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Chris Colfer, bestselling author of The Land of Stories, finds himself (along...
 
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Author's Chapter Notes:

In which things are beginning to heat up...

Chris and Darren were pleased to discover that there was a room available at the Shoe Inn.  They took turns bathing in the enormous claw-foot tub, luxuriating in the feeling of being truly clean for the first time in days.  Not wanting to put their dirty clothes back on, they wrapped themselves in the fluffy cotton towels provided by the Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe.  Then Darren washed their clothes while Chris made a fire in the fireplace so they could hang them to dry.

 

As they were eating supper in their room, Chris said, “I know it’s ridiculously early, but I think we should go to bed right after dinner.  I hardly got any sleep last night on those lumpy pears, and we’ll need to get up around midnight to sneak back into Red Riding Hood’s castle.”

 

“Sounds good to me.  Do you think the alarm on my phone will work here?”

 

“I don’t see why not.  You’ve had it off this whole time to save the battery, right?”

 

Darren nodded, setting the alarm for 12:15.  Chris piled more wood on the fire, hoping their clothes would be completely dry by the time they woke up.  Then they both crawled into bed and fell fast asleep.

 

When the alarm woke him six hours later, Chris had a moment of utter disorientation.  He lunged for the phone, accidentally rolling on top of a very naked Darren.

 

“Well, that’s certainly one way to wake me up,” Darren gasped, blinking up at him.

 

“Oh my god!  I’m so sorry!” Chris cried, springing out of bed.

 

“Relax.  You didn’t knee me in anything vital.”

 

Chris huffed out a laugh, face flaming with embarrassment.  He kept his back to Darren as he hastily pulled his clothes on, glad that they were dry.  Then he turned around and tossed Darren’s clothes on the bed, thankful that his blush wouldn’t be easily visible in the dim light of the dying fire.

 

“So, what’s the plan for tonight?” Darren asked, stretching and yawning before climbing out of bed to get dressed.

 

“Well, we have to hope that Red Riding Hood’s castle is still as vulnerable as I made it in my book.  That way, we’ll be able to sneak in through an unlocked window, and the guards will have all gone off duty at midnight.”

 

“Let’s take these with us,” Darren said, picking up a couple of oil lanterns from the bedside table and lighting them.  “That way we won’t be fumbling around in the dark, bumping into things that really shouldn’t be bumped.”

 

“Darren!  I said I was sorry!”

 

“I know, I just love to make you blush,” Darren said, grinning at him wickedly.

 

“Hmph.”

 

Chris and Darren made their way to the castle, on the lookout for guards.  Seeing none, they climbed in through a window that was, as they’d expected, unlocked.

 

“Which way?” Darren asked.

 

“I’m not sure.  I purposely had the twins take a roundabout route.  Let’s just start exploring, and hope that we recognize something from our tour.”

 

Chris and Darren walked along corridor after corridor, each one lined with portraits of Rachel.  They tried to remember details of what she’d told them, in order to orient themselves, but all of the paintings seemed to blur together in their minds.

 

“I feel like we’re going in circles,” Darren complained.  “I swear we’ve passed that picture of Rachel with the overflowing picnic basket six times.”

 

“No, I’m pretty sure those were six different portraits.  See, here she’s got a blue dress on under her red hooded cape, and in the last one she was wearing a sweater with a sheep on it.”

 

“How are we ever going to find the Basket Room?”

 

“Shhh…  I hear someone coming.  Quick, let’s hide!”

 

They ducked through the nearest door, and found themselves in the queen’s bedchamber.

 

“Oh my, what gorgeous eyes you have, Blaine,” Rachel murmured in her sleep.  “…Oh my, what strong arms you have, Blaine…  Oh my, what soft lips you have, Blaine…”

 

Chris and Darren quickly left through a side door, not wanting to hear what came next.

 

“Oh my, that poor self-deluded girl,” Darren whispered, trying not to laugh.

 

“Don’t worry, she’ll figure things out and get her ‘happily ever after’ eventually.”

 

Chris and Darren continued their aimless wandering around the castle, through passage after passage, and up staircase after staircase.  Just when he felt ready to scream in frustration, Chris finally spotted the portrait he was looking for.

 

“There!” he cried, pointing excitedly.  “The Basket Room is right next to that painting!”

 

Darren raised an eyebrow when he noticed the portrait in question, which showed Rachel reclining on a sofa, wearing nothing but a strategically draped wolf-skin. 

 

“What?” Chris demanded, raising one of his own eyebrows in return.  “I’m gay, not blind.” 

 

Darren grinned at him. 

 

They entered the Basket Room, and looked around in dismay.  There were thousands and thousands of baskets inside, of every shape, size, color, and material.  Even if Chris was correct in his assumption that the basket they were looking for would be on a top shelf, as it was in his book, it would still take hours to locate it.

 

Chris sighed.  “Well, let’s start searching.  Remember, it’s one that’s made of tree bark.”

 

They both climbed up the shelves and began inspecting basket after basket, tossing aside the ones they rejected.  After an hour of fruitless searching, they heard a sudden Clank!  Turning towards the sound, they saw a grappling hook on a window ledge.

 

“Oh no!” Chris whispered.  “It must be the Huntsman’s Daughter, collecting Wishing Spell items for the Evil Queen, just like she did in my book.  Quick, let’s hide behind those baskets in the corner.”

