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Chapter Three

True to his word, however, he was back at the hospital before visiting hours the next morning, carrying a briefcase full of leftover paperwork. Agents M and N were the guards this morning, working their way steadily through the alphabet per his orders. He told them to find him something to work on and they procured him an extra feeding tray on wheels. It was small, but adjustable, and he found that if he utilized the windowsill, he had enough room to spread out the papers. He then settled himself in to baby sit the Earl for the duration of the day.

The Earl kept him busy, interrupting his paperwork no less than six times in four hours. By lunch his nerves were fraying and he desperately needed a cigarette. He settled Dorian from his latest nightmare and slipped out, knowing he had at least twenty minutes before the next one: just enough time for a sandwich and a few smokes. When he came back, O and P were taking over guard duty.

"Anything to report?" he asked them.

"He's been quiet since you left, sir," M answered.

"Mr. Bonham and Mr. James are in there with him now, sir," O said, then added quickly when he saw the Major's scowl, "They were on the list of approved visitors..."

"It's all right O, they're approved. I just wasn't in the mood to face the stingy bug today. I'm likely to pound him right into his own pocket."

Sighing, he decided to wait a little while before subjecting himself to the Earl's men. He leaned against the wall nearest the hospital room's door and listened in on the conversation.

"Jones will be here tomorrow, m'lord, and Peters too," Bonham was saying softly.

"I even paid for them to fly non-stop here!" added James.

"So we'll all be with you tomorrow, m'lord."

"And I bought more flowers."

"We're hopin' you'll wake up tomorrow. We miss you terribly, and we want you to get well."

"You have to, this hospital is so expensive."

That comment made the Major bristle.

"Yes, m'lord, it is expensive, but it's a good hospital and Uncle NATO has been taking good care of you."

"I don't even want to think about that Monster!"

"He's making sure you get the best care and making all the decisions. He's keeping it together much better than any of us would in this situation. You were smart to put him in charge like that," Bonham went on, ignoring James' outburst.

"Nooo! My Lord, you must get better. You must wake up soon."

"Yes, m'lord. Please get better. We're all worried sick about you and we won't feel safe until you can look at us and smile at us."

"Yes, and my lord, please don't forget that your life insurance is very cheap!"

That did it. Klaus threw open the door and stalked in.

"Get out," he growled.

"Major, sir, he meant no harm," Bonham tried. "He always says that to Lord Gloria."

"Get out," he repeated.

"This is all your fault! You monster! He wouldn't be hurt if it wasn't for you! You did this to him!" James accused.

"Mr. Bonham, get him out of my sight, NOW."

"Yes sir!"

Bonham grabbed the accountant by the shoulders and shoved him towards the door.

"Noo, my loorrddd!"

"James this is not the time for this!" Bonham yelled.

"I'll never forgive you for this, Major!"

The loud voices must have reached the Earl because he began to add his own voice to the fray in the form of a panicked scream.

"Now look what you've done! Damn you!" Klaus seethed, going to Dorian's side.

James stilled as they watched the Major quiet their Lord with soft words and a comforting hand.

"There," Klaus announced with finality. "He is asleep. Do not disturb his rest again."

"No sir," Bonham agreed and took James from the room.

Slumping back down into the chair by the bed, Klaus wished for another cigarette and a bottle of hard liquor to get rid of his headache.

"Why do you surround yourself with such assholes?" he asked the unconscious Earl.

Looking over at the motionless body, he stared at it for a moment then sighed and stood, fixing the rumpled sheets that had been dislodged by the Earl's nightmares and covering up his feet.

"Comfy? Now maybe you'll give me an hour's peace," he said, returning to his paperwork.

The Earl gave him almost two. Then almost three after that. Then four. By the time visiting hours were over at 22:00 hours, the intervals between nightmares had significantly increased. Klaus wondered if this was because of his supervision, and he didn't know if he liked it if it was.

