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Many the Miles

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“Why am I leaving?” Sebastian groans, turning his head against the pillow to look over at Kurt. They’re still sprawled in Sebastian’s bed, naked save for the one sock that Sebastian didn’t manage to kick off earlier.

“Because you’re studying International Relations, and it’s one of your requirements? Besides, it’s a great opportunity. And, I mean, it’s Europe, Sebastian; it’ll be amazing!”

Sebastian groans again, rolling onto his side and planting his face against Kurt’s shoulder. “You’re much more enthusiastic about this than I am. I’ve been to Europe. I’d rather stay here in bed with you.”

Kurt shoves gently at Sebastian’s shoulder, until he lifts his head to look at Kurt. “You’ve been to France; Germany is completely different. Besides, we both know you’re excited to go,” Kurt reminds him.

“Yeah,” Sebastian sighs, “I am excited.” He drops his head again, speaking between pressing kisses along Kurt’s collarbone. “I just wish you didn’t have to stay here while I’m there.”

“It’s only for the school year,” Kurt says, “and I’ll still be here when you get back.” It sounds a little like he’s trying to reassure them both. They lie in near silence for a few minutes, Sebastian kissing trails across his boyfriend’s naked torso. Eventually, Kurt weaves his fingers through Sebastian’s hair and tugs gently, telling him silently to stop even though it’s obvious that isn’t what either of them wants. “You should finish packing,” he says.

“I’d much rather keep doing this. Y’know, stock up on sex now, while we still can,” Sebastian says. Kurt laughs and is about to comment, but Sebastian sucks lightly at one of Kurt’s nipples and Kurt moans instead. His hand tightens in Sebastian’s hair, holding him in place rather than pulling him away. “Besides,” Sebastian says against Kurt’s skin, “my clothes are all dirty. Can’t pack dirty clothes.”

“You just did three loads of laundry; everything is clean,” Kurt says between gentle gasps as Sebastian slips his hand down under the sheet barely covering their hips.

“That was before we skipped dinner to have sex on top of my neatly sorted piles of clean clothes,” Sebastian explains patiently, while slowly working to drive Kurt mad.

“So what you’re saying is—uh,” Kurt cuts off on a groan.

“What I’m saying is that I’m going to have to do laundry again anyway, so we may as well really make it worthwhile.” Kurt gasps his agreement, hips arching off Sebastian’s bed and the piles of not-quite-clean clothes that neither of them can be bothered to waste minutes of their last night together moving.

---

The next morning—exhausted and bleary-eyed from spending the night rewashing Sebastian’s clothes, packing, and preparing the apartment for the subletter (all between bouts of sex)—Kurt walks Sebastian out to the street in front of the building.

They kiss for a long time, not wanting to separate, but eventually they have to. “You have to get to the airport,” Kurt says, leaning his forehead against Sebastian’s.

Sebastian yawns and nods against Kurt, pressing in to kiss him again. “I still think I could fit you in my suitcase and take you with me.”

“Yeah, but it would wreak havoc on my hair,” Kurt jokes, grinning tiredly at Sebastian. When Sebastian doesn’t smile back, Kurt’s expression softens, sensing the sudden change in his mood. “Hey,” he says, hand squeezing Sebastian’s hip gently.

Rather than responding, Sebastian kisses Kurt one more time before disentangling from their embrace and stepping back. He won’t meet Kurt’s gaze. “I should get to the airport,” he says, “and you should go home and sleep.” Kurt nods, watching Sebastian shut down his emotions and force a neutral smile back onto his face. Kurt sighs. This is the last time they’re going to be in the same place for months, and he isn’t going to let Sebastian’s habit of tamping down his emotions ruin their goodbye.

“I’m going to miss you, you know,” Kurt tells him, reaching out to grab Sebastian’s hand. Sebastian lets him, gripping back when Kurt squeezes his hand. The mask of neutrality melts just a little, and Sebastian’s smile looks suddenly sad, but at least it looks to Kurt like genuine emotion. Sebastian nods, and Kurt feels him tighten his grip.

“Yeah,” Sebastian says with a sigh. “Yeah, I know.” He finally looks Kurt in the eye and says, “I’ll miss you too.” Kurt can feel tears starting to press behind his eyes as he pulls his boyfriend in for a hug and feels Sebastian bury his face into the junction of his neck and shoulder.

They pull back after far too short a time, and Kurt glances at his phone to check the time. “You really need to go.” Sebastian nods again, ducking in for one last quick kiss before he grabs the handle of his suitcase and, with one last lingering look at Kurt, begins heading off down the sidewalk.

Kurt watches him for a few steps before calling out “Hey, Sebastian?” Sebastian stops, looking over his shoulder. “Have a good flight.”

Kurt hugs his arms around himself as he watches Sebastian walk away. For a moment he wishes that he could ask Sebastian to stay; he wishes that it didn't feel quite so much like something was ending, when they've only just really gotten the chance to start something good.

---

“I don’t know, ’Cedes,” Kurt says. He’s sitting in his desk chair, using his toes to push himself back and forth in half circles, while Mercedes watches him intently from her perch on Kurt’s bed. “Sometimes I think we’ll be fine, and maybe we’ll even be stronger at the end of it. But sometimes I think … I don’t know. Sebastian is hard enough to read when we’re in the same room.” He shrugs, trying not to look as overwhelmed as he feels by the potential outcomes of Sebastian’s year abroad. He can see too many ways for it to go badly—at least as far as their relationship is concerned.

“Kurt, he’s probably not even in Berlin yet, don’t you think you’re maybe jumping the gun here?” Mercedes asks as Kurt jabs the button on his phone to check for messages again. “I think you’re getting yourself worked up about things that haven’t happened yet and that might not ever happen. Try not to worry so much.”

“He should have landed half an hour ago,” Kurt says, not quite whining. Mercedes rolls her eyes at him in response.

Kurt wants to glare at Mercedes for implying that he’s overreacting, but he has to admit that of the two of them she’s typically the more level-headed about situations like this—especially the ones happening to Kurt. Eventually, he heaves a sigh but looks at Mercedes and waves a hand in indication for her to keep talking. “The two of you talked about this when it first became a possibility, and then again when you knew it was actually happening. And then you talked to me about it. And Rachel. And Elliott. You guys decided it was worth trying and that you could make it work.”

“Do you not believe that?” Kurt asks, digging his toes into the floor to stop the chair from swinging so he can stare Mercedes down properly. “Because you totally supported the idea when I talked to you about it then!” His voice is pitchy and edging towards hysterical.

“Kurt,” Mercedes says calmingly, “that’s not what I’m saying.” She waits until Kurt focuses back on her and relaxes a little before she continues. “All I’m saying is that you and Sebastian thought that you guys could make it work long distance. All of your friends thought you guys could make it work. It’s probably going to be hard, but you’re just making it harder on yourself if you start worrying too much about it now.” She reaches out and gently takes hold of one of Kurt’s hands, and Kurt relaxes a little more at the comforting touch. “I just don’t want you to make problems because you’re scared of what might happen.”

Kurt scoots off the chair and turns to plunk down on the bed next to Mercedes, grabbing her hand more tightly as they lean into one another. “I’m worried that it’s going to end badly,” Kurt says quietly. “I don’t want it to end.”

“I know, baby,” Mercedes says, smiling encouragingly at him, “but I think the best way to not let that happen is to try not to worry so much about what you might lose, and instead fight to keep what you have.”

Kurt leans over, dropping his head against Mercedes’s shoulder. Even though he’s tall enough now for it to be far less comfortable than it was when he was sixteen, it still feels the same in so many other ways. “I miss him already.”

“Mhmm,” Mercedes murmurs in agreement.

“Why hasn’t he called?”

“He will,” Mercedes says, pulling Kurt into a half hug and not commenting when he jabs at his phone to check for messages one more time.    

---

Kurt doesn’t hear from Sebastian until well after he has started to worry that maybe something happened. He’s rational enough to realize that there might be a reason less dire than the plane catching fire and plummeting into the ocean that might have prevented Sebastian from getting in touch, but it hasn’t stopped him from considering the worst possibilities.

Kurt’s phone finally rings late in the afternoon, nearly thirty-six hours after he and Sebastian had parted ways on the sidewalk. It’s longer than they’ve gone without any contact since they started dating, and when Kurt sees the—clearly foreign—telephone number come through and then finally hears Sebastian’s quiet “Hey, Kurt,” it feels like things he didn’t know were out of place suddenly settle back into focus.

“Hi,” Kurt says. Silence stretches across the line for a few seconds too long, and Kurt doesn’t know if it’s the international calling or just them not knowing how to do this yet. Either way it feels strangely awkward, and for all that Kurt has been tethered to his phone waiting for this exact call, he doesn’t know what to say. Eventually he manages to ask, “So you got there okay?”   

“Yeah,” Sebastian says. “Yeah, I got here okay.”

“I was starting to get a little worried that I hadn’t heard from you.”

“My flight got in late, and it took forever to get to campus from the airport. By the time I was checked in to housing and settled in, it was pretty much the middle of the night already. I just passed out, and then I had to go to orientation this morning.”

Kurt waits for more. He waits for an apology or even just acknowledgement of his worry, but all that comes through is the faint, muffled sound of a yawn. Kurt sighs. Sometimes he wishes that Sebastian were better at using words to express himself in ways that didn’t involve barbed commentary. “You sound tired."

"Mhmmm," Sebastian mumbles.

