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“You should ask a dragon,” Sam said. “It’ll be fun,” Sam said.

:::

It’s only after Blaine is fully clad in armor that probably weighs two tons and halfway through scaling the steep, icy mountain where the famous Wisdom Dragon is supposed to live that he realizes Sam was totally wrong. Finding the Wisdom Dragon is not fun, and it is certainly not easy. Then again, Sam had been drunk when he had first made the suggestion. So had Blaine.

Whatever. It’s too late to back out now.

Blaine grunts as he grips a rock that’s jutting out of the half-frozen ground with his leather glove and uses it to drag himself farther up the mountainside. The steel plates of his armor are freezing against his skin, and his sword keeps smacking the back of his knees in its scabbard, making it hard to stay upright.

When he gets back to his kingdom-- alive, hopefully-- he is going to have Sam executed.

Not actually, of course, since Sam’s his best friend, but it’s the thought that counts. Also, Sam’s the head of the royal guard and Blaine kind of doesn’t know who would run security if Sam disappeared, so there’s that, too.

Blaine pulls himself upwards another inch. His muscles are burning, legs throbbing with fatigue. The Wisdom Dragon had better be pretty damn smart or else Blaine thinks he might possibly hurl himself off the edge of this mountain-- this mountain that’s actually more of a cliff than a mountain, now that he thinks about it.

Goddammit, Sam.

Blaine blinks the sweat from his eyes and squints to see through the grate of his helmet. Does this mountain never end? It seems like rock is stretching out for infinity in front of him, all the way up into the cloudy sky.

Blaine throws himself forward again. He moves about an inch.

Now isn’t that just freaking fantastic?

He’s getting more annoyed by the second because this is so not a mountain; it’s a literal cliff, he’s decided, and his feet are jammed into footholds and the stupid iron boots he’s wearing are too thick for him to take a step up the rock formation without falling and smashing to bits on the rocky beach below.

Blaine has a feeling he’s going to die here, clinging miserably to the sides of a cliff, a prince in knight’s armor searching for a Wisdom Dragon that may or may not exist.

Oh yeah-- did he mention that part? That the Wisdom Dragon was actually a legend and that nobody had ever seen him before?

Maybe he should just give up.

The minute he thinks those words, he feels a huge gust of wind sweep against his back, whistling as it glides across the metal of his armor. He hears a sound, then, a leathery flapping of enormous wings, and the sound crescendos to a boom that echoes in Blaine’s helmet.

He feels a spark of hope ignite in his heart. Is--

There’s a sudden grumbling sound from behind him and Blaine almost loses his grip on the rocks. The leathery flapping remains, so close behind him that he can feel the heat of--

The heat of a dragon’s breath.

Holy shit. It’s the Wisdom Dragon, it has to be.

“Hello?” Blaine squeaks, unable to turn around to see if it’s the dragon but feeling its hovering presence behind him all the same. “Uh-- Wisdom Dragon? Is that you?”

There’s another grumbling sort of snort. “What the hell are you doing on my cliff, dude?” replies a deep, growling voice from behind him.

Blaine’s knees start to quake and he’s suddenly feeling very dizzy and very aware of how high up he is.

He’s very high up.

“I-- uh-- I’m Prince Anderson?” he croaks out, and why does his voice still sound like that of a mouse? “I-- I wanted to ask you for… for wisdom? Because, you’re, um, you’re the Wisdom Dragon. Right? Am I-- is this the right person?”

“Yeah, that’s me,” comes the gravelly reply. “I guess. I mean, I think I’m the Wisdom Dragon, because, like, I’m the last dragon still alive. So. It kinda has to be me, you feel?”

“Um,” Blaine manages, because he’s focusing so hard on clinging to the cliff for dear life that he doesn’t really remember how to speak anymore.

“So, go ahead,” the dragon says impatiently. Blaine still can’t see him, but he hears those powerful wings beat and blast a gust at him so strong that he’s almost blown right off the rocks. “Ask away, princeling.”

“Do you think you could carry me to the top of your mountain first?” Blaine pleads. “Please? I don’t know how much longer I can hold on here.”

The dragon sighs, long and slow, sounding supremely bored. “Fine, I guess. You’re lucky I’m nice.”

The next thing Blaine knows, there are talons digging into the metal plates on his shoulders and he’s being forcefully detached from the cliff and lifted into the air.

He swallows the yelp that bubbles up in his throat and tries to ignore the nauseating feeling of his legs dangling helplessly beneath him. Squeezing his eyes tightly shut, he reaches up and clings to the dragon’s scaly ankles, feeling their rough texture beneath his gloves.

Please let this end soon, please let this end soon, please--

He’s suddenly dropped to the hard ground with an unceremonious clatter, and Blaine has the sudden urge to kiss the earth. He tries, and ends up kissing the frigid metal of his helmet so hard his lips almost stick to it. The grating of the helmet’s really impairing his vision, so he hastily tugs it off and runs a hand through his now-mussed hair, feeling wistful-- it had looked so good this morning, and now his gelled-back locks are ruined.

