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Chapter Two

He returned to the hospital eight hours later, short on sleep and high on nicotine. He knew he should go back to his hotel and fall into bed, but he needed to check on Dorian first. He was still reeling not only from his guilt, but also from the responsibility the Earl had placed on his shoulders.

‘Know how to play me like a stuck worm, don't you, you bastard.’

In addition to that, there was the very real possibility of the Earl still being in danger, and the repercussions if Dorian had cracked under the torture and actually talked.

He stamped out his cigarette, silently cursing the 'smoke- free' zones that were everywhere in this country, and made his way to the third floor waiting room. He found Bonham, Agent Z, Jones, Agent G, and several other of Eroica's men there. Mr. James was huddled on the floor.

"What's with him?" he asked dispassionately.

"He's passed out," Bonham answered tiredly. "You know how he is."

Klaus nodded. "Any word?"

"He came out of surgery about two hours ago. Doc said that he'd be in recovery for a while, but he should be moved to Intensive Care soon."

"Intensive Care?"

"Procedure for all post-ops like this," the electronics specialist explained.


"He said if all goes well, he'll be moved out of Intensive Care tomorrow and into a private room."

Klaus raised an eyebrow. "A private room? Isn't that more expensive?"

Bonham cast a glance at the sleeping James. "Not even James would subject the Earl to a shared hospital room in the condition he is in."

Klaus winced and sighed. "Very good, Bonham. Keep me informed..."

"Herr Eberbok?"

"Eberbach," he corrected, turning to face the nurse who called him.

"Doctor Coltesta left instructions that we were to tell you when Mr. Gloria..."

"Lord Gloria." What was it with these Yanks! Can't get a name right! Can't get a title right! Were they all this stupid?!

The nurse paused and took a deep breath. "When 'Lord' Gloria was moved to ICU. You may see him now for a few minutes if you wish."

"Thank you. Take me to him."

The nurse led the way from the waiting room to the ICU ward and pointed towards a room down the hall.

"He's in room 341."

"Thank you," he said in clipped tones and headed for the room

Klaus didn't think he had ever seen Dorian so very very still. The slender man looked positively tiny on the small hospital bed, covered loosely by thin sheets and a flimsy hospital gown. He was on his stomach, swathed in what only could be kilometers of bandages, a tube in his nose and an IV stuck into one wrist. Monitors above the bed tracked his heart, blood pressure and respiration, and Klaus gave a quick glance to the readings. The monitor was one of the only lights in the darkened room, the only other light being what came through the observation window to the nurses' station. The second-hand light bathed the room and the Earl in shadows. Klaus took full advantage of the shadows and slunk into them, standing in the gloom next to the bed, brooding.

‘Damn you, Eroica.’

The cropped curls stuck haphazardly from the Earl's skull and for a moment Klaus fancied he could see the blood vessels pulsing under the thin layer of skin. His hand moved unbidden to touch one bruised cheek.

"Damn you, Dorian. This was no job for a civilian. Why? What happened to you in there?"

His answer was the steady thrum of the heart monitor and the Earl's shallow breathing. He pulled his hand away and stood helplessly staring down at the still body. Then he heard the heart monitor pick up pace a bit, and saw the Earl's hand twitch. His eyes narrowed with concern and he came a hair closer to the bed. Dorian's brow furrowed and a hiss came from his lips that formed into small words.


Ah. Dorian was having a nightmare. Remembering how the Earl had responded to him in the hideout, he leaned over and whispered into an exposed ear.

"Shhhh. 'S me. You're safe now."

The tiny moan ceased, followed by a breathless word, "major?"

"'S me. You're safe. In hospital. Go back to sleep."

The tenseness that had crept into the Earl's body drained and the heart monitor slowed as the Earl slipped back into dreamless slumber. Smiling to himself, and feeling an odd warmth that the thief should feel so safe and comforted just by his presence, he stood up straight and took a moment to adjust the sheets on the bed.