"Maybe you should take a nap or something, and we'll talk later?" Kurt says it like it's a question. He's hoping that Sebastian will agree and come back awake and ready to actually talk—to maybe discuss some of the weird tension that Kurt is feeling already and that he doesn't want to allow to go unchecked.

"No m'ok. If I sleep now, I'll never manage to adjust to the time change."

"Okay," Kurt says, "so, um, how are you other than tired? How was orientation?"

"Fine. Nothing exciting, really."

Kurt sighs. Sebastian's lack of expansion on how his day went is generally fine when Kurt can look at him: can see his relaxed smile or the tension in his shoulders that reveals more about his life than Sebastian thinks it does. It's not so productive when all Kurt can hear is Sebastian's tired and tinny voice coming through the phone. "Care to expand on that?" Kurt says, keeping his tone light and teasing in an attempt to coax more out of Sebastian.

He can practically hear Sebastian's noncommittal shrug. "It was orientation. It was almost exactly like the one I had to sit through in first year—dorm rules, school code of conduct, the so-called exciting events that happen on campus that we are ‘strongly encouraged to attend in order to make friends and make the most of our time here!’” Sebastian says, affecting an overly excited voice as he recites the words. “The only difference was the emphasis on trips to various tourist attractions and the reminder that we are ‘here at Humboldt to learn the language and culture,’ so we should take the opportunity to speak German as frequently as possible. It really wasn't that exciting."

Kurt still feels frustrated at Sebastian's reluctance to speak, but at least he's finally stringing words together in a useful way. Besides, Kurt reminds himself, Sebastian is far from home and his friends, jetlagged, and probably feeling overwhelmed even if he won't say so. The least Kurt can do is cut him a little slack until he's had more of a chance to settle in. "So do you have plans for the rest of the week? You classes don't actually start until Monday, right?"

"There's a—" Sebastian yawns, "a wine and cheese on Friday for all of the International Relations students, and a thing for exchange students tomorrow that I don't really want to go to. It'll depend on whether or not I finish unpacking and stuff, I guess."

"That sounds good. I hope you meet people at the, um, wine and cheese thing. It would be nice to have friends in your classes, right?" Kurt asks. He knows he doesn't really need to worry about that; Sebastian is good at meeting people and making friends—far better than Kurt is, honestly—and even a slight language barrier isn't going to stop him once he's had enough sleep to not be quite such an asshole.

"Yeah. I'm sure it'll be good."

There are a few long moments of silence, and Kurt figures that maybe given how tired Sebastian seems to be that they might be out of talking points for the moment. "Well, I guess I'll let you go back to unpacking," Kurt says. "Maybe we can Skype tomorrow or something?"

"Yeah, maybe."

Kurt tries not to sigh audibly. "Okay, well, have a good night. Let me know if you go to the whatever it is for exchange students tomorrow, okay? I want to hear about what you're getting up to over there."

"Okay. Night, Kurt."

"Good night," Kurt says, and then he presses the phone to his ear for another long moment until he hears the click from the other end that means that Sebastian has hung up. He hopes it’s just Sebastian’s exhaustion that stilted their conversation and that things will be better the next time they talk; as it is, Kurt tries his best not to feel more defeated now than he did before Sebastian called.

---

Kurt lies in his bed that night, eyes closed and cheek against the pillowcase that is growing warm under his touch, and he thinks about Sebastian. He thinks about how far they've come since they started dating. How much better both of them are at communicating what they want, even if Sebastian mostly does so through diversion tactics and touch. But Kurt has learned to read those signs. In the same way, Sebastian has learned to understand the little things that give away Kurt's true opinion on things, like the raised eyebrow and pursed mouth that mean he's judging something and probably trying not to comment out loud about it.

Kurt thinks about how much they have learned over their six months together, and then he considers the next nine. Sebastian will be gone for nearly three month longer the time that they have already been dating. It's a scary thing to realize—the time they are facing apart will more than double the length of their current relationship. If they survive it. It seems like just enough time to figure out how to navigate a long distance relationship, the way it has taken them most of their six months even to really learn to be together: to fit into and around each other's lives.

It's like traveling to the other side of the world for a week—it's long enough to finally overcome jet lag, only to turn around and become jet lagged all over again upon returning home. Only it's not sleep schedules that have Kurt concerned, though the time difference between them certainly won't help, but the relationship jet lag that they'll have to fight through, only to be thrown off once again when Sebastian returns.

It's far too late by the time Kurt manages to turn off his brain so he can stop tossing and turning in his bed and finally fall asleep. He sleeps fitfully for a handful of hours, not quite able to get comfortable when he can still feel Sebastian's phantom weight against his back, disappearing when Kurt tries to curl closer.

---

Kurt catches Sebastian on Skype a few nights later just as he’s about to log off.

Hey, you here? Kurt types to Sebastian.

Just about to head to bed. Jet lag is a bitch.

Can you spare five minutes to talk to your boyfriend?

There's no response for a moment, but Kurt hits call anyway, hoping Sebastian will answer.

The picture comes through laggy and pixelated at first, and Kurt can hardly make out Sebastian's face in the odd yellowed lighting and poor picture quality. It sounds like Sebastian says "hi, Kurt," but the sound is choppy too.

When the image finally clears up a little, Kurt can just make out how exhausted Sebastian looks. "Hey," he says, "how was your day? You a little more settled in now?" Sebastian nods, yawning into the crook of his elbow.

"It wasn't too bad. I seriously fucking hate jet lag though."

Kurt laughs lightly, but he's a little occupied by looking at Sebastian and can't think of anything to say other than "yeah." It's been three days—nearly four—since he's seen Sebastian, and just the sight of him makes Kurt ache to touch him. He doesn't say so, but he does let himself stare a little more than maybe he should.

Kurt must stare in silence for too long, because Sebastian starts getting impatient. "Was there something you wanted to talk about, Kurt?" Sebastian asks. He sounds tired and just shy of irritated, and it throws Kurt a little. Kurt is used to Sebastian being a bit irritable and even a bit of an asshole at the best of times, but so far their conversations since Sebastian has left have been nothing but the worst of Sebastian's impatience and uncommunicative nature.

"I just wanted to see how you were doing," Kurt says, his voice smaller than he wants it to be, even as he crosses his arms and hardens himself against Sebastian's bad mood.

“I’m fine,” Sebastian says, yawning again. He snaps his mouth shut at the end of the yawn like he’s irritated by the effects of his own exhaustion.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Kurt asks. “You still look exhausted.”

“Yeah, well,” Sebastian says, “it’s after midnight, and I’ve barely slept since I left New York.”

"We didn’t exactly sleep much the night before you left either,” Kurt says playfully, trying to lighten the mood. Usually Sebastian will latch on to even the barest hint at the topic of sex—especially, Kurt has learned, when he’s avoiding other topics—but tonight Sebastian just shuts it down without even thinking about it.

"No, we didn't," Sebastian says. Kurt tries not to read regret into the tone of Sebastian's voice and the way his eyes seem to be looking at something off to the side of the computer screen rather than at Kurt—not when it would mean that Sebastian would have rather slept through that last night together when Kurt's been holding it close and picturing it when he closes his eyes.

Kurt wishes he'd cataloged more moments before Sebastian's departure, but that's the clearest image he has of the two of them together—that last night where they'd kissed, and talked, and fucked until they had run out of time—and it seems like Sebastian doesn't care at all.

"Well ... I guess I should let you go," Kurt says when the silence has dragged on too long again.

"I'll message you, okay?" Sebastian says. His voice is tired and worn, but gentler than the annoyed tone he had been using, like he'd just realized how much of a jerk he was being.

"Yeah. We have phones. We should use them." Kurt stares at Sebastian's image on the screen until Sebastian's eyes seem to meet his through the monitor. Kurt reads an apology in them, and it's enough for now, even if he sometimes wishes that Sebastian would learn to use his words just a little more often.

---

Kurt’s classes start two days later than Sebastian’s. His first class is Theatre History, a required class that both he and Rachel have been putting off since second year in favour of the more exciting performance classes. Kurt arrives early to a room half full of people he doesn’t recognize—almost all of them second years, he suspects. One of the girls near the front of the room eyes Kurt with a scrutinizing gaze as he passes her, heading for an unoccupied table in the back corner of the room. He gets the sense that he’s not going to be fast friends with most of his classmates, and he’s more than a little glad that he’ll have Rachel there for company so that he doesn’t have to brave any pair activities alone.

Except that a few minutes before class is scheduled to start, Rachel still hasn’t arrived. Kurt was hoping to have time before class to talk to her; Rachel only just got back from an end of summer trip to visit her dads back in Ohio, and had spent her first night back at her boyfriend Jason’s. It’s not unusual; even though they theoretically still live together, Kurt and Rachel are rarely both at the loft these days, and Kurt has barely seen or spoken to her in a while. They need time to catch up. And maybe Kurt was hoping to have the chance to talk to her about Sebastian.

Rachel shows up just moments before class begins, flopping down into the chair beside Kurt’s and smiling brightly at him in greeting. Before Kurt can even try to begin a conversation with her, the professor shuts the door, greets the class, and begins introducing the subject matter in a monotone that only serves to confirm Kurt’s long-held suspicions that the class is bound to be among the dullest things he has ever experienced.

Kurt manages to pay attention to most of the professor's introduction, but the moment he hands out the course syllabus and begins reading directly from it Kurt loses all interest and begins doodling idly on the edge of his paper. Rachel must feel the same, because moments later a note penned in pink ink hits the side of Kurt’s hand.

