Scritta con: Liz
Personaggi: Kurt, Dave, Blaine, Jesse, Rachel, Santana, Brittany, Sue, Shuester, Puck, Lauren
Genere: Avventura, Romantico
Avvisi: AU, Slash, Femslash, Threesome, Lemon
Rating: NC-17
Capitoli: 1/6
Note: Threesomes are always good things, everybody knows that. But we wanted to kick it up a notch, so we started talking about pirates. And battletrains. On tracks up in the air. With alchemy. You can't get any cooler than that. Except for dinosaurs. We'll be working on that next time.
With that said, we really, really had fun writing this, creating this world from scratches and having it masterfully drawn by kironomi who not only got exactly what we had in mind but delivered it in the best way possible. You will find her beautiful drawings inside the story, enhancing some part of it.
As usual, we tried to write as well as we could, but nothing changed from our last fic and we're still Italian. So, even though we hope we're getting better and better with every fic we write in English, grammar mistakes and horrors are bound to be there. Have patience.
~ reviews will be cherished, criticisms are welcomed, but please be gentle.

Riassunto: Since Queen Sue ascended to the throne of the Iron Lands, the war against the pirates of the Floating Lands got worse and worse with every year. The pirates claim the Midlands as their own, but the Steam Army of the Queen conquered them, and they're not going to let the pirates take them back again.
History seems about to change when Burt Hummel, a scientist living in the Midlands, works out a device that transmutes common dirt into iron. That way, it shouldn't be necessary to fight for the Midlands anymore, and the war could finally stop. Queen Sue asks him to bring the device to the Iron Palace, so that she can see it at work and, once it's proven working, stop the fighting. Burt, though, would be an easy target for anybody who wanted to steal the device, considering that he's very well known for having worked for the Queen for years.
For that reason, he sends his only child Kurt to the Iron Palace with the device, hoping that it could be safer with somebody who's not as well known as he is. Kurt accepts the mission and departs on his fiancée Blaine's train. He's one of the heads of the Steam Army, and his battletrain survived countless fights.
That's why Kurt feels safe.
Unfortunately, he's wrong.

As Jesse had discovered by spending time with her as they worked together trying to decode those pirate charts, Rachel was a tough nut to crack. He had thought she’d be an easy target, all considered. She didn’t give the impression of being an easy girl, of course, women in the army never did, and Jesse had known quite a few of them in his life, but they all had something in common: they mostly knew nothing about men and the way they could work their charms to get inside their pants. A funny thing, considered they lived their whole life surrounded by men.

The main reason of army women’s inexperience was that relationships between colleagues were firmly forbidden by the code of the army, a code everybody made fun of because of its strictness and general antiquity, but that everybody followed nonetheless. As old and sometimes unreasonable some rules might have been, breaking them was punished with banishment from the army, which was something nobody really aspired to.

As a result of that, girls who wanted to join the army were educated following those rules, which usually made them quite not inclined to have thoughts of their own, to speak up their own mind and, especially, to make potentially dangerous experiences, which ultimately made them easy preys for men like Jesse, used to work with people’s insecurities, playing with their natural curiosity for the unknown, a feeling the heads of the army thought they could erase from soldiers’ minds by training them, but that usually stuck with them, sleeping buried inside the deep of their souls until the right prince charming came to wake it up.

During his long years as a professional hireling, Jesse had managed to twist a lot of young soldiers’ minds, tricking them into helping him with his missions without them even knowing, and he had convinced young lady soldiers into sleeping with him without even expecting him to see them ever again a thousand times, but Rachel seemed to be casted in a whole different kind of mould.

Over the days they spent working together, Jesse had tried to interest her in himself in every way he could possibly think of. He had played the mysterious guy act, the “everybody thinks I’m the bad guy but I’ve got a good heart” act, even the “alright, I lied, did I tell you that I was a good guy, after all? No way, I’m dangerous, baby, and you know you want me” act, but nothing seemed to work with her. She’d laugh him off, apparently genuinely amused by his behaviour, at best. She’d politely ask him to stop playing around and just get back to work, turning into some inscrutable ice queen until he eventually gave up, at worst.

This, of course, hadn’t made him put his desires aside at all. If anything, Rachel’s behaviour was only making him even more eager to put his hands on her. She was like a challenge, an unsolvable puzzle, and Jesse loved to play. Especially because, when she was feeling playful too, the whole situation got twice as fun.

“Hey,” he said with a smile, lifting his eyes from the notes and the sketches he had took to help Rachel drawing a new, understandable map starting from the encrypted marine charts, “Listen, I’ve got a question I didn’t already ask you.”

