As soon as he was feeling well enough, Kurt was put right to work. They started him on wood collection, under the watchful eye of Jeff. Blaine figured that Kurt wouldn't try running off under Jeff's watch, as Jeff had told him how sorry Kurt had felt about Jeff's punishment.
Wes had argued against this, stating that Kurt could not be trusted and should be kept under tighter watch, perhaps have his legs manacled so that he literally couldn't run away. Blaine had instantly brushed off the idea, claiming that it would be harder for Kurt to work that way. And if they were to incorporate Kurt into their lives, then they would have to learn to trust him at some point.
They were finally able to come to some sort of compromise, in which Kurt would be shackled at night, for safety's sake.
"Can't have him slitting our throats in our sleep," Wes grumbled as the meeting was adjourned. Blaine just shook his head sadly at Wes' departing figure. When had he become such an angry man?
Blaine left the meeting tent, trying to shake off any worries about Wes. He was probably just still mad because of his punishment. He'd get over it eventually. And hopefully, someday, he'd come to accept Kurt into their group.
Blaine closed his eyes and tipped his head back, smiling as the soft sunlight trickled through the canopy of trees above his head and fell onto his face. He breathed in deeply, letting the fresh, cool air fill him as he emptied his mind. Once he felt relaxed and stress-free, he slowly opened his eyes.
He was surprised to find Sebastian staring at him.
"What?" he asked sharply, uncomfortable with the look those green eyes were giving him.
"Is it true?" Sebastian asked.
"Is what true?" Blaine huffed, not wanting to play this game with him.
"That we're keeping him," Sebastian replied, crossing his arms over his chest challengingly.
"Yes, he is staying," Blaine replied calmly. "But he is not a play thing for you to have fun with."
"Right, he's off limits because you want him," Sebastian scoffed mockingly, making Blaine tense up.
"That is not true, Sebastian," Blaine snapped. "He is one of us now. Not a prisoner that you can use and abuse. If he tells you no, then you cannot touch him. If, heavens knows why he would, he says yes to you, well then that is between the two of you. Otherwise," He stepped really close to Sebastian and lowered his voice menacingly. "Stay. A. Way."
He quickly stepped back and smiled.
"Have I made myself clear?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Of course," Sebastian grimaced. "Whatever you say, Boss."
With that, Sebastian turned and left, leaving Blaine feeling irritated and stressed.
I was in such a good mood, Blaine grumbled to himself. Why did Sebastian have to go and ruin that?
Without meaning to, Blaine found himself wandering out of the camp. He needed some time alone to think.
Kurt was tired, his head still hurt slightly due to the cut on his forehead, and now his back was starting to hurt again from constantly bending down to pick up wood.
He paused for a second to wipe the sweat from his brow as he glanced over at Jeff, who was nearby. The blond wasn't even paying attention to him. It would be so easy just to quickly slip away into the forest.
But then the image of Jeff being strung from a tree, Wes relentlessly whipping his back, flashed through his head and the instinct to run was instantly crushed. He could not do that to Jeff. Not again.
Maybe if they stationed someone I didn't know with me, then I wouldn't feel as bad about it, Kurt thought. Ah, who am I kidding? I still wouldn't be able to do that to someone... Unless it was Sebastian. I wouldn't feel bad about him getting whipped... But then at the same time, I wouldn't want to be left alone with him in the first place…
He shuddered at the thought of being alone with the man. Who knew what Sebastian was capable of doing to him. All Kurt had to do was remember that hungry look in Sebastian's eye to feel sick.
"Hey, Kurt?" Jeff called out to him. Kurt blinked away his uncomfortable thoughts and smiled at the blond who was approaching him.
"What do you say we take this load back to camp and then we can go freshen ourselves up a bit?" Jeff suggested. "I'm sure that you'd love to wash all that grime off of you. And being such a city boy, I'm sure that you've been struggling with not washing properly in however many days it's been now."
"Seven," Kurt replied seriously, making Jeff's frown fade for a second.
"Exactly!" he recovered quickly, the smile returning to his lips. "So I'm sure that you'd probably appreciate a chance to bathe, am I right?"
"Yes," Kurt allowed a small smile to grace his lips. "Yes, that would actually be really nice. Thanks."
"No problem," Jeff beamed. "We'll just take this wood back and grabbed a couple towels and we'll be good to go."
"Go?" Kurt echoed as he followed Jeff back towards the camp. "Go where exactly?"
"Oh, you'll see," Jeff just grinned. Kurt frowned slightly, but didn't ask anymore questions. In all of the camp, Jeff was the only one that he actually trusted, so he put that trust to use now as he silently followed the man into the camp and quickly disposed of their burdens.