How can someone who teaches theatre be so dull?

Kurt snorts quietly and looks up at Rachel, who tilts her head pointedly in the direction of the teacher. Kurt shakes his head lightly and scribbles a message onto the paper.

It’s theatre history, Rach. It doesn’t count.

“Well it should!” Rachel whispers hotly, as though personally affronted by the school’s lack of screening for boring voices when hiring theatre history professors. She probably is personally affronted, Kurt thinks, rolling his eyes fondly.

"It's just one semester," he whispers back, rather more quietly than Rachel had, "and it's a mandatory class. We just have to get through it. It could be worse."

By halfway through the ninety minute class Kurt is entirely convinced that he was wrong. It could not, in fact, be worse.

The professor is a stodgy, traditional sort, intent on discussing things in a stodgy, traditional manner that does not interest Kurt at all. Not to mention the fact that the he had praised all of the second years for taking an interest in learning the "history of their craft," all the while lambasting those who focused solely on performance and "deemed themselves too important to bother learning the foundations." Rachel had huffed indignantly at that, looking about ready to begin arguing. Kurt had nearly let her, if only because it would have been more interesting than the lecture itself, but instead he had put a hand on Rachel's arm, drawing her attention and shaking his head once. She had deflated immediately, pursing her lips momentarily before relaxing back in her chair, arms crossed over her chest in resignation, and immediately turning again to Kurt.

"So, how's life without Sebastian going?" she asks quietly.

"It sucks," Kurt says, glancing towards the professor to see if he was paying any attention to them. "Um, maybe we should talk about this later?"

"He's not even paying attention to us, Kurt. He probably wouldn't even notice if we set off firecrackers back here." Kurt looked up at the professor again, noting that he was—as he had been for the entire period so far—standing behind the lectern and reading directly from his notes without looking up. When he looked back to Rachel, she continued. "So how is it? Give me more than 'it sucks', because that doesn't tell me anything. Does he like Berlin? How are you guys doing with the whole distance thing?"

"Sebastian is ... frustrating," Kurt says eventually.

"That's nothing new, Kurt," Rachel says, “Sebastian has been frustrating since high school.” She pauses. “Actually, probably since long before that. But he has been frustrating you specifically for like six years off and on.” Rachel and Sebastian actually get along rather well after so much time spent together because of Kurt, but their relationship often consists of antagonizing each other more than anything else. If anyone was going to give Kurt an honest opinion on the situation he was in with Sebastian, it would be Rachel.

“As it turns out, Sebastian plus jet lag is not a good combination,” Kurt says, trying not to sound too bitter. “I mean, he’s not exactly the best at communicating about important things at the best of times, Rach. And this is not the best of times.”

“Is the Skype sex good at least? Sebastian has certainly never had any issues communicating on that subject.”

Kurt sighs. He lowers his voice even further when he responds, trying not to clue their classmates in to the conversation about his sex life. “We aren’t even—we haven’t even tried to. It’s like Sebastian has been replaced with a grumpy asshole who doesn’t know how to even say that something is bothering him.” Rachel gives him a flat look. “Okay, fine, not replaced, because he’s always—ugh, you know what I mean!”

Rachel pats Kurt’s hand sympathetically. “I’m sorry that Sebastian is being an idiot,” she says.

“Yeah,” Kurt says flatly. “Thanks.”

“But you guys will figure it out. Give him a few more days to settle in before you get too mad at him.” Kurt nods, trying to believe that things will get better than they have been so far and that they really will figure it out. “But if he doesn’t at least try to seduce you in the next week,” Rachel continues after a moment, “then I’d think that something might be really wrong.” Kurt can’t help but laugh in agreement.

---

In the week and a half since Sebastian left, Kurt has spoken to him only twice aside from the initial phone call when Sebastian first arrived in Berlin. Of those two conversations, the first was the short Skype call—short and tense and ultimately unfulfilling. The second had been an aborted Skype call a few days later plagued by slow internet connections. The picture and sound had been unclear: cutting in and out enough that eventually Kurt and Sebastian had given up and turned to typing to each other. But they had both already been frustrated, and without knowing how to communicate big things without being able to see, or at least hear, one another, they struggled to keep the conversation going. Both experiences left Kurt feeling even more downtrodden and negative about the future prospects of their relationship.

Before Sebastian left, they had promised to keep in constant communication—to text and call, and not let distance come between them—but so far they’ve fallen far short of the mark.

But Kurt knows that Sebastian must be swamped by the start of classes—classes that will be in a language Sebastian hasn’t grown up speaking—meeting new people, finding his way around the city, and culture shock. Not to mention the time difference, which, Kurt now realizes, they hadn’t truly accounted for in all of their discussions and planning.

Kurt tries to Skype Sebastian when he gets home from class on Wednesday, but it's already after six in New York and nearing midnight in Berlin. Kurt is puttering around the kitchen, making dinner while they chat, but Sebastian is already yawning, having been up early for a meeting with the academic adviser in charge of exchange students. But Kurt is loath to let him go. He's not ready for Sebastian's face to disappear from his screen just yet—not when they've barely spoken beyond a brief email in days. Especially not when it's the first time since Sebastian left that conversation between them has felt anything but stilted and awkward.

"How are your classes?" Sebastian asks.

"They're fine," Kurt says, "but this year has just started, and I already can't wait for it to end. I just want to be DONE. I'm so tired of school." Kurt pauses for a moment before continuing.

Sebastian laughs before he can start talking again, and when Kurt glances at his computer where it is set up on the counter, there's a smile on Sebastian's face. "That's the only reason, huh?"

Kurt glares at Sebastian's image on the monitor. "You know the other reason; don't even pretend that you don't." Sebastian cocks an eyebrow in challenge. "Fine. I miss you, okay?" Sebastian's smile softens just a little, and Kurt likes it so much better when he can see Sebastian’s face clearly while they're talking. He's so much easier to read that way.

There's a drawn out silence, but it's not awkward like the breaks in their earlier conversations. Instead, they watch each other smiling, and it feels like all those moments from the beginning of their relationship that made Kurt think that maybe, just maybe, their relationship could work, despite everything that might seem to be against them.

They chat until it really is past time for Sebastian to go to bed, then spend ten minutes trying to say goodnight and end up laughing instead.

"Okay, I'm actually going to log off now," Sebastian says, smiling brightly through the screen.

"Yeah, okay," Kurt says. "I suppose I have to let you get some sleep, don't I?"

Sebastian pauses for a moment, and there's a glint in his eye when he finally responds. "Not if you had something more interesting for me to be doing? Something that you might be able to provide some help with ..." Sebastian trails off, the hint clear in his voice.

"Mm," Kurt hums, "and what, pray tell, are you implying is more interesting than talking to me?"

"Oh, nothing. I just thought you might consider using those words of yours for talking about something different for a little while."

"Did you now?" Kurt asks, still playing at not knowing what Sebastian is saying, even though they're both well aware of how far from the truth that is.

"Mhmm, I thought you might tell me about some of the di—" Sebastian breaks off to yawn, "dirty things you want to do to this body." Sebastian gestures expansively at himself.

"As tempting as that is," Kurt says, and he means it, "it might be more fun when you don't look like you're going to pass out and leave me hanging half way through."

Sebastian huffs a sigh. "Fiiiine," he whines jokingly.

"Soon though," Kurt tells him. "Really soon."

"Definitely." There's another brief pause, and then Sebastian says, "Well if I'm not getting any, I suppose I really should go to bed."

"Yeah, you should. Night, Sebastian," Kurt says.

"Good night, Kurt."

Kurt is just about to end the call, when he hears Sebastian's voice say quietly, "I miss you too."

Kurt smiles for the rest of the night.

---

They do better after that. During the day, they keep up a near constant stream of texting; most of their messages are pointless chatter, but it keeps them in contact at times when they're both running between classes and other activities. At night they try to Skype, though they rarely manage to have more than a few minutes.

Sometimes they text right up until Sebastian falls asleep. But having finally adapted to his new time zone, Sebastian is thrilled to exploit any opportunity to turn night time conversation into sex. For that matter, Sebastian will take any opportunity to turn ANY conversation into sex, and Kurt has found himself in more than a few awkward situations as a result. More than once, Sebastian has texted Kurt from his bed, dictating everything that he's doing while Kurt was still in an evening class.

Aside from the awkward situations that Sebastian seems to thrill in trying create, Kurt isn't exactly about to complain (and he’ll only complain about those situations because he would far rather be able to participate in what Sebastian is describing than have to sit through the rest of his class). He misses touching Sebastian, and it's nice—more than nice—knowing that Sebastian feels the same way: that Sebastian thinks about Kurt and hasn't found some German fantasy boy to take over his thoughts .

For the first time since Sebastian left, things feel almost like they did before. Kurt revels in the feeling, believing for the first time in months that they’re going to come out the other end of this still together and stronger than before.

---

Pamela Lansbury books a show at a local bar in early November. It’s not much, really, a couple of sets played to a drunken audience that will mostly ignore them. But it’s a chance to play for a crowd, and it’s far better than nothing.

Kurt keeps staring out towards the audience from his spot in the corner behind the bar, feeling jittery and nervous. He watches all of the people milling around the little round tables and the open space in front of the raised platform that acts as a stage. Even without being able to see every person in the crowd, he knows that Sebastian isn’t in it.

