parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
Notes: So this story has two more parts after this. One more chapter, and an epilogue. However, I have a lot going on right now, so this story is taking a bit of a backseat to my others. Still, I want to finish this as soon as I can.
Once I have this WIP finished, I'm going to start planning another (especially with These Broken Wings 30/45 chapters finished). If you haven't voted on the poll on my author page, please do! I'd love to know what you'd most like to read next.
Kurt awoke, fairly certain that it was far later than he should have. Instead of pulling himself out of bed, he hugged his blankets a little closer to himself and rolled to his other side. However, he quickly noticed that the other side of his bed was now empty and cold. He opened his eyes to see the blankets neatly folded back into place.
The prince sat up in his bed, staring at the side of it that had been vacated, as though if he looked at it long enough the boy who'd been there before might suddenly materialize again.
He glanced up, suddenly registering the other figure in his room. But there was Mercedes, who quickly noticed that the prince was awake. She crossed the room, the prince's dressing gown in her hands, and Kurt found himself pulling his covers to his chest self-consciously. He took the garment from her, muttering his thanks. He opened his mouth again to offer some sort of explanation (though he still hadn't settled on whether or not to give her the truth), but she simply shook her head and turned to the door.
"I've drawn a bath for you," she told him, though her voice was almost recognisable. He cursed under his breath as soon as she was gone, wondering just how terrible of a friend he was to not notice that she had been quietly suffering as well. But, he told himself, he'd find the source of it once he was dressed.
An hour later, Kurt found himself at the entrance of the dining hall, his eyes slowly traveling across the room. Rachel was beside Carole, the two of them speaking in hushed voices, undoubtedly over Finn. In the opposite corner was Quinn, sitting quietly, though Brittany and Santana were tending to her; she'd returned the night before, as well, asking whether it was all true. His eyes fell upon Mercedes, who was standing quietly beside the door to the kitchens, her head hung low.
He took a deep breath, approaching his chambermaid, the realisation of the situation setting in.
"Who is it that you're waiting for?" Kurt asked her at last.
She turned, slightly startled. "I—I'm sorry?" she responded.
"You're wearing the same lost expression as Rachel and Quinn and—" He cut himself off.
"And yourself, your highness?" she asked with a forced smile.
They fell quiet for a moment.
"Beside that, Quinn isn't waiting on anyone specific," Mercedes continued. "She confessed she's finished with them all romantically, at least for some time."
"That can't stop her from caring about them," Kurt said. "The situation they're in is a grave one."
Mercedes nodded, though again they were silent for a brief moment.
"It's the blond one, correct? The one who helped recover Blaine?" Kurt asked quietly. "Sam." Mercedes merely looked away. "Why did you never tell me?"
"You aren't the only one who's afraid that your feelings are completely and utterly improper, sire," she responded darkly.
"Everyone wants a knight to ride in and rescue them," he said, and Mercedes jerked her head up at the realisation that he was repeating her own words.
"Maybe I don't need or want to be rescued," she said.
"Maybe," Kurt countered, "you should allow yourself the chance regardless."
"Son." Kurt whipped around, startled slightly by the sudden appearance of his father. "I would like a word with you, if that's all right."
The prince nodded, and Mercedes curtseyed, murmuring a goodbye as Kurt and the king walked off.
At last, they came to a stop, Kurt leaning against the window frame, staring at the grounds below.
"And who is it that you are waiting for, son?"
The words cut through the air, causing Kurt's heart to come to a complete stop. He stiffened, but did his best not to give any other visible indication of his discomfort.
"I'm not an idiot, Kurt," Burt said smoothly. "Your concern isn't just because of Finn."
Kurt simply swallowed, now looking at his father with a small look of fear.
"It's the stablehand, isn't it?" Burt asked, and Kurt's eyes widened. "You care about him, don't you?"
"I—father, I—" Kurt quickly swallowed again, trying to take in a breath to steady himself. "I'm so sorry, father."
Burt only raised his eyebrows. "What for?" he asked.
"For not being honest," he responded softly. "For... for having feelings for a... for another man—"
"Kurt," his father said sharply, "I would never love you any less for such a thing."
Kurt nodded, though a little hesitantly. "I know," he whispered, "but it is nice to hear. You can't pretend it will make anything simple, though. Gender aside, he's still only a stableboy, and I'm going to be king."
"He's a good man, son," Burt insisted. "He's gone to help rescue your step-brother. And if he should succeed, he'll be a hero."
"And what if he doesn't succeed?" Kurt suddenly burst out. "What if... what if I lose them both?"
The boy shook his head. "How did you do it, father?" he asked, his tone softer. "How did you manage to survive when mother died?"
"I had to, for you," Burt said simply.
Kurt shook his head again. "I just don't know how I can be expected to go on if I should lose you and Finn and Blaine..."
"You're not going to lose me, son," Burt responded.
"You can't know that," Kurt insisted. "You've been so sick, so weak, that's why I—" He broke off, looking away once more.
His father stepped closer to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Why you what, Kurt?"
"I've kept so much from you," Kurt said quietly.
"Then tell me," Burt urged. "Change all of that by telling me now."
Kurt swallowed the lump in his throat, nodding slowly. He would do it. He had to.
"I love him, father," he said in a choked whisper. "I didn't at first—when I met him, he... I thought he was a bit of a dolt because he couldn't even saddle Elizabeth properly, and that... that's why I fell the day of Karofsky's celebration. But I was an idiot about it all because I didn't even check her saddle, and I just... I suppose I started lying then because I was too proud, but I also knew you'd just rid him from the castle and be done with it."
