A/N: I hope all of you had a wonderful christmas! Have a new chapter.
"Is it you that you fear they may react to, or your gender?"
"I'm the Prince of Gaveston, Kurt. No one's going to arrest me for being with another man, either way. And they won't know who you are, nor will they ever find out. It'll be fine."
Blaine had left in the middle of the night after their heated argument had settled and drawn to a close. He assured Kurt that the part of the woods he sneaked in on was perfectly safe and far away from thug dwellings, as they soon realised that the main entrance of the Hummel grounds would be far too risky as it was in plain sight of the mansion.
They had agreed on a plan. Kurt would leave the mansion with Blaine twenty minutes after his stepfamilies depart on their carriage. Blaine would wait in the wings of the forest in the secluded watchspot he'd found and they would rendez-vous at the stables once he sees the women are gone. Blaine will bring him a change of formal clothing as well as his mask, and from there, they'd arrive at the Ball late and hopefully be able to slip in without much cause for notice. He would bring Kurt back to the mansion before midnight, when the Ball was due to end, and say his goodbyes and leave before the Tourneboulles return.
Kurt had decided on his own that he'd at least gather up the nerves to ask Tourneboulle for permission, in the infinitesimal chance that her frozen heart might thaw just enough to let him go.
The morning of the ball was an opportune time to do so. Tourneboulle was in good spirits because of tonight's festivities and Kurt had overheard her talking to the girls last night- they had devised multiple ways to get Blaine into their arms and so her plan was set. She did seem excited, more so than nervous, so Kurt decided that this was now or never and leapt at the chance when serving her morning tea.
"M-Madam," Kurt stutters, looking bashfully at his feet after placing Tourneboulle's flawlessly laid out platter on the dining table. "I w-wanted to ask if y-you would g-grant me leave for t-tonight's B-Ball... I am still n-noble by b-birth, so in t-truth, I am eligible-"
A sharp, cutting laugh interrupts Kurt's humble mumbling and causes him to look up at the grey-haired widow.
"You jest," Tourneboulle says, chuckling disbelievingly. "Surely, you jest."
"...N-No, Madam. P-Please, may I go?"
She shrieks again, incredulous, and the tiny light of hope begins to dwindle into darkness in Kurt's chest.
After her mocking laughter ceases, she looks back at the red-cheeked, skinny boy standing before her and studies him with more scrutiny than she had ever cared to before.
He is broader now- that has come with age and labour, so perhaps he is no longer skinny... lean, rather. Tall and lean, but with a face so feminine no woman would ever fall for him and expect him to provide for her.. his rosy cheeks, pointed nose- why, he looks like a doll. A noticeable scar from an accident in the kitchen on his neck; countless other minor scars all over his arms and legs. Calloused hands, rough skin, toughened nails and chapping lips. Threadbare clothes, tired stance and woefully pitiful eyes. Tousled mousy brown hair, unstyled, unfashionable. This boy was no gentleman. He would never be able to scrounge up something appropriate to wear, let alone act as a sophisticated man would in that setting.
He wasn't fit to go to the Ball as one of noble status. He was far from it.
A pang of sadism runs through Tourneboulle as her eyes remain on the humiliated boy.
His lack of worldliness was hardly the biggest issue- how could she possibly forget? The boy was labeled insane, for heaven's sake. No one would touch him with a ten foot pole; they'd treat him as if her were diseased. The townspeople stay well away from him for a reason, and a good one at that. He'd show up in his dirty rags and clumsy behaviour and cause a riot. Tourneboulle could feign oblivion, and he'd be chased out of the hall. Perhaps then he'd learn to not have the audacity to ask her permission for things like this. Maybe then he'll learn his place as her servant and not her adoptee. Perhaps then she'd finally make concrete exactly who he is and where he stands. Her lips curl at the thought of playing with his mind and the cogs in her evil little mind turn. With a snap of her fingers, she commands the dispirited boy's attention once more.
"You may go," she says, evenly.
The boy's eyes widen and she almost scoffs with the way they light up like a child's. Much too easy.
"...However, I have a list of chores I need you to do by the end of today. Should you finish them in time for the Ball, you also have to find yourself appropriate formal garments. Should you be able to do that as well, you will also have to figure out your own way to the ball. But otherwise, yes, you may go."
Kurt doesn't believe it- he has her permission to go. He lets himself have a fleeting moment of joy and relief until it comes crashing down on him minutes later when Tourneboulle entails exactly what she meant by 'chores'.
Kurt's hands are unsteady as he clasps the bridles on the horse and hands the driver the reigns. He opens the door of the carriage for the girls, his moist palms clasped tightly around the knob as he shifts his weight imperceptibly on the balls of his tired feet. Clementine and Beatrice are doing a final run down of their outfits and hair, even though Kurt can't see a single fault from where he's standing no less than five feet away. Even in the early moonlight, the girls look impeccable and surreally beautiful. He is wistful that he could never possess a beauty as radiant as theirs, but he is grateful that he is aware of the ugliness that lies beneath their skin.