The phone shoved in his pocket still has a text from Sebastian pulled up and hidden just behind the lock screen. Break a leg. Wish I could be there. It’s not much, and no, maybe it’s not great form for Kurt to take his phone on stage when they play, but right now he doesn’t care—it’s the only piece of Sebastian that he has with him. Kurt can’t help it, he misses Sebastian, and it feels entirely wrong for him not to be there when the band goes on.

Kurt is bouncing on his toes, shaking his hands to try to release some of the nerves, and he nearly ends up smacking Elliott when he turns up beside Kurt in the dimly lit corner, asking, “Hey, you okay?” Kurt keeps bouncing, even as he turns towards Elliott. “You’re not usually quite this … bouncy before shows.”

“Kurt’s extra nervous because Sebastian isn’t here,” Rachel says as she comes up behind Elliott.

“Ohhh,” Elliott says, “makes sense now.”

Kurt shoots a quick glare at Rachel, but he can’t deny the truth in her words. “This is the first time since before we started dating that Sebastian hasn’t been in the audience when Pamela Lansbury is performing,” Kurt explains. “It feels … weird. I don’t like him not being here.”

“And obviously it has nothing to do with the fact that you didn’t get your traditional pre-performance blow job,” Rachel teases. Kurt splutters unattractively. “What, you thought we didn’t know?”

Elliott laughs, probably because he too knows Sebastian well enough to be completely unsurprised by traditions involving blow jobs. He claps a hand apologetically onto Kurt’s shoulder. “Sorry, Kurt,” he says, still laughing. “We know you miss Sebastian.”

Kurt crosses his arms with a huff, but he’s smiling now at least. He’s even feeling a little bit more relaxed now that he’s being distracted by talking and laughing with his friends instead of alone in the corner with only his thoughts.

Santana and Dani appear from the direction of the bathrooms a few minutes later, and they look rumpled and self-satisfied. Kurt looks them over and rolls his eyes at their blatant disregard for whether anyone knows exactly what they’ve been up to.

“Hummel, don’t judge me for getting my lady loving on just because you miss loverboy’s hot mouth wrapped around your—”

“Santana!” Kurt all but screeches at her.

“I’m just saying you have no right to judge me for getting mine. We all know you’re no virgin queen.”

“You’re all terrible people,” Kurt says. “I’m going to go text Sebastian before we go on.”

“You have two minutes,” Santana calls after him, “so don’t get yourself too worked up.”

Kurt groans and ducks into the hall leading to the bathrooms to text Sebastian a quick message. I wish you were here too. It’s not the same without you. He hits send and then stares at his screen for a moment, trying to pretend that he’s not hoping for an immediate response. Santana peeks her head into the hall a moment later, a blatantly lascivious look on her face as though she’d been hoping to catch Kurt doing something dirty. Kurt holds one finger up to her before she can even start to speak, sending off a quick second text to Sebastian. And we need new friends. These ones know too much.

---

It’s late when Kurt is called back from the edge of sleep by a ringing-buzzing combination that it takes him far too long to identify as coming from his phone. He’d gotten home from the bar just after midnight, too tired after coming down from the rush of nerves and performing to even consider staying for another round of drinks when bed was an option. He had immediately crawled into bed when he arrived home, and he’d had every intention of sleeping as many hours as possible. To say he’s unhappy at the disruption to his sleep would be an understatement.

By the time Kurt figures out what the sound is and wrestles his arms out from under the covers to grope for his phone on the nightstand, the ringing has stopped. Kurt lets his hand go slack, its search forgotten, his arm flopping down to dangle off the side of bed as he burrows his head back into the pillow. It’s nearly one in the morning, whoever was calling can wait until morning for a response, he thinks. It was probably a drunken misdial anyway.

Kurt is sinking back towards sleep when the ringing-buzzing starts up again. He’s quicker to react this time, grabbing his phone and swiping his thumb haphazardly across the screen before pressing it to the ear that isn’t against his pillow.

“H’lo?” Kurt mumbles tiredly.

“Kuuuurt. Everything’s wrong.”

“Sebastian?” Kurt asks. Something about Sebastian’s voice sounds off: upset almost. It’s after six in the morning in Germany, he calculates, and something is wrong. Kurt immediately pushes himself up to sit against his headboard, worried and unable to do anything but try to get details out of Sebastian. “What’s going on? What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”

“Nooope. But everything’s wrong,” Sebastian repeats, the words running together this time.

And then Kurt puts the pieces together and figures it out: Sebastian isn’t hurt, he’s drunk. Spectacularly so, by the sound of it. Between having been mostly asleep and the slightly unclear sound of the phone call, Kurt hadn’t recognized it at first. But now he hears the lisping slur and the tired tone that Sebastian’s voice takes on when he’s drunk, but that Kurt mistook this time for pain.

“Why is everything wrong, Sebastian?” Kurt asks calmly, relaxing back into his pillows a little more now that he suspects that nothing terrible has actually happened—it’s probably nothing more than Sebastian’s typical drunken melancholy, and that, at least, Kurt knows how to deal with.

“I wasn’t there!” Sebastian whines. Kurt thinks maybe Sebastian means the show, and it’s almost comforting to think that Sebastian was as unhappy about not being there as Kurt was not to have him in the audience. “I wasn’t there, so I was at th’party with the alcohol, and he was pretty, Kurt. SO pretty. The prettiest.” Sebastian says seriously.  

And suddenly Kurt doesn’t know what to say, or even what to think. The comfortable, connected feeling from a moment earlier dissipates as quickly as it had come.  

“Not ’s pretty as you,” Sebastian continues, “but he had your eyes, and I missed you so much, Kurt. I couldn’t help it.”

And then it hits Kurt like a punch in the gut: Sebastian went out and picked up some boy who reminded him of Kurt. Apparently because he missed Kurt. But Sebastian can’t have been thinking about him that much if he was fucking someone else while Kurt was staring out at the crowded bar wishing Sebastian was there watching.

“Had to tell you,” Sebastian says.

Kurt feels sick. Sebastian was right: everything is wrong.

“What?” Kurt says, his voice failing him and coming out as a weak croak. “I don’t understand why …” he trails off. He doesn’t know what to say anyway.

“I just missed you so much.”

“You said that already,” Kurt says flatly, feeling tears starting to press behind his eyes. He doesn’t know what response Sebastian wants. Maybe for Kurt to say it’s okay, but he can’t say that, because it’s not. It’s about as far from okay as it can possibly be. It’s Kurt’s worst fears about Sebastian leaving coming true.

“S’true,” Sebastian mumbles. “Was dancing with him ’n all I could think was that I loved you. Had to leave and tell you. Gotta make sure you know.”

“What?” Kurt asks again. His head is spinning, and he feels even more confused than before.

“It was wrong, Kurt, everything felt wrong. Couldn’t even dance with someone who wasn’t you. Love you too much.”

“What did you just say?”

“Hmm?” Sebastian hums questioningly.

“Sebastian, did you just say that you love me?” Kurt asks.  He’s still reeling from everything that has been said, and he’s not sure he can take much more emotional whiplash.

There’s a moment of silence before Sebastian says, “’Course.” He says it like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, and Kurt laughs in relief as the tears he’s been holding back finally break free.

“I love you too,” Kurt says. He doubts Sebastian will remember any of this in the morning. It still feels good to say the words when he’s been thinking them for months and just never quite managed to find the right moment to say them out loud.

"Mmm, good," Sebastian says. Kurt can almost hear Sebastian becoming tired now that he's no longer running on the desperate, drunken need to talk to Kurt.

"Are you going to be okay to get home?" Kurt asks, even though it's not like he can do anything to help Sebastian home from where he is.

"Mhmm," Sebastian hums.

Kurt doesn't quite believe that Sebastian isn't just going to fall asleep wherever it is he's currently sitting—he can't help but hope that it's somewhere safe and indoors, rather than the front stoop of an apartment building, or worse—but he just says, “Good,” and does his best to trust that, even drunk, Sebastian can take care of himself. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Text me when you’re over the worst of the hangover, okay?”

Kurt can almost hear Sebastian nodding tiredly into the phone in reply. The image is admittedly kind of adorable.

---

It’s late morning in New York by the time Sebastian signs in to Skype, looking more than a little rough, with dark smudges under his eyes and face greyed from exhaustion.

“Hey, Kurt,” Sebastian greets.

“You look like hell,” Kurt tells him in lieu of a greeting.

“I feel like death, and I can’t seem to get the taste of sweat socks off of my tongue,” Sebastian says, and Kurt can hear the gravelly edge to his voice that isn’t usually there.

“Well take me now, sailor,” Kurt says, completely deadpan. Sebastian attempts a grin, but it looks stretched and wan compared to his usual full-force attitude. After a beat Kurt says, “All that might have something to do with the unknown quantity of miscellaneous alcohol I’m assuming you consumed last night.” Kurt doesn’t know how much Sebastian remembers, if anything, but he’s hoping that by making it clear that they spoke that maybe Sebastian will give him a hint one way or the other.

Sebastian groans. “I was sort of hoping that I’d dreamed the part where I drunk dialed you in the middle of the night.”

That’s more than clear enough for Kurt to take the hint. “Oh,” he says, trying not to sound too disappointed.

“No!” Sebastian says, tired eyes wide as he visibly backtracks. “I don’t mean—ugh.” Kurt watches Sebastian run his hands through his hair in frustration, tugging the already messy style into further disarray. “I don’t regret what I said. But I was missing you and thinking about the fact that Pamela Lansbury was performing, and I wasn’t going to be there. So I was drinking. A lot. And there are better ways for that to have happened.”

