Actions

Work Header

What I Already Knew

Work Text:

*

Once, in a land over the sea, a grand kingdom flourished, ruled by a long-standing royal tradition. Their trade bustled, their crafts were highly valued, and their music was praised for its beauty and complexity. Whilst life was not perfect, the people were, for the most part, content with their lot.

But, alas! This peace, it seemed, was not to last. Drought fell, and in a panic the rulers sought to secure their own well-being by tightening their grasp on their country’s trade. Of course, this did not sit well with the working classes — or, indeed, some of the more progressive members of the nobility. Sympathizing with the plight of the struggling masses, they decided to strike out and establish their own kingdom, offering an opportunity for a fairer system of trade and a new start. Thus divided, the two populations stabilized, and life in both kingdoms settled into a new balance, though neither regained the unified kingdom’s former glory.

Two kings, two queens, two families noble.

As time passed, the struggle for survival receded. With the drought now but a distant memory, the kingdoms’ new rulers began to question the relevance of a divide born of desperation and resentment. They said, “Let our parents’ grudges be theirs, they are not still ours! It is time our kingdoms again became one.” The sentiment was shared: the kingdoms would unite once more. However, the means were unclear, and so they decided to bide their time. The support of the people was needed, and was sadly lacking. Each kingdom still had its own struggles to face.

Kings Hiram and Leroy Berry were the first pair of kings to rule a single kingdom, and the people were wary. Issues of inheritance (an ever important concern) became complex.

King Burt and Queen Elliana Hummel were in a similar predicament. Five years married, and no heir apparent.

They each craved unity; to heal the old rift between them. They could join at once, but what would stop an uprising? Nothing. Time was what was needed.

The answer to all came at once.

Burt and Elliana had a son. Kurt Hummel, Crown Prince. A beautiful baby boy.

Soon thereafter, Hiram and Leroy’s own plans for a child came to fruition. Leroy’s cousin would carry Hiram’s child, who would become their heir — regardless of gender. It was a bold move, but they were set. And so Rachel Berry, Crown Princess, was born of both their blood. A beautiful baby girl.

Both prince and princess quickly came to be adored by their respective kingdoms, and thus a plan was born. They would be betrothed and the kingdoms rejoined when they married, at age eighteen.

Their future seemed set, and by the children’s third birthdays the promise had been accepted as merely another aspect of their royal duty. And so it may have come to pass, were it not for the son of a merchant-girl, fathered by King Hiram in a moment of reckless abandon. The existence of Blaine, if known, could undermine the integrity of the royal family. Thus his heritage was kept a secret.

A spoiled and feisty princess.

A dutiful prince.

And the bastard son of a king.

This is their story.

*

Kurt stands in front of his mirror, smoothing down his already immaculate outfit one more time. He designed and made it himself, of course — Brittany, his court-appointed stylist, is lovely, but she really has no idea what she’s doing. No, his slim-fit shiny grey suit and black shirt are his own creation. He’s pretty proud of this one, actually. Never let it be said that Prince Kurt Hummel doesn’t dress to impress. Even if it is only for the immediate members of the royal family — they will still be appreciative, he knows. He will admit that the shoes Brittany managed to find for him are perfect — black and sleek and oh so comfortable. He twirls, checking his hair again, and then makes his way to the glass case where his circlet is locked away. He eyes the plain silver band with its single sapphire and sighs. It’s no secret that he’d rather wear his mother’s old tiara. Not her formal (and intricately crafted) crown, of course, her tiara from her engagement to his father. It seems delicate, but its silver tendrils are stronger than they look. From all accounts, the tiara was the essence of his mother. The pale blue gemstones set in the very front are crystal-clear and without flaw; they sparkle like none he’s ever seen. He’s been told, many times, that they’re exactly the color her eyes were. He wishes he could remember them himself — but she’d died when he was three.

He shakes himself mentally, and retrieves the key to the case. He carefully, carefully, takes out his circlet and fixes it on his head. He fights the urge to go and take out the tiara instead, and calls for Brittany.

He’s sixteen, now. Time for him to step up as Crown Prince.

Or so everyone keeps telling him.

*

Rachel throws her arms in the air as she spins, her pale pink dress fanning out perfectly as she does.

“Look, Santana, I could just fly ,” she says, looking at her lady-in-waiting for confirmation.

Santana, to her credit, manages a smile.

“Yes, Your Highness, you look lovely. With no help from that atrocious dress.”

“But it’s pink!” Rachel exclaims, now bouncing over to her rather large selection of tiaras. She is a Princess, after all. She knows that tonight she has to wear her official one, but she makes a show of looking them all over anyway.

“Yes, it’s very… pink,” Santana drawls.

Rachel pays her no mind, and carefully picks up her official tiara — gold, and finely woven with tiny amethyst stones set in the center, along with the tiny gold flowers. She’d had it made when she was fourteen, and she does still love it. Santana had tried to make her wear a dress that was the color of the stones, but she loves this one far too much. Besides, it’s the Princess’s sixteenth birthday! It’s practically a rule that she has to wear pink.

“Are you quite done?” Santana says. “Your party has already started.”

“But I’m not ready!” Rachel pouts. “I can’t find my shoes…”

Santana walks over and picks up the bright pink high heels near the dresser and says, “you mean these ones?”

“Oh yeah! Thanks, Santana,” Rachel says, slipping them on quickly.

“Hurry up, Your Highness,” Santana chides, but she’s smiling. “My job’s on the line here.”

It’s not, of course — as long as Rachel wants her as her lady-in-waiting, her lady-in-waiting she’ll stay. King Hiram and King Leroy have never denied her anything. Rachel looks at herself once more in the mirror, making sure she looks like the princess she is. Satisfied, she spins back to face Santana, with a near-shout of, “Let’s go!”

*

Blaine feels very out of place.

It’s a party to celebrate Rachel’s debut into society — not that there was ever any doubt who she is. Everything is pink. Everything. And sure enough, Rachel herself is decked out in pink from head to toe. Blaine chuckles to himself. She does look very pretty, and she certainly fits the part of Crown Princess. Sometimes, he wonders what his life would have been like if he’d grown up as part of this family. This is one of those times. He’s been living at the royal residence for almost a year, ever since the attack. He’s grateful to the Kings for taking him in, and he realizes the genius behind the decision — who better to protect the gay boy than the two Kings — but he still feels like he’s stepping on toes by being at this party.

He’s jolted out of his reverie by Rachel herself. She’s spotted him where he’s tucked himself away in a corner and rushes over. Only Rachel would interrupt her own party to greet the stable-hand, he thinks. She doesn’t know that he’s her brother, just that her dads hired him and that she was to make him as welcome as all of her staff. She’d taken a definite shine to him in the months since he’d arrived at the castle, and he loves her for it.

“Come on, Blaine, come say hi to Dad and Dad,” she says in a rush, grabbing his hands and physically hauling him to his feet. He has no choice but to follow. In some ways, Rachel is the quintessential princess figure — pretty, driven, spoiled beyond belief — but in others, she’s so different. She’s brash, she’s loud, and she’s as bossy and as stubborn as anyone he’s ever met. And Blaine used to live with his half-brother, Cooper — he knows what pure bossiness is. Or he thought he had, anyway.

Rachel is still babbling away, and Blaine vaguely registers the introductions she’s making. She refers to him as her friend, rather than the stable-boy, and his heart warms just that little bit more.

Soon enough, they pass through the head table and Blaine feels himself relax. Of course, the emcee of the party starts talking over the crowd at that very moment.

“Alright, alright, be quiet everyone!” It’s practically a screech, and the room does fall silent.

“That’s better. Now tonight, we’re here to celebrate our dear Princess Rachel’s Sweet Sixteenth birthday, so it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t have music. Music sung by all of us, of course. Rachel, care to kick us off?”

Rachel beams, as if she wasn’t expecting that (she was, naturally) and bounds up to the stage where she unceremoniously kicks the emcee in her sparkle yellow dress off, pushing her in Blaine’s direction. She stumbles into him, making a tiny noise of disgust before speaking up. “Well hi there sweetie-pie — and who are you?” She cocks her head, studying him. “Haven’t seen you before, and I’m Sugar Motta — I know everyone and everyone knows me! Or they know my father, but that’s close enough.”

Blaine blinks, slightly stunned, but manages to hold out his hand and tell her his name. “Blaine, and I’m relatively new to the… Berry household.”

She grips his hand, vice-like, and he feels completely naked under her gaze.

“Well, nice to meet you — you’ll be seeing more of me, I’m sure. I get called up for all kinds of odd things at the palace. Princess Rachel loves my parties, so,” she shrugs, as if that isn’t a big deal. It’s not surprising to Blaine, not really — they certainly do both have an affinity for glaringly bright colors and sparkly things. He spares a look at the stage where Rachel is bouncing around singing her heart out, and he has to agree.

“She certainly is enjoying herself,” he says with a laugh. He catches her eye, and the next thing he knows he’s being hauled up onto the stage himself. This can’t end well , he thinks as she motions for him to start singing. They choose an old ballad, one that everyone knows, and gradually people join in.

He has to admit, it’s fun.

*

Kurt shoots Finn a glare from his seat across the table. Honestly, you’d think that 10 years of palace life would teach a prince to put his circlet on correctly. Apparently not.

“Finn,” he hisses, “fix your circlet.”

Finn gives him his trademark blank look, and Kurt just shakes his head. He reaches over and fixes it himself, rolling his eyes. At least it’s broken up some of the awkwardness that always surrounds these dinners. He wishes, not for the first time, that he could actually throw a decent party, but no, he has to be princely and formal and stuffy and boring . Really, he’d rather be at Rachel’s — overbearing pink sparkly decorations and all.

He sitting at the head of the table, naturally, and he barely represses a sigh. It figures, with all the planning that has gone into their respective dinners that they’ve had to be separated. Their engagement isn’t official, not yet, but it will be in a year. They all know the plan, and both he and Rachel are resigned to it. He thinks he could do worse than marrying his best friend, but he’d also really like to actually celebrate some of these milestones with her .

He forces a smile, and re-joins the conversation; Carole’s just complimented his outfit, and he preens just a touch. He may not have his mother, but he loves Carole — she did practically raise him, after all. He still laughs to think of his father trying to look after him while running a country — Burt himself is always joking that he would have had to carry a stubborn three-year-old around with him if not for the woman who would eventually become his wife. It’s not true at all, of course, another nanny would have easily been found, but the image is an amusing one. Burt isn’t a typical picture of royalty, that’s for sure — he’s gruff and unrefined and overly casual about almost everything — but he cares, a lot, about his people. Kurt knows it’s the reason he agreed to the plan in the first place, and it makes it sting slightly less. Slightly.

The conversation is stilted, but it continues. Kurt keeps up, and when all the food is gone Burt gets up to speak.

“Now, son, I’m not one for long speeches, not unless my advisors tell me I have to, so I’ll keep this quick. I love you, and I’m so proud of the man you’ve become. Happy birthday, Kurt.”

Despite everything, Kurt feels his throat choke up. Screw protocol, he thinks, and walks over to hug his dad. He feels strong arms wrap around him, and clings for longer than he’d admit to anyone not at that table. He wishes that he could stay here, stay a kid, and not have to worry about how to live the life that’s been planned for him. Suddenly, he’s overwhelmed. He lets go, and resumes his seat.

Burt isn’t finished. He moves over to the table where Kurt knows his crown is waiting. Burt picks it up, and Kurt knows he has to stand, and take it. He feels like it’s mocking him. To him, it signifies all that he has to give up, not what he has to gain. He smiles, his mask perfect, and lets Burt replace his circlet with the crown. Kurt feels like he’s suffocating.

Just dessert left, and then he can take his leave. Kurt’s already planning how he’ll convince the stable-boy on duty to keep quiet about letting his horse out tonight. There’s only one person he wants to see right now. His best friend, and the only other person who understands exactly what he’s going through right now.

*

Rachel is having the time of her life. Well, maybe not — nothing will ever come close to the summers she used to spend with Kurt when they were young enough not to understand what being royalty meant beyond tiaras and pretty clothes — but she’s having fun. She really does wish that both Finn and Kurt could be here, but she knows they have Kurt’s own dinner to attend. She’s finally, finally, gotten Blaine to loosen up a little — he’s dancing with Sugar, now, and he’s smiling properly for the first time all night. Come to think of it, she doesn’t think she’s ever seen him smile quite that freely. Success.

It’s getting late, and it’s down to the people she loves the most dearly. She runs over to Blaine and pulls him back out of Sugar’s arms, and spins him around. He laughs, carefree, and she grins back at him. She’s struck with sudden inspiration, and pulls him close to whisper in his ear.

“Blaine, can you do me a favor? I wouldn’t ask, but…”

A few minutes of whispered conversation later, she walks back over to her Dads — it’s time to break this party up. She’s the Princess and the birthday girl, she can leave whenever she wants.

“Dad, Dad, I’m tired. I’m going to go get my beauty sleep, okay?”

“Sure, honey. Whatever you need. We’ll finish up here,” Hiram says, smiling at her.

“Love you,” Leroy adds.

She hugs both of them, quickly, and makes her last rounds of the room — thanking people for their attendance and for the (lavish, she knows) gifts they had all brought.

With that, she leaves, and trusts that Blaine will fulfill his end of her plan.

*

As soon has he can, Kurt escapes to his rooms and strips off his formal attire, replacing it with simple riding gear. Dark colors, he needs to blend in for once. He’s so focused on his task, and being as quiet and as quick as he can, that he jumps when he hears Finn’s voice from his doorway.

“Going somewhere?” he asks, too casual.

Kurt sighs. If there is one person who he didn’t want to know about his little trip, it’s Finn. Finn can’t keep a secret to save his life. Which is a problematic trait for a prince to have, when he thinks about it. Kurt tries not to.

“Yes, I am, in fact,” Kurt pauses, considering his options. He could order Finn to keep quiet, and risk him letting it slip, or he could make him come with him. Finn answers the question for him.

“It’s to see Rachel, isn’t it…”

It’s not a question. Kurt almost laughs — how Finn can be so oblivious most of the time and so perceptive at others, Kurt has absolutely no idea.

“You can’t go alone,” Finn says, “you know riding takes all your concentration. What if something happens? I’m coming too.”

“Oh, fine. Be quick, and be quiet, ” Kurt hisses, but not unkindly. Finn nods.

“Let’s go, then.” Finn agrees, and they both make their way to the stables. By some stroke of luck, they don’t run into anyone, and manage to sneak their horses out without any fuss from the stable-boy. Kurt is usually fairly vocal about his distaste for horses and all things to do with riding — he wouldn’t be surprised if the stable-boy is slightly scared of him. He probably should work on that, he muses. Just like that, they’re on their way.

They ride as fast as they dare, Kurt clinging on for dear life. He just knows Finn is trying not to laugh at him, but he won’t risk looking to his right for fear of overbalancing. It’s happened before, and he really has too much else to worry about right now thank you very much. Finn, on the other hand, is a brilliant rider, and would probably be going even faster if he were alone.

It’s Finn who has the presence of mind to pay attention to outside noises — and he pulls his horse up short about half way through the forest, leaning over to grab Kurt’s horse’s reins too. Now that Kurt’s paying attention, he can hear the sound of another pair of horses, coming in the opposite direction. They quietly move off to the side of the track, and wait.

The sound of horses galloping becomes louder, and louder, until the riders come into view. Kurt barks out a laugh without meaning to — he spots Rachel, sitting ramrod straight on her horse, Sparkles. She loves that damn horse, even though she’s only slightly better at riding than Kurt. He realizes how ‘well-matched’ they are and remembers why he’s here in the first place. He slides off his horse, as gracefully as he can. He’’s not really successful, but he brushes himself off and shoots Finn a glare for the snicker he hears from beside him.

“Rachel?” he calls, softly. Even now, his voice cracks, and his eyes fill with tears.

“Kurt?’ he hears, and he blinks furiously, trying to muster one last shred of self-control. He hears, rather than sees, the two (wait, he thinks, two?)riders dismount, and when he looks up Rachel’s standing in front of him.

“Rachel, what are you doing out here? Do you know how dangerous it is for a princess to be out riding this late?” he says.

“Excuse me, I could ask you two the same question. And besides, Blaine’s here. I’m not stupid enough to come alone, Kurt,” she says. “I was coming to see you, actually.”