‘It's your way of keeping me with you, you fucking queer!’ his personal demon screamed, but another part of him was strangely pleased. The Earl wasn't at all coherent, yet he responded to his voice, his touch. No one had ever trusted him so much.

He left at 22:30, right after the night duty nurse came in to sedate Dorian for the night. He told her he would be back in the morning, gathered up his paperwork and headed back to his hotel. There he ordered a small supper, smoked a pack of cigarettes, called his Chief, and made plans for the next day. He fell asleep still clothed.

The following day Dorian suffered only two nightmares before lunch, the first being right after the night-time sedative wore off. Klaus was getting better at recognizing the beginnings of an episode, and now he was usually able to settle the Earl before he even got out of the whimpering stage. It was also taking less to quiet him as well. Now all he had to do was murmur "'S me," and the Earl would go back to sleep.

Around midday, he took a break for lunch and cigarettes, allowing the Earl's men to visit with him unaccosted. He was in a relatively good mood and didn't want it ruined by the stingy bug accountant. He came back an hour and half later, happy to hear that the Earl suffered no nightmares in his absence, and listened in on the tail end of the visiting team's conversation with their Lord.

"Please get better soon, m'lord. We all miss you."

"Yes, please."

"There are all these flowers here that we know you'll just love."

"Oh, and m'lord, a new collection is coming to London Art. I am sure there is something there you will want. You must wake up and tell us what you want us to take."

Klaus laughed to himself. Interesting ploys to entice the Earl awake by offering him an opportunity to steal art.

"We have to go soon. Uncle NATO will be back," he heard Bonham say and took it as a cue to enter the room.

"Uncle NATO is back," he said evenly, but without malice. The Earl's staff looked so miserable that he could not bring himself to be angry.

"You do know that has become an endearment, don't you sir?" Bonham asked.

"I know."

"We have to go now, m'lord, but we'll be back tomorrow."

They filed out of the room and he gave them fond looks. Such loyalty should always be rewarded. Then he saw that Mr. James had stayed behind. The accountant was standing by the Earl's bed, looking down at the chopped blond hair.

"Mr. James?"

"He's going to be devastated when he sees it. He's been growing it for years."

"It'll grow back."

James nodded and fingered the white sheets. It was quiet for a moment, and Klaus felt his temper rising, but before he could growl, James spoke again.

"He was sick, you know."

"What?" he asked, surprised.

"Lord Gloria. He was sick. He had a terrible case of the flu. Picked it up in Indonesia or Singapore. He was nearly hospitalized with it. He was just getting over it when you called him in on this mission."

"I didn't know."

"He didn't want you to. He... he made me powder him down and get make-up so he wouldn't look so ill. I begged him not to do it. He still wasn't himself, but he wouldn't listen to me."

The Major digested the words, suddenly realizing that he subconsciously knew the Earl was not well. ‘That explains why I felt bad about the mission from the beginning!’

"That was phenomenally stupid of him," he said.

"It was you. He'd do anything for you." It was a simple statement said without accusation. Klaus made no comment.

"And I'd do anything for him. He's everything to me. Without him, I am nothing. He puts up with so much from me, with all my eccentricities, my stinginess, my whining. No one has been as good to me as Lord Gloria. I have no purpose without him. If anything were to ever happen to him..."

"He is in good hands, Mr. James," he assured. "I won't allow any harm to come to him."

The accountant looked at him and he was taken back by the heartbroken expression on the man's face.

"I know. And that's what scares me most."

Mr. James leaned over the bed and kissed the Earl's cheek briefly.

"Please get better, my lord. Soon."

Then he slipped past the Major and left the room without another word. Klaus watched him go. When the door had fully closed, he looked back at the Earl. The afternoon sunlight was peeking in through the closed blinds and shafts of light were bathing the silent body in a soft glow. He looked like a sleeping angel in the bed, illuminated with his own light.