"So you do love me?" Kurt asks, smiling. He already knows the answer, but he wants to hear it: he wants to hear Sebastian say, without influence of alcohol or anything else, that he loves Kurt.

Sebastian looks startled, like he expected to have to fight more to make Kurt understand that he wasn't just being a rambling drunk who didn't mean what he said. But the reality is that Kurt didn't actually doubt it for more than a moment. Despite Sebastian being out of it the night before, and being more than a bit of an idiot both then and now, Kurt knew the moment it was said that Sebastian really did love him—alcohol or not.

After a moment, Sebastian's surprise shifts into a smile. It's still not quite his typical lascivious grin, but it's something completely different instead: something softer with a hint of vulnerability that Sebastian is usually good at tucking away.

"Yeah. Yeah, I do love you," Sebastian says quietly.

"I love you too," Kurt tells him, "even if you are an idiot."                                

"Hey! What did I do to deserve that?" Sebastian asks in mock affront. "Isn't my loving boyfriend supposed to make me feel better when I'm sick, not call me names?"

"You're hung over, Sebastian. It's not the same as being sick," Kurt says with a laugh and a roll of his eyes. "Besides, it’s not undeserved. Do you remember anything else you said last night?"

Kurt watches Sebastian scrunch his up face in thought. “I remember telling you that I danced with someone but couldn’t stop thinking about you …” Sebastian trails off, closing his eyes and rubbing at his temples like trying to recall the details of the conversation is bringing back his hangover headache full force. He looks up at Kurt and says, “Did I say something else? I can’t remember.”

Kurt sighs. “Let’s just say that drunk you isn’t entirely aware of how much phrasing can impact what it sounds like you’re saying.”

Sebastian’s expression twists in confusion again. “What did I—oh fuck.” The pinched expression breaks open, and Sebastian’s look turns to horror as he scrubs one hand across his eyes and groans.

“There it is,” Kurt says. He almost wants to laugh at Sebastian’s litany of groans and curses. But Sebastian looks so pained, and Kurt does feel a little bad, so he gives Sebastian a sympathetic look instead.

“Did I really imply that—” Sebastian groans again. “I really am an idiot when I’m drunk.”

“Yep,” Kurt says, maybe a little too chirpily given Sebastian’s current unpleasant state of hung-over realization. “Might I suggest you resist the temptation of overindulging to try to stop missing me?” Kurt teases, “I know how missable I am, but it doesn’t seem to work, if the show last night was anything to go by.”

“Yeah, it really doesn’t,” Sebastian says, looking a little grumpy at the teasing. When Kurt really looks at him, he can see that it’s not only grouchiness; Sebastian is closing off, apparently done talking about emotional matters. “I’ll take that under advisement.”

Kurt wants to tell Sebastian that their relationship isn’t a job:  that he doesn’t have to “take things under advisement,” but he stops himself short of the actual words. It’s not the moment—not when Sebastian looks like he wants to crawl into a dark corner and sleep off the rest of his hangover in peace, and certainly not when his expression has closed off and turned impenetrable.

They end the call a little while later, without ever returning to the subject of feelings. Kurt continues to stare at his computer screen for a long while after, eventually poking idly at a level of Candy Crush Saga while his brain whirls with thoughts about the mystery that is his boyfriend. He could never quite grasp how it happened that one moment they could be having a perfectly reasonable conversation, and the next moment Sebastian could be shutting down completely because Kurt had called him out, however teasingly, about having feelings at all.

Kurt can live with quirks like this though, especially given what he gets in return. And right now Kurt has a relationship with a boy who loves him, and who he loves in return, and he’s not about to let anything ruin the happiness that comes from knowing that.

---

Somehow it seems harder to be apart once they’ve admitted to being in love. Kurt wants to curl up with Sebastian on Saturday mornings, watching bad movies and having endless amounts of sex. Instead he curls up around his pillow, hugging it tight and wishing it would hug back, even though he has proved a hundred times or more that it never will.

It’s not like it wasn’t bad before—Kurt feels like he has been missing Sebastian since before he even left—but this is a big step in their relationship, and it feels like one that should be celebrated together in the same room. Preferably with blow jobs.

“I’m still mad that you’re so far away right now,” Kurt says half-jokingly a few days later, when he’s Skyping with Sebastian.

Sebastian laughs. “Kurt, I’ve been here for months. It's not like this is a new thing.”

“I know,” Kurt says, sighing, “but the whole 'I love you' thing is new, and it sort of feels like it should be ... I don't know ..."

"Consummated?" Sebastian asks, and Kurt can see the look on his face that blatantly says he’s thinking about all the ways he would like to consummate things.

Kurt shrugs. "I'm not sure that's the word I would have chosen, but yeah."

"Would you prefer I call it making love?" Sebastian laughs; he's clearly teasing Kurt, and he looks about ready to start into every euphemism he can think of—an expansive list to be sure—but Kurt thinks he sees something else in Sebastian's eyes. There’s the barest hint of not quite covered up emotion that tells Kurt that Sebastian wishes they were together right now too, and for more than just sex.

"Please never call it that ever," Kurt says. He's all for romance, but the term "making love" will never be anything but disgustingly cheesy. He shrugs again. "Whatever you want to call it, it would have been nice, okay?"

Sebastian sobers a little. "Yeah, it would have been." There's only a beat of the somber mood before Sebastian's natural instinct kicks in again. "But you know," Sebastian says, voice nothing short of flirtatious, "just because we aren't in the same room doesn't mean we can't still consummate our love."

Kurt groans quietly at the words, but he can't deny that it's a tempting thought. “It’s not really the same thing,” he says, thinking over the offer for all of a second before giving in. “But I suppose it’ll have to do.”

---

Kurt tries, mostly unsuccessfully, to speed through the rest of the year. He fills as much of his time as possible, trying to fast forward the time until Sebastian’s return by keeping occupied as close to twenty-four hours a day as he can manage. When he isn’t talking to Sebastian, he throws himself into school and then ever increasingly into his post-graduation plans.

By the time his last semester at NYADA begins, Kurt is constantly on the lookout for auditions and opportunities to make connections. He and Rachel get together regularly to scour audition listings and to work on audition pieces. They go to every event they can that might lead to connections that could help them land work once they graduate.   

It's a plan that starts taking over both of their lives and keeps them pushing through the senior slump that they, and many of their classmates, start being sucked in to right from the first week of classes. None of them want to face the reality that once they leave NYADA, no matter how special they have been and how many solos they have earned while there, they will all just become part of the ever-growing crowd of actors fighting for a limited number of roles. So they cling to their half-baked plan and jump at even the most far-fetched opportunities.

“Kuuuurt, come on!” Rachel says, half whining because she knows that it will make Kurt give in faster. Kurt is well aware of her tactics, and yet he can never seem to say no to her when it comes to things like this.

“I’m supposed to Skype with Sebastian after class, Rach. You know that. The beginning of the semester has been busy for both of us, and we haven’t had much time to talk in the last few days.”

“But it’s an opportunity, Kurt! An opportunity to get cast in a show. One that pays, even! Isn’t that what we’ve been doing all of this for?” Rachel asks, waving her hands to encompass “all of this” even though there isn’t a shred of physical evidence to show for all of the work they’ve been doing to prepare for entering the real world.

Kurt groans. Rachel is right and he knows it. If he’d known about the open call before he’d made plans with Sebastian, he wouldn’t have hesitated. It was a great opportunity, even if only ended up being more experience auditioning and facing rejection. But Rachel had appeared in class talking a mile a minute about open auditions happening “right now, Kurt!” and Kurt hasn’t even managed to catch what the show is, but he knows he’s going to end up going to the auditions. Neither of them has gotten so much as a call back from any of the auditions they’ve gone to so far, but they both know that the only way to make it is to keep fighting and to keep auditioning.

Kurt considers for another moment and then heaves a sigh. “Fine. Yes,” Kurt says, and Rachel throws herself at him in a death grip hug.

Going to an audition w Rachel after class. Reschedule?  Kurt texts Sebastian. He feels bad about cancelling on Sebastian, but it isn’t like they’ve never changed their plans before.

The response comes through a moment later. Oh. I wanted to talk to you. Maybe later?

Kurt feels another little pang of guilt when he reads it, but it’s his career he’s thinking about, and he knows that Sebastian understands that. After all, it’s Sebastian’s own career that has him on exchange in Germany.

If you’re awake when I get home, maybe. Otherwise tomorrow? Kurt sends back just before class starts. He tucks his phone into his bag and moves to join the rest of the class in warming up; he forgets about his the conversation completely as he focuses all of his energy on perfecting the tango.

---

Kurt hears his phone chime in his bag just as he’s picking up a slice of pizza on his way home from the audition. Rachel had abandoned him to head back to campus, so he’s stuck rifling through his bag one handed while he grabs his change and his pizza with the other, trying to get out of the way of the person behind him. He takes a huge bite of pizza as his groping hand finally finds the phone.

There’s a text from Sebastian on the screen, and Kurt deflates a little when he sees it.

Going to bed. I hope the audition went well.

Kurt juggles objects for a moment, pizza slice hanging from his mouth as he shuffles things between hands until he has his phone clutched in his right so he can actually type out a response to Sebastian.   

I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. Love you.

He gets a response moments later.

love you too

Kurt sighs as he tucks his phone away again. He had hoped that Sebastian would still be up when he got home so that they could talk. It has seemed okay to postpone their conversation, but now Kurt feels guilt creeping up on him when he remembers that Sebastian had been the one actively trying to plan time where they could talk. It’s too late now, Kurt thinks, but it doesn’t assuage his guilt.

