiscated them to drink them himself with his mom. Incredibly rude, that. Sebastian deserved a drink.

There was a chance his mom was dead, after all. Drowned, crushed on rocks, lost at sea.

Though if he was being honest with himself, he didn’t actually think that. Sebastian had learned to survive from the best.

Camille Smythe was still out there, he was almost sure.

Sebastian was exiting the washroom when Blaine appeared. Sebastian tried to stand aside but Blaine stepped forward, pushing him into the bathroom and tugging the little door shut behind him. Sebastian raised an eyebrow.

“Mile high club time?” Sebastian asked, smirking widely. “How saucy of you, Anderson.”

“I want to talk,” Blaine said, which was some of the first words he’d said since telling them all that the list had gone over the cliff and into the ocean. His gaze was tight; he didn’t look happy.

Feeling he might regret it, Sebastian asked, “What about?”

Blaine looked like he might chicken out for a second, but he took a deep breath and soldiered on to ask, “Tell me about your mother.”

“What?” Sebastian folded his arms, leaned back against the wall. Was Blaine about to accuse him of something?

“I want to hear about her,” Blaine said. “Nothing about, about blood or death or anything like that. I want to hear something, I don’t know --”

“Nice?” Sebastian offered.

Human,” Blaine settled on.

“Huh.” Sebastian scratched his chin, wondering what to say. Blaine hadn’t killed his mom -- was this why? Thinking about her soul? “Anything in particular?”

“Whatever you want. I just -- I need to hear it.”

“Okay …” Sebastian thought for a few long moments. “So, she’s French, right? Well, she always felt most at home when we back in the old country. But when we couldn’t be there she had this recipe, for a bourguignon, passed down by her mother, and her mother before her. So I guess too bad I was a guy, but she still taught me to make it. We spent a few afternoons like that, cooking together. It was … nice.”

Blaine gazed up at him, brows pinched. Then: “You’re lying.”

Sebastian sighed, nodded, and softly replied, “Yeah, I am.”

Blaine swallowed, then bowed his head forward, pressing his forehead to Sebastian’s shoulder; Sebastian uncrossed his arms so he could rub Blaine’s back, concerned at the faint hint of a tremble he felt. He’d noticed this before and thought it was just down to Blaine being underweight, but he’d gained a lot back so … was it just the force of his emotions? Was that normal?

“I hate her,” Blaine hesitantly said, voice thick.

Sebastian couldn’t help but smile, but it was a humourless one.

“Yeah … me too.” Sebastian could elaborate more, on songs she’d sang to him and how love with a price wasn’t really love even if it felt the same, but the words failed him. All he could think about right then was his mother advancing on Blaine, that flare burning against the grey sky. Blaine’s forgiveness for a woman who hadn’t deserved it, because she was someone to Sebastian.

“You’re a good man,” Blaine softly said.

Sebastian kissed Blaine’s temple. “You’re not so bad yourself, babe.”

They held each other until someone knocked and they were forced to separate, but they kept their fingers tangled together as they left; Sebastian guessed they both needed the connection, right then.

--

They went to see Hunter once they got back to Dalton.

“So the list is gone?” Hunter asked, rocking his wheelchair back and forth.

“Into the sea,” Blaine confirmed, sounding a touch ashamed. “There’s no way it survived that.”

“And you didn’t get to see it?”

“No. It was in this glass vial, and Sebastian’s mother interrupted before I could take it out.” Blaine glanced briefly at Sebastian as he spoke. “She did say something weird …”

“What was that, honey?” Pam asked.

“That I didn’t need to see it. Like I already knew the contents.”

“Not surprising,” Hunter said. “They took you because they thought you knew.”

“Why would they let Blaine go if they thought he still knew?” Sebastian asked. Everyone shared looks, but Cooper shook his head.

“Blainey might have got away on his own. We don’t know they released him.”

“They’ve also been trying to kill him,” Pam added, a shadow crossing her features. “They wouldn’t do that if they still needed him.”

“Can we not talk about me like I’m not in the room?” Blaine snapped, then his eyes widened apologetically. “Sorry, mama.”

“It’s okay,” Pam said, reaching over to pat her son’s cheek. “It’s been a long few days.”

Blaine smiled fondly at his mom, and Sebastian stared at them, that old jealousy surging up. He ruthlessly stepped on it, glancing away. Hunter sighed, aggrieved.

