Title: Dublin Rising
Genres: Historical Fiction, Action/Drama, Romance, Angst, Revolutionary Ireland AU, What is wrong with me.
A/N: Oof. I started this story nearly four years ago before that crazy hiatus. So try not to eviscerate me after this chapter; I gave folks literally four years to Google how this all plays out. This is NOT, however, the end of the fic. (Heaven forbid, *rolls eyes*.) If nothing else, at least my shameful break ensured that the story would be finished in the centennial year of the 1916 Easter Rising!
Another note - as some readers will know I've seriously squashed a lot of historical actors into one loosely fact-inspired story. I should clarify for others though, that not every Irish rebel was a nationalist Irish Volunteer (far from it), and they certainly weren't all devoted to James Connolly (who was a labour leader, different but not unrelated). Okay, historical conscience assuaged.
If you've made it this far in the story, 1.) WELL DONE HOLY COW and 2.) do please comment. :-)
Kurt and Blaine sat below the window for the better part of the day, unsure what they were waiting for. A single plate of food was laid inside the door. Beyond the scraping of spoons and dishes, the cells around them were quiet.
Finally, there was movement. Kurt and Blaine barely heard the boots against the stone before a heavy key scraped inside the lock and the door swung open again.
Captain Sebastian Smythe entered with a man dressed in white and grey. They didn't speak until the door was closed and locked behind them. The stranger leaned a briefcase against the grating that separated their cell from the empty one adjacent. Smythe strode directly over and crossed his arms.
"I'm going to ask you something, and you should know we have other ways of finding the answer. But you'll save us all a lot of time and energy by telling us the truth right now."
Kurt waited a beat, wondering if Blaine would respond with something stupid, get his head bashed in. Then he realized Blaine was watching him. They all were. "What, me?"
Smythe wasn't wasting words. "I've just read a telegram that I've got to say, my commander was not happy to receive. So I'm going to ask you this exactly once." Every syllable was careful, punctuated. "Who is Burt Hummel?"
For a moment, it was like Kurt was breathing clean air again. Did his father know Kurt was still alive? Had he received his message?
"I swear to fuck, if you don't answer me…"
"You'll what?" Blaine demanded, his voice raspy and unintimidating.
"Blaine." The side of Kurt's head ached from the morning. Blaine was a walking concussion, and, Kurt thought, god only knows what had become of his stitching. They couldn't stay here. They needed help. "Burt Hummel," he said, "is a United States congressman."
He was confirming something the soldiers already knew. The man in grey straightened, began to speak before Smythe shot him a look. "Not your problem, doc. And why, when every English-speaking country in the world knows that your lot started this mess, is congressman Burt Hummel sending the Royal Army a threatening letter about our actions in Dublin?"
Kurt almost smiled, imagining the contents of that letter. "He's probably just worried about his son."
Captain Sebastian Smythe shook his head once, annoyed, as though he'd hoped to hear anything else. But his next question was a real one. "What are you even doing here?"
"Waiting to go home."
"You're American. A seriously connected American. And obviously not a fighter. Don't you think it's a little weird that you're banged up, in jail in the grimiest part of a city with next to nothing to offer, shooting your mouth off at me?"
Kurt wasn't inclined to give him the satisfaction of being right - which he was.
Smythe nodded to the man in grey, and then made a sweeping gesture towards the door. "Okay congressman junior, you're free to go."
For a moment Kurt's heart leapt; but Blaine was stone still beside him.
"What about Blaine?"
In a strange, unexpected way, there was no mirth, no scorn in Smythe's answer. "He's way too important, and his father's not nearly important enough, to leave."
"If you want me to go home and keep my five-star father quiet, he comes too," Kurt said. Blaine had barely spoken since the men arrived. The surrender, the march and the mob, had taken most of the words out of him, to say nothing of the ragged, blood-stained bandages on his head and side, loose tatters that no longer remotely served their purpose.
Smythe, again, was annoyed but unruffled by Kurt's declaration. "Let's you and me take a walk." He snapped a finger impatiently. "If you don't make a fuss, I'll let you piss in the actual bathroom on the way."
The man in grey moved away from the door, setting his briefcase on the dirty floor and unlatching it. Smythe stepped past him and motioned to Kurt. "Meantime our doctor will see to our rabble-rouser." And just like that, Kurt was outside in the corridor and Blaine was out of sight.