Kurt gives this Blaine person a nod, as is custom, and tries to smile. He’s supposed to be polite and formal when he meets people, but it’s hard right now, when he feels like his world is shattering around him. He quickly turns back to Rachel — the one person he can let the mask fall in front of. “I was coming to see you too,” he says, vaguely registering Finn and Blaine moving away, talking quietly. “You got yours tonight, too.” His voice is barely above a whisper, but that’s all he can manage right now. He feels like if he gave himself the chance to use his voice — really, honestly use it — he would just scream.

Everything is so unfair.

Rachel nods once, giving a brief wave to the two disappearing boys, and the look on her face somehow makes him feel better and worse at the same time. They’re the same. “I did. It’s- it’s beautiful.”

“So’s mine. But-” he cuts himself off. There really is nothing else to say.

Instead of talking, Kurt reaches for her, pulling her into a kiss. The kiss lasts barely 10 seconds, and they both pull away slowly. It’s not the first time they’ve tried, and nothing ever changes.

“Anything?” Rachel asks, desperate.

“Nothing,” Kurt replies. “Just like always.”

The words hang in the air, heavy, and Rachel launches herself back into Kurt’s arms. “You know I love you, right, that’s not- it’s not that I don’t- I just-” she babbles.

“Shh, shh, Rachel, I know. You’re my best friend, I love you — just not the way we’re supposed to.”

They stand there, entwined, for what feels like forever. It’s Rachel who finally speaks up.

“So, what now?”

“We wait.”

More silence.

“For the record, Rachel, if I have to be promised to anyone, I’m glad it’s you.”

“Me too,” she breathes into his shoulder.

Slowly, they disentangle themselves and move over to where Blaine and Finn are standing. They graciously pretend like they haven’t heard anything — forced smiles present on their faces — and Kurt makes a mental note to thank Finn. They may not be related by blood, but Finn certainly seems to have his back whenever Kurt needs him. It’s nice, he thinks. Having a brother.

He turns his gaze to Blaine then, studying him for just a moment. He’s about the same height as Kurt himself, maybe a bit shorter. He’s got dark hair that falls in messy curls about his face, and his skin is tanned, though whether that’s from sun or work he can’t really tell. Perhaps a mixture of both. Kurt wonders vaguely who this boy is — why Rachel has never mentioned him before now. They seem to be quite close, riding together this late. If Rachel trusts Blaine to come with her on a meeting like this, he clearly is important to her.

Brows furrowed, he shoots a glance over to Finn, who seems to also be — well, sizing Blaine up, for lack of a better term. It’s hardly a secret around the palace that Finn is fond of Rachel (though most of them blow it off as a childish crush, knowing it will never go anywhere), and Kurt can sense that Finn is just as confused as to who this new boy is, wondering if he’s somehow also standing between himself and Rachel. After all, he is rather attractive, and he seems to stay tucked in close to Rachel’s side as they prepare to leave.

They can’t dwell, though. They all need to get home, or they will be in a lot of trouble. Hell, they probably are already. Kurt bids Rachel a fond goodbye, hugging her perhaps a little bit tighter than usual. The rest of them nod at each other out of politeness before they all return their respective horses. Rachel and Blaine leave first, with Kurt and Finn acting almost as look outs for them as they exit the clearing.

Kurt feels Finn squeeze his shoulder once they’re out of eyesight, and he manages a smile.

“Let’s go.”

*

Blaine looks at Rachel as she climbs back onto Sparkles, and once he’s sure she’s in control of her emotions well enough to stay steady, he climbs up onto Sarah, his own mare. He strokes absently at her neck. She’s his most cherished companion — as silly as it may sound to others, she feels more like his friend than his horse. He’s still reeling from his brief introduction to the prince he’s heard so much about. The Porcelain Prince, as his mother and her royalty-obsessed friends call him. Blaine had heard all about Prince Kurt Hummel, and indeed his impending marriage to Princess Rachel Berry, long before he ever knew he was King Hiram’s son.

None of their gossip had prepared him for the reality. Quite simply, Kurt is the most beautiful person he’s ever seen. He carries himself with such grace, and he seems to shine. Blaine isn’t sure how, but in that moment he swears he does.

Blaine might be a little awestruck.

He spends the ride home silent, smiling slightly. Of course, Rachel notices. He can see her sneaking glances at him from beside alongside him, clearly trying to be subtle. Subtlety is not one of Rachel’s strong points.

“Alright, what is it?” she asks as they slow the horses to a walk to approach the stables.

“Nothing,” he says.

She studies him carefully, appraisingly. “Come on, out with it. You’ve been dazed and distracted the entire ride home and it’s not like you to ignore Sarah.”

Blaine bites his lip and ducks his head under the scrutiny. Why does she have to choose this moment to be observant?

“I’m just- I mean- I just met the Crown Prince,” he stumbles over the words, and he feels like rolling his eyes at himself. He’s usually more put together than this. And oh, he can feel his face heating up. Great .

He hears, rather than sees, Rachel’s sharp intake of breath.

“You like him! Kurt!” she exclaims, far too gleefully. “Aw, you’re blushing…” she coos. Blaine determinedly looks anywhere but at her.

“He’s gorgeous, yeah,” Blaine mumbles. He knows he’s being ridiculous, and that Kurt and Rachel are getting married and absolutely nothing is going to get in the way of that, but he’s still completely stunned by how beautiful Kurt is. He’d never look twice at Blaine, anyway.

“He is,” she agrees readily. “I mean, he’s not my type but he is beautiful. No one ever expected any less, not with a mother like Ellie. Do you know their royal colors were based on her eyes? Which is pretty amazing, considering she was the Queen by marriage. Burt loved her with his whole heart. Burt tells me the story of how they met every time I visit them. But yes, he’s amazing. Oh! I should take you with me the next time I go to stay, I bet Kurt would love you, actually.”

She actually bounces a little, and Sparkles tosses her head as if to say “stop that.” Blaine can’t help the laugh that bubbles up; Rachel really is something. He has no idea why she’s so enthusiastic about this idea, but he’s certainly not going to refuse.

“I- I’d like that,” he says.

“Of course you would! I’ll have to see how long I can talk my Dads into letting us go, but it shouldn’t be too hard. They’ve said that I’m grown-up now that I’m 16 and can do anything as long as it ‘befits my status as Princess.’”

At that, Blaine’s smile drops, just a little. He wishes that he could tell her that he’s her brother, that they share blood, but he can’t. He has his instructions, and they must be followed. It’s for his own protection, he knows, but it still hurts. He never felt like he belonged with his family, and he wants desperately to belong to this one. Belatedly, he realizes that Rachel is still talking.

“- we can spend time in their gardens, they’re so pretty, and we can go on picnics and things, and it will be just wonderful.”

“That does sound like fun…”

“It will be, just you wait. We are all going to have the best time, Blaine.”

She chatters away as they reach the stables, and Blaine tries not to get too hopeful. He sends her back up to her room, and sets about readying Sparkles and Sarah to return to their stalls.

All he can think about is Kurt.

*

Rachel’s mind has been buzzing since she left Blaine at the stables that night. It’s been two days, and she’s already asked her dads if she can go visit Kurt for a few weeks — they’d agreed, as she knew they would. They were also very happy that she’d chosen to take Blaine as her escort, which she was definitely going to find out more about later. They’d never had any particular affinity for which member of staff she’d taken before. Anyway, Rachel is nothing if not proactive. They’ll go in two weeks, enough time for her to work out how best to introduce Blaine to Kurt properly.

She knows this seems overly enthusiastic, but she really wants to see Kurt happy. They are best friends, and while she tries, she knows he’s not. Well, neither is she if she’s being honest. Now, more than ever, their impending marriage is hanging over their heads — and everyone seems intent on reminding them of it at any chance they get. She sighs. Knowing that they both feel the same about it is only a slight comfort. She’s marrying her best friend, and she knows that that’s better than what a lot of people end up with, but at least Kurt’s the right gender. When she found out that even that was wrong for Kurt, her heart just shattered. They were both 14, and were only just realizing how big a deal being promised to each other was. They’d been chatting carelessly about Rachel’s crush on Finn, and how silly she felt about it considering that she was to be married to his brother, when Rachel asked Kurt if he was interested in anyone. He’d just frozen, just for a second, and just like that the whole conversation shifted.

“Are you okay, Kurt?” she’d asked, worried. He let his gaze drop to the floor, and shuffled closer to her where they had been sitting on the floor.

“I think I need to tell you something.”

“You can tell me anything, Kurt, you know that. Anything at all,” she said, trying her best to be reassuring.

“I know you won’t— I mean, I should have told you when I figured it out— “ he cut himself off to take a deep breath. “Rachel, I’m— I’m gay.”

“Oh, Kurt,” she remembers saying, wrapping him up in a hug. He apologized, over and over, as if somehow it was his fault. As if any of it was his fault. It was that, more than anything, that broke her heart.

“Kurt, you listen to me. We had our marriage decided for us in the first place. Honestly? This doesn't actually change anything.” Her determined smile had dropped. “Not even if we wanted it to.”

It was in the weeks after that afternoon, in fact, that they decided to see if kissing would spark anything. He was the one to suggest it, and Rachel wasn’t sure about it at first — but as he rightfully explained, they would have to do a whole lot more when they got married. The first one was just a peck, both of them blushing bright red. They stared at each other in silence for a whole minute before Kurt broke it.

“We are so screwed.”

Ever since, Rachel has known that Kurt’s lonely. She sees it, no matter how hard he tries to hide it from her. It hurts, sometimes, that she’s not enough — but she knows how it feels, too, not to have anyone that she chooses. It’s why she loves Blaine so much; he doesn’t treat her like Crown Princess Rachel, he just treats her like Rachel. It’s easy. Plus, he managed to teach her how to ride, and that was no easy task. She’s well aware of her lack of talent in that area, thank you. He’s very easy to like, and she just has this feeling that he’ll be good for Kurt. Even if it’s via Blaine’s blatant admiration. This next visit is going to be such fun.

*

Kurt is pleased when he receives Rachel’s letter — in the few days since the party he’s been feeling a little out of it. It’s funny, he thinks, most people would be relishing any time away from the person they are unwillingly betrothed to. Not Kurt, no, Rachel is his best friend. As loud and as spoiled as she is, he loves spending time with her. Finn’s been trying to keep his spirits up, but it’s just not the same. The thought of a few uninterrupted weeks to escape the pressures of palace life seem like bliss to him right now.

Her letter seems to focus a lot on the boy she’d ridden with , that night. Blaine, his name is, he remembers. He shrugs. If he didn’t know it would be futile, he’d think she’s trying to set them up. That girl does some strange things , he thinks.

He goes to see his dad, just to double check that they can accommodate both of them at that point, and when he gets the expected, gruff, “yes” he sets about writing her a reply. He finishes it reasonably quickly, and sends it off with one of the official messengers.

*

The weeks before Rachel arrives drag by so, so slowly. In Kurt’s opinion, anyway. She’d sent him another longer letter, and despite his suspicions about her sudden obsession with Blaine, he’s looking forward to meeting him. Well, meeting him without being completely and utterly distracted by his own situation, at least. Finally, the morning they are due to arrive dawns, and Kurt rises with the sun. Everything is ready for their arrival, so Kurt tries to find something to entertain himself with. He’s too distracted for any of the work his tutor had set him, and so he decides to go for a walk. Of course, he’s restricted to the grounds unless he wants to draw attention to himself. He walks around aimlessly for a while, letting his mind wander. Soon, he’s interrupted by Finn.

“Kurt! Kurt! They’re here,” he calls, loudly.

Kurt walks towards the sound. He’s confused; Rachel said they’d arrive after lunchtime and it’s still morning. Relatively early morning, in fact.

“Kurt, there you are. They’ve arrived, Burt’s greeting them as we speak.”

“They’re really early,” Kurt comments.

“Yeah, Rachel said she hopes that’s not an inconvenience. She couldn’t sleep so they left early,” Finn says with a shrug. They both start walking back towards the front gates. Kurt thinks it’s a good thing he hadn’t wandered too far away, after all.

By the time they reach their destination, both Rachel and Blaine have dismounted and their horses have been led away. As soon as she spots Kurt, Rachel launches herself at him — he steps backwards with the force of impact. She’s surprisingly strong for her tiny frame. Particularly when she decides that all convention regarding royal meetings simply must be thrown out the window.

Kurt chuckles to himself as she lets go and hurriedly curtsies to Finn, seemingly remembering her manners, and patiently waits for him to kiss her cheek. He does, and she bites her lip to contain her smile. Her crush on Finn has never quite disappeared, and the fact that the feelings are mutual makes Kurt a little sad.

“Oh, Kurt! This is Blaine,” she says brightly. “I’m sorry I didn’t introduce him properly the other night.” She’s bouncing slightly on her toes now, and Kurt rolls his eyes. He has no idea what has gotten into her today.

“Hi, Blaine,” he says, offering him a small smile. Someone has to keep up appearances, after all. He watches as Blaine goes to step forward and offer his hand but then aborts the motion and stands still.

“Hi, Your Highness,” he says, very softly. Kurt eyes him curiously; Blaine ducks his head.

“Please call me Kurt,” he says warmly, “you can leave the ‘Your Highness’ stuff for my dad.”

Blaine grins instantly, before tamping it down. He offers his hand again in greeting, and Kurt takes it.

“Nice to meet you, Blaine. Well, properly,” he says. “I apologize for my less than seemly behavior the first time we met.”

“Apology accepted, of course, Your-” he cuts himself off. “Kurt.”

Finn moves forward to shake Blaine’s hand, and they all make their way back to the castle itself so that Rachel and Blaine can change out of their riding clothes.

*

They spend the remainder of the morning showing Blaine the castle and its grounds — while listening to Rachel’s running commentary. Only she could take over a tour of someone else’s home without a second thought. Kurt doesn’t mind, and neither does Finn judging by the way he’s staring at her, transfixed. Blaine is still quiet, but he looks captivated by the castle itself. He doesn’t open up until they go outside, and Rachel comments about going to the stables. Apparently, Blaine is as obsessed and as talented with horses as Kurt is opposed to anything to do with them. His entire being lights up; his face breaks into a huge grin. It’s infectious — Kurt can’t help smiling back at him.

“There are quite a few horses here, that’s true,” Kurt says. It’s a massive understatement, of course — the stables here are extensive. Each member of the royal family has their own horse, and then there are all the horses for messengers, for visitors, and the few that are kept by his dad as extras. Kurt can’t help his smile that accompanies his words; he has a feeling watching Blaine walk into the stables will be watching a child confronted with a table of sweets. Or Finn shown said table, really.

He’s struck with the need to keep that smile on Blaine’s face. He’s only been here a couple of hours, but that’s the first real smile he’s seen — they could all use some of that sheer joy, really.

Kurt isn’t disappointed. Blaine practically bounces out of his skin as they walk into the stables and he sees the two long rows of stalls. He’s especially taken by Kurt’s horse, Eva. Her dark mane is impeccably cared for, of course, and Blaine doesn’t even ask before he’s stroking it. She lowers her head, and Kurt can’t help but be a little jealous of this near-stranger being able to pet her so calmly. It had taken him a long time to put aside his fear of horses long enough to learn how to ride, let alone how long it had taken him to get her to be comfortable with him.

“She is gorgeous, for a horse, I guess,” Kurt says. Blaine looks up, the question evident in his eyes before he speaks it.

“She’s yours?”

Kurt nods.

“She’s beautiful, Kurt,” Blaine says. There is so much pure reverence in his voice that Kurt wonders at.

“You should ride her sometime. Goodness knows she’d appreciate someone who does more than just cling on for dear life…” Kurt trails off. He has no idea why he even said that — he’s never offered that to anyone else. It just slips out.

“I’d- I’d really like that,” Blaine says. They both smile at each other, just for a second — and of course that’s when Finn and Rachel reappear. Kurt hadn’t noticed that they’d vanished.

“Er, it’s time for lunch guys,” Finn says awkwardly.

“Yes, lunch — right,” Kurt says.

“Coming, Blaine?”

Blaine hurries up behind him, more animated than he’s been since he arrived. He chatters on about the horses some more, and Kurt gets caught up in the flow of their conversation. He finds himself interested in the topic at hand, for once. He chances a look back at Rachel, and nearly laughs outright at her expression. She has her hands on her hips, and her eyebrows raised as far as they can go, as if to say “do you like my present for you, or what?”

He smothers the laugh that threatens, and turns back to Blaine.

He’s much more interesting.

*

Lunch is a casual affair — well, casual by Hummel castle standards, anyway. From the way Blaine’s eyes are bugging out of his head at all of the food, Kurt supposes it’s not all that casual.