“So Blaine doesn’t remember, or know, there’s nothing in Dan’s journal, and the list is destroyed.”

“The flipside is the Circle might leave us alone for a while,” Sebastian pointed out. “They don’t have anything to be afraid of now. We’re not a threat.”

“That’s true,” Hunter said, nodding his approval at Sebastian, who smiled back. “You’re the main loose end now, Sebastian.”

“Which could be to our advantage,” Sebastian said, inspiration striking. “Mom will probably come for me herself if she’s still kicking so we could use me as bait.”

“Do you think she’d talk?” Hunter asked, frowning thoughtfully.

“We are not using Sebastian as bait!” Blaine snapped, glaring at Hunter.

“It’s fine, tiger.” Sebastian shook his head. “I can take care of myself.” To Hunter, he continued. “We both know she’s a fanatic, Hunter. Torture won’t phase her.”

“Toughest woman I’ve ever met,” Hunter agreed, then added to Pam, “except for you of course, Pamela.”

Pam smiled at him. Cooper cleared his throat. “If she won’t talk, what’s the point of taking her in alive?”

“Coop,” Blaine hissed. “Some sensitivity. Sebastian’s right there.”

“I happen to agree with your brother,” Sebastian said. “Generally speaking. In this specific case. But … she could be bait too.”

Hunter’s eyes lit up. “They’d want to silence her.”

“And they’d send someone good in to do it. Someone high up. And someone who might be more likely to talk.”

“And if Camille is dead,” Cooper added, “they’ll still send that kind of asset after Sebastian. Win/win.”

“Exactly,” Sebastian said. “And if it doesn’t work with me, Hunter’s also an option.”

Blaine was staring like they were all crazy; it was probably something he should get over if he wanted to be a real agent one day.

“Good plan, Sebastian.” Hunter nodded sharply. “We’ll start discussing details for it tomorrow. For now, get the hell out of my room. I need to sleep.”

“Yeah, night to you too, old man …”

“Goodnight, Hunter, sleep well.” Pam kissed his cheek, and Hunter grumbled under his breath, looking away.

Sebastian got up, and followed the Andersons out of the secret room. He could feel Blaine glaring holes into the back of his head, but he ignored him. Blaine would get it out at some point. They emerged from the passageways in a hallway by the chapel, which was quiet and dark in the late hour. Pam pat Blaine’s cheek.

“Off to bed for you,” she told him.

“I don’t like the idea of this bait plan,” Blaine said, stepping away. “Isn’t there some other way?”

“We’ll think it over,” Pam told him. “None of us want anything to happen to Sebastian.”

Cooper looked tempted to disagree. Sebastian rolled his eyes.

“It’s not like they’ll put me under a box on a stake and hope she knocks it down chasing me in. There will be snipers and trained agents and me wearing a bulletproof vest … it’ll be boring, honestly.”

“It’s still a risk,” Blaine stubbornly insisted.

“And you’re the only one allowed to take those?” Sebastian squeezed Blaine’s shoulder. “We’ll talk it out in the morning, babe.”

“He’s right, bee.” Pam kissed his cheek, and Cooper clapped Blaine on the back with a, “Night, Squirt,” before the two of them walked off, talking to each other in low tones. Sebastian and Blaine started off in the opposite direction for the dorms, and they ended up walking by Sebastian’s to Blaine’s a floor above it -- Blaine really just didn’t like Sebastian’s room and its window.

“I don’t feel great,” Blaine said abruptly, breaking the silence.

“I thought that fish dinner on the plane tasted off …”

“Not food poisoning. It’s -- what happened in Ireland. This crazy plan you’re proposing. Rome. Mr. Clarington’s cabin. The place where they held me … everything, everything, nothing feels right …”

“Blaine.” Sebastian turned to him as they came to a stop outside Blaine’s door, caught his shoulders, rubbed them. “You don’t feel right because nothing is right. But we’ll make it right, okay?”

Blaine nodded slowly. Sebastian wasn’t entirely sure Blaine believed him.

“Stay with me?” Blaine asked, backing up to rest against the door.

“Of course.” Sebastian kissed him, and opened the door behind Blaine.

They walked in together, sharing small kisses, but the mood was soft, not heated. They got ready for bed and then climbed into the narrow bed, tangled together. He fell asleep to the sound of Blaine’s gentle breathing, for once not worried about sightlines or snipers.

He felt ... safe.