Then he remembers he kind of has more important things to worry about.

Whirling around so suddenly he almost trips over his own boots, Blaine finds himself at the very top of the cliff, where the rocks beneath his feet are flat and solid. There’s a cave made of boulders to his right, and to his left--

Blaine’s breath catches in his throat. To his left sits the dragon, curled up in a sitting position on the stone with an enormous gray tail curled around his thick, trunk-like legs. His head, ridged with serrated spikes down the middle, is tilted to the side as his dark eyes study Blaine in what’s probably the dragon equivalent of curiosity.

Blaine offers him a weak wave.

The dragon snorts, nostrils flaring. “Didn’t you have something to ask me?”

“Oh. Yeah,” Blaine replies, kind of faintly. “I-- I wanted to know--” He swallows hard. Now that’s he’s about to voice the words aloud, he realizes how foolish they might seem to anyone other than him. But he’s come all this way, hasn’t he? “I want to know who I’m going to fall in love with.”

His voice only trembles a little bit, and he’s kind of proud of that.

The dragon makes a face that really looks like he’s trying to raise an eyebrow. “You’re kidding.”

Blaine tries very hard not to shrink under the dragon’s gaze. He timidly shakes his head.

The dragon exhales a puff of air that’s almost strong enough to knock Blaine off his feet. He’s silent for a moment. “Why?” he asks finally.

Blaine fiddles with his gloved fingers. “I…”

There are so many reasons, really. Like, if anything ever happens to his older brother, he’s going to need to become king in his stead and Blaine really doesn’t want to be rushed by all the family advisors into a political marriage. If he’s already married and in love, then that’s a situation he’ll be able to avoid. Mostly, though, it’s--

“I want to fall in love,” Blaine admits quietly. It’s something he’s always wanted, his whole life, even when he was a kid-- just someone to hold hands with and give flowers to and spend his days with, someone to talk to and hug tight and just… love.

Sure, there’s been no shortage of willing suitors waiting at his castle door. But they all just want to be married to the prince; they don’t care about love, but Blaine does.

He’s always been a helpless romantic.

“You can see the future, can’t you?” Blaine says, not caring if he sounds just a tad whiny. “You know, don’t you? So please, please tell me who I’m meant to be with.”

The dragon blinks. “Uh, yeah, no can do.”

“What?” Blaine whispers, almost hysterically. “But-- but why? Why not?”

“Because…” the dragon falters. “Because you haven’t brought me the Jewel of the Mists yet.”

Blaine feels like he’s going to start crying. “The what?”

“The Jewel of the Mists,” the dragon repeats, with more conviction this time. “Yeah. It’s a thing, you know. And I’m a dragon, so I need it to add to my… um… treasure stash.”

“Your hoard,” Blaine realizes miserably. “I didn’t bring you any gifts.”

“Exactly!” the dragon agrees, nodding enthusiastically. “Yeah, so just bring me the Jewel of the Mists, I’ll do some magic stuff and predict your soulmate, and it’ll all be great! What do you say?”

“Okay,” Blaine agrees, because really, what else can he do? He peers down the edge of the cliff, a sick feeling in his stomach. “So I have to go all the way back down there, find the jewel, and then come--”

“All the way back up,” the dragon finishes, bobbing his head. “Yep.”

Blaine fits his helmet back over his head and steels himself. He can do this.

As Blaine starts descending back down the cliff, the dragon calls, “I’m Puck, by the way!”

:::

“Dang, that sucks,” Sam says empathetically as Blaine pours out the whole story. He’s just returned to the castle and had gone immediately to meet Sam in the guard barracks, where everyone’s eating lunch-- right after he had taken an extremely long bath, of course.

“I know,” Blaine practically wails. “What am I going to do? I’ve never even heard of a ‘Jewel of the Mists’ before, and now--”

“I have,” Sam interrupts, and Blaine drops his fork-- he had been stealing bites of Sam’s pie-- into Sam’s plate.

“You have?” Blaine echoes, incredulous. “Really?”

“Yeah, ‘course,” Sam shrugs, taking a sip of his water. “‘Cedes loves that stuff. That folklore stuff, I mean. According to the books she likes to read, the Jewel of the Mists is a prized heirloom in the Greenscape Elf Kingdom of the Western Forest.”

Blaine gapes at him. “Seriously?”

Sam shrugs again and tugs his plate of pie close to him once more. “Get your own food.”

But Blaine shoots up from his seat, beaming. Things are looking up. He’s going to get his answers.

“Thank Mercedes for me!” he shouts and he races from the barracks towards the stables.