“Really?” Rachel struggled to suppress a tiny laughter, casting him an amused glance and then instantly getting back to work, “I doubt it’s possible.”

“I swear!” Jesse insisted, enthusiastically, “Wanna hear?”

“Will you refrain from asking, if I say I don’t?” she asked, a light smile curling the corners of her mouth.

“No, I don’t think I will,” Jesse answered honestly, shaking his head.

Rachel sighed, but it wasn’t an unpleased sigh; more like the surrendering sigh of a big sister who knew her little brother well enough to know he wouldn’t stop until he had her complete attention. Sometimes Jesse didn’t know if he had to feel encouraged or condemned by her attitude. “Fine, then,” she said with a gentle smile, turning towards him, “Go ahead.”

Jesse smiled too, sitting on the table, careful not to destroy Rachel’s job by moving clumsily. “You’re different from any other girl I ever knew,” he started off, looking straight into the girl’s eyes, “There must be a reason. So, that’s my question. What’s about you, Sergeant Rachel Berry? What’s your story?”

Rachel’s expression changed suddenly. Her sweet smile faded away, her lips now parted in a surprised mask, her eyes wide open, shining of an uncertain light. For the first time since he got to know her, Jesse seemed to have broken something in the wall Rachel used to politely hide behind. She looked troubled, not really nervous, but certainly taken aback and quite surprised with him. Jesse struggled not to smile wider: it was like peeking into a secret garden after removing a couple of bricks from the wall that took it secluded from unwanted eyes. It was exciting like an adventure. Getting to know Rachel was the best adventure he had ever lived up to that moment, and that sounded cheesy enough to make him want to off himself by jumping out of the running train, but he was too caught up in her to bother about it.

“Why... Why should I have one?” she asked back, looking away and going back to work on the chart she was drawing, adding details every now and then just to give herself something to do and a reason not to look at him, “For what you know about me, I could be just another soldier. I’m no different than anybody else.”

“You are,” he insisted, his smile still calm and relaxed, just like his voice, “You’re completely different. Believe me, I know,” he added in an amused chuckle, “Just the fact that you’re able to handle me and keep me at distance means that you are!”

She conceded herself a faint smile, lazily writing down coordinates on a notebook, trying to guess the best route to take between the rocks she had drawn on the new chart. “I know how to deal with men, yes,” she admitted in a light sigh, never raising her gaze on Jesse, “I... used to be engaged.”

“Oh, did you?” Jesse asked, gaining courage by the fact that she talked about it like it was in the past. If she had wanted to keep keeping him at distance, she would have just used this mysterious former fiancée to shut him off, but she chose not to. That was a start, at least. “Who was he?”

Rachel shrugged uneasily, refusing to look at him in his eyes. “A guy I knew,” she answered elusively, “You don’t need to know the name, I don’t trust you,” she then added with a chuckle, trying to light up the mood of the whole conversation.

Jesse followed her lead, bringing a hand over his own chest and looking at her with a playfully disconcerted grimace, seeming unbelievably outraged. “Dear lady, you insult me!” he said, “I’d never harm a fly, if I wasn’t extremely well-paid for it.” Rachel let out an amused little laughter, and Jesse felt his own heart beat a little faster at the sound. “So, how did it end?”

Rachel sighed once more, relaxing against the back of her chair. “I always was his second choice,” she answered, shrugging like she didn’t even care anymore, “He was already engaged with another girl, when I met him. A real lady, you know, from the Capital. Then, he left her for me, but I didn’t even have the time to understand the reason for his choice, since a couple of months later his previous fiancée asked him to meet again. And, when they met, it was him, her and her little baby bump.”

“Oh,” Jesse spat out, half-surprised and half-embarrassed to have asked a question that had led them to talk about such an unpleasant memory. “I’m… I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” she smiled, looking back at him, “It’s in the past. I’m not even hurt anymore, and you know why? Because,” she added with a laughter, “The child wasn’t even his. And I figured that if he was alright to forever be with a woman who had had herself impregnated by another man while they were still engaged, he must have loved her deeply. Way more than he loved me, at least.”

Jesse looked down at her, frowning lightly at the mere thought of a man that could find himself holding in his hands the precious gem that Rachel Berry was, and still decide to give her up in favour of a common aristocratic whore. “Quite a stupid man, if I may,” he said, lifting his hand to brush lightly the soft, caramel-coloured skin of Rachel’s cheek.