--

Blaine woke up just a few hours later; it was nearly three a.m.

“Blaine?” Sebastian reached out for him, yawning.

“I had a bad dream,” Blaine said lowly.

Sebastian started to sit up. “Want to talk about it? Or just have me distract you?” He grinned against the darkness of the room; Blaine leaned in to kiss him.

“No, I think I’m going to talk to Dr. Jesse,” Blaine said evenly. “I have some stuff to work through.”

That was an understatement. Sebastian flopped back down, yawning again.

“Want me to walk you there?”

“I’m sure I won’t get lost.” Blaine shuffled around; the door opened, the hall lights illuminating his figure; still in his pyjamas. Weird, but he sounded way too awake to be sleepwalking. “Bye, Sebastian.”

And humming, he left, shutting the door behind him. Sebastian rolled over, taking Blaine’s absence as an excuse to starfish out. Dalton beds were too small for two people, but maybe like the very strict hall monitors, it was a deterrent against fraternization at a co-ed boarding school. Sebastian smirked. Poor, unlucky heterosexuals. Carmel wasn't exactly co-ed, except for some poor girls who Dalton had missed -- or 'missed' -- but it still had strict hall monitors to stop late-night mischief and runaway attempts. Sebastian, of course, hadn't needed to wander far to find a bed to slink into. When he wasn’t at school, his parental figures had both been assassins (reformed and otherwise) so he had never exactly had a curfew.

Hunter definitely knew about Sebastian and Blaine. He probably approved; he liked Blaine, didn’t he?

Sebastian rolled over, groaning. Sleep wasn’t coming. Thinking about sharing beds and Blaine sent his mind in a whole different direction … but he knew Blaine wasn’t ready to sleep with him. Blaine was a virgin, and after everything he’d gone through in the summer, his scars, he wasn’t crazy about his body right then. Which Sebastian understood. Respected. Because he’d never want Blaine to feel unsafe with him.

Did Blaine feel safe with him?

Obviously, idiot. He trusts you.

That wasn’t the same thing, though, was it? Sebastian rarely felt safe, but he spent a lot of time with Blaine, whom he trusted implicitly … life was complicated like that. Maybe that was part of growing up.

He’d always thought of himself as an adult, just one not legally allowed to drink. But spending time at a school like Dalton had given him some perspective. He was certainly more mature than his peers in some ways. Had more life experience. But he also had a lot of the same struggles, false assumptions, hopes and fears. He still had things to learn.

With just one more term left until graduation, too.

It’s a big bad world out there, St. James had once said. We’re just getting you ready for it.

God, that guy was a dick. Not that Sebastian had a ton of room to talk, and hell, look at Hunter too, it was just a Carmel ex-pat thing. They all had their stories … but Sebastian wouldn’t be humming if he was about to go see the good doctor, that was for sure. Blaine was weird like that. Too nice for his own good. Blaine’s gotten meaner, Quinn once said. Still bullshit. Blaine was a little sharper with people, a little angrier, and they all knew he was fucked up, but he wasn’t mean. He’d get better. That was what he had his family for, his friends, St. James. Hunter. Sebastian.

Sebastian was more concerned about Blaine’s sleepwalking than his snappiness, honestly. Sleepwalking, spacing out … lost time, it was all lost time. Just like the summer. Like the secrets he’d learned were trying to dig their way out, but something was forcing them back under. Maybe Blaine did know the list. Maybe he’d learned it while on the run.

Why would they let him go? Sebastian didn’t care what Cooper said, there was no way Blaine could have escaped. Not if Sebastian’s mom was involved.

We both know she’s a fanatic. Torture won’t phase her. That was the power of belief, wasn’t it? Camille believed in the Circle. And Blaine believed in his dad. Had lain in a cell for two months with his dad’s name carved in front of his face, his only anchor in the sea of his suffering. A very capable young man. Blaine wouldn’t have given up the list, not if it was the last thing his dad had given him. Not to an enemy.

But it was an enemy who wanted it. So an enemy would have to become a friend.

A friend that would be poised to help Blaine sort through everything he did or didn’t remember … help him heal from a summer being conveniently traumatized …

Sebastian sat up, fear clawing up its way through his chest, settling heavily in the base of his throat.

A friend Blaine was alone with right now.

--

Sebastian raced to St. James’s office as fast as he could, bare feet slapping against the polished wooden flooring of Dalton’s halls.