 

Abandoning their oil lanterns, Chris and Darren dropped to the floor and hurried to conceal themselves.  Peeking out cautiously between baskets, they saw a young woman climbing through the window.  She sniffed the air like a predatory animal, turning her head from side to side before zeroing in on the far corner of the room.

 

Chris and Darren held their breath as she climbed up the shelves and pulled out a basket from the back.  It was made of tree bark.  The young woman removed a dagger from her belt and used it to cut a chunk of bark from the rim of the basket.  She then tucked the dagger and the bark back into her belt, leaving the basket on the shelf.

 

As she turned away from the shelf, the light of the oil lanterns fell on her face.  “Is that Naya, or Santana?” Darren whispered, not quietly enough.

 

The young woman’s head whipped around toward the place where Chris and Darren were hiding.  With a coy smile, she strode over to the shelf where the oil lanterns were sitting and picked one up, tossing it into a pile of baskets, which immediately burst into flames.  Then she quickly disappeared back out the window.

 

“Well, I don’t think Naya would try to burn us alive, so my guess is Santana.  Come on – let’s get a piece of that basket and then get out of here before we end up extra crispy!”

 

Chris was moving as he spoke, racing across the room to grab the basket that Santana had located, and cutting a piece out of it’s rim with the dagger that Kurt Hummelocks had given them.  Darren was right behind him.  The two of them rushed to the window and clambered out onto the ledge.

 

Looking down, they could see a water mill directly below them.  They leapt down onto it.  The water mill began to turn, slowly at first, but quickly gaining momentum.  It flung Chris and Darren into the moat.

 

They pulled themselves out of the water, dripping and spluttering.  They saw no sign of guards, but they could hear shouting coming from the castle.  The fire had clearly been discovered.  Not wanting to be blamed for it, Chris and Darren hurried away into the night, heading for the eastern gate of the Red Riding Hood Kingdom.

 

It was a long walk, but the moonlight made the path easy to follow.  As they finally neared the gate, Chris and Darren could see a familiar figure pacing back and forth in front of it.  They ducked behind a clump of bushes so as not to interrupt the reunion that they hoped was about to occur.

 

They didn’t have long to wait before another familiar figure appeared on the other side of the gate, easily visible through the iron bars.  Darren squeezed Chris’s hand.

 

“Hello, Blaine,” Kurt called, approaching the gate.  “I see you got the message I sent with my dove.”

 

Blaine rushed forward eagerly, grasping Kurt’s hands through the bars.  “Kurt!  I’ve missed you so much!”

 

“I know.  I’ve missed you, too.”

 

“I hate these bars between us,” Blaine said, pressing his forehead against Kurt’s.

 

“It’s either the bars of this gate, or the bars of a prison cell, I’m afraid.”

 

“I swear, if I ever find the person who wrote you that letter, tricking you into going to the Three Bears’ house, I’ll kill them!  They’re the reason for this whole mess.”

 

“What’s done is done, and it can never be undone.”

 

“One day, I’ll clear your name, and you can come home.” 

 

Kurt gave him a wry smile, and began to sing.

 

Comin' home used to feel so good

I'm a stranger now in my neighborhood

I've seen the world at a faster pace

And I'm comin' now from a diff'rent place

Though I may look the same way to you

Underneath there is somebody new

I am not the boy next door

I don't belong like I did before

Nothin' ever seems like it used to be

You can have your dreams, but you can't have me

Oh, I can't come back there anymore

'Cause I am not the boy next door

 

As he sang, Kurt began the dance that Chris remembered performing on Glee – shimmying his shoulders, swiveling his hips, and kicking his legs high in the air.  Where Chris had used the grand piano as a prop, Kurt used Rum Chocolate Soufflé. 

 

You've been savin' those souvenirs,

Faded photographs from our foolish years

We made plans, but they're wearin' thin

And they don't work out 'cause I don't fit in

And those mem'ries will just weigh me down

'Cause I got no place to keep 'em uptown

I am not the boy next door

I don't belong like I did before

Nothin' ever seems like it used to be

You can have your dreams, but you can't have me

Oh, I can't go back there anymore

'Cause I am not the boy next door, uh!

 

Chris and Darren squeezed each other’s hands, torn between enjoying the performance and feeling sad for Blaine.  The lyrics made it quite clear that Kurt had no intention of abandoning his life as an outlaw to try to rejoin Blaine in the Red Riding Hood Kingdom.

 

I'm not sorry for just bein' me

But if you'd look past the past you could see

Nothin' ever seems like it used to be

You can have your dreams, oh, but you can't have me

I can't go back there anymore

‘Cause I am not

I am not

I am not the boy next door!

 

As the final, soaring note faded, Blaine grasped Kurt’s hands through the bars of the gate.  “I love you,” he said.  “And I know you love me.  You don’t have to say it back.  I just know.”

 

“I’m a criminal, and you’re a hero,” Kurt replied, with teary eyes.  “A flame may love a snowflake, but they can never be together without each harming the other.”

 

“Then let me melt,” Blaine cried, pulling Kurt close and kissing him passionately.

 

With obvious reluctance, Kurt finally broke the kiss.  “I have to go,” he said.  “I have to be as far away from this place as I can get by sunrise.”

 

Blaine tried to hold on, but Kurt pulled away, leaping up onto Rum Chocolate Soufflé and galloping back to his life as a fugitive.

Chapter End Notes:

Oh, I just hate to leave them like that.  But I promise they’ll come back together eventually...

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