Rachel is babbling away as per usual — Finn is focused on her, clearly trying to follow her (no doubt convoluted) train of thought. Kurt looks over at his dad to see that he’s deep in conversation with Carole, and catches his eye briefly. Burt gestures gently with his head, tilting it to the side and indicating Kurt should look to his left. Kurt has no idea what he’s getting at, but does as silently asked — he looks towards Blaine, who is seated immediately to his left. Oh . Blaine is staring into space and looking somewhat intimidated.

“Hey,” Kurt says quietly, hoping not to startle him. “You still with us?”

“Oh- oh, yeah — I’m fine,” Blaine says.

Kurt smiles. “You can eat, you know,” he says, glancing pointedly at Blaine’s untouched plate. “The sandwiches are great, but my personal favorite is the rice salad. You should probably have some before Finn gets to it,” Kurt continues with a wink.

Blaine helps himself, a small smile appearing on his face.

That’s better, Kurt thinks.

“You think I’m joking, but I’m really not. He’d eat that entire bowl if you let him…”

Blaine’s smile broadens. “Well, we couldn’t have that,” he says. They fall into silence again as they eat, but it’s comfortable now. He tunes into Rachel’s chatter just in time to hear her ask Finn for another riding lesson. He can’t help the wry chuckle that escapes him at that. He looks sharply towards Blaine when he hears the matching laugh come from beside him.

Kurt bites his lip as Blaine leans over to whisper in his ear. “She just wants to show off what I’ve taught her…”

They both keep laughing quietly.

“If they’ll keep themselves occupied with Sparkles,” Kurt says, shaking his head at the name like he always does, “how about I show you some of my favorite places around the grounds? We had the Rachel Berry tour, but I think mine might be a little less intense.”

Blaine nods. “I’d like that.”

*

Blaine doesn’t know what’s happening. He doesn’t get tongue-tied and silly. Or rather, he never has before. Apparently Kurt has this effect on him. He hopes he’s not making a grand fool of himself.

Kurt is… he’s really something. Right now, he’s dragging Blaine by hand down the corridor to his own room. He’s talking about how Blaine just has to try on one of his tunics but Blaine himself is pretty focused on how smooth Kurt’s skin is and how their fingers fit together. Before he knows it they’ve reached their destination and his eye is caught by the glass case set in the corner of the room — or rather, he is drawn to the jewelry within the case itself.

“Are these all yours, Kurt?” he asks.

Kurt nods.

“Well, the tiara was my mother’s, of course,” he says.

“They’re beautiful,” Blaine says. “All of them.”

“They are.”

They’re silent for a few moments, until Blaine works up the courage to ask the question that’s been on the tip of his tongue all morning. “What’s it like?”

Kurt looks sidelong at him. “What’s what like?” he says.

“This.” Blaine waves his free hand over the case. “Being a prince. Everyone knowing who you are, having to wear these-”

“Oh,” Kurt says, cutting Blaine off. “It’s- it’s not really all it’s reputed to be. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fashion, and I love living here — it’s gorgeous — but it’s a lot harder than people think. I’m always on duty as prince, and it gets exhausting.”

He stops suddenly, and claps a hand to his mouth. “Um. I didn’t tell you that, okay.”

Blaine just smiles. “For the record you don’t have to be ‘on’ with me. I won’t tell anyone,” he says, winking. “How about you show me these clothes I’ve already heard so much about?”

Kurt smiles back at him. “Sure,” he says as they walk over towards his closet.

They’re still holding hands.

The rest of the day passes in a blur for Kurt. He can’t remember enjoying just spending time with someone since — well, since he and Rachel started getting along. He and Blaine seem to just fit. Truth be told, he hasn’t been this relaxed in weeks. Maybe even months. After they finally return to their rooms for the evening, Rachel sneaks into his. Like clockwork, he thinks. She doesn’t even say hello.

“So…” she says, biting her lip in a transparent display of innocence. Kurt sighs.

“Okay, okay, we — we might get along, Rachel.”

“I knew it!”

“Oh, shut up,” Kurt says. She’s far too smug and he wants to wipe that grin off her face right this instant. The problem is, his is matching hers right now. He buries his face in his hands.

“Rachel, what are we doing? ” he asks.

“We’re not doing anything. I’ve merely introduced you to a friend of mine, who happens to be very friendly and very attractive, if I may say so…” She winks at him. Actually winks.

“Rachel!” Kurt says, scandalized. “I am not — we are — I just met him today!”

“Oh, you’re cute when you’re trying not to admit you like someone, Kurt.”

“I don’t — I mean of course I like him, he’s lovely, but-”

“What was that, Kurt? I didn’t quite catch that middle part…” She says. “Run that by me one more time?”

He doesn’t respond, choosing instead to bat at her shoulder. Ineffectively, of course.

“Come on, admit it, Kurt — you have a crush already.”

“Princess Rachel Berry! You stop that train of thought right there or I’ll- I’ll-”

“You’ll what, marry me?” she counters, and that’s it. They both burst into helpless giggles until they’re gasping for air and clutching their stomachs.

“Shh, shh. Someone will hear us if we’re any louder.” Kurt admonishes, trying to stifle his own laughter.

Rachel bites her lip. “We’re ridiculous.”

Kurt raises one eyebrow at her.

“Glad you got the message.”

*

Blaine is a little overwhelmed. By this castle, by the freedom he’s afforded here simply by being Kurt’s guest. By Kurt. He’s managed to keep his composure, mostly, but it’s taken a lot of effort on his part. Blaine feels like singing when in his company — that is, he does until the stark reality that Kurt will marry Rachel sinks back in. He’s marrying the ‘real’ princess, no matter how much Blaine scoffs at that delineation. Technically he has just as much royal blood as she does — that is, a king for a father and a commoner for a mother — but he’s something of a dirty little secret and as such is not recognized as royalty. He tries not to be bitter, he does, but he can’t help but imagine what his life might have been like if he’’d grown up surrounded by the protection of the Kings — rather than in his mother’s village. If nothing else, he would have had Rachel for a sister and a friend. And maybe he wouldn’t be dealing with the emotional scars of an attack due to his sexuality. That’s another thing, too — he doesn’t even know if Kurt is gay.

In the end, he supposes it doesn’t matter.

He’s not sure how this hasn’t tainted this trip more than it has, if he’s honest. He’s been at the castle for nearly a week, and he and Kurt have been spending the majority of their time together. Rachel and Finn, he’s noticed, always seem to find excuses to disappear for hours at a time. He suspects Rachel is orchestrating this, but he’s not entirely sure why. Surely she wants to spend time with Kurt too. Then again, Kurt has told him all about her crush on Finn.

Right now he’s taking some time away from everyone to ride — Sarah had been getting antsy. He usually makes a point to ride her every day, and he’s let that slip a little while he’s been here. He relishes the clear air, and the familiarity of his own mare underneath him. He’s found the best track, and has let her just run. It’s an undeniable rush.

He reigns her in, reluctantly, and slows to a walk. He’s still trying to work out Rachel’s motives, here. He starts the journey back to the castle — he does need to head back for dinner — and just lets his mind wander. Kurt is never far from his thoughts.

Once he’s back in sight of the stables he barks out a laugh and shakes his head. Rachel is waiting outside the entrance — undoubtedly for him. He gives her a wave, and is amused when she bounces up and waves back enthusiastically. She starts talking as soon as he’s within earshot.

“Blaine! There you are, I’ve been waiting for you,” she says.

“I can see that,” he says, grinning. “Just let me brush Sarah down and feed her and then I’ll be right with you, okay?”

Rachel nods, and sits back down on the bench patiently.

Blaine goes about his putting Sarah back in her stall, brushing her mane out and cleaning her off. He won’t be rushed, not with this; Rachel can wait.

Finally, he returns to where she’s sitting.

“What’s going on, Rachel?”

“Oh, nothing much. Kurt’s just writing some letters and talking to King Burt about something. He won’t tell me what, but that’s not important. I just wanted to talk to you — we haven’t had much time on our own since we’ve been here.” She smiles warmly.

I wonder why, Blaine thinks. Out loud he says, “No, we haven’t. Did you want to go for a walk around the gardens?”

“That was my plan! Come on,” she says, running off. He laughs and follows her — it’s times like this when he’s reminded of how young they still are. Sometimes he forgets amidst all the drama that naturally surrounds their lives. Once they reach a part of the grounds that is a long stretch of lush grass, he allows himself to catch up with her. He tackles her to the ground, and they lie there, breathing heavily, for quite a few minutes.

“That’s part of why I love you so much, you know,” Rachel says, very seriously. “You don’t treat me like I’m made of glass.”

Blaine returns the smile she gives him, and pulls her closer. It should feel ridiculous, cuddling the princess of his kingdom on the grounds of another, but it just feels nice.

“Thanks for suggesting this trip, Rach. I don’t think I knew how much I needed something like this,” he says, just as seriously.

At that, her smile widens. She sits up, suddenly, and pulls Blaine up with her.

“About that…” she trails off, biting her lip. “How are you getting along with Kurt?”

He shakes his head, feeling shy all of a sudden. “You know the answer to that,” he says.

“But I want to hear it from you,” she whines, poking his side.

He glares at her, but there’s no heat behind it.

“Oh, fine. He’s wonderful,” he sighs. “I just feel like I can talk to him, and that somehow he gets me and I don’t know how or why.” He’s well aware he sounds utterly lovesick — it’s not far from the truth. “I don’t know where the time goes when I’m with him.”

Rachel claps her hands gleefully, practically bouncing on the spot. Blaine watches her, consumed with curiosity, and decides to just ask the question that’s been eating at him since they got here.

“Rachel, why are you so invested in this? In Kurt and I…” he sucks in a deep breath. “I mean, you’re marrying him. Why have you been pushing us so hard?”

He realizes, belatedly, that his tone has become harder than he meant it. Before he can apologize, Rachel speaks again.

“Is it so bad to want both of you to be happy?” She practically spits the word at him. “I watch both of you, you know, and neither of you are. I can see that I’m not enough, and that’s okay. I get it. It hurts, but I deal with it because I love you both. Both of you are my best friends, and I think you deserve each other. You deserve happiness and I can’t give it to either of you.”

She stops short, visibly trying to pull herself together again.

“Oh my god Blaine I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to-” he cuts her off.

“Shh, it’s okay. I just don’t understand. There’s no way I can be with him, not really. I want to, with all my heart, but it won’t work , Rach.”

“But you could!” She exclaims. “You could, we could work something out. It’s not like I’m opposed, and I’m the one marrying him,” she says.

“How would that even work, really? People would talk. You’ve said before that you two are meant to be a symbol of togetherness and unity for the kingdom — how does that stay intact when there’s a ‘third person’ in the marriage?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know. I just wish you’d try, for all our sakes. I hate this so much.” The last part is barely a whisper, and she looks down at her lap.

“So do I, Rach. Maybe if I was given the same recognition as y-” he cuts himself off, horrified at what he nearly admitted. Or rather, what he did. Rachel is staring at him. Oh no.

“Maybe what, Blaine?” she says, voice carefully calm.

“No it’s nothing, I…” he trails off when she raises an eyebrow at him. No way around this now, then.

“I- I haven’t been entirely honest with you, Rachel.” He says, closing his eyes. He can’t believe he let his tongue run away from him like that. “I’m not exactly some random stable boy. We — we share blood. I’m your brother, Rach. King Hiram is my father, too.”

“No no no no” Rachel whispers. “How? You’re younger than me…”

Blaine waits for that particular detail to sink in — he really doesn’t want to have to spell that out.

“No way, Daddy wouldn’t — you mean-”

Blaine nods sadly. “He slept with my mother. He’s known about me from the very beginning. I’m pretty sure King Leroy did too, Rachel. It’s why my father took off, actually. With my brother. He couldn’t stand the king’s bastard .” Blaine opens his eyes, and tries not to let it show just how bitter he is about that. He’s not very successful, if the look on Rachel’’s face is anything to go by.

“Why didn’t he tell anyone?” Rachel has calmed down enough to sound genuinely curious. Blaine wonders at how naive she is, sometimes.

“I think you can figure that one out, Rachel,” he says gently. “Have you ever wondered where we got the money to afford more than one horse?”

Blaine doesn’t wait for an answer, and launches into the rest of the story. He knows she’ll ask, and now the biggest secret is out in the open it’s a relief to be able to tell her the whole story.

“We were doing fine on our own, well, mostly. I’ve mentioned my attack a couple of times, to you, but it’s the reason I got sent to your dads after all that time. I mean, where’s the safest place for the victim of a gay-bashing to be-”

“Than in the home of the two gay kings,” Rachel finishes for him. “It does make sense,” she muses.

“Yeah, it does. I just wish it hadn’t taken a brutal attack for them to realize the situation I was in.”

“Oh, Blaine, ” Rachel says, and pulls him close to her again. They stay like that for a few minutes, each trying to regain control of their emotions, — and to let what had just happened process. When they pull back, Blaine can see the sheen of tears in Rachel’s eyes. She hurriedly blinks them away, and as they make eye contact again she starts laughing. Of all the possible reactions that Blaine had considered this news might induce, laughter was not one he’d expected.

She notices his confusion, and waves her hand at him to ask him to hold on for a moment.

“I’m sorry, none of this is funny — it’s just that of all people I latch on to on their introduction into our house, I latch onto you. My brother.” She pauses, trying to catch her breath. “Wait, if you knew all along…You knew at my party!” She accuses. “You let me drag you around to everyone and introduce you as my friend and- and-” By this point her eyes are comically wide, and Blaine can practically see the pieces of information all link up in her mind.

“Wait wait wait. That’s why you were allowed to teach me to ride properly, wasn’t it? I wondered why Daddy and Daddy let me go off for such long periods of time with you. But Blaine, if you’re my brother, why were you working as a servant in the stables? Surely you wouldn’t have to earn your keep, not after everything…”

“You don’t really get it, do you Rachel? I’m a burden. They offered — but what would have been the point? I don’t want it both ways. I either wanted to be accepted into your family fully or not at all. I still had to be a secret. So much so that I’ve basically just broken the one rule I was given by telling you. I’m not a prince, Rachel. I’m just the king’s bastard.”

Rachel scrunches her face up in confusion. “But you have just as much royal blood as me…” she says. Blaine just nods in reply. What else can he say? It’s what he’s been cursing all week.

“They knew about you. They knew. They knew about you and they still-” Abruptly, Rachel sits bolt upright. “I have to go. I’m sorry, this is a lot to process.”

“It’s okay,” he replies.

“For the record, I am so proud to have you as a brother, Blaine.”

“Rach?” he says as she gets up to leave. “Not a word. Not to anyone. And your dads can’t know you know. Not yet, at least.”

She nods once, looking like her mind is already far, far away. As she walks away from him, Blaine can only hope his words have registered.

Once she’s out of sight he slowly pulls himself up off the ground. He heads back to the room he’s staying in, intending to just go to sleep. They’ve missed dinner by now, he assumes, and he hopes Kurt isn’t too worried. Most of all, Blaine hopes he can work out what to do next.

*

Rachel can’t believe it. She just can’t. Her dad cheated. Cheated. And then swept Blaine under a rug with money; she just can’t comprehend that. Of all that is wrong with this situation, that’s what her mind is stuck on.

They knew.

She has a brother. A brother who is in more than halfway in love with her fiance. Who is marrying her because of some stupid, stupid plan that is based on the fact they are both of royal blood. And who she’s fairly sure has a rather big crush on said brother.

Wait a minute. What if- No, she cuts that train of thought off before it starts. That couldn’t possibly work.

Blaine has just as much royal blood as she does. No more, and no less.

Blaine is falling in love with Kurt. And Kurt is falling right back, she’s sure of it.

If they got married…

Yes.

If they got married, the kingdoms would still be joined.

The only problem is, no one knows about Blaine. He’d have to be officially accepted by her dads.

She’s got this.

Kurt hasn’t seen Blaine since breakfast. Blaine had said that he was going for a ride in the afternoon, and then Burt had called Kurt in to talk. The talk had lasted all afternoon, and Kurt is thoroughly disgruntled. Apparently, he’s being too obvious with Blaine. Whatever that means. Burt had given him strict instructions to “tone it down,” and it had taken all Kurt’s strength of will not to roll his eyes openly. Kurt sometimes feels like all being a prince gets him is duty and restriction. Everyone seems to think that being a prince is some sort of charmed existence, but it’s nothing of the sort. Kurt apparently isn’t allowed to be friends with this particular stable boy. “People will talk,” Burt said. They always do, and they always will. He just wants one friendship that isn’t mandated — that isn’t out of necessity. He feels cruel the instant he thinks it — he does love Rachel, he does — but he just wants something for himself . He doesn’t think that’s so much to ask.