His heart was pounding, downright aching in his chest, even though he’d sprinted longer distances. I’m an idiot. Downstairs. Cut through the girl dorms to get to the east wing -- he barrelled past Mlle Claudette, who was on monitor duty.

“Wake Pam,” he shouted at her as he ran.

He needed back-up. Back-up. Girl’s dorms. He screeched to a halt then backed up to Santana, Tina, and Quinn’s room, hammering on their door. When he heard them moving inside he spoke hurriedly:

“We need to find Blaine.”

Then kept moving. They didn’t need him holding their hands; they were some of the best students at this school. Sebastian ran to the end of the dorms, shoved open a secret passage behind a tapestry, used the shortcut to make better time to St. James’s office. Out through a closet. Take a right; down the hall. Short flight of stairs. And --

The door to St. James’s office hung open. He paused outside, but didn’t hear anything. Still, he stayed low as he entered, looking around; the room was empty.

“Shit.” Sebastian ran his hand over his flushed face, breathing deeply. He touched the chairs; still warm. Must have just left. Scanning the room as he’d been taught, a section at a time, he looked for some clue as to where the two of them had gone.

There was a piece of stationary, neatly folded, on the desk. Sebastian picked it up, flipped it open.

I’m sad and confused. It’s only natural. I just want this to be over.

Sebastian crumpled it; he didn’t need to read more. He knew a suicide note when he saw it. He also knew a lie when he saw it.

It was Blaine’s handwriting; he’d made a point of memorizing it. No sign of distress; the loops neat as ever. Blaine wrote it, but not under duress -- at least not the traditional kind. Compromised. Deprogramming. St. James knew the psyche like no one else, how to shape it, manipulate it … and the doctor was leaving right now. So if he wanted Blaine dead, an apparent victim of suicide, he must have manipulated Blaine into it.

Sebastian smoothed out the note. The last line was: I just want to fly away from this.

Jumping. Blaine was going to jump. Natural, immediate, no fuss. Five stories would do it. Probably from the roof on the west; then he could see St. James driving away. Suggestions like this required triggers; the taillights could be that, especially since St. James wouldn’t want Blaine being discovered until he was off the grounds or risk getting caught in a lockdown.

An old memory whispered at him: When the light changes, pull the trigger. Pull the trigger. No questions, just pull the trigger.

Sebastian started to run again. He was on the third floor. Only two up. He tore down the hall, pounded up the stairs. Fourth floor. Door to the right was locked at nights; picking it or kicking it down would take too long. To the left. Detour. Down a hall, to the left --

“Sebastian!”

Pam stood there in a nightdress; the girls were with her, also in pyjamas. They had to be on their way to Blaine’s room. “What’s going on?” Tina asked, voice shaky

“St. James compromised Blaine. He’s trying to kill himself. I think he’s going to jump. Move.”

They didn’t waste time on stupid questions. They ran like hasty ghosts sweeping the late-night halls, and then made up the last flight of stairs, a tight spiral that moved in dizzy circles. Attic door; Quinn shoved it open and they burst out onto the fifth floor.

A long narrow hall; storage up here. He looked, but he couldn’t see Blaine.

“Split up,” Pam ordered, voice calm despite the faint sheen of panicked sweat on her forehead. “Sebastian, Santana, left. Quinn, Tina, with me.”

They took off. Sebastian had to keep ducking his head below the thick beams which ran across the ceiling, he and Santana moving rapidly between stripes of moonlight across the hall.

“Look!” Santana hissed. Pointed. Open window. Sebastian rushed up, stuck his head out. He couldn’t see Blaine, just the icy dark tiles of the roof and the sharp rise of the nearby gable. He climbed out, toes immediately chilled, and started to move his way carefully across the precariously slick slate; it wasn’t steep but the ice could be deadly.

Santana followed him. “Do you see him?”

“No, not yet --”

“What if he’s not here? He could be in the labs swallowing bleach right now --”

Sebastian clenched his jaw; he couldn’t consider being wrong; he’d come too close to losing Blaine so many times. He’d save him again; he would never stop saving him.

Then, carried on the wind … singing.

“That’s Blaine,” Santana said, pausing as she climbed the gabled roof. She looked over at Sebastian, dark gaze glittering. “He’s alive.”

Sebastian hadn’t known Blaine could sing, but his voice was lovely. And the tune was somewhat familiar …

“Blainey.” That was Pam, voice thin on the wind. “Come inside, dear.”