"You didn't want that, even then," Burt commented knowingly, and Kurt nodded.
"There was this pull I couldn't explain," he said softly. "I just... I didn't like him but I didn't want him gone. And then it was good that he'd never gone because he—he—"
Kurt froze, realising the part of the story he'd come to. He looked to his father for reassurance, and he nodded his head, urging him to continue.
"He saved me," the prince muttered. "Maybe not in the most literal sense, but..."
"But Karofsky was—he was saying these terrible things, and his hands were so tight on my shoulders, pushing me." Kurt shook his head at the memory. "And that was far from the only time. He even—he completely destroyed Blaine while you and Carole were setting negotiations in Carmel. It was so brutal, I—" His voice faltered, and Burt stepped forward, resting a hand on Kurt's shoulder.
"Son, why wouldn't you tell me about all of this?" Burt asked, his voice full of concern. "I'm the king, if I can't take care of my own son—"
"You're sick, father," Kurt said. "What if I told you and it... it broke you?"
Burt took his son in his arms, holding him tightly for a moment. "We'll get through this," he told his son. "And they will, too."
It had happened quickly. One moment, they were fast-approaching the camp where the regiment was being held. The next, they being surrounded by a half-dozen men.
"We're dead," Nick mumbled, and Jeff shot him a look. The three stablehands and Karofsky were close together, the other men quickly drawing their weapons.
"Glad we can count on you for a bit of optimism," he snapped.
"Just tell me that the both of you did in fact listen to what I told you," Blaine breathed out, and each of them nodded.
"Every word," Jeff said.
"Time to prove that," Blaine responded. The moment the words left his mouth, the first of the other men struck with a yell. The stablehand easily countered the move, and their swords clanged together. The movements were faster than Blaine anticipated, having never actually practiced on another human being with any skill, but he did his best to fight off the two men that were targeting him. He only hoped that the others were having the same successes.
It was chaos as they all fought, Blaine certain that he was showing far less technique than he always
thought he possessed. But, he argued with himself, so long as he was successfully fighting them off, that might not be so important.
He was panting heavily by the time his attackers had collapsed; only minor cuts on his arms where he'd been but a moment too slow. He only took a second to breathe, ready to move to help Nick and Jeff take on the impossibly large goon still clashing with them, when he glimpsed a smaller man, otherwise completely unnoticed, creeping behind Karofsky. He was posed to strike, sword ready to plunge itself through the commander's back.
Without a second thought, Blaine rushed between them, the blow just catching the outer edge of Blaine's elbow instead. He gritted his teeth in an effort to keep himself from crying out.
Immediately the man before him was struck down—though by Nick or Jeff he didn't see—and Blaine fell to his knees, his hand grasping onto his arm tightly in an attempt to stop the blood flow.
"We need to move," Karofsky said gruffly. "Now."
Quickly Nick and Jeff grasped onto Blaine, pulling him to his feet as gently as they could, all too aware of the danger of staying put.
They walked a relatively short distance to a more forested area, Blaine collapsing against the side of a tree while Karofsky ensured they were, in fact, alone. As soon as he was certain they were, he turned back to Blaine, who had Jeff and Nick hovering over him.
"You're a fool, Anderson!" Karofsky spat. "I'm already risking everything with the three of you in tow—"
"Are you serious?" Nick snapped as Jeff wrapped Blaine's wound in some of the cloth from his shirt. "He just risked his life for you—"
"It was hardly my life," Blaine said flatly, wincing as Jeff tightened the fabric on his arm. "Just perhaps a limb."
Karofsky only looked angrier. "Now you'll only be slowing this mission down. I don't need you—"
"I think it's clear," Jeff bit out, pulling at the wound's dressing, which Blaine found rather unnecessary as he winced in pain, "that you do. Or would you rather be lying here bleeding, without a soul that cares?"
"Stop," Blaine told them. "We've made it this long and this far. We're so close to Carmel, now. We can't be distracted from the point of this mission, now." Although silence fell amongst the group, they all still looked rather furious.
"I don't understand it," Nick mumbled as he crouched beside Blaine, frowning. "You didn't have to do that."
"I hardly did it for him," Blaine responded, ensuring that his voice was just loud enough for Karofsky to hear, though he was no longer paying attention to them. "But he's not one to understand that."
There was a rustling close by, and suddenly everyone tensed. Karofsky turned to the source of the sound, his hand poised on the hilt of his sword, ready to draw it from its sheath. A boy stepped forward, his hands held up before him in surrender.
"I mean no harm," he said quickly to the commander. "Are you the men sent to rescue the prince's company?"
"We are," Blaine responded quickly, and the boy directed his attention to them instead. "Who are you?"
"My name is Jesse St. James," he responded. "I come from Carmel."
At this Karofsky drew out his sword, but Blaine was quickly on his feet and standing between them.
"What do you want from us?" Blaine asked.
"I wish to help," Jesse responded, and Karofsky reluctantly lowered his sword. He quirked a brow as he glanced at the four boys. "By the looks of it, you certainly need it."
"Why would you want to help us?" Nick inquired shortly.
"I made a grave error," Jesse responded. "I believe it cost me the girl I love."
"Rachel," Blaine commented, and Jesse turned back to him, a faint smile on his face. "Of course."
"I've lived in Carmel all my life," Jesse continued. "I know every centimeter of it." He paused. "I also know where the prince's men are being held."