She looked away, blushing lightly. “You may,” she said, her voice sweet as sugared milk, “But we’re wasting time, St. James,” she added with a laughter, pushing his hand away – though, for the first time, looking like she would have loved to feel his fingers on her skin some more. “Commander Anderson will kill us if we don’t finish the job as soon as possible.”

Jesse sighed, rolling his eyes and jumping off the table to turn around and look at the chart. “But it’s already been finished,” he said, studying the chart with real attention, “For what we need to chase down that pirate ship, this is even too much detailed. You did a pretty good job, Sergeant Berry, you know?”

She grinned, her hands on her hips and her head a little tilted as she looked at him from under her long, curved eyelashes. “A pretty good job?” she asked, “Sir, I did the best that could possibly be done.”


Blaine had been so pleased with their result that he had driven the Warbler twice as fast as he should have, which led them to the Capital in just a little more than a day and a half, which must have been a record of some sort. The commander didn’t really love that city, he preferred the quiet, relaxing environment of the countryside in the Midlands – which was definitely why he was planning on leaving the army, after his wedding with Kurt, to transfer there and maybe build a farm or something. That obviously if he ultimately could manage to save his fiancée from the pirates before they killed him, or worse. The Gods only knew what those criminal could have done if they managed to get how to make Hummel’s device work.

The Capital was the biggest and richest city in the Iron Lands, not to mention the most densely populated of the whole northern region of the country. Literally millions of people lived and worked in its huge, tall and elegantly decorated iron buildings. Urban people seemed to be incredibly pleased with the city’s frenetic lifestyle, but for Blaine every single minute spent in that place was a wasted one.

Especially if he still had Kurt to save.

Luckily, the Queen seemed to be waiting eagerly for their arrival. She had been warned about their loss during the trip, and when she entered the parlour, after having Blaine and Jesse wait for her for about twenty minutes, she was already frowning, her lips sealed in a disappointed expression.

“What the hell have you done, commander?” she yelled, walking towards him in big, threateningly fast steps, as she pulled the skirt of her elegant gown up just enough not to trip over the hem brushing against the floor.

“Your majesty,” Blaine walked towards her too, kneeling at her feet when she stopped right in the middle of the room and holding her right hand in his to kiss her ring, “I’m incredibly sorry. I will bear the guilt for what happened on the Warbler, for mine was the idea of keeping Kurt in a wagon, guarded by two soldiers alone. It’s all my fault.”

“You bet it is,” she answered sternly, retrieving her hand and then looking up at Jesse, who bowed just a little, his usual self-satisfied grin curling his lips upwards. “I see that you at least had the decency to follow my orders and take contact with mister St. James, here. Has he retrieved the pirates’ charts as I asked him to do?”

“Yes, he…” Blaine started off, turning towards Jesse and then opening his eyes wide in shock and horror when he saw him still standing, “What are you even doing, St. James?! Kneel in front of your queen!”

“Let him do whatever he wants, commander Anderson,” Queen Sue commanded, turning around and walking away from him to reach the iron throne and sit, “I’m not interested in his respect. Only in his job. Answer my question, now. And stand up, for the Gods’ sake, you’re not tall enough to kneel and still be considered credible.”

Blaine was a faithful subject and a proud member of the Steam Army, the special unit of the imperial army that worked on battletrains and that was one of the things the Queen had decided about on her own without even listening to the suggestions of her war council, but every time Blaine had to come to the Capital and speak to her, she managed to remind him why he preferred not to. She could be most unpleasant, at times.

“Yes, your majesty,” he said in a muffled growl, “I’m sorry, I overstepped. St. James retrieved the marine charts, yes, and he’ll promptly give you the originals and the new one our cartographer has drawn after decoding them. They were encrypted.”

“Of course they were,” she spat out, unimpressed, “Obviously pirates encrypt their charts.”

Jesse struggled to suppress a chuckle, but he ultimately managed when Blaine casted him a glance filled with rage.

“Now,” Queen Sue said, crossing her arms over her chest, “About the stone.”

“It’s been stolen, your majesty,” Blaine admitted, looking down at the floor, “Together with my fiancée, Burt Hummel’s son, who was carrying it through the trip.”

“Of course you didn’t think about locking it away in a safe, did you?” Queen Sue asked, looking down at him, sounding both disappointed and incredibly mocking of his clear stupidity.

“No, your majesty,” Blaine hissed, clutching his shaking fists, “I thought that a vault could have been easily unlocked by somebody who just knew how. I thought that keeping the stone on a living person and then guarding that person would have kept it safer.”