'A walk' really just meant outside the cell, beyond earshot. The prison corridor was dim with no open air or sunlight. Smythe handed him an unusually long telegram.
Kurt skimmed it, surprised by the emotions four lines of authority from his father could elicit. Illegal detention. Burden of proof. International alliance. The captain watched him read. The state of Ohio and the congressional offices of the United States are concerned and disappointed at the danger now facing U.S. citizens in Dublin. We look forward to their return to U.S. soil, and your immediate response especially re: those presently stationed at the Dublin General Post Office.
"You don't seem stupid," Smythe said, "so I'm guessing you know why your father has an upper hand here. Even if we had a real reason to keep you here in the first place. Which we don't."
When it came to the U.S., Kurt knew as well as his father and the captain, Britain had not had an upper hand in years. America's perch at the edge of the War - the real one - meant their relationship was more important than ever. The Lusitania might just have saved Kurt and Blaine's lives.
The hallway was quiet, but for their voices and movement within the cell. Smythe spoke as if he took no notice of Blaine's quiet stifled pain on the other side of the closed door, and the stiff instructive tone of the doctor. "Thing is, we don't even want you here, Kurt Hummel. Especially not after this." Smythe waved the letter in the air a bit. "Your father wants an immediate reply that you'll be pardoned, and he wants you home. That's exactly what he's going to get."
"No argument from me," Kurt said. "Just send Blaine with me."
"Out of the question. And this isn't a negotiation."
"Isn't it?" Kurt said. "I think people much more important than you would have serious questions if an op-ed appeared in the Times about how the unarmed son of a U.S. Senator was manhandled in and out of prison by the British army. Not when that same army wants our help on the Western Front. Face it – you don't just need me back in the states. You need me back in the states with a report that won't get you fired. Or imprisoned."
"You push your luck, Hummel."
It was close to an admission that Kurt was right. He threw up his hands – a sudden move that would have spooked less seasoned captains into firing. "Look, you did what you were supposed to, right?" Kurt demanded. "You squashed the rebellion. It's dead. What's one 19-year-old kid to you now?"
"To begin with," Smythe responded, "no one in the royal army is dumb enough to think that killing a rebellion is the same thing as killing a rebellion's spirit. Your friend is a problem wherever he ends up. Outside stirring up his people. In here garnering sympathy. In the U.S. making us look weak."
"You can throttle three thousand street fighters in under a week, but you can't manage one kid."
"If you mean are options are… limited, with this particular one, you're correct."
Down the hallway, more muffled sounds of pain from the cell. Kurt felt a sickly bead of sweat down the center of his back, here in this damp, chilled hallway of stone. "What are you saying?" he asked, wondering if the other rebels could hear their conversation from within their compartments. "You're patching him up so you can shoot him?"
Captain Smythe laughed. "I'm flattered, that you think I'm in charge of who we shoot or don't. But I'm not. In fact I just paid a rotten load of money to fix up your friend, against orders. A little gratitude wouldn't go amiss."
"What do you mean, who you shoot and who you don't?" Kurt said. "Where are the officers?"
Smythe narrowed his eyes. "Alright, senator. I guess we're done here." He pushed open the cell door and kept a hand on his firearm while Kurt passed back in. "I have to go tell a U.S. congressman his shit-eating son doesn't feel like coming home."
The next morning Kurt and Blaine were woken by a series of near-simultaneous shots. Disoriented they pulled themselves up from the grit and stone floor, and squinted outside into the sunlight.
They saw two men untying a man, a limp body, from a chair in the stonebreaker's yard below. Kurt gasped.
They were actually executing men.
Another man, extremely pale, lay at the foot of the enclosure wall, a black arm band visible around his upper arm.
The vulture, eons ago scrounging for relics of the GPO, had been right.
The men were covered with sheets and carried off by able-bodied soldiers. The implications were terrifying, of course, but strictly speaking they were two of the more dignified deaths that week. Kurt was relieved neither was Wes, but shouts from their side of the prison went up around them; every Irish republican with a northward window could see the scene down below. Kurt would have expected anger, shouting, but not this manic rage precipitating from within the prison, reverberating against cold stone. He looked from the men below, the ones standing and the ones dead, and then at Blaine. "Who was… do you know them?"