Jeff had Kurt wait under the watchful eye of a bandit that he hadn't yet learned the name of as he went to go get their towels.
"So," Kurt said after a few minutes of silence. "What's your name?"
The man looked at Kurt with surprise, raising an eyebrow at him curiously.
"Flint," he finally replied.
"It's nice to meet you, Flint," Kurt gave him a small smile. "I'm Kurt."
"I know," was all Flint said. Apparently he wasn't much of a talker.
Luckily, Jeff returned not much longer after, relieving Kurt of the awkward silence between him and the other bandit.
"Ok, let's go!" Jeff grinned as he collected Kurt and began to lead him back out into the forest.
"So how far exactly are the showers?" Kurt asked after they'd been walking for a few minutes. He could understand them being away from the camp a bit for privacy's sake, but to be this far away seemed a little odd.
"Showers?" Jeff echoed in surprise, raising his eyebrows. "We don't have showers here."
"Then how do you bathe?" Kurt asked, confused. "Do you have a bathhouse or something?"
"Oh, Kurt," Jeff chuckled, his eyes lighting up with amusement. "You have so much to learn about how we live out here. No, we don't have a bathhouse. We have these."
Jeff suddenly moved the branches in front of him to reveal a gently flowing river. Kurt's eyes widened in alarm. He had to bathe in a river?!
"Oh, no," Kurt objected, crossing his arms. "I am not bathing in that!"
"It's this or nothing," Jeff shrugged, moving through the brush towards the river. Kurt reluctantly followed him, though still very put off.
"Oh, come on, Kurt!" Jeff giggled, pulling off his shirt. "It's not that bad!"
Kurt felt his breath catch in his throat at the sight of Jeff's bare skin. His body was so tanned and toned, it made Kurt weak at the knee to see someone so beautiful.
"Hello, earth to Kurt!" Jeff chuckled, snapping Kurt out of his obvious gaze. Kurt blinked with surprise, his cheeks turning a bright pink with embarrassment.
"I'm guessing that you don't see a lot of shirtless guys where you're from?" Jeff teased.
"No," Kurt replied, shaking his head. "Once I was old enough, I moved to the city and guys tend to keep their shirts on there."
"And their pants too?" Jeff asked, suddenly taking off his pants. Kurt's eyes widened in alarm as he found an almost naked Jeff now standing in front of him.
"I, uh, well, I-" Kurt sputtered, looking everywhere but at Jeff.
"Oh, relax, Kurt," he chuckled. "You're going to have to get used to this at some point, as well as bathing in rivers."
As if to prove his point, Jeff suddenly turned and waded off into the river. He didn't react in any way that would make it seem as if the water was that cold, so Kurt reluctantly began to shed some of his clothes.
"Don't look!" Kurt ordered Jeff, who just chuckled as he turned around slightly. Now that no one was watching him, Kurt slowly began to remove his clothes.
First his horribly tattered and dirty shirt, since they had yet to give him a fresh one (he'd have to ask Jeff about getting some new clothes), and then, very reluctantly, he removed his pants.
Hugging his arms protectively around him, Kurt slowly stepped into the water.
"Mother of-" Kurt swore as his foot touched the cold water. "How can you possibly bathe in this?!"
"You'll get used to it," Jeff promised, chuckling slightly. "You just have to push yourself for the first little while. Here, maybe this will help."
Jeff suddenly splashed some water at Kurt, making him squeal in surprise.
"Jeff!" he exclaimed unhappily.
"What?" Jeff replied innocently.
"Oh, you're dead!" Kurt growled, making his way as quickly, yet slowly, as possible towards Jeff. He sent a wave of water splashing towards Jeff, who just took it with a cheerful laugh.
"That doesn't bother me, Kurt!" Jeff teased. "I'm already wet!"
"But you're hair isn't," Kurt pointed out. Jeff's eyes widened in alarm.
"You wouldn't..." Jeff pleaded.
"Watch me!" Kurt grinned, suddenly leaping towards him. He grabbed Jeff and pushed him down under the water. When Jeff came back up, sputtering for air, his bright blond hair was now soaking wet.
"Kurt!" Jeff exclaimed unhappily. "Do you know how long it takes for my hair to dry?!"
"No?" Kurt replied, raising an eyebrow.
"Probably as long as yours will!" Jeff declared, suddenly leaping towards Kurt and pushing him under the water.
Kurt did not surface right away, instead choosing to pause and open his eyes under the water. The water blurred his vision, but yet somehow he still found the site breathtaking.
Kurt quickly pulled himself back up to the surface, gasping heavily for breath.
"Are you alright, Kurt?" Jeff asked, a worried tone to his voice. "I thought that I was going to have to come down there and save you."