“Well, you were wrong!” she answered, raising her voice as she hit the armrest of the throne with her closed fist, “And now, because of your reckless behaviour, that stone’s in the pirates’ hands! And the Gods only know how they could use it, especially if it really works as Hummel said!”

Blaine kneeled again, overwhelmed. “I’m sorry, your majesty. I don’t know how to atone for my mistakes.”

“Well, I do,” the Queen said, nervously standing up and walking towards one of the huge windows covering the walls all around the room. “You’ll take one of the pirates’ ship we collected during the last battle,” she ordered as she drew open the heavy curtain that covered the glass to peek at the street outside, “Choose the one in the best conditions, take a copy of the charts and follow the way up to the Floating Lands. Retrieve that stone, and your fiancée, if you manage. That’s all,” she finished, turning to look at him with fiery eyes, “You’re dismissed.”

“As you command, your majesty,” Blaine nodded, standing up and bowing once more, “Is St. James coming with us?”

“Yes, he is,” Queen Sue nodded, “Nobody who’s not a pirate knows the Floating Lands as well as he does, if he lives up to his fame. He’ll be useful.”

“That, my beloved Queen,” Jesse interrupted her with a sly grin, “If the offer is good, of course.”

“Don’t you dare, St. James,” the Queen almost growled at him, sitting back on her throne, “You covered yourself in crimes for which I could easily have your head cut off. Don’t push me. Now,” she turned to Blaine, “Commander Anderson, go. Mister St. James will soon follow, once he showed me the charts.”

Blaine nodded once more and then quickly left the room, without ever looking back, still too bothered by how humiliating that conversation had been. Once alone with the Queen, Jesse moved closer, playfully saluting her with another little bow.

“Your majesty,” he said in a mocking voice, as he retrieved the decoded charts and handed them down to her.

“I was serious, St. James,” she said, almost tearing the charts away from his hands to examine them, “Don’t push me. And don’t you ever think that the fact that I hired you gives you any kind of special permission to act familiarly with me. I’m still your Queen.”

“Of course you are,” Jesse nodded and bowed once more, still smiling, but less cockily.

“I understand that kidnapping the young Hummel with his stone was your idea?” the Queen asked, carefully studying the map.

“Not entirely, your majesty,” he said with another grin, “I didn’t do it on my own account – or yours, for that matter. David Karofsky, captain of the Fury, paid me to do it. He was sure the man travelling with the stone was Hummel Senior. He seemed to have unfinished matters with him.”

“Whatever,” the Queen answered, folding the map, “What’s important is that now the stone is not on his way here anymore. That will give us time. This war,” she said, looking up at Jesse, “Can’t be over. This whole country lives on war. It costs some lives, true, but the amount of money that are daily made by selling arms to the armies is what really keeps its economy alive. So for my reign, and for myself, of course, we have to keep this war going.”

“Sure,” Jesse scoffed a laughter. “Isn’t it enough that now the pirates have the stone?”

“No,” Queen Sue answered, looking sternly at him, “It is not. That stone must be destroyed. Can’t you understand? If it really can provide iron starting from common dirt, soon the war for the Midlands won’t have reason to go on anymore. That’s why you have to go with Anderson and his crew. You’ll make sure that the stone gets destroyed or lost in the ocean,” she grinned, “And that they all die.”

Jesse suddenly petrified, looking right at her. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me perfectly well, St. James,” the Queen said, standing up from her throne again, “Nothing’s better than martyrdom to inflame spirits. I’m told more and more people all over the country are starting to question the necessity of the war, especially in the Midlands. Once they hear the news of all those poor soldiers on a mission, brutally killed by the pirates with no mercy whatsoever, they’ll change their minds. Everybody loves Anderson, he’s a war hero, he’s the symbol of the whole Steam Army. The chronicle of his death will travel the whole country in no time.”

“Your majesty,” Jesse swallowed hard, struggling to keep his voice straight, “Is that really necessary? It’ll be a massacre. I’m not sure—”

“I don’t care what you are or aren’t sure of, St. James,” the Queen interrupted, suddenly turning to look at him, outraged by his opposition, “Are you part of my council? Do I pay you to give me advice on how I should rule this reign, or conduct this war?”

Jesse lowered his eyes, shaking his head. “No, your majesty.”

“Exactly,” she nodded, “Then follow your orders, and earn your reward. Don’t disappoint me, St. James. Did you understand?”

Jesse nodded slowly, and then bowed lightly. “Yes, your majesty.”