‘Damn Yanks don't even know how to make a proper hospital corner!’

A nurse came in to check the Earl's medication levels and she let out a surprised cry when she saw him standing in the shadows.

"Give a girl a heart attack next time, will ya."

"It was not my intent to frighten you," he replied. "When can we expect him to wake up?"

"I don't know. Didn't the doctor speak with you about the surgery?"

"I only just returned a little while ago."

"Well, cases like this, we usually keep them as quiet and still as possible. He may not wake up for a few days. Trauma like this can knock some people out for a week or more," the nurse said. "Once the anesthetic fully wears off, when he wakes up, is up to him."

"I see. Thank you. I am Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach of NATO. This man, the Earl of Gloria is a witness in one of our cases. He will have a guard at all times."

"You'll have to clear that with hospital security."

"I intend to," he assured her, stepping away from the Earl and towards the door. "Good evening."

He left the dark hospital room and returned to the waiting room where several more people had gathered awaiting news of the Earl. Feeling put on the spot and dreading the questions, and accusations, he knew would come, he faced the men in the room.

"The Earl is sleeping restfully."

"Did the doctor say when he would wake up?" asked one.

"I did not speak to the doctor, but the nurse said it may be some time before the Earl regains consciousness."

"What if he talked?"

"Then we deal with that when it comes," he answered.

"The Earl would never talk!" cried one of Dorian's men.

"They cut his hair. Oh poor Lord Gloria!"

"I hear that's not the only thing they cut..."

"ENOUGH!" Klaus boomed, commanding their attention. They stared at him in wide-eyed shock. "C! D! You are Lord Gloria's guards until 08:00 hours. You will be relieved by E & F. I will clear the assignments with hospital security. The rest of you go to the hotel. The Earl is asleep, he will not be waking up any time soon and all you are doing here is bothering the hospital staff!"

Tirade over, he suddenly felt the exhaustion of the day hit him. "I am leaving. I will be back tomorrow to check on the Earl."

He tromped out of the hospital before anyone could stop him and threw himself into his rental car, slamming the door. Lighting a cigarette and inhaling deeply, he let the nicotine calm his frayed nerves before starting the rented Ford Escort, ‘Damn Yanks! I want a BENZ!’ and heading for the hotel.

Morning came all too quickly for the Major and he woke blearily to another sun-soaked day in California. It was only 06:00 and it was already sweltering.

‘That's why all the friggin Yanks here are so fucking stupid. Their brains are baked right their friggin skulls!’ he thought furiously, taking a drag on his cigarette. ‘Dorian would be out in this heat, dressed in some silly foppish shirt with floppy sleeves, with his hair all wild and pulled back with a friggin pink scarf...’

But the hair was gone, and for a moment that reality hit him like a punch in the gut. The riotous blond curls were littered all over the filthy floor of some terrorist group's idea of a good time, and their owner was lying still and silent in a hospital bed.

The cigarette fell from his numb fingers and burned out in the ashtray. He had yet to fully deal with the horrors he'd witnessed last night, nor with the fact that those horrors had happened to Dorian. He shuddered, remembering the brand steaming hotly in the red coals. He'd recognized the symbol- it was the brand used to mark diseased cattle destined for slaughter- and his mind recoiled at the image of that brand touching any part of the Earl's delicate skin. And he knew how delicate the thief's skin was. He'd touched it on many occasions, mostly unwelcome, but he remembered its softness just as he remembered the faint scent of roses clinging to the Earl's hair and clothing.

There had been no scent of rose on him last night, or if there had been, it was drowned out by all the other stenches in the room. He could still see the naked man hanging limply in the chains, shoulders bent back under the weight of the sagging body, the blood running streaks over the pale skin, the swollen lips and blackened eye, the shorn hair scattered all over the floor and the ravaged scalp left behind.

‘My fault.’

He heard himself sniffle and jolted in surprise. Shocked he touched his fingertips to his face and was amazed when they came back wet.