And he wants more than that already, if he’s being honest with himself. There’s no way he’d admit that to anyone else yet. It’s serving as a giant reminder that he’s betrothed to a girl. Blaine makes him feel something. He feels happy, for once. Not lonely, not resigned, but happy. He’s not about to give that up because a few people will gossip. He really couldn't care less about what anyone else might say.

So he’s looking for Blaine.

He’s not in his room, or in Rachel’s. Blaine hasn't been seen by anyone since lunchtime, as far as Kurt can tell. He’s not worried, not yet. He makes his way down to the stables — he figures that’s as good a guess as any. And if he isn’t, Kurt will at least know that he won’t be able to find him if Sarah’s gone.

Sarah’s still in her stall, and so Kurt is stuck. He can’t think of anywhere else that Blaine has expressed a desire to go — and certainly nowhere he’d go after dark. He calls out, just in case.

“Blaine?”

There’s no response, and Kurt decides to just keep wandering around for a while. He could use the fresh night air to clear his head, regardless. After a while he sees a vague shadow on the ground, in the corner of one of the more manicured gardens. The one that was established right after his mother died, actually. It’s where his feet had automatically taken him. He approaches, not wanting to call out but making sure he’s not silent, and once he gets closer he realizes that the shadow is, in fact, Blaine. He’s curled up on his side, hugging his knees to his chest. Kurt can’t see his face, but he looks so small.

“Blaine?” he says softly. “What’s wrong?”

“I think I just ruined everything.”

Kurt kneels beside him, not quite knowing what to do with himself. “I’m not sure I understand.”

Blaine doesn’t respond; he wraps his arms tighter around himself. Kurt considers him for a moment, before saying, “Blaine, can you sit up for me?”

Again, Blaine stays silent — but he complies.

“Blaine, I don’t know what’s going on. Can I help?”

“No. I don’t know – I can’t tell you, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

He sounds so lost. Kurt sits down beside him. “Is it okay if I hug you, Blaine?” he asks. At his answering nod, Kurt wraps his arms around Blaine and pulls his head onto his shoulder. Kurt’s always felt awkward about hugging anyone but his father, and then Rachel, but somehow this works. He feels his heart race, and wills it to slow down so that Blaine won’t feel it. There isn’t much hope of that, though. Blaine is warm, and so gorgeous, and damn now Kurt’s thinking about how he has an attractive boy pressed up against his side. Oh, screw it, he thinks. He pulls Blaine even closer and starts stroking up and down his back gently. Blaine’s posture relaxes; Kurt’s now taking most of his weight. Kurt could sit like this for hours.

It feels like they do before Blaine pulls away, just slightly. He looks up at Kurt with wide eyes — like Kurt is the absolute center of his world. At the moment, he figures, he probably is. The thought makes the butterflies start up in his stomach again.

Blaine mumbles his thanks, and Kurt waves him off.

“For what it’s worth, Blaine, I’m sure you haven’t ruined everything, ” Kurt teases. “Come on, we’d better get back.”

Kurt stands up, and wordlessly offers his hand. Blaine takes it, gingerly, and then laces his fingers with Kurt’s.

The butterflies haven’t stopped.

So Kurt has a crush. So what?

*

Kurt can’t believe it. It feels like Rachel and Blaine had arrived yesterday, but it’s been two weeks. At the same time, he now can’t imagine his life without Blaine in it.

Needless to say, he’s a little confused.

They’re busy packing up their things; he’s been told in no uncertain terms that he has to go find something else to do because he was more of a hindrance than a help. He grumbles to himself. At least he gets to eat lunch with them before they actually go. He shakes himself out of his own head, and goes off in search of something to occupy his time.

*

Blaine feels lost. They’re going home, but somehow it doesn’t feel like it. He’s more at home here than he’s ever been anywhere. He knows he’s withdrawn into himself — he’s just glad Rachel seems to have picked up on this and is being uncharacteristically quiet.

How did his mood become so centered on Kurt Hummel?

*

Her boys are hopeless. Hopeless. Both of them are still refusing to admit what is right in front of their faces, and it’s making them both melancholy and weird.

It’s okay though. She has time, and she has a plan.

*

In the months since Blaine’s first visit, Kurt has written countless letters. Some of them to Rachel, to Blaine himself, and many, many more that will never leave his room. He’s embarrassed by their volume, but Blaine’s departure has left a massive hole in his days. After a couple of weeks, Kurt and Rachel had started organizing day trips — in both directions. Rachel is anything but subtle — she almost never suggested that they spend time together, only that they all meet up so Kurt could see Blaine. He’s sure she’s planning on spending every spare minute with Finn, too. Each time that happened, Kurt ended up giggling at her enthusiasm.

He smiles as one of the messengers delivers him another letter — from Rachel, he can see her mark from here. He opens it eagerly, and nearly jumps for joy as he reads it. She’s inviting him and Finn to stay with her for a few days. They both know that a few days usually turns into a week, and he quickly sets about writing her a reply. He has to check with his dad, of course, but there’s no reason for him to say no. Not when it’s Rachel asking.

The arrangements are made quickly — they leave in two days. Finn and Kurt will go on their own — for that, Kurt is grateful. If there’s one thing about turning 16 that he likes, it’s that they are allowed a great deal more freedom.

Kurt is ready early in the morning, and Finn isn’t too far behind, for once. The ride is uneventful, and they hand their horses over to Blaine with a quick smile and a wave before they head inside. They find Rachel and the Kings waiting for them, and the formal greetings are all taken care of quickly. Finn goes to put their things away, and Rachel and Kurt head off together. This is the pattern they’ve fallen into when they visit.

“Kurt!” Rachel exclaims, throwing herself at him bodily once they’re in her sitting room. “Why does it feel so much longer than three weeks since I’ve seen you?”

“I don’t know, but I’m so happy to be here, Rachel.” He smiles, and she returns it. They happily chat away for an hour or so, with the now requisite teasing about Blaine and about Finn. Kurt starts fidgeting as his mind wanders to the stables. He forces himself to refocus on their conversation and find Rachel looking at him knowingly.

“Go on, get out of here,” she says, “he’ll be in the stables as usual.”

“No, Rachel, it’s fine-”

She raises an eyebrow and he cuts off.

“I’ll still be here, go be with your boy,” she says, smirking.

“For the last time, Rachel, he’s not my boy. You are my girl, if we’re being correct, here.”

“Pssht. Go on, shoo. You know you want to.”

He grins back at her.

“Thanks, Rachel.”

“Yes, yes. I’m wonderful. Now go, ” she says forcefully. He doesn’t need to be told again.

*

“Fancy seeing you here, Blaine,” Kurt says casually as he enters the stables. Blaine jumps ever so slightly, and then he smiles shyly when he realizes who’s talking.

“Kurt! Hi!” he says brightly. “I thought you’d still be with Rachel…”

“So did I, but apparently she has other plans. Plans that involve me being here instead. Do you think you can spare a couple of hours away from the horses?”

“If the Princess says so, then yes. I’ll just finish up here, okay?”

Kurt nods, and moves to wait outside.

He doesn’t have to wait long at all.

“What should we do today?” Blaine asks.

“I don’t mind,” Kurt says. “Maybe just wander around for a while? I’d like to just talk, if that’s okay.

“Of course.” Blaine smiles, and its warmth makes Kurt melt. Just a little.

There’s nowhere else he’d rather be.

*

The days pass in that fashion. Kurt spends the mornings with Rachel, and then the afternoons with Blaine — he doesn’t have many duties to perform. Rachel seems to have cleared his schedule for him — Kurt tries to ask about it many times but is brushed off every single time.

Well, almost every time.

It’s the day before Kurt has to head home. They’re sitting in Rachel’s room, again, and have been chattering away nonstop for a few hours. Kurt tries again.

“Rachel, tell me — have you been making sure Blaine is free to see me? I mean, I appreciate it, but I’m a little confused. Isn’t he supposed to be working as a stable boy?”

“I, uh-” she looks anywhere but at Kurt.

“I’ll take that as a yes. Why, Rachel?”

“Because he wants to see you as much as you want to see him,” she blurts out. “I just… smoothed the way, a little.”

“You are ridiculous, Rachel. I love you, but you are ridiculous,” he says, smiling. “And besides, I’m not sure that that could possibly be true.”

Suddenly, his hands are very, very interesting to him.

“Oh, whatever could you mean, Kurt?” Rachel asks, clearly amused.

Kurt say nothing.

“Ku-urt,” she singsongs. “Spill.”

“I like him. A lot,” he says softly. “Maybe even — oh god I can’t say it. If I say it this is actually happening.” He covers his face with his hands. Rachel pokes him in the side.

“Hey!” he exclaims.

“Well tell me then!” she fires back.

“I maybe even love him. I don’t know, I’m so confused. This wasn’t supposed to happen, Rachel.”

“Ohmygod I knew it!” Rachel’s bouncing up and down, now. Kurt is mortified. He can’t believe he just told the girl he’s betrothed to that he’s in love with someone else. He narrows his eyes.

“Why on earth are you so excited about this? I love someone else, someone I can’t act on anything with. There is nothing to be happy about, here.” He sighs heavily.

“Who says you can’t act on it? I certainly won’t stand in your way.”

“Rachel, we are getting married. What part of that have you missed? I just have to suck it up, remember that, and enjoy spending time with him as a friend. That’s all I can do.” He scoffs bitterly. “Besides, I don’t even know if he’s gay. Let alone if he’d even be interested.”

Rachel laughs outright at that.

“Please don’t tell me your judgment of these things is that far off, Kurt. Honestly. He’s gay. And as for the latter, well, my sources tell me that’s not a problem. He takes every chance he gets to see you, you know. Every single one.”

Kurt holds up his hand, palm facing her.

“Rachel, please — stop. I can’t- I can’t let myself hope. It can’t happen,” he says sadly.

Rachel huffs out a breath, her frustration showing all over your face.

“You deserve happiness, Kurt. He makes you happy. I’ve seen it. He’s gay, and he’s interested. Trust me. I’ve seen the way he looks at you — like you make everything about his past okay. Like everything that brought him here is worth it because he met you. Even Finn’s noticed, and you know Finn. I don’t see why you can’t let him make you happy.”

“What’s the point?” Kurt says. She just doesn’t get it. “Why should I let myself be happy now, when it’ll just be taken away again?”

“Please. Just – just think about it. I’m begging you — ask him. I can’t tell you everything, it’s not my place; but you two need to really talk. We could make this work, I know it. You might be lonely, Kurt, but you aren’t alone. And you don’t have to be.”

She blinks back tears of her own, and Kurt feels guilty for snapping at her. She’s in the same boat; sometimes he forgets that.

“Oh, Rachel. Come here.”

She moves closer, and they cling to each other.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I know you just want what’s best for me, but that’s not up to us. I know you cope by being overly social, but that’s not how I work. I can’t put myself on the line like that, I just can’t.”

“I love you, Kurt. And I just want you to be happy. Promise me you’ll try? For me?” she says, speaking into his shoulder.

“Okay. I promise.”

*

Leaving this time is hard. Harder than normal, at any rate. Kurt really doesn’t want to say goodbye to Blaine again — not when he’s promised Rachel that he’ll try to get Blaine to open up a little. He takes promises very, very seriously.

Just before they head off, he pulls Blaine into a full body hug.

“Come visit me soon, okay?” he whispers into Blaine’s ear.

The soft “of course” he receives in response makes him smile from ear to ear.

He tears himself away, and they leave.

*

Rachel cannot believe how stubborn her boys are being. Blaine has so far refused all her attempts to convince him to tell Kurt about his parentage, and Kurt point-blank refuses to pry. She’ll have to take matters into her own hands soon. She can’t tell Kurt, no — Blaine would never forgive her. He’s already cut up enough about letting it slip in the first place. She’ll have to be sneakier than that.

She just has to get them to confess to each other. She smiles to herself. She knows that Kurt feels trapped by his castle, and by her home. She needs to get him out of that — perhaps she could suggest a picnic out near one of the villages close by. Finn will help her organize it, she knows.

Excellent.

*

It’s surprisingly difficult to find somewhere to host a picnic for four royal teenagers. Well, three official ones but Blaine counts in her mind. Still, it’s tricky. She’s already arranged to stay with Kurt and Finn, that isn’t a problem at all. She’ll have to bribe a few guards; sweet-talk and bat her eyelashes at a few more. And that’s just so they can leave the castle without people raising an alarm.

She vaguely remembers a pretty little spot near a lake that they used to visit when they were much younger, but she doesn’t remember where it is, exactly. Of course, she can’t ask Kurt if he remembers — she can’t give this game away until they’re outside of the castle walls. Instead, she pours through the many maps they have in storage, hoping that a name will jump out at her. It takes her hours, but eventually she succeeds. Kiar Springs. She memorizes the route they’ll need to take, and carefully puts the maps back exactly as they were. It’s unlikely anyone would notice if they were out of place slightly, but she’s not risking anything. Not this time.

*

When the time comes for her to put her plan into action, everything goes surprisingly smoothly. She manages to convince Kurt and Blaine rather easily to come for a ride, and they all are fairly happy to go where she leads. She has a good sense of direction, so there’s no worry from anyone about getting lost. Finn has the food packed into a saddlebag — there’s enough that they will eat well, but not so much as to cause suspicion.

They ride for nearly two hours at a steady pace, and she finally spots Kiar Springs. It’s just as gorgeous as she remembers.

“Wow,” Blaine says.

“Rachel, you remember this place too? I used to adore coming here,” Kurt says. His eyes are darting around him, unsure what to look at first. Rachel grins.

“I did. I wanted it to be a surprise. We brought a picnic!”

They find somewhere to tether the horses and then set up in a rough circle on the ground. They eat, and talk, and laugh. Rachel thinks her plan is working perfectly. Everyone is relaxed and happy. Time for the last stage of her plan to get her boys talking.

“I think I want to go for a walk. Finn, are you coming?” she says.

“I just want to lie here- ow” Rachel elbows him sharply. “Yes, yes okay I’m coming.”

They walk off, Rachel making sure to throw Kurt a little wave over her shoulder. She drags Finn just far enough away that she can still hear them, faintly, and then sits behind a nearby tree.

*

“Why do I feel like this whole trip has been planned for that exact moment?” Blaine asks, glancing in the direction Finn and Rachel had walked in.

“Because it was,” Kurt says simply. “Rachel thinks she’s so sneaky, and so clever, but I knew she was aiming for this as soon as she decided we were all going riding. I do have to admire her choice of location though — that was a nice touch.”

They smile at each other for a moment, happy to sit in silence.

“So. Rachel might be the least subtle person I’ve ever met, but since she has so nicely set us up with some privacy, we should take advantage of it,” Blaine says, motioning for Kurt to move closer. “Although, I can see a Finn-sized thing right behind that tree, so we might want to go take care of that first. Or we could just talk really loudly about how ridiculous Rachel is…”

Kurt giggles, and covers his mouth with his hands to stifle the sound. “I’ll go take care of her,” he says.

He walks over, quickly, and calls out, “Rachel! If you go to all this trouble to get us to talk, you’d better actually disappear right about now.” He hears her shriek of laughter, and then the shapes behind the tree do indeed move. He shakes his head, and returns to Blaine. “So…”

“So?” Blaine asks.

“Look. She’s going to keep doing this. I know what she wants me to say, and I’m sure you do too. So can we just… do this? Talk properly, I mean. We’re friends, right? Friends do that, apparently,” Kurt’s voice is teasing, but he knows that Blaine can see he’s serious. It’ll be nice to have everything out in the open. He hopes, anyway.

Blaine is silent, and his expression turns serious.

“Of course you’re my friend, Kurt. You don’t need to ask me that.” He pauses. “Can you go first, though? And please, only tell me if you want to — not just that Rachel does.”

“I do, Blaine — it’s just hard to say out loud. I – I like you, Blaine. And I don’t mean as a friend. I just feel stuck, because I’m marrying Rachel. She’s been pushing and I don’t understand, ” Kurt says.

Blaine’s staring at him. The corners of his mouth turn up into a smile — a smile that is threatening to take over his whole face.

“Kurt, come here.” He holds his arms out, and Kurt lets himself be pulled into a hug. “I liked you like that the first moment I saw you, Kurt.” They cling to each other for a moment, and then pull back quickly. They’re both blushing, and Kurt is the first to speak.

“So, uh. Was that what you wanted to tell me too? Did she know about both of us all this time?”

