Blaine wraps his coat tighter around him. The air is brutally cold this late in October, and he can feel it seeping into his bones. He’ll soon fall ill at this rate. Baine pulls out his pocket watch, “Thomas is late. He requests my presence at the pier this early in the morning and has the nerve to make me wait in the cold like a dog?” Blaine paces impatiently, trying to create some warmth. A hand reaches out from behind Blaine and covers his nose with a tattered cloth. It’s laced with a sweet smell that he immediately recognises. He thrashes against the body behind him and stops at the loud bang of a gun. A hot pain courses through Blaine’s shoulder, and he falls to the ground. The man who had held the drugged cloth to Blaine begins yelling at the man with the gun.
“You fool! You could’ve shot me!”
Blaine’s vision becomes hazy as the drug begins to affect him.
The man looks down at Blaine and kicks him onto his side. Blaine groans and grips his shoulder as tight as he can under the effects of the drug.
“Not only did you almost shoot me, you didn’t even kill him!”
“No matter,” The other man says as he cleans his revolver, “By the time some poor fella finds ‘im, ‘e’ll be dead.”
“Foul play will be highly suspected. Marquis Anderson'll have a bounty for our heads.”
“Ay, that ol’ fool’ll be dead in a few days time and then the Anderson family will be no more. Now help me pick ‘im up.”
Blaine feels his body being lifted and dropped onto a surface that’s gently rocking back and forth.
“Untie that rope ‘ere, and we’ll finally be rid of ‘im.”
The surface Blaine is laying on lurches forward and begins moving, and the last thing he hears before falling unconscious is the man who shot him cackling softly, “See you in hell, Anderson.”
Kurt wanders around the village market early in the morning searching for apples. A fresh batch of apple butter sounds delightful with the cornmeal pancakes he plans on making. Carole and Finn have just recently moved in, and he wants to make a good impression. Kurt starts loading up his basket with apples, lemons, and spices when he overhears a conversation from the village gossips.
“Did you hear that the young Lord Anderson went missing late last night?”
Kurt drops one of the apples that he was examining for impurities.
“Lord Anderson has gone missing?” He mumbles to himself in disbelief.
“Poor Marquis Anderson, didn’t he lose his eldest in the war against the Prussians?” Another woman asks.
“Won’t he be the fifth young noble to die this year if he’s found dead?”
One of the women gasp, “You’re right! I thought that it was simply a coincidence! You don’t think that there’s foul play involved do you?”
The women continue their gossip and Kurt shakily picks up the apple he had dropped. Blaine is the last heir to the Anderson family. Should he die, the Anderson family will remain barren as Marquis Anderson is too old to have any more children. To think that France would lose a whole noble family in short of two decades is disheartening. First was the Marquis’ eldest son in the war, and then the Marquess to illness shortly after. No doubt there’s foul play involved, especially with that of young Lord Anderson. It leaves a sour taste in Kurt’s mouth. He’d rather be thinking about apple butter than government conspiracies.
Kurt quickly makes his purchase and heads back to his father’s farm just outside of the village to prepare for the day’s work.
“Finn?” Kurt calls out.
“Yeah?” Finn answers as he stumbles down the stairs, pulling a linen shirt over his head.
“I made breakfast and tea. Father and Carole have already eaten and left for work.”
“Oh...thank you,” Finn says stiltedly.
He sits down at the table and Kurt places Finn’s plate and a mug of iced tea down in front of him. Finn notices that it must have been freshly made as the ice in his cup is melting and steam is coming from Kurt’s. Kurt sits opposite from Finn and begins intently cutting his cornmeal pancakes into small pieces.
“I put in more sugar in the tea than I did last time. I hope it’s sweet enough.” Kurt says, watching Finn eye his tea.
Finn hesitantly takes a sip, and the tea is, in fact, sweeter than before, “It’s delicious.”
Kurt nods and quietly thanks Finn before resuming to his pancakes.