“Good,” the Queen nodded too, “Now, go. And come back with good news.”

Jesse bowed once more, and then left the room, heading straight down the corridor and to the hangar he knew the pirate ships were kept in. He walked slowly, not exactly eager to see commander Anderson again, especially now that he knew he was going to die on a suicide mission he wasn’t even aware of, and he was surprised when, as he was about to leave the royal palace, he lifted his gaze and met Rachel’s dark eyes, looking at him.

“Rachel,” he whispered, slowing down and stopping right in front of her, “What are you doing here?”

“Commander Anderson sent me to call you,” she smiled sweetly, combing her hair behind her ear, “The ship’s almost ready, we’re going to take off in half an hour.”

“Yes… sure,” he looked away, moistening his lips. Rachel was what made that whole thing even harder to stand. He couldn’t leave her to die, he just couldn’t. He had to decide what to do.

“Is everything alright?” Rachel asked, searching for his eyes and touching his hand with her fingertips to catch his attention, “You look troubled.”

He forced a smile upon his lips, shaking his head. “Everything’s fine, don’t worry,” he reassured her, “Lead the way.”

Rachel frowned lightly, looking at him for a couple of seconds. She wasn’t buying it, it was obvious. Jesse smiled more sweetly, and she decided to let it go. “Fine,” she said, “This way.”

He needed to decide what to do, but he still had some time before it was too late, and he had all the intentions to use it all up to the last minute.


When Kurt was finally brought back on the deck – handcuffed and dragged by two pirates that had spent the whole time deathglaring at him so mercilessly he hadn’t even tried to protest about the rude way they were handling him – at first he didn’t even get why he had been brought there.

He stood silently beside captain Karofsky, wondering about what could the captain possibly want him to be there for. He knew the man must be angry at him, and quite frankly he could easily understand why. It was his fault, after all, if all those men had died, eaten by those horrible creatures on the floating rocks or because of the damages those same creatures made while falling on the ships once they were dead. Of course, none of that would have happened if captain Karofsky would have at least treated him with some respect, or even better, if he didn’t kidnap him at all, but it was Kurt’s choice to run away, and his was the fault of what had happened out there, and he was ready to take responsibility for his mistakes.

“Captain,” he started off, talking in a whisper, but Karofsky stopped him right away, turning to look at him with cold, stern eyes.

“Be quiet,” he said, turning away from him to go back at watching right in front of himself, in the mist that was starting to fade away the more the ship got closer to one of the biggest rocks Kurt had seen so far. It was so big he couldn’t even tell how much, its outlines disappeared into the fog right and left, there was no way to tell how wide it was. “You have no permission to talk,” captain Karofsky kept going, his voice deep and dark and somehow scolding, “I’m not even interested in what you can tell me about that stone anymore. I don’t even know why I’m keeping you alive.”

Kurt froze on the spot, terrified. He looked down, tightening his lips to stop them from shaking in fear. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry,” he said in a voice so low he wasn’t even sure if the captain had heard him at all.

After a couple of minutes, the mist started to fade away more quickly than it had done up to that moment, and Kurt was finally able to see.

What he saw didn’t look like anything he had seen before, nor in his books or in real life.

Titan clearly was not only the biggest rock in the Floating Lands, but also the richest as far as flora and fauna were concerned. It vaguely resembled the way certain small seaside cities on the East Coast of the continent looked like, there was an incredible amount of harbours and small ports, and the actual city where people lived in seemed to be right in the immediate vicinity of them, as if life in such a place was unthinkable if not lived as a whole with the ships.

The houses were small and looked humble, maybe even poor at a first look, though the way they were kept showed that it really wasn’t like that. It looked like people there didn’t want to put useless efforts in nothing that they didn’t absolutely need. They didn’t need the huge, elegant buildings of the Capital and all the other important cities of the Iron Lands. They were more like the people living in the Midlands, in the countryside. They just needed a roof over their heads, a table to sit around with their family and a garden for their fruits and vegetables to grow peacefully.

The houses weren’t tall at all, most of them just had one floor, some of the biggest up to two. They were built in wood and stone, and none of them had fences, not even around the gardens, which were an explosion of colours and different, delicious smells that could be sniffled already from the ship, even before it arrived safely in the main harbour. Or maybe the smells couldn’t really be felt from such a distance, and Kurt was just imagining them, because he was starving.

“Now don’t make a sound,” captain Karofsky told him, tying a rope to the chain joining his handcuffs and tugging at it to lead him off the Fury, once it had landed, “Follow me.”