:::

Blaine reaches the sparkling brook that marks the boundary of the Greenscape Kingdom just as the sun is beginning to set, painting the dense forest in hues of pink and gold. His white mare stamps her hoof impatiently against the spongy forest soil, and Blaine pats her mane.

“Don’t worry, Pavarotti,” he whispers into her ear. “We’re almost done for the day.”

He continues to wait for one of the elven soldiers to approach him. As a human, he’s not allowed to enter elf territory without permission-- unless he wants to start a war, of course, and he most certainly doesn’t, because the elves have wicked aim with their bows and arrows.

Just then, he hears the rustle of leaves and there are two elves standing across from him on the opposite bank of the stream. Blaine startles so much he almost falls out of his saddle; elves are known for being stealthy in the woods, so he should have expected this, honestly.

One of the elves-- a short, pretty female with brown locks-- crosses her arms over chest and looks at him suspiciously. “Who are you?” she asks.

“He’s Prince Blaine Anderson of the humans,” muses the elf beside her, and Blaine turns to look at him, and--

Oh.

This elf is the most gorgeous creature Blaine’s ever seen in his life, with ivory skin and crystal blue eyes and delicately-pointed elven ears that peek up at the sides of his perfectly-styled chestnut hair. He’s wearing a pale tunic, pants, and those toe-pointed elven shoes and he looks like a dream.

Blaine isn’t sure how many minutes he spends just staring at the beautiful elf, jaw dropped, but then he’s aware of the guy raising his eyebrow and his beautiful mouth twitching upwards into the barest hint of a grin, and--

“Prince Anderson?” the girl elf says, and by the tone of her voice, it’s not the first time she’s called his name. He snaps his attention back to her and she’s frowning. “Is everything okay?”

“Okay,” Blaine repeats dumbly. He blinks. “Er, yes, I’m fine. Everything’s fine. I’m great.”

He hears the boy elf stifle a quiet laugh.

“Well,” the girl elf continues, “all I said was that I’m Rachel Berry and this is Kurt Hummel.”

Kurt.

Blaine glances over to Kurt, wide-eyed, and Kurt stares very curiously back at him.

“-- so why have you come?” Rachel’s saying, and Blaine forces himself to focus.

“I need the Jewel of the Mists,” Blaine blurts. Then he tacks on a “please” because he’s a prince, he’s been raised with manners.

Almost immediately, any friendliness on either of the elves’ faces vanishes. Blaine watches in despair as Kurt’s expression goes from open to once again guarded.

“Why?” he asks carefully.

Blaine exhales slowly. Now that he thinks about it, he really doesn’t know why any kingdom would willingly give up a prized heirloom so some prince of a different land could go and offer it up to a Wisdom Dragon. But elves can tell when people are lying-- that’s one power that Blaine’s extremely envious of-- so he tells the truth.

“I went to see the Wisdom Dragon,” he says slowly, “and he said that if I wanted any answers, I needed to bring him the Jewel of the Mists.”

Kurt and Rachel exchange a very meaningful glance, and Blaine feels something in his stomach sink. Are they… sweethearts?

He immediately berates himself. He should be worrying about the jewel, not about whether Kurt and Rachel are together.

“The Wisdom Dragon is real?” Kurt asks hesitantly, and Rachel steps close to him and grabs his hand and squeezes it in a sort of reassurance. Something plummets in Blaine’s chest. Yep. Definitely in love.

Then Blaine realizes that Kurt’s still waiting for an answer to his question, so he nods.

Kurt bites his lower lip and Blaine feels his face flush because nobody should have the right to look so… so enticing. But then Kurt’s speaking, and-- “We don’t have the jewel,” he says sadly. “It was stolen from us a while ago by a pixie.”

Now Blaine just feels even worse. Pixies are known for being notoriously mischievous; it’s no surprise that one would steal a prized jewel.

“But…” Kurt says, and Blaine feels hope flutter in his ribcage, “I know where the pixie went. She lives on the outskirts of the forest, where the woods meet the beach. I can show you where-- as long as you take me with you to see the Wisdom Dragon.”

“Deal,” Blaine says immediately, because hello? He gets the jewel and he gets to spend time travelling with this beautiful (but taken, he reminds himself) elf?

Kurt’s eyes seem to light up from within, even though his smile is composed and contained. “Rachel,” he says, turning to his companion, “tell the others that I’ll be gone for a while. And have Finn rule in my stead, and remind him to please not set anything on fire this time, okay?”

She nods once and races off into the forest on silent feet, the skirt of her silken dress streaming out behind her. In less than a moment, she’s disappeared into the shadows of the trees.

Kurt crosses the river, using the flat tops of slick stones that jut from the water to easily maneuver his way to where Blaine is waiting on the bank.

“Do you want to-- do you want to climb on behind me?” Blaine offers, trying to cool the blush threatening to flush his face.

Kurt raises his eyebrow again, amused. “You do realize that elves can outrun horses, right?”