It is now nightfall and Kurt is only half way through the list of chores Tourneboulle has set for him. He almost wants to cry in frustration as Tourneboulle herself finally comes up the the carriage steps, smiling at him condescendingly with utter malice.
"See you at the Ball, perhaps, Kurt?" she says, prompting a bout of derisive laughter from the girls already seated in the carriage. His eyes twinge with angry tears but he tightens his throat and grits his teeth, unwilling to let her have the satisfaction of seeing him cry. With a final smug grin and a coy wave goodbye, the carriage is off and Kurt is left behind in a cloud of dust, coating his already dirty clothes in another layer of filth.
He lets out a single, quiet, frustrated sob before turning on his heel and going back into the mansion to scrub the foyer floors, wash the rest of the dishes, dust the entirety of the library and do all the laundry Tourneboulle had given him this afternoon.
Kurt makes his way down to the stables before doing continuing with his chores. His disappointment still burns the back of his eyes and makes that lump rise in his throat but he's not going to let Blaine see how upset this makes him, either. He's already seen him compromised one time too many, and it certainly wasn't something Kurt liked others to witness often.
As planned, Blaine is in the stables waiting vigilantly for Kurt's arrival.
Kurt is stops mid-sentence when Blaine steps out into the moonlight towards him, several stalks of cut wild roses in his outstretched hand. He himself wears a jittery, lopsided grin besides an impeccably fitted formal outfit in royal purple shades.
"You... b-brought flowers."
"Of course." he says, still smiling. Kurt takes them gingerly from Blaine, careful to not touch his hands. He holds the stalks tightly as he stares at the flowers in awe, admiring their gorgeous coral-pink hue as he cups the petals of one of them. He'd never been given flowers before.
Blaine's grin gets wider at Kurt's mumbled words, but the expectancy in his smile grounds Kurt once more.
"...I'm s-so sorry, B-Blaine, but I c-can't go."
Blaine's face falls immediately and Kurt rushes to explain why he can't go. He watches Blaine's face twist from hurt to confusion and finally, to anger. He'd never seen Blaine mad before.
"…She can't just... raise your hopes like that, only to crush them and- that's just so cruel- I mean, no, I know she's awful to you, but to mentally hurt you like that is just so twisted..."
Blaine vexes the sheer unfairness of it, the formal tunic's wide sleeves swishing in the air as he gesticulates wildly with his arms. He paces in front of Kurt, and every time he swivels on his heel, Kurt marvels at the way those pants fit so snugly-
"...what have you got left to do?"
He counts them off on his fingers and concludes a grand total of four chores left to do. The ball is due to start within the hour, but it takes another half hour for everyone to really trickle in. All in all, he has just under an hour to make it to the ball.
"This will at least b-be two- m-maybe even three more hours of work, B-Blaine." Kurt says, helplessly. "I can't- I'll have to miss the b-ball. You g-go ahead, they'll b-be expecting- h-hey, what are you doing?"
At this point, Blaine has unbuttoned his fitted vest and pulled his tunic over his head, exposing his strong, bare torso and making Kurt very flustered indeed. He folds them as neatly as he can and sets them aside on a high stack of hay.
Ignoring Kurt's question, he starts at the button of his dress trousers before responding with one of his own. "Have you got a spare pair of breeches? I don't want to get these ones dirty- plus, these aren't very comfortable, they're prone to riding up my-"
"B-Blaine, surely you're not-" Kurt interjects, voice high and tight at the sight of Blaine unfastening his pants right before his eyes.
The pants drop and Blaine is left in nothing but his undergarments. Blaine is in the barn, right outside Kurt's servant quarters in nothing but his undergarments. And, well, shoes, but undergarments.
Kurt's turned his face away in modesty, trying his very best to not focus on undergarments and fighting the burning rush of blood to his cheeks. This isn't proper at all, especially not for a first date- is this what it was, a date?
"You're p-proposing to help me d-do my chores?" Kurt asks.
"Was that not obvious?"
Something inside of Kurt feels deeply touched, but is also troubled at the notion.
"You're royalty, B-Blaine. You've p-probably never worked a d-day in your life, you can't d-do a servant's work-"
"I most certainly can!" Blaine squawks, and it's not right for someone to be so be so indignant when they're so naked.
"Will you please p-pull your p-pants up- and no, I m-meant that you c-can't do servant's w-work, you're a P-Prince, for heaven's-"
"And this Prince would like to go the Ball with their date! And a pair of spare breeches, please. It's breezy in here."