Blaine had a new bandage around his head and for the first time since the bullet grazed him, proper stitching. So he was slightly steadier on his feet walking to the far corner, where he carefully lowered himself next to their tin bucket, positioned it slightly, and was violently ill.
That was how Sebastian Smythe found them, the banged up one vomiting into a tin and the American fretting uselessly beside him. Every other republican slamming against their doors or spitting out their windows, but these two were a mess of their own.
To be fair, their general had just been shot. Sebastian frowned at the mess and made to leave.
"That was James Connolly?" Kurt demanded before he made it out. "You knew this was happening."
Sebastian shifted his stance, reminding them of his small firearm. He didn't expect to be attacked by these two, but he couldn't quite read Blaine, not yet, and certainly not under duress. So he kept his distance, to avoid any unpleasantness. "Just be glad you weren't with them."
"Where is Wes?" Blaine said, shaking with anger. It seethed through his ragged exhaustion. If Sebastian ignored the pail of vomit it was attractive.
"What sort of tone is that? I didn't start this. I'm not even the one shooting your friends."
Blaine made a lunge for him, a weak stitched-up rush that Sebastian saw coming a mile away. Determined to keep his gun holstered – didn't want anything happening to this one – he restrained him easily, pinning Blaine's arms behind his back and making a show of his own tolerance and restraint. If Kurt Hummel thought Blaine was in danger and both prisoners rushed him at once, well, he'd probably need his gun.
It was the first time he'd come into actual contact with Blaine since frisking him for the gun he didn't have on Sackville Street days before. And Blaine seemed to realize he'd made a mistake, or else was taking a cue from his friend, because he immediately stilled, breathing hard in Sebastian's hold.
The friend, Sebastian noticed, looked ready to kill. But Kurt was probably too smart to put Blaine in immediate danger, so Sebastian addressed him. It was almost fun to do with a fightless Blaine in his arms.
"Want to get your friend under control?" he said. "I don't think he realizes I've kept him alive this long." He loosened his grip slightly and, when he was sure Blaine wasn't making a move for his gun, gave him a small shove back towards Kurt. "That doctor won't redo his stitches if he tears them."
"Do you know what will happen to Wes or not?" Kurt said.
He shrugged. "I have no idea, because I don't know who that is." This was of course untrue. The lieutenant named Wesley had stood out, not just as one of the only people in this miserable city who looked like he had ever seen the sun, but also as a man the republicans looked to, certainly the one responsible for the discipline his army had exhibited in surrender. Discipline and dignity. He had been granted a visitor just a few hours ago, although Sebastian wouldn't personally interpret that as a good sign.
"If he's an officer, he's probably on a lower floor with the others. That's all I can tell you."
There were finger marks on Blaine's forearm where Sebastian held him, visible beneath his sleeves when he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. Sebastian regarded him for a moment. "Particular friend of yours?"
"The fuck you care."
Sebastian picked up the metal bucket by its rusty handle and carried it out, locking the door behind him as he went.
He could handle Kurt Hummel. Maybe even work with him, get Blaine a reprieve and the congressman off their backs. Learn a little more about Blaine in the process, ideally without losing his job. That was the trick. But if Blaine fell apart before that happened…
Standing in the center of the long corridor, he set the bucket down.
He shouldn't have gotten involved, he knew that. The doctor's pay-off had been a risk, an expensive one. A little to patch Blaine up, a ton to keep quiet. And then there was the impending senator crisis he didn't know how to prevent. He should have thought before letting an American anywhere near prison, but who could have guessed the twerp had a father in Washington?
Meanwhile Blaine, the stranger that had caught Sebastian's attention in the first place, that had made him act without a game plan, was vomiting up his insides. All because two men hit the ground outside his window. By no means the only two on the schedule.
He couldn't linger; he had other duties and his commanders were suspicious as it was. Sebastian's footsteps sounded disproportionately loud when he walked alone through this place.
Obviously he should have given Blaine Anderson a different cell, overlooking the hospital green perhaps, instead of the execution yard. But it was too late now; there were no empty cells and anyway transferring prisoners took three guards minimum. No way in hell Sebastian was drawing that kind of attention to the situation. On the other hand, if Blaine had some kind of meltdown in the coming days, then what was Sebastian going to all this trouble for? He wasn't interested in the shell of Blaine Anderson.