Finn picks up his knife and begins to cut into the eggs, and finds that it’s not fully cooked like Kurt’s and instead the yolk is golden and runny. Finn looks up at Kurt, who is pouring himself another mug of tea, and wonders how he knew how he liked his eggs. Did Kurt ask Carole? Finn decides not to ask and eats his eggs in silence.
Finn has to admit that this is weird. Sitting and eating breakfast with his new step-brother that he knows nothing about isn’t the kind of morning that he was expecting. Kurt wasn’t what he was expecting either. Though, Finn isn’t exactly sure what he had expected of Kurt. All he knew about him was that his father was marrying his mother. He remembers how excited Carole was when she told him about Burt and that he had a son Finn’s age.
Finn didn’t want to assume anything about the farmer’s son, but he just hadn’t expected him to be so...different from the other boys their age. Puck, the blacksmith’s son, was crude and aggressive; Sam, the stable boy, was kind and funny; Finn, a dead soldier’s son, was gangly and useless, but Kurt is entirely different. He is very pale and lithe, his voice is graceful and clear as a bell, he’s much softer and tamer than all the other village boys, and Finn respects that about Kurt. Even though he’s different from everyone else, he doesn’t hide it. Few are courageous enough for that. Finn knows that he is not.
“Finn,” Kurt says, drawing Finn out of his thoughts, “I need your help with some of the chores today. I need you to collect some water from the water pump near the river and refill the water troughs.”
“Why can’t you do it? I don’t know the path as well as you do. I’ll get lost.”
Kurt rolls his eyes, “I’ll go with you today, but I expect you to remember because I will not join you next time.”
Finn smiles and hands Kurt his plate to wash, “Thank you, little brother.”
“Don’t call me that.”
Finn rolls up the sleeves of his shirt and begins pumping water into the two large pales Kurt had brought with them, “You must be stronger than you look if you do this every day.” Finn says.
“I don’t do it every day, Father usually does. You should try baking and kneading bread every day. It’s just as hard.”
Finn believes him. Kurt could probably beat Finn in a quarrel on wit alone.
“Finn!” Kurt stops Finn and points to the river, “There’s a boat stuck on the bank. It seems to be caught on a few rocks.” Kurt runs down the hill to the river and stops at the bank, leaning over to grab the boat when he suddenly stops.
“What is it? Is the boat abandoned?” Finn asks as he catches up to Kurt.
“There’s a man in the boat. He’s injured.” Kurt says, his voice shaking.
Finn’s stomach drops when he sees the man. He's covered in blood and looks frighteningly pale.
Kurt climbs into the boat with the injured stranger and supports his head, searching for a pulse. “He’s cold as ice!” He exclaims.
Finn watches in horror as the man’s blood soaks into his step-brother’s trousers.
“Help me pull him out, Finn!” Kurt yells.
Finn jumps into action and lifts the man out of the small boat and onto his back, trying to ignore the smell of the man’s blood.
Kurt searches the boat for anything that could be of importance to the man but finds nothing, “Let's get him home quickly. He’s still alive, but he won’t be for long.”
Finn sets the young man’s body down on the guest room bed.
“Finn, can you grab some firewood, please? He’s still dreadfully cold.”
Finn nods, leaving Kurt alone to inspect the unknown man’s wounds.
Kurt looks grimly down at the cold, pale man lying stiffly on the bed. He’s strangely beautiful. His tanned skin drained of colour framed by handsome, ebony curls. His once clean, elegant suit now is stained with rusted blood and dirt. Trembling, Kurt strokes his hand along the man’s cheek. “What happened to you?” He asks quietly.
Finn enters the room, arms full of firewood, and startles Kurt out of his thoughts.