‘Damn him! He's made me cry! It's shameful for a man to cry! Damn him! Damn him!’

Roughly, he wiped the tears away and checked his watch. He'd spent nearly half an hour loitering when there was work to be done. He lit another cigarette, downed his cup of awful Yank coffee and stalked out the door.

He arrived at the hospital in time to clear the Earl's guards with hospital security, something he had neglected to do before he left the previous night, and supervise the changing of the guard so to speak from C & D to E & F. Neither agent had anything untoward to report except that the Earl was suffering nightmares. Under the circumstances, Klaus was not surprised to hear that at all. After catching up with the doctor, he went in to see the Earl who was still in ICU and would remain there until the afternoon.

The room was a little less gloomy now that the sunlight was coming in from the windows, but it only made the figure on the bed all the more ghastly. The warm, yellow light made every bruise and stain and mark on the Earl's body stand out: a scratch here, a bite mark there, a bruise there, and the Major felt his heart stop in his chest.

‘My fault.’

He could almost hear the Earl's soft, silky voice, his light giggle, the way his voice lilted when he said the word “Major” or more intimately, “Klaus.” Or the way the Earl continually tried to seduce him with sidelong glances and wry smiles, how he never passed up the chance to touch him... or to help him...

‘Or to be with me...’

Time and time again, Dorian had risked his own life and safety to come to Klaus' aid, usually messing things up worse than they were, but it was the effort that counted. For someone who seemed as airhead and flighty as Eroica, Dorian had demonstrated remarkable staying power. It would seem that in matters where the Major was concerned, the Earl of Gloria was more tenacious than a Doberman and about as loyal.

Dorian whimpered and twitched with the beginnings of another nightmare. Before he could even hiss out the pleas, Klaus was whispering in his ear.

"Shhh. 'S me. You're safe now."

No barely uttered “major?”" this time, only a deep sigh and a relaxing of the Earl's body.

Klaus withdrew, taking a moment to satisfy himself that the Earl was being adequately taken care of. He passed by the waiting room and was surprised to see Bonham and Mr. James asleep on one of the couches. They must have spent the whole night in the hospital. For a moment he was angry that they disobeyed his order to return to the hotel, then he remembered that they were not his men and he was not responsible for them. With a shrug, he left them to their sleep and went to begin the interrogations of the terrorist group members arrested the previous night.

By the time he returned to the hospital it was late afternoon, and Eroica had been moved to a private room on the fifth floor. G & H had relieved E & F, and they were occupying positions on either side of the Earl's hospital door.

"Anything to report?" he asked them.

"No, sir," G answered.

"He has nightmares, sir," H added. "They're keeping him sedated."

Klaus frowned. He did not like the sound of that. Aside from the fact that Dorian was helpless in his current state, he needed the Earl's statement for his report. Scowling, he went into the room.

The private room was a little cheerier and someone had brought a bouquet of roses to improve the smell.

Probably James.’

The flowers were lost on both occupants of the room. The Earl still lay on his stomach, unmoving, and the Major was too concerned to note anything other than their presence. He walked to the bed and tightly gripped the metal rail, looking down at the still figure lying on the mattress. Some of the color had returned to the thief's face, and someone had combed the cropped hair revealing a scratch that had been hidden on his scalp. The sight of another wound on the Earl drove him to impotent rage and he clenched the bar in his hands, grinding his teeth. He wanted someone to kill, or to at least maim.

‘Why are you so concerned about a stupid scratch on that queer's face?’ his personal demon asked him. ‘It's not like you haven't left a few bruises on that fop!’