Kurt nodded, following his orders without spelling a single word.

“Captain!” a man called out, running towards them. He was dressed in tight black leather pants, high boots and a loose white shirt opened on his broad chest, and he had the weirdest hair Kurt had ever seen, his head being completely shaved off, except for the crest that stood tall right in the middle of his scalp. He was closely followed by an overweight woman wearing a purple frilly shirt, black pants and high heeled boots. Both shared the same concern in their eyes. “We were starting to worry,” the man said, “You were taking too much time.”

The woman nodded, standing right beside the man. “We were about to send a ship to meet you halfway,” she said, and then stood on her tiptoes, trying to look past Karofsky’s broad shoulders, “…where are the others?” she asked with an uncertain voice, which broke into a surprised sob when she laid eyes on the captain’s hurt expression.

“We’re the only survivors,” Karofsky answered, nodding towards the wounded, tired men that were jumping off the ship to get treated and catch some rest, “Earthworms. We lost every ship we had except for the Fury. It was a tragedy.”

Both the woman and the man stood there, frozen by the news, for more time than Kurt could count. The man’s eyes filled with tears, and the woman was clearly struggling not to fall apart on her own. Kurt heard her voice break when she called the man’s name, as she patted his shoulder with a shaking hand, trying to comfort him. “Are you sure,” she tried, breathing heavily, “Are you sure no one survived?”

Captain Karofsky looked away, slowly shaking his head. “We had to get out of there, we couldn’t risk something worse staying. I’ll send a couple of ships to search the belt for survivors, later.”

“We’re going,” the man instantly said, wiping the tears away from his eyes, “Now.”

“Puckerman…” Karofsky started off, throwing an annoyed look at the sky.

“Captain, no,” the man insisted, shaking his head, “We’re fine, our ships are alright, we’re going. If you intend to stop us, I swear, I’m gonna mutiny.”

Karofsky looked at him sternly for a couple of moments, before turning his eyes towards the woman. “Lauren?” he said, as if to ask for her opinion.

She stood tall beside the man. “I’m with Puckerman,” she said.

Karofsky sighed in surrender. “Fine,” he conceded, finally, “Go. Take your two ships and another one for backup. If you lose a single man, Puck, you and your woman are going to be held responsible. We can’t afford to lose anybody else.”

Both Puckerman and Lauren nodded, without saying even a single word before running to the harbour, shouting orders at their sailors to get the ships ready for the rescue mission.

Karofsky sighed deeply and brushed his face with his hand, before tugging at the rope to tell Kurt it was time to move again. Kurt followed him for a couple of yards, before he could find the courage to speak again. “Who were those people?” he asked in a low voice.

“Two other captains of my fleet,” Karofsky answered coldly, probably to cut the conversation before it could even begin.

“Have they…” Kurt insisted, swallowing hard, “Have they lost somebody in the accident?”

“Listen, first of all, it wasn’t a fuckin’ accident,” the captain said, turning to look at him with eyes filled with rage and the deepest sadness Kurt had ever seen, “It was your fault. You ran away and I lost more than half my men to fuckin’ try and save your sorry ass. I see no accident in this, I just see a stubborn, spoiled brat who led dozens of valiant men to a useless, painful and horrible death. Secondly,” he added, now turning away, unable to look at him anymore as pain filled him up inside to the point he couldn’t even feel enraged anymore, “We all lost somebody there. No, you self-centered, whimsical child, Puck and Lauren didn’t lose a relative or a lover there, and neither did I, but we all lost our mates, our brothers, and the pain we feel is just the same as the pain wives and husbands are feeling. Does this answer your question?”

Kurt stood petrified on the spot, eyes stubbornly locked to the ground, quickly filling with tears. “I’m… incredibly sorry,” he said, his voice broken by sobs.

Karofsky didn’t look at him with any more compassion, after his second apology. He tugged at the rope again, leading him to one of the biggest houses on the main road that, from the harbour, led to what seemed like the main square of that city, a big, circular space with a well in the middle.

The house was a two floor building with thick walls made of stone bricks. They hadn’t been cut regularly, so the walls were quite irregular and bulgy to the eyes, giving the whole building a rustic touch, which was even more clear inside the house.

That was nothing Kurt was expecting. “Where are you taking me…?” he asked in a surprised whisper, looking around the sitting room he found himself in once Dave opened the door and led him inside.

It was a large room, the floor was covered in wood and soft, apparently rich carpets. The wallpaper was of a very light shade of beige, decorated with incredibly small flowers, invisible to the eye if you didn’t take a really close look.