“Right. Sorry.” Kurt says and turns back to the strange man. Kurt pushes the man’s coat and suit jacket over his shoulders, removing his arms from the sleeves. Kurt lets out a shaky sigh at the sight of the blood seeping through the man’s dress shirt. Kurt gently folds the coats and places them on the bedside table. Kurt begins to unbutton the man’s waist jacket and dress shirt, neatly setting them next to the other folded garments. Kurt took a deep breath and began to inspect the man’s wound. The man’s left shoulder has a hole in its flesh. The skin around the wound is an angry red, blood pooling out of the torn, raw muscle. Kurt closes his eyes. Focusing on the slowly increasing smell of burning wood and ash, he inhales a stuttering breath and swallows the bile rising in his throat. Kurt rolls the man’s shoulder over to inspect the other side.
“Oh, God.” Kurt mumbles.
“What is it?” Finn asks, turning away from the fire.
“He’s been shot."
“So he was attacked?”
Kurt nods. “But the bullet is still inside him, and I need to take it out. I need you to gather some supplies from me.” Kurt says, lifting the man’s chest and placing a pillow under him to elevate the wound. “I need two bowls, one filled with water, a clean rag, and my sewing kit. Your mother should have some bandages, gauze, and a pair of tweezers in her nursing supplies.”
When Finn returns with the items Kurt asked for, he hastily begins to clean the man’s wounds. Kurt gently dab’s the stranger’s wound, careful to be cautious around the exposed muscle and swollen skin. He washes the rag with the water, wringing it out into the other bowl, and watches as the once clear water becomes a deep red. Once the wound is clean, he quickly, with bloodstained hands, picks up the tweezers. And Finn, who had been watching quietly, turns away to tend to the fire. His hands shaking, Kurt slowly inserts the tweezers into the man’s wound, praying to whoever might be listening that the bullet was in one piece. He tentatively searches for the bullet, trying his best not to cause any additional scarring to the tissue in the man’s shoulder. Kurt stops when the tweezers make contact with something inside of the wound. Slowly and carefully, Kurt eases on the tweezers until they widen enough to grab ahold of the bullet. With the bullet secured in the tweezers, Kurt wills his hand to stay still long enough to pull it out. When the bullet finally emerges out of the wound, Kurt breathes a sigh of relief when he sees that the bullet is in one piece.
Kurt wraps the blood-rusted bullet into a piece of cloth and sets it aside. “Now, onto the hard part,” Kurt says quietly as he picks up the needle from his sewing kit. Kurt wipes the sweat off of his palms, smudging the blood on his hands, before threading the needle. Bracing his hand against the man’s shoulder, he pushes the needled through the raised, swollen skin around the open wound. He lets out the breath he was holding in as he pressed the needle through the other side of the wound. Deep breath hold. Release. Over and over, an almost mechanical pattern, until the wound is sewed entirely and Kurt let out his final release of breath as he tied the thread. Kurt grabbed the gauze and wrapped the bandages tightly around the man’s shoulder.
“What do we do now?” Finn asks after what feels like hours of silence.
“We wait,” Kurt says grimly.
Blaine begins to wake up, hearing bits of a conversation as he wakes.
“...he’s been asleep...long time...it’s already dark…”
“...maybe we should...his belongings...find out who he is…”
“...wait, I think he’s waking up…”
Blaine groans and opens his eyes to find an angel with bright blue eyes watching him, “I surely must be dead.” He mumbles.
The angel smiles and replies, “I can safely assure you that you are not, sir.”
Blaine’s eyes fly open, and he jumps out of bed. Fully awake, he looks around for a weapon and grabs the fire iron from the fireplace and posies to attack.
“Where am I? Who are you? Are you the men who attacked me? Was it Thomas who sent you after me?” Blaine questions the two men as he threateningly brandishes the fire iron.
“Sir, please calm down, you are still injured.” The man he had previously mistaken as an ethereal being says.
Blaine acknowledges the dull pain in his shoulder, but does not lower his weapon, “That won’t keep me from killing you.”
The large man steps in front of the other and puffs out his chest as if to assert dominance. “Listen here, sir, we don’t know who you are but the least you can do after we’ve saved you is treat us with some respect. I won’t hesitate to protect my brother if you don’t comply.”