Sebastian and Santana started to climb faster, feet sliding dangerously. At one point Sebastian skidded, and Santana paused to grab him, hauling him up. Pam, Tina, and Quinn were all talking earnestly to Blaine, voices getting louder.

“It’s too cold out here, Blainey Days,” Tina called. Her voice was clearest yet; was she on the roof too? “Come here.”

“It’s not too cold when there’s music!” Blaine said cheerily. Too cheerily. “Do you remember the concerts, mama?”

“No, bee, but we can talk about it inside.”

“You wouldn’t remember … dad took me. You were in Malaysia, I think .. I wanted to sing, dad said I could do anything …”

“Of course you can, Blaine.” Quinn; the most scared he’d ever heard her. “Let’s talk about it inside, where it’s warm.”

“I can’t do that,” Blaine said, a hint of regret. Sebastian and Santana finally made it over the peak; on the other side, Blaine stood by the edge of the roof, arms extended, walking back and forth in a dangerous sway. Tina was trying to edge down the roof to approach him; Pam was half-out the window and Quinn peered out next to her.

Blaine laughed, loud and free, and stumbled, nearly falling. Sebastian’s heart lunged into his throat.

Dalton had fourteen foot ceilings on the first floor; twelve on the second; ten on the next three. Add in roof and foundation and it was least a sixty foot drop. The average height needed to kill someone was only fifty feet.

“Blaine, please,” Tina begged. “It’s time to come inside. This isn’t funny.”

Blaine shifted, staring off at the driveway. Sebastian followed his gaze; taillights were rapidly fading. St. James. Sebastian could maybe catch up -- he just had to get down, find a car, a motorcycle, chase him down --

But he couldn’t leave Blaine.

“Anderson,” Santana snapped, climbing over the edge of the gable and trying to make her way down. “Snap out of it!”

“Blaine,” Sebastian added, joining her. “You don’t have to listen to St. James. He’s gone.”

“He is,” Blaine agreed, and sighed. “Which is why I have to jump now.”

“Blaine, no!” Tina reached for him, and hit a thick patch of ice; she fell and started to slide, catching hold of a narrow chimney at the last minute, feet dangling off the edge.

Blaine didn’t even react to his best friend nearly flying off the roof. He just watched the final fade of the two red dots and then let his foot hover in open air. Blaine was about to die, and what could Sebastian do? As Tina proved, it was too icy to move quickly. Sebastian was helpless --

Blaine stepped off the roof. Tina screamed, snaking out her hand to grab Blaine’s. Her whole body jerked, one hand clinging to the chimney and the other holding onto Blaine, now out of sight below the roof.

“You have to let me go,” Blaine shouted up, almost frustrated.

“No, Blaine!” Tina’s voice was thick with tears. “I won’t!”

“Neither will I, bee,” Pam added, as she made her way down with careful grace. She lay flat on the roof, shimmying the last bit, and stuck her hands over the edge. She grabbed onto Blaine, sliding a dangerous inch herself, but her expression of calm determination never shifted.

“But --” Blaine’s voice wavered. “Can’t you hear the music, mama?”

Pam shook her head. “No, baby, I can’t.”

A long silence. The wind blew a rattling gust, and then Blaine said, sounding lost:

“I can’t either. Not anymore.”

--

They got Blaine off the roof.

They moved him to the medical ward, where Dr. Owen was awake and ready to examine him. Blaine sat on the edge of an examination table, wrapped in a blanket.

“He’s in shock,” Dr. Owen said.

“Sedate him,” Pam ordered. “We can’t risk that happening again.”

Blaine looked up. “Mama --”

“I’m sorry, bee.” Pam smoothed down his hair, leaned in to press a kiss to his forehead. “I love you. But now it’s time to sleep.”

Blaine was guided to a bed; Dr Owen prepped a syringe. Pam held his hand as the needle slid home, and didn’t let go even when Blaine’s lashes fluttered shut and sleep took him.

Sebastian understood her reluctance to leave; he didn’t plan on letting Blaine out of his sight any time soon. Neither did the girls, who found a bed next to Blaine’s to huddle together on.

Sebastian hunkered down in the corner, arms wrapped around his knees, and waited for Blaine to wake up.

--

Somehow, they found a moment alone.