‘Damn, he is a beautiful man,’ Klaus thought, drawn inexplicably towards the vision.

He passed a hand through a sunbeam that chose to light on the back of Dorian's head, trying to feel the warmth. Maybe it would be enough to warm some of the chill inside him. The scene of Dorian bathed in light reminded him of a conversation he'd had with a police officer from Washington state. They had met at an International Anti-terrorism conference in Vienna one year. The man was ex-Black Ops in the Yank Army and had been included on several terrorism task forces because of his skill.

He had been teamed with the large, gruff man on a skills-building exercise and found the man tolerable. He was a big man, older than Klaus, with blue eyes and short cropped hair- very military. His partner was anything but. The partner was a little scrap of a thing with a big mouth and long hair. He wasn't even a police officer. Klaus had disliked him, and wondered why such a stoic, military man would suffer to be partnered with someone so... unsuitable.

On the last night of the conference, several of them went out to a local bar for drinks and the Americans came with them. While the young, long-haired partner tried to pick up women at the bar using passable German, he sat with the ex-Army captain and set on getting the man drunk. He knew it wouldn't be a problem. Yanks rarely could hold their liquor. When their tongues had been sufficiently loosened by good beer, he posed the question of the partner to the military man. He did not know what he was expecting the man to say, but he certainly was surprised by what he got, so surprised that he never forgot it.

The man looked pensive then answered in a sincere voice:

"We're killers, you and I, trained to set our morality at the door and blow some bastard's head away. Every day we do things that would send other people screaming to their mothers, but we like it. We're trained to do it and we do it well. We go into the sewers of the earth and deal with the sludge and puke of humanity. And because that's all we do, we only see the darkest, cruelest side of people, and we forget that's not all there is. We see the world in black and white. When we enter a new place, we don't see a tastefully decorated room. We see how many objects can be used as weapons in a pinch, and how many exits there are, and how defensible the place is. We judge people by the number of concealed weapons they could have in their clothing, and how many priors we think they have. We are the dark side of humanity, its cold heart. We are one step above the criminals we hunt and sometimes not even that.

"Then there are people who are our polar opposites. People filled with light. Sometimes so much light they shine. And sometimes these people grace us for a while, and share their light with us because we have so little of our own. And they warm us with their joy and their never ending optimism, and their unshakable power to believe in the goodness of the human soul. They're little angels walking the earth, sharing their light with others.

"My partner is one of those people. Every day he follows me into the sewers, and he amazes me with his ability to come out unscathed. He doesn't let the darkness touch him. Through him, I am beginning to see the world not just in black and white, but in all its colors. With him I can see the nice room and the scared kid trying to look cool. He is my salvation and my sanity. I am blessed with his light and his cunning and his courage, and every day I wonder what I would do without him in my life."

The Yank had stopped then, an odd look on his hard face, as if he'd just realized something. Then he hastily excused himself and went to retrieve his partner. They left together shortly thereafter, and Klaus did not see them again. They did not come down to the final breakfast the following morning. Klaus had thought that odd but did not ask about them.

He looked down at the sleeping Earl, settling into the chair and leaning his arms on the metal bar. Was Eroica one of those angels that walked the earth? Or was he a demon? One had to remember that Lucifer had once been an archangel himself. The thief certainly brought color into his life, usually in the form of colorful words. Klaus smiled. Some of his memories of the Earl were pleasant ones.

‘My own personal angel and demon in one,’ he mused. ‘You are my salvation and the means by which I am condemned.’

Without fear of the Earl waking up, he felt brave enough to run a finger over the smooth cheek and closed eyelids, feeling the soft eyelashes. The sharp point of Dorian's nose gave way to his full lips and the moist breath that came from them. He inhaled deeply, smelling the faint scent of roses mixed with Dorian's own odor, particularly strong since the Earl had not been bathed completely since he was brought to the hospital, but it was not unpleasant.

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