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Author's Chapter Notes:
For Yoiko, to make her month away from the Internet more bearable.

James crept down the hallway, shivering, the worn and faded pajamas he wore providing little protection from the castle's cool night air. Normally, he would take a small pleasure in the miserably thin state of his sleepwear, but now he had more pressing matters on his mind than the inadequate patching job that had been done. He could fix them later; he would have lots of time, later. For now, he knelt beside the closed door in front of him and pressed his ear to the cool wood as he strained to hear any sign that would prove if Lord Gloria was still in there.

As frustrating as it was that he couldn't tell if the bedroom was occupied or not, he was equally grateful that he couldn't make out the thumping of the bed frame or the telltale noises of a lover being satisfied. Very gingerly, James reached up and tried the knob. It was unlocked, so he took that as tantamount to an invitation to enter. Remaining low, he slunk his way across the plush carpeting toward the high-standing bed and its mound of mussed blankets. It had been a surprisingly cool evening, and with the fire nearly burned out, the chill was seeping back into the room.

James took several steadying breaths, momentarily distracted by the tiny puffs of white steam they produced. He wasn't quite ready to know for certain if the earl was there or not. If he was, then that meant he had to tell him. If he wasn't, then it meant hours of sitting around nervously, trying to work up the courage to approach him once more.

He nearly let out a most undignified squeak when a pitiful-sounding voice from the bed croaked his name. "Ja~ames..." Dorian rolled to the edge of he bed, lifting only the top of his head to peek out from under the warmth of the down comforter. " 'S an unholy hour... even f'you..."

"I need to tell you something," James couldn't raise his face to meet Lord Gloria's, so he continued to crouch there, wringing his hands.

Forcing one blue eye open in order to peer down on the nervous man, Dorian couldn't see even the first hint of sunlight trying to peek into the room. "Uhhng... House better be on fire..."

"No, there's nothing wrong. Like that, at least," James corrected himself. Now that he was actually here instead of safe in his room, he couldn't seem to find the words to say. Or more truthfully, the courage to say what he wanted to get out. "I–I just needed to say something, and you're always out these days, and I wasn't sure when you would be back, and so–"

Interrupting with a half-asleep moan, Dorian let his head drop back to the pillow. "Darling, can't it wait until morning?"

The earl did look exhausted – James refused to allow himself to think 'shagged out,' though it might have been more appropriate. "I guess... No, no it can't." He had begun to leave but turned back firmly. "I have to tell you this now."

His tone brought both of Dorian's eyes open in concern. Though, now that he had the earl's attention, all he wanted to do was sink through the floorboards and vanish. He started neutrally with, "Things've changed a lot from how they used to be," trying to stall a moment to compose himself. "But, I wanted to say that, despite all of it, and everything else, I still love you, even if you want scary Uncle NATO," he managed to finish in a rush, a lot less eloquently than he would have liked. But he had managed to say it! "If you want, I'll leave so that you can - and he can – and I won't be in the way."

For his part, Dorian simply smiled at the use of the nickname Bonham had unwittingly started amongst the band of thieves. The major hated it so, which made it all the more amusing. "Jamesie, whatever gave you the idea that I would want you to go anywhere? I adore you, darling... Maybe not quite as much as usual at the crack of dawn, but that's a mutual feeling I have for everyone at this hour." He tried to make his smile a reassuring one.

Not swayed by the attempt at humor, James insisted, "I'm serious, M'lord! The major hates me, and all his men hate me. So it'll be easier for you with me gone."

"Easier?" Concerned now, Dorian sat up in disbelief, the warm covers spilling off his bare chest as he did so. Beside him, there was an unhappy grumble as his bedmate tucked the blankets back under himself from where Dorian had disturbed them. Though the accountants eyes started to mist over at the obvious proof at how Lord Gloria had spent his evening, Dorian left it unremarked. "Darling, I'd be broke within six months without you here to keep me in line. And I couldn't imagine life here in the castle without you in it here with me."

"Do you really mean that?" Tears were now clinging to the ends of long lashes, threatening to fall. Despite the sarcastic tone of the mumbling behind Lord Gloria, he pressed, "You really want me to stay here with you?"

Instead of answering, Dorian held out his arms to the small thief, "Come up here Jamesie." With a look of uncertainty, James climbed to his feet but was hesitant about joining the two in the bed. "I promise that he won't bite. Come on up." After another moment, James launched himself at the shivering earl, proclaiming once again how much he loved the man. With a lapful of giddily wriggling James, Dorian hurriedly drew the sheets and large comforter back up around them, blocking out the too-cold air of the room.

As Lord Gloria rolled over onto his side, James more than happily settled himself between the two warm bodies, snuggling against the earl's side. He wasn't so sure about having an unhappy Major Eberbach behind him, but he was certain that Lord Gloria wouldn't let the grouchy major to hurt him. With a loud yawn, James recalled how little sleep he'd been getting of late. Fretting over what to say to Lord Gloria had kept him pacing for several nights now – not even counting money had helped! And lying with the two of them was oddly comforting, even if one of Dorian's hands did slip past him to rest on the major's stomach.

After a few more relaxing moments, Klaus rolled over, curling up behind James. His gentle breathing was warm against the back of the little accountant's neck. "Don't hate you," he murmured gruffly, one arm wrapping around James' waist. "Not s'long as you don't make a habit of waking me at this hour."

It was almost more than he could bear. In a matter of minutes, he'd gone from wondering what he should pack into his one, badly worn suitcase to being held between the two most wonderful people in his world. Cuddling back even more into the major's embrace, he pulled Dorian along with him.

Placing a gentle kiss atop messy black waves, Dorian whispered, "Goodnight, Jamesie."


Dorian: [sitting up from his spot on the bed] See? That wasn't so bad, now was it. And somebody, get in here and relight that fire, dammit!

James: I loved it! This new muse is great – when he's only picking on Uncle NATO.

Klaus: [grouses more] Bah. Humbug. [tries to look as if he didn't enjoy it too]


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