In just over an hour and a half, the dishes have been washed, wiped and placed back in their respective cabinets, the library books have been freed from their dusty clutches, and the floor of the foyer is sparkling clean. The latter was due to Blaine's utter vigor and enthusiasm at performing the task and the fact that Kurt's hands were red and raw from the garden work he had to do earlier today.
"We've m-missed the opening, B-Blaine." Kurt says as he locks up the kitchen's back door.
"No matter!" he says, bouncing next to Kurt as they begin to walk (sort of run, really) down to the stables to get themselves into their ball clothes. "I'm sure they won't even notice."
Of course they will, Kurt thinks, but he doesn't really want to ruin Blaine's constant upbeat optimism he's had throughout the night.
Once back in the stables, Blaine once again unceremoniously disrobes right then and there, causing Kurt to once again blush like the virgin he is. Before he does drops his breeches (which may have been the pair that Kurt had fixed the seams of to make them a little more form-fitting, admittedly), however, he hands Kurt what he'd picked out for him to wear for the night. Kurt thanks him shyly and hops into his quarters to change.
The silk of tunic Blaine had brought him hung a little large for his thin frame, but the beautifully embroidered gold vest is tight around his form, highlighting his embarrassingly ladylike waist. He slips on the rest of the outfit (a tanned leather belt and tight tights), all made of luxurious fabrics he'd never dreamed to ever wear, before slipping on a pair of pointed, soft leather shoes that were a little too large for his feet. With a final tug to the laces, he stands upright. He readjusts his vest one more time before finally tucking his hair into a little gold-feathered cap that sat quaintly on his head. With a lack of mirror, he tries to look at himself the best he can, and sighs in resignation as he figures I guess that's as good as it's going to get.
A deep breath later, he walks out the creaky door to face Blaine once more. He's still shrugging his doublet on when his eyes catch Kurt in the dim light.
"I d-don't look right."
Blaine just blinks, still gazing with intent on Kurt's being. Under scrutiny, Kurt caves his shoulders and turns away to fuss with the flowers Blaine had gotten him earlier today. Cheeks are pink again, no doubt. He's about to put the stalks in the safety of an empty drawer in his dresser, but a hand is on his arm before he can go.
"I think you look wonderful." Blaine breathes.
Their eyes meet for an electrifying moment, making Kurt's skin feel alive under Blaine's gentle hold on his arm. They look away only seconds later, Blaine making it a point to walk to the horse while Kurt walks into his room.
His heart palpitates and his brow slicks as he remembers that he's going to Villon's masquerade ball with Blaine. Prince Blaine, next in line for the throne in the mighty kingdom of Gaveston- but mostly Blaine. He's really going to do this.
He smiles, though. Really smiles. He's as nervous as a sinner in a church, but by God, he's excited. This is the first time in a long time that he's doing something for himself, and it feels like he's about to conquer something great. He is going to go to the ball with a lovely, kind, and sinfully good-looking man and he is going to enjoy himself, for just one night. For just one night, he's not going to be that poor Hummel boy, noble servant and certified psychopath. Tonight, he's going to be a mysterious, nameless Lord on the arm of Prince Blaine, but a Lord nonetheless.
"Ready to go, Kurt?" sounds Blaine from outside his quarters.
He's standing next to his horse, matching purple masquerade mask tied around his neck. In his hand is a similar one in gold. He's smiling, too- wide, toothily, and just as excited as Kurt.
He walks up to Blaine to take his own masquerade mask, shy as usual but bravery brews inside of him when he's around Blaine and he decides to let a little of it out. He leans and places a dry, quick kiss to Blaine's cheek that doesn't last more than half a second, but the look on Blaine's face afterwards makes his heart swell. His look of awe shifts into one of genuine joy, the grin returning goofier and larger than ever. They smile like idiots at one another for a moment before Kurt speaks.
"Thank you for helping me with m-my chores."
"Thank you for agreeing to be my date."
Blaine reciprocates and plants his own kiss on Kurt's cheek, a firm, whole-hearted kiss that is bolder than Kurt's and makes him yelp in surprise. He gets on his horse and then offers Kurt a hand to help him up. He swiftly lands on the saddle, pressed up against Blaine's back, and proceeds to tie the masquerade mask over his eyes. His hands find their way to holding Blaine tentatively around the waist, but Blaine takes his hands and yanks them forward, forcing him to hold onto Blaine in earnest. He can feel Blaine's chuckle rumble through his torso through his back and every shifting of his stomach when he breathes. He presses his cheek into the back of Blaine's shoulders as Blaine kicks his horse lightly in the side and they begin a slow trot out of the barn, eventually turning into a canter as they enter the open space of the Hummel grounds. By the time they begin to gallop, Kurt's arms are holding tight around Blaine's waist and Blaine can't imagine a time he's been in better spirits than he is in this very moment.