Blaine laughs. “Yeah, she saw straight through me right away. I’m not exactly the most subtle person either — we have that in common, Rachel and I.”

“So what now?” Kurt asks, and he can feel the sadness overtaking him again. “Nothing has changed, not really,” he says.

“We do what we’ve been doing. I’m not about to let this change our friendship, Kurt. I need you. And I think you need me too,” Blaine says. “We don’t have to make this a big deal — not unless we want it to. That- that actually wasn’t what I wanted to tell you,” he continues, his voice faltering.

“It wasn’t?” Kurt asks. What else could Rachel have been getting at?

Blaine shakes his head. “I don’t even know that there’s an easy way to say this. I’ve told you that I was raised by my mother on her own because my father left us. He left because he was already married, and there- there would have been quite the scandal if anyone had found out. Not to mention the shame it would have brought him."

Kurt frowns.

“Blaine, what- why would he be ashamed?”

Blaine looks back at Kurt. His gaze is steady; determined. “You need to know why he left. There’s no easy way to tell you this. Believe me, I’ve wanted to ever since I met you — but I can never find the words. I’m not just a stable boy. That’s what I do, yes — but it’s not why I was taken in. Have you ever wondered why the Kings took in some random kid off the streets?”

Kurt shrugs and nods, but doesn’t say anything. He’s still not following, but he knows Blaine well enough by now to know to wait him out.

“One of them is my father. To be precise, King Hiram is my father. Which makes me the King’s bastard, basically. Unrecognized — I have no status other than that of stable boy. They protect me, and I keep their secret. That’s the deal. Nobody knew at first, apart from my family and them. Until I let it slip to Rachel, of course. And now you know.”

Kurt feels his eyes widen. “What?” he says, rather loudly.

Blaine just nods. “Rachel’s my sister. Well, half-sister I guess, but the point is that we share a blood father — and have the same royal bloodline. That’s the reason I got sent to the castle after- after the attack.”

Kurt keeps staring; he can’t comprehend this.

This is what Rachel meant, he thinks. Oh my god.

He claps his hand over his open mouth — he’s stunned. Suddenly, everything she’s been saying to him makes so much more sense. He shakes his head to clear it, but it’s not terribly successful.

“Blaine, I don’t know what to say. I feel like I have a million questions, but I don’t want to pry…”

“You can ask whatever you like, I’ll answer.”

Blaine spills more of the story over the course of the afternoon. The more Blaine talks, the more his words spin in Kurt’s brain — tangling with each other, with everything he’s been worried about. He feels like he’s finally broken through to who Blaine is, and what he wants. There’s so much pain just under the surface, and Kurt wishes he could fix it.

By the time they have to head home he’s promised himself he’ll try.

*

When Burt calls Kurt into their official meeting room he expects to be lectured again about all the time he’s spending with Blaine. What he hears instead is completely different.

“Son, I have some bad news. There’s been a spate of robberies and fighting along the North border, and I have to take a trip to sort it out. There have been complaints about me not seeing my whole kingdom, and they do have a point.”

Kurt takes a sharp breath. This happens, often enough that it’s no shock — but not often enough that Kurt is entirely used to being without his dad.

“How long will you be gone?” he asks.

“A month, maybe two,” Burt says simply. “You’ll be acting as King here, of course. You’re old enough now.”

“I’ll miss you,” he says. It’s true, after all. But there is something else. “Dad, Rachel and my engagement ceremony is in two months. Will you be back in time?”

“I don’t know, I’m going to try,” Burt shrugs apologetically, and Kurt waves him off.

Burt continues, “I hate leaving you with that looming, but I really can’t not go this time, Kurt. You understand, kid?”

Kurt nods. “I do, Dad. I’ll be okay, I promise.”

Kurt gets up and hugs Burt. He clings for a moment, and then releases his grip as suddenly as he’d started.

“When do you leave?” he asks.

“Next week. As soon as everything is ready,” Burt replies.

Kurt’s mind is whirring already. He knows he should be more careful of his responsibilities but all he can think about is how much easier it will be to see Blaine. He shakes himself, and asks to take his leave. His etiquette lessons reappear at the strangest times.

“Sure, kid. I’ll see you at dinner.”

“Bye, Dad.”

*

He’ll be in charge. For two months. Not only that, it’s for the two months leading up to his official engagement to Rachel.

They could — no, he can’t. He’s marrying her, and that’s that.

He has to stop thinking otherwise. He’ll make use of the time to enjoy his pseudo-freedom.

It’s not perfect, but it’s enough. He’ll make it be enough.

*

Despite the warnings from King Burt, Kurt and Blaine continue to see each other on a rather frequent level. Rachel and Blaine seem to spend a majority of their days at Kurt’s, which is just fine by him. Finn and Rachel are amazing at covering for them — turning guards away that look for Kurt, distracting his tutors, setting up sneaky ‘dates.’ Kurt would think that he owes the two of them greatly, but it seems that he and Blaine aren’t the only ones benefiting from the arrangement.

One of the times they’ve managed a few hours together, Blaine insists on Kurt riding with him but is adamant that he won’t tell him where to. Kurt pushes past his discomfort and moves to get Eva out of her stable. He fumbles with the lock, but Blaine stops him with a sure hand over his.

“Not this time. Ride with me?” he asks, looking up at him with such genuine want that Kurt can’t bring himself to deny him. So he just nods.

Blaine smiles and nods, hurrying off to pull Sarah out. He babies her, Kurt can tell, and he loves that Blaine lets him see this side of himself — this boy with such a love for these animals that face seems to glow with excitement just from being near them. Kurt watches as he whispers quietly into the mare’s ear, stroking her gently and sliding reigns around her head. It’s a testament to their bond that Sarah doesn’t jerk. She trusts him.

After a minute or so, Blaine walks Sarah out and jumps up onto her, holding a hand down for Kurt. “Come on.”

Hesitantly, Kurt just stares at the hand. “I don’t know about this. I’ve- Blaine, I’ve never ridden without a saddle. I can barely ride as it is, much less bareback.”

But Blaine doesn’t retract his hand. He doesn’t get down to get a saddle. He just shakes his hand a bit, encouraging Kurt to grab on. “Just trust me,” he says, and Kurt knows he already does. So he reaches up, clasps his hand tightly in Blaine’s, and makes a leap of faith. Blaine’s strong too – he does half the work in getting Kurt up onto the animal.

Kurt shifts a bit, already feeling unsteady. “I don’t know about this,” he repeats.

Looking back at him over his shoulder, Blaine just continues to smile mysteriously at him. “I do. You can do this, Kurt. Just – hold on tight.”

Kurt purses his lips then, and he can feel his face heating up. Slowly, he winds his arms around Blaine’s waist, locking his fingers across his stomach, and sets his cheek against Blaine’s shoulderblade.

“Okay?” Blaine asks, and Kurt holds back a laugh. He can feel Blaine’s chest rumble with his voice, and it tickles a bit. But it’s also incredibly pleasant — the feel of a warm body beneath him. He finally finds it in himself to nod, and Blaine leads Sarah out of the stables.

He goes slowly at first. Kurt knows from watching him that normally he’d take off galloping with her, and he bites his lip to contain his smile at the idea that Blaine is watching out for him so closely.

“Still not going to tell me where we’re going?” he asks, rubbing his face gently against Blaine’s riding cloak. It smells like him.

“Nope. You’ll see soon. It’s a short ride,” Blaine says, amusement in his voice. They pick up speed gradually after that, but he still never pushes Sarah to that fast a pace. Kurt still clings to him tightly, though, afraid that even the slightest loosening of his grip will send him sliding off her back end.

Blaine is true to his word, and they arrive at what is apparently their destination after a short ten minute ride across the grounds. On the outskirts of the palace grounds lies a wooded grove: a small pond in a clearing of the forest that surrounds the castle on all sides. Blaine rides up next to it and stops Sarah, calling softly to her as he pulls on her reigns.

He gently pries Kurt’s hands off of him and slides off Sarah first. As soon as he hits the ground he turns and places both hands on Kurt’s waist, holding him steady as he slides off.

“So — bad ride or not so horrible?” he asks, the corners of his mouth twitching upward.

Kurt ducks his head to hide his smile. “It wasn’t awful. I’ve had worse.”

Blaine just grabs his hand for a moment, giving it a squeeze before releasing him and grabbing Sarah’s reigns. He ties them around a nearby tree, allowing Sarah to graze a bit while they spend their time together.

Before either of them can do anything, Kurt grabs Blaine’s hand again, slotting his fingers in between the other boy’s. Both of them look up at each other with a shy smile before glancing away.

He clears his throat before he speaks again. “So – what’s the plan here?”

“R-right. Plan. Uhm, well, I thought we could-…” Blaine pauses and licks his lips, stumbling over his words, and Kurt gives a mental triumphant cry at the fact that he has this effect on him. “Just kind of have some time to relax together. It seems like we’re always rushing or hiding from people, you know? Everyone’s always watching. So I just thought-“

Kurt cuts him off, his voice barely above a whisper, “You brought us somewhere no one could see us.”

Blaine brings his free hand to the back of his neck, rubbing there a bit awkwardly. “I just wanted some time with you without feeling like we’re doing something wrong.”

“We are, though. Technically. I’m- I’m betrothed, Bla-“

Before he can finish the sentence, Blaine lips are on his, and it’s like Kurt’s world explodes. For everything he’s never felt with Rachel, he feels a hundredfold now with Blaine. His lips are incredibly soft for a workhand, and the pressure sends sparks down his spine. He inhales sharply, but doesn’t pull away. It’s wrong, and he shouldn’t, but he slides a hand up to cup Blaine’s cheek and draws him in closer.

It takes them a minute before either can pull apart, but when they do, Blaine immediately brings his forehead to rest against Kurt’s. “God, I’ve wanted to do that for so long.”

“If that’s your way of telling me I talk too much, I’m going to have to start taking notes from Rachel,” Kurt says, and he finds he’s not even embarrassed about the breathless, airy tone that his voice has taken.

Blaine just chuckles. “Not really, no. I just- wanted to stop you. This isn’t wrong. We’re not wrong. The situation you’re in… Kurt, that’s wrong. What they’re doing to you and Rachel is wrong. Finding someone that makes you truly happy, finding love, that isn’t wrong. That’s- in fact, that’s perfectly right.”

Kurt finds it hard to even listen through his entire speech, caught up on one portion of it. “Love,” he echoes. He swallows around the word, his heart suddenly pounding harder than he can ever remember it doing.

“What?” Blaine asks, snapping his head up to look at him.

“Love,” Kurt repeats. He looks at him with wetly shining eyes. “Love. You said love. Y-you said ‘finding love isn’t wrong.’”

Blaine blanches, and the hand Kurt has such a tight grip on starts trembling. Kurt tenderly brushes his thumb across Blaine’s cheekbone, breathing heavily. “You said love,” he repeats again.

“I- I know,” Blaine says. His neck twitches a bit, and Kurt can tell he’s fighting the urge to look away. Maybe even to run. The fact that he’s still here, that he hasn’t tried to take it back, makes Kurt’s heart soar. After everything he’s been through, he’s still here.

“And… have you?” he asks. Kurt isn’t sure when breathing became so hard, but suddenly it seems to require conscious effort. “Found it, I mean?”

Blaine’s voice is so quiet when he answers, so barely there, that Kurt isn’t sure at first if he hears it or imagines it. “Yes.”

“Say it again,” he pleads. “Blaine, please.”

His eyes drift shut, and Kurt just squeezes his hand even tighter until both their knuckles go white. He’s asking a lot, he knows, but he has to hear him say it. Before he risks everything, he has to hear it.

When his eyes float open again, Blaine looks up at him from beneath his lashes. They’re clumped together, wet with unshed tears. His face is a bit blotchy from his high emotions, and a slight sheen of sweat has found its way onto his brow. Kurt has honestly never seen him look more beautiful.

“I – I love you, Kurt Hummel,” he finally says, and though his voice wavers a bit, the tone is sincere.

And Kurt’s resolve breaks. He drops Blaine’s hand and throws his arms around his neck, launching himself into the other boy’s arms. Hot tears slide down his face and drip onto Blaine’s shoulders, but neither boy seems to care.

“I was so hoping you did,” Kurt says, his voice a bit muffled around Blaine’s riding cloak. “Otherwise my loving you would be an awfully sad story.”

Blaine’s knees buckle a bit, but he keeps his grip on Kurt. “I never thought I’d hear you say that,” he mumbles, pressing his lips into his hair, against his temple, on the tip of his nose — anywhere he can reach. “From the first day we met, I’ve wondered what it would be like if- if this were possible. Us. But never in my wildest dreams could I imagine how I feel now.”

Kurt lowers them both to the ground until they’re kneeling together, clinging to each other as if letting go will somehow undo what just transpired between them. “No more imagining. I’m here, and it’s just us, and that’s… that’s all that matters right now.”

They stay there, utterly wrapped up in each other, for what feels like hours. Eventually they move to lying down, but they never untangle from each other. Where part of Kurt ends, Blaine begins, and Kurt can’t help but feel that they were meant to fit together like this. Blaine slots in tightly against him, and now that they know how each other feels, neither is keen to let go. Kurt lazily dances his fingers down Blaine’s torso, mapping out the body that he had been so careful to avoid becoming acquainted with. After a while, Blaine grabs his hand to still it and brings their linked hands under Kurt’s chin, tipping it up until their lips can meet in another sweet, slow kiss.

It takes his breath away again, and Kurt allows himself to wonder for a moment if that will always happen when they kiss, however long they have. His engagement looms heavily in his mind, but the thrill of new love overrides any sense of obligation he has to his kingdom for the afternoon.

“We have to head back soon,” Blaine murmurs.

Kurt sighs, sneaking another kiss. “I wish we didn’t have to. I don’t want this to stop.”

“I know. But Rachel and Finn can only bide us so much time, love.”

Even though he knows it’s true, and the thought should make him sad, he smiles against the warm expanse of Blaine’s neck. “I like that.”

A flush creeps up Blaine’s skin, from his chest to his ears. “Me too,” he admits, just as softly as earlier.

“This was perfect. Thank you.”

“Thank you. For- for making me feel whole again — fixed again — for the first time in a long time.”

Kurt clenches his eyes shut tight, overwhelmed by just how protective he feels over this boy who waltzed into his life only such a short time ago. “You were never broken, Blaine,” he says fiercely, though his voice never rises above a whisper. “You’re perfect, and you always were. You always were, okay?”

Blaine doesn’t reply, but Kurt can feel his pulse rise a bit, and he knows his words have registered. Unfortunately, the sound of pounding hooves comes into the clearing just then, so they spring apart quickly, dusting themselves off.

They’re just seeing about fixing more of their appearance (trying to straighten their hair, unwrinkle their cloaks) when their visitor arrives. Rachel rides into the clearing on Sparkles and stops shortly in front of them.

“Sorry, but we can’t hold them off anymore. They’re getting curious as to where the prince has run off to.” Her face shows her true regret, and Kurt just gives her a sad sort of smile.

“It’s okay, Rachel. Thank you for what you’ve done. Today has been — wonderful.”

Rachel raises an eyebrow at him, and Kurt is sure she caught the pause, sure she can see the heat crawling up his neck, but she doesn’t say anything. She just nods and turns her horse around, trotting to the edge of the clearing. “I’m glad. But let’s go, before we get in any more trouble.”

Blaine’s already up on Sarah, and he holds a hand down to Kurt again. They’re off in a few more seconds, following closely behind Rachel as they head back onto the grounds.

*

They reach the stables quickly, and Blaine offers to lock the horses back up so that Rachel and Kurt can head back inside before anyone else comes looking after them. Rachel thanks him with a kiss to his cheek and then grabs Kurt’s hand, hurrying them off. She drags them to her guest room, intent on getting information out of Kurt.

Once they arrive, she locks the door behind them and sits down on her bed, gesturing for Kurt to join her. “So?” she prompts.

“What?” Kurt asks, picking absentmindedly at a loose thread on the bedding.

She bounces a bit, a grin breaking out on her face. “How was it? Did you two have fun? What did you do?”

Kurt bites his lower lip and looks up at her. “Promise you won’t tell anyone?”

Rachel scoffs and frowns at him. Surely Kurt knows by now that she is just as invested in his relationship with Blaine as he is, or nearly anyway. If he thinks she’s going to go blabbing about this, he is mistaken. “Of course I won’t. Now tell me!”

“He- he said he loves me.”

The high pitched squeal flies out of her before she can bite it back, and she pulls Kurt into an impossibly tight hug. “I knew it! Oh, Kurt, I knew it. I’m so happy for both of you!”