Sebastian dumped the contents of the bucket down a floor drain below a spicket. First things first.
James Connolly was dead. Kurt watched Blaine oscillate between coherence and a morose stupor, over a man he'd only met a few times. A man nonetheless, an important one. They sat with their backs to the wall, the only way at all comfortable, two feet apart, and waited for dinner to arrive in its crusted tin. Kurt laid a hand on the floor between them, palm up, hoping to spark some movement. To his relief, Blaine lolled his heads towards him and put his hand over his. Kurt gave it a light squeeze, and was rewarded with something approaching a smile. When they saw those two volunteers carted off in the morning, Kurt had worried he'd never see that smile again.
The sunset provided a dim color to the stones around them; it would only last a few minutes but Kurt was grateful. Ghastly as the evenings in the GPO and Kilmainham were, they began late and ended early; springtime days in Ireland were, if not for the haze over Dublin, longer lasting than in the states. It was coming up on half 8, and they were hungrier than they'd been in days. Was this some sort of power play from Captain Smythe?
An unlocking clank, and the door heaved open. Smythe entered with two disproportionate plates of what looked like actual food in his hands. One was piled high, real silverware laid across the edge.
"Make sure he eats this," the captain said, terse but not harsh. He set the plates on the ground next to the door. A dish of the usual soup – unappealing but not inhumane – next to a wide plate with heavily peppered potatoes, corn bread, and a piece of honest-to-god, healthy looking meat. Blaine had been awarded a special meal.
Why? There are no special meals in prison, unless… Kurt felt a panic rise in the pit of his stomach and he jumped to his feet, feeling his head spin with exhaustion and rage. "What is this for?"
"Easy, senator." Smythe was already on his way out casting one more glance at Blaine, who didn't move, barely even looked up. "He's not being shot at dawn. Far as I know at least. He just needs to eat." He was certainly right there. And he was gone.
Kurt brought both plates over, settling in with the broth. Blaine frowned at the mound in front of him, but Kurt was ready to fight Blaine if he tried to be noble and pawn the food off onto Kurt. They both needed to eat, it was true, but Blaine was headed much more quickly downhill. Kurt made an aggressively contented slurp of his soup.
Blaine cut a polite corner of his prison cornbread. Kurt rolled his eyes. They were starving, wounds barely managed, surrounded by damp stone, and suddenly Blaine was at Cotillion. But Blaine made a sour face as he swallowed. "Tastes weird," he commented, scooping up a bit of potatoes.
Kurt knocked the fork out of his hands before it reached his mouth.
"Weird how?" he demanded. He snatched up the bread. It smelled fine, but he only tasted a large crumb – before spitting it out. It wasn't strong, wasn't obvious, but there was an acrid, chemical undertone. So faint under the pepper that Kurt would have thought he'd imagined it if Blaine hadn't tasted it first. That bastard.
"Spoiled?" Blaine said, hesitantly.
"Don't be stupid," Kurt spat, and immediately winced. "Sorry. But no, this isn't spoiled. He put something in your food. Do you feel okay?"
"I only had a couple bites. I feel fine." Blaine was surprisingly calm. More than anything, he looked upset at the prospect of eight more hours without eating.
That was fine; Kurt had enough rage for the both of them. He threw the cornbread down as he stood and pounded on the door with a fist. It hurt, and made an impotent thud, so he took to kicking the metal reinforcement on the hinging side. That produced a louder, more disruptive and satisfying clang.
Clang – clang – "Come back here, you –"
– clang –
A muffled, annoyed voice answered somewhere in the corridor. "He's not here, America."
Kurt stopped mid-kick.
"…Puck?" He would have laughed if he weren't ready to kill.
Puck's voice called back from one, maybe two cells diagonal. But there was no question. "Yeah, it's me. Please shut up before you get us all hosed."
Of course they barely slept. Captain Smythe, their only contact, had tried to… to what? Poison Blaine? It made no earthly sense.
Blaine slept fitfully fifteen minutes at a time, his head on Kurt's thighs. Kurt stayed alert, as much as possible anyway. If Smythe came back to check on them, if he took a step towards Blaine, Kurt was prepared to bull rush him. He'd never instigated a fight before, didn't imagine it would go well, but he wasn't sitting by while the captain rode out some half-baked idea to dispatch of Blaine.
