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Chapter Six

Dorian, Earl of Gloria was in a considerably less cheerful mood when Major Eberbach returned. He was sitting up, leaning mostly on his hip, legs curled on the bed for balance, slowly sipping a cup of broth. Lifting the small cup seemed to be a bit of an effort, and his hands shook as he brought it to his lips. The Major went to him and helped steady the cup. Dorian's face was pale and haggard, and his eyes were dull.

"Lord Gloria?" he asked.

Dorian drew a shuddering breath. "They took out the catheter."

Klaus winced in sympathy. "That's a good thing, yes?"

The Earl nodded slightly. "Yes, just... hurts, and... I don't like... people touching my body without my invitation."

The simple statement spoke volumes about the blond man. Klaus remembered Dorian saying that while he liked to undress others, he did not like to be stripped himself. The Major had long suspected that Dorian used his forwardness as a defense mechanism.

"How long before you can have solid food?"

"Another three or four days. They want to make sure..." He trailed off, shuddering.

Klaus understood.

Dorian sighed and put down the cup, setting it on the bed tray. A little bowl of flavored gelatin was on the tray, untouched. One shoulder of the hospital gown had fallen down and he lifted it up, feeling exposed even in Klaus' presence. His scalp itched so he scratched it, feeling his hair-or rather the absence of it. Klaus must have been watching his face because the Major took his hands and held them.

"It's all right."

He shook his head, trembling. "How bad is it? They... wouldn't let me see."

"It will grow back."

"That's not what I asked."

Klaus took a deep breath. "It's cropped unevenly. It will need to be trimmed to make it even."

"How much?"

"Quite a bit."

"Will it be very short?"

"Yes, I think it will."

He bit his lip. He wouldn't cry. Not in front of Klaus, and over such a silly thing. Klaus, who was being kinder to him than he ever expected, would only be embarrassed by his weakness.

"Where are your men?" the Major asked.

"I sent them away."

"Do you wish to be alone?"

"No. No, please stay with me." The words came out as pleas and he frowned.

"Of course."

They fell silent. He couldn't meet the Major's eyes. His jovial mood had fled twenty minutes after Klaus had left that morning. Now he felt dirty, both inside and out, but he wasn't allowed to bathe. He'd also failed the mission. Klaus had to think poorly of him. The hospital psychiatrist who came to see him earlier that day told him his guilt was normal, but he hated feeling diminished in the Major's eyes.

"What is it, Lord Gloria?" the Major asked softly.

Dorian wrapped his arms around himself. "I stink, but they won't let me shower."

"No. Your stitches are too new for a bath. A sponge bath perhaps..."

"No!" He trembled. "No. I don't want a stranger- least of all a woman... touching me."

"I'm sure Mr. James would oblige you," the Major offered.

He shook his head. "No. I don't want Jamsie to see me like this."

He thought briefly of asking the Major to do it, but decided against it. Klaus had already given him far more than he felt he deserved. He shuddered, feeling cold, and dirty and vulnerable, and close to a breakdown.

"Lord Gloria?"

There was such concern in the normally gruff man's voice, and maybe even a hint of affection. He looked into the Major's green eyes and saw what he thought was sympathy. He reached for it with both hands.

"Hold me, please."

The Major's strong arms came around him, embracing him loosely, the large hands coming to rest on his upper arms, and his head was tucked under Klaus' chin, his cheek to the solid chest. He let his hands drop into his lap.

They didn't speak and he didn't cry. He just rested against the hard muscles of Klaus' chest, closer to the Major than he had ever been, both reveling and loathing it at the same time. The Major said nothing and the silence became oppressive.



"Do you remember the second time we met? When you chased Ceasar and I in your leopard tank?"

"You mean the leopard tank you stole from me?"

The Major's voice was not angry. If anything, it was slightly amused.


"What about it? You gonna return it, thief?"

"I don't think so. I've grown rather fond of it. It was something that belonged to you after all. When I sit in it, I can imagine you at the controls, all powerful and strong..."

"Please, you're making me sick."

"Sorry. But I would consider trading it though. For the Man in Purple?"

"Nein. What is your obsession with that indecent painting of a man wearing pumpkins and showing his legs?"

That made him laugh. "If you hate it so much, why do you guard it so carefully?"

"Because it's a national treasure, that's why, and I have to protect it from devious thieves like you."

"Devious, am I?"

"Intolerable pervert."

"Will you sing for me?"

"What?" Klaus asked, shocked.

"The song you sang in the tank? The tank force song."

"Whatever for?"

"Because I want to hear you sing it."

Klaus was quiet and a little stiff. For a moment Dorian thought he'd ruined everything.

"If you don't want to..." he whispered.

"Nein. Nein, I will sing it. I just need to remember the words."

"Up to the third verse."

"Of course."


Outside the closed hospital room, C & D heard a strange sound coming from behind the door.

"What on Earth is that?" C asked.

D cocked a head towards the door and listened. "The Major... the Major is singing."

"Singing?" C squeaked. "He's singing?"

The agents pressed their ears to the door in time to hear their commander's voice sing, "...our spirits remain high and sharp as my tank rolls on..."


Klaus finished the song, letting his voice fall silent in the room. Eroica was quiet against his chest and for a moment he thought the thief had fallen asleep. Then the golden head moved and the blue eyes looked up at him in mute adoration.

He has such blue eyes...

"Thank you, Major. I'm ready to give my statement now."

"Are you certain?"

"No, but it needs to be done."

Klaus sighed and released the Earl. "Very well."

He got up and opened the door just in time to see his agents scramble away from it. He gave them a depreciating glare.

"C! D! The Earl is ready to give his statement. Come in and bring a note pad and a tape recorder."