"I'm fine," Kurt nodded once he regained the ability to breathe normally. "Just underestimated how long I could hold my breath."
"I've done that before," Jeff joked, making Kurt smile. "Just make sure that you don't do that out too deep or else I may not be able to save you. The current gets really strong in the middle of the river and can sweep your feet right out from under you! We've actually lost some people that way."
"Really?" Kurt's eyes widened with surprise.
"Yep," Jeff nodded. "Being out here in the wild is a lot more dangerous than in that city of yours."
Kurt could tell that Jeff was teasing him, but he still felt slightly unnerved by how easily he could be swept away by the river.
"We should probably wash up before our bodies go completely numb, eh?" Jeff grinned, suddenly swimming over to the shore and grabbing something from his pile of clothes. He returned a moment later and handed the object to Kurt. It was a bar of soap.
"How did you-" Kurt started, taking the soap from Jeff.
"We pick stuff like this up on our raids," Jeff shrugged. "It's easier for them to get some more than it is for us to. Plus, it feels good to be really clean once and a while."
Kurt wasn't entirely sure if Jeff was joking or not about that comment, but he just shrugged it off, thankful to just have the soap now.
He gently eased his head back into the water and scrubbed the soap into his hair. It felt so nice to rinse out his hair, which was full of dust and grime, not to mention dried up, crusted blood.
"Feels good, doesn't it?" Jeff grinned, washing himself with his own bar of soap. "Definitely reminds me of the good old days..."
Kurt looked over at Jeff in surprise.
Well, I guess he wouldn't have always been a bandit, Kurt surmised. He must have lived like a normal person at some point in his life...
Kurt was curious to ask Jeff about how he had come to be a Warbler, but he wasn't sure if they were actually close enough for Jeff to share something like that with him.
"I know what you're thinking," Jeff said quietly, surprising Kurt. "And it's not my story to tell. If you want that story, I'd ask Blaine. It's only because of him that I'm able to be here. That I'm still alive."
Kurt blinked in surprise at Jeff's honest response, but it did nothing to satisfy his curiosity. If anything, if made his curiousity stronger.
But there is no way that I could ever ask Blaine about that! Kurt frowned. I can't even stand being in the same breathing space as him!
Little did Kurt know that Blaine was actually closer at that moment than he thought.
He had stumbled upon them by accident. He had just been wandering through the forest, lost in thought, when he heard Jeff laughing. Curious, he followed the sound towards the river.
Maybe I'll join Jeff for a while, Blaine thought with a smile. A nice swim could help take my mind off of things.
But before he could pass through the brush to the riverbank, he heard another voice. Kurt's voice.
Blaine cautiously peeked through the branches and saw Jeff and Kurt swimming in the river. This particular river was deep enough that you could swim and bathe comfortably in it, but it was also deep enough that you could be caught in an undertow and dragged off down the river if you weren't careful.
Blaine watched the two boys for a few more minutes until Jeff suddenly started making his way towards the shore. Blaine quickly moved back, out of sight, so that he would not be caught spying on them. But just before the branches completely concealed his sight again, he saw Jeff's bare chest. Which made him realize that Kurt would be shirtless like that too.
I wonder what he looks like without his shirt on... Blaine smiled to himself. He had only ever seen Kurt's bare back before, which, though still marred with whip marks, was still beautiful. He couldn't wait to see what Kurt's chest looked like, how toned he might be.
Unable to withhold his curiosity, Blaine quickly made his way a little further up the river before emerging onto the bank again. He was on a slight incline, so he was higher up than the two men below him, which hopefully meant that they wouldn't see him. But it also meant that he couldn't really hear what they were saying.
It's probably for the best, Blaine sighed. Kurt could be bashing me right now and I don't think that's something that I'd really like to hear. Speaking of Kurt though...
Blaine turned his attention back down on the pale boy. His skin was so white, it almost made it seem like he might be sick.
Maybe if he spends more time in the sun, he'll get some more colour to his skin, Blaine thought with a smile. He'd look nice with tanned skin.
Blaine glanced down at his already heavily tanned skin, the results of spending years living in the wild. How long would it be until Kurt had a tan like this? Would he even be with them that long?
I hope so, Blaine silently prayed. Now that they actually had Kurt, with no threat of anyone really looking for him now, Blaine never wanted to let him go.
As if he could sense that Blaine was thinking about him, Kurt suddenly looked up and locked eyes with Blaine. It felt as if time had frozen as they just stared at each other, until, finally, Kurt's eyes narrowed in disgust and he turned his head away. Blaine couldn't even describe how painful that action was, how much it hurt Blaine.
Will he ever trust me? Blaine wondered sadly.