---

When Kurt wakes up the next morning, the first thing he does is text Sebastian saying he’s awake and on Skype, so Sebastian should call whenever.

Doing homework at the library. I’ll call in a few hours when I get home.

It’s Saturday, and for once Kurt has nowhere to be, so he sets his laptop up to play music and settles in with a cup of coffee and a book to wait for Sebastian to get home.

His plan of a quiet day is ruined less than an hour later when Rachel and Mercedes storm the loft, takeout coffees, bags of pastries, and stacks of movies in tow.

“I thought you were at Jason’s all weekend,” Kurt says to Rachel as she plunks down on the couch beside him. Mercedes settles on the other side of him, and Kurt reaches over for her hand, squeezing it once in greeting before letting go.

Rachel waves him off. “I ditched him in favour of a girls’ day, because I’ve barely seen either of you lately.”

“And whose fault is that?” Kurt says. He’s teasing, but the truth is that he really does miss having Rachel around; the loft feels lonely and empty when he’s often the only one there.

Rachel smacks him lightly with a pillow. “It’s not like you’re any better when Sebastian is around. You sleep at his place more than you sleep here.”

“Yeah, well his apartment has walls around his bedroom,” Kurt says, and then he looks pointedly at Rachel. “That matters to some of us.”

Mercedes cackles a laugh. “I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter to Sebastian,” she says.

“And you haven’t even lived with one of them!” Rachel says, leaning around Kurt to talk to Mercedes. “Do you have any idea how many things I’ve heard? And seen.”

“Oh my god,” Kurt half screeches. “And this is why walls are important!” The girls laugh, and Rachel shifts to hug Kurt before hopping up off the couch.

“So what are we watching first? Miss Congeniality? Please say yes!” Rachel claps her hands together pleadingly.

“Oooh, yes,” Mercedes says. Kurt rolls his eyes but doesn’t even try to argue.

Rachel puts the movie in, and piles back onto the couch, slinging her feet over Kurt’s lap with a grin.

They’re well into their third movie, mud masks setting on their faces, when a text comes through on Kurt’s phone.

Hey, I’m home now. Are you around?

“Shit,” Kurt says, running to the washroom to wash the mud mask off and coming back to Rachel and Mercedes giving him twin questioning looks. “Sebastian,” he says by way of explanation. He grabs his laptop from where he abandoned it on the floor next to the couch and quickly signs on.

The call comes through less than minute after Kurt signs on to Skype, and it’s obvious that Sebastian has been sitting in front of his computer waiting for Kurt to appear.

The picture comes through with garbled audio for a moment, and then Sebastian’s face clarifies on the screen and Kurt hears his voice for the first time in days. “Hey, Kurt,” he says.

“Hey, how are you?” Kurt asks.

Instead of answering the question, Sebastian squints at the screen and then says, “Um, Kurt? You have something …” He gestures vaguely at his jaw.

Kurt turns his head, tilting to use the image of himself on the computer screen as a kind of mirror. There’s a remnant of the mud mask on his cheek, and he groans as he tugs the sleeve of his ancient McKinley sweatshirt over his hand to wipe it away. “Mud mask,” he says, “Rachel and Mercedes are here for an impromptu girls’ day.” Kurt angles the computer to get them in the shot. They’re ignoring him in favour of their own conversation, so Kurt calls, “Say hello, ladies!” to get their attention.

Rachel shrieks Kurt’s name and tries to hide her mud-covered face behind her hand; Mercedes simply smiles and waves at Sebastian.

“Rachel,” Sebastian says, “I’ve seen you first thing in the morning, hung over, with the hand stamp from the bar imprinted on the side of your face. I’m pretty sure this is far from the worst I’ve seen you look.”

Rachel huffs, but drops her hands to cross over her chest instead. “Don’t make me talk about the things I’ve seen, Sebastian.”

“You don’t scare me, Berry.”

“As much as I hate to break up the little love-fest you two have going on,” Kurt says, “I would like to actually talk to my boyfriend. So I’m going to go to my room and do that.”

“But, Kurt, we’re having a girls’ day!” Rachel calls after Kurt as he makes his way to his bedroom.

“I’ll be back in a couple of minutes!” Kurt says cheerily over his shoulder at her, ignoring the glare he gets in response.

Kurt settles on his bed, laptop balanced on his outstretched legs. “Okay,” he says, “I’m in my room. I’m sorry about all that by the way; they sort of ambushed me.”

“It’s fine,” Sebastian says, “we’re here now.”

“And sorry about Rachel being so, well …”

“Rachel?” Sebastian asks.

Kurt laughs. “That’s as good a description as any.” He softens after a moment. “I couldn’t live without her though; it’s been quiet with you gone and her spending so much time at Jason’s.”

Sebastian nods. “I’m glad you have her,” he says. “It’s good to have people who are there when you need them.” There’s an edge to the comment, but Kurt can’t quite figure out why.

“Yeah,” Kurt says. “So how are you—”

“Kuuuuurt!” Rachel’s voice cuts through the poor excuse for a wall, and Kurt can tell that she’s right outside.

“Kurt,” Mercedes’s voice joins in.

“Sorry,” Kurt says to Sebastian. Then louder to the girls he says, “Give me a minute, okay?”

“Nope. Sorry, Kurt,” Mercedes says, peeking her head into the room, “girls’ days are not supposed to include boyfriends.”

“They’re not supposed to include boys at all, but here I am,” Kurt says.

“That argument would only work in your favour if you hadn’t decided back in high school that you would rather hang out with us than with the boys.”

Kurt rolls his eyes and mutters towards the computer, “Guess who’s regretting that decision now.”

By the time Kurt looks up from the screen again, Rachel and Mercedes are climbing onto his bed beside him.

“Sorry, Sebastian,” Mercedes says, “we’re going to have to steal our boy back for the rest of the afternoon.” She’s too pleasant and smiling about it for Kurt to feel too annoyed, even though he really does want to talk to his boyfriend.

“Well, I guess you’re busy  …” Sebastian mutters.

“See, Sebastian is okay with it!” Rachel says. And then to Sebastian she says, “We promise to return him to you in one piece.”

“Sorry,” Kurt says. “I’ll talk to you later, okay?” Sebastian smiles and nods, but Kurt can’t help but think the expression looks a little thin.

“Okay,” Sebastian says, “bye.” In the moment before Sebastian’s face disappears from the screen, Kurt can only think that he didn’t particularly look like he was okay with it at all.

The thought falls away easily enough as Rachel and Mercedes drag him off, and Kurt melts automatically into the comfortable rhythm of time spent with his girls.

---

Kurt wakes up late on Sunday morning and groggily goes about making coffee as his computer boots up so he can check email and try to convince himself to start on work for class sooner rather than later.

Any chance of that happening disappears the moment Kurt sees that Sebastian is on Skype. Kurt tries calling, but there’s no response. The same thing happens when he tries again five minutes later.

He’s more surprised than he should be when, ten minutes later, the bubbling ring indicating a Skype call comes through while he’s putting bread in the toaster. He doesn’t even manage to push down the lever before he’s diving for his laptop where it’s sitting on the counter.

“Hey,” Kurt says in greeting, smiling at the screen. “I’m so glad you’re here! I’m sorry we haven’t been able to talk much lately.” And then Kurt gets a good look at Sebastian’s expression: he’s not smiling—far from it actually—his eyes are red rimmed, and his shoulders are slumped in a way that looks like long-held tension has suddenly been sucked out of him and has left him deflated and tired. “Are you okay?” Kurt asks. “Did something happen?”

“Did something—” Sebastian breaks off into a slightly hysterical laugh. “I just got off the phone with my mom. My grandfather just got out of the ICU.”

“Wait, what?” Kurt asks. “What happened?” He hadn’t even known that something was going on with Sebastian, and now he feels suddenly disconnected and confused, like he’s grappling to find purchase in the conversation.

“He had a stroke on Thursday night. My mom called me Friday morning to tell me.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Kurt asks. But then he thinks about about it, and he already knows why before Sebastian even says it.

“When could I have told you, Kurt? It’s not like you’ve been around.” Sebastian isn’t yelling, but his voice is raw and edging on hurt.

Kurt feels a punch of guilt hit him square in the chest. “I’m sorry,” he whispers. He opens and closes his mouth a few times, trying to think of what he should say, but he can’t think of anything that will make it better.

“I’ve spent the last couple of days just waiting for a call telling me to book a flight home for a funeral,” Sebastian says, his voice growing stronger and more upset as he goes on. “I thought he was going to die, Kurt, and you weren’t even paying enough attention to know that anything had happened.”

“I’m—” Kurt starts, but Sebastian is on a roll, and he doesn’t stop to let Kurt try to conjure words that would fix the situation. Kurt isn’t sure what he would have said other than “I’m sorry” anyway.

“I was scared, Kurt. I was scared, and I needed you to be there for me, and you weren’t.”

“You should have told me,” Kurt says. “I would have been here if I’d known.” The words sound weak to his own ears, and the awful, acrid feeling of guilt is building in his gut. Sebastian is so rarely one to talk about emotions, and for him to be so upset and so blatantly stating that he needs Kurt means that he’s beyond trying to hide it away and pretend that it doesn’t exist. Kurt’s heart aches and the guilt roils in his stomach at the thought that he’s part of the cause of Sebastian’s unhappiness.