Kurt ran his fingers idly in Blaine's hair. The sun would be up soon. Whatever Smythe was planning, they'd have to fight it running on no food and now, on no sleep.
Smythe admitted his people didn't know what to do with Blaine. Maybe he had lied about their plans for him – maybe Blaine was in for James Connolly's fate after all. Kurt began to sweat in the damp cold. Was Smythe trying to save Blaine from the terror of the firing squad? Or was the Royal Army, afraid to martyr or release him, hoping to stage a death of natural causes?
Distant shouting from outside interrupted his thoughts. The first light was falling in their slim window, a square of orange. The voices weren't loud, but they were a commanding force. Kurt craned his neck, then maneuvered himself out from under Blaine and moved to the window.
What he saw was all too similar to the scene from the day before. A host of uniforms, a clearing at one end of the open-air stone breaker's yard. Something was happening and the rest of Kilmainham's prisoners had caught on, too. A few single angry calls echoed off the stone in the corridor; they came in from outside, from other cells. Blaine was stirring, the skin under his eyes starkly colored from the hours he'd gone without proper rest. Kurt saw the dark sunken bags even in the meager young sunrise. The glow of morning fell on Kurt at the window, their patch of sunlight stretching down the far wall as the sun rose, though it did nothing to temper the chill and tension.
Blaine sat up and began to speak, but froze when he registered the angry atmosphere bouncing off the stone around them. "Kurt." His voice wavered from sleep and exhaustion. "What is it."
"I'm not sure yet. Stay there, okay?"
Below, far below, two men with black bands around their arms were guarded on three sides by soldiers. Two more signatories of that damned, damned proclamation, Kurt thought. An authoritative shout came, and one was ordered forward. He stood in front of the stone yard's far wall. Ten yards away, a line of armed soldiers assembled to face him.
Next the second man was guided at gunpoint to the far end; the two rebels stood together and faced the squad.
Kurt began to move away, to keep Blaine back while... while it played out. But then, in one of those few moments that truly changes a person forever, a third figure marched into view with a gun at his back. Kurt squinted, and then felt himself shake.
"Is that… Oh my god, Wes."
Blaine flew to the window, edging Kurt out of the way and gripping the bar, his eyes wide. "No!"
But it was. Even from seven stories up they could read his gait. Kurt had seen him stride purposefully through the men all week in the GPO; now he sauntered over to his two compatriots. One of them put a hand on his shoulder until they were all nudged apart with the barrel of a long rifle, a yard from one another.
"They can't," Blaine said, to no one, because no one was there. He yelled out into the cold air. "They can't, you can't! Wes!"
"Don't," Kurt hissed. But Wes had heard; his face titled upwards in the sunlight. He wouldn't shout, but gave Blaine a high, angled salute, and then Kurt could almost make out Wes's eyes meeting his own. Watch him. A soldier bodily forced Wes's arms to his side and then tied them behind his back.
"No, no, no, no," Blaine was saying, pushing against the window's iron bars with the heels of his hands and sounding like a man coming unhinged. He ran to the cell door, pounding and shouting for the captain, and when no one came stumbled back to the window. "What do I do? What do I… ?" For one terrifying moment Kurt thought he would try to squeeze between the bars and jump down to the stone yard.
"Blaine," Kurt said softly, moving behind him.
Down below, the three volunteers were maneuvered back, still spaced apart, now against the tall stone wall. The two shorter men had begun to sing, "long live the Republic of Ireland, long live she!" but Wes was silent.
Blaine was beyond words, beyond sound. Kurt snaked an arm around his stomach from behind, holding him, drawing himself as close in as possible so Blaine could feel him on every possible inch of his shaking body. Blaine stared, and stared, until Kurt raised his other hand first to Blaine's curls, as if asking permission to protect him. Then he gently slid his hand to Blaine's face, and over his eyes. They stood in the small rectangle of sunlight by the window, one boy shielding the other from the scene.
Blaine's breath hitched, and then there was moisture beneath Kurt's hand; tears tracked from underneath his fingers down Blaine's cheek. Kurt clutched him in, unable to look away from the stone yard, and Blaine hugged himself over Kurt's arm – he could have been anchoring to Kurt or keeping from crumbling over.
A final order was called.
"Direct – fire!"
"Long live the –"