The scent of the orange bitters waft through his nostrils, the sharp citrusy smell blending pleasantly with warm spices and burnt sugar as Sebastian splashes a dash or two into the Grey Goose martini he’s preparing. When he’s done, he drops two skewered olives into each of the two glasses and slides it deftly across the countertop towards the ladies sitting at the bar.
They’ve barely managed their Thank yous before Sebastian’s already moving away towards the other end of his station, desperately trying to get the best view of the table closest to the corner of bar.
He tries to busy himself without actually doing anything substantial. He hears his bartender-partner, Jeff, move somewhere behind him, carefully plucking liquor bottles off the shelf required to make the orders that are already queued. He knows he should be helping more but Sebastian can’t seem to take his eyes away from that table.
There, sitting at a round table for four, is his boyfriend- Blaine- with his grandmother, Vera. He can only see the back of Blaine but he can’t help but sigh at how good it is to take in the sight of his boyfriend; the pressed, light blue shirt stretching attractively across his shoulders and the span of his back, the way his curls gently rest along the back of his collar. Even from the back, Blaine looks breathtakingly good.
Sebastian’s eyes then wander to the two other people sitting with Blaine and his grandmother; George- a man with a head of silver hair and bright eyes- sits next to Vera. And next to him sits a much younger man with dark hair and a mischievous grin.
Eli, Sebastian growls inwardly.
After almost a decade since the passing of her husband, Vera has finally decided that it was time to move on. Having known the Anderson family for awhile now, Sebastian couldn’t be happier at the prospect of Vera- strong, compassionate and sweet Vera- putting herself and her heart out there again.
This is her first ever date in ten years- and Sebastian is thrilled for her- but the only downside of it all is that she had dragged Blaine along.
“I would be so much more comfortable with you there, Blainey,” Vera had said the previous day when she dropped by the hotel’s main restaurant where he and Blaine worked. “George is bringing his grandson along; Eli.”
Sebastian had watched Blaine tense up, his hazel eyes turning towards him, searching. They’ve worked together for three years now, their professional relationship evolving into friendship almost instantly. And for the last six months, that friendship had grown into something romantic.
But due to the complications that came with being a Smythe, Sebastian is forced to keep his relationship with Blaine a secret. And to keep matters under wraps and minimise the probability of his family ever finding out, they both agreed it was best to not just hide it from Sebastian’s family, but also from Blaine’s.
“Like a double date?” Blaine had asked, his eyes wide- and Sebastian had seen the rising panic in them.
“Exactly. Please, Blaine. It’d be fun.”
Blaine had huffed a laugh. It was meant to be casual but Sebastian had heard the nervousness in them. Instinctively, he had put away the rag he was using to dry the glasses on the counter and stealthily rested his hand by Blaine’s elbow. He had smiled to himself when he felt his boyfriend calm at his touch, his tensed body unwinding a little.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, inay,” Blaine had said. “I mean, I don’t even know the guy.”
At this, Vera had perked up. “I looked him up on Facebook. Eli’s about a year or so younger than you. He’s a vet, works for an animal shelter uptown. Very handsome.”
Blaine had sighed. “I don’t know.”
“Please, Blaine,” Vera had all but begged. “Para sa akin. For me.”
Blaine had sought his eyes and held his gaze. Sebastian hadn’t known what to say, or what to do. So he had merely shrugged. What harm could one date do?
A strong whiff of mango drifts up and tickles his nose, the sweet scent cutting through his thoughts and breaking him out of his reverie. He turns to watch Jeff slice some Serrano peppers and cilantro before tossing them into a tumbler with some mango puree and vodka. It’s Jeff’s signature cocktail; a spicy mangorita- and Sebastian smiles a little watching the show he’s putting on as he makes the drinks for his patrons.
When Sebastian finally turns back to look at Blaine’s table, something cold sets deep in his stomach and gives it an ugly twist; his boyfriend is hunched close to his date- his fake date, Sebastian quickly reminds himself- listening intently as Eli whispers in his ear.
Instinctively, his fists clench and unclench. He feels sick watching the barely-there space between Blaine and Eli and it takes him a moment to realize that he’s moved to grab a handful of ice from the cooler, limbs moving with muscle memory and then chucks them loudly into an empty blender.