Kurt hugs her back, patting her back lightly, before he pulls back. It’s then that Rachel notices the tears in his eyes. “You aren’t happy?”

He gives a quiet laugh, though a short sob follows it. “Of course I’m happy. I – God, Rach, I’ve never been happier. Someone loves me.” He looks up at her a bit apologetically. “I mean, romantically.”

“I understand. But then… why are you crying?” she asks.

Kurt drops his head into his hands. “What am I doing, Rachel? I love Blaine. I do. And he knows that now. But you and I are engaged. I can’t do this to him. I can’t just play with his feelings like this for a few months.”

Rachel’s heart breaks. Carefully, she pries his hands away from his face. “What if we called it off?” she asks.

And there it is. She’s finally said what she’s been thinking ever since she found out about Blaine. It feels good to get it off her chest, to tell another person, and she can’t help the balloon of hope that swells up inside of her.

“We can’t,” he replies, just as quickly. “There’s no way. Rachel, we’re supposed to be this — symbol of hope, joining our kingdoms together. I’m a prince, and you’re a princess, and that means that we have jobs, no matter what our hearts may want.”

Rachel just lets him get it out, his fears and worries and all the pent up frustration over their situation. Once he finally calms down, she tilts his head up until their eyes meet again. “But what if — just listen to me, Kurt — what if you married Blaine? Remember what I told you? He’s my brother. He’s… we have the same blood. He’s just as royal as I am.”

“He’s unrecognized, Rachel. I can’t — it wouldn’t have any uniting force at all.”

“But just say he was,” she says, begging him to consider it. “Just say, for a moment, that he was accepted. What about then?”

“Then — then maybe things would be different. But they’re not, Rachel.”

They fall into a heavy silence then.

She has work to do.

*

Rachel knows there has to be a way around this. There has to be — it’s just a matter of finding it. So the next morning she sends Kurt off early to go be with Blaine, chuckling to herself when he skips off towards the stables without any hesitation whatsoever, and then shuts herself in the library, pouring over the dusty old volumes. She flips through history book after history book after history book hoping to find some tiny clue.

After hours of tireless searching, she thinks she’s finally found what she’s looking for. She’s found a book that contains records of the laws of her kingdom, and she settles in for a long read. She has to go through this carefully — there’s no room for error here. Another hour passes, and she finally finds the section she’s looking for. Inheritance . She dives in, overjoyed to have finally succeeded. Her eyes alight on a promising segment — until its full meaning sinks in.

Any crown royal will hold their title until their death. However, in cases of exceptional circumstance, a royal may choose to step aside. If that is deemed necessary, then the title falls to the next in line according to standard inheritance law. This may happen at any point once a crown royal turns sixteen.

Now that the answer is in front of her, Rachel can’t believe this particular consequence hadn’t occurred to her previously. She’ll have to give up her crown. Otherwise, even if Blaine is recognized, him marrying Kurt has no power — and wouldn’t fix anything.

She hurriedly shoves the book away from her as she feels the tears well up. She sobs at how unfair this entire situation is. She curses her dads, Burt, the drought that caused the split in the first place. All the resentment she’s been harboring for years comes spilling out in the tears falling down her face. She’s strong, she knows she is — but suddenly it all feels like too much. She’ll have to give up her title. She won’t be Queen, no — she won’t be the Crown Princess. Everything she’s ever known will be gone. And oh, her dads will be disappointed.

She shakes herself. She came here to find a solution, and she has one.

She’ll do it. She has to. Kurt is worth it. He’ll be a great King , she muses. Blaine is worth it. Finn is so, so worth it.

She sucks in a deep breath and tries to stop the tears from falling. Her dads can’t know until the last minute — and she still has to convince Kurt.

But it’s possible.

*

Rachel bursts into Kurt’s room early the next morning, and Kurt awakes to the shrill sound of her voice.

“Get up, Kurt, we’re having a day to ourselves today. You and me, we need to talk. Uninterrupted. Finn and Blaine have gone riding, and everyone else doesn’t care what we do anyway — with your dad gone and all.”

“Go ‘way, Rachel,” Kurt mumbles into his pillow, but Rachel will have none of it. She pulls his covers off his bed.

“Up up up, come on.”

Still grumbling, he pulls himself up to a sitting position and blinks blearily at her. He attempts his trademark glare but it doesn’t work — it never works on Rachel even when he’s not half-asleep.

He rolls his eyes. “At least give me a moment to get dressed,” he says, staring pointedly at his door.

“Okay!” She walks over, and Kurt thinks there’s something a little off about her demeanor. She’s cheery and bubbly, but something still feels wrong. Once he’s dressed, he calls her back in.

“Are we going somewhere or…?” he lets the question hang, and she quickly shakes her head.

“We should go eat breakfast, and then we can just sit in here or in my room,” she says. “I don’t think we’ll be overheard, today.”

Kurt nods.

“Let’s go then, I’m hungry,” Rachel says as she bounds back across his room.

*

Once they’ve eaten Kurt feels more awake — although admittedly, he’s not feeling terribly much better than he was last night. Every so often a little bubble of happiness at being loved will fill his chest, but then he remembers that he can’t have Blaine, and he deflates. They’re chattering away about palace gossip, and Rachel looks at him shrewdly every time he feels his mood slumping.

Sometimes he wishes she didn’t know him quite so well.

They end up going back to Rachel’s room, and she sits down cross-legged on the floor immediately.

“So,” she begins, “we have things to discuss.”

Kurt remains silent. He’s said what he thinks, and he wishes she’d leave him to wallow. He feels like wallowing.

Rachel is clearly unperturbed by his lack of response, and barrels on.

“Blaine is my brother. My brother, Kurt. There is no way I’m letting him stay as the damn stable boy — not now I know the truth. It’s seriously unfair that they hid this from everyone. I have no idea what came over my dads but I won’t stand for it.”

“But Rachel, what are you going to do?”

“What I always do when I want something.” She shrugs. “I’ll tell them I know, and sweet talk them into it. I only hope Blaine doesn’t get angry at me for telling them. He’ll forgive me eventually, though — if he’s given his proper title, anyway.”

She sounds so certain, so sure of herself that Kurt knows it would be entirely futile to try and argue the point. Besides, he agrees wholeheartedly.

Kurt sighs. “Well, I really hope it works, Rachel. But I still don’t see how that means we can call our wedding off. I mean, it’s all well and good for me to think about marrying Blaine, but the whole point is that this marriage was meant to be between us. It’s been planned for so many years, and people know it’s us . Not me and some boy they’ve never even seen.”

Rachel bites her lip before saying, “I’ve found a way, Kurt. I- I’ll have to step aside,” she practically whispers.

Kurt’s eyes widen, and his jaw drops. “Can you do that?” he asks, incredulous.

“I can’t go into details now, but it’s possible. You have to trust me.”

Kurt frowns. “Rachel, are you sure-”

She holds up her hand and shakes her head. “Please, please don’t,” she says. “I’m sure. I’m doing this. For you, for Blaine — and most of all for myself. Please don’t make this any harder than it already is.”

He nods, and opens up his arms for a hug. She lets herself be wrapped up, burying her face into her shoulder. He presses a quick kiss to her hair, and whispers, “Thank you. For everything.”

She just clings tighter.

A few moments later she pulls back, and much to Kurt’s confusion she’s grinning. Kurt has no idea what she’s thinking now, and he’s a little afraid to find out.

“Rachel, what are you so happy about now? Seriously…”

“There’s something else, Kurt. What are royal families obsessed with, apart from marriage?” she teases.

Kurt just waits. He knows she can’t stand waiting, and will answer her own question. Sure enough, she can’t help herself.

“Bloodline, Kurt. Bloodline.”

“Rachel, we’ve talked about this to death-” he says, confused now.

“No, Kurt — not Blaine’s, ours. Heirs. Babies.

Kurt’s jaw drops open as her meaning becomes clear.

“Rachel Berry, are you saying what I think you’re saying?” he asks, incredulous.

“Yes I am. You go get your boy, and I’ll have your child. Ta-da!"

“You are unbelievable,” he says, his mouth twitching up into a smile. “Absolutely unbelievable.”

“I have a point though, you have to admit. If we had a child, and Blaine is recognized as Crown Prince and I give up the title of Crown Princess…”

“No one would dispute the join between the kingdoms.” Kurt finishes for her. He lets himself dream. He knows it’s a mistake, but he does it anyway. The conversation moves away, onto more trivial things, but his mind keeps returning to Rachel’s proposition. He hates to admit that it makes sense; it makes it sound feasible.

It makes this whole mess seem just a little less daunting.

*

Once Blaine and Rachel have left this time Kurt’s head reels. It’s one thing to scheme with Rachel, and it’s quite another to keep his spirits up when neither of them are around. As much as they’d love to, they can’t stay any longer than a few days at a time. Not when Kurt is essentially running the castle in Burt’s absence. Carole helps, of course, but he has to step up while his dad is away.

He thinks of Blaine constantly. A constant stream of memories, of dreams and of plans. Plans that he has no idea how to even begin to enact, but plans all the same. Each time it happens, some tiny princely duty will remind him that they’re fantasies and nothing more.

It takes a week for it to become too much to bear. Everything’s too much ; Kurt feels like he can’t breathe. So he does the only thing that makes sense to him in that moment. He leaves the castle, taking care not to draw any attention to himself. He quickly saddles Eva, and thanks his stars that there’s no one around. He leads her out of the stable, climbs on, and starts her walking down the forest path that he’’s come to know so well these past few months. He has one thought on his mind: get to Blaine. Blaine will help, he’s sure of it. He has no idea how — everything is looming too close, and too threatening — but he has to try. He can’t spend one more minute in this castle today.

Gradually, he pushes Eva into a gallop. He’s terrified, but the desire to get to Blaine overrides the fear.

He’s there in what feels like no time at all.

Once he reaches the stables he realizes, belatedly, that no one has any idea he’s coming. He knows well enough where Rachel will be, but as for Blaine — if he’s not at the stables Kurt will have no idea. With that in mind, he makes a beeline for them. Thankfully, he spots Blaine sitting just outside. Kurt freezes. He doesn’t know what to say, now he’s here.

He really didn’t think this through.

At that moment, Blaine looks up. His expression lights up at the sight of Kurt, but falls again almost instantly when he sees just how much of a mess Kurt is. Kurt knows he looks horrible; he’d barely slept last night, after all. Blaine all but runs over and helps Kurt dismount Eva, and holds onto her reigns while he takes Kurt’s hand with his free one.

“Kurt, what’s wrong?”

Kurt just shakes his head. He can’t possibly put it into words. Luckily, Blaine seems to understand.

“Wait here, I’ll go put Eva in the stables and we’ll take Sarah out.” Blaine seems to be talking mostly to himself, and Kurt lets himself be pulled into the stables. This time, he doesn’t hesitate when Blaine helps him up onto Sarah, and instantly clings on.

Blaine gently guides her outside, and then he takes off. Kurt vaguely registers the wind in his face, in his hair, and tightens his grip on Blaine slightly.

“I’m taking you to my home, this time. And then you’re going to tell me what’s going on in that head of yours, okay?”

Kurt nods into Blaine’s shoulder, and they spend the rest of the trip in silence. After about an hour of riding, Kurt feels Sarah slow to a walk.

“We’re here,” Blaine says quietly. “Mom won’t be home yet, but I’m going to leave Sarah here and then we’ll walk for a while. There’s a park I used to go to when- when things got bad. She’ll want to meet you if she knows you’re here, but you don’t have to if you don’t feel up to it. It’s why I wanted to take one horse — she’ll know I’m here but not you.”

They dismount, and as Blaine leads Sarah away Kurt tries to arrange his thoughts in some sort of order. He’s touched that Blaine is taking him somewhere so close to his heart — and that makes it easier. Not much, but enough to allow him to work out what he needs to say.

Blaine returns, and wordlessly laces their fingers together. He pulls Kurt along, and they walk in silence.

The park is tiny — just a bare patch of ground covered in grass, and surrounded by a few bushes. Blaine pulls him over into the far corner, and sits down cross-legged on the grass. He doesn’t let go of Kurt’s hand, and so he finds himself following suit — facing Blaine.

“Whenever you’re ready, love,” Blaine says.

That’s all it takes. Everything bubbles up, and for once Kurt lets it spill out.

“I was managing, Blaine. I was, until I let myself dream. I love you, and you love me, and in a perfect world we could enjoy that, and instead I have to marry someone else. I have to marry a girl, and it feels so wrong, and I can’t tell anyone else about this. And I was fine, because it was all I’d known — I’ve known my fate since I was so young, but now — now the thought is unbearable.

“A month. A month until this is official, until my future is tied completely to hers. One month today,” he whispers the last part, afraid that if he says it any louder it will be even more frightening. “A month until I promise my life away to someone I can’t love completely, to someone who loves someone else. No one even knows I’m gay, Blaine. No one outside of you and Finn and Rachel. I don’t know who I am anymore — and what kind of king will I be if I can’t even tell my people the truth about me ? How can I ask them to trust me to lead them when I can’t even do that?” He sucks in a breath, trying to calm himself down.

“I can’t do this. I can’t-” he tries to stop the tears that have welled up, but it’s futile. He screws his eyes shut, and chants over and over, “I can’t I can’t I can’t. I can’t tell my father about the man I love, because it would mean betraying my entire kingdom. His kingdom. All I am is this damn title, and I hate it, Blaine. I hate it so much. I can’t do this. I can’t be what they need, I’m not the person they think I am.” Kurt feels Blaine’s lips on his, suddenly, and stops. It’s quick, but it’s enough to jolt him back to himself. He feels Blaine pull away again, and opens his mouth to speak, but Blaine’s put his finger to Kurt’s mouth.

“Shh, don’t talk. It’s my turn. Open your eyes,” Blaine says, and when Kurt doesn’t, he adds, “come on, look at me. Please.”

Kurt opens his eyes.

“I love you, Kurt. But I don’t love you because you’re a prince, or because you’re doing the right thing by your kingdom, or because of anything like that. I love you because I can talk to you about the most ridiculous of things without being embarrassed. I love you because you take the time to see me, and what I can be. I love you because when I’m with you I feel… alive. In a way I’ve never, ever been. So no, your kingdom may not see you exactly as they should. But they still see a strong, beautiful man, Kurt. They see someone who loves them, and who will do absolutely anything for them. That’s what makes a true king, Kurt. And you will be a great one — I know that.”

Blaine is so earnest that Kurt can’t help the smile that shows up through his tears.

“You really think that, Blaine?”

He shakes his head fondly, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “I know it, Kurt.”

Kurt takes a deep breath. There’s something else he needs to tell Blaine before it eats at him any more.

“That’s not all,” he says. “Rachel suggested something the other day, and it’s been turning over in my head ever since. I can’t stop thinking about it. She thinks- she thinks we should call it off. That- that I should marry you, instead. But I don’t know — I don’t know how that would work. At all.”

Kurt is watching Blaine’s reaction carefully, and is surprised when there really isn’t one.

“Blaine? Say something?”

Blaine bites his lip and looks down at the ground.

“She might have already told me about her- her ideas,” he mumbles.

Kurt stares at him for a second, before rolling his eyes. “Of course she has,” he says.

Blaine meets his eyes again, and Kurt shakes his head as he says, “typical Rachel.”

“You know I’d marry you in a heartbeat, right?” Blaine says in a rush. Kurt’s not sure he’s heard correctly.

“You — what?”

Blaine colors, but doesn’t look away.

“You heard me. I love you, Kurt. You’re everything to me. If there is any way this could work, I will marry you — I swear it on my life.”

“I- I want to,” Kurt whispers. He launches himself at Blaine, burying his head into Blaine’s chest and clutching at his back desperately. “I want to so much.”

He’s crying again, on the edge of becoming fully fledged sobs. He can’t help it — everything seems so hopeless. They want to marry each other, but they still can’t. It cuts even deeper than before, somehow.

Blaine pulls him closer, cradling the back of Kurt’s head and rubbing at his back. Kurt’s sobs subside, but he stays there. He lets Blaine soothe him, even though he knows it’s temporary. He needs to hold it together. Really, he needs to be held together.

“So,” Blaine says, “shall I give you the tour of my home, now?”

Relieved at the change in topic, Kurt hurriedly agrees.

They get up, and Blaine starts running.

“What are you doing?” Kurt yells, following him.

“I’m showing you my home! And this is the only way to do it, come on,” he calls back.