“You surely must know who I am, and you should be the one showing me respect! I am a noble, and you are the lowly men hired to rid of me!” Blaine shouts.
The young man’s blue eyes widen, “…Lord Anderson?”
The tall man’s jaw drops, “He’s Lord Anderson? He can’t be, his clothes are too dirty.”
The pale man stomps on the other’s foot. “Finn forgets himself, Lord Anderson. Please forgive him.”
Blaine slowly lowers the fire iron. There is no way these are the men who attacked him. “It is quite alright, Mister…?”
“Oh, how rude of me!” The man exclaims and bows politely, “My name is Kurt Hummel, and this is my step-brother, Finn Hudson.”
“It is delightful to meet you, Mister Hummel.” Blaine bows and presses a kiss into Kurt’s hand. “Please forgive my ungentlemanly behaviour. I had mistaken you for someone else.”
Kurt blushes, “Of course, Lord Anderson.”
Finn clears his throat awkwardly, and Blaine drops Kurt’s hand.
“Thank you, sirs, for your hospitality, but I feel that I have overstayed my welcome and should be on my way,” Blaine says and turns towards the bed to collect the few belongings left with him.
“No way,” Finn says.
“Finn is right, Lord Anderson. It would not be wise of you to leave in such a condition. My step-mother is a trained nurse, and she could do more for your treatment than I.”
“I’m afraid that I cannot. I must return to my Father. He has been left alone, and the men who attempted my murder are sure to target him in such a vulnerable state.”
“That’s a full day’s travel by foot, sir.” Kurt offers.
“Then I shall visit the stables and request to borrow a steed,” Blaine says simply as he dresses.
“It will be a dangerous journey by yourself, sir. These parts are foreign to you, and your wounds need to be cleaned and dressed every few hours. You do not happen to know these forests or possess the skill required to dress your own wounds, do you?” Kurt takes Blaine’s stubborn silence as a concession. “As I thought,”
“You, sir, are quite a character,” Blaine says.
Kurt smiles, “As I’ve been told. Since, under your circumstances, you are unable to stay in my family’s care, I feel it best that my step-brother and I escort you home.”
“I cannot allow that, Mister Hummel. My adversaries are sure to find that they failed in their attempt to end my life. Your affiliation with me will put you and your step-brother into serious danger.”
“Finn and I can handle ourselves. And, if you haven’t noticed Lord Anderson, we are already quite affiliated with you. Your attackers are sure to find out about Finn and me whether or not we join you on your quest.”
Blaine pauses and takes a moment to mull over the outcomes of accepting Kurt’s proposition. “It seems that you may be right, Mister Hummel. I shall take responsibility for you and your brother. I give my highest thanks for your generosity, and you will be appropriately repaid for your troubles.” Blaine holds out his hand for Kurt to shake in agreement.
Finn grabs Kurt’s arm before he can shake Blaine’s hand and whispers to Kurt, “Burt will be worried at our sudden departure and will be furious upon our return.”
“Father will understand,” Kurt whispers back.
Kurt shakes Blaine’s hand, “Of course I am right, Lord Anderson. There is no repayment necessary for our actions. It is an honour to be able to aid you in your journey.”
“No, I insist. You have already supported me greatly. You saved my life, Mister Hummel.”
“It was a pleasure to do so, Lord Anderson. There is no payment required.”
Blaine chuckles, “I am beginning to find that you are quite persistent, Mister Hummel.”
Kurt smiles, “It took you that long? Now, I believe that we should pay the stable boy a visit.” Kurt moves to lead them out of the room but stops and turns back to Blaine. “But I’m afraid that we can’t leave just yet with your clothes in their current condition, Lord Anderson. Not to worry, I have some clothing that should suit you just fine.” And with that, Kurt promptly leaves the guest room to retrieve some clothing for Blaine.
“Is he always this chipper and bricky?” Blaine asks Finn, who shrugs his shoulders and laughs.