He knew it was true. He'd hit Dorian on more than one occasion when the Earl had inflamed his temper enough. Dorian had never raised a hand to him in retaliation. The average man would have taken that to mean Dorian knew he was a spineless sissy, but Klaus had come to know better. Dorian had his own strength, and it was in his brain not his brawn. He could never hope to beat him in a fist fight, but in a battle of wits, they were equally matched. And Dorian had courage and guts. Klaus remembered one dark night in Alaska, he himself wounded and beaten by a Russian KGB bear, when Dorian bluffed the Communist with a lot of balls and a gun he thought was empty

It was different when he was the one leaving the bruises. Dorian trusted him, and in truth he'd never hit the Earl with the full force of his rage, and he'd always made sure that the impact never left any permanent damage. But no one else could harm Dorian and not face the wrath of Iron Klaus. The sight of foreign blemishes on the thief's perfect face struck him in deep places. Yes, there were times when the queer deserved to be beaten bloody, but he was the only one who was allowed to throw the punches. If anyone else even hinted at harming the Earl, they'd find themselves flattened. He was painfully aware of how twisted that logic was, but then nothing between him and the Earl had ever been logical.

Things that the Earl did to please him, infuriated him. Every gesture, every kind word, every breathless declaration of love drove him to rage. He spent hours trying to forget each encounter with the man who shadowed him nearly everywhere. He cringed every time he heard the Earl's name and NATO mission in the same sentence. There were times when he desperately wished he and Dorian had never met. Yet here he was, angry beyond comprehension at the sight of the battered man in front of him, and ready to exact revenge on those responsible.

‘Why the hell should you care what happens to that fucking pervert? He's caused you enough grief and interfered with your missions! You should walk out and leave him here to rot!’

But he couldn't, and he knew he couldn't. Logically he could argue that Dorian had pulled on his sense of responsibility, and as the Earl's chosen representative in medical matters, it was his duty to make sure the man was cared for. But he knew it was more than that. His anger with Dorian was a front, and a thinning one at that. He was still trying to nurse an old hatred for a man who had done him no real harm, and finding it difficult to maintain.

The Earl moaned in his bed, the long fingers scraping at the mattress, and Klaus sighed. He reached to touch the short hair but checked himself.

‘Why should it bother you if he has bad dreams? You're not his keeper!’

As he fought with himself, Dorian's moan grew louder, into a hollow wail. A nurse breezed in a moment later carrying a syringe.

"Time for more feel-good juice," she said, reaching for the Earl's IV. She was stopped by Iron Klaus' hand on her wrist.

"What are you giving him?" he demanded.

"A sedative."

"Nein. I don't want him drugged. He needs to wake up. We need his statement."

"Look mister, this man isn't going to be in any shape to tell anybody anything for quite a while. In the meantime, his screams disturb the other patients."

The simple statement hit him like a blow even as the Earl's wail escalated into a mildly louder scream. He was writhing weakly now, which was surely causing him some pain. The nurse shrugged off his hand and moved to inject the sedative, but he stopped her again.


"Look, if you have a problem with this, take it up with his representative. In the meantime, I have a job to do."

"I am his representative," he seethed. Damn these infernal, rude Yanks!
The scream got louder and the nurse struggled to free her arm from the Major's grip. He released her suddenly and put up a hand.

"Wait!" he ordered. With one eye still on the rude nurse, he leaned over and touched Dorian on the shoulder.

"Shhhh. 'S me. You're safe now."

It took a moment, and Klaus was briefly afraid that it wouldn't work this time, but then Eroica's screams ceased.


"Ya. 'S me. I'm here. Go back to sleep," he confirmed.


"Shhh, sleep."


Dorian's body stilled and his breathing normalized. When he was certain that the Earl was settled, he stood up and faced the nurse.

"Impressive. Now tell me what we do when you're not here," she said peevishly.

"Give him enough of your drugs to make him stay quiet through the night. I will return in the morning and stay with him during the day."

"Whatever," the nurse answered coldly and left.

He gave a glance down to the sleeping Earl, once again cursing him, but his hand reached out to finger a cropped curl and lament the loss of the long tresses. Scowling at himself, and at the feelings he was having for the man in the bed, he stormed out.

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