Kurt laughs, open and loud, and then shakes his head. He runs after him. He may not be as athletic as Blaine, but he has longer legs. He catches up easily, tackling Blaine from behind. Blaine recovers quickly, grabbing Kurt by the waist and spinning him around. When they stop, Kurt can’t help himself — he leans in and kisses Blaine.

“Thank you,” he says. Blaine smiles back.

“Always.”

*

They spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around and enjoying the freedom that Blaine’s small town provides. Blaine gets recognized a few times, of course — but most people have only heard of Kurt, and don’t have a solid idea of who he is. It’s a luxury he never gets in his own kingdom. They don’t hold hands when others are in view. It’s partly out of habit, and partly out of fear that someone will recognize them. It would only take one person to spread a rumor that would reach the respective royal households.

Eventually, Blaine asks again if Kurt would like to meet his mother. To his own surprise, Kurt finds he does — and so they return to Blaine’s former home.

“I haven’t actually been here in a while, so she’s going to fuss. Just a warning,” Blaine says, shrugging his shoulders.

Kurt eyes him. “You must miss her terribly,” he says.

He receives a short nod in response.

“Come on then, let’s go surprise her,” Kurt says, smiling. Blaine’s told him all about his mother’s obsession with royalty of any kind, and truth be told the idea of just walking into her house is an appealing one. He hopes she doesn’t go so far as to faint, though.

Blaine grins. They’ve reached the front door, and Blaine opens it quickly.

“Mom? Are you here?” he calls.

“Blaine? What are you doing home?” It’s practically a screech, and Kurt holds back the laugh that bubbles up. In a few seconds, he’s watching on as a tiny woman with long dark hair streaming out behind her collides with Blaine. He watches as they cling to each other, and he feels his heart break for Blaine’s situation all over again.

When she pulls back, he just has time to note the incredible resemblance between the two of them before she’s speaking again.

“Blaine, is this who I think it is?” She asks, eyes impossibly wide.

Blaine is visibly trying not to laugh — his eyes are sparkling and goodness, Kurt loves that laugh — as he answers. “That depends, Mom. Who do you think it is?”

“Oh my goodness,” she says, breathless. Kurt’s not even trying to hold back his laughter now. There’s no point.

“Mom, this is Kurt. Kurt, this is my mother. Victoria.”

“Lovely to meet you, Victoria,” Kurt says, bowing slightly.

She grins back at him. “The same to you, Your Highness.” She curtsies, and Kurt is back to trying to hold his laughter. He’s used to people having that reaction to him, of course, but she’s just so enthusiastic. And it’s Blaine’s mother , for goodness sake.

“Please, call me Kurt.”

Suddenly, her smile drops and she turns back to her son.

“Blaine Anderson, tell me you did not bring the Crown Prince back to this town.”

It’s Kurt’s turn to stare, as the bright and bubbly woman he’d just met vanishes into one that is quite frankly terrifying.

“This place is not safe for you or for him. There’s a reason you had to leave, Blaine!”

“Mom, I thought this through. I promise. I’ve grown up a lot since then, and no one but you would recognize him instantly. We haven’t been in the main streets of town, either.” His voice softens. “I’d never put him in danger, Mom.”

She glares at him for a moment more, and then lets the smile creep back onto her face. “Good. Now, let’s get you boys some lunch — I’m sure you’re hungry,” she says, and hurries off to the kitchen leaving the two of them standing in the hallway.

Kurt’s still a little stunned.

Blaine takes one look at his face and starts laughing. “So, how do you like my family?”

“She’s- she’s a whirlwind, Blaine. I think I suddenly understand where your energy comes from,” Kurt replies.

“That’s one way to describe her, yeah.”

Kurt hugs Blaine quickly, and then they move off to the kitchen to see if they can help.

Kurt is in love, and for this moment everything is okay.

*

This time, Kurt and Rachel need to meet alone. Kurt sends her a letter telling her so, and they meet halfway through the forest, in the middle of the night. He’s probably being paranoid, but nothing about this can be allowed to be overheard.

One whisper reaching anyone at either royal residence and the plan is off.

And Kurt can’t bear for it to fail. Not any more. He’s invested — he cares too much, now. The more he dreams about and plans a potential future with Blaine the more he’s willing to risk everything to make it so. Everything.

Somehow that overrides the fear. The fear of not living up to his title, the fear of being caught out, the fear of disappointing his dad.

He sees Rachel in almost the exact spot they had after their respective 16th birthday celebrations — and he spares a moment to shake his head at all that has followed that particular meeting. He smiles to himself before she sees him, thinking about Blaine’s shy confession that he’d been pretty much smitten from his first glimpse of Kurt. Blaine had blushed as he’d told him — and Kurt thought that made him look even more adorable.

They both slow their horses, and dismount as quickly as they possibly can. Kurt ties Eva’s reins to the nearest suitable tree, and walks over to where Rachel is securing Sparkles in a similar fashion. He holds his arms out, and she slowly, calmly, lets herself be wrapped up. After a few minutes of clutching each other like they need each other to breathe (in a way, they do) they let go — pulling back enough to look at each other in the moonlight. Kurt grabs Rachel’s hands and speaks quietly.

“I’ve decided,” he says. “I want to do this. I need to.”

She nods once.

“I don’t think we should discuss all of the specifics with each other — just what we each need to know. There’s less chance of anyone finding out any key details they’d need to prevent it.”

Another nod.

“And nothing in writing. Not to each other, anyway. I’m sure you know what you need to do from your end.”

“Yes, I do. I’ve triple-checked all of the facts, I’m sure we can do this. Legally. I’ll get Blaine recognized, and then…” she trails off. “Timing is key — my dads can’t know about this until the last moment, which means it’ll all have to happen on the day of the ball,” she says softly. The sly smiles and teasing nature are gone but she looks just as determined as ever.

Kurt nods. “Once Blaine has his title — the second he does, actually — I need you to give him this. He’s bound to ask you questions, tell him you can’t answer any of them. He should know what I’m referring to in the letter,” he says, passing her a thin sealed envelope. “Once he has, take him to Santana and have her organize an outfit for him to wear. His mother too, when he asks her. She especially cannot know a thing.”

“I will,” she says.

“Dad’s still away, so most of the ball organization has fallen to me. Finn’s hosting in his place, so I’ll talk to him. And Rachel — he can’t know any more than I tell him, okay? I’m sorry,” he bites his lip, knowing how hard that will be for her.

“It’s okay, Kurt,” she says gently. “I understand.”

Kurt pauses a moment, making sure he hasn’t forgotten anything on his end before asking, “Is there anything I need to do for you, Rachel?”

“Tell Finn I love him, please. We won’t be able to see each other until the ball, now. Same goes for you and Blaine I assume.” At Kurt’s nod, she continues. “We can do this, Kurt. We can.”

Kurt doesn’t know if she’s trying to convince him or herself, but he appreciates the sentiment anyway.

He hopes it’ll be enough.

*

Blaine’s carrying out his usual tasks when he is interrupted by Rachel. This happens reasonably often, so he doesn’t think terribly much of it until she comes right up to the stall he’s cleaning out and asks to speak to him privately for a moment.

“Sure, Rachel, this can wait,” he says, and follows her. Once they’re outside, she starts speaking.

“My dads want to see you this afternoon, Blaine. Formal dress, in the presentation room.”

Blaine’s confusion must show on his face, because Rachel continues quickly.

“I can’t say anything more, but I hope you’ll forgive me.”

Now he’s even more lost, but with one brief hug she’s walking away.

Blaine has no idea what just happened.

*

He presents himself as asked, as dressed up as his limited wardrobe allows. When he walks in, both King Hiram and King Leroy are there, as well as Rachel herself. He bows to each of them, as the situation calls for, and stands directly in front of them. He waits.

King Hiram speaks first.

“I believe we owe you an apology. I owe you an apology. I made a mistake in allowing you to grow up as the king’s bastard rather than the king’s son. For that, I am truly sorry.”

King Leroy adds, “And I am sorry for allowing my personal grievances to stand in the way of that.”

“We both want to make it up to you. From now on, you are our son — in name as well as blood, and second in line for the throne,” King Hiram says, nodding to Rachel. She gets up, and walks to the table sitting behind them. She picks up the circlet sitting on it, and walks back over to Blaine. It’s gold, and has the family’s purple stone set in the center. Simple, but beautiful. Blaine is speechless.

He knows his eyes are as wide as saucers, and they stay that way as Rachel places the circlet on his head.

“Prince Blaine Anderson, will you accept our humble apologies and this symbol of your status?” King Hiram continues.

“Yes,” Blaine says, only just audibly.

King Leroy manages to preempt his next question. “You may do what you like, Blaine — if that means continuing your work in the stables, then that is what you will do. The circlet is only for formal occasions, and we ask that you keep it locked away at all other times. You may go now, if you wish.”

“Thank you,” he manages, and turns to walk out the door. He’s blinking back tears, and he goes back to his room. He knows Rachel won’t be far behind.

Sure enough, she barges through a moment later.

“I didn’t know if you were going to hate me for telling them I knew, but I had to, please forgive me-” she cuts off when Blaine waves his hand absently at her.

“Rach, does this mean what I think it does?” His voice feels fragile, even to him — he’s so on edge right now. Hoping, wishing. He hardly dares breathe.

Her answer is just as soft, but sure.

“Yes, it does. I have a letter for you.”

*

When Rachel hands him the letter, he just stares at it. Kurt’s elegant script is on the outside, spelling out his name, and he traces his fingers over the indentations. After a moment, Rachel clears her throat, and he brings his head up to look at her.

“I’ll just — leave you to it then, shall I?” she asks, and she begins walking towards the door.

“Wait!” Blaine cries. He holds out a hand towards her, his eyes wide and pleading as she turns back around. “Please stay?”

She’s confused, he knows she is. She cocks her head to the side and gives him this look before her eyes dart around the room. “I just thought you’d want to read it in priv-“

“I know, but it-… So much has happened today. I can’t even quite wrap my mind around it. This- this changes everything, Rach. Everything is different now.” He runs his fingertips lightly over the circlet resting in his curls. It’s heavier than he imagined it would be, and he wonders if they’re designed that way on purpose. Like a metaphor for the position of power it brings, or something. “I just need something — someone — familiar here. Some sense of normalcy. Please.”

He’s begging, but he can’t bring himself to care. This is his older sister, and right now, he needs her. “Please, Rach?”

Her face falls a bit, and Blaine sighs, knowing her resolve has broken. Rachel crosses the room and sits on the foot of his bed, tucking her legs up underneath her. Blaine sits with his back resting against the pillows, the letter weighing heavily in his hands. It takes Rachel guiding his hand to the seal before he can bring himself to open it.

Sliding his thumb under the paper, he rips it open and unfolds it. It isn’t long, but just seeing this piece of Kurt already makes him feel more comfortable than he has all afternoon.

He scans through it quickly, and then he reads it again, and then again.

Blaine,

I suppose, by now, that Rachel has enacted her part of the plan. Let me just say — I am so happy for you, and I am so proud of you. You deserve this. You deserve for everyone to know who you are and how wonderful you are. I know they don’t yet, but they will, which brings me to the point of this letter.

The ball is in two weeks. In two weeks, Rachel and I have to officially accept our engagement in front of people from both of our kingdoms. As hard as it will be for both of us, I know it will be for you as well. We’ve sort of dragged you into this mess, and I apologize.

But please — if you meant what you said to me in your room, if you would really do anything, then come. Dress to be seen, and come with Rachel. I can’t tell you more than that, but please, just trust me.

And don’t ask Rachel either. I’m afraid she can’t tell you.

Remember I love you.

- K xx

P.S. Make sure your mother is also there. Rachel will make sure she’s treated to a gown. You just make sure she comes.

After his fourth read through, he looks up at Rachel with wide eyes. “What is he saying?”

True to Kurt’s word, she shakes her head. “I can’t tell you. I don’t even know all the details myself. All I know is that, now, I’m supposed to take you to Santana. We need to get you fitted for an outfit.”

Blaine lets her pull him up by his elbow as he folds the letter, storing it in his pocket.

He has no idea what’s going on, but he meant every word he said to Kurt — and so he’ll do what he was told. He just hopes it’s enough.

*

Along with the letter he’d written to Blaine, Kurt also writes one to his father — who has been held up at the North border. It had been short, even shorter than the one he’d written Blaine, and he keeps replaying the words in his mind.

Dad,

I hope everything is going okay there. Don’t worry about here – between Carole, Finn, and I, we’ve got everything under control.

I miss you. The ball is two weeks away – less by the time you read this. Please be here. I have to talk to you.

I love you, no matter what.

- K

It’s sent now; he couldn’t get it back even if he wanted to. And his father will clearly be able to tell something is up, if not from the tone then from the ‘needing to talk’ line. With a sigh, he flops back onto his bed. When a headache appears, he rubs hard at his temples. He’s exhausted, and he’s stressed, and he’s honestly not sure everything will work out.

Everything must go perfectly for it to happen. Everyone must perform their roles exactly as agreed upon, and of utmost importance — it all must remain a secret. That being said, he would really love his father’s blessing beforehand. He just has no idea if he’ll get it.

He rolls over on the bed, clutching a pillow tightly to his chest. There are a few spare hours before his next lesson, and he thinks maybe sleeping will rid him of this horrible headache.

The last thing he thinks of before drifting off is of Blaine stepping out in his custom-made suit, and the smile stays on his face until he wakes up.

*

Seven days and counting down — everything is slowly but surely falling into place. Kurt can’t help the bubble of hope that threatens to burst through his chest.

Five days — the castle is bustling with activity, with preparations. Their secret is still safe, as far as Kurt knows.

Three days — Rachel arrives. She’s staying here until after the ceremony. Technically, she’s moving in very soon. Not if everything goes to plan.

One day — this is it. They can do this, Kurt thinks. They have to.

The morning of the ball — “Here we go,” Kurt mutters to himself as he wakes up. “This is it.”

*

It’s official. Kurt is freaking out. He’s striding around the castle, down to the ballroom and back up to his room. He’s silent — if he lets even one person hear about this before his speech something could go terribly wrong. He’s about to go against everything he’s ever known, everything he’s ever been told about his duties as Prince. He’s going to throw away years and years of planning, in one short minute.

He feels like he hasn’t slept in the two weeks since he sent the letters that officially set his plan in motion.

One more hour of being the acting King while Burt is away. One more hour to get himself together, to make sure everything is perfect. He’s back in the ballroom, now — checking that all the decorations are in order. Their official crowns are set up in their locked stands. The ballroom looks gorgeous — with a lot of direction, Brittany actually managed to be helpful. It’s decorated in shades of white, each different shade accenting different parts of the immense room. The small part of Kurt’s mind that is actually focused on detail is pleased. Everything seems to be in order; and just as well. Soon, it will be filled to bursting point with every single person of importance in the kingdom, and quite a few from across the border too.

He moves back to his room, and carefully changes into his deep blue suit. Again, he designed it himself, but this time it’s more elaborate. The gold trim contrasts well, he observes, as he spins once in front of his mirror. He sets about styling his hair. The routine calms his body somewhat — he could do this in his sleep by this point — but his mind is still whirring.

What if I forget what I’m saying?

What if I freeze?

What if this is the wrong move?

He sits on his bed and rests his head in his hands.

He feels the bed next to him dip under someone else’s weight, and notices the arm sliding around his back. He still doesn’t say a word. He can’t.

“Kurt, he’s here. I know you can’t see him first, but I thought you should know. We’re doing the right thing, Kurt. I promise,” Rachel’s voice is soft, but certain. Steady in a way that Kurt knows his wouldn’t be, if he tried to speak.

He looks up at her then, his question dying on his tongue. Of course she’s sure, he thinks.

He loves Blaine.

He can do this.

*

Rachel goes, then. She’s doing her own last check — she doesn’t know the content of Kurt’s speech or any other details like that, but she’s making sure that the people needed are in position. Blaine needs to be able to reach the stage, that much he’s made sure she knows. Her dads, too. Kurt thinks she’ll check that Finn’s dressed properly. He laughs — he has really never mastered how to put on his circlet, no matter how many times Kurt and Rachel have tried to teach him.

Finn’s presenting, so for once he really does need to be on his best behavior. He’s actually one of the key points in the plan — and Kurt’s glad that he was the obvious choice for host. Explaining that away might have been difficult otherwise.

Rachel returns.

They link arms and slowly start their walk to the ballroom.

They look at each other just once as they reach the entryway — they don’t need words, not now.

Time to stand up and mean something.