The furniture was made in the same kind of wood that covered the floor. It was poor, just a rounded table with five small chairs, a counter, a library against the wall, close to one of the windows but protected from the sun, and a small couch covered in slightly worn out brown leather. Poor, of course, but well taken care of. A simple glass vase filled with fresh flowers stood on the table, and there wasn’t dust anywhere Kurt could see, not even the library. It seemed like a place loved by its owner, something else Kurt definitely wasn’t expecting.

“This is my home,” Karofsky explained, freeing him from the rope first, and from his handcuffs right after, “I’ll keep you here.”

“Here?” Kurt asked, puzzled, as he massaged his own wrists to try and alleviate the pain he felt after having them handcuffed for hours, “Why here? Don’t you have a prison?”

“No, we don’t,” Karofsky answered, locking the door and then moving to the kitchen, searching for something to eat for dinner, “We don’t take prisoners,” he added, walking back into the sitting room bringing with him some cheese and bread.

Kurt frowned, feeling the disdain he had always felt for the pirates’ barbaric costumes rise up inside his spirit, after he had almost forgotten it. “Of course you don’t,” he said harshly, taking a couple of uncertain steps away from the man and towards the wall, against which he stood rigid, hugging himself in a protective embrace, still looking at captain Karofsky with a disgusted fire in his eyes, while the man sat at the table and started slicing the bread. “You think it’s better to kill everybody on the battleground, don’t you?”

“Actually, yes,” Dave growled, turning to look at him for but a second, before going back to take care of the bread, “It’s always better than abduct people and torture them to death in a desperate attempt to make them reveal some imaginary secret about our ability to fly through the floating stones. And infinitely better than separating people consciences’ from their bodies, stocking them into prisons that already look like morgues!”

“How dare you?!” Kurt scowled, “The Steam Army doesn’t, has never and never will torture a prisoner! It’s composed by honourable, honest soldiers who—”

“Oh, cut the political crap, you ain’t got nobody to convince, in here!” Dave barked at him, hitting the table with the hilt of his knife, “I’ve been fighting this war since I was fourteen! I know what I saw, and nothing you could say will make me change my mind!”

“Sure! Of course!” Kurt screamed, his eyes now filled with tears of rage and sadness, “Because you think you’re on the right side! You think it’s right to kill hundreds of people, to plunder the Midlands, to—”

“To plunder the Midlands?!” Dave repeated, outraged, standing up with such a quick movement that he made his chair fall on the floor, “You really know nothing about anything in the world, do you?! The Iron Lands’ army was the first to invade the Midlands to use the iron caves!”

“The Iron Lands need those caves!” Kurt insisted, “We have billions of people living in cities, and iron is the principal material we use to manufacture every kind of possible item, not to mention the foundations of our buildings and vehicles!”

“And don’t you think our people could use that too, and for the very same reasons?! Haven’t you noticed how we live in here, with stone and wood houses, prone to fall apart for earthquakes and to burn for fires? Haven’t you noticed the tragedy that is to lose a single ship, because we have not enough material to build new ones quickly?!”

“You could have bought the iron from our kingdom!” Kurt pointed out, gesturing nervously in mid air, “Kings and queens of all times have proposed arrangements for that, but no, you want your iron to come for free! How is this fair?!”

“How is it fair that we should pay for something that the earth naturally offers?!” Dave answered, shocked by Kurt’s stubbornness, “How is it fair that your people can have the iron for free, digging it from the mountains, while we can’t?!”

“And of course you all think it’s better to go on a war, than to surrender and pay for something you ultimately don’t own!” Kurt insisted, frowning with irritation, “You can’t fool me, captain Karofsky. You say I know nothing about anything in the world, but I don’t think so. You can’t change the fact that the pirates were the first to refuse any kind of agreement, and start a war. Or are you going to say it wasn’t like this?”

Dave growled again, clutching his fists as if trying to keep them still. He couldn’t say no to that, it was actually true that the pirates were the first to declare war. That didn’t mean they weren’t basically pushed to do so by unfair proposals and unacceptable circumstances, but the naked truth, stripped to the core, was that the first to move against the imperial army had been the pirates, and that couldn’t be changed by any reasonable excuse Dave could possibly think of.

He turned around, retrieving the chair from the floor and setting it straight. “I don’t wanna talk about it anymore,” he said, “Now come here and eat.”

“Typical,” Kurt hissed, walking towards the table and sitting on one of the chairs nonetheless.