Blaine fails at holding back the blush. “Yeah, I know,” he mumbles self-consciously. “I-- I don’t know, I was just-- I’m sorry, I shouldn’t-- I--”

Kurt grins crookedly at him and it’s the most beautiful sight Blaine’s ever seen. “Can I take the reins, though?”

And Blaine manages a nod and then scoots back so there’s enough room for Kurt to hop on in front of him. The elf leaps up in once graceful movement and mounts the horse, leaving Blaine pressed so tightly against his back it’s like they’ve become one entity.

He smoothly scoops up the reins dangling down by the horse’s sides and lightly snaps them so that Pavarotti breaks out into a trot. Even that simple flick of Kurt’s wrists makes the muscles in his back shift, and Blaine can feel every point of contact between Kurt’s thin tunic and his own thin tunic like an electric shock. It takes all of his willpower not to wrap his arms around Kurt’s waist, flip him around, and start kissing him senseless.

Blaine takes a deep breath and accidentally inhales the airy scent of Kurt’s hair.

This is going to be a long ride.

:::

The rhythmic clopping of horse hooves across forest ground must have lulled Blaine to sleep, because the next thing he knows he’s blinking awake only to find his head resting on Kurt’s shoulder and his arms draped around Kurt’s waist and resting in the elf’s lap.

Blaine’s first coherent thought is to go back to sleep just so he can stay relaxed into Kurt’s warmth.

His second coherent thought is that he should really sit up right now because he is sleeping on someone else’s boyfriend.

He jolts upright so fast that he nearly falls off the horse. Kurt startles, too, and Blaine can see his hands tense on Pavarotti’s reins.

“Are you okay?” Kurt asks, shifting around in the saddle so he can see Blaine over his shoulder. His blue eyes almost look like they’re glowing in the moonlight.

“Yeah, sorry,” Blaine mumbles, feeling his face heat up. He glances around them desperately for some sort of way to change the conversation. “Where are we?”

Kurt faces front again-- thank goodness-- and brings Pavarotti to a full stop. They’re in the center of a wide, grassy clearing surrounded by trees; above them, the night sky is clear and scattered with stars, as if somebody spilled salt across an ebony cloak. The air smells almost sweet and flowery, filled with a warmth that Blaine can only attribute to the natural magic of the Greenscape Kingdom. That’s another thing about the elves-- nature seems to thrive in their territory, no matter what time of year it is.

“I figured we should stop for the night,” Kurt says, nimbly dismounting and landing with nothing more than a whisper of grass on the ground. “Pavarotti is tired.”

Blaine blinks and also dismouts, albeit much clumsier. “How do you know her name?”

Kurt offers him another small, heart-stopping smile. “She told me,” he says simply, and Blaine watches in bewilderment as Kurt sits down cross-legged on the grass. He looks up at Blaine and pats the spot next to him. Trying to keep his legs from shaking, Blaine takes a seat so close that his knees bump Kurt’s.

Kurt doesn’t scoot away. Blaine tries not to read too much into it.

(He has a girlfriend, he has a girlfriend, he has a girlfriend.)

“Have you ever slept under the stars, human?” Kurt murmurs, staring up at the sky.

Blaine sneaks a glance at him; when he sees that Kurt isn’t watching him, he turns towards the elf so he can have an even better view. Kurt’s entire face is lit with silvery moonbeams, his eyes fixated on the stars. Blaine’s never seen anything so breathtaking.

Suddenly, though, Kurt glances towards him and his eyes widen when he sees just how close Blaine’s face is.

Blaine watches Kurt’s throat bob as he swallows.

“What-- why did you go to see the Wisdom Dragon?” Kurt asks, eyes dropping to Blaine’s lips. Almost unconsciously, Blaine’s tongue darts out and to wet them and his heart starts to race, thrumming against his ribcage.

“I asked who I would eventually fall in love with,” Blaine answers, and Kurt jolts back like he’s been burned. Suddenly, the air feels so much colder now that Kurt isn’t pressed up beside him.

“You should sleep,” the elf says abruptly, standing up and brushing away invisible dust from his tunic. “I’ll keep watch.”

“You need to sleep, too,” Blaine tries, but Kurt’s already walking away.

He sleeps restlessly that night, curled up on the grass and dreaming of stars that float just beyond the reach of his fingertips.

:::

They hardly speak at all the next morning. Kurt collects blueberries for breakfast and they eat in an uncomfortable sort of silence before they both saddle up Pavarotti. Kurt takes the reins, as usual, and Blaine has to stop himself from hugging Kurt tightly around the middle.

It’s becoming a problem.

But they ride through the forest without exchanging any words, other than a short “How did you sleep?” from Kurt and a stilted “Good” from Blaine.

Blaine hates it.