“It’s not something you say in a text, Kurt.” Sebastian’s voice sounds tired and worn now, like he’s suddenly stopped fighting. There’s a long silence between them, and Kurt wracks his brain for the right thing to say.

“I don’t,” Kurt says, taking a deep breath and trying to find the right words before continuing. “I don’t know how to fix this. I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I’m sorry I didn’t ask. I wish you’d found a way to tell me that sometimes was going on. I get why you didn’t … I guess I just wish I’d known.”

“What was I supposed to say?” Sebastian asks.

You could have called, Kurt wants to say. But he knows he’s the one that’s been so out of touch and hard to reach. He’s been so focused on things like his future that he forgot to pay attention to Sebastian in the present. In fact, Kurt hasn’t been focusing on anything in the present except speeding through it.

“I don’t know, okay?” Kurt snaps before immediately apologizing. “Fuck, I’m sorry, Sebastian. I just … I want to fix this.”

“You keep saying that,” Sebastian says, “but I don’t know what it is you’re trying to fix.”

“Us,” Kurt says. “This.” He pauses, really thinking about and giving a long, shaky exhale before continuing. “The fact that I’ve been so focused on getting to the end of this semester that I haven’t even tried to actually enjoy it. And that, because of that, I wasn’t there when you needed me. I don’t know, Sebastian.”

Sebastian shrugs but doesn’t move to say anything else.

Kurt swallows hard around a lump that’s forming in his throat. He feels like he’s let Sebastian down by not being there for him earlier and again by not knowing how to fix it now. “Is it supposed to be this hard?” he asks.

Sebastian stares at him through the screen for a long time before he finally speaks. “What, relationships? You’re sort of asking the wrong person.” He sounds bitter, and Kurt can’t help but wonder if he’s said something that came across as a comment about Sebastian’s past, or if it’s Sebastian’s own insecurity speaking. It makes Kurt’s guilt increase tenfold, and not for the first time he starts to wonder if they would be better off if they hadn’t tried to stay together.

“Yeah,” Kurt says, “relationships. I don’t think they’re meant to be this hard.” He feels like all of the fears he had when Sebastian left are coming true, and he doesn’t want to risk hurting Sebastian more than he already has. Kurt’s voice shakes when he says, “And I guess … I guess I just want to know if we’re better off not dragging this out if it’s just making things harder for both of us.”

Sebastian nods once, tersely. “So we’re what,” he asks, voice low and giving nothing away, “breaking up?”

“Taking a timeout, maybe? While we try to figure this out,” Kurt says. It’s not quite a question, but Kurt isn’t sure of the words even as they come out of his mouth. The last thing he really wants is more distance of any kind between him and Sebastian, but right now he can’t come up with another solution. Distance feels like the only way to avoid letting Sebastian down more, but everything about the moment, even Sebastian’s acknowledging nod, feels wrong and broken, and Kurt feels like he’s failing at that already.

---

Kurt spends the rest of Sunday in a zombie-like state, lying on the couch staring at the TV blankly, getting up only when his body absolutely demands it of him. He knows they aren’t broken up, knows that he is the one who ultimately put them in the situation they are in, even declared that they should take a timeout. But it still hurts. He’s still mourning what they had, or maybe just how easy it once was. And he still can’t see a way out of the mess.

On Monday, Kurt sleeps through both of his classes and doesn’t drag himself out of bed until early afternoon, and even then he only goes as far as the the living room.

After a couple of hours of What Not to Wear reruns, during which he spends more time debating his relationship situation than actually watching, Kurt pulls out his phone and calls Rachel.

“Hey, Kurt,” Rachel greets.

“Can you come home?” Kurt asks. He’s sure Rachel will forgive him for his lack of pleasantries.

“Of course I can,” she says, and it’s like he’s flipped a switch and Rachel has gone from upbeat to complete focused and ready to do whatever Kurt may need her to. “Do you want me to bring Chinese food? Ice cream? Mercedes?”

“Yes,” Kurt says.

“We’ll be there in an hour!” Rachel says, and then she’s gone, off to gather what Kurt is sure will be more food than three of them can possibly eat.

---

“And so now we’re, I don’t know, paused, I guess. And I feel awful, even though it’s all my fault,” Kurt says, flopping back into the couch as he winds down his explanation of the entire situation.

“It’s not all your fault, Kurt,” Rachel says.

“Look, you know we love Sebastian,” Mercedes says, “but it sounds like maybe he could have said something to let you know what was going on.”

Kurt shrugs. “I didn’t really give him the chance.”

“I still don’t think you can take all the blame, Kurt,” Rachel says.

“Either way, I feel guilty. I feel like I let him down, and I just want to figure out how to make things better,” Kurt says.

They’re all quiet for a few moments, and the girls cuddle into Kurt, sandwiching him between them in a hug. Eventually Mercedes pulls back a little and looks at him.

“So, I hate to be the one to say it … but have you thought about the possibility that maybe things can’t be fixed?”

“You mean—” Kurt starts asking.

“I mean,” Mercedes says, taking Kurt’s hand to squeeze it comfortingly, “I know that you’re ‘paused’ while you try to figure things out, but have you actually considered that breaking up might be for the best?” Kurt tenses. The thought had certainly entered his mind, but if he’s honest with himself he never really considered it all that seriously. He didn’t want to.

“Do you,” Kurt says, voice breaking, “do you think that would be for the best?”

“Oh, honey, no,” Rachel rushes to assure him.

“I don’t know,” Mercedes says. “And please don’t take this the wrong way, Kurt, because I really do like Sebastian.”

“I know, ‘Cedes,” Kurt says quietly, bumping shoulders with Mercedes in reassurance that he won’t be mad.

“I just wonder if you’ve thought beyond the end of this year at all.” She looks so apologetic about what she’s saying, and Kurt begins to worry. “I mean, isn’t this what Sebastian wants to do with his life? Including the travel and working abroad? Your future is in New York, Kurt. Are you really okay with long distance always being part of your relationship?”

Kurt thinks about what Mercedes is saying. He considers the options: a future having to deal with difficult and lonely bouts of long distance, or a future without Sebastian. Realization hits him hard, and he’s speaking before he has even processed the words. “I love him,” he says, voice breaking a little on the words. “And I just want to be with him. No matter what exactly that means.”

---

Kurt calls Sebastian on Tuesday in the early hours of the morning. He doesn’t text; he doesn’t wait by Skype in the hope that Sebastian will sign on. He doesn’t care about long distance charges or the fact that he has barely slept, he just needs to talk to Sebastian, and he wants to do it now.

The phone rings a good few times before there’s an answer. “Kurt?” Sebastian asks, “isn’t it like five am? Why are you calling? Are you okay?”

“I’m sorry,” Kurt says. “And I don’t want to break up.”

“Okay,” Sebastian says, sounding tentative—he sounds a little like he’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. At least if Sebastian is waiting for the bad news, that means that Sebastian is considering not wanting to break up to be good news.

“But we also can’t keep going like we have been, Sebastian. It doesn’t work, and we can’t build a future on no communication: not if this is how it’s going to be.”

“What?” Sebastian asks, and Kurt can’t stop now that he’s started so he just keeps talking and hopes that Sebastian will catch up.

“This—the distance—if this is the way it’s going to be when you’re traveling for work, and I’m in New York, then we have to learn to deal with it.”

“Okay,” Sebastian says again. He still sounds confused, but then Kurt has just started throwing the idea of a future together at him without warning.

“It’s just …” Kurt says, “I’ve been looking at this as something temporary to be endured until we could be together again. And maybe it is. But maybe it’s time for me to stop looking at it as something removed from the timeline of our relationship and start looking at it as the first day of the rest of our relationship. Because I can’t keep trying to speed through everything and end up missing what’s going on in your life. And my own.” Kurt heaves a breath as he runs out of steam.

Sebastian is quiet for longer than Kurt is comfortable with. Long enough that Kurt starts wondering if Sebastian has been scared away by the mention of the future. But then Sebastian says, “Okay.”

Kurt is about to jump in and tell Sebastian that he needs more than “okay,” but Sebastian beats him to it. “I know that’s not much of an answer,” Sebastian says, “but give me a minute, kay?”

Kurt nods for a moment before realizing he should maybe say something, since Sebastian can’t actually see him. “Okay,” he says, and he’s not oblivious to the irony of it.

Kurt fidgets while he waits for Sebastian to think through his response. “I don’t want to break up either,” Sebastian says eventually, and Kurt lets out a relieved breath. “And I’m sorry too.”

“Good,” Kurt says, “because I know this isn’t going to be easy. I know that. But I don’t think breaking up is the answer. I think we just have to figure out how to really make it work. And I just …” Kurt stops to suck in a breath before continuing, “I just really love you.” It feels like it’s been forever since he said those words.

“I love you too, Kurt.”

“You’d better,” Kurt says. He’s smiling, and he knows that his happiness comes through in his voice. Kurt is so relieved that he hasn’t ruined their relationship—that Sebastian is willing to forgive him—that he nearly gives in to his desire to pretend that none of it ever happened. He almost does it, but in the end he knows that that was their problem before. As much as he doesn’t look forward to having to make a list of the things that nearly broke them, the whole point now is to keep them from falling apart again.

“I spent some time talking to Rachel and Mercedes yesterday,” Kurt says, “and they helped me figure some things out.”

“Oh?” Sebastian asks, though he sounds more wary than curious.

“Nothing bad, I promise,” Kurt says. “But they helped me come up with some ideas of things that might help us sort this out.”