He watches as Blaine chuckles at something Eli had said and without much thought, he switches on the blender at full speed. The whirring is so sudden and loud, it pierced through every other sound in the quaint restaurant. For a brief moment, all murmurs and dins of conversations still.
Sebastian lets the blender run for a few more seconds before turning it off, satisfied that Blaine is no longer hunched close to Eli. But then, Eli moves to tap Blaine on the shoulder and they move in unison towards each other once more- presumably to pick up their previous conversation.
His thumb moves on its own volition and flicks the blender’s switch on again. This time, Sebastian gives it a little shake, making sure the blades hit all of the ice cubes still intact, causing the whirring to sound twice as loud and the crunching of ice deafening.
He thumbs the blender off once Blaine has moved far enough away from his date again. Fake date. Sebastian can’t help but smile smugly towards the table. He knows well that he’s being petty, being childish. But there’s this squirming feeling inside of him; it’s hot and unpleasant- and it sears his veins. He just wants the fake date to end already.
At the thought, Sebastian cringes inwardly. Tonight’s about Vera- about her getting back on her feet romantically. And Blaine has already convinced him that he’s only going on the fake date to keep his grandmother company, to make her feel safe.
Before he can feel too bad, Sebastian catches Blaine’s gaze- no, not gaze- glare, as his boyfriend sits half-turned in his chair. He swallows hard, his throat suddenly feeling dry as he watches Blaine lean close to his grandmother and whisper something in her ear.
The next moment, Blaine moves to stand and strides across the room. Holding Sebastian’s gaze, his boyfriend gives his head a slight jerk, indicating for him to follow.
Sebastian claps a hand on Jeff’s shoulder, telling him he’ll be right back and moves towards the kitchens where he knows Blaine will be waiting.
No sooner has he pushed through the double swinging doors, Sebastian is bombarded with a tirade of questions;
“What do you think you’re doing, Sebastian? Were you even supposed to be working tonight? I manage the restaurant so I know you aren’t on the roster tonight. What, did you switch shifts with Santana to spy on my fake date?”
Blaine is breathless by the end of it. And Sebastian can’t help the small smile that tugs on his lips at how gorgeous his boyfriend looks; cheeks flushed, lips pursed, eyes bright.
“Yeah I switched with Santana tonight,” he says, suddenly feeling defensive. “I wanted to keep an eye out on your fake date.”
“So you are spying on my fake date?”
“Can you blame me?” he asks, his voice sincere. “You looked so stunning when you left the house- I couldn’t not come and spy on you.”
He watches as Blaine’s eyes soften, the lines of his body that were tensed a second ago relaxing slightly.
“Sebastian- baby-” Blaine coos, taking a step closer- and he swears he melts a little. “- you have nothing to worry about.”
The squirming feeling inside of him twists violently, making him feel sick. Letting his eyes fall closed, Sebastian sighs, his breath rushing out his lungs and past his lips hard. “Yes, I do. I have so much to worry about.”
It had been there all night- this uneasy feeling- as he watched Blaine throughout dinner; the easy laughs that escaped his boyfriend’s lips, the too-close conversations with his fake date. It was so open, so effortless. And it had looked a lot like a scene in some inevitable future where he isn’t part of Blaine’s life.
It had looked like a scene that would never happen with Sebastian- not when his family disapproved of him openly dating another man.
Since coming out to his family, his parents- his mother, especially- had made it clear that he’s not to reveal this side of himself to their extended family. His grandfather, Edgar, had been suffering from ailments for years after suffering a diabetic stroke. His mother had lorded his grandfather’s fragile health over him, stating that if Sebastian was to come out to the rest of the family, it would surely cause his grandfather a great deal of stress, making him suffer more.
Sebastian loves his grandfather- so much so that he’s willing to do anything for the man. His grandfather had been the one to spark his love for mixology- and had taught him the art of mixing the right drinks with the right ingredient and turning it into the perfect marriage of cocktails. Bartending at the restaurant isn’t just a job to him; it’s a career.
And his mother knows this- hadn’t hesitated to use his affections for his grandfather against him, against his freedom to be whoever he had chosen to be.
Things will never be as easy, and as effortless- the way it had been earlier tonight for Blaine and Eli.
“Are you jealous, Sebastian?” Blaine asks, his voice gentle.
Sebastian forces out another hard breath, his eyes still closed. “Yes.”