But he knows it’s his fault. He shouldn’t have overstepped last night, shouldn’t have gotten so close into Kurt’s personal space, shouldn’t have mentioned falling in love when Kurt has a girlfriend.

They reach the edge of the woods around noon, when the sun is at its highest peak in the cloudless blue sky. The ground beneath Pavarotti’s hooves melts from mineral-rich soil to soft white sand. They end up dismounting, and Blaine ties Pavarotti to a nearby tree. He and Kurt then make their way on foot out of the trees and onto the semicircle-shaped shoreline.

“There she is,” Kurt murmurs under his breath.

Blaine looks across the expanse of sand to where the calm, glittering sea is lapping against the shoreline. Sitting cross-legged in the shallow waves, back towards them, is a blonde girl with shimmering, butterfly-shaped wings protruding from her back. The sunlight plays across them in a rainbow of colors, and Blaine watches, sort of awed.

“Come on,” Kurt says, snapping him out of his reverie. “That’s our pixie.”

They start to shuffle through the sand.

“Brittany?” Kurt calls out when they’re halfway towards the water. “Is that you?”

The pixie glances at them over her shoulder, eyes wide. She doesn’t respond.

“You know her?” Blaine asks under his breath, surprised.

Kurt sighs. “Yeah, I do. But, as I’m sure you know, the war between the pixies and the elves ended only three years ago. I can’t go accusing her of stealing something on my own if I don’t have definitive proof.”

Blaine frowns. “I thought you knew that she stole it.”

“She did,” Kurt insists. “She’s the most thieving pixie I’ve ever met. But she’d never admit it. And that’s why I’m glad you came along-- you’re a human, and the humans and pixies get along just fine. Maybe you can convince her to confess that she stole it and return it to us.”

Blaine’s frown deepens, but he doesn’t say anything. This… doesn’t exactly sound like the most solid plan.

The pixie-- Brittany-- hops up to her feet. She’s wearing a pale red top and a white skirt, and neither seem to be soaked with saltwater. Just another magical perk of being a pixie, Blaine supposes.

Sometimes, it kind of sucks to be human.

“I don’t have your jewel!” she shouts the moment he and Kurt are standing within normal speaking range.

Kurt winces slightly, and Blaine notices his pointed ears twitch. It’s fucking adorable. And then he realizes that Brittany’s voice was probably just a bit too loud for Kurt’s sensitive elven hearing, and it becomes slightly less adorable because then he feels concerned and sympathetic all at once.

“No?” Kurt asks, hands braced on his hips and looking expectant. “Then how did you know that’s what we were looking for?”

Brittany smiles sagely. “Magic.”

There’s a snicker from behind her and Blaine startles. Even Kurt seems surprised, and when Blaine peers over Brittany’s shoulder, he realizes there’s a girl in the water-- lying flat on her stomach with her chin propped up in her hands, black locks spilling into the water.

“Santana,” Kurt groans. “I should have known.”

Blaine is very, very confused. “What’s going on?”

“These two,” Kurt says, pointing, “obviously teamed up against me to steal the jewel. Santana is a demon in disguise, Blaine, don’t let her pretty hair fool you.”

The girl bats her eyelashes. “How sweet,” she coos, and then she looks over at Blaine like he’s some sort of prey. Without taking her eyes of him, she calls, “Hey, Britt, do you think I should sing to him?”

“No!” Kurt shrieks immediately, voice alight with panic.

“What’s going on?” Blaine repeats, because yes, this is what his life has come to.

“Santana is a siren,” Kurt explains, and Blaine feels himself visibly blanch. If Santana sang to him… well, he knows what sirens do. He would be lured into the water where she would then drown him and proceed to literally devour him.

He shudders.

Then he thinks of the fear in Kurt’s face and the first thought that springs to mind is he cares about me.

“No eating people,” Brittany says mildly, plopping back down into the waves and draping one arm around Santana’s smooth shoulders. She looks up at Kurt with wide eyes. “Anyway, you were right. I did steal your jewel.”

“I knew it!” Kurt throws up his hands, and Blaine has to bite his lip to keep from grinning stupidly because of how cute Kurt is. “Why did you do it?”

“Because we were planning on going hunting for the Wisdom Dragon, okay? We needed to ask him something,” Santana says with an eye-roll, kicking her long legs lightly in the water and splashing up sea foam. “But that didn’t work out, because some bitch stole it from us.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Blaine whispers to himself. It really was never supposed to be this hard. “Who took it?”

“Quinn Fabray,” Brittany replies promptly.

“What species is she?” Blaine asks, trying to figure out how hard it will be to track her down. If she’s a vampire or a witch, it shouldn’t be too difficult-- most of the covens live down in Rooks Valley. If she’s a werewolf, on the other hand--

“She’s a Shifter,” Santana spits out bitterly, and Blaine’s jaw actually drops. Because Shifters, just like the Wisdom Dragon, are legends. There are no such thing as people who can shapeshift into anything they want. That’s just… a myth.