C and D came in and took seats while the Major remained standing. C brought out a notepad and pen while D held a hand recorder.

"How much of what happened do you remember, Lord Gloria?" Klaus asked in interrogator mode.

Dorian drew his arms about himself as if he were cold.

"Could you get me my robe, please?" he requested. "There is a terrible draft in this place."

Klaus moved to pick up the frilly robe that someone had hung on the back of door and handed it to the Earl.

"Thank you," he said, wrapping himself in it.

"Back to the question Lord Gloria. How much of your imprisonment do you remember?" Klaus asked again.

"I remember everything. They caught me by surprise. If I had been completely well, they would never have gotten the best of me, but..."

"We have it on record that you were recovering from the flu. What did they do when they captured you?"

"They wanted to know who I was and who I was working for."

"And what did you tell them?"

"Nothing. I tried to make them think I was a petty thief."

"Did they believe you?"

The Earl shook his head. "No."

"What happened then?"

"They took me down to a stone room and chained me to a wall..."

Little by little, in short episodes, Dorian told his sordid story of pain and torture. Thinking he was a spy for a rival organization, they employed twisted means by which to extract information from their helpless captive. The whipping had followed a beating and a sound thrashing. The gang rape had come afterwards, with each of the five men taking his turn. Threats of more severe tortures and punishments came after the rapes, and the brand had been flashed in front of him, taunting.

Several times during his story, the Earl had to stop to recollect himself. He grew paler as the telling went on, and his pallor was reflected in the faces of the NATO agents listening to it, Klaus included. Finally, when it looked as if the Earl could bear no more, Klaus called an end to the interview and sent C and D out.

"Are you all right?" he asked the trembling man.

Dorian gave a small nod but Klaus was not convinced. He put his arms around the Earl and drew him close, resting the quivering head against his chest. After a moment, he felt Eroica move and slender arms snake around him.


"Just tell me you got them all, please."

"We got them all. The two ringleaders were caught trying to fly to South America."

Dorian sighed with relief. "Thank you."

"I was only doing my duty."

"You did more than that. I knew you would come. Even when they were hurting me, I never lost faith that you were coming. I was conscious through all of it, you know. I stayed awake until I heard the gunfire and the sound of the troops, and I knew you had come. Only then, did I let myself pass out."

"You are a strong man, Lord Gloria."

"Only for you, Herr Major."

The Earl's arms around him tightened.

"What is it?"

"They tested me for AIDS today."

"That is standard procedure in a rape case."

"I know but... what if...." His hold on calm was cracking. "What if... Oh Klaus, I'm so frightened!"

"Shhhhh, it's all right. It's all right."

"What if one of them had it? Klaus, I don't want to die!"

‘I don't want you to die either...’

As he tried to comfort the Earl he felt the breakdown he knew was coming. Dorian had yet to cry, to show his pain and grief over what had happened to him. He suspected it was because the Earl did not want to embarrass himself in front of him, but now it seemed that everything was reaching a head. The body in his arms shuddered and he heard Dorian trying to hold back a sob.

"It's all right. Let go," he coaxed.

Dorian shook his head.

"Yes. Let go. It's all right."

"I failed you! I failed the mission!" Eroica blurted.

"You did not fail. You were not well. You were not responsible for what happened. I was the one who failed."


"Yes. You were under my protection and I did not protect you."

"I let myself get caught! I... ruined everything. Oh, Klaus, you must hate me!"

He patted the shaking figure in his arms. "No. I do not hate you. I do not blame you."

The sobs were coming now, and he could feel the tears beginning to dampen his shirt.

"I... I... always mess things up. I'm always... ruining your missions! I'm such a klutz! You... you should have killed me years ago for my meddling!"


"Klaus. Klaus, I'm so sorry! Please forgive me."

"I forgive you, Dorian," he whispered, at a loss for words.

"Thank you. It's more than I deserve. You... you have been so kind to me..."


He felt Dorian trying to pull himself together. "You must think me so weak! So helpless. I let myself be caught!"

"There was nothing you could have done."

"I couldn't fight them!"

‘Ah. Here it comes...’ "You were outnumbered and outmatched."

Dorian shook as he struggled for control. "They hurt me! They... beat me and... and cut my hair. They..."

He began rocking the Earl, holding on as tight as he dared. "Shhhh..."

"They wouldn't stop! I begged them to stop. I begged, Klaus! I begged! But they just laughed at me! Then they... they..."

"They tortured you. They violated you," he supplied.

"Yes! They... Over and over..."

"Shhhh, It's okay. They can't hurt you any more."

"I feel so dirty! So weak! I let them do this to me!"

"You did not let them do anything. You were their victim. There was nothing you could do. You are not to blame," he said, trying to convince the Earl of his innocence.

"But I couldn't get away and I couldn't make them stop..."

"It's not your fault."


"It's not your fault."


"It's not your fault."


"It's not your fault, Dorian. It's not your fault."

Dorian cracked. A keening wail erupted from his throat, followed by wracking sobs. Klaus said nothing and just held on, trying to keep the weeping man from hurting himself or splitting his stitches. He also kept an eye on the door, shooing away anyone who tried to come in with a baleful glare until the storm passed and Dorian quieted in his arms, his crying reduced to hiccuping sniffles.


"Shhhh. It's all right," he assured pulling away from the Earl and coaxing him to lie down as he made the electric bed lie flat.

Dorian's face was a mess, his cheeks all puffy and his eyes swollen. Klaus stroked his hair and cheek.

"You should sleep now. You need your rest."

Dorian's hand clung to his. "Stay with me, please?"

He was already lowering himself to the bed and allowing the Earl to cuddle up to his side. "Of course."

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