“Don’t start again,” captain Karofsky grumbled, glaring at him, “We’re not gonna stay here for more than a week or so. We can’t put the lives of everybody who lives here at risk. I still don’t know what to do with you, but this is definitely not your place, so we’re going to take off again soon. Until then, regain strength, eat and sleep. And don’t make me regret keeping you alive.”

Kurt looked arrogantly at him and at the slice of bread and cheese he was offering. Then, with a tired sigh, he accepted the food, and started to eat.

“Listen,” he said after a while, resting his shoulders against the back of the chair and trying to relax, “This is… all very confusing, to me. I’m deeply saddened by the disaster I caused during the trip. It wasn’t my intention. I just wanted to run away. I was scared and alone and I didn’t even know what you wanted with me exactly. So I saw a way out, and I took it. But what happened after was something I will…” he sighed, trying to suppress a sob, “I will regret forever.”

Dave sighed too, passing a hand through his hair and looking away from the shaking, deeply anguished young man sitting beside him. “I know,” he said calmly, “I accept your apologies. You knew nothing about what you could find out there. You acted recklessly, though, and that can’t be forgiven.”

“I’m not asking for forgiveness, I know I don’t deserve it,” Kurt said, tears flowing down his cheeks, now that he was letting them free to, “Speaking of which… thank you.” Dave turned to look at him, raising an eyebrow in surprise. “For saving my life,” Kurt explained, forcing a little smile.

For the first time since he had met the boy, Dave looked at him with different eyes. It was true enough Kurt had acted like a fool, and spoke even worse, but what was Dave thinking, expecting something different from somebody who was clearly raised by people who worked inside or with the army? Maybe, instead of attacking him and treating him like a stupid child unable to understand the most obvious things, he could have just tried and explain him.

He looked so lost and fragile. He probably just wanted to go back to his dad and his simple, easy everyday life.

“You’re welcome,” he said, realizing that that was the right thing to do. In a week or so, his men would have been ready to take off again. Then, he would have taken a small ship, a couple of sailors, and he would have took the boy home. After that, he would have found a way to make Hummel Senior tell him what he wanted to know, but until then, there was no reason to be hostile. “I’m sorry for having had you kidnapped, anyway,” he added, looking away, embarrassed, “I thought your father would have carried that thing.”

“You wanted to kidnap my father?!” Kurt said in horror, “But he’s old, and he recently had a stroke! God, I’m so happy I ended up kidnapped in his place,” he whispered, relieved.

Dave chuckled, shaking his head. “You’re completely crazy.”

“I just care about him,” Kurt frowned, curling his nose, “He’s the only family I’ve got left.”

“You’re lucky to still have him, at least.”

“That’s true, but, as I said, I risked to lose him too a few months ago,” Kurt repeated, “So it’s not like I take him for granted or anything. I’m not as spoiled as you think I am. I value things, just like you do.”

“Touché,” Dave raised both his hands in surrender, looking at him with a little smile, “I got it, you’re human too. I’m sorry for treating you like a child. I shouldn’t have.”

“That’s right,” Kurt nodded, and then he seemed to remember something else, “Wait a moment, what could you possibly want to do with my father?”

Dave’s eyes turned sadder, as he looked at his now bare wrist, where – Kurt remembered – he used to keep that peculiar bracelet of his, the one that talked. “You sure noticed my annoying companion, miss Santana Lopez,” he said, “And you sure noticed she hasn’t got a body anymore.”

Kurt let out a saddened whimper, closing his fists around the fabric of his trousers. “Has she…”

“Yes,” Dave sighed, “She’s been shot with one of those guns, and now her conscience is separated from her body. We have both of them, we just don’t know how to put them together. Maybe that thing you carried…”

“What, the stone?” Kurt blinked a couple of times, “No, that doesn’t work that way. It serves a completely different purpose, something to change everything into iron, I don’t really know how it works,” he shrugged, totally disinterested in that thing, “But my father knows how to put back body and soul together. He could probably help with that.”

Dave’s lips parted and curled in a relieved smile, as he leaned towards Kurt. “Really?”

“Well…” Kurt backed off a little, her cheeks turning a brighter shade of pink, “Yes, I guess so. If you could just bring me back home, I’m sure…”

“It was what I wanted to do anyway,” Dave reassured him with another smile, “Now don’t think about it anymore. I’ll let you visit the land, tomorrow. Maybe you’ll like it.”

Kurt smiled and nodded, going back to his food. Maybe he really would.

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