Then again, the Wisdom Dragon had turned out to be real.

“How in the name of everything good are we supposed to find a Shifter?” Kurt demands, and that’s just the beginning.

:::

They come up with a “plan” that’s really not much of a plan at all, if you think about it, because none of them really know what they’re doing. Apparently, though, Brittany and Santana have joined their merry little band of people relentlessly hunting down this elusive Jewel of the Mists because they also need to talk to the Wisdom Dragon.

It’s all kind of a mess, at this point.

Anyway, the not-plan is that they’re all going to gather at the base of the Wisdom Dragon’s cliff/mountain/area of residence and basically wait for Quinn to show up. Then they ambush her.

After that… well, they haven’t planned that far in advance.

They sleep on the beach that night, unwilling to make the long trip all the way back to the cliff without a good night’s sleep. Santana drags herself out of the water and she and Brittany lay together on the sand, foreheads touching as they whisper through the darkness. Blaine and Kurt lie down far enough away to give them some space, and Blaine feels cold and lonely under the dome of stars in the sky above.

He keeps sneaking secret glances at Kurt; he can’t help himself. The elf is lying on the sand, arms tucked under his head, eyes closed as his face drinks in the moonlight. He’s ethereal, otherworldly, too incredible to be described by words.

It hasn’t even been a full two days and Blaine can’t stop thinking about him.

“I know you’re watching me, Blaine,” Kurt murmurs, just loud enough for Blaine to hear, and Blaine feels himself flush crimson.

“Sorry,” he whispers, feeling humiliated and miserable. “I’m-- I’m sorry. I’ll stop, I know I shouldn’t be-- I’ll stop.”

He rolls over onto his side in the sand and squeezes his eyes very tightly shut. He feels suddenly like crying but it’s stupid, and he’s being stupid, and he shouldn’t feel this awful.

He hears Kurt inhale very softly, like he’s about to say something, but the words never come.

Blaine barely sleeps at all that night.

:::

When morning comes, they’re all bleary, tired, and irritable-- especially Santana, who glares at everyone except for Brittany. Granted, there are only two people there except for Brittany-- Kurt and Blaine-- so it’s not as if she’s glaring at too many people, but still.

There’s certainly not enough room for all four of them to sit on the horse, so Blaine saddles Pavarotti while Kurt walks alongside them, one hand on Pavarotti’s mane at all times.

(“I’m an elf,” he had shrugged when Blaine had asked him about it. “I can walk through woods all day and not get tired.”)

Santana had taken a seat right behind Blaine and had instantly made herself comfortable, sitting with their backs pressed together so she was facing towards the rear of their little travel band rather than having her face pressed into Blaine’s back. Brittany had shifted into her mini-pixie form and had curled up in Santana’s palm; though they’ve only started their trek through the forest about an hour ago, both girls are snoozing.

Blaine stares off into space as Pavarotti walks. There’s no conversation to fill the quiet between him and Kurt, and it’s making him more and more uneasy by the minute.

“What are you going to ask the Wisdom Dragon about, Kurt?” Blaine asks, if only to make small talk more than anything.

Kurt sighs softly. “I-- my kingdom isn’t… politically stable right now, Blaine. I need--” He pauses. “I wanted to ask him if forming a marriage alliance would help me secure my rule.”

“A marriage alliance?” Blaine repeats, horrified. That’s something that, as royalty, has always seemed like the death of all good things in the world-- a marriage based not on love, but on political gain.

“I don’t have much of a choice, now, do I?” Kurt asks tightly. “I need to do what’s right for my people.”

“Yes, of course, I understand,” Blaine says hastily, because he doesn’t want Kurt to think that he’s judging him. Because he’s not. But it must be terrible for Kurt, especially since he’s already in love with that other elf-- Rachel. Is she a commoner in the elven kingdom or something? Would her marriage not improve the kingdom’s stability?

“Do you know what Brittany and Santana were going to ask for?” Blaine presses on because he can feel the conversation dying out and he doesn’t want it to.

“That’s not my secret to tell,” Kurt says, and the conversation ends anyway.

:::

They finally make it to the base of the Wisdom Dragon’s mountain, and it’s early evening. The world is tinged in that bluish glow that comes with the time of suspension between noon and dusk, and Santana and Brittany are finally stirring awake.

Blaine finds himself kind of wishing that the journey would go on for longer, that it won’t end so soon, that the dragon won’t tell him anything about his future soulmate because he realizes that he doesn’t want to know about a future lover.

He wants… he wants…

He wants Puck the Wisdom Dragon to tell him that he’ll end up with Kurt Hummel, an elven prince with an alluring smile and a love for the stars, who can understand horses and who cares about the wellbeing of his people.