It seemed as if Kurt had alerted Jeff to their watcher as Jeff was now waving up at him. Blaine gave him a friendly wave in return, only to find himself being beckoned down to them. Blaine cast a hesitant look at Kurt, who purposefully would not look at him, before making his slow trek down the riverbank towards them.
"Hey, Blaine!" Jeff greeted him with a warm smile. "What brings you out here?"
"Just wanted some place quiet to think," Blaine replied honestly with a shrug. His calm reaction got a quick, confused glance from Kurt before he returned to ignoring the Warbler leader.
"Do you mind watching Kurt for a few minutes?" Jeff asked, making Kurt look up in surprise, a look of displeasure and objection crossing his face.
"I have to get him some fresh clothes," Jeff continued, surprisingly stopping Kurt from saying anything.
I guess getting fresh clothes is more worth it than not having to put up with me, Blaine grinned. It's a start, at least.
"Sure, Jeff," Blaine nodded. "See if you can find him a few different things in his size. I'm sure he'd probably appreciate the variety."
"I was thinking the same thing," Jeff chuckled. "Kurt, you may want to sit out in the sun and dry off a bit while I'm gone."
While Jeff had come out of the water to meet Blaine, Kurt had remained in the water, letting the flowing liquid cover him from the neck down. At Jeff's suggestion, Kurt slowly raised himself out of the water and moved towards the shore, wrapping his arms around himself self consciously. Blaine smiled at his shyness.
Kurt hurried towards them and took the offered towel from Jeff, quickly wrapping it around himself. But he was not quick enough to keep Blaine from catching sight of the slight tone to his body.
Not a lot of muscle, Blaine noted to himself. But we can work on that.
"Alright, well, I'll be back as soon as I can," Jeff told both of them. Kurt just nodded briskly before turning his back on them and sitting on a large, dry rock. Blaine rolled his eyes and sighed at Kurt's action.
"Hurry back," Blaine whispered to Jeff. He wasn't sure how long Kurt would be able to stand being alone with him. He may not run off when Jeff was watching him, but while under Blaine's watch, he could potentially do anything.
Jeff cast a quick glance over at Kurt, catching the subtle meaning behind Blaine's words, and nodded.
"I'll be as quick as a bunny!" he announced as he dashed off through the trees. Blaine sighed as he watched him go, before turning back to look at Kurt. He was still sitting with his back to Blaine.
Blaine eased himself down on a rock near Kurt, trying not to notice how Kurt shifted himself slightly more away. They sat in an awkward silence for a long time.
Blaine felt like he should say something. Maybe apologize? But for what? For tricking Kurt? For kidnapping him? For making his father believe that he was dead?
I guess there really are a lot of reasons for him to hate me, Blaine sighed unhappily. But I guess I should at least start somewhere.
"Kurt, I-" he started to say.
"Save it!" Kurt snapped, suddenly standing up and turning around to face Blaine. "I don't care what you have to say and I don't want to hear it. Just leave me alone."
Blaine blinked in surprise at Kurt's sudden anger. He'd known that Kurt was mad, but not this mad.
"But-" he tried again, but was quickly cut off.
"Don't," Kurt said, suddenly turning away and moving back towards the water. "I'm going for another swim."
He quickly shed his towel and dove back under the water, leaving Blaine alone with his thoughts.
Had he really hurt Kurt that much that he wouldn't even give Blaine a chance to redeem himself? Kurt seemed to accept Jeff, though he had been one of the people to actually kidnap him. Why was Blaine so much harder to forgive?
Blaine sighed as he watched the bubbles of where Kurt had gone under. If only he'd give Blaine a chance, maybe then he'd actually come to like being around him.
Blaine watched the spot for a few more seconds before an uncomfortable feeling churned in his stomach.
Why hadn't Kurt come back up yet?
Blaine stood up, trying to look down into the water to see if he could see Kurt. He couldn't see anything.
Kurt wouldn't have tried to escape, would he? Blaine panicked slightly. It wasn't so much the escaping that had Blaine worried. It was Kurt being off alone. There were a lot of dangers here, things far worse than Blaine or any of the Warblers, even Sebastian.
"Kurt?" he called out, ignoring the slightly desperate tone to his voice.
No answer. But why would he reply? He hated Blaine.
He couldn't have gotten to the other side of the river without me noticing, Blaine quickly deducted. Unless...
Blaine's eyes widened with fear as they instantly drifted towards the middle of the river where the current was the strongest. His eyes desperately searched the flowing water for a sign, any sign at all, of Kurt. He was about to give up when his eyes suddenly caught sight of a blurry, dark form deep under the water a little ways up the river.
Without a second thought, Blaine tore off his shirt and dove into the water, his mind locked on one thing and one thing only.