“You know this is only a fake date, don’t you? That I love you.”
His eyes flutter open at the words. Love.
It’s not the first time they’ve said it to each other- but it’s always nice to hear. Blaine loves him. And he’s sure he’ll never tire of hearing his boyfriend tell him just that.
“I know,” he confesses. “And I love you.”
“So this jealousy- where is it coming from?” Blaine asks, moving a hand to cup Sebastian’s cheek.
Reaching out to cover Blaine’s hand with his, Sebastian curls his fingers over his boyfriend’s wrist, pulling it away slightly so he can press a kiss to Blaine’s palm. He’s vaguely aware of the kitchen staff milling about, the servers and busboys going in and out with orders and dirty dishes. But he ignores it all.
“It’s coming from the fact that I’ll never be an Eli.”
And there it is; the ugly, squirming feeling inside him made flesh with those words.
“Never be an Eli?” Blaine inquires, confusion apparent in his voice. “What do you mean?”
Sebastian is quiet for a moment, his mind jumbled with all the possible words he can use to sum up his feelings, his thoughts, his fears. He needs to find the right one. Blaine takes a step closer, his thumb grazing gently at Sebastian’s bottom lip.
It’s a while before he finds it.
“It means that I’ll never be... uncomplicated.”
Sebastian’s heart races the moment the word passes his lips. Everything with his family is complicated. To someone outside looking in, it may not look like much of a predicament. But it’s been years since he’s been able to have a conversation with his grandfather, the stroke having robbed him of his speech. Even if he’s conscious and aware of everything around him, his grandfather’s mind isn’t what it once was.
Sebastian can’t simply ask his grandfather for advice- not like he used to. And it breaks his heart to see the once strong man wither away with each passing day.
He can’t bear the thought that if something were to happen to his grandfather- should his conditions worsen, or should he breathe his final breath all because Sebastian decided to openly date Blaine, his family would hold it over him. He doesn’t know if he could bear the guilt of it all.
“I don’t want uncomplicated,” Blaine breathes, his soothing voice pulling Sebastian away from his muddled worries. “I just want you, Sebastian. All of you, all of it.”
Tears prickle at the corners of his eyes. He must’ve done something right in his life to deserve someone as amazing as Blaine.
He loves this man before him; all gentle edges and fierce heart. The happiness that comes with knowing Blaine- and loving him- is unprecedented, unrivalled. Blaine makes him the happiest man alive.
And that’s when it hits him;
“No medicine cures what happiness cannot,” Sebastian’s grandfather used to say, quoting Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
He had been twelve or so, buck-toothed and gangly, when he first heard his grandfather utter those words. He remembers asking what it meant.
“It can mean whatever you need it to mean, my boy,” the man had said. “The sickness of the heart and of the soul can only be remedied by happiness. If you find what makes you happy- and I mean truly happy- never let it go.”
Sebastian takes a step back, reeling slightly from his epiphany. His grandfather had always championed for his happiness. Why would it be any different now?
“I don’t want to keep us a secret anymore,” Sebastian finally says, his voice firm, his resolve steeled.
Blaine startles, his hand falling away. “But, Sebastian- your family-”
In that moment, he falls a little bit more in love with Blaine. Blaine is uncompromising with his feelings, his love- yet he had so willingly compromised the status of their relationship to his friends, his family simply because Sebastian had asked him to. Blaine loves and trusts him completely- and knowing that takes his breath away.
“I’m not asking us to parade our relationship to the world-” he says, his voice quiet yet there’s an excitement ringing in them. “- even though I’d very much like to flaunt it in my mother’s face.”
Blaine chuckles. “Sebastian-”
“I just want you- all of you. All of it. I just want us to be us- wherever we are, whenever.”
They stand in the corner of the bustling kitchen- and they only have eyes for each other.
Before long, his lips are pressed to Blaine’s, their mouths hot and perfect together.
All night he had thought things between them couldn’t be easy- or effortless- but he realizes now that it always has been; ever since the day they had started working together some three years ago.
And he’s happy. So happy in fact that every fibre of his body is thrumming with it.
As Sebastian stands there in the arms of the man that makes him the happiest person alive, kissing him ardently- he knows, he just knows deep in his heart and soul, that no matter what his family may say, his grandfather would be happy for him.