They talk for nearly an hour—well, Kurt, having come up with a list of points, does most of the talking, while Sebastian listens and comments. They plan times for not-to-be-missed-unless-hospitalized conversations (those come with the stipulation that if you are hospitalized, you somehow inform the other person), and talk through some of the reasons for their miscommunications; they know it’s not all magically going to happen just because they’ve said it out loud, but it clears the air and puts them back on solid ground when they’ve been teetering on a ledge for so long.

“So,” Sebastian says when they’ve mostly talked themselves out, “I know we still some things to figure out, but can we take a break for now? It’s probably not worth me going back to my Politics class, given that I’ve missed, well, pretty much all of it. But that leaves me with some time before my next class, and I can think a few more entertaining ways to spend that time.”

“While you’re at school, Sebastian?” Kurt asks. “I’m scandalized!” Kurt smiles at the sound of Sebastian’s warm chuckle. He missed this over the last couple of weeks—the teasing, the easy way Sebastian says things that a few years ago Kurt wouldn’t even have thought—and he hopes desperately that they can keep it up. He thinks they can; they’ve seen the other option, and it sucks. “Well, I suppose I do owe you,” Kurt says teasingly, “seeing as I pulled you out of class and all.”

“Mhmm,” Sebastian says, “I really think you do.”

---

It’s not exactly easy after their conversation, but it is significantly better. Kurt and Sebastian talk regularly and keep each other up to date, and—despite the distance—they have sex. Lots of sex. Amazing sex that reminds Kurt how much a part of their relationship sex had been before Sebastian left, and how much he had truly been missing it since.

And not just physically missing it, though certainly that was true too, but missing it in terms of how connected they are: how much more in sync. Sebastian has always communicated better in touch, Kurt thinks, and even without actual physical contact the same still seems to hold true.

It’s more than a little clear to Kurt that what he told Sebastian was true; he had been looking at the time while Sebastian was in Berlin as something disconnected from the rest of their relationship. He had been acting as if those months didn’t have the same rules and that he and Sebastian didn’t have the same needs simply because they weren’t in the same place. But now, Kurt realizes how badly they had been neglecting their relationship and each other. If only he’d figured it out months ago, he thinks, they might have avoided all the misery.

He’s happy though, that they’ve figured it out now. If the difficulties they’ve been through are what ultimately mean they can make things work, then Kurt will happily accept them as growing pains.

---

“What’s got your panties in a twist, Hummel? Still missing the rat king?”

Kurt rolls his eyes at Santana where she’s standing in his doorway, but he otherwise ignores her and goes back to organizing his closet. The whole band is at the loft, sharing pizza and beer before going down the street to play a set at the pub. Kurt is hiding in his room under the guise of looking for an outfit for their show, though Santana—and probably Rachel too, if not the entire band—has clearly seen right through that. Not that that was exactly a challenge, seeing that his outfit had been laid out and ready to go for days and was currently lying tidily across the end of Kurt’s bed.

“I’m fine, Santana,” Kurt says, swapping the places of two jackets before staring at them and swapping them back a moment later.

“Y’know, if I hadn’t committed myself fully to a Canadian lifestyle, I’d probably have offered to blow you in Sebastian’s absence just to get you to stop organizing,” Santana says.

“Committed yourself to a Cana—you know what, I don’t want to know do I?” Kurt says, mostly to himself he assumes, given that Santana starts speaking again just moments after he does.

“Beaver, Hummel. Keep up,” Santana says, clearly knowing where Kurt’s question had been headed. Kurt twists his face up at her in reply; he really does not need to forever associate Canada with Santana’s love life. “But the point is,” Santana continues, “that we did this whole ‘you being jittery because loverboy isn’t here’ thing the last time, and everything was fine.”

Kurt snorts derisively. “Yeah, because last time everything was just smooth sailing.” He finishes with the closet and turns to tug the corners of his comforter back into place, even though they haven’t shifted much from when he made the bed earlier. Kurt knows that Santana is giving him a look that seems to threaten unholy terror if he doesn’t explain—he can feel her staring at him even without looking at her. He sighs. “Look, the last time around I was nervous and everything just felt wrong. Not enjoyable. And then Sebastian got drunk and called me in the middle of the night, trying to tell me he loved me but instead managing to make me think he had cheated on me. It wasn’t exactly my favourite night, and I’d like to not repeat it.”

Kurt stops talking and stares back down at his bed, fingers drifting over the lines on the comforter. Santana waits him out. “Besides,” Kurt says, after a few long moments, “today is our one year anniversary, and I haven’t gotten so much as a ‘break a leg’ text from him. So excuse me if I’m a little off at the moment.”

“Come on, Kurt,” Santana says a minute later, “let’s go pour you a drink.” Kurt cocks his head to the side and looks at Santana and then slowly makes his way over to her. She claps him on the shoulder and steers him into the living room, and Kurt knows that it’s about as definitive a show of support as Santana ever gives.

---

Santana sticks weirdly close to Kurt as they head to the pub and even as they set up, though she doesn’t say a word about it, and the others seem oblivious to the oddness of it. Just before their set starts, she makes a mad dash for the door with her phone pressed to her ear. Kurt isn’t sure whether to be concerned that something is wrong or pleased at having a couple of minutes without Santana practically attached to his hip. He’s pretty sure that she even would have followed him into the bathroom if it had come to that. He takes advantage of the time without her looking over his shoulder to send Sebastian a text, still half hoping he might just get a reply before they go on.

When Santana comes back in, grinning like the cat that got the canary, they’re just getting ready to go on, and she sweeps up onto the makeshift stage and gives Kurt a conspiratorial wink. “Don’t worry about the rat king, Clara,” she says.

“That makes no sense, Santana,” Kurt says, “Clara doesn’t—” he’s cut off by Elliott introducing the band. “But wait, what about Sebastian,” Kurt mutters to himself questioningly. He catches a fleeting glimpse of Santana’s shark-like grin aimed at him from behind Rachel, and it’s clear that she heard him, or at least knew what he was going to say. Sometimes Kurt thinks Santana must have super hearing. Or maybe mind-reading powers. (He really hopes she doesn’t have mind-reading powers.)

It isn’t until halfway through their set that Kurt understands. At first he thinks he’s imagining it: the beer, or the heat, or just an overactive imagination and wishful thinking getting the better of him. But then Kurt blinks hard a few times and the mirage stays intact. And suddenly it’s Sebastian there in the audience instead of an illusion: real and beautiful and smiling directly at Kurt.

---

Kurt doesn’t even bother with proper end of show etiquette. He hops off the stage the moment they finish playing and nearly pushes Sebastian over with how hard he tackles him into a hug. When he pulls back a moment later, it’s only to grin at Sebastian before kissing him hard and passionate. From somewhere behind him, Kurt hears Santana’s wolf-whistle and Rachel’s whoop, and he smiles into the kiss until he’s grinning too hard and has to break away just to beam at Sebastian.

“I can’t believe you’re here,” Kurt says, feeling elated and still a little bit like he must be dreaming.

“I couldn’t miss another of your shows,” Sebastian says, smiling. “We both know what happened last time; I simply couldn’t risk the possibility that I’d end up drunkenly proposing to you while implying that a meteor was about to destroy Earth.”

Kurt shakes his head. “I’m not sure which part of that is supposed to be the bad news.”

Sebastian glares, but there’s no heat behind it. “You never did appreciate meteors as romantic gestures.”

“Guess you should just stick to the cheesy standards then,” Kurt tells him.

“Oh, and what would those be?”

“Flowers, chocolate, showing up out of the blue for an anniversary …” Kurt says, trailing off teasingly.

“I’ll have to keep those in mind,” Sebastian says, “for the next time such an occasion arises.”

“Mhmm,” Kurt hums, “see that you do.” And then he leans in, closing the small space between them, and kisses Sebastian again.

They stay that way for a while, pressed together and kissing in the middle of the crowd. Kurt shuts everything out except the feel of Sebastian until a niggling thought invades him brain, and he pulls back. “Santana knew, didn’t she,” Kurt says. It isn’t really a question.

Sebastian laughs and nods in acknowledgment. “She helped me with the plans: told me where you would be when.”

“She helped you stalk me,” Kurt says flatly, fighting off the smile that would give him away. He knows that Sebastian can see right through him anyway if the way Sebastian is smirking is any indication.

“She may be the devil, but Santana is nothing if not good at espionage and covert ops,” Sebastian says.

“Well, she’s certainly the devil,” Kurt says, though they both know that he doesn’t truly mean it and hasn’t in years. He means it even less in this moment with Sebastian standing in front of him in part because of Santana. “So how long are you staying?” Kurt asks, barely daring to hope for more than a couple of days.

“A week,” Sebastian says.

“Seriously?”

“It’s spring break,” Sebastian explains, “so I’m yours for seven whole days.”

“For longer than that, I hope,” Kurt says, smiling even as he kissed Sebastian again and reveling in the feeling of actually being together in the same place like Kurt has been craving for months. “Because I have a lot of plans for you.”

Sebastian hums thoughtfully, eyes flashing with mischief when he pulls back a little. “Well if you’ve got plans for me …”  

Kurt laughs, hauling Sebastian in even closer and dropping his head onto Sebastian’s shoulder. He’d missed everything about Sebastian so much, from the feel of to his ridiculous brand of charm.

“I really love you,” Kurt says after a moment, lifting his head to meet Sebastian’s eyes again.

“I love you too,” Sebastian replies, and in that moment Kurt feels like everything is right. The distance is always going to be difficult, but, as long as they have moments like this, it will also always be worth it.