*

Rachel can see the moment Kurt changes from Kurt the scared kid to Kurt the Crown Prince. She knows it’s not possible, but he seems taller. His shoulders are square, his expression serene but focused. She’s seen the change before, of course, but it never fails to astound her. He transforms himself into who he needs to be for any given moment, and sometimes it breaks her heart. Now, though — it warms her through.

They’re really doing this, she thinks. She loosely holds Kurt’s proffered elbow, and awaits Finn’s introduction. She doesn’t register his words, but it hardly matters. This first part is about keeping up appearances.

They stand on the platform (the stage, her mind supplies) and wait while Finn finishes his speech.

“And now I present to you, Princess Rachel Berry and Prince Kurt Hummel.”

They walk forward two steps — they’re meant to kiss, now, but they don’t. Instead Kurt lets go of Rachel and moves over to stand behind the podium. Finn has already moved out of the way, as per their plan — and so far everything is running smoothly. Rachel can see her dads — they smile and nod at her and she’s so glad they understood. They’re standing with Blaine and his mother. Her eyes find another familiar figure with them and it takes almost all her self-control not to visibly react. Burt’s here. He made it. He’s going to hear the speech. She has no idea how he’ll take this, but he’s here. She sneaks a sidelong glance at Kurt, and sees that he’s looking straight ahead. He hasn’t seen Burt, that much is obvious.

Kurt closes his eyes for just a second, and starts speaking. Again, Rachel knows the gist of what he’ll say, of course, but not the specifics. She hopes it works. She doesn’t want to think about the consequences if it doesn’t.

“Honored guests, Prince Finn has welcomed you here and I’d like to second that. I’d also like to pass on my apologies, first.”

At that, a murmur of noise rises from the crowd. Kurt pauses, and it quickly dies down.

“You are all here to celebrate the official engagement of myself and Princess Rachel. A symbol of hope for our two kingdoms, and a promise that we will one day join together as one.”

Kurt takes in a deep breath.

“As your Crown Prince and future ruler — I can’t let that happen.”

The gasp that follows that statement rings in Rachel’s ears. It’s done. He said it.

Kurt continues.

“I have always wanted to do the right thing by my people, and for most of my life I thought that meant marrying this beautiful woman right here. But now I’ve realized that that would be completely and utterly irresponsible. I can’t go on living my life as a lie, to preserve an idea of hope — of unity. I won’t. I won’t be the kind of king who would lie to an entire population about who is in my heart. That said, I am not abandoning the aim of my father, of Rachel’s fathers.”

He looks right at Rachel then, and she nods almost imperceptibly.

“Blaine Anderson, would you please rise and join me.”

Rachel watches as his eyes widen, and he stands ramrod straight. He looks great, she notes — the cream and red of his suit contrasting well with his olive skin. He walks up to the podium very slowly, but surely, and Rachel feels her eyes well up.

That’s her brother. Looking at him now, anyone would think he’d always been a prince. He should have been. He looks the part — and now she knows what’s coming. She hardly dares look at her dads, or at Burt. She knows her dads are on board, but she has no idea what she might find written on Burt’s face.

“Prince Blaine Anderson,” Kurt says. The added title receives a noise of absolute confusion from everyone in the room but he ignores them entirely. Quickly, Kurt drops to one knee.

“Will you marry me?” he says. His voice wavers for the first time all night. After everything, Rachel knows he still doubts how much Blaine loves him. Silly, really.

“Yes,” Blaine says. Confident, and loud enough for everyone to hear. He pulls Kurt to his feet from where he’s frozen and they both forget any trace of protocol and throw themselves into each other’s arms.

It’s Blaine who seems to remember himself first, pulling away slightly. He’s reluctant to go too far, and Kurt takes that moment to press a kiss to his lips.

The tears are streaming down Rachel’s face now; she makes no effort to stop crying.

Rachel chances one look at their families and is shocked to see that none of them have dry eyes. Even Burt is wiping away a stray tear.

The entire hall is silent. Stunned.

Except for one voice. After the moment of shock passes, someone from the back of the room cries out, “He can’t do that, can he?”

Kurt pulls himself out of Blaine’s embrace, but he doesn’t let him go. Instead, he bravely holds his chin high, lacing his right hand with Blaine’s left, and moves to stand behind the podium again. “I beg your pardon?” he asks, though the politeness sounds forced.

The man who objected pushes his way through the crowd, stopping just in front of where Kurt and the rest stand. “You can’t just call off your engagement and marry whoever you want. You two are supposed to end all these stupid wars and battles. I thought our children’s generation would be a better place — that’s supposed to be your job. How, on good conscience, can you marry some random boy?”

Rachel sees Kurt open his mouth to answer, but someone beats him to it.

“I believe we can answer that,” comes the voice of King Hiram, who is walking up to join them. King Leroy is right behind him and, to Kurt’s surprise, so is his father. Rachel notices his face blanch when he comes into view, and she knows he must be terrified of how he’ll react to what he just heard.

He doesn’t let the fear show, though. Kurt gives all three kings a bow, as does Blaine beside him. They move out of the way, allowing the three men to step up to speak.

“In order for the union of our two kingdoms to pass, you are correct. Prince Kurt has to marry the Crown Royal from our family.” Hiram pauses, looking over to his husband. Leroy nods, placing a hand in the small of his back for support. “Note that I said Crown Royal, not Crown Princess. My good people, I am not as strong and wise a person as young Prince Kurt here. I have lied to you all, for many years, out of my own fear.

“Around sixteen years ago, I was — unfaithful to my husband. For one night. It was a mistake, and it never happened again, but sometimes one evening is all it takes. And perhaps to add insult to injury, I was with a woman.” Once again, he brings his eyes to his husband’s. Rachel’s heart breaks for her fathers, having to relive this horrible moment in front of so many people.

“I have apologized more times than I can count, but nothing will ever make what I did to my husband, to my people, okay. The only good thing that came from my mistake is standing hand in hand with your prince.” Hiram sucks in an audible breath before continuing. “Blaine Anderson is my son. And I did him and all of you a great disservice by not giving him the recognition that his bloodline owes him. He is of the same bloodline as our daughter Rachel. Earlier today Rachel came to us, telling us of a decision that she has made on behalf of her country and of her brother. As of this morning, she is no longer Crown Princess — meaning the title of Crown Royal falls to Blaine and we hereby publicly recognize this fact. We also offer him — well, I, really — offer him my sincerest apologies.”

At this point, he turns to Blaine, who Rachel notices as released Kurt’s hand and taken a step forward.

“Blaine, I am sorry. I’m sorry I asked you to deny who you were, and I’m so, so sorry that I ever let anyone hurt you for the person you are. If I had owned up to my mistakes from the beginning, it wouldn’t have happened. Can you forgive me, son?”

Blaine purses his lips together, his eyes brimming with unshed tears. “Of course,” he chokes out.

At that, Hiram steps away from the podium to wrap his son up in his arms, holding him close. Leroy then takes over the speech.

“Now, we cannot speak on behalf of King Burt and his kingdom, but from our kingdom, the result of this is clear: Prince Kurt is free to marry Prince Blaine. King Burt, do you have any objections to this change?”

He steps back, gesturing for Burt to take the podium. Clearing his throat, he does just that. He stands still and silent for a long time, his gaze sweeping over the gathered crowd.

“I left two months ago, as many of you know, to settle a dispute on the Northern border of our kingdom. My son served as acting King during those months, doing all of the jobs that I myself would have had to do as well as continuing his own studies and finding time to, apparently, fall in love.” He turns and shoots a glance over to Kurt, who, Rachel sees, is biting his lower lip nervously, trembling a bit with worry. After a moment or so, Burt’’s face relaxes into a smile. “I think if he can handle all that at once, then he has clearly proven himself to be a wise and worthy king. If this is his choice, and if it serves the goal of the original betrothal, then I support him. And his fiancé.”

Then it is Kurt’s turn to step forward, giving his father a quick hug. He swipes his fingertips beneath his eyes, brushing away the few escaping tears, and steps back up to the podium one last time.

“If that’s all cleared up then and there are no further objections,” he begins, pausing for a moment, but no one speaks up, “Then I declare that I will unite our kingdoms by marrying Prince Blaine Anderson. Rachel, if you’ll step forward please?”

Rachel’s eyes dart around the room quickly. Kurt hadn’t said anything about her having a part in all of this. Regardless, she steps forward.

“Yes?”

Kurt gives her a fond smile, wrapping both her hands up in both of his. “You are my best friend, and I could not have done this without your help. And you know I love you — I know that you know that. I want to officially thank you for all that you’ve given up for me. However redundant this may be,” he clears his throat, “I officially release you from our agreement. You are free to marry whomever you choose.”

He leans in and kisses her once on each cheek. When he speaks again, it’s just soft enough that only she can hear it. “Be happy. You deserve it — and so does my brother.”

Rachel’s never felt more whole.

*

They’re dancing. Actually dancing. Kurt can’t believe they somehow pulled this off. He’s marrying the gorgeous man in his arms.

He’s home, he’s where he should be — in Blaine’s arms. He feels like he can breathe for the first time all night.

He smiles, and when he meets Blaine’s eyes he sees that they’re wet with unshed tears.

“Blaine, what’s wrong?”

Blaine shakes his head vehemently.

“Nothing. Nothing at all. I love you so much, Kurt. And we get to have this. I’m can’t believe it. I had no idea you’d-”

“Shh, I know. I was so worried that the surprise would be too much. I love you, and I’m so proud of you, Blaine. You have no idea.”

Blaine smiles. “I wanted you to be,” he whispers. “You are going to be an amazing king, Kurt Hummel. I think you just proved that to everyone once and for all.”

“I think I did,” Kurt says, letting it sink in. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

They stay like that for what feels like ages, letting the music and their proximity help them relax. Kurt eventually rests his head against Blaine’s shoulder, bringing them chest to chest. He smiles, watching the other couples enjoy the ball — their ball. His eyes drift shut for a moment as he listens to the steady, comforting thrum of Blaine’s heart (his fiancé’s heart, and that will never get old).

He jumps a bit when a hand settles gently on his arm, but he smiles when he sees it’s just Rachel, who is wrapped up in Finn’s arms and dancing with a smile that could honestly light the entire room.

“Congratulations, Kurt,” she says, giving his arm another pat. “I can hardly believe we pulled this off — can you?”

Kurt shakes his head. “Not at all. I was sure someone would try to find a way to stop us, but all in all, it really went pretty smoothly.”

She nods, and Kurt notices that her arms wrap a bit tighter around Finn’s shoulders when he mentions someone stopping them. It warms his heart to know that both of them have someone to love as well, someone to protect and grow old with.

All of a sudden, she gives him a devilish smile, and Kurt freezes. “What, Rachel?”

She purses her lips to hold in a giggle before she speaks. “My offer from earlier still stands, you know. I’m sure you’ll need it someday.”

It takes Kurt a moment to even realize what she’s talking about, but when he does, he blanches a bit, his eyes wide. “Well, thank you for that, Rachel. We’ll – we’ll get back to you on that.”

Rachel just winks at him before spinning away with Finn on the dance floor. Kurt shakes his head and laughs. “I can’t believe her.”

“Wait,” Blaine says, “What is she even talking about?”

He looks up at Blaine, and he knows his face is bright red, but still he smiles. “Rachel offers us her womb in the future.”

Blaine freezes in his arms for a moment and his jaw drops. “That’s- that’s not weird at all. My sister offering to birth a child for- okay, no, I don’t want to think about it.”

Kurt just winds his arms tighter around Blaine’s waist. “She has a point, you know. We’ll be expected to produce an heir, with or without the anatomical capability to do so.”

“This is going to be a weird situation for the rest of our lives, isn’t it? Us and them together.”

Tilting his head up a bit, Kurt just smiles and presses a kiss to the underside of Blaine’s jaw. “Yep. Pretty much.” He falls silent for a moment before a shudder passes through his body. “Oh God, Rachel and I have to produce a child someday. That marriage was seriously never going to work out.”

Blaine laughs this time, sounding thoroughly amused. “You have fun with that. Sibling excuse for me.”

“I knew there was a catch to all of this somewhere,” he sighs. “Not so well thought out on my end.”

Blaine just presses a kiss against his hairline. “But you don’t regret it, right?”

His heartbeat increases a bit, and Kurt feels it. He knows it’s a genuine fear, one that might take time to dispel after what he’s been through, but he’ll tell him every day if he has to. “Not at all. I love you, and I couldn’t be happier that you’re mine.”

Seemingly placated, Blaine smiles, and they return to dancing in silence, holding each other as close as physically possible. Kurt loves that he can do this in front of other people now; the fact that he and Blaine are no longer secret makes his heart soar. He’s just beginning to fully relax in Blaine’s arms when he feels a broad hand land on his shoulder, startling him out of his reverie.

“Blaine, can I steal my son back for a moment, please?” Burt says. Kurt and Blaine break apart, and Blaine looks on in obvious amusement as Burt takes up his position — dancing with Kurt. They manage to keep straight faces for a grand total of about 10 seconds, before all three of them grin.

“Go find your mother, Blaine, I think my dad and I need to talk,” Kurt says. Blaine nods once, and sets off across the ballroom.

“Let’s — let’s go somewhere else, please,” Kurt says, his voice faltering. This is the conversation he’s been dreading.

Wordlessly, Burt starts weaving his way to the entranceway. Kurt follows.

Once they’re out in the hallway Kurt launches himself at his father. The familiar feeling of his warmth calms him somewhat, and as Burt returns the embrace Kurt starts speaking.

“I’m sorry, Dad, but I just couldn’t do it. You worked so hard for this, and you sacrificed so much, and I let you down. I’m so sorry.”

Burt pulls back, pushing gently on Kurt’s shoulders. He resists for a moment, not wanting to move his face from where it’s buried in Burt’s shirt, but eventually gives in.

“Now, you look at me, son. You haven’t let me down, not at all. I was the one who let you down, kid. I’d ask why you didn’t tell me, about being gay, but I can guess. I’m ashamed that I raised you to be so afraid of me, and so tied to your responsibilities that you couldn’t tell me about something this huge.” He looks so sad, and Kurt can see the moment he withdraws from the present.

He has tears in his eyes again as he says, “Ellie would be so ashamed of me, Kurt. I’m sorry. Please forgive me?”

“Dad, no. Of course I forgive you,” Kurt says. “I think Mom would have sorted this whole mess out a lot sooner though, right?”

That gets a wry chuckle out of Burt, and Kurt feels the tension drain away. He’s wrapped up in another hug, and relishes Burt’s solid frame. Everything is too much, right now.

“She was always the one to tell me when I was being an idiot, yeah,” Burt admits.

Another few minutes pass before Burt speaks again.

“I think you’d better get back to your prince, kid.” When Kurt pulls away, he’s glad to see his dad smiling.

His prince.

Nothing had ever sounded better.

*

Blaine is busy spinning his mother around the dance floor. She hasn’t stopped gushing since he walked over, and he keeps alternating between laughing at her, and blushing a deep red at some of her comments.

“I knew he was more to you than just the prince, why didn’t you tell me?” she admonishes, not allowing him any time to actually answer. “I mean, you were looking at him like a lovesick puppy that day at home but really. You’re going to be a king, Blaine! I can’t believe it. Does that make me part of the royal family? Oh my goodness it does, doesn’t it…” she trails off, and Blaine shakes his head. He’s vaguely worried that all this excitement is going to be the death of her. He doesn’t answer any of her questions — it’s generally best to just let her run off steam. Instead, he spins her away from him, watching as her dress spins out around her. As she curls back in on his arm, he spies Kurt making his way back across the floor. His smile is wide, and so Blaine knows that the talk went well. He’s glad.

He feels like his grin will break his face in two, and his mom notices. She lets go, and stands back just a little.

“May I have this dance, kind sir?” Kurt says. “I’m sorry, madame, but this boy is mine now.”

Victoria just grins, and walks off without a word. She sends a wink over her shoulder at Kurt, and he returns it.

Blaine just holds out his hand, and waits. Kurt takes it and pulls him close before looping his arms around Blaine’s neck. Kurt ducks in for a kiss, meaning for it to be a peck. Blaine has other ideas. He deepens the kiss, clutching at Kurt’s back and pressing him as close as he possibly can be.

When they break apart they’re both breathing heavily.

“Hi,” Kurt says, shyly.

“Hi,” Blaine answers.

“I love you,” they both whisper, almost at the same time. They laugh, and Blaine watches Kurt’s face scrunch up in delight.

“I’m yours,” Kurt says. “And you’re mine.”

Blaine nods.

“My prince. And my life,” Blaine replies. “I’m never letting go.”

***