Blaine had been moved from the ward to his mom’s quarters; Pam had gone to get Hunter and the girls were changing after the all-nighter. Cooper had called to say his attempts to find St. James were a bust; the man had already left the country, and Cooper would be back soon. So right then it was just the two of them, Blaine still wrapped in that blanket and sitting on the sofa, Sebastian leaning against the wall across from him. The silence was overbearing. Blaine hadn’t even looked at him; Sebastian had no idea what to say.

Well. Time to bite the bullet.

“Sebastian --”

“Blaine --”

They paused, and shared a quick smile. Sebastian inclined his head, indicating Blaine should go first.

“Sebastian …” Blaine took a deep breath, let it out. “I didn’t want to kill myself.”

“I know,” Sebastian said. “St. James did it to you. Played with your head.”

Blaine nodded slowly. “I think … I’m crazy though. And it’s not his fault. Not totally.”

Sebastian shrugged. “In this life, who isn’t a little crazy?”

“And if it’s more than a little for me?”

The real crazy thing was, Blaine asked it like Sebastian would ever give up on him.

“Then you’re my crazy boyfriend that I’m crazy about.” Sebastian came over and kneeled in front of Blaine, smiling up at him.

“Sebastian …” Blaine gazed down at him, in a moment suspended in time. It got a little too much for Sebastian, who had to wink.

“And besides, the crazy ones are always best in bed.”

Blaine blushed, flapping his blanket at Sebastian, who took it opening up as an opportunity to slide his hands inside along Blaine’s thighs, pushing himself up to kiss Blaine. Blaine kissed back, a little desperately, and Sebastian squeezed his thighs, pulling back briefly to murmur:

“I’m sorry.”

Blaine leaned away, frowning. “For what?”

But before Sebastian could answer the door swung open and Pam pushed Hunter inside. Sebastian hastily freed his hands from under Blaine’s blanket, shifting to sit next to Blaine on the couch instead. Pam smiled mischievously at them.

“Ah, young love. Remember what that felt like, Hunter?”

“Definitely not,” Hunter said, sniffing. Sebastian shook his head with a grin.

Soon everyone was there, settled in and looked to Blaine expectantly. Sebastian found Blaine’s hand under the blanket and gave it a squeeze. Blaine smiled at him and then took a deep breath before haltingly working his way through his story.

St. James had been one of the people holding him captive over the summer; it was probably why Blaine had tried to choke him.

(Sebastian understood the desire.)

It was St. James’s technique that had lost Blaine his memory, and implanted the song -- the song Blaine had been absent-mindedly humming all term. The song was from the concert Blaine had gone to with his father shortly before Danilo had disappeared.

“They knew I saw dead drop from a -- a woman, I don’t know who, but she gave dad a list. The list.”

As Sebastian had guessed, St. James had hoped that by releasing Blaine to apparent safety then positioning himself as Blaine’s confidant who could continue to toy with his brain in private sessions, he could get Blaine to reveal that list.

“But why would they want the list? Why not want it gone?” Quinn asked.

“Because St.James, and Sebastian’s mom -- they’re part of a splinter cell in the Circle.”

“Which is why some people in the Circle want you dead, and some were trying to just kidnap you,” Tina said, gasping.

“Plans to overthrow some people and take the lead?” Sebastian snorted. “Yeah, that sounds like mommie dearest.”

“But did you tell him?” Santana asked. “Did he learn the names?”

“He didn’t need me,” Blaine said darkly. “Hence the trip to the roof. He said Camille had retrieved the list.”

So she had survived the dive. Sebastian was disappointed but also, maybe, a little relieved, a feeling he smothered brutally.

“So now they’re one step ahead of us … again,” Cooper said. “We’re screwed.”

“Don’t be so sure, Coop.” Blaine got to his feet, letting the blanket fall, and went to his mom’s desk to pick up a pencil. He looked around, then headed straight for a smooth pale wallpaper. He started to write, and under his sure hand names started to appear.

A list of names.

“You remembered!”

“Yes.” Blaine nodded, sounding satisfied. It was good to hear confidence on him again; he wore it very sexily. “Every single one.”

Everyone leaned forward, reading the list as it sprouted on the wall with bated breath.

“Charles Sylvester,” Cooper said. “There’s a Sue Sylvester, she’s part of the UN. Mean old warhawk.”

“Goolsby,” Pam added. “Silicone valley. Big tech money, used to work in radios.”

Four names went by that didn’t strike immediate recognition (Davids, Delmonico, Menkins, O'Ryan) but the next one made everyone pause. Blaine stared at what he’d written and shook his head.