Blaine sighs, snapping himself out of his thoughts. Kurt has a girlfriend with whom he is in love with, a very pretty girlfriend who he doesn’t want to leave but is forcing himself to for the good of his people.

He has to focus now. Focus on finding Quinn and getting the Jewel of the Mists and talking to the Wisdom Dragon about some faceless person he can fall in love with and then he can go back to his castle and maybe cry a little bit.

Brittany has tied Pavarotti to a tree in the forest, and when she returns from the thicket of trees-- a single leaf stuck in her golden hair, which Santana instantly brushes away-- she says that she heard footsteps in the woods.

Immediately, the four of them are on high alert. Kurt and Blaine both have their backs pressed to the rough cliff wall behind them; Santana and Brittany stand a single step in front of them, scanning the surrounding trees for any sign of movement.

“There,” Kurt breathes, pointing.

Wearing a ruby red cloak and riding boots, a figure comes sprinting from the woods and towards the mountain. Her face is hidden by her hood, but Blaine already knows who it is.

It’s Quinn Fabray. She’s finally arrived.

Quinn seems to see them, standing directly in front of the cliff and just waiting for her, and she stumbles slightly but regains her footing a mere moment later. Her steps don’t falter after that, and Blaine watches in confusion as she gets closer and closer and closer to them and still shows no signs of stopping.

“Don’t you dare move out of the way,” Santana hisses through clenched teeth. “If she wants to get to the cliff, she’ll have to charge straight through us.”

Blaine really, really does not like the sound of that.

Quinn’s hood falls back as she runs, revealing her streaming blonde hair and wild eyes. Blaine reads the emotion in her face instantly-- an intense desperation, an intense need fueled by a burning hope for… something. He’s not sure what, but he has a feeling it’s part of the reason that she’s visiting the Wisdom Dragon.

Quinn skids to a stop about a foot in front of the four of them, breathing hard. “Move,” she croaks. “Move. I need to see the dragon.”

“I don’t think so,” Santana answers immediately. “Give back the ring, Shifter.”

In response, Quinn’s face darkens, bones warping and elongating and features stretching out until she’s no longer a human but a wolf with a coat of thick white fur, crouched on all fours and growling through a foaming muzzle.

She stalks towards them, and Blaine panics because what if she hurts Kurt?

“Quinn, wait,” he says, voice cracking. She pauses, turns to look at him. He swallows hard. “I-- I’m Blaine Anderson. We all need to ask the Wisdom Dragon about… things. I know you need help, too. So-- so if we all go up together, maybe he can help… all of us?”

Blaine’s voice trails off. Santana’s looking at him incredulously, like she can’t believe he just suggested sharing a magical jewel with a Shifter. He can’t quite believe he did that, either. Brittany looks very approving, face radiating delight, and Kurt… Kurt just looks thoughtful.

In the blink of an eye, Quinn is a human again. The wildness is gone from her gaze, replaced by only a bone-tired weariness. “Okay,” she says, holding out her palm.

There, nestled in her fingers, is a ring with a golden band embedded with a single blue gemstone.

Blaine blinks. “That’s the Jewel of the Mists?”

“Yeah,” Brittany says, giving him an odd look. “What did you think it was?”

Blaine opens his mouth to explain that he expected some sort of crystal the size of his skull, but decides against it. “Let’s just… go. It’s a long way up.”

:::

It ends up being a very long way up, seeing as there are five of them and Blaine feels very self-conscious the whole way because Kurt is climbing right behind him and can literally see his every move. As they scale the cliff, the temperature gradually drops colder and colder, but the rocks aren’t coated with a thin sheen of frost as they were the first day Blaine came here.

Blaine’s the first one to make it to the top of the cliff. He helps pull Kurt up (ignoring the way heat ignites in his hands everywhere they touch) and then helps Brittany find her footing, grudgingly lends a hand to Santana, and doesn’t dare touch Quinn, because she fixes him with a glare that tells him if even attempts to help her she’ll chuck him off the edge of the rocks.

The five of them stand there, huddled against the light wind.

“Um… Puck?” Quinn calls out hesitantly, and Blaine startles slightly. How does she know the Wisdom Dragon’s name? “Are you there?”

Blaine frowns and glances around the cliff. There’s no sight of the hulking gray dragon anywhere. Just then, though, someone emerges from the cave at the corner of the plateau-- a normal, human-looking guy with lean muscles and a mohawk, dressed in a simple tunic and pants.

“I don’t get it,” Kurt says, voicing Blaine’s thoughts. “Where’s the Wisdom Dragon?”

But Quinn flies at the strange man and tackles him in a hug. He buries his face in her hair and hugs her back tightly, an embrace that’s probably not meant to have an audience.

Kurt clears his throat. “Excuse me, but--”

“-- what’s happening?” Brittany interrupts, sounding just as bewildered as Blaine feels.

Naturally, neither Quinn nor the strange man answer them.