“No, it can’t be -- he helped me.”

The name was SAMUEL P. EVANS.

“It could just be his dad, not your summer boy,” Sebastian pointed out. Blaine threw him a look.

“The Ambassador helped me too. He saved my life after the bank job went south.”

Doubt flickered across his face, though. Sebastian bit his tongue; Blaine would come around.

“We have to get Sam out,” Quinn said, getting up. “If his dad is in the Circle, and is now in danger -- we have to save Sam.”

“We have to confirm who the actual descendents are,” Hunter said. “Before we go running around ‘saving’ anyone.”

Sebastian nodded in agreement.

“This is good though,” Blaine said, looking around the room. “They’re not a step ahead anymore. Which means we get to do the chasing now.”

“And we will, Squirt,” Cooper said. “But it won’t necessarily be you.”

“What! You can’t shut us out --”

“Blaine,” Pam said gently. “This is serious. Actual agents will be put on this.”

Blaine opened his mouth to argue, then shut it. “Fine,” he said. “I agree. For now.”

Cooper laughed. “That’s my baby brother.”

“I’m not a baby,” Blaine shot back. “Not anymore.”

Cooper shared a look with Pam, then reached over to give Blaine’s hair a ruffle.

“You’ll always be one to us, though.”

Sebastian watched this, and figured Blaine was lucky his family wasn’t locking him away after everything that had happened. But Cooper knew Blaine was growing up, no matter his teasing.

Sebastian suspected they wouldn’t actually be shut out of what was coming for long -- some things were simply inevitable.

--

“You never told me you sing.”

Sebastian and Blaine were lazing on Sebastian’s bed; Blaine had for once not complained about the covered window being a turn-off. Maybe he was realizing Sebastian had a point.

“I don’t. Not really.” Blaine leaned back against the wall. “I used to take lessons when I was a kid, but then my dad died …”

“Made you want to go into the family business?”

“I don’t know if I ever had a choice with that.”

“Of course you did.” Sebastian smiled at Blaine, amused. “You always have a choice.”

Blaine looked at him, breath catching, then nodded, marvelling to himself. “Yeah … yeah, I do.”

Sebastian reached over, hand curling around the back of Blaine’s neck, tugging him into a kiss. They shared several long, slow kisses, moving closer together, until Blaine was half in his lap. Sebastian was sliding his hand up the back of Blaine’s shirt, not pausing at the raised pattern of the scars, and Blaine wasn’t moving away so things were going very nicely --

And then an impatient knock came at the door.

“Bling-a-ling!” Tina called. “Come on, Santana wants to practise throws and we need a fourth!”

“So get Smythe’s tongue out of your mouth and get out here!” Santana added.

Blaine groaned and slid away from Sebastian and off the bed. Sebastian rolled his eyes.

“What am I, chopped liver?” Sebastian called as Blaine went to open the door. “I don’t get an invite?”

“You’re our judge,” Quinn said, poking her head into the room. “Loathe as we are to admit it, you’re the best here at this so you’ll check our technique.”

“Aww.” Sebastian bounced to his feet. “I get to nitpick and critique you guys? That’s so sweet, it’s like an early birthday present.”

“Don’t get too excited,” Santana told him as Sebastian joined Blaine outside the room, watching Blaine smile out of the corner of his eye. “Or we’ll throw you.”

“Hey. All good agents know how to take a fall. Not surprised you don’t know that though.”

“The problem with looking to you for how to do things, obviously,” Santana shot back, as they shut the door and started to walk together.

“But you can’t help but look at me, right, when I’m always ahead of you?”

“Alright, you two,” Blaine interrupted. “Let’s save the bloodshed for the barn.”

Sebastian and Santana shared a look. “Always killing our fun, Anderson,” Sebastian complained.

Blaine laughed, wrapping an arm around Sebastian’s waist. “My apologies,” Blaine said, and Sebastian draped an arm around Blaine’s shoulders in reply. Their fivesome headed down to the P&E barn together, laughing and chatting, terrorist threats and espionage worries miles and miles away. It was just them, and the winter calm, and the excitement of the holiday break and how they would spend it. Normal, human things.

The future was coming fast, Sebastian knew, and one day they would be helping take down the Circle. Take down his mom. But until then … he was going to enjoy all he had.

After all, he’d done his fair share of waiting for it.

--

fin