“Here,” Quinn whispers, holding out the Jewel of the Mists to him. “I-- I found it, and I thought… I know you want it. So. Here it is.”

“I want you to wear it,” the man says earnestly. He gently takes Quinn’s hand and slips the ring onto her finger.

Blaine can see Quinn blinking back tears.

“As touching as this is,” Santana says dryly, “somebody tell me what the fuck is going on here before I sing you all to death.”

The mohawk man sighs and turns around to face them. He catches sight of Blaine and his dark eyes widen slightly in recognition. “Oh, hey, Anderson.”

“Your voice,” Blaine realizes, making the connection. “Oh my-- you’re the Wisdom Dragon? You’re the Puck?”

“The one and only,” Puck answers with a smirk.

“Wait. Where’s the dragon?” Brittany asks, sounding frustrated.

“Look,” Puck sighs, “there is no ‘Wisdom Dragon,’ okay? I’m a Shifter, like Quinn. I… I just pretended to be the Wisdom Dragon in case anybody ever found me. That way they could bring me gold and stuff.”

Kurt slowly brings his hand up to his face and pinches the bridge of his nose. “So you don’t actually have any wisdom?”

“I have wisdom!” Puck protests, sounding affronted. Then he shrugs. “Just… not the whole seeing-the-future kind of wisdom.”

“That’s the type of wisdom we needed,” Blaine snaps, clenching his fists. “I-- all of us came here because we needed your help, and you sent me to get a stupid ring for you--”

“Because it’s the ring I proposed to Quinn with,” Puck interrupts, smile disappearing. “It’s a ring I used to propose to her, and I didn’t know it was an elfish thing.”

“Elven,” Kurt corrects.

“Whatever. This was, like, four months ago and I didn’t know it wasn’t up for grabs and so I proposed and she said no--”

“You said no?” Santana echoes, eyebrows shooting up.

“-- and then I came up here to be a dragon and mope, and then I was like, ‘hey, let me just be the Wisdom Dragon,’ because the story was right there for the taking. So then I pretended to be the Wisdom Dragon because I knew one day some knight would find me, or something--” he nods at Blaine “-- and then I’d get treasure. And I could get this ring back and try again.”

“Look,” Quinn says, staring down at the Jewel of the Mists on her finger, “Puck, this is… I know how much this means to you, and that’s why I was bringing the ring back to you. And I-- I lo-- I care about you, very, very much, but I can’t right now. I can’t.”

Their voices drop lower and lower until Blaine can’t hear them, and the next thing he knows, they’re both disappearing off into Puck’s cave.

“But--” Brittany says, sounding choked, “we were going to ask about where we could-- how we could find a child who needed a fami--”

“Shh,” Santana soothes, stepping over to her and hugging her tightly. “We don’t need a dragon to help us find a family, Britt. We’ve got this, right?”

Brittany sniffles, her rainbow-esque wings fluttering. “I guess,” she murmurs back, and Santana kisses her gently on the mouth.

“Uh,” Blaine says, turning away to give them their privacy. He and Kurt stare at each other for a moment. “I’m sorry you won’t get your political alliance,” he says to Kurt. “At least you can be happy with Rachel, now, right?”

The words taste bitter in his mouth.

“What?” Kurt says, looking genuinely surprised. “What are you talking about?”

“Your girlfriend,” Blaine says slowly. “Rachel? Elven? Brown hair? Know her?”

“Rach--” Kurt starts to laugh. “Blaine, no. Rachel’s my brother’s wife. I’m-- I’m not interested in girls.”

Blaine’s breath catches in his throat and oh, okay. Because that means-- that means this whole time, Kurt was single? And possibly even interested in--

“I’m sorry you don’t get to find your future soulmate,” Kurt says quietly, all traces of laughter gone.

Blaine swallows hard. “Don’t be sorry,” he breathes. “I think-- I think I’ve found him, if he… if he feels the same about me, of course.”

Kurt stares at him for a moment, wide-eyed and stunned.

And then his face breaks out into the most spectacularly gorgeous grin Blaine’s ever seen in his entire life, and it’s enough to momentarily knock the breath from his lungs.

“I think he feels the same about you,” Kurt murmurs, taking a small step forward. Blaine doesn’t waste another second; he closes the distance between them and seals their lips together, standing on his toes to do so because Kurt is kind of tall, now that he thinks about it. Kurt gasps softly and Blaine’s heart flips in his chest, and Kurt loops his arms around Blaine’s neck and returns the kiss with just as much feeling. Blaine is melting, knees going weak and Kurt’s breathing is getting shallower and--

“Let’s get off this mountain, shall we?” Kurt mumbles against his lips. “Then we can continue this somewhere else.”

:::

That night, Kurt and Blaine sleep in a grassy clearing in the middle of the elven woods, curled